Saturday, January 30, 2010

Strasbourg, the Hotel.

Registering rather late for this meeting, I didn't even bother to lok up the hotels suggested by the organizers. Those are always full and they're never the most economical. The CJP has a pretty stingy ceiling for housing costs; they barely pay for the cheapest box along the highway; you can expect to pay a good chunk of the bill yourself, in spite of having to work all day away from your cats and comforts of home. So I look online for something affordable and walkable in Strasbourg. A trick combination, because 'affordable' in the center of the city often means a tiny, elderly building with minimal insulation and dubious plumbing. The photos on the websites are like figures in scientific journals - prettied up and carefully cropped to present only the best. Don't you believe for a second that it really looks like that every day.


I spun the wheel and came up with Hotel 21st.

It's the least expensive to offer free wifi (that is, really, wifi already figured in the bill) and also have a room for four nights. A lot of decent-looking places were just full.

Also, it's walking distance from the station and two blocks off the historic pedestrian district. My room is on the 5th floor (American counting), conveniently offering me a modicum of daily exercise.

First order of business, this wifi thing. Their system requires a password. Fine, but my computer refuses to connect. Something about an IP address not being recognized. The computer in the lobby won't connect me to my email either, with the same error. I'd look into it, but the meeting I'm going to is providing connected computers so I take the easy route and just wait for it to start. I'm so darned lazy sometimes it's unbelievable.

Second order: a shower.

Eh... one of those bathrooms where the shower corner is meerly curtained off. The floor slopes uncomfortably toward the drain, which, ALAS, has a huge plastic thing around it, curling up at the edges, smack under the shower head. It's an art to avoid stepping on it.

This is not such a surprise. Any cheap hotel near an airport has just such a bathroom.

What's totally new is the soap. Not that it's liquid soap in individual plastic envelopes absolutely impossible to open with wet fingers. But that it's scented soap with a unique flavor: green beans.


I swear.

Green bean soap. Big stringy woody overcooked green bean-smelling soap.

This is precisely why I have odds and ends of diverse hotel soaps floating around in the depths of my toiletries bag. Just In Case.

On to sleeping. I have two pillows. A foam brick so thick it gives me a sore neck, not to mention crushed ears. Then a limp sack of granular material that is just icky. What works is covering the sack with a double layer of towel, which gives it some needed thickness and evens out the bumps, and a layer of t-shirt for smoothness against the face.

While the interior has been redone, this is indeed an old building and they didn't splurge on insulation. The little heater in front of the window might think it's 21°C in here, but that must be a very local measurement. More than a meter away it's downright cold. Turned way way up, it gets livable.

The view out the window is nothing much, just the facing row of buildings. Most of the windows have their shutters closed, in that incomprehensible French thing for closing up tight and Dark. One window I can look into. It's directly across from me, one floor down. Hard against the window and facing it is a large bed covered with fluffy comforters, in which a woman sits and reads or types on her computer. If she looked up she'd see me watching her. The three days I'm here so far, she's always there, propped up in bed, no matter what hour I pass by and give a look.


So that's my hotel. Tomorrow: back to the meeting.



Reya Mellicker said...

I had to read the paragraph twice because I kept seeing green bean SOUP.

Green bean soap? Hmm. That's weird!

Bagman and Butler said...

Wonderful! My favorite kind of travelogue! Bagman wishes he were there. Butler and I always thought that scientic journal statistics were like website pictures of hotels - thanks for confirming that and putting science back in perspective for us. Have a great conference. I have a suggestion: Whenever I go to professional conference, I usually try to use more big words than usual and it gets me by.

steven said...

nanu i'd laugh at all of this but i've been there so many times myself that i actually felt compassion more than humour. you poor thing!!! it makes home all the sweeter. cats and pink rabbits and everything. steven

GingerV said...

I say waiting for a techy type to set up your wifi is the smart thing not the lazy....
I travel with shampoo and with a bar of soap - even if I forget it in the hotel it is worth the 50c (god is a small bar of soap 50c, I don't really know - I need it I buy it) to have one I like and a real bar, not a sliver.

NanU said...

Unfortunately, Ginger, it's often not terribly convenient to go out and find a place to buy soap in a strange city in the evening after the shops are closed. Especially if it's actually in the shower after you've opened the provided soap that you discover the need. As I said, I did have some with me.

Before getting the 'real' job I have now, I travelled everywhere with my own towel. And some places I really needed it!

Barry said...

I think I've stayed at that hotel, or its twin. It must be a chain, yes some evil genius has set up a chain of these hotels all across Europe.

Glad you remembered your soap!