Friday, May 31, 2024

100 Ways to Slightly Improve Your Travel Experience: #8 Join All Of The Travel Loyalty Memberships

Most hotel groups, airlines, cruise lines, train companies, and even some restaurant groups have loyalty clubs these days. Unless there is a charge to join, Join them. All of them.  

Some hotel groups provide free WiFi for loyalty club members, and charge nothing to join.  Even if it is your only stay with that brand, you benefit in exchange for them getting your email address on file.  

I have flown tens of thousands of miles in free seats on airlines (I tend to use airline miles for long flights - I often find the best bang for the mile on international flights.)  At least once a year we get a free or deeply discounted hotel stay - and yes if I have a choice of hotels the one that I am accumulating points with is more likely to get my business. 

Some programs have expiration dates on benefits.  Sometimes I am able to use the points before they expire.  Once in a while the points expire, but I didn't pay anything extra for them.  I have called a couple of times when points were about to expire, and gotten an extension or a traded them in for some kind of award.  (A food processor from one of the airline programs, on an airline I seldom used.) 


Thursday, May 30, 2024

Put Yourself in the Picture

I sometime have taken a trip, I return home, download the photos and realize, that there are no photos of me being there.  No photographic proof that I was there. There great photos of where I have been, what I have seen, what I have experienced, and of others, but no images of me.  

A decade or so ago I worked with someone who went on a grand adventure, she and her spouse flew to Argentina to go snow skiing.  She was showing her photos from the trip, and EVERY ONE OF THEM, was of her, her spouse, or the two of them. A couple hundred photos of the two of them and no one or nothing else.  Those two hundred photos could have been taken in her garden. 

Smart Phones have a selfie button. I use it. But I prefer photos from real cameras.  Any shiny surface will do. One of the first online platforms I posted on The Mirror Project, that only posted photos with a reflection of the photographer.  And I can hold my camera at arms length with the lens facing me and get a pretty reliable image.  Hopefully with some evidence in the background of where I am.  

A quick edit. 

We arrived home about 11:00 PM last night, all safe and as sound as can be expected.  I slept about 5 hours, and was up at 11:00 AM Paris time, 5:00 AM home time.  Photos are downloading, that will take a while there are nearly 4,000 of them.  I promise not to post them all in one day.  I am watching the photos scroll by as they copy to the computer, they are epic.  I can't wait to start planning the next adventure. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Where is Travel Today

If all has gone to plan, we fly from Paris, to London, to Washington DC today.  Regular blog service will resume next week, or maybe sooner depending on jet lag after a month away.  

The photo above?  That is a Presidential White Top, turning east, just to the south of the building we live in.  


I look forward to sharing this latest adventure with you all.  

This has been an amazing adventure. Over a month, in confined spaces and we still love one another.  Days at sea, different countries, languages, and cultures.  At one point or another both of us have been unwell, I had a cough that could wake the dead.  These things happen in life, not because we are traveling, but because we are alive. The only thing I grew tired of, was driving in France.  A few factors, I drove more in 11 days, than I normally drive in 6 months, and it was all on unfamiliar roads, with roundabouts, and with a manual transmission.  Next time we need to plan non-driving days.  

THANK YOU for being patient and tolerant of my advance posts and on the fly editing. Hopefully there will be a couple more extended adventures in the next couple of years, there are a couple of bucket list items to partake in that will require some time away from the keyboard.  

Monday, May 27, 2024

Moody Monday: I didn't know I couldn't live without that

 I go shopping without a clear plan of what I want or need.  Let me modify that, when I go into the grocery store I often have a vague list of things that we are out of or running out of that may even be a short written list.  But the bigger question of what am I going to buy, what am I going to make over the next few days, is open, and inspired by what I see.  I often emerge with things I had no idea I would buy.  If nice steaks are priced well, we are having steak.  If there is seafood that looks good and is not priced like gold, I may suddenly be preparing fish.  I kind of don't know what I want until I see it. The same happens at my local farmers market, what I buy and what I prepare, depends on what my favorite vendors have in this week.

