Tag Archives: Travel

Back then

Back ‘when I were a girl’ (said in a Yorkshire accent) I used to travel a lot with my parents.  Commercial air travel was still relatively new and I clearly remember how when we’d see air crew walking through the airport their heads were held high with pride, and everyone looked admiringly at them.  Have you seen the film ‘Catch me if you can’?  Well, if you weren’t around in the 1960s to see what I’m talking about for yourself, that film shows you pretty much what it was like to be air crew then.  It was the coolest job – seriously, those people were mini gods.  I remember having ambitions as a little girl to be an air hostess. I  have to tell you, however, that every time I said so to my mother that she would quickly retort: ‘You want to be a trolly dolly?  Really?  Ooh no, I don’t think so!’ (I did secretly keep on dreaming though).

A couple of months back an ad  for Virgin Airways was released on TV and it plays on this nostalgia because they are currently celebrating 25 years as an airline.  When we fly anywhere long distance nowadays I am of course swayed not only by price but by the convenience of the destination airport for us, plus those all important airmiles.  Still, I  have to say I have a tremendous soft spot for Virgin and will use them whenever I can.  This is partly because I have huge admiration for Richard Branson but mostly because Virgin were once incredibly generous with us.  You see we took the girls over to the States one year on an ‘all in’ Virgin holiday and to cut a long story short, our holiday fell short of expectations.  Nothing totally horrendous, just really not what we had expected.  When we got back I wrote to the company to say how disappointed we’d been, not thinking that I’d ever hear anything back from them.  Well, far from it.  A short while later I received a letter of apology and – here’s the thing –  a full refund for the holiday.  I was, and still am, blown away by this generous attitude, so is it any wonder that Richard Branson (already a business hero of mine) rocketed right up in my estimation?  It was probably also a clever business move on their part because over the years I’ve missed absolutely no opportunity to extoll the many virtues of Virgin.  There is no better advertisement than a totally smitten customer.

Here’s that wonderful ad … and they really couldn’t have picked a better piece of music because it’s one of my all time favourites ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. ‘ Ah them were the days’ (she said, back in her Yorkshire accent).

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Filed under Home, media, modern life, People watching, Uncategorized, web memorabilia

Loony Toons, again

It seems that almost every day that passes now I find myself thinking that the world around me is going completely and utterly bonkers.  Is this something related to age do you think?  Am I just viewing the past through rosy tinted specs?  Or is the truth that the world of just 20-30 years ago was indeed a place where life was conducted at a slower, gentler pace and people had integrity, intelligence and were able to employ a modicum of common sense?

Triple ShotOur local paper last night relayed the sorry tale of a local lady who had recently had her on-board reading confiscated whilst trying to board a flight from Heathrow to Japan.  The book in question was a paperback of Robert B. Parker’s novel ‘A Triple Shot of Spenser’ and the reason it was seized?  It had a picture of a gun included in the cover’s artwork.  Ooooooh.

I tell you, the world has gone completely and utterly loony toons.

You can read the full article (and see the face of this terrible threat to our security) here.

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Travel: ESTA's arrived

us-flag_6020I’ve been reading up about ESTA today – the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation – and it’s yet another way in which we are to be electronically tagged because it’s something that we all need to fill in prior to travel to the US now.  Done via the internet, it’s basically in addition to the visa entry form that we all fill in on the plane when we visit the States.  The idea is that the form filling on the plane will eventually cease … but not yet.  ESTA clearance allows us to get on the plane, but of course still doesn’t mean that we are guaranteed entry to the US – that will continue to be decided, face to face, at Immigration and Border Security. 

(According to yesterday’s Sky News, this system may be introduced throughout Europe, so it’s something we may all have to familiarise ourselves with).

I’ll do it of course, because I have to in order to continue visiting a place that I love, but I can’t really see the point of it in its current usage, other than to gather information on us all and salt it away on computer for years to come.  The ESTA form will be valid for two years, after which time it is kept by the Department for Homeland Security for a further year, then archived for 12 years.  So basically, if you have a nasty case of, let’s just say The Clap  (which, according to what I’ve read, you are required to notify the authorities of), this will be on your record, on file, somewhere for 15 years. (Oh what fun).  All I can say is, it may prove food for thought for all those rampant little bunny-people out there with their devil-may-care, sharing caring no condom wearing ways, and, crumbs, I do hope US file security is substantially better than ours here in the UK, where discs and pen drives containing highly sensitive data have been left on trains and in cafes.

