xwave + icon data = when?

It says here that xwave, an arm of Aliant, announced their “recent acquisition of Icon Data Systems.” When I upgraded the DSL service into our office here last year and needed to buy an ethernet bridge, my Island Tel sales rep arranged to have it delivered from Icon Data Systems which, he told me, Island Tel had recently acquired. As such, their xwave announcement would appear to be a stretching of the word “recent.”

I-95 Hotels

Some notes on hotels we’ve hit on this trip along the I-95 down through New England.

Country Inn and Suites in Saint John (okay, not technically on the I-95) is a very nice place with very large two-room suites for less than $100. Nicest place we’ve stayed in Saint John so far.

Howard Johnson’s in South Portland, ME is tired and dated. We ended up in a smoking room, which was overpowering. Avoid if possible.

The Swissotel in downtown Boston is a very, very nice hotel. It’s got huge and well-appointed rooms, it’s very centrally located, and you can often find rates as low as $139 (good for Boston) on their website or on Travelocity. Killer is the parking (true of all downtown hotels in Boston): $28 for 24 hours.

AmeriSuites in South Portland, ME is a good deal at $84 for a large suite with breakfast. Nice little indoor pool. Crappy and expensive business center (dial-up Internet on an underpowered PC for 25 cents a minute). Very convenient to the Maine Mall.

Holiday Inn in Bangor, ME (the Civic Center one downtown, not the one out by the airport) looks tired and dated from the outside, but is quite pleasant inside. Local calls are free (a first for this trip), but you pay for breakfast (though not too much).

Pete’s secret hotel tip: I’ve booked all of our hotels on this trip using CAA/AAA rates and have saved about $100US doing so. If you think you’re going to stay in more than 4 or 5 hotels in a year, a CAA membership will pay for itself. That said, I’ve never been asked to see my CAA membership card.

Pete’s second secret hotel tip: the websites of most hotel chains have a “best rates” or “lowest rates” selection when you’re searching for rooms. If you select this option, you’ll almost always exclude rates that require membership (AARP, CAA/AAA, etc.) or other special qualification that you may, indeed, qualify for. What’s more, on the Holiday Inn website, you can often find special web-only weekend rates using the special web-only rates link; these rates often don’t appear in a general room search.

Pete’s third secret hotel tip: in our experience, if you have women in your party you’ll often get better service and a better room if you send one of them in to check in to a hotel. Both my mother and Catherine have benefitted from this: my Mom scored us a palatial suite at the Moncton Holiday Inn for $112 a couple of years ago and Catherine got us a large corner room at the Swissotel in Boston. This never happens for me.

Seafood in Maine

Because we are in Maine, we have eaten seafood for dinner for the past two nights.

On Sunday we stopped just north of Old Orchard Beach in southern Maine at a large place called the Clambake Restaurant. The Clambake was unusual because of its ordering mechanism: customers go to a central ordering queue, place their order and receive drinks, and then retire to a table. About 20 minutes later their number is called and they retrieve food from a central food distribution window. So it’s sort of like a take-out place, but you eat in. Catherine and I both had shrimp and lobster claws. This was Seafood with a capital S: no garnishes or other distractions, simply a giant mound of shrimp and lobster the a slightly spiced breacrumb mixture sprinkled on top. It was very good, but about 50% too much food. Worth a stop if you’re hungry.

Tonight we stopped just north of Belfast, Maine at a place called the Maine Chowder House, a restaurant and gift shop mini-complex on a bluff overlooking the ocean. The location was very scenic, and the food (clamcakes for Catherine and chowder for me) was hot and good tasting, but the service was abysmal. To begin, they hit my number one restaurant offence, the “customers with wriggling child(ren) left waiting for a table for 10 minutes when plenty of tables are available.” This was followed by the “wait 10 minutes for menus and water glasses after being seated” followed by the “wait 20 minutes for food” followed by the “wait 5 minutes for the check”. They didn’t seem particularly busy or over-stressed: somehow the system just broke down. The final snafu: I walk to the cash to pay and the cashier, upon seeing me, says “I’ll be right back” and then disappears for 5 minutes. I ended up leaving the money on the counter and heading out.

Other eatings of note on this trip: Chiang Mai on Rte. 101 in Nashua, NH is a decent Thai restaurant (the Kapow rice packs an appropriate punch); the Harrisville General Store in Harrisville, NH makes great sandwiches and has excellent, friendly, human service; the food court in South Station in Boston is best avoided at all costs; room service in the Swissotel in downtown Boston is excellent for breakfast (pancakes and waffles), but as expensive as you might expect; Gritty Macduff’s in Freeport, ME is a great place for lunch, with a broad and tasty menu and good beer brewed right there.

Tomorrow we cross the border into New Brunswick and leave the land of unsweetened iced tea behind, much to my chagrain. But we’ll be home after almost three weeks away, which we’re very much looking forward to.

Aliant Helpfulness

Earlier in the week my office’s net connection went off the air. Some investigation with the help of the on-call tech support person at Aliant revealed that the Newbridge DSL device needed to be rebooted; thankfully, our friend Lida was still staying at the World HQ, so I was able to get her to do this.

Last night around midnight the same thing happened again. But Lida’s on her way back to New Hampshire, which created a problem. I called the Aliant support desk, got routed to the on-call pager, and about 35 seconds later got a call back from a very helpful woman named Heather.

Heather took the details of my situation, didn’t think I was insane, and promised to follow up. About 45 minutes later, Heather called back to tell me that she was able to have a tech remotely reset the Newbridge device and that everything was back in action.

This is a Good Customer Service. Thank-you.