I know that as Americans, we're spoiled. Big time. In every way imaginable, we have it so easy and so good. For instance, on a recent work trip, I was booked at the "Springhill Suites" outside of Tarrytown, NY for like $11o a night, and was dreading it because I was sure at that rate, it was going to be a crappy room in a crummy hotel. But it was a large suite, clean and comfortable, with a sitting area, a kitchenette and a great set up for working with a comfortable desk and free, high-speed wireless internet. And nice towels. Lots of them.
So when I was booked at the classy-sounding "Hotel Versailles" in Vladivostok with a nightly rate of $125 (I think...we'll have to wait and see how the rubles pan out on my MasterCard bill), and read their own description of themselves on their website ("4 stars...Russian Baroque Hotel with modern amenities; set in the center of the city, convenient for the business and leisure traveler"), I figured it would be pretty nice digs. Um...not so much.
The lobby could be pretty. It's got dark marble floors, elegant molding, huge chandeliers, and big windows facing the street. But then they fill it with these godawful 80's bachelor pad reject orangeish leather chairs and couches that resemble catcher's mitts, uber tacky lamps and laquered tables, and then hang really BAD art on every square inch of wall space. (And guess what: the art's for sale. Yay!).
Then you take the elevator up, and emerge into this super dark hallway (very little light, dark green carpet, dark wood walls) that leads to your room. And there's no such thing as "non-smoking" in Russia. So the hallway and your room are pretty much guaranteed to smell like the show lounge at the Golden Nugget.
Then there's your room: Very sparse and dark. Twin bed with what I think was a cot matress lying on top of the box springs. One thin towel for your use. Scary carpet that you really don't want to walk on with bare feet. Paper thin walls that allow you to hear someone clearing his throat next door (or having noisy sex with prostitutes...you know, whatever). TV with one English channel that never appears. And when you're alone and you spend a LOT of time in this room, it can get very depressing, very quickly.
I know. I'm spoiled. But really...this place was pretty gross. I think on our second trip we're going to stay at the Hotel Hyundai which is supposed to be nicer than the Versailles (which I don't think should be too hard to pull off). But before I go, let me know if you want a 24" x 26" framed oil portrait of Vladimir Putin, because I can totally hook you up.