Weinhaus Winzerhauschen – Königswinter – Germany

I was staying in Bonn for a few weeks on business.  Someone in the hotel told me that they had the ‘perfect’ day in the ‘beautiful’ town of Königswinter that was a 20-minute U-Bahn ride from the hotel.

Being a Sunday, there was not much else to do (other than work which wasn’t exciting me), so I cajoled a colleague to join me and off we went.

We got off the train and saw a Sea Life centre, some snow and a very dull small German town.  We had been told to cut through the town and find the railway, which would take us up the ‘mountain’.  We managed to find said train easily, however we decide to walk up – which was probably a stupid decision in the snow.  Suffice to say that the walk up was not worth what awaited us; not much more than a building site.  We walked back down the hill and found this pub almost at the bottom.  In we went; we had certainly earned a beer.

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Barking Frog Grille – Sedona, AZ, USA

I was in Phoenix for business and decided to take a day trip to Sedona.  My colleague had hitched a ride with me and due to the early start we were real hungry by lunchtime.  We had seen the main tourist strip of Sedona and perhaps unsurprisingly, the eateries did not look up to much.  We took a short drive South and found another strip with lots of fast-food chains.

Luckily, my colleague glanced at the map we had picked up form the Tourist Information centre in the small village of Oakwood on the drive up.  He noticed that a restaurant called the Barking Frog was on the map – just as we saw it appear on the right!  I pulled in to the car park and we agreed it was by far the best option we had seen so far.

Entrance to the Barking Frog was via an imposing set of double wooden doors that opened to reveal an entrance hallway leading to a small welcome desk and a woman on the telephone.  As we loitered in the hope of being greeted and seated, I had a look around; there was a small bar to the left, with a good selection of Whisky (‘The Lounge’); an outdoor seating area (‘The Patio’); a large table next to a fountain (‘The Pond’); and another seating area at the other side of the bar (‘Fireside’).  It was clear that this was meant to be an upmarket establishment, and it would have been if it wasn’t for the fact that we were still loitering while telephone lady continued her chat.

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Cadillac Ranch – Tempe, AZ, USA

I had been working in Tempe for a couple of weeks with some guys from The Americas –Peru, Chile, Mexico, Canada and most places in-between.  It was our last night together and it fell on me to take everyone out for a farewell meal.  My colleagues had been in the US for almost three weeks longer than me and were fed up of eating huge meals all the time.  We decided to go the Tempe Marketplace and find some easy food that could be shared and then get back to the hotel to pack our bags.

We initially tried The Thirsty Lion, which we had visited previously, however there was a long wait for a table here as it was a Friday night.  We carried on walking and came across the Cadillac Ranch.

It looked a little cheesy with the huge neon sign pointing to the stairway that led you to the entrance but I was too tired to find an alternative.  The girl at the front desk gave us their last table – which luckily for us was a table for 8.

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AF5150 – EDI – CDG

This was the first leg of 3 to get to Phoenix.  I had booked a car to pick me up which arrived on time.  I had booked the care a bit earlier than I needed, as I knew there were road works on the way; these road works didn’t cause as much of a problem as I thought they might and I arrived at Edinburgh Airport too early to check in my bags.

A cheese and ham Panini and some orange juice from Costa Coffee at the airport killed some time so I could check in.

Two check-in agents were available, one being fed passengers from the business lane.  There wasn’t much of a queue to skip here; the main line only had 3 passengers groups in it.  I was called forward and handed over my printed boarding pass and passport.  When I checked in online the system would only allow me to check in for the first two legs of the journey so I didn’t have a boarding pass for the final leg.  I asked if I could have one and the agent tried, even calling someone else, however I was instructed to collect my boarding pass from CDG.  I asked for the bags to be checked through and was reminded that I would need to collect them at Atlanta as it was my first port of entry to the US; I really don’t know why the US need to be different to every other country in the world.
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Amex Platinum UK just got a lot less shiny

As you may have worked out by now I travel – a lot. Each trip demands a separate packing list, but one thing that I can’t travel without is travel insurance. And it has to be the very best.

I pay a lot of money each year for a Platinum American Express Charge card which I use for all of my business expenses.  A key benefit of this card is the travel insurance product that comes with it.

I think the product is (or was…) one of the best available and covered all the normal stuff but also things like baggage delay (£300 if no bags after a few hours, another £300 if no bags after a few more), flight delay (£150 for a nice meal if a delay of 4+ hours) etc.

Today is the first day of the new terms of the insurance product:

  • Cover ends at 70 (I still have more than a few years to go before this concerns me)
  • There is an excess of £50 for some types of claim (well…OK – I don’t claim for little things anyway)
  • Maximum trip length is reducing to 90 days (I miss home too much to be away for that long anyway)
  • To benefit from some features of our travel cover, you now need to pay for travel and accommodation using your American Express card (what?)

