A virtual tourist on hold

Last week I wrote about how amazing it is to be in a virtual private concert with some of the great names of the world.

This week I want to talk about visiting some of the great places of the world – virtually! For someone who loves to travel so much this has been a hard time to be in one place with no trip to look forward to. My trip to Ireland to visit my cousins in Dublin has been cancelled and no doubt the cruise I have planned for mid June in the Med will go that way too. I am a frequent follower of travel sites from around the world so this is rather bitter sweet seeing these lovely images floating into my daily feed. It is a bit like being on a diet and working in a candy store. It is just not fair!

So while I sit on hold …. AGAIN … and … AGAIN …. I go on little trips on my computer…….On hold with KLM…… been for a while….so

I think today I will go to the Louvre –

Well that was fun. Still on hold with KLM. *sigh* Let’s go somewhere different.

Aah feel so good to get back to Africa. I loved my time growing up there. When we first arrived as immigrants from the UK we were all so terrified of the bugs. We just weren’t used to them. Imagine seeing a gecko for the first time. Growing up in England we were used to snails, slugs and spiders – but geckos …. this was a whole new kind of terror. Of course we soon got used to it and graduated to camping in the middle of the African bush with all sorts of creatures walking past our small two man tent… but that story is for another time.

Meanwhile back in Calgary – I AM STILL ON HOLD WITH KLM. And here’s the sad thing – their music sucks. It is this really soft repetitive piano style tune which does nothing to lift the spirits when you are on hold. It isn’t even spiced up with the odd human voice telling me that my “patience is appreciated”. WAIT … oh my goodness I got through. I spoke to a human. So uplifting. Joaquim is manning the phones for Delta / KLM in Chile of all places. He was so sweet – and he told me the refund will only take 21 business days – hang on – that’s 4 weeks 😦

I guess I should be grateful that I wasn’t on hold with EZ-PASS – they are voted online as having the worst on hold music (if you can call it that)

At least it keeps you awake – if slightly crazy!

OK – next thing I have to do is go on hold with Air Canada …. Somebody shoot me!

A front row seat

How much do you think it costs for a front row seat at a live concert starring some of the world’s best entertainers? Or even better – those exclusive balconies that hover over the stage? The balcony people usually get the nod from the star on the stage below. Most of us however end up sitting somewhere in the middle in the best seats WE could afford just to hear and possibly catch a glimps in the distance – far far away – of our idol. The only way you can actually see their facial expression is by ignoring the stage and instead watching one of the big screens in the theatre. 😦

COVID-19 has changed all of that and I like to think of it as the silver lining – because if you are a dreamer – like me – there always HAS to be a silver lining.

So this weekend I enjoyed a personal chat and performance by Andrew Lloyd Webber who played some excepts from his amazing Phantom. Wow – no backing orchestra, no crowds, no parking – just me and Andrew in his lounge.

After I said goodby to Andy, as I affectionately called him, (he was fine with that – at least he didn’t say anything) I left his baronial home in England (did you know he is a Baron?) and headed across the pond to the States to drop in on Norah Jones. I have loved her music for a long time so it was a real pleasure to sit in her home and listen to her play – just for me.

So I think that although we have cursed it, banned it and sometimes lost our connection with it – the internet is a blessing at this time keeping the world connected. I am especially grateful to have the internet as I have a new grandbaby born on Thursday and have been visiting him virtually as my goal is to protect him as much as possible.

So sit back – enjoy your virtual concerts – you will never ever get a free front row seat like this again!

My kingdom for a horse

If you are a lover of Shakespeare you will recognise this –

“This famous phrase originally occurred in Act-V, Scene-IV of William Shakespeare’s playRichard III. Here, King Richard III yells out loudly this famous phrase, “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” In the middle of a battle, his horse is killed, while the king wanders to find it in the battlefield for hours, killing everything coming his way with fatalistic rage.” (courtesy Literary Devices).

Kind of reminded me of the viral videos we have all seen of fist fights in supermarkets over toilet rolls. But then the website Literary Devices goes on further with the explanation and it begins to sound even more like toilet roll fights around the world.

