Do you really know your name?

Honestly? No tricks here – do you really know your name? I have to ask because as you probably know getting your name right on an airline ticket is pretty important. So important that if it is not correct then you might not get on the flight.

Airlines require that your air ticket matches your name as per your passport or if you are travelling within Canada it should at least match your Government issued ID which for most people is a drivers licence.

And this is where the whole thing starts to get ugly because there are so many definitions of what you should or should not have on your airline ticket. First of all let’s talk about hyphens. Many people have a double-barrelled surname like Andrew Lloyd Webber or Helena Bonham Carter. However airline tickets don’t recognise the hyphen so the name gets all stuck together and comes out as ANDREW LLOYDWEBBER. Sometimes this will alarm the novice traveller but what can you do? The airlines make the rules and if you split up the names on a ticket reservation then it ends up looking like Lloyd is his middle name – which is wrong.

But wait a minute I hear you yell….. there are no hyphens there. Yes that is true. Some people with multiple surnames choose not to display the hyphen so it really gets confusing …. as per Wiki

” Many double-barrelled names are written without a hyphen, which can cause confusion as to whether the surname is double-barrelled or not. Notable persons with unhyphenated double-barrelled names include prime minister David Lloyd George, the composers Ralph Vaughan Williams and Andrew Lloyd Webber, historian Basil Liddell Hart, astronomer Robert Hanbury Brown, actresses Kristin Scott Thomas and Helena Bonham Carter (although she has said the hyphen is optional),[2] comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (however, his cousin, the clinical psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, opted for the hyphen) and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. “

Did you know that some people even have triple barrelled names! Oh my goodness. Wikipedia tells us that these people often revert to just a double barrelled name for convenience – no kidding –  

“For example, actress Isabella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe goes by Isabella Calthorpe and her half-sister Gabriella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe is known by her stage name Gabriella Wilde. “

And I am not even going to talk about the people with more than that. All we want to do is make sure that we don’t get denied boarding on a flight because our name on our passport does not match the name on the airline ticket.

Now airlines have to do their due diligence but they are somewhat flexible if there is a typo say of one letter or maybe two – but one never likes to leave things to chance because you really don’t know who you might get at the check in desk. Best to follow the rules all the way.

I have seen some strange passports – a couple a few years back each had 2 initials at the beginning of their names in their passports and then a middle name which they used and their last name. So if a person’s name was John James Richard Smith it would be shown as J. J. Richard Smth on the passport. I really don’t understand how that happens as you have to produce your birth certificate at the passport office so why???? No wonder the check in agents can get antsy about names and passports.

Maybe it all goes back to the parents when they name a child. Does this child really need as many names as British royalty? First middle and last should be sufficient. Just thinking ahead to when that small baby turns into a long haired backpacker heading off to Thailand you just don’t want him having any trouble along the way.

As Juliet put it so succintly (or Shakespear should I say) –

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

Leave your baggage behind!

Picture this – you are quietly enjoying your flight home after a long vacation. The flight starts its descent and you think that’s great – finished my book just in time. Now I will start to get myself organised, put the kobo back in my bag and then


Aircraft emergency. The pilot comes on and says that he is going to have to do an emergency landing due to ….. I don’t know …. I am making this up as I go along. The point is that this is an emergency landing and although you have always diligently listened to the pre-flight speech from the flight attendant you are now totally on edge and listening very hard to any instruction coming your way.

Finally the flight lands bumpy but safe … the lights go off in the aircraft and those little indicator lights along the passage light up. Oh my god – so they were right – they do have a purpose. Great. The flight attendant is shouting to everyone to evacuate as the emergency slides have been deployed. You struggle out of your seat kicking aside your high heels because that’s the drill and you listened. Everyone is struggling to get into the aisle to get off the plane out of the nearest exit.


The whole line up of people is held up because some idiot is struggling to get his bag out of the overhead bin.

Can you imagine? This is not made up but is exactly what has happened a couple of times in emergency landings – most recently with an Aeroflot flight that landed on fire. Many people were trapped on board the burning aircraft while some doofus (I am going to call him Mr Doofus) decided he had to get his bag from the overhead bin.

