An unforgettable hotel

by Rona Levin

This story is part of our 'Unforgettable hotel nights' series, featuring tales from luxury hotel guests which were sent in for our recent travel writing competition.

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My husband and I were with a tour group in Argentina visiting the Puerto Moreno glacier which necessitated an overnight stop in a former wool trading town, El Calafate, where apparently our death trap budget hotel was the best available. We arrived exhausted at 8.30pm and, despite being the Millennium New Year’s Eve, all we had energy for was a quick meal in our hotel, and bed. My 6ft tall husband decided to shave first so off he went into our tiny cramped bathroom.

All of a sudden I heard one enormous scream, followed by another seconds later, several unprintable expletives, and finally a loud crashing noise. Heart thumping, I rushed in to find utter devastation - husband slumped on the floor, clutching the shower rail in one hand, curtain half-draped over his face, burns on his face and arms, and shards of broken glass on the floor. My immediate thought was that he’d been electrocuted.

Luckily, all was not as it seemed. It transpired there was no shaving mirror so he’d peered into the steamy, circular mirror fixed to the wall... which was surrounded by large, protruding, bare light bulbs stuck all the way around its edge, like a 1950s Hollywood studio glamour-girl make-up mirror.

Unfortunately, not wearing his glasses, he’d gotten too close. His forehead bumped into one of the scorchingly hot bulbs which burnt him, making him leap backwards then instinctively reach up to rub his forehead, but as he raised his arm to do so, his elbow knocked against another light bulb. He quickly splashed cold water onto himself but must also have splashed some bulbs, which promptly shattered, scattering shards of glass about the room.

My husband again leapt back in shock but stumbled, grabbing the shower rail to steady himself. This immediately came off the wall, having been held in place by one rusty screw.

After recovering, we finally made it downstairs to the restaurant, to find a large group of Peruvians. We requested the menu but were told that because they had pre-booked and ordered their national dish of guinea-pig in advance, as a New Year’s Eve speciality, only that was available. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we chose to forgo the pleasure... more for them, we generously decided.

As we stood at reception, an American in her 20s wandered up to the desk, wearing nothing but pyjamas, proclaiming in a loud, whiny voice, that she couldn’t sleep because of the commotion in the street, insisting the hotel “should do something about it”.

The receptionist solemnly assured her he’d try his best but, given that people were celebrating the Millennium, pretty much like everyone else all over the world, he might not be able to do much!

By this time the absurdity of it all made us laugh so much we no longer cared about not getting dinner, Millennium special or otherwise, and instead, we amused ourselves inventing scandalous tales with which to regale our fellow travellers about how exactly my husband acquired his burn marks.

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