Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stay on a boat in San Diego harbor

Cheaper than a hotel in many cases, plus free wifi :-)

Search under "San Diego Harbor Vacations Club" on the left-hand side of this page:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Skip (Dumpster) diving in London

I grew up calling those big metal rubbish containers "skips", though in the US they are called "dumpsters". The BBC today has a handy guide to skip-diving in London. Although skips are relatively new, any reader of London history books like "The Ghost Map" will be aware that scavenging in London are nothing new, in fact one of David Beckham's ancestors in London was a scavenger by trade.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Royal Oman Police

I've done some work with the Royal Oman Police (ROP) over the past few years. A great bunch of people. I was really impressed by how genuinely they cared about the big flooding in Muscat a few years ago (compared to the indifference I saw in the US to the flooding of New Orleans).

The ROP also had a certain wry Gulf Arab humour, with a lot of meaning being expressed in short remarks and smiles. "Suburban" on the Other Oman blog records some recent interactions with the ROP. For example:

ROP Guy: Nice car! V8?
Me: Yeah, I love it
ROP Guy: Where are you from?
Me: Mostly America
Rop Guy: I like Bacon!
Me: Good to know...?

For the record, as an Irish person in the US, I can say that the US is not the Land of Bacon. Ireland and the UK (and Canada) consume a lot more bacon. In the US I've had to put up with beef sausages and "turkey bacon". It brings to mind the bit in the hilarious "East is East" movie where the Pakistani/British kids crave bacon, so they cook up bacon and sausages while their father is out, and then spray the air with deodorant to mask the smell. Hmm.... Bacon....

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Handy artist differentiation guide for Coachella

The Coachella music festival was a few months ago now (God knows how hot it must be there now), but in the intervening time I've been mentally writing a handy guide to distinguish between two artists who played Coachella at around the same time this year - Leonard Cohen and Girl Talk. Over the past few months I've been racking my brains thinking of differences between these two artists. It is difficult, given their broad similarities, but here are some I've come up with:

- High point of the show was the opening of "Hallelujah" - "I heard there was a secret chord/ That David played and it pleased the Lord" : Leonard Cohen

- High point of the show was the opening of "Play your part (Part 1)" - "my bitch a choosey lover, never f**k without a rubber / never in the sheets, like it on top of the cover /money on the dresser, drive a compressor /top notch hoes get the most, not the lesser": Girl Talk

- The artist takes off his hat and holds it over his heart when his band play solos, as a mark of respect: Leonard Cohen

- The artist throws his t-shirt into the crowd while teeing up Kelly Clarkson's "Since you've been gone" on his cellophane-covered laptop: Girl Talk

- The artist ends his set with a tip of a black fedora hat to the crowd : Leonard Cohen

- The artist ends his set by being carried over the shoulders of the crowd riding on a flashing holographic life raft, wearing only bright sparkling silver pants, batting away beach balls which are thrown at him: Leonard Cohen Girl Talk

So there you go: No excuses for mistaking these two artists with each other anymore...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

(Another) 24 Hour Sale on Expedia

Picked up a good deal on a hotel in San Diego, last week on an Expedia 24 Hour Sale.

And lo and behold today there is another 24 Hour Sale on Expedia...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The "black cab cabal" in London

The independent has a piece today about breaking the "Black Cab Cabal" in London. Satellite Navigation has enabled minicab drivers to provide cheaper fares.

I occasionally take black cabs in London and, despite the occasional unwanted racist comments from a minority of drivers, they have known exactly where to go and got there fast. Would I take a black cab over a long distance? No - too expensive. Would I take a black cab instead of a minicab? Yes - but that's because of a residual feeling I'd have that the minicab driver may not know the route as well as a black cab driver (though GPS softens that difference).

Interesting to see how this plays out...

Monday, July 13, 2009

The smart way to Europe

For a while now, the cheapest way to most destinations in Europe from the US is to fly to Dublin or London and then catch a cheap Ryanair of Aer Lingus flight to the destination. Like this blogger did:

FYI, my trip recently was Boston-London, cross London by bus to Stansted airport, fly by cheapo Ryan Air (bought on their site) to Brittany (Dinan), pick up car there, drive to apartment with wifi. This was because I got a much better deal on a ticket to London at the time, and it saved me 2 train rides and a lot of time to go via Ryan Air direct to Brittany rather than travel via Paris.

This is a great way to get to somewhere like Brittany. The problem, though, is getting over to Stansted (you can take a bus, as she did, or the train into London and then up to Stansted from Liverpool Street tube station). Connecting with Aer Lingus in Dublin is easier, but there are only so many US cities which fly to Dublin (compared to London). The landing fees in Dublin are way lower than Heathrow so it can be very cost-effective to connect through Dublin to go to (let's say) Nice or Krakow.

Not many people do this type of two-stage journey to Europe because you can't book it all in one itinerary on Expedia or Orbitz. So, it requires some out-of-the-box thinking to get these kinds of good travel deals. Just the thing for the recession.... I wonder why Ryanair does not publicize this technique by advertising more in the US and on US travel sites...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Heathrow Express

I wonder is this still the most expensive train in the world, based on ticket cost and distance traveled?

It doesn't make sense for tourists, but I've used it plenty of times to get to and from central London (albeit the wrong side of central London for me usually - I then have to connect by Tube to get where I want to go) .

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Two views from the same street corner in New York City

Look right and you see the Chrysler Building. Look straight ahead and you see the Empire State Building.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Travels with the Minotaur

One of the benefits of living in the US is the availability of cheap subscriptions to good magazines. But my travel schedule means that copies of the New Yorker and Economist often pile up. But travel also helps, because I read through the magazines on airlines. Last week I read the story "Ziggurat" by Stephen O'Connor in the New Yorker.

It's an adaptation of the story of the Minotaur, a story which used to terrify me as a child. In "Ziggurat", the Minotaur wanders a labyrinth of empty spaces. Some are empty because he has eaten the people who he encountered there. But others are just empty. He encounters, "in the pine-panelled section of the Labyrinth", a girl playing computer games.

The description of wandering, dislocation, events out-of-kilter, furnished places - all this hit home with me as I read it on a twice-canceled flight over a thunderstorm over New York City.

"The central aisle of an airliner, the back seat of a car (stale popcorn crammed into cushion cracks), a coal mine, a hospital waiting room, a long tunnel in which a hot breeze blew first in one direction and then the other. So many varieties of emptiness. For centuries. Millennia."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Marine Terminal at La Guardia airport in New York

What a nice, quiet, relaxed place to wait for a plane. Even though the Delta shuttle flight was delayed (due to problems in Boston).

This is the only original air terminal from the first generation of passenger air travel in the US.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Problems at Boston Logan Airport to last all summer?

When I flew into Boston from New York on the shuttle from La Guardia last week, the Continental pilot told us that the instrument-landing system at Boston was not working, and that was slowing down the rate of landings there.

Last night the Boston Globe reported that the "instrument-landing system at Runway 4R failed Tuesday for reasons that are still under investigation". Well, I'd understood it had failed last week, when the Continental pilot announced it. But in any case, this meant that I had two different flights into Boston canceled yesterday, and only just about managed to get onto the last flight out of Washington Dulles to Boston around midnight.

Apparently this landing problem will last all summer :-( . I have no way to avoid using Boston Logan airport, so this will not be fun...