When I go to Ikea, I do like Ikea, I usually have one or two items I want to pick up, and I generally leave with a cart full of things I didn't know I needed.  A few months ago we went for new rugs for my bedroom, and came home with rugs, towels, a couple of kitchen towels, cutting boards, and a picture frame. Not the craziest list of things I have found I needed while wandering through the maze at Ikea.  

When I travel, I often see things that inspire me.  I find new foods that inspire me, that now need, that I didn't know I needed until I saw them. Things that become a part of my daily comfort, that I didn't know existed until I saw them.  Travel widens our view of the world, of the possibilities, and I have been so lucky to have seen so much of the world, with more left to see.  

Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Sunday Five: Work in Progress.

1: What did you learn this week? 
2: Have you forgiven anyone this week? 
3: What have you seen this week that made you go "wow!" 
4: Have you tasted anything new this week?
5: Have you reached out to anyone new this week? 

My Answers:
1: What did you learn this week? That my French is terrible.
2: Have you forgiven anyone this week? Yes. 
3: What have you seen this week that made you go "wow!"  Amazing landscapes and architecture. 
4: Have you tasted anything new this week? Bull stew, who knew? 
5: Have you reached out to anyone new this week? I have had time and a WiFi connection, so there have been a few random emails. 

Please share your answers in the comments. 

Saturday, May 25, 2024

The Saturday Morning Post: Ten Travel Essentials

 GQ has a YouTube series where they interview celebrities and sports figures asking what there 10 essential are.  Let me take a stab at my 10 travel essentials. 

1: My Nikon D5500 with an 18-200mm lens.  This is my daily carry camera, and I almost never leave home without it.  

2: My Chromebook, the current one is an Acer, it is the third one I have owned. It is a 12 inch, weighs less then 3 pounds, and is easy to travel with. 

3: Airline travel credit card. I have more than one.  The air miles from them have paid for a lot of travel. Over the past 4 years, I have all but stopped using cash. 

4: Cash, I always have a modest amount of cash with me.  It is rare that cards won't work, old habits die hard I always have real money with me. I keep a enough Euros and GBP on hand to take a taxi to a hotel and have lunch when I arrive. 

5: Passport card.  If I am leaving the country I carry my passport, but I always have a passport card with me.  It works for border crossings in north America, and at the airport.  

6: The flying pharmacy.  I take just a couple of prescription medications, and I always have a few days supply with me, along with anti inflammatories, digestive aids, and antihistamines. There is also a hair brush, toothbrush and toothpaste in the kit.  

7: Mobile phone.  I am carrying a Samsung, 5G phone.  I seldom talk on the phone. It connects me to email, and I can post to my blogs from it, do web searches, and get directions.  

8: Electronic support bag.  I keep this packed and ready to go, it has chargers for my phone, Kindle, and Chromebook (and Apple lightening.) Also other cables, and a PowerPoint remote control, I like to pace when I am speaking.  

9: Asics Cumulus Gel shoes.  I have multiple pairs of these, and they are the shoes I wear 95% of the time that I have shoes on.  I have them in plain black for semi-formal occasions, and neon yellow when that is what I feel like.  I buy them when I find them on clearance, or when I see a color I love.  

10: Travel Penguin.  He seldom appears in public, but he is in my essential travel bag.  Oh, the adventures he has been on, the things he has seen.   

Friday, May 24, 2024

100 Ways to Slightly Improve Your Travel Experience: #7 Always Be Flexible

I remember when I took this photo, I had flown into Boston a day early, so I would have a day to go see Harvard Square, and the first 48 hours I was there is was just above freezing and raining heavily.   At times I couldn't see these buildings for the low clouds and rain.  Not the kind of weather for exploring a city. 

I looked around, found an indoor shopping area attached to the hotel, went to lunch, did a little shopping, walked a block to a nearby historic church, and chilled.  

When we were in Iceland last year, we had reservations at a nice hotel in Vik, and we drove into a blizzard on the way there, were forced to turn around and drive back to good weather, cancel the hotel reservations, and check into a different hotel 150 miles away.  We ended up at the Blue Lagoon the next day having a delightful time. We will make it to Vik, maybe the next trip. 

