Being ticked off

Now when I thought about writing this blog I thought that was a great title. “Being ticked off” – but then I bethought myself and wondered if this is an expression that is known or even used in Canada.

Growing up in the UK and then in South Africa ticked off could be one of two things – maybe you got told off at work or at school as in “My boss ticked me off because I was late” …. or maybe you got annoyed or fed up with someone and then you would say “She really ticked me off when she told me she couldn’t come to our meeting”.

So now that we are all clear on what being ticked off could mean in different contexts let me share a tick story that really ticked me off but even today provides a good chuckle.

When we lived in South Africa we would love to take a road trip driving from Johannesburg all the way down to Cape Town passing through many of the little towns along the way.

While spending an overnight in one of these small towns we decided to head out for a walk one afternoon. We left the path and climbed over tree trunks and undergrowth really enjoying the solitude of being away from everything. As we sat down on a huge fallen tree trunk just to catch our breath we reflected upon how lucky we were to be able to enjoy such an idyllic spot.

Then we noticed them…..

The ticks.

Oh. My. Goodness. The scenic tree trunk that we had used as a bench was the home to a nest of ticks. And yes – they were all over us. Now it doesn’t matter whether you are in Africa, Asia or good old Canada. Nobody wants tick bite fever. And we had to do something about it – quickly.

Remember – were were in a tiny little town – not even a hospital or clinic – but then a brilliant idea…. this was farming country. There HAD to be an agricultural supply store. We headed over there without a moment’s delay.

“Do you have any sheep dip?” – we asked. Now we did not look like farmers, we did not sound like farmers and we were strangers (in this part of the world everybody knows everybody else) – so understandably the fellow at the agri store was a bit puzzled.

“What do you want sheep dip for?” he asked. Um …. this is embarrassing, but we sat in a tick nest and now we are covered and even as we were explaining this my imagination was running riot imagining these little ticks …. well ….. I will leave that to your own imagination.

When we explained he first had a good laugh and then provided us with a package of powdered sheep dip – we beat a hasty retreat back to our hotel and filled the bath with hot water and dumped the whole package into it.

“OK, you first” said my husband (the perfect gentleman!). Yuck it was disgusting. And I had to wash my hair in it. We both walked around for days smelling like chemical disasters. The smell of sheep dip is pungent…. but we never got tick bite fever – and we will never just sit on a log in the forest without checking it properly.

We still talk about it today – I guess that is what makes travel so special. The time passes quickly but the memories remain and turn into good stories….

“Now kids, did I ever tell you about the time that me and Grandpa got into a bath full of sheep dip?”

Scooting around

Just got back from a family cruise in the Caribbean and I couldn’t help but notice how many mobility scooters there were on board. What a great facility for someone who cannot get around that quickly – as honestly the cruise ships these days are just getting bigger and bigger. Special ramps onto the decks maybe everywhere on the ship pretty accessible – a plus for those who have limited mobility but still want to tour the world!

But it seems that everything that is good in life will at some stage be compromised and have people taking advantage of it. Here’s an example – courtesy Bruce Parkinson of Open Jaw.

“Spanish tourist hotspot Benidorm has banned people from using mobility scooters, electric scooters and Segways on pavements.

The ban applies to residents as well as tourists, who have been criticized for using the vehicles to get around even if they don’t physically need them.

The move is part of a crackdown on what has been dubbed ‘uncivic tourism.’ Barcelona and Madrid have already introduced similar legislation and other towns and resorts, including Majorca’s Palma are considering following suit.”

I couldn’t quite believe this so I did some digging and found this update on one of the Spain news networks –

“Rulebreakers face fines of up to €500 for riding mobility scooters on Benidorms pavements.

The civil chiefs of Benidorm are now bringing in new laws to ban battery powered vehicles such as mobility scooters from the pavements of the popular resort. Furthermore, anyone caught going faster than 12mph on a battery-powered vehicle will now face a fine of up to €500. This will include mobility scooters, segways, hoverboards and electric unicycles, even if the individual is riding in a cycle lane.

