Crap things

An apology from WoJ

Okay, okay… I know I’ve been a bit rubbish updating the blog for the last week or so but I am caught up in wedding fever in anticipation of our tying the knot this weekend.

I’ll be shutting down now until next week when I’ll be back with three weeks of almost daily destination updates from the honeymoon… wish me luck!

James

Strictly Come Polluting

Hey Bruno, look at my airmiles

With the climate change conference starting in Copenhagen next week, my mind’s been turning to the green issue of travel again.

Earlier this week fellow Leeds fan Darren Cronian of Travelrants touched on the issue on his blog www.travel-rants.com it’s a wide and complex one that still has the industry flummoxed.

One way to cut down though could be to ban Strictly Come Dancing. Our version of the ballroom show runs concurrently with the US’s Dancing With The Stars and two of the judges, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli appear on both.

By my calculations, they to and fro across the Atlantic from London to LA (Dancing With The Stars is filmed at CBS Television City), passing judgment on the efforts of C-listers for 12 weeks.

Given it’s a 10,800 mile round trip, that’s 120,800 miles each per season – the equivalent of flying round the globe five times each.

I’m sure it’s doing their air mile accounts the world of good, but as I’m told they travel Upper Class with Virgin Atlantic, they’re taking up more space and increasing their footprint even further.

While travelling is essential for most people, doing so needlessly for the sake of a couple of TV shows seems reckless. Can’t the Americans find their own judges? Or even better – have the shows at different times so Len and Bruno can just up foxtrot oscar over to LA for a while?

Guest blog: Crap things seen while travelling no.6 Babies on planes

While most of us audibly groan when we realise we’re sitting near a baby on a plane, this week’s Crap Things guest blog comes from Michael Green who runs football blog clarkeonenil.co.uk who may have a reason for some of the little darlings making so much noise.

No matter how much love you surround yourself with after a birth of a child nothing quite busts your bubble like someone being over-officious when it comes to your baby.

Some years ago, in October 2003, I was travelling to Cephalpnia to see my then 12-week-old’s grandparents with no idea just how unbaby friendly flights really are.

Flights to the island are limited enough (two a week at the time I recall) so we expected some discomfort and asked if we could book a seat for the baby and offered to pay full fare. But no, we were told the baby had to sit in the lap of a parent.

While long haul flights might have some cot provisions between cabin sections, on short haul flights where every bit of space is filled there is no such provision. But why is it that when you have to drive in a car, a baby needs a car seat but when you fly in a plane, a baby can’t have a ‘plane seat’. Surely something could be done to get the seatbelt around it giving the baby and mum and dad some room?

Now I and the child’s mother are no wallflowers so we just about managed to communicate our expectations on the day in terms of making the flights as stress free (and most importantly cry free) as possible. To be fair both flights went well but you can be sure that when we returned to this idyllic island the next year, the child got a seat because we lied about age. Once they are three, they pay full fare.

Crap things seen while travelling. No.5: Gretna Green

124_5th July Gretna greenAs mrs worldofjames and I are getting married in Scotland this year, we’ve been travelling north of the border quite a bit.

Our first trip in January saw us touring venues throughout the country looking for somewhere suitable to wed and it seemed appropriate, as we headed back to England, to stop off at ‘the British Las Vegas’ or Gretna Green.

Gretna became an elopers’ paradise thanks to Scotland being exempt from a 1753 act of parliament that made it illegal to get married if you were under 21 without parental consent. As the first major village over the border, young Brits would solemnise their illegal trysts by tying the knot over the blacksmith’s anvil.

As we approached I had a romantic vision of what the village would be like: a small green surrounded by a few quaint houses with the smithy’s shop at its centre. Instead we found a town that seems to have been given a Trueman Show-esque mall-style makeover.

Walkways lead round a procession of buildings where any sense of identity has been whitewashed into oblivion and everything from the sound of Scottish pipers piped ubiquitously throughout to the tartan tourist tat on offer screams: YOU ARE IN SCOTLAND.

