Yas hotel room, Abu Dhabi
I’m knackered…I’ve been sleep deprived on a long haul flight, I’ve queued at length for immigration, collected baggage (if it hasn’t been lost) and travelled typically an hour’s journey to the hotel. It’s the wrong time of day here and my guts feel wonky.
What bliss then to arrive at the hotel, greeted by friendly bellhops who help with my luggage, taking it to the front desk like a well oiled yet perfectly socialised machine. I thank them. They understand that I will take my bags from here, and that I don’t have any local money for tips yet. They do not try to wrest the luggage from my hands. Check in is quick..no need to hand over credit cards or passports- they’ve got all that info already. Instead they hand me my room key- which is- I’m glad to see an actual key. I head up to my room ( close enough to the lifts to be convenient, far enough away not to be disturbed by their workings clunking and pinging all night).
The door opens easily, it’s clean, bright, there is a special space for my suitcase so that it is neatly out of the way for my stay. I put the do not disturb sign on the door. This is respected at all times. I open the window and sit on the duveted bed. I freshen up…knowing that I will not be disturbed. The bathroom has plenty of towels- a bath and a shower and no-one has been fiddling about with the corners of the loo roll. I dry off and put on the bathrobe/dressing gown provided. I change, then either go down to a meal, to work or to sleep. A quick scout of the room shows me there is a kettle and tea/ coffee milk, complimentary water and some snacks in the mini bar.
If it is night I might turn on the tv. Its menu is easy to use and quick to work. I check to see if there is wifi. There is and it is free- the passcode lasts for the duration of my stay. I find there is a socket to charge my phone, right next to my bed, so I can use it as an alarm clock in the morning. The socket is an international one which is great as I had forgotten my adaptor.
The bed is cloud-like..firm mattress with a topper to add a bit of softness. I turn off the lights from the master switch by the bed. I fall asleep.
This is how I would like it to be. It very rarely is like this.
What makes a good hotel? I often find myself pondering this, while thousands of miles from home, in a hotel room and faced with something either intensely annoying such as a toe stubbed on stupidly shaped bit of furniture- or beautifully pleasing - easy going yet efficient staff, a comfy bed or nice view. None of the things that make hotel stays comfortable is about luxury…(luxury as we’d call it in the so called developed world) …well it helps, of course but what I find makes hotel stays comfortable is down to the practical side of things.
To look back on the above, slightly fantastical introduction to a new hotel…
The reason I like to take my suitcase to the room myself is that it’s so easy to do..and if the bellhop takes it he often has to do a round of the whole hotel first, (especially if you arrive with a group as I always do) leaving you waiting, cross legged…unable go to the loo…to shower…change…freshen up until he finally turns up some half hour later. He often then takes you on a tour around your room. “This is how the light switch works’, ‘Here is the TV’, ‘This is how you open the curtains’ ‘This is how you take a dump’…all the while you’re thinking, ‘If I have to fake gratitude or surprise for one more second I may lose the will to live’
Given the choice, I’d go for a real key over a key card every time. Key cards have a very annoying habit of de magnetising if they come within a furlong of any magnet. Most handbags have magnets..and all mobiles act as magnets too (not sure why - something to do with magic I think). I often leave the hotel room with just a mobile and key..this is not advised. The number of times I have been locked out of my room- demagnetised card in my hand, pleading with the door to open, willing its stupid winking red light to please turn green, ‘This time. ….ok…..this time……slooooowly..bugger…..reaalllly slooooowly…….fuck………FAST FAST FAST FAST!….oh you little bastard’… before admitting defeat and beginning the trek down to the front desk to re-magnetise my card. I walk around, jesus like for a while- phone in one outstretched arm…keycard in the other..just to make sure the whole scenario doesn’t happen again. It makes it tricky getting into lifts.
As far as decor goes..of course it’s a matter of personal taste..but despite (or maybe even because of) that..I like it fairly plain. Neither stark and laboratory like nor self consciously ‘characterful’ just kind of there..demanding nothing of me and with nice subtle lighting. Y’know..just in case I have guests…. I won’t have guests.
I love an openable window, me. It seems some hotels are more concerned about people committing suicide than others. Interestingly, those hotels have windows that don’t open. COINCIDENCE???
If you’re touring a lot you often go from one air conditioned building to another- airport, car, hotel, venue, car, hotel. Kind of existing in a hermetically sealed bubble- it can be very alienating never to breathe real air.
Of course in some hot and humid countries air-con is a godsend- (as long as each room has its own controls) I always have to remember to pack warm clothes in hot countries and vice versa in cold countries. In hot counties they often set the air con to arctic, so that the humidity clinging to your clothes( from the walk from car to hotel lobby) turns to ICICLES on impact. Likewise the heating in some scandinavian and russian hotels is set to ‘furnace’. Maybe it’s a badge of honour to be able to control your natural environment to such an extreme degree. I really have no idea.
I sleep easily in most situations (driving for example) but it seems sensible to provide a range of pillows (2 firm, 2 soft) for different people’s needs.
If Travelodge can do duvets (even though they are a bit rubbish and plasticy) I see no reason why all hotels don’t do them. Why have anything on the bed that cannot be washed- like bed throws or blankets? I come over all Patricia Arquette in Medium and start playing a mental game of ‘what caused that stain?’ - images flashing into my head all too graphically. I would advise against playing that game.
