Friday, January 27, 2012

Good Hotel, Bad Hotel

In my first week of traveling for work, I stayed at the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown.  It was very nice.  I like the location, everyone was nice, the room layout was good, and the only real complaint I had was that a temporary tent style convention next door to the hotel made a lot of loud noise one night.

For my second week of travel, I couldn't get a room in the Renaissance.  In fact all Marriott hotels that were close to Marta stations were booked up for rooms at the rate acceptable to my client.  (I have now booked well in advance to prevent this from happening again, but I just didn't have enough advance notice to save my second week).

So... for week 2, I was at hotel that I won't mention specifically by name (hint: It's a 1 letter name that matches my maiden name initial).  This hotel was at the Buckhead Marta stop, and met my requirements for expenses.  I figured it wouldn't be too bad to spend 1 week in a different hotel.  It was only week 2, so I wasn't really committed to the Renaissance yet.

I do not like this other hotel... and now I'll tell you why. These are my impressions from walking in the door to examining my room:
  1. When you walk in to the lobby, it's slightly dark inside... What?  Are they too cool for full lighting?
  2. The lobby was full of scented candles.  I like scented candles.  We keep wall flowers in house all the time to provide a nice scent.  But this was obnoxious.  It was the sort of smell that makes a statement - a big turn off for me.
  3. The music playing in the lobby was a little too loud and unignorable.  It's was more than background music.
  4. The decor in the lobby annoyed me too... it was going for that eclectic feel, but was completely forced: "Hey look: We have a ball and a jacket and a picture display casually in a display case" - It just screamed "I'm trying too hard to impress you with my eclecticism".
  5. There weren't enough people checking in guests, so I had a ton of time to observe the lobby and form opinions 1-4.
  6. When they did check me in, I went to the elevator to meet with much confusion.  On the first floor (no basement) there was only one elevator button with a triangle pointing down.  At every elevator I've ever used before, that means "I want to go down".  But there's no down to go and there's no up button.
  7. I didn't have enough time to really assess the elevator button situation because an elevator arrived, and I took that opportunity to jump on without pressing the confusing call button. But I didn't get far, I pressed my floor number and it turned off before I saw the card reader.  I tried inserting my card to no avail.  I wound up taking 2 short rides up and down before a polite guest told me that their cards had not worked at first, and I probably wasn't doing anything wrong... I went back to the front desk.
  8. The woman at the desk reprogrammed my cards and I returned to the elevator bank.  I took another inspection of the elevator panel and noticed that the front was held on with several pieces of scotch tap.  Scotch Tape?! This time I took the courage to punch the "down" button assuming that it would work since that's the only button they have.  Behind me I hear, "Oh, Sweetie, that won't work." Now, there are multiple problems with this:
    1. It was a hotel employee that shouldn't be calling me "Sweetie"
    2. The down button is confusing enough; say something more than "that won't work".
    3. There's scotch tap holding on the panel, but you couldn't use a little more tape to put up a message explaining how to use the elevator that obviously has issues?  It's a hotel, there's got to be new confused people every day. - Put up a Sign!
  9. It turns out that you have to mash and hold the elevator button for it to work. After doing that and getting on the elevator, I try my card again.  One of the 2 cards still didn't work, but luckily, the other card finally let me go to my floor and room.
  10. In my room, I found an efficiency style bathroom that opens into the bedroom, and the shower just had a half glass wall (It didn't close completely)  The whole bathroom area is very compact, and just awkward and uncomfortable. 
  11. I didn't like the decor, but I can recognize that some people just have different taste.  What I can't get over though, is that the TV on the wall opposite the bed is mounted in front of a mirror.  So you can't watch TV without looking at yourself in the mirror.  I don't dislike looking at myself, but I'm not so vain that I need to do it all the time.  That's just weird and off-putting.
  12. The AC unit is a little weird, but I did eventually figure out how to make it quite down.  
  13. There was a nature sound machine making noises when I got to the room... why?  
And those were just my first few minutes in the hotel.  Here's a couple pictures of the room:
Cramped bathroom... note the shower wall
TV and Mirror combo

