Travel Training

New York in Just Under 24 Hours

Who am I kidding? I saw nothing of NYC except from the interior of a cab and my 1.2 mile walk this morning. My flight landed at 8:30pm last night local time. I made it to my hotel at 10:30pm (thanks Times Square!). I fly out 7:30pm tonight. Fun facts ensue:

  1. There’s more than one “Hilton Garden Inn Times Square”. Ask me how I know.
  2. I get in a cab in NYC and I get carsick. Every. Single. Time.
  3. New Yorkers are the most helpful beings on the planet, and I am NOT being sarcastic.
  4. If you attend a conference in NY as a female human, and you elect to wear jeans, you will be in the minority of about 4-6%.
  5. It is possible to adopt your new time zone with no issues whatsoever. Until morning.
  6. You will find a way to get clean with minimal light and low water pressure.
  7. We cut the cord on cable years ago and every time I try to watch commercials irritate me and I remember why we did that.
  8. Not all outlets on the Delta Airlines flight work.
  9. Yellow cab is feeling the pressure of Uber and Lyft to the extent that one of the main commercials in the yellow cab is how awesome yellow cab is.
  10. If the agenda for a conference you’re scheduled to attend is light, reach out to the organizers and find out who it’s geared towards. You’ll still get value out of a sales/marketing conference even if you’re a technical PM — but you have to work at it. Oh, and you get a lot of blank stares when you explain what you do.

#businesstravelisglamorous

40 Hours

In 40 hours in New York, specifically Manhattan, I:

  • lost a favorite sweater, but comforted myself that I had had it for 3 years and probably got my money’s worth
  • ate two fantastic dinners, ate entirely too much, drank entirely too much, did not get hung over
  • tried a new app, Uber, which I was impressed with via friends’ use and then via my own
  • saw a Broadway show (Kinky Boots, which gets an A++)
  • discovered that a NY sommelier can handle clear directions like “pick a Rhone that puts hair on your chest”
  • shared an apartment with four other women (even if only for one night) and we’re still friends
  • messed up my back (again)
  • rode the subway, got carsick in a cab
  • walked through a bit of Central Park
  • had GREAT coffee (Manhattan), had crappy coffee (JFK)
  • saw every human cliché: the skinny socialite, the modern family, the naked cowboy next to the Cookie Monster in Times Square
  • had someone else do my makeup with satisfactory results (including false eyelashes)
  • slept 8 hours
  • rediscovered my friends, realized how much I missed them, and vowed to try harder to see them.

I did not get to partake in everything, courtesy of the back, the need for sleep, and just general timing. What I was there for I enjoyed thoroughly. But I think that has more to do with the company, than with the destination.

Learning As I Go

I see I’ve forgotten to do hotel reviews, updates, and other things I learned on my recent trip. Mea Culpa! I blame my economics class.

Patro/Matro-nymics as a Dating Tool

Probably the most fun thing I learned on this recent trip is that Icelanders have dating down to a science. I am not kidding.

In Iceland, the child traditionally takes the father’s first name plus the word ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ (dottir) as their surname. This came up recently about the girl named Blaer, and you can read all about that and link off all you want here, but it got me thinking: you could totally tell if a girl has Daddy Issues if she choses her mother’s name for her surname, and/or if a boy has Mommy Issues likewise. It’s like a window into their childhood and you don’t even have to “wink” at them on Match.com.

Also, one of the best people I’ve got on my London job has the surname Thorisson. We did ask if his dad was named Thor, and it’s pretty close — the name means “worshipper of Thor”, and hey, who isn’t?

It is Possible to Over-Assume as to What Wi-Fi Means

This being my fourth trip to Rome (wow, that sounds really pretentious, trust me when I say as much as I love my Rome team and the fabulous food it’s not as glamorous as it sounds) I was told emphatically that I would not be staying at “that sad little hotel next door”. No, this time I got myself a fancy hotel in the old city, the Valadier, and it was very lovely. They serve a nice espresso. They have wi-fi in the room!

That crashed every. fifteen. minutes. I am not exaggerating. And since my midterm exam was available only for 24 hours, of which 8 I hoped to be sleeping, 4 I had to reserve for dinner (European dinners are breathtaking both in quality and stamina), 9 for work, I really needed my wi-fi to work in my room. A panicked conversation with the front desk man assured me that HIS reception on HIS phone was great, therefore don’t worry.

