All change

The only constant is change, isn’t it? Two days before I was due to zoom off around the world comes a change of plans. I’m postponing my visit to Beijing, and realigning my stay in Hyderabad so that I can participate in some additional meetings. Instead of Star Alliance round the world, it’s probably going to be BA out and back via LHR. (I looked at going LH through FRA, but for some reason, BA is about 25% cheaper than LH right now.) I’ll update with the details when I have them.
UPDATE: Here we are:
BA048 Dep: SEA 07:40PM Mar 16 Arr: LHR 12:00PM Mar 17
BA277 Dep: LHR 01:40PM Mar 17 Arr: HYD 04:40AM Mar 18
BA276 Dep: HYD 07:30AM Mar 25 Arr: LHR 12:55PM Mar 25
BA049 Dep: LHR 02:20PM Mar 25 Arr: SEA 05:01PM Mar 25

I’ll be in 744s between SEA and LHR and 777s between LHR and HYD, with window seats on every leg. I get to kill a couple of hours in T5 each way.

Let's hope the corporate travel department doesn't notice this

There’s a new hotel just outside Zurich called the Null Stern. Yes, that’s right, the “Zero Star”. And it’s really spiffy:

For about GBP 6 per night, you’ll get a bed in a former nuclear bunker. The walls are concrete, there are no windows, and there are no decorations. There’s not even any heat. You apparently need to fill up hot water bottles to keep you warm. People have to take turns taking showers and you can only hope they don’t run out of hot water.

(Via BNET.)

Heading northwest

More travel today. I’m on a Tarom flight from Iasi to Bucharest at 1pm, then British Airways to Heathrow and Aer Lingus to Dublin. I’ll have to make my way from T5 to T1 at Heathrow, but I have almost 3 hours for the connection and I’m not checking any bags.
When visiting Dublin, I usually rely on the bus service to the city, but I’m getting in at 9:25pm, so I think I’ll just get a cab. Such extravagance….
(Posted from the Amazon office in Iasi, because the Internet access at my hotel failed this morning.)

Strolling the streets of Iasi on a warm autumn Sunday

Today was my one free day on this trip, and the weather cooperated. After watching the Chinese Grand Prix on television (go Lewis!!), I spent several hours this afternoon strolling through the streets of Iasi. The sun was out, the sky was blue, the traffic was light (and some of the streets were closed off), and it seemed that all of Iasi was out for a walk, or sitting in the parks, or fishing in the (vestigial) river. I’m uploading the photographs even as I type this.

Just for the record, let me sketch out where I went. I’m not going to attempt to get the accents right, so my Romanian colleagues will wince when they see this.
I started at the Ramada Hotel, next door to the Palatul Culturii. After admiring the Casa Dosoftei, I walked up B-dul Stefan cel Ma si Sfant, past the Catedrala Catolica and Catedrala Mitropolitana. I crossed the street, went past the Primaria, and through the park leading to the Teatrul National. From there I zig-zagged my way to the big square called Piata Unirii. I cut up Maxim Gorky to the Piata Independentei, dominated by a huge and very forceful statue. I continued north-east to the Piata Mihai Eminescu, then turned south on Str. Gavril Muzicescu and made my way all the way back to the Palatui Culturii. I followed Str. Palat south around the Centru complex until I reached the river at the Piata Podu Ros. By now I was quite warm, and was starting to obsess about the bottle of sparkling water in my hotel room. So I headed up Str. Sf. Lazar (checking the location of the Amazon office for tomorrow), until I reached Str. Grigere Ureche which leads to the hotel.
More anon.

Just keep on chooglin'

Travel’s going well so far:

  • Got a complimentary upgrade on the Seattle-Chicago leg. Channel 9 was on; oddly, our callsign was “United 958 Juliet”.
  • Got a window seat with nobody next to me on the Chicago-Heathrow leg. The flight departed late because, with the strong tail-winds that were forecast, we risked arriving before the end of curfew. As it was, we landed on time, in thick fog. I was impressed that we’d accept such a low RVR (runway visual range). Or maybe it was a CAT3 landing. The FA insisted that Channel 9 was on, but she lied: it was Kid’s XM. (Bletch.)
  • Heathrow-Edinburgh was packed, but short. We left a little late. because the aircraft arrived late, but made up the time. BMI is really depressing: the cabin interior feels cheap/utility, and even the coffee costs $5. (I passed.)
  • Got the rental car, and drove to the Dakota hotel without missing a beat. Anyone would think I’d been here before. (Which I have.)

I just finished lunch (roast halibut with leeks – mmmm!) and I’m going to take a walk to stave off drowsiness.
UPDATE: I wound up walking across the Firth of Forth and back. ((On the Forth Road Bridge – only imaginary friends get to walk on water.)) I made the mistake of not taking my jacket, and it was pretty blustery up there, but I power-walked to stay warm.

