Business trip to Poznan Poland

Strange hotel room at the Platinum Palace Poznan
Strange hotel room at the Platinum Palace Poznan

A few of members of my team work out of our Poznan office, and although we manage to function as a team using email, phones and video conferencing there is nothing like meeting face to face. So the start of this week I will be spending my time in Poznan. The flights from Luton were a bit inconvenient, the flight there would be reasonable being at 0800 but the flight back would have meant a start at 0300 to catch the feeding flight of the 0800 out of Luton, I would prefer to avoid that. So I settled on flights from and to London Stansted, the flight out was at1235 then I would return late afternoon on the Wednesday.

i was in the office by 0730 to get two and a half hours in before having to leave for the airport. Unfortunately I could not get started straight away as there was a networking issue and I was the only person in to resolve it, I may have been better off working from home. The drive to the airport was pretty uneventful (around the M25 was clear) I did see a lorry on fire on the M11, there were flames and smoke and a driver stood well back on his mobile. I guess I may have been fortunate as there was the potential that the fire brigade would have shit the motorway due to the dark smoke.

The river that runs through Poznan

I had pre book Mid-term parking which came with the fast track service through security, which was good but did not save me much time as the queues were quite short. Air side was very crowded so they clearly shift a lot of people through so the low queues suggest to me that the airport is well run. The signs and queuing at the gate were a bit confusing and one queue were told to face the other way as they were the end not the front of the queue. Boarding was pretty smooth even though only the front door was being used to board us passengers.

The flight was pretty straight forward I used the time to catch up with emails and type up a few documents. At the other end we were quickly through security. I got the impression that Poznan is not a busy airport as there were not many people about. The taxi driver had a sign with my name on it, which is the first time I have had that, it made me feel more important than I am. It was a short drive to the Platinum Palace Residence my abode for the next two nights. The name is interesting as I could imagine that a marketing department or brand management company did some brain storming and came up with the three works and just strung them together. Platinum a rare metal so think exclusive, Palace is where monarchy live in luxury, and Residence is what they call posh hotels. The hotel was modern and all shiny inside with a big light fitting that draped down in reception. My room was very different, the door was the only black one on the first floor, and when you entered there was a shiny purple wall in front of you, with a 1m corridor down each site to the far end of the room where the bed was under the window. So essentially the room had a room within it like a Russian doll. The internal room consisted of a shower cubicle with glass doors an a W.C. with a glass door, beyond the glass doors there was a mirrored wall. The corridor around the inner and outer room was about 1m wide.

Market Square Poznan

The evenings are light so I took the opportunity to walk into the centre f the city, but not before catching up with my emails and reconciling a report. Walking into town took about 40 minutes the weather was sunny but I needed a light coat. I was heading for the old town but missed it and ended up at the river where not much happens so I turned around and headed towards to the old town using Google maps. The main square in the old town is full or bars/cafes/restaurants but there were also lots of stalls as a festival was going on. Complete with a singer and band on a stage.

I wandered around the square taking in the sites, and took the opportunity to take some hand held panorama sets, you may see the results here if they work out OK. I could not decide what are where to eat as Poland is not that vegetarian friendly, but then I spotted a restaurant that was selling Pizzas so I stopped for pizza and a beer. Suitable replete I walked back the hotel but took a different but parallel route so as to take I more of the sights.

I was in bed pretty early 09:00 I found I kept of getting woken up quite a bit as the hotel was near a main road and tram line and the trams are quite noisy as their solid steel wheels ground along the solid steel tracks. The room however although weird in its layout had air conditioning which worked so the temperature was just as I wanted it. I was up at 07:00 to give me time to have breakfast before the taxi arrived, to take me to the office in Rokietnica.

It was the first time in Poland so I was paraded around the offices and introduced to everyone before I could get a chance for a coffee. Once that was over I got down to some work with the team, the aim was fact finding and to find out what good stuff they do which could be shared across out division and suggest some of the good stuff we do in GB and Ireland that might be appropriate in Poland. The factory is in a fairly rural location and the IT guys office looks out on to a wheat filed and a scrubby but f land, I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted a Marsh Harrier quartering the scrub. Things are very civilised in Poland I was well looked after, for example in the UK if I visit a site someone will usually arrange a sandwich for lunch, in Poland you get a menu and a hot meal is delivered, on the Tuesday I had salmon and potatoes with a salad and on the Wednesday I had grilled trout and potatoes and salad, all delivered by a local company.

