Four weeks living in a hotel room at Southampton,UK

My first week

I arrived at Southampton Airport around 5:45 pm and Sam Parker (the General Manager of Powerwaves) was waiting for me. I was so grateful that he picked me up and took me to the hotel after a long day traveling. He gave me a short tour of the historic highlights in the local area as we drove from the ariport to my hotel, Jurys Inn Hotel in Southampton. I learned a few things I did not know, for instance that Southampton is the place where they made the famous combat airplanes of World War II “The Spitfire” . I have to admit that I’m an airplane fan. Actually, there is a Spitfire set as a monument on one of the roundabouts near the airport. The route from the airport to Southampton is very beautiful as there are a lot of green fields and natural parks. Before we went to the hotel, Sam took me to Southampton city centre and to the docks and he showed me the pier, where I have to take the ferry to go to the office. Yes, I have to take a ferry to the office!!!!It´s very different from how I go to work in Madrid!  After the brief  tour, I finally arrived at the hotel and Sam helped me to check in. Then we had a pint of beer in the hotel bar. Sam was very welcoming and kind to me. By this time I was very tired, so when he left the hotel I had a cup of English tea at the restaurant and I went straight to bed.

Before Sam left, he told me he would pick me up at the hotel at 08:30 am the next day to take me to the office. I set my alarm clock for 06:30 am., however I woke up even earlier than I had planned because I forgot to change the time of my mobile clock and there is one hour time difference between England and Spain, so I ended waking up at 05:30 am. It was not so bad because I had enough time to unpack my suitcase and put my clothes in the wardrobe. After I got ready, I had breakfast and then Sam picked me up to go to the office at Hythe Marina, where he kindly introduced me to my new colleagues. Everybody was so kind and friendly with me. We had a staff meeting with the events team – Sam, Melissa, Amy and Phil are the members of this team – and I took advantage of this meeting to give them all the souvenirs from Madrid that I brought inside my “Interchange Gift Box”. They were very happy with all the presents.

All the members of the team had arranged a surprise for me and Amy (“my buddy”) was in charge of giving me that surprise. She drove me to Brokenhurst a town 15 minutes away by car from Hythe’s Marina, where they managed to find a second hand bicycle and some accessories (bike night lights) for me to go everyday to the office (I love riding on a bicycle and they knew it from our correspondance before I went to the UK). Beaulieu was another lovely town in the New Forest area that we passed by on our way and Amy kindly drove me to a beautiful place call The National Motor Museum, property of Lord Montagu a famous personality in the UK.

After lunch, I joined a meeting with Melissa and Christelle (a Sales Executive of an international hotel, resort and conference destinations brand), who was visiting the office from France. Melissa is thinking of including one of their hotels in Chantilly, France for one of the proposal programmes for a client. At the office I started working on a Barcelona and Madrid proposal for the same client next year.

On Wednesday morning, Sam picked me up at the hotel and drove me to the HRG’s Head Office at Farborough, a town 1 hour to the north from Southampton by car. This town is famous for the airplanes exhibition that takes place there every year.

There, we went to a meeting with Stewart from the Human Resources department, who by coincidence is going to participate in the Interchange Program in two weeks time to China, so he is trying to learn some basic Mandarin before he goes there. The main purpose of the meeting was to point out the skills, that according to the Manager of the HRG Event team (which in this case is Sam), which each member of the team needs to be the best in their area. Sam finished filling in some forms and he introduced me to some members of Human Resources department and other HRG departments, then we went out to get something to eat.

After we got our sandwiches, beverages and snacks we went to the train station to get the train to London because we were invited to a conference. We arrived at London Waterloo train station with enough time, so Sam took me for a walk around some places of interest in the city like Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Piccadilly. When we finished our walk, we attended the conference that was organised by a company , who had invited some personalities of different areas in the UK such as sport stars, sailors, teachers, writers, etc who gave speeches and presentations of how they managed to solve all the problems and barriers in their specific fields to finally end up with a successful career. The company that invited us provides this kind of activities to companies who want to have events or meetings to encourage   their employees. I really enjoyed that conference.