J warns people to not try to control Rome, it will control you, it will turn on you, things will be closed, plans will be disrupted.  Go with the flow, walk around the block and see what wonder is around the corner.

Here in France, I had all of the hotels meticulously planned and booked. Then we drove into the shopping center and traffic jam that is Aix-en-Provence the other day.  Last night I booked a different hotel, and cancelled one, going in a different direction.  One where I can park and have less traffic to deal with.  

Don't get upset, or try to force it. Always be flexible and look for the joy around you.   

Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Thursday Ramble: Driving on the East and West Coasts of France

This was taken a few years ago, when we spent a week on the west coast of France.  I recall being terribly confused, the west coast of France is east of the USA, I kept thinking it was the east coast of France.  Thankfully Ms. Garmin can find her way around, except in Bayeux, she was terribly confused and stopped talking to me until I escaped the old part of the city.  Garmin sells SD memory cards with regional maps, they are worth their weight in gold when traveling. 

The rental car this trip is a Nissan Juke.  I have driven them before, a four door, kind of cross over, not really an SUV, but not a hot hatch.  This one has a manual transmission, my first time driving a manual in nine years, I was pleased at how fast the skill comes back.  It took a couple of tries, but we changed the language on the car to English, including the built in GPS (Sat Nav.) We have gotten the lady lost a couple of times, but generally we go wherever the little voices tell us to go.  Ms. G is onboard if needed for backup. We also reset the home location, the Gite, in the middle of 12 acres of greenhouses.  

Roundabouts take a little getting used to.  So far so good.  

I find France fairly easy to drive in. Take the extra insurance, and drive so you never need it.  I always think of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" when I am saying yes, $10 a day extra and if I return a smoldering wreck to you that just fine. (If you have not read the book, it is a wild-wild ride through a Drug Enforcement Convention in Las Vegas by a stoned journalist - it is a unique read.) And be patient, if you make a wrong turn, or miss a turn, don't panic there will be a round about shortly ahead to give you another try at finding the road you wanted.  The important thing is don't panic.  And drive slower than you normally would.  Even the tortoises are slower here.  (I was called out in a comment for confusing turtles who live in water with tortoises who live on land - a nit picking comment - but a lesson remembered.) 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

My World of Wonders aka the Wednesday W's : St Martin De Crau

Where am I?  We are staying in a Gite (Google it) near St. Martin De Crau. Being a typical Gite, it is on a working farm, in this case 12 acres of greenhouses. We are daytripping from here, nothing on our it would be "nice to see" list is more than an hour's drive.  

Who have I seen? My Sweet Bear, and lots and lots of French people.  It is early season, and for the most part not crowded (well there was that mountain top village on Sunday.)

What was my great moment of insight?  Sunday morning we were inching through traffic up and down to a mountain top village, with cliffs, rock walls, narrow winding roads and lots of pedestrians.  I came around a bend and a bicyclist was coming straight at me at top speed, downhill peddling hell-bent-for-leather. In an instant I realized that he was not doing this for his health, he has a death wish. There is no other rational explanation. 

What am I up to?  Sightseeing, eating, and enjoying France. 

What have I been eating? Bull stew, roast chicken, truffle raviolis, lots of great French food.  We have been breakfasting in, having lunch out, then a light dinner in the Gite in the evening.  I picked up a great bottle of calvados to take the chill off. 

Who deserves an huge THANK YOU this week?  Sylvia who helped us get settled into the Gite, despite the language gap.

When is the next adventure?  This time next week we will be headed home. There is actually a bucket list item involved there, the upper deck of an A-380, the world's largest airliner. 

Who deserves a slap?  I do.  I filled the memory card on my camera, and didn't have a back up with me. That is 36GB of memory, a little over 2,400 photos.  I was able to buy another - larger one - the next morning.  One out of Five slaps, unless I seem to be enjoying it.  

