IBM has this cool benefit for those who travel called “Travel in lieu of”. Basically the policy says that when you are required to be on a site on Friday afternoon and the same site on Monday morning, IBM authorizes you to fly home for the weekend. But if you choose not to fly home, you can choose to fly a friend or family member to where you are. Of course the hotel is already paid for, so for the cost of additional meals and entertainment you can bring someone with you. Most people use this for their spouse, but my spouse it really not interested in going with me. So late September Mom and I were talking about that and I said “I typically think of Mike when I think of the policy, but I should remember that I can take someone else.” She said “Yeah, I’d go with you.” I said I’d have to look into that. A few days later she called back and said “OK, I’ve cleared my schedule, I can go with you to London.” Uh.. OK. I guess I need to look into that NOW!
So, two weeks later my Mom and I met up in Houston and she traveled with me to London. Actually, in the meantime, we were not sure where it was going to be.. This contract is for a world-wide company that is headquartered in Copenhagen, the development team is located in the UK, and the lead for this phase of the project lived in Switzerland. With the fact that the next site to go online was Swiss Rail, and personally since I had been to Copenhagen and London in the past two years and hadn’t been to Switzerland in a long time.. I was pushing to go to Switzerland. In the end, London was the location we settled on. However, upon initial on-site discussions we clarified my role on the team a bit and suddenly they thought perhaps it would have been better to be in Copenhagen or Zurich since my role would be more than a developer. By Thursday of the first week the decision was to go to Copenhagen the following week.
I needed to have a paradigm shift in my thinking. I decided rather than be disappointed that IBM was going to send me BACK to really cool locations, I needed to find the gem in that city that I was excited to go back to. I mean how cool is it to have your favorite haunts in various cities all over the world. So rather than being disappointed in going back to London, I went with a new attitude. Of course this time Mom was with me… So really it was the same, but not at all the same! After grabbing a nap we headed right out to Covent Gardens to find the vendor that sold me my favorite hair clip when I was here 18 months ago.. Found her and bought two new clips. We had fish and chips at a pub, and I decided this is the best! I think Covent Gardens is my favorite London location.
On our way to Covent Gardens we visited a site that I had wanted to get to last time I was in London but didn’t make it, Sky Garden. This is a Garden on the 35th floor with an open patio on one side and views all the way around. It’s free, but you must have a reservation. The view was spectacular.
I did get annoyed at the hotel. Within IBM’s parameters we stayed at a pretty nice one, the Mondrian Sea Containers, because it was about a quarter mile walk down the Southbank to the office… Lovely! And centrally located for Mom, however, Mom was finding herself more tired than I expected, so although centrally located, it was not particularly close to a subway station. Strike one. Then the room was very small, only one bed, and a queen at that. There was no room for the suitcases so we were tripping over them on the floor all week long. Strike two. And finally I had chosen this hotel also because breakfast was included, which in the end it was not and was very expensive ($30 a piece). Strike three. This hotel was just too expensive to have so many problems, and it bugged me so as soon as we knew what we the team was doing I moved to another hotel and like it a lot better.
Otherwise the trip went like you would expect a London trip to go. I went to work, Mom played tourist. She went to the London Eye, and the Tower of London and rode the Hop-on-Hop-off bus. I joined her in the evenings for pub dinners, Afternoon tea at the Savoy, and of course we went to the theater one night : Kinky Boots.
Mom brought two pair of shoes that were not broken in, and immediately regretted it, so Tuesday afternoon she bought a pair of Birkenstocks and was much happier. That evening after work I met her in Covent gardens, near the shoe store, and we at at another new favorite Greek restaurant (the Real Greek).
We then decided to walk back, past St. Paul’s Cathedral, and across the Millennium Bridge (another site I missed on my last trip) and past the globe theater. The walk was further than we had thought, but a glass of wine at a pub on the Thames was rewarding before turning in.
Friday the Swiss guy had returned to Switzerland and the British guys wanted to work from home, so I had no one to meet at work. I decided to play tourist with Mom. Her Hop-on-Hop-off bus ticket was good for two days, so I got one of those and we rode around there again. We planned to get off and see Westminster, but they were having a special ceremony and it was closed… unfortunately the ticket sellers didn’t know that, so I’m still trying to get my money back for that. The bus ticket included a boat trip to Grenwich, so although I had done that last year it is a nice ride, so we did that.
Saturday we took a trip to Stonehenge. Neither I nor mom had ever been before, and it was on my list of places to see. The tour left pretty early, had a 2 hour bus ride from London, then about 3 hours there at Stonehenge, and 2 hours back. You could incorporate other tours into this tour, but there was nothing else we wanted to see. Stonehenge was very interesting, and although it rained and was very cold and windy, we were glad we went. That took most of our day then we went to the hotel and packed for phase 2 of the trip, Copenhagen.
Sunday VERY early (Taxi at 4am), we headed to Copenhagen. After arriving and checking into the hotel we got the Hop-on-Hop-off bus there. We rode a bit, then jumped off for lunch at Nyhavn (where the famous colorful houses are), then rode on around. We really didn’t hop off for anything else.
The next day, due to travel problems, my colleagues were not going to be into work until afternoon, so Mom and I headed to the walking street. We went back to the Hotel Chocolate, for some hot chocolate.. now a favorite place in Copenhagen. We also stopped to see the Seven Mermen statue, a little known statue under the water in the canal. You can only see it from the bridge. I found it last time I was here because of Geocaching…. So yes, another favorite. I took off to go to work, Mom took off to go on a boat tour of Copenhagen (I had done that last year). She then rode the bus around again and stopped to see the mermaid.
After working Monday-Wednesday in Copenhagen, we were to return to London for Thursday and Friday, going home Saturday, BUT the guys from UK were not going to be able to meet with me again.. Frankly, I am gone from home enough, and was tired of being away as usual late in the second week. I called Mom and asked if she wanted to stay and be tourists in London longer, or go home. She also was weary of the travel and ready to return home, SO, I changed our tickets and we came home two days early. We rode together London-Houston on a plane with only 100 people on it. This was as nice as first class! I stretched out in a row of my own and had a fantastic nap. All things considered, this trip will be a memorable one. It sure was special to be able to take Mom with me.