Thanks to the immense resourcefulness of a lovely gal in the Rome office, I had a quiet conference room and busted out my midterm in 90 minutes right before we left for dinner. Not ideal, but, as the company is/was paying for the class I assume they’ll understand. And yes, I got an “A”.

The Best Laid Plans Will Go Awry. Just Plan For It. 

My flight into Rome was late. My flight into London was late. My flight out of London was really, really late. Jet lag hit harder than any other trip I’ve been on. I broke one of the coffee machines. I lost a meeting room. I totally meant to spend time with someone and didn’t realize I hadn’t until I was almost to Seattle. My plan to have extra room in my bag was thwarted by the fact that it’s winter and all of my clothes were heavy sweaters. Pret changed their menu.

This last trip was a constant reminder that whatever you’re counting on, make sure you’re not counting on it. Or something.

The Best Things Happen When You Take Chances

I went for a run on the Friday, my only morning in London where I’d actually be staying in London that night. Following a map saved to my phone (which got no reception, so it wasn’t a moving map but a pic), I ran about 2.5km up a road and around a park, and then trotted back… or so I thought.

I was about a mile in before I realized *nothing* looked familiar. Not a blessed thing. No buildings, no shops, etc. As most of Islington looks charmingly alike this did not engender much confidence, so I walked into the nearest gas station and asked directions to the Angel Building in Islington. No dice. Walked across the street to a shop, same question, same result.

Hm.

Now, I had no service on my phone, so I couldn’t call up Google Maps. I did not think to bring anything with me but my hotel key, so I had no cash or card to grab a cab back to the hotel. I had run a mile in the *wrong* direction, but which *wrong* was debatable. And so…

I ran back from whence I came, back to the park, and then leveraged every tube station map and bus station map I could find around that park to figure out where I had to go. And got back to my room eventually, ridiculously pleased I didn’t have to give up and get a cab with the promise of “and then wait outside the hotel whilst I go get my wallet”.

Other successful chances included: trying a new place to eat (Meat People. It’s very yum), using my static Starbucks iPhone app to purchase a latte while I had no connectivity (totally forgot Sbux has wi-fi even in London!), and, for the first time in more than 3 years, checking my bag on an international flight. Contents arrived safely both ways.

I therefore declare this trip a success not only for the original needs met, but for the additional learning items. My next trip will be much more local but no less adventurous — please send me your ideas for Portland and the Oregon Coast, with a 10-year-old. 🙂

Here We Go Again…

Greetings from South Satellite at SeaTac! Yes, I’m actually writing BEFORE I get on the plane, which has no WiFi. More awesome is my pre-planning on this, so I am the smug owner of both the most recent issue of Discovery and the most recent issue of the Economist. That plus hopefully some decent sleep will aid in the 9 hour flight to Heathrow, and the 2 hours down to Rome.

The verdict on the back/neck was essentially I’ve got degeneration in a joint and in a disc — so, um, I’m old. And apparently we fight age with muscle relaxants (which suck, because if I take one, I have to plan on not doing anything for 12 hours), anti-inflammatories (which suck less but the digestive tract does not like), and lots of Physical Therapy (which sucks because it means the nice PT dude pokes all the owie spots and makes them more owie).

I know I promised more on the Legal Fun, but since it turns out getting a Summer Schedule in place ran a tab of about $850, I think it’s safe to say I’m still in it, and won’t be out of it for a while, so maybe those blog posts can come in October or November. Hey, just in time to scare people for Halloween!

At the rate time is flying, though, that’s not long. The major milestones of the summer are flying by, Kevin and Margaret got married, STP has come and gone, our Leadership Summit has passed (short: YAY US! And… there’s a lot more to do); there’s this trip and then the next trip (fun trip!) and then camp and back to school and PTA and aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.

Net-net (and I say that because it makes the Editor cringe, and that looks almost like a smile on his face, so it’s nearly the same thing) this has brought me to the Big Decision to… Not get chickens. I just added on a running routine (to replace the cycling one), a knitting class, I still have a quilt, and I keep having to remember that in about a month I’ll be back in school, too. I think chickens may drive me nuts, as fun as they sound. In a way this feels like giving up, or maybe it’s just streamlining. The male person is not secretly relieved.

