British Business · Hotels & Inns · Lawyers Life · Life On The Road · Travel · UK · Work

Charge for Wifi? Why, fie!

 

From a little corner table at the hotel cafe, Nottingham

 

Travelling away from home has a funny way of making days pass by quicker.  For the past weeks, C and I have been living our usual pretty itinerant lifestyle, a different part of the UK every week.  C covers his consulting gigs, and I tag along with my own hardcase of paperwork to do while away.  Actually “away” is not quite the word.  Perhaps I should fine-tune that word to “further away”, especially when the conveniences and comforts available while working from our home in Manchester are not available.  My work as an attorney in the US requires me to pass big bulks of work across the Atlantic.  And so when we are on the road, I have to find my nook to do work, and equally importantly, I need to have internet connection to send work across.  Unlike in the US, many UK hotel groups/chains do not offer free internet connection.  Not even when a big chunk of their clientele are business travellers.  For instance, C is a frequent user of another hotel group (Let’s call it “P Hotel” The Premier Inn group) for his business travels.   The said Hotel chain is extensive, and you generally can also find one located outside of city centre and anywhere across the UK — convenient for C as power plants are usually located quite far from them.  I like that P hotels Premier Inns have spankin’ clean rooms, are pretty no-frills (altho very often, I wouldn’t mind some pretty frills), and — they have showers and not just bath tubs (happy me!)!   However, what seriously irks me is that the P hotels they charge for internet.  Their rate?  £5 per hour, or £10 for any time use within a 24 hour period (multiply that by a 4 day stay).  The guest must pay this upfront (front desk), and they give you a “scratch” card with a password.  There have been many times when, just for the principle of it, I want to refuse to pay more than the room rates (which believe me, can go quite high when booked on short notice).  But then I tell myself “what principle are you talking about?  It’s just how they choose to do business”,  knowing that sticking to my guns would go against professionalism.  No choice then but to suck it up and pay for it.  Alternatively I would/could take the bus into town, find a Starbucks, and work there until the Barristas either become my good friends or get annoyed.  Trust me, it is awful to feel that you’ve overstayed your welcome.  So it usually ends up with me spending more money for coffee and cookies.  Bottomline, what I had done in these instances really made no economical sense.  To save £10, I spent more (bus ride to and from, coffee and cookies).  So what do I do but gripe silently to myself in utter frustration?  And outwardly, act nonchalant and bear it.  That’s the British way, and when in Rome.

One of the places we regularly stay in when in Edinburgh is the King’s Manor.   This hotel is managed by the Best Western UK group (Twitter handle:  “BestWesternGB”).  They provide free broadband to guests.  What a relief.  Hotel people who understand that providing internet connection today is the functional equivalent of having bedside and lobby telephones in yesteryears.  A simple, basic feature like this,– and I am less antsy about not being able to take care of my clients overseas.  In the end I enjoy travel and stay that much more.    I hope hotels in the UK realize that the value of providing broadband to guests, and the competitive advantage it provides to their business mark worldwide, are much more than the sum of its actual costs.  No hotel guest wants to feel isolated from contact, or to feel that they have to pay additional for a few hours of de-isolation.  Too much nickel-and-diming your clients. And really, how silly.

So this week, we booked ourselves in another Best Western hotel.  This time, the Westminster in Nottingham.  We will continue to stay in BW hotels and look into them wherever we travel.

Anyway, by way of  FYI, since this is a blog about expat life, here are some of the hotel groups in the UK where guests PAY FOR WIFI:

  • Hilton
  • Travelodge
  • Holiday Inn
  • Marriott
  • Malmaison
  • Premier Inn and
  • Thistle

And those that PROVIDE FREE WIFI TO GUESTS include:

  • DE VERE
  • RADISSON
  • SAS
  • CITY INN and of course,
  • BEST WESTERN

(Source :  “Do Not Disturb” magazine, Issue No. 1)

p.s.:  Best Western GB has come up with the first magazine issue called “Do Not Disturb”.  The magazine is unconventional, fun and interestingly quirky — definitely in line with the company’s byline “Hotels with Personality”.

