Monday, 24 July 2017

Loads of cycling!

It was a busy weekend on the cycling front. First, a ride to the good old Tatsfield Bus Stop with Andy during which we narrowly avoided a soaking. The original plan had been to ride to Westerham for breakfast at the Tudor Rose, but the weather was looking decidedly dodgy so we opted for the safe option and rode to the bus stop instead.

All the way there – we decided to follow the slow route up Beddlestead Lane – there was the threat of  rain, but we remained dry. It was only while enjoying tea and biscuits under the cover of the wooden bus shelter that the rain started to fall. We watched it and waited and when the coast was clear, so to speak, we jumped on the bikes and headed for home, following the 269 into Warlingham where we parted company.

Andy wasn't riding on Sunday so I took the opportunity of riding over to Epsom to fix Bon's puncture. I left the house around 0726hrs (in fact, I definitely left the house at that time) and reached Epsom by 0818hrs, roughly 50 minutes later.
Woodmansterne Green, Sunday 23 July 2017

The ride to Epsom is fairly straightforward and involves riding the same route we use to reach Woodmansterne Green, but instead of turning left by the lavender fields on the outskirts of Carshalton I kept riding until I eventually arrived in Banstead where I continued straight towards what is known as the 'Mad Mile' (or rather the top of it). I then crossed the A217 and rode down towards what used to be the Drift Bridge Hotel (it's now flats) where I swung to the right, under the railway bridge and then immediately left. At the lights I turned right, then first left and soon I was a Bon's house.

Bon put the kettle on and for a short while we wandered around the garden, chatting about this and that before I reached for the leeches and got down to the business of fixing the puncture. Bon has a Cannondale with a roughly similar specification to my Specialized Rockhopper, but he had a rear wheel puncture. Fortunately, the Cannondale has quick-release wheels, which makes life easier, and soon the puncture was fixed.

Bon joined me on my return ride as far as Woodmansterne Green, taking me through the High Beeches housing estate and then along an off-road track that emerged close to Banstead railway station. We headed back over the A217 at the top of the aforementioned 'Mad Mile' and rode towards Longcroft Avenue, a right turn a mile further down the road. When we reached the green we stopped and chatted before Bon decided to head for home and I pushed on into Carshalton to see mum.

Unfortunately, my car had broken down on Saturday, stranding me temporarily in an Esso Garage in East Grinstead (new alternator needed). I still don't possess a car as I write this, which, in all honesty, is no bad thing, but not having a car at the weekend means it's difficult to get over to see mum unless I rely on the bike. So, being in Woodmansterne, I gave mum a call and around 20 minutes later there I was, eating cake and drinking tea and making small talk with mum. I left mum's around 1100hrs and made my home following the usual route. There's a nice stretch of off-road track along the road leading to the lavender fields so I used that and then found some more off-road tracks on what amounts to the Croydon Road towards Purely where I rejoined Foxley Lane and wound my way into Sanderstead where I tackled the South Face of West Hill.

Later in the day I went for brief ride around the block and I think I must have whacked myself out because I had the feeling of fidgety restlessness which used to be called 'over tiredness'. I had a strange hunger that persisted until the sun went down and I hit the sack early to avoid eating too much bread or breakfast cereal. You'll be appalled to note that on Sunday I ate four Shredded Wheat – two for breakfast and two for (ahem) 'dessert' after dinner.

While I had toyed with the idea of riding to work, the rain gave me an excuse to leave the bike in the garage and now I'm looking forward to next week's ride with Andy. Bon said we should both ride over to Woodmansterne again – he has a point!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

BBC salaries fiasco – and what a fiasco!