So. If you’re in Seattle and you’ve got chickens, I’d like to come help out once in a while, and buy some eggs off of you. The same way I like to occasionally go to the dog park to pet the pups but do not foresee another puppy for some time (Bulimikitty, I’m looking at you).

With that I sign off… as the long metal tube of the jetway beckons to the OTHER long metal tube that will take me to Olympic-land, and then to the land of caprese and carbonara. I can’t complain, try as I might :).

Lufthansa FTW

[from the flight two days ago…]

I’m sitting here in what *should* be the most awkward seat in flightdom: in this A330 the first row of economy-class seats past the bulkhead, left to right, is a line of 2, a line of 4, and then a line of 3. I’m in seat two of the four (so, middle-ish) and this wouldn’t be “awkward” but for the fact that, in the bulkhead row ahead of us, there are only 3 seats.

So there are only 3 video screens.

For 4 people.

I’m still not sure how it works completely but about an hour into the flight I managed to figure out I do not control the videoscreen to the front-left of me, but the front-right of me. This leaves it as an exercise for the class as to whether the person on my starboard side is screenless or owns the far-right screen, and the person on THEIR right thereby gets none?

Ergo, awkward.

And yet it totally has not been.

In a supreme display of German efficiency, although the plane boarded late we departed on time and are tracking ahead of schedule. Dinner (which was good!) was preceeded by drinks, had drinks, and complimentary after-dinner drinks (Bailey’s on ice, yo!), the wine came with an actual cork. In Economy.

I admit the leg room is wanting but I’m 5’10” and all my height is below the waist so it’s a bit unfair to judge.

As Lufthansa is German-based, the first language everything is in on this plane (think: signage, instructions, videos, etc.) is German. I have learned that Nouns in German are capitalized. So if I were to write in English like one would write in German, I would capitalize Nouns. It’s a bit jarring to read.

I am also getting one more stamp in my passport this trip of a country I haven’t previously been to: Germany. (Hence the Lufthansa flight). I’m stopping in Frankfurt on the way to Rome. As this is likely my last international trip before I must get my passport replaced, this is a nice lagniappe.

In my time with Expedia I have flown to Las Vegas, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Geneva, Paris, Lyon, Rome, and London. I drove to Vancouver for one meeting. And yet the bulk of my travel has been in the last two years – there was a stretch of a couple of years where the annual Vegas event was “it” for my work-based travel.

In all that time you think I’d have the foolproof formula to combat jetlag – but I don’t. It’s 4:20pm my time, shortly after 1am the place I’m going, and I know that I will not sleep enough on the flight to make up the delta. I have a day in Rome to purportedly get over this, and I can’t quite figure if I will do that or go sightseeing or lock myself in my hotel room and catch up on work.

But at least the flight in was sweet.

Frankly France

My boss is French. My skip-level is French. And I think I’m becoming a closet francophile, but NOT because of them. We had an offsite.

In Lyon, France.

For those not in the know — which, until about a week ago, included yours truly — Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France. I was there for 4 days and gained approximately 1 pound per day, and so we can all acknowledge that this was due to the fantastic food. I ate everything and then some, and in a country where bread is served at every meal (and contains only the classic ingredients — none of this corn syrup business or dough conditioners, thank you very much), this was no small feat. Oh, and the wine.

The Wine!

As I stated, my bosses (plural) are french. And so when it came time for wine to be decided, the menu was handed to them, and after a studied reflection of the menu and nonverbal cues between them, they’d summon the wait staff and give them the cursory order. In French. In other words, I couldn’t understand a bit, and so I can’t repeat what they ordered, but everything tasted wonderful. (In the states I eschewed French wines as “dusty” — not a speck of it in France. Not sure what is up with that!)

I see I’m babbling. Let me go at it chronologically:

After a day of travelling — Seattle to Heathrow, Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle, CDG to Lyon via train — I checked into my hotel (the Radisson Blu, which has unparalleled views in Lyon and quite the nice breakfast!). It was 10pm at this time, and the short walk from the train station allowed me to see the perfect pinks and oranges of the sun as it set. Bracing myself for “French disdain of the American”, I asked the concierge downstairs for restaurant recommendations.

