Planes, Trains and Automobiles – work travel

It’s been fifteen years. Fifteen years of intensive work travel.

When I started, I was presented with six A to Z’s. I covered the East of England. My Welsh mentality of all roads leading to the M25 was quickly disproven on a long journey from Luton to Cambridge.

From there I learned the geography of England, covering the country I became familiar with the service stations which had McDonald’s and a map of Tesco petrol stations. I was still at the age where McDonald’s didn’t hit the scales.

From days of racking up over 40,000 miles per year to now, life has changed immensely.Paddington station - Work travelI now drive as a last resort. My preference now is to travel by train. I’ve learned the art of packing an overnight bag. Luggage dependent on how many days I’m working way. Preferred clothes for lightweight packing. 

I’ve perfected the knack of getting through customs on flights to and from Scotland. Fuss-free clothes and shoes for a quick walk-through, not having to be asked to separate electronics and make-up.

Driving now is such a chore, of time wasted. I have timings as to what can be achieved on trains and planes down to a tee. Procrastinating doesn’t seem an option when you’re on fixed time.

I’ve learned to value the time I spend away, rather than begrudging the nights I don’t spend with my family. Remembering to take my camera with me from time to time. Getting to see great theatre.Tower Bridge - Work TravelThere are the journeys I would rather have not taken. The round trip to London for a meeting where the attendee didn’t show. A train destination not reached, left to find our own way from an outer London station, arriving ridiculously late for a workshop. Sat on runways because no-one is available to help us disembark, as the minutes eat away into a meeting I’m supposed to be attending.

Then there are the journeys which affect you, and it takes a little longer to regain your karma.

I’ve written on my Facebook page about my thought that I had developed a fear of flying.
It didn’t make sense, how could I have taken so many long and short-haul flights that now, taking flights to Scotland, I had found a fear of flying.

I rationalised. I’m a weak swimmer. All the airports I use (Cardiff, Edinburgh, London City) all seem close to a large expanse of water.

I found that if I sat in an aisle seat it was fine. If you can’t see it’s not actually happening.

But as I passed my phone to the gentleman sitting next to me on a recent flight to ask him to capture the beautiful pink sunset I realised I had to get to the crux of the problem.The view - work travelAll things said I can’t miss out on the beauty of the world because I don’t want to look out of a window.

As I pondered, I remembered, my worst flight, from where it had all escalated.

29th January 2016. The usual. Taxi pick up 0530, Flight departure 0630.  On take off we were told conditions in Edinburgh were “blustery”. Ten minutes before we were due to land we were informed “options were being assessed. We’re going to go down to investigate. We may divert.” I don’t think I’ve been on a flight where so many white paper bags were opened. Maybe I should just commend myself on using my birthing techniques to breathe through it.

These weather conditions were brought by Storm Gertrude.

And therein lies the problem of flying, the weather isn’t gradual, you can leave one location in perfect conditions and put your faith in someone that you’ll arrive safely at your destination in less than desirable weather.

But you know, that was January. I’ve probably done the journey ten times since then. And yes, there’s a niggle, but it’s not insurmountable. 

Because, if nothing else, when your flying, you have to enjoy the view.The world - Work travel

Creating memories at Hoburne Park and beyond

This week you’ll find our full review of Hoburne Park over at Boo, Roo & Tigger Too. Like any great family break we ended up with too many photos which meant so much to us.

So you’ll find those which show off Hoburne Park and its surroundings at their best on Sarah’s site. I wanted to share some of my other favourites as I’m loving seeing my water babies thrive this summer.

At the end of May my three got their first memorable experience of an outdoor pool thanks to Aunty Leigh-Anne’s 40th. It’s taken all my energy to stop them getting hold of my phone to request a further invitation. The chance to spend four consecutive days swimming outdoors definitely ticked their wishlist.Fun at Hoburne Park Fun at Hoburne Park Fun at Hoburne ParkThe bond between my three siblings constantly astounds me. I love the bond between my twins but this summer has definitely shown the strength of the older sister. There’s rarely a moment when the boys are in the role of dominant coupling, instead I get the chance to spend more time with one of the boys.Fun at Hoburne ParkThis was the first outing of the summer for our body boards. The boys don’t seem as fond of the sea this summer- their tastes are obviously getting more refined – they’re no longer lapping up salt water and wolfing down the sand. They are all thriving in the moments they can keep their mouths closed and gaining confidence on their boards.Boardboarding in ChristchurchThe chance to go crabbing at Mudeford also saw the confidence of the children grow. They’ve been going crabbing locally with daddy recently so the chance to show off their handling skills was not to be missed. Crabbing at Mudeford Crabbing at MudefordAnd as for me, I got to practice my photography skills. Well, maybe practice using the camera rather than skills. And Mudeford gave me every opportunity with so many boats! boats Boats at MudefordOur time in Christchurch also kicked started me adding videos to our You Tube channel again, and this video shows our weekend break in a bit more detail:

DoubleTree by Hilton London Islington

Following on from last week’s stay in a Hilton, this week’s stay was at DoubleTree by Hilton. Whilst a Hilton hotel is described as “much more than a full service hotel”, DoubleTree is described as “a comfortable hotel experience”. Arriving at DoubleTree by Hilton London Islington expectations were appropriately set.Doubletree by Hilton London IslingtonThe hotel is conveniently located a short walk from Angel. I’ve stayed in this area a lot as it is close to my base in Barbican. Angel has everything you need in turns of restaurants, bars, cinema and theatre so it’s definitely a good location. I was using it as a half way point as my meeting the following day was near to Kings Cross and the walk is bearable.

On entering the hotel you are met with fantastic contemporary decor. a friendly greeting at Reception and the offer of the trademark warm cookie. Declining the cookie on a calorie count did not faze, I was simply offered fruit in its place.

My room was a standard double (obviously given it was with work). And the room met this expectation.Doubletree by Hilton London IslingtonThe bed was comfy, the room had the facilities needed and the bathroom had a good range of toiletries and the shower was good enough to meet expectations.Doubletree by Hilton London IslingtonThe view wasn’t great, overlooking the goods entrance. I’m guessing it might be have been better than overlooking the street. It did have a desk area, which was appreciated, as was the mirror close to the window for sorting my face in the morning.Doubletree by Hilton London IslingtonMy criticism of the hotel was of the room service. It had been one of those days, nay, one of those weeks, where my plans of a night out were drowned out by my need to hide within four walls. I ordered room service. Remember how I declined the chocolate chip cookie? I ordered the superfood salad with grilled chicken. With a large bottle of water. And I offset it after much deliberation with a slice of a lemon based desert. Five minutes after ordering I had a phone call to let me know the desert was of the menu and to offer alternatives. I took it as a sign of my need to lose some weight and declined. 

A little while later my meal arrived. I needn’t have celebrated the calories I hadn’t gained. I have no idea what it was with the salad, apart from half the ingredients were missing so it basically compromised quinoa, lettuce, pepper and courgette. And to hide the missing ingredients, it was drowned in mayonnaise. Oh I was so unhappy. My laziness of not nipping round the corner to the supermarket was on payback. My night of slobbing out in a hotel room was ruined by the taste of oh-so-much mayonnaise.

Lesson learned- when staying away always explore the surroundings!

And as it always the way, here’s what to expect from a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton London – Islington:

Hilton Edinburgh Airport Hotel

Hilton Edinburgh AirportMy overnight at the Hilton Edinburgh Airport didn’t go to plan. So much so I’ve taken the stock image from the Hilton website (sorry! I’ll take my own later this week).

We’ve been using the hotel a lot this year for meetings and workshops. A short walk from the airport makes it so convenient for me (and I’m sure it’s a great location for everyone else too- ahem). The team at the business centre have always been great at accommodating my random meetings and kept a straight face when I phoned to ask if I had left my mouse behind…

Having some meetings in London meant I needed to fly from London City and incur an overnight. And as coincidence would have it, someone who I was trying to set up a meeting with was also in Edinburgh so, whilst not ideal I arranged a meeting for half past eight in the evening, which should have worked comfortably.

It didn’t. My flight was delayed. And then on landing no-one was available to let us off the plane. I arrived at the hotel, checked in and started my meeting at nine. Meaning I didn’t see my room until half ten.

It may well have been my mood, but I wasn’t overly impressed by my room. It was spacious enough, and had some great toiletries (flying back to Cardiff meant I could only use them!), but with the single brand- Hilton- it just didn’t wow.Hilton Edinburgh AirportAs you’ll know by now, it’s the shower which is of utmost importance. And whilst this one looked a bit ‘whatever’, fortunately it was a good shower. So that won me round a bit. Hilton Edinburgh AirportBut it was the bed that was a complete let down. It just wasn’t comfortable. Having left the house at 6am for London, I expected to sink into it and fall asleep, I didn’t. I needed to continue my evening meeting at 8am, and both individually suggested their stay had been a bit lacklustre. Difficulties in sleeping and a lack of comfort being their main complaint. Hilton Edinburgh AirportAnd I’m sort of ok with that. It’s an airport hotel. But the thing is, it is a Hilton. And other budget hotels are available, and in my experience, are as comfortable.

From talking to the team at the business centre, because of the massive refurbishment going on there, the hotel is having an overhaul. And the website tells me the hotel will be rebranded as a Doubletree by Hilton by the end of the year, which seems ok, as I think Doubletree is the ‘budget’ Hilton brand. 

But yes, on this occasion I did feel a little conned.

Here’s a quick look around the room for your verdict: