Vasco da Gama – another business trip!

“Vasco! Why is your suitcase out? Where the hell do you think you are going now?” Vasco trudged into the bedroom. He should really have thought about speaking to Catarina first before he decided to go on another long exploration.

“Look, honey ….” he said. “Don’t you “honey” me!” shouted Catarina. “Off you go again leaving me alone for months. You never told me you would have to travel this often for business when you proposed to me.”

“Well darling, I have to earn a living you know” he sighed. He could not wait to get out of the house – 5 kids already and another on the way. The quiet of the ocean was undeniably attractive. Vasco stood and gazed out of the window thinking about the comforting movement of his ship and the sound of the wind in the sails. He was pulled out of his revery by the sound of his wife who continued to rant.

“I don’t know how you can consider going away right now in the middle of this pandemic!” she shouted. “What if you bring it back to me and the kids? What if you go out there and get stuck somewhere because you are sick?”

“Don’t worry, darling. I took out travel insurance and it specifically includes cover for The Black Death and The Plague. You know I am always careful about those things – especially when I am travelling on business.” Vasco carried on with his packing, determined to get out of the house as quickly as possible.

His wife peered over his shoulder to see what he was packing. He always managed to leave something behind. OMG she thought to herself. He always takes that hideous hat.

And he thinks he looks cool in it. I wish he would take a few tips from some of his fellow captains…….

Now THAT’s what I call a Captain.

Before she knew it she heard the front door slam, the suitcase was gone as was Vasco. Hmm, she thought. I bet he didn’t even check if he had his passport or his visa. Well it’s up to him now. But perhaps I should just send a carrier pigeon to his travel agent to check that they have his special requests on file
– no feather pillow in the Captain’s stateroom, he is allergic
– gluten free meals
– plenty of lemons to fight the scurvy

There – my job is done. If anything goes wrong now it will be her fault!

Hotel misadventures

OK, last week I got you with my imaginary worst hotel ever. I must admit I did get a bit convinced by this myself – it almost became real as I was writing it and yes I was inspired somewhat by Fawlty Towers. But the sad thing is that I was also inspired by real experiences and we all have memories of THAT hotel – especially when you are feeling a bit out of your depth in a foreign country, far from home and late at night. Our bedrooms are our safe places and perhaps something tries to convince us that we are the only people who have used this room. We know that doesn’t make any sense logically but I think this is why it freaks us out if we come across evidence of someone else’s stay.

You know what I mean. That stray hair in the shower, the chocolate wrapper under the bed, the lipstick mark on the coffee cup. Eewwww. You mean someone else has used this room in this mega hotel in the heart of downtown. I can’t sleep in a stranger’s bed.

That’s why the anonymity of a hotel room is so important. I once checked into a hotel for a conference. After a couple of flights to get there I wasn’t in any hurry to unpack so I arrived and immediately threw myself on the bed, switched on the tv, made a couple of phone calls. Eventually I thought I should at least unpack. Imagine my face when I opened the drawer and found it packed full of someone else’s undies! How the hell did someone leave behind their underwear. But … the other drawers were full of clothing as well. Then I went to the bathroom to check and yes – toothbrush, moisturizer – the works. I felt so uncomfortable. Called down to reception and found out that they had given me the wrong room by mistake and yes there was someone booked into that room.

So yes we have all had those nightmare hotels and thank you for sharing your experiences. Here are a few real nightmare hotel stays – some personal and some collected through the years from clients.

MIAMI – we were new to North America and did not know the hotel chains or areas. Ended up in a dodgy hotel in a dodgy area – what stuck out in my mind was that the remote control was CHAINED to the bedside table. That kinda gave me a clue that maybe this wasn’t the best choice.

LOS ANGELES – a family going down to Disneyland had a problem in their hotel room. It was an army of ants. There was a little hole along the skirting board and this was their free entry to swarm over anything that looked interesting – and you know when you travel with kids how they seem to scatter crumbs wherever they go – a bit like Hansel and Gretel. They did complain to reception who kept going up to the room and doing a clean but the ants kept coming back. The hotel was full so no chance of another room. They were quite proud when they told me that they had put paid to the ants’ excursions by plugging up the hole with toothpaste.

