Tuesday, April 29, 2008
I did some research on the topic of safe travel and put together some information that addresses both personal and property safety.
You can find this information at my new site Information for Safe Travel
Friday, April 25, 2008
Then I board a ship and the rates go sky high. I was on the Nordnorge to Antarctica and the rate there was 60 kronas per hour. That works out to about $12 per hour. Since we had many days at sea, I was very tempted to shell out the money for an internet time package which were available in 30 minute (40 kronas), 1 hour (60 kronas) and 6 hour (240 kronas) increments.
However, before I purchased the internet time, I checked the computers in the internet cafe. Every one of them had Word on them and it was accessible to the user without having to sign in. So I bought the one hour package and it lasted me the entire 14 days on board ship. How?
I would use Word to type my outgoing mail. I had my diary with me and took my time (assuming no one was waiting, of course) to compose a document with the events of the past couple of days. When done I'd:
1) Log into my onboard internet account
2) Log into my email
3) Hit Compose
4) Bring Word back up and copy the document
5) Back to my email where I would paste the document into my email
6) Hit Send
Done with an absolutely minimal number of minutes used!
That left me time to scan my incoming mail. If there were any I wanted to reply to in a lengthy manner, I copied it, opened a new Word document, pasted it, then exited out of the internet. Now, off line, I would answer the email and when ready, I'd repeat the above routine.
If anyone has other suggestions about efficiently using internet time I'd love to hear about them. I will include them in another post.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I know, previously, I've had photos of various wildlife that we saw during our visit to the Galapagos. Some photographers out there might we wondering what size lens my husband uses.
For wildlife photography he uses a 100mm-300mm lens which, with his camera's multiplier, ends up being 480mm. As professionals know, this is not a particularly powerful lens for shooting wildlife. Then why do the animal pictures look so great? Because we were so close to them that sometimes he had to back away, even at 100 mm.
Technically, we needed to remain 15 feet away from the sea lions. But as 'they' say, nobody told the sea lions. Thought you might like to see how close they really DID come. They either went about their business or came up close because they were curious about us.
The behavoir you see towards the end of the video is typical of what we saw: A female touches noses with a pup, checking to make sure it is hers. She then roles over, exposing her nipples, so the pup can nurse.
In a previous post I mentioned how we had some rough seas during our Galapagos trip. That lead to an even more interesting experience.
During our first night on land after the cruise, I needed to make my way to the bathroom. I COULD HAVE SWORN THE FLOOR WAS MOVING. I, literally, had to hold onto furniture, walls and then the bathroom sink because I was SURE, otherwise, I would have fallen.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Yes, I know gasoline prices are going through the roof. But depending upon where you live, you don't have to go far to enjoy the beauty that is America. And if you stay off the Interstates, taking the scenic routes, you'll probably end up saving gas because you'll get better gas mileage at the lower speeds.
Check out America's Byways®: National Scenic Byways Online and send away for their free brochure. It is a great overview of the designated scenic highways in the U.S.
For a more detailed description, I found the Reader's Digest book invaluable when planning our last road trip through Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and South Dakota. And I'm using it now as I lay out a trip to the Southwest.
Monday, April 21, 2008
These are my daffodils, blooming profusely in my front yard.
And my weeping cherry looks great also, if I do say so myself.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
So my husband purchased the Pacsafe Carrysafe - Travel Camera Strap. The Pacsafe strap doesn't have Canon or any other text on it. And buried inside the strap is slashproof wire. My husband used it on our last two trips and is very happy with it.
Friday, April 18, 2008
We have never sailed with a TBA cabin before. Our travel agent at Sea 4 Sail calls us a ‘tween’ customer. We like to be on a deck that has cabins below us and cabins above us. In addition, we like to be in a corridor ‘tween’ the elevators and staircases. But for this particular cruise we decided to chance it.
Never again! Our purchase had been for an outside cabin on ‘A’ deck, ‘tween’ ‘B’ deck below us and ‘Main’ deck above us. When our cabin assignment came in we were on Main deck. Were we upgraded? Technically, yes.
BUT, our cabin was now under the promenade deck. Did we hear the early morning walkers? You bet! Our cabin also looked straight across the open area by the staircase and elevators. Did we hear other passengers as they gathered to say Goodnight. You bet! (If you'd like to see our cabin location, right click on the deck plan. We were in 551. I guess we should be grateful we weren't opposite the laundry.)
