Sunday, April 4, 2010

From Cologne via paternoster to Key West and La Concha

I'm fascinated by hotel rooms, hotel bars, hotel showers, hotel foyers etc; as, being a frequent traveller, I spend a lot of time in them.

(And, after all these years of travelling, I still get surprised by how often decent hotels get some of these disasterously wrong.)

This week I was travelling for business in Cologne in Germany. Here's my snap of Cologne's mighty and very impressive cathedral, the Dom:

I've gotten used to the general standard of German hotel rooms in the 6 months now I've been visiting almost on a weekly basis.

The stereotype of German hotels holds absolutely true: the rooms are ruthlessly efficient but there is a bare minimum of pandering and luxury.

What do I mean? No luxury..... Well the single bed is really only a half-a-single - don't roll over too far or you'll be out! There's only ever, ever, the bare minimum on towel allocation (ie one bath towel and one hand towel). There is rarely tea or coffee in the room. The staff and polite but that's about it.

So, that's the basic. What do I mean by the efficient?

Well I've yet to spot a speck of dirt in a German hotel room. Germs be scared if you are visiting Germany. And the equipment.... I asked for an iron and I got the biggest, meanest iron I have ever seen. It even had a headlight on it. I had to take a picture. Here it is, ready for action:

(For iron fetishists it was a Siemens slider highlight 2400 watt).

So far so predictable.....

But then....

But then the RED light in the bathroom.

Yes, RED!

I was really surprised. You just don't expect to find a red light in a bathroom. It was great. I put it on and felt very naughty and explicit.

Also in the hotel, there was a paternoster going up and down the 16 floors.

I have never, in my whole life, come across or even heard of a paternoster. I don't think there is a single paternoster working in the USA and only a few in Europe. (The next day I took a ride on it - very exciting but not exactly SheiKra.)

So two times in one hotel where my expecations where rumbled and I was surprised. It's good to have/inject some unpredictability into your life. Surprises are good. And all 'experience designers' (=ie everybody) should bear that in mind.

So that got me thinking of 2 questions:

1 if key west was it's own country, what kind of stereotype would it live up to?

American, maybe in the good food and the achievement that civilisation can be brought to somewhere 159 miles from the nearest big city.

European, with lots of walking and fewer cars.

Carribean, in the flora.

British, in its sense of humor and irony.

Spanish, in its laid back-ness.

French, in its sense of priorities.

Cuban, in its outlook.

2 which bits of key west are the surprise?

The locals, always.

Just before a hurricane passes?

Alone, in the middle of the cemetery?

The moment of sunset?

The peace and honesty of a stifling mid-August afternoon?

(btw, I get surprised by how little today's Key West is influenced by the sea. It's a missed opportunity for creating surprises!)


So, where ever you are, keep up with the surprises, it'll keep people coming back for more!

And, let's install America's only working paternoster in La Concha!