Cover of "Do Not Disturb"
Art · Asian · Birthday · Cooking & Kitchen · Food · Life On The Road · Photography · Restaurants

Postscript to Post

FYI.

1.  For good measure, to ensure that I tidy up the ends and not leave my glorious readership of 4 (one of whom is married to me) hanging on the identity of Mystery Man, the answer to the “Who Is It?” of my previous post is (as stated in the tag):  Bill Turnbull, who apparently is also a busy beekeeper.

2.  The place where we had dinner at was:

Sapporo Teppanyaki
91-93 Liverpool Road
Castlefield
Manchester
M3 4JN
T: 0161 831 9888
F: 0161 839 4030
E: manchester@sapporo.co.uk
M: Location Map

If there’s one thing I cannot be too modest about, it is that I know my Asian food, from the many years living and growing up there,  and a lot of travelling around the Continent.  I may not be a good cook, but I love to eat, and I eat a lot (although that applies to any cuisine, but Asian foremost).  This place is very good — quality and generous meat cuts, and an array of seasoning/sauces as you would find in the teppanyaki houses in Asia.  The place would be especially fun for groups, given all that razzmatazz the chefs put into preparation and presentation.  You get your show before your food, in other words.

The website encourages Friday and Saturday night bookings to be done 3 weeks in advance.  — If that gives you an indication how busy they get.  So book in advance.  Caveat:  the place is not inexpensive.  The sushi and noodle bar menu is pretty reasonable; the teppanyaki table could easily cost at least £25 per person for a starter and a main course.  But for those special occasions or business meetings — good place.  One more note — branches in Liverpool and Glasgow.

3.  Finally, an unrelated update.  I received an unexpected email on my Flickr account from the Art Director of Philbrook Museum in Tulsa OK.  A friend and I had driven down there in the summer to take pictures of the garden — to test drive my Canon Rebel T2i.  What sticks to my memory was the sweltering heat that day.  106°F, thank you.  This is the text of the email:

Hello Miss Chicago,
I was wondering if I could use any of your images you took at Philbrook in Tulsa. I’m the Art Director here and always in need of different perspectives and photos for our website.
Thanks so much,
-Kim O’Meilia
komeilia@philbrook.org
Art Director
Philbrook Museum of Art
www.philbrook.org
9188103905

I am still getting to know the tricks of my camera.  So the email is a boost, and such an encouragement.  And yes, I replied immediately with the permission.  :)

Philbrook Museum of Art:  2727 South Rockford Road · Tulsa OK 74114 · 918 749-7941
View of the House
View of the house, pond and part of the gardens
The Art Gallery inside. They have a pretty extensive First Nation and Native American Indian collection.
The resident cat who sleeps in the gazebo as if she owned it.
Asian · Birthday · Food · Life · love · People

“I’m A Celebrity. Get Me Out of Your Camera”

Ever had one of those panic-filled, embarassing moments when you wished you could instantaneously burrow a hole into the ground and hide in it?  Happened to me right on my recent birthday.  And it involved a “celebrity” of sorts.  So read on.

To celebrate the day, C and I decided to cap it with dinner at a Japanese restaurant.  C picked Sapporo Teppanyaki at the Castlefield Centre (Manchester).  He had been to the one on Duke Street in Liverpool a year ago and had raved about some of the “tenderest beef” he has ever tasted.    We arrived around 7.  The place was sparsely filled, with only one group seating full.*   We sat next to a newly dating, couple,**  them to my left, and C to my right.  We had the spicy tuna for starters, and I ordered the lobster teppanyaki and C got the beef fillet in teriyaki sauce.***

