Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Peppermint, Camomile or Raspberry...

Why are some hotels such unsatisfying places to stay? They have the novelty and excitement of being somewhere else in the world which instantly endears me to them but generally their claim to make you feel at home makes me feel exactly the opposite. They manage to create the most unhomelike experience you can possibly imagine. They offer things that I never get at home (because I don't care for them) and all the creature comforts I do want from home, they manage to reproduce in a strangely unsatisfying manner.

Let's start with the basics. Hotel beds. Who still uses sheets and blankets at home? Not me. And nobody I know does either. My mum was a bit of a radical back in the early 70s when she introduced duvets to the family home but since then they've become the norm in just about every home I know. But hotels still persist in giving you a bed made up with sheets and blankets. The first thing I do to a hotel bed is pull the whole thing apart so the covers do only that - cover me. I don't enjoy being clamped into a bed with sheets and blankets strapped across me as tight as a drumskin.

The TV. Why are the batteries in the hotel TV remote controls always just about one millivolt short of being completely flat? I suppose people pilfer the batteries if they're any good...I have no idea but hotel TV remotes never work quite right. Hotel TV channels? Who actually watches CNN when they're not imprisoned in a hotel room? Nobody I know does. When was the last time somebody asked you over the watercooler if you saw that show on CNN last night? Yet it's piped into every hotel room in the world as far as I can tell, churning out their 30 minute looping diatribe of flypast news reporting. The only pleasure is watching news from your home country being misreported or misinterpreted by the reporter. Movie channels? The best you can hope (?) for is the latest Adam Sandler vehicle and some generic globalised soft porn.

Tea and coffee-making facilities in every room boasts the literature. Yes, that'll be a tiny limescale-encrusted kettle with a lid that’s impossible to open and when it is open you can’t get it under the tap in the bathroom so you have to fill it via the bathtub. It will take 10 minutes to boil half a pint of water. They then supply you with a few sachets of lo-grade instant coffee or bloody Liptons Yellow Label teabags. If my home ran on a 200 dollar a day budget then it would have a NASA designed kettle and the finest coffee I could buy. My home runs on about 10% of that budget and I don't have to scrimp on the coffee or the peripheral electrical appliances.

The bathroom. Have you ever tried to take a shower and use a hotel supplied bar of soap? There are two types. They're either the size and shape of a large pebble or alternatively appear to be modelled on slightly chunky credit card. Both are deeply unsatisfactory if your preference is still to use a bar of soap to wash - which mine is. Give me a large family bar of soap and I’ll use it for the duration of my stay so you don’t have to replace it every day and it doesn’t need to be made by a goddamn Parisenne parfumerie. I’ll probably bring my own shampoo (no jokes about what a bald guy needs shampoo for, I just still happen to use it). I cannot comment on hotel hair driers as I have no need of them but I know many women that do pass comment on them and it is rarely complimentary.

The breakfast. Don't try and present me with what you claim to be an authentic English breakfast if you have never actually seen an English breakfast, and trust me, most hotel chefs around the world have never seen a proper English breakfast. British cuisine may have a pisspoor reputation but an English breakfast, properly done, is a life affirming joy. Fat juicy pork sausages, proper cured bacon, eggs (fried, scrambled, or joy of joy, poached) and real HP sauce. Eggs should be prepared on demand - you cannot keep eggs prepared in the above manner and keep them in some sort of warming device – their condition deteriorates rapidly in such an environment.

If you’re really going to go for it an English breakfast can also include mushrooms, fried tomatoes, kidneys and black pudding (personally I think black pudding is disgusting but it’s an essential colour in the English breakfast spectrum). Beans are eaten at teatime when you come home from school and are served on toast – not at breakfast. And Mr. Hotelier, if you really want to go authentic English at breakfast time then how about a kipper or some kedgeree? Delicious.

Hotel toasters? They are usually the size of a small filing cabinet and look like they cost a fortune yet seem unable to do much more than heat, or at best, slightly discolour the bread.

Coffee? The world has become addicted to weak milky coffee. Thanks Starbucks ya bastards. I like coffee that stings my eyeballs when I drink it. You can’t get it any more unless you’re in Paris, Brussels or Rome. Tea? We English are admittedly a bit quirky about our tea but tea the world over should be prepared with boiling water. Yes, BOILING. You can’t make tea with water below 95 degrees. Most hotels seem to consider anything exceeding about 60 degrees qualifies as “boiling”. Breakfast tea should be black Assam. If I ask for tea I don’t expect the response to be “Peppermint, camomile or raspberry sir?” These are not even teas – they are infusions and should be given their correct nomenclature. And stop calling me sir as well - I don't get that at home either.

The truth is of course that not even hotels in England will attempt a breakfast spread like the above. Some top hotels will make a decent stab at it though. I think the full-on, heart attack on a plate English breakfast died out in Edwardian country houses some time before the First World War started.

I would actually prefer a local breakfast when abroad. When in Rome ‘n’ all that.

I love to travel – business or pleasure. I actually don’t mind staying in hotels mainly because they are not home and that means I’m somewhere else in the world – hopefully somewhere fun and interesting. What I resent is hotels telling me that they are like my home when I find it hard to believe that they are like anyone’s home. They should market themselves as not being like my home and I would like them even more.


Terra Shield said...

Ha ha... good one. I don't spend too much time in hotel rooms (only to sleep after being out and about the whole day while travelling), but I couldn't help nodding in agreement to most of what you say - except the english breakfast part, and being called sir...

King of Scurf said...

They do try so very hard...but being out and about as much as poss. is definitely the best strategy.

Anonymous said...

I like kippers, kedgeree and black pudding too. But I like white pudding even more

King of Scurf said...

nursemyra: In all my years I've never actually encountered white pudding although I'm aware of its existence.

I'm with you on the kippers and the kedgeree - I love smoked fish.

Peter Piper said...

I agree with most everything but I'm quite surprised at the comments on Duvets.

Sheets and blankets may seem old-fashioned but they have some distinct advantages:

1) It is much less time-consuming to strip a bed and replace the sheets than to try to stuff a duvet into a duvet cover. It may not seem like a big difference, but have some sympathy for the person cleaning the rooms. It's already a difficult job as it is.

2) Duvets are perfect for the way people used to sleep, in un-heated rooms. They will keep you warm and toasty. In modern heated rooms you may get very warm under a duvet.

With sheets and blankets you can regulate your body temperature by removing or adding a layer. Take the blanket off if you are too warm, add a bedspread if you are too cold.