SIMON CALDER

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The Independent Travel
Weymouth to Prague is not the most obvious hop, but I was tempted away from the breezy British coast by a cut-price deal. The Hilton chain is not usually within my budget (on most of my trips, the letter 's' is inserted midway through the word hotel), but the Prague branch had a special offer.

I called Hilton International reservations (0345 581595) outside working hours and was automatically transferred to the company's headquarters in Dallas, Texas. The staff are helpful but their grasp of geography is not what it could be. I enquired about their hotel in the Czech capital and was asked "Is that Prague in England?".

On checking in at the Hilton in Prague, Czech Republic, my problems really began. The room allocated to me turned out to be already occupied by a Japanese couple, and my arrival there was a big surprise to them. So was the response when I borrowed their phone to explain our mutual plight to the front desk: "I'm sorry", the receptionist said. "It's too late in the evening for us to do anything about that." Only after turning up at the front desk with all my luggage, plus Mr and Mrs Tsutaki's hotel card indicating their entitlement to occupy the room undisturbed, was I allocated another room.

Once settled, my eye fell on the hotel's publicity literature. According to the blurb, Hillary Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Connors have all stayed at the Prague Hilton; nowhere is it clear if they had to share the same room.

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