While into our starters, another couple came in and were seated next to us.  The woman sat next to Craig while her husband (hereinafter referred to as “Mystery Man“) was further over to her other side.  They pored over the menu for a while and the woman occasionally turned to C with polite conversation (e.g., have we ever been to this place before, were we celebrating something, pointers how/what to order, etc..).  Later, C quietly turned to me and whispered that he thought Mystery Man looked familiar and that he might be in some program on TV.  He couldn’t remember his name though and said he had a funny feeling it was “Nick Something“.  In attempt to quench his curiosity though, C took out his spankin’-new Android phone (which he hates) and began his Google-sleuthing, angling the phone away from the woman beside to avoid detection.  Every now and then, we turned back to polite chit-chat with our seat-mates and “oooohed” and “aaaahed” along at the chef’s knife- and flame-throwing maneuvers.****  After some time though, C frustratingly complained that the dang Android phone wasn’t coming up with answers.   In the tone of a mastermind to his accomplice, C told me to “look closely at the guy, and remember what he looks like.  When we get home, we can google again and see if he is who I think he is.”  Hmmmm….  The thing is, I really am not very good at this.  C had given me a similar assignment a couple of months earlier.  We were visiting Fountains Abbey when he told me that one of the women in our group might be an actress in a daytime soap, whose name he could not recall.  He had then told me to “memorize her face” so that we can do our google- and wiki-research when we got home.  The problem is, I had not quite developed “English eyes” yet (still haven’t) :  i.e., Every platinum haired, skinny, put-together English, stylish, middle-aged woman looked like Helen Mirren to me.  So when we got home then, the Google “identify-the-mystery-person” project failed largely because none of the possible results matched the image in my head — which was … Helen Mirren, and of course, we weren’t looking for Helen Mirren.

But back from the tangent, back to earth, back to Sapporo Teppanyaki. I groaned back to the Godfather :  “Not again!  I can’t do this!  I don’t know who he is.  I can’t tell him from Adam, and I don’t think I can remember his face”.   The guy, FYI, looked the typical pale, slim, British nerdy/geeky cute, — which is every third or fourth male person you see on the street.   But still, wanting to be helpful, I thought of the next best thing.  I pulled out my ol’ reliable iPhone, and pretended to be taking pictures of C, when in fact, the camera was trained beyond him…. right onto Mystery Man.  And so while a commotion was going on as the Chef danced on the next table, I clicked and clicked on Mystery Man.  Now how’s that for “documentation”?  Pat on the back, Miss Chicago.  Well done.

Towards the end of the meal, at that the uneasy lull between wrapping up the main courses and the dessert menu came chit-chat again.  C feebly toyed with his Android phone, and we decided to snap a picture of ourselves.  But the Android was new, and C fumbled through the menus to get to the camera.  So I, being the fabulous techie that I am, puledl out my iPhone and clumsily tried to take shots from the front facing camera.   And this is where the drama/action begins. Suddenly, Mystery Man gallantly comes to the rescue… when he volunteers to take the pictures for us.  UH-OH.  Anyone with an iPhone would know that the camera always displays at the bottom left corner, the last picture taken.  And in this case, it would precisely be that one of MR. MYSTERY MAN himself.  Once he held the iPhone, he would see that I had surreptitiously taken shots of him! Flustered, I tried to “clue” the hubby into the situation we were in.  He was, of course, blissfully clueless.  At this point, I tried to take any — any — random shot with the camera just to block the last shot recorded and jabbered something about setting the camera up (as delaying tactic).  But I fumbled and failed.  Mystery Man assured us not to worry —    “I am familiar with this, ” says he, “I know how to work it.”  Wow, ok.  Off from my hands and into Mystery Man’s…. the camera with Mystery Man’s own picture as the last shot.  I’ll never know if Mystery Man caught the photo that I took.  Most likely he did.  But he was nonchalant enough, or polite enough, to not say nothing of it.   When he left to go to the rest rooms, C finally asked the wife point if he was the host of some regional (Northwest) TV show.  She said yes, but clarified that he worked for national television.  He was with the BBC Breakfast show.  Apparently, the BBC is relocating some of his studios out of London and into Salford (in the case of the Breakfast Show).  And thus Mr. and Mrs. ________’s look-see into Manchester.  Below is the picture.  Can you guess who he is?  (Clue:  No, his first name is not Nick.  But it has one syllable.)

