So it’s something after 4 in the morning, and I’m sitting in the business centre of a supposedly 4* hotel in the middle of Amsterdam, trying to figure out how much time I need to kill before the sun comes up so I can go for a walk, to kill some more time before I can head to the airport for my noon flight.
I’m here on business, so the hotel is not my choice, but the reviews on Tripadvisor seemed to indicate that it was OK at least, and the photos on the hotel’s own glossy site gave the impression (of course) of a spacious, luxurious space. Of course, it’s possible that my experience has just been unlucky, and that the rest of the hotel is fine.
When I checked in, they gave me a room on the first floor, except when I get to it I realise it’s up to the first floor then down a couple of flights of stairs and so actually in the basement, more or less. It’s stuffy as hell and completely overheated, and the windows are nailed shut. Not so 4*.
So I call reception and they transfer me to another room, this time on the second floor, at the front of the hotel, overlooking one of Amsterdam’s main streets and all the trams, traffic and hubbub that comes with it. The room is small – miniscule, in fact – but once the balcony doors are shut it seems quiet enough and it’s only for a night so I get ready to do my talk and then leave for the evening.
When I get back, it’s late. I have a shower and crash out on the bed to watch Nick Griffin making an arse of himself on Question Time, and then drop off.
A couple of hours later, I wake up. My skin is itchy and red, especially in places where my allergies usually show – cheeks, thighs, chest, upper arms. I figure that they must use some particularly strong detergent on the sheets, so I get (partially) dressed, throw a t-shirt over the pillow and roll over.
A little while later, I wake up again, with the unmistakable feeling of something crawling over me.
I sit bolt upright and turn on the light, and there it is, on the sheet next to my pillow: a little ovalish reddy brown beetle, scurrying away. I scoop it up with a tissue and look at it closer.
My first thought (borne of too many dodgy hotels on my travels in South America) is teeny cockroach, but I look again and it doesn’t have the wee feelers and the wing structure. Plus this is really small – like ladybird size, maybe half a centimetre.
I flush it down the loo, but I can’t go back to sleep, because I’m wondering what it was. I get out my iPhone, connect to the wifi and search for small, red brown oval bug.
What I read, strewn across the first page of results, makes me leap out of bed, brushing myself down. Bed bug.
I shake out everything I’ve brought with me, resolving to wash it all the instant I get home. I stand against the wall of the room, eyeing the bed suspiciously.
Eventually, I gather my things together and head for reception.
The night receptionist is polite and offers to get me another room. He says it’s an executive room, much bigger, and imprints me another keycard as I stand there, wild eyed and hair dishevelled, at the desk, with luggage in hand.
This room is on the third floor, so I take the lift up there, navigate the labyrinthine corridors and then unlock the room door….only to discover that the bed looks unmade, the room smells like it needs cleaning and…what’s that on the table? SHIT! An open suitcase!
The unmade sheets on the bed rustle and move, and I back out as quietly as I can, then leg it down the corridor. When I get back to reception, on the verge of overtired stressy tears, they look puzzled and apologetic, and then say the only other room they have is a smoking room.
I opt instead to sit in reception – or here, in the business centre – for the next few hours before I can head to the airport and home, to boilwash everything I brought with me.
So here I am. It’s nearly 5am in Amsterdam, as Michelle Shocked once said. And I’m crazy tired, itchy all over, grumpy and killing time.
Plus, of course, mentally composing my Tripadvisor review.