Thursday, May 24, 2007
I know this has been a while in the posting, but between flumps and interviews and a cracked gearbox [oh my!] it's taken me ages to put it together. Anywho, Deni-o and I stayed in a place called base2stay, chosen because it was the cheapest non-grotty accommodation option available to us. I had also read good things about it on tripadvisor.com and the day before I booked our room, it was featured in InStyle magazine as a hip place to rest your bones in London. Located just off Earl's Court Road and only a two minute walk from Earl's Court tube station, which is serviced by the Circle, District and Piccadilly lines, I reckoned getting around the city would be a breeze.
Initial impressions were very favourable: on emerging from Earl's Court station, I rang for directions and the girl [I think her name was Maria] was extremely friendly and helpful. And sure a good start is half the work, as Aoife ni Whatsit likes to tell the oft befuddled boys on Paisean Faisean. Reception areas were spotless and tastefully decorated in neutral shades: creamy floor tiles, a light mocha colour on the walls, black and white furnishings and accessories. Carpet on the stairs and in the corridors and rooms was a deep pile chocolate brown, and although it was comfy on the feet, it showed up track marks something awful. Check in was fast, no messing about there. One gripe about the process though: I’m don’t quite understand why some establishments insist on pre-authorising the predicted amount of your stay on your credit card at the time of check in, regardless of how you will actually be paying on check out. In our case, this meant that there was £300 of my credit card [£285 for the room and £15 "for anything else" – were we really going to rack up fifteen pounds worth of phone calls in a 3 day stay? Maybe we looked like blue movie types] unavailable to me for the duration of the stay. That's the guts of €450. It didn’t affect me personally on this trip, but it is something that grinds my gears: a pre-auth could put some people’s cards out of action for the duration of their stay. Surely that would p*ss you off royally if you were going to settle your bill in cash?
On to the room! We were assigned to room L2, which is an en-suite twin room [with bunk beds] on the lower ground floor, facing onto a small paved courtyard that's shared with L1, although potted bamboos do provide something of a screen between the two spaces. On first entering our temporary abode, I think we both wondered if we had stumbled into a corridor, for it is narrow. I'd guesstimate that the width of the usable floor space was no greater than 4'. Door into the en-suite on your right, wardrobes and beds and a writing table and chair along one long wall, French doors to the courtyard at the far end, long mirror and square pouf directly opposite desk on the other long wall, and a flat screen TV on wall opposite bunk. I didn't bother taking any Candid Traveller type photos as the photos on their website are representative of our experience.
Location, stylish décor, cleanliness, friendly front of house staff, comfy beds complete with individual reading lights, mini-kitchen cunningly disguised as part of the wardrobe, soup-oib shower, housekeeping every day we were there.
- The handle of the door into the admittedly soup-oib shower fell off repeatedly – while the outside portion of the handle was securely affixed to the door with screws, the inner part just balanced [precariously, as it turned out] on the long screws that had come through from the outside. Vay odd.
- There was a little notice in the bathroom advising that, for environmental reasons, towels left on the floor would be changed while it would be assumed that those hung back up on the towel rail did not need replacing. Although we left all our ok-for-another-use towels on the rail, they were changed every day.
- Despite the provision of all you’d need to organise your own meals there was nowhere to eat them [well, bar the floor, the bed or off your knee on the pouf.] Not even an outdoor table, the courtyard was just furnished with two metal chairs. Only two each of bowls, mugs, glasses, cutlery etc – I know there were only two of us staying in the room, but it was annoying to have to wash plates and things between times. And when Stevo called in for a cup of cha and a biccy, we could only offer him the milk jug to sup from. [Although that was admittedly entertaining in itself!]
- Not much privacy afforded by the set-up of the courtyard: while it was lovely to have a bit of exterior space, I felt that next door could quite casually have just strolled over to our clear glazed French doors for a peep or to try the latch.
- an overall very pleasant experience was rather spoiled by a run-in with the Housekeeping Manager on the morning of our final day. Read on, Macduff...
On the penultimate evening of our visit, I thought to call down to reception to enquire about the possibility of a late check out – check out in this gaff is supposed to be by 11am, the earliest I have ever encountered. The bloke on reception said we could extend this to half twelve, was that ok? It was better than a smack in the mouth with a wet fish, so I said yep, thanks very much, and thought no more of it. Well. The following morning, there was an absolutely unholy racket outside our door. It sounded like an attempt was being made to break the door off the hinges with a battering ram, so violent was the hammering. Rudely awakened by the noise, which had so startled me that I awoke in a total panic, sat bolt upright and gulped in a deep breath as though I had emerged from a spot of free diving, I wondered wildly what time it was – oh Jesus, I thought, we must have totally overslept to have such a din inflicted upon us!! Oh f*ck, have we missed our flight?!
