Esther Rantzen, television presenter
In the Seventies, I was working on Man Alive and we were filming in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. My producer used an out- of- date Good Food Guide to find a hotel. In my room, the lino was scuffed, the bed was unmade and in the centre of the mattress was an overflowing ashtray. I complained, after which I overheard a row between the manager and the housekeeper, who said she should not be blamed for what staff got up to in vacant rooms. They changed the sheets but, like a fool, I went back. I put their towels on the floor, so I wouldn't have to walk on it, and lay on the bed fully clothed. I didn't sleep a wink, it was horrible.
Hunter Davies, author and journalist
In 1960, my wife and I spent our honeymoon on a cheap package holiday with the now abandoned Horizon tour operator. We found ourselves spending what should have been the most romantic adventure of our lives at a boring hotel in the middle of the Sardinian town of Alghero. Not only was the accommodation disappointing, but within days, a boil developed on my bottom. The local female GP was called out to pummel away at the growth. My poor wife collapsed on the floor. The Italian doctor responded in perfect French: "Un peu de courage madame."
Kim Wilde, singer turned gardener
If you want a really romantic setting, stay on the eighth floor at the Terrass Hotel in Montmartre, where there is an amazing room with a window across a whole wall which has the most breathtaking views across Paris. You can just hole up there for a fabulously sexy evening, with a bottle of champagne, gazing at the lights on the Eiffel Tower all night. I really like the hotel because it is not terribly trendy, the staff are very friendly and the food is exquisite, obviously the work of an incredibly together chef. There's also a lovely terrace restaurant. And they play birdsong in the lifts during the day, and jazz in the evening.
Samantha Bond, actress
Ten years ago, our family followed some friends to celebrate New Years Eve in a tiny hotel 50 miles outside Paris - the Hotel l'Abbaye, in the wild hunting territory surrounding the village of Longport. It felt like we were walking into a big family home, with a roaring fire and a warm atmosphere. On the 31st, we all got dressed up for a seven-course meal, laid on by our hosts, and guests were serenaded by huntsmen trumpeteers. The next day we had a hearty roam in the Foret de Repz, and concluded that it was one of the best experiences of our lives. I've been back twice since.
Peter Stringfellow, nightclub owner
In the late 70s, I took my then wife and our two kids on holiday to LA, and booked into a hotel in the middle of the night. We told the receptionist we'd be staying a week, and he looked gobsmacked. This was a place where people tended to rent by the hour! My kids, aged 11 and 14, thought the experience - including the smell of pee from the carpets - was hysterical; "marvellous" they said. When the concierge asked if he should carry our bags to our rooms, I told him I would do it myself, before hastily gathering my family and making a dash for the back stairs.
Rowan Pelling, journalist
My worst time was 10 years ago when I told my husband I wanted to stay on an island. I had visions of Capri, but he booked us into this Fawlty Towers-kind of place in Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight; the kind of place that still serves tinned tangerines. When I saw it, I burst into tears. I was young and wanted somewhere romantic, not full of old, frumpy people. That night, we ate out in a pub even though we had booked for dinner. Next morning, the manageress asked us where we had been at dinner. We'd all waited for you, she said. It was just like being at school; we had hysterics.
Jonathan Coe, writer
The most extraordinary hotel I've stayed at is the Atelier Sul Mare in Castel di Tusa, Sicily. Each room has been designed by an artist and is themed around a cultural figure. I stayed in the Pasolini room, where the entire bathroom is a shower. Guests put up with many discomforts (there is no furniture in some rooms) in order to respect the artists' vision. Famously, one couple spent an entire weekend in a room in pitch darkness, believing it was themed around "blackness". They mentioned this to owner Antonio Presti as they checked out and he was mortified: a fuse had blown...
Max Clifford, PR man
Best and worst combined: At the beautiful Royal Mirage hotel in Dubai I was speaking at a media conference, addressing people from all over the Middle East. A gentleman asked if it were possible to promote Libya without using famous people. I gave a long and comprehensive answer, in which I referred to our work with Nigeria, and highlighted Colonel Muammar Gadaffi. At dinner a friend joined me and said he couldn't understand why I'd discussed these points in relation to the promotion of Nivea. I'd completely misheard the question, and spoke at length about Libya, rather than a skincare product.
Nicky Haslam, interior designer and columnist
The best hotel in the world simply has to be Park Hyatt in Moscow, located close to the Kremlin and the famous Red Square. It's fabulous in every respect: the food, which includes authentic Armenian specialities, is delightful, the staff are wondeful, the location is ideal, and the décor is inspirational; a splended sort of grand-modern style. It's slightly suprising, eye-opening, and anything but minimal. Another attractive quality about the hotel is its proximity to the best restaurant in Russia, the Road Cafe. The food is sensational, with a menu that one might expect to find at a New York diner.
Will Self, author
I indiscriminately detest all hotels: I loathe dimly lit hotels, brightly lit hotels, trendy boutique hotels and pseudo-traditional hotels. In fact, I was appalled to discover that the only hotel I actually did like, the Gramercy Park, in New York, had been turned into yet another hideous venue. I suffer from what I refer to as "Barton Fink-ism" disease, after the film. This term describes my dread of checking into yet another eerie, faceless building, with the same characterless rooms, spread across seemingly identical towns throughout the Midwest.
Interviews by Charlotte Philby
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