Last night I was taken out for dinner by the guys in NetNod. They took us all to a very nice Swedish restaurant down by the water in Stockholm. The menu, below, is in Swedish, so I had to get one of the local hosts to translate it for me.
The food was exquisite and wasn't all about fish!
I'm in Belgrade, Serbia, for about 24 hours as I'm speaking at an event here tomorrow.
Across the street from the hotel there's a Costa Coffee so I headed over there to grab a bite to eat and a coffee.
I'm always fascinated by the difference in pricing between various countries and how much value you can get in some places.
Serbia is incredibly good value.
My total bill today was just over €6 for which I got:
- Ham and cheese panini
- 2 x mineral waters
- 1 very large coffee
I suspect I'd have paid at least double that in Ireland.
I've been staying at Hilton hotels around the world for the last few years. One of the reasons why I use Hilton more than any other hotel group is because their Hilton Honors (sic) program is pretty good. You earn points with every stay and you can cash those in for free hotel nights, but you can also earn airmiles. So if you stay in a hotel for one night you might get several hundred Hilton points AND a couple of hundred airmiles.
A couple of years ago I was able to use the airmiles and points to spend 3 or 4 days in New York. I flew Dublin to New York business class, stayed in the Waldforf Astoria in Manhattan and the total trip cost me $20 or something (excluding meals, transfers etc).
For the last two years I've been at the top tier of their frequent traveller program, but they'd never sent me an actual physical card for some odd reason. You don't actually need the card, so it wasn't a big deal, but it was nice to get my card delivered this week. Whether I'll be able to maintain that status next year or not remains to be seen - a lot depends on where I'm going and which hotel is the best for the event both in terms of location and price.
I'll freely admit that I'm a big fan of good quality chocolate. I love it. I shouldn't eat too much of it, of course, as it's hardly conducive to weight loss..
While I was in Antigua Guatemala this week I went to the Choco Museo, which is close to the centre of the town.
They have a lovely little cafe in the courtyard which serves a range of chocolates and other drinks. I opted for the "Mayan" hot chocolate which comes out as:
- melted chocolate
- chilli powder
- hot milk
You mix everything together in your mug to make your own hot chocolate - of course with the chilli pepper you need to be careful that you only add enough to give the drink a taste and that you don't overdo it.
I grew up on the west coast of Ireland only a few miles from the Burren region. It's a beautiful part of the world and has a lot of history.
Nowadays I live in Carlow, which is in the southeast of Ireland. It too has history, but even though I've been living here for 10 years there are still parts of the area that I'm not familiar with.
One of the things that Carlow is known for is the dolmen which is located a couple of kilometres outside the town centre in the middle of a field.
Last weekend, as my mother was here, we headed out to see it. It's worth visiting simply because the stones are so damn big - how they were moved into position is a mystery:
I fly with Air France and other airlines that are part of the SkyTeam alliance. I like Air France, but sometimes they screwup. And when they do and you're on the receiving end of the screwup it can be really really frustrating.
However they have been really doing a fantastic job with handling customer service issues via Twitter.
A few weeks ago I realised that Air France had updated my flights for a trip I was taking, but they hadn't informed me. I found out when I was checking the seat assignments and possible upgrades etc., in advance of the trip. Several days later they emailed me to inform me of the change, but the email communication wasn't exactly clear. Long story short, I needed to get one of the flight changes they'd made updated, or I'd have been stuck sitting in an airport in the middle of the US for several hours when I really didn't need to be - there was an earlier connection that I could get ..
I tried to sort this out via their phone service, and they were very obliging. However I wasn't happy about how they'd handled the communications. From my perspective I thought the airline should tell me about a flight change, not the other way around ..
Their social media team reached out to me and we had an exchange via Twitter which they followed up via a phone call. And I was delighted when they offered me a carrot to appease me.
So far so good.
Now for a number of reasons I end up being invited to various events. Unfortunately when I try to get organised early this seems to work against me and I sometimes have to rebook my trips.
This week I ended up rebooking an entire trip which meant that I needed to cancel and ask for a refund for a flight I'd booked with Air France. The fare conditions did allow me to cancel the flight and get a refund, but I knew I was going to lose part of the fare. While I hate losing money I didn't really have an issue with the "penalty'". I was changing the flight due to problems on my end. It wasn't the airline's fault.
However when I tried to ring the airline to cancel the flight and request the refund I hit a brick wall. Their phone lines were constantly busy and I couldn't get through.
So I tweeted to Air France. I was expecting them to reply with a telephone number I could ring. But this is what happened instead:
@mneylon Hello Michele, If you like we can assist you with that. Please can you provide your booking reference via DM. Thanks!
— Air France (@airfrance) January 31, 2014
Handy! So I DMed them the details they needed to find the reservation.
But then they followed up with me and I was blown away:
Wow! This made my day. So not only did they manage to sort out my cancellation and refund without forcing me to deal with being put on hold etc,, on the phone, but they went the extra mile and waived the penalty.
They didn't need to do this. There was no obligation for them to do it and if I'd paid the penalty I wouldn't have been upset with them - sure I'd have been upset, but the cancellation was my problem, not theirs.
They not only provided excellent customer service by resolving my issues but went further than I was expecting and both surprised and delighted me.
And this explains, in part, why I try to fly Air France whenever I can.
One of the things I love about going to conferences in the US is that you never know who is likely to turn up.
This week I've been in Las Vegas for NamesCon which, as you'd expect, was primarily focussed on domain names and the domain name industry. However Matt Mullenweg was in town and dropped by for an additional session this afternoon.
I've seen Matt speak a few times over the last couple of years. The first time was in Budva (Montenegro) and the most recent one was at the Wordcamp Europe event in Holland. At each event the audience was very different and the questions from the audience were varied. Today was no different and it was very enlightening to listen to Mr WordPress talk about the WordPress eco-system, domains, the internet and what it's like to be an entrepreneur.
I'm in Las Vegas for the next few days at NamesCon. It's the first internet / domain industry event of 2014 and the list of speakers and attendees is pretty impressive.
I'll be speaking on a couple of panels, but for now I'm going to try and see a bit of Vegas. I was here last year for a conference but didn't get to see any of the city, which is kind of normal, but still quite annoying.
Wandering around "the strip" last night by myself it was kind of surreal. I'm not sure quite what to make of Vegas. And I really don't know which age group I fit into!
- 7 reasons why I'm going to NamesCon (domainnamewire.com)
- NamesCon Nearly Sold Out (internetnews.me)
- Talking IDNs, ccTLDs and ICANN in Vegas (blacknight.com)
- NamesCon will be biggest new gTLD show yet (domainincite.com)