FIJI – now bugs can be something that freak you out – or not. And if they do freak you out then maybe tropical areas like Fiji should be avoided. I had a couple staying at a hotel in Fiji who said that they were being terrorised by bugs (not sure what type). Of course I contacted the hotel directly who told me that they had been in communication with the guest but that the bugs were just the natural bugs of the area such as lizards, beetles and mosquitoes. This was one query I picked up in Trip Advisor –

“Would anyone be willing to provide their thoughts on the bug/insect/reptile/etc. situation in Fiji, particularly in nicer resorts as mentioned above (if there is a difference). I don’t see a lot of discussion about this topic, but here and there I read reviews of people waking up with huge scary bugs in their room, or worse yet, on them. Is this the norm? A reality of life that might happen? A rarity? We are from NYC and don’t really know what to expect or how we’d react. We are both absolutely terrified of snakes. We don’t expect a pristine environment devoid of nature and life. But neither are we sure we are suited to deal with sharing our bure with bugs crawling around at night (or day).”

I totally understand the fear of insects – it’s a real thing. The hotel was very understanding too – but nature is nature.

UMNGAZI RIVER BUNGALOWS, SOUTH AFRICA – as a relative newcomer to South Africa I too was not used to the more exotic creepy crawlies. Coming from England I had no problem with spiders, frogs, slugs and snails (or even puppy dog tails – get it?). What I wasn’t prepared for were geckoes. These little lizard type creatures are very common in warmer climates like Natal in South Africa and they do a great job of cleaning up insects like mozzies and midges – but I was terrified of them and spent my first night lying in bed with the torch shining on them in case …. what? I don’t know. I just didn’t want them running all over me with their horrible little feet. Believe me – they didn’t want that either and stayed well away from me. But I understand the fear.

CAPE TOWN BED AND BREAKFAST – I am not a big bed and breakfast fan – probably because I just prefer being in a hotel and not feeling like somebody’s personal guest but I do understand how sometimes a B&B can be cute and original. And yes I have stayed in “cute and original” in a room with the toilet perched up on top of a flight of stairs. I kid you not. The room had a bathroom en suite but when you entered the bathroom you had the bath on one side and then a steep flight of stairs on top of which was perched the toilet. Gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “on the throne”.

The worst hotel ever

I honestly can say this was the worst hotel I have ever stayed at. I could not believe it. I had read reports on TripAdvisor – real horror show reports about gungy hotels and bad service but this took the cake. I could not believe how I, with 25 years of travel experience, could end up in a dump like this. How did this happen?

I should have known when we had to drive up the twisty drive way which was full of leaves – nobody had bothered to sweep them. When the hotel itself came into sight – well that was a disappointment with a capital D. The website had described it as “cozy”. I should have known right away – a ephemism for old and decrepit. And yes it was.

Who in their right minds today still has shag carpet? In the reception area? It was tacky and grubby and looked like someone had taken a shag on it – ‘scuse my French. I should have turned on my heel right then but it was late. Behind the reception desk stood a tall man with glasses who was busy punching numbers into an adding machine – one of those old ones with the paper roll sticking out the end. We stood there patiently while he ignored us. Finally I coughed politely to get his attention.

His head whipped up. “Oh” he said with a sneer “You have a cough. Well maybe you shouldn’t be out in public. Are you sure you don’t have COVID?”

“I don’t have COVID or anything else” I said, annoyed. “Just trying to get some service here if it is not too much trouble”.

“Oh I beg your pardon madam” he said, his voice rich with sarcasm. He pushed away all the books and the adding machine and stood there with a false smile on his face. “What can I do to help?” It went downhill from there. I told him we had a booking for the night and he took 15 minutes to search down a list of names in his book. Where the hell was the computer? Finally he found our names and with a flourish checked them off the list and then passed over the key to the room – a massive heavy old fashioned key attached to a miniature bucket and spade adorned with the words “I love Bogstown by the Sea”. It was so large and cumbersome I could not even fit it into my purse. He sniggered. “You would be surprised how many people go home with the key by mistake and it costs us a fortune to get the locksmith in.”

