Have you stayed in all the hotels? (Part 2)

Where were we? Oh yes, in Part 1 you were deciding whether to trust my hotel recommendations. Have I really stayed in all the hotels? After all, you’re going to spend good money, and you want to know if I’m any good at my job, right?

I told you earlier how 62 out of the 69 hotel reviews in my last guide made it in there. It was basically good news – trust me, I’m a travel writer. But now you’re wondering about those 7 hotels that I admitted I’ve never visited? I know I would be. Here’s the deal.

The not-so-magnificent 7

One or two will have recommended to me to check out and I just didn’t have time. But reading between the lines, and doing all the stuff I talked about earlier – checking other guides and websites, asking around – I’m prepared to think they sound pretty good. So effectively, they get a free pass until the next time I’m in the city, when I will go and check them out. If they’re good, in they stay – poor, and out they go.

Another two or three have probably slipped through the net. I’ve always been meaning to get there, or perhaps I even tried, but they were full, it was raining, I was hungover, they were undergoing renovations . . . what can I say? I’m a flawed human. I’ll get around to those too one day.

And a couple in particular are no-brainers. They are so famous, in every guidebook, on every website, top-rated on TripAdvisor – it would be perverse not to include them, it’s just that they are inconvenient to visit. But I’m guessing that if everyone thinks that the ‘Grand Hotel Boutique De Luxe’ (disclaimer: not a real hotel) is simply stunning, then you know what, it probably is. So I took a look at the website and crafted a review, and while I feel bad about that now that you have me on the ropes, I don’t feel terrible – it’s not like you’re going to have a bad time if you stay there on my recommendation. It’s five-star for Chrissake. De Luxe! There are probably truffles on the pillows.

Trust the travel writer

Over time, you build up a rapport with readers – they like the guidebook series, they like the books and the places, they like the website, they trust you. I think that’s reasonable.

Travel writers (mostly) do this job because they like it (and not just for the freebies), and they mostly love telling people about great places to go and stay (and not just make it up). I like to think I have an eye for what people want from a hotel, and even if I haven’t stayed there personally, I have a pretty good idea by now about whether a particular place cuts the mustard or not. And many don’t. There are 69 reviews in the guide, but I’ve looked at dozens of other places over the years and thought – hello, dark brown ceramic bathroom, lumpy beds, uncomfortable ‘designer’ furniture, I don’t think so.

Best test? Once you’ve figured out the guide we’ve been talking about, take a look at the 69 reviews I wrote. I’ll bet you can’t tell the places I’ve stayed in from the places I haven’t. Or work out which 7 I’ve never been to. Or which let me stay for free. Partly, that’s tradecraft – good writing, basically, though I say it myself.

But it’s also because there’s an authority there – underpinned by many, many visits over several years – that says, you know what, this’ll be good, because Jules Told Me.

Getting it right

And – beacuse things change, and because people’s opinions are all different – if it isn’t any good, tell me that too. So that I get it right for the next book, the next trip or the next person who asks me where they should stay.

In the end, to answer the question – ‘have you stayed in all the hotels?’ – no, I can’t guarantee I’ll actually have slept there. But I’ll at least have bounced on the bed and switched on the shower, and thought – you know what, I’d happily pay to stay here myself. I reckon, in the end, that’s all I can do.

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