During my time on the travel beat, I have slept in caves, harvested grapes in Switzerland, visited more churches than most priests and more castles than royalty, toured distilleries, wineries, mustard factories, chocolate shops, learned to cook in foreign lands, soared in a hot air balloon over the lunar-like landscape of Turkey's Cappadocia region -- and more.
But one of my most vivid travel memories involves being stuck in a shower on the lovely Spanish island of Menorca.
After arriving on Menorca, and checking into a hacienda-style boutique hotel, our group was given 30 minutes to freshen up before our first island tour. Just enough time to shower, change, brush my teeth and feel human again after our overnight flight.
Feeling grimy, I headed straight to my bathroom, a lux affair with buff-coloured tumbled marble tile and a spacious chrome-and-glass shower enclosure. For 10 or so glorious minutes I revelled under the soothing hot water.
Feeling rejuvenated, I shut off the water, and turned the door handle. Nothing.
The handle turned but the door didn't budge.
I tried again, thinking perhaps my hand was slippery or the latch was stuck. Nothing.
I pushed on the door, still thinking the latch must be stuck. Still nothing.
Gingerly I pressed gently on other parts of the glass door, which bowed slightly outward but did not budge.
Finally, I realized the problem. The beefy rubber strip along the door fit so tightly that, combined with the heat from the shower, I was sealed in tighter than leftovers in a Tupperware container.
Dripping wet and starting to shiver, I began to ponder how long it might take for the seal to cool enough to let go. Feeling a tad anxious, I also wondered how long it might be before someone came looking for me. And how embarrassing it would be -- for both of us -- when they found me naked in the shower.
Just about then, I realized that -- luckily -- a pile of fluffy white towels had been placed on a shelf inside the shower enclosure. At least I could wrap up, stay warm and keep my modesty intact as I waited for release from my showery prison.
Feeling impatient, I wrapped one of those thick bath towels around my right hand and forearm, and gave the door one last big push. The glass door flew open and bounced off a tiled wall, but fortunately did not break. More importantly, I was free!
As I stepped from the shower, I could see the bathroom floor was covered in water. The door was only sealed on the side, and while it did an excellent job of containing me, it did not contain one drop of water, which leaked out underneath with abandon.
The shower incident got me thinking about other hotel bathrooms with various levels of dysfunction. While there has never been another incident quite as dramatic as the Spanish episode, I often encounter things that prompt me to think: "Really? What were they thinking?
Bathrooms aren't exactly new technology. When you strip away the lux acoutrements --the antique finished taps, the classy ceramic or marble tiles, and the designer fixtures, the basics are, well, pretty basic.
So why do many hotels get it wrong? Doesn't anyone ever test the facilities to see if -- and how well -- they perform?
I'm not talking about one-star properties, where guests expect a certain measure of quirkiness. I'm talking about otherwise beautiful places that opt for form over function when it comes to some element of bathroom design.
I'm not going to name names but here are a few of the issues I see often in my travels:
— Floors of highly polished marble tile. Add the tiniest drop of water and you could play ice hockey on that slippery surface.
— Shower enclosures, glass or otherwise, that do not contain water, which spreads uncontrollably over the floor.
— Shower curtains (with no liners) made of lovely but non water-proof fabrics -- like velvet!
— No shower curtain, glass enclosure or demi-wall -- at all.
— Shower controls that require a degree in engineering to operate.
— A beautifully appointed hotel suite with a drop dead gorgeous bathroom -- wall-to-wall mirrors, tinted glass shower enclosure with multiple shower heads, his-and-her sinks, deep jetted soaking tub -- even artwork. The toilet? Housed in a dimly lit utilitarian closet with a dinky sink -- more suitable for a gas station than a lux Paris property.
— Badly arranged fixtures that require one to stand in the tub or shower, directly beneath the shower head, to turn on the water.
— Deep narrow bathtubs with sides so high it makes me wonder how people shorter than my 5'8" manage to get into them without a ladder.
— And finally, drains that don't.