Have I put you off flying altogether? Sorry – but it is something that the FAA is looking at in detail and they are running tests with real people to see how long it takes to evacuate a plane. The ideal is 90 seconds. The problem is that critics of the testing say that the volunteers they used are all young, skinny and fit which really does not represent the typical traveller these days. The test was run because some people are saying that the smaller seats on aircraft make it more difficult for emergency evacuation. Maybe it is the smaller brains in some people who insist on grabbing their hand luggage when they evacuate.

There is no doubt that seats on planes have become smaller over the years shrinking from a pitch of 34 inches down to even 28 or 29 on some aircraft. The width has also shrunk from 18.5 inches to 17 inches. Just ask any woman if she would like to lose 1.5 inches off her hips and I will bet she will say Yes Please!

People are getting bigger and seats are getting smaller – but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Spirit Airlines has designed a new seat that although only offering a 30 inch pitch it will feel like more due to its design. So that is a good thing. So maybe with technology the airlines can still offer smaller seats but new designs will give us more leg room. Sadly technology won’t be able to help Mr Doofus or his friends understand an emergency.

Just like riding a bike!

This sounds like the sort of thing you should do when in Amsterdam. After all the place is full of bike riders – full of bikes too. Everyone rides a bike in all sorts of outfits. Female execs on the way to work in stylish suits with high heels and an infant in the basket on the handlebars.

And no helmets – that’s just ridiculous so the locals say. You are just peddling round the city – not bike racing for goodness sake.

So us tourists come along and jump on a bike – luckily for me at least it was a guided tour so all I had to do was wobble and follow. And yes we were all kitted up with proper helmets – Good Lord – you wouldn’t want to risk an American suffering from concussion after a fall.

I had noticed the slightly irritated looks on the faces of biking commuters in Amsterdam as our raggedy line of wobbly tourists passed by so it was funny when I came across an article on CNN written from the perspective of a local in Amsterdam. What really made me laugh was the quote from one of the local bike rental companies –

“Tourists think they’re in Disneyworld,” says Geert Gelissen, who runs FietsConsult, a side-street cycle hire and repair shop in the Dutch capital. “And Dutch people think they’re God on a bicycle.”It’s a problem. As soon as summer starts, I sell more of these things than anything else,” he adds, brandishing an enormous brass bike bell the size of a clenched fist.”Customers come into my shop and scream ‘arrrrgghh!'”

I totally understand where the locals are coming from. We tourists can sometimes be very arrogant about visiting foreign spots and maybe we do treat it like a Disneyworld theme park when it is in fact someone’s home. Still we bring important revenue to these places – So There!

I do have to laugh though as it reminds me what it was like to be a local in a popular tourist spot growing up in the lovely village of Mullion in Cornwall, England. Every year we had this little spot of heaven basically to ourselves except for the hellish months of July and August when the “holidaymakers” would descend on us from “up North” complete with sunburnt arms, loud “foreign” accents and crying kids with snotty noses.

Hmm – we were complete snobs and went to beaches that only the locals could ge to, avoided the corner fish and chip shop like the plague and signed with relief on the first week of September when the hordes receded and we had our village back.

So I can really understand where the people of Amsterdam are coming from. Trying to get to work, drop the kids off at nursery school or run errands and all the time having to weave their way through long snaking lines of tourists who haven’t ridden a bike in 30 years. Yep – I get it!

Would you eat this?

Travel is exciting – exploring new destinations, new cultures and…. new and sometimes, strange cuisine. Many people are understandably cautious about trying foods that they don’t know or recognise and also there is always the fear of getting sick while on holiday. Nobody wants that.

However a recent article in got me thinking about strange food around the world. I think that particularly backpackers are brave when it comes to trying out new and weird things. Usually they are young and don’t have much money so eating local makes sense. Also bear in mind that what makes a delicious meal in some cultures might not be so appealing to others. So let’s take a look at some of the strange foods they looked at –

One of the dishes they feature in this article are chicken’s feet. It made me chuckle because this was something often sold in the local markets in the rural areas around Swaziland and was regarded as a cheap and fairly nutrious meal. It would be served with another part of the chicken that people typically do not eat – the head. Sold together they were locally known as “walky talkies”. You would find these on sale at many of the townships sold with “pap” (cornmeal porridge) and a tasty sauce.

