Thursday, February 12, 2009
A Pint of Guinness and a Corner Seat in Scottish Pub
This is the first blog entry that I have penned from a foreign country. Today’s blog is coming to you from Glasgow, Scotland in the United Kingdom. This is my first international trip in a little over 3 years. In some ways I am very apprehensive to be here as this is the furthest I have been from Zack in years. In other ways I am very excited to be here. I loved getting that first stamp in my new passport. (My old passport expired on July 18, 2008, so before this trip I had to get my passport renewed.) My trip to Glasgow was uneventful. I arrived at the airport in Denver around 10:30AM for my 12:10PM flight to Newark. I was flying on Continential – an airline which I have not flown frequently and on which I have no “status”. During the height of my flying days I had one of the absolute highest statuses on United – I was a Premier Executive 1K flyer – which meant that I flew over 100,000 miles per year on United. As a result of not having any status on Continential I would be flying coach class the whole way from Denver to Glasgow. The flight to Newark went off without any problems and I arrived on time. There was a 2 hour layover before the flight left from Newark to Glasgow. I spent most of the 2 hour layover on the phone talking to Zack, Nancy and my brother. We were dealing with a crisis at home as Lex had a significant cut on his foot and had to spend half the day at the vet. At 7:00PM promptly the flight boarded and then backed away from the gate at 7:40PM. The plane was a 757 – which is a two engine plane that can seat about 220 or so passengers. This is the “smallest” airplane that I had ever flown across the Atlantic. I was in window seat and thankfully there was no one in the center seat – so I had a bit of room to stretch out. Right before the plane boarded I took a sleeping pill so I that I could get a little bit of sleep on the flight. The flight really wasn’t that long as the flight time was only scheduled to be 5 hours and 56 minutes. But I figured I needed to sleep as much as I could as I needed to go straight into the office once I arrived in Glasgow. After eating dinner I closed my eyes and slept fitfully for the next 4 hours. Once the flight attendants came around with breakfast and hour or so before landing I woke and didn’t fall back asleep. Once we landed in Glasgow, clearing immigration was a breeze. I was through all the checkpoints and in the main airport within 5 minutes of landing. After a quick clothes change, teeth brushing and face washing in the “toilet”, I was on my way to the taxi stand to find a ride to the IBM facility. After arriving at the expansive (and I do mean LARGE) IBM facility in Greenock, I survived an entire day of meetings without falling asleep. By the afternoon I was consuming large quantities of coffee to keep myself awake. The interesting part of my travel started after work was complete. Getting from work to the hotel in central Glasgow brought memories of reading “Thomas the Tank Engine” stories to Zack. The IBM facility is located along a “branch line” railroad that is serviced by a small little two car train. It was funny waiting along the rail line for this train to pull up and then for the few of us who were there to get aboard. It just brought a huge smile to my face as I thought through all the stories of Thomas the Tank Engine and his branch line I have told Zack. So it was very cool! My first evening in Glasgow offered me the opportunity to go out to a big dinner with my colleagues from IBM. There were about 20 of us participating in this workshop and about 10 different countries are represented among us. So I would have loved to go out to dinner and have some very interesting conversations with my compatriots, but I was just too tired to think of being out until 11PM or later local time. Instead of going out to the big dinner, I took off into the streets of Glasgow in pursuit of a few things I had forgotten at home. I ended up walking through much of the central city and of course ended up back at the main train station. I found the things I needed – a comb and an electrical adapter and then headed off to find something to eat. I wandered through the streets of Central Glasgow before settling on a pub called the “Goose”. It was nothing special, but it offered me the opportunity to experience a little bit of traditional “British Pub life”. I went to the bar and ordered myself a pint of Guinness (you have to have a Guinness when you are in an Irish or British Pub!) and a “steak and ale pie with chips and mushy peas”. When you order in a pub like this you give them the table number of where you are going to sit and then a wait staff person brings the food out to your table. I found a table in the corner and sat back to wait for my food and watched all the coming and goings in the bar. I always find it interesting to observe life when I am traveling – to watch the interactions of the people and see what life in the country I am visiting is really like. When my food arrived I took my time eating and finishing my Guiness. It was just very cool to spend my time there observing and watching. After dinner I returned to the hotel and quickly fell asleep. Unfortunately, my sleep was quickly interrupted as I awoke at 1:30AM local time in the midst of a coughing fit. Once I woke up…. I wasn’t able to fall back to sleep until almost 4:00AM. This was not the way I wanted to spend my night! Despite only getting several hours of sleep I was able to function on my second day in Greenock. It’s been an interesting trip so far. I hope to be able to document the rest of my travels in the coming days. Hopefully I will also get to be outside when it is light so that I can take some pictures of the area around Greenock and Glasgow and post them to the blog. But for now – peace to all!