For our trip to Paris 2 weeks ago we used Priceline to get 2 rooms at the HILTON Arc de Triomphe for $225/night per room.
Excellent hotel – very recommended. (The theoretical price posted on the inside of the door was a whopping €1,500/night!)
Anyway, across the hall from our room we noticed 2 African men who seemed to be present all of the time. We eventually asked them who they were, only they didn’t speak French or English. (as if my French would have allowed for a meaningful conversation about anything other than ‘the pencil is on the table’…)
It turned out that they were from a country called Guinea Bissau, in Africa. As far as I know it’s the only country in Africa that I had never heard of. Bordering with Senegal, Guinea Bissau is a former Portuguese colony with a population of 1.5 Million. Turns out the President was staying across the hall and this was his security. There seemed to be additional security people in the lobby including French ‘Inspector Clouseau’ lookalikes.
Daniel, my 13 year old says to me ‘Abba, it’s a nice Hotel, but shouldn’t the President be staying somewhere nicer?’ I think the president doesn’t know about Priceline… Anyway I told my wife that if I am ever president I will want to at least get a room on an executive floor with a 24-hour lounge stocked with grapes and butter cookies…
Well, staying across from the President has certain advantages. Firstly, we were able to leave our double stroller in the hall instead of folding it up – we had guards around the clock.. Also it was very effective in getting the kids to quiet down at night – shhhhh! the president is sleeping. You know what they do to kids who don’t quiet down outside the president’s home in Guinea Bissau? You don’t want to know…
Just before setting out for the airport we told the guards we wanted to meet the president. He was happy to meet us and get his picture taken with us – he even gave me a high five as he exclaimed “Guinea Bissau” – as if it was the name of our favorite hockey team! It may have been the first time that a head of state gave me a high five.
Before parting with my new friend I said the blessing reserved for the occasion of meeting a king or ruler. I had explained to Mr. President that we were from Israel and that we were thrilled to meet him. I also told him about the blessing I was going to say. He gave me another high five.
We had wanted to invite the president to visit us in Israel – but did not get a chance. If the president or any of his buddies are listening please let me know – we are always happy to have the president as our guest!