The advice given to people who purchase TBA or guaranteed rate cabins is to be sure to buy a category of cabin that, if you don’t get upgraded, you would be happy in. In our case, not only would we have been satisfied with our category if we didn't get upgraded, we would have been happier.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Eco-friendly travel is becoming big business and accomodations are being built around the world to attract this type of tourist. These lodges are built using local building materials. They are staffed with local residents. Some of the lodges conserve water by using gray water for watering the landscape. Some conserve on electricity by generating their own with solar panels. And most are now also being built with an eye to the tourist who also wants to be comfortable.
I've included a brief list, below, of some eco-friendly lodges around the world. As you can see, these accomodations don't come cheap. The big exceptions in this list are the Maho Bay Camps on St. John, USVI and the Three Camel Lodge in Mongolia.
(in alphabetical order by location):
Bali - Nihiwatu Resort
Price: from $266 per person nightly
Brazil - Araras
Price: from $870 per person for four nights
Chile - EcoCamp Patagonia
Price: from $1,059 per person for four-day packages
Costa Rica - Pacuare Lodge
Price: from $326 per person for a two-day package
Easter Island - explora en Rapa Nui
Price: from $1,230 per person for three nights
Iceland - Hotel Hellnar
Price: from $198 per night
Mongolia - Three Camel Lodge
Price: from $80 per person per night
Namibia - Damaraland Camp
Price: from $354 per person per night
Peru - Mountain Lodges of Peru
Price: $2,500 per person for a six-night package
St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands - Maho Bay Camps
Price: from $80 per night
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
The Delta and Northwest merger has been big news in the travel industry over the past couple of days. All the hype about the size of the airline. All the questions about route changes.
All I want to know is if this will mean better service for us, the customers. On a positive side, an airline with a huge trans Pacific presence (Northwest) will be joining up with one that has the largest number of trans-Atlantic flights of any US domestic airline (Delta). So if one does a lot of international travel (me?) I could rack up the frequent flyer miles in one account.
On the other hand, Delta has a worse rating for lost luggage and involuntary bumping. (Make a note for yourself: When you fly Delta, fly only with carry-ons.)
To read more about this merger: USA Today.com
Regular readers of my blogs might notice that the Blogrush widget is gone. I had considered several times, over the past few weeks, about removing it. Made the decision today.
For those not familiar with Blogrush, here is how it is supposed to work:
You sign up
You put the widget on your blog
The number of times your site (and widget) are loaded (and bonus points you get) determines the number of times your most recent post title is displayed on ANOTHER blog in someone elses widget
Goal: Click throughs and readers from those other blogs
In the, probably, 1000s of displays of my post titles, I've had about a dozen readers. Not a great ROI in my opinion for taking up that much space on my blogs.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Monday, April 14, 2008
The last penguins we saw on our Antarctica trip were the Magellanic penguins. The environment these penguins live in is very different from the others we saw. Magellanic penguins live on a sandy beach, digging into the sand to create their burrows.
The penguins always had the right of way. In this colony, boardwalks had been build for the observers but every now and then a penguin (or two) decided that's the way they wanted to go. In that case, all of us had to just stop and wait. No matter how long it took, we could not continue along the boardwalk until the penguins were off of it.
There were other places in the colony that were obvious paths the penguins used to reach the sea. In those instances, the boardwalk was built OVER the path, allowing free access to both penguins and observer.
After some research on line, the feedback I had was that the ATMs at EZE aren't very dependable. So instead, I used the currency exchange booth that is located right in the luggage carousel area. I wasn't happy with the exchange rate but I thought, in the airport, I had no other good option.
WRONG! Immediately after leaving the baggage area, there is a bank branch on the right. A BIG branch with a whole bunch of windows. Boy, was I annoyed. So if you arrive in Buenos Aires, at EZE, during business hours, exit the luggage area and exchange your money at the bank.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
We were very lucky when we landed here. The plan was to see some penguins but we stumbled upon a whole bunch of young elephant seals at rest.
You can see how close we are to them. We had to be quiet as we watched them. It would be easy to spook them back into the water. Which would probably mean the death penalty for those ashore by those who hadn't yet made their landing. We were fortunate in that all the passengers had a chance to see them.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
She's been looking for a job in her new home town. She's also a coffee junkie. So finding the Jump Start Your Day & Career with itzbig promo was a double bonus for her. This is a job site and just by entering her profile she'll quality for a $5 gourmet coffee card. Win, win for her.
You might be wondering why we aren't concerned about the current, whether it is 110 or 220. Well, we used to travel with a heavy bulky converter. Until I read on a forum (aren't those forums wonderful!) to check the small print on the power supply. Sure enough. The small print on all of our electrical gadgets clearly states that it will work with 110 AND 220. We don't need the converter.
However, that still doesn't handle the issue of adaptors. We have a 'travel pack' of assorted adaptors. To make sure we have the right one(s), I use the Electrical Connection Wizard at Magellan's.
