WTF Wednesday: Montcalm Hotel at the Brewery, London

Posted on
May 8, 2013

Spoiler: this skybridge will get you NOWHERE.

This WTF Weds takes us back to London. But I start out with a little anecdote about Portland. It’s cool if you get confused. That’s how I spend most of my life.

Last weekend I was in Portland, and despite being a city that I know and can navigate quite well, the following happened:

  • I walked four blocks in the exact opposite direction that I needed to go, and didn’t realize it until I literally collided with a posted map of the city and saw that I was no where close to where I needed to be.
  • Despite Rand telling me to “Keep going straight”, I kept asking him if I should take every single turn that we passed. At one point he just stared at me and said, “You are joking, right?” I wasn’t.
  • We’d been to our hotel so many times that the valets recognized us. I still required directions to get there.
  • Even while in possession of a map on which directions had been traced out for me in black ink, I got lost.
  • I forgot where I parked the car and so our friend Matt had to drive us around for 20 minutes in the middle of the night trying to find it. Even though I knew the name of the street where I’d left it, I still couldn’t figure it out.

The point is that I have zero sense of direction. I would like to note that mine is far better than my mother’s or my beloved auntie’s (it is a miracle that they haven’t gotten permanently lost while walking to the mailbox and back), but still manages to be absolutely abysmal. I have an excellent memory, but my spacial awareness, my ability to envision how a city is laid out, to get my bearings and understand where things are in relation to each other are virtually non-existent.

You’d assume then, that if we stayed at a hotel with a ridiculously and non-intuitive layout that I’d get ridiculously lost, right? Especially if that hotel were in a foreign country where jet lag and exhaustion were clouding my senses even more, right? But amazingly, quite the opposite was true.

When we were in London last month, we stayed at the The Montcalm Hotel at the Brewery. It is like an M.C. Escher painting come to life. There are staircases that wind up to nothing. The numbers on the rooms – hell, even the numbers on floors – seem to be assigned rather randomly. Room 323 is several long hallways and three flights of stairs (2 up, one down) away from Room 324.

Notice that certain consecutively numbered rooms are nowhere NEAR each other.

As best as I can understand, this is how the hotel came to be:

  • An old brewery was purchased, along with three other nearby buildings, which together form a sort of square O-shape when seen from above.
  • Whoever purchased the brewery started devising a way to link all of these structures together, presumably after imbibing whatever beer had been left in the building (for it could not have been a sober endeavor). A few skybridges and walkways were incorporated, but the original structure of each of the buildings wasn’t touched. Unfortunately, the different floors of each of the buildings don’t line up.
  • Nor do the elevator shafts.
  • And come to think of it, the skybridges don’t really line up properly to any of the floors either.
  • Whoever assigned the numbers to the doors of the suites may have done so under duress. I assume they were being chased by a pack of wild animals.
  • Meth-amphetamines may have been involved.

The result is a building that feels a little bit like Frankenstein’s monster. Disparate pieces have come together to create a sheer abomination. A cautionary reminder that just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.

I don’t mean to suggest that the hotel lacks any redeeming characteristics. Like the crudely stitched monster, it most certainly does. But they are often hard to find – literally. The restaurant was excellent; we spent 20 minutes looking for it every morning. Eventually we found it was easier to just walk outside of the building, head down the block, and enter through a different doorway.

Actually, come to think of it, that might not have been the same restaurant each time. Whatever. They still fed us.

We found that it was virtually impossible to get to any room in the hotel without taking at least one elevator and one flight of stairs. Most rooms required two different elevators and numerous flights of stairs.

Rand and I took an elevator …

Walked down a flight of stairs …

Crossed this skybridge …

Walked up another flight of stairs …

And headed down this hallway, before finding our room, which was on the 1st floor above the lobby.

This is one of those situations where my explanation of it will do absolutely no justice, so here’s a video that Rand snapped of the entire thing.

Watch carefully for the following: (also, have you noticed how many lists are in this post? I’m really into lists lately. This next one is even numbered!)

  1. I tell Rand to calm down when he starts to panic that we’ll never find our room again.
  2. A brief discussion about the size of my butt.
  3. I seem to sort of know where we’re going!

You’d think, in a scenario like this, where left is right and up is down and there are at least 14 ways to get from your room to lobby (and 57 ways to get lost in between), that my sense of direction would doom me to wander the halls for the rest of my days. Blissfully, that didn’t happen.

Everyone else got lost or really confused, but I was okay. Why? Because that building is my life. My hopeless sense of direction means that my entire world looks like that, all the time. So while everyone else was thrown for a loop because the hotel had rendered reference points and logical layouts useless, I was totally fine because I’ve managed to forge an existence without those things.

I just obeyed the signs, even when they defied logic. I even followed the signs that seemed to be fighting with themselves.

Okay. Sure. Whatever you say, crazy sign.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s not like I knew where I was going. I was hopelessly lost; we all were. I’ve just had more practice.

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