127 entries categorized "LMNOP"

The Official Hamster Hotel Trip Recap

Here it is, folks--the long-awaited Hamster Hotel writeup!  If you're just joining us, the short story is that we raised enough money to send our friend Michelle to a hotel in France where you live like a hamster for a night.  More background, as if you really need it, is here.  Michelle's recap of the experience follows.

I arrived in Nantes ready to fulfill your hamster fantasies, but lacking any idea how I would actually get to the hamster hotel. Thankfully, I received multiple text messages from the Hamster Villa so Amber (my fellow hamster) and I managed to find the Hamster Villa after about 80 minutes of searching. The Hamster Villa was hidden away with a few other studios and doctors' offices in a little courtyard behind closed gates. This is when it occurred to Amber and I that we had 1) no idea which door led to the Hamster Villa and, 2) that we had no keys to get in.  Again, the text messages proved helpful: the keys were available at a Laundromat (naturally) which was a 10 minute walk away.  After another 30 minutes of searching, we found the Laundromat – just before it closed – and successfully retrieved the keys from a locker inside.

About two and half hours we got off the plane in Nantes, we finally entered the room.  The Hamster Villa was incredibly tiny – I’d say it was only 60 square feet. This is possibly even too tiny for two hamsters, let alone two adults pretending to be hamsters.  The hamster wheel took up so much room there was no space for actual furniture, and the bed was lofted in one corner of the room.

The View from France_1265163543615
The walls to the bathroom did not go all the way to the ceiling, and it was unfortunately possible to look into the bathroom from this lofted bed. 

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Still, the room managed to have more amenities then the tiny room I actually live in France: it did, after all, have a hamster wheel, a toilet and an espresso machine.  A plastic bowl of “hamster food” (oat) hung over the espresso machine, and there was a tiny kitchen with a microwave and plates. Amber and I quickly found the hamster hats and put them on as we explored the tiny room. There were many bizarre art installations and a chalkboard in the bathroom which was filled with messages from prior visitors. 

The View from France_1265163092534
One visitor had brought his hamster to the hotel with him, while another visitor had proposed while wearing the hamster hat.  I immediately felt more normal. 

There was also some reading material, including a book about hamster care (left in the bathroom of all places), a comic book entitled “Serge, the Hamster from Hell” and a novel with an illustration of a man running in a hamster wheel – which seemed to have little to do with actual hamsters and everything to do with using shrinking as a metaphor for existential crises. I set to reading the book about hamster care, and used many of the pictures therein as inspiration for hamster poses during the hamster photo session.

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 Hamster nantes 008-resized

Then, Amber and I decided to drink because we heard that hamsters like alcohol.  So, we went to the Hangar a Bananes (Banana Hangar), which is literally where bananas were hung up to ripen but which is now a place where you can find lots of tropical and pirate themed bars. At the end of the night we climbed up into the tiny hamster bed – again, too small for hamsters – and dreamed sweet hamster dreams.

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To all my friendly donors, thank you for making this trip possible. All in all, I really liked Nantes - it's kind of like Baltimore (old port town, revitalized industrialized areas, kind of weird), and though I don't plan on going back to the hamster hotel, it wasn't the worst experience I've had here in France (that award goes to the time I got smacked in the face). I hope everyone enjoys the pictures. I would gladly accept more donations if there’s anything else you’d like me to check out in Europe  (for example http://www.cnn.com/2009/TRAVEL/02/09/unusual.hotels/index.html).

