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I’m finally back from my world travels, having flown a distance of 18,000 km in the past ten days. My travels took me to Texas and Germany with a short stop in London. It’s been quite an experience. I have learned many things, such as:

1) To be very careful when booking flights with British Airways. If you try to change your booking within 24 hours of travel (even if the reason is legitimate, such as a freakin’ snowstorm), they will do everything in their power to stonewall you. I arrived in at 7.30 am into Heathrow and when I tried to get an earlier flight to Stuttgart than the 18.45 flight I was booked on, I was met with indifferent shrugs, middle-distance stares and a definite feeling that I was the bad guy for even daring to ask. I was happy to travel on standby, but that option was shut down straight away. I’m pretty certain that neither of the two earlier flights to Stuttgart that Saturday left with a full complement of passengers, but how could that possibly be their problem? That would be penetrating the bureaucracy, now, wouldn’t it?

2) Texans (at least the ones I met) are mindbogglingly polite and helpful. You could go nowhere without a “Can I help you?” or an “I beg your pardon” coming from somewhere. I have to put in a special mention to the American Airlines ground staff in Austin, who worked from 4 am to 7 pm on Thursday to ensure that all their passengers were taken care of. Almost every flight to Dallas had been cancelled and stress levels were stratospheric, but nevertheless these people worked wonders while keeping their sense of humour intact.

3) German people speak to each other in lifts, even if they don’t know each other. Now that’s just plain weird. Elevators are designed to make you feel enormously self-conscious and inadequate. This talking thing just isn’t playing by the rules.

4) When flying there is only one true currency: access to an electric power outlet. The more gadgets we carry around, the fewer chances we have to recharge. Methinks books are very safe.

5) I can now sleep on transatlantic flights! Actually, I can sleep on all sorts of flights! All they need to do is turn on the engines and pfffft, I’m out. This can mean only one thing. I’m getting OLD.

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It turns out that I am here in Austin for another night. All was going swimmingly in the airport. We had arrived in plenty of time, we had our boarding cards printed, we had secured our onward connections and we had even boarded the plane when the announcement came. “The flight has been cancelled”.

Dallas, our first destination on the return journey, has been hit with a rare snowstorm. disrupting all flights in and out of the airport. Trust us to be there in the middle of it.

Lots of phone calls and long queues later, we are ensconced for the night in a hotel not far from the airport. It will be an early start: 4am. Fingers and toes are securely crossed.

My, how time flies. It’s my last day in Austin before I travel back to Europe. Mind you, I have an insanely short connection in Dallas later today, so I might yet live to eat my words.

It’s been a lot of fun. Good food, good company and friendly, down-to-earth people. Austin is a compact, sophisticated city; well worth a visit. And my, it has lots and lots and lots of bars. We took a dander down 6th Street last night – one of the highest concentrations of pubs and clubs on the continent. Wednesday night and things were humming.

Oh yes. My word for the week is geocaching – a kind of Internet treasure hunt activity that as captured the imagination of an American colleague of mine. A quick search of the Internet revealed a few geocaches in Cork, one very close by to my home, so you never know..

Next stop: Stuttgart, where I am reliably informed that it suffering record ice-age conditions.

This morning, at an ungodly hour, I am heading out to the airport to fly to Austin, Texas. I’m excited about it, despite the fact that it’s a work trip and I will be busy in meetings and other work activities for most of my time over there.

Although I have been to the US on dozens of occasions, I have never been to Texas, or anywhere near it. It’s a place that fascinates me no end. Maybe it’s the size of the state, or it’s natural beauty, or the unique personality of it’s inhabitants, I’m not sure. Austin is meant to be a particularly nice city, so I travel full of anticipation.

The journey itself is lo-ong. First of all London, then Chicago, then Austin, which means I will be spending most of the next 24 hours in planes and airports. I will be thoroughly wrecked by the time I arrive in the Lone Star state.

Following my trip to Texas, I head over to Stuttgart for a few days. I hope to visit the site of a huge ancient meteorite impact while there, as well as a small amount of skiing, perhaps. I’ve even discovered a pub there, (Biddy Early’s) that will be showing the Ireland vs France match next week.

So it’s all very busy and international and fascinating over the coming days. Hopefully I’ll have a few updates to share.

Catch y’all later.

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