Sunday, October 26, 2003

Uncle Theo, the Lout, and a Pig in a Tutu

I’ve decided to think of hotels as people. Every person is different, wonderful and infuriating in their own way. Each thinks they’re good, and that their way of doing things is best and natural – no matter how strange it might be to others.

The Hotel Kasteel Bloemendal in Vaals (in Holland, close to the German border) is like an aging, once-dashing bachelor: Uncle Theo. He was very handsome in his young days, and still wears a silk cravat. His tweedy jackets are a little frayed, and the cravat has seen better days. There’s still a shadow of the young man, but there’s now nothing to hide the cruel fact that he’s not very smart, or very rich.

The Bloemendal is an imposing building, with a red carpet winding up the stairs to the lobby. My room was large, but the carpet was worn. There was a kettle in cupboard – ah, so nice to be able to make some rooibos tea! – but no notepad on the desk. There was a phone with a modem jack, but it was next to the bed, on the other side of the room from the desk.

The Meridien Hotel on Piccadilly, on the other hand, is a Lout in Livery. The interior design is wonderful: flair, taste, sophistication. The serving staff, on the other hand, is young, unenthusiastic, and clumsy. I had dinner in the fancy Terrace Restaurant; my server had body odor and a flippant attitude. I will grant them, though, that the young wine waiter was smartly turned out and attentive.

The Dorint Quellenhof in Aachen looked like the perfect place, though as a Five Star it was way fancier than I needed. It’s a lovely building, and backs onto a huge park; going for a run in the morning is a delight. It (apparently) has a luxurious spa. I’m sure German visitors would find it a delight. On the other hand… the staff are gormless, and the facilities for business people are pathetic. Their English is limited at best, and absent as a rule. I asked for a room with an analog line; it didn’t work. I was moved to another room – where it didn’t work either. I suspect that’s because they have ISDN lines, but the staff were clueless. To add insult to injury, there was no room service menu in the room. I had to take the hotel facilities folder down to reception to prove my point. I went for a run, and was told that there would be one when I got back. There wasn’t… and so they sent up someone with the bar menu... I think they must’ve bribed someone to get their fourth and fifth stars.

The Quellenhof is a Pig in a Tutu.

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