So just what do you need from a city hotel?
I guess that travellers’ requirements of a hotel can vary a bit, but maybe not that much. I find that mine are fairly simple, and, although a little refinement can make all the difference between the purely utilitarian and the relaxing and even life-enhancing, this refinement has nothing to do with rampant “luxury”: it has to do with the owners thinking about the kind of people who might come to their hotel, and their corresponding needs.
I should state straight away that I dislike large hotels: for their crowds, their impersonality, their endless dark corridors and look-alike bedrooms, etc. I do not need people to carry my bags nor wait on me hand and foot. And who needs 10 different bathroom products which clutter the wash-basin area? Or four towels per person? I suppose that a television set in the room can be useful or distracting, but I am very happy without one most of the time (unless it is showing rugby, cricket or motorcycle racing that is!).
museums turn into banks, and banks into cafés in Bucarest, but all with a special style
So what exactly is required, apart from a small, human scale to the hotel?
A good situation has to be the first requirement. If your hotel is in the wrong place, most of what follows will not really help much. And the right place usually means, for a town hotel, a fairly central location, if possible in a quiet pedestrian area, with not too much night-time noise around it and with good connections for the traveller (parking, trains, buses, taxis etc). Friendly and helpful staff has to be number two. Then we need bedrooms that are simple and quiet (good acoustic insulation from the outside and from neighbours is essential), which I like to be decorated with sober good taste, not too colourful, and using natural materials as much as possible. Good lighting that can be simply modified, and that includes a light strong enough to make reading in bed something other than eye-torture or involving gymnastics. Free wi-fi, obviously (why on earth should one pay extra for this these days?).
Then come those small personal touches, inspired by the owner's ideas, that make that extra differnce, like the local weather forecast chalked on a blackboard in the breakfast room (see photo below)...
To resume the general approach that should transpire in the place, one should feel “at home” but with a difference that stems from a sense of eager discovery that is part and parcel of travelling. The guideline of any such hotel should go something like this: keep it simple and relaxed, make it look and feel good, and keep things working.
How many places do this well? I have no idea, but probably a growing number. The trend towards “boutique” hotels has clearly done a lot in this direction. But they need not have the glossy and useless trappings of so-called luxury to make them good. There is one in Bucarest, Romania that I tried recently for one night and that has got things just right. It is called The Rembrandt Hotel.
If you go to Bucarest, you could do worse than giving this place a try. It also has some really fine, simply elegant and yet functional furnishings, beautifully made of oak (no varnish or other crap on it either), that gave me additional pleasure as a former cabinet-maker.
Str Smärdan 11
tel : 40 21 313 93 15