Tag Archives: Hotel

The Hotel Switch

I didn’t book the hotel for my current stay in Germany.  I just walked in and asked for a room.  I have an agreement with the hotel group, so I pay the same flat rate whenever (40 – 50 nights a year helps with this).  This was a mistake, as there is a conference in town this week.  So I was given a room for two nights, and then needed to check out.  A colleague’s sofa was then going to be my bed.

I went to work, but left my stuff at the hotel in the storage room.  At the end of the day, I had decided to go for a ride, but needed to get changed.  Back to the hotel to get changed as this is where my things were.  The manager was there, and told me they had a cancellation.  There was a room, but a smoking room (in Germany smoking is still very common unfortunately).  I took it, because of the hassle involved in the plan for the evening (ride, come back to hotel, get things and go to the other side of the town with a suitcase and a bicycle, shower at a friends house, and then go to dinner).  Within 10 minutes of getting into the room, I was then offered a non-smoking room.  Excellent.  But there is a lesson learnt.  I need to book my room in advance.

Got some pedaling done too.  Monday, I got a lift to work, then grabbed my old faithful Kona to commute on.  The ride is about 5 – 6 km from the hotel, going the scenic route along the Mosel river.  So Monday, I rode 5km!  Yesterday, I really wanted to spin my legs out a bit, so 5km to work in the morning, then after work switch to the test Canyon road bike, 5km aback to the hotel, change and then off on a 35km ride with Trevor Allen.  I also rode around the town a bit to get food.  I think a total of 50km for the day.

The ride itself was just up and down the Mosel river.  Almost completely flat with only 166m climbed.  It was gentle with an average of 28.7km/h by the end of it.

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Worksrider Update

Some of you will hate this post. It is about bicycles….. well work, and travelling too.

In the last couple of weeks I have been to the Netherlands, a show in the UK and am now in Germany. I have visited distributors, bike retailers (with 15,000 bikes in stock!) and manufacturers. I have talked to Giant bicycles, Gazelle, Koga, Batavus and Magura. I have seen prototypes, sat in meetings about 2013 products and decided the future direction for distribution in certain countries. I am working hard and loving it.

I have been riding too….. trying to get fit, because I have been signed up for Mountain Mayhem as part of our second tier team. My schedule is packed, it helps me not miss the pretty one. I am loving every minute though….

Speaking of loving it, our team mechanic is building the 2011 bikes…. I popped in to see him today…. There was this shelf….

Korea

The more of these business trips I do, the more I become blasé about them. Where as once, flying was a big deal, now it is nothing. Long haul flying, which I had only experienced once before taking this job is now something that although more of a big deal for me, doesn’t have the impact or sense of occasion it once had.

The trip to Seoul was actually not one I was all that excited about. I had not had the greatest experience last time that I was in South Korea. The hotel location wasn’t great, and I was extremely tired after the Taipei show. The first hotel I rejected and the stress of this, worrying about the new hotel and upsetting my hosts played on my mind. While the new hotel was great (rated 7th on trip advisor for Korean hotels) there was very little to do in the surrounding area. It didn’t feel that alive. As such, I thought of Seoul as a rather dull city.

This time, I chose a hotel somewhere else. Actually, it was more that the hotel was chosen for me by being the cheapest non love hotel which I could find within reasonable distance. The area surrounding the hotel I am told is fairly industrial, and actually had lots of small side streets with restaurants and eateries. I was well off the tourist track though, with not a MacDonalds, Starbucks or even an English menu in sight.

On the first evening I just walked around the area. I had bought a new CD at the airport (Annie Mac Presents 2010) and had put it onto the iPod straight away. I love the way that music evokes memories, so this is a new resolution now. Listening to this I pounded my way down streets – completely out of place I might add!

 

The biggest problem with the travelling is not to waste the opportunity when you are in these countries. For example, it was only the third year of being in Vegas that I actually walked the length of the strip and went to the Hoover Damn. You can go to places without actually seeing them. With that in mind I went into the town on Sunday – plucking up courage to use the underground system. It was late by the time I got to the City Hall, and what I understand to be the city hall gates. I got here just in time to see the changing of the guard. Pretty interesting, and not much effort form me! I was pleased.