How terrible that some BBC presenters are getting paid ridiculous sums of money for jobs that are not in any way important in the greater scheme of things. How can it be right, for example, that Alex Jones and Claudia Winkleman are earning more than, say, a heart surgeon, or any surgeon for the that matter.
Winkleman

Now, before anybody gets on their high horse and starts berating me for not dealing with the bigger issue (that the lion's share of the big Beeb salaries are taken by male presenters) I don't want to get into the gender arguments; I just want to discuss the whole value equation because there must come a time when the sum of money paid becomes meaningless. Take yours truly, for example. If I was paid £500,000 per year based on my current lifestyle, there's no way I would get anywhere near to spending it all. I'd be able to save a good £400,000 per annum if not more because, let's face it, who really needs more than £100,000 per year? I get by on far less and I've got all the outgoings of most people: kids, mortgage, bills, the usual stuff.

My opinion is this: there are people, like Andrew Marr, Andrew Neil, the big political journalists like Laura K, Nick Robinson, John Humphrys, Emily Maitlis, Kirsty Wark and so on who bring something special to the party. They know their stuff and can be called upon to give our politicians a good grilling when required. And there are, of course, other experts, people like Chris Packham, but outside of that, the big salaries for television presenters are obscene and shouldn't be paid. Not to somebody who is simply presenting a programme like The One Show or Strictly Come Dancing.

Look, I'm not saying that Alex Jones and Claudia Winkleman are doing a bad job, they're not. They are probably good at what they do, competent presenters, they've been trained up, they know what they're doing, but surely £450,000 to £500,000 per annum is simply too much for what they do.

The BBC could save a lot of money if they employed me to present The One Show. How much would I demand salary-wise? Well, let's say, at the top end, £100,000, but certainly no more, and I'd be happy to take a much lower starting salary, let's say £75,000 all in. But not just me, there must be people out there working in, say, regional television, that need a big break and would be prepared to do the job for far less. It simply can't be that difficult! Certainly not difficult enough to command a £500,000 salary. The One Show is basically a series of small reports by the likes of Gyles Brandreth, Dominic Littlewood and others, broken up by a live studio guest or two, somebody like Michael Palin, who might have a new book to publicise, and Baker and Jones make small talk in between the outside broadcasts from the aforementioned journalists. It's on for about 30 minutes tops and yes, I'm sure there's prep work to do during the day before the show airs (knowing the running order, knowing who the special guests are, working out some sensible questions to ask them) but that is not rocket science and if it was you can bet your bottom dollar that a rocket scientist is paid far, far less than Baker and Jones.

Alex Jones of One Show fame
In short, the BBC are wasting licence payers' money and I for one would love to know how they arrived at such big salaries for Winkleman and Jones and some of the others. I mean why did they pay Jonathan Ross around £6 million per annum and why are they paying Chris Evans a couple of million per year? He presents a radio show! He has enough money already! I'd love to present a radio show for two or three hours a day, but hey, no more than £100,000 per annum. Nobody needs more than that.

What was going through the minds of those charged with the task of deciding salaries? What formula was in play that enabled them to arrive, without flinching, at some of the salaries that were revealed last week? Somewhere, did somebody say, "Right, well I reckon £500,000 per annum would be a fair salary for Alex Jones, and as for that Winkleman woman, she can have the same – or thereabouts." And everybody in the room nodded affirmatively, somebody stamped a piece of paper and the rest is history.

As I write this I'm watching Would I Lie to You?. Winkleman is on David Mitchell's team and they've got to the bit where a live guest is invited on the programme and all the panellists make claims that they are in some way truly connected with the person. Winkleman says that the man standing to her left is her builder and he dropped round to Winkleman's house (which he built) because Winkleman thought he might be able to help her fix the television. The end game was that there was nothing wrong with the television – the remote needed new batteries, that was all. And this woman is earning the best part of half a million quid every year. It's incredible! Even if she earned HALF that amount it would still be too much.

And before anybody says that Winkleman isn't really stupid, she's got an Oxbridge degree, I know, I KNOW!!! But that's not the point. The point is that she (and Alex Jones and many others) are doing a job that simply doesn't command such a high salary. There are so many other professions that would command that sort of salary, but not television presenting.

One of these days there's going to be a revolution: corrupt politicians fiddling their expenses, journalists hacking the mobile phones of murdered school children, zero-hour contracts, the empty  promises of our political leaders, the list is growing and now we can add BBC television presenters – they're not corrupt (perhaps some are), but some of them are earning far too much for what they do. Somebody, sort it out! Think of the money that could be saved.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Two weeks out of the saddle – but I'm back!