Did I? Nope ….

Tuna eyeballs! I am not kidding. This is a delicacy in Japan. On my recent trip there one of our group said this would be the only holiday where she returned home having lost weight. But they never did serve us tuna eyeballs (thank goodness) …. so….

Did I? Nope ….

Snails! The typical dish that makes you think of France. Served in the shell – just in case you forget that it was once a snail. Look, having grown up in Cornwall where the fields are enclosed with stone walls I saw plenty of snails in my life. Big fat snails leaving long slimy trails behind them. Our Cornish snails were so good that we had people coming over from France to come and pick them and take them back there. I guess they were sold off as the genuine French Mademoisell le Snail!

Parlez-vous francais?

Did I – nope!

Guinea pig? Very popular in South America. You can even get guinea pig pizza. The website extolls the virtues of guinea pig farming saying that it has a lower impact on the environment …. “Guinea pig farming business is a more profitable source of food and income than many traditional stock animals such as pigs and cattle, because these animals require much less room than traditional livestock and they reproduce extremely quickly. The guinea pigs can be raised in both urban and rural families for supplementary income. Meat of these animals is high in protein and low in cholesterol and fat. The meat is described as being similar to rabbit and the dark meat of chicken.”

I don’t know ….I keep thinking of those little guinea pigs that they used to keep in school running around in their little exercise wheels ….

Did I … nope!

Marmite? Very popular in England and Australia – it is a yeast based product, quite salty with a “love it or hate it” following.

Did I …. You bet! LOVE it….

Oh no – snow – everywhere

Well it really is here – the snow – piled up high on cars, branches of trees. Can’t really complain because it is part of living in Canada. Before we immigrated here people in our Southern African home were a bit in awe of why we were going to the cold North. “Oh my goodness” they said, “Isn’t it really cold there?” We assured them that we would be fine. Hadn’t we been to Austria to go skiing in January. We could handle a bit of snow and cold. Ha … what did we know? We arrived in Calgary in 1995 just in time for a really cold winter – December 1995 a temp of -32 celsius. Ouch! That was a harsh introduction.

It was then that I really understood the meaning of snowbirds and why retired people in Calgary fled south to Arizona, Mexico and other sunny places to escape the worst of the winter.

But Mother Nature is sneaky and maybe she has the last laugh as there are some places where snow has visited that will really surprise you. She has sprinkled the white stuff in Arizona! What a cheek! And even Maui. That’s just rude! The Grand Canyon earlier this year looked like it had been transplanted to somewhere north of Banff.

And then just to shake things up a bit Mother Nature really messes with us and instead of snow sends us perfectly shaped ice that looks just like eggs. This was the scene in Finland a few days ago

But did you know that snow can be quite helpful? It works as a thermal blanket …the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (yes there really is a place called that) reports as follows –

The thermal properties of snow have important consequences for climate, as well. Snow acts like an insulating blanket. Beneath just 30 centimeters (1 foot) of snow, the soil and the organisms within it are protected from changes in the air temperature above the snow surface. Snow’s cold, moist surface influences how much heat and moisture circulate between the ground and the atmosphere. Snow helps insulate the ground below, holding in heat and preventing moisture from evaporating into the atmosphere. Even on top of other frozen material, such as permafrost and river ice or sea ice, snow cover prevents ice from forming as quickly.

You can read the whole article here

Plus I am sure there are a whole bunch of skiiers and snowboarders out there just waiting for that first snow report. So the choice is out there for you. Strap on the skis, the snow shoes or the snowboard ….

or just get the hell outta here!

Yes please!

Rule Britannia!

More Canadians are visiting Britain – and I am happy about that. Born and raised in Britain has made me a bit “soft” when it comes to Jolly Olde England. It’s easier than ever for Canadian passport holders as they can now use the e-passport gates –

ePassport gates are automated, where a passport reader and camera, rather than a border officer, will verify your identity and check your ‘chipped’ passport. The gates use facial recognition technology to compare your face to the photograph recorded on the ‘chip’ in your passport.”

