30 July 2008

Overheard in Passport Control aka when even immigration officials pity you

Immigration official: (while looking at my declaration) So, You're staying at the XXX Inn, that just doesn't sound good. I see your crew write that every week and it looks depressing. Is it any good?

Me: (sighs) No, not so much.

Its a sad day when even the immigration people scoff at your crew accommodations. Maybe I should have told him about the free reading material I always find there.

29 July 2008

Free Postcards From the Edge

Postcards. They are often the bane of my existence while travelling. Either they are too ugly, old or expensive, or they are nowhere to be found at times you would really love to send them, like last years La Tomatina.

Even if I find the right postcard, have the right currency, there is the address book to dig up, the stamp to buy and the post box to find. Such a palaver!! Thanks to kirtsy, I have found a website that will send 2 free postcards for you for FREE per day. You can even upload your own photos to make sure the postcard is the perfect shot.

Two catches for this, hippopost will only send postcards to Canada or the United States, and they will insert a small ad on the back of your card. (Hey, someone has to pay for this). If you are feeling frugal and have friends in North America, why not give it a try?

25 July 2008

Words fail, and jetways too!!

Just imagine- you finish your layover , take the hotel bus to the airport and board your flight. You preform your safety checks , count the meals, set up your galley, board the passengers and are all ready to go. Suddenly the jetway slowly lowers itself. Lowers itself so far that the canopy of the jetway takes the frickin boarding door off the aircraft. Completely. Door is on the tarmac. Talk about a bad start ( and finish) to your day as a crew or a passenger. This happened this week to a Lufthansa flight headed from Denver to Munich on the 20th. The plane was still there, minus the door when I arrived there a few days later.

When you add in the pilots strike there (Lufthansa) and their cabin crew as well as ground staff voting on a strike, Lufthansa is having a bad month.

20 July 2008


I did not fully understand the dread term "terminal illness" until I saw Heathrow for myself.- Dennis Potter 1978

Dennis, It is 30 years later and still not any better. Quote borrowed from QuoteGarden.

18 July 2008

This Gives New Meaning to Red and Blue States

I recently stumbled across this map on If We ran It. Look before you Leap, Ladies If We Ran It. If you are single, it may help you plan your holiday travel accordingly. It also proves that I am not imagining things when I think Colorado is full of men. Who knew Dallas and Minneapolis were also chock full o'men??

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17 July 2008

A Long Evening With the D-Listers

Just got home from Denver...a mere 3 hours late. Board the plane, seat the passengers, take meal orders, develop a mechanical problem which involved no air con. A group summer ensued. Change aircraft repeat above steps.

Suffering along with were Captain Mark Phillips and Corbin Bernsen. Phillips is the ex of Princess Anne. We seen to be the airline of choice for ex royals and lesser royals. Maybe BA revokes their flying privileges when the marriage dissolves? Bernsen played a shiny blond lawyer on LA Law in the 80s. No more hair, shiny or otherwise. Both very nice to have onboard, I am glad to see Capt. Phillips has lost his wink he used to give whenever you spoke to him. About anything. Or...maybe I am now to old to merit the wink. I am fine with either option.

14 July 2008

The 10 Best Museums and Galleries

I have a little confession to make. I am addicted to any books about travel. Travel narratives, travel guidebooks, glossy coffee table books about places I may never travel to. I will buy them or, better yet, receive them as gifts. The latest gift was a book titled The 10 Best of Everything, an ultimate guide for travelers (Nathanial Lande and Andrew Lande). This is a fat National Geographic book filled with lists of everything from the 10 greatest tea houses to the 10 best polo clubs ( no I wont be needing that list either). While I do disagree with some of their ratings (Peets coffee the best in the world.....seriously???) I do think their top 10 museum and gallery list is pretty comprehensive, and also one of the only lists where I have been to all of them. Below is their comments on the museums and galleries along with my usual 10 cents on their 10 best.

1.The Smithsonian Institution- The Smithsonian is the worlds largest research and museum complex, with 16 museums and galleries, the national Zoological Park, and various research stations. More than 142 million objects detailing America's history are housed here, so you'd better prepare for a long week of walking. There's so much to see that,if you spent one minute day and night looking at each object, in 10 years you would only see 10 percent of the whole. Therefore, head out with a plan. Focus on only 1 or 2 exhibits at 2 or 3 museums.

My take- this museum , or museums, are free and amazing. They are all scattered along the Mall and there is truly one for every taste and interest. Send the children and culture-phobics to the Air and Space Museum and buy them a little space ice cream. Avoid summer visits like the plague, in winter you can have the exhibitions nearly to yourself. If you tire of being outdoors, walk over to the Sculpture garden of the National Gallery , get a non-space ice cream and wait for the others. Don't let the smaller museums of DC get overlooked, the Phillips Collection is one that is nearly always worth a look.

2. The Louvre- The Louvre was a medieval fortress and the palace of the kings of France before becoming a museum 2 centuries ago. The addition of I.M. Pei's pyramid shocked many when it was unveiled in 1989 as the new main entrance, yet it somehow works, integrating the palace's disparate elements. The museum's collections, which range from antiquity to the first half of the 19th century, are among the most important in the world. A good place to start is the Sully Wing, at the foundations of Philippe-Auguste's medieval keep- its the heart of the Louvre, kids love it, and it leads to the Egyptian rooms.

My take- A must. Watch out for being run over by the hordes of Japanese making their way through at breakneck speed. learn that the Mona Lisa is really...small. Fans of the Dan Brown books can keep themselves occupied with the Vitruvian Man . The seemingly jarring contrast of the Pyramid and the Louvre really do work far better than a modern interpretation of old. Hit this museum but by all means also stop by the Musee d'Orsay.

3.Egyptian Museum -Though many western museums contain impressive collections of ancient Egyptian antiquities, none begins to rival the riches on display at Cairo's Egyptian Museum. Devoted entirely to the legacy of the pharaohs,the museum has over 120,000 items of antiquity on display, ranging from the delicately crafted jewelery to towering granite colossi of kings.

My take- This museum breaks my heart. It is so spoiled for choice that things are literally lying against the walls, waiting to find a home and description. It is an example of the sadness of a country that does not allot many funds to the arts. I am sure museum curators from places like the Louvre would love to get their hands on the wealth of items that make up the Egyptian Museum. Tut travels...a lot. Make sure he is home when you plan to go. If you are a female, watch out for the locals trying to pinch and/or befriend you. That is the time to use your guidebook to HIT them. Hard. The Lonely Planet makes an excellent man swatter.

4. State Hermitage - Russia may be isolated from the artistic centers of Paris, Rome, and London, but the Hermitage has managed to acquire a spectacular collection of World art- more than 3 million items - spanning the years from the Stone Age to the early 20 the century. The museum occupies 6 buildings along the Neva river, the leading structure being the confection-like Winter Palace . This gloriously baroque, blue and white structure was finished in 1764 and over the next several centuries was the main residence of the czars. Catherine the Great founded the museum that same year when she purchased 255 paintings from berlin. The museum's focal point is Western Europe art-120 rooms in 4 buildings ranging from the Middle Ages to the present day. Rembrandt, Rubens, Tiepolo, Titian, da Vinci, Picasso, Gauguin, van Gogh, and Goya are all represented here.

My take-If you have ever read Russian history, or just seem Dr. Zhivago the museums housing will entrance you as much as the exhibits. I keep picturing turn of the century pre- revolutionary Russia every time I am lucky enough to come here. Bring a guidebook. If you do not speak Russian or read Cyrillic, you are really limited to only titles and artists for each work, only the main pieces merit a description in anything other than Russian. See the painting that a mad student tried to attack. Remember when you see mostly non- Russian art that Russian religion prohibited 3 dimensional images of people- Russian artists have no tradition of non religious art until the late 1800s which is why nearly all the art is foreign.

5. The British Museum - Britain's largest museum looks after the national collection of archaeology and ethnography- more than 4 million objects ranging from prehistoric bones to chinks of Athens' Parthenon, from whole Assyrian palace rooms to exquisite gold jewels.

My take- Make the obligatory stop at the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles. Marvel at the light and spaciousness of Norman Fosters addition the the museum, seen above. This is a place best done in chunks to prevent sensory overload. If art , rather than objects is your interest, go to the Courthauld or the National Gallery. Most must see exhibits at the British Museum ( like the Terracotta Soldiers) have an allotment of same day tickets, get there early, bring a paperback ( or a guidebook) to while away the time waiting for a ticket.