Furthermore, under the new rules, battery-powered vehicles will also need to be insured and come fitted with a bell before cruising the streets of Benidorm. While the laws were first suggested two years ago, they have finally been voted for in the seventh time. The next step involves a public consultation before it is written into law.

The rules come in a bid to ensure the safety of pedestrians in the area as there have been several accidents involving pedestrians in Benidorm. Furthermore, Alicante has issued similar moves. Consequently, Mallorca is considering a similar scheme.

The scooters have been known to cause fatal accidents including a 93-year-old woman who was knocked down by an electric scooter in Esplugues de Llobregat, Barcelona. Another woman died after falling off a scooter and then being run over by a truck.”

Wow – so it seems that things are getting out of hand there. Shame for the people who really need a mobility scooter rather than these lads …

and these

So a few idiots have spoilt it all for the people who really have mobility challenges and want to see the world. 😦

On yer bike lad!

Are you a bike rider? I try – but don’t do very well. But I am very envious of those who undertake these adventurous cycling trips to exotic places like Thailand or those who tackle the hills of Tuscany. I can’t imagine anything more lovely that touring some of these places by bike.

However, it is not without its dangers as frequent bikers will tell you. I read an interesting article about a protocol that is being introduced in the Netherlands encouraging drivers to open their front door with their right hand after parking alongside the road. Think about it – to open the door with your right hand you have to lean over and this encourages the driver to check if there is anyone coming up alongside (like someone on a bike) and helps to avoid this –

With the number of bikers on the roads of Holland this is good advice. If you have ever visited Amsterdam you will know just how many bikes are out there. It is amazing. People catch the ferries from suburbs across the waters and then park their bikes in huge bike parks like this –

And the Dutch people are so cool when they bike to work. You will see working moms ferrying their children to day care before heading into the office. You see dads doing this too. And did you know you can cycle with high heels on? Well you can.

Well you might be able to but I certainly could not. But seriously if you are an avid cyclist where would you go for a biking vacation? Well ideally you would want somewhere with not too many cars. How about Asmara? Mmmm – now where is that? Capital of Eritrea. Good article on this “cycling heaven” here
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-47709673

It sounds like an interesting place to visit – and relatively unvisited due to the prolonged 30 year war of independence with Ethiopia. The country is very poor so that is why bikes are the preferred and sometimes the only available transportation. This has made the Eritreans remarkably good riders and their team is now competing internationally.

So let’s say you get the old bike out of the back of the garage, spruce it up a bit, pump up the tires and decide to start practising. Once you get good enough to go round Fish Creek Park a couple of times are you ready for a biking vacation?

Well first of all you need to choose the place to go biking – preferably with bike paths (especially for the inexperienced). Most tour companies rate the effort of each bike trip so go easy on yourself to start with. Spoil yourself by choosing a tour with a back up vehicle so you can “give up” when you feel like it and just get in the van. No Shame here! It’s also great to have that same vehicle carrying your bag so all you need on your back is a light day pack. Bad enough lugging your ass around without having to lug a week’s worth of clothing! And maybe you want to consider an electric bike? Yes I know it’s cheating but so what? It’s all about the experience, right?

And lastly – what to wear. Listen you don’t have to dress like Lance Armstrong but you might want to consider a pair of padded cycling shorts. They look ugly but they feel great – take it from one who wears them to spin classes. It takes a bit of getting used to. The first little while you feel like you have pooped your pants – but your butt will thank you in the long run.

My goodness – I have almost talked myself into this? Should I? Should I?

I swear it’s the truth

Do you believe everything you read online?

No – of course you don’t. More and more these days we are exposed to “fake news” on social media, false advertising and let’s not even talk about some of those “newspapers” you see at the check out in the supermarket. Where the heck do they get the inspiration for the headlines? It always gives me a chuckle while I am standing in line. Here’s a few good ones …

So what about hotel reviews? How do you assess the reviews that you may read on Trip Advisor? Do you take it all with a grain of salt and figure out if over 50% of the people liked it then it is probably OK? Or if there are a couple of bad reviews does it totally put you off booking there?