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Hilton East Midlands Airport – Derby, United Kingdom

I stayed here last year for almost a month.  I didn’t bother to review it here because it was a bit sort of… dull.  The standard used-to-be-Stakis, UK regional Hilton, that is more than a bit tired.  However all that changed with a business stay recently.

I had flown down from Edinburgh to East Midlands early (there are two flights, 08:20 and 18:40) and taken a cab from the airport to the hotel (£8).  Yes – despite the hotel being called the Hilton East Midlands Airport and despite the fact they have a shuttle bus I had to get a cab.  The shuttle bus needs to be booked and unless you are on a stay which includes parking costs £8.  I know.  Don’t get me started.  It truly is an outrage.  Anyway, I digress.

I presented myself at the reception around 10:00 and smiled.  I was way too early for my room but I knew that the bar / lounge here gets so very busy (the M1 is less than five minutes away which makes the hotel a good choice for business meetings) and I was hoping that the hotel hadn’t been full the night before.

I was, of course, informed that my room wasn’t ready, however as I had asked very nicely, I was given another room to use until my room was ready for me.  I thought this was a really nice touch and off I went to catch up on some work.
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Hilton Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia

I live in the UK.  The UK is a very, very long way away from the Hilton Petaling Jaya.

I was travelling alone on business and had flown from Newcastle to Dubai and then onto Kuala Lumpur.  I paid for the budget taxi (not dodgy or falling apart – perfectly functional) in the airport and then followed the signs for the cars.  The heat hit me as soon as I got out.  I removed my heavy winter jacket and tried really hard to stay awake during the 40 minute journey to the hotel.

As my taxi pulled up the bellboy appeared and helped me with my luggage.  The hotel lobby was cool (in an air-conditioned way, not trendy) and I walked right up to the counter.  I am a Diamond Hhonors member (Hilton’s frequent guest program) so could have checked in upstairs.  I was reminded of this by the clerk – I didn’t see the point in going upstairs to come back down so I just asked him to carry on.

He wore a badge that read ‘Training to help serve you better’.  This was probably apt – he wasn’t your standard Hilton clerk – he didn’t ask about newspapers, my journey or anything else actually.  Nor did he welcome me back… He did take a credit card swipe of 2500MYR (about £550) for an 11 night stay which is probably about right.  The room rate was being billed direct to the company but came in at just under £60 per night.  This rate turned out to be pretty good value.
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NeroVivo Restaurant – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I stumbled upon NeroVivo (‘Live Black’) whilst browsing the Internet.  I was looking for somewhere great to take a colleague out for dinner for a birthday celebration in Kuala Lumpur.  It seemed that NeroVivo had everything I was looking for: great food, fine wine and a fantastic reputation.  It was also Italian, which was the only condition I had been given from my colleague.

I made a reservation online as instructed by their website.  Being a Monday night in late November this later turned out to be unnecessary (although I am reliably informed that weekend tables must be booked).

As the taxi turned in to a dark street with a large construction site on one side, I was beginning to feel a little nervous.  We pulled up maybe 400 yards after the site; there were two eateries almost joined together.  There were no other restaurants or bars etc. in this street that made me think it was odd that there would be two together.

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Clifton Indian Restaurant London – UK

Monday nights are not the most profitable for a lot of restaurants.  My dinner companion had just been given a promotion at work so we decided to go out for dinner.  It was too late to book somewhere posh so we walked along to The Clifton.

The restaurant was fairly traditional in appearance, with the addition of a number of waterfalls (in frames) throughout the seating area.  There was also a small bar area by the entrance.  There were no customers in the restaurant when we arrived so we had our choice of tables.  We went by the window.

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Sky Bar @ Traders Hotel – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I was looking for somewhere to go for a pre dinner cocktail (or perhaps even a glass of champagne) which had a view of the Petronas Towers.  Some local colleagues informed me that Sky Bar at Traders Hotel was the place to go – if my budget allowed.  Traders Hotel in KL is pretty posh with rates around the £100 mark.  £100 a night for a hotel in KL is a lot of money; we had a room at the sort-of-nearby  Hilton PJ for less than £60.

Traders Hotel is situated in the ‘golden triangle’ of expensive shops, eateries and hotels near the towers.  We caught the LRT to the station by the towers and then argued with a number of taxi drivers who were trying their best to rip us off.  We eventually found a driver who was willing to take us to the hotel using the meter and some 5 MYR (about £1…) we were there.  Naturally we gave the driver MYR 10; the moral of course is that honestly is always the best policy.

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