Ozzie rules!

I read a lot of travel news through different sources – Canadian publications, Conde Nast, CNN as well as stories from our industry sites such as Travelweek and Travelpulse – but nobody – and I mean NOBODY – does it better than the Ozzies. I love reading the travel news articles in Australian publications. They always give me a good laugh – so I thought I would share some of these with you today so you can have a good chuckle too.

“Former The Block star turned radio host Jess Eva has revealed she became the latest victim of a cheeky scam while on holidays in Bali.The co-host of Triple M’s Moonman in the Morning with Lawrence Mooney and Chris Page explained that she visited the popular island earlier this month and wanted to have an enema before returning home.”

Well that’s a new one for me! Go on holiday and have an enema before you come home. At least you start off the work week feeling fresh and chipper! Or maybe it’s all about the return flight – no need to use the loo because you’re running on empty!

Or how about this report about a weird kind of hotel in Japan

A hotel room with a nightly rate of $1 sounds too good to be real.This Japanese hotel is real — but the rock-bottom price tag it comes with an unsettling request.The owner of the Ashai Ryokan in the popular coastal city of Fukuoka has found a novel way to get guests into the hotel’s under-booked room 8. He’s offering it for ¥100 a night ($1.36), if guests agree to be live-streamed the whole time they’re in there.” The hotel, which is dubbed the One Dollar Hotel, has a YouTube channel set up specifically to broadcast the goings-on in the room.”

And here’s another weird one … an australian hotel that relocated to North Korea – what?

It was a luxury hotel of a kind the world had never seen before.

The five-star Four Seasons Barrier Reef Resort opened off the coast of Townsville in 1988 as the world’s first floating hotel.

Featuring tennis courts, nightclubs, swimming pools, bars and restaurants, a helipad and almost 200 rooms across seven storeys, the floating hotel was the height of 1980s luxury — and put Townsville on the world map.

But a bizarre series of events in the following decades saw the hotel relocate, of all places, to North Korea, where it played an unlikely role in a brief truce between the North and South. But this week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un demanded it be demolished, finally ending the Australian hotel’s truly bizarre, 30-year history

But then I guess it makes sense that these sort of weird stories would feature high up in Australian publications. Take this front page story. Yep!

Sign language – kind of…

Do you and your partner have a hidden language? You know, that nod of the head or a raised eyebrow that sort of says “let’s get out of here”. We communicate more by signs than we think we do and our faces and eyes are usually dead giveaways.

Then there is the sign language of the hands – the bad things you say to other people with your hands that is. It is different in every country around the world. Having grown up in England it was very common if you were mad with someone to give them the “two’s up” – this sign –

Interesting history of this sign – it goes back to the days of Agincourt as reported in wiki and the sign was seen as a threat from the English archers to the French that if they caught them they would chop off those two fingers. Well you can imagine, they wouldn’t be much good as archers without those fingers.

But then we turned the fingers around and it became, in the second world war, a sign of Victory and then in the ’60’s it just meant “Hey peace man”. Nowadays it is very popular in Asian culture and you will often see Asian tourists posing for photos with the V sign/ peace sign.

Travelling from one country to another you will come across different signs and some you will not understand. Now that I have told you what the English two’s up sign means you will be well equipped to deal with your next traffic jam in Britain. But what about in France? Well you can give them the chin flick. Otherwise known as la barbe (the beard). Just a flick of the hand under your chin tells the other person to basically get lost – but this sign is for guys. Sorry ladies – there are plenty out there that we can do.

This is the famous lip curl. A look of disdain or disgust. I was good at this as a child. So good that I used to get told off all the time and my dad told me that when I grew up my face would stay like that. So I practised not being disdainful. But it can come in handy ladies – and you don’t have to have a beard. Plus I am pretty sure that this would be recognised all over the world by any man or woman. So – universal!

There are other signs – some with no name. Such as when you are standing at the counter at the check in desk waiting to speak to an agent and you start drumming your fingers on the countertop – almost as if you are typing out your own reservation….

Yep – that check in agent will get the message pretty quickly that you are impatient – even if you are smiling. Your conscious self smiles because you know that only they can help, but your unconscious self is frustrated and impatient – and she can see it!

