Posted by: Michelle | April 20, 2012

When England met Michelle


Yes, this is a play on the movie title “When Harry met Sally.” I’ve always considered myself to be an easygoing “low maintenance” kinda of gal. For those of you who are already rolling on the floor in fits of laughter, pick yourself up and  bear with me. I get I might be on the “high” side of low maintenance but in the grand scheme of things I know I’m not that difficult. Or so I thought. Maybe I’m a bit higher on that scale. I’ve certainly been put to the test here at the Basingstoke Hilton. 

When I stay at a hotel, I will have some kind of expectation before I ever arrive – this is typically based on name (brand), cost, location, amenities, and reviews. So when I booked at the Hilton, I expected a “Hilton” type experience. Ha! The joke was on me (thanks, Murphy). Now I realize that when you travel internationally, you always have to keep in mind that comfort is a Green Word (meaning, what’s comfortable by American standards may not be comfortable to a person from another country). This is part of the adventure and something I usually look forward too.

When we pulled up, I was sure it was a mistake. The outside appeared to be more along the lines of a Travel Lodge not a Hilton. I could never imagine Paris staying at this particular namesake. The check in desk was literally just inside the vestibule. The continuous opening and closing of the sliding doors made for a chilly greeting. I know there was a frown on my face when she handed me my key card and announced my room on the first floor. I momentarily felt some relief as I remembered that the first floor in Europe is typically the second floor (the “first” floor being the ground floor). Not in this case. I am on the first floor, around the corner and just down the hall from the busy lobby. I loath noisy hotels and prefer to be as far away from the lift, ice machine (usually not an issue in European hotels as explained further below), etc. as possible. Being a light sleeper, even slight noise will rouse me. My room was across from the meeting room area so I decided it would probably be tolerable for the three nights I was staying.

With some trepidation, I opened the door. It was one of the smallest rooms I’d ever seen with twin beds (yuck) a small closet, desk and a chair that wouldn’t fit underneath making it difficult to navigate. The bathroom was your typical high walled tub with a shower head attached to a hose, one knob to turn on the water, the other to adjust the temperature. I let out a sign knowing I’d have to make the best of the situation as I unpacked.

Some highlights of my stay:

  • A toilet with a mind of it’s own. Flushing the toilet is a bit like playing a slot machine. Some times you win, sometimes you don’t. 
  • Free internet was included with the room. Remember how your mother always told you there was no such thing as a free lunch? The good news is the speed is decent (most free internet speeds are notoriously slow) when connected. The bad news is you are kicked off every hour and have to back out of everything to reconnect. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.
  • The beds are hard, the comforter is thin, the heat source not adequate. When I woke up freezing the first night, I was glad I had a second bed. I yanked the second comforter off to give me enough warmth to go back to sleep.
  • The remote sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. Every other channel seems to come in, and switching channels is a time consuming activity. Press – count to five – channel changes – may or may not be an actual broadcast channel. Next…
  • The hot water is sometimes hot, and sometimes lukewarm. Are you sensing a theme here? The worst part is when the water is running, the hose sticks out further than the shower head, the shower curtain sticks to you, and the water pressure is pretty much non-existent. 
  • The floor in the hall creaks. Loudly, I might add. This is the one constant. It always creaks. I don’t think a cat could creep down this hallway without alerting all the mice. Okay, that’s an image I didn’t need.

Not to sound like a negative Nellie, there are a few great things about this hotel. First and most important, they have the nicest and most helpful staff I’ve ever encountered. Every. Single. Person. Every. Single. Time. The food is decent and has many items that a (throat clears) picky person like me will eat. Now, before you start thinking I’m high maintenance, remember that I don’t complain when I don’t like the food. I simply do not eat. That’s why I’m low maintenance.(And I travel with my own snacks. Enough said.)

But there is the whole ice issue. I still don’t understand how foreigners don’t like ice. They might give you an ice cube, two if you want “extra”, but no matter how hot it is, they do not use ice. Even though I’m somewhat cold-blooded (not heartless cold-blooded, but the freezing no matter how warm everyone else is kind of cold-blooded), I like my drinks cold. Case in point – for three days I sat in the room wearing not only a scarf but my coat and drinking cold drinks. Even enjoyed an ice cream sundae Thursday at afternoon tea (how awesome is that? An ice cream sundae served at a meeting?). Only downside was they had to go and put nuts on it. No one said I had to make sense. And no, this does not make me high maintenance. Trust me, I know these things.

At the end of the day, I would stay here again. Probably. Heck, who am I kidding? What are the chances I’ll be back in Basingstoke anyway?

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