I was committed now – for better or worse. And how much more worse could it get. Oh Lesley – don’t tempt the fates.

The bedroom was awful! Who uses candlewick bedspreads any more? And where was the bathroom? What the hell? A shared bathroom down the hall. Bloody hell. This was just getting worse and worse. We had to have something to eat as it was too far to get back into town and we were starving. Silly fools.

We made our way to the dining room and found that there was only one other couple having dinner and they must have been 110 in the shade. And lo and behold the waiter was the same man who checked us in. By all accounts he was a Jack of All Trades (and master of none). He passed us a menu and then proceeded to tell us that they were out of everything on the menu with the exception of Tripe and Onions. Seriously? Who eats tripe and onions these days? Yuck. So we settled for the soup of the day which was a strangely coloured slightly lumpy liquid with an indistinguishable taste. I couldn’t do it anymore. Just needed to go to bed and get out of this dump as soon as possible in the morning.

Good luck sleeping in this bed I thought as I sat on the side of the bed and then instantly fell into the sagging hole in the middle of the very old mattress. “Oh I don’t think I can do this” I said. But it was too late to go anywhere else. So I lay down in the hollow and then started to look at the ceiling. In each corner there was a cobweb filled with the spider’s dinner. A motley array of little creepy crawlies. There were also odd shaped coloured blobs on the ceiling which seemed to indicate a leak of some sort from the room above. The mind boggles.

Then I noticed the mice …. cheeky little buggers running around the room, darting out from under the dresser. I hate mice. What kind of place was this? But it got worse … because then I spotted the cockroaches and that was it! I absolutely could not stay here. I started to panic and I could feel the scream climbing up my throat. I couldn’t contain it any more and just opened my mouth and let out a blood curdling yell while ripping off the disgusting bedspread at the same time. I just had to get away.

I sat up and looked around the room. I was at home, in my bed. It was all just a dream. A horrible COVID dream. A horrible COVID nightmare that is. You see – this pandemic is driving me round the bend!

Very nice Mr Borat

Have you seen the new Borat film yet? It is very funny and in some parts quite alarming ( I will let you watch and come to your own conclusions). If I have piqued your curiosity the full title of the film is Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

So have you ever thought of visiting Kazakhstan? Maybe now after the film. Kazakhstan Tourism thinks it would be a great idea – in fact it would be “VERY NICE” for you to visit Kazakhstan so they have adopted Borat’s oft repeated phrase as part of their new tourism campaign – here is just a sample.

They say there is no such thing as bad publicity and I can testify to that. Kazakhstan had never been on my radar until I started looking through some of the natural wonders there – it really is a beautiful country. There are deserts with huge sand dunes, canyons to rival the Grand Canyon, ancient cities and fascinting history of the gulags established under Stalin and the German influence in these cities like Karaganda where many Germans were imprisoned.

There are lots of tourism boards out there who have been very happy with the publicity of a popular film. Just think of Cool Runnings and how Calgary rose to fame with that film. Did they find the Jamaican bobsled yet? We watched the film in South Africa with our boys and when we made the decision to move to Calgary the boys asked “Where’s Calgary???” “Remember the film Cool Runings? Well that’s Calgary”

“Oh wow – yay” they said. It was like they were going to somewhere they knew and of course the first place we had to visit was Ranchmans. So sad to see this iconic Calgary spot closed down.

Other famous films have inspired travel – Out of Africa just gave viewers the feel of being right in the heart of this fascinating continent. The Telegraph’s Caroline Eden travelled there with Abercrombie & Kent and wrote ….

“Lounging on a picnic blanket high up on Kenya’s Oloololo Escarpment, I felt I had been here before. The goldenhued savannah view was instantly recognisable. That is because this part of the Maasai Mara, known as the Mara Triangle, is where some of the most famous scenes in Out of Africa were filmed.

Where my husband and I had settled down for lunch had been carefully chosen. It was the exact spot where a wistful Meryl Streep (playing Danish author Karen Blixen) and a smouldering Robert Redford (playing her lover Denys Finch Hatton) posed for the iconic film poster, one of the most recognisable images in cinema history.”

