Wrap up on European tour

Jamie emailed me to ask how the rest of the tour went, so for the record.

After Tuesday’s debacle looking for the pool in
Paris, Roger showed up on the dot at 1pm as arranged in a cab and we left for the airport. The Lufthansa flight passed without problem, and we arrived early evening in Stuttgart. There was a major meeting for Window blinds in town and all the hotels were fully booked, and so we were cast to the wind. I stayed at the Hotel Krone in Steinenbronn. I can't recommend it enough! And not because it had wireless Internet access available.

It is a small family run hotel, it has I’d guess maybe 40-bedrooms, a bar, a restaurant and a breakfast/meeting room. They couldn’t have been more helpful organising cabs/taxis and helping with menu selection from the German menu. I asked if I could get a shirt cleaned, and although it didn’t get taken the lady who seemed to be in charge during my stay was almost insistent she collect the shirt at 10:50pm and wash it that night. Small, perfectly formed and great value. 

The education session in the Stuttgart office was organised to perfection, decent room, decent facilities and breaks well provided for. After that it was back to the Hotel Krone and after check-out in the morning, taxi over to collect Roger and then to the Badezentrum Sindelfingen – for a decent swim session in a 50m pool. Once again the Germans couldn’t be faulted. The taxi driver waited without complaint while I collected Roger and although he didn’t know the way was more than willing to find it given the map I had on the Treo and his own map book. On arrival at the pool, which is really magnificent as 50m pools go, the woman at the reception desk didn’t speak English but listened carefully as we said we wanted to rent towels, and much to our surprise produced two nice crisp, clean blue bath size towels from a drawer.

2.4km swim later and we were back dropping off the towels at the desk and asking for a taxi. This really is a model swimming facility for mixed bathing and swimming use. Well organised, efficient and effective joint changing area combined with a 50m pool completely laned off for swimming. So, I guess it was with no surprise while searching on google just now to find that the Australian swim team used it for a training camp before numerous world championships and the 2004 Olympics. Apparently it has a 50m outdoor pool as well! 

The flight to Heathrow was fine, I bought a ticket for the Heathrow Express to get to Paddington. Everywhere you look at Heathrow there are signs that say “London in 15-minutes, every 15-minutes!” and so it was. Rather than take the corporate deal on a room a the Hilton Paddington I checked the Hilton website and found a much better deal by paying upfront and booking non-refundable, 2-nights, 2-full English breakfasts, Dinner on the night of arrival all inclusive for £199. 

Up early next morning and in for a meeting with Alan. After that it was the planned education meeting and met up with James Governor for lunch at what was Felthams finest(memo to self, skip Feltham for lunch/dinner and pretty much anything in the future!). One final meeting back at at Bedfont and it was back into London to meet my kids for dinner. 

Sadly this was when the weeks European stereotypes came sharply back into focus. The French are “arrogant and cold”; the German “efficiency” and the British “who can’t get anything right”.

I was at the Heathrow Express terminal in plenty of time for the 5:55pm train to Paddington from Heathrow T4. At £26 for a return, it is not cheap. Hey, but as they might say on a Mastercard commercial, “£25 for the Heathrow Express; dinner with your kids, priceless. Something’s money can’t buy, for everything else there is Masterdcard…” 

Sadly I used Amex, and the 5.55pm turned into the 6.20pm, and didn’t get me into Paddington until 6:48. Sigh, £11 for a journey that would have cost me less than half that on London Underground and only taken 45-minutes. 

After dinner with the kids, the weekend with my parents, it was back to NY. Well at least the journey back to NY. It turns out that while I was on the AA Flight to JFK, New York was having a record amount of snow in a single day. The flight left on time, by the time we got to NY area though the runways were closed and we were in a hold pattern for nearly 2-hours while they decided if we could land at all or if we going to get rerouted to Chicago! Fortunately it was NY and you could tell on landing it was a serious snow storm, given we came in a nearly 2am there were still loads of planes on the taxi strips waiting to take off.

More delays ensued, which was understandable in the circumstances, and at 3:40am I emerged into the NY. Sadly the AIRTRAIN was shutdown because of the conditions and that made it near impossible to get out to the Hertz lot to pickup a car. 90-minutes later and 3-buses I finally got a car and was back at the apartment for 5.15am. By my count that was 12-hours in transit. Phewww…

ps. Thanks Dad for the rush to Heathrow when I forgot dropped my Treo 650. I'd have lost without it!

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