The latest road trip to Germany and Switzerland – well, fly drive trip to be precise – got off to an excellent start when, without a quibble, the MAC concession at Stansted airport exchanged the bottle of Studio Fix foundation I had bought back in April, the last time I was passing through. The item was out of its money back period, but they let me swap it for an eye pencil and a peachy crème lipstick called - rather inappropriately for a dissatisfied customer ready to do battle - “Shy girl”. As things turned out, I didn’t even have to play my “Just so you know, the sales assistant who colour matched me was orange” card, which I was keeping up my sleeve in case there was any argy bargy about the suitability of the shade her colleague had recommended.
So anyway, as ever I will split my trip posts into the travel-related and the (somewhat) perfume-related, adding further subdivisions as the mood takes me. Without further ado, here are some of the things that struck me this time round...
The demise of soap
Now you may say that this observation is old hat... Because of course for some time now hotels have quietly been replacing individual tablets of guest soap with wall-mounted dispensers: one over the sink and one over the bath, if they remember. There is clearly a massive cost saving to the hotelier by not having to replace used soap tablets on a daily basis - or in my case, used and unused stolen ones. However, on this trip I noticed a further worrying development, namely the substitution of loose shower wash bottles for cakes of soap or wall-mounted soap dispensers. By substitution I mean just one bottle plonked in the sink area somewhere. I find this move concerning, because the wall-mounted dispensers have been specially developed to be suitable for all body parts, including hair, while shower crème is just shower crème, and it feels decidedly odd to squeeze out a bit to wash your hands. The whole principle of shower crème is predicated on its usage being confined to the shower, otherwise it should be called...well..."wash basin creme". So that bothered me.
Over-zealous extractor fans
Okay, so I am not disputing the important role of ventilation in a windowless bathroom, but I was particularly struck on this trip by the relentless efficiency with which extractor fans kicked in in my hotel en suites, droning on for a good ten minutes after I had vacated the area. That is in itself annoying enough, but someone could really do with inventing an “intelligent” extractor fan - you know, like those windscreen wipers that sense when and how hard it is raining and switch themselves on automatically to the appropriate setting. By the same token, there is an urgent need for extractor fans that sense you weren’t prompted to use the bathroom by an urgent need of your own, but in fact only nipped in for five seconds to brush your hair or powder your nose. Quite literally. Currently, the extractor fan is – acoustically speaking – a decidedly blunt instrument.
Minibars as the new wardrobes
On my last trip I learnt the lesson that it is foolhardy to put things in the wardrobes of hotel rooms, for the chances are that at some point you will check out and leave key items of clothing behind. This time I was acutely wardrobe-aware, and took pains to hang all clothes outside on hooks and rails and sundry ledges in plain view. I was, however, staying on the whole in a slightly better class of hotel, and had a minibar in my room on several occasions. This offered an illicit temperature-controlled environment for my stash of emergency chocolate, miniature bottles of drugstore Sekt and the sandwiches I had smuggled away under cover of serviette from the breakfast buffet. I was of course quick to transfer my wardrobe learning to this new scenario, and left notes in prominent places to remind myself to remove my interloping food and drink items from the minibar before checking out.
Preternaturally early lunches
The corollary of this packed lunch-making habit is that having checked out I lost my refrigerated facility, and the sandwich had to take its chances in the ambient interior of my car – as in ambient to boiling hot, depending on the weather. I made a point of catching the weather forecasts on the morning news with their detailed four hourly temperature projections, and on the basis of this information would time my lunch break accordingly. This could be as early as 11am in the case of soft cheese, which I knew to be a hotbed of salmonella and other nasties ending in "-cocci" if allowed to reproduce unchecked. Given that I had not long eaten a copious breakfast, you may wonder at this determination to consume all the food to which my room rate entitled me, but in my line of work the camel principle is key.
Most of the hotels on my last trip offered free Internet access, the only catch being that there was not always a signal in my hotel room, and sometimes I could only log on to the network in the dining room or the lower reaches of the hotel stairs. This time I had a mixture of free Internet in the room, free access somewhere else in the hotel, OR very expensive Internet access in the room, which is a racket of the first water. In Stuttgart, for example, the hotel wanted 8 euros for an hour’s surfing which is simply outrageous. By way of protest, I waltzed past the front desk and out into the street with my open netbook cradled ostentatiously in my arms, and proceded to try to log on to an unsecured network in any of the neighbouring properties. Nothing doing, sadly, but it was worth a throw.
Even 200 yards away I was still taunted by my robdog hotel’s network with its flagrant demand for 8 euros. So I took my netbook back to my room and set off in search of an Internet café. A customer in a nearby video shop directed me to a call shop about 15 minutes’ walk away, where they only charged 2 euros an hour. Yay! My determination not to pay the hotel’s rate was as much about the principle as the money alone, though it is fair to say that the six euros I saved would have bought me 18 bottles of water or one and a half bottles of Suddenly Madame Glamour in Lidl! And I got a bit of exercise along the way...
To be continued...
Photo of extractor fan from innovativeelectricalsupplies.co.uk, photo of roll from breakfastbonn.de, photo of call shop from nachbarschaft.immobilienscout24.de, other photos my own.