Monday, 26 June 2017

In Vienna...

I have nothing but praise for Motel One.

From the moment I arrived at the front desk, albeit with half a dozen people ahead of me, including a man who had been on my flight from London Gatwick and who I thought looked a bit like Richard Roundtree, until I Googled the Shaft megastar and realised that my fellow traveller looked nothing like him. So who did he resemble? A Bond villain? Not sure, so let's just leave it there.

The view from my hotel room window...
Motel One. It's fantastic. No complaints whatsoever apart from stuff that was entirely my fault. Okay, I'll explain: it was late, almost 11pm when I was finally given my keycard and found myself in the lift en route to my room on the third floor. I reached the room (it's one where you put your keycard in a slot in the wall as you enter and the lights come on (and go off when you take it out). Not a problem. Now, here's the best bit: there's a flatscreen television on the wall and I could hear this weird ambient music coming out of somewhere. On the screen are fish. Tropical fish. They looked so real I thought I had a fish tank in the room. I'm told that keeping tropical fish is bad luck. Fortunately, I don't keep tropical fish, not in my underpants or in a tank. I just don't believe in keeping animals captive, not that I admonish those who do keep tropical fish. I simply hope that they're not visited by any bad luck, that's all.
I hired this bike and rode to the convention centre, cheaper than a taxi!
So, tropical fish. Well, they're not real, just CGI of some sort and combined with the ambient music it's, well, amazing. I was tired, I was emotional too, seriously emotional, and the fish calmed things down for me. I sat on the edge of the bed and indulged the ambient music and the fish swimming about – as they're doing right this minute, behind me, unless they're only there when I turn around, who knows? No, they're there alright and I love them. Last night, when I finally got to sleep – alright, I'll explain in a minute – I thought I'd keep the fish 'alive' so to speak. I didn't want to turn off the television, but in the end the bright, halogen glow kept me awake so I reached for the remote and the fish (and the ambient music) were gone.
And here I am somewhere in Vienna with the bike...

But anyway, my 'issue' was nothing to do with the fish, it was to do with two spotlights over the bed, beaming down on the pillows where I desperately wanted to rest my weary head. Except that I couldn't. Try as I might to find the switch to turn the two spotlights off, I couldn't. The only way to do it, I thought, was to pull the keycard out of the wall socket and plunge the room into powerless darkness. But that simply wouldn't do because it meant that should I wish to turn on the light in the dead of night, I'd have to get up, fumble around in the darkness looking for the keycard and then fumble further to find the slot in the wall. So I started to get annoyed and my annoyance turned to mild anger, which was aggravated by the fact that Motel One hotel rooms don't have phones – the management must assume that everybody has a mobile these days and, of course, most people do. So I searched high and low for some way of turning off these two lights and even considered dismantling them or taking out the bulbs using a towel from the bathroom, I was that desperate, but no, not a good idea. I was despairing and in the end resorted to calling the front desk. "Silly question, but how do I turn off the spotlights beaming on to my pillows?" I managed to conceal my frustration, but despite the fact that the woman told me there was a black button underneath the light, I still couldn't find it. "I'll come up," she said, so I felt it was important to put on some trousers. Within what seemed like a few seconds there was a knock on the door and I was fully dressed.

She pointed to the switches and I rather sheepishly switched them off, feeling, it must be said, a little foolish. I thanked her, bade her farewell and got a decent night's sleep, without the ambient music or the fish, sadly.
Vienna's famous fairground is next to Motel One so I rode round taking pix
There was more good news on the Motel One front: the bathroom! It was amazing. The shower was one of those rain shower affairs and there was no messing around trying to get the thing to work properly – it worked immediately and I was treated to a wonderful, exhilarating shower. It was like standing under a waterfall and I could have stayed there all day, but I had to go to the convention centre on the other side of the Danube so I dried and dressed and went down for breakfast and it was perfect: muesli, fresh fruit, a vanilla yoghurt and a custard Danish, not forgetting a cup of Darjeeling. It all takes place close to the front desk and there's a proper breakfast area too or I could have sat in the bar area on a trendy seat, but give me a proper table any time.

I know how he feels...
Motel One is roughly a 35-40-minute walk to the convention centre, where I was headed. It's an interesting walk that took me across the Danube on what can only be described as a reconnaissance mission. I returned around 1000hrs and discovered that the hotel rented out bikes. Perfect! So I hired one, for 12 Euros, and rode off. Later, when my work was done I rode back to the hotel, took an early evening shower (I wouldn't normally but it was hot and I had a rain shower in the room) and then I headed out on the bike again, turning left out of the hotel, passing the famous fairground and riding the length of Ausstellungs and then Prater Strasse where, after riding around on the other side of the Donaukanal, which filters in to the Danube, I rode back on to Prater Strasse and had dinner at Café Ansari (red lentil soup plus roasted chicken, two beers, a mineral water and a cappuccino).

It was dark when I unpadlocked the bike I had left across the street and retraced my route back to the hotel, lingering awhile at the fairground, watching people on scary-looking rides. I've never been one for fairgrounds.
I wasn't planning on spending any money at the fairground...
But what a great bike ride! And what freedom a bike offers! I love cycling and it's made all the better in a country that cares for its cyclists, not like in the UK where a cycle lane is a simple line drawing of a bike in the road – an afterthought, nothing more. Here in Vienna there are proper cycle lanes that are safe and not part of the road. I didn't want to hand the bike back. I could have cycled all night, but that would have been foolish. I'll probably take one out tomorrow and Wednesday and possibly even Thursday if there's time as it beats a taxi hands down.

What with ambient music, the tropical fish display – which I'm reliably informed is changed during the winter months to a roaring fire (keep the fish all year round, that's my view) – Motel One is arguably one of the best hotels I've experienced, and it's got a friendly vibe too. And what's more, they're everywhere, even in the UK. In fact, there's quite a few of them in the UK and they can also be found in France, Belgium and Germany. I cannot recommend Motel One highly enough if they're all of this high standard.

I regularly review the hotels I stay in on Trip Advisor. For more, click here.

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