Yes we can wear Lycra

You know we baby boomers are pretty amazing!   I have been observing my fellow passengers on the Silver Muse and most of them seem to be retired – or nearly!  That does not stop them getting out there and doing everything that someone 20 years or so younger would be doing.

Take the gym for example – every time I go there it is full.  Treadmills are going, elliptical machines are grinding away and the weights section is busy with silver haired granddads getting buffed.

Shore activities like hiking, trekking, biking and canoeing fill up quickly.  Yes – we are not our parents.  Today’s seniors know the value of following a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

What’s the motivation?  Apart from living a healthy life it is the fact that the clock is ticking.  How many times do you get that post from facebook with Remember this from 5 years ago and you go “OMG – I can’t believe that was five years ago.  Where did the time go?”  It’s slippery this time thing…. just slips through our fingers and that’s why we have to make the best of every single day of our lives.

So take some time to think about this.  You might not be able to afford a luxury cruise but that’s not the point.  Get out there and enjoy.  Go to Banff for the weekend.  Take up biking again.  You know what they say – you never forget – it’s like riding a bicycle.

Let’s show the younger generation that we – the baby boomers – are a force to be reckoned with and yes we can wear Lycra.

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The town of dogs and wool

What a strange little town – Puerto Montt – on the coast of Chile which was one of our port stops on our cruise around the Horn of South America.  I started off with a brisk walk to the downtown area an en route stopped to see the cathedral which is apparently the second oldest in the world.  It was certainly unspectacular but evidently much loved. Locals seemed to stop in frequently for a quick prayer or a moment of silent thought.  The people here seem to be very devout and I was shamed to have realized that I did not make the sign of the cross as I entered.  My old Mother Superior would be shocked – or maybe not ….. but that’s another story.

Right next to the main square is a bright shiny new mall which was a handy place for a bathroom break.  I headed in there for a look around and felt that some weird teleporter machine had whisked me back to South Centre in Calgary.  It was exactly the same – marble floors, brand name stores and escalators galore … and that incessant mall type music which somehow drives me insane after just half an hour.  I had to get out.

A long walk along the promenade which was busy with backpackers, buskers and lots and lots of stray dogs.  The backpackers looked tired and burdened down with huge packs both front and back.  I did see a hostel along the way and I had to thank my lucky stars that I was not spending the night there.   But the dogs…. oh my goodness … there were so many in various stages of neglect.  It was quite upsetting although the dogs seemed to be well fed but very ungroomed.  Local people fed them bits and pieces and they pretty much left you alone.  I was worried that they might be a bit aggressive but they were not at all.  So I guess the local people love dogs.  It’s a bit like some towns in Europe you go to and there are tons of cats – I never saw a single cat – this is a dog town for sure.

Next stop was the market and wow – what a great visit that was.  We definitely saved the best till last.  Stall after stall of hand made articles in wood, leather and wool.  Bales of wool abounded being spun and twisted into yarn.  Handmade jewellery, leather and even shops dedicated to all things horsy such as hand made tack, spurs and saddle blankets.

An interesting and strange town with friendly people and yes ….. lots of dogs.

ARE WE THERE YET?

Do you remember those long road trips as a kid?  They seemed to go on forever and yes we nagged and nagged to find out how much further.  I am dating myself now but I clearly remember us three kids in the back of the car in the era before seat belts standing up and leaning over the front seats so we could have a good view of the road ahead.

carseat-meme

There was no such thing as video games, ipads or head phones.  What on earth did we do to while away the time?

Well we would have a good fight every hundred or so miles.  If someone encroached on your space in the back or touched their elbow to yours then everyone had a hissy fit and dad would stop the car on the side of the road in order to give us all a hiding.  As I said – I am dating myself here.  Today’s parent would never dream of doing anything like that.

sit down

When we got tired of fighting we would sleep – all over each other.  It was probably the only time you were allowed to take up someone else’s part of the seat.

Then someone would always throw up.  I am talking about long journeys here – 8 hours or so on windy roads up through the heart of Britain.  My dad would get so cross he would not stop.  I think we made a bit of a spectacle of ourselves going around the traffic circle in the centre of Bristol.  Me out one window and my sister out the other.

Things are different now.  Most of us fly these long distances and for kids a plane ride is usually exciting.  There must, however, be those kids who do so much flying around the world that it just becomes boring – like those long 8 hour car drives.

So what is the solution?

Emirates has one! They have teamed up with Dr Sandi Mann, a psychologist and boredom specialist at the University of Central Lancashire to find a solution. Dr Mann has worked with the airline to create the Child Boredom Quotient (CBQ), helping parents identify the exact moment their kids will get bored so they can enjoy stress-free travel.  You can read the whole article here ….  http://travelwirenews.com/emirates-airlines-hires-boredom-specialist-to-keep-kids-entertained-485554/

As I read through the article I couldn’t help chuckling.  I could just imagine my Dad’s comments.  Let’s just say he was not that politically correct!
Really

 

 

DALLAS DETOUR

You never really quite know what to expect in Dallas.  My recent visit for a conference provided one surprise after another.

