In which I turn up to the wrong hotel for my massage, before facing the most Doha decision of my life
As a kid growing up in rural England, ‘Five Star’ meant a terrible Jackson 5-lite pop group, who were only ever famous for being sworn at on live kids’ TV and hotels were places that were closed in winter and drove Jack Nicholson mad.
Fast forward a generation, and my kids live in a city where 5* hotels are so omnipresent we use them to give directions, in the absence of anything more reliable.
We name our intersections after them – like ‘Ramada signal’, still stubbornly known by its former occupant, long after it’s been demolished and replaced by a Radisson Blu.
So many of the restaurants, bars and facilities that we frequent are located within the tastefully decorated walls of the city’s various hotels, that (to me, at least) they start to blur into one.
And that’s when the kids will pipe up that this is the hotel where Mum gets her hair cut, that’s the one we haven’t been back to since the waiters sang to Amnesiac and made him feel really uncomfortable, and can we please go back to the one with all the meat?
I’m sure a life dripping with 5* locations seems like a fabulous adventure to the kids, but it’s not exactly real life, either. It’s not so much that they’re in danger of being divorced from reality, it’s more like they were never even married in the first place.
There’s more to come, because all across this rapidly-expanding city, with World Cup stadia still years away, and Metro excavation currently paused for flooding, the construction of yet more hotels continues unabated.
And that’s terrible news for those of us still grappling with the names and locations of the ones we already have.
Check out any time you like…
I should have guessed that the week was going to end with me getting my hotels muddled up yet again, because it didn’t start very successfully, either.
With some daytime on my hands once again, I’ve been tackling some of those little errands that require criss-crossing the city, only it turns out I’ve gotten a little rusty.
The drive to an already faraway mall was extended thanks to road closures for VIP traffic, (which is something we didn’t get a lot of in the UK).
When i finally arrived, the one shop I was there to visit (unlike much of the population here, I don’t hang out in malls for fun) was more boarded up than, well, the Overlook Hotel.
(I should have taken a picture of the offending unit, but I was too busy howling with frustration.)
I then went to the bank, where I failed to follow one of my own Golden Rules for Total Doha Life Success Forever: Always have something to read with you. So, naturally, I had to wait 40 bookless minutes to be served.
It’s like a city-sized version of Snakes and Ladders: for every task you scratch off your to-do list, another fails victim to the patented Doha Random Anomaly Generator.
This keeps you constantly second guessing opening hours or diversions by ensuring that no two glitches in our particular matrix are ever the same.
Well that’s just Grand
One advantage of temporarily having some time on my hands is that I could finally cash in a voucher for a massage Mrs LC gave me for Christmas.
This wasn’t one of those gentle whalesong-and-joss-sticks-while-you-realign-your-qi kind of massages. It was the deep-tissue, pain-in-places-I-didn’t-know-I-had-places, kind.
But it seems I will never be a fully paid up member of the yoga and smoothie set, as I turned up all smiles and anticipation…at completely the wrong hotel.
Yes, in a schoolboy error, I had mixed up my Grand Heritages and my Wyndham Grands. Duh. At least they’re vaguely in the same district; I could have found myself at the Grand Hyatt on the opposite side of the city.
This is on top of previous hotel fails including trying to buy Christmas turkeys from the wrong Mövenpick (who knew there were two?), and turning up for a dinner reservation at the wrong Intercontinental.
You can’t even ask a taxi to take you to “the Marriott” anymore, because something else has been sold or rebranded, and now suddenly now there are two of them (which means that realizing you’re halfway to the airport, when you’re expected in the city centre, will be a costly mistake.)
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
I finally made it to the right hotel later, and slightly more tense, than planned.
With a few minutes to wait while the treatment room was prepared, the receptionist directed my attention towards a small tray bearing three bowls (something else I forgot to take a picture of; sorry).
“Would Sir care to choose a pot pourri?” he asked.
Sir has faced many choices in his life, but perhaps none more Doha. Yes, the spa was offering to place some gently scented shavings under my massage table, presumably to distract me from the imminent pain.
Eventually, after rejecting a nondescript pine one, and an orange version which smelled like floor cleaner, I went for the eucalyptus.
And for 90 blissful, menthol-infused minutes – and not for the first time in this ever-changing city – I forgot where I was.