Hotel Rooms

I have stayed in some memorable hotels—Brown’s in London, and Cipriani’s in Asolo—but for some reason the hotel rooms I remember best are the ones that were, let us say, sub par. My most memorable hotel experience was in a small town whose name I forget, on the shore of Lake Atitlán in Guatemala. I was visiting a rural development project  in a nearby village. It was the late 1970s, some years before the military coup that devastated this small nation, and while the city was awash in young soldiers, the countryside was quiet. My wife and I checked into a hotel that was like something out of a B. Traven novel: a low building around a patio that contained the toilets and outdoor shower stalls. Our room was pretty basic but quite large, and oddly contained four or five beds. We didn’t think much of it and turned in early. Later that night we were woken by the noise of someone—rather  drunkenly—falling into one of the beds. We hadn’t realized that the sleeping arrangements were communal. The second hotel room that sticks in my memory was in Idah, in central Nigeria. Idah, then a town of about 20,000, is on the eastern bank of the Niger River. I was there as part of a team of visiting consultants, to devise garbage removal systems for small provincial towns like Idah, whose streets were sometimes impassable because of the accumulated trash. The hotel was the best one in town, well, the only one in town. This time the novelist who comes to mind is Joseph Conrad, in one of his darker moods. Everything in the room—the decrepit easy chair, the air conditioner, the ceiling fan, the electric lights—was broken. There was nothing to do but drink—and make a sketch.


3 Responses to Hotel Rooms

  • Dave says:

    As a long time fan of your writing (25 years) I just found this blog and wanted to express my admiration as to the clarity, understandability and the enjoyment I have derived from your writing.

    My memorably good hotel experiences included a non-descript motel on the outskirts of Sudbury when after a long punishing drive from Peterbourough in the midst of an Ontario heatwave we found air conditioned comfort and a fresh lake trout dinner. We never found it again.

    Again, travelling across Canada we booked a room in a certain hotel, whose name I won’t mention for obvious reasons, in the old quarter of Quebec City.We walked through the old city, enjoyed a remarkable meal, the Artist’s Alley, the public entertainment and topped if off with a caleche through the Plains of Abraham and prevailed on the driver to deliver us to the doorstop of the hotel. That night we slept like babies and in the early morning arose to fresh coffee, rolls and a promenade on the boardwalk below the Fairmont Hotel. We return there every time we pass through – and the experience is the same.

    I guess my point is that a memorable experience of a hotel room (or indeed any space) is, as you suggest, the culmination of your traveling experience, your mood, tiredness etc. I remember your essay on the Amsterdam airport lauding the comfort and relative noiseless of that experience.

    Have you ever had a radically different experience on a “second view”?

  • very evocative drawing.

  • Pingback: The post where I reminisce about dodgy hotel rooms I've known... - Blue Metropolis

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