Sunday, December 31, 2006

HAPPY NEW YEAR ! ! !

Happy New Year from Canada!

I'm off to celebrate,
but I will be back with lots of
travel info and pics in the New Year!


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Training in Martial Arts and More at Hong Kong Shaolin Wushu Culture Center

Heading to Hong Kong? Learn some of the martial arts moves seen in the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at the Hong Kong Shaolin Wushu Culture Centre at Tai O, Lantau Island.

Some information is offered in English, but contact them directly if you'd like to to check dates and currency exchange rate.

The center opened on July 9, 2006, and offers a range of courses in martial arts, body healing and specific skills over one to four days, depending on the course. The Shaolin center is located near the Giant Buddha on Lantau Island (photos).

See my Lantau Island photos and more Hong Kong photos , with information about other attractions as well as a few Hong Kong hotels and attractions links.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Tremendous Christmas Day Feast in Mississauga

Realizing with some surprise that Christmas Day is almost here (I've tuned out the ubiquitous carols since they began assaulting my ears on November 1), I turned my attention to what to serve for Christmas dinner. Our family is not that fussed with the typical Christmas (and other major holidays) fare of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, or Baked Ham and Scallop Potatoes, and various trimmings. (One's a vegetarian so we factor that in. Others really don't like turkey. I personally hate wrestling with a floppy, naked bird at any time.)

My middle child and I each took one of her two Jamie Oliver cookbooks and scanned the recipes. I'd submit a possibility, she'd reject it, and vice versa. But, as a sign that our civilization is going to heck in a hand basket, we found none of the options appealing. As I left the room, deciding to try again later, she called out,"You know, we should just order Chinese food."

Immediately, my heart quickened: Visions of congee with mushrooms and chicken, snow pea shoots with garlic bits, lemon chicken in tangy sauce and much else danced about. "Yes!" Add in some tofu and vegetarian spring rolls, and everyone's happy.

And so our dinner choices are made. We're ordering from our Chinese restaurant of choice in Mississauga :: Tremendous. We called to check if they are going to be open. Yes, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tremendous (located at 3550 Wolfedale, south of Burnhamthorpe) is close to our home. We can phone in our order and it will be ready when we get there. And yes, we've allowed for leftovers for later. All told, the cost is about the same as for a home cooked meal. That we don't have to cook it at all is an absolute bonus!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, to all!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Polar Trekking Not What It Used To Be

Given my keen, albeit recent, interest in polar journeys, fostered by books such as The Worst Journey in the World and a few others, I noted with some anticipation that my new copy (Jan 2007) of National Geographic contained a story about three men heading for the North Pole in winter.

But after reading just a few pages, I put it aside. Polar journeys, like much else, it seems, are not what they used to be. With the advent of GPS tracking, helicopter back up, satellite phones and high tech survival gear and foodstuffs, well, that's like my roughing it in the lobby of the Hilton. Sure, it's technically 'camping', but not much of a challenge.

The Worst Journey in the World is Apsley Cherry-Garrard's account of the Worst Journey (to find the Emperor penguins in winter) compiled with the diaries and letters of others to tell the tale of Scott's final attempt to reach the South Pole in 1911-early 1912. (See details USA Today). Somewhat ironically, National Geographic names it the best adventure travel book of all time.

That Amundsen reached the South Pole first, and by less than a month, that Scott and all his party died on the way back to the main camp, and that his expedition -- using horses instead dog teams exclusively, charting a more westerly route, traveling by ship with coal-fired engines instead of oil -- and that Scott encountered terrible weather conditons, well, that's just plain sad. And no matter how many times you read the story, the outcome is always the same.

Those who mount modern day expeditions -- to reach either Pole, or climb whatever mountain is highest or more techcinically challenging -- also endure extreme hardship, even loss of life. Some are scientific undertakings, as was Scott's. But many are purely self-indulgent. At best, they field test the latest survival gear, clothing or electronics, or write a book afterwards.

Such modern polar expeditions owe much to advancements in navigation, forecasting and materials.Yet, though high tech gear smooths out some of the hardships, these accounts make less than exciting reading.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

1907 Stanley Cup Champions :: Kenora Thistles

From my cousin, who lives in Kenora, Ontario, Canada ::
"2007 marks the 100th anniversary of the Kenora Thistles winning the Stanley cup. Arrangements are being made for celebrations in the new year. Lord Stanley's cup will be in Kenora. Caps, shirts etc. are on sale. Sears is selling Thistles hockey sweaters since there was no copyright on the crest."
From the Kenora Thistles web site :
"In March, 1906, the Montreal Wanderers won the Stanley Cup from Ottawa and retained it until they met with the [Kenora] Thistles hockey team in January, 1907. The Thistles traveled to Montreal and cleanly beat the Wanderers, winning the first game by a score of 4-2, and the second 8-6."
How cool is this? You can find out more about this lovely city (that's closer to Winnipeg, Manitoba, than it is to Toronto, the capital of its own province) from Kenora Tourism.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

World Weather Forecasts Right or Wrong?

When I am planning a trip, I check the weather reports for some time ahead to get an idea of what to expect and what to pack. Today, though, I had two emails that gave me pause for thought. Both concern the local weather where the senders live.These emails made me wonder if I rely too heavily on the accuracy of weather forecasts. Here are the emails.

From friend Teena (AbFab-Australia.com) in Sydney, Australia, where in about 48 hours, it will be the first day of summer:
"Man, it's pouring and freezing this morning, a bit of a change -- a max of 21 C (70 F) expected after these hot balmy days. I woke in the night and my arms were freezing outside the covers . . ."
My local paper, the Toronto Star, reports Acuweather forecasts today in Sydney should be partly cloudy, with a high of 26C (79 F). In light of Teena's email, both reports seem a shade optimistic.

Then I heard from Sharon, of StarthrowerFoundation.org, who's in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.
"Claudy and Louisena, two of the students we sponsor in high school and who work up in Sen Rafayel, had walked down the mountain today (a distance of about 28 kms/17 miles) to tell me about a bad storm last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They called it a cyclone and 'inundation' -- the river rose and overflowed its banks and the rain was torrential. The floods and high winds wiped out most of the banana trees and gardens. All the trees are denuded, wooden houses fell down, all the animals -- chickens, pigs, goats -- are gone. There's water in every house, including the schools, with most of the materials and student records ruined or swept away. I had just bought 200 lbs. rice and 100 lbs peas, so I sent half of it back with them when they left. They desperately need clothing, particularly running shoes and Tshirts. We can always buy food in here Cap-Haitien. As far as we know, no one has been killed."
This sounds like a fairly strong storm, with possibly a tornado, but I can't find anything on web news about this. Perhaps this part of Haiti is not well covered in the mainstream media.

So I checked the newspaper's forecast for Santiago, Chile, where it's supposed to be sunny and in the high 20s C/low 80s F during the day, and down to 11C/52F at night. But then, Santiago gets this forecast most days of the year, it seems. When I was there last year this time, it was exactly like that. Great climate for vineyards!

But it made me wonder: Is the weather where you are what the forecasters told the rest of us it would be? Or is it totally off?

Edit: To the Weather Guy with the detailed stats sites for weather: thanks for your links, though I'm unable to post your comment due to tech probs.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Cathay Pacific All-Asia Pass 2007 :: Kota Kinabalu is back in the list!

This is great news for those who plan to travel to Kota Kinablau (Sabah, Malaysia) but it's a few months too late for me!

I had planned to take advantage of the All-Asia pass last spring since in 2005, as touring Kota Kinabalu was the main reason for my trip. But no, it was not to be. For 2006, no matter how hard I read the list of free add-ons via Hong Kong, I couldn't find it anywhere.

I emailed my Hong Kong tourism contact and she double-checked with Cathay : Nope, not there. Nor was Beijing that year. (Beijing isn't on this year's pass, but the flight from Hong Kong is relatively inexpensive. (Find the best deals)

But now, for 2007, here's the full list of 22 destinations plus Hong Kong:
Bali, Bangkok (Thailand, photos), Cebu, Colombo (Sri Lanka, photos), Fukuoka, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Jakarta, Karachi, Kota Kinabalu!, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Nagoya, Osaka, Penang, Phuket, Phnom Penh, Sapporo, Seoul, Singapore, Surabaya, Taipei and Tokyo.

You can add on (for a very reasonable fee) Dhaka, Delhi, Mumbai, Hanoi, and in Australia, the cities of Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney or Auckland, N.Z. As well, you can add on days/weeks to the pass, again for a fee.
The all-Asia pass takes a bit of planning to work out the best value and itinerary, but it's worth it if you want to cover a number of destinations. Just be aware that you'll be starting each leg in Hong Kong. But that's a great airport, and it will soon feel like an old friend. (Remember, you can now take the cable car from the airport in Hong Kong to see the Giant Buddha on Lantau Island.)

In early January, I'll be processing my photos and travel tips for Kota Kinabalu, and Sarawak.
Stay tuned!
March 2008 The Borneo pages are now online at snapshotjourneys.com

Friday, December 15, 2006

No Time to Travel? The World Will Come To You!

Today's Toronto Star has a story (Droughts to set off exodus) by Peter Gorrie, about a conversation with Zafar Adeel, director of the United Nations University, discussing the impact of emigration from drought and severe weather afffected areas of the world, and the corresponding impact of an influx of refugees to wealthy nations, notably Europe, Australia, Canada, the U.S. and New Zealand. (Photo: Family Near Aksum Ethiopia)

According to Adeel, the number of projected emigrees, dubbed 'environmental refugees', will "swamp the current global total of 19 million refugees from all other threats . . . " and likely "hit 50 million in a decade . ." (read the full story) This is more food for sober thought for those who pooh-pooh climate change and global warming, taking the short for-profit view over sustainable-for-all.

The advent of the new millennium seemed to promise a new global era of wholesale change in our collective viewpoints: That differences in philosophies could be set aside for the common good, a laissez-faire approach embracing our differences, and celebrating our similarities. But that dream soon shattered. The best we can do, it seems, is to wring our hands in dismay, and stay the 'ignore it and it will go away' course, no matter that it's not working.

Even with the recommended 'fixes' (revegetation, solar power, eco-tourism) to allow people to stay in their homelands (the print story includes photos of Africa's Lake Chad and a desertified area in Somalia), some areas would likely be uninhabitable for many years.

For those who currently don't have time to travel the world, do nothing: In a few years, the world will come to you.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

2007 Niagara Ice Wine Festival January 19-28

The cold snap in early December resulted in a bumper harvest of primo ice wine grapes this season, marked with the annual Ice Wine Festival (see the official site, Niagara Grape and Wine Festival).

One of the highlights is a spectacular Icebar carved from a 7000 lb. block of ice. Dubbed the Twenty Valley Icebar, it's 18 feet long, engraved with ornate scenes of Canadiana and is placed right in the centre of Main Street in Jordan Station. The main street is closed for Icewine tasting from over 20 wineries, ice carving demonstrations, food and entertainment.

Reports Betsy Foster (Tourism Niagara):
Niagara’s famous wine route is prepared to welcome visitors from around the globe for an expanded ten days of tours, tastings, seminars, samplings, food pairings and a few surprises, all placing Icewine in the spotlight. A Winery Touring Passport enables the holder access to exclusive offers and complimentary events, January 19 – 28, 2007 at 30 participating wineries, at only $30 Canadian per passport.
Contact these sites for more details as needed. I've posted my photos of summertime Niagara at SnapshotJourneys.com Niagara Falls Ontario

Saturday, December 09, 2006

What's Your Perfect Travel Holiday?

The reasons we travel and where we like to go are often unique to the individual traveler, but there are only a few broad categories. Here are my decidedly unscientific observations. What catgegory do you fall under?

Kick Back, Relax, Don't Bug Me for a Week. Budget: $
You want to get away from it all, whether 'it' is a job, a family situation or depressing winter weather. You don't want to have to think at all -- just have someone come out to the beach or find your hammock to tell you when dinner's ready, or pass you the sunscreen or bring you a drink. All-inclusive sun destinations were custom made for you.

Holiday Time is Play Time. Budget: $$
You love to (pick one or more) ski, surf, hike, bike, kayak, climb, do yoga, fish, golf, cook, knit, build a home with Habitat For Humanity, teach English, or otherwise volunteer your time and skills-- whatever your hobby or passion. Your idea of a perfect holiday is the freedom to more of the same, but with different scenery and different people. One of the small group specialty tours is your best bet. You get the comfort of having someone else handle the details while you get to indulge to your heart's content and hone your skill(s).

Culture Vulture, Shopping. Budget: $$$
You adore museums and art galleries, designer shops and fine dining. Your ideal holiday is rubbing shoulders with the well-heeled crowd. You tolerate camping only when you can pitch your tent in the lobby of a 5-star hotel. Believe it or not, there's a small group tour for you, too. Fashion week in Milan, studying French in Paris, soaking up history in Athens, a week at a spa.

All of the above. Budget: $-$$$$$
While some travelers are comfortable only in their specific 'zone', many of us happily cross over, taking from our holiday time whatever strikes our fancy, and combining various 'types' to get the most value for our vacation dollar. We add a few day tours to an all-inclusive holiday, or layover a few days in a stop-over city (London, say, to catch a few plays and do some shopping), or hike and bike, or plant trees for a week, then spend a few days stretched out in a hammock under a palm tree.

What type of traveler are you? Whatever your type, I challenge you to expand your horizons: Volunteeer for community service in Peru, then go walkabout at Manchu Pichu. Stir yourself from your beach chair, and visit a school or a coffee plantation in Costa Rica.

And if you're already an eclectic traveler, you're well on your way to becoming a global citizen. And that's a good thing, Martha!

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Eden Project : Travel in England

One of the presenters at the recent VEMEX (Europe Tourism/Media Exchange in Toronto) meetings was the intriguingly named Eden Project, and I immediately signed up to learn more. What I learned was, that the very first chance I get to next visit England, I am making my way to Cornwall, where I will spend a day or two touring the Eden Project. The picture here is a sunset shot, provided by the Eden Project. I chose it as it gives the best view of the size.

That a sterile open-pit clay mine could be turned into the world's largest greenhouse is a marvel; that it's been a major boost to the local economy in what was a depressed area is by design. Anyone interested in gardening, landscape design, reclaiming 'dead' land, protecting the environment and much else will learn a lot here, and have a good time in the bargain.

Before I lapse into superlatives, the easiest thing to do is visit the web site, check out the web cam and take a virtual tour (Eden Project). To find out how to get there, click on Visiting.

If you have a car, it seems an easier trip from London. By train and bus, it's a little harder, with the number of transfers depending on where you're coming from. I'll check around and see if some enterprising tour company is offering 1-3 day tour-stay packages and let you know.

Dim Sum in Mississauga :: Happy Garden

A while back, I wrote about the great dim sum at the Mississauga Chinese Centre, on Dundas and Cawthra (see previous blog) . There are several great dim sum locations in Mississauga, and I am in the process of getting the contact details for as many as I can.

In the interim, here's another one to try: The Happy Garden Seafood Chinese Restaurant, in the Roseborough Centre (phone 905 826-6688) at the southeast corner of Creditview and Eglinton. As with the other dim sum restaurants, it's very busy on Sundays. I was there last weekend, and the line up at 1 p.m. was out to the street.

If you can, avoid arriving at any dim sum location over the noon hour. We've had the best luck at getting prompt seating when we time our meal for jsut before 11 a.m. Much later, around 4, can be less busy, but the offerings can be slimmer.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

World Snowboard Championships :: Arosa Switzerland

If you're heading to Europe, check out this interesting travel goodie from Switzerland Tourism:
Arosa: Snowboard World Championships 2007 (January 13 - 20, 2007) For the first time ever, Switzerland will host the Snowboard World Championships. Arosa, the venue, guarantees first-class infrastructure, competitions and parties. The competitions -- Snowboardcross, Parallel Giant Slalom, Big Air (Ski jump) and Halfpipe -- will be held in the Tschuggen area. Entry to all competitions, and to the spectacular social program, is free.
I'm not fussed on cold snowy weather myself, but it sounds like fun. May as well join 'em -- you sure can't beat 'em!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Visit Europe Media Exchange in Toronto

On November 28, I spent much of the day at the first ever VEMEX held in Toronto. Close to 40 presenters of Europe-based airlines, tour companies, attractions, businesses and tourism offices attended, and I was able to meet with just 10 of them. The bottom line is, there's much happening for visitors to Europe. Over the coming days I will post some of the highlights, new ventures and must-see and do's for those heading Across the Pond this year. I especially enjoyed chatting with the delightful and knowledgeable Judith Blacklock, of the Judith Blacklock Flower School, Knightsbridge, London, and the lovely rep from Cyprus, among others. Now, I have DVDs to go over, and many brochures and web sites to check out. I missed meeting with Portugal reps, though I did manage to get some of the latest brochures. (I'd wanted some details for my Portugal Algarve pages. That picture here is of the Cock of Barcelos, from Portugal). For now, have a look at their web sites. I'll be back as soon as I finish my day job.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Passports Needed To Enter United States by Air

Update August 2008 See new info for land crossings passports.

Mark January 23, 2007 on your calendar. From that date onward, all travelers arriving by air into the United States MUST have a valid passport, whether they are foreign citizens, or American citizens returning from a foreign holiday. (Canadians see Passport Canada travelling in North America.)


Then, 12-15 months after that, or about March 2008, EVERYONE who enters the United States by land, sea or air, MUST have a valid passport. (See US citizen passport information, and check here for US Customs and Border Protection information.

According to the U.S. site, fees for adults are $97, and passports are valid for 10 years. Almost everyone has to apply in person, after downloading a form. Passports for children vary by age, from birth up to age 16, and cost about $82.

Canadian passports cost $87 CAD (24-page passport) and $92 CAD (48-page passport), and are valid for 5 years. (See Canadian passports and fees ).

Frequent travelers to the U.S. will already have passports, and renew them well in advance of expiry date. But many Canadians living along our shared border cross back and forth regularly, to shop, visit, gas up the family car.

And many Americans living in border states cross into Canada, especially to Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. They come to attend major league sports games and go to plays, to shop and to sightsee. They come to fish and to holiday. Often they come on short notice. Thousands of them come to Toronto every August to celebrate Caribana, the festival of all things Caribbean.


Given that an American family of four will soon need a passport, with several months of lead time for processing, and need to pay over $400 US (don't forget all those passport photos!), and a Canadian family of four wanting to visit Disneyland will need to pay about the same for their passports, with similar lead time and only half the life (5 years as opposed to 10 for the US), I have to wonder how this will impact tourism for both our countries.

Will travel between the U.S. and Canada effectively be the domain of the corporate and the wealthy? Will Snowbirds (Canadian retirees who head south for winter) stop going to Florida? What about Canadian students heading south on Spring Break? Might they reason, 'If I need to pay for a passport for the U.S., why not go to Cuba, or Mexico instead?'

I don't have a crystal ball, so of course I don't know. No one does. All I can say is, keep a close eye on this. There may be repercussions that none of us foresaw, and none of which will make us happy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving, America!

Worldwide, American Thanksgiving marks the year's final Thanksgiving-style celebrations. Canada celebrates end-of-harvest Thanksgiving the second Monday in October. China, and other parts of Asia, marked their Thanksgiving festival, called the Mid-Autumn Festival (tied to the harvest moon) in early October this year; Korea marks the same date for its Thanksgiving, called Chusok; Japanese call theirs Kinro Kansha No Hi. Whatever you call it, it's a time for thanks, for getting together with family and friends, often traveling great distances.

On this, the eve of your Thanksgiving celebrations (November 23, this year, for those of you outside the USA), may you have a safe and happy holiday with your friends and families, and take heart in knowing that we are much more alike than we are different.

Let the countdown to Christmas begin!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New Cathay Pacific and Dragon Air Code-Share Flights December 2006, January 2007

December 1, 2006 marks the first flights on a new code-share agreement between Cathay Pacific and its wholly owned subsidiary Dragon Air on flights to Shanghai, Beijing (photos) Xiamen, Tokyo and Kota Kinabalu.

The code-share will also apply to two new Dragonair destinations: Phuket (effective Dec. 15/06) and Busan (subject to Government approval), where flights would begin on January 19, 2007. All the code-share flights will carry both the “CX” and “KA” codes.

Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia), Phuket (Thailand) (photos), and Busan (Korea) would be new destinations for Cathay Pacific.

(Photo:: Waterfall, River Kwai Noi, Thailand)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Gabriel's in Mississauga :: Best Souvlaki in Town!

I've been going to Gabriel's for about 4 years now, not for the pool tables, the patio or the ambiance (which they could remove today and I'd never miss), but for the Chicken souvlaki. And I order it with roast potatoes, not rice. It comes with a generous green salad buried under their own creamy feta dressing, and a small bowl of tzatziki.

And I tell everyone I've ever taken to order the Chicken souvlaki, too. I tell them everyone who I have ever taken here has licked their plate clean, it's that tasty.

Oh sure, I tried another dish once. (The first time was there, I had the souvlaki, quite by chance.) So the second time, I thought I'd try a Moroccan pasta dish. It, too, was very tasty. But it's the souvlaki that I lust after, and every few months, I head up the road for a fix.

(Lucky me, I live just a few miles away. Gabriel's is at 6501 Mississauga Road, just east of Erin Mills Parkway, north side. Phone 905 567 5218. The name includes variations of Restaurant Ristorante Bar Grill but this is the same place.)

When recommending a restaurant, and an entree, you particularly enjoy, it's especially gratifying when others enjoy it just as much, if not more. People who couldn't agree on three toppings for a pizza will agree that this is one of the best meals they've ever had.

So far, by my count, I've converted about two dozen friends and family to the joys of Gabriel's chicken souvlaki. Even kids love it. And when a group of 6 of us sat down this summer, the server had an easy time of it: 6 Chicken souvlaki, please! And give it wings! I only wish I had stock in the place. Even better is the price. When I was there last month, the souvlaki cost $12.95 CAD. Though that's $2 more than it used to be, it's still a great deal!

I mention Gabriel's now as the other night, I had a less-than-tasty meal at a nearby Mexican restaurant. Afterwards, I wondered why we just hadn't gone to Gabriel's, where, for a lot less money we'd have had a meal we enjoyed a whole lot more. At Gabriel's, if you have appetizers, you won't have room to finish your dinner. And we've always been too full to consider ordering dessert.

Gabriel's is closed Sundays, more's the pity. And they are on notice to never, ever mess about with the souvlaki. It's one thing we've come to count on. Check out their web site here.

Update April 29, 2009
Stopped in at Gabriel's last Saturday night - no reservations, at about 8 p.m. Waited about 10 minutes for staff to tweak they had new customers. Place was pretty full, but not totally.

Were seated, handed menus that could stand to be refreshed. Scanned menu for Chicken Souvlaki. Noted price now up to $14.95. Sigh. Placed order. Told sold out of souvlaki.

Kitchen offered to substitute grilled chicken breast for souvlaki. Not the same. Left. Will try again another day.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Question About Airport Security Screening

With all the focus on allowable airline carry-ons, and the proposed pilot project for checked-in passengers wearing tracking bracelets, I have to ask something:

Why do most airports allow the general public to roam airport terminals without ANY security screening whatsoever?

Offhand, I can think of three airports -- Bangkok, Addis Ababa and
Kota Kinabalu -- where all who enter must walk through a metal detector and have any and all bags x-rayed before they are allowed in. I found this eminently sensible when I encountered it, then promptly put it out of my mind.

I'd feel a lot more secure knowing that the hundreds of people milling about a crowded terminal had at least been minimally screened. So why the focus on secure boarding lounges and aircraft? There are just as many, if not more, people in the terminal itself as on board a plane.

So why no screening when you enter the building? It seems just as likely, if not more so, to come a cropper in the terminal as from some shampoo and hair gel at 40,000 feet.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Airbus A380 :: Is Bigger Always Better?

A recent news report stating that Virgin Atlantic Airways has deferred delivery of the new Airbus A380 airliner from 2009 to mid-2013 brought to mind my thoughts about the whole idea of super-large jets. And according to the website for Singapore Air, who are first in line for the new planes, due to production delays, it will not receive its first A380 by late 2006 as planned, but perhaps by the 4th quarter of 2007.

Is this bad news? Well, not as far as I am concerned. When I first learned of this new supersized plane (the A380-800 can accommodate 555 passengers in three classes, and 853 PAX in one economy class), all that I could think of is what a nightmare it would be when checking in, boarding and deplaning.

Visualize, if you will, the boarding lounge for present day flights carrying 250 PAX: A sea of humanity, clutching carry-ons, fussing at the passenger agents and jockeying for boarding line order. Large, fully booked flights already take ages to board, especially in North America and Europe and nearly as long to deplane, then to pick up checked baggage.

Do I really want this whole experience magnified? No, no, I don't. I can only assume that the carriers who signed up for these jumbo jets did extensive market research that factored in operating costs, staffing requirements. I have to wonder if they asked the opinion of their passengers, who ultimately pay for them.

Airbus A380 :: Is Bigger Always Better?

A recent news report stating that Virgin Atlantic Airways has deferred delivery of the new Airbus A380 airliner from 2009 to mid-2013 brought to mind my thoughts about the whole idea of super-large jets. And according to the website for Singapore Air, who are first in line for the new planes, due to production delays, it will not receive its first A380 by late 2006 as planned, but perhaps by the 4th quarter of 2007.

Is this bad news? Well, not as far as I am concerned. When I first learned of this new supersized plane (the A380-800 can accommodate 555 passengers in three classes, and 853 PAX in one economy class), all that I could think of is what a nightmare it would be when checking in, boarding and deplaning.

Visualize, if you will, the boarding lounge for present day flights carrying 250 PAX: A sea of humanity, clutching carry-ons, fussing at the passenger agents and jockeying for boarding line order. Large, fully booked flights already take ages to board, especially in North America and Europe and nearly as long to deplane, then to pick up checked baggage.

Do I really want this whole experience magnified? No, no, I don't. I can only assume that the carriers who signed up for these jumbo jets did extensive market research that factored in operating costs, staffing requirements. I have to wonder if they asked the opinion of their passengers, who ultimately pay for them.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

River Kwai :: Tourists at Hellfire Pass, Thailand

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is marked around the world with a few minutes of silent reflection on the enormous contribution of (mostly young) men and women in the various forces.

On one such morning, when I was touring the River Kwai, north of Bangkok, Thailand, quite by chance I found myself at Hellfire Pass, where servicemen were preparing for that morning's ceremony.

That is one Armistice Day I shall never forget. The image of a few simple poppy wreaths affixed to the rock walls of the pass (still marked with furrows from the drill that cut holes for dynamite), is all the more powerful for its simplicity.

If you're in Thailand, you should go. Or get the movie, the Bridge on the River Kwai.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mexico :: Good to Go or No?

