Saturday, 8th Nov 2003 – Macau, Day 1
We arrived a bit hung-over from the sleeping tablets, though nowhere near as bad as we would have been without them I suspect. The people from Estoril Tours scraped us up at the arrivals area in Hong Kong airport, and shepherded us to the shuttle bus they had organised. We belted across Hong Kong to the Jetfoil terminal, and were so early we were able to get on an earlier crossing. For once we only had to wait around five minutes, a tremendous improvement on the previous year, which had seen us and Fabio Carbone and Heikki Kovalainen (as well as his Dad) hanging about for what seemed like hours waiting for our scheduled crossing.
Once in Macau we were quickly at the Emperor Hotel, which at first sight is not as nice as the Holiday Inn where we’ve stayed in previous years. However, because it’s the 50th Macau Grand Prix, there is a desk in the lobby which seems to be permanently manned by at least two absolutely delightful young helpers, whose sole purpose in life seems to be to make sure you are looked after and have all the information you need regarding the event.
They got off to a flying start by pushing an envelope under the door almost before we’d found the light switch in the room. This listed all the events that had been laid on to keep us entertained; dinners, tours of the islands, trips to the convention centre, the food festival, the fireworks festival, you name it and they’d organised it for us. All we had to do was say what we wanted to participate in and it would be done…
The GP Desk turned out to be an absolute God-send actually, as apart from all that, they knew a lot about their home, and they simply didn’t seem to be able to do enough for us. They booked tables, wrote things down in Chinese characters so we could tell the taxi drivers where we wanted to go, and generally organised us on the various free trips, and such. However, more of that later.
It didn’t take us long to discover the awful truth… The hotel had no bar to speak of, and this was the official hotel… and Carlin were staying there. This boded badly, but at least we weren’t far from other sources of alcohol. The person who actually broke the bad news to us was Chris Weller, Promatecme F3 team owner, and all round good guy. We found him wandering back in after a trip to the bar at the Holiday Inn, round the corner.
To be honest it really didn’t matter too much on our first evening. A bigger problem was the fact that we couldn’t get a table in the hotel restaurant, and it was way too late to go out searching for somewhere with a free table at that time of night, so we gave in and ordered room service. The meal that resulted was actually surprisingly good, and arrived much more promptly than we expected.
A phone call from Ernesto Viso – though he afterwards denied all knowledge of it – caused some amusement after he went through a whole “Hey blonde lady! Come to the night club with me!” routine, till I got bored and told him I was too tired. Must remember to deliver him a sharp clip round the ear tomorrow!