When you miss your flight…

Have you ever missed a flight?  Not because of a delayed flight connection but just because … maybe you got the time wrong, maybe you were in a traffic jam, maybe you had to backtrack home for your passport.   There are a million different reasons you could get to the gate late for your flight but once you get there and the gate is closed, that is it buddy.  You are sunk!

Now there are tons of articles online you can read about the why’s and wherefore’s of being denied boarding because you are too late.  The European Union has very strict rules and work hard to protect the consumer.  BUT … how many times have you sat on a plane while waiting for someone to board whose luggage is already on the flight?  Frustrating isn’t it?

Now if they didn’t have checked luggage the flight could just go without them – and tough.  But because they have checked luggage it means that the luggage has to be offloaded while everyone else who was there on time has to sit and worry about their connecting flight

Of course we know that life happens.  People I booked flying into Gatwick had to take the bus to Heathrow.  I left them lots of time to make the connection – in fact I even thought maybe a bit too long of a connection.  But there was a traffic accident on the highway and of course everything was backed up to Kingdom Come.  They missed their flight but they did have travel insurance (smart people)!  So their additional costs were covered.

Today with more intense security checks at airports it is essential to plan ahead and give yourself hours … and hours …. to make sure you get to the gate in time.  In fact it has become so much of a pain that if I travel within Europe I prefer to go by train – it works out to the same by the time you factor in travelling to the airport, going through security and then having to travel from some outlying airport to the centre of town.

Unfortunately we can’t always do that – so you pack your ipad or your novel, get there early and hunker down.

Unlike Patrick Kehoe who was told the gate was closed for his flight from Dublin to Amsterdam.  No way Jose!  He was going to get on that flight no matter what.  He barged through the doors and ran out onto the tarmac waving at the slowly taxi-ing plane.  Of course the pilot didn’t stop to pick him up.  But airport security did.


He was really fed up.  Shame, he is only 23 and I guess he had a way to drive to get to his flight as it seems he comes from a little village south of Dublin called Raheenaskeagh, Gorey in County Wexford.  Now you try saying that!  I checked on the map and it is about one and a half hours from Dublin airport and I do think that the flight from Dublin to Amsterdam was an early morning flight.  So .. a certain amount of sympathy for Patrick (good Irish name).  He got really mad though when being questioned by reporters and finally lost it in this enduring image which I am sure he will want erased from the internet at some stage in the future.

Patrick Kehoe

There’s an old Irish saying that my mom taught me – póg mo thóin …. you look it up!


Too poor not to buy quality

An old saying… many variations some of which are “too poor to buy cheap”.  At first glance it almost didn’t make sense until I really thought about it.  If you are on a tight budget and you want to buy something you want to be sure that what you are buying is going to last or do what it is supposed to do.

Another variation is “cheap is expensive”.

So what has this got to do with travel you ask.  Well …. I prefer the first saying “too poor not to buy quality”  rather than “too poor to buy cheap” because let’s face it sometimes you can get really good quality at a cheaper price. Nothing wrong with that.  It is just a matter of checking the quality of what you are getting.

Let’s say you find a cheap deal on a hotel – OK – let’s do the due diligence.  What is the regular price of this hotel?  Maybe there is a sale on because it is out of season.  Or maybe dig a bit deeper and you find that the location is not in the centre of town but rather on the outskirts.  Now you have to factor in the cost of taxi fares to get into the places you have flown so far to see.  As you can see – it will end up being “cheap is expensive”.

Same with a cruise deal.  You see these amazing prices on the cruise line advertisements but note that the pricing is “from $xxxxx” which means that the price is based on the lowest possible stateroom on the ship – which generally means an interior stateroom.  Ummm – well how bad is that?  For some people it is no problem at all.  They regard the inside stateroom as just a place to sleep and shower and spend their time enjoying most of the facilities on the ship that everyone has access to – even the guy in the owner’s suite.

For a first time cruiser who has no idea what to expect it can come as a shock to find out that you are sleeping in a “cupboard”.  When you close that door you can get a little claustrophobic (I speak from experience).  It is amazing the difference one little window can make – even if you cannot open it.  When I cruised on Star Clippers we had two portholes in the room – great.


My first river cruise was in the lowest category – no french balcony but a nice large-ish window pretty much on water level.  Yep – we said hi to the swans each morning as they peered into our stateroom.  Both were fine but if you purchase a cruise on the basis of the promotional pictures you see online….

cruise ship couple

then you might be a bit disappointed to have spent your hard earned money on this

inside stateroom 2

if you really freak out about having no window at all.

It’s all relative.  For some the purchase of an inside stateroom is just fine – a great saving and I guess you can always sleep late because you don’t need black out drapes!  For those people they got value for their money.  For others however it could be a nightmare week and a total waste of their time and hard-earned cash.

