Used to be that a cruise was something you did to get from point A to point B – like a trans-Atlantic cruise or the trusty mail ships doing their regular run from Southampton to Cape Town. In those days everyone dressed for dinner and clothes were packed in trunks – and there was lower class, middle class and upper class and never would they meet or eat together.
Boy have things changed! These huge floating cities have everything you would have imagined to be on Coney Island and more! The competition is fierce between cruise lines to offer a new feature and we have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. Here’s a list of ridiculous things to do on a cruise and I am not talking about the hairy chest competition -
Stand in a line up to get into a large glass bubble which rotates over the ship for half an hour.
Stand in a line up to get into a pressurised large tube where forced air pushes you up off your feet so you can imagine you are skydiving.
Go for a walk on a glass pavement suspended over the ship (be sure to wear your undies).
Get off the deck and out of the sunshine – go put on your ice skates and go to the ice rink…. really?
Wait for an hour on a sea day standing in the boiling hot sun until someone gets out of the hot tub so you can squeeze in with a bunch of half naked people you don’t know.
Help – I am deserting ship!
I love watching Border Security – the documentary series that follows the events at the border both at airports and on the road. Having spent so much time in airports myself it is just fascinating to watch what people will try to take into another country. It’s not just the drugs but the other stuff – like weird food or tens of thousands of dollars in cash packed in your checked luggage ????
But come on! Have you ever brought anything into Canada when returning from a trip that you didn’t declare? What about that fancy purse you bought in Vegas? The one where you cut off all the tabs and filled it with your personal stuff and then ditched the old one at the hotel? C’mon – you know you did it!
Just filling in the declaration form on the flight is bound to bring tears to your eyes when you jot down a list of what you spent. This can’t be right, you think to yourself.
Just say you do get stopped at a “random” check. OK so you’re clean. But what the heck were you thinking about when you bought that apron in Florence for your best friend? You know which apron I mean – the one with the close up and very very personal picture of David?
Or why would you have 10 individually wrapped bars of soap in your suitcase as well as eight shower caps, six bottles of shower gel and two coathangers? Really? Not to mention the three cans of olive oil and two tins of truffles. These are not generally a problem (except maybe to the hotel from whence you filched said coathangers) but you really run into problems with some food items.
Talking of smuggling food reminds me of a time back in Swaziland where we had a Cholera epidemic. The Swazi authorities decided to ban all fruit and veg from coming across the border in South Africa. Well the fact of the matter was that most of our fruit and veg came from South Africa and nothing was coming into the Swazi shops. I’m talking lettuce, cucumbers, apples. Those who had green thumbs were to be envied and if you went to a dinner party and there was a lettuce salad you were the bee’s knees!
So…. we went shopping in Johannesburg and I confess I could not resist the package of Granny Smiths green apples. I just had to have them. Now the border guards were pretty thorough and would search the cars for evidence of edible contraband. Clever me though had an idea. Let’s put the apples in the engine under the hood just before we get to the border and then we can stop around the corner and take them out again. Easy peasey! Until the very friendly Swazi policeman asked for a ride into town. Oops! We drove and drove and I could just picture in my mind my lovely packet of apples bumping along next to the battery under the hood.
FINALLY – we dropped him off with much thank you’s and clapping of hands as the Swazis do….. whipped around the corner and stopped to open up the hood to find…… yes – a very large soft package of stewed apples.
That will teach me!
Anthony Bourdain enjoying peri peri chicken in Mozambique
Well not actually in Mozambique but it sure felt like it. Nando’s in Calgary’s North East just had all the trappings plus the amazing food of Portuguese Africa. It also had all the atmosphere of a Mozambique family restaurant – very loud, very noisy, amazing food, lots of children.
The last time I had dinner in Mozambique was way back during the civil war between Renamo and Marxist Frelimo. I was living in Swaziland at the time so it was just a short 4 hour drive from Mbabane to Maputo (formerly Lourenco Marques). It was however a drive punctuated by many road blocks and we were never really sure whether they were soldiers or not. They did have guns but they were also a pretty ragged looking bunch. Yes I know what you are thinking. We must have been crazy!
The Polana Hotel today
Arriving into Maputo was a shock – many of the buildings were abandoned only half built and had stood that way for a long time during the war. The gracious old Polana Hotel was still standing and packed full of Eastern Europeans and Russians as the Frelimo Government had strong friendships with the East.
Fast forward to today and Mozambique has moved into a new era. Brand new shopping malls in Maputo and fantastic beach front and island resorts.
Indigo Bay Island Resort
Indigo Bay in Bazaruto – clients of mine described their visit there as “absolute paradise”.
Ibo Island Lodge
Ibo Island Lodge is another great choice. Three historic mansions on the beach in Northern Mozambique now converted to this luxury seaside resort.
Mozambique is the new hot destination in Southern Africa and for those who want to combine some safari with beach time an extension into Mozambique is a great choice.
One thing you can be sure of – you will get that great Mozambique style cooking with lashings of peri peri and the best prawns ever!
Are you a train buff? Does the clickety-clack of the train tracks put you into an instant coma? There’s a reason why people love train travel – and even more so in these days of Nasty Rotten Cheepo Airlines. Train travel is so civilised by comparison. The seats are wide – lots of leg room and you get a view. Train journeys for the most part seem to be far more “on time” than flights and there is something quite thrilling about stepping onto a train with your luggage without having to go through numerous security checks.