Friday, April 11, 2008
So if you travel a lot, it's worth investing in something like Escali digital scales. Be prepared and know BEFORE you get to the airport how much your suitcase weighs and lighten it at home if you have too. If you tend to travel a lot, the reasonable pricing on these scales will be made up quickly by being able to avoid overweight fees at the airport.
One of our first stops on a city tour was La Casa Rosada, The Pink House. It is the official government seat, the presidents palace. Many people have spoken from its balcony including Eva Peron and Pope John Paul II. This was also where Madonna sang 'Don't cry for me, Argentina'.
Another area of Buenos Aires that we visited is called La Boca, The Mouth. During the later part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, many immigrants came to Argentina. About 50% of them were Italian and a good number of those were from Genoa. As Genoa is a port town, many of these new immigrants settled at la boca, the mouth of the river. One of the old traditions in Genoa is to paint the houses with paint leftover from the shipyards and that is what they did in their new country.
But when writing about La Boca, one must also mention Benito Quinquela Martin. By the late 1950’s, La Boca looked nothing like it had in the early part of the century. The colorful housing was being pulled down and being replaced with blocks of flats. Quinquela, as he is commonly known, was an orphan who had been adopted by Genoese immigrants and grew up in La Boca. He became one of Argentina’s most famous painters. With the port of La Boca being his inspiration, he decided to do something to preserve the old barrio.
The result was the street of Caminito. This is a small street showing the way La Boca used to look, with brightly painted corrugated metal housing. On the weekends, this little street becomes a place for local artists to show their wares and where you might spot a couple or two doing the tango along the street.
And finally, this interesting mural which we just happened to pass as we wandered some of the side streets in Buenos Aires.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
My husband and I expected to be in Santiago, Chile on Wednesday,January 9th 2008, preparing to fly further south to board the Nordnorge for Hurtigruten’s (formerly Norwegian Coastal Voyage) sailing through the Chilean fjords and Antarctica. Instead, as we try to check in for our international flight, on the night of Tuesday, January 8th, we learn that there is a problem with our reservation/tickets.
As JFK LAN personal politely ask us to step aside so that they can help other passengers, my husband and I are in shock. I call Hurtigruten at 7:30 PM, and learn that Hurtigruten purposely created a problem with our outbound air so that we would call them. Why? Our ship had been overbooked and our trip was cancelled!
Shock turns to dismay and anger. WHAT??!! We had reserved this trip a year ago, in January, 2007! We had received our documents two weeks previous. I had been in daily contact with our travel agent and she had not been called. Instead, Hurtigruten leaves us stranded at the JFK LAN counter, baggage in hand and mouths open in shock.
The Hurtigruten rep I was speaking with apologized, of course, stating that this is not the way they normally do business. I didn’t care. Our trip was cancelled and we were going nowhere but home.
We were offered a re-booking on the next (reverse) sailing which would start in Buenos Aires and end in Santiago. Many stressful days passed as we rearranged our post cruise plans to precruise and our travel agency (Sea 4 Sail) negotiated compensation for us for this fiasco.
We saw a lot of chicks. They are all adorable. But little ones like this were born too late in the season and won't survive the harsh winter.
The rookieries were consistently noisy. Penguin after penguin would point their bill to the sky and screech. Yes, screech. That's the only way I could describe it.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Heat is still rising into the water. Technically, it is a 'restless caldera with a significant volcanic risk'. It was the only place on our cruise where we would really be able to get into the water. Several people came ashore wearing bathing suits under their heavier clothing. I wasn't that brave and just waded in. The shallow water along the shoreline was HOT! Almost too hot to stand in. As I waded deeper, the water got cold, then COLD! What a neat experience.
Monday, April 7, 2008
This was a British base and is now a historic site. It is staffed and maintained over the Antarctic summer. It has become a regular stop for cruise ships and they have a small gift shop that I took good advantage of.
On display was a lot of the old equipment that was once used.
The facilities are not heated so the sleeping bunks were piled high with down quilts and the old stove was also used as a clothes dryer. The kitchen was loaded with supplies of food and fuel. It definitely is an out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere place to spend your summer.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
We had used boats similar in design to zodiacs when we cruised the Galapagos. On that adventure, climbing in and out from our ship, and then out and back in close to shore, was, at times, a dicey experience. It was easy to lose one’s balance stepping onto the inflated side of the zodiac. And swinging legs over and out of the zodiacs as we had wet landings was sometimes difficult. Thanks to lots of hands from crew and other passengers, everyone safely navigated the ins and outs.
However, in the Galapagos, we were wearing shorts and water sandals and I wondered how we would handle this bundled up with warm weather clothes, boots and gloves.