You can really really communicate with people without saying a word. And not just with your hands or your fingers – with your whole body. When was the last time you went on a flight and sat next to a stranger? You know that moment of not really making eye contact and then tucking in your jacket so as to make sure that it doesn’t even come close to touching the person next to you. That is basically saying to that person “look, we have to sit together for 3 hours on this flight. I don’t know you. I don’t want to know you. Let’s just pretend there is a giant glass wall here between us.”

If that doesn’t work you could always buy a blanket …. just sayin’

Lost and found in hotel rooms

I was amazed to read recently that hotel rooms “lose” a lot of things to its overnight guests. I am not talking about those tiddly little bottles of shampoo and tiny soaps (that you can never open). Those are fair game as far as I am concerned. I used to regularly steal the shower caps for my friend’s mom and an extra packet of emery boards is always handy to have around. No, I am talking about HUGE things going missing. Like mattresses. Yes that’s right. Can you imagine stealing the mattress from your hotel room?

This was reported recently by CNN as follows (it’s worth a read) –

“An astonishing 49 hotels reported that mattresses had been stolen from their premises since January 2018, CEO of Wellness Heaven Tassilo Keilmann told CNN, adding it was likely hotels could have suffered multiple thefts.

“They told me that it usually happens in the night — when the reception is not open, when there is nobody there. Some of them have security camera footage showing them transporting it to the elevator,” Keilmann told CNN.

While towels, bathrobes and coat hangers were the items most frequently pilfered, guests also tried to steal bulkier or more expensive items, including tablet computers and TV sets, the survey of mostly European and Asian proprietors found.

“This was surprising to me, because it is quite easy for the hotel group to determine which person stole it, because the maid will look after checkout, and it’s easy to say this guest stole the TV or the mattress,” Keilmann added. 

Wellness Heaven surveyed 634 four-star and 523 five-star hotels, and observed a “striking difference” between the guests — researchers said TV sets, tablet computers and mattresses were stolen more frequently in five-star establishments, whereas four-star guests were more interested in batteries and remote controls.

One of the most surprising thefts, Keilmann told CNN, was a stuffed boar’s head taken from a hotel in France. “

How would you get this onto the flight?

Oh I know how – you would just have to take it back to your room and cook it somehow – wrap it up in a bit of tinfoil and it makes the perfect mid-flight snack. Think I am joking ???

Well I guess it is one thing to smuggle out a boar’s head from a hotel. But what about that mattress? Especially if you have specifically requested a king size bed! I can barely flip my mattress at home. I just can’t imagine how they got it out of the door and into the elevator but they did – and were captured in the act by security cameras.

Other weird things they reported stolen were the remote controls. Now I am not a techy person but what on earth would you do with a remote? Would you be able to configure it for your TV at home. Why? Why I ask you with tears in my eyes (laughter!!)

But it’s all OK – we take and we leave. Really strange things. Just google it and you will find endless lists ….like this one ….

  • A dead alligator.
  • “Cats. …
  • A goat dressed like Abraham Lincoln.
  • A Bible full of cat photos.
  • A suitcase full of prosthetic legs.
  • A land deed and title to land in the Scottish Highlands.
  • A bathtub full of potatoes.
  • Six full-size fully decorated Christmas trees.

But nothing beats the guest who stayed at a hotel in Stratford Upon Avon, England and left behind her alpacas …. yes…. plural….

You have to wonder what the alpacas thought of that….

Put on a pound a day

If you wanted to gain weight and someone promised you that you would put on a pound a day you would be delighted. However the thought of gaining a pound a day on vacation is horrifying to many of us. Christmas is bad enough! But it is that time of year and all thoughts turn to New Years Resolutions and many out there will be vowing to lose weight and get healthy.

But let’s get back to this thought of putting on a pound on day on vacation and where does this come from? I know, I can hear all you cruising people out there yelling – THE BUFFET !!! Yes. That was the mantra in the old days when you went cruising. Go for 10 days – come back 10 lbs heavier. Don’t even talk about a world cruise. Would you even be able to walk off the cruise at the end weighing an extra 120 pounds?

