Do we believe TripAdvisor?

It’s a good question.  A lot of people swear by TripAdvisor and a recent bad review of a hotel brought up some interesting comments on the internet.  But let’s first look at the bad review and what happened to the person who posted it.

Tony Jenkinson and his wife spent a night at the Broadway Hotel in Blackpool.  They were so unhappy with the hotel that he posted on TripAdvisor that the hotel was a “rotten, stinking hovel”.  The hotel retaliated by charging their credit card with £100 for posting the review.  Gives you pause for thought….!  How many times have you posted a bad review of a hotel or restaurant.

What is significant also is that Mr Jenkinson is obviously familiar with TripAdvisor but seemingly didn’t check the site before booking into the hotel otherwise he would have seen that it was ranked 858th out of 894 hotels in Blackpool – and at only £36 a night – well the old saying “you get what you pay for” comes to mind.

So what gives the hotel the right to charge this “fine”?  Apparently it is in the small print which Mr Jenkinson’s wife signed off on when they checked in.  Wow – it is worth while to check the small print before you sign.

An interesting aside – this incident prompted some online comments on Travel Mole and the one below really stood out.

  • dodgy trip advisor

    you can pay someone in India to give you a 1000 “separate & independent” +ve (positive) reviews on trip advisor. Similarly you can pay them to give a 1000 -ve(negative) reviews to your opposition. Anyone who even reads this crap is obviously very naive & stupid.

    By Michael Anderson, Wednesday, November 19, 2014

So how reliable is TripAdvisor?  It’s handy but its not the Bible.  Remember that the person unhappiest with their vacation is going to be the one most motivated to write a review on Trip Advisor.  So balance out the comments, good and bad, search out other websites – and if all else fails – talk to a professional.  You’ll be happy you did.

What did we do before GPS

I can’t think?   We used maps ….. and had arguments.  Here’s a riddle.  What would you rather be?  The Driver or the Navigator?  Depends where you are I suppose.  Take Ireland…. now there’s a good one.  Lots of ring roads which most Canadians dislike.  You have to have been in the situation to understand how frustrating it is when you are going around the ring road for the third time and your soul mate (who is driving) is shouting “Which bloody exit?”.

Of course it is not made any easier by the fact that you opted to go with a stick shift car.  Yes I know why – it is much cheaper.  I agree.  But if you are driving in Britain or Ireland remember that everything is on the wrong side – the gear stick, the indicators, the solid white line.  This doesn’t make driving in a strange place any easier and if you do burn out the clutch (which is pretty much guaranteed) then it will come back to haunt you in your back pocket.

That’s why a GPS system in an automatic car is the ideal choice for a self-drive vacation.  The soothing tone of the lady in the GPS will calm down any concerns over getting lost.  She never gets flustered.  When you take a wrong turn she just sighs silently and then re-jigs her position calmly advising you to take the next exit and then do a u-turn.  Maybe us women/navigators can take a lesson from that.  But then the lady in the GPS is always right and her feelings are never hurt.



A busman’s holiday

That’s what I think of going away on vacation where there is a kitchen!  This old expression dates from around the 1800′s – here’s the definition according to Wikipedia - A “busman’s holiday” is a holiday spent by a bus driver travelling on a bus: it is no break from his usual routine. By analogy, anyone who spends his holiday doing his normal job is taking a “busman’s holiday”.

The very first time we visited Maui we were very kindly offered someone’s condo – which was wonderful.  We had recently emigrated and didn’t really have the funds at that stage to book into a hotel.  It was wonderful exploring Maui but boy oh boy, when it got around to 4 pm every evening there was the inevitable question.  :”What’s for supper?”  You see cooking for your family doesn’t just mean cooking – it means deciding and decisions are something I would rather not make while I am on holiday (as well as shopping and cooking).  It really gets me hot under the collar so don’t get me started…

So a busman’s holiday is going away on holiday and ending up doing what you do for a living – something you definitely want to avoid.  Unfortunately as any business owner knows you can’t escape and I will always make sure I take my laptop and cell phone with me so I am in communication with my office.  One thing I have done however to avoid that busman’s holiday feel is to start telling lies.

