Saturday, 20 April 2013

Business travel and shame

Don't get me wrong - I think good food is worth spending money on. I occasionally have the extreme good fortune to go to Michelin starred restaurants (although only at lunchtimes for the set price menu) and I generally think it's worth every penny.

However Thursday night I did something that makes me feel all dirty inside and not in a good way.

I spent £17 at Haagen Dazs.

What did I get for this, you might ask. Did I eat my body weight in dulce de leche icecream? Did I add every topping known to man?

No. I had 2 scoops on a waffle and a cup of tea. No toppings. And the waffle was stale.

£17. I should have walked out or refused to pay or something*.

In mitigation I was in Brussels and Brussels is very expensive and I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. But seriously. People often complain about the attitude of Parisians to tourists but Paris has nothing on Brussels in my opinion. I like the architecture but otherwise the place stinks in my view.

Take my first visit to a restaurant in Brussels many years ago. I ordered a fancy duck dish. I come from a background of boarding school food and a mother who hated cooking and I'd not had duck before except shredded in chinese pancakes but even I knew that what I was served with was a lamb chop. I complained but to no avail. It was duck, insisted the restaurant proprietor, and for duck I was charged (a lot), even though it was without a shadow of a doubt a lamb chop.

I stayed in a rather ropy hotel this time (nice hotels in Brussels are completely unaffordable) and on leaving, I told the hotel receptionist (in English) that the rail in the bath was hanging off the wall and could cause an accident. It was dangerous, he agreed, and made the following call (in French):
Receptionist: Can you take a look in room 607, the rail in the bath needs fixing.
Other person: [I couldn't hear but I suspected it was something on the lines of 'so?']
R: Because I want the lady to think we care
OP: [couldn't hear]
R: yeah, well, whenever.

Furthermore, the bathrooms in the European Commission building smell appalling. And the conference I was at served a standup buffet lunch on side plates and provided no biscuits with coffee so I was starving for most of the event.

When I got home the cat had pissed all over the carpet.

*Still better value than £10m on a funeral no-one wanted.


  1. "I want the lady to think we care" is genius.

    Still apart from all that, life is sweet eh?

  2. I love the assumption that rosbifs can't speak or understand French. In Paris they make that assumption even if I'm speaking French. Oh, yeah, and this.

  3. I haven't visited Brussels for 15 years and you don't tempt me to go back any time soon. Not that I had a bad time there.