“Meaning of My Kingdom for a Horse

The phrase is repeated ironically, when someone needs some insignificant item. Shakespeare shows that the value and importance of things may change suddenly; and simple and unimportant things, like a horse in the battle, could become more important than a whole kingdom. The sense in this line is ironic, as someone wants something insignificant to complete an important task. The king here means that if he does not find his horse, he may lose his kingdom, because in that case he would be either killed or face defeat.”

Well I guess if you want to finish a certain important task then toilet paper is pretty necessary. So does it take a world wide virus for us to start fighting about toilet paper – and – excuse the pun but have we gone soft? As in 4-ply? Anyone who grew up the industrial heart of England will surely remember the squares of newspaper pinned onto the door of the toilet. You could sit there and have a good read (kinda like people do today with their cell phones). The only problem was that you could usually only read the beginning or the end of the story – or sometimes just the middle. Very frustrating – but gave you something to think about.

So this has become our defining moment in the first world – a fight about toilet paper. How would we ever survive in Darfur or Auschwitz?

In every cloud there is a silver lining. People are still travelling in Italy, Spain, Portugal and many other top destinations around the world. Some of these places may not be quite as busy as they usually are – and that is the silver lining – still just a browse of the world’s webcams will reveal that life goes on ….

Madrid at the time of writing this

I first visited Egypt just after tourism had been driven to an all time low. The river cruise ships on the Nile were parked and covered with tarps and the cruise ship which would normally take 120 people had only 25. We had the BEST time ever. Imagine being in the Valley of the Kings with just your small group of 10 people. You could really feel the magic. And then…. we got the chance to visit Tutankhamen’s tomb. Just the two of us. We were alone in the tomb with King Tut! Imagine that! Had we gone at another time we would have faced this ….

There’s something to be said for travelling at a time like this – with or without toilet paper!

What’s in a name?

Shakespeare said it best in Romeo and Juliet – “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

Even though Romeo was a Montague that didn’t make him a bad person – right? Well what about Corona – I mean the beer! Never did anything wrong. Its image with a juicy lime crammed in the neck just speaks of Mexican vacations, sandy beaches and “no I am not checking my office emails “.

Now it has unwittingly been dragged into this whole nasty virus thingy because of its name – and because it took the experts so long to come up with a proper name for the virus – now known as CoVid-19. That actually sounds a bit better for the virus. Gives it a sort of dark, under-cover feel.

Don’t shake his hand!!!!

Well can you believe that because the beer Corona has the same name as the coronavirus people thought they would get sick if they drank the beer. Well in fact that IS true – if you drink a LOT of Corona it can easily make you sick

Esquire reported –

“We also found found a CNN report on a survey conducted by 5W Public Relations that found that 38 percent of Americans would not order a Corona beer “under any circumstances” because of the coronavirus outbreak. ” C’mon – you gotta be kidding me.

Yes – someone is kidding me because subsequent reports have indicated that’s just Fake News!

Seems like Fake News spreads even faster than Corona – sorry CoVid-19. Just pass me a Corona while I do a spell check here.

Amazing how quickly rumours fly around the world – The Atlantic raced to Corona’s defence –

“Have you heard that 38 percent of Americans won’t drink Corona beer, because they are afraid of contracting the coronavirus?

For the past hours, this finding has spread across the internet like wildfire (or, more apt, a dangerous disease). CNN, the New York Post, and Vice all wrote up the poll.

On Twitter, where “38% of Americans” was the top national trend for parts of the day, many writers with large followings used it as an occasion to condemn their fellow citizens as idiots. “38% of Americans shouldn’t be allowed to roam free,” Benjamin Dreyer, an author, wrote.”

So who’s to believe here?

If you have questions about the virus – just follow these instructions. Get yourself an ice cold Corona out of the fridge, crack it open, slice a thin wedge of lime and pop it down the neck of the beer, fill up a plate of nachos with guacamole on the side and read the reports on the Government of Canada travel website and the World Health Organisation. The real news!