I know – it sounds terrible to admit – but I do lie.  Why?  People used to ask me what I did for a living and when I told them that I was in the travel industry…. well you can imagine.  Yes – Busman’s Holiday.  It’s like the doctor on vacation who meets people at a cocktail party and they ask him about that pain in their …. well never mind.  You get my gist.

So I have to invent professions.  “So what do you do?”…. “I am in sales.”   “Oh yes, what do you sell?”  …. long pause while searching for inspiration …. “Um, advertising space for newspapers.”

“What a coincidence – so do I!  Let’s trade business cards.”

Oops!  You got me!

Find me somewhere peaceful and quiet – my top five places

The world seems to be in quite a mess at the moment.  Trouble in Russia and the Ukraine has prompted AMAWAterways to cancel their Russian river cruises for 2015.  The outbreak of Ebola has caused a drop in travel to South Africa – how strange when South Africa is miles and miles away from the affected countries.  Here’s an interesting article to back this up – Washington Post

Lava flows in Hawaii have even resulted in arrests as sightseers get too close to the molten lava.

Don’t worry – there are still plenty of peaceful and quiet havens in the world – here’s my current top five.

  • COOK ISLANDS – Not much happens here – which is lovely – except maybe for the weekly sailing regatta at the yacht club or perhaps Sunday market downtown.  No building is taller than the tallest palm tree and there is one main road which goes right around the island of Raratonga just 32 km in length.
  • MOOREA, FRENCH POLYNESIA – Maybe not as glamorous as Bora Bora but I think rather nicer in some ways.  Easy to get to on the ferry from Papeete and once there you can enjoy a very rural laid back atmosphere.
  • SABI SANDS, SOUTH AFRICA – sleep under the stars in your very own luxurious tree house.  Your game ranger will bring you out here, serve dinner and then leave you for the night – just you and the sounds of the Africa wildnerness……. sound a bit too “out there”??
  • GIUDECCA, ITALY – just across the water from the main island of Venice this island provides an escape from the crowds.  You will never feel too cut off as frequent water taxis give constant access to the main island but you will find the streets of Giudecca quiet and residential.  There are just a few hotels there and the most amazing hostel for backpackers.  Wow – after visiting the hostel I think I could almost backpack (I said almost).  Just Euro 28 a night for a dorm room.
  • THE DINGLE, IRELAND – Forget the Ring of Kerry – head to the Dingle where Celtic is the official language.  The scenery is dramatic and you won’t see a tour bus for miles.

Sometimes on vacation all you want is a good rest – away from the crowds and troubles of the world…..

Six thousand people in the Sistine Chapel

Well that’s what it felt like!  Wow talk about a crush.  We were herded – yes I mean herded – into the Sistine Chapel by very stern Italian police style guides who constantly shouted – “Move up, more to the middle, no talking, no photos”.  Goodness me – I wondered where he wanted me to stand.  Thank goodness I am not claustrophobic otherwise I would have been in real trouble!

Note - this is not my photo.  They said no photos so what the heck are all these people doing?

Note – this is not my photo. They said no photos so what the heck are all these people doing?

So how did I end up with six thousand new best friends in one of the most beautiful places in the world?  I booked my tour for 9.30 am (first mistake) in September (second mistake) when fifty cruise ships were in Rome (third mistake).

I did do one thing right – I booked a private tour.  Boy was I glad of that when I saw the line up at the entrance.
vatican_sistine_chapel_lines-1024x768 Our guide was amazing – doing his PhD in baroque art and architecture – so he knew a thing or too.  What he knew best, however, was how to skirt around corners through the massive surging crowd to find the best vantage point to view this or that important statue or painting.   He also gave us so much interesting information such as the last painting Michael Angelo did in the chapel is on the back wall and is called The Last Judgement.  It is a fantastic painting full of terror and turmoil – the only problem is that because the figures were all nude it was decided that this was a bit too rude for the church.  So they asked Michael Angelo’s former student to paint scarves over their bums – as so …
The Damned cast into Hell, Michelangelo
Once this was pointed out to me by Felix our guide I was quite horrified and yes, the “over-painting” becomes horribly obvious and for me spoils the whole thing.  Thank goodness Michael Angelo never saw this.

