Lying here on a nine-pillowed bed in Room 336 of the four-star Marriott Hotel in Liverpool you could guess 90% of the things filling my field of vision. Beside the typical trouser press is the typical full-length mirror, dimly lit to hide the bloated bellies of the guests who’ve enjoyed one too many £15 full-English breakfasts during their stay; or one too few if you’d ask them personally. The TV sit atop an empty chest of drawers, frozen on a welcome screen that offers more pay-per-view options than nights I’m spending here. To my left a couple of solid armchairs surround a tiny-circular table which has just enough space for the empty champagne bucket and room service pamphlet. Above the bed is some obscure watercolour painted by some obscure artist. And who can forget the kettle - the King of the room - almost as essential as the queen-sized bed itself. The brown and white sugar pawns nestle in a basket towards the front of the tray, a variety of flavoured teas and freeze dried coffee playing the remaining regal pieces in this caffeinated game of chess.
What about the bathroom you may ask? But already you know the answer. White tiled walls merge into the white tiled floor, the white plastic bath hidden like a chameleon in the corner. Mini-shampoos full of unrecognisable herbal ingredients guard the sink, whilst a wholesale number of bath towels drape from rails and stiles that simultaneously play lead in heating the place into an unbearable inferno of a sauna.
Take some of the hostels I’ve had the pleasure staying in on the other hand: A hut built entirely from salt in Bolivia; a child-sized wooden bunk on a cattle ranch in Queensland; a hammock in Cusco; a stained mattress on the floor of a Brussels ghetto; and a sleepless all-night party at Miami South Beach. Healthy eight-hour sleeps they did not provide, but each did provide a story or two that I will be telling for the rest of my life. Nothing eventful has happened in this red-brick building since my arrival; discounting a portly businessman making the stereotypical noise complaint to an over-dolled receptionist.
Having experienced both the glitz-and-glamour of four-star hotels whilst travelling with work, and the down-and-out half-star hostels whilst backpacking on the road, regardless of price I would genuinely always choose the later. Hostels create mini-communities; hotels mini-bouts of boredom. Hostels have that lure of the unknown, a myriad of characters from all over the globe eager to trade stories and meet new companions. Enter the swanky bar of the Marriott and everyone immediately covers their face with the latest edition of the Financial Times or hides their head in a large over-priced glass of red wine like you are Medusa with snakes flowing from those afresh baobab-cleansed locks.