Winter 2001-2002 saw Mexico as a newly-attractive destination for North american holidayers, and the prices went up accordingly. Since I am not one who endorses profit from the misfortune of others, I decided to leave Mexico alone until prices improved. Canadians too, as recently as last year, had concerns with security issues in the Mayan Riviera. I won't go into detail on the latter, as its being handled by various parties. As recently as this week, there's been civil issues in the capital and ongoing ones in Oaxaca. That adverse conditons affect pricing is perhaps best shown in the travel packages and great hotel prices advertised in today's Toronto Star. Prices are back to where they they were about 6 years ago, and more in line with pricing for the typical Mexican holiday vis a vis the exchange rate etc. So what's a traveler to do? Take advantage of the good prices and ignore these other issues?

I'd say check for government advisories, read your newspapers and online news reports before booking your Mexican holiday. Mexico is a lovely holiday sun destination. Just avoid those areas. (Photo :: The beach at the Ritz-Carlton, Cancun)

Zoom Seat Sale Toronto to London Good Deal or Not?

Today's Toronto Star newspaper has an ad for Zoom Airlines for a seat sale for 'selected departures' from Canada to the U.K. and France from January 10-February 28, 2007, for bookings made now to November 24, 2006.

Zoom's home page does not mention this sale, so I went through the reservation process to see where these low fares kicked in. For a flight from Toronto (YYZ) to London Stansted (located 30 miles/48 kms north of London, for January 10/07, the cheapest fare is a flight leaving at 6:15 p.m. for $179 CAD. There was a return flight for January 18 (one day later than my hoped-for January 17 return), at 9:25 a..m., for $149 CAD. Taxes, fuel surcharges etc were an additional $114.15 outbound and $156.25 inbound, totallling $270.40. Total ticket price :: $598.40 CAD.

The low fares in this test flight were on the U.K. to Canada leg, which makes sense, as this is the depths of winter in Canada, and not a popular time for U.K. visitors to come calling. And although it is winter in London, too, with short hours of daylight, it's a good time to sightsee without the crowds, to take in some plays and enjoy the milder-than-Canada climate.

I spent a week in London in mid-January two years ago, and although the weather was chilly, I was comfortable enough to take a boat ride to Greenwich, and to walk through the parks, enjoy the blooming pansies and tulips, and explore Kensington. It was easier and less expensive to find good hotels and to make my way through the museums.

Is this seat sale a good deal? Overall, I'd say yes. For Canadian travelers, this fare is about 40 percent lower compared to the high season, summer fares.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Hong Kong Winterfest On From November 24-January 1, 2007

Traveling to Hong Kong in the next few weeks? Here's the latest from Discover Hong Kong:
Hong Kong Winterfest runs from November 24, 2006 until January 1, 2007, in and around Hong Kong’s famous Statue Square in Central the festival will include the Dazzling Christmas Tree, lit up nightly; Santa’s Town with a Snowy Chapel, Santa’s Clock Tower, a variety of live performances and, of course, a photo opportunity with the jolly old fellow himself; a Nativity Display showcasing Christmas collectibles and traditional ornaments and much more. The live entertainment will include festive performances and Christmas carols performed by international and local performing groups. These will take place during Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and the festive days of the holiday period.

Cheap Alternative to Battery-powered Organizers?

(Current information for allowable carry ons)
For those of you not traveling, here's a snippet of Friday levity. Its only relevance to travel is the fact that I live in Canada, and the snippet in question appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald Column 8, one of the main papers in Australia, and unless you live in either, you'd have to travel to get there.

"We thought we'd buried the subject, but this is too silly to ignore.

"On the subject of useful home hints, here's a tip for those who prefer an old-fashioned address book to an expensive, battery-powered palm organiser," offers Doug Anderson, who appears in this newspaper from time to time giving surreal couch-oriented lifestyle advice. "Take a copy of the White Pages, cross out all the names of people you don't know and, hey presto! Instant directory. Cost: nil."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Happy Camper In Mississauga, Canada !

Of the gazillion or so blogs on this site alone, I have to wonder why someone picked just three blogs, all from Canada, to pirate away into cyberspace. Maybe we were just the beginning of his dreams for his bogus empire, but for now, his site is down, and he will have to rethink. Ideally, he will get a legitimate job and chalk up this cyber nonsense to a bad idea.

I have to credit Google's recent launch of
Google Blog alerts to identifying the mirrored site(s), and for all the support and help from those in the web-know at the Statcounter.com forum for tracking down the details that led to his 'home on the web'. From there, the company hosting the site, Cyber Wurx, acted promptly to confirm our findings and remove the offending site. I have now sent all details of my journey to the domain registrar.

To all involved, a big
Thank You ! on behalf of bloggers and site owners everywhere!


Thursday, October 26, 2006

No More Outpost Magazine, at least for me!

Yesterday, out of the blue, the current copy of Outpost magazine, a Toronto publication, turned up in my mailbox. Hmmmm. I hadn't renewed my subscription, so why was it here? Oh yes, there's a sheet of paper saying Please renew, here's a courtesy copy to sweeten the pot.

A look through this November-December 2006 issue reinforces my decision not to renew: It's just sloppy production, from editing to proofing to layout, and not worth my time to wade through.

But if you don't mind photo captions that do not describe the photo, and editorial content that's indistinguishable from ad content, then more power to you.

One story, about a river named Tatshenshini, caught my attention. A wonderful photo of ice floes, a teaser on the cover, and the story itself -- father and grown son off on an adventure.

But where, you might well ask, is the Tatshenshini River? Good question. I had to read about 300 words into the story to get the idea that it just might be in the Yukon (the author's setting out from Whitehorse gave me a clue). I was about to google the river name just to find out where this wondrous tale took place. Readers shouldn't have to work that hard to find out the basic Who, What, When, Where, Why of a story; the editor should if the writer didn't.

Another story included a photo of two large elephants; the amazingly informative cutline confirmed them to be 'elephants'. No other details.

Several years ago, when I first began reading Outpost, it contained some wonderfully written travel stories, albeit always in the first person. That's all right, as far as it goes, for independent travel seems to be Outpost's focus. But lately, the stories are first person boring, as if transcribed from a taped running commentary detailing all the minutiae of the traveler's day. TMI (too much info): I don't really care what every person you met along the way said to you.

But to be fair, maybe the change is in me, not with Outpost. Maybe too, I am still annoyed that the photo contest submissions I sent in a few years back, each photo clearly labeled with my contact info, replete with SASE for return, never were. A sign of administrative sloppiness that's permeating the magazine. If Outpost can find its way to the Land of Good Editing and Proofing, I for one would be the first to rise up and cheer.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

ATMs in Africa ?

An email from a friend who's working in Tripoli lamented about how difficult life can be when international banking is minimal or non-existant. Money has to be sent to her via Western Union, or brought in by friends.