Not good at all, but shit happens, don't forget, and sometimes you just have to get on with it; not that any shit happened, it was just a case of not being able to go and the usual stuff, such as waiting around for people or having to drive somewhere early in the morning.

Our bikes near a cornfield on the approach to Westerham hill
I didn't go out on Saturday morning, but on Sunday I met Andy at the green and we headed for Westerham. On leaving the house I noticed how out of condition I was as I sort of struggled up Church Way, although I was alright, I just felt a degree or two worse than I normally felt as I tackled a hill. Hills are an inevitable part of cycling, of course they are, but they're still mildly annoying and even more so after a two-week break.

I made it to the top of the hill, crossed the Addington Road and cycled through the churchyard, emerging on the other side and riding past Sanderstead Pond and on to the Limpsfield Road where I shifted into top gear and set my sights on the green.

The weather was fine: not as sunny as past weeks, but warm enough to wear just a tee-shirt and not the paint-stained, blue hooded top that normally accompanies me.

Since we last met, Andy had riden from Caterham to Canterbury (see link on previous post) so we talked about this briefly before deciding to save our conversation for Westerham. It was a smooth ride all the way there and soon we were sitting on the green where I noticed there was a large horse – not a real one – that had made itself at home behind the statue of General Wolfe; it was there for charitable reasons and made for a surreal scene.

Other than the horse, not much had changed at Westerham since our last visit, which wasn't that long ago. We sat there drinking tea and munching BelVitas (as always) and watching cars and bikes and fellow cyclists ride by on the A25. There was a bit of 'bike conversation' that I won't bore you with and soon we had no excuse other than to get back on the bikes and head for home – and that hill out of Westerham. But hills (or anything in life) are never as bad as you think they are and, as always, we soon made short work of the climb and soon found ourselves at Botley Hill.

The ride along the B269 was as expected and we stopped briefly on Warlingham Green to arrange next week's ride. Andy can only make Saturday next week so on Sunday I'll either head for mum's (where tea and cake awaits) or I'll head for Jon's where a puncture needs to be fixed.

Andy headed towards Caterham and I rode along the Limpsfield Road towards Sanderstead and home, sailing down Church Way and weaving my way around the quiet, leafy streets until I found myself opening the garage door, padlocking the bike and getting on with what was left of my weekend.

As I write this, at 0641hrs on Monday morning, the sun is out, there are blue skies and all is relatively still. Birds are chirping, I can hear a distant radio and all is well with the world. Film director George A Romero has died and so has the actor Martin Landau (aged 89).

Sunday, 9 July 2017

A weird dream, but no cycling...

Since I returned from Vienna on 28th June I haven't been out on the bike and I'm missing it. Last week I didn't go on Saturday because I'd been up late at a wedding and on Saturday night I had a late night too so I aborted. This week, well, similar in many ways. On Saturday morning I needed to be around at home to do things, like drive over to Kingston for a spot of shopping, and this morning I needed to be around. Alright, I could have gone out later, in fact that had been my plan, but, as always, when allowed to dither, I dither, and I didn't go out, not even an urban ride to mum's.

Andy rode to Godstone Green yesterday while I slobbed about...
Andy replied to one of my 'abort' texts with a question mark and now I'm left with that awful 'I haven't been cycling' feeling, which is made worse by the fact that it's now two (yes, two) consecutive weeks. To make matters worse, the weather is fantastic and has been for some time now. It was scorching hot in Vienna (where I managed to ride a bike for three consecutive days around the city) and it's hot here too. Outside now the skies are blue and it's beginning to brighten up having been a little dull early this morning.

Andy, incidentally, rode from Caterham to Canterbury last week and has written about his experiences on his blog. Click here for more.

