Saturday, October 18, 2014

A few more days in England

Before we left for the game, I took a picture of my new friend, one of the Archer cats.

Went to the Reading/Derby match with Simon on Saturday afternoon. His friends picked us up and drove the 20-30 minutes to Reading; a bit further west/away from London. The tickets were very nice, though I would much rather sit a bit higher in the stand on most occasions to better see the game. However, it was cool being that close. Reading did not play all that well and lost 0-3.

Got back and we walked to the Tesco (supermarket) to get some things...bought some more candy to bring back. Sinead picked us up and we then stopped back at the house before heading to the restaurant for dinner. We got an 'Americano' pizza for an appetizer. I got the Gnocchi for my entree.

Flying back in the morning...should be back to the house by 6 or 7pm. GO BROWNS!!!

Germany...the rest of the week

Well...once the actual work started, the camera did not come out too much. Spent the entire day both Tuesday and Wednesday at the client's HQ. We were responsible for paying for the taxis across town to transport all the clients in town from across Europe, so I had not problem getting rid of most of my Euro Cash - about 35 per ride to get across town.

On Tuesday night we had a lot to prepare for the next day, so we stopped at a steakhouse across the street from the hotel; the same chain from the one we went to on Sunday. I ordered the pork schnitzel.

On Wednesday night, our company took the entire group of about 40 to a nice Italian restaurant in Cologne called XII Apostel. On the way to the restaurant we stopped at a shop and bought some chocolates to bring home.

Up early the next morning to take two flights - Cologne to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to London. The company sent a car to fetch me at Heathrow and I was at the work office in High Wycombe by 12pm (about 8 hours from wake up in Cologne).

Went out for a Curry with co-workers on Thursday night...worked a normal day in the UK office on Friday, then met Sinead's parents (along with Sinead and Simon where I am staying) at Boulters for dinner.

Thanks to our account manager, I got tickets to see the Reading/Derby football match on Saturday. Simon and I will be heading there in a few hours - front row!!! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Germany - Day 2

Not too much to share today as I spent most of it in the hotel room working. I slept in until about 10 am, did some work until about 1 pm when I met another co-worker who had just arrived. We met in the lobby and walked into town, stopping at a Hard Rock Cafe to get lunch. I had the Mac and Cheese.

He was tired from his trip, so we headed back to the hotel. I wanted to get some tea, so I stopped at a market across the street from the hotel. Everything is obviously in German, so figured out which tea was more than likely just regular old tea (klassik schwarzer tea), then hunted down some sugar cubes and some biscuits/cookies - all for less than 4 Euro; not too bad. I used the self-checkout lane that no one was using - Stephen said those are new here in Germany and most people refuse to use them. I got a five Euro bill for change, so now I have 3 different fivers in my wallet, cool eh?

Back to the room, went back to work. Scared the cleaning lady - she knocked, but was opening the door before I could get there...she cleaned the room while I worked at my desk...I think she was Polish.

Took another picture of my view from the room - this one is a bit better I think...the Dom is the towering structure on the left, and you can see at least one more church on the right. There are alot of them. The arch in the middle (looks like two towers since the trees are covering the arch) must be a remnant of an older long-gone building. Cologne was heavily bombed by the allies in WWII; I will try to find out what that was.

And here is a picture of the forbidden fridge...I dare not open it or I will be charged some crazy fee...

Went down to the lobby around 730 to meet again with Stephen, Denton, and now Suzanna who just got in from England. We went to a French restaurant where we all elected for the mystery meal...we told the waiter what we each did not like and they would bring us a multiple course dinner (5 courses is what it ended up. I asked for no veal and no mushrooms. The first course was a thin crust pizza that was good.

The second course - a salad with veal and mushrooms...obviously he heard me wrong. He mixed up and thought that is what I wanted. I ended up with a pumpkin soup instead which was quite good. Then we had a fish course; a white fish over some form of sauerkraut puree and the the 4th course was chicken breast over a pea puree. The dessert was creme brulee with an apple sorbet. 

The biggest mystery was the bill, which was a doozy...glad I was not paying.

Off to the client's HQ tomorrow morning for the first day of meetings.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Germany - The Long Day 1

Traveling twice to Europe in the span of 30 days...the long flight does take its toll. The flight to Amsterdam was on another very packed plane; but went by fast. Watched the end of the movie 'Paul' that I had started on the way to England last month, 'Lone Survivor' with Marky Mark, and then a few episodes of 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine'.

The layover in Amsterdam was 3 hours - Cologne is such a small airport that they do not get direct flights. So, hung out in the Amsterdam airport for a bit. Customs was quick - she just asked where I was going and then stamped the passport. Found an ATM, got some Euros, bought a bottled water that ended up being a bottle of fizzy water...then just waited trying my best not to fall asleep.

Took a bus to the airplane which was a first for me...then took another bus from the plane to the Cologne my checked bag and no customs - just walked past a very shrewd German woman who eyed me and my large suitcase, maybe reading my mind to see if I had anything worth checking more closely. Just 10 pounds of American candy lady - nothing to see!.

