Magazine article The Spectator

Travel Sickness

Magazine article The Spectator

Travel Sickness

Article excerpt

I have been living in hotels for so long I am beginning to hallucinate. For example, at an EU summit on Saturday I could have sworn that Nicolas Sarkozy winked at me. I was fighting my way to the front of a media scrum at the Elysée Palace and almost fell over the rope. I teetered against it and in that second our eyes met and the French President smiled beguilingly at me. But I could have imagined it. The whole thing could easily be a product of staying in the Park Inn, Charles de Gaulle, and existing on summit sandwiches. Very nice sandwiches they were, with aspic on top. And there were canapés, and silver trays of French cheeses, and delicacies on bamboo cocktail sticks.

If I had not been nearing the end of my nomadic tether after three weeks on the road covering various events of political import I might have enjoyed them. But having just been through the party conference season I find that I've developed an allergy to mass catering.

And hotels. I don't think working away from home would be quite so bad if hotels weren't utterly fascistic. The Park Inn, for example, tried to refuse me a bottle of mineral water at 11 p. m. because the bar had shut. I say 'tried', because of course they had not bargained for a woman with post-conference fatigue. 'Please, ' I told the waitress, 'just pass me that bottle of water and we'll say no more about it.' I offered her some euros. She looked at me as if I was trying to buy her soul. So I had to do my thing at the reception desk. After five minutes of it, the manager was running to the bar screaming, 'Vas-y! Badoit! Vite!' And other phrases which I took to mean: 'We've got a crazy woman on our hands.' I've perfected this effective technique while staying in English hotels whose primary purpose is to frustrate. At the Abode in Manchester, my efforts to secure sustenance at ten past ten in the morning were greeted with a brisk, 'If you're looking for breakfast we've finished.' When I rang down for a bowl of fruit I was greeted with: 'What? Like apples and oranges?' And when I ordered a salad: 'What? Like lettuce and tomato?' At the Radisson in Birmingham I found the television set to regulation sound levels which prevented me hearing it, never mind anyone in the room next door. …

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