Some favourite train rides? Definitely the one from Zurich into Ötztal in Austria comes to mind. Of course everything in Switzerland runs on time. It’s almost where time was invented. So when I asked the station master in Zurich what would happen if my train was late he was unable to understand me. ”Trains in Switzerland are never late” he said with a frown. Oops! Riding the rails through the spectacular Swiss countryside was a wonderful experience and yes – our connecting time between trains was 3 minutes and the trains were exactly on time.
Likewise our high-speed train from Lyon to Paris was another joy. Spoil yourself if you do this trip and upgrade to the comfort seats. The two-hour ride flew by as we munched on freshly made sandwiches accompanied by – what else? – French wine!
But when I think of train travel I cannot shake off the memories of travelling around Britain on the train – sometimes on very long train rides from Scotland down to the South. If we were lucky (like posh people) we would get a compartment. The train steward would come around with blankets and pillows and we would make up the bunk beds and argue about who was going to get the top bunk. There would be a neat little cupboard which would convert into a private wash hand basin between the bunks but you still had to head out to the end of the corridor for the public loo. When you pushed down the pedal to flush the toilet you could see the sleepers below rushing past. That was a source of great fascination. ”Mom, mom – are the train tracks full of people’s poo?”
And then that scary moment when you went into the dining car and to get there you had to cross over that jumping moving surging connector floor thingy that linked the two carriages together. So much excitement – no wonder we never slept on those overnight train journeys. Just the rocking of the train and the click clack of the wheels -
got to get there
got to get there
got to get there
got to get there
I think I can
I think I can
I think I can
People really get their knickers in a knot about the most peculiar things. Having been on television for many years now I am used to getting aggressive or critical phone calls or email messages. What always amuses me is that mostly people don’t identify themselves. They have a criticism – sometimes valid – but don’t have the courage of their convictions.
I once had a man leave a message on our voicemail saying that he was sick of hearing my “phony accent” on the TV. Hmmm – I am afraid this accent of mine which is a jumble of Brit, South African and probably a good dose of Canuck – is stuck with me until the end. So – sorry can’t oblige.
Someone else phoned once and told me I was a disgrace for discussing a trip to the World War II battlefields because I was making money on the backs of war heroes. No…. I was advising the public on how they can get to actually visit the places where history was made and pay homage in the saddest cemeteries in Europe.
The best was a call I got on voicemail over the weekend. A lady called to advise me that I had mis-pronounced Zihuatanejo. I pronounced it Zee-what-a-nay-ho. She said no – that is wrong. She could understand the anchor man’s mistake but I should have known better. There is no Z in Spanish and the local people pronounce it Oo-what-a-nay-ho.
Oooo – what a lie. I checked everywhere and couldn’t find any mention of a pronunciation like that. Not on the Zihuatanejo tourism site, not on Forvo which gives you the correct pronunciation of all the places in the world – listen for yourself – http://www.forvo.com/word/zihuatanejo/
So I searched Senor Google in vain and could not find any reference to Zihuatanejo being pronounced Ooohuatanejo. Kinda sounds like it belongs in East Africa somewhere when you pronounce it like that.
So…. I will just hang in until the next time I screw up. I am sure it won’t be long. I am bound to get something wrong – after all it is a big world out there and I better make sure I do my research. Or I might just revert to type and just be a lazy bitch – http://thetravellady.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/yes-i-think-i-am-a-lazy-bitch/
Who is responsible for designing these new hotels? You really have to wonder when you see some of the so called “features”.
Like the open bathroom concept. Trust me – the most important thing I want is privacy in my bathroom. Mexican hotel developers learnt this very quickly when they got feedback from the more prudish sector of their guests (namely Brits and Americans) that ablutions are things not to be shared. Hastily erected screens do little to give a real feeling of security during those “private moments”.
The other little trick seems to be frosted glass doors on the toilet. Who the hell dreamt that one up? Not only does it create an echo chamber (embarrassing) but every movement of the occupant is outlined – especially when the light is on. We had a room like this at the in W in Barcelona and in the end arranged privacy breaks for each other as in “Darling… I am just popping down to pick up a newspaper!”
My absolute favourite is the Jacuzzi tub in the bedroom. Please don’t. It makes me feel like I am sleeping in a bathroom. Especially when the tap drips.
So you are probably asking by now – what the hell does this fussy bitch like? (And yes – Darling – I AM fussy).
I love hotel beds – I love the linen – extra soft Egyptian – especially the Starwood Hotels – divine. I love large walk in showers and rain shower heads. I love to have fresh towels every day – yes I know it is not “eco” but when I am at home I recycle – on vacation I like to be pampered. Regent Seven Seas Cruises has divine showers – they changed the tub into a walk in shower with excellent results and even installed shelves on the wall inside the shower with stacked up towels. Going to the South Pacific or on safari? You have to have an outside shower. Ivory Lodge at Lion Sands in South Africa has a large walled garden at the back of the bedroom with two huge rain shower heads – just gorgeous. At Earth Lodge – shower out in the open air with complete privacy.
You see! There are lots of things I love.