Monday, 24 April 2017

In Dusseldorf... day one

I'd like to call myself a 'biscuiteer', but having mistaken a small, wrapped block of hard foam designed to clean shoes for some kind of free snack, possibly even a biscuit, I think I seriously failed the entrance examination.

I'm safely ensconced in my room at the Mercure Hotel and I thought I'd scout around for any freebies and that's when I encountered what I thought was a biscuit. Life can be infuriating. There's not much for free: a sachet of premium peppermint tea, two elongated sachets of instant coffee, some 'Zabielacz de kawy creamer' – that's powdered milk to you and me – and a couple of sachets of sugar. Oh, there's a bottle of Evian mineral water.

Hoteliers can get a little angry when I suggest that a locked minibar means they don't trust their guests, but I hate that unmistakable feeling of exclusion. There's a couple of locked doors, one being a small safe that has been rendered unusable, and the other some kind of fridge, which I'm guessing is either empty or jam-packed with beers and wines and wasabi nuts, but just not for me for some reason. I wonder if they thought, 'hold on, we've got Moggridge staying with us, lock the minibar and don't give him access to the mini safe either'. There must be some kind of policy decision that says 'lock the fridge and the safe and don't leave any keys floating around'. Annoying, but so far I have very little to complain about, well, apart from trying to find the elevator. One of them was out of order so I was directed along a corridor to where I would find another, but I got lost and had to ask for directions. It turned out the lift was up some stairs, on the first floor no less, so I figured what was the point? I walked instead and soon found my room, which was absolutely fine. There was a carpeted floor, a single bed, a flatscreen television, power points, a telephone (that worked!) and various leaflets. The bathroom was small but perfectly formed, there was space for my suitcase and suits and I was pretty pleased for another reason: I was under four minutes' walk from my all-time favourite Italian restaurant, Da Bruno, where I had booked my usual lonely table for one.

The flight over from Heathrow T5 was fine: some initial cloud, but fairly smooth and now that BA has decided, a la easyJet, to charge for its food I decided not to bother, opting instead for lunch at Huxley's (butterfly chicken and a glass of Pinot Noir followed by a single espresso and the bill). I'd arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare and once lunch was out of the way I moseyed around getting angry about the assumption, made by airport operators the world over, that once people find themselves 'beyond passport control and through security' they're somehow able to afford Prada handbags and Rolex watches, not forgetting Burberry coats and sich like. I found a WH Smith's but couldn't find a book decent enough to warrant my attention and left for gate A18 empty-handed.

Bang on time, the train from the airport to Dusseldorf HBF...
Once I had landed in Dusseldorf, German efficiency kicked in: passport control was a breeze, jumping on board the Skytrain was simplicity itself and when I reached Dusseldorf HBF I walked for five minutes until I reached the hotel, from where I write this.

Time is moving fast and it's almost time for dinner so I'm skipping off to my favourite restaurant of all time, Da Bruno on Karlstrasse, which is under a four-minute walk away from the hotel's front desk. I couldn't ask for more if I tried. The reason I'm in the Mercure is because once, when I bowled nonchalantly into Da Bruno expecting a table and not getting one, I wandered around and eventually decided to have dinner in the Mercure's restaurant. Alright, it was a last resort and wasn't a brilliant meal but at least I knew there was a hotel close-by that was even nearer than the Burns Art Hotel a few doors along. The only reason I knew of Da Bruno's existence was because the receptionist at the Friends Hotel, which is located at the other end of Karlstrasse, recommended it to me about a year to 18 months ago. Now, whenever I'm in Dusseldorf, I book a table, like I did tonight.

After dinner (Parma ham with melon, pappardelle with mushrooms, two glasses of red wine and a cappuccino) I took a stroll in the direction of the Friends hotel, but turned left and found myself in a kind of Japanese area of town. I milled around for all of two minutes and then turned back, whistling that guitar riff from the Rolling Stone's Last Time single. "This will be the last time, maybe the last time I don't know..." and I can't remember the rest, or whether what I've just written is even correct, but I do remember the whining guitar riff.

Fortnum & Mason, where we all shop!!!
I'm back in the room. To be honest I now know when to stop; in the past I didn't have a clue and would happily prop up the bar drinking beer into the early hours – oh how foolish I was! It's not yet 10 o'clock and I'm already thinking about switching on the television, possibly drinking that bottle of Evian and then hitting the sack. While I drank the bottle of water I refrained from watching the television, but then, lying in bed, lights off, deep in thought about this and that, I felt restless enough to get up and start sub-editing this blog post and, as you can see, write something extra too, but now, as I look at the clock in the top right hand corner of my laptop's screen, I see that it's now ten past midnight and this time I really am shutting things down and hitting the sack.

I write a lot of hotel and restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor, which can be read by clicking here.

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