Don’t feed the seagulls

There is nothing quite like the squawking of seagulls to get that next-to-the-sea feeling (unless of course you are talking about the area around the Calgary dump).

Sometimes however it would be nice to have seaside without gulls – that’s certainly the view of visitors and locals in Perth, Australia.  The gulls are so bad there that the owner of the restaurant has armed visitors with water pistols to drive away the pesky birds.

Looks quite fun actually – and it certainly doesn’t hurt the seagulls.

The problem is seagulls are actually quite fussy creatures and seem to thrive in more populated up market areas.  I guess the pickings are better than hovering out over the cliffs where you might just pick up the odd fish, rat or bird’s egg.  Hanging around a more prosperous suburban locale the seagulls become stronger, more numerous and actually rather spoilt.

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Having these creatures around rather spoils some of those special moments that we all crave on holiday.  Many people worry about insects and other creepy crawlies when they travel but I suspect that not many people worry about the seagulls.  I can remember sitting on the balcony of my room overlooking Plettenberg Bay.  We had ordered breakfast in the room – on our balcony – BIG MISTAKE!  I didn’t even see him coming.  He swooped in from high up with nary a flap of a wing and before I knew it …. there went my bacon!

This guy knows what it feels like.

gull thief

They don’t seem to have any fear – these gulls.

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In fact experts say the rise in seagull attacks is because the birds have overcome their natural fear of humans through years of living in close proximity to us.  They also like to hog the limelight and will do anything to ruin a photo op.

titanic

Yep – these seagulls get everywhere and in Britain there are even articles with advice on how to stop seagulls ruining your holiday.  They are regarded as even more annoying than wasps.  But sometimes their greedy nature gets them into trouble – like this one that fell into a vat of curry ….

curry seagull

“I had a pelican curry the other night. Tasted ok but the bill was enormous.”

(Sorry – couldn’t resist that!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a hard case or a duff?

Are you a hard case or a duff?

Bear with me here. With all the travelling I do my suitcases take a battering and now it is coming up to the time when I need to do a replacement. But what do I choose? There are so many options. Do I do hard case? Two wheels or four? Duffel with wheels? Duffel that converts to back pack? Ultra light weight or not so much. Goodness – the choices are endless.

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One thing I have learnt is that smaller is better. Down in my basement I have two monster size suitcases and I cannot for the life of me understand what I was thinking when I bought those. They are too big, too awkward and frankly usually bring home clothes that I never wore. As a woman I pack too much – I know. Always going through the “what if” scenario. What if I wear these pants and then this top is the only one that looks good but what if it is cold and then this top looks ugly with a jacket so I might not use it. What if I don’t pack it and then get to the other side of the world and of course that would be the one item I would “need”…. ladies are you with me?

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So apart from smaller – hard or soft? Hard cases were very popular at one time but I don’t see so many of them these days at airports. They are good for preventing crushing but then don’t have that stretch factor that soft cases have. They also don’t often have the magic zip – you know that one. The zip that gives you two extra centimetres of space so that you can cram in even more stuff that you have bought on your trip. “Stuff” you probably won’t need but sometimes you have to buy – and of course let’s not forget the gifts for family. The anticipation of grandchildren wondering what you have brought home for them makes that zip stretch very important.

Two wheels or four? Well there are wheels and then there are wheels. Sometimes those four wheeled cases are not that easy to move around and if you are getting from one terminal to another quickly two wheels is way better.

To duffel or not to duffel – that is the question. I have seen a lot of these cases around. A duffel bag in soft material that can be carried by the handles or stood up on one end and towed on two wheels. For me the jury is still out on this one. I am not sure how I would pack something like this. I notice that some of them even have straps on the back so you could hoist the whole thing on your back like a proper backpack. That might be handy in places like Venice where it is a real pain to tow a suitcase with wheels over cobbled streets and up and down the steps of the many bridges there. I would have to go and try that out at the shop and see how comfortable it might be.

