A Crap-tastic Hotel Review

Monday 30th April 2018

I do sometimes stay in nice places.  I don’t tend to tell anyone in case they get all booked up.  And usually when I now and again review a crap-tastic hotel, I don’t name it.  The hotel I am featuring today is huge, and on the very edge of a place called Hook, in Hampshire which is about 15 minutes from Basingstoke. First, I did not pay for this myself as it was a business trip.  Had I paid, I would have been actually angry. As it was, I was *quite* upset because I had 2.5 days to savour this pit and that is just not fair.  Just because I am working and not paying the bill does not mean it is OK to be accommodated in a frankly grim hotel.  It’s not.  I know that there is a school of thought that goes along the lines of:  it’s just a place to sleep, it doesn’t matter.  I am not in agreement.  When I am working away from home, I expect to have some basic comforts, not just a bed and a roof. This is why I prefer pubs and B&Bs. Clues as to the reality of the impending stay:  1) the hotel will not allow you to check in until you pay in full.  2) the place is very eerie, and cold like an abandoned end-of-the-pier attraction. I checked in with a colleague, and we had to pay for both nights right there and then.  The hotel had been suggested to us and sourced by a booking agent.  The website looked good.  The website is almost entirely misleading. Also they (and we) had not read the many reviews on Trip Adviser.  Don’t ever miss out this essential step. We asked about dinner and the receptionist said that, yes, dinner would be possible in their Brasserie – on-line images and sample menus had been investigated by me earlier so I was happy.  But, she urged us to hastily book a table as it is very popular and busy. Me:  can we see the menu, please? Receptionist:  no. Me: Me:  why not? Receptionist – but not to me, to a colleague who had wafted out of the office:  can they see a menu? Colleague: no. All of us, whilst gazing at one another: My colleague, as if awakening from a momentary absence:  so, we have to book, but we may not see the menu? Receptionist:  the menu is not ready. Me:  it’s 5.30.  When does chef publish the menu? Receptionist:  at 6.  When the Brasserie is open. We declined and proceeded to our rooms. The procession to rooms is lengthy, this being set out like a 1960s motel and with hundreds of bedrooms.  A brisk walk of 4 minutes through changing eras of decor ranging from the 1970s to late ’90s and taking in features such as huge but completely dead plants, all conducted in a howling gale from some open doors we did not see, brought us eventually to our corridor.  We investigated my room.  I knew instantly that a terrible mistake had happened and also, one second after this revelation, that we were committed. I also sensed that my colleague was fervently glad that I had this room, and was sure that his room would probably be much, much nicer.  I can see why he thought this.  It was hard to imagine anything worse, and also he is A Man and therefore probably worthy of a double bed, and he is My Boss, so probably worthy of a double bed.  Sadly, the hotel had not received this memo.  He urged me to view his room a few doors down.  I did and I am not even a bit ashamed to say how glad I was that the room was identical.  Ha. We agreed to part and spend an hour enjoying the ambience of our rooms before meeting to drive into Basingstoke.  I used this time to take photos of all the nastiness, unpack my rucksack and iron two dresses. The ironing board is screwed to the wall and is in fact all part of a mini-ironing board and trouser-press combo. The tiny iron is also fixed and wired in.  To use it, you have to pull it out and rest a leg of the board in a groove.  Once erected, it is at just below shoulder height for an average sized woman – me.  You can’t adjust this.  It is either up or down. And, if you are right handed, you cannot get to the right side to use the fixed iron without moving the bed.  I moved the bed. To use the iron, I had to change into a pair of heels.  Unfortunately, I only had some modest heels as I was being a grown up but this did give me a two inch advantage over my sneakers.  I considered standing on the bed or a chair but then I would have towered over the ironing…I ironed a dress and the only way to see what you had achieved was to keep taking it off the tiny board and peering at it. My room was pitifully dingy – the Bates Motel is an aspiration for this room.  The windows were wide open, causing the room to be freezing cold and also to waft the sordid net curtains about into the room, a la Miss Havisham.  I shut the windows with an effort, the metal frames being a poor fit, but this struggle gave me a chance to appreciate the torn nets which were hanging down from their rail, and also the collection of soggy fag-ends on the window sill outside.  This explained the strong smell of stale tobacco I suppose. The facilities were limited to the absolute essentials.  