I would like to thank Michelle for being brave enough to go to this bizarre hotel in the middle of France, and for being a good enough sport to agree to wear that insane hamster hat and take these awesome pictures.  Before we go, here's my absolute favorite:

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Unsurprisingly, the Hamster Hotel Has an Amazing Customer Service Survey

Michelle is back from her stay at the Hamster Hotel, and she informs me that the experience was extreeeeeeemely weird.  She also gave me a sneak peek of some photos, and they are AWESOME.  She is working on a recap with pictures and commentary, but it will take a few days to produce.  In the meantime, she sent me the amazing questionnaire that the hotel e-mailed her after her stay.  My favorite part of the questionnaire is where it asks the guest to review a list of free, additional services the hotel is considering providing to future guests, and indicate if they are services he/she would want to take advantage of.  The services, with rough English translations, are listed below:
  • Paquet de graînes sur place pour l'apéritif (Package of seeds on the spot for an aperitif)
  • Bouteuille de jus de pomme fermier (Bottle of apple juice)
  • Paquet de graîne offert pour le départ (Package of seeds upon departure)
  • Un… véritable hamster offert pour chaque séjour (A real hamster offered for every stay)
If those aren't awesome enough, the hotel is also considering adding some paid services.  The survey asks if Michelle would be interested in paying for the following in a future visit:
  • Massage à domicile avec musique hamster (In-room massage with music hamster?)
  • Livraison repas à domicile (Room service)
  • Livraison vin bio à domicile (Wine delivery)
If someone can translate those better, feel free to do so in the comments.  I am relying on Google Translate, because I never took French.  However,I am fairly certain we have come across the only customer satisfaction survey in the world that asks if the customer's experience could have been bettered by being given a live hamster.

Hamster Hotel Update!

This past November, I blogged about a hamster-themed hotel in France where visitors can run in a giant hamster wheel, eat hamster food, and sleep on hay.  In my post about the hotel, I announced that my friend Adam and I were launching a fundraising effort to send our friend Michelle to the hotel.  Michelle is currently teaching in France, so it seemed only logical that we should take advantage of her proximity to what may be the world's most exciting and elegant hotel.

Thanks to 22 generous donors, Adam and I were able to raise the roughly $360 American dollars needed to sponsor Michelle's trip. Donations were tracked using an extremely sophisticated tool called a "Ham-ometer."  Our last donation came in on Christmas morning, just one month and one week after launching our ambitions international plan.  Michelle went on to spend the next couple weeks overcoming the various language and hamster-culture barriers to booking her stay, and I am very excited to announce that she will be staying at the hamster hotel this weekend!  Below, Michelle has posted about her trip plans, as wells as her goals, hopes and dreams for the experience of a (hamster) lifetime.  She will also write a detailed recap after her trip--complete with many, many pictures.

Michelle's Pre-Trip Hamologue

Michelle January 23 shall mark the momentous occasion we've all been waiting for: I will be spending the night in the Hamster Villa at Coin Chez Soi.  In order to get this reservation, I had to send a check to Coin Chez Soi, who in turn confirmed my reservation via text message. I don't know how I feel about a hotel texting me, but it does give me hope that the hotel understands technology as  the whole check thing had me wondering. I mean, really, a check? In any case....Nantes is rather far away, so I'll have to take a train and a plane to get there, but I'm sure you'll agree it was well worth the trouble.

This week I told a few of the teachers at my school about my upcoming trip, and they asked some questions I bet you would be curious to have me answer. So, here goes.

Is this a joke?
Not yet. Right now its just an amusing and semi-believable tale about a lawyer with a dream, a poor English teacher with a penchant for self-mockery, and a blogger with graphic art skills.  It will become a joke the moment you see the first picture.

Why did you agree to do this?
Basically, you need to understand that I will do lots of things that others might find humiliating or ridiculous if money is involved (e.g. my participation in drug trials, and attempt to eat 6 peeps in a minute for a dollar). To me, a free night in a hotel is a free night in a hotel, even if it means dressing up like a hamster and running on a hamster wheel. Also, I am a little curious about running on a hamster wheel.

Do you want to do this?

Yes? I think it will be an interesting story, albeit one I may be too embarrassed to tell. Luckily, many of my friends will get magnets in return for their donation so I can be reminded of this and prodded to retell this story at social gatherings whenever someone wanders into the kitchen and sees a picture of me dressed up like a hamster.