The next day – Thursday – I was in Canterbury, Kent. I had asked Sam if I could have the day off to be in this town very early in the morning, so he gave me the day off and I took the coach to Canterbury on Wednesday evening from London’s Victoria Station. I arrived at the town around 9:30 pm and walked to the backpacker hostel that I booked the night before. It was very funny to stay in this kind of accommodation, specially sharing room with younger people than myself. I have to confess that I was very worried about annoying the rest of my roommates with my loud snores but I found out that there was a guy who snored more than me in the room.

The reason why I had to be in Canterbury that day very early in the morning was to meet my best friend Ivan, who is working in a cruise ship that stopped in Dover, Kent. It had been more then two years since the last time I saw him, so it was very nice to see an old friend and include it as part of this Interchange experience. Our meeting had a delay because a tree fell down on the train tracks, so the train arrived late to the station. After he arrived we went to visit what perhaps is the greatest tourist attraction of Canterbury: The Cathedral. We also walked around the town until my friend had to get his train back to Dover at 2 pm. At the mean time I got on the next coach to London and then back to Southampton. It was a long day because I got stuck in a traffic jam for 2 hours before the bus could get into   London’s outskirts, but in some way it wasn’t so bad because I had a sort of coach tour of London (the coach was going very slow) and it is the first time I have been to Heathrow Airport (just the outside) without having to get a flight.

Thank goodness it is Friday! – I am tired and trying not to catch a cold because my throat is starting to bother me due to the English weather. When I arrived at the office this morning, the first thing I found on my desk was an email from the Interchange organisation, asking me if I want to participate in an article of SPIRIT magazine and guess what is going to be my answer: yes! It is going to be my pleasure. I have been writing this report during this morning after 2 days out of the office and I really want to say that working in this lovely office, located in a beautiful and peaceful marina and in addition with a very English clock that rings its bells every 30 minutes reminding  me the famous “Big Ben” in London, is quite a luxury!. This afternoon Sam is going to tell me how to get the ferry at the pier near to the Hythe’s Marina, so next week I will be able to get my own way to the office – I will tell you more of how my bicycles adventure goes in the next report!

For now this is all from Southampton.

My second week

On Friday evening after I left the office, Sam took me to the pier in order to buy a “ten trips” ticket bonus for the Hythe’s ferry service. The pier is not just a pier, it is a very special place that withholds many stories. As the pier is very long, it has a small train that goes from the  sale tickets window to the boarding area. This train is made of wood and it is very old and traditional. It goes through rail tracks parallel to the cyclist and pedestrian area. Walking along the pier, I realised that people had written messages on the wood . You can see many types of messages ; love for ever declarations, families , engagements dedication, sailors names and many more. This place has been an eye witness of many important events in UK and world  history. Southampton was one of  the boarding ports of  the British and American NAVY  for the invasion to Normandy (D day) in the World War II and it was the  departing port of the famous Titanic, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth etc.

After the visit to the pier, I had my tea at the hotel’s restaurant and then I went to my bedroom for “my final landing” till next day. However, it would just so happen that at 01:30am the fire alarm started to ring and this tremendously annoying noise woke me up from my wonderful “run way bed “. At first I did not know what to do, so I walked around my room for 2 or 3 minutes thinking that my room was the only one with that horrible noise but finally I decided to go out of the room and down through the emergency stairs from a 9th floor to the reception desk. Of course by that time I realised that it was a fire practice for the hotel and firemen but it was quite an experience because  it was the first time that it has happened to me  in a hotel at 01:30 in the morning. A Japanese guy and me were the only ones wearing pyjamas and flip flops in the hotel’s reception since everyone else got fully dressed before going downstairs as they realised it was a drill.

Next day on Saturday, I woke up late to have my breakfast and I came back to the room because it was raining. When the weather was better I decided to go out and see the city centre. A lot of people were shopping in the street and I finally found an internet café so I could write to my friends and family. On Sunday I did exactly the same and also I went to pump up my bike tyre. I think the people who saw me in the street thought I was a little bit weird because I was only carrying my bike tyre with me, so some boys in the park asked me: “Where is your bike mate?”. A few days later, I asked myself the same question.

