The Galloping Granny’s global guide to what constitutes a ’boutique’ hotel
I HAVE galloped across a fair swathe of the globe these past few years since retirement and, unlike many of our contemporaries, my husband and I shun the comfort, quality food and superior service of ‘high end’ hotels.
We work on the principle that cheaper accommodation means more trips: quantity, in other words, over quality, involving staying in a vast variety of less-than-five star hotels, hostels and B&Bs.
Don’t get me wrong: I do have standards (low as they may be). No longer am I prepared to share a bathroom with an unknown number of fellow guests, creeping down a cold hallway to a communal shower (as in Milan, 1990). These days (or rather nights!) I need the proximity of a loo for those frequent nocturnal visits which come with advancing years.
I don’t care about an included breakfast. I don’t even need a kettle and cups in the room, as I pack my own. But I do need an en suite.
I use a well known hotel booking agency and, so far, have managed well. I’m even learning ‘hotelspeak’, that foreign language in which ‘compact room’ really means no wardrobe, just a couple of hooks on the wall (Whetstone, 2014); and ‘check-in before such-and-such a time’ means no staff on the premises after that time so great difficulty getting in (Lithuania, 2013).
I have learned to pack a large, thin-but-absorbent towel, just in case the one supplied is the size of a dish cloth, and I have also learned to put it away each day lest ‘room service’ removes it for washing and fails to return it (Budapest, April this year).
I know the difference between hostels (not particularly recommended for we elderly] and B&Bs and so on. But the development of the ‘boutique hotel’ initially had me stumped.
Wikipaedia defines it as “a stylish small hotel, typically in a fashionable urban location” which must have no more than 100 rooms and not less than 10, otherwise they are classed as B&Bs. So far, so good.
My first foray into the boutique world was in Israel. My hotel was certainly not in a ‘fashionable urban location’, rather a very busy, built-up area. But it was clean, always a good starting point, and it had a lift; just as well, really, as climbing four flights of stairs, complete with luggage, would have presented an insurmountable option.
I searched eagerly for the ‘boutique’ bit of the room: the quirky sofa, the elegant drapes, the comfy chair. . . the style? Alas! It was not to be.
The bathroom beckoned. A corner of the room had been turned into the en suite, complete with opaque glass doors. THIS was the ‘boutique’ bit, obviously. No solid walls, no lockable doors, so useful when sharing with the absent-minded husband (nothing removes the romance from a relationship more surely than observing one’s partner at his or her ablutions; too much information, I guess!).
In Verona last month we experienced the same kind of arrangement. Our hotel, once a Carmelite convent, was within walking distance of the Arena, an area which might be called ‘fashionable’ but which was, although interesting, very overcrowded. No hospitality tray, of course, and no additional comfort; not even an armchair but – yes! – in the corner, the opaque glass walls of the en suite beckoned.
And so it goes on. We’ll be in China and Japan in a few weeks’ time, where ‘communal bathroom’ means sharing the actual bath. With strangers!
Hmmm. . . I wonder if I can wear a onesie in the water?