This reminded me of when I was traveling in Ethiopia, where my ATM bank card was useless, and only a few places accepted credit cards. I had brought cash -- some in U.S. dollars, some in euros, and a few British pounds, as I had been advised to do by friends living in Addis Ababa. As well, I brought traveler's checks in Canadian dollars, which I could cash at the banks and the currency exchange at the airport.

Of course, we all had to watch our money carefully, since banks were open for limited hours, and very busy. My hotel in Addis accepted credit cards, but it was the only one during 2 weeks that did. We were up north in Aksum when the others ran short of money, and I had to change every dollar, euro and GBP I had into birr so the others could pay for hotel and food.

It wasn't the worst of circumstances, just a pain when we are so spoiled with having bank machines everywhere. And having to account for every cent sure keeps you from overspending. I was glad I took my own advice to always 'back up your travel money', and don't ever rely on just one source. (And yes, they paid me back as soon as we got back to Addis.)

I've posted more travel currency tips at SnapshotJourneys.com Travel Tips.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Green Mango and West 88 (Lucky Eight, Double Eight) :: Restaurants in Toronto and Mississauga Ontario

Good value, good food define both these modestly-priced restaurants. Green Mango, at 730 Yonge Street just south of Bloor in Toronto, features very tasty Thai food. I had lunch there two days this week ($8) and licked my plate clean. They have other locations, and a website at GreenMango.ca

West 88, located in the Mississauga Chinese Centre at 888 Dundas east of Cawthra, features Vietnamese food. The addition of the word 'West' to the name may cause some initial confusion, as previous signage showed it as 'Double 8' and Pho 88; On the Mississauga Chinese Centre web site, it's listed under restaurants as 88 Vietnamese Restaurant Ltd. Whatever you call it, it's all the same, and all good. (Phone 905 897 8899 for info)

The restaurant was closed over the summer for extensive redecorating, and it's newly stunning. Gone the homey arborite tables and kitchen chairs, nicely replaced with oak strip drop ceiling and lighted onyx panels, black leatherette booths and slate-look porcelain floors. The prices went up 50 cents to $1 a dish, but are still a bargain for the very tasty food.

The only thing yet undone is the website. Last week, staff assured me that new photos and information for the redesigned web site was in the offing. Meanwhile, all that's up is a Flash page for www.west88.ca (I can only hope my advice to 'lose the Flash' is taken. For some reason, flash intro pages are the darling of restaurants, as are PDF files for menus, and the bane of web site visitors.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Un-Travel Post

The Buffalo area is still without power and people are still living in shelters, wondering if their homes have thoroughly flooded basements by now. Wondering, too, just how bad the food in the fridge and freezer smells, and hoping their insurance is up to date and claimable.
You'd think after the fiasco that was Katrina et al. that we'd (collective WE) be better able to cope. When First World countries struggle to recover after natural disasters, what hope do Third World countries have?

Other than watching the news, I have been busy posting photos of art from Haiti for Starthrower Foundation. They hope to sell the paintings for the artist, who has no market to speak of in Cap-Haitien. If you get a chance, pop over and have a look at their website (That's one of the paintings here).

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Snowstorm Wreaks Havoc Around Great lakes

New video on last night's late night news showed the terrible damage from the sudden and early snowstorm that hit Ontario and western New York state Thursday and Friday. Apparently 300,000 homes are without power, and will be without until Monday or later.

Though the sun is shining here, the winds are still fierce. I cannot imagine what those affected by the power outages are enduring! Were I in the same straits, I'd be hard pressed for ways to heat my house. Though I keep magneto-type flashlights for emergency light (I don't like candles as the smoke can build up during a long outage and make it hard to breath, and make your smoke alarms shriek when the power comes back on), I have no wood-burning fireplace. And what about all the apartment dwellers?

To paraphrase a Western Canada insult being flung about back in the 80s, I guess I'd freeze in the dark! As for those living in the affected areas, hang in there . . . If nothing else, this unexpected emergency can teach all of us a lesson about being prepared.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Travel Web Sites

With a way-too-early winter storm blowing through Mississauga, Ontario and dumping a pile of snow on Buffalo and Niagara Falls last night and today, I hunkered down at my computer and did some editing on my travel sites.

I added more photos to Snapshot Diaries Haiti page, and redid the home page on Snapshot Journeys.com. Now I am happier with both of them. While I was at it, I added a new page for my story on Chile Wine country.

Then I got a dozen or so photos of Haiti art for Starthrower Foundation, the charity web site I volunteer for, but I couldn't get the page to work the way I wanted it to, and my tech support in
Australia is AWOL this Saturday morning (her time).

Just as well I can't do any more web work till she 'shows up', as my body is screaming, "Get away from the computer NOW!"

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Men in Trees with Anne Heche In Squamish, B.C.

For all you Canucks, I just have to share this email I got today, from Jennifer at the Coast and Mountains Tourism Region, in Vancouver, B.C.

"I invite you to discover Squamish, BC – outdoor recreation capital of Canada, located in the heart of the Sea to Sky Highway and the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, a haven for rock-climbers and the nesting place to over 3000 bald eagles every winter. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But you are probably wondering how this fits with the likes of A-lister’s and Hollywood hotshots.

Perhaps if I told you Squamish is known in television-land as a town called Elmo, Alaska, where the population is 90% men, it may sound more familiar.Squamish’s latest role is playing host to celebs like Anne Heche, who stars in “Men in Trees”, a Northern Exposure meets Sex in the City show about a downtrodden relationship coach who finds herself hunkering down in this little backwards town to escape life for a while. So, if you haven’t started watching the show, it’s time to start, and the next time you are in Squamish, aka Elmo, check out the locations of your favourite scenes – and, as for me, I will keep hoping for the 90% men statistic to magically come true!". . .Jennifer
I toured this gorgeous country before the filming started, and posted my photos online. Pop over to SnapshotJourneys Canada and have a look at the Upper and Lower Sunshine Coast.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving :: Giving Thanks in Canada

Canadians have much to be thankful for, though judging by letters to the editor and radio talk shows, you might be forgiven for thinking we are a nation of complainers and whiners. Most likely, we do complain a lot precisely because we have such a wonderful life. Canadians have the luxury and security of knowing how life should be, and get annoyed, cranky and indignant when issues and events diverge from the good life.

Canadians are great volunteers, and champions of the underdog. We say 'Sorry!' even for things that are in no way our fault, and would cure all diseases, end world poverty, resolve conflict, and feed everyone tomorrow if we could. No, we'd do it today!

Of course, Canadians are not unique in this desire bordering on compulsion to help others. I think a spirit of helping and sharing is a human trait, one that crosses all borders and cultures. I am disappointed when I see evidence that it's not, and am cheered when I see proof that it is.

Proof like the sharing, caring people from around the world, who, thanks to the power of the internet, have come together to help one Canadian woman, Sharon Gaskell, with her work in the Cap-Haitien, Haiti. After her first visit years ago, she realized she could not turn her back on the children -- mostly orphans -- who needed help. And so she keeps going back to help them.