The was a 1970s style telephone with a cable that was about 12 inches long, meaning that had I needed to use it, I would have had to kneel by a wooden shelf which housed it.  There was an almost empty safe – empty except for a cup and saucer, plus 1 sachet of coffee and 1 tiny tub of fake milk.  There was a retro hair drier with a cable so contorted that in use, it and I were engaged in some macabre Argentinian tango style manoeuvring – we writhed and twisted, flicked and parried.  So, a bit of a work-out even  if its drying properties were as effective as having a new-born babe breathe gently on your head. Onto the bathroom.  A plastic shower curtain, white and grey (the grey being organic) modestly shielded an over-bath plastic shower head.  A soap dispenser (empty) was screwed to the cracked tiles.  On the sink, a tiny piece of soap, about the size of a 2 penny piece, wrapped in congealed tissue paper.  I left it untouched.  It would be like opening a fine old bottle of wine – wasted in a moment.  Luckily I always travel with full toiletries but had I not done so, I would have had to drive to Hook I suppose and buy some… The shower was fairly powerful but very unpredictable.  You can choose from icy or scalding.  And then it will still vacillate wildly, not really knowing which temperature it wishes to be assigned to. And in this enlightened age, why should it have to choose?  Why must it be forced to conform to some arbitrary temperature category?  This shower is in the very vanguard of shower-emancipation.   I salute it.  If by ‘salute’, you mean: curse it with piratical swearing, emerge lobster-red and storm off into the murky steam-room I had created, wrapped in a waterproof bath towel the size of a napkin. More revelations included the ‘free’ Wi-Fi being limited to 20 minutes after which you could pay a daily fee of £8.  Or, use the real free Wi-Fi in the hotel’s public areas – all of which were Baltic and infested with loud music pumped from hundreds of speakers in (I assume) a touching tribute to the Koreas.  I was delighted also, that night as I laid my weary head down, to find a tissue, and my bare (except for socks) feet found crunchy plastic wrappers and very painful plastic caps from what I think were medical phials. At 5.30 am, I woke to the sound of the majority of the hotel’s guests getting up for work.  This cohort, occupying at least 60% of the rooms, are contractors working on infrastructure projects in the locality.  I have no issue with this, but they do rise early and shout a lot, both at night and again, as they mirthfully rib one another in the hallways, and urge colleagues to get up and come to breakfast.  I think that was the gist.  Also their tools and boots are quite noisy but that is not really the hotel’s fault is it?  I considered suggesting a system where these guests were placed in one of the many cells of the hotel’s Soviet lay out but as the production of a 3-course menu was clearly a stretch for the team, I didn’t bother.  To tell you the truth I was glad to be awake as my dreams had been about wild and exhausting forays along the endless orange-swirl carpeted corridors of The Hotel California. I had seen the alluring images of the hotel’s leisure facilities, on the website. It ‘boasts’ a state of the art gym and luxurious pool.  My room was bereft of any hotel information  at all.  Literally, zero but I assumed being a busy business oriented hotel, 6 am would be reasonable.  I used my 20 minutes of free Wi-Fi to watch Netlix and then scampered down the arctic corridors to the leisure centre which was closed.  A note on the door said it would throw open its doors in half an hour. When I went back, the gym was open but the place was shrouded in semi-darkness, the main light coming from a TV monitor showing sports.  I was startled to see a youth behind the desk in the corner, we greeted each other in the customary wary way – ‘alright?’ – and I got on a treadmill and ran for 40 minutes. I now realise that I was supposed to pay to use the leisure club but it didn’t occur to me and Youth did not ask for payment. I can honestly say that this 40 minute run was the best part of the entire trip. I am going to skip the bit about Basingstoke as this is not the hotel’s fault.  I fervently hope I never have to go back. Maybe, as I was seeing it on a grim Tuesday evening, on an unseasonably cold April day, it is unfair to judge. On the last day, I had to go out very early for a meeting and then come back to the hotel.  I was packed so I put my luggage in the car.  But I didn’t check out. I wanted to use the room until 11.  However, my room was open when I arrived, the maid had checked me out and serviced the room.  She was apologetic but the inference was that it was my own fault for removing my luggage.  So I had to go and sit in my colleague’s equally squalid room where I spent my time once again freezing to death and moaning ceaselessly. I am sure this was annoying and I am glad.    

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