The lowest of the low
Sometimes you just know instinctively that a hotel is going to be awful. If it’s a Dutch hotel chain I will have already preset my expectations to be quite low before I even get there. If it’s the only place in Amsterdam with any availability because there’s a trade show in town and even the places you’d normally only consider ‘at a pinch’ are already full, then it’s a fair guess you’re booking in at the ‘Last Chance Hotel’. The Bastion Centrum Zuidwest is that hotel. It’s spectacularly annoying and its staff all need training, although perhaps reprogramming in the ‘water-boarding and pulling out fingernails’ direction might well be too good for them. I sat on the bed in my room last night wondering whether to write and post this immediately or to wait for the morning to see whether they could manage any more utterly disgraceful behaviour before I eventually escape. I was fairly confident they’d have more up their sleeves. On my first night a colleague and I stayed there and on the second night three more colleagues joined us.
Normally we stay at the Novotel on Europa Boulevard. Our company has a corporate rate of €125 a night including breakfast. I consider it expensive but not bad value because I can save €40 on a taxi by taking the train from the airport and if I’m organised enough I can take the train to the office and save another €20 in the morning. Thus paying €125 can be justified by other savings. Paying almost €150 for the Bastion is daylight robbery. If they charged me €60 I’d be miffed so €150 is a joke. I’m gobsmacked at the idea that anyone who wasn’t certifiably insane would think it reasonable to pay that sort of money to be in the middle of ‘nowhere in particular’, in an area that made our secretary shudder with distaste when she described it, to have a room that looks like it was designed by someone with colour-blindness and no taste and – worst of all – to be treated like you’re educationally sub-normal by a receptionist who sets new lows for customer service. Yes, you should have got the message. I LOATHE this hotel.
You will need a Tom Tom to find this place even though it appears to be easy to get to. The taxi driver stopped at traffic lights right beside the hotel and then took another five minutes to negotiate the bizarre road system to get off the highway and round to the hotel. At first I thought it was just another of the typical money-making techniques of Amsterdam’s taxi drivers but he showed me on the Sat Nav that the route was complicated. First let’s take issue with the name. Centrum Zuidwest (or centre southwest for those who can’t guess the Dutch words) implies it’s in the south west of the city centre. It’s not. That’s not just misleading it’s actually a lie. It’s a couple of miles towards the city off the Ring, Amsterdam’s equivalent of the M25. The city centre is about 3 miles away which – considering how small the Amsterdam city centre is, is too far to be calling it central. The hotel sits beneath the junction of two big roads, on a road called Nachtwachtlaan (or Night Watch Lane) which consists only of other hotels and office buildings.