When in Romania

While the other liggers and loafers headed down to the Croisette for a bit of comment va ton pere, I headed off to Bucharest.

To do a workshop for the EACA, the European IPA.

And I enjoyed Bucharest more than I’ve ever enjoyed Cannes.

Even the year when I decided that a diet of vodka and wine was all that was required to get me through. I can’t remember that week at all, apart from the airport at either end.

On arrival in Bucharest, Eleonore from the Romanian ad council phoned to invite me to dinner. 30 minutes later she rang to tell me the kitchen had now closed. I was still in the taxi.

I’d been warned that getting food late at night might be a problem by a friend who’d been there before. But there was no need to do as I did and carry a tuna baguette all the way from Heathrow – unless you particularly want your overnight bag to smell of tuna.

In which case I can highly recommend it.

There is certainly no need to do as I did and carry the baguette to the workshop the next day, unless you wish to foster a rumour in Romania that middle-aged men from England smell strongly of fish.

My bedroom was certainly larger than some I’ve slept in in Cannes. Although I’m never a fan of the setup whereby you get 2 single beds which slide apart from each other in the style of some (if not most) marriages.

The bed I climbed into had a duvet that was only marginally wider than my body. Which meant that every time I turned over I woke up.

None of these hotel problems are specifically Romanian problems, of course. I’m just recounting them for your schadenfreudish enjoyment.

Although the shampoo may have been.

In the shower was a plastic bottle of something called “Hairy hand and body shampoo”.  On closer inspection, it read ‘hair, hand and body shampoo’ but I’d misread it because I’m used to shampoos being specific and not general.

Sadly, I had no time for the one-day tours advertised in the room brochure including “In Dracula’s footsteps”, (you can get that one in Cannes, too), a visit to “the muddy volcanoes” (ditto) and a day trip to “one of the best museums in Romania” (which would be frankly ridiculous to do from Cannes).

My favourite would have been “Return to Medieval Times” – but I got a hint of that at breakfast.

To a soundtrack of Shirley Bassey I picked at a fruit salad that, to be fair, had clearly been opened quite recently. If you’ve just flown in from a 4 star package holiday hotel in Sharm el Sheikh it might seem sumptuous. If you’ve just flown in from Shutters Hotel in Los Angeles, it won’t.

But then came the workshop.

Which was brilliant.

A group of very bright and very lively people came up with ideas for cars and banks that should take them to Cannes next year, if they want to go.

How about building a transparent branch, for instance ?

How about the bank admitting that it owes its customers and paying some of their bills randomly ?

How about advertising the local car brand Dacia by saying that its unreliability for many years produced a generation of Romanians who were brilliant car mechanics ?

How about a bank that admits that 80% of its new customers every year are school leavers and spends all its time doing  studenty stunts ?

How about challenging your customers to rob the bank, with a prize for anyone who does it ?

There were tons of provocative thoughts like that. God, they were good.

And they were keen to work, and courteous, and supportive of each other.

Which was how I knew I wasn’t in Cannes.

Later on, as sunlight played on the trees bordering the wide boulevards, and the famously beautiful women of Romania strolled past my taxi which was stalled and boiling like a tin can in a pizza oven, I felt great warmth for Bucharest. The greatest warmth was under my arms, because the cab had no air conditioning, and the driver showed me on a thermometer he had about his person that it was 49 degrees Centigrade inside the car, but a very significant heat was fomenting in my heart for the creative, passionate, intelligent, well-mannered people of Bucharest. If you get an invitation to visit, don’t go. Give me the invitation instead because I’d go back tomorrow.

For those of you suffering the envy, gossip and back-biting of Cannes at ten quid a glass, I can only say:

Eh bien, quoi d’autre vous attendiez-vous ?

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