Andy has cleaned both of his bikes, by the way
So I haven't been out on the bike, but I have had a strange dream. Last night (or whenever it was that I had the dream) I found myself in some kind of club, something like an ex-servicemen's club, not sure. It was large and roomy and unoccupied initially, although there was a sense that some rooms were occupied. There was a singer, somewhere, a modern singer, somebody contemporary, a woman, a girl, not sure, but while I didn't know who it was, others did, and when I caught sight of the girl I still had no idea who she was or whether I'd ever heard her music. It didn't matter.

While wandering around the largely empty club I sensed activity in one of the rooms and stumbled upon a group of crusty, ruddy-faced old war veterans wearing tweed jackets and cravats, smoking pipes and discussing an old military campaign. They filtered out of the room, chatting as they departed, but left behind a bag of archive magazines inside a thick plastic bag not dissimilar to those that contain garden compost. The bag had been ripped open in haste and inside I found many copies of a saddle-stitched publication about the Second World War peppered with colour photography throughout.

For me, time is pigeon-holed by photography. The dishwater years, as a friend of mine once described the 1950s, were characterised by black and white photography and so were the years that went before them. From the sixties onwards, colour photography took over, but in the real world everything is in colour as people have never lived in monochrome, even in the Stone Age, which somehow makes time seem less savage. I tried to explain this to an old friend in the dream, but we were distracted by an old college friend who sat alone in a quite corner of the club and was unaware of our presence. Neither of us wanted him to know we were there.

I woke up to the 0600hrs news on Radio Four followed by Something Understood on the subject of parochialism and remembered that my ears were jammed with wax after a swim at Waddon pool yesterday morning. I also remembered that I'd aborted the ride and wouldn't be hitting the road again until next weekend. Such is life, I thought, and went downstairs to make a cup of tea.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

In Vienna...day three

Cycle path by the Neue Donai...
I'd fallen into a routine: Wake up around 0600hrs, hit the breakfast room around 0700hrs to 0730hrs, hire a bike from reception for 12 Euros and then ride to the convention centre. Then, my work done, I'd get back on the bike and ride around the city until I exhausted myself and was in need of food and drink. Yesterday, my third day in this great city, the format was the same. When I finished work, this time around 1630hrs because of an official dinner being held at 1900hrs at the City Hall (or Rathaus as it's known here) I jumped on the bike with a view to riding to the aforementioned Rathaus to see if it was possible to ride there, but in the end I decided to take the metro like everybody else.

So I'm on the bike and I'm half way across the bridge, coming back from the convention centre, when I remembered the right turn a few yards behind me; where, I wondered, does it go to? A question I answered myself by turning around and checking it out. The answer is that it runs between the bank of the Danube on one side and the Neue Donai (I'm guessing 'new Danube') on the other. I rode a long way in the heat, past people sunbathing and, in some cases, swimming in the river and in the Neue Donai. The water, it must be said, looked very inviting, especially the Neue Donai, where most people seemed to be swimming, kids too, and let's not forget the swans who co-existed peacefully with the people or holidaymakers or whatever you wish to call them.

On the banks of the Danube...
I rode for what seemed like ages until the tarmac path turned to gravel and I figured that getting a puncture wouldn't be too clever as I'd have to walk miles back to the bridge and then a good 40 minutes more to the hotel, dragging the bike along with me. I was quite amazed to see people wild swimming in the Danube as it didn't look that safe a place to swim. Earlier, when a wind had picked up, the water was very choppy, but close to the banks it was calmer and I never saw anybody out in the middle, where it would have been dangerous for sure.

Swans on the Neue Donau where they share the water with us humans
The Neue Donai was a different story, it was calmer, but it was still a wide piece of water, not dissimilar to the Danube. There was a windsurfer going at some speed and a pedalo close to the far bank, but let's not mistake it for something ultra safe; it was deep water and I'm guessing you can't take anything for granted.

Safe swimming in the Neue Donai? You decide...
On my journey back I spotted many people sunbathing on the banks of the Danube and the Neue Donai and began to wish I'd bought my trunks. I distinctly remembered being at home on Sunday morning and saying that I wouldn't pack my trunks because I never, ever use them. Well, here was my chance to do some wild swimming and I couldn't, not that I would have, because the water looked a little dangerous and deep, but people were out there treading water, kids and all, so perhaps I would have chanced my arm, and besides, perhaps my cautious approach was influenced by the ridiculous health and safety culture that has developed in the UK which, let's face it, makes us all chronically risk averse.
A new sign wouldn't go amiss...

