Irritating Things About Hotels

angry hotel roomThe weather at home has been diabolical. You’ve saved hard all year for your two weeks of sun, sea and sand, you want to chill and relax, but how likely is this? I suspect most of us think flying is the most difficult, stressful part of our holiday, but what about the hotel you’ve so carefully chosen? How likely is it to raise your blood pressure?

Having recently spent three months travelling, many of the places I stayed in failed to get the basics right. Here is my personal list of irritations.

The welcome – you arrive at your hotel reception hot, sticky and tired only to be faced with so many simultaneous issues even the most proficient multi-tasker is challenged. The form you need to complete requires your passport to be retrieved from the bottom of your bag, you’re asked to produce a credit card for extras whilst trying to listen to the fast patter about meal times and location of the pool. If you’re lucky, you’ll be juggling a cold flannel and welcome drink.

Lighting – why is there always a sequence for switching on and off the huge number of lights? If you don’t suss it quickly, you end up recreating the sound and light show at Egypt’s Karnak temple every night before you go to bed. There’s always one light bulb that doesn’t work and lighting levels are generally insufficient for reading anything but a large print book.

The safe key – having got to your room, you find the safe and a sign saying, “key available at reception for a deposit”. So, you traipse all the way back to reception when you’re invariably in the room furthest away. One safe I encountered required my fingerprint to open it, or not as was generally the case.

The safe location – why is the safe always in the most difficult location at the bottom of a dark wardrobe requiring you to get on hands and knees to open it?

Wi-fi – once everything is safely stowed, you try to connect your lap-top but realise you need a password, which after looking at the information sheet, is “available from reception”. Why don’t hotels automatically provide safe keys and passwords without being prompted? And why is it, that the more expensive the hotel, the more they charge for wi-fi?

Double rooms for one – when you’ve paid for a double room, which usually means that two people will spend the night in it, why is there only one chair even when there’s ample space? And why only one suitcase rack – how many couples travel with one suitcase between them?

Bathrooms – a constant source of irritation. I cannot count the number of times when I’ve started the week with three face-flannels only to find they disappear one by one. My towels will be replaced, but not my flannels. When I hang up my towels to be kind to the environment by saying I’ll use them again, why do they ignore me and replace them anyway? And having being let down so many times, one of my “must pack” items is a universal sink plug.

The loo – I appear to be very unlucky, as invariably during a week-long holiday, my partner end up with his hand in the cistern to either stop the constant dribble of water or get the thing flushing properly.

Well, having got that off my chest and feeling much better, what about your thoughts on the most irritating things about hotels? It could be something general (I’ve not even mentioned ‘the lift’, ‘fixed coat hangers’ and ‘towel sculptures’), or a splendid one-off irritating experience.  The winner might even win a one night stay at my least favourite hotel at their own expense.

Image reproduced from theage.com.au

Hotel Schloß Dürnstein – Wachau, Austria

Tom Lewis – City Connect’s wine critic – talks about the beautiful Wachau valley in Austria and one of his favourite hotels in the region – Hotel Schloß Dürnstein. This luxury Relais & Chateaux hotel is a 17th century castle with picturesque views across the River Danube.

I used to live in in Austria and later regularly travelled to Vienna on business.

The city’s beautiful and historic first district is like a huge, UNESCO-protected, pedestrianised, open-air museum with gilded marble churches, imperial palaces and the vast Stefansdom cathedral – as well as a selection of excellent restaurants and wine bars.

However, there’s more to Austria than Vienna and on a couple of occasions, I borrowed a company car and made the short drive up the autobahn to Dürnstein in the Wachau Valley (also UNESCO-protected) to stay at the Hotel Schloß Dürnstein.

The Wachau Valley is a meandering stretch of the Danube between Melk and Krems with steep terraces on either side where some of Austria’s greatest Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners are grown by the likes of Prager, Knoll and the co-operative, Domäne Wachau. It is also an area of great natural beauty as well as home to many pretty little villages.

Dürnstein is perhaps the prettiest of these with a short cobbled main street (an underpass takes most traffic well away from the village centre) along which are to be found quaint buildings between which is to be found an occasional glimpse either down to the river on one side or up to the vineyards on the other.

High up above the vineyards lies a ruined castle where Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner from 1192 to 1194 and from where there is a breathtaking view of the village, with a church spire said to be the prettiest in Austria.

Such, then, is the setting for the Hotel Schloß Dürnstein (schloss means “castle”, but here it is more in the style of a chateau – a grand and extensive country house) overlooking a sheer drop down to the river on one side.

The hotel is now a mix of old-fashioned, central European charm, gemütlichkeit (cosiness) and luxury with all  the modern trappings such as a swimming pool and sauna.

The building was originally constructed as a magnificent renaissance structure in 1630 and the castle belonged for centuries to the Counts of Starhemberg, one of the oldest houses of Austria. Acquired from them in 1937 by Raimund Thiery, it was later converted into a hotel with the old features maintained and preserved and became one of the first non-French members of the Relais & Chateaux association of luxury hotels.

Now almost 400 years old, it retains a grand and individualistic old-world charm which I immediately found very different to the usual anonymous business chain hotels I tended to use in central Vienna; the rooms are furnished with antiques and have a view either of the fortress, the river or the village of Dürnstein.

Perhaps the most pleasant aspect to a stay, in the summer at least, is to have dinner on the terrace where on one memorable visit I had a delicious roast lamb with rosemary, as part of a four-course meal, and a Riesling from the hotel’s own vineyard (made by Toni Boden of the nearby Prager winery) whilst watching the sun set down the valley.

I followed this with a quick stroll around the village and decided that business travel has its perks every now and then.

A two-night package at the Hotel Schloß Dürnstein costs from €556 for a standard double room.

Hotel Schloß Dürnstein GmbH
3601 Dürnstein
Austria
WACHAU
Tel:+43 2711 212
hotel@schloss.at

Images courtesy of cambridgewineblogger.blogspot.com