HOTELS – love ‘em or hate them.

Typed on Gionny’s continuingly abhorrent Olivetti Lettera 22

Fawlty Towers would have been such fun to stay in. BUT only if Basil was there.

By definition a hotel is an establishment providing accommodation, meals, and other services for travellers and tourists. They come in all shapes and sizes and cater for the rich and poor alike.  Love them or hate them they range from rich indulgence to desperate necessity. They are also a fertile source of stories and anecdotes.

How I leave hotels.

An ‘after’ photo of a hotel in Bosnia similar to one I was arrested in for spying in the 90’s – but that’s for a later blog episode!

So, I’ll start with rich indulgence and work my way down to some real sleaze joints. Perhaps that should be up, depending on your perspective or preference? A rhetorical question.

In at the deep end!

Over the top disgusting opulence – and I was FORCED to stay there!

1992 (ish – once again exact dates abandon me) and Greenpeace was informed of an impending shareholders meeting of a large chemical conglomerate that was due to take place in this famous hotel.

Several weeks before the meeting I was dispatched to check out the possibilities for disrupting the meeting (we call this process ‘scouting’). Before leaving I did a bit of pre-internet desktop research and quickly realised my normal scruffy attire really wasn’t going to enable me to blend in. Borrowing some smarter clothes and a wheelie suitcase I set off.

As soon as I entered the foyer I felt completely like a fish out of water and super self-conscious. I didn’t have a credit card in those days and Greenpeace was sensible enough not to trust me with one either. I paid the concierge in cash; this caused much looking over the top of his glasses at the low life facing him.

I lost the wrestling match over my suitcase with a bellboy. Arriving in my room the bellboy lingered long enough to make me realise he needed a tip.

I had no bloody idea how much I should give him.

I placed some francs in his hand and he stared at it contemptuously and just long enough for me to know it was not enough.

I quickly realised that no way in hell would he give me a receipt for my expense claim so, I thought, bugger it, that’s enough.

Should British people be allowed out on their own?

I had the first of several showers. After an age of fathoming out the shower controls I realised this was possibly the only plus of staying in such a hovel! I indulged, but then, when in Rome etc! I then ventured forth to explore the hotel. Using a combination of stupid Brit and “I’m sorry I’m lost” I successfully checked out the various venues for the upcoming shareholders meeting including all the security arrangements we’d have to negotiate.

Completely satisfied with my two hours work I felt I deserved dinner. Looking at the menu at the entrance to the hotel restaurant I was confronted with three things:

1. I couldn’t understand a fucking thing – it was, to use one of my dad’s expressions when presented with anything other than meat and two veg, all foreign muck!                              

 2. It was incredibly expensive foreign muck.  

3. The Greenpeace accountant was going to have serious issues with my expenses claim                                                                                                                                                                                  

I decided to eat out.

If you’ve ever visited Monaco the over riding impression is that the place oozes wealth and opulence.

I had to walk along way back from the seafront to eventually find even a reasonably priced restaurant. I did get some feeling of revenge the next morning with the free breakfast in the hotel.

I gorged myself.

I probably broke every rule of etiquette and protocol for such an upmarket dining room. I didn’t care; I was leaving in an hour.

I was seriously out of my comfort zone, on many levels, and even when I eventually become world dictator and am able to stay anywhere I want for free I will still avoid places like this.

Down to earth with a (gentle) bump

Straight out of a film set

This hotel is more down market and certainly more homely and comfortable. It is situated right in the vibrant heart of Istanbul and a convenient five-minute walk from the Greenpeace office. Over the years I’ve stayed there many times and I love it. This IS in my comfort zone.

Time has stood still here and you can instantly imagine being transported back to an Agatha Christie novel. Indeed there is even an Agatha Christie suite.

I once arrived there very late at night and as I entered the lobby I was confronted with a large party all dressed up in period costume from the turn of the 20th century. While the concierge was dealing with my passport I turned around to watch this intriguing spectacle.

Suddenly a man appeared and pointed a gun at one of the partygoers. I immediately shouted, as one would, with: “Fucking hell, he’s got a gun.” To which I received a very angry response of:   “KES KESIM.”                                             

It was then my Turkish linguistic prowess kicked in. Or rather I quickly computed that the mass of cables on the floor, the powerful lights, oh and the very large camera on a dolly all pointed to one thing – they were making a film and kes kesim = cut, cut.

Jeez, it was late and I was tired. I defy anybody not to have had my reaction. But I had forgotten the hotel was often used for filming as the décor made it the perfect ready-made film set.

Psycho re-visited

Mine hostess, ‘a motel,’ Boise, Idaho.

As related in another of our blogs, in 2018 I did a long road trip around North America with my good friend Anne travelling from friend to friend freeloading on their hospitality. But, “like fish, after a few days visitors start to go off.” So after outstaying our welcome we’d move on to the next victims.

But with vast distances to cover and so many interesting diversions en-route it was inevitable we’d have to stop off. We deliberately chose motels. It’s sad that motels are gradually disappearing from the American landscape and being replaced by bland and impersonal hotel chains.

Motels cater for the lower end of the social and financial divide. It’s where you meet some of the real Americans. Often after a long day of driving and sightseeing Anne and I had some amazing encounters with people sitting out on the terrace and sharing stories over a few cold ones. Sometimes the discussions could become heated as issues such as politics, religion, race, gun control, abortion etc. Nothing was taboo. We had very few bad situations

But for every exception there’s a rule! We’d arrived in Boise Idaho. It was late, we were tired and our accommodation options rapidly receded into the motel from hell. All the ducks were lined up for bad nights sleep. Leading the charge was the woman in the photo above. I think that image effectively sums up why we were nervous that night. It was the one and only occasion we slept with a chair jammed up against the door.

But we survived and I can’t stress enough that this was an isolated event while in the USA. And it sure as hell was funny in retrospect. What a scary lady.

God smiles on the righteous

The perfect guardian angels for the night in a hostel in Matagulpa, Nicaragua.

In contrast I have to close with the opposite end of the spectrum in peace and tranquillity while in a Nicaraguan basic stay hostel with two very agreeable, but alas deceased, ‘friends.’

But more about budget but fun accommodation at a later date.

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