The Australia Diary – Day 8 – things don’t always go according to plan

Before we start – this is a story about a truly awful hotel – but it’s important to understand that nobody is to blame.

When you travel on business as much as I do, you realise that maybe once or twice a year you are going to arrive in a hotel, walk into your room and just say “NO”.

In the UK I have to manage my response to that awful sinking feeling that you are in the wrong place.

I say manage because if I fly on to social media and cry “rubbish” my ever-dependable business manager Phillippa Goodwin is going to take it very personally (as she has almost always made the booking) and feel justifiably aggrieved that I have made her look ineffective in a public domain.

The fact is that Phillippa has an impressive 99% success rate in finding me excellent accommodation at reasonable prices.

In major locations we have our trusted favourites but every now and then (especially in London) even the pricing strategy of the favourites legislates against the loyal customer (note – avoid Royal Weddings when you travel on business) and we are obliged to take a risk on an unknown destination.

In less frequented parts of the country we will often rely on a client’s local recommendation.

Even so – every now and then it’s a howler, either because the location or the property itself bears little resemblance to their web site or comments made on review sites.

Which is a rather long-winded (sorry) prelude to my prelude – that it wasn’t my hosts fault when I arrived at the Ibis Hotel on Swanston Street in Melbourne at around 22:30 Monday night and felt as if I’d been arrested by Australian immigration and sent to a detention centre to await a full body search and interrogation.

Dental Events Australia could never have anticipated from the hotel’s marketing blurb just how bad the place is.

The common areas of the hotel looked minimalistic but that was nothing more than a warm up for the minute box in which the hotel developers had tried to squeeze a bed and four coat hangers on a wall.

The Ibis Melbourne – don’t ever stay there!

I did actually refuse my first floor room, recognising that traffic noise was likely to a problem but the 5th floor replacement was no better and every time a tram rumbled by outside it sounded as if a small earthquake was taking place.

Having upgraded to the $15 a day WiFi service, my first FaceTime call home failed and I looked and sounded like a Martian astronaut trying to send a despairing message back to Earth for help.

Have you ever arrived a holiday hotel or apartment to say, “OMG – I hate it.”

Said horrible sinking feeling descended. I sat in the room at 23:30, thinking, “I’m an island survivor who loves the outdoor life – maybe I just need to hunker down and get through this?” but the thought of sitting in my cell, fighting to stay connected to my family, team and clients on the internet and having literally nowhere to unpack my clothes was just too much to bear.

Which, of course, is where the said wonderful business manager steps in.

I managed (thank goodness) to connect with Phillippa at her desk and explain the problem.

Her advice was an echo of the conversation I have had with my workshop delegates and with the team at Spa Dental CBD in Sydney – Phillippa said, “no problem – go to bed, get some sleep, leave it with me and I’ll get it sorted.”

p.s. Happy Birthday for today Phillippa.

So I left my bags unopened, climbed into the bed, inserted my very best ear plugs and collapsed into an exhausted slumber – which lasted precisely 4 hours.

At 04:15 I checked my iPhone to find a copy email confirming my reservation and early check in at The Novotel Melbourne South Wharf.

After checking a few emails and writing yesterday’s blog from my detention cell, two hours later I climbed in a cab outside the dreaded Ibis and directed my driver with a beating heart as we took the 15-minute journey to the banks of the Yarra River and the huge Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

There, soaring into the sky, was the golden tower of the new Novotel.

I arrived at the reception desk and, having checked my details and my Accor Hotels loyalty card, the receptionist offered a complimentary upgrade to a superior King Room on the 21st floor and an early and immediate check in. I could have kissed him.

The Novotel is modern, beautiful and the team could not be more pleasant.

My room is spacious, the views are epic and the WifI works.

I walked into my room at about 07:00 this morning and genuinely felt as if I had been liberated from a hostage situation.

Having messaged home, Phillippa and my conference hosts to let them know that all was well, I made my way down to the restaurant to enjoy a cooked breakfast of scrambled egg, asparagus and chorizo.

My waitress Marion asked for my back story as she escorted me to a table and came back over after a few minutes with a note paper on which she had written a few local restaurant recommendations and some places to visit.

I genuinely felt quite emotional that people were being so nice to me.

After breakfast the events of the previous night and the exertions of the last few days really did catch up on me – so I climbed back into bed and slept from 09:00 to 11:30 and then, after a slow start, settled down to complete email inbox zero by about 14:00, catching up on client reports and Team CB work.

Just before I left the hotel, a knock at the door was accompanied by a welcome note and a complimentary chocolate bar. A CNE – critical non-essential, that Australian dentist Paddi Lund used to talk about 20 years ago.

My afternoon was a 2-hour walk along the riverside here, people-watching and taking in the sights and sounds of this dramatic city and it’s (yet again) inspirational architecture.

For perhaps obvious reasons, today was the day when a week of travel and work decided to catch up on me – I felt genuinely lousy and so I decided that, other the answering emails and a few calls late afternoon, I was going to get some rest and start again tomorrow.

I’ve also decided that I’m not going to take on the challenge of finding a bike hire firm and planning local circuits – I need some rest before Friday’s workshop and may just take a gentle jog along the river in the mornings.

Sometimes we have to listen to our bodies.

My day concluded with pasta for one at a local riverside restaurant, followed by the Season Finale of The Handmaid’s Tale, courtesy of Australian TV and the wonders of the internet.

Blessed day.


Published by

Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.