Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Dinner at the Bristol Hotel Warsaw 17 June 2013

The superb 1958 Chevrolet Corvette belonging to Jan Motz outside the Bristol Hotel, Warsaw 

Click on photos to enlarge - a far superior result

The Bristol Hotel has been a favorite of mine since I first came to Poland in 1991 managing a number of temporary joint-venture contracts. At that time this historic hotel was in the process of an heroic restoration against all the odds by the then excellent manager Michael Goerdt and his wife. It was always my 'refuge' during those difficult, even surreal but always entertaining early days after the fall of the Polish Socialist state.

Some History

The Hotel Bristol was constructed from 1899-1900 on the site of the Tarnowski Palace by a company whose partners included the great Polish pianist and statesman Ignacy Paderewski. Some of its interiors (such as the wonderful Secession Column Bar) were designed by the brilliant Viennese architect Otto Wagner. After Poland gained Independence in 1919, Paderewski became the Prime Minister and held the first session of his government at this hotel. It miraculously survived the systematic destruction of Warsaw by the Nazis relatively undamaged, standing as an isolated beacon of civilization in the ruins of the city. It became part of the Orbis chain in 1952 but closed in 1981 and fell into disrepair under Polish Socialism.

I was invited to the reopening of the Bristol on April 17, 1993 by Margaret Thatcher. I had never seen her ‘in real life’ and she was a formidable presence indeed! I chatted to Denis about motor cars. He felt his personal choice (an R-R if I remember correctly) was frustrated by Margaret’s insistence on creating 'the  correct' image politically. Did they decide on a Jaguar in the end?

Under Rocco Forte the Bristol became part of the Forte Hotel chain and was at this time rated number 25 in the list of ‘Luxury Hotels of the World’. From 1998 to 2013, the hotel was part of the Le Méridian chain. The interior was redecorated in an Art Nouveau style in 2013 and the hotel is now part of The Luxury Collection division of Starwood Hotels.

The Dinner

We had dinner in the private Moniuszko Salon accompanied throughout by some excellent Baroque music. Stranislaw Moniuszko incidentally was the renowned patriotic nineteenth century Polish composer, conductor and teacher considered to be 'the father of Polish opera'.

As ever I will allow the photographs below to 'do the talking'...the cars parked outside caused tremendous interest. I really hope the CCC will develop and we can attract some international drivers and exotic machinery to this great country and particularly Warsaw which continued to exist after WW II by some sort of miracle.

Members of the CCC in rather animated conversation concerning the choice of a logo for the club. Not yet decided upon...

Warsaw chic outside the Bristol Hotel on the Royal Way. The Corvette yearning for a blondynka  and a fast blast along the Grande Corniche at dusk on the Cote d'Azur

A rear detail on this quite superb restoration. Such art cannot be created by a computer, however skilfully programmed. You need imperfect men of great imagination with ergonomics well in the background.

Whilst waiting for the main course the group discuss weighty car matters and the scandalous treatment by Britain of the valiant Polish airmen after WW II. The projector was beaming shots of the 2010 Goodwood Revival on the screen
The 1974 RR Silver Shadow owned by Michael Moran for the last 30 years and the E Type driven anger by Blazej Zulawski. In anger because in a cooking incident a few days ago he had dropped a cutting board on his big toe which necessitated the nail being removed in hospital. 'The most painful thing I have ever experienced!' During dinner this gave rise to 'an interesting discussion' on ghastly medical matters, the nature of gravity and falling objects as well as various forms of torture. The damaged toe bandaged in white gauze could be glimpsed on occasion resting on its flip-flop, a shoe being quite out of the question. A contrast to the sartorial elegance of the remainder of the figure. 
Incidentally the 'HRH' number plate was chosen by the Sultan of Oman who owned the car before MM as part of his RR fleet in Berkshire

One of many pictures of the superb 2013 Villa d'Este Concours d'Elegance on Lake Como in Italy. Despite his cruel wound Blazej Zulawski in the stoical manner of the Good Soldier Schweik  'kept on keeping on' and gave us a fluent and detailed commentary in his excellent presentation after dinner. This picture is of the Bugatti Atlantic 57 SC owned  by Ralph Lauren that won the 'Best of Show' at the event
An old man with a grand passion - Ralph Lauren at the 2013 Villa D'Este  Concours d'Elegance 
[Motor Authority photo]

Hours of endless fun and envy perusing a remarkable number of fine photographs of the Villa D'Este event:


And so another dinner date drew to a close centered around our 'redeeming vice', our innocent passion for cars. For an all too brief time it lifted us out of the mundane duties of so much of life and was a welcome distraction from the appalling inhumanity contained in the daily news.