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 hostelworld.com 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 roysfarm.com 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 https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/snow/climate.html

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 🙂

Sacred rocks and pebbles

If you have ever gone to Australia and you missed visiting Uluru then you need to go back. For me it was the best – people rave about the Opera House – meh! It’s a building – and a pretty nice one at that – but nature is the most amazing architect. It is a hassle getting out to Uluru – or Ayers Rock as it used to be called. You have to fly there because – guess what? – it’s in the middle of nowhere.

You have seen the pictures I am sure – as had I. Nothing prepared me for the “feel” of the place. No wonder the aboriginal people of the area regard it as extremely sacred. I felt like I had to whisper when walking around the base of the mountain. And as you can imagine legends and stories abound about this place. Australians refer to it as “The Rock” – no not Dwayne Johnson, The Rock – this is the real Rock!

I had seen the tourism pictures of Uluru at sunrise and sunset – yes they were pretty impressive but in this day of photoshop do you ever really believe anything you see on a tourism website? Wow – all I can say is it was one of the most amazing sights I had seen – the rock seemed to almost glow. It is definitely magical and spiritual.

It is sometimes reported that those who take rocks from the formation will be cursed and suffer misfortune. There have been many instances where people who removed such rocks attempted to mail them back to various agencies in an attempt to remove the perceived curse.

The rangers at the National Park there receive stones, pebbles, rocks and twigs on a daily basis from tourists who are worried about being cursed. They call them “sorry rocks” and place them back in the area. Some of the letters are fascinating – As reported in an Autralian news site –

“One traveller from Hong Kong posted a 300-gram piece of Uluru with the note: “When I received the rock I was so worried that I want to return it as soon as possible. [In] just one week, my brother broke up with his girlfriend, my father went to hospital and he will do heart surgery on the 20 January. Anyway I just want to return the rock to its rightful place and say good bye to the bad luck!”

The returned rocks are placed in a neutral space and are used to assist in repairing areas of erosion in the park. Some raw material has even been geologically identified as coming from another region and recently the park received a package of seashells. Tourists caught trying to take rocks or sand from the park can face hefty fines of up to $8500.

So those of you out there who have this habit of collecting little rocks, pebbles or shells when they travel – beware! I have to confess guilt here. My daughter loves to have a special stone or shell from anywhere I visit. My favourite one is a stone found on a muddy country road in Co. Cavan, Ireland, outside the now crumbled little farmhouse where my mother was born.

But if I go back to Uluru – I won’t be bringing any rocks or curses home with me!

Snoring on a plane

Being a pretty bad snorer is embarrassing in some situations but on a plane you just know you are going to be embarrassed no end because you are going to fall asleep and you will snore! No escaping that.

One teen took the trouble to make the way easy for her stepfather who is a legendary snorer by making care packages for the other passengers on their flight. What a great idea! You couldn’t really be mad with someone like that now could you?

The story was reported recently in Open Jaw and goes like this –

Alan Tattersall from Victoria, Australia, is a “pretty serious” snorer, according to his stepdaughter, who took pity on fellow passengers flying with him on a 32-hour route to Houston, Texas. She prepared care packages –complete with handwritten notes – for him to hand out on his flight. 

“I’d heard of moms giving out little care packages when they have babies on planes — acknowledging that their infants might be crying,” said 17-year-old Grace.

Together with the help of Tattersall’s wife, Ros, and a friend, Grace purchased chocolates and earplugs, and sealed up 10 tiny care packages for Tattersall to hand out on the plane. The parcels also included notes preemptively apologizing for Tattersall’s snoring.

“Enjoy your trip today,” the note says. “We thought you might be in need of a little assistance if Alan falls asleep — so hope this little care package helps. P.S.: The snoring usually only lasts a short time — while he falls asleep.”

Tattersall himself had no idea Grace and Ros were preparing the packages until they accompanied him to the Melbourne airport for his trip, at which point they handed them over and told him to pass them out.

Ironically, the 62-year-old said most people were too preoccupied listening to their own headphones to really care. The care packages came in handier on the return trip, and said the message made one woman “chuckle.”
Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw

Just recently I wrote about how Japan Air Lines is using baby emoji’s on seat selection when there is an adult and baby travelling – maybe they could use an emoji for this situation so you can pre-warn everyone around you.

If you are a snorer it is embarrassing to end up like this on a flight – so what to do? One health site says it is your position –

Position: If you’re sitting upright on the flight, even when reclining at a modest angle, you will be aided by gravity in reducing your snoring. The tongue often falls back and blocks the airway, but this is less likely to occur if you are sitting up. Therefore, even your position may reduce your chance of snoring.

So for all those who recline their seats immediately the plane takes off then maybe you shouldn’t if you snore. There are ways to keep your head upright without compromising your nap. One of the best options I have come across is the GoSleep eye mask. Here’s a description

If you’re literally nodding as you attempt to nod off, the GoSleep Pillow Travel Kit will ensure your head stays cradled securely in place. The eye mask attaches to the back of your headrest with an adjustable elastic cord, but keep in mind this feature may only be useful when there’s not a screen on your seat back.

So I guess this would keep you in the upright position and therefore less chance of those embarrassing snores when you drift off to sleep. I really like this mask – not that I snore! At least I have never heard myself snore. But I have to admit that on a weekend away in Vancouver my sister said I was not snoring – but purring. Yes – I like purring much better.

Line ups in the sky

Has this happened to you? You are on a flight and are anxiously waiting for the drinks trolley to be rolled away so you can go to the washroom. But by the time you struggle out of your window seat with “sorry” “thank you” etc etc to the two people you have to climb over – lo and behold – there is a line up from here to Nagasaki – all waiting for the washroom. 😦

But now there is a plan underway. At least a plan to monitor these line ups so that the airlines can analyse the data and improve things. So how is this going to work? How about cameras outside the toilet.

Hang on – I said OUTSIDE …. not inside – so calm down!

But yes – the plan is to have cameras posted outside the toilets so that the airline can see how many people are lined up during a flight and at what time during the flight. They say that the camera will be visible and will not be positioned in such a way it can see your face. Not sure how they are going to accomplish that. If you don’t like the idea and are worried about facial recognition then I guess you could always use a face mask like those brave demonstrators in Hong Kong …. but hang on – I have become distracted. Let’s get back to the fact that airlines are looking at using technology to monitor our behaviour on flights – including line ups for the toilet.

But it gets worse!

They are also goint to collect data as to how long we spend in that tiny little cubbyhole once we finally get to slide that bolt across the inside of the door and all the lights come on. Hmmm – it will all be anonymous of course (of course!) but thinking in terms of a Brave New World thing imagine if that popped up on your frequent flyer profile – seen only by the airlines.

Look, it’s not all bad. They are also going to monitor how much toilet paper we use !!!! YIKES as well as soap (you did wash your hands didn’t you???)

No really – it’s not that bad. They are also talking about some sort of sign so that the flight attendant can easily see if someone has their belt fastened or not. Well I think that is a really good thing. How many times haven’t you fallen asleep on a long overseas flight with your blankie all tucked up around you only to go through turbulence and the flight attendant has to wake you up to check if your belt is fastened. I always try to put my belt over the blanket so she can see. But this does sound like a good option. While we are on the subject of seat belts why ON EARTH would you not have your seat belt fastened the whole duration of the flight (except of course when you are in the line up for the loo). You never know when you are going to hit that turbulence – just makes sense to me.

None of this has happened yet….. but Airbus VP Marketing at a recent industry conference in LA said that this not a concept. It is not a dream. It will happen.

Better go out and buy your face mask now!