A common theme of necessity through all the above seems to be the wheels. Anyone who can remember dealing with old suitcases with no wheels will agree with me. You absolutely had to find a luggage cart in a case like that especially if you have short arms.511E3E57-64FF-4E04-BFCD-A1ECBE884B27

I am going to be looking into these options in more detail and trying some out to see which would work best for me …. what’s your recommendation?

 

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Give me back my seat!

Seat selection on a flight is important – no – let me say it is very important.  In fact for some people it might make the difference between getting on the flight and not getting on the flight.  Maybe you are a very tall person with long legs (not that I would know what that feels like! …. ps I am 5 ft) and you just have to have that aisle seat if you can’t afford to fly up front.

tall people flight

Some people have other issues – someone who is afraid of flying might want a particular seat – maybe nowhere near the window.  Or there might be those claustrophobic people who need to be up near the front.   They need to see a way out of this crazy flying tube!  If they don’t have that seat it could be trouble for everyone.

claustrophobic

Can’t breathe – get me outta here

So you can see that seat selection is a very important issue.   Airlines have realised that too.  More and more are charging for seat selection.  And not just the “good” seats – some are charging for the privilege of pre-selecting your seat anywhere in the aircraft.  OK so you could wait until 24 hours prior when you can check in online and then select your seat BUT if you are too late then and are not able to select a seat BEWARE.  You could get bumped.  I know it’s not fair but it’s true.  (In fairness this doesn’t usually apply to charter flights or to Westjet).

So all well and good.  You take the trouble to select your seat, pay the extra money and then there is a schedule change.  You get a schedule change notification – maybe just 10 minutes – no big deal, right?  WRONG.  You could have lost your seats.  Even though you pre-paid for them.  I have seen a number of these instances over the last few weeks.

The website Flyer Talk deals with this issue in an interesting post –

  • We make every effort to ensure you get your chosen seat, but seat assignments are not guaranteed.
  • We reserve the right to change seats for operational, safety or security reasons.
  • You must check in at least 30 minutes before departure and be at the gate 15 minutes before departure or you may lose your seat.

“Seat held, changed or gone at booking: One member theorizes a held seat may be taken by a positive purchase by another passenger. But it could be due to another factor listed below.

Disability designated seat: Some seats are assigned preferentially to people with disabilities, and their companions, under the Air Carrier Access Act. Even some non-disability seats may be required for a person with a disability in some conditions.

American blocks a limited number of seats on each aircraft to accommodate customers who identify themselves as having a qualified disability. Adjacent seats are provided, under certain circumstances, for customers with disabilities who must travel with a companion for assistance.

Equipment change: AA Information Technology’s very inefficient at these. You may have selected a Main Cabin Extra as an elite, yet a change from one aircraft subtype with differently numbered seat rows to another and you may find yourself moved from your carefully selected MCE aisle seat to a middle seat in one of the last rows. Aircraft substitutions from one type to another (77W to 772 or v. v.) or even “downgauging” (767 to 757) may occur – this will generally result in unanticipated seat changes.

Equipment malfunction: A seat may not be available on a specific flight because it was reported as malfunctioning and has not been repaired yet.

Crew rest seat: Some seats are contractually required to be set aside for resting crew, on flights of specific lengths.

Federal Air Marshal (“FAM”): FAMs are generally accommodated in the highest class of service in seats that are often popular with passengers. These accommodations may occur at any time, and by law AA must both comply and not reveal to passengers the reason for their seat loss or change. That’s correct: AA is prohibited by law from telling you your seat was given to a FAM, so you will only hear implausible and made up reasons of how you lost your seat.

Other: AA might be required to seat a passenger with a small child together, displacing another passenger. There may be other reasons as well.

It is suggested you regularly check your itineraries to deal with route and flight changes (often unannounced) and seat changes (always unannounced).”

So if you were neurotic about selecting your seat in advance, you will be even more neurotic after having read this.

The site has numerous comments from travellers with stories of dropped seats –

“I’m flying business class on a KLM-operated NW codeshare, IAD-AMS-NBO and DAR-AMS-IAD on the return. When I first made my reservations, my agent confirmed window seats, and added my DL number. My DL profile notes a window seat preference.