I was presented in a charming and friendly manner with a map, highlighted directions, and two options: did Madame want something “safe”, or did Madame want something traditionally Lyonnaise? Madam indicated Lyonnaise, because I am not about to let a little jet lag in the way of Madame’s sense of adventure. A right from the hotel, and then the next right, and then a left, down two blocks: I found myself at a not-very-distinguishable bistro on a cobblestoned lane.

I was one of 3 tables at that time: a french couple having a romantic dinner, a set of Americans doing their best to keep all sorts of boisterous clichés in place, and then, well, me. The waiter switched to nearly-flawless English (and not in a disdaining way) when he discovered my French was non. He did want to make sure I understood what I was ordering as I was picking it out of a French menu but fortunately French is a Latin-based language and I can understand it just fine, I can’t speak it. Anyway, chicken with mushrooms and a side of ratatouille, and an okay bordeaux was dinner. It was beautiful (hey Kevin — the ratatouille was WAY better than that one we did, so we may need to revisit that at one of the HP get togethers), and then there was dessert.

Oh yes I did. I’m sorry, but my weight loss programme does not extend beyond the borders of the US, and so tarte tatin it was, and it was AMAZING. That, and coffee in a little demitasse cup.

Sated, I went back to my room… and woke up promptly at 5am. With the local gym not open until 8am, and no power converter (the three that I had brought with me did not work, and the person in charge of adapters at the hotel was not in until 9), I went for a run. Lyon is an excellent place to run — the walkways are wide, it’s mostly flat, and you cannot help but look at amazing architecture, beautiful scenery, and it’s cool in the morning even on a summer day. I only did about 4km — the knee is messed up again (that is another post for another time). However, it helped me feel better about the caloric intake of the night before.

I will say nothing of the meetings in Lyon that I was there for because they are proprietary to my company, with the exception that they were incredibly productive and useful. I was surprised because usually these sorts of things are endless power point decks and stifled yawns, but by day 3 we were still active and passionate about what we were doing, and had come to a better understanding of how each wheel works in this little clock of ours. I came home with 7 pages of notes.

At any rate, each day had breakfast in the hotel — oh, the cheese! — and a prearranged luncheon. Dinners were out on the town with the bosses, and that was where the careful wine menu scrutiny/ordering took place. Dinner conversation was equally as pleasantly a surprise as the meetings themselves: our party included two from Hong Kong, one from Amsterdam, two from London, the aforementioned two French, a few Americans, an Italian Australian, an Italian Italian, a Swede, and three from India (originally). I discovered many things, including that restaurant service and gratuity expectation/practice varies widely globally, that personal space in social situations does as well, and that the US is sorely behind in languages for its children. Case in point: my colleague from Amsterdam had mandatory Dutch and English until she was 10. Then French was added in. Two years later, so was German. She took Latin and Greek for fun.

(If you’re counting that as six languages, let’s take note that she knew a handful of words in other languages including Spanish and Italian).

At any rate: Lyon was pretty, with a variety of architectural styles but mostly consisting of the beige stucco/stonework and reddish-tan roofing, most buildings not exceeding 4 or 5 stories. We visited the local cathedrals (the two biggies, anyway), if I can get them off of my iPhone I will post pictures.

In short: Lyon is a 2-hour train from Paris and worth it.

As to Paris: I spent half of one day there (by the time I got the train and metro sorted out). In that half of a day I saw the Arc de Triomphe (larger than expected, and there were people at the top, which I hadn’t realized was possible), walked down the Champs-Elysees (endless shopping possibilities, but I’m not a shopper and people were thick — in both senses of the word), walked around the Louvre (not in it, I’m afraid, time being what it was), and down to Notre Dame (did walk in, it is GORGEOUS).  If you’ve ever seen the TV Miniseries The Pillars of the Earth, you will learn how they figured out how to make the heavy stone archways (and not have them pulled down by gravity and killing people, for example) or the architectural purpose of flying buttresses; and this makes the Notre Dame all the more impressive. That, and the realization that all of that lovely colored glass was done without chemicals — or not the way we think of them. For example, did you know that in order to get RED glass you need gold?