Final Notes:  The food was excellent.  The couples on either side of us were very nice.  The day was perfect.  Happy, funny, birthday to me.

_____________________________

FOOTNOTES:

*Usual Japanese teppnayaki style : 4 long tables connected on the ends to form a big square.  One-sided bar-style seating, with the chef(s) performing in the middle in front of a modern gas-powered teppanyaki griddle.

** Of course, I knew they were newly dating.  Women can “sense” these things.  And sometimes we overhear conversations.  Accidentally, of course.  :)

***  Wow, did I really just list down what we ordered/ate?  Can’t believe I did that.

****Ok, so I am slightly more blase in general but let it not be said that I could not feign enthusiasm enthusiastically.

POST POSTSCRIPT:  04/21/2011.  Mr. Turnbull will be staying on with the BBC Breakfast show and will be making the move up north.  Go Manchestah!  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-12920382

Life · Road Signs · Travel · Uncategorized · USA · Work

Meanderings

In a few days I will be headed home to the UK, and I can’t wait.  The best thing is always that moment when I finally exit UK Immigration and look through the sea of faces for That One. :)   Yeah, home is really where the heart is.  I have been musing today about how little I blog while I am in Chicago, or while travelling around the States.  I seem to dive in getting my nose dirty in books and papers, catching up with friends, finding ways to bask in the new and get back in the groove of the familiar, running around doing 3,000 things.  In short, I blog less wearing my “Miss Chicago hat” than when I am on the other end of the Atlantic “missing Chicago”.  Which really makes me think whether this whole blog needs a change of direction.  I have ideas swimming in my head.  And re-packaging, and a new related blog which may involve providing my loyal readership of four (one of whom is my husband) with US Immigration and Nationality laws tidbits and updates, may be forthcoming.  Oooh, lucky you.  (really….).

On a side note, I have a professional collaboration possibility in the UK the off-ing.  It’s not employment, and at this point in my life, anyway, “employment” is not something I am interested in.  (Did I tell you my Indian name was “Bindher Dandhat”?)  I like the freedom of being on my own.  I got an (unexpected) invite from them, but the proposal on paper seems ideal.  The talks are scheduled for the day after I arrive in the UK.  I take the train to London the next day, and am keeping my fingers crossed on that one.  My Jewish and Chinese sides tell me to keep all other details under wraps.  Wish me luck. :)

This is a picture of where I was over the weekend. I drove quite a ways to Eureka Springs. The trek was not what I expected. It was on the mountains and I was on 36 miles of steep and curvey roads. I drove through 15 mph hairpins, if that gives any indication of why I was mostly thinking.... what would this drive be like in the WINTER when covered with snow? Boooo. Scroll your pointer over the picture to find out the name of this place.
CowTown · Life · Lost In Translation · love

Wii Don’t Need That

From my desk in Chicago.

A chunk of my time when I am in the US is spent outside of Chicago. In “CowTown” as I call it, — a busy little city at a corner of a state that shares a border with Illinois. The reason for the prolonged stop here is one of my major clients. I drive down from Chicago to do practically what an in-house counsel does: make sure everything is in order from ongoing litigation, to their labor, tax, immigration, contract, and business matters. Often I collaborate with local practitioners (by “local” I mean those licensed to appear in court in that state), which often makes me wonder whether or not I should just make life simpler and apply for reciprocity in this little state to add to my New York one. But that would mean less fraternizing with other practitioners (the banter can be fun), and more work for me (bad). Better not. And anyway, the travel to CowTown is but fair. The client pays for my plane fare to and from. Who am I to complain? Until I slow down and prepare to sit for the QLTT, and qualify myself as a solicitor in jolly olde England and Wales, Life will continue to be bi-coastal. Or maybe I should reinvent myself and do something other than lawyering. Maybe tight-rope walking or aeronautic engineering. Did I go on a tangent? Back to the topic. Small towns/cities. Ah yes, small towns and cities, such as good ol’ CowTown, DO have their charm. Life is slower. Streets have no sidewalks. Food is greasy. Walmart is busy (at night it also becomes Meth Central). People take time to smile and chat. People behind the counters are sunshiney and chirpy, and… can we just cut the crap and get the lines moving quicker please!?

