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Arriving at night

These days, many people choose to stay in holiday apartments when they travel, attracted by the extra space and the home-from-home experience. The choice is enormous, and it’s fun finding the perfect pad on the internet.

My main reason for choosing apartments when I travel with my girlfriends is that two of them snore like troopers, so unless they have individual rooms, nobody gets a good night’s sleep! There are so many advantages. You can stock the fridge with wine, wash out your undies and even save money by making a sandwich instead of eating out. On the downside, there’s no receptionist to sort out your problems, and there isn’t a big sign outside the property.

In early February, our flight from Alicante touched down at Vienna airport. It was dusk, and by the time we had caught to train to the city centre, it was pitch black outside. I put the address into my iPhone and off we went, through the dark streets. There was nobody around, well, we did see one man who saw me looking at my phone and came over to ask me where I was going, but he was blind drunk and no help at all. Luckily, I am not easily scared, so despite the inebriated man, we still didn’t feel unsafe wandering the streets. Armed with the address, instructions on how to access the apartment and with a little help from my friend Google maps, we soon found our apartment in the MuseumsQuartier of town. Dragging our ten-kilo cabin bags behind us and thanking heaven that we had not brought our usual 25-kilo monsters, we eventually found the main door to the building and called the mobile phone number as instructed. Open Sesame! The massive, heavy door to the historic building clicked open to reveal a dark flight of steep stairs. It was now very late, and with a creaky knee and feeling tired, I thought with horror that I’d have to drag my luggage up to the top floor.

We tackled the first flight of stairs, turned left and were relieved to find a lift waiting for us around the corner. However, we had no idea which floor the apartment was on, only that it was called TOP 13. We had to stop on three floors before we found our apartment. But we had no key. There was a keypad to the right of the door. Consulting the instructions in the email I had received from the owners; I keyed in the nine-digit number and… nothing. No click, no ping, no beep, no nothing. After my friend and I had punched in the number about 20 times and much pushing, leaning, pulling, swearing and cursing, I tried the building manager but failed because my mobile had no battery power left.

Then I had the bright idea of getting my laptop out of my case and plugging my phone into that. I called the number in the email and was answered a man who could barely understand what I was saying. Eventually managed to get my phone number and promised that someone would call me. By now, it was midnight. We had been stuck on a landing outside a big door in an apartment building in Vienna for about an hour.

Luckily, after about fifteen minutes, I received a Whatsapp message with a new code from the building manager. “Pull the door towards you”, she wrote. I did, and finally, just when I was considering leaving and checking into a hotel, she told me to turn a silver knob to the left and, wonder of wonders, the door opened! And the apartment was fabulous.

The reason for this story is to encourage you to check out all these details BEFORE you leave for your destination, i.e. check the road map, check out what the building looks like on Google maps, find out if there is a lift and double-check you know how to open the door!