Xpress Travel(tm)

Eight fifteen a.m. on the 24th, and I think buzz saw operator outside our window has been working since about 7:30. His compatriots, with their thick, friendly west African accents only joined him a few minutes ago, but he’s been hard at work rousing us from our fresh-paint-tinged dreams for nearly an hour already. Not the sort of experience TripAdvisor would give four stars to.

Mind you, the staff at the Accra Travel Xpress Hotel has done their unprepared best – we’re not faulting them one whit. It just seems like they were jolted from their beds some time around 11:00 last night when the Holiday Inn called and told them they needed to take overflow guests in their not-quite-ready-for-habitation hotel. I’m thinking it’s not unlikely that we’re the first people to actually sleep in this building. For some definition of sleep.

Getting off the plane last night (an hour late, due to “the problem with France”) felt like the start of a smooth, yet exotic adventure. Even at 10:30, the hot, humid air on the tarmac filled our lungs like a giant airplane-strewn sauna. Glistening black men and women in crisp green uniforms and epaulets efficiently waved us along through immigration, customs and baggage claim with ready smiles. The gentleman with holding the “Holiday Inn” sign at the door asked if we could wait just a moment for an additional passenger before he took us to the hotel (yes, Holiday Inn. The Airport Holiday Inn – we’re flying out this morning, and just needed an easy convenient place to get a good night’s sleep in a non-moving bed before continuing on to Monrovia).

In any case, it was going all too smoothly (start subtle build of cellos in background) when we got to the registration desk at the hotel and noticed that the folks ahead of us were having a hard time checking in. Something about the room not being available. Poor saps. I fondled my two-page printed itinerary, replete with confirmed reservation number – was all too glad to have it close at hand. My turn next, and they explained that there’d been some sort of “emergency”. Yes, but here was my confirmed reservation number. Yes, but there just weren’t any rooms – and they were very sorry for it. I held onto my cheerful smile but the back store behind it was fading fast.

Okay, what were they proposing to do about it? They had a branch nearby that was very new. Emphasis on “very”. Just five minutes away, and the shuttle would take us there. No use fighting it, and by the time they’d gotten us loaded onto the shuttle, another 15 minutes later, they had cowed the folks formerly ahead of us in line aboard as well.

As I said, once they deal with the smell of drying paint, exposed electrical wires and early morning construction, the Xpress Travel Hotel promises to become a fine place to spend the night.

But Accra – our brief taste of the city by night. The whole … oh, wait,  we’ve got some internet coverage here, at least for the moment. [Just arrived in Monrovia, and we’ve been told to carpe connectum – seize the connection when you’ve got it. More later]

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