Jet travel is a wondrous thing. Just one short flight whisked me from the 1853 manor house at Brantridge Park outside of London to Lisbon’s hyper-modern Jeronimos 8 Hotel, one of a new generation of so-called “design hotels.” Enter a spare foyer and to the right is a dark, free-standing cube behind which the front desk clerk is stationed. The minimalist lobby area is to the left, a few steps away — arrow-straight lines of square chairs (square seat, square back) upholstered in brown or buff-yellow leather along unadorned walls.
The rooms are also minimalist: white walls, beige wall-to-wall carpeting, thick beige drapes with slightly golden sheers over them, light brown rough-woven bedspreads, dark brown leather headboard stretching the width of the room, indirect lighting and abundant chrome. The dark wood desk has a Pleixglas insert that looks like a lightbox. I have to stand up to type. There’s a flat-screen TV with something like 40 channels (including English-language Aljazeera, which is quite enlightening the morning after the horrific car bombing in Karachi) and WiFi access (hooray!). The room is an example of form over function — so minimalist that I had to move a piece of furniture to find an outlet into which to plug my laptop. The desk is a good six inches higher than normal, but the chair is regular height.
The bathroom is equally minimalist. An opaque, frosted-glass door separates it from the hallway. You step into the tub/shower on the faucet end, with the “head end” — should you decide to take a bath — in kind of a cave. The toilet, bidet and two vanity-top basins are round. No overflow drain is discernable. The tub/shower enclosure, the floor and the vanity are made of marble. A small notice attached to one wall suggests, “Towels on the floor means please change them! Towels on the towel rail means I will use them again!” Problem is, there is no towel rail — except for one at the far end of the tub. That means if you want to hang your bath towel on the rack, you have to get back into the wet tub after you’ve dried your feet. And in the unlikely event that you want to hang your face towel on the rack, you have to step into the bathtub to do so. And the housekeeper probably also has to step into the tub to put fresh towels on the rack that’s mounted at a height of about six feet.
One quaint throwback, in an American context, to the past is a white band around the toilet seat and lid reads “Disinfected for you.” In three languages.