Maybe I am just not a five star person?! Give me a good four star Intercontinental or a Marriott anytime.
Now don’t get me wrong I appreciate excellent service, good surroundings, a wonderful location, and a nice bathroom with a walk in shower as much as the next guy. But sometimes – most times – I just want to shut the door on the world and hole up with a half decent movie or Twitter, a steak, and the contents of a mini-bar.
I have just stayed one night in the five star splendour of the Hotel Sacher in Vienna, Austria. It is one of Vienna’s finest if Tripadvisor is to be believed. Which, though rarely the case, may well have been true.
I was greeted like a pop star (or mistaken for Paul Hollywood again – he seems to be a little more current than my other doppelgänger, George Clooney) from being dropped off by the taxi. My luggage was swapped for a ticket by a man in a top hat. He could have been anyone. He could have been the infamous top hat thief of Wien who hangs around the receptions of top Austrian hotels stealing the luggage from unsuspecting travellers. But, thankfully, he was the real deal doorman and my luggage was safe and sound…..
The concierge ushered me to reception and the receptionist expressed genuine (not) interest in my day, my plans for the evening, and my life prospects over the next week or so. The conversation was sealed with the swipe of my Amex card, at which point the same receptionist took me on a mini-tour of the elegant ground floor, explained the location of the gym and spa (I am blessed with the kind of natural athletic physique that strangers just assume I must work out regularly…..), before showing me to my room.
It was nice. No, it was much better than nice. But was it worth paying more than twice the rate I typically pay for a stay in London?
I think that the room had far too many towels for one person and far too many drawers for someone living out of an overnight bag. It had far too many light switches – whatever combination I pressed there always seemed to be one left on, which required me to walk across the length of the room to turn off. And, to be honest, I didn’t sleep too well, fearing that the grand chandelier may fall and crush me….
But, in truth, the room could have benefited from a much better air conditioning unit – it was mighty hot even with the dial turned down to 11 (minus). I would have like firmer pillows, and free water. I awoke several times feeling thirsty and dehydrated, a consequence of the heat and the inefficient air conditioning.
As it happened, the location was wasted on me. I arrived after 7pm and had an hour of calls, by which time it had begun to rain outside. So, by the time I had found the hair dryer (hidden I one of the myriad drawers) and figured out how to change the TV so that it would talk English to me, it was pretty much time for bed. No sightseeing.
It might have been five star luxury but I couldn’t help wondering just how many bathrobes and pairs of slippers could a person get through in a stay. And I still had to phone down to ask for an iron and ironing board to be delivered….
Indeed, I had several visitors to the room – the receptionist who showed me around, the housekeeper who brought the iron, the guy from room service who delivered my meal, and the other guy from room service who cleared my empties (you’re not allowed to just leave it outside your door in a five star establishment!).
And on every occasion my visitor seemed to linger and hesitate before leaving. Either they were thinking of asking me for my autograph or maybe a selfie to show to their friends. Or, they assumed that if I could afford to stay in this place then I could damn well leave a tip. But, I couldn’t steal from my Company with a clear conscience….
Which brings me to the subject of the food. Now, I realise that I missed the opportunity to sample the Sacher Torte for which this particular establishment is renowned, but my food choices seem to have been limited to fried chicken, ham and grilled cheese. If it hadn’t been for the German of the TV I could have been in the American Deep South….