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My Travels with Angus #4 - Haarlem Hop Scotch (1 Viewer)

Penelope

Senior Member
Upon leaving Copenhagen on September 18th, after my ten day cruise, I took the train back over ground I'd traveled already. It wasn't tedious because I'd missed the scenery due to darkness. After two changed trains, one at a deserted platform in Denmark and the other in bustling Hamburg, I chose to stop at Bremen for the night. It was then that I decided to go to Haarlem rather than Amsterdam.

The next morning, I boarded a train for the short hop to Osnabrück for a connection to the Netherlands. Trains crossing borders run less frequently and I had to wait over two hours but I had a good book and the weather was fine.

Upon arriving in Amsterdam, I immediately went to the tourist info place and booked a room in Haarlem. The lady at the kiosk was incredibly helpful and purposely chose a hotel in the town centre for 56 Euro a night. The reservation, which isn't binding, cost 8 Euro.

I hopped on a commuter train to Haarlem, (20 minutes away) and hailed a cab at the station. When I told the taxi driver where I wanted to go he didn't know the hotel. I paid 6 Euro to have him drive me to a square and vaguely point down a pedestrian only street. Trailing my 60 pounds of luggage behind me I began searching for the address. After a block of cobblestone shudders, I sought assistance from couple of women and was directed back to where I'd been dropped off.

The street was lined with tables which were crowded with sun seekers sipping beer and being disgruntled at my disturbance. The centre of the street was an open air market which was crowded with browsers such tables attract.

Twenty yards from where the taxi driver dropped me off was my destination. It too had tables and scattered chairs spilled out into the street with laid back, legs extended afternoon drinkers. Instead of a straight line entry there was a dog-leg path into the lobby which wasn't. I hiked my suitcase over the threshold and walked into a large dining room.

I politely inquired if I had come to the right place and was told yes by a harried server. I informed her that I had booked a room for two nights and she began the process of checking me in. Half-way through the procedure, she asked me if I would like a room on the second or third floor. I'd been visually taking stock of the first floor and asked her where the elevator was.

"We, don't have one." she said.

"You are a hotel and you don't have an elevator?" I replied.

With a smile she said, "No, welcome to Haarlem."

"In my travels, I've come to expect hotels to have elevators." I countered.

"Well, that is not the case here." she said.

"I have a bag that weighs around 25 kilos and there is no way I'm going to lug it up a flight of stairs." I declared.

"I can get someone to help you with your bag." she said.

"I don't want help carrying my bag up the stairs. I'm on holidays and have already lifted this suitcase on and off three trains today." I replied.

"I don't know why you are so angry." she said softly.

"I am not angry. I am being direct and if you believe this is me being angry I would be happy to give you a demonstration of how I act when I'm angry so you are able to tell the difference. I have distinct expectations of hotels as opposed to guest houses and bed and breakfasts. Your rate gives the impression you would have an elevator." I replied.

"I would be happy to try and find a solution for this problem. Perhaps we can work out something that is agreeable to you. I can have someone take your bag to your room for you. If you need assistance bringing it down after your stay all you need to do is have it ready to be picked up by 11 the night before. We can keep it in a safe place until you are ready to check out." she suggested.

"So, what you are saying is that you don't have adequate staff on hand in the morning at your hotel? Are you sure you are a hotel?" I asked.

"This used to be a restaurant and was converted to a hotel ten years ago. When there have been issues with guests we've been able to work together and find solutions." she said.

By now, she had worn me down into a state of trying to be reasonable and I agreed to the suggestions she'd made. I paid for the room with my Visa card and decided to have a scotch and relax. I wheeled my suitcase to the back of the restaurant near the bar and asked the bartender what sort of scotch they had available. She pointed to a bottle of Jack Daniels.

"That is not scotch." I said.

She then pointed to a bottle of Black Bush.

"That isn't scotch either, that's irish whisky but I'll have that instead with no ice please." I said and went and sat down at one of many empty tables.

She brought the drink over and I asked her if she wanted me to pay right away. She shrugged and walked away. I shrugged and took a lingering swig of the amber ambrosia. The calming influence took over immediately and I leaned back in the cane chair.

In the half hour I sat enjoying my drink, my suitcase was deftly moved closer to the bar so it would be out of the staff's way. I waited as it sat there. I began to realize it would require another interaction to have it taken to my room. The 'hotel' had boasted an internet connection so I dragged Angus out and tried to get online. No dice. I downloaded the photos I'd taken and looked at my suitcase one more time.

