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I've had so many rooms with a phew

NO-ONE stays in a hotel voluntarily.

There may have been times in the past when impossibly-rich persons inhabited entire suites. But I can't think that happens much now. You stay in a hotel when you're on business or a package tour.

The prices are absurd, often more than one hundred of your Earth pounds for one night in a tiny room assailed by racket on all sides.

I don't know how they get away with it. They exist, I guess, in a parallel economy, where rooms are rented by folk on expense accounts and the whole thing gets written off against tax. Something like that. Something beyond my ken, ken?

Either that or they're shoehorning punters in by the coachload, with cheaper deals for tour operators as an economy of scale.

The Hans Brinker Budget Hotel in Amsterdam has little interest in such clientele. Indeed, it's not clear about wanting a clientele at all.

Its advertising campaign promises: "It can't get any worse. But we'll do our best." Potential customers are warned they stay there at their own risk and that the hotel won't be liable for "food poisoning, mental breakdowns, terminal illness, lost limbs, radiation poisoning, certain diseases associated with the 18th century, plague, etc". The lift is described as "eco-friendly", meaning it doesn't work. There's no hot water, and you're advised to dry your hands on the curtains. Unsurprisingly, this institution has proven popular with students and backpackers who appreciate its post-whatever irony. Oh, and it's only 18 quid a night.

I believe I've stayed in worse. Maybe not as dirty, but possibly noisier, and certainly an affront to the idea of value for money.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a man of the world. More a man of the back garden really. But I used to work as what is called a "colour writer", which meant I got to go on news stories and was allowed to use adjectives.

Consequently, I was away somewhere every week. I've had overnight stops in scores of hotels up, and also doon, the length of Britainshire.

In Kamp van Zeist, for the Lockerbie Trial, accommodation was so scarce I'd to share the bridal suite with a female reporter. Amazingly, my chastity remained intact.

I remember the island hotel – one of those community buy-out stories – where the barman came round to our table well after midnight and said: "Could you keep the noise down? The man upstairs won't be able to sleep." I said: "I am the man upstairs. I couldn't sleep for the racket so came down to join it."

At a hotel in Belfast, the bed was bolted to the floor and I'd to unscrew the headboard to get at the phone socket for my laptop. The hotel was popular with journalists, and I imagined they'd had to do the same, and the management saying: "I wonder why the journalists all unscrew the headboards."

After staying at a right posh hotel in Cardiff, near the Welsh Assembly, I was pulled in for a tongue-in-cheek scolding by an assistant editor. Brandishing the hotel's bill, he said: "I don't mind that you've obviously had a fine meal and gone for one of the more expensive wines. But what's this?"

Itemised were "chocolate, lager, lager, chocolate, lager, lager, chocolate". Turns out the minibar was so rigged that, whenever you even touched anything, it rang up on your bill.

Another hotel had hideously unfriendly staff and a waiter who stared at you – the sole diner – for the entire duration of your meal. As I left next morning, I noticed a whiteboard at the entrance advertising a conference on "Hospitality".

The worst Christmas I ever had was spent in a hotel – still waiting for my breakfast. Another had tradesmen hammering and banging in the room above at seven in the morning. One hotelier said in offended tones that he'd never, in all his years in the business, heard of anyone requesting an iron.

Thankfully, most of these stays were at someone else's expense. Even so, I'd say 18 quid was just about right or, in some cases, a little excessive.

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Travel

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