I am not immune from Trip Advisor – yes I look up hotels and see how they are reviewed. But I do balance it out with looking at other review sites such as Oyster.com which is an excellent resource as it is independent and the reviews are submitted by people who specifically go there to review the hotel and take photos. Trip Advisor has expanded from hotels to restaurants as well and it was this story that really had me freaked out – how a person created a fake restaurant and then ended up with that restaurant rated number 1. Here is the full story – it’s fascinating

https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/434gqw/i-made-my-shed-the-top-rated-restaurant-on-tripadvisor

Just to whet your appetite (‘scuse the pun) here is one of the false reviews that pushed a non-existent restaurant up to number 1

Oh my goodness – does that destroy your faith in humankind or what? Or perhaps we are the stupid ones being so reliant on and faithful to what we read online.

But you have to laugh – right? You just have to reading some of these beauties

HOT AND BOTHERED IN CENTRAL AMERICA

“You said the town was next to a volcano, but we went and there was no lava. I’m pretty sure it was just a mountain.”

NEW YORK’S NO ZOOTOPIA

“The animals at the zoo looked very sad and it made our children cry. Can’t they train them to smile?”

LOST IN SPAIN

“The street signs weren’t in English. I don’t understand how anyone can get around.”

NOT PLAIN SAILING

“I went on your cruise around the Med [Mediterranean Sea] and the sea was so loud outside I couldn’t get any sleep.”

NAAN TOO PLEASED IN INDIA

“I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry and I don’t like spicy food at all.”

SIGHT-SEETHING IN KENYA

“The elephants we saw on our honeymoon were visibly aroused which made my wife upset and made me feel inadequate.”

DOUBLE TROUBLE IN FRANCE

“My boyfriend and I asked for single beds in our room and you gave us a double. Now I am pregnant.”

FEELING SECOND BREAST IN SPAIN

“Women were sunbathing topless on the beach and my husband spent all day looking at them.”

IN DEEP WATER IN ITALY

“No one told us there would be fish in the sea — the children were surprised and upset.”

TAKEN FOR A RIDE IN TURKEY

“There was no sign telling you that you shouldn’t get on the hot air balloon ride if you’re afraid of heights.”

IT GOT OUT OF SAND IN THAILAND

“The beach was so sandy that sand got into my clothes and was hard to wash off my skin.”

TIME MACHINE IN CARIBBEAN

“It took nine hours for our flight to get from the UK to Antigua but the Americans at our resort said it took them just three.”

OFF COLOUR IN MALDIVES

“The sand was much too white and not yellow like it is shown in your brochure.”

DOOM AND ROOM IN PORTUGAL

“Our one-bedroom apartment was much smaller than the two-bedroom one next door.”

TAKING THE BISCUIT IN BULGARIA

“The local store sold hardly any British food and did not stock my favourite brand of biscuits.”

LOST IN TRANSLATION EN ESPANA

“There were way too many foreigners and everyone spoke Spanish.”

KENYA TELL THE DIFFERENCE?

“We bought designer sunglasses from the market and later found out they were fake.”

GHASTLY GREECE

“We could not enjoy the tour as our guide was too ugly.”

GIVING IT LARGE IN SPAIN

“The beach had too many fat people. It was gross.”

Exit row anyone?

So generally the exit row is a pretty desirable seat. There’s more leg room for a start – and leg room is EVERYTHING these days in economy class flying. But is the exit row really the best option and how much will it cost you?