After about 20 mins (this was a long ceremony!) I turned and looked around where I was. The G20 is on its way to Seoul, and every effort seemed to be being made to spruce the place up a bit. The square I was in had huge banners protecting the new City Hall being built advertising Korea’s place in the list of civilised nations (or something like that). Smiling to myself, I crossed onto a central square and watched a load of teens playing in a fountain for a bit. Then made my way over to a large patch of grass and tried to make out where to go next in my guide.

I had meant to purchase a guide to South Korea at Heathrow. I had forgotten this, mostly because I went via Munich. I didn’t want a Lonely Planet guide in German either (people might think I was a German) so I decided that TravelWiki was the way to go. Sitting on the grass, while trying to get a wifi signal on my phone, someone approached me and asked if I spoke English and what I was doing here. Now this is one of those things which rarely happens in life. It should, but it doesn’t. A complete stranger was being friendly, decided that I looked a little bit lost and offered to show me around the centre of her city. I jumped at the chance.

The photos here are from that day. We had dinner together too, and I left her company to go back to the hotel well after dark. It was sweet, innocent and completely welcoming. In fact, it puts Korea back on the map of places which I would go to given the choice. My mind was completely changed, and I will look forward to my next visit.




Sunblock

As I look above my head, I can’t see a single cloud.  There are birds tweeting and chirping.  I don’t know if they are pets, or if they are wild.  They could be either.  The beautiful sky is a rich blue colour.  The sun is beating down on me, as I sit, with my computer in the back yard of a colleague’s house.

The day started with an alarm call at 7am.  I got up, packed my stuff and met with a couple of the other guys outside our hotel.  We hopped into the rental cars and drove up the famous ‘Route 1’, the coast road, from Monterey to San Francisco, passing through Santa Cruz along the way.  It was a bit of a pointless mission, of that we were all positive, however we still had to give it a go.  We checked with the United Airline’s website to see if our flights to London had been cancelled, but there was nothing to tell us if they had or not.

The drive itself is lovely.  Just so beautiful.  I have practically driven all of the coast road now between LA and San Fran, and if you have the opportunity and the time, this is the best way to move between these two cities.  It is a road, so photos don’t really do it justice, but I will post this one just to give you the idea.

Arriving at the airport, things didn’t look good as I spotted a British Airways 747 literally parked up away from the terminal.  Near it were a Lufthansa 747 and a 340-600.  All parked up and sleeping.  From the monorail (this word always has me thinking of the Simpsons!) there were Air France and a Virgin jumbos in view.  They were parked practically nose to nose – also obviously not going anywhere.

The departure board then confirmed what we already knew.  The flight was cancelled.  Let the queuing begin!  At this point I split from my colleagues.  They are heading to Germany, and I am heading to the UK, so asking what my options were, the agent told me that I would be standby for all London bound flights as of the next day, and that they would need to re-book me onto the next available departure to London.  At this time, unfortunately, this was on the 29th!

The previous day I had hatched a back-up plan.  Return to LA and stay with a colleague there, until it literally blows over.   My thinking was that I would be able to book a flight from SanFran to LA paying full fare, and therefore making it fully refundable.  This would then allow me to fly to his house and hopefully get re-scheduled to London from LA without any penalty.  I explained this to the agent, and asked the availability LAX to LHR.  The first open seat was then on the 27th.  That is progress, of sorts, so I asked her to reserve it, reticket and change the frequent flyer number (I am collecting on a different programme) to reflect my ‘one up from the great unwashed’ status, and give me a slight priority on the wait list.  With the charm turned up to ten, I then went about enquiring rather casually, how I would get to LA.  It worked a treat, and the agent gave me a free transfer, allowing me to cancel and claim the refund on the previous day’s ticket purchase.  What was even better was that at the gate, the gate agent spotted the ‘one up from the great unwashed’ card, and upgraded me to a better seat in the ‘economy plus cabin’ rather than right in the back.  The difference is mostly in the head of those having their ego’s stroked, but there is little wrong with that!

So here I am.  Back in LA and sitting in the sun.  The volcano is still erupting, and I am to check the flight status everyday to see if I get a standby seat on a different flight.  In the meantime, I will work from here.  In my job there is very little that changes because of my location.  As long as I have my pooter and email I can work.

Pass the sunblock.

Hong Kong and Home

Wow, my head is full of fuzz.  Too many drinks, not enough sleep.  I need to stop and process the last few days… both in terms of work and personally.

