Dreamiest places in the world

There are some places in the world that you can dream about but you know you will never get to physically go there.  It might be out of your reach financially or it might be out of your reach physically.  Or it might be the sort of place you would love to experience but you know that you don’t have the “guts”, for want of a better word, to go there.

Like Kilimanjaro.  Oh I have thought over this so many times.
Should I sign up for the climb.  What a challenge that would be.  Imagine the feeling standing at the top of Kili.
My friends have done it and wow, amazing to see their photos on facebook.  I really would like a photo like that.  But I don’t think I could do the climb.  I have heard how hard it is and apparently it is the altitude and not so much the actual climb.
Like Machu Picchu.  It’s easy to sign up for the trek.  You just have to do it well in advance because it sells out quickly.  The training I could do.  I would give myself lots of time and living in Calgary in the foothills we have the most amazing countryside and mountains to train in.  Yep – all of that part would be easy.
inca trailHowever the climb itself can be challenging and this again is due to the high altitude.

Like flying around the world.  I came across this amazing trip at a travel show I went to.  Imagine flying around the world in a specially fitted out aircraft with lie flat beds and a dining room – yes a dining room!
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And then after a nice meal – stretch out in your lie flat bed.
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That takes the sting out of jet-lag, that’s for sure.

Like swimming in the Dead Sea.  Not that you can swim in it – more like lie on it.

dead seaIf you have ever used Dead Sea salts or exfoliating products you know how amazing your skin feels afterwards.  Well imagine how incredible you would feel after actually floating on the Dead Sea.  Of course it might not be everyone’s dream.  My friend who visited there said that it felt like stepping into snot!  Oh well!

Like walking the Camino.  This is something that I really want to do.   I have watched the documentaries and the films and have seen the people crying about the blisters on their feet and how emotionally and physically draining it can be.  I just really want that feeling of walking into the square at Compostela de Santiago and then going to see that crazy swinging incense burner in the cathedral.  Duck your head!





Standing room only

Pakistan International Airlines is investigating reports that seven extra passengers were allowed to stand in the aisles on a packed flight to Saudi Arabia.

Dawn newspaper claimed flight PK-743 from Karachi to Medina carried 416 passengers last week, seven more than its total seating capacity of 409.

Pakistan Airlines said that this was nonsense and that it would not be possible to travel on a three hour flight standing up all the way.  Mind you – sometimes when you are squashed between two people in the middle seat you might be better off standing up.  The problem is that in an emergency you have no harnessing equipment and also no oxygen masks.

Standing only flights are not a new idea.  Airlines are trying very hard to maximize the number of passengers they can take.  It’s all about bums in seats – or in this case – bums with no seats.  At one time a few years back it was rumoured that Michael O’Leary – the head honcho of RyanAir – was interested in the idea of “standing flights” or “vertical passenger plans”.  Don’t you just love how corporate-speak makes this ridiculous idea seem almost sensible?

But back to Pakistan International Airlines.  Wow – where would you put seven extra passengers without anybody seeing them –

overhead bin

No – that’s not a passenger – it’s a flight attendant.  We all know that they would probably want to hide from us if they could.  But there is NO HIDING PLACE
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RyanAir’s idea shows that in many places there is not much difference between a bus and a plane these days – just transportation.  So having to stand all the way on your flight would mean more passengers and lowest ticket prices.

But how the heck did these extra passengers get onto the Pakistan flight?  When you think about all the checks that you have to go through to get onto a flight.  First at the airline desk in the airport – usually after having shown your boarding pass to an official “guarding” the line up.  Then you have to present it to the check in agent.  Then you have to go through security and present it again.  Finally you have to show your boarding pass to the gate agent.  All this checking, checking…. doesn’t seem to work!

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Is this a face crime?

Face-crime?  I must explain a little.  I have been re-reading 1984 by George Orwell and in the regime of Big Brother one is always under observation so any facial expression that might convey your real feelings or thoughts can be very dangerous.  In Newspeak this is called facecrime.

So what has this to do with travel?  Well think about when you go through customs or immigration.  I don’t know about you but I always feel guilty and I am not sure why.  Is it the uniforms or the way they look at your passport photo and then at you.  Then I feel that I need to explain that when I had my passport photo taken I was wearing my hair straight and now I just let it go curly.  And the man in the uniform just stares at me as if to say “Why?”  And in any event how can they match my passport photo with me.  That’s not really me in my passport photo with that blank expression on my face.  I am usually laughing or crying – nothing in between.  So I walk up to immigration and hand over my passport with a big smile.  Yes this is me – big smile – curly hair.  Yes this is my passport – sullen face, straight hair.  What the heck?