Over the course of my 2 night's stay, I made additional annoying observations:
  1. The shower is as dis-functional as it looks, and in ways that hadn't occurred to me until I had to use it:
    1. Because of the positioning of the half glass wall, you can't turn on the water without standing in the blast of the shower head.  That would be okay if they had one of those spiffy instant hot water systems, but they don't.
    2. The shower head was one of those big rain style shower heads, so I couldn't really point it away to turn on the water, and I never think those give enough concentrated water to rise well.
    3. When I first saw the half glass wall, I thought it was weird, but I figured someone had worked out the mechanics, however odd and pointless, to make it so you didn't need full covering to enclose the water - WRONG!  It got water all over the floor... and on the toilet paper which was on the wall next to the open end of the shower.  Luckily (or perhaps from learning a small lesson) they hung a robe on the hook there to somewhat shade the toilet paper so it only got a light misting and wasn't completely saturated... I didn't use the robe though.
    4. The water temperature steadily increased throughout the shower... to a point of scalding, which would generally only be a small thing, but when you add constantly adjusting the temperature to being weirded-out by the half wall, trying not to flood the room, and being unable to rinse well in the rain shower head, it's just too much.
  2. The bed was not particularly comfortable... too soft and the cushion under the sheet was lumpy.
  3. Everything started with the aforementioned initial that is the hotel's namesake.  None of the signs were straight forward because they're phrased in some convoluted way to incorporate that letter.  Too much!
  4. Once I finally learned how to use the elevators, I looked around a little more and discovered that the floor mats in the elevator are changed out as the day goes on.  Saying "Good Morning" and "Good Evening" (and those are just what I saw).  As I add this to my list, I think if I didn't already have a list of reasons to hate this hotel, I might find that a cute touch, but it really just made my eyes roll.
All in all, this hotel was way too "hipster" and full of itself for me.  I'm glad I got reservations at the Renaissance for the other weeks of my travel.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I've started a new adventure in the last couple weeks: Travel.

For most consultants, travel is the name of the game, but I have been lucky that in my first 4 years of employment, I traveled only 1 week for a new hire training class.  Now that's changed and I'm making frequent treks to Atlanta to work at my client's office there.  It's been an adjustment. 

I haven't been at this long, so I'm sure my opinions will change over time.  However, I thought I'd take a moment to share a little about my experience thus far:
  1. 7 am flights are really early.
  2. Walking to and from the office, hotel, and Marta stations is helpful in meeting my exercise goals.
  3. I don't like traveling when I need to pack a coat.
  4. Hotel quality can vary widely... More to come on this one!
  5. I think I make better use of my time at home when I know I won't be there all week.
  6. It's very tiring on travel days
  7. Thus far I've been content to relax in my hotel room... I wonder when I'll go stir crazy and look for other evening activities.
  8. At the current rate we're traveling, I'll be AA Gold by May and Platinum by August - I've never had airline status before, so I'm excited for that - Though I'd definitely give it up to stay home. (I'd have to travel every week from now to the end of the year to make Executive Platinum, so I'm glad I won't be traveling enough for that)
  9. At Marriott: I'll be Silver by February, Gold by July, and Platinum by October - I'm looking forward to a free vacation for me and John courtesy of Marriott and American points.
  10. I enjoy reading books on planes, and I haven't quite gotten myself to put down the book to work on the plane.
  11. Though I know it's unlikely, I still hope that our project work gets more remote work (from home, instead of traveling to the client site) in coming months because I just don't like be away from home.
When it boils down to it, I'd rather be home, but thus far, it's not too bad being on the road.  So that's my initial assessment of traveling for work.  I'm interested to see how much my opinions change after I've been at this for a bit longer.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My Goal

When I graduated from college, I was pretty close to my ideal weight and fitness.  Thanks to a fitness class I took in my last semester to get my last PE credit, I was exercising 2-3 times a week and I was only about 5 pounds from the ideal weight for my height and bone structure, well within the normal range for BMI.  I felt pretty good.  That was 4 years ago.