And how many people haven’t gone to Italy just to track down the places featured in Dan Brown’s books and films? Just something about being on THAT spot and knowing the background and the history makes it all that more inspiring and thrilling.

But the king of them all just has to be Lord of the Rings. According to the general manager of Western long haul markets for Tourism New Zealand, Gregg Anderson, “We’ve seen a 50% increase in arrivals to New Zealand since Lord of the Rings.” The first film in the trilogy, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, was released in 2001.

MATAMATA, NEW ZEALAND – OCTOBER 04: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tours Hobbiton on October 4, 2018 in Matamata, New Zealand. The Prime Minister has announced funding to support the Matamata-Piako District develop opportunities in tourism and infrastructure with an initial investment of up to $1.7 million from the Provincial Growth Fund. The visit comes following the Prime Minister’s appearance on US TV Show the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where Jacinda Ardern revealed she had auditioned for a role in The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings films. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images,)

So you never know – maybe this will be a new beginning for Kazakhstan once we have this damn COVID under control!

Are you suffering from FOMO?

Come on – you got to get with the program! Suffering from FOMO? What the heck is that? Well for those who don’t get texts from their kids or grandchildren it means Fear Of Missing Out. It is one of the biggest motivators known to man – or woman. Here Ellen de Generes describes it perfectly.

So what lengths will FOMO drive you to? Perhaps scaling Everest. Maybe you hike or climb a little bit and then you hear about those who have climbed Everest. Perhaps you go to one of those motivational talks and get all inspired. So you train and join in because you don’t want to miss out. A couple of years later you finally make it to Base Camp and this is what greets you.

YEP – Join the line up

But it doesn’t have to be as extreme as a climb up the tallest mountain in the world. It could just be about getting that deal on the Boxing Day sale. You line up for hours and then storm into the shop – which way? which way? what do I want? what do I need? I dunno but obviously they are practically giving things away – just look at these crowds.

I think maybe it is just human nature. We are naturally competitive creatures. That’s how we survived in the hunter gatherer stages and I don’t think things have changed that much. Who got the big screen TV and who got the woolly mammoth? Who stripped that berry laden tree and who got the last packet of toilet paper. The crazy behaviour we saw back in March and April over this commodity is a classic example. FOMO so you pile your cart sky high with toilet paper. Live and let die!

Will we experience this again when travel resumes properly? Currently ships are not yet cruising – but they will be back before you know it and will you have your place booked? Remember that ships will be sailing with reduced capacity so it is not a given that when you hear your next door neighbour has booked a cruise your FOMO will ensure that you are on the same ship – of course in a better stateroom! If you are going to do FOMO you might as well do it properly. It is not only Fear of Missing Out but FOBO Fear of Being Outdone. No good suffering through all the angst of FOMO to settle for second best. That’s just not how it works.

Once you do book your cruise be warned – you will suffer Cruise Envy. That’s when you walk down the corridor and happen to pass one of the luxurious suites – the door is wide open as it is being cleaned – so you slow down and peer inside. OMG you think to yourself. Look at that room. Damn it! That wasn’t available when I booked. Yep – good old FOMOCE – Fear of Missing Out Cruise Envy. Much better to have a dose of GTBBCSS (Got the Best Cabin Smug Smile).

Seriously – who ARE these people (Celebrity Cruise Lines Retreat)
That should have been my suite

Running around the world

Well let’s be realistic – I am not a runner – more like a jogger.  But I have run two marathons (that’s the long 42 km run – and I felt every kilometer).  And I have done a few half marathons.  As you can tell I am quite proud of that but I must admit those were quite a while ago and I don’t think I could even do a half marathon now.  But I enjoy my jogs around the neighbourhood and Fish Creek Park.  I also love to jog when I go on holiday.  It is a great way to explore a city and in this instance jet lag is your friend.