Eventually I reached the bridge and had to carry the bike up a few stairs to reach the cycleway that crosses the Danube; but then it was plain sailing (or plain cycling) across the river and straight ahead. I rode down to the big roundabout, circled it, rode down Prater Strasse, past Café Ansari, stopped outside the Sofitel, thinking better of riding to the Rathaus, which had been my original intention. It was hot and time was running out so I doubled back, followed Prater Strasse back to the fairground and then rode towards Motel One where I handed in the bike.

Later I took the metro from Messe-Prater to Rathaus (about five stops) and enjoyed the splendour of the City Hall. Dinner was fine, but after a day of working the last thing I wanted to do was 'talk shop' so perhaps I should have stayed on the bike, cycled around, found a restaurant and enjoyed my own company. Still, you live and learn. And now, as I write this, it's Day Four for me in Vienna. I'll be flying back home later today and I still need to pack my stuff and check out. But first, perhaps a walk, I'm not sure. I hate checking out of hotels, especially good hotels like Motel One, but needs must so I'd better sign off and besides, the chambermaid has just reminded me of the noon check-out time so I ought to start packing.

I regularly review the hotels I stay in on Trip Advisor. For all my Trip Advisor reviews, click here.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

In Vienna...Day Two

Is cycling a subversive activity? Some say it is and I can't really figure out why, unless freedom is subversive. Actually, come to think of it, freedom probably is subversive; there's nothing the establishment hates more that true freedom. Freedom of expression, democracy, it's all dangerous stuff as the UK discovered when Cameron gave the populus an in-out referendum on Europe. But let's not bring the European Union into this, although there are some political commentators who would argue that the least democratic organisation in existence is the EU. But as I say, let's not go there, this is all about cycling.

Still in my conference clothes, but back on the bike
I can buy into the subversive nature of cycling and it makes it all the more attractive. This evening, when my work was done at the conference, it felt liberating just to know that outside, padlocked to a coiled piece of metal, was my bike. Well, not my bike, but the bike I'd hired from the hotel for just 12 Euros. I wasn't reliant upon a taxi or a bus or a tube, I had my own transportation system and that, my friends, is a little subversive. I can (and did) speed off into the city without a care in the world, I could do what the hell I wanted, go wherever the fancy took me and not pay a penny to the man for the privilege. I was my own boss.

So what did I do? First I decided to explore the immediate location surrounding the Austria Center. There were some nice flats there, a pedestrianised area and a few weird sculptures that I'd never have found had I jumped on the underground. How boring would life have been had I done that? I'd have ended up in my hotel room with nothing to do but reach for the Skipper's Tablecloth. Instead, I was out and about and checking stuff out, like Donau Park. I rode in all directions through the park, following roads to the very end and then turning back and following other roads into different areas of the park and then I sped over the Danube and hung a right when I reached the far bank. I rode for what seemed like miles along a cycle track that was effectively running parallel with the river but not along the bank, and then I turned left somewhere, I can't recall exactly where, and kept on riding, eventually finding Handelskai railway station where I found a couple of fresh fruit and vegetable stalls that were still bustling as the time approached 1800hrs.

Strange sculptures near the Austria Center...
After a while I began to lose track of exactly where I was; the cycle track ran out and I found myself on the road with traffic, so I doubled back and tried to retrace the route I'd been taking. Soon I found myself at the bridge where I turned right and then crossed the road and explored other roads that eventually led me to Max Winter Platz where I spied a couple of bars. I considered stopping for a beer and something to eat, but for some reason I didn't as they looked a bit basic and I didn't have any cash. Despite cycling being a subversive activity that enabled me to 'stick it to the man' I still needed somewhere that accepted Mastercard. Within minutes I was close to the entrance of the fairground and decided to ride through it, listening to the screams of those brave (or stupid) enough to tackle the Black Mamba and other dangerous, frightening-looking rides. I watched from the relative safety of the bike as people were being flung this way and that and seemingly enjoying every minute of it.