Despite the crowds it was worth it and Rome is a fantastic city for anyone interested in art and history.  My tips – go to the Vatican later in the day and if possible avoid Fridays and Saturdays as these seem to be the days the cruise ships are in port; take your good walking shoes and enjoy the city, every corner reveals another amazing ancient building and don’t forget your sense of humour.  You’re on holiday, remember!

Boo to you too!

Is it just  me?  I just don’t get this Halloween stuff.  My grandkids would kill me.  (Well that would be a real Halloweeny kind of thing to do!)  They love the dressing up and of course the candy.

What got me thinking about this was on my walk today around Lake Bonavista.  One of the houses had really gone to town in dressing up their lawn.  Omg – they had severed limbs with blood coming out and giant rats gnawing on them…… gravestones galore and severed hands in the trees attached to handcuffs.  I think that’s awful.  And apparently I am not the only one to be kinda turned off this whole bloody experience…..

and this

I would just rather have the whole thing a little more kid friendly – along the lines of Casper the Friendly Ghost ….like this
Awesome Outdoor Halloween Decorating Ideas That Look is Cool Pictures4

I didn’t grow up (in England) with Halloween.  However we did have Guy Fawkes Day which I suppose in hindsight is also pretty awful.  We would take my dad’s old trousers and shirt and stuff it with newspapers, make a mask and put on a hat and throw this in a wheelbarrow and then go round the neighbourhood asking “penny for the guy”.  I suppose that’s not much different from trick or treating.  We would then head down to the local park where we would have fireworks, roast chestnuts and then put the poor old guy on the bonfire and burn him “alive”….. mmmm just as barbaric as Halloween.

When my kids were growing up in Swaziland, Africa, we had quite a large American community there (USAID, Embassy staff etc.).  When Halloween came the parents wanted to send the kids to school dressed up.  Well Mary Fraser, the principal, put her foot down firmly there.  Although she came from Scotland and still had a good Scottish accent she had taught in Africa for years and was very aware of how the local Swazi people still believed in the spirit world and it was very bad luck to even talk about this sort of thing.  To them this was very real and nothing to joke about.

I suppose there is a little bit of the dark side in all of us.  We seem to thrive on the macabre – it’s almost like the “can’t look away from the car accident syndrome”.  And who am I to talk?  The Walking Dead fan who wouldn’t miss an episode.

I should “zip it”.

Oh Mama Mia – those Italian men!

My sister and I could not understand it.  It seemed that many of the men either driving the water taxi or working the tables in Venice must surely be in the movie business.  Maybe Venice is a little like LA – Italian hopefuls end up there serving on tables while waiting for that big break.

They are so charming, these Italians.  Maybe it’s all that good food.  Caprese Salad like you will never ever taste in North America.  Or maybe it is the fact that in true Italian fashion they have been “mothered” since they were little and just know how to turn on the charm when the women are around.  Witness the Gondoliers!  Ours told us he was close to 60 but didn’t look a day over 35 …. well maybe 40.  I suppose all that “gondoliering” every day kept him in shape – and the fact that he was onto his third wife.  As he told us – a wife is not like a washing machine.  When a washing machine breaks down you call the plumber.  When the wife breaks down you get another… Oh my goodness – I can just hear every feminist within a hundred miles screaming.  The fact is he told us this story with a twinkle in his eye so who knows?  Never trust a man with dimples, that’s what I say!
DSC_1006 (2)

Not in bad shape for someone nearly 60!  Just shows you what daily exercise and the Mediterranean Diet will do for you!

Now there are some who would like to be a gondolier but just don’t quite get the idea.  Like this lad…. but let’s give him ten out of ten for effort.

Another thing about Italian charm …. it has longevity!  We chanced upon this older very well dressed man sitting  in one of the piazzas in Venice.  My sister couldn’t resist getting a photo of him.
Ciao Bella

Was he put out?  Did he feel his privacy had been invaded?  Not at all!  When a beautiful lady comes along and takes your photo he says what any civilised Italian male would say….. “Ciao Bella!”