Are you excited about this?

I would say I'm more anxious than anything. Many people have paid actual money for this to happen, and most of them expect pictures in return. Therefore I feel a lot of pressure. At any given moment this week my inner monologue goes something like this: What would a person impersonating a hamster wear? Should I get dressed up? Does it matter that I don't have a full hamster suit? I hope I can pull off a believable hamster look. What sort of faces should I make in the pictures? Oh man, I wish Tyra Banks explained how to smile with your eyes like a hamster, because these photos have to be fierce.

The More You Know . . . The Penguin-er

Multiple sources have informed me that today is Penguin Awareness Day.  This is not to be confused with World Penguin Day, which takes place on April 25 each year.  So, if you were not aware that penguins exist, today would be a good day to become aware of them.  This will all pay off in four months, of course, when we celebrate them worldwide.

And no, this post would not be complete without a penguin picture.


Some Faces to Get Reacquainted With

So, the question of the day is: who are these people?

Group shot

Seriously.  Look at them closely.  (Click the image to enlarge, if that helps.)  I guarantee you, you have seen their faces before.  All of them.

Hint: They all starred in a popular movie together.

Doublehint: In 1971.

Give up?  Look at them one more time.  The answer is after the pic.

Group shot

These smiling(ish) faces are none other than the five kids who played Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregard, Charlie Bucket, Mike Teevee, and Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

That's right.  According to this day-making "Where Are They Now?" slideshow, the kids now have mostly boring jobs (and faces), just like the rest of us. This is either comforting or extremely depressing--I am not sure which.  Shall we see what everyone's up to?



The guy who played Charlie is now a large animal veterinarian in Glennfield, New York. Despite having grown a Guess Who mustache, he still looks extremely Charlie-ish.



Violet Beauregard is now an accountant at an engineering plant.  Her hairstyle is what you get if your stylist spends his time reading peopleofwalmart.com instead of hair magazines.

Augustus Gloop

Evidently, Augustus Gloop is now a tax attorney.  He is apparently doing well enough to be able to employ five people full time to stand behind him and make sure he doesn't jump into any chocolate rivers.  Also, I sincerely hope he has suit shorts on under that table.



Veruca Salt is the only one of the kids who went on to have an acting career, but a quick glance at her IMDb page reveals that you would have to watch a lot of the Hallmark Channel to get familiar with her work.  However, she must be doing OK if she can afford purely decorational hiking boots that she doesn't even wear on her feet!

Mike Teevee


Lastly, the former Mike Teevee has apparently worked in "commercial casting, film production, Disney Imagineering, retail, real estate, and finance."  That is, of course, when he's not busy just looking like Every Guy Ever.

So, yeah; collectively, the guys and gals who once held Golden Tickets are now the most boring and generic group of people ever.  However, I think that's actually a pretty impressive achievement--this is the first time I've heard of a group of five child stars without the phrase "massive drug overdose" being mentioned even once.  So congratulations, Wonka kids, on being boring as shit.  I salute you.

An Art and a Science

On Friday I linked to an 1896 book called Studies in the Art of Rat-Catching, a full, scanned version of which is available for reading online.  I flipped through some of it today, and it's pretty good.  The intro to the second chapter is awesome:

Studies in the art of rat-catching_1260231257472
Every chapter of every book in the world should start like that.

As far as small businesses go, rat-catching seems to be low on start-up costs; all you need is a bag of ferrets,  a trusty dog, and something called a "ratting spade."  The ferrets are pretty crucial to the operation; a huge amount of the book's 185 pages seem to deal with managing them.  Example:

Studies in the art of rat-catching_1260231427469

Seriously, this advice has applications far beyond rat-catching.  I can't think of anyone who wouldn't benefit from being told, "Hey--if you keep ferrets in your coat, your coat will smell like ferrets.  K?"