Grabbing my phone to check the time, I scrambled out of bed to apologise for our lateness to the woman who was pounding so madly on the door. At about the same time as she and reception roared a conversation over a two-way walkie-talkie ["The girls are still asleep!" "What girls?" "Room L2!" "Well, they will have to pay for an extra night!"], I caught sight of the time displayed on my phone.
It wasn't 2 o'clock. It wasn’t 1 o’clock. It wasn't even half past sh*gging twelve. The time at which base2stay began their full-blown, very f*cking noisy attempt to evict us – and remember, this was after they had agreed to a late check out for us – was 11:11am. Do the math. That's right – a full hour and nineteen minutes before we were due to check out.
I wasn't annoyed. I wasn’t even p*ssed off. I was so f*cking enraged that I flung open the bedroom door and stormed down the corridor at a hundred miles an hour in my pyjamas and bare feet after the accursed demon that had just put the heart crossways in me. She wasn't difficult to locate; all I had to do to track her down was follow the f*cking roaring that emanated from both her voicebox and her walkie-talkie.
When I caught up to her, she was braying away with her back to me. Since she apparently couldn’t hear me saying "Excuse me!" over the din, I tapped her on the shoulder.
"Ex-cuse me!" I said firmly in my best Now-Listen-I'm-A-Nice-Girl-But-Don't-Mess-With-Me voice.
"Yes?" She said [a bit snottily, I thought].
"I’m staying in room L2 -"
"Oh yes!" she cut across me, "you are late checking out! Are you staying another night with us?" [Smart b*tch]
"Eh, no," I said with as much politeness as I could muster from somewhere beneath the depths of my seething rage, "and we are not late checking out. I had arranged a late check out with reception."
"Well," she said smugly, "I am Housekeeping Manager and I heard nothing about this."
"I called reception yesterday evening and the guy I spoke to told me that we could check out at half past twelve. I guess you don’t keep track of things like that?!" as she ignored me and flipped pages on her clipboard.
"And they told you it was ok to check out at twelve thirty?" she said slowly still without looking at me [probably because she'd just found a note on her stupid clipboard that confirmed what I was saying].
"Yes!" I was getting really wound up at this stage.
"Oh, fine" she said.
And we left it at that. I felt vindicated and wasn't going to hang around to converse further with her because it was gradually dawning on me that my 'Yes, it did hurt when I fell from heaven' pjs were possibly not the best attire for a showdown.
Back to the room to update Deni-o, and we decided that we'd get up and get our asses in gear. Preparations for our departure were coming along nicely when, at 12:15, there was a phone call to the room from reception.
"Are you ready to check out now?"
Eh, that would be a no, lads. Remember how we explicity agreed 12:30? Twice? Now feck off so we can finish curling our eyelashes.
As we were doing our final sweeps of the room for any stray shoes or moisturisers and the like, one of the nice housekeeping ladies knocked on the door.
This was at 12:25.
We said to her, we're just making sure we haven't forgotten anything, we'll be out of here in 2 minutes and she said that actually there were a number of rooms on our floor that she could do before ours and that she didn't need the room in a hurry, that we should take our time.
So, naturally enough, we thought "Suh-weet!" and out came the GHD. Well, we had been in such a rush to get the flock out of there that the poor ol' gruaig had barely got a lick of the hairdryer and we were in London, dahling, after all. And the housekeeper practically told us to do it. *Ehem!*
At 12:55 [lookit, we wanted our hair to look purty!] we had our hands on our suitcase handles, ready to haul ass, when the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse seemed to collide repeatedly with our door.
But no, it was just our friendly neighbourhood housekeeping manager.
"You are staying another night?" Sourpuss said.
Looking pointedly back and forth between our packed, in-hand suitcases and her, we cocked our eyebrows Glenda-style and said, nearly simultaneosly, "Eh, no."
"Well, if you have not checked out by one o'clock, we are going to charge you for an extra night anyway" she gloated.
"Listen," sez I, "we're on our way up to reception this minute! We'll have checked out within about the next 30 seconds."
"We will see" Sourpuss sniped.
And since we were walking out the door at this stage anyways [and then legged it up to reception like the survival of our Liz Earle stash depended on it] she did see. Ha!