Strange sculptures in Donau Park
I found L'Osteria, a pizza restaurant that was almost in the fairground, but in reality was just outside of it. I felt a little wary of the place because L'Osteria was dangerously close to Listeria, but I decided to chance my arm. It was, of course, absolutely fine and because I had been riding the bike for the best part of a couple of hours, I was in desperate need of a cold beer and something to eat. Fortunately, it was well past my dinner time so I stopped, padlocked the bike to a lamp post and sat alone, at a table for one, just me and a tea light, perusing the menu. I opted for one of the specials, Sedanini di manzo (pasta with pork) plus a large beer and later enjoyed Birnencrumble, another beer and a cappuccino. It was all perfect and cost a respectable 27.80 Euros.

Crossing the Danube...
I wasn't quite finished riding so after unlocking the bike and jumping back on I headed into the fairground again for another mooch around. Ultimately, I was tired and it was time to ride back to the hotel, return the bike and head to my room from where I now write this. What an amazing day and all thanks to the bike, which meant I was reliant on nothing or nobody but my own steam to get me wherever I wanted to go.

There were fresh fruit and vegetable markets here...
Back in my Motel One hotel room, the tropical fish are on the television screen behind me as I write this; and that weird ambient music is playing too. It's dark outside, but still warm, and while there is a strong temptation to go downstairs, order a glass of wine and sit in the cool grounds of the hotel, like I did at lunchtime (thanks again to having the bike) I've decided to get ready for bed and look forward to breakfast in the morning. I love Motel One!

High rise swings – put it this way, I wouldn't do it...
Fairground characters...
As seen in the movie, The Third Man – but what a boring ride!
I regularly review the hotels I stay in on Trip Advisor. For all my Trip Advisor reviews, click here.

Monday, 26 June 2017

In Vienna...

I have nothing but praise for Motel One.

From the moment I arrived at the front desk, albeit with half a dozen people ahead of me, including a man who had been on my flight from London Gatwick and who I thought looked a bit like Richard Roundtree, until I Googled the Shaft megastar and realised that my fellow traveller looked nothing like him. So who did he resemble? A Bond villain? Not sure, so let's just leave it there.

The view from my hotel room window...
Motel One. It's fantastic. No complaints whatsoever apart from stuff that was entirely my fault. Okay, I'll explain: it was late, almost 11pm when I was finally given my keycard and found myself in the lift en route to my room on the third floor. I reached the room (it's one where you put your keycard in a slot in the wall as you enter and the lights come on (and go off when you take it out). Not a problem. Now, here's the best bit: there's a flatscreen television on the wall and I could hear this weird ambient music coming out of somewhere. On the screen are fish. Tropical fish. They looked so real I thought I had a fish tank in the room. I'm told that keeping tropical fish is bad luck. Fortunately, I don't keep tropical fish, not in my underpants or in a tank. I just don't believe in keeping animals captive, not that I admonish those who do keep tropical fish. I simply hope that they're not visited by any bad luck, that's all.
I hired this bike and rode to the convention centre, cheaper than a taxi!
So, tropical fish. Well, they're not real, just CGI of some sort and combined with the ambient music it's, well, amazing. I was tired, I was emotional too, seriously emotional, and the fish calmed things down for me. I sat on the edge of the bed and indulged the ambient music and the fish swimming about – as they're doing right this minute, behind me, unless they're only there when I turn around, who knows? No, they're there alright and I love them. Last night, when I finally got to sleep – alright, I'll explain in a minute – I thought I'd keep the fish 'alive' so to speak. I didn't want to turn off the television, but in the end the bright, halogen glow kept me awake so I reached for the remote and the fish (and the ambient music) were gone.
And here I am somewhere in Vienna with the bike...