Seems that our facial expressions and other bodily movements are very revealing.  According to a leaked CIA travel memo on Wikileaks  – Security officials, it noted, are more likely to single out travellers who exhibit “shaking or trembling hands, rapid breathing for no apparent reason, cold sweats, pulsating carotid arteries, a flushed face, and avoidance of eye contact”.   OK well that’s handy to know what security is checking for.  According to the Economist –

“When passengers collect their baggage in Mauritius, they are monitored by zoomed-in cameras so officers can study their facial expressions. Secondary screening can be triggered by switching lines in Cote d’Ivoire, appearing to study the customs process in Tokyo, and travelling alone with a backpack in Tel Aviv.

And if you do get picked out for attention, the CIA advised, try to avoid saying “ah” or “um”, biting your lips, adjusting your clothes, using expressions like “to be honest” and “swear to God”, and providing overly specific responses.”

So you definitely don’t want to have this expression on your face –

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I used to be Snow White but then I drifted away

“I used to be Snow White but then I drifted away” – Mae West

I don’t know about you but I am so tired of the snow and wish it would all drift away.  I am sure the only people who want the snow around are those who enjoy skiing, snowboarding and other such sports that require complicated and uncomfortable equipment strapped all over the body.  (You can see that I am not a skier).  However I did start thinking a lot about snow and how it features in quite a few of those “bucket list” destinations.

ANTARCTICA – This is a destination that is not easy to get to from the beginning.  It involves flights through Buenos Aires via one of those dreary US airport hubs before you finally get onto the ship in Ushaia.  Then you have to face the Drake Passage – yes my boys – you have to get your sea legs for that one.  When you finally do get to your destination the preparation for your shore excursion is exhausting.  You need to get into your waterproof trousers, rubber boots, thick sweater, Parker.  It takes half an hour by which time you are a sweating wreck.  Do I speak from experience?  No.  I sent my brother instead (wicked laugh).  As the older sister I am allowed to laugh.  Despite all the blood sweat and tears (not to mention a little sea sickness) he said it was one of the finest trips he has ever been on.  The magnificent scenery was well worth it.


KILIMANJARO – the tallest mountain in Africa has snow all year at the summit.  The only way to get to the top is on your own two feet.  Quite an achievement which sadly I have not done.  My friends in the business who have done this trip tell me that it is not the climb as such but the altitude which is the most challenging but getting to the top is an amazing experience.  Wow – could I do it?  Not sure.  On the up side of course is the fact that after the climb you can go and pamper yourself in style at one of the fabulous luxury camps in Tanzania.  What an experience – and this I can personally attest to.  One of my top favourite adventures (with no snow).


ICELAND – one of the hottest destinations over the last year or two – but would you go in winter?  What do they have there that we don’t have here in the winter.  More snow.  But – they do have the Northern lights.  Convinced yet?  And they do have hot springs which are fantastic for your skin.  Just look – where could you wear a swimsuit in the winter in Calgary?


ALASKA – I would be remiss if I did not mention Alaska.  I do understand why people in Alberta might think that they really would not want to go and see more ice but I have to say Alaska was amazing.  From the top deck of our cruise ship we made our way down one of the glacial fjords early in the morning.  The light was crisp and clear and the only sound was the tinkling of the ice floes – sort of like the tinkling of ice in a gin and tonic.  Do go.  It is so close to us and people travel from all over the world to experience this incredible scenery.


In the meantime, more snow is predicted for the weekend and we do know that in Calgary we can even get snow over Stampede.  So you know they say – if you can’t beat them, join them.  Maybe I should think about digging my old skis out of their hiding place in the basement!

What do you do with a drunken pig?

Yes – that’s what I said – like the old song – What do you do with a drunken sailor? It is not so easy to deal with a drunken pig.  So where would you find a drunken pig?  It seems like some “smart alecs” in the boating community think it is funny to feed the swimming pigs of the Bahamas with alcohol.  I mean really!  It takes very little to entertain a small mind I guess.  I also wonder how things have not gone horribly wrong already with drunken pigs frolicking in the water with local tourists.


Look at the size of that pig

The sad thing is that this favourite tourist attraction is threatened and word has it that there are very few surviving pigs.  There has been talk of poison but I did read as well that the pigs are regularly fed hot dogs from the boats.  Now that I find a bit hard to stomach.  I hope they are vegan sausages and not pork.

Shame – poor pig has no idea.  Maybe he had a few drinks first and didn’t care what he was eating.


Apparently this is a chicken hot dog – does this make it better?