On Monday morning I felt really bad because I had a cold. I was coughing a lot and could barely breath properly but despite of that I took my bike to go to the ferry’s terminal and then I went to the office. It only took me 10 minutes to reach the ferry terminal as I had planned out the route there the day before. I took the ferry and it only took 13 minutes to reach Hythe’s Pier and another 5 minutes to get to the office on my “new” bicycle. At the office I helped Melissa to arrange all the Power Waves invitation post cards in order to send them to the customers . I was in charge of putting all the labels with the names and addresses of the guests. At the same time I was doing some research about the incentive program they want to offer in Spain. In the evening, I took the same route back to the hotel although it was really chilly, especially on the ferry. When I got to the hotel, I locked my bike up outside the hotel’s entrance as I always do. That was the last time I saw my bicycle.

Next morning, I approached the place where I had parked my bike, only to realise that there was no bike . I would have liked to have seen my face in a mirror because my mouth was completely open and I just could not believe that this had happened to me. I turned around, walked straight to my room and called Sam. We finally spoke to the reception manager in order to report the incident to the local police, so my bicycle adventure finished before it even started. I guess that things like this happens everywhere, doesn’t it?.

Back at the office, everybody was supportive and very sorry about my loss. I continued with the mailing job because we had to send it before midday. At dinner time, I went with Melissa to the village post office to send a box of Power Waves promotional post cards. My Gift Box started to be filled with souvenirs from the local area,  such as a New Forest  pony doll, an official English Rugby team key ring, a local sweetie from Lymington called Cruffles , a shaving and a dental set of Molton Brown brand from London, a promotional Power Waves massage ball  and tourist  brochures of Winchester.

On Wednesday, Phil one of my colleagues at the office picked me up at the hotel very early in the morning. We went to a “Team building” event in a sort of Meeting and conventions complex called Stone Leigh Park that is located very close to Warwick but some 3 hours away from Southampton by car .All of us agreed that it is a very “weird” place. The event that took place there was for an important HRG client, so we went there to help the other colleagues from another company that worked in association with Power Waves. The activity that we had to organise is called “Cogs Exercise”. The exercise was about using 5 cogs that represents 5 strategic areas of the company and fitting them together. However the cogs cannot be completed, if  all the areas are not built or fitted in a certain order. I was in charge of explaining to the participants one of the activities which consisted in answering 30 questions in 15 minutes working as a team. They had to answer as many questions correctly as possible in the time frame in order to successfully gain the teeth of the cogs. When we finished the activity and we drove back to Southampton. That afternoon the weather began to change and it turned into a sunny day.

Thursday! That was definitely  the best day so far that I have had during my two weeks here in Southampton. The sunshine finally came out and the views of the harbour completely changed. At the office, I downloaded all the pictures of Wednesday’s event onto  Sam’s computer. A lady from the leisure travel department, asked me for some help to find a place for a British-American family (16 people) that wants to have a special holiday next summer in a place in US or Canada, so she gave me some information about the client. At the same time I began my second week report. After we left the office  Sam, Amy, Phil and I went to Lymington, a fisher village 5 minutes by car from the office . They invited me for a  beer and then we jumped on to a small boat to the Isle of Wight. The landscape was simply amazing, the sea was very calm and the sky was a very deep blue. I took a lot of pictures of the yachts, boats, ferries and specially of the spectacular sunset that made a perfect contrast with the old bay forth and the light house. We finally arrived to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight and ate a delicious fish and chips, specially made for us in a restaurant called Saltys. The owner of the place, Mr. Salty attended us personally and he was such a character. After we finished our meal we came back  to  Lymington Marina. The sky was full of stars and I was lucky enough even to see a  “shooting star”.

Friday and it is still sunny, I got the ferry and it was the fist time I could take some pictures of my daily journey. At the office, I finally received some information about suppliers in Spain for the programme I’m working on. This weekend  we are supposed to have good weather too, so I plan  to enjoy it!.

This is all my news from sunny Southampton!!!!