You wake up at 4.30 am and what can you do?  Lace up your shoes and go for a run.  You see the city in its waking up stage.  The dustbin men are out ….. sorry – for my Canadian readers that means the garbage trucks.  (What an odd name calling it a dustbin???  That’s a topic for another day).  You get to see people on their way to work and the coffee bars just opening up.  On a jog through Hyde Park in London we got to see the Household Cavalry doing their morning exercises.  They do something called “The Gallop” and seeing them come through the mist was extraordinary. This little video will give you a feel for one of their practices although sadly no galloping – but just listen to the sergeant major at the end – talk about throwing your voice!

Something exhilarating seeing those incredible horses in the early morning and you could actually see their breath in the cooler temperature.

One of my favourite cities for an early morning run is Venice.  Having no traffic is a huge bonus and you will probably end up doing a longer run than you had planned because Venice is notorious for its twisty alleys and surprise piazzas.  It is so easy to get lost but there’s always a café handy where you can have an espresso standing up at the bar with the gondoliers.  There are usually not many tourists out and about at that time of day so you really get to feel like a tourist – until somebody talks to you in Italian of course!

Another great running city is Rome and you get a really good workout with all the steps.  Rome is fascinating because round just about every corner you come upon some archeological dig  in progress and if you are early enough in the morning you won’t have to contend with Rome’s infamous traffic.  The morning rush hour is between 8 am and 10 am.  Isn’t that civilized?  A bit different when you compare Deerfoot.  Still Rome during the rush hour has earned a reputation for sure.  In fact driving in Italy as a whole – maybe something to do with that Latin temperament?  In fact Italy is known as “God’s racetrack”.  So if you decide to go for a jog in Rome go early – very early! And for goodness sake – stay out of the way of taxis. Time is money people – “sbrigati!!”

I have fond memories of running in Swaziland (now called Eswatini) as a member of our running club Swazi Slojos.  During the week we would run in town (a village really compared with Calgary) but at the weekends we would head out of town and run in the countryside.  That was always fun because as we ran through the small tribal villages the local kids would come running out to join us – shouting and hollering!  They would yell at us in SiSwati and take great delight in overtaking us at breakneck speed.  There we were with our high tech running shoes, water bottles, sun hats and smart watches which took our heart beat and pulse and alongside us ran this rag tag bunch of skinny barefoot kids!  They were thrashing us and all you could do was laugh along with them.  Good memories of a happy time!

Maybe you should pack your trainers for your next vacation.

From one bag to another

Last week I went down to my basement to check on something. I don’t go down there often – to be honest it is a bit of a mess. I totally forgot what I was looking for because there I saw my travel collection of bags. Small carryon with wheels for just an overnight trip, backpack for the plane, medium size case which has become my go to and an oversized mammoth of a case which I have no idea why I bought. What was I thinking of?

Oh – I was so sad. I sat down on the carpet next to the bags and had a chat.

“How are you guys?” I asked. “It seems like forever since we travelled together.”

Mammoth case “Well you got that right, lady. When was the last time you ever picked me for a trip. I don’t even know why you are hanging on to me.”

“Well you know Mammoth – you are a big lady – you might come in handy one day if I decide to emigrate – AGAIN! After all it is becoming a bit of a habit now. Emigrate from England to South Africa – emigrate from South Africa to Swaziland – emigrate from Swaziland to Canada – maybe a retirement emigration to – I dunno – Barbados – might not be a bad idea. Especially in view of the weather today.”

Of course medium sized fairly new bag couldn’t help but chime in. “Oh I remember our trip on Silversea Cruises. It was so amazing. The luggage crew with Silversea were so gentle and carried me up to your suite and laid me out on the luggage table so carefully. I felt so special and just sat there waiting for you to come into the room (which was amazing). I can remember smiling smugly to myself while you exclaimed with joy and ran around the room checking the bathroom and walk in closet and the balcony. My goodness, you were like a 5 year old at Disneyland.”

“Oh shut up” said Mammoth. “I am so sick to death of hearing about your special trips. You have only been part of this family for 2 years – wait my friend until you become old and tatty and then let’s see you get taken on a luxury cruise line!”

Medium bag sat and said nothing – probably sulking.

