[By Pelu Awofeso]

I recently stayed the weekend at the ParkInn (by Radisson) in Abeokuta. Having spent much of the past couple of months working on very demanding assignments, getting out of Lagos to the Ogun State capital to let out the stress was just what I needed to do at that point in time.

On previous visits to Abeokuta, I had stayed in other hotels but not ParkInn, which was formerly the Gateway Hotel; it is just across the road from the Kuto Market and metres from the June 12 Cultural Centre.

The large lobby, bright yellow sofas and surrounding art (paintings, installations and crafts) somehow began the de-stressing process. (But I wished that the slow music issuing from the speakers was Fuji, Apala or Afrobeat).

Abeokuta DAYTRIP

Everything considered, this was a welcome difference from my experience the weekend before when I lodged in a facility that, though appealing on the outside, had me awake most of the night because everything just seemed to go wrong after I checked in–from water not running in the shower to faulty A/C.

Check-in necessities done, the porter walks me to my room somewhere on the ground floor in the west wing, past a corridor installed with even more colourful furniture and lighting. I had no doubt I would have a restful and peaceful stay. But first: I needed to take a shower and then catch up on global news over a cup of coffee.

My room has a lawn-facing balcony. And through the sliding glass doors, on the few times I parted the thick blue blinds, I could see the basketball and tennis courts in the distance.

The next morning, at 6:30am, a call came in from the front office. “Sir, I’d like to inform you that there’s an aerobics session at seven and you’re welcome to join in,” the caller, a guy,  says.

Aerobics? Oh, my! I have a jersey, some T-shirts, jeans and shorts, but not the standard clothing for running or jogging, and I certainly didn’t have trainers. Now, a little more awake, I told the receptionist my predicament. I could imagine him smile briefly. “Don’t worry, sir, just go in whatever you have –it’ll be fun.”

The friendliness and geniality of the staff, I noticed yesterday, matched the peaceful ambience of the facility, itself ringed by towering forest vegetation.

About 20 of us assemble at the poolside and so began a 40-minute session powered by the Nigerian brand of hiphop.

Truth is I have always wanted to exercise and go to a gym, but never summoned the discipline to take the leap. With every move the instructor suggested, I saw — and felt — how fun and fulfilling the drill could actually be. I saw all the fitness gems I have passed over by not getting on the trend all this while.

I ended the morning’s session with a 15-minute stint at the hotel’s small but well-equipped gym, pedalling away first on a stationary bike and then going on to lift, huff and puff with a pair of 4-kg dumb bells from the rack.  other guests, male and female, sweat it out on the other equipment, all of us drenched in our sweat. I was beside myself and wondered if I could get a set of the latter soon after leaving the hotel.

“You don’t have to immediately,” one guest said, after I pop the question. “You can improvise (that word again!) by filling up two plastic bottles with sand and use those in the meantime.”

Abeokuta_Flyer3

On my last morning at the hotel, a Sunday, I chose to enjoy the surrounding flora and fauna. I went jugging by myself in the premises and, a half-hour later, I lay flat on my back, my eyes trained on the surrounding Neem tress. Different species of birds glided about, flit from one branch to the next. There was dirdsong all around me.

It felt like I should lay there forever, but there’s a tour to Olumo Rock in a few hours; I had to get up and get going.

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