A compact orange cell for £20. It must be easyHotel
Wednesday 03 August 2005
And when you are trying to sleep in a windowless orange box with only the growl of the air conditioner and six giant company slogans for company, it is the perfect recipe for a restless night.
I learnt the hard way at the new easyHotel in South Kensington, central London.
Stelios Haji-Ioannou has now made his orange mark on the hotel industry. Since launching the budget airline easyJet 10 years ago, few aspects of society have been deemed unworthy of de-frilling.
From pizzas to insurance and men's toiletries to mobile phones, his range of products has grown in every direction. His most recent bid to take over the world emerged in the form of wristwatches.
But is the minimum price of £20 a night for a a windowless room a stroke of genius, or a marketing gimmick that London could do without?
Of the white stucco-fronted houses on Lexham Gardens, it is - as you'd expect - the only property with an orange plastic sign. The building was once a 12-bedroom guesthouse. Today, it is a 34-room easyHotel.
The rooms are in three sizes: small, very small and tiny. Only three rooms have windows, a privilege for which guests pay a premium. There is no room service, mini bar, porter, wardrobe or restaurant. Televisions are activated by a remote control which costs £5, and is available from reception.
In my "tiny" second-floor room, the words "orange" and "plastic" spring to mind. A double bed is encased in plastic walls on three sides. A door marked helpfully with the words "a tiny loo" leads to a cramped plastic container with overlapping toilet and shower. The words "easyHotel.com" are emblazoned no fewer than six times across the room.
So who would stay in such a room - and who, for that matter, would wear an easyWatch?
Lee Walsh, 33, is a self-confessed easyGroupie. Mr Walsh, a supermarket warehouse worker from Kent, said he was determined not to miss the opening night.
"I would have travelled anywhere in the country to spend a night at the new hotel," he said. "I'm not here because I want to stay in London but because of the hotel. I'm a big fan of the easy products and have tried most of them." I glance at his wrist. "I actually bought one of his watches last month," he adds.
The next morning, after a dreadful sleep, I flood the "tiny" bathroom.
Others, though, had a happier night. Peter Fan, 24, a student from Australia who is spending a week in a "tiny" room with his 19-year-old brother, says: "We both slept very well. It's brand new and it's very cheap. We don't mind not having a window. The only problem is fitting our two backpacks into the room."
While the easyHotel is not for me, there is no doubt it will attract plenty of business. Even so, I recommend someone tell Stelios that orange is not the only colour.
What can you buy for £20?
* Take a one-way trip to Sardinia or Latvia with the budget airline Ryanair
* Buy a goat or brood of chickens from Farm Friends to help African farmers
* Buy two copies of the latest Harry Potter book and throw them off a high building
* Go to see the musical The Producers with a pre-theatre dinner at Porters in Covent Garden, from lastminute.com
* Buy five litres of Lambrini - that's alcoholic pear juice, or perry, to the uninitiated - and dance the night away
* Buy yourself a half-hour lesson with a PGA pro and learn how to play golf
* Get dolled up, polish your conversation and search for your ideal partner at a speed-dating do (www.speeddater.co.uk)
* Buy two loaves of bread - upper-crust Poilane bread that is, made to a traditional French recipe in a wood-fired oven. Each weighs 10lb
* Help out a pop star in distress and snap up a copy of Michael Jackson's latest heading-for-a-flop album, The Essential Michael Jackson
* Treat your date to a movie - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is sure to sweeten them up
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