When the tickets were issued, however, my itinerary showed aisle seating. Sure enough, my agent told me that NW “must have dropped your seating assignment” and given me aisles instead. NW claims it did no such thing, and that they have no record of my original seating assignment. No big problem; agent was able to get me window seats back on all legs but one.”

Now there are lots of airline passenger rights advocates out there but I don’t see anyone talking about seat selection.  I am sure that will come …. one day.  In the meantime, let’s just blame it all on the IT department.

it nerd PLAY WITH SEATS

You laugh but it’s true

Now that is such a South African expression and I am sure my South African friends will be chuckling – You Laugh But it’s True is also the name of the film about the life of Trevor Noah.  The sm He has an inspiring story but the message behind this is that however bad things get sometimes you just have to laugh.  And that my friends is so true when you start talking about travel.

We hear so much in the news – the delayed flights, people stuck on the tarmac for hours, angry crowds at airport terminals, people floating around in cruise ships with no engines… goodness me!  I could go on.   So it is refreshing now and then to have a chuckle at the funny things that can happen ….

…. on planes

flight companion

dog on plane

…… at airports

Yoga airport

A different reason below for being stuck at immigration ….  this is what happens when you are not paying attention to your 4 year old!

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in taxis ….

When you get off the plane, train or ship  –  sooner or later you are going to end up taking a taxi –  here’s a contribution from one blogger ….

One of my all-time favorite countries to travel in is India. If you have ever been you know that this is one of the craziest countries in the world to drive in. The streets are crowded, the cars share the road with cows, camels, horses, dogs, bicycles, huge trailers, tuk-tuks, buses and pretty much everything that moves.

The rules: there are no rules. They use their horn for pretty much everything and if you want to drive past someone you just honk your horn and drive around. When we took taxis in the northern parts of the country I saw my life flash before my eyes every five minutes.

In New Delhi we had an awesome taxi-driver that drove us around the city for a couple of days. In the world’s second most populous city you have to be pretty crazy to become a taxi driver. At least that is what we thought sitting in the backseat of his taxi listening to AR Rahman, the Mozart of Madras blasting threw the broken speakers whilst dodging cars and cows.

I ask him: “so what makes a good taxi driver in Delhi?
He says: “a good taxi driver needs three things; good breaks, good horn and good luck!

Laughing and smiling after he gave us his words of wisdom he continued to drive us safely through the streets of New Delhi.

Samya_Taxi-4

in hotels ….

when your room attendant has a sense of humour –
towel art

and ….. on ships

We had a really funny lecturer on our last cruise on the Silver Muse.  He said he had got quite sick on the cruise (there was a bit of a flu thing going around) so when his voice got really hoarse he decided to go down and see the doctor.  He knocked on the Medical Room door and when the nurse answered he whispered hoarsely “Is the doctor here?” … “No” she said smiling “Come in quick.”

Shut up and listen

I wonder how often a flight attendant has wanted to scream  – “Come on people – Shut up and listen.  I am not doing this for fun!”  I challenge you – look around you on your next flight and see how many people are actually listening to the safety briefing.  I have seen people sleeping, reading, chatting – anything  but actually listening to the instructions.

I wonder why?  Do they think that this will never happen to them?  Do they think that they know it all already – after all they have been on lots of flights before and all this babble is SO BORING …

So how many times have you seen this on a flight

oxygen masks

And you listen – right?  Of course you do.

Until you get your picture snapped during an emergency on a flight.  See how many people below are not covering the nose with the oxygen mask?

Southwest

You see my thoughts are that if you cannot follow basic instructions about how to use the oxygen mask then how the heck are you going to get out of the emergency exit.  This is why airlines think of ingenious and funny ways to capture the public’s attention regarding the safety briefing.  Air New Zealand’s air safety videos are famous by now and worth a watch even if you aren’t going on a flight.  This is their latest ….

When airlines don’t have this sort of entertainment flight attendants have been known to make up their own with some hilarious results.  I am sure you have seen them on youtube.

