Well, we made it to the final city of our whirlwind tour of China. And so far it’s been…adventurous.
The day started well enough; Eleanor had a rough night last night but woke in a fairly good mood. We hung around the hotel and had Happy Family Ball time (look it up) (wait, probably better not to) until our guide arrived with Eleanor’s passport, to take us to the airport at 2:00.
At least, that was the plan.
Turns out, this morning someone carried out a huge bank heist in Chingqing, and much of the city was blocked off or drastically congested due to police searches. As a result, our guide wasn’t able to get to the adoption center to pick up the passport. Not a big deal, since they can just courier it over, and we had another form of ID for her that was acceptable for domestic travel. But it added just a little additional stress to the already stressful prospect of taking our new child on her first air trip.
The good news is that she handled it like a champ, flirting with everyone in view and not fussing at all during takeoff and landing. (We theorized that her cleft palate allows her sinuses to equalize pressure instantly. Unexpected bonus!) She had a couple very minor and brief meltdowns, but aside from incessant squirming managed the flight very well, even when the 1.5-hour flight turned into a 2-hour flight due to a delay on the tarmac.
Still, it was of course a relief to finally exit the plane for our final stop before heading home. We were thrilled to see our bag come out early on the carousel, knowing we could get back to the hotel in time to get her to a reasonable bedtime.
Trouble is, that was “bag,” singular. And we checked two. And once everyone else on our flight had left and our second bag hadn’t appeared it became clear something wasn’t quite right. a very nice baggage host approached us and asked if there was a problem. We gave him the number of the absent bag, and he peeked behind the curtain to see if it just hadn’t made it onto the conveyor. That gave us a momentary hope, which was soon dashed when he informed us we’d have to go to the baggage office and fill out a form.
Have you ever lost a bag? Have you ever lost a bag in a city where you speak only the barest minimum of the language, and the locals speak only slightly better English?
It’s a blast.
After about half an hour of very careful negotiation, we submitted our form, crossed our fingers, and headed out to find our ride. A very nice gentleman who didn’t speak a lick of English was holding a sign for us, escorted us to a large, rickety, manual transmission Vanagon-like transport, and squeaked us across the city to our hotel.
The Victory Hotel is one of a handful of hotels on Shamian island, a delightful little French Colonial area where the US Embassy used to be located. The island — as best as we could see in the dark — seems lovely, draped with hanging moss, ornate metalwork, and a French vibe. We had high hopes for the hotel.
Let me back up a moment. I haven’t said much about the hotel we were staying at in Chongqing. It was a Le Méridien, a high-end Starwood property, based in a bustling shopping district. It was stylish, well-appointed, and supremely comfortable. Honestly, it was one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed at, and I’ve done a lot of traveling for business. Everyone seemed to know our names and how long we were staying. Everyone offered to fetch things for us, even when we weren’t with Eleanor. When we pressed the button for the elevator, a light lit up to show us which door to wait at. It’s was that kind of place.
The Victory? The lobby smells like a wet dishrag. There is apparently a new building and an old building; I sincerely hope we’re in the old building; otherwise I fear for the health of anyone staying there. We got in late enough that we just wanted to order room service. Kim’s tuna croissant looked like dog food — used dog food. The beef brisket in my noodles was unexpectedly…crunchy. Our bed is ominously damp.
I wish I were exaggerating. The best part: it’s about five dollars cheaper a night than the Le Méridien.
There are upsides to this location, fortunately: for one, there are faucets for purified (oh god I hope) drinking water, which means we no longer have to brush our teeth with bottled water, which has been a bit of an annoyance. There’s also a fascinating contraption called a Rabbit which dispenses hot and cold purified water, eliminating the need for the electric kettle. [UPDATE: When it's working. Which it isn't. Which we just discovered when L woke up in desperate need of a bottle. Awesome!] And the room is a suite, which should make rooming with The Small Human a little easier. And, um. Free Internet?
Hey, at least it’s only for five days.
In all seriousness, we’re here and we’re healthy and we have little to complain about. I’m sure everything will seem better, and drier, in the morning. Meanwhile, we made it here with the only really important piece of baggage we have, now.