I didn’t make it to the Eiffel Tower, as I dawdled (dawdled??) in my walking — the architecture in Paris is AMAZING. You can tell the difference in building ages just by their accoutrements — who has gargoyles, who has scrollwork, what kind of columns were in fashion. Some buildings are relatively new — say, mid-1900’s– and about twenty feet wide, having been risen between two older buildings that formerly may have had garden space between the two. Cobblestone streets abound, and the smell of everything is in the air. I don’t know a better way to describe it, but I’m in love, I truly am.

My only dinner in Paris I had close to my hotel (Hotel Ampere, 17th arrondissement, absolutely beautiful in and out) and was a fixed-price with some choices. I sat outside, so as to watch the people walking by — I love people watching — and had a very leisurely dinner. The service was very friendly and attentive, I had to ask the people to my left — four older French people, two older couples — if tipping was okay or would elicit offense. I had to do this in Spanish as it was the only common language we had, their English being only fractionally better than my French. (I am not dissing them at all — at least they spoke another language! Never mind two. America, we need to catch up!) After some discussion, they agreed that the service was very good, and that leaving service (propina in spanish) was okay — in this instance. Of course she would not be offended, I just needed to realize this was only done when it was *really good*, not as a matter of course.

Morning came on my last day, with enough time for a quick breakfast and then 4 Metro lines (kinda like our subway system) to the RER train, back to my flight. In all, travel on my last day took 22 hours. I was very happy to see my bed.

I will be seeing France again though. I politely informed the male person this morning we are going back and spending some real-time there. He took it rather well.

On The Road Again…

[Editor’s note: This was written in the airport before I left on my flight to Dallas. It got in at shortly after midnight, and I vowed to get up early and work out this morning (after retrieving my rental car, getting lost on the way to the hotel twice, and suffering from insomnia). I did work out, and I did get coffee– offered by my wonderful hotel. I will wait to review it when I have fully sampled the sheer awesomeness that is ZaZa, but I will say it is “Racing Fuel” in the gasoline comparison of hoteliers. Also, their gym made working out this morning fun… even on 5 hours’ sleep.]

 

Once again I am travelling without WiFi, although I sit here in SeaTac where it’s purportedly free. I can only assume someone else is hogging it with videos of kittens yawning, or something, because I can’t seem to get on and stay on. Ergo, I am using my iPhone to work.

Well, to be perfectly honest, I am using my iPhone to work and my laptop to type this in notepad, and maybe, just maybe, I will get internet on the plane (hoo hoo, haa haa!). I am flying to Dallas where I will learn many things, including how a revolutionary sub-section of our organization works. At some point someone sectioned off a group and said, “here’s your demographic. Make it work. And do it with minimal resources.” And… they did.

I get to see how they did it.

This is one of the best parts of my job: figuring out what people do when left to their own devices, and seeing what can be done with the output. It’s entirely possible that their practices are as specific as their organization and *nothing* is scalable. I don’t believe that’s ever really the case though, and there may be things that we can make easier for them. Plus, you know: Texas BBQ, which I hear is off the hook.

So where’s the down side? Well, to start, Texas is 90 bajillion degrees right now, and humid. I now have shorter hair with lots of layers and the curl shows up more. And so, fro. I have packed my 2.4 ounces of hair goo to anti-fro myself but I may end up using it all on day one. Also, this trip happens smack-dab in the midst of “we aren’t selling the house” reorganization and projects (yay!) and Other Big Projects Of Which I Cannot Speak, meaning I’m pretty much in meetings from 6am to 8pm local time. I hope to get out at least one night.

Oh, that’s right: unlike New York, SFO, and Chicago, in Dallas you rent a car, because the climate and age of the city lends itself to wide, clean, beautiful roads. I land at midnight, and even though the airport is devoid of most human life after 8pm (according to my friend Ms. Krieant), I should be the proud driver of a Hertz Economy car (my boss is cool, but not “go ahead and rent the Mustang” cool). This means I’m likely to check into my hotel (to be reviewed later) at 1am, and must alight at 6am to work out and my first meeting is at 8am.

I sincerely hope Starbucks is as ubiquitous there as here. I think I’ll need it. Fun fact: My “Starbucks” expenses equate to 33% of my overall food expenses on a trip (sometimes more). Buy stock.

