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This is a question Hotel Splendido

Enzyme writes, "what about awful hotels, B&Bs, or friends' houses where you've had no choice but to stay the night?"

What, the place in Oxford that had the mattresses encased in plastic (crinkly noises all night), the place in Blackpool where the night manager would drum to the music on his ipod on the corridor walls as he did his rounds, or the place in Lancaster where the two single beds(!) collapsed through metal fatigue?

Add your crappy hotel experiences to our list.

(, Thu 17 Jan 2008, 16:05)
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Somewhere in London (apologies for length)
I suppose I should have guessed that this would be slightly less than perfect when I boarded the taxi at Euston, told the driver where I was headed, and received the reply “Where?” For once, The Knowledge had seemingly deserted my driver… either that, or this hotel was eminently forgettable. It was, however, nothing of the sort.

It was snowing when I arrived, and Christmas Eve was four days away. I stepped from the taxi and walked towards the attractive terrace filled with high hopes. As I stepped through the narrow front door, struggling with my collection of holdalls and boxes, I saw a slightly shoddy reception area, and a pair of eyes and a forehead peering at me over the reception desk.

“Hi. I’ve got a reservation in the name of (my name),” I announced.

“I know,” replied the forehead. “Fill this in.” And with that, he handed me a tiny square of paper bearing three blank spaces labelled Name, Address, and Nationality. I filled it in and, after glancing over my details, the receptionist handed me the customary six-inch long key fob, telling me that I was in room 501 (or something like that). Not wanting to struggle up the stairs I asked where the lift was, only to be told that they didn’t have one. I asked if somebody could help me with my bags, but nobody was free. So I struggled up the stairs alone, noticing that each landing had its own Coca-Cola vending machine. A nice touch.

I reached the top floor, looked around, and saw that every door number started with a 4, indicating that I was on the fourth floor. There were, however, no more stairs to climb, so where was my room? I noticed a small alcove and, looking into it, I saw a narrow staircase, each step sagged through use over the years. The stairs were all of two feet wide, and I feared that this was merely a roof access ladder, so abandoning my luggage for a moment I climbed the stairs, finding my room and others at the top. I unlocked the door, switched the lights on, noticed a loud growling sound and a flashing light, then collected my belongings and went to settle in.

The flashing light was, it transpired, my bedside lamp, which was actually a fluorescent tube – unshielded – which had been screwed to the headboard. The tube was also on the verge of expiring, and was flickering slightly, but just enough to be noticeable and bring on either migraine or epilepsy. As for the growling noise, I found that it came from the bathroom. I opened the door, stepped inside, and realised that it was coming from the extractor fan, the cover of which was rattling noisily as a screw was missing from its underside. I turned the light out, waited about fifteen minutes for the fan to switch itself off, then removed the cover and put the light back on again. The fan whirred quietly, but it seemed to be encased in a large cube of fluff which it had accumulated, chunks of which were dropping onto the floor. Quickly I turned the light back off, put the cover back on as soon as the fan had stopped, and resolved to shower in the dark, an experience which made bathing somewhat like being a member of the cast of “Das Boot.”

As for the rest of the bedroom, it was ferociously hot and L-shaped, a narrow passage leading from the door before turning to the right. The bed more or less filled the main part of the room, a gap of around twelve inches between its clear side – the other side being pushed hard against the opposite wall – and the wall, and at its foot stood a dressing table and a wardrobe. The wardrobe had a hinged door, but as the gap between the door and the end of the bed was around eight inches in total, it couldn’t actually be opened fully, and so to make use of the wardrobe you had to put your clothes onto a hanger, hold them flat against the outside of the wardrobe, and then slide them into the gap before twisting your hand and attempting to find the hidden rail.

Upon the dressing table there was a television, and a small card standing on its top told me that one of its channels was “Sky.” Not knowing which Sky channel this was, I switched the set on and saw that it was one of the movie channels, so I left this on as I attempted to unpack. After a few minutes, however, the film became a cricket match, and I realised that the hotel had a single Sky box, and this was controlled by the man sitting at the reception desk, so whatever he watched was beamed into every room. Not being a cricket fan, I switched the set off, went to the toilet in the dark, and then went to bed…

…and promptly fell out of it. Because of the shape of the room, previous guests had been forced to get into the bed in a single place and, as time went by, this spot on the mattress sagged, so when you lay in the bed your backside was significantly lower than the rest of your body. In addition, for reasons unknown, the side of the bed away from the outside wall also appeared to be lower than the other, and as a result I had to lie in the bed on my left side, my hands hooked over the opposite edge of the mattress in order to stop myself rolling out. I took one last look out of the window at the snow falling over London, gripped the mattress, and settled down to sleep.

When I awoke the next morning I discovered that the bed was wet. I looked around, wondering if the room was raining in, even if I had wet myself, but neither was the case. The external wall of the room was coated in white gloss paint, and was a Dorma-style extension, against which the bed was positioned. As the temperature inside the room was so much greater than the world outside, condensation had formed on the wall during the night, trickled down the painted surface, and soaked the bed through. I leapt from the bed, had a shower in the dark, dressed, and went to breakfast.

“Morning,” said the man on the reception desk, but as I was half-way down the stairs and out of his sight. How did he know I was there? It was simple, really: he had positioned a mirror at the foot of the stairs, angled such that he could see people coming down. I walked into the reception, feeling a little nervous, and proceeded to look for my breakfast.

“You looking for breakfast?” he asked. I nodded. “It’s down here,” he replied, pointing behind the counter. I half expected him to hand me a plate of toast and some cereal, but when I looked over the desk I saw a trap door, a wooden staircase leading into the cellar.

“You’re joking…” I gasped. He shook his head. Deciding to humour him, I slowly descended. As I was half way down, I heard him lift the telephone and dial a number.

“He’s on his way,” he said, and quickly replaced the receiver. Instantly I had visions of a masked lunatic waiting at the bottom of the stairs, a cricket bat held in his raised arms, ready to swing at his latest gullible victim.

I found myself in a small room, a tiny window allowing a little light to enter, illuminating the motes of dust which hung in the air. Each table in the room had a glass of orange juice waiting, and a bowl of cereal, the milk already poured. I sat down, wondering a) why I was alone, and b) why I was there at all.

Moments later, a slightly mad-looking woman approached. “Yes?” she asked, not blinking.

“Breakfast?” I replied.

“Yes?” she repeated.

“Cereal?” I asked.

“There’s some there,” she said, pointing to the bowl before me.

“Can I have some without the milk already on them?”


I decided that an alternative plan was necessary.

“Tea and toast?” I asked.

“And?” she replied.

“That’s it.”

“No cooked breakfast?” she said, frowning, a baffled expression on her face.

“No thanks.”

“Oh.” And with a suspicious look, she scurried off to the kitchen. A few second passed, before I heard muttering and, as I looked up, I saw a few faces peer around the kitchen door, seemingly wanting to see the mysterious guest who didn’t want a cooked breakfast. Eventually, my toast came, and after picking at it, I left.
(, Thu 17 Jan 2008, 18:53, 1 reply)
Excellent tale!
And very well written. It's like an early David Lynch film. Bravo!
(, Fri 18 Jan 2008, 16:45, closed)

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