Smuggling lettuce and apples

If you wanted a fresh lettuce in Swaziland in 1981 you had to either grow it in your own garden or smuggle it in. The Kingdom of Swaziland, a small landlocked country sandwiched between Mozambique and South Africa was alarmed by the outbreak of cholera in neighbouring South Africa. So steps were taken. Vaccinations were obligatory (and they hurt) and the import of fresh fruit and vegetables from neighbouring South Africa was banned.

All good steps I guess – that is if everyone follows the rules. But they don’t and so the frequent shopping trips to Johannesburg, South Africa turned into smuggling trips with people coming back with lettuces under the seats and apples hidden in handbags.

It makes me laugh now when I watch Border Patrol and I see those confiscated foods taken out of suitcases while the “smuggler” stands by managing to look amazed and puzzled at the same time. Why? I can’t bring in bags of dried fish? It’s just like fish jerky – try some. It’s good.

One trip back from Johannesburg I had fallen by the wayside and let temptation rule as I bought a big bag of Granny Smiths apples. Oh they were so green and crisp looking and I knew I could make them last a while in a cool dark cupboard spread out on newspaper – not touching each other. This was a trick I had learnt as a child in Somerset, England, when Mom and Dad would take us out to pick apples to supplement their income. Part of the deal was that we could take as many apples back to our house as we could carry and so we cleared out the linen cupboard and carefully lined up all the apples – not touching. We had apples for months – albeit a little wrinkled.

But wait – what happened about the apples I bought in Johannesburg? As we drew close to the border I got a little worried. This was a big bag of apples and I didn’t want them to be “confiscated” – we all know what that means. I got my husband to pull over to the side of the road and tucked the bag under the inside lid of the bonnet (OK you guys call it hood – we are all on the same page here). Then we drove for 2-3 minutes till we got to the border at Oshoek – this is the main border post between Johannesburg and Mbabane, the town in Swaziland where we lived. Just another 30 minutes from the border and we would be home.

Cleared customs and immigration fine – the plan was to go a little bit down the road and then whip out the apples from the hood and homeward bound.

Not so fast!

Ya Wena ” (hey you in Siswati!) – running up to the car comes one of the border officers and my heart stopped beating.

Yes – we said (smiling) rolling down the window.

“Please baas – give me a lift to town”.

What could we say. He climbed in the back gratefully and we drove for 30 minutes into the middle of Mbabane town where we dropped him off as he waved and shouted “Siyabonga” (thank you in Siswati) and “Hamba kahle” (goodbye).

That night we had stewed apples for dinner – it was heavenly!

Now I am being a bag

Sorry – but I am going to be a bag and moan and complain and throw my hands up in the air and say Why oh why? $60 to check a bag on a Westjet flight if you are flying on the econo lowest priced airfare. It was $30 and now they have doubled it to $60 – wow! Here was the notice that I received.

I am quite sure it won’t be long before Air Canada follows suit.

Now here is the logic behind this – by offering the cheapest posssible airfare with no frills and no bags they can keep the price down and make flying affordable. It also means that any search engine is going to pull up this option first as being the cheapest – although not necessarily the best. And let’s face it – there are many people who fly for business or just an overnight flight where they don’t need to take a big suitcase so this kind of fare would be perfect.

But what really happens is that you see this airfare with no bags and then compare it to the one with bags and figure out that you can totally do carry on for this four day girls getaway weekend. It’s easy. You roll up your dresses, smart pants and cram them into your carry on (lucky that they are wrinkle proof), then squeeze in your make up, overnight skin care routine, hair styling cream, medication. Yikes now that bag is full – but no worries. Remember you are allowed to take one carry one and ONE PERSONAL ITEM (such as a purse or a briefcase). Hello world’s biggest purse – this sucker holds a circus and expands easily so you can squeeze in that extra pair of shoes alongside your passport and evening bag, sunglasses and sunhat. You can probably even slide in your kobo, ipad and iphone.

You know you won’t be able to lift that bag up into the overhead bin but there is always someone ready to help. You know why? People just want to get on the damn plane woman so of course they are going to help you get your extra heavy carry on bag up into the overhead bin and the person sitting next to you doesn’t mind if your over-flowing handbag doesn’t fit properly underneath the seat in front. Of course the flight attendant is going to come and point that out to you and will probably have to try and find space is another overhead bin somewhere – but first of course you will have to take out your valuables like wallets, ipad, iphone – you know. Never mind the people lining up trying to get on the plane.

