I haven’t had enough of ‘bor­ing ho­tels’ yet

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

The lobby of our Oslo hidey-hole was main­tained in a Sty­gian gloom. Val­halla was bet­ter lit. The in­te­rior had ghastly orange daubs of bad art hung on walls blotched with brown lumpy stuff. Not dried…? No. There was a slight twin­kle from the wall­sized wa­ter­fall sep­a­rat­ing the public area from the restau­rant, but not enough to stop me fall­ing down the black slate steps into the bar.

It’s “one of the coolest cock­tail bars in town”, ac­cord­ing to its own man­age­ment. It doesn’t do cof­fee. It does cock­tails. “But it’s 11 o’clock in the morn­ing!”

Mrs Jones is adept at fer­ret­ing out th­ese state-of-the-art hostel­ries. I don’t want to be this cut­ting-edge, though I do like be­ing enough out of place to dis­con­cert the clien­tele.

This is a sin­cere ho­tel, I will give it that. There are ap­ples. There is free espresso. There are more cush­ions on the bed than there is bed. I like the ex­tras, if not the heavy-metal bed­room am­bi­ence. Care­ful not to back into the lethal prick­les of the 6ft cac­tus. How it sur­vives the per­pet­ual dark­ness is a hor­ti­cul­tural mir­a­cle.

At the desk, Kirk, our greeter, is dressed like a mess sergeant on a galac­tic star ship. We are clearly priv­i­leged to be in the place at all. Books are ar­ranged hap­haz­ardly on shelves, but they are only for show – or some­one try­ing for a Seven­ties ac­coun­tancy de­gree in Ro­ma­nian.

The room, when we reach it, pad­ding along dimly lit cor­ri­dors, is a light­ing show­room. A huge, com­i­cal punch ball with a 30-watt bulb is can­tilevered over the avail­able square me­tre of floor space. There’s a free-stand­ing, lu­mi­nous blob on one side and a jack-knifed tube that needs ca­ress­ing into life on the con­sole. The walls are painted dark grey. The doors are darker grey. The round rug is lighter grey. The floor is an alarm­ing jet black. There is an art work with some sort of metal fin­ish on the wall. It is a sil­very grey. Glad I’m not wear­ing grey. I would merge. It is too dark to find the light switches.

And Am­s­ter­dam last year? I didn’t know what to make of the “art ho­tel” cho­sen to go with our art binge in that city. Its decor was vis­i­bly dat­ing even as we stood wait­ing for ser­vice. You re­ally can’t have an art ho­tel if your art is sec­ond-rate Eight­ies tosh.

The hip­ster crowd swan­ning in and out man­aged to make the guests seem re­dun­dant. The restau­rant throbbed to retro disco. It was thronged with oddly dressed youngish fat­ties who were pulling shapes at the ta­ble. Fash­ion peo­ple, I guess. Dutch fash­ion peo­ple.

No wa­ter­fall here. In­stead, a flam­ing fire ran thigh-high through the mid­dle of the restau­rant and smelt vaguely of tur­pen­tine. Ser­vice was tree-ring slow. Mind you, they had re­strained them­selves on the dé­cor. Not too much black. Some grey. Lots of dark red.

This ho­tel had big red plas­tic heads in­stead of desks in the lobby and, worst of all, writ­ing, in English, about “ideas” wo­ven into the bed­room car­pets. Even the car­pet was urg­ing me to be “cre­ative”. I’m on hol­i­day, for God’s sake. But again, ex­em­plary ser­vices: a com­fort­able bed and a com­pre­hen­si­ble tele­vi­sion sys­tem.

A stay in Oslo prompted mixed emo­tions

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