Backpack meanwhile chirped “well I go on every trip now that Mom has seen how much better it is to travel with a backpack on a flight rather than a stupid little bag on wheels”.

“Who the hell are you calling Mom?” said small wheely bag. “Let me tell you when she goes on a carry on only trip I am the one! So shut up! I have done a whole two week trip to Ireland and it was only me – all the way. Boy oh boy she had those clothes packed in so tight – my jaws were aching. But I did it. I was so proud of myself – and of her. Mind you I did notice that I never saw those clothes again. Rumour has it downstairs here that they ended up in the bin.”

Oh yes, travel memories. The excitement of which bag to choose, which clothes to pack, what to wear on the plane. Dammit – I miss it!

Oh shut up, man!

That is a quote from the Presidential debate. “Oh shut up, man!” came from Biden and you could hear the exasperated tone. It is exactly what I say to myself when a loud car roars past. Or maybe a motorbike. When I was younger (omg I am starting to sound like my mother) …. let me continue. When I was younger the boys used to take the baffles out of their motorbike exhausts. It made them sound really tough (so they thought). It could turn the sound of a 50cc piddly motorbike into what sounded like a Harley. Now I know that the Harley owners out there will be insulted. A really good Harley purrs – it doesn’t roar. Nevertheless the young lads got the desired reaction – all the girls noticed them.

I am not quite sure how guys get their trucks or cars to roar but I was surprised to see numerous youtube videos on how to do just that. Weird. I don’t get it. Am I the only one who gets annoyed by loud traffic noise? I don’t think so as there is a lot of controversy over the new ring road in Calgary. Imagine if everyone drove electric vehicles. We would be able to hear ourselves think.

What I do know is that there is a really good reason for cities around the world to have pedestrian only areas. I noticed this on a recent trip to Canmore and it was a pleasure to have pedestrians come first rather than cars. So for those who enjoy escaping the roaring traffic here are a few of my favourite traffic free places.

The first one to come to mind is Venice. I love Venice exactly for that reason – no cars. Of course there is always someone who will break the rules.

“British tourists have been criticised by Italian locals after they drove their rental car along the streets of Venice. The pair were spotted as they drove along the city’s famous Grand Canal, even crossing a pedestrian bridge. Angry locals stopped the couple, who blamed Google Maps, after they nearly knocked a pedestrian down, the Mail Online reported.”

The city with the longest pedestrian only street is Copenhagen and the street is 1.1 km long. That is amazing! Copenhagen is very interesting if a little expensive.

And look how amazing this looks – a car free street right in the middle of Milan.

Notice how the street becomes a centre for art displays and little cafes. Via Dante connects the Castle to the Piazza del Duomo.

There are lots of these pedestrian roads in smaller towns too – Bellagio on Lake Como is one such. I loved it there. The cobbled streets are so narrow with lots of steps so you can work off that pasta! Some of the more popular restaurants even have cushions on the steps for those waiting for a table and the waiters will even serve you a glass of wine while you wait. How civilized.

The streets of Bellagio
And there is the line up

Now imagine if this restaurant was not in the beautiful and pedestrian free old Bellagio – but on the pavement of a regular road. Yes – horrible.

But I think hands down the winner for pedestrian traffic free streets is Fez in Morocco. My goodness, you need a guide to find your way through these very narrow alleys. In some parts I could almost touch the walls on either side at the same time.

But I have to correct myself – while there are no cars or lorries or buses there is indeed traffic – of a different kind. The four legged variety and if you try on your road rage stuff – you will come off second best – believe me!

On the silver screen

Well if we cannot travel we can at least sit back and enjoy tv travel and hopefully that will satisfy some of our urges to get out and explore. Depending on what you like to do it might even be better doing it virtually. Think about it – you can watch people doing things that you would hate to do. For example the documentary series/reality show Alone. Filmed up in the NWT inside the Arctic circle these brave contestants have to stay for 100 days all alone.