Jet lag?

I’m taking a “jet lag recovery” day from work, and thinking about why I feel more woozy than I expected after this trip. Obviously the fact that I couldn’t sleep on the FRA-SEA leg didn’t help, but there’s more to it than that. ((UPDATE: Merry points out that my having been really sick on Tuesday could be a factor. Doh!!)) It occurs to me that this was my fourth visit to India, but on each of the previous occasions I stopped off in Europe for at least a day on the way back.

  • In October 2005, I returned via England, and dropped in on the Tarantella team in Leeds.
  • In January 2006, I flew to Frankfurt, backtracked to Prague, and visited Sun’s NetBeans group before flying on to Denver.
  • And earlier this year I broke my journey in England and spent a day with my mother in Oxford. (Of course that last itinerary was westwards round-the-world, and I found it much less stressful.)

Worth thinking about for next time.

Arrived in Chennai

Seattle-Frankfurt-MadrasChennai. Long. Delayed. But completed. I’ve checked in to my hotel (the Asiana), it’s 2:23AM local time, and I’m hitting the sack.

Off we go, into the wild blue yonder

Another month, another trip. On Tuesday I’m off to Chennai, to visit some of the engineers from Amazon’s development centres in India. I’m flying Lufthansa through Frankfurt (my home away from home!), but fortunately I’m going to be on A330 and A340-600 planes, not their awful 747-400s. I’ll get to Chennai late on Wednesday night, recover and prepare for the meeting on Thursday, meet on Friday and Saturday, spend Sunday as a tourist, do more stuff at the office on Monday and Tuesday, and then fly home on Wednesday, leaving soon after midnight and getting back to Seattle in the evening.
This will be my first visit to Chennai, and my first to any tropical coastal city. I’ve got a full day earmarked for doing “touristy” things – beach, temples, art, that sort of thing. I gather that there are only two seasons in Chennai: summer (hot and humid) and monsoon (wet). And it’s not monsoon, so that means highs around 92F, lows around 78F, and scattered thunderstorms every day.

In Oxford

I’m blogging from a Starbucks in Oxford, grimacing at the expense of the T-Mobile WiFi. Never mind. Herewith a random collection of observations about the last couple of days.

  • Bangalore was cool. The staff in the Amazon Bangalore office were very welcoming, and presentations and meetings went very well. I have a bunch of action items!
  • The IT conferences (on Java and Startups) and the ACM meeting I attended were full of energetic, ambitious people.
  • The new airport at Bangalore isn’t as pretty as the one at Hyderabad. It was functional, but barely. Most shops were empty of stock, the WiFi didn’t work, and everything seemed to happen 15-30 minutes behind schedule. The road from the city to the airport was… well, it was a typical Indian highway. Leave plenty of time….
  • I’d forgotten how much I hate Lufthansa’s long-haul service – especially the 747-400 fleet. Uncomfortable economy seats, minimal pitch, no real in-flight entertainment, and indifferent and poorly-timed service. The house magazine claims that they are replacing the economy seats with new ones, with seat-back video. Maybe. I’d settle for the nice leather seats from the A-321 that flew me from Frankfurt to Heathrow.
  • I’m flying back to Seattle on Tuesday, and I’ll be in the office on Wednesday. Phew!

At the sign of The Lucky Shamrock

I’m sitting in a restaurant called The Lucky Shamrock, at the far end of the incredible new Terminal 3 building at Beijing Airport. ((Curiosiy: There are lots of stores carrying duty-free, luxury, and Olympic-themed items, but no bookshop or newstand.)) Breakfast is on its way: the choices were “English”, “American” and “French” style. The latter includes shrimps… We shall see. At least they have WiFi, although for some reason (!) I can’t establish a VPN connection to Amazon. Another exmple of the Great Firewall at work, I guess.
The ride from the hotel to the airport was a white-knuckle affair: the taxi driver was determined to break all the records. We did it in 20 minutes, door to door, which wasn’t really necessary.
(OK, “English” consists of scrambled egg, a rasher of bacon, several slices of fried salami, two wedges of water-melon, and four triangles of dry toast. Sadly, I don’t like water-melon. Never mind: the coffee is excellent.)
Speaking of food, last night I decided to try the restaurant across the street from the Ascott Hotel. It’s the Yuxiang Kichen; part of a chain of “authentically Sichuan” restaurants. It was superb – the best meal I’ve had all week. The highlights were a terrine of preserved eggs, and a hot and sweet soup with fresh slices of pear. I’ll be back…
It’s 7:38; I’m boarding at 8:15. Check, please!