Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ah, the romantic time we had...

So. Today we're veering way off course.

The hubs and I were talking this morning about this year's office Christmas party, which will not be at the hotel where it's been for the last few years, but at a different one near Bath. It's a beautiful old building, but we discovered something interesting about it.

On its website, when you click on "Rooms & rates", it brings up a picture of a gorgeous room, with a four-poster bed and a couch and a high vaulted ceiling. And the description says something about the variety of available rooms, from four-poster to suites to doubles to singles." Or whatever the exact wording is.

But guess what? That beautiful room in the picture? It's the only one. There is only ONE four-poster bed in the entire hotel.

Our feeling was that this is a bit of a bait-and-switch. Were there more pictures of all the rooms, it wouldn't be, but this is akin to a hotel offering a picture of its oenthouse suite and implying all the rooms look like this (trust me, it may not sound like a b-and-s as I've described it, but it really does seem so on the site.)

It reminded us of a "romantic" weekend we had once, in Key West.

We decided to stay at a hotel two block off Duvall Street, called the Chelsea House. (I should point out, in the interests of fairness, that the place seems to have changed ownership and management since our disastrous visit.) The website we saw made it sound like a dream; four-poster bed, en-suite bath with tub, balcony, loft with two additional beds, full concierge service. Since what we really wanted was what most couple who haven't been together for all that long wanted (which would be a luxurious bed we could spend a lot of time in; what, we're all adults here) this place seemed ideal. We pictured trying out all those beds; we pictured ourselves taking full advantage of that concierge service to order food in; we pictured cocktails on the balcony while wearing bathrobes. You know, that sort of thing.

So we booked it. And paid, if memory serves, something like $200 per night. Which was worth it to us; we both worked, we had no kids, we lived fairly frugally, so why not splurge?


Our room was the size of a postage stamp. Yes, we had a queen-sized bed, and yes there were posters. No bathtub, though; instead we had a shower with black mold between the tiles, that was barely big enough for me to move around in, much less the 6'2 hubs.

We couldn't find the loft, either, until we looked straight up and noticed a hole in the ceiling. The "loft" wasn't a loft; it was an attic. An un-air-conditioned attic.

With two unmade beds in it.

By "unmade" I don't mean they were stripped bare; I mean the pillows were dented, the sheets pushed back, as if people had just rolled out of them and left. So we called the desk to report our beds hadn't been made. The manager--I think--did come up, and he did bring us a bottle of champagne. But his face fell in disgust when he realized what beds we were talking about. Turned out that, according to him, they don't make those beds unless someone specifically requests that they do. Since we were just two people, he assumed we wouldn't be using them.

Apparently it was silly of us to expect that ALL the beds in our room be made, or to expect that paying for a loft with two additional beds meant we were in fact entitled to sleep in that loft with its two extra beds.

We sighed, but since it was late and we were hungry and not inclined to make fusses, we simply asked him to close the trapdoor then, so at least we wouldn't have to stare at the gaping hole in the ceiling. This he said he would do, and left.

We decided to check out our balcony. Here again we were thwarted. It was a balcony only in the very strictest sense; it was about a foot and a half wide, and somehow they'd managed to stuff a broken mini-fridge and two plastic lawnchairs onto it.

But, the bed was comfy, and as I said, we weren't inclined to make much of a fuss. We wanted to hang out together; we wanted to sleep late and snuggle. So the balcony wasn't great, so what? Ugh. I look back and want to strangle us.

I was not fond of Key West. Neither of us were. But we did take pictures by the sign pointing to Cuba (90 miles away!) We walked on the beach. We saw Hemingway's house but didn't go in, can't recall why. We had breakfast at an absolutely charming French cafe.

So the second night we decided to stay in. We'd been walking all day. My feet hurt (I had a pair of new sandles, adorable, but sadly gave me blisters) and we were feeling lazy.

So we called the desk to ask about the concierge service. You'd think we were asking to bring a pig into our room. There was no concierge service; there was no room service. They did have a booklet of menus for local area restaurants, most of whom delivered. We could come down to the lobby and get it if we wanted.

So we did. And called the restaurants, one by one, only to discover none of them delivered.

We ended up heading to the steakhouse across the street. The food was okay; we tried deep-fried alligator and found it tasty (if a bit fatty.) The best part was the waitress; she actually listened sympathetically to our tale of hotel woe, and in exchange we left her, if memory serves, a $45 tip on a $55 dollar check. She was the only person in Key West who actually was nice to us and seemed to care that we'd wasted a lot of money on a crap room in a crap hotel run by one of the Aryan Youth.

The best part of all was, when we started to complain to the mgr on check-out, he interrupted us and snapped "How about I just give you your money back."

And then charged my credit card as normal.