6. The Prado- The spanish royal family is responsible for the prado's bounty of classical masterpieces. Over centuries, kings and queens collected and comissioned art with passion and good taste. In addition to stars of Spanish painting such as Velazquez, Goya, Ribera, and Zubaran, the prado has big collections of Italian and Flemish artists. Fernando VII opened the collection to the public in 1819, in the same neoclassic building it is housed in today, designed by Juan de Villanueva.

My take- This museum is filled with 'heavy' art. My eyes can only take the dark, sombre colors of Goya and the like for so long. When I reach my fill I head over to the Thyssen- Bornemisza Museum . This museum, owned by the family, contains much more approachable art. By all means go to the Prado, then down some sangria and see the Thyssen. Its light and space will refresh you after the Spanish masters. When seeing the art at the Thyssen, remember that this art was in this families homes.

7.The Metropolitan Museum of Art - The Met is the largest museum in the Western Hemisphere. Its collection, some 142 million items, is not only broad- the entire world, from antiquity to the present- but deep, with holdings so large in a number of areas that some collections might be considered museums unto themselves. Its European paintings are stunning : works by Botticelli, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, Rodin...The Egyptian collection houses the tomb of Perneb and the exquisite Temple of Dendur. The American Wing contains American arts and crafts, including a room from a franl Lloyd Wright Prairie House. And the list goes on and on.

My take- This museum is New York, Something for everyone. I can't help but remembering the book I read as a child, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler- where childrem lived in the museum researching a statue. That book, and the museum, made my childhood self think all things were possible. Whenever I enter I try to imagine where I would sleep there, like the children in the book did. You will never get a handle on this museum, just dive in and enjoy.

8. The Vatican Museum - Twenty-two separate collections comprise the Musei Vatacani, each one more spectacular than the next. The most famous are probably the the Museo Pio- Clementino, with its splendid classical sculpture; the raphael Rooms, entire rooms painted by Raphael; the Pinacoteca ( picture gallery), which contains the cream of the Vatican's collection of medieval and renaissance paintings; and, of course, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. But there's also ancient Egyptian exhibits of the Museo Gregoriano Egizio and the Etruscan offerings of the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco. And thats just a start.

My take- Rome is, in my eyes, a living museum so it is very hard to pry yourself away from the rest of the city to devote much time here. See the Sistine Chapel (crowded....really crowded...) your neck will be sore but so worth it. Consider binoculars to appreciate it fully. The art is worth it but so much else is in Rome it is really hard to budget your time wisely here!

9. The Uffizi Gallery- "Great"is an overworked adjective in Italy, where so many of the country's monuments and works of art command the highest praise. In the case of the Galleria degli Uffizi, it barely does justice to a gallery that holds the world's finest collection of Renaissance paintings. All the famous names of Italian art are here, not only the ranaissance masters, but also painters from the early medieval, baroque and Mannerist heyday.

My take- The bomb. No words can top what is painted. Make sure to pop over to the galleria dell'Academia to see David ( get tickets in advance) see modern artists studying the past , them make your way to the Uffizi. Wear comfortable yet stylish shoes, this being Italy.

10- the Rijksmuseum - Nearly 1 million objects fill the Rijksmuseum, the largest collection of art and history in the Netherlands. Is it most famous for its paintings by 17th century Dutch masters, including van Ruysdael, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer, and 20 works by Rembrandt van Rijn. Established in 1800 to exhibit the collections of Dutch stadtholders, the museum also displays are from the Middle Ages.

My take- Vermeer defined light in paintings. He brought light to the dark work of the Dutch. If you have seen ( or hopefully read) the Girl With the Pearl Earring, come and see what the artists made. Then pop over to the van Gogh Museum to marvel at his sunflowers, fields and chairs.

09 July 2008

A Guilty Pleasure

Take a moment to check out fanny pack antics. This website will make you laugh, cry and hopefully remove any fanny packs from your wardrobe. (British readers, STOP laughing, it is not that type of fanny!!)

I am sure that everyone has, at one time or another worn outfits on holiday that would net a photo on this site. Photos of me travelling in Laos wearing the Thai fishermans pants would definitely get me an entry. They were donated to Oxfam before I even unpacked when I got home.