What surprised me?  Being upset by a social media post on Anthony Bourdain.  Simply put he was a brilliant writer and presenter.  I loved his style and for the most part agreed with his message about living life.  I am still angry and sad, at his suicide. His personal life was a mess.  He had paid off a young man who accused his wife of sexual assault, and then his wife told him to leave her alone, she may have even said, "drop dead." He was heartbroken, and lost.  He was with friends, but not talking about what he was experiencing.  I need to move to the point of being glad he lived, and wrote, and spoke, rather than sad and angry that he died.   His childhood included lots of time in France with family members.  

What did I miss during my digital detox?  Writing.  I do believe that taking a break was good for my writing.  And it will change my consumption habits more than my production habits.  I do have few dozen lines of text about the journey written on my phone during the break, after I get home I will try to pull those together.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Caption this photo

 Yes, that is a travel trailer (caravan in Britain) and yes, it is set up in the middle of an active cemetery.  I am sure there is an interesting story behind the location.  What would your explanation be? 

Monday, May 20, 2024

FORTY-FIVE! - A Randy Rainbow Song Parody

I know I avoid politics, but this is funny.

My Grandfathers Farms

 My grandfather's grew up on farms, farms very much like the one above.  With pigs, and chickens, and ducks, and cows.  One grandfather left the farm as a teenager, to join the manufacturing economy, Ford was paying $5 a day, an 8 hour work day, and a 5 day work week.  The other grandfather stayed on the farm, until health forced him out of farming.  It is hard work (especially they way he did it.)

The grandfather that worked for Ford, returned to the farm in the 1950's, my parents followed, and that is how I came to grow up in a house 1 1/2 miles from the nearest paved road. 

I know how things grow, I can tell a cow from a pig by smell.  An estimated 18% of adults in the United States think that chocolate milk comes from brown cows.  Most can't tell a tomato plant, from a pepper plant.  Having grown both, I can, I know how they grow, how difficult and rewarding it can be.  We need to teach this, we need to expose ourselves to where food comes from. 

An old family story.  Great Uncle John's daughter was an executive with AT&T in Manhattan.  She loved living in the city, AT&T built a new office complex outside of the city, and she was transferred.  She move into her nice new home, and early the next morning she called her father in great distress, she held up the phone and asked her father, "what is that distressing sound???"  Cows, she could hear cows.  She nearly quit her job, because she could hear cows in the early morning silence.  

From April 28th, to about May 12th , I will be on a great adventure and on a digital detox, a couple of weeks without access to the internet. I have been told internet access may be available, but it will be very slow and expensive. So, I am going to try to take a couple of weeks off. I have not been without internet access in a couple of in couple of decades, I hope it goes well.  After that, until about May 30th, I will have intermittent internet access. 

I have scheduled posts to keep you all entertained.  These are not my usual posts, that is either a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on your point of view.  As I have opportunity, I will post updates.  I look forward to reading your comments when I have the opportunity. 

Regular service will resume about the 1st of June, with tales from the adventure.    

Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Sunday Five : Eating The World

 1: Have you eaten anything when traveling that would illegal when you at home? 

2: Can you order from a menu not in your first language? 

3: Have you ever been surprised by what you ordered? 

4: Do cute service staff get bigger tips? 

5: In the USA tipping is optional but expected at 10-20%, in most of the rest of the word service is included, and tipped is often frowned upon.  Who gets this right? 

My Answers (for what they are worth) 

1: Have you eaten anything when traveling that would illegal when you at home? Horse, whale, seal, I will try almost anything. 

2: Can you order from a menu not in your first language? I can muddle trough in French or Spanish, most of the time. 

3: Have you ever been surprised by what you ordered?  Definitely.  That is part of the adventure. 

4: Do attractive service staff get bigger tips?  I try not do this, better service will get a little extra from me, kind service by someone who is obviously overworked. 

5: In the USA tipping is optional but expected at 10-20%, in most of the rest of the word service is included, and tipped is often frowned upon.  Who gets this right? I think Europe has this right, pay the professionals in the restaurant like professionals, and include it in the price of the meal. 

Please share your answers in the comments.