The guys had agreed they would take me out and show me the sights in the evening and they picked me up from the hotel and took me to an Italian restaurant that also did contemporary Polish food. I had spinach for a starter with Parmesan, followed by steamed Perch-Pike with apple and cabbage and spinach dumplings which was very nice. For dessert I has proper baked cheese cake. The guys suggested a special beer for me which contained honey in the brewing process, it was very nice. After the meal they wanted to go and try traditional vodka but I was not keen as I find it is very easy to get hangovers so I really do limit my alcohol consumption. Instead they took me a walk showing me some of the sites unfortunately I had seen most of what they showed me, although it was great to know what it was I had seen the day before, and nice to know that by just following my nose I had managed to see a lot of the things worth seeing. They insisted that we at least have one more beer and we ended up in a pool hall where we had a couple of rounds of pool. We eventually left the establishment and I was back at my hotel before midnight (just). I hope this does not become a regular thing when I got to Poland as I am not good at staying up late on school nights especially in a hotel where trams trundle by in the night.

The next morning the taxi was early and I was ready so I ended up at the office in good time 08:15 (or 07:15 UK time), my flight was at 16:05 so would have to leave at 14:00, but that would give me a chance to meet up with a couple of people in Finance and finish going through the things we had on our list, and have my chosen lunch of grill trout. The queues at the airport were reasonable long but moved long, and they opened a third x-ray machine as I got to the front of the queue. I was right about Poznan not being a busy airport there were none of the crowds that I had encountered at Stansted, there was plenty of room for everyone. Looking at the departure board there was only one screen of flights (15) between 15:30 and 22:15 which is not many.

The flight departed on time, once at cruising altitude I got out the Polish looking custard like pasty I had purchased which was very once and quickly consumed, then I settled in to the flight reading some articles I had downloaded before I departed the office, and caught up with a few emails. We used the Stansted shuttle to get back to the terminal once landed, which was interesting the shuttles are line horizontal list they arrive the doors open you get in the doors close then open again when you get to the terminal all without a driver.

The drive home was about an hour so all in all the flying and travelling was not too bad.


The Luton airport toothpaste test

W H Smiths self-service kiosks run windows XP

Another trip to Northern Ireland thankfully on a Wednesday when the airport is traditionally quiet. I was up and parked in short term in good time and ready to fave security at 06:30 with plenty of time for the 07:50 flight, and I had priority security pass booked.

There was no queue so things were looking up, but I spoke too soon, my tray with coat and liquids was chosen for a check, and it was about fifth in the queue for trust that needed to be checked. Add to that one person was on tray checking duty whilst the other people were on stand around and chat duty. Twenty minutes later after they had checked that my tube of Colgate was a tube of toothpaste, luckily they only needed a sample as we all know once the toothpaste is out of the tube you can’t get it back in.

I had about twenty minutes to wait for the gate to be announced, and splashed out on a coffee with 5 minutes to spare, I prefer to have a hot drink when I get on the plane. We were allocated gate 25 a new experience for me, it is about as far from the departure lounge as you can get but you turn right rather than left as you leave the hall.

I was informed that hot drinks were not allowed on the buses, so I assured them the drink would be cold by the time the buses turn up. We were soon on board a plane which was about 10 percent full but we had to wait a while for the aircraft to be prepared.

I was listening to a Twit network podcast called Tech news today. The big story was about Microsoft buying the Nokia mobile phone business. This has been quite some time coming. Some time ago Microsoft bailed out or went into partnership with Nokia a company that once had 40% of the mobile phone market. It now has only less that 4%, Microsoft needs away to push it’s mobile phone OS as it is supposedly having to pay Apple 30% of the revenue of Office 365 on the app store and a cut to Google at the play store. They have a long way to go because Android has an 80% share of the smart phone market. It is hard to imagine Microsoft overturning that big a share of the market, but given how closely the OS is tied to windows and the office suite they are always likely to have some sort of foot hold in the market.

Once landed, on time, at Belfast I went to the hire car desk only to find out my car was at the City Airport, that is the second time they have done that I made a point when I booked this time to stress International Airport, but the message was obviously lost. My colleague in the queue behind me had the correct booking. Apart from a short delay due to and accident I was in the office in good time to get my name on the sandwich list which has a strict closing time.

Belfast International Airport Tarmac

My day at the office was long, mainly due to a conference call at 17:00, a time when really I want to be going back to my hotel room given the early start. Any way after a chat about phone systems and then budgets with a colleague I was sat eating by 19:30. Roast Monk fish with coconut rice, stir fry Pak Choi, and curry oil was light and tasty, just the ticket. Then it was off early to bed for an early night then back to work to fight another day.

Compared to yesterday today was one meeting followed by another ranging from project updates through project launches to important “go live” decisions. We also wished a colleague luck on his wedding after the weekend in foreign parts, combined with farewell as he was leaving the team for pastures new. He will be sorely missed but we wished him well in his new challenge.