It’s no surprise when you think of it – back in the “good old days” of cruising there was always the midnight buffet. Who the heck needs to eat at midnight. And of course the centrepiece was always that ridiculous chocolate fountain. Chips, dip, sliders and slurpings of chocolate …. at 1 am … and then off to bed because you know you don’t want to miss the breakfast buffet. Oooo I don’t feel well.

The good news is that things have changed in the cruising world – even on the more budget ships (to put it kindly!). Cruise menus are now starting to list low calorie, low salt items and are highlighting healthy options. Even the buffet is really healthy now – lots of salads, grilled options and even low sugar ice-cream.

There’s more exercise too – more than deck quoits but you can really have a good workout with modern gym equipment, very often with a great view of the sea. (Mmm I am wondering now why I don’t make it to the gym very much when I cruise – there’s my New Year’s Resolution).

C’mon Lesley – back on the stair master…. NOW!!!

But sometimes all that “free” food can be irresistable as stories from crew will show ….

“The craziest thing I ever saw while working on a cruise ship was a passenger putting sandwiches in her bra to try to sneak them off the ship at a port (since there is a restriction that you can’t take cruise ship food into the port),” says Kerrie Mendoza, who spent two years sailing the Mediterranean, Alaska, and the Caribbean and now blogs at FamilyFoodandTravel.com. “She got stopped but just the thought of it was pretty gross!”

I am still trying to figure out how she managed to put sandwiches (plural) in her bra????

Birthdays in strange places

We very often get calls from people wanting to spend that “milestone” birthday in somewhere exotic – somewhere away from home – perhaps where you are not reminded about this new (scary) number that is now attached to you. Don’t you know we are all 21 in our own mind’s eye!

It got me thinking about some of the strange birthdays my kids have celebrated growing up in Africa. As a mom you always want to plan something different for your child’s birthday – like an evening out at a show or maybe the Science Centre or Calaway Park. We didn’t have the luxury of these places in the little kingdom of Swaziland where we lived so one year we booked the camp at Mlilwane Game Sanctuary – we took two huts, one for the boys and one for the girls. It was very rustic so sleeping bags and pots and pans were required to be packed. The plan was to get out there in the afternoon in time for a walk with the game ranger and then cook dinner on the fire under the stars and bed down for the night.

The best laid plans of mice and men!!

We set out for the game walk. There were no lions on Mlilwane – mostly buck, zebra a couple of rhino so we weren’t really too worried. But we had forgotten about Twinkle Toes – the ostrich. She was a bit irritable and well known to the rangers. Sure enough half way through our walk Twinkle Toes turned up. Now ostriches might look harmless but they are described as one of the world’s most dangerous birds by Britannica. They have incredibly strong legs – wikihow describes them best in this extract –

” Ostriches can be found in the wild, on safaris, or on ostrich farms. But regardless of where you find them, treat them with the utmost caution. Although they do not prey on humans, they have been known to injure and kill when provoked. Extremely fast on foot, they can deliver mortal blows by the sheer force of their legs, never mind the lethally sharp talons at their toes. The best thing you can do is steer clear of them, keep your distance, if you don’t bother them. It is unlikely they will bother you. Failing that, ducking for cover and hiding works best. As a last resort, you may even have to fight them. “

So we were understandably wary of Twinkle Toes and you can bet your bottom dollar she turned up on cue. The game ranger immediately shouted to everyone “down- on the ground now!”. The kids had already been briefed and dropped to the ground huddled up like little tortoises. Twinkle Toes strutted around poking her head here and there and our little team stayed as still as little rocks. After what seemed like eternity she clucked off, obviously disappointed.

Big adventures and lot to talk about on the way back to the camp where the birthday cake was cut and the song was sung and everyone pretty well staggered to their sleeping bags all very tired from a day in the sun. Except for one little lad who decided to water the bushes before he retired for the night. He didn’t realise that his little rainstorm had woken up a sleeping hippo just behind the bush. It was only when he heard the grumpy snuffling that he realised just who he had disturbed. Like a true African he zipped up and made his way quietly back to his sleeping bag.

Now those were good birthday parties!

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

WHAM

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.

AND THEN

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.