This funky rooftop accommodation has the 'wow' factor, finds Prashant Mehra.
A night on top of a car park. In a sort of camper van. A secret doorway. A clue but no key. The phone is the weapon of choice to unravel the secrets of this hotel in Melbourne. Oh sorry, it's not a hotel. It's Notel.
I reach Fry's Fast Park in the heart of Melbourne's CBD, manage to find the doorway and warily climb up the drab stairwell. At the top, the sight that greets me is something out of a movie set.
Bright red turf on the deck, potted green cactus, and splashes of vivid colour on the walls of the taller buildings that enclose the rooftop on three sides.
Set off against this are six gleaming Airstream trailers, straight from the '70s — complete with a US license plate for room number. And white furniture outside each of the giant chrome capsules.
Welcome to Melbourne's newest, funky, rooftop accommodation.
"This is nothing like an ordinary caravan. We want people to get in and go wow," James Fry, who owns the three-level car park below, and who conceptualised the Notel, tells us at the rooftop.
He had the Airstreams shipped from America, lifted onto the roof with a crane and got the interiors redesigned by Melbourne architects Edwards Moore.
The only way to enter the trailer is by using a smart-key delivered on your phone. So it's fine to forget anything else in the room, but never the phone: you risk being locked out.
Inside, the room seems surprisingly spacious. Must be either the pink and white colour on the walls or the minimalist interiors.
White curtains adorn the tiny windows of the airstream while pink cushions are lined on the bench along the sides of the room. A comfortable high bed is slotted at the mouth of the trailer while a sliding door at the tail-end leads to the spacious ensuite bathroom. For us, the firm and luxurious bed was really the highlight of the stay.
But this is not all. The air-conditioned trailer is also equipped with amenities you would see at high-end hotels — a mini bar, wi-fi and an oversized iPad, which functions as your entertainment unit.
The tablet can be mounted on the wall or even the ceiling if you want to watch Netflix while in bed. The device also comes loaded with names of select nearby cafes and restaurants popular with locals. Power points and USB ports are aplenty for charging appliances.
On the flipside, you will miss some essentials — no full-length mirror, iron, kettle or microwave, and no provision for tea and coffee. And no bars or restaurants at the venue.
Fry says that's the point. "We want people to experience Melbourne. There are so many nice cafes, restaurants around the city. We want people to go out and discover them."
He adds that a new cafe is planned for the street level to enable guests to grab a coffee or a quick bite while on the go.
The Notel opened to the public in August and has already gained immense popularity.
One of the Airstreams, which features a luxurious spa, is booked out every weekend until May.
"I always knew that Melburnians would embrace this concept," says Fry.
"It's very unique. We always say this is not a hotel and if you want that experience we'll book you at the Hilton."
Getting there: Air New Zealand flies direct to Melbourne.
Staying there: Notel, on top of Fry's Fast Park at 388 Flinders Lane in the Melbourne CBD, is easily reached by car, airport, SkyBus or tram. Once you park (free for Notel guests), you can see the gleaming trailers on the rooftop, but you will need to find the way up there. There will be clues.