It all started at the airport.  Someone told us that the best way to get to our hotel, the Hyatt, was to catch the DART – something like our C Train service.  Apparently, all you had to do was hop onto the train at the airport and it would deposit us at Union Station just across the road from our hotel.  Sounds simple, right?   Um – no.

First of all, simply finding the station at DFW is a nightmare.  Optimistic signs with arrows pointing in the general direction surprisingly fizzled out.  We walked one way – then another – then asked an airport employee who was having his smoke break.  I couldn’t understand what he said but he waved us back inside the airport.  It was then we realized that to catch the DART (rapid transit – what a laugh) we had to catch a bus to the other terminal where the DART station would be found.  This little jaunt ended up taking about 20 minutes.  By this time, I was wishing I had taken a taxi …. but that’s another story.

Eventually we got to the station and purchased our tickets.  Now here was another weird twist.  In order to purchase these on a credit card you had to enter your ZIP code.  Only 5 spaces.  Our postal code has 6 spaces.  What the hell?  Fortunately, someone there at the same time told us that if you are using a Canadian credit card you have to put in the 3 letters followed by 2 zeros.  Oh, my goodness.  Has anyone heard of this before?  So, with my postal code being T2J 5C4 I had put to in TJC00.  We finally got our tickets and thankfully the train was still standing in the station.

We jumped on board and found empty seats with plenty of space for our suitcases – only then realizing that the reason the seats were empty was because a bird had pooped all over them.   *sigh*.   But we were on the train and would be at our destination very quickly – we thought – Rapid Transit, right?

Nope.

Looking at the map on the wall it seemed that in order to get to Union Station we would have to change trains.  Oh, now this is complicated.  We got to the end of the line (whereupon the train goes back to the airport) and got off the train during which time we met a lovely couple – mom and daughter – who had overheard our confused conversation.  “Don’t y’all worry” mom told us.  “Y’all just stick with us.  We going to the same place as you.”  OK great.  We climbed on the train making sure to keep mom and daughter in our sights.

The next problem occurred when the ticket inspector got on the train.  Our guardian angels were inspected, and then removed from the train and promptly fined and arrested.  Bye guardian angels…

Chugging along on the train we were joined at one of the stations by a very weird guy who looked like he might be high on something and a lovely sweet homeless lady who chatted our heads off.  We were told that the train we were on would take us to Union Station – so we could relax.  As we approached Union Station we started getting our stuff together…. but the train just raced right through Union Station without stopping.

What the heck?

No problem to our high as a kite friend who promptly started pulling the emergency stop lever.  With that the train ground to a halt in the middle of a tunnel.  A few suspenseful moments ensued when we all sat in silence and then the train started to move again.  Curiouser and curiouser.
alice
When the train pulled into the next station we rushed off the train with our big suitcases and then had to cross the train tracks to get to the other side while we waited for the next train coming from the other direction, so we could travel one stop and get off at – yes – Union Station.

 

Yes, we said – we should have taken a taxi.  Which we did the next day when we wanted to go out for dinner.  Now that’s another story completely.  Cowboy Cabs, Ubers and rip off unmetered rides and more ….

WORST AND BEST VACATIONS

I recently sat down with one of the SAIT students who is registered in the Travel and Tourism program.  One of their projects was to interview someone in the travel industry and so I happily obliged.  In this day and age of so many people viewing a career as a travel professional as a side-line “hobby” it is gratifying to know that SAIT’s travel program is still so robust.

I was, however, stumped when I was asked the question – What is the worst experience you have ever had during your travels?

Goodness me.  I could not think of one.  Is that weird?  Am I just incredibly lucky or maybe I am a positive person and focus on the good and forget the bad?  I wracked my brain.  C’mon Lesley – surely there must have been something terrible that has happened on all the travel trips I have undertaken.

Nope …. Nothing there.

memory

I dug deeper into my memory!

YES – I got it!  I have something for you I told the young student.

Travelling down to San Juan for a cruise we had to go via Dallas.  Well Dallas had half an inch of snow.  No big deal to us at YYC but in Dallas it was a catastrophe.  All flights cancelled.  People milling around – grumbling and moaning.  In anticipation of angry mobs the American Airlines check in ladies were moved and replaced by some burly looking guys.  (Yeah – go on – you try making me cry!)

OK – no problem.  I am a travel agent and I have a team at home to help.  I called and asked them to get me a room for the night – somewhere.  Eventually they got me a booking at a motel about 30 kms from the airport.  Grabbed a taxi – got to the hotel – only to find that they denied all knowledge of the booking even though I had a confirmation number and email.

Hmmmm – this comes to the second question – What is the most frustrating part of being a travel agent.  Exactly this – when suppliers – be it hotels, transfer companies or airlines don’t do what we have booked them to do and then just deny any knowledge of how this happened…. Anyway that is another story.

