Bring me a wig­wam, please

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

LAST week­end’s De­par­ture Lounge (‘‘Ho­tels need to lighten up’’) has pro­voked a flurry of emails from read­ers who share my­dark thoughts about not be­ing able to read in gue­strooms as bed­side light­ing is too dim or poorly po­si­tioned or to work out which switch does what in high-tech cham­bers at so-called hip ho­tels.

Du­vets are a real is­sue, it ap­pears. Too hot is the ver­dict. Of­ten plonked on with­out a top sheet is an­other com­plaint. ‘‘Bring back blan­kets!’’ is the piti­ful cry in the toss­ing-and-turn­ing wilder­ness.

Why doesn’t the ob­ses­sion to pro­vide best-qual­ity Egyp­tian cot­ton bed­ding ex­tend to equally su­pe­rior pil­lows? Cheap cloth ones are far too com­monly in place. At a guest­house with five-star pre­ten­sions in the NSW Hunter Val­ley, I saw a pil­low menu, rang re­cep­tion for a goose­down va­ri­ety and was told, quite snap­pily, that such lux­u­ries needed to be booked. ‘‘We only have one, you know,’’ de­clared the front of­fice man­ager, as if I had wanted the com­pany he­li­copter on short no­tice.

Read­ers tell me they need irons and boards and, most of all, ket­tles. While half the ho­tels I visit have Ne­spresso ma­chines the size of rab­bit hutches and de­signer teabags made from hand-pulled herbs, just as many (mostly in Europe, it has to be said) can’t be both­ered giv­ing you the mak­ings of any­thing. They want you to ring for room ser­vice, pay for the cuppa and tip the but­ler so he doesn’t ‘‘accidentally’’ spill boil­ing wa­ter on your toes.

I am not keen on cen­tralised ser­vice, ei­ther, a trade­mark of chains such as WHo­tels and Hil­ton. Here is what I wrote in Jan­uary 2006, while re­view­ing the then just-re­vamped Hil­ton Syd­ney: ‘‘The cen­tralised Magic but­ton on my hy­per-phone is about as an­noy­ing as that What­ever, When­ever stuff they carry on with at W Ho­tels. I just want some­one to say hello and not to pre­tend they are a ma­gi­cian or a ‘guest re­quest man­ager’ and not to ask me if I would like to or­der food when I re­quest room ser­vice. ‘No, I would like to or­der a child’s pad­dling pool, a stuffed gi­raffe and a wig­wam,’ is what I long to re­ply. My mes­sage light blinks for two days but I am re­peat­edly told no one has called. One of the staff tells me Magic stands for ‘man­ag­ing all guests’ in­com­ing calls’, which some­how makes it worse.’’

Seven years on and still I am foiled by all this tech­not­wad­dle, which is in­creas­ingly in­stalled in the name of five-star op­u­lence but is so damned com­pli­cated some ho­tels have to em­ploy ‘‘tech­nol­ogy but­lers’’.

But lux­ury 21st-cen­tury style is much more to do with be­ing co­cooned, with be­ing made to feel all rea­son­able re­quests will be con­sid­ered. In our busy lives, we want ho­tels to mother us and if not ex­actly tuck us in, then make us feel nurs­ery-safe and prop­erly cared for.

At one Euro­pean city pile last year, I was of­fered Hor­licks and a 15-minute head mas­sage as I stum­bled in at 9pm af­ter a long flight. An hour later, I had bathed and was in bed with shiny lights and a tele­vi­sion re­mote con­troller that worked on the very first try. Heaven.

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