Posts about travel

Coming to London

I’m going to be in London working all next week and the first bit of the week after. So I’m just hanging out on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 3 and 4. Anybody around? Drink?

Munich minutes

Just a few minutes from my first day in Munich, badly shot:

Deutschland schwitzt

That was the headline on the lead story on the TV news here tonight. It means Germany sweats, but more colorful sounding. It’s damned hot here. I feel like a one-man global warming jinx. I was in New York for unusual heat, then Florida (when they say it’s a scorcher, it’s a scorcher) and now in Bavaria. Jarvis schwitzt.

International phone tricks

Dave Winer has questions about using mobile phones in Europe. My answer (which I learned from Ken Rutkowski):

1. Get a local SIM card for GSM phone.*
2. Forward your US number to your Skype number.
3. Forward your Skype number to your European GSM number.
This way, people can call your local number and you can talk to them without paying international roaming. Calling the US won’t be cheaper on your mobile phone; for that, use Skype on your laptop while online.

* This requires that you have an unlocked GSM phone. Many GSM phones can be unlocked; just Google for those services or pay your provider for the privilege. I used a really old Nokia phone for years but got a web-ready PDA-phone in January so I can also get email on my phone — a godsend. Also, most providers in Europe sell pay-as-you-go SIM cards that don’t expire; that’s just reason No. 476 why their phone system is better than ours. The EU is also limiting roaming rates within Europe.

Also, Dave, find out whether you need an adapter on the plane for your laptop power. If you’re taking your MacBook, you have to buy that adapter from Apple and only Apple because it has the proprietary magnetic plug.

In Austin

I’m in Austin for UT’s Symposium on Online Journalism. It looks like this town has as many tattoo parlors on every corner as other cities have Starbucks. I tried to convince the leading lights of online journalism to leave the bar last night and go get tatts. Perhaps a nice Google logo. No sale. I also got to meet folks from Dell last night and had a great time. More on that later.

Silverjet & Eos

So now I’ve been lucky enough to fly both the all-business-class airlines, Eos and Silverjet, to London, as well as the Swiss all-business-class flight to Zurich. My addiction to business class and my suits are the only vestiges left of my life as a corporate executive. So here’s my report:

Eos remains the gold standard. They have fewer than 50 seats, each one a gigantic mini salon that converts to a bed at 180 degrees flat. The goodies are nice. The departure lounge in New York is luxurious and the food good. They get you a car to the airport in New York and a train ride in London, from Stanstead airport. But JFK is inconvenient for me and it costs at least 50 percent more than Silverjet (but half the price of the big airlines’ business class). If it’s not my money….

Silverjet is, appropriately, the silver-medal winner. It has 100 seats on a 767. They aren’t quite as spacious, of course, but they do lie flat, though not quite at 180 degrees. And they stay in place, which means the guy ahead of you can’t kneecap you and make you claustrophobic at bedtime. Silverjet flies out of Newark, which is quite convenient for me, and into Luton, which is small and far less harried than Heathrow. The Silverjet lounge in Newark is, like Eos’ in Stanstead, so-so (and in Newark, they couldn’t get the wi-fi to work with Macs, which drove me a bit batty). But the Silverjet lounge in Luton is quite nice, available both at departure and landing, and the check-in is a dream.

For comparison’s sake, the Swiss flight to Zurich, run by Privatair, was configured like Silverjet’s but the service wasn’t as nice. And about a year ago, I took a Lufthansa flight run by Privatair out of Munich but it had only old-style, not-flat, business-class seats. Waa-waa-waa.

The great thing about the flat-bed seats is that I get enough snoozing in to wake up a normal human on the other end and never miss a minute of work to the stupor of jetlag. It buys me a day and the way I schedule trips like my latest — with a conference and meetings with seven media organizations — that day is valuable. Really, it’s not just my leftover snobbery.

If you have the money or the expense account I recommend Eos and Silverjet heartily. They are luxuries worth the price at a better price than the big guys.

: LATER: To give further information on fares (following a comment, below), Silverjet’s run from $1,800 to $2,500 roundtrip (a premium for flexible changes). Eos’ run from $2252 to $3438 to $7500 (depending on timing).

Travelin’ man

I’m off to London for the Online Publishers Association and visits with the Guardian, Telegraph, ITN, and the other City University school of journalism. Will be blogging as wifi, meetings, jetlag, and inspiration allow.

: LATER: I’m sitting on the ground at Newark after the tow bar broke and possibly damaged our jet’s nosegear. We are waiting an hour for the engineers to inspect and see. We’ll see whether SilverJet is as good as Eos in these circumstances.

Davos07: When not in Rome….

A few in a series of random, personal observations about a week in Switzerland:

* Went out to dinner tonight in Zurich and ended up in a restaurant with Fondue. I feared it was a tourist cliche, but everyone in the place, tourist and native alike, was dipping into pots of cheese. So, what the hell, when not in Rome, don’t have the pizza. So I ordered it.

It’s an insane dish, when you think about it: The inside-out grilled-cheese sandwich. Swiss nachos.

I dipped and swirled my bread cubes until I was stuffed. All the while, could feel my cardiologist on my shoulder plugging me into a wall socket. My cholesterol was high a few weeks ago and I vowed to get it down on my own, since I’ve been good before. I had six weeks to get it into shape but at week 4, I ended up in the land of fondue, raclette, chocolate, butter, and strudel. Doomed, I’m doomed.

Anyway, I ended up unimpressed with fondue. I remember having it many years ago, when it was supposed to be the trend sweeping America and my parents bought a pot they used exactly once. Times have changed. So has my heart. I’m going back on my sushi diet.

* One thing I was looking forward to spending a week in Switzerland was stretching my bad German. I’ve taken some lessons lately and I wanted to try out the new moves. But at Davos, all I learned was to pronounce the town da-VOS instead of DA-vos. Everyone there speaks English, even if you try to speak German. I suppose I understand; it is the lingua franca they use with the international crowd at the World Economic Forum. But I was disappointed… until I did find some people who’d speak German, but they spoke Schweizer Deutsch, which is about as hard for me to understand as Norwegian — and doesn’t sound much different, with an entirely different rhythm and lyric and sound. I’m doomed to be a unilingual American.

And, by the way, I felt terribly inferior around the WEF staff, who speak handfuls of languages.

* The only time I was in Switzerland before, it was to get from Geneva to France. So this was a first. What struck me in a shallow week’s time is that this is a practical more than a charming country. Not saying it doesn’t have its charm (and, Lord knows, beauty); it’s not a criticism, just a contrast. Germany seems to work hard to push the charm, even though its historical ethos is obviously manufactured and one could see reason not to do so. Switzerland, on the other hand, has history that was not destroyed in war, yet I see less of it here than in Germany. The architecture, signage, and even fashion looks quieter, more efficient.