So between eating hot dogs (probably full of sodium and preservatives) and drinking alcohol these pigs do not have a very healthy lifestyle and now someone or something has apparently starting poisoning the pigs.  Several dropped dead recently and word has it that there are only 7 or 8 left on the island.

So how did the pigs get there to begin with?  It is said that a couple were left on the island to fatten up and then the owners never returned for them and so the two or three piggies became more and more piggies.

And why do they swim?  The answer probably lies in the fact that people in boats will feed them.  It is a strong motivation.  Why do you think all those stingrays swarm around people at Cayman Islands.  It’s not the smell of suntan lotion – believe me!

So now (drunk or not) the pigs are disappearing and the island of Exuma Bahamas will have to go back to selling itself based on the amazing beaches and crystal clear waters teeming with fish – not pigs.



The Great Escape

Life is all about escaping – which is pretty sad if you think of it.  There are even rooms that you can pay to be locked inside just so you can escape.  This is a booming business in Calgary now.  If you have ever tried this as a team building exercise you will know that different people behave in different ways.  Some relish the thrill of solving the puzzle that will open the lock – others (like me) get a little more impatient and if given the option of solving the puzzle or getting hold of a hacksaw I would probably choose the latter.
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For those of you who are still working (yes we do envy the retirees) then you will be very familiar with that feeling on a Friday night at 6 pm when you say – OK – that’s fine.  I did it! Let me out.  I am not sure why we wish our lives into fast forward like this.  We only have a certain amount of time in this world to enjoy so we should stretch out every single day.

Which brings me to my favourite type of escape – travel.  The thing about travel is that the escape is not just when you climb on that plane.  The escape is every time you even think about travelling.   The research that goes into a trip is half of the fun – if not more.  The anticipation of seeing the places you read about is quite delicious.  I usually like to try to read a novel that gives the historical background of the area.  It’s a great way to get a sense of history without having to read a boring guide book – and oh my goodness some of these guide books can be really boring.  Depending on your destination there are some really good reads that will give you a reliable rendering of the history of the area. You can even suggest one of these books to your book club…. if you are a member of one.

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Then there is the shopping.  This is another form of escape which is essential when travelling.  It is so much more fun shopping for travel stuff than shopping for groceries. You know how you need those new walking shoes because the itinerary mentioned “join your guide for a walking tour of ….” and of course you need a new swimsuit and maybe one of those anti-theft back-packs.  Shopping is such a fun escape and it is even more fun when you can justify it.

One of the best escapes is during your flight.  It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO of Big Deal Corporation, you just cannot be reached while in mid-flight and please please people – let’s keep it that way.  I do NOT want to receive phone calls or emails during my flight.  I love flying.  This to me is a wonderful escape.

Then – before you know it – you have escaped completely into a different world.  That was how I felt when I arrived in New Delhi.  The traffic, the colours, the food, the people – amazing.  Funnily enough I felt the same way when I arrived in Hanoi.  The amazing ability of whole families to ride on one small motorbike is incredible.  Then again, nothing can quite beat the experience of being on the plains of the Serengeti during Earth Hour with just the brilliant stars and a few candles to light our table under the trees and – Oh Yes –  it is hard to describe the atmosphere of that brooding red rock they call Uluru.

So many beautiful places.  So many memories.  So many escapes.









Tots on flights

Poor kids – everyone (sometimes even their parents) hate having kids on a flight.  They can’t help it.  It’s boring and their ears hurt.  Having said that there is nothing worse than sitting next to a crying fidgeting child.  Moms hate it too.  They just want to have a decent flight like anybody else and usually feel really bad if their child can’t get to sleep on a flight.

So this idea is really brilliant – it’s called the Fly Tot – and the idea is so basic.  A blow up cube that turns the kid’s seat into a bed.

Fly Tot

What a clever idea – parents have been reviewing this product and raving about how amazing it is – especially for long haul flights.  How cute are these two

It got me thinking….(always a dangerous thing).  As a short person (vertically challenged) maybe I could make use of a device like this.  It would certainly be a lot better than some of the other devices that have been invented to help you sleep on a flight.  This lady did not need a device but just made use of the seat cover

Very smart!  Unlike this guy who resorted to the old blow up neck pillow.  Everyone uses them and they just don’t work – at least not for me and certainly not for him.

Ouch – sore neck in the morning.

I don’t get this one at all….

But maybe that’s just me.  This one seems to be rather dangerous.
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Looks like it could double up for a toilet seat ???
Then there is the travel pillow on a pole (I am not kidding)

and this weird one
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or this – try not to laugh – honestly!
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I think I will just continue to fall asleep on flights in the old fashioned way!
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