My third week

On Saturday, Sam his girlfriend and some other friends picked me up at the hotel and we went to a traditional English pub to watch England play against Australia in the Rugby World Cup. The atmosphere was excellent and it was very funny to see how Sam is a passionate fan of Rugby, fortunately England won the game. After the game, just the men and one of the girls with her boyfriend, continued with the victory celebration in a cocktail bar. The day would not have been perfect without having a dinner in the best Indian restaurant of all Southampton called “Kutis”. The food was excellent and it had a very particular Indian decoration with a dominated color: Purple.

Sunday was a city tour day. I went to the tourism office to collect some tourist information about the city and the surroundings areas. I started walking around the old city walls and historic sites until I got to the Ocean Marina, which is a very nice residential area close to the Southampton aviation hall and the cinemas. As soon as I realized that it was a cinema, I bought a ticket for the next movie session. In my opinion the price was more expensive that what I normally pay in Madrid (half of the price) but al least the English movie that I watched was very good, so it was worth the money.

Back at the office on Monday, Amy my “buddy” took me to a very curious but at the same time creative event at Hampshire Four Seasons hotel; a very luxury 5 stars  hotel  located in beautiful area close to a town called Hook. The event was a team building activity for a group of 17 people from the company “lastminute.com” . The team building was divided in two activities and groups. One was about a dog training and weasel competition. A very typical countryman from York was the trainer of 4 dogs and 1 tiny little puppy. He was in charge of teaching each member of the group how to train the dogs by giving them some instructions so they were able as a team to control the dogs. At the same time the other group was doing a different activity, which consisted in a farm lady with a lot of animals such as ducks, geese and two shepherd dogs. This lady was in charge of making the group work as a team in order to take the ducks and geese to their respective farmyard with the unconditional help of the shepherd dogs, who normally do the same with sheep. My duties were to deliver the coats to the members of the team as well as giving them the health application forms and carrying all the necessary material (coats, beverages, and pens).

Tuesday and Wednesday were office days and I was working on contacting the Spanish suppliers for the activities we want to include in the Spain event proposal. The main activities are going to be a driving experience that could be either a powerful car racing demonstration with professional drivers and pits stop simulation activities or a 4 by 4 circuit and a regatta competition. The cities we are thinking in are: Barcelona, Madrid and Majorca island.

On Thursday, I finally received the phone call of one of the people who works in the Catalonian circuit and for the driving activity in Barcelona and she gave me more details about how we could organize the event. She is going to send the whole program with prices next week. The same day I was going to receive a very special visit from my girlfriend, who is English but she is living with me in Madrid, so on this occasion she was a visitor in her own country. I met her at the hotel. She was very tired because the airplane did not land in Bournemouth because of the fog and so it finally had to land in Bristol, so she took 3 hours to get  to Southampton. We had lunch in a very traditional English pub located in the city centre just on the way to the pier. We then took the ferry to Hythe and when we got to the office and I introduced her to all the office staff. After I finished work, we walked around the casino and restaurant areas, drunk a beer in a Pub and went  to do some window shopping at the biggest shopping centre of  the city called West Quay.

A family weekend was about to start on Friday. My girlfriend’s parents came down to visit us from Shrewsbury. The arrived at lunchtime and we had a wonderful Roast dinner meal in Hythe’s Pub called Lord Nelson. Tonight we are expecting to have dinner at the hotel and go out with them and with a couple, who are coming from London to meet us.

This is it from foggy Southampton!!

My fourth week 

On Friday on my way home from work, I was very lucky to see the Queen Elizabeth II cruise ship departing from the docks, so taking advantage of this opportunity I took some pictures. That evening after we (my girlfriend, her parents and I) ate at the hotel restaurant, we met a couple of friends who had come down from London to visit us, we walked all the way down to the restaurant area. We finally got to the Piano Bar close to the “Mint Casino”, where the atmosphere was very good and we stayed there for a while until we decided to go to The Grapes, which is a very traditional and famous pub in Southampton. It was a wonderful night as I got spend it with my girlfriend, her parents and my friends.

