A bed with clean linen and a bathroom with hot water, I think we can all agree, is a guest’s basic requirement of a hotel. How impressive then of the Travelodge Great Yarmouth Acle to ensure that they provide this — and pretty much nothing else.
And how bourgeois of me to think that a comfortable bed, pillows, silence, and décor that doesn’t resemble a federal penitentiary might be desirable when one is paying £82 a night, plus a cheeky extra £10 on top for wifi so slow that it appeared to be powered by hamsters in a wheel.
I may possibly have been more forgiving if I hadn’t turned up just past midnight on Saturday evening to be told that the Travelodge online booking system had booked me into a sold out hotel. Yup, there was no room at the inn.
And no manger either.
After twenty minutes of frantic ringing around other establishments to no avail, the very charming and now very stressed night manager gave me the only empty room, one that was assigned to a guest who hadn’t arrived yet. It turned out to be an adapted room for people with disabilities. My sister has MS, so I am quite familiar with these. Although I’m not quite sure whose disabilities would be suited to this bizarre room, with its grab bars in the wrong places, and a bath. A bath! Ever tried using one of these when your legs don’t work very well/at all?
Given that the hotel is in a car park, this splendid view came as no surprise.
However the lack of soundproofing did.
I was quite moved by Travelodge’s desire to remind me of my time in America watching endless re-runs of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation:
It’s always splendid to see plumped up pillows on one’s bed.
And imagine just how impressed I was, when I investigated why my pillows seemed so hard, that you had found such a clever place to stash the spare towels.
After all who really needs pillows on a bed? More bourgeois expectations from silly old me.
I was looking forward to ‘the kingsize bed* with cosy duvet’, as described on the Travelodge website. So when I found this thin, worn out coverlet on the single bed (‘*At most hotels’)
I was somewhat taken aback. Then I realised that clever old Travelodge wouldn’t want to risk me over-sleeping in the morning by being too comfortable or too warm.
The rustling sound when I got into bed was a little confusing and I couldn’t work out why my bottom sheet felt so scratchy. Then I realised they had provided me with a waterproof incontinence sheet. How handy for those little accidents! (Because of course ALL disabled people wet themselves.)
And I really admired how Travelodge wanted to save me time by opening the milk portions in advance.
The torn armchair was a thoughtful touch: no worrying about accidentally damaging the furniture
Likewise no need for concern in the bathroom: perfectly pre-scratched pipes next to the bath
I do like a bit of stained grout around the taps, and a broken bath plug. Maybe they could re-name this room the ‘student experience’?
I was particularly pleased that the Travelodge accessibility room came complete with some fun challenges for the wheelchair bound and differently abled.
I always like to be given the opportunity to tip my my disabled friends headfirst into the bath.
And look! A handy trip hazard into the bathroom. More fun for everyone! My sister just loves swinging crutches over door ledges.
After a really delightful night’s sleep, wrapped in my thin duvet, wedging four towels under my head, and hearing my sheet go scrunch scrunch scrunch each time I turned over, I checked out and headed across to the Little Chef on the other side of the car park for a restorative full English.
I properly adore Little Chefs. American diners are one of my great true loves, so an English version that serves a fry up is right up my street. I do draw the line at mystery sausages tho, so ordered up the Olympian Veggie Breakfast.
Oh god it was terrible. Fried eggs, cooked on the griddle, so the white cooked like leather by the time the pallid yolk was set; a griddled tomato, with half a cm of cooked flesh, and rock hard stone cold tastelessness for the rest; mushrooms that were so old they belonged in a geriatric home for funghi, advertised hash browns that were conspicuous by their absence and, apparently, Lavazza coffee that had the caffeine kick of a crippled mule.
I complained and paid £3.44 for the coffee and the toast. I read recently that Little Chefs are struggling, and that Heston Blumenthal’s much vaunted menu is being phased out. From what I can tell from this morning’s experience, the issue isn’t with the menu, it is with the execution. The only edible parts of my breakfast were the parts that didn’t need to be prepped or cooked on site: the frozen sauteed potatoes, veggie sausages, white sliced toast and the baked beans.
So: two hospitality fails in twelve hours. And disappointing too. There’s no reason why inexpensive roadside hotels and diners should set mediocre — or worse — as the summit of their aspirations.
I’m really not fussy. Of course, given a choice I would always go for a B&B or a guesthouse over a British roadside lodging, but on heatwave Saturdays in rural England the options are limited. I didn’t stay at the Travelodge with any great expectations. But nothing, nothing could have prepared me for the lazy, thoughtless, inadequate approach that I encountered.
At a quarter of the price that room with its towels stuffed in a pillowcase would have been unacceptable. For £82 it was a particularly unfunny joke. (Lest you think that okay, a reader alerted me to the fact that she has recently paid less than that to stay in The Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch, London.)
ADDENDUM: A Travelodge Head Office representative tracked me down this afternoon, via the mobile number on my reservation. In the interests of fairness, she gave me an unqualified apology — although we couldn’t complete the conversation as my phone signal cut out (am still in very rural Norfolk), and told me that there is a rolling programme of refurbishment across the chain, with Acle’s due to start from July 22, 2013.