Got a cab to the hotel; 35 Euros for that, but got my receipt. Then I had the long wait for the hotel room to be ready. I had booked for the night before so I would have no problem checking in at 11am (normal check in is at 3pm), but that did not happen. I was dead on my feet at this point. I walked around the city a bit being the hotel is literally in the center of the business district, but did not want to stray too far. The awesome valet that I had talked to knew I was up for about 24 hours at this point and credit to him, he kept checking with the front desk to see if my room was ready. Eventually, he grabbed all my bags I had in storage and told me I had a room; I checked in and he took my stuff to the room and gave me more information about trains and such. I will get his name tomorrow; wonderful guy!

I then set my alarm and had the most peaceful 3.5 hour nap ever...woke up at 6:30 to get ready to meet a co-worker (Stephen) who is currently living in Cologne. Met him in the lobby at 7pm after cleaning off the travel funk. We then walked around rainy Cologne a bit and then found a restaurant to get a beer (K├Âlsch in Cologne) and some dinner. The Dom Cathedral was having a mass when we got there, so just external shots of that.

Got a steak kebab with a baked potato, followed by apple strudel for dessert.

Another of the many older churches in the city...

And my TV watching this week will be quite limited, unless I begin to pick up some German...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

England - Day 5.1

Nottingham Forest game was wonderful - high scoring (5-3 victory over Fulham), the crowd was in full voice most of the game (there was lull when they had allowed 3 straight goals to fall behind 3-2) and the noise level on goals was quite amazing. Compared to the Spurs game we attended on Sunday, the Forest game was so much more fun - better crowd experience, but winning 5-3 will always have an affect compared to losing 1-0.

Before the game, after we found our seats, we talked to a very nice guy who had been watching Cricket all day at the stadium next door and then popped in for the football match. He was a soldier in the British Army and I cannot remember his name, but he was kind enough to answer all our questions, give us some tips on traveling in London, and really made the night even better.

Here are some pics of how the stadium filled up and the amazing idea of actually staying in your seats and watching the match while the game was being played.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

England - Day 11-12

And just like that, we are done and back in the good old USA.

On Tuesday, we got up and decided against the hotel breakfast, instead stopping at a local coffee house to get some danishes and some coffee. We then headed to Kensington Palace around the corner from our hotel. The street leading to the palace was lined with embassy houses - so the security in this part of town was high - police walking with semi-automatic weapons like at Paddington.

We did not have time to go into Kensington, so we just walked around the grounds a bit. This is where Princess Diana had lived.

We then headed back to the hotel, grabbed our luggage and headed to the Paddington Station via the tube one last time. Bought our tickets for the train to Maidenhead...there was an unfortunate incident in Slough where someone had jumped in front of train - as far as we know, a murder suicide (a 48 year old woman who dragged her 10 year old son with her). We did go through the Slough station which had been closed while the investigation took place. Simon and Sinead picked us up at the Maidenhead station. We went to lunch at a pub, then stopped at a grocery store and a pound store to get a few more things for gifts. That night, we once again met up with Sinead's parents for our last British meal.

The following morning, Sinead and Simon took us to Heathrow where we had some time to do some more last minute shopping in the duty free stores before heading back to Detroit.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

England - Day 10

Good day and welcome to Day 10.

Tracey 'wanting' to get up early and her actually 'getting' up early are two totally separate things. We did manage to get out early and head to Buckingham Palace. Tracey said this was the highlight of the trip for her; it was nice, but I still preferred Windsor Castle. No pics inside the Palace State Rooms, so only a few exterior shots. After our tour, the changing of the guard was taking place in the front, thus the huge crowds.

We then spent some time getting more acquainted with the London Underground system...traveling to Piccadilly to walk around visiting the M&M Store, a souvenir shop, and then get some lunch at an Italian place,

Next, we headed up the Bakerloo line to visit Baker Street where there was the Sherlock Holmes Museum and shop (just looked around) and a Beatles shop (bought some things for a few lucky Beatles fans).

We then trudged it back east to get to London Tower and the Tower Bridge. Across the street from the tower is a WWI memorial. In remembrance of 100 years since WWI, they are putting out porcelain carnations around the Tower for each soldier that was killed in the war. Traitor's Gate is where Thomas More and Anne Boleyn were brought into the tower before their executions. We also walked across the bridge, took some pics, then headed back to Victoria station to find where our coach tour will be departing from tonight - my Jack the Ripper/Haunted London/Sherlock Holmes Tour I booked for the evening. We eventually found the location a few blocks away and headed back to the room to refresh a bit before having to head out again.

The tour was quite  nice...while focusing on the Ripper/Whitechapel events, we did get a good tour of the city with plenty of good views and stories about the different buildings  and neighborhoods. We first stopped at the location where William Wallace (Braveheart) was executed, then went through the neighborhoods on foot in Whitechapel, seeing some of the buildings that are still around like the tenement houses that are now upscale apartments.