Business travel diary – day 1

When does Saturday night feel like Sunday? When you have to get up early on Sunday to head off on a business trip, that’s when!

I shouldn’t bitch too much, after all I only travel for work about twice a year and I have the compensation that I get to travel business class this time. What I’m bitching about it having to travel after being sick with a cough for a week. I’m not talking a “hem-hem” kind of cough, I’m talking “HAERGH-HEARGUE-gasp-AUGH-EURGH” coughing. Coughing so hard you get a headache, so hard your back hurts, so hard you are on the verge of throwing up. The kind of cough that stops you from sleeping – firstly when you lie down and everything shifts, and then all through the night, whenever you move and things shift again and you wake up coughing and gasping for breath. So it’s this cough I’m taking with me on this trip.

Bye Bye London! – on the Gatwick Express

I’m flying from Gatwick, the airport that’s at the opposite end of the city to where I live, but that’s OK, there are good connections and it’s not so hard to get there: tube to Victoria, short walk to Gatwick Express and straight to the airport. Although I’m feeling less than positive about this trip, I’m listening to my “women singing” playlist, and the sisters have got my back. They give me a boost. In fact I have to listen to “This is my fight song” twice, and think about how I need to take back my life.

There are many nice things about business class travel – your queues are always shorter. At airport check in, at security, there is a special channel for you and it moves at much faster speed. You get access to “the lounge” – and I know business lounges are depicted as luxurious and glamourous but they aren’t really all that (except for Istanbul Ataturk Turkish Airlines business class lounge, that was something else). The lounge is mostly a buffet of average food with a free bar. The lounge is often quite crowded so any hint of exclusivity is lost. They are also surprisingly grubby – tables left uncleared, plates of half eaten food left sitting, food spilled on the floor. Maybe if you’re going on holiday and are sitting at the bar drinking champagne it’s nice but I often find the lounge is a soulless place.

So many empty seats!

I meet my colleagues at the gate – we are five on this flight. Three travelling business and two in economy. There are 12 business class seats on this flight but only five are occupied. Despite this, I still don’t get my first choice of meal.

Two types of fizz

On arrival, those of us from the front of the plane are put into a special “business class” mini van and are bussed separately to the terminal while everyone else has to get on the general bus. We also have a priority lane for customs, which is still a 30 minute wait, and don’t think about trying to sneak in either, as the customs officer checks your boarding card and if you don’t have the right one, he’ll send you back to the general queue, so your 30 minutes queuing in the priority queue are lost.

Three of us make it through customs relatively quickly. The other two brought carry-on only but I checked my bag. But my bag isn’t there at the baggage reclaim. The display says delivery is complete but there are still lots of people hanging around looking for their bags. Someone who speaks local asks a man working there about the missing luggage. He shouts through the hatch and the answer comes back that there is more luggage coming. (Why does the display say it’s finished then?) My bag eventually appears.

One of us has a separate car organised so she leaves to meet her driver. The other four of us are sharing a car. I head out with my boss to meet our driver (I love having someone to meet me at the airport. OK, so we don’t have our names on a sign but I see the company logo and I think, “Yay, that’s for me!”). We explain that the other two are still in the immigration queue and told us we should go. “No,” our driver insists. “My boss booked me to collect four people. We will wait.” In the end we wait until we are three people, and agree the driver will go back for the fourth one in an hour and a half (the immigration queue was really long and slow).

We three ladies are transported in comfort to our hotel through surprisingly light traffic for Casablanca (but then it is Sunday afternoon…) We are staying at the Barceló Hotel Anfa, a new hotel to me. It’s been recently refurbished and now has some energy efficiency features (which I’ll learn more about on Tuesday).

My room is nice, the bed is huge and has all the pillows in the world on it. Which is great because I love pillows. And with my cough I will need to sleep in some kind of propped up position to avoid coughing myself into suffocation if I lie down flat. The bathroom is one of those weird not-quite-a-bathroom situations where the shower is behind a glass wall and the basin is on an island in front of it in the same space as the bed, so if you were staying with someone, you could watch them in the shower from the bed. I don’t quite see the appeal of that but more and more hotels seem to go for this.

View from the balcony

I have a small balcony (with a view of the street) and the cupboard has normal coat hangers you can pull out. I love hotels that do this. I hate hotels that give you those locked in hangers that you have to unhook to get out and there’s never any light in the wardrobe so putting stuff back is difficult and fiddly. But bless you Barceló for trusting your guests to not steal the coat hangers. I have a safe, a minibar, a kettle, a massive TV (that I can’t figure out how to work), loads of lamps, a bright blue sofa chair and a USB charging point.

I pressed all the buttons twice and still could only get the “Welcome to the hotel” screen
Proper coat hangers!

I am slumped on the bed enjoying the pillows and playing Words with Friends when my boss calls to discuss dinner plans. She talks about logging in on her laptop (“She’s working?” I think, immediately worrying that maybe I should be working too.) After our call, I log in and look at the emails from Friday (I was officially sick on Friday so didn’t look at emails.) And because Sunday is a working day in Egypt, I see several messages in from Cairo.

Dinner is in the hotel restaurant with my boss and my engineer colleague. They have beers, I have a whole pot of Moroccan tea to myself. It helps with my cough but still I have a fit mid-dinner where I keep coughing and coughing and hoping for a break so I can breathe in and when I finally can breathe, I see my colleagues looking at me worriedly. “You need to see a doctor,” they say. Well yes, I would have done but I’m here on this trip instead.

Back to the room after dinner. Get some blogging done while listening to my women singing playlist again. Sleep in tomorrow, we’re not meeting for breakfast until 8.30am.

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