The Glasshouse in Edinburgh is quite something, according to the awards it boasts about on its website. With a preserved church facade behind which the omnipresent glass of this particular hotel stands, it makes an intriguing first impression. However, this place is a lesson in that piece of wisdom: ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’
Monsieur had already arrived so I was there to meet him. In I went, expecting a “welcome to our hotel. Here’s your room key, there’s the lift and please let us know if you need anything.” I’m quite an independent soul, perfectly capable of wheeling my suitcase in any direction I’m shown, so it annoyed me a bit that a porter grabbed the case out of my hand, insisting on leading me to the room. Whatever. He was likeable and chatty and I soon realised why he’d lent a hand. Our room was miles away.
Note to reader: if you ever stay at The Glasshouse, do not stay in a room beginning with a 1. It means you have to walk some distance along a corridor down which you could have run the 100 metres, past the ‘snug’ (more about that later) and down two flights of glass stairs. I was soon grateful to the porter for guiding me as I would no doubt have been lost in no time. Never have I stayed in such a modern warren of a hotel. Ancient warrens, perhaps, but this was supposed to be a modern luxury boutique of an award-winning hotel and so far, it was doing its best to confuse me.
The room was pretty much as you’d expect: big, white bed, chic mustard walls, funky bathroom panelled with turquoise glass, cool TV, separate stereo, Mitel telephones plural. Then I saw their idea of art: three nude and semi-nude black-and-white photographs of women. I’ve spent most of my life studying or working with art, so believe me when I say that this was borderline stuff. Here I was, with my fiance, for a much-needed weekend of relaxation and the LAST thing I wanted to look at was iffy portrayals of naked female bodies. Give me some of the screenprints from the corridors outside, by all means, or an Ingres nude or a life-size Aphrodite, but this was too in-your-face and I doubt I’d be the only one to say so.
Anyway, the weekend had begun and I wasn’t going to let a couple of bare-skinned babes-on-the-wall worry me. Monsieur and I went out for dinner. When we returned, we walked past the huge cinema complex adjacent to The Glasshouse. A thumping beat grew louder as we approached the hotel entrance. Ah, that would be the night club next door, then. I furrowed my brow. “It’s Friday night, it’s Edinburgh, let’s hope we can’t hear that in our room.” Of course, we could. In fact, I could hear exactly what the words to the songs were. We had Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of ’69’, Shakira’s ‘Wherever, Whenever’, and if we hadn’t been so pooped we’d probably have sung along and Jump Jump Jumped with the songs as they vibrated through our walls. But it had been a long day, so after moaning a bit about how seldom it is we get a good night’s sleep, what with the insomniac mammoth that lives above us in London, we fell into the baby-soft bed and slept the sleep of the terminally exhausted.
On Saturday we spent a wonderful day exploring Edinburgh and were out again for dinner. Once more, we returned to a hotel with the flashing club lights of its nearest neighbour keeping time with the music pumping out of its doors. It didn’t look good. We were knackered. Would a quiet night be too much to ask? Apparently so. In room 104 the music was even louder than the previous night, but once again, we were so tired that dropping off to sleep was hardly a problem. Not until 2am, that is, when someone pumped up the volume and I was woken by the Jackson Five bleating on about sunshine, moonlight and good times. Under the right circumstances, this is a favourite disco classic. I defy anyone to like it when it wakes you at 2am. I was fit to kill.
Confused again, I battled with my own, already complex thought processes. If I got up to complain, I’d wake Monsieur, snuffling away happily next to me. I couldn’t do that to him, so I wondered instead about quietly dressing and going down to reception, or picking up the phone to the night manager but speaking from the bathroom. There was nothing to be done, however. I knew that already. They’d either move us to a quieter part of the hotel which isn’t really practical at this time of night, or tell me that this is normal for central Edinburgh at the weekend. Squinting at my watch I saw that as long as the club didn’t have extended licencing, I only had another 40 minutes to wait until the music would stop. It was a fitful 40 minutes, but after a bit of ‘I’m so excited… boom boom boom… and I just can’t hide it…’, a song which bore resemblance to how I currently felt, not in a good way, at long last there was silence. Ah, precious sleep. How could I ever take you for granted?
Musical hotel aside, The Glasshouse had a few other surprises. £6.00 per hour to log into WiFi, a £5.00 per room surcharge on room service, over-priced mini-bar, even by Occidental standards, and an astonishing price list of in-room accessories, should one wish to take them home. A water bottle (standard glass with the hotel name on the front) would set you back £15.00. The golfer’s umbrella cost £30.00. The smart Do Not Disturb sign with a SHHHH on the front is £15.00 and the bathrobes seem like quite a bargain, relatively speaking, at £45.00. What’s this about ‘In Room Books’ being £15.00 each? I hunted until I found them. There was one on Edinburgh – hardly surprising, and one on Wicca. Wicca? First naked women and now witchcraft? What on earth would a devout religious couple think of a room like this? Heaven’s to Betsy, they’d run a mile.
As I said before, The Glasshouse confused me. It was smart and luxurious on the one hand, but on the other, it felt as if we had to keep our eyes open at all times, lest we do something that’s free in other establishments, only to be charged for it. The so-called ‘snug’ incorporated a seating area and spherical fire with retro-style hood around which one could sip on drinks from the honesty bar. “Just take what you like and write it in the book,” suggested the porter as we passed by on my arrival, “We’ll add it to your bill later.” We didn’t try it, but it didn’t feel right. Would they charge us the right amount? How much were the drinks, anyway? Meanwhile, in our snazzy bathroom, there was a discreet glass frame suggesting bath treats:
‘For him: a glass of cognac and almond biscotti, £15.00. For her: a glass of champagne, strawberries and cream, £15.00’. Ouch. Read the very, very fine print at the bottom and you’ll see a note: ‘discretionary charge of 10% will be added to your bill.’ Double ouch.
As we left the room to check out, Monsieur noticed his morning paper hanging from the doorknob. A piece of paper stapled to the top right-hand corner bore his name and the word ‘complimentary’. On the bill, he was charged £2.00 for his two ‘complimentary’ papers. We didn’t take it on board because we were still reeling at the receptionist’s attitude.
“Did you enjoy your stay?” she smiled, obviously expecting us to gush approval all over the desk. “Well, actually, I had a dreadful night’s sleep because of the club’s music,” I said, quite calmly. “Yes, well, that’s to be expected,” she began. “We are in central Edinburgh and it’s the weekend, so we can’t do anything about that. When you come next time, just ask reservations to put you in a quiet room.” Gee, thanks a bunch. “Okay, so while we’re here,” I ventured, “do you think we could do our online check-in ?” “No,” she said, helpfully, “that’s not possible. We’re too busy. You can go to an internet cafe or try the business centre.” We passed. As for staying there ‘next time’, we’ll pass on that, too. The Scotsman doesn’t have a nightclub next door (I checked) and it does have a very good restaurant.