You can see why I don’t like the word “cheap”.  It doesn’t really measure what you are buying and each individual situation and person is different.  What I do look for in any purchase – travel or otherwise – is quality and value for money.   What do you look for?



Pasta problems

After two weeks in Italy I have a problem.  A pasta problem to be exact.  I just got used to having pasta every single night.  Amazing pasta.  Oh my goodness, the food in Italy is so good.  It is surprising how many different ways you can have pasta and the skill it takes to cook this simple dish.

In Bellagio on Lake Como we took full advantage and tried it every which way.  One little restaurant on a tiny alley opened promptly every evening at 7 pm to a line up of people waiting to get in to grab one of the few tables in this little gem.  Thoughtfully the owners had a box full of cushions outside and people would grab a cushion and sit on the steps while they waited for their table.

bellagio trat

Even more thoughtfully the owners opened up a wine bar just across the steps (cannot call it a street) where you could sample some of the best Italian wines and when your table became available the cook would stroll across and summon you to your table.  Bliss.  How many ways can I eat pasta and drink Prosecco?

Aperitivo Bellagio

Now you might think that eating pasta every night (as well as drinking prosecco) might add to your waistline.  And you might be right.  YIKES.  However if you choose to stay in Bellagio you won’t want for exercise.  I am sure every hotel in this little town that may have an exercise room will find their treadmills and stairmaster machines unused.  Just getting around the town is a workout.  My hotel kept sending me warning emails that I would be required to walk up 38 stairs to gain access to the front door – and carry my own bag.  Fortunately I was travelling with carry on (I feel quite proud of that).

But here’s something they don’t tell you.  The cobbled stones on the streets of Bellagio are some serious cobblestones.  Boy, you will not need to go for reflexology after walking around the streets for an hour or so.

cobbled stones of bellagio

Strangely enough every restaurant we visited for pasta was excellent – except for one.  That was the one marked No 1 by Tripadvisor.  It didn’t feel like we were in Italy at all.  The manager was suave and smooth and while the food was good I don’t think there was a single local anywhere near the place.

After a week back in Calgary we just had to go out for some pasta – we were suffering withdrawal symptoms.  Well what can I say?


It’s not the same 😦

Are you able for Elba?

Able was I ere I saw Elba.  This is a palindrome – (a what?)

Definition –  a word, phrase, or sequence that reads the same backward as forward, e.g., madam or nurses run.

Ah so now we know …….  and this palindrome is attributed to Napoleon but he probably didn’t actually say it – I found this interesting article by historian Shannon Selin –  Her website

“Although attributed to him, Napoleon Bonaparte did not say, “Able was I ere I saw Elba.” This well-known palindrome – a word or phrase that reads the same backward and forward – first appeared in 1848, 27 years after Napoleon’s death. Someone named “J.T.R.” came up with the Elba line, along with “Snug & raw was I ere I saw war & guns.” (1)”

Napoleon had chosen Elba as his place of exile and in my opinion it was a pretty good choice.  This delightful island is not really on the radar for a lot of us travelling to Europe and the island has strict rules about development which has kept the authentic feel for the area.  It really is beautiful.

Elba-Island I always imagined that a place of exile would be somewhere miserable and hard to escape but it seems that Napoleon had a lucky break here although clearly he was restless to get back to France and back into action.    And he had to have developed a pretty thick skin because he was made fun of in Europe by all and sundry.



Actually his lucky break was not to last as he ended up on St Helena – which is another story.

But back to Elba – this really was a surprise to me – in fact their tourism tag is

Elba – an unexpected paradise.

All true!  Beautiful beaches, great hiking trails and lots of cycling groups.  Even golf!  Wine estates offering tours and tastings and the little fishing village of Porto Azzurro offers lovely harbour-front cafes and restaurants.

Still, Napoleon only stayed 300 days on Elba.  Only … wow – I could totally do 300 days on Elba!


Taking carry-on just got worse

I know – carry on is handy in a way but a big pain in the you-know-where at most times.  You end up hanging around airports with all your luggage and then worry about not getting space in the overhead bin.  Maybe the flight is really full so they offer to check your baggage and then you have to start rooting through your possessions to move stuff out.

Or else maybe your carry-on is a bit on the larger size and some bossy check in agent (sorry guys – I didn’t mean that – it was just for atmosphere) tells you to fit it into this ridiculously small metal frame.  Who invented that?  It doesn’t take into account zippers, luggage straps or labels.  So you squeeze and push and pant – my goodness – it’s like trying to get into a pair of Spanx.  You ladies out there will know what I mean.


Yes – you finally get the damn thing into the frame and get a caustic nod from the gate for you to carry on and board – and then you can’t get the frigging thing out.  Oh my …..

I could write books.

But the best story I read just recently was about a scam that is happening where an organised ring are robbing carry on bags – right in front of the other passengers and crew!