Many Canadians will find that the exchange rate is a little better now so here are a few trivia bits and pieces to encourage you to plan your next holiday in Britain.

Clotted cream – an absolute delight and treat and a must at any High Tea or Cream tea. But does it come from Devon or Cornwall? Big fight here as both claim the cream. But how they eat it is different – Cornish put the jam on the scone first – then the clotted cream. The Devonshire crowd does it the other way round. Now having lived in Devon and Cornwall I can testify that either way is delicious – but if you eat it the Cornish way there are no calories at all (just kiddin’).

But how is clotted cream different to regular whipped cream (and don’t even think of comparing it that stuff in the aerosol can) – here’s a good explanation

“There’s the ‘little bit of texture to the crust, the initial silky smooth mouth-feel, the cool, fine, slightly nutty flavour’ that comes through as it ‘delicately coats the roof of your mouth,’ eulogises Nick Rodda. He’s describing the clotted cream his family has made at their farmhouse in Redruth, Cornwall, for the past 126 years in the lyrical way that a master winemaker might evoke a particularly good vintage.” from CountryLife magazine.

While in Britain you must try a Full English Breakfast which will no doubt include black or white pudding. Now I was fairly squeamish as a kid so if I had known that black pudding was also known as blood sausage I would have said no thanks Mom.

Another thing Canadians might find strange about Britain is the fact that people drink outside the pubs. Usually in Canada you cannot go outside holding your beer or wine but in England – no problem.

Another thing that visitors find off putting are the traffic circles – tons of them – and some of them very big. But they are called roundabouts and there are sometimes roundabouts within roundabouts – like this one

Oh my goodness – can you imagine? And you are driving on the WRONG side of the road??? Or is it the RIGHT side of the road?

And if you are brave enough to rent a car and really discover the countryside you will find that the roads are very very narrow. Why? Well they are old – built by Romans – some of them only 20 foot wide. But do go down that narrow road – at the end you will discover some of the delights of the not so well known parts of Britain. Here’s one of my favourite places. Can you name it?

Stinky passengers

Two stinky passengers were recently thrown off a flight – as reported by Outside Magazine –

October 15, two Appalachian Trail thru-hikers were escorted off a Frontier Airlines flight at Boston’s Logan airport. The duo (who asked not to be named) had just completed their northbound hike and said they stopped to shower and change into clean clothes before arriving at the airport. Nevertheless, shortly after boarding, they were approached by crew members, who said they would not be allowed to fly because at least one of them had what was deemed to be offensive body odor. The hikers were walked off the plane, provided with travel-size toiletry bags, and told they could try to fly again the next day.

Back in the terminal, the hikers posted a tongue-in-cheek photo on a Facebook page for hikers. “First taste of the real world,” they wrote. “Now we’re in Boston with no way to get home.”

This elicited all kinds of responses from fellow backpackers, ranging from outrage (“Total bullshit! They should have let you fly!”) to empathy for the other passengers (“I wouldn’t even let my husband ride home in my car after he finished his hike!”). And it included, perhaps not surprisingly, all kinds of advice, ranging from the obvious (“Did you try deodorant?”) to the downright dangerous (“Douse yourself in Febreze and rub hand sanitizer in your armpits!”). 

Outside contacted both hikers, along with Frontier. The two backpackers and the airline both said there had been some extenuating circumstances that hadn’t been made clear in the viral Facebook post—namely, that the hikers were flying on buddy passes (standby tickets provided to airline employees), because one of the hiker’s relatives works for the company. A Frontier spokesperson explained that passengers flying on these nonrevenue-generating tickets are held to a higher standard for personal hygiene. But, like most airlines, Frontier also has a general policy concerning such matters.

So what are the “rules” about personal hygiene when you fly – well there are in fact written rules. American Airlines – “be respectful that your odor isn’t offensive (unless it’s caused by a disability or illness).” Delta Airlines says you can be removed from the flight if your “hygiene or odor creates an unreasonable risk of offense or annoyance to other passengers.” 

Even bus companies and train operators like Amtrak have similar policies.

So freshen up – but not too much! Remember there is a big movement out there against scent and cologne – so just soap and water please 🙂