There is a certain level of comfort in staying in a brand hotel such as a Sheraton, Westin, Marriott or a Fairmont. You generally know what you are going to get and there are no nasty surprises. Sometimes, however, it is good to be a bit adventurous and stay in a smaller independent hotel. It will work out to be a lot cheaper and, especially in Europe, will generally have a lot more character.
Bear in mind that independent European hotels generally have much smaller rooms and maybe not all the facilities you might want but they do have a charm all of their own. Years back in Zurich I stayed at a small hotel on the Bahnhofstrasse. The lobby was so tiny you could only fit two people, two suitcases and the little desk for the receptionist. They had one of those old fashioned elevators with the expanding grill gate, again only big enough for two people. As it creaked its way upward we passed bare brick walls literally only a few inches from our noses.
What was really quaint was the front desk. We noticed it had that old fashioned bell system behind the desk which probably used to be linked up to the rooms upstairs. They even gave us a key for the front door in case we came back late but did assure us that someone would be on duty 24 hours a day in case of need.
So after a full day of touring Zurich we indeed got back to our hotel rather late that night. The door was not locked and the nice little non-English speaking concierge was still at the desk. I was just getting into bed when my husband went to turn off the light – the switch being next to the door. By mistake he pressed the bell and we had horrible visions of the poor little guy downstairs “rushing” into the slow creaky elevator. We didn’t want to put him to that trouble so my husband phoned down to reception. “I just wanted to tell you that I pressed the bell by accident”. “What??” screamed the man “You heve en acceeedent?”
“No” explained my husband “I am fine but I pressed the bell by accident – it was a mistake”.
“Wait” cried the man “I call ambulance”.
“No No” said my husband, firmly…. “No come. No problem. Everything OK.”
By this time I was laughing so hard I had to stuff the sheets into my mouth. We got back into bed just waiting for the knock at the door…. “Hello Hello – the ambulance is here for the accident” but either we had convinced the man that there was no such accident or else we had convinced him we were mad and he was well advised to keep away. Needless to say, bubbles of giggles kept erupting for at least an hour afterwards. We will always remember the hotel in Zurich where we had the “acceedent”.