So not only did we pay an outrageous amount of money for a crap room, and not only were we not even allowed to voice our complaints, we paid for it (thanks to some stupid policy on the part of my credit card bank at the time, by the time we got the bill it was too late to dispute the charge.)

And that is my tale of holiday woe.

Tell me yours!


laughingwolf said...

take too long, but involved a rental 'cottage' close to the 'beach', all 'amenities' for a family of five, at a place called 'skeleton lake'... needless to say, it was nothing like promised, we drove back home the same day/night, lost the deposit, of course grrrrrrrrrrrrr

Charles Gramlich said...

Hum, I'm not sure I've ever stayed in a hotel that had room service.

Robyn said...

We stayed in a hotel with room service, which turned out to be delivery from the pizza place next door- and bringing it to the room cost about $10.00 more than if we'd picked it up.

December/Stacia said...

Oh, man, Laughingwolf, I have to say...I totally want to go to Skeleton Lake. It just sounds so cool.

Sigh, me either Charles. At least not that I was able to use--I spent a night once in the hotel where my brother worked, and they had it, but it was the night before his wedding and we'd had the big rehearsal dinner, so... I hoped the Chelsea House would be it, but of course, it wasn't.

Lol Robyn! We would have been satisfied with that--we couldn't even find a pizza place that would deliver to us. Oh, it was awful.

Seeley deBorn said...

Wow. That's probably the worst vacation story I've ever heard!

I booked a "resort" once that was supposed to be cute 1 br cabins next to the ocean, with a pool and a mini-golf course. Turned out to be cruddy little townhouse type things that smelled like wet dog and were absolutely filthy. The cushions on the sofa bed weren't even put on the right way. The pool was 8x10 and filled with pine needles. The mini-golf course was some astroturf laid down in the woods. No holes. Most of the guests were staying in their own tent trailers and had their 24s sitting in the shade next to them.

We left, giving up the cost for the night and found a 5 star B&B. It cost us more than 3 times what the crap hole would have, but there was no way. No way I was staying there.

The B&B was huge, so my brother, his girlfriend and kid came to stay with us. We had bagels with home made lox for breakfast and sat in the hot tub overlooking the ocean. Then The Man and bro's gf wrote a fictional entry in the "guest journal" about how wonderful their first homosexual experience was.

Angie said...

This is going to be kinda long.... [duck]

I was barely eighteen and had been to a few local science fiction conventions around the San Francisco Bay Area, but I wanted to go to WesterCon, which was in Phoenix that year. I barely had any money, not enough for a round-trip plane ticket, much less a hotel room or anything like that. I had a slightly older friend who was almost as short of cash as I was and also wanted to go, so we asked around and talked to some people, and ended up getting one-way tickets to fly down. First thing when we got to the convention, we put a notice up on the message board saying, "Help! Two women need a ride back to the Bay Area! One can help drive," with the number of the room we were crashing in. (Classic convention crash room -- another friend had rented it and there were like ten people staying there. I think I actually got space in one of the beds one night. [grin])

So we're wandering around the con hotel and find that the group there ahead of us -- the JayCees, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, a fine, upstanding young citizen's group [cough] -- had failed to check out on time. They were trying to elect their national officers and were in like their thirty-eighth round of voting and Would Not Leave, despite the fact that their contract had them out that morning and our convention needed both the function rooms and the beds. The hotel finally "encouraged" them to leave by raising their room rates up to rack rate; perfectly legal, once they've stayed longer than their reservations, and longer than the event for which they were getting a group rate had been scheduled for. They got through a couple more rounds of fast voting and finally started checking out, although it was still a while before a lot of the SF convention people got their rooms, because the maids can only clean so fast.

Oh, and our Upstanding Young Citizens were so drunk and rowdy that any young female SF fan who wanted to go out in the pool area needed a male escort to keep off the JayCee hooligans. And as I recall, some of the patio furniture around the pool ended up in the deep end. This was the future of our country twenty-some years ago, which is probably why we are where we are now.

Anyway. So we had fun at the convention. I'd had money for either food or the dealer's room, so of course I spent it in the dealer's room and lived mostly on chips from the evening parties all weekend. Hey, when you're eighteen you can do that. :) We were a bit concerned about getting home, but finally on Monday morning, we got a call from a woman who was driving back to northern California and would take us. Yay!

So Monday afternoon we met Susie and started off. She told us that her car had broken down on the way into Phoenix, but it'd been in the garage all weekend and should be fine now. Except a little ways out of town it started making weird noises, and it eventually died. A couple of nice guys stopped to help us and managed to tinker it together enough to get it running very slowly, then followed us to an offramp and down a road toward a town, until it died again. They offered to drive us to town where there was a gas station with a garage.