I took advantage of my traveling freedom, so that on the way back from Taiwan, I stopped in Hong Kong for dinner.  I know people everywhere, partly because of studying languages, and partly because of having worked in translation.  It is one of the things that I value most in the whole world.  I love the mix of cultures and knowing people living all over the world, I can really submerse myself.  In Hong Kong I was visiting an ex-colleague and very good friend.

With languages one of the difficult things is knowing if you are coming across as the person that you really are.  No one, no matter how much they speak or use a language will ever be able to fully express themselves in a second language, being able to master the nuances of emotion.  I find it with German, and sometimes I worry that parts of my personality are lost.  Some might actually see that as an advantage.

I thought about this a lot last night…. Between the 18 beers and 8 glasses of white wine, or whatever we had.  The point is, I felt that I witnessed my friend for the first time.  I have never really been around her when she has been speaking Cantonese.  Last night, it was just like having her there, everything I like about her, but plus 20%.  I didn’t understand anything….  I didn’t get the in jokes, I didn’t know what was going on, and just let it all unfold in front of me.  Everyone was hugely welcoming, and I will return as soon as I can.  Her fiance, their friends, the whole night.  Even the dodgy karaoke (which didn’t have my karaoke song on it) was fun, taking place in her Fiance bar.…. Fun to the point of loosing my voice.

Bar Life in Privacy

I didn’t really get many photos, as I was only there for 12 hours.  It was about spending time with my friend, relating and relaxing.  We went out for some great food though.  In Taiwan, we spend most of our time eating Thai food, Japanese and Italian….  strange as local food is so good, but it seems to just be the way it it.  We went out though to a rather well known restaurant….

Dinner, at 1am.....

My friend told me that washing the implements in green tea to sterilize them was a custom.  Struck me as odd, but I think I have heard about it before…..

I went this morning to the airport without having slept.  It is not the best way to fly, and I insisted that if I was to stay out all night, then I wanted to have a shower.  A friend of my friend was getting married today, and was out drinking.  At 4 am they went to a hotel….. at 5am I was taken to their hotel room, where they were fast asleep.  I nipped into their bathroom, had a shower and then left them the following thank you note on the mirror.

I hope they appreciated it!

I hope they also took a photo….. I can imagine it becoming the thing of legend whenever they talk about their wedding…

Korea Impressions

So that’s that. My Asian tour is over. I fly tomorrow at 10.30 from Osaka back to Europe. Did I enjoy myself? Well yes, but I am ready to go back to Europe. Business wise, I think it has been a real success. I have found out where all of the World’s titanium production is heading (Korea) and I have had some wonderful food. I feel that I am stagnating though, allow me to explain.

Business travel means for one thing lots of meetings, it also means entertainment in the evenings. Good food, good wine, nice breakfasts, spending the days and evenings with the same people. There is then the catching up with emails when you get back to the hotel and finding the time (literally finding a mutually convenient time) to speak to The Pretty One, who is in London. I feel like I haven’t done anything different forever. Exercise is something alien to me (the swimming and the run being the exceptions).

I have some things that I would like to add about Seoul. The country itself seems quite isolated. Physically they are, but it reminded me of a former Eastern bloc country in some respects. I say this because all of the buildings were high rise (although they were all very new and clean) but more because of the vehicles. Everyone drove a Korean car. European or American, or even Japanese were rare vehicles. This is like being in a former communist country. I am not saying that it was like one of these though. Clearly the economy is a lot better, capitalism is clearly booming.

Japan and Korea were interesting countries. I am glad that I have been to them, but honestly I felt kind of cold having left them. They didn’t have the energy that other parts of Asia have that I have experienced, and although Japan is somewhere where I am sure that The Pretty One and I will visit (we like to do food holidays anyway!) In this respect Japan has a place in my heart, and I will return, but I definitely need to leave the cities. There is a fakeness in the built up areas, which is almost Vegas like. Plants, light, islands! All fake. I need to discover the real Japan.

Pictures are all from Seoul. The views from the hotel, and the worlds best stocked bike shop.

Like Disney, only smaller.

Like Disney, only smaller.

Finding the Soul in Seoul

Well I arrived last night, and have so far found the city to be pretty cool. One downside is with business travel – what do you do when the hotel you book isn’t sufficiently nice? Spent two hours last night finding something where I would be happy to sleep!