I left a little bit later than usual as we were celebrating G’s departure with tea and cakes. Even if though I left at 15:10 I was still in time to pass through security with time to spare. Gate 18 was the chosen parking spot for EZY186 today, and it departed a little bit late but nothing that could not be made up on route.

I returned to a very hot mainland where the temperatures had been 28 degrees during the day.

Priority boarding queue

Arrived at the priority boarding queue only to find that there was a queue of about 20 people, not good news. I guess the school holidays have started and the Olympics start at the end of the week, so there are more than the usual quantity of people trying to get away and others trying to arrive. The queue caused all but a minor delay.

View of Belfast International Airport run way

The queue for a newspaper was equally bigger too, but at W H Smith’s there was something that could bigger some about it. The self help tills are just crap, they ask stupid questions about whether you bought a bag or require a large slab of chocolate, but in a way that it is easy to press the wrong button, then the user gives up and a member of staff is required to enter a password to reset the machine before someone else can have a go. So that was five minutes of my life I won’t get back!

You see some strange and interesting people at airports, I guess it is not often these days that you get a chance to just sit and watch the world go about its business. I spotted a hamster with big gold sovereign rings on, a family on the Belfast flight dressed for the beach, complete with flip flops, to mention a few.

I had a bit of luck at the Avis car rental queue they have a deal where if you are a registered Avis customer and you have to wait more than 2 minutes you get a Marks and Spencer voucher worth £20. There was a long queue so I went to the counter to get my stopwatch to start the timer, but before I had a chance one of the employees was asking my name and handing me the car keys. Result.

The weather n Belfast was awful, when I got off the plane it was drizzling, and the rain continued and become heavier as the day went on. Considering that the weather in Aylesbury was cloudless skies and 30 degrees centigrade was predicted. In a way I am am probably better off in Northern Ireland and it will be difficult to sleep at such temperatures.

I checked the statistics on the blog earlier and noticed that the number of visits in July  is over 1,000 a new record and the month is not over yet. This is a result of posting on the Raspberry Pi forum on how to do the temperature logging.

I ate with a colleague fairly early on, and I had a new meal from the menu, Pale Smoked Haddock on a bed of spinach and curried sauté potatoes, which I enjoyed. I had and early night and was up early for the usual breakfast, then it was back to the off for more of the same.

I had a couple of meetings arranged, one of which was had been put back to late in the afternoon so I had had to book another later flight at 21:10. The cost of changing my existing flight was more than booking a new one so I kept the existing flight. It turned out to be a wise choice, as at about 14:30 I found out that another meeting was over running and so the 16:00 was likely to be cancelled. I thanked my lucky stars and left for the airport, I would be able to get the 17:15 and be back home at a reasonable time.

This blog is turning out to be a record of the the queues I have been in recently, today’s entry will be no exception. The electronic fuel gauge in the Fiat 500 I had hired registered petrol usage so I was going to have to fill out the hire car, which I did at the first opportunity. Trouble is it was a filling station with an attached independent supermarket, and everyone was out doing their shopping only one till was in use so I had to queue up with shoppers with trolleys full of goods, when all I wanted to do was pay for £8 worth of unleaded.

Finally at the airport there was little or no queue to get through security. I grabbed a coffee and got on with a blog post while I looked for things to photo to add some content. This posted is being typed whilst tethered to my Android phone. As you can see from the image I have got reasonable speeds. My mobile phone operator is Giff Gaff and I get unlimited data and texts for £10 per month.

The plane arrived back on time and the weather in Luton was as if someone had turned the heating up just in time for the Olympics.

Business trip part deux

Flight board Belfast airport

Just when you thought it was all over, here is the second part to my business trip. I usually try to make two days of it because there and back in one day means getting up at 05:00 and returning home at 23:00 which is a good 18 hour day.I woke up by my phone alarm at 06:55 and so quickly check the BBC news with it, not much to note except on the technology page. Seems Samsung and Apple have been told to meet up and resolve their differences in the presence of a magistrate. About time too the whole patent war thing is stifling innovation, and competition, and it is only the consumer who is losing out.

For breakfast I had a bowl of fruit, mushrooms and eggs complete with some toast. I skipped the coffee because it never tastes good, and I can get one at work soon enough. The usual eclectic mix of elevator music from many eras was being played in the back ground. It is a long time since I have heard Alan Parsons Project “when I’m old and wise?”

Weather was typical April shows when I left the hotel after checking out. The day could turn out to be a busy day we are rolling out Office 2010 to all our users, mostly citrix. Despite everyone attending a refresher conversion course there is bound to be some carnage for our helpdesk.

As expected there were some teething problems but a couple of hours most things were fixed or under stood, things had settled by lunch time. I was on the 17:15 flight to Luton so left the office at 15:15, everything is an hour later now the clocks are on summer time.

