The Shanghai Hotel1

Last Wednesday I was booked for a training job in Wroclaw. It’s been nine years since my last visit to Wroclaw and I was interested to see how it has prospered. I flew down. The airport has a new yet to be opened terminal and a new empty road leading towards the city centre. That’s where the good news seemed to end. My hotel and the location of the training were on the periphery. The roads that my taxidriver took are no better than they were nine years ago, thinly tarmaced, sometimes cobbled.  The increase in traffic has made them almost impassable.

80 pln later we arrived at a new and functional group of buildings, partly offices, partly sports centre. The taxi driver assured me that there was a hotel somewhere inside.

There was. Four or five rooms set aside. However, no room had been set aside for me. I rang the organiser. “Didn’t they get my email?”  He spoke to the receptionist.

 

 I was shown up to a room in keeping with the rest of the building. Functional, except the internet connection did not work. Then the call arrived. The organiser announced that the training was cancelled. I could go home. Hardly at 6pm. There are neither trains nor planes to Warsaw by the time I could get to them. The excuses flowed. “The client is usually very reliable. Don’t worry, they will pay. We will make a new date as soon as possible. An unforeseen circumstance”.  I was doubtful.

“Anyway, my wife is about to give birth prematurely and I am finishing building a house. It’s not usually like this. Believe me.”

I wished him luck.

“Oh, could you pay the hotel bill. Send me the bill.”

 

Despite the sparse economic modernity of the building, the restaurant was a welcome contrast. Homely. Old world rural. Italian. A calorie counted menu. Excellent food. The best panna cotta I have ever tasted though not calorie counted. Drinkable house wine. Not cheap but worth every penny and a cheerful end to a not very agreeable day.  I charged the bill to my room.

 

During the dinner at which I was accompanied by Paul Johnson’s essay on women authors “Shall we join the Ladies,” I decided I would use my spare time to revisit Boleslawiec.

A description of George Sand is worth quoting. When asked by her if her famously large bum looked big in a particular bombazine, Gustave Flaubert, a rude Norman, replied,” Madame, your bum would look big in anything.”

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