Thursday, November 30, 2006

Twelve Random Thoughts on Travel...

Florence Italy
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Some musing from my recent experiences in no particular order..

1.Try to fly mid week or at times when most other people dont.For example leaving Hong Kong for Rome at 12:25 a.m Thursday meant the plane was only a third full.Lots of room to stretch out and relax.
If possible try to straddle months when flying e.g the end of one month and the start of the next thus avoiding the same cycle of Dido music and Adam Sandler movies...

2. Check the opening and closing times and days carefully.Often they are illogical.Why do the gardens in Pisa close at 1:30 pm?Why is the English Cemetery in Florence closed on Saturdays?
Do the plants and trees need a rest?Nor is it likely that the residents of the graveyard have any pressing engagements elsewhere..

3.Try to be culturally sensitive.You're in Europe not America so stop bitching that the small Italian trattoria doesnt serve turkey on Thanksgiving Day and then storm out to find the nearest McDonalds

4.There seems a paradox operating regarding language.At first it appears useful to learn and memorise phrases like "I dont speak Italian" in the local lingo.However once you recite this phrase in your halting,unnatural manner the hearer seems to undergo some epiphany and greet you as some long lost relative fully conversant with the native language.

5.Take a ziploc bag or a big clear resealable plastic bag.Security checks in EU countries still require at the time of writing things such as gels,toothpaste,perfume and other liquids to be put into these bags.Also the maximum size was restricted to 100 fluid mls which meant I had to dump some shaving cream cans.

6.Keep some small change handy for public toilets.The "going" rate appears to be round .60 euros so you dont have to be flush with funds.You dont want to be caught short...
On the subject of toilet paper, a sensitive issue,it may be worth bringing your own roll.I found the European varieties more abrasive and not as soft as Im used to...

7.There appears no basis that doors open left or right according to which side of the equator you happen to be on..

8.Wear clean underwear.Should your pants fall around your knees having removed your belt at the security check, you dont want to be treated as a social pariah for the rest of the flight.

9.Be wary of scams,pickpockets and tricksters.The most blatant will approach and ask outright " Do you have 1 Euro?" or "Can you speak English?".
Then theres also the more elaborate,cunning ploy of dropping a worthless silver ring beside you.This is followed by "Is this your ring?" in the expectation you will give them some reward or donation.
My best advice is to studiously ignore all three and feign deafness.
My favorite con though is the seemingly friendly local who approaches unsuspecting couples and offers to take a photo of them in front of a church,statue or monument.Having been naively handed their expensive camera the con artist calmly strides off and is lost in the crowded masses.Leaving behind a gobsmacked,incredulous pair.

10.Be careful how you answer any onboard inflight questionaires.
Replies such as "I like to fly blah blah Airlines because it hasnt had a plane hijacked since 1946" or "I like to sit near the wing because its the safest place in the event of a crash" could arouse some suspicion from the flight crew.

11.Dining alone can have its benefits.In the case of crowded restaurants and long queues waiters will often in my experience "bump up" individual diners ahead of large parties.I found this particularly true of smaller popular places.There is also the added bonus you'll end up sitting beside another interesting solo diner or thrown into the midst of a large friendly group.

12.Finally,at check ins as well as offering an option of window or aisle seats, airlines should also offer the choice of left or right handed passengers to sit beside.One advantage of this would be to alleviate territorial arm rest disputes.Another would be that I would get an unobstructed view of my meal should I choose a left handed passenger and avoid any rib injuries as we ate in our cramped economy seats...

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