Beds made with sheets and blankets that are LAMINATED to the MATTRESS require a herculean effort to enter, In fact- I believe ‘getting into a hotel bed ’ is the little known 13th Labour of Hercules. Try inserting a yule log into an A5 Jiffy bag. It doesn’t end well.
The good thing about duvets is that you get to retain the blood supply to your legs, AND they discount the need for the turn-down service, where a chamber maid comes in and takes all the manky outer bed layers off, turns down a corner of the blanket (a kind of ‘open here’) and puts a chocolate on your pillow for you to sleep on and wake horrified the next morning before realising that the stuff all over your face is in fact chocolate.
Turn down service? Yes I will as I’ve been getting into bed all on my own for years now.
Ideally a bath and a shower- and none of yer manky jacuzzi bath nonsense with its garnish of previous guests’ skin gunge. Enough towels and a medium sized one for wet hair stowage- and bath robe for slopping about in and for protection from cold wet hair on back (not growing there.. just draping from the head).
I am partial to a Japanese toilet..Oh how I laughed when I first was confronted with one..with their seat warmers, ‘discrete’ buttons which play tunes or my favourite..the sound of running water which sounds A LOT like weeing does in the first place.
Bog standard in Japan
But that’s a whole subject in itself. Another good thing about Japanese bathrooms is the heated thingy they must have behind (or within?) the bathroom mirror to prevent it from steaming up even with a shower going full pelt.
I really really really don’t understand the thing with folding the corners of the toilet paper into an arrow shape and putting a sticker on it. Really. It’s not like anyone else has been in my room in the meantime and had a wild old time with the bog roll, brandishing it like a morris dancer’s hanky.. which the cleaner has then dutifully tidied up. In fact- I’m pretty sure no-one would have been fingering my toilet paper if it wasn’t for her. I just…..no.
Having tea and coffee making facilities in the room.
If the most basic B&Bs can do this- why not some 4 or 5 star hotels? Dependency on room service is hugely frustrating if you just want a wake up cup of coffee in the morning, or a herbal tea before going to sleep. Who wants to call down to room service and wait half an hour for it to arrive then feel obliged to look presentable (ie dressed) as you let them in- wonder whether to tip, and if so how much, make polite conversation…? ‘Order it the night before’ I hear you yell..but still there’s always at least half an hour’s window, which is fine if you’re not needed somewhere else at crazy o’ clock in the morning..but if you have a full schedule, you’ll want every second of sleep that you can snatch and you don’t want to be waiting round for your food to come…well I don’t anyway.
Which brings me to in- room information..
It would save so much time if hotels had a little note about whether to tip/ roughly how much a tip should be. This varies so much from one country to another that it’s hard to stay on top of it. For example- in the US- anything below 15- 20% is considered rude, it’s not so much a tip there, as a part of their expected income. In Japan though it is considered rude *to* tip- doing so is considered brash and is offensive.
I don’t want to be a scrooge- just make it easy
Electrical sockets should be international ideally and close enough to a mirror for The Doing of Hair to take place.
Brilliant international socket at Taj Palce Hotel, New Delhi
It’s also surprising how many top end hotels don’t have full length mirrors. The number of times I’ve walked out of my room with my PJ bottoms on is..well ok it’s never happened but it COULD have and it would be THEIR FAULT.
Other little nicenesses are iPod docks with speakers.. black out blind…quick laundry service …enough height in a wardrobe to hang a dress (they’re often only tall enough to hang a suit) …quick room service…a selection of restaurants- not just high or low end stuff, and at least one that does local food.
Far from wanting the escapism that you crave when booking a holiday, what becomes exotic and unattainable when working abroad a lot is the feeling of being able to function as a normal human being, a craving for a home from home. It’s the practical stuff that matters..so spare the rose petals, and put a kettle in my room.
Four Seasons (anywhere as far as I can tell)
Ritz Carlton Seoul, Shanghai and Singapore
Bangkok BanYan tree
Altstadt Vienna (Phillipe Starck-Duvet joy)
Yas Hotel Abu Dhabi (exciting glowing cuttlefish design- great food..well thought out rooms)
Taj Palace Hotel Delhi (here because of the multi socket..good food too and free WiFi- lovely staff but too many ‘how are you finding the service’ questionaires)
Hotel near Sapporo Japan..whose name I wish I could remember. Beautiful airy simple rooms…outdoor onsen surrounded by gurgling volcanoes
Hotel De Paris Monte Carlo
Lady in fishtank stupidness Standard Hotel, Hollywood. I worry for her bladder
Hilton (never not disappointing)
Caesar’s Palace (freaky, pity for semi naked men dressed as centaurians and in metal skirts- sure it’s a bit of fun but annoying to have to battle through throngs of zombie like slot junkies everyday just to leave the hotel)
The Standard Hollywood (reek of sewage- over designed with woman in fishtank stupidness by front desk)
A hotel in Atlanta whose name has been erased from my memory- Jacuzzis in bedroom with mirrored ceiling and ..stains.
Trump Plaza Atlantic City..no minibar. weird atmosphere.
Eurodisney freaky.. and locked minibar at child height with a window to sweeties. I don’t have kids but even I could imagine the hassle that would cause parents.
Neither list contains the travelodge because although it’s a bit shit..it is not pretending to be otherwise..and it’s got a kettle and a duvet. The end.