My recent trip to the UK & Germany.

My employer has offices internationally, and as fate would have it, we’re moving them.  We started with the UK office via some uk affordable movers back in January.  I took a rather condensed trip over to the UK to look at office space.  I was in the air, or in airports almost as long as I was in the UK so I didn’t get to see much other than the offices we looked at.

This trip was very similar. 

The first part of the trip was to move the office and get the internet connectivity and telecommunications setup as well as wrap up some loose ends.

We left Cincinnati (CVG) Saturday May 8th, connecting in Chicago, then straight into Heathrow, in the UK.   I was fortunate to be traveling with our VP of sales, who makes this trip once a month.  As such he’s earned his rewards and status with the airlines and the benefits that come with that.  As his traveling partner I was able to better enjoy the road warrior lifestyle for a week.  Being able to visit the international clubs in the airport and getting ‘upgraded’ has it’s advantages.

This time however we did rent a car.  Figuring we’d be driving back and forth between offices and making the occasional run to the store for something we figured this would be easier than cabs.

We picked up our car at the airport and headed to the hotel.  As things usually go, they didn’t have the car we reserved so we settled on a VW Passat, and a free GPS as compensation.

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Driving on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road is interesting.  But  not nearly as difficult as I was led to believe it would be.  We arrived without incident.

While in the UK we tend to stay at the Twickenham Marriott which wraps the Twickenham rugby statdium.  It’s new so it’s still very nice.  Twickenham is on the west side of London, and honestly there isn’t a whole lot around that area in terms of quick and dirty tourist attractions.  You can hop the tube into downtown London if you have time, but we didn’t.

The room (at least the one I stayed in) is pretty straight forward:

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The View

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We didn’t do much Sunday, other than recuperate from the flight(s).  We did venture out in search of another US/UK power adapter and ended up a Bentalls, a shopping center and mall about 20 minutes away.  We at lunch/dinner there, and I picked up a Tea Pot for my lovely wife.

Monday morning we met Ashley at the office, got our bearings and went to the old office to retrieve our communications gear.  Loaded it up and headed back to our new office in Kew. 

Kew

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Where by we commenced to assembling furniture and getting our phones system and internet connectivity up and running.  A good part of the afternoon was spent getting our phone service re-tooled from the interfaces we had at our horrible Regus office to lines we now had control over.  To this end we use eVelocity, for Cisco voice configuration we’re not comfortable messing with.   While things never go as planned, things actually went quite well.

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With day 1 complete nearly everything was working as planned.

On Tuesday, we did more of the same, mostly clean-up and tweaks.  For lunch we wandered out to the Kew Greenhouse Cafe.   Ashley claimed it was simply a tourist spot and no, UK people rarely eat at places like this.

Lunch was a Tuna Bake and a Becks Beer.

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Then back to the office for more office move related stuff.   Our landlord occupies the 1st and 2nd floor of this building (2nd and 3rd floor to US folks).  I took some time with Paul and discussed their business, the building and other stuff.  When they renovated the building, they added the 3rd floor.  It has somewhat of a nautical theme, seeing as how they are in the shipping business it all made sense.  The windows are like port-holes on a ship.  The 3rd floor is an all-purpose conference room and space for entertaining.  Complete with a temporary bed, shower and other luxuries.

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The whole office reminded me of Apple in Cupertino.  They are Apple users and the whole place was quite sanitary looking.

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We showed off our iPad’s knowing they’d be interested and couldn’t actually get their hands on them for another couple weeks.

Later in the afternoon I took about an hour to run over to the Chiswick Honda dealership.  At this dealership they have everything Honda.  From lawnmowers and generators, to motorcycles and cars.  My goal was to sit on a new Honda VFR 1200 and check out a couple of bikes that aren’t available in the states.   Mission accomplished, but I have to say, the folks at the dealership were less than friendly.

That evening, we stopped at Tesco’s, the UK version of Walmart to get a few snacks and drinks for the room so we didn’t  have to spend 5 GBP (or about $7.50) for a pepsi at the hotel.

Just like Walmart you can get everything at Tesco, including your home loan, and car insurance right at the check out.