My companions left their suitcases in the car, but I'd only brought a backpack and decided on sort of a whim to grab it. I had one hardcover book I'd bought in Patty's suitcase (she was the friend I'd come with) but everything else was in my pack, and I thought if we were going to be waiting for hours for a mechanic to fix the car, I wanted a book or two with me.

The guys drove us up the road to lovely Tonopah, Arizona, which at the time was literally two gas stations, a bar/diner and a small motel. It turns out the gas station with the garage didn't have VW parts, and of course it was a holiday weekend (4th of July) and they wouldn't be getting anything in for a couple of days. One of the guys who'd helped us said he had to go into Phoenix anyway and could pick up the part needed. Coolness. The other guy hung out with us in the bar/diner place the rest of the day and into the evening, and was really nice.

So it's pushing midnight and the other guy comes back. He's got the part, and we all pile into the truck to go back to the car. We get there and the driver's side window's smashed in. The car's been robbed -- both Patty's and Susie's (car owner) suitcases are gone. And when the thief ripped the stereo out of the dashboard they messed up the wiring, to go along with whatever had been wrong with the car in the first place. Joy.

So we go back to town and call the police. The guy who'd driven into Phoenix that day took off, and his buddy told us it was because he had warrants, and asked could we please not mention him. Umm, great.

Susie was livid, and as soon as the cops showed up she started raging and accused the missing guy of having robbed her car. I didn't think he'd done it, for no particular reason, but I also thought she was pretty stupid to make the accusation, because we were three young women alone in this tiny town and there was only one motel we could possibly stay at, so if Mr. Wanted had decided to get as mad as she did, he knew exactly where to find us.

At least I had a change of underwear.

The next day, the garage eventually managed to get Susie's car running, but not really well. If she turned the engine off, it'd need a jump to get started again, and even leaving it idling for long could kill the engine. We stopped at a couple of places on the way home to get drinks or food, and Susie had to drive the car around and around the parking lots while we were there. Stopping for gas wasn't as bad, because most gas stations can give you a jump. We were waiting for the car to die for good the whole time, though, and we'd called our families to let them know what was going on, so family and friends were all worried and a couple of guys we knew were all set to hop in their car and come looking for us if necessary.

The sun set when we were still a couple hundred miles from home. With the driver's window broken, it was freezing in the car at highway speeds. We had two jackets between the three of us, and agreed that whoever was driving would get them both. I didn't drive (and still don't) so I was in the back seat the whole time contemplating hypothermia. I was miserable by the time we got home, ready to dash right into a hot shower.

We did make it home, though. Susie wasn't the best travelling companion, but I do understand why her temper was foul. We never saw her again, though, although Patty and I both continued going to conventions afterward.

It was one of those experiences which is really horrible while it's happening, but afterward it's an adventure that you enjoy telling. It's fine so long as it's in the past. [wry smile]


laughingwolf said...

we went cuz of the name, and promo material... somewhere in north central alberta, as i recall

rained the whole damn time, flooded, actually, up and back... with three little ones, NOT fun

writtenwyrdd said...

I've never had that foul of an experience except my week in Paris four years or so back (several months past 9/11 and when Freedom Fries is the cry of right-thinking Americans. Or not.) First I caught some virus that wouldn't go away. Three days before vacation, I break out in a rash where I literally am patterned like a freaking giraffe. I'd just started medications to prevent migraines, and thought it might be an allergic reaction, so I called the doc and she has me in to verify it's not an alleric reaction but a 'viral rash'. I'm not gonna die and it'll pass.

So, okay, this is Friday and I hop on the plane Monday after the biggest storm of that winter. (It's the last week of January.) I leave Bangor and when we go to land in Boston for the flight to Paris the runway is practically solid ice. But we don't crash and die, so I make it to the airline aimed East for Europe. The seats is rather tight across my fat butt, but I fit and have a nice young lad sitting next to me from Lebanon. I'm on medication that makes me wonky, have a rash that has me afraid the gendarmes are going to quarantine me at the airport, and then I arrive in Paris and find my admittedly cheap hotel room in the 13th arondissment is so far out that it's several miles to anything interesting. Plust the lock is broken on the room, the room has a shower with no curtains and a splash guard only 6" wide so every wash sprays the entire room with water. And the Parisians were very rude, actually lying to me about info or swearing at me in French. (I know swearing in French, even if tone of voice isn't that communicative.) But what topped it off was the topomax I was taking decided to reverse my visual perceptions while I was wandering in the rain down the Champs Elyse (sp) so that what was near was far and what was far away was perceived as near. I can't even describe the experience, except to say that, although I'd never tried psychedelics, this would probably have qualified as that sort of experience. I barely ate the whole time though so I ended up, between walking and not eating, losing about fifteen pounds that week.

I could keep yakking about how bad it was, but really, I did enjoy the museums and the walking around. Next time I go, I'll book an expensive hotel and damn the bill, though. And I won't go in Winter!