July 15th, 2011

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trip advisor

For the past few years I have been lucky enough to do a fair amount of work-related travel. Some of it has taken me near (Gladstone) and some of it has taken me far (Manchester, UK). All of it has been interesting and a fair bit of it paid for by you and I, the generous taxpayers of Australia.

it is for the latter reason I have always maintained an attitude of general compliance with the rules and regulations of work-related travel, such as never consuming anything from the mini-bar (also, I cannot be arsed paying those exorbitant prices - and who can't be arsed going for a quick walk to buy chocolate?) and have always been conscious of how lucky I am to get paid to travel, and to be paid for the experience. Even when the hotel is some horrid tile-floored airport motel in KL with the most extensive buffet of positively awful food I have ever experienced in my life.


I mean, really: if the entire buffet is just basically meat-based foods of questionable origin, surely you'd think one couldn't go wrong with a bread roll? Right? But you'd be wrong: very wrong. After two attempts at the buffet and a cup of some kind of detergent-flavoured Kool-Aid, I returned to my tile-lined cold room and sat there wondering how long it would take me to actually walk to KL city itself.

The answer didn't come, so I flicked through a couple of snowy channels on the television and eventually found a reasonable hour to fall asleep for my flight the next morning.

This was way back a few years ago, and the work trip itself was great and awesome and very profitable, academically speaking of course. At the time it didn't occur to me to actually provide some kind of feedback about the hotel itself save for perhaps whinging about it on here. Since then, and for the past year, I have however been providing feedback via TripAdvisor, which I still maintain is a useful aggregator, despite its somewhat subjective nature and reports of its unreliability.

One method I have used to determine if a negative review on Trip Advisor is the result of one whingy bitch having a rant is to check how many reviews they have posted: just the one is fairly good indicator that they've made up a quick pseudonym and posted their comments in a pique fit of tantrum-itis really. Another surefire sign that the traveller in question wouldn't be happy in a pink fit is if their complaint is entirely unreasonable given the location of the hotel.

So for example, last year I chose to stay at the fantastic Park Hotel in San Francisco. Excellent room, excellent location, excellent service. In fact, the manager there was such a capital guy that when I left to embark on a trip to Death Valley National Park, I was able to leave my large suitcase there, free of charge, and use a room on my return for the day to clean up and get ready for an overnight train ride departing at 10pm that night, free of charge.

This being the case, I immediately booked in for my return few days in the Bay Area before departing from the US. Now; don't you think that kind of service deserves a mention, not only in this little corner of the blogosphere, but also on a ratings and review site?

That's what I thought: so I reactivated a dormant TripAdvisor account, wrote my little review, and have been writing and reviewing on there ever since.

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Took myself with my big warm coat and hopped on a jaunty flight to Sydneyville, a little town down South. Stayed at a very clean and reasonable Y and enjoyed wandering the Park in the morning, although it was not nearly as cold as it was expected to be. The conference itself was some kind of executive-level talkfest, where I felt quite out of place in the salubrious surrounds until I performed my little paper in a pique of nervous energy, which impressed many both near and far.

Had dinner with J at our old haunt, Betty's Soup Kitchen, now sadly slowly going down the gurgler due to increasing rents and decreasing patronage. The $9 soup (Potato and Leek, free bread on the side) is heartwarmingly good and all too cheap considering the location.

Oxford Street is a busy beehive of cyclists and convenience stores, and every second shop is a bloody franchise - very different from the days of old. I didn't want to ask J where the Pop Shop went to - one can only imagine. Apparently they have a Facebook fan page...which really means diddly-squat in retailing. At least REMO is still around, although they're increasingly in Sale mode most of the time. It can only spell bad things.

Spent some time shopping, sipping and supping with my sis, caught up with the elderly relations, and generally had a very quick, low key trip to the place of my birth and home for much of my life.
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