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Kevin had to get his Walker Potato chips, “Prawn Cocktail” flavor to be exact.  I’m pretty sure these are just lays potato chips.  But they had a number of really interesting flavors. I opted for a combo pack that had ‘Steak and Onion’, ‘Smokey Bacon’ which I though was extremely ironic since these folks don’t have a clue what bacon really is.  A slice of honey baked ham, without the honey or the baking is not bacon, it’s simply a slice of poorly grilled ham, and ‘Roast Chicken’.  Much to my surprise all of these flavors were accurate, and quite delicious.

Wednesday was wrap up day.  I didn’t have a lot to do, but was hoping I’d get to get out and see some stuff.

We took a quick road trip to IKEA of all places, in an effort to find a conference room table.  Kevin was fairly certain the conference room table we had in Austria came from IKEA.   On the way we stopped for lunch at the world famous ACE cafe.   Which was really an American diner/motorcycle hang out.

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Cool place, lots of history.  The Ace Cafe – London, was bombed in World War II.  History can be found here.  Ashley’s dad used to frequent the place in his younger years. 

Out trip to IKEA was uneventful.  No real office furniture to speak of, thought they did have the little lantern that Matthew was playing with at home on our front porch before I left.  Which I believe was a gift we received at Christmas.  It tickled me to see them in London.

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We returned around 3pm.  It was a little late in the day for me to make a run to Stonehenge, which was on my short list of things to go see.  It’s about 80 miles from the office but knowing that I’d run into traffic and that we had to leave for the airport at 5am I wasn’t much in the mood to risk it.

I took a little walk around the Kew train stop area, around our office and took some photos.

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Everything here is old, including the bridge over the train tracks that I walked over and took the above photo from.  Built in 1912.

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Given the amount of pure ugly people, most of whom are only ugly because they need some dental care, I was shocked to find a dentist on the other side of the tracks.  (That’s sarcasm and humor in case you didn’t notice.)

That evening we had dinner at the Inn in Kew Gardens, a standard pub/hotel.  Very much like the Golden Lamb here in Lebanon, OH.  The food was good and on a vacation visit I would probably stay there, though I didn’t get to check out any of the rooms.

The night was uneventful, I slept well, but didn’t get my 4:15am wake up call.  Grrrrr…  (yes 4:15am, necessary to get up and out by 5am, to get to the airport, return our car, clear security and all that entails to make a 7am flight to Munich, Germany).

Still we got out of the hotel in time to return the rental car, and make our flight without too much trouble.

The flight into Germany was uneventful.  We flew Lufthansa and of all the flights so far this was the worst.  The dirtiest aircraft, and the loudest.  It had a horrible buzzing/vibration.  But hey, it’s all good if you don’t crash right?

We landed in Munich and took a cab to the Munich Marriott, which is really in Freising.   We pretty much had the day to kill since it was a Holiday.  No real estate agents were working.  I had in mind to visit either the BMW museum in Munich, or Dachau, the 1st concentration camp.   But as fate would have it, we didn’t have a car, and being a holiday we feared things may not be open.   We walked down to the hofbrauhaus with the intention of eating well and having a few beers.

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But it too was closed.  To be honest the whole town was very quiet.  We walked back to the hotel and had a good meal and beer at the restaurant then just relaxed in our rooms.  I watched “The Hurt Locker”, and promptly fell a sleep.

In the morning Rob picked us up and we went office shopping.

I won’t bore you with the details of that.

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The bottom line though is that you could probably take someone from West Chester, blind fold them, drop them off near the Munich airport and they wouldn’t know the difference.  The drive on the right side of the road, and it’s wide open.  Plenty of farmland.  Very Cincinnati like.

Our trip was successful, at least at this point I think it was.   We viewed 8 different offices, had lunch at a little Italian bistro, then spent a couple hours at the airport office park where our current office is.

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We flew back to Heathrow at 7pm, less than 48 hours after we arrived.  We spent the night at the Heathrow Marriott, then headed back to the US at 7:30 in the morning the next day.

The flight home was equally uneventful, until we needed to board our flight from Chicago to Cincy.  The plane needed some maintenance attention but they gut us underway in less than 40 minutes of our original departure time so we were only 30 minutes late.

I can’t wait to go back, but I can certainly wait to do those flights again.

12 + hours in airports and planes just kinds sucks like that.

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