And quite unlike it is in Chi-Town, people here in CowTown have their gym in a box. Yup. The handful that I know have a common denominator : a Wii console with all the bells and whistles, which they use for exercise. What a beauty. Recently, I even got to run a virtual bike race at “Wii Resort” against a 4-year old with pigtails. I need not tell you who between us got to the finish line first, and who pointed her little finger upwards and laughed a hearty “hahahha you lose!”. Suffice it to say that, well… it wasn’t me, and mostly it was because I didn’t quite know the rules of the game which included, inter alia, that I had to go slow on the pedalling once in a while, to manage my energy level lest I get disabled and dizzy and faint. At least onscreen. Which is precisely what happened. Ceteris paribus therefore not knowing the rules caused me to lose to someone 1/10th my age. I do not care if you’re thinking the lady protests too much. It’s always good defense: I-didn’t-know-the-rules-and-that-I-could-slash-could-not-do-that. Good faith always accounts for something. Even in Wii matches. And believe it or not, all the humiliation of losing actually made me more interested to get my hands on one of those gadgets. I checked out Best Buy. A “bundled” set for 2 players would cost $260 at Best Buy (with sales taxes a third lower than Chicago), and the basic set for a single player is a $199 special at Target. I asked the guy at Best Buy if the baby will work in the UK, and he assured me that I only need an “adaptor” to plug into the electric socket. But otherwise, the toy is, for all intents and purposes, multi-jurisdictional.

And so that afternoon over the phone, as the 6-hours-ahead hubby called to say good night, I deliver the important news: “Sweetheart (*you need a term of endearment in these times), we really, really need to get a Wii.” NEED. Not just want. We need it for exercise. As flab-buster. To maintain good health and wellbeing. The other end of the line is quiet. The hubby is appalled. He is a non-believer of virtual life. Methuselah thinks exercise should entail gym equipment, a racket, a ball, wheels, or at least REAL sunshine. He tells me he can’t believe I am going the way of the young and misguided who type before they can write, and who live full lives in the Non-Real realm. And then he throws me this punch: “And what will they think of next? Wii sex?” Then it was my turn to be quiet. — NOW WHERE ON EARTH IS MY BADMINTON RACKET?

Some shots from the weekend (scroll pointer over photos for description):

(c) smallbatteryball photography
Art · Fashion · Scotland

Fringe Benefits

From my desk in Chicago, IL.

Today, I was complimented twice on this tshirt I got from last year’s Fringe (The Edinburgh Festival). See below. First in Wow Bao on State and Lake. And later on the 148 bus. Pleasant surprise. I didn’t realize it was THAT special. :) But anyway, the said event was held last year precisely around this time.  My t-shirt says “Aug. 7-31”.  I bet this year’s is going on right now. I will find the link and update this post later.

p.s., Update:  And indeed it is ongoing:  06 to 30 August.  Click here for the home page. Here for twitter, and here for their Facebook “like” page.

British "stuff" · British Food · British Traits · Lost In Translation · UK · Uncategorized

Ambivalently Proudly British

“Really rather good”

Originally uploaded by MissChicago

The Brits rarely hardsell anything. They are the masters of underplay and understatement. And even when they must toot their own horn, — what in the cut-throat world of marketing — they seem to be reluctant about going all-out.   I found this packaging on Marks & Spencer’s Rich Team Cream Fingers quite amusing: “Really rather good”. In America, there would be no qualms about something being “ooh oom good” or “finger lickin’ good”. But M&S proudly declare these little sweethearts to be, uhm …. “REALLY RATHER Good”.  “Really rather” sounds like an oxymoronic pair of adjectives that cancel each other out.  But somehow, knowing their British origins, it adds to its charms.  That tendency to false modesty which really translates to “Go on, YOU tell us it’s really good, because we’re not going to!”.

