Monday, 2 April 2007

The Federal Palace Hotel

During my three nights in Lagos, I stayed one night in the dully functional Halliburton staffhouse, and two nights in the Federal Palace Hotel. The latter is a faded behemoth of a hotel, clearly built several decades ago as the model of decadent opulence, but systematic neglect sees this hulk slowly decay with the passing of time. It has plenty of facilities - a restaurant, swimming pool, bar, conference rooms, appalling business centre - but absolutely no atmosphere. Everything is tired. And due to the guests being either Western oil workers with their company paying the bill, or rich Nigerians, the prices are vastly inflated.

So while superficially grand, it is the attention to detail that matters so much in the quality of a hotel. This is where Kuala Lumpur's Hotel Maya scored so many points, and alas where the Federal Palace fails. The lifts are hopelessly inefficient - an entire geological era can progress without one of the three lifts becoming available. The business centre is expensive, the internet very erratic, and the staff rude. The restaurant staff aren't so much rude as simply uncaring, though the buffet is decent.

But where it really matters is the room itself, and this is where the Federal Palace exemplifies itself.

I stayed in two rooms during my two days, and the one pictured here is the better of the two. It was a reasonable size and the bed comfortable enough. The other room actually had a double bed, but the room was smaller. There's no style to speak of: functional, not outstanding.

The other view of the room highlights the large windows which open out onto the balcony. Above the windows are lights, which do much more than any of the three lamps to brighten the room. It's a curious phenomenon that in any hotel I can remember staying in, none ever have a light hanging from the centre of the room, as just about every room in a house would have. Instead, they use various dull lamps scattered about the room to give light. This must be for reasons of conducing atmosphere, but for practical purposes just makes the room oppressively dark at night. Especially in the case of my first room in the Federal Palace, which only had one pathetic lamp working, and one more if I balanced the base of the lamp over the temperamental switch. The bright light above the window in my second room was pretty good though, but did make an annoying buzzing noise.

The balcony, and chairs. Quite a private balcony, but the height of the barrier and frosted glass meant that if you sat on the chairs you couldn't see the view, only the barrier.

I think Lagos is partially situated on some islands, the Federal Palace being on Victoria Island, and so my window had quite a nice sea view, for Lagos anyway. While most of the city is a congested slum, this kind of view could almost fool one into believing the place was quite pleasant. To my surprise, I didn't see any bodies washed up on the shore.

This little bit (what's it called? A jetty?) stuck out from the hotel. There appeared to be a film crew there the days I stayed, and there were lots of handsome young men and pretty young girls together in a big group too, so I'm guessing they were filming some kind of soap, or film, or Pepsi advert. Or porn.

Yes, in the bathroom, not one sink, but two!

Again, poor attention to detail, with regards to the shower curtain. It was fixed in a position that meant, when you showered, it hung far too deep into the bath, so gave little space to manouevre without finding yourself stuck to it. Also, I believe this style of bathroom suite is not quite up to modern tastes. The toilet water was permanently a worrying brown.

A large, spacious closet, with only a fridge. Room to hang hundreds of dresses, if you were so inclined.

TV and desk. But that's all. No kettle, no coffee - a criminal oversight in my view. Every good hotel should have these basic amenities, because I don't want to have to phone room service and wait 45 minutes every time I want a damn coffee. I am of the generation that wants things NOW. There was also no iron or ironing board, which all good hotels will provide. It goes without saying that internet access in this room could only be a distant dream, thus forcing you to use the dreadful and expensive business centre.

I rather liked this table and chairs however. The chairs were surprisingly comfortable.

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