Having missed Travel Thursday last week, I am catching up, so let’s start with last week’s theme – Your Funniest Travel Experience.
The Most Expensive Drink Ever?
This is very much a “funny story looking back”, rather than something that had me rolling on the floor at the time. And an episode that has provided much hilarity for others, too.
In 1997, I was invited to a colleague’s wedding in Rome. Taking the opportunity to make it into a holiday, I went a few days beforehand. Arriving quite late in the evening, and totally unfamiliar with the city (and after a long day, travelling with a “hockey road trip hangover” down to Heathrow to get the flight), I set out from the hotel to find somewhere to get a bite to eat.
Struggling to find anywhere open in the neighbourhood, I was then asked for directions by a Spanish chap, to a nice bar his hotel had recommended to him (or so he said). I didn’t know where it was (obviously) but we decided to join forces and find it together, which we did relatively easily (should have been suspicious at this stage, but I was tired, hungry and fed up). Entering the establishment, I quickly realised it was not, in fact, a bar but a brothel. With hindsight, of course, the Spanish guy was their man who brought people in, but at the time I just wanted a snack and a beer. Anyway, I decided to get out as quickly as I could, but my Englishness came to the fore and I felt it would be rude to leave right away, and so sat down for a beer. Our beers arrived and, a few minutes later, so did two rather provocatively dressed girls, who joined us at our table and asked us to buy them a drink. Again, I was a little rattled and said OK, thinking that I could just do that then make my excuses. So I had another beer, and the girl (Russian as it happens) had a drink, then she chatted to me. When my beer was done, I said I had to leave and asked for a bill. One of the very large, burly “waiters / bouncers / minders” brought me a bill – for about £140! Telling the girl I had to leave, she told me we could go upstairs as “there was nothing else to pay for now”. I guess the £140 covered more than just the three drinks. Being a young, single and adventurous chap at the time, I have to say I was tempted – she was certainly attractive, and I always had a bit of a thing for Eastern European girls – but paying for it has never really been of interest to me. Also, I had visions of me coming back down afterwards to be presented with another bill by the big blokes in the suits! Time to cut my losses, I felt, put it down to experience. So I paid my £140 (which thankfully I did have on me in cash) and beat a very hasty retreat back to the hotel. Feeling not only poorer, but rather stupid into the bargain.
Looking back now, the ridiculousness of the whole episode makes me laugh so much, although it is also somewhat embarrassing of course. I made the mistake of telling some mates what had happened, cue lots of comments about expensive drinks for a number of years. And, when I got married, it was the one thing I specifically forbade my best man to mention in his speech!