What a world we live in.  Anyone who was an adult and therefore aware of what was going on in the world just 8 years ago (pre the September 11th attacks) must, like me, cry inside at the way our lives have so drastically changed.  I don’t think even the terrorists could have anticipated the profound effect their actions would have on our society.

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ESTA’s apply to those of us who have e.passports (which I believe is most people) and those of us in countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (the UK being one of them).   The current advice seems to be that for anyone thinking of travelling to the U.S., even if it’s only a vague possibility, it may be wise to apply for an ESTA right away.  Most are issued on the spot, but you don’t want to be caught out by applying at the last minute and then find that there is a problem.  The US Embassy site has all the information you need, and you may like to start reading up on ESTA at their page here.

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GentleVoiceOver at Voix Douce / Gentle voiceSteak au Poivre (simple and sublimely delicious)

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Get a grip

There has been wall to wall coverage again this morning on the snow that blankets much of Britain.  Road, rail and air travel is affected, schools are shut, people are staying home, and gritting stations, having run out of grit, are awaiting emergency shipments (which, quite clearly, will arrive after the snow has melted). 

I came across this photo yesterday.  Can I just say….This is snow.  This is worthy of the mass disruption of travel. 

snow-alps

Photo from the Reuters site, taken in the Swiss Alps, 3 Feb 09.

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Travel – the return

Happy travels!When you return home after a holiday, try to pack all your dirty laundry on top of everything else. This has two advantages:

When unpacking you can put all the dirty clothes straight into the laundry basket, ultimately making the process of unpacking quicker and easier.

If unscrupulous baggage handlers should fancy a rummage through your possessions, they will have to work their way through your dirty laundry first.  It might just put them off!

If you’ve bought delicate souvenirs, use your ‘smalls’ (knickers, socks etc.) as protective wadding packed around them to protect against breakage.

Roll bags can provide vital extra space in your bag – but remember, they won’t alter the weight of your luggage so don’t use them simply to cram more into your case and then be surprised when you’re charged for excess baggage!

If you prepared a travel list and brought a copy with you, use it.  It’s way too easy to leave small but important items in the chaos of a cramped and dishevelled hotel room.

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Filed under General house tips, Uncategorized

Like Topsy

I’ve been thinking for months now about how the way I travel has so vastly changed over the years. 

Once upon a time it was good enough to pack a bag and take an instamatic camera.  When I had children, in order to get them out of school for a few days at the end of term, I agreed to make them write a travel diary.  It was so nice to have that to look back on that even when travelling alone I started to take a note pad and pen. 

Then digital cameras came along, and laptops.  In time, the note pad became a lap top because it was also useful for looking stuff up on holiday and keeping in touch with home.  Pretty soon, not constrained by the expense of processing film, I’d become so used to taking shed loads more photos in digital format that I was down-loading onto the lap-top whilst away.  In fact, digital photography became such fun that I really got into it and went for a digital SLR camera.  That meant I could invest in lenses, filters, a remote … better get a bigger bag then.  

On my holiday this Summer I decided that I simply had to have the tripod with me and lo and behold I arrived at hotels laden down with laptop, camera backpack and tripod (oh and my handbag).  And whilst away, I found my little laptop couldn’t cope with the number of photos I was taking in RAW format (because RAW rocks you know) so that now I’ve got a card reader and external hard drive.   …Any more bids anyone??

I’m going away again soon.  I’m sorely tempted to ‘go bareback’ … pare it down to the bare minimum: the laptop and a point and shoot camera (taking only jpeg photos).  The trouble is, imagine being on the beach during the best sunset you’ve seen in a long, long time.  Aren’t you then going to wish you had a tripod in the failing light of evening?  Wouldn’t the SLR have offered you more options, and wouldn’t RAW format provide you with the almost fail safe option for great shots?  Yes I’m thinking that I leave all the extra gubbins at home at my peril.  Like Topsy it has grown and I feel I may well be stuck with it now.

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