Friday, 28 January 2011

Homes from Home

I like staying in hotels, and - just so long as they have the right ambience - I don't care how 'bad' they are.

I tried to book into the previously featured 'Eynsham Hall' near Oxford this weekend, but they told me my favorite room (the only one I have stayed in) was booked, because they are hosting a large wedding this saturday, but they had a similar room available. They warned me about the noise of music, etc. late into the night, however.

I debated as to whether or not a wedding would enhance the stay or ruin it, and tried to find a way of subtly asking the receptionist if it was going to be a high-class affair, or the sort where the male guests hang around the bar in tuxedos and trainers, insulting each other to the point of fist-fights at 2.00 in the morning, but couldn't think of a subtle way of putting it, so I just came out and asked her direct. She never responded to this vital question, so we decided to give it a miss.

I once stayed in a hotel where a newly married couple were having their honeymoon, and the highlight of the trip was when the groom (having drunk himself into near-oblivion) tried to drown his new bride in the swimming pool, and was arrested by the police for attempted murder at about 3.00 in the morning on the night of the wedding. I wonder if they are still together?

The T.V. series, 'Fawlty Towers' was based on a real hotel run by an eccentric and hostile old buffer, somewhere in the West Country. Apparently, many people would travel from far away to stay in this entertaining establishment, just to be insulted by the owner.

The absolute WORST hotel I ever stayed in was a Travelodge, somewhere in Hampshire. It was like paying to be in an open prison.

The strangest hotel experience I have ever had was in Hamm, Germany. We arrived late at night and had been fore-warned that the keys to the front door would be under the mat. In the dark, the place looked like a cross between 'Bates Motel' and the Addams Family residence. We found the keys and unlocked the huge, oak door.

The place was in utter darkness, and we couldn't find any light switches, so we fumbled and groped our way to what felt like a large staircase. I was at the front, and made my way up the creaking wooden steps until I came to the first landing. That was when I heard the deep growl of an enormous dog which was lying - at eye-level - across the top stair, threatening to attack at any moment.

In the darkness, I could not see what sort of breed it was, only that it was the size of a small horse. I guess it must have been some sort of mastiff. It didn't budge from it's position, but just lay there, growling menacingly. After about 3 minutes, I decided the only alternative to sleeping outside in the bushes was to step over the damn thing, so this is what we did. I had to lift my leg quite high to get over it, and I felt it's hot breath on my crotch area as it growled.

Once past the dog, we made our way to an even darker corridor and had to resort to using a cigarette lighter to read the numbers on the doors. Since our rooms were pre-booked, we each found the appropriate number, let ourselves in and went straight to bed.

The next morning, we went down for breakfast. The dog had gone, and we found the breakfast lounge by the smell of bad coffee coming from it. In the room were the exact number of places laid out on the table for us (4 - we were a touring theatre company), and hot bacon and eggs, etc. were sitting under silver covers. There was nobody else around, so we just had breakfast, went back upstairs, then came back down to put our keys on the desk and leave. Not once did we see another human being. It was like the scene where Harker is entertained by Nosferatu in the film starring Klaus Kinsky.

I stayed in the fabulous 'Windsor Hotel' in Cairo once. Once in my room, I thought I would wash the desert dust off myself in the shower, then found that there was no hot water. I called the man on reception and told him there was no hot water.

"I know," he answered.

"When will there be hot water?" I asked.


Since it was a monday, I decided to have a cold shower, but - once freezing my arse off under the cascading water - found that there was no soap, so I climbed out and got back onto the phone.

"There is no soap in my shower," I shivered through gritted teeth.

"I know."

I didn't bother to ask which day the soap was delivered.


  1. a great post
    Hotels are a wonderful luxury that the British are only recently getting to grips with!

    I have my favourites.......
    we stay in The Helmsley on 42nd street when we go to New York...its a so so hotel ( 1980's crome) but the view of the Chrysler Building right outside the window is to die for....

    our worst hotel was on our first official holiday together
    a saga hotel in Malta..
    The silence when we walked into the breakfast dining room was deafening and still haunts me to this day

  2. At least they let you stay, John, unlike some other hotels we could mention!

    We stayed in the Chelsea when in New York - every bit as eccentric as it's history would have you believe. Wonderful.

  3. Tom, I just heard the Chelsea has bed bugs! Actually, every major city is infested. Yesterday on CNN, they said Wash DC was very badly infested.

    I stayed in the most charming B&B in Wales. The woman won the cooking contest of Wales. can still remember the meal, fabulous.

  4. My late sister Lynne and her husband Nigel ran hotels in Salisbury, Hampshire and IOW. The cast of Women in Love stayed at the one in Salisbury during the shooting of the movie; they had to have the rooms renovated after a couple of the leading 'stars' left. I think you'd have to be a saint to run an hotel....I know my sister was and her husband is.

    The most beautiful hotel I have stayed in was The Sukothai in Bangkok...the worst The Park Lane Hotel in London.

  5. I once stayed in a Greek island hotel where our bathroom would occasionally fill up with foul smelling brown water. I just presumed it was lumpy coffee!

  6. Best hotel was Bluff House, Green Turtle Cay, (when it was still privately owned by some eccentric guy). Their Tranquil Turtles were sublime (I still have the recipe).

    Worst hotel was off Park Lane in London. There were cockroaches in the shower. Ugh!

  7. Sounds to me as though you should write a book called 'Hotels I have known.'

  8. Great post! Set Mr EV and I reminiscing about 'bad' and 'fun' hotels and B&Bs we have stayed in on our travels for work and pleasure. They all make great memories - better than anodyne anyday!

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  10. Re John Gray's experience - we had a similar 'haunting' when on a Nile Cruise many years ago. Early on we had palled up with an amusing and intelligent couple, who happened to be gay. Fairly soon after we found that as we entered the dining room napkins on many other guest tables were quickly unfolded on spare places so that we were directed away from their tables in case we sat there. Until then we had, like most others, varied our tables in order to meet lots of our fellow passengers. Our gay friends laughed it off as they were used to it, but needless to say we always dined together after that. Sadly the other passengers were all well-educated and well-travelled bigots.