Traveller’s United sums it up pretty well in this article with 7 reason you might not want the exit row –

  1. If the plane is mostly empty. This doesn’t happen that often, but some flights do still take off with many open seats. If there’s a whole row open, then such a row can be more comfortable even than first class.
  2. You want width more than space between seats. There are several seats open in the regular or extra legroom sections and you care more about seat width than space between seats. One drawback of exit-row seats is that the armrests are fixed, so you can’t lift them up for extra space, even if the row isn’t full.
  3. If you have a tight connection. In a few cases, especially a 757-300, there are two exits, and exit-row seats can be located as far back as row 33 (on United) and 41 (on Delta). But even on smaller planes, the exit rows are located towards the middle of the planes. And from experience, I can tell you those 5-10 extra minutes it takes for everyone in front of you to deplane will feel a lot longer. It also can be the difference between barely making the connection and needing to rebook for the next flight.
  4. You are hungry. If you plan to buy food on board — whether by choice, or lack of time — remember we live in the age of few, if any, free onboard lunches. Of course, no airline can make sure they stock enough food, especially hot food, for all passengers to purchase. But again, from recent experience, and complaints from clients, I know that many food choices can run out in the first third of the plane, and on a cross-country flight, it’s not like there are options for pit-stops.
  5. If the only exit-row seats left don’t recline. On many planes, there are two exit rows back to back, and in those cases, the more forward of the two won’t recline, theoretically to keep from blocking passengers in the second row from getting to the door. In this case, it’s a trade-off, extra legroom vs recline, and I know many people who still prefer the exit row in this case. But it’s worth considering.
  6.  If you’re traveling with a pet. Pets are not allowed in exit rows. Period.
  7.  If you want a window seat mostly for the views. Yes, passengers can see out of the window at the exit row.  But the wing is generally in the way of the best views. A preferred seat in front of the exit might not have quite as much space, but it can have less obstruction.

You have to bear in mind that in this world of seat selection payment you are probably going to pay more for that exit row (as well as a bulk head seat and that’s another whole bundle of pro’s and con’s). Also bear in mind that when you do select and pay for the exit row you have to be sure that you are able physically to help in an emergency – so if you booked and paid for the exit row and the flight attendant feels that you could not physically deal with the responsibilities they can ask you to move.

Sometimes you might find an exit row at no additional cost to pre-book. Be warned – there is no such thing as a free lunch. This is an interesting story from a traveller that was posted on the website – The Points Guy.

I booked a flight from Cleveland to Singapore, the longest leg of which was about 15 hours. I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I checked in, because there was an exit row seat available and it didn’t require additional payment. I should’ve known something was up, but being a novice international traveler at the time, I thought it was just luck and good timing.

Well, the reason that seat was available had nothing to do with luck or timing. As I soon found out, it was up against the storage space for an enormous ladder that would drop down and inflate in case of an emergency. It stuck out directly in front of my seat so that my left leg (the one nearest the window) was just about locked in and unmovable. That made for a very long trip to Singapore.

It was a rookie mistake, but now I know to be leery when I see an exit row seat available. Next time I’ll make sure it’s not an exit row with a gigantic protrusion coming from the wall!

Good advice for sure. Be sure to check out seatguru.com. I always use this website for checking out the layout – BUT – remember that airlines can change the equipment which might affect your choice and also remember that some packages using group airfare, for example, will not allow for advance seat selection. In that case your fate rests with the gods!

Creepy crawlies?

Are you scared of insects. I hear this a lot – especially when putting together vacations in exotic and tropical locations. People want beach, they want sand, they want heat – but they don’t want creepy crawlies. I can understand that, especially if you are not used to them. I could always understand people being scared of spiders or moths or lizards but I could never understand the fear of ants. How to deal with ants in your motel room? One customer years ago had a plague on ants in her motel in Disneyland so she used her toothpaste to seal up the baseboards in her room. Another vacationer to the Cook Islands was so terrified of the insects that hotel staff put a guard at her door. And possibly one of the first questions I get asked about a safari is “will there be any spiders or bugs?”