Or

There could be another scenario that is maybe even worse than the one above. That is that when you get to the check in gate with your super heavy hand luggage they announce that the flight is completely sold out and that space in the overhead bins is limited so anyone who wants to check their bagcan bring it up to the check in desk. FOR FREE. For those who paid $60 to check their bag so that they could have an easy boarding process they just have to grit their teeth.

But let’s look at this in more detail – what about a flight from Calgary to Vegas. What options are there and what is the cost?

I wonder what would happen if there was free checked bags on every flight for every fare basis? Would it make for a quicker and easier getting on and getting off? Probably not! The only way this will ever happen is if we ban carry on completely and make everyone check their bags and allow one small personal item not bigger than a laptop computer. I tell you what – that plane would be ready to go in half the time!

You left WHAT on the plane?

Come on – own up. How many times have you left something on a flight by mistake? It happens more often that you might think. Even though you do that check towards the end of your flight, look under the seat, check the overhead bin and that yucky back of the seat pocket – something usually gets left behind.

The best I have heard is the gun (yes that’s right – gun) left behind in the washroom on a flight in the UK. The gun belonged to the bodyguard of David Cameron – former British Prime Minister – and the godfather of Brexit.

The gun was found in the toilet – of all places. Well I guess carrying around a gun gets uncomfortable at times. Not only that – the bodyguard left behind his passport and the passport of David Cameron. Oops!

Apparently the officer was removed from his duties. “We are taking this matter extremely seriously and an internal investigation is taking place,” police said in a statement.

So if you do leave something on the plane what do you do? Well it is all a matter of timing. If you have just got off the plane when you pat down your jacket pocket and find your phone missing then you can turn around in the tunnel and make your way against the flow – much to the irritation of everyone else trying to get off. Might be better to just stand at the entrance and wait to get the attention of a friendly flight attendant.

If you have already got off completely and have passed security then best head out to the desk of the airline you just flew on. Having your boarding pass will be handy and they can try and put in a call or at least log your details. If you have already left the airport then best thing is to contact customer service of the airline. This is a tough one because there are numerous different people (and companies) coming on the planes to service so if you have left an expensive iPad lying around you might just be out of luck. Many airlines do have a social media presence now so that might be a quicker and easier way to get in touch.

But what sort of things do people leave behind? The Points Guy regular contributor, flight attendant Carrie.A.Trey reports having found numerous items of clothing – including even a jock strap! (Must have got very uncomfortable on a long flight). Wigs, dentures and that very worst of sins – a dirty diaper! Goodness me.

There is a place where these things go to (at least the ones picked up by honest people). As reported by Conde Nast

The Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, is a 40,000-square-foot warehouse designed like a department store, where you can browse—and buy—thousands of items that passengers have forgotten in seat-back pockets or that airlines failed to reunite with their owners. They stock between 500 and 700 items every day, with shipments they purchase through a contract with most of the major U.S. airlines. “We get a lot of tablets and e-readers,” says spokeswoman Brenda Cantrell, who’s been working there for 19 years, “but you just never know what you’ll find: shrunken heads, African tribal kinds of things. I don’t get surprised by what arrives anymore, but I’m sure lots of people would.”

Some of the stranger things that have made it through the store have been a West Point uniform from the 1930s, Neil Diamond’s xylophone, a functional 14-foot-long rocket, a full-size headstone, and a coin purse made from an actual frog. Hoggle, an animatronic puppet from the Jim Henson’s 1986 cult classic Labyrinth, which got lost on the way back from filming in England, also made its way to the center.

On the more luxurious end: a presidential platinum Rolex valued at $64,000 (someone bought it for $32,000, Cantrell says), Versace runway samples, and a loose 40-karat emerald that sat in the store for five years.

Wow – imagine leaving behind a Rolex – and a 40 karat emerald? The rolex I can understand – maybe it slipped off his wrist. But a loose 40 karat emerald? Hmmm – I would rather find that in the seat back pocket than a filled diaper any day!