I’ve stumbled upon a guilty little pleasure: looking up reviews of hotels I’m staying in on holiday review site TripAdvisor.
But here’s the thing: I don’t do it before I visit a place. I generally do it when I’m there.
I stumbled upon the joys of internet review sites the first time I visited New York with my dad (HI DADDY YOU’RE ON MY BLOG NOW) and stepmother-elect, Margaret, back in 2006. As you may remember we were only there for five days, so we didn’t waste much time sleeping in the centre of the universe. Our hotel was nothing fancy but it was perfect for our purposes. Now this was before the days you’d grab free wi-fi abroad on your phone leaning against a Starbucks window, so it wasn’t until we returned to the UK and I was looking for references to places that I had visited, that I found it.
THIS IS THE DIRTIEST PLACE I HAVE EVER STAYED. WE TURNED UP THE BEDSHEETS AND THEY WERE CRAWLING WITH COCKROACHES.
I paraphrase a little, but I bed you’ve read them too: the hysterical, shrieking denunciations of “filthy” bedrooms, “tired” fittings and “terrible” food. Perhaps it makes me a hypocrite to raise the point, here in the safe space I’ve created for myself where I can ramble at length about just about anything I want, but bloody hell if the democratisation of the internet hasn’t created this tremendous sense of entitlement among complete arseholes. It’s as if somebody told us about this magical place where you can get everything you want the night before for twenty quid and still expect a four-star service, goose down pillows* and scented candles in the bathroom.
Am I just looking for something different? When I’m travelling I tend to keep busy, so all I need is a comfortable enough place that’s (not too) warm to rest my head at night. As long as nobody’s going to break in and steal my toothbrush in the night, the most important consideration for me is price. I can’t bring myself to pay more than fifty quid for a hotel room, and even then that’s only in extremis.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t feel the need to complain if you find a family of cockroaches in your underwear drawer, of course – I’m saying that we didn’t, and it’s a shame for the hotel that that’s the first thing a potential guest sees when they load up a search machine. Did the writer of the review complain to the management, or come home and complain to a browser window? I wonder. I know which approach I find fairer. If you’re paying bargain basement prices, get over yourself if the crockery doesn’t match or there’s a threadbare patch on the carpet. You’ll find that hotels that lack the polish of the major chains make up for it in personality.
The Connaught Hotel in Wolverhampton is a case in point. We’ve stayed there a few times now, perhaps because of its proximity to a certain football stadium, and we’re getting to be quite fond of the place. It’s cheap – in fact, it’s probably top of the pile on LateRooms right now – and it’s cheerful. It used to be run by the Best Western chain which it seems have recently washed its hands of the place (I pity the person whose job it was to amend the leftover stationery stocks in black permanent marker) and, okay, it doesn’t look a thing like it does on the website.
It also has a ‘traveller rating’ of 2 on TripAdvisor.
Far from the neat frontage the website banner presents to you, the Connaught actually extends to several buildings that make up part of the same terrace. I suspect that the hotel grew organically, gradually knocking down walls into the buildings next door to offer more room space. I have no idea if this is true, but I hope it is and it would certainly explain the adventure that results from trying to find your way to your bedroom. Also, we got lost twice trying to find our way back out.
Stringer and I filmed you a little guided tour on our last stay a couple of weeks ago. He would like me to point out that any heavy breathing is as a result of him having to carry all the bags because I didn’t want my cupcakes getting squished. Enjoy.
*Not for me please, you’ve never seen such an allergic reaction. At least I don’t have to check the bedlinen for health hazards when I stay at a Travelodge.