What do flight attendants really think about having to make these announcements and most people on the flight are blatantly ignoring them?  Here are some candid thoughts of one particular flight attendant –

Nuralia Mazlan, a flight attendant for Air Asia –

       “Personally, when passengers didn’t pay attention to the safety demo, i like to take note of their seat numbers, in case of an emergency, i would know which passengers would be at a disadvantage as they didn’t listen to the briefing.

As cabin crew, we’re trained to be alert and vigilant at all times. It offends us, but there’s nothing much we can do if you refuse to listen. We’re paid for your safety so we take extra precautions just in case. But that can’t be said for all of us, only certain. Sometimes i don’t care as well, and leave it to these passengers to use their wits (if they think they’re smarter than us, then that’s ok) to save themselves in an emergency.

For example, Flight Lion Air 904 that overshot Denpasar airport’s runway crashed straight into the ocean at the end of the strip, most passengers evacuated from the aircraft without their life jackets on. When asked by the authority most of them admitted they were clueless of the location of these jackets as they didn’t pay attention to the safety demo and most of the passengers are not first time flyers either. The life jacket is just under the seats in front of you and if you paid attention, you would know.

Luckily the water was shallow, but what if it overshot and crashed into deeper water? That’s a good example of why you should pay attention to the safety demo. It doesn’t take even 5 minutes of your time to pay attention. This can save your life.”

Well that’s telling them Nuralia.  Keep smiling buddy!

flight attendant humour

 

 

 

Winter blues and tropical snow

This seems to be a winter that goes on and on and on….. and most of us are thoroughly sick of it.  After all it is the middle of April already – and yet this morning we were greeted with thick heavy damp snow.  The trees were smothered and cheeky early spring shrubs were promptly told off by Old Man Winter.

The answer it seems is to get away from it all …. To somewhere warm and tropical.

Well, be careful with your choice – sometimes Mother Nature can have a nasty sense of humour.  Like the time it snowed in Hawaii – (last year).  Hah that’ll teach them!

So I was curious – where in the world can we go on vacation where we are guaranteed it will never snow?  How about Antarctica?

WHAT? You scream.

It’s true –

Snow requires two specific weather conditions: low temperatures and moisture in the atmosphere. In warm, humid places, such as Florida, there is significant moisture in the air, but temperatures are rarely low enough to produce snow. And while many deserts get quite cold in the winter, there is often not enough moisture in the atmosphere to produce snow. Even Antarctica, the coldest and iciest continent, contains a region called the Dry Valleys, where it is extremely cold, but so dry that snow never falls. (courtesy of the National Snow and Ice Data Centre).

OK – we don’t want to go all the way down to the Dry Valleys – not right now.  Surely there must be somewhere else where it never snows.

Bahamas?  Pretty safe bet – you think?  Freeport had snow back in 1977. What?

Guadeloupe in the Caribbean?  Snowed 31 March this year. Yes – this is not an April fool’s prank. It really did – or did it?

spring meme

Carib Buzz reports –

The title of this article has even us scratching our heads in disbelief! And no, this is no April Fools Day joke. According to reports, snowflakes actually fell in the hills of the French island of Guadeloupe.

The light snow fall took place on March 31, in the hills of St. Claude and has stunned meteorologist both locally and internationally.

French meteorologist, Alain Museleque, explained the extraordinary phenomenon on Guadeloupe Premiere TV.

“We had a mass of clouds that arrived over St. Claude,” he said in French and translated by McCathie Marie. “Accompanying this mass of clouds was some very cold air. In this very cold air, in the mass of clouds, we had the creation of some snowflakes which fell to the ground. This has never before been seen in Guadeloupe. This is an exceptional event that we will never forget.”

BUT – others say no way –  Roy Spencer, a NASA scientist said –

“On April Fools day (April 1), there was a report of snow on the tropical island of Guadeloupe on the night of March 31, 2016. Guadeloupe is an island in the northern Lesser Antilles. The news report even mentions a light dusting on the ground.