So grabbed a quick meal at the local diner – met some very interesting locals (not) – and then took another expensive taxi back to Dallas.

In the meantime the airport had called in help to provide blankets and cots.  Of course because I had been out chasing my tail there were non left for yours truly.  Now what?  When all else fails find a pub.  The Irish Pub was in full swing.  A Stagette group who were on their way to Vegas had their stagette at the pub.  It was fun.

That night we slept on the floor in the airport.

Now I guess that was the worst experience that I can think of for now.  I had to really really think about it.

As for the best travel experience ……  Have you got a few weeks to spare – it’s a long list!!!

HOTELS AREN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE

Much like UBER changed the landscape for taxi users, different models of hotels and accommodation have changed things radically for travellers.  Air BnB is growing in popularity, although there is a backlash even here in Calgary from “proper” hotels who pay taxes and must abide by very tight guidelines.  VRBO has been around for years and is still popular and now hotel chains are reinventing themselves to provide varying levels and types of accommodation.

On top of that there are YOTELS you can choose – how does a YOTEL differ from the regular hotels you may be used to?  Well first of all their rooms are called “cabins” – conjures up images of a weekend in the woods.
log cabin

with strange neighbours

weird hillbillies

So Hoteliers are notching up their game and coming up with different ideas in accommodation and locations to entice you away from Air BnB and their friends.  But are they going too far?

Would you stay in a silo in New Zealand?  Definitely different but not really my cup of tea.  I wonder how our Alberta farmers would feel about spending their holiday in a silo?

silostay-newzealand-p

Or you can stay in  Magic Mountain in Chile – described as a water spewing volcano hotel.

magic-mountain_chile

This one however is my absolute favourite and I would stay there in a heartbeat – the only hotel project undertaken by Frank Gehry and located in the wine regions of Spain. It’s absolutely beautiful

hotel-marques-de-riscal-la-rioja-spain-p

There’s so much to consider when booking a hotel – location, facilities, wifi (there’s another debate …. many today feel free wifi is a basic human right) and naturally of course – price.

This is where VRBO and Air BnB have got the edge.

Or have they?

I came across this handy website where Air BnB and hotel rates are confirmed – and wow – the results are surprising.  Seems like Air BnB did not come out cheaper at all in certain cities.  https://www.busbud.com/blog/airbnb-vs-hotel-rates/

There has also been a lot of controversy about AirBnB when certain would be guests are refused based on their ethnicity.  Those using AirBnB were recommended not to have a profile picture on their facebook account as property owners regularly do online checks of people wanting to rent.   (report in The Guardian on 27 April 2017).

Me – I like having a proper hotel with a check in desk, security, facilities like a coffee shop and a concierge – but then maybe I am just old fashioned.

doorman

 

 

 

YOU MUST DO THIS BEFORE YOU TRAVEL

No, it’s not checking your passport (although that’s important) and it’s got nothing to do with working out foreign currencies or putting bookmarks in your Lonely Planet book for places you don’t want to miss.

It’s about the shopping.

You see shopping while you are on a trip is fun – true.  But the pre-travel shopping you get to do BEFORE your trip is the best shopping ever.

I tried to figure out why pre-travel shopping gives me such pleasure.  I think part of it is because it is guilt free.  After all – I am going to be travelling – so naturally I NEED a new pair of sketchers as opposed to wanting a new pair.  It is so easy to justify buying new things when you are preparing for a trip and what a rush when you get home and unpack that new travel bag, walking shoes, quick drying socks – not to mention the new sunglasses (but I NEEDED them).  I often feel that the planning and preparation of a trip can be just as much fun as the trip itself.  Although be careful with your pre-trip shopping budget….

shopping meme

There are so many fun travel things that you really will need for your next trip –

You might need a new suitcase – heaven knows – mine is really battered by now so I think I will be looking at this soon.  Decisions decisions.  Do I go soft cover or hard cover?  Four wheels are definitely a must.  Something distinctive would be good so I can spot it on the carousel.  If you can’t find a distinctive looking suitcase you can always buy a sticker for your old suitcase and ensure that nobody will pick this one up from the carousel
suitcase-stickers

Apart from the usual travel essentials such as a rain jacket, travel umbrella, anti-pickpocket purse there are some really fun things you can add to your pre-travel shopping list.

Running around airport terminals dragging your suitcase but need to stow your coffee cup somewhere?  No problem …

travelling coffee cup

Or this one … a portable bidet no less.  Seriously.  I must be missing something here but just look at all those happy faces on the box!!  portable bidet

And for those hot and sweaty destinations – now all your troubles are over with this air conditioned shirt
air conditioned shirt

And with this nifty gadget you will never need to worry about catching the flu …or anything else for that matter
germ wand
The germ wand will keep you protected as you sanitise your seat before your fly.   Although your fellow passengers may think that you are auditioning for the next Star Wars film
LukeSkywalkerLightsaber2

But this hand travel gadget wins hands down –
wine-bag

Much better than the coffee cup holder – imho.