Enough! I thought I've had enough, I am on holidays and don't see why I should be paying to have 'hotel' failings foisted upon me.

I got up and went to the woman who'd checked me in.

"I've changed my mind. I'm checking out. Please cancel my credit card transaction and I'll leave." I told her.

"You are leaving?" she said. "We are not the only hotel in Haarlem with no elevator. I know of four other ones. Perhaps you would like to look at the room?"

"I would if the room was on this floor but I have no desire to look at a room I don't want to stay in."

At this time, a man in a pink golf shirt comes walking over and begins talking to her in Dutch. She replies in the same language and I interject.

"Excuse me but what are you saying to him?" I ask.

"I'm explaining the situation." she said, in perfect English, and went back to speaking Dutch to him.

I turned to him, "Do you speak English?" I asked.

"Of course!" he snapped at me.

"Good, I suppose you are in charge and all I require is my credit card transaction cancelled and I'll be on my way." I told him.

"We don't have the facilities to cancel transactions." he told me.

"Excuse me, you are a hotel which isn't able to do a simple cancellation of a credit card charge?" I asked incredulously. "I've made purchases in small tourist shops which were able to do such a trivial thing. Are you sure you are a hotel? Now I feel like a hostage instead of someone on holidays! I paid eight Euro dollars to reserve a room here, I paid six Euro to a taxi driver who didn't know your location and when I finally find your establishment you have no elevator and expect me to have my bags ready, if I want assistance, by eleven pm the night before I leave. This does not fall within my guidelines of having a pleasant vacation."

He offers to refund me cash instead but tells me that he will have to withold the transaction fee he's charged. I ask him how much the fee is. He does some dickering, with a small calculator, and comes up with a cost of four Euro. I tell him that it's worth it and that I'll accept the loss and go back to the info centre in Amsterdam and try again.

"You won't have any luck with them. They will expect you to pay again for another reservation." he tells me in a superior tone.

"Well, I'll see about that and it really isn't your concern is it?" I reply. By now I'm annoyed and I turn to the woman and say. "Look, I want you to appreciate that in all of my travels I have never done what I am doing now. I don't want to be an ugly tourist and perhaps next time, when a customer raises their concerns about your facilities, you might want to respect their opinion instead of trying to find a solution that is one sided. I was making all of the concessions. That isn't co-operation that is capitulation on my part. My idea of a holiday doesn't include staying at hotels that charge rates which don't factor in their short comings."

"Perhaps you are right. I was only trying to accomodate you." she replies.

"Not really," I replied "You were trying to get me to adjust to your lack of staff and amenities."

The man in the pink golf shirt takes money out of his wallet and hands over a raft of bills. I count it and it's correct. I look at him.

"Are you the manager?" I ask.

"Yes and one of the owners too." he says.

"You also do work as a waiter and would it have been you who would have carried my bag to my room?" I ask him.

"Yes." he replies.

"I'm happy to have saved you the effort because I honestly didn't want anyone else put at risk of injuring themselves dealing with my luggage."

I put the money in my purse, retrieve my suitcase from the dark corner it was wheeled into and walk out of the 'hotel' avoiding the sprawled legs and tables of beer carefully. Instead of hailing another taxi, which might not know where the train station is, I walk the distance and board the next train back to Amsterdam. On the way I realize I never did pay for my drink, wonder if it cost four Euro and realize I might not have been penalized at all.

When I get back to Amsterdam station, I hotfoot it back to the info centre and the same lady is still at her kiosk. I explain the circumstances and she immediately updates the information she has on the Carillon Hotel. With an apologetic, gracious and helpful demeanor she finds me a hotel, for no additional fee, in the heart of Amsterdam for less money (40 Euro per night) that has an elevator. After thanking her profusely, I walk outside and get a taxi which is driven by a fellow who knows exactly where the Hotel Ness is and takes me there while chatting away in a friendly manner. I spend two glorious days in Amsterdam and put Haarlem behind me.

[an:bc86434ba7]While in the lobby of the Carillon Hotel in Haarlem, I notice they have complimentary postcards. I take seven of them and mail them to friends regaling them with my experiences.[/an:bc86434ba7]

I did not stay here.
 

Penelope

Senior Member
Good point. Where would you suggest I begin this diary entry? At Amsterdam? When I got to Haarlem?
 
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