The next day in the morning, we took the ferry to Cowes on the Isle of Wight and we spent the whole day there. Despite of the fog in the morning the weather improved during the rest of the day and we enjoyed of a pleasant temperature. We arrived at West Cowes and then took a bus to Newport, which is the capital of the Isle. There, we bought a full day ticket to use the bus service. We went to Ventnor and then onto Shanklin, where we got off the bus. We went for a coffee, walked around the old part of the town before heading to the beach area. There are many beautiful and big houses around that area where you can also find hotels and B&B. There is also a lift that takes you from the cliff top down to the beach, which I would normally call  “visual contamination”, however the landscape was very beautiful. We walked from Shanklin  to Sandown the seaside promenade. It was very curious to see the little and colour full “beach kiosks” where some people have all their beach kit (surf boards, sun umbrellas, etc) and even a small kitchen inside. We got to Sandown and the first thing that we saw was a bizarre 1980’s style Pier with many neon lights advertisements. There, we got in the bus to Ryde where we went for walk around the town. From Ryde’s Pier you can take a Ferry to Portsmouth, actually the people can see Portsmouth from the Pier. After I bought some souvenirs, we took our last bus to Newport and then to West Cowes where we got in the next ferry to Southampton. We arrived at Southampton Town Quay Marina around 9 pm and then watched the Rugby World Cup Semi-final game England versus France at the hotel’s bar; it was a very exciting game with a great atmosphere because England won.

Sunday was our last day together with my girlfriend’s parents. They were very kind to drive us around the New Forest area. We went to Beaulieu, Brockenhurst and before we went to Lymington we stopped many times to take pictures of the wonderful views, it’s amazing to find donkeys, horses,  ponies and cows in the middle of the road. We arrived in Lymington at midday, where the weather was better than the day before and we took a walk around the marina and enjoyed looking at the variety of the yachts and boats. When we finished there the car was waiting for us to take our last trip of the day to Winchester “The King Alfred City”. It only took us 25 minutes to get to the city and the first place we visited was the Cathedral were many Kings and British personalities are buried. More recently it has become famous as they have used the cathedral to record films such as The Da Vinci Code, The Golden Age and Elizabeth. By visiting this city and its historic places I have learnt more and had a better idea about the history of what it is now the Great Britain; King Alfred statue, The Wolvesey Castle, The Winchester College, The Pilgrim’s Hall , Jane Austen’s House and the City Mill. It is amazing how we managed to fit so much in to one day.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time see the famous King’s Arthur Round Table but instead we enjoyed a tasty and very English Roast dinner in a local pub.

On Monday evening, after I went to the office and worked on the Barcelona proposal, we had a wonderful dinner with all the members of the Powerwaves team in an Indian restaurant called “Tiffin Club”. The food was very good and it was not so spicy. In this restaurant I felt like I was at home because it is not a very big place and it has such a warm atmosphere and much more when the chef came out from the kitchen and asked us personally if we enjoyed our meal.

Tuesday was the beginning of my farewell. In the morning my girlfriend flew back to Madrid, so I helped her with the suitcase and waited for the taxi to the airport. When the taxi arrived I kissed her and said “See you in 2 days darling “. I got to the office around 11:00 and finally received all the information I was waiting for to complete the Barcelona proposal, so I almost finished it in the rest of the day at the office. When I arrived to my room I started packing my suitcase and thinking in going back home.

After a rainy night, the sunshine appeared to give me  a beautiful good bye on my last day in the city. I am trying to hold onto to every single detail of the city in my head but it is easier to do with the help of my camera. I managed to take a picture to two squirrels that were standing up eating a nut. It could so

unds silly, but having on my way to the office, beautiful parks full of squirrels with a marvellous autumn views or getting a ferry from a Pier to go to the other side of the bay where the office(the place people go to work everyday!) is located in a charming Marina  is everything but common for me. Because of the Sunny day today, on the ferry I took my last pictures on my way to the office. Today at the office after I finish this report I going to finish and give all final details of the Barcelona proposal to all my colleagues, I hope it will help somehow. This evening, we are going to have my farewell dinner in a restaurant on the Isle of Wight. I am sure is going to be a lovely trip with many pictures to take, let’s see if I am lucky enough to see the famous Needles before I fly back to Madrid.

It couldn’t be a better goodbye!

So long  charming Southampton!  So long tiny Hythe!

In Spanish: hasta siempre  Southampton!

Germán Suárez C.

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