|The lovely UNESCO town of Évora in Portugal.|
I like to learn from my mistakes, or at least have my children learn from them. One such learning experience occurred when we arrived in the city of Évora in Portugal this summer. I love staying in novelty accommodations - a winery, a hostel, a chalet - so I was excited when I booked the EvoraMoors House for our one night stay in Évora after reading it described as a "typical Alentejo house with mezzanine." The small grainy photo on Booking.com looked cute, too.
After some difficulty finding the EvoraMoors House in the labyrinth of one-way alleyways that is Évora, I jumped out of the car when I spotted the correct address. As I approached the small, dark door I immediately got an uneasy feeling. There were three men talking in the dark "lobby" with no reception desk, and one of them greeted me. I told him I had a reservation and he said okay, but didn't ask my name or check a book or computer or anything. I whispered to my son to go tell Daddy not to unload the luggage yet, I was creeped out. I asked if I could take a look at the room.
My husband came with me as the kids waited in the illegally parked car (the only way to park on a tiny one-way street) as a barefooted (yeah, really), shabbily dressed man led us around the corner to another door facing the street to show us our "apartment." I hope I didn't gape too loudly in horror over the odor and uncleanliness of the room. There were no windows, the loft bed visibly drooped in the center, and the double futon that my kids were meant to sleep on was covered with hair and dirt. We politely told him no thank you, and skedaddled out of there.
"What will we do now?" "Where will we sleep tonight?" "Won't we have to pay a cancellation fee?" The kids were concerned. Since we started traveling with our children, we had never not had a hotel reservation. It was a teaching moment: "Well, children . . . " (just kidding - they'd roll their eyes at me if I ever started a sentence like that), "we're just going to find another hotel. And if it's overpriced, these are allowances you have to make in your budget ahead of time." Oh God, I hope there's a vacancy somewhere, I was thinking.
But voilà, hubby and I looked like heroes when we turned the corner, spotted the lovely Hotel Riviera, and there were two rooms available. The price was reasonable, we checked in, and then completely enjoyed our two days in ancient Évora.
Booking.com had me tagged as a no-show, but when I got home I described the circumstances to them in an email and they immediately waived the cancellation fee. What great service - I highly recommend booking hotels through Booking.com.