They are proud in their humility.  Proud that they are not proud”.  ~  Robert Burton (British Clergyman) 1574-1640.

Lost In Translation

“Engrish” Subtitles

It’s all in the ears, and to be honest, there really have been days here in Jolly Olde where I could swear I do not speak English.  We live in the “northwestern” part of England (middle part of the UK), and people here have “broad” accents.  I often wonder how C is able to tell spot a “northern” accent, or a “Liverpool”, Scottish, Welsh (ad nauseum) accents.  For me, its simpler.  You either have the BBC accent, or a “was-that-really-in-English?” accent.  Really, there must be something wrong with my ears.  But anyway,  I am of the conviction that there are way too many variations on the theme of English going around in the world.  Not the least of which is…. Chinese English.  Especially of the kind where either some high-tech, unreliable translation technology is involved; or perhaps an English-Chinese dictionary that just didn’t make it through quality control.

Recently, I found a box of  “Health Bath Salt – Natural Bathing Product” in a friend’s bathroom.  The product was “made in China” and of course, the info on the box was mostly in Chinese.  Except one of the side panels which had — yay! — some info in English….. Or is it?  Here goes —

TOBEROSE SMELL
Ingredients: Natural solar salt, vitamin E, spice food grade pigment.
Usage: Add 1 pack per use to the bathwater.
Bathing: 5-10 minustes
Benefits:
* Cleaning and moisturizing the skin.
* Sweat deodoring and refreshing.
* Smells of Charming Odor
Hmmmm….  :)
English is a funny language; that explains why we park our car on the driveway and drive our car on the parkway.  ~Author Unknown
British · British Food · Food · Life · UK

Treat or Treats

Reading through my journal notes, I found this one written about a year ago.  I’m re-posting it here, — another story about life in the UK.  Note:  this was written a couple of months after we got married in Chicago, and I moved across the pond.  :)

Today is a day of FIRSTS, and SECONDS.

My first time to tag along to C’s [i.e., the hubby]  racecar sprints.

My first time to Aintree, home of the Grand Nationals (supposedly one of the most difficult horse steeplechase courses in the world). See: http://www.articlesbase.com/sports-and-fitness-articles/history-of-the-aintree-grand-national-race-course-374614.html

My first try at a right-hand drive vehicle; and my first to revert to a manual transmission in many years.

During the lunch break of the sprints, C and I each had a medium-sized whippy ice cream more popularly known as “99”. This awesome to-die-for piece of heaven on earth is a huge, rich, creamy, milky mass of the whitest ice cream on a cone, with a little Cadbury chocolate flake on the side. You can opt to have raspberry syrup swirled on top of your ice cream. C did, I didn’t. 99s are popularly sold in soda fountain set-up moving stores (fairly large trailer-type vehicles, with open windows on the side). I love them because, unlike American ice cream, they are not overly sweet. They just taste….rich and full. I had that as dessert after a lunch that included ham sandwiches, cold chicken legs, a “Walker salt and vinegar crisps” (chips in the US), and a can of coke. Admittedly, I felt slightly guilty to indulge in dessert.

But when C clocked his personal best time today, and finished a very close 3rd in his Class, we decided to celebrate, and went back for a second round of 99 whippy ice cream. It tasted just as good as the first. This time, I felt double the guilt I had from the first one. After all, in a span of 3 hours, I had all of 198 (99, 2 times).

When we got back home, I went straight to the weighing scales. I weighed a grand total of 8 stones (dreadful and unprecedent — go figure that in lbs). Groan. I promise to have none of that for the rest of the week. :)

Happy Saturday!

More on the Whippy wonder 99 :
1.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/99_Flake
2.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/5223328.stm