It started on the 13th of last month, driving from Bangalore to Goa for an assignment with VC, and we broke our drive at Hubli. This marked the first of many nights to come, that would be spent in a hotel room. On day 1 I excitedly messaged P expressing how much I love hotel rooms for their plush pillows, bouncy beds, luxurious showers and room service, as I was drinking my single malt and eating kebabs whilst in said bouncy bed.
Oh and then there’s the breakfast buffets. THE BREAKFAST BUFFETS. For someone who’s been on a low carb, no sugar diet with a moderately strict intermittent fasting regime in place, the buffets just did me in. So I was all omg-I-could-do-this-for-life when I realised the convenience of just waking up and showing up to a mind-boggling spread of breakfast. Correction: breakfastsss.
(What I didn’t consider was the fact that I would be in hotel rooms for the next 15 days and nights (barring a couple of days in-transit) and that I might feel differently by the end of it.)
Our first assignment was for the newly opened Le Meridien Hotel in Calangute, Goa, and so we stayed on location of course. It has to be said, given the number of hotel stays I’ve had in my life, as well as this past year for all the reviews and travel I’ve done, this stay and this hotel has shot it’s way up to the very top of my list of best most memorable hotel experiences I’ve had in a long, long time.
I flew down to Madras next, en route to Pondicherry for the next leg of my journey. On an assignment reviewing hotels, I spent the next 5 nights in 5 different hotels. It sounds very exciting, and it was for the most part, but I’ll get to the not so great bits in just a second.
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Le Meridien for the impeccable service and hospitality that went several notches above anything I expect of a big brand hotel. Let’s face is, at the end of the day, they’re a chain, and they tend to be very generic and cookie-cutter at the end of the day. But this was starkly different.
Being away from home, living out of a suitcase and flitting from one hotel to the next has also given me a lot or mixed feelings and some angst about the indulgence and high levels of consumption of resources that goes hand in hand with travel. It’s hard to miss seeing it once you do begin to notice. And I am beginning to really question the hows and whys of this kind of big budget travel in general.
Then there is the matter about being a woman travelling alone. It all feels very liberating and for half a day I felt like a strong, independent woman.
Who is sometimes afraid of the dark.
In my excitement to be travelling alone again, I forgot that I am sometimes quite the scardey cat. So on just day 3 in Pondicherry, I had the strangest night, sleeping in a room with an attached bathroom with a shoer area that was open to sky.
I drove myself into a tizzy convinced that all it would take for someone to intrude was scale the bathroom wall from the outside and enter my room. So I slept with the lights and TV on. All night. And when I say slept I meant dozed from time to time.
Yeah, design and spaces don’t account for things like solo women travellers, and forget to put in little things like locks on bathroom doors, I suppose. I forgot going solo means also getting rid of some of these stupid fears. But that’s another thought for another post.
There is a place for big brands and what they do, but on the last day of my stay in Pondicherry, walking into a heritage-home-turned-hotel immediately gave me a sense of home no place else has, those past two weeks.
I love good design and good service is kind of a given when it comes to hotels, but I realised I’m so not a generic, expansive, we’ve-got-it-all resort kind of person. And after spending the three out of five days in such properties (that resulted in three back-to-back sleepless nights) with rooms as big as my home in Bangalore, making me feel small and intimidated, I felt so at home and on familiar ground in the heritage home.
Tucked under a regular duvet on a tall old wooden bed no different from the one you’ll find in your granny’s home, I breathed a sigh of relief.
So yeah, take your pretentious open air showers and air conditioning panels with so many features I couldn’t get the AC temp down. And give me small spaces chanracter. Give me rooms that feel like home. And give me a hotel that is an experience of the true flavour and character of the destination I’m visiting, and I’m hooked.
Same time, last year: Day 305: Light and life