It Is All Downhill From Here!

May 12, 2011 at 8:15 am Leave a comment

KitKat chunky.

Image via Wikipedia

In so many ways my life has run in parallel to that of the great Hollywood actor, George Clooney…….the stunning good looks, the salt and pepper hairstyle, the female adulation, and, not least, the jet-setter lifestyle he portrayed in the recent film, Up in the Air. ( 😉 )…….

Back in the day, I used to be a Platinum cardholder at KLM/Air France and a Diamond cardholder at Hilton. But, no longer. These days, the best that I can muster in frequent traveller privileges are a Silver card at Marriott and with Emirates.

Gone are the days of executive lounges, free bars, Hilton-branded rubber ducks in the bath, chocolates on my pillow, mouthwash, and a deep and meaningful relationship with the girl on reception. Sigh. These days, I am in the back of the plane and rarely see an executive room, let alone champagne on tap with curly sandwiches and the odd volauvent….

The perks of being a frequent traveller have now forsaken me. Quite how far I have fallen struck me quite hard on a recent trip – Manchester to Vienna via Frankfurt and on to London. In the old days, with my previous employer, I used to be collected by an executive limo service, in nothing less than a top range Merc with a suited and booted driver (I miss you, Sarge!). But, this week’s trip to Manchester airport was courtesy of Pete’s Taxis, in a Mondeo complete with tree shaped air freshener, and, Signal 1 on the radio.

In Vienna, I stayed in a Marriott Courtyard, being the budget end of that particular hotel chain. Surprisingly, my Silver card did earn me an upgrade – to a corner room on the top floor. I must say that it was clean, functional and quiet, which is normally all that I would ask of a room. That and a well-stocked mini bar and an ironing board and iron that hasn’t got the remains of a former traveller’s best polyester/cotton mix welded onto the bottom of it, and the occasional access to pay-for-view……

To my dismay, the mini-bar was empty! Reception informed me that this was because of their new 24 hour Market service which I would find next to reception. You have got to be joking! This new shopping concept, enables hotel guests to go and select items that they would like to take back with them to stock their very own in-room mini-bar. Are they stupid?

Look, the routine is – check-in, go to room, close curtains, find extra pillow, change into bath robe, put TV on, iron shirt for the morning, and climb into bed with an alcoholic beverage from the mini-bar and a chunky KitKat! Do they really think that I am going to schlep downstairs in my bathrobe, march to the 24 hour Market, situated between the main hotel bar and reception, select an armful of Toblerone, cashews and little plastic bottles of miniatures and cans of Coke, and take them back up to my room, running the risk of bumping into a colleague, my boss, or a client in the lift. This would be the equivalent of washing one’s dirty washing in the hotel lobby.

The hotel mini-bar was the last vestige of the guilty-secret. It called to you from the corner of your room like the sirens in one of Jason’s sagas from the ancient world. Tempting you. Teasing you. Of course you knew that it was ridiculously expensive and that salted cashews do not constitute one of your five a day, but it was one of the last remaining perks of the job – a compensation from the trials and tribulation of international travel and time away from loved ones and decent TV. I do hope that the Courtyard chain reconsider this ridiculous concept.

When I say the last vestige of the guilty secret……….the Courtyard Vienna was hosting a number of teams from the Womens Championship Challenge – an international hockey competition. Consequently, breakfast saw a bevy of fit, nubile, athletic women clad in tight-fitting lycra and hockey skirts wafting past to the buffet selection. Firm thighs and knee-length socks. I am sure that I wasn’t the only grey-suited man of a certain age drooling into his cornflakes that morning………trinians

Post script: The in-flight meal on the British Airways flight from Vienna to Heathrow constituted the choice between a half-sized packet of crisps or a chocolate biscuit. This was the main course of my evening meal. I arrived after 10.15 pm at the Westminster Park Plaza, tired, hungry, and thinking of girls in hockey skirts, but too late to contemplate calling for room service. I checked-in, went to my room (which smelled of cigarette smoke despite it being a non-smoking room), closed the curtains, found the extra pillow, changed into my bath robe, put the TV on, ironed my shirt for the morning, and headed to the mini-bar. My bloody mini-bar was bereft of salted cashews and Toblerone! And so, my dessert course consisted of a less than satisfactory chunky Kit Kat……..the joys of business travel.


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