Cut me out! I am allergic to the cold. Seriously – I have really poor circulation in hands and feet and I cannot be in the cold and while I wasn’t exactly in the Arctic Circle I absolutely froze to death when I went to Yellowknife early in March a couple of years ago. It was SO disappointing as I had been dying to see the Northern Lights. We hung around for ages in this special camp with loungers where you could lie down and stare up at the sky – NOTHING. When it got to about 1 am I said I am done. I am so cold I cannot think. So we traipsed off to the bus and just as we turned around and headed to the hotel someone shouted “Oh look – it’s the lights”. Well of course we were in the bus and the windows were all steamed up and we could see nothing and the driver was at the end of his shift and he was headed for home. By the time we got back to the hotel my feet were blue – and that was with the special snow boots. Nope – I am a warm weather girl which is why I am fascinated with this series. I can’t believe that the contestants are going to spend time in the Arctic in that cold with not even an electric blanket to help. Watch it – it’s good!

Another good one is Fiji Eco Challenge – The World’s Toughest Race. Now I have been to Fiji and the Mamanuca Islands but I never saw anything like these people are going through. Freezing cold mountain streams and mud and rain.

So don’t let this put you off Fiji because it is beautiful and I promise you won’t have to go anywhere near a freezing cold mountain stream. My time there was spent between the main island of Fiji along the Coral Coast and then out to the Mamanuca Islands – Tokoriki and Castaway. The water was warm, the wine was cold – it was a perfect holiday. Well – almost perfect!

The resort on Tokoriki was amazing – they had the most incredible bathrooms – actually with a shower outside in a little courtyard attached to the room. It was very private with a tall wall all around and a tiled floor and no ceiling – just open to the sky, the sun and the moon……. and others! What we didn’t realise was that some of the arrivals were not by boat (as we had arrived) but by helicopter. So early one morning there was my husband thoroughly enjoying his morning shower when out of nowhere a helicopter swooped over low – so low that everyone could see him in the shower – so they all waved. He waved back! Later when we went up to breakfast he was quite famous!

And then there’s Travels with My Father – absolutely hilarious and very politically incorrect. Jack Whitehall decides to discover the world with his father who has very different views on life.

Aw you see – this is what we have to do right now – either that or do what some other inventive people have done to get their travel fix and make it look as if they are still travelling the world.

Yes we all want to travel …. this badly –

Scraping the barrel

OK – so we are in the middle of COVID and we happen to be in the travel industry – so what’s there to laugh about? You have to find something because laughter is extremely good for you – did you know that? Even if you are pretending to laugh it still produces the right endorphins. As the Mayo Clinic says, laughter is really good for you –

Stress relief from laughter

A good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, but data is mounting about the positive things laughter can do.

Short-term benefits

A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:

  • Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
  • Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
  • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Now for those of you out there in the travel or tourism industry – or indeed in the hospitality industry – you might well be asking what the hell is there to laugh about. People are stressed – just watch the news at night and see the latest story on who has gone ape about not wanting to wear a mask. So you have a choice – you can cry or you can laugh – and we choose to laugh.

So true – I will never take flying for granted. Strange how the months have marched by during this pandemic. When it started in March we thought yeah, few weeks – maybe 3 months at most and we will be back up in the sky. Well no – that didn’t happen and the world has become a strange place. There was so much about travel that we took for granted and now just the most simple part of a trip starts to look magical and special….

Yes I know that there will be people reading this who will say COVID is NOT FUNNY! I know that – it is not funny when you see iconic business like Ranchmans closing down. Wow – we saw the film Cool Runnings when we lived in Southern Africa and loved it! When we got our visa to come and live in Canada we told the kids and they said “Where is Calgary?” and we said remember Cool Runnings? Well that’s Calgary! They were SO excited and the first place we had to take them to was Ranchmans with the Jamaica Bob Sled sticking out the side of the wall. So sad.

So I agree – COVID is bad in so many ways but a good comparison would be the humour of the Second World War. This was important to bolster spirits and keep people feeling strong and positive. Some of the songs over that time are just hilarious and and just too rude to repeat in this blog but many might recall the first line of one of the songs being –

“Hitler has only got one ball!” (this was sung to the tune of Colonel Bogey March).

But it gave the lads something to laugh about in a dismal time.