“Hotel Carmen”:https://www.lapsi360.com/Carmen%20360/Carmen%20360.html, in the northern Albanian town of Shkodra, is centrally located in the old part of town on a pedestrianised street. Fortunately, our driver helped transport our bags from the nearest available parking space.
This is a small hotel and on arrival, we were handed the key to room 4 without any formalities or information about facilities, mealtimes etc. We were on the first floor, and fortunately our driver was on hand once again to carry our bags as there was no lift and no help from the hotel.
Room 4 appeared to be a standard room although our paperwork had suggested a suite with balcony. After 15 minutes, the receptionist appeared, and apologised profusely for not allocating us to room 7 at the hotel’s rear. Fortunately, we’d not unpacked. This is where our good fortune ran out.
Our room was ‘interesting’ and whilst at first sight looked grand, it wasn’t very practical: the phrase ‘all fur coat and no knickers came to mind’. A large relatively low double bed was made up with only a sheet, and the mound of blankets in the wardrobe prevented clothes being hung up. The bed had a large impressive cream leather headboard which matched a pouffe and chaise lounge which is where we put our suitcases in the absence of a stand. Whilst it was nice to have a chair and ornate coffee table, I’d have swapped it for storage and shelves. A couple of pipes protruded dangerously from the wall near the door for no apparent purpose.
The wooden floor had a large thick bedside rug which for some inexplicable reason was completely soaked and had to be rolled up and moved. The small fridge, sat on the floor, was unplugged, due to a lack of nearby socket. In it were a packs of ‘plastic’ cheese slices and mini sausages. It wasn’t clear whether they were a welcome gift or left by the previous guest, but on the basis that the fridge wasn’t on, we left well alone. However, unusually for Albania, there were tea making facilities.
The bathroom was large with loo, basin and an open shower, which when used, made the bathroom floor totally wet. However, there were two pairs of rubber shoes. Obviously, the hotel had made an eco-choice to avoid small plastic containers, by providing two industrial-size bottles of shampoo. There was also an electric hand dryer, more suited to a public convenience, and although the loo roll holder took individual sheets, the spare was a roll. Our room failed to be serviced and we had to request fresh towels as ours had not dried out having mopped the floor the previous night.
Our balcony abutted a building site and we discovered the garden featured on their website, was being converted into this extension. In addition, there was a photo of tables and chairs on their pavement area at the front, which didn’t exist.
On the first of our two nights, we returned at 10.30pm to find very loud music playing from a nearby building. Although we tried to sleep, eventually I went to reception where night security told me it would definitely stop at midnight, or the police would arrive. He ‘helpfully’ suggested a tot of whisky to help me sleep but didn’t provide one and there was no bar. He said the music was only allowed on Friday and Saturday – unfortunately the two nights we were staying. Whilst the ‘thud thud’ stopped at midnight, it took some time for it to completely ramp down and for guests to leave. Being forewarned, the following night, we had a later dinner and shared a litre of wine to try to help us sleep.
Having had a fitful night, we were woken at 6am by the call to prayer from a nearby mosque and then 30 minutes later, bells from a nearby church.
Having confirmed that breakfast was served at 8am, we found the restaurant in a windowless basement room, with a slightly musty smell. It had stone walls and dark wood furniture with wheels as table legs and bizarrely a ‘Spanish Bar’ which was never open. There was only one table set, so we were obviously the only guests.
The breakfast was overwhelmingly large with a plate of two fried eggs, three sausages (all cold and probably cooked an hour before), sliced peppers, cucumber, tomato and a wedge of a salty feta-style cheese. The breadbasket had three large flatbreads, and just in case that wasn’t sufficient, two huge pastries and two chocolate croissants. A huge bowl of black and white grapes concluded the meal.
There was a jug of water but no sign of juice or hot drinks. However, as we were sat adjacent to an open plan preparation area where a buffet would probably be laid out, we thought that in the absence of any staff, we’d help ourselves. Unfortunately, the coffee sachets were three in one (coffee, milk and sugar), so I ventured up to reception, where I was asked if I wanted ‘German coffee’. Although the coffee served was from a filter machine, it was weak and luke-warm. All in all, it was a disaster and we were glad that, as we were leaving so early on our final day, it was a packed breakfast (which was probably the best thing about our stay).