06 July 2008

I Can't Drive 55

Nothing says 'I Love America' like getting a speeding ticket on Independence Day.......I had rented a car to visit my brother on my Washington DC layover and saw loads of card being pulled over for speeding on I270. I thought to myself that it must really suck to get a speeding ticket on a holiday, them saw the flashing lights in my rear view mirror.....

At least the policeman told me I was the most polite person he had ever issued a ticket to. How the heck can you deny speeding when clocked going 84 in a 55mph zone? All I could do was laugh.

02 July 2008

It's NOT All About You

In spite of pay cuts, work rule changes and the general malaise amongst airline employees lately, I still really enjoy my job. One of the parts I enjoy most is the social observations I get during flights, I get to be a secret pop psychologist. I am the first to agree that it is probably human nature to think it is 'all about me' , I am as guilty of this as the next person. In the confines of an aircraft, this lack of thought of others really needs to stop. Maybe a PSA ( public service announcement) played in the airports before flights? Just a few thoughts of how your actions will affect others would eliminate so much anger and hostility on the plane.

Seat backs- Please do not SLAM your seat back quickly. The person behind you might be bent down , getting something from underneath their seat, or have their legs crossed. A quick peek back before SLOWLY moving your seat back would stop alot of ill will between passengers. Secondly, if you are eating, bring your seat UPRIGHT. Next time you are on a flight where a meal is served, look at how many seats are reclined and people have to lean forward to eat. Nearly all. The seat reclined in front of you pisses you off as it is difficult to get to your food, likewise your reclined seat is angering the person BEHIND you. As a sidebar to this, please remember that is ultimately the persons right to recline their seat. I will happily ask someone to put their seat upright if they are awake during the meal service, but not any other time.

Window shades- Please remember that sleep on an aircraft is a precious commodity, so difficult to happen for so many. Sleep in the economy cabin is like a house of cards, so many motions and actions can make someones sleep end. Opening a window shade as the sun has come up is one of those actions. If we are still flying at cruise ( over 30,000 feet in the air) and a meal is not being served, I can pretty much guarantee there is nothing to see out the window but clouds. Nothing worth the anger that will be directed at you by people you have woken for nothing. If you want to read, use a reading light, each seat has one. If we are serving the meal before arrival, feel free to open shades, heck, the other passengers really need to get up and brush their teeth at this point, you are really doing them a favor waking them up. Like the seat back, as thoughtless as it may be, it is also their right to open the window shade. If you are a light sleeper, consider packing an eye mask. You will thank me later.

Loud Children- Parents, I know you like to instill rules and keep your behavior consistent with children, not placating them if they whine, not rewarding bad behavior, etc. This school of thought, while great at home, needs to be tossed out the window on the communal environment of the plane. You need to do ALL you can to stop crying and whining quickly and effectively. Behavior that you might ignore at home, letting them cry it out, needs to be stopped on the plane. Coddle, cuddle and muzzle. We do need to all understand that children sometimes will cry and fuss no matter what and be a little understanding if the parent is attempting to remedy the situation. Along with the eye mask, maybe toss in some ear plugs, you will thank me when little Johnny starts to cry.

Loud Adults- This is more disturbing than loud children. Yes you are excited about your holiday, class trip, meeting the guy you met online, but chatting at top volume either in your seats or near the toilets and galleys is rude. Everyone with a seat in one of these areas will vouch for the fact that sound travels. They are not quite so excited as you about your plans and really do not want to hear them. Indoor voices people.....Please........

Toilet behavior- Please leave the toilet in a state that will not make the next person entering it gasp, as it might be me. FLUSH the toilet ( men, it is not a urinal, it is not whooshed away automatically), drain the sink of your toothpaste water, throw any paper towels, Kleenex in the trash receptacle. Do not stuff it in other areas or leave things on the floor. If the toilet is out of paper towels and/or toilet paper, tell the crew, we have more. Please keep prelanding visits brief. As anxious as you were to use the toilet, so are the 50 people hopping up and down on one foot behind you. Not the time to bring in a magazine , try a new hairstyle, or give yourself a facial.

These are a few off the top of my head. Next time we can cover sharing overhead bin space and swapping seats . I can also comment on any other rude passenger to passenger behavior you suggest. Until next time!!