Save me from quaint hotels. Save me from a cramped bathroom full of toiletries wrapped in florid floral papers. Save me from bible-black oak beams at five foot nine from the ground. I’m six foot two. Save me from going to the loo in the night and finding the light over the toilet is at five foot ten from the ground too. Ouch. Save me from halogen downlighters that are an inch or so above my bald crown. Save me from cramped electric showers, or worse showers without a cubicle leaving a slippery floor or drenching your toothbrushes and the toilet seat. Mediterranean? No, simply lack of space. Save me from creaking sloping floors, overstuffed beds, antiques in the corridors that trap dust.
Britain’s bad for them, France worse, Italy can be bad too. The worst ever was an expensive renaissance villa in Florence. There were about six of us on an author tour. Keys were handed out at reception. Over dinner others proclaimed the beauty of their first floor rooms with balconies. The luck of the draw gave Karen and me a third or fourth floor garret. No porter. No minibar. We dragged our heavy cases and bags of books up the narrow winding stairs. No windows at all in the room either, just a slit six inches high at floor level. The shower was in mid bathroom, right over the sink and toilet with a drain in the floor. The walls were at 45 degrees. We were booked in for three nights by our publisher. The pigeons started at 4 am, right over our heads, not that we’d slept at all as the airless room was like an oven and the whole building creaked and pipes rumbled. We left at 5.30 am, having phoned the Sofitel, and checked in there at our own expense (though our 5.15 am call got us a large last-minute booking discount). Four stars, but actually cheaper. Huge room, air con, mini bar, bath as well as shower. Right by the Duomo. And as we recounted our awful night while checking in at 6 a.m. we were offered a free extra breakfast buffet for that day as well as the next.
In Marseilles I took one look at the sloping floor, three foot thick soft old mattress in the quaint old hotel, and departed for the Novotel. A year earlier in another quaint Marseilles hotel, I moved furniture over the door the fourth time someone tried the door handle. In the morning I called for a porter. Did I need help with my bags? No, just an escort to the lobby. I departed quaint French hotels so often for the nearest Mercure / Novotel / Sofitel that I got a loyalty card for future use. The oddity is that publishers assume authors want quaint local colour, rather than a decent bathroom, wi-fi, flat screen TV. The rooms all look the same in chain hotels? Great. Nothing to crash into or fall over in the dark. You know the layout.
Quaint old hotels are a lottery. I stayed at the 13th century Monna Lisa in Florence four or five times in the 80s. One or two rooms were palatial and beautiful. Others were dark, tiny, windowless (or rather shuttered windows to street level) and deeply depressing. One of the most miserable nights I ever spent staring at walls was in a quaint hotel in Madrid. Rome? Stayed there seven or eight times. Every single hotel was awful.
With quaint hotels, you never, never want to be above the first floor, nor on the ground floor either. Just the first floor does it. That was designed as bedrooms. The garrett which housed the miserable skivvies was in the attic. No wonder they were miserable. Now they rent them as rooms.
While filming videos, I’ve stayed at four hotels in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. One night at the Bear I got the two storey Burton-Taylor suite in the courtyard, because when I checked in to my garret, it was obvious to me and the porter that two people had spent the early evening screwing in the bed. The condom on the floor didn’t help, and I thought etiquette was to tie a knot in it. Apparently, I’d booked late and two staff members had assumed it was vacant. At 11 pm, the only free alternative they had was the huge duplex suite. Wonderful. Every other room I stayed in in Woodstock was awful. My publisher used to put favoured guests in the Old Parsonage in Oxford which visitors from America and Asia found charming. When we did a video, cast and writer (me) got the pricey, centrally located Old Parsonage. The crew got a standard modern anonymous block on the ring road with large rooms, large modern bathrooms and a huge car park. I moved out and joined the crew, eschewing the fancy soaps, horrendous mattress and creaking floor for true comfort.
Rye? Several quaint hotels. All to be avoided. The one in the pictures had really very nice staff, good food and was clean. Our room was “The Nook and Cranny” which should have been a warning. But it did the quaint hotel thing. It announced its pride in using locally-sourced produce, trumpeted its “catch of the day” which turned out to be salmon. Salmon in Sussex in July? Caught today? Call it “Fish of the day” and I have no objection, but quaint hotels have to have “catch of the day.”
The quaint hotel corridor … 17th century, too!
Stratford-upon-Avon? I don’t even look at the many quaint half-timbered hotels. I don’t want to know. I don’t like dark crimson carpets if they’re plain, loathe them if they’re patterned. No … MacDonald Swan. Modern, brick built, right across the park from the theatre. Ample parking. We always stay there.