I’m calling BS on this report.” …… (I think he was wearing this t-shirt).

bs

Well …. you be the judge.

On the flip side there are people who love the snow – granted, they are people who don’t generally live in a snowy place and for them it is a total novelty.  I recently had a visitor from South Africa who stood outside my office in the snow with his arms spread out to the heavens and the fluttering snowflakes.  “This is fantastic, guys”  he said.

“yeah…right!”

But there must be some good about winter – it inspired some beautiful prose –

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”
Lewis Carroll,

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
John Steinbeck,

“My old grandmother always used to say, Summer friends will melt away like summer snows, but winter friends are friends forever.”
George R.R. Martin,

So let’s not despair – Spring cannot be far away.  I only have now question – does anybody know what the heck is snow mould?

 

 

 

 

This is a biting question!

Mosquitoes are strange creatures. It seems that there are different varieties all over the world with very different patterns of behaviour.

Now you would think that they would be worse in hot tropical locations – but that is not my experience.  I grew up in South Africa and of course mosquitoes are very common there.  But .. we were only bothered by them at night.  So all the houses in South Africa had mosquito netting on the windows and every night as the sun starting going down you prepared yourself for the evening.

My Dad used to call it Mozzy Time!  He would go around the house closing windows and making sure those pests couldn’t get inside.  Thing is he was just neurotic about anything that flew or crawled.  The mosquitoes were not a problem at all.  The drill was if you are sitting outside just spray some Peaceful Sleep Peaceful Sleepon your exposed arms and legs and you are done!  We entertained outside on the verandah with no problem at all.

We also did a lot of camping and again the same precautions would come into play.  Even the little ones would play outside well into the night with minimal problems.  Of course there were the odd mozzy bites which were a nuisance but for the most part it was no big deal.  

One camping weekend trip I realized that I had left the tent at home.  No problem – we used the jib from our sailing dinghy and erected a temporary shelter – slept on the grass under the stars.  With the help of the ever handy Peaceful Sleep we had an undisturbed night (except for when a huge monitor lizard scrabbled through the grass next to us on his nocturnal jaunt).

So when we decided to emigrate to Canada I thought well, I can deal with the snow and the cold and at least there won’t be any mosquitoes.

WHAT?  Was I ever wrong.

My goodness me.  Where do these creatures come from?  First of all they are massive compared to our little African fellows.  They are also slow.  Our African chaps zip around so quickly it would be hard to swat one and they are difficult to see in any event.  These Canadian mozzies seem to be in slow motion in comparison. They also have no decent sense of time.  Any self-respecting mosquito would realise that you don’t hang out during the day looking for a blood snack.  Rest up during the day and then come out when the sun goes down.  That’s the procedure.  Didn’t they read the manual?

It makes me chuckle when people talk to me about travelling to exotic locations and very often the first question is “What about bugs”.  Seriously?  Have you ever been out in the Canadian wilderness?  Just google Canadian bugs and you might not go out again.  Along with mosquitoes we have stink bugs, black flies and spiders galore.  I found this interesting article …

Even the web site of the Salisbury Morse Place School states:  “Winnipeg is [incorrectly] known the “Mosquito” capital of Canada.  The mosquito is jokingly considered Manitoba’s provincial bird!!!” In reality the capital designation rightly belong to Komarno, Manitoba, about 70 km north of Winnipeg.  In fact the name Komarno is Ukrainian for mosquito.  There is a 4.6 meter statue of a mosquito, built in 1984 in Komarno.  Apparently the town is now saving up for a big bug zapper.

Statue of Giant Mosquito in Komarno Canada

And how about Deer Flies – heard of them?  “Deer are nice and flies aren’t so bad, but deer flies are nasty — something you already know if you’ve ever been camping in Canada. These knife-jawed bloodsuckers will saw through your skin, drink your blood and leave you nothing but pain and a potential allergic reaction for your trouble. Nice.”

Mmm – let’s put the sleeping bags on Kijiji and sell them.  As a friend of mine once said “The closest I get to camping Darling, is staying at the Holiday Inn”