Fortunately growing up in Africa has raised my tolerance level quite a bit so I am pretty unfazed by spiders, lizards, ants even snakes. I was however pretty surprised to read a report of a passenger on a flight from Toronto to Calgary who was bitten by a scorpion. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/scorpion-air-transat-flight-1.5050236

Boy I bet she didn’t expect that! No wonder she was so freaked out – and I would be too – even having grown up in Africa. A scorpion is not a nice thing to find in your sweater. Even the flight attendant was amazed as she tried to persuade the passenger it was just a gum wrapper.

Now where the heck did that come from? Someone in my office guessed that it might be someone’s support animal gone astray? Someone else guessed that it was one of those touristy paper weights but that it wasn’t quite dead. Someone else mused that maybe it came aboard in a bunch of grapes – but then I thought who the heck gets grapes on a flight from Toronto to Calgary? Someone else thought that maybe it stowed away on the flight – hoping for a better life… in Alberta??

Nothing quite like a creepy crawlie to stir things up. Arriving as new immigrants to South Africa many years ago we were greeted by more insects than we were used to in England. The funny thing was, it was my Mom who was the Insect Warrior. While us kids screamed and ran away and my Dad stood on a chair my mom would stride into the bedroom and find that pesky spider and just batter the life out of it.

R.I.P. Mr Spider

Where have all the people gone?

“Please listen carefully – Press 1 for English, Press 2 for French. If you were born on a Tuesday press 4 …. thank you for holding. Your time is important and we will be with you as soon as possible. Your current wait time is 24 minutes.”

Does all this automation really speed things up? I am really not sure. Have you been through arrivals at Calgary airport where you feed your form into the computer and then have to go and stand in a line so a man can tell you whether you can leave or not. ???

Same as e-tickets and checking in online. You get to the airport and you still have to go to another computer to print out baggage tags – or maybe I am missing something – so how come you have to go and stand in another line up. And … something I have to vent about …. I still cannot manage to get those baggage tags on my bags without the help of one of the airline staff.

Where will this all lead us? Will flight attendants be next? Just get on the plane yourself and find your own seat. Get yourself seated and it is up to you to check that you have your seatbelt on. Can’t always depend on someone else to look out for you. A robot can’t do that job. What happens if there is an emergency mid flight? Or someone has a baby? Or they run out of the pasta option. Who’re you gonna complain to? Robots don’t care – they don’t have feelings.

It’s alright – we can all relax. Flight attendants are the least likely people to be replace by robots according to http://www.replacedbyrobot.info who record as follows –

0 % Chance of Automation

“Flight Attendant” will never be replaced by robots.

This job is ranked #250 out of #702. A higher ranking (i.e., a lower number) means the job is less likely to be replaced.

What a relief! I really don’t want to be on a flight without a flight attendant who can do all these amazing things. You should read the list on the website – https://www.replacedbyrobot.info/56127/airline-flight-attendant

After reading this report I got curious….. Mmm – “they” keep saying that travel agents will go the way of dinosaurs. I wonder what http://www.replacedbyrobot.info thinks about travel agents ….. deep breath – click search ….

5.7% Chance of Automation

“Travel Agent” will not be replaced by robots.

This job is ranked #143 out of #702. A higher ranking (i.e., a lower number) means the job is less likely to be replaced.

Whew! That’s a relief. But what is the job most likely to be replaced by robots I wondered ….

Right on top of the list – TELEMARKETERS…. well I am not sorry but I do feel a bit bad for those who might lose their jobs.

Other aspects of travel that we don’t want to be replaced by a robot would be hotel check in. Now I know it is a nuisance sometimes when you get to the hotel and there is a big line up for check in. This is particularly common when everyone arrives from the airport on the free shuttle (maybe a reason to shell out for a taxi). However how can you explain to the robot that you absolutely hate a connecting door in your room? Yes I know you can put in that as a request when you book your hotel but we all know that no-one reads that kind of thing. How many times have you heard “Yes we know you wanted a king bed but it does say that this is on a request basis only”. No, give me a person any time. You know why – you can smile at a person, be nice, be chatty, (honey attracts more bees than vinegar) …. you can’t do that to a computer!