(Or in my case, B&Bs, since I don’t really ever stay in hotels…)
There are certain universal rules, it turns out, about staying anywhere as a tourist. For a start, all hotel rooms, no matter where or what time of the year, have a very large radiator recessed into an inaccessible corner of the wall, which is turned up to full at all times and which nothing, not love nor money, can coax into a lower temperature. They have great big heavy curtains that block out all light perfectly when closed, but somehow always get stuck half way across the window when you’re trying to open or close it. Embarrassed at this situation, you slink away for the day and hope when you get back, it’ll be fixed, and lo, indeed, somehow it is fixed and the curtain is either fully open or fully closed, as god intended; however, your attempts to move it into the opposite position will once again fail and so the shame of your curtain based inadequecy mounts, night after night.
There’s usually a small kettle, and a fine collection of flash-frozen beverages and little pots of UHT milk lined up like a tiny dairy army for your inspection, inspiring you with a sense that no matter how bad things might be, you’ll never sink so low as to use one of them. There’s a single solitary mug, or glass, or sometimes both, balanced with pristine care on a paper mat so as to discourage you from disturbing the fung shei of their alignment by actually sipping from them. There’s the shaving mirror in the bathroom, with that mysterious socket set into the light across the mirror which invites you to charge shavers only, though quite where you’ll balance the charger who can say? There’s the heated towel rail, which has two settings – on in summer or off in winter – and the extraction fan in the bathroom which either comes on with a roar whenever you turn on the light, even – no, especially – in the middle of the night – or which doesn’t come on at all, but hangs there, like a sad monument to domestic aspiration. There’s a telephone which, through an archaic and often collection of dialing protocols you can be pretty sure to connect to someone in a fish shop in Wales, and the TV complete with the single most confusing remote control you’ve ever seen in your life. There’s the bedside lamp, whose ‘on’ switch always somehow manages to get lost down the side of the bed and of course, let us not forget, there’s the classic, the absolute must-be of all hotels – the layers of sheets pulled tighter than a violinist’s ‘e’ string, through which you must burrow like an intrepid explorer in search of the one piece of duvet and the two pillows you actually desire to use.
There’s the two towels in the bathroom – the great big fluffy big one that somehow you always manage to spill something on, and the tiny, pointless little one that you can never find until three days later when it’s discovered mouldering underneath your grubby underpants. There’s sometimes a safe, with a locking proceedure so simple you can’t shake the feeling that security is a secondary concern next to user friendliness, and by the front door, a collection of leaflets and maps guiding you to local places of interest, the best of which, it turns out, are invariably run by the owner’s cousin. If you get hot in the night, then of course you can attempt to open your window, where you will discover that there are several layers of glass to coax back, each one tightly secured in place, and upon the success of your enterprise you suddenly realise that the reason there is a lot of glass between you and the outside world, is because the outside world is made almost entirely of kitchen vents and fox holes. There’s plumbing that sings in the night as the residents of the neighbour rooms begin to regret their overly large first-night dinners, presumably availing themselves of the toilet paper whose leading corner has been formed into a perfect and inexplicable triangle; and should you go seeking something to read to comfort you in your hour of distress, you may find a Bible or, more likely, a local telephone directory to numb you back to sleep.
I say all this, as if I don’t enjoy travel. I do. In many ways, all of the above is really part of what makes it such an adventure…