Arrive at my first hotel of the trip. Jetlag ensures that I spend five minutes figuring out how to turn the shower on. I'm excited, though! I write about hotels often enough to be, I suppose, a kind of hotel nerd. Alas, hotels are the place where I, as a travel writer, am often stuck: on deadline, typing notes, pretending to be in the office on New York time when I'm not. Today I wish that there was Wi-Fi instead of Ethernet at this hotel; I'm three paces from sitting on the terrace looking at Prague castle, but instead I'm chained to my desk staring at a wall.
In the evening, flipping through a European Union of television channels before bed, I come across what appears to be a French infomercial. For sex toys. Or maybe they're just sexy kitchen appliances? Hard to tell, but the black rubber ducky with a tiny black boa makes me think that it's probably the former.
A swarm of French businessmen attending a
conference have taken over the breakfast room this morning. I grab a
packet of tea and run back upstairs. Too stimulating for the second day.
First day of repacking. Everything fit so neatly before I had dirty clothes. And liquor.
At the next hotel, I decide that suites are grand, though I keep trying to hang my jacket in the kitchenette cabinet with the tea kettle. Presumably that would get the wrinkles out.
As I get ready for bed, I notice that the television in the bedroom demonstrates it is functional by going through the paces of selecting a German adult film from pay per view. I scramble around looking for the clicker, worried I've set something atop the remote and have accidentally ordered Hung Hans and the Hanover Hotties. Nope, just a demo. Phew.DAY 3
Expenses, expenses: if you're going to charge $30 for the Internet, I want the Internet with full release. Wait--never mind.
Also, I think I just bought 20 euros worth of scrambled eggs at breakfast. As is the style in Europe at present, I would like to blame Greece, somehow. It must be because all these numbers are getting to me: I'm already experiencing room number fatigue. It took me three guesses to pick the right elevator to find my room at hotel number three, only to have to return to the front desk and ask what my room number is. Maybe it's because I'm absorbing liquor through my skin--my handy "writer's helper" bottle of booze leaked in my bag on my shirts. I now smell festive AND homeless.
First snafu transferring between hotels; check in and check out time are, of course, two to three hours apart at hotels. However, my hotels are not two to three hours apart--try 15 minutes. So it's a roulette wheel of whether my room will be ready or not. And sometimes, it's not ready, even when the front desk really, really wishes it were. Trying to check-in, I overhear a phone call from the front desk to the housekeeping department resulted in the following exchange (in Czech): "Yes, is room 433 ready? Yes, you need to check. Why? Because a man who is very important is staying there!" And scene. I didn't have the the heart to tell him it weren't so.
Overheard at the breakfast buffet, an older American couple: "I think this breakfast smells English!"
Still have yet to stay in a hotel with CNN. How the mighty have fallen! All hotels used to have CNN as their one English channel. It's how I know Malaysia is truly Asia, even. Now it seems to be gone, replaced by BBC and SkyNews. I'm learning the difference between those two right quick. Remember the old SNL sketch where they would present Weekend Update for the hearing impaired, and simply put Garret Morris in a small box in the corner of the screen, loudly yelling "Our top story tonight!" as Chevy Chase repeated himself? That's basically SkyNews. It's the same as BBC, just with bigger fonts and graphics and less moments to ponder at the end of their reports.
It's decided: I'm installing heated bathroom floors and a rainfall showerhead in my "Cribs" manse, whenever that day comes. I have already forgotten a time when I could live without those things. How did I ever know how much shampoo and conditioner to use? I worry that when I return home I'll just paw at my bed, unable to get into it without having the sheets folded down for me.
Troubled by an air conditioner unit that's making waterfall noises through the night. It makes me think that somehow, it's raining in my hotel room. It is not, unless you count an explosion of red and gold brocade as some kind of rainstorm. A Baroque style rainstorm, maybe?
Realized that I didn't miss CNN all that much, not when I can watch a talk show about Dr. Who on the BBC! Turns out, a Tardis is not what I thought it was.
Thinking breakfast is included, I proceed to buy $44 worth of omlette this morning. At that price, I want the omlette to be my life coach. Hotels prey on travelers, even savvy ones, before they've had their morning jolt of caffeine or sugar, I suppose. Lesson learned.
Speaking of breakfast, newspapers are disappearing from hotels, too. I've received bagged printouts of the New York Times hanging on my doorknob at several properties on this trip. Ten years ago, I would have been elated to get two-day old scraps of information from the International Herald Tribune to pore over at breakfast. Even the Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts repeats seemed novel. Now I just leave my newspaper baggie hanging right where it is and read on my phone.
The flip side is of course, you start to depend on that intravenous flow from the Internet, so getting cut off is painful. At today's hotel, I find that while it's a beautiful room, I am hunched in the corner, because there are no convenient outlets: not by the desk, not next to the table, nothing. A crick in the neck, courtesy of this brave new world.
Thanks to weird mirror juxtapositions, I've now seen every unflattering angle of myself that could possibly exist. It's like the horror at hearing my voice on tape for the first time. Except it happens every day. With my face.
Lounge access! Lounge access, for those of you not lucky enough to experience it, is when you get to go to the "exclusive" lounge of the hotel and have a free drink and some canapés. During such a time, entertainment is provided in the form of eavesdropping on the conversations of other loungegoers; lounges attract people who lack self-awareness and the ability to regulate the volume of their voices. Though this visit doesn't beat my all-time winner, wherein two couples got into an argument about whether Krug champagne was German (and one of them said that they wanted to quit finance and go into publishing because she "didn't have any skills" and the latter job market fit with that plan) I overhear a couple talking about their darling eight-year-old, who is staying with his former nanny in Warsaw. "He says he's one third Polish!" they chuckle. I resist the urge to toss a canapé in their direction.
No matter what the Czechs tell me, I will never put salami in the breakfast food group. Moreover, as part of a "lavish" breakfast spread, there's nothing quite so appetite-killing at 8am as cold cuts and yogurt, side by side.
Last hotel. The color scheme is sage and white. I can now comfortably say that sage is a color which, in the hospitality industry, does not age well. Nor do plastic chairs. Hitting my head on the light fixture above the table, though, is probably my own fault.
My final check-out, at least until I go on the road again next week. I feel a twinge of sadness, as you do when any trip ends. I hated the packing and unpacking and constant moving, but it did give structure and purpose to my day, and that was enjoyable. What's missing in a hotel becomes apparent that much faster when you're doing it over and over. Where's my shoe horn; why does this shower only come up to my chest; why do the Czechs insist on using duvets instead of sheets, except the duvets only cover 2/3 of my body at any given time; why does this shampoo have an odor that's so reminiscent of new car smell and on and on.
They say that home is where the heart is, and I learned how to make each of the spaces my own every day in record time. However, for all the creature comforts of hotels--I'm in no hurry to hang my towels myself again--the best part of coming home is being somewhere where you aren't a guest. I can turn down my own bed just fine. In fact, it feels like quite a luxury.