I first saw this in a story just a couple of days ago.  A business class passenger found that someone (also a passenger in business class) had opened up the overhead bin and had taken out his bag and removed some cash and valuables.  Read the full report and watch the video

I was really surprised to read this and then did a bit more googling (what did we do before Mr Google came along?).  It seems that this is a common occurrence and so various airlines and advisory groups recommend keeping an eye on your carry-on and not putting valuables in them.

Maybe this is why the fanny pack has come back into fashion.  (We called it a bum bag – fanny is a rude word in England).  This was a hot item during the 80’s – maybe some of you will remember.  After a podcast by Joe Rogan it suddenly became popular again – and it seems to make sense.  Kinda like a money belt but more. fanny pack

It’s not a new idea though – as per wiki –

“Bags attached to belts have been in use since antiquity in many cultures. One origin was the Native American buffalo pouch which was used instead of sewing pockets into clothing. Buffalo pouches may also be worn on the wrist or carried on the front of the chest via a neck strap or lanyard.  Ötzi had a belt pouch 5000 years ago. The European medieval belt-pouch is another antecedent which was superseded as clothing came to have pockets. The Scottish sporran is a similar belted pouch that survived because of the impracticality of pockets in a kilt.”

So maybe we will be seeing more of these bum bags (I know bum is not a nice word either – neither is fanny – could we call them waist bags?  But that might be confusing!)  Of course with anything coming back into fashion there is always going to be somebody who is going to come up with a twist ….. like this


It’s those shoes

Maybe men don’t have this problem but I am going to bet that a lot of women do.  How to take less shoes with you on holiday because you know they take up the most space in your luggage.  Now in the case of short people like me you just have to take a couple of pairs of heeled shoes – and they take up a fair bit of space.  Then you need walking shoes because you have to have something comfortable for all those steps and cobbled stoned streets.  Add to that the running shoes in case you manage to get in a run on your trip.  You cannot run in Sketchers.  If you are a runner you know what I am talking about.  For the non-runners I won’t bore you with tales of pronating and other running talk.  Suffice it to say that if you are planning to run outside or on the treadmill you definitely need your running shoes.  And if your running shoes look like my running shoes you don’t want to use them as casual shoes because they are ugly.


Honestly – my shoes have holes – really!

Then you need sandals – because it is going to be hot and it would look weird to wear high heels on the beach …. or maybe not


And heaven forbid they don’t match your outfit or colour scheme –
shoes matching

These shoes are starting to make quite the pile.  When I checked on my husband’s shoe plans he nonchalantly shrugged and said – “running shoes and sandals, that’s all”.

I wonder if anyone will ever invent a running shoe with a detachable heel that could transform in seconds into a trendy high heel shoe for evening wear?  Maybe with some crowd funding…. you never know.

Well what do you think … someone else is on it.  Not exactly a running shoe to high heel but pretty amazing really ….

Follow your family line

With the advent of services like Ancestry DNA people are discovering who they really are and where they really come from.  For those who study genealogy this is a huge boost to filling in the gaps of the family tree.  Travel plays a big part in this story and I have lost count of the people we have helped in their journeys overseas to check in on ancestral homes, villages and towns.

It is always interesting because usually the places people want to go to are generally off the tourist radar.  Small villages in Scotland, Ireland, Poland, Ukraine, Germany and the Czech republic are just a few of the places where people go to visit church yards, scan birth, marriage and death records and see if anyone in the village still carries the family name.

St Columbus Church Outer Hebrides (2)

Now this can be tricky.  This is why some people don’t like the idea of DNA at all.  Imagine getting a knock on the front door and a complete stranger is standing there telling you that he or she is your fourth cousin twice removed and they have travelled across the world just to come and visit you.  Mmm.  Might make you think twice?

stranger at the door

The other downside of a genealogy search overseas is that because you are probably wanting to get to very small villages or out of the way places you are probably going to be travelling independently – driving a rental car – staying in very small towns that have never heard of Sheraton Hotels.  The best accommodation might be just the small village inn.   This can sometimes be a challenge for us spoilt North Americans.  Bedrooms in European hotels are smaller and in some of the smaller villages you might even find yourself sharing a bathroom (horror of horrors).

Remember there is a reason for this.  You are not a tourist – you are a sleuth on the trail of your great great great grandfather – who was maybe a shoemaker in the Swiss Alps, or the harbour security man on a small island in the Outer Hebrides.  Enjoy the challenges and enjoy the discoveries along the way.  You might be obliged to eat Haggis in Scotland, Black Pudding in England or Grilled Pig’s ear in Spain.  If that happens follow Anthony Bourdain’s advice – never refuse a dish prepared for you by a local.  And when you are struggling to get that food down – remember – this is your ancestry – so enjoy it!