The other day we stumbled across one of Portland’s quirky little treasures: Caravan: The Tiny House Hotel. It is just what it sounds like. A corner lot filled with cute little hipster houses that can be your tiny home-away-from-actual-sized home.
Of course, my immediate thought was, “Pfft! Those aren’t ‘tiny.’ I’ve stayed in ‘tiny.’ I’ve slept in a Snoozebox.”
It was December 2015, back when Amanda and I were exiled in London. We were planning a trip to Cardiff, and Amanda let me take care of booking the hotel. Usually she’s the one who does it, because she’s great at discovering a city’s unique character and finding a room with a charming location and amenities at a reasonable price, and I’m great at Wizards of Waverly Place trivia.
But this time the responsibility was left to me. I checked all the usual travel websites and found a lot of nice-looking rooms in the 150-200 pound range. (Fun fact: In the UK, “pounds” are what they call their Queen Dollars!) Then there was Snoozebox selling rooms for £35 a night.
An adorable name and a low price tag is exactly the combination I need to do a sitcom-style, sight-unseen booking with a glib, “What could go wrong?” attitude.
When we arrived in Cardiff we walked to the address I was given in the booking. As we approached, Snoozebox appeared to be a plain but modern-looking hotel. But when we got closer, I realized that building was some kind of office space labeled “GloWorks.”
That wasn’t right. I checked my map. I checked reality. I realized Snoozebox was on the other side of GloWorks.
This was Snoozebox.
Snoozebox was what they call a “pop-up modular accommodation solution.” Or to put it another way, “Oh crap, it’s literally just a bunch of shipping containers in a muddy field.”
Right about here is where Amanda and I had a lighthearted conversation about how this place was really cool and awesome and unique and oh wow this is actually real and we’re staying here and I hope these things have heat and indoor plumbing and I love you, Marcus, but you’re never allowed to book the hotel again.
We checked in at “reception,” which was an insulation-free box of plexiglas and tarpaulin. Inside was a half-frozen clerk wearing a parka and fingerless gloves with a slow rainwater leak dripping on her head and an expression like she had regrets about her career choices on this fine Welsh December afternoon.
She checked us in on her computer (plugged into an extension cord that ran out of the back of the box to God knows where), and told us that there was tea and a kettle available in the next tarp-box over, because this is the United Kingdom, and we may have to resort to living in the containers used to haul lead-based Peppa Pig toys from China, but we are not savages.
We decided to forego the tea and head straight for our room. Or box. Or whatever.
You think you’re tiny, Tiny House Hotel? Let me tell you something. At Snoozebox your room is not just a shipping container, it’s one quarter of a shipping container.
The second you walk into your Snoozebox you’ve seen the whole thing. There’s no period of discovery. It’s not, “Where’s the lightswitch and ooo look, fancy chocolates on the pillow and I wonder if this is one of those hotels where the sink is inside the bathroom or is it outside?”
It’s “Yep. That’s it.”
It’s “I don’t think there’s enough room in here for the two of us and our luggage at the same time.”
It’s “One time I was on a cruise ship in the cheapest available room two floors below the waterline and that cabin makes this room look like a cathedral.”
This is the expression of a man whose whole thought process is that cartoon with the bowler-hat dog in the room on fire saying, “This is fine.”
This is what I look like when I’m mentally preparing my, “I totally knew what a Snoozebox was when I booked this and I thought it would be fun! Because I did this on purpose, honey!” story.
The above picture was taken from outside the door (note the door frame and exterior wall on the right side), and it shows basically the entire room. The available floor space was approximately the size of a Monopoly board. In this picture, wearing a backpack, I’m taking up all of it, which is why Amanda is shooting this photo from outside.
To the right, you see a small bunk bed on top, and below the corner of the big bed. I’m not going to bother putting “big” in quotes, because by now I think you get the idea.
The big bed stretched wall-to-wall on three sides, making it impossible for the person sleeping on the inside to get up to pee without climbing over the person on the outside.
Not that going to the bathroom offered that much more privacy than just wetting the bed. This is what the room looked like from the point of view of the person trying to sleep while their bedmate clumsily paws their way over them in the middle of the night.
In this photo we’ve deployed the slide-out table, effectively destroying all vacant space in the room and trapping me on the bed. The toilet is tucked in the corner next to that electrical outlet on the right. As you can see, the bathroom door is a sliding pane of frosted glass with a big ‘ol hand hole in it exactly at eye level when you’re settling in for an uncomfortable poo.
It’s as if the designers of Snoozebox said, “It’s impossible for the non-pooping guest to be more than three feet away from the pooping guest without going outside, but let’s take it to the next level. Let’s make it so the door does absolutely nothing to muffle or inhibit the sounds and smells of active deuce dropping. In fact, let’s make the WHOLE BATHROOM WALL out of something semi-transparent. NO! We can do better! Let’s add an enormous peek hole in EXACTLY THE RIGHT PLACE for the person on the bed to make judging eye contact with the person on the crapper with each sounding of their malodorous butt trumpet! Yes, Cledwyn! It’s so intimate! Honeymooners will LOVE this!”
Also note there is no shower in the Snoozebox bathroom. That’s because technically, the bathroom is the shower. Just to the left of where Amanda is standing at the sink there’s a drain in the floor under a showerhead in the ceiling.
When she took this picture her back was pressed against the wall. And that area of floor past the wall there at the top right of the photo? That’s most of the aforementioned Monopoly-board-sized floor of the bedroom. See how there’s no water barrier whatsoever between the floor of the shower which is the floor of the bathroom which is the floor of the bedroom? Yeah. This is not a sock-feet-friendly kind of hotel.
The next morning we ventured to the Tea Box to pick up some breakfast. That thing was basically a waterlogged pop-up tent, so we came back to our room to eat on the little slide-out table. I think it goes without saying that there wasn’t any room for chairs, so Amanda sat on the bed.
On the other side of the table, I sat on the toilet.
After one night of banging elbows and climbing over each other, Amanda and I agreed staying at Snoozebox had been fun.
For one night.
If we had been there for a week we would have turned into veal and farted each other to death.
As soon as we left Snoozebox we began our adventure in Cardiff at a museum, where we promptly separated under the pretense of looking at different exhibits before immediately running for the bathrooms to bake a batch of overdue butt crumpets.