Since then, I've felt like there were more important things to do than exercise... I was dating this hot guy, ya' see... and then later, there was wedding planning (I know a lot of people get on a "must lose weight" kick before their wedding, but that wasn't a trigger for me at all).  In the first year after I graduated, I was concerned that my diet was unhealthy (see the post about my first salad at age 25), so I tracked my caloric and nutrient intake for about a month... it turns out that my diet was actually pretty healthy nutrient wise (as long as I take a multivitamin).  That was good news, but not much motivation to lose those last 5 pounds to my ideal weight or to really worry about my health at all.

I've gained 20 pounds and only exercised about 50 times since my college graduation.  The weight gain was a very slow progression, and I always told myself that I was still in pretty good shape compared to the obesity trend you hear about on the news.  For about 2 years, I've been telling myself that I need to get in shape before I have kids because if I can't get healthy now, having never been pregnant, no kids to take care of, and in the supposed "prime" of my life age wise, there's no hope for me after having kids.

This isn't a New Year's Resolution.  I made my last New Year's Resolution in my senior year of high school: Never let myself make a New Year's Resolution again... other than that last one, they never lasted past January 5th anyway.  It just so happens that after 2 years of giving lip service to getting healthier, I finally reached my tipping point over the holidays.

I think I just realized that the 20 pounds I've gained since college really is a lot (a friend of mine is 34 weeks pregnant and she's barely gained that much).  I look at some of my female family members... mom, grandmother, aunts, and cousins... they've all had children... and none of them are as overweight as me... I've got no excuse for my behavior, and I don't want to find myself unable to keep up with my kids in 5 years because I've neglected my body.

I don't mean to write this so that people will feel sorry for me, but if I put this out there, I'll at least think twice before I let myself slide.  When it boils down to it, I like the way I look (and I know John does too), and that's probably been my biggest hindrance to getting healthier.  But I can, and should be better about how I take care of my body.

This last week I started tracking what I'm eating again.  I don't intend to make major dietary changes... nutrient wise, I'm still doing a pretty decent job, but I've been using a calorie tracker that sets a target, and I have to exercise each day to get down to the target calorie level based on what I ate that day.  I'm finding that to be a neat motivation: You wanted to butter your roll at lunch, that's fine, just add a little time to that exercise. :)

I've set a 24 week plan to lose 24 pounds.  I put the weight on slowly, and I know if I'm going to make this a sustainable lifestyle, I'm going to have to take it off slowly too.  I one week in, and I'm proud to say that I'm on target for the week, and except for 1 day, I've exercised 30 minutes each day.  I know 1 week is hardly a habit, but after 4 years of nothing, it's a really good start.

1 week & 1 pound down - 23 to go!

Sunday, January 1, 2012


I like traditions.  It's nice to know what to expect and to remember previous occurrences through traditions.  John and I have a New Year's Eve tradition that we celebrated for the 5th time this year.  Every New Years Eve / New Year's Day that we've known each other, we've been at Cafe Brazil for midnight.

Cafe Brazil doesn't have any special New Year's Festivities, but they have a TV that's watching the ball in New York, and most of the restaurant participates in a pretty subdued count-down for the last 10 seconds of the year.

The first time I came to Dallas to visit John we ate at Cafe Brazil for dinner because it was one of only a few places open after the game we went to.  Then for our 1st New Year's celebration a few months later, we went to Cafe Brazil because it was open and we had enough time to get there after John finished working on the evening news.  We had wanted to go to one of the big New Year's parties in town, but it would have been a logistics nightmare by the time John got back from work. 

We eat at Cafe Brazil throughout the year because we like it, but I guess the Cafe Brazil tradition started because we were settling for something to do at the New Year.  It turned out to be perfect for us.  We're not much for the crowd of strangers party scene.  So, ringing in 2012 was our 5th New Year together, and we were at Cafe Brazil, just like 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.