Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Five-Star Service

Well, I've just about recovered from the jetlag. I suspect my ailment last week was more contagious than food-related, as Christina has taken ill with similar symptoms. Sigh.

I just thought I'd post a little bit about the hotel I stayed at last week -- the Sofitel Victoria Warsaw.

When I travel, I have to keep within certain limits on hotel rates -- the hotel per diem. These rates can be fairly generous, but they generally constrain me from living the high life in a city's poshest digs.

When I got a list of the hotels for the Warsaw conference, I compared the rates to the per diem and discovered that I could stay at one of the four-star hotels. I was relatively happy with that -- I've stayed in three-star hotels in London, and I'd do it again, but they were a little bit sketchy. Sketchy is not something I was looking forward to in Warsaw.

I double-checked before making the hotel reservation, and lo and behold, the per diem rate had gone up by around $40. I could afford the five-star hotel (the Sofitel Victoria). I'd be staying in the lap of luxury.

Well, not really. In many ways, it was comparable to the four-star Hilton Metropole we stayed at in London last month. The Internet access in the room was a definite plus for keeping me in touch when I retreated back to my room, ill.

But somehow it didn't seem as nice. It seemed a little...dreary. I probably could have done better trying to fit under the per diem at one of the newer hotels not on the conference list.

My repeated encounters with the gift shop woman seemed to exemplify the staleness of the place. At one point, I asked for stamps to mail postcards back to the US. She asked me how many, and I counted out nine postcards I had filled out. She started tearing off the stamps, and I remembered four more postcards I had yet to fill out. Since I would need stamps for those, I said, "No, thirteen." She sighed audibly and shot me a look that seem to say, "I can't believe communism lost to you." She hadn't even finished tearing out nine stamps!

I shouldn't generalize, though. The morning I checked out, I had a few more postcards to mail. A different woman helped me out, and she even got out a sponge to moisten the stamps for me. She also gave me "priority" stickers to put on the cards, which apparently you need -- so those of you who get your postcards via steamer two months from now, you'll know who to blame (and where she works).

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