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Dear Gordon Ramsay,
You are widely known for browbeating would-be chefs, but since I am more of a traveler than a foodie, I prefer Hotel Hell, the show on which you visit inns and browbeat the owners. Watching you zip yourself into a sleeping bag atop a questionable bed rather than risk the dirty linens was a hoot, as was seeing you scrunched up, knees skyward, in a too-small tub.
Hotel Hell focuses on East Coast inns, but believe me, there are some candidates in my neck of the woods, primarily in Michigan, where my husband and I have made several trips of late. I thought of you when we found ourselves in a 10-room inn made over from some rich industrialist’s summer home. It was pretty gloomy and nondescript in there, I tell you, and I spotted artwork that I swear I’ve seen at HomeGoods. Nothing too impressive in the “library,” either, although the host was pretty proud of his new Cranium and Jenga games.
The first time we stayed there—I’ll call it the Poodle Inn to avoid being slain if we revisit—wasn’t too bad, if you don’t mind the aroma of dinner drifting through the vents. I’m no expert, but I think they were serving lamb chops. The big problem, however, was the bathroom. Like many inns, it had one of those giant tubs meant for two—or more, OMG. Usually, these tubs feature only a handheld sprayer, which is fine if you don’t mind standing under a weak sprinkle without the protection of a curtain or a glass door, freezing your keister off and exposing yourself to the world.
Anyway, I climbed into the tub at the Poodle and shivered through a shower. And then couldn’t get out. This would have made for fine TV, assuming you could superimpose those wavy lines over, well, you know. I’m only 4-foot-11, and the ledge of the tub hit me thigh-high. Less limber than I once was, I yelled, unsure if my husband was even in the room. “I’M STUCK! CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT!” He heard and wrestled me out like a greased pig. Good thing I didn’t break a hip, although my pride was wounded.
Due to a lack of vacancies in the area, we stayed at the Poodle again and requested a shower, which turned out to rival the type you’d find in a Greyhound bus. This was not practical for my husband, who pretty much despises this genre of hotel anyway, with the stuffed calico cats, thin bedroom doors, and sloped ceilings on which he conks his head. But this time we stayed another floor up, in a corner room with a low, saggy bed for which you undoubtedly would have chastised the management, saying something like, “WHAT (bleeping) PART OF BED AND BREAKFAST DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?”
Also, not to gross you out, but there were stains on the window-seat upholstery, and I don’t mean neat little circles, like someone set down a teacup. I mean big old streaks and puddle marks—even one curiously shaped like an oak leaf. The thing about stains in hotel rooms is that you always think the worst, and, oh, my, I just can’t go on any more about this.
The sink in this room was actually in the room, as the bathroom with the travel-sized shower was too small to accommodate it, and it came with one of those low-wattage hair dryers that are attached to the wall and useful only if you have glossy hair like the girls in Pantene commercials. I might as well have hired someone to stand there and blow on my head, and I walked around all day looking like my grade-school music teacher, whose forehead wave resembled a treble clef.
Another place we frequented, let’s call it the Ego Inn, displayed glamour shots of the owners. (They should care about US, not THEM, right, Gordon?) Our room featured a one-piece fiberglass shower stall that looked slick and dangerous and reminded me of a crummy hotel my sister and I once occupied. “Don’t fall!” she warned about five times before turning the tub over to me. Sure enough, I skidded on the slippery bottom and went airborne while shrieking “I’M FALLING.” I considered grasping the shower curtain for leverage, but didn’t for fear of causing a Three Stooges–like catastrophe and totaling the entire unit. Gordon, you need to do something about these bathrooms before I break my neck.
While you’re at it, please address the HVAC systems in these old remodeled places. It was chilly the night of our stay at the Ego, and a fake fireplace in the corner pumped out dry heat like a blast furnace. In the middle of the night, my husband gasped, “I CAN’T BREATHE,” and we both ran for the sink, since the Ego charged $1 for bottled water. I slept three hours the entire night and dreamed first that my manicurist went after my cuticles with a scalpel, and then that mac ’n’ cheese was stuck onto all the trays at an MCL cafeteria.
If you visit southwest Michigan, Gordon, stop in at Yelton Manor (the real name), the nicest B&B we found, and give the friendly innkeepers props for their beautiful antiques, devotion to detail, good bedding, dust-free surfaces, fresh popcorn, and free water. Tell the couple that their service and cozy decor are superb, but advise them to please correct one itty-bitty thing. The baking aroma that wafts up the stairs at 6 a.m. is irresistible, but upon asking for the coffee-cake recipe, we discovered that they use a boxed mix. Horrors! This should prompt you to say, “WHAT (bleeping) PART OF BED AND BREAKFAST DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?”
Don’t call them donkeys, though. We might want to go back.
Illustration by Andrea Eberbach This article appeared in the June 2013 issue.
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