Aeroplanes Belfast

Airport security was busier I guess because it is later and a more convenient time to fly and because we are heading into spring. I distracted myself by typing the blog entry and the wait seemed trivial. I was through with an hour before the flight was due to take off.Being busier I skipped the queue in Starbucks and for went a coffee. Whilst queuing to pay for a paper in W H Smith I spoke to a young guy trying to decide whether to go for an additional white chocolate truffle bar, I warned him about the damage it might do to his teeth, he agreed. Turns out he was on a day trip from Edinburgh to the Titanic exhibition in Belfast, in my time a school a day trip never involved a flight. I wished him well.

Someone was maintaining the flight information board and I was able to get a sneak peek (see picture). Seems they use Danware to remote control the devices which run Windows Embedded.

Cockpit easyjet flight

Unusually the flight was called at departure gate 26 new for me and the end furthest gate in the airport, so I was again able to get to the front of the cattle class queue. The flight looked like it would take off on time.

There is a sign at the departure gate which list some of the things you can’t take on a flight, these include fireworks, and gas cylinders, as you would expect, but what about poison, what does that cover? There is probably chemicals in the electronic kit you can take on aircraft such as laptops and mobiles, that contain poison. What about the lithium in the batteries and the exotic chemicals in the chips they contain?

We boarded at 16:51 there were loads of speedy boarders, and looking at the cattle class queue it looked like the flight would be quite busy. Then I had a stroke of luck the front boarding steps were closed but opened as I got level, I managed to get a front row seat. Who needs speedy boarding!

Business trip to Belfast

New luton departure signs

That time has come round again for the month business trip to Northern Ireland, thought I would share some thoughts with my regular readers while I sit in airport lounges. Flight was at 07:50 so planned to leave 50 minutes later than the usual 5:15 but I woke up early and left the house just after 05:35.

Traffic at Luton was light and I was quickly able to park up and get the bus to the main building.

Priority lane tickets have gone up by a massive 33% to £4, but I still think worth the money. This trip I have decided to do without Easyjet’s speedy boarding, which if like me you can get to the gate quickly is not really of much value.
I grabbed and espresso and a pain au raisin from Pret a Manger, and settled down at a table waiting for the flight to be called. They have changed the flight information displays you now get a carrier logo and expected gate opening time which allows you to plan your coffee and/or comfort breaks.

Easyjet inside plane

We were allocated gate 11 which is the furthest gate from the lounge, which for me is good I have long legs and can walk fast so usually manage to get near the front of the queue, today was no exception 5th. Not many speedie boarders today less than 10.

When I travel I like to check in as much as I can on the social networking app is becoming more popular recently. It works like this, you use an app on your phone to check in to venues based on those in proximity to your phone. If you check in more often than another user to a venue you become the mayor and can sometimes get discounts at a venue. It has not really caught on in that sense in the UK yet. Badges are also awarded for visiting types of venue or events, for example “the great outdoor” “jet setter” wino etc etc.

We boarded the plane at 07:30, I chose a seat one row from the back on the right hand window, and I had the whole row to myself, my decision to dump speedy boarding was justified. According to my good friend Rory the back of the plane is where most survivors of plane crashes come from, with speedy boarding I tended to go for the front row where there was extra leg room, so dumping the extra charge might just save my life one day!

Easyjet aeroplane wing

I managed to grab back a few mayorships while waiting, W H Smiths, and Gate 18, I also lined up the Baggage reclaim by checking in, and tomorrow I should nail it with a second check in two days.

The plane departed a few minutes ahead of schedule, the trip along the runway was a bit wavy while the pilot/computers struggled against the wind to keep on the straight and narrow. One airborne things settled down and we were up above the clouds in the sun.

My usual way to while the time away on the flight is to attempt the advanced Sudoku puzzle in The Independent before the plane lands which I managed about one time in every three. Today went to form I got right down to about 10 squares unsolved and made a mistake! One of the things I find frustrating about Sudoku is that once a mistake has got into the grid it is nigh on impossible to work back to where it all went wrong.

The pilot announced our descent into Belfast and that we would be on stand almost 20 minutes early, that is always good news, but very loud when you are sat in the row near the speaker, which they insist on having at the highest volume.

Seagoe Hotel Seafood Medley

Peugeot 106 was the weapon provided to me by Avis, the friendly car rental company, after being in a queue of two people. Was soon on the road to the office, and got there before 10:00 the traffic was pretty quiet.

Spent most of the day in meetings, and help colleagues with things whilst I was on site, and left work just before 18:00 to go to the Seago Hotel.

I had a quick shower and headed down for some food. The selection is pretty good, and the service is super fast and very friendly. I went for the Seafood medley but substituted the boiled potatoes for chips I’m afraid. I soon polished the meal off then headed back to my room for an early night, to make up for the early start.