After using all her own money, including her retirement fund and the proceeds from the sale of her home, her friends persuaded her to start a charity. Starthrower Foundation was launched in Summer 2004, and thanks to the web site, other caring people from around the world know of Sharon, and what needs to be done to help the youth of Haiti.

Starthrower supporters run marathons in the UK and the US, collect goods and money in the United States, hold fundraisers and collect donations in Canada, and donate in kind and in cash from Australia. It's a great world!

But the need is great, and the need for funds is ongoing, and each donor can only do so much. After all, as any parent knows, it takes money to feed, clothe, house and care for growing kids on an ongoing basis, whether their own family, or Sharon's kids in Haiti.

On this, our Canadian Thanksgiving, I for one am thankful for my good life here, and for the good and kind people around the world who have come together to help the youth of Haiti. If you would like to join them and help share the load, please make a donation at StarthrowerFoundation.org. Even if you can't make a donation, have a look around (especially the Updates from Haiti), pass on the link to your friends, and give thanks for what you have. Without knowing who you are, I know you at least have access to a computer, have at least one hand and a few fingers, and have time to surf the 'net. Not bad at all!

For the record, no, we didn't have turkey: We had meat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy.

And a very Happy Columbus Day to all you Americans! (Did you know Columbus 'discovered' Haiti?)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Mid Autumn Festival and Canadian Thanksgiving :: Busy Week!

Last night I attended an event hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Bureau (Discover Hong Kong.com) in Toronto to mark the Mid Autumn Moon Festival (also called the Mid Autumn Lantern Celebration) as well as bring us travel media types up to speed on what's happening in my favorite city, and what's on deck, so to speak, locally.

Here's a few fast updates on what's new in Hong Kong. The Wetlands park is now open, and it looks amazing! It's located west from the city, towards the border with mainland China, and accessible by public transit, albeit with a train change or two.

At Stanley,in front of the Stanley Market, the seafront access is now open, though there are still bits to be finished off. Of course, the Skytrain from the airport to Lantau Island opened in September.

As for local events promoting travel to Hong Kong, I'll post those soon. There's to be a prize of a free trip to Hong Kong involved, and first I have to think about whether I really want to entice more people to enter the draw, or if I should keep quiet and improve my chances of winning!

The celebration was held at the CHUM-City TV building on Toronto's trendy Queen Street West, though the room had been switched to accommodate performer James Blunt (I thought his name was spelled Blount but what do I know).

And uber-designer Kimberley Seldon said a few entertaining words (she's quite funny, actually, and a good speaker) about her current work with the Hong Kong board and City TV. I for one am looking forward to the City Line show when she talks about her recent trip to Hong Kong. Should be interesting to see my fave place through a designer's eyes.

As for Thanksgiving, I'll write about that tomorrow. Right now, I have to make a grocery-store run.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Summer Soon Down Under :: Stowing the Doonas and Taking Out The Cozzies

And here in Canada, we are doing the opposite! Hauling out those doonas (Australia-speak for duvets) and storing our cozzies (Aussie for bathing suits) until next July. Well, unless we Canucks can get away for a warm week on the beach in someplace warm, like the Dominican Republic, say, or Thailand. Portugal's Algarve and Gibraltar will warm up in February, most years. Argentina would be good, too, at least the coast up near Buenos Aires. Still a little cool for bathing in Ushuaia, but the waters never warm up all that much. The Pacific Ocean at Vina Del Mar, Chile, is usually cool all year, too, but the beaches are lovely. And of course, there's wonderful Australia. It's stinger season in Queensland now until May, but further south? Well, you'll be all right, Mate!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Cathay Pacific Airliner Retrofitting Starts in January 2007

Cathay Pacifc is one of my favorite airlines. I love the planes, the service and the food. I love the in-seat television screens. And starting in January 2007, the seats across all classes -- First (and my first choice, should I ever come into a lot of $$$), Business and Economy are being redone. First Class seating becomes more like a private suite (Bliss on a long haul!) with a seat/bed that is the largest in the industry, Business gets a larger seat that also becomes a fully reclining bed, and even Economy (where you'll find me, if you're looking) is being completely changed.

The new Economy seat reclines on the spot, without smacking into the lap of the person seated behind you. Or when the guy in front does the same, you won't get pinnned in your seat by your dinner tray up against your rib cage . A lot of fixtures and fittings will be done away with, and each seat gets a bigger personal television.

Retrofitting for all of Cathay's medium and long-haul planes should be completed by mid 2009. If you are traveling in the interim, try for the new ones. But even the current ones are pretty darn comfy.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Dim Sum in Mississauga at the Chinese Centre

August 2010: Sun Sun Dim Sum Restaurant is now Royal Dragon Chinese Restaurant.
Details at Dim Sum Mississauga page on my travel site.


On Sunday, October 1, my daughter Jen treated me to Dim Sum at the Sun Sun Chinese Restaurant, which is located in the Mississauga Chinese Centre. (This photo is of the buddha in the main courtyard area there, in Mississauga, Canada). 

 We'd been here before, a few months back, in May when I had just returned from Hong Kong and was missing it already.


Then, though, we ordered from the regular menu, as you can, at anytime. But on Sunday's this place ROCKS for dim sum choices and freshness.

When we got there around 2 p.m., we had to wait about 15 minutes. Larger groups naturally get first seating, and couples might wait a bit longer. We didn't mind, as we watched how some of our favorites were made. 


There's one dish that's made from a slice (about one quarter) of green pepper (capsicum, to you Aussies) and filled with a shrimp mixture.

We couldn't figure out how they got the shrimp to adhere to the raw pepper slice, but did discover that it's grilled, not deep fried, first one side, then flipped like a pancake, but gently. 


 
And who knew I loved congee? Not me, until a few months ago. When I think of all the times I could have eaten congee in China, I could kick myself. 


At the Sun Sun, the congee is lightly salted, not fishy tasting or smelling, and has bits of boneless chicken, a few small mushrooms and topped with sliced green onions, toasted peanuts and white pepper. 

 
Oh! It is so good! And one serving is enough for two people, easily. I must learn to make this at home. But it is so inexpensive to buy and take home (even at Tremendous, another great Mississauga Chinese restaurant, it's only $1.50 Canadian per large container!) 


 
We filled up on various shrimp and rice paper dumplings, braised beef in sauce and pork dumplings. Most of the time, you select your food by pointing, nodding or shaking your head. The staff, bless them, know enough of Canadian body language to understand when we mean yes or no. 


 
You will order too much food, so go to the cashier desk and ask for take-out containers. Guess what I am having for supper tonight? You got it! Leftover dim sum!

And while that would make a Cantonese cringe, I think it's ambrosia!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Cheaper Ways to Tour Australia Than This!