But anyway, my 'issue' was nothing to do with the fish, it was to do with two spotlights over the bed, beaming down on the pillows where I desperately wanted to rest my weary head. Except that I couldn't. Try as I might to find the switch to turn the two spotlights off, I couldn't. The only way to do it, I thought, was to pull the keycard out of the wall socket and plunge the room into powerless darkness. But that simply wouldn't do because it meant that should I wish to turn on the light in the dead of night, I'd have to get up, fumble around in the darkness looking for the keycard and then fumble further to find the slot in the wall. So I started to get annoyed and my annoyance turned to mild anger, which was aggravated by the fact that Motel One hotel rooms don't have phones – the management must assume that everybody has a mobile these days and, of course, most people do. So I searched high and low for some way of turning off these two lights and even considered dismantling them or taking out the bulbs using a towel from the bathroom, I was that desperate, but no, not a good idea. I was despairing and in the end resorted to calling the front desk. "Silly question, but how do I turn off the spotlights beaming on to my pillows?" I managed to conceal my frustration, but despite the fact that the woman told me there was a black button underneath the light, I still couldn't find it. "I'll come up," she said, so I felt it was important to put on some trousers. Within what seemed like a few seconds there was a knock on the door and I was fully dressed.

She pointed to the switches and I rather sheepishly switched them off, feeling, it must be said, a little foolish. I thanked her, bade her farewell and got a decent night's sleep, without the ambient music or the fish, sadly.
Vienna's famous fairground is next to Motel One so I rode round taking pix
There was more good news on the Motel One front: the bathroom! It was amazing. The shower was one of those rain shower affairs and there was no messing around trying to get the thing to work properly – it worked immediately and I was treated to a wonderful, exhilarating shower. It was like standing under a waterfall and I could have stayed there all day, but I had to go to the convention centre on the other side of the Danube so I dried and dressed and went down for breakfast and it was perfect: muesli, fresh fruit, a vanilla yoghurt and a custard Danish, not forgetting a cup of Darjeeling. It all takes place close to the front desk and there's a proper breakfast area too or I could have sat in the bar area on a trendy seat, but give me a proper table any time.

I know how he feels...
Motel One is roughly a 35-40-minute walk to the convention centre, where I was headed. It's an interesting walk that took me across the Danube on what can only be described as a reconnaissance mission. I returned around 1000hrs and discovered that the hotel rented out bikes. Perfect! So I hired one, for 12 Euros, and rode off. Later, when my work was done I rode back to the hotel, took an early evening shower (I wouldn't normally but it was hot and I had a rain shower in the room) and then I headed out on the bike again, turning left out of the hotel, passing the famous fairground and riding the length of Ausstellungs and then Prater Strasse where, after riding around on the other side of the Donaukanal, which filters in to the Danube, I rode back on to Prater Strasse and had dinner at Café Ansari (red lentil soup plus roasted chicken, two beers, a mineral water and a cappuccino).

It was dark when I unpadlocked the bike I had left across the street and retraced my route back to the hotel, lingering awhile at the fairground, watching people on scary-looking rides. I've never been one for fairgrounds.
I wasn't planning on spending any money at the fairground...
But what a great bike ride! And what freedom a bike offers! I love cycling and it's made all the better in a country that cares for its cyclists, not like in the UK where a cycle lane is a simple line drawing of a bike in the road – an afterthought, nothing more. Here in Vienna there are proper cycle lanes that are safe and not part of the road. I didn't want to hand the bike back. I could have cycled all night, but that would have been foolish. I'll probably take one out tomorrow and Wednesday and possibly even Thursday if there's time as it beats a taxi hands down.

What with ambient music, the tropical fish display – which I'm reliably informed is changed during the winter months to a roaring fire (keep the fish all year round, that's my view) – Motel One is arguably one of the best hotels I've experienced, and it's got a friendly vibe too. And what's more, they're everywhere, even in the UK. In fact, there's quite a few of them in the UK and they can also be found in France, Belgium and Germany. I cannot recommend Motel One highly enough if they're all of this high standard.

I regularly review the hotels I stay in on Trip Advisor. For more, click here.