Fitness in the Hairdryer

In Phoenix, Monsoon season begins in mid July, which means we’re just before it. This also means winds. Winds, in 110 degree heat. It’s like living in a hairdryer.

Living in the hairdryer isn’t all that bad, in and of that you actually spend the hottest part of the day indoors in lovely ubiquitous air conditioning. You slather yourself with spf 1000, wear sunglasses and hats, wear loose cotton clothing, and learn to accept that tile is in fact a good floor covering. Phoenix is the exact opposite of where I live: dry and hot means no wood floors, no pine trees and ferns, my hair BEHAVES, my skin BEHAVES, and buildings are low and long. I wouldn’t retire here but am glad to have a second Casa Conti to go to.

Working out in the hairdryer, however, is a whole other kettle of fish (or terra cotta pot of lizards, I guess). Yesterday I got up at 6:30AM to run — because by 7am it’s too late. I ran a mere mile, and I did it at more of a “jogging” pace (we’re at 1,700 feet here and my parents have somehow managed to purchase a home in an area full of mild uphill grade cul-de-sacs), but imagine running face first into a hairdryer. It was great in and of that I didn’t perspire, water wicks away near-instantly. However, breathing in hot air while running uphill? Not so much. I plan to get up at 6am tomorrow in hopes of a 5-degree difference.

Swimming in the hairdryer is also interesting. My parents have a pool that is about 30′ long and I swam very small laps this morning with a small child wanting to occasionally be tossed about in the water. So it would be swim swim swim pause throw child swim swim swim pause throw child swim swim. After 40 minutes of this you get out of the pool and are COLD because somehow the 80 degree pool water in a 95 degree blowing heat evaporates and makes you cold, for the first five minutes.

And then you’re back in the hairdryer.

Back Anywhere But The Saddle Again

Having just completed 160 miles on a bike I really am not sweating training for the 12 cycling miles of the Danskin. I *will* get on the bike, I just haven’t this week. I also haven’t run, or swam, this week either. This week I was very very very lazy, workout wise. This week was full of travel (coming back from Vancouver, to/from SF, and now to Phx), full of food (Mom’s house, a beer tasting, Chupacabra’s baby-size burritos, etc.), full of drinks (well, naturally), and full of work (which is fun).  That said, I will shortly (erm, 2 hours?) be in Phoenix, Arizona, and must correct all of this laziness.

It is 110 degrees F (43.3 degrees C) in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s a dry heat.

This means if I want to run (and I need to do it at least twice while there) I need to do it at 6am. If I want to swim (and I need to do it at least once while there) I need to do it in the early morning or late evening.  I have 4 days worth of regular clothes, workout clothes, miniature toiletries (this trip’s forgotten accoutrement? Hair goo), sunscreen (spf 50 for us pale types), and the last Harry Potter book all crammed into my carry on, and I’m optimistic that I can actually, you know, get a workout in on this trip.

Moving On

I was going to have a whole series of little vignettes about the Ride — about the guys playing soccer at camp, about the awful food (but you’re so hungry you don’t care), about how they insisted I bring my own food and then I didn’t need it (or they didn’t have it), about the back pain and yet surprisingly no leg pain, about the endorphin rush and near-wall-hitting, about the simple pleasure a hot shower can bring at the end of a long day.

There really isn’t a place for all of that. None of those things translate well, and they were little events that were part of a much larger event; in short, you don’t care, and I’m not sure how much I’ll remember or what weight I’ll put to it in future. If something strikes me as particularly funny or poignant, then I may. But right now, nothing comes to mind: it was a good ride, I want to do it again, and that’s about it.

I haven’t been on a bike in three days, nor have I done any real exercise beyond some brisk San Franciscan walking. I have a triathlon in seven weeks, though, and I need to start training for that.  So if you’re up to listening to me blather about swimming (and possibly a swim coach), biking (hah! what’s 12 miles?!), and running (let’s hope the knee doesn’t die) then tune in.

Otherwise, move along, nothing to see here 🙂

PS — very glad I didn’t do my planned run in SFO today. They are not kidding about the cold fog early in the morning, and I foolishly packed shorts and a tank top.