A notice from a public relations company just landed in my inbox. It's promoting family tours to several destinations, including Australia, at a price that seems a tad high to me. This is what is says, in part:
For family travel Australia . . . experiences ranging from kangaroo and koala sightings on Kangaroo Island to snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef to tramping through the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Daintree Rainforest site searching out crocodiles and colorful kingfishers; the kind of animals you've dreamt of seeing since childhood. Due to Australia's location in the southern hemisphere, December travel falls in perfectly with the kick-off to summer. Land costs start at $300 per person per day/double for beyond-the-ordinary lodging, meals, transport and private guide.
This boggles my mind! That means a mom and dad and two kids would pay upward of $1200 US/per day! And still, your Air Costs are ADDED to this price. The whole holiday would cost the same as a new car! Sure, their price includes meals, but golly gosh-gee-willikers, how much can the little tykes eat!

That's fine for millionaires, but the rest of us? Way too costly. Go have a look at some of the tours/packages listed here (
Australia tours and package deals) and see if you can't get a better price in less than 10 minutes.

Nursing Moms and Rodeo Cowboys . . . What a Weekend for Mississauga's Trash Collectors!

It's not often I get to mention nursing moms and rodeo cowboys in the same blog, much less the same blog post, but here we go! Both are descending on my little corner of the world (Mississauga, Canada) this weekend.

And given that these (expected) several thousand nursing moms with babes attached will be within a few blocks of my home, in the traffic-congested former village of Streetsville, I for one intend to lie low, remote in hand, and wait for them all to leave before I venture out.

These nursing moms are amassing in an attempt to break the world record for Most Moms Nursing Babies For One Minute At One Location on Saturday, September 30, 2006. The current record, set last May (not clear if this means 2005 or 2006) by The Philippines, stands at 3,738 mothers, and an equal or greater number of babies. (The mind boggles trying to compute the number of soiled nappies.)

And as for the cowboys and the rodeo, that's a few miles east of here: The Hershey Centre hosts the 4th Annual Dodge Rodeo Tour Mississauga Championships. Luckily, there's just 150-200 cowboys currently registered. (The attendant livestock -- bulls and horses -- present their own variety of 'nappy' issues.)

I only hope our garbage collectors can rise to the occasion!


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cathay Pacific Buys Out Dragon Air Today

Effective today, Hong Kong Dragon Airlines (Dragonair) becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific, and aside from feeling bad for those Dragon Air employees made redundant, I couldn't be more pleased.

I have flown both airlines (Cathay to Hong Kong, Dragon Air to Haikou, Hainan and Kota Kinabalu), and found them both very good.

Two years ago,
when a change of Dragon Air flight times meant I would miss a connecting Cathay flight to Bangkok, Dragon Air staff met me at the Hong Kong airport to escort me to Cathay counter to make the necessary changes and absorb the added costs PLUS put me up at the wonderful Regal Airport Hotel.

Dragon Air and Cathay Pacific have long been affiliated. Today's move serves to increase consumer confidence in the stability and reliability of both airlines.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Allowable Airline Carry-Ons :: The Series

(August 9, 2007 : This year's travel security story posted.)

November 3, 2006 Britain Allowable Carry-on rules Update
October 21, 2006 :: This information (below) is still valid.
* For U.S. security specifics, see
http://www.tsa.gov
* For Canada, see
http://www.catsa.gc.ca/english

Travel Sizes, if you please, say the powers that be! Read on to find an easy way to take your toiletries and more, or have them shipped to your hotel (in the USA).

Further to the post yesterday, on September 25, 2006, the US and Canada relaxed regulations for allowable airline carry-on items to permit gels, lotions, etc but
only for small travel sizes.
Travelers will be able to carry through security checkpoints travel-size toiletries (3 ounces or less) that fit comfortably into one, quart-size, clear plastic, zip-top bag.

At the checkpoint, travelers will be asked to remove the zip-top bag of toiletries and place it in a bin or on the conveyor belt, where it will be X-rayed separately. This will allow TSA security officers to more easily examine the declared items.

Monday, September 25, 2006

And Still More Airline Allowable Carry-On Info !!

(If you reached this page via search engine, there is a current post on carry-ons here)

Man! I no sooner post the blog below than this news breaks! It's getting to the point of silliness, yanking us hapless passengers back and forth.


Here's the latest 'yank' on our security chain. (Source Transport Security Agency in the USA; In Canada, it's the Transportation Safety Board).

This is only a partial list, so see the posted web sites for full details. Those outside the US and Canada, check your local sources. I am done!


More on Allowable Airline Carry-Ons

Update January 5 2010
See Air Canada re flying to USA


(See also post on this page).

On August 1, I wrote about how varied and inconsistent were the latest round of allowable airline carry-ons, and the whole situation is still just as 'fluid'. (See
Allowable Carry-ons)

In early September, my mom was flying within Canada (ie on a domestic flight), from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Mississauga,Ontario, a fairly short, direct, non-stop flight. She'd gone by road from Toronto to Winnipeg (a whole 'nother story!) and had planned to fly home. This flight would be her first encounter with the new stepped-up security regulations vis a vis carry-on liquids, gels, etc.

So there she is at the security check-in in Winnipeg, with her lunch packed (they don't feed you on internal flights -- you can buy stuff but it's costly and gross!) and ready to travel.

Mr. Security Guard makes her empty her small back pack. Uh Oh! That orange has to go -- it's just full of liquid, a no-no. And then there's the matter of her water bottle. Thrifty senior that she is, she fills her bottle the night before, pops it in the freezer, and the next day, it's frozen solid. The idea is, the melting ice makes for nice cold drinking water.

Nope, can't trust ice, says Security Guard. Since her water bottle has an indented middle making it easier to grasp, and since the contents are solid ice at this point, there's a bit of a dilemma. She's not about to throw out her perfectly good water bottle for anyone. Mr. Security Guard's Supervisor (MSGS) is called, and he saves the day: MSGS takes her ice water bottle into a nearby washroom (restroom, toilet), turns on the hot water tap and runs it into the bottle for some minutes. After some long minutes, all the ice is melted, and the bottle is as squeaky clean and empty as the day she bought it.

She also had in that same back pack a plastic baggie full of cucumber salad swimming in vinaigrette, much like a bag of pickles in juice, left over from from last night's dinner. She was not about leave perfectly good food at the hotel when she knew she would need lunch on the flight. But even though the cucumber salad had three times the liquid that the orange did, security didn't bat an eye and she carried it with her all the way home.

The moral of this story is A) There is no rhyme nor reason for security yays and nays, B) Airline security staff know you can make exploding oranges and ice but not exploding pickles, or C) if my mom WAS a terrorist, and so inclined, she could have blown up an Air Canada flight!

How safe in the air are we, really? How many flights have been brought down from shampoo, oranges and nail clippers? None? Wow, I guess all this stepped up security really pays off!!!