The restaurant was even worse and made my heart weep for the coachload of American tourists that had just pulled in to the ginormous car park: sub-school dinner fare with pies, lumpy mash, peas and gravy all congealing under infrared heat lamps all served with little charm by a spotty oik in white overalls.

As we disappointedly trudged back to the car, we passed the sure-fire stamp of any true rubbish tourist attraction: the head-through-hole picture board, in this case depicting a bride lifting her groom.

Guest author: Crap things seen – or heard – while travelling. No4

With Christmas press releases flooding into my inbox before the clocks even go back, today’s guest post comes from Tania Ahsan and when even the author of the The Brilliant Book of Calm (Infinite Ideas, May 2008) gets riled, you know you have a problem on your hands…

Coit Tower: home to Dante's lift
Coit Tower: home to Dante's lift

Excitedly, like little children, my friend Raj and I get into the lift that will take us up to the top of Coit Tower – an art deco structure with a viewing platform on Telegraph Hill in San Franciso.

It’s fairly crowded in the lift with a number of Japanese and American tourists. As we get in, a Christmas jingle starts playing. Since it is mid-November this seems a bit early but nevertheless it cheers us.

‘Bit soon for Christmas, isn’t it?’ says Raj, playfully to the lift attendant.

‘Dude, they start playing them in October,’ he replies, with a twitch in his cheek that indicates that if he has to hear about Rudolf the Red-freaking-nosed Reindeer one more time, he’s going postal on everyone in that Goddamn lift.

We begin slowly to understand the full horror of his predicament as it takes a fair bit of the song to get up to the top of the tower. The poor bastard has to go down again. Then up again. Then down again. Forever to the strains of White Christmas and Jingle Bell Rock.

It is a circle of hell so relentlessly horrific, even Dante didn’t think of it…

Guest author: Crap things seen while travelling. No3

It’s Sunday, so James is taking a day off from the world of work. Instead, Kieran Meeke (www.secret-london.co.uk), former features editor at Metro steps into the guest author spot with his crappest thing seen while travelling.

Roatan folk dancers

DSCF005749Oooh – where do we start? And finish? The world is full of sad little tourist traps where the staff taking your money are almost ashamed to do so. Almost.

Still, the saddest thing that springs to mind is seeing a massive cruise ship pull into the lovely little island of Roatan, off Honduras in the Caribbean. About 30 buses – bright yellow American style school buses – were there to meet it. A small group of overweight folk dancers stood around listlessly before suddenly painting on bright smiles and bursting into song as the first passengers appeared at the top of the gangplank.

Each couple tottered down to the quayside, to be stopped and framed in a  brightly painted plywood sign saying ‘Welcome to Roatan’ for an obligatory snap by the ship’s photographer. No doubt they were all billed for it later. Count 30 buses, multiply by about 50 to 70 passengers each and you can work out how much time this all took out from the excursion ashore they’d all paid for.

Eventually, the buses drove off in a cloud of diesel smoke, leaving the dancers to count their tips: two crumpled dollars. Just another day in this business they call travel.

Guest author: Crap things seen while travelling. No2

Tonight I’ll be trying to post from the TTG awards and am also hoping to try and phlog with a couple of travel bods while there, so for today’s morning post I’d like to welcome the grumpily lovely David Whitley (www.grumpytraveller.com, www.twitter.com/mrdavidwhitley) as WoJ’s first guest author with his contribution to the ‘Crap things seen while travelling’ section. Thanks David

The Bronte Beach train of shame

The walley trolley at Bronte
The walley trolley at Bronte

If there’s one thing the world is not short of, it is rubbish tourist trains. These brightly coloured, pathetic contraptions can be found chugging around just about any destination which attracts more than three visitors per year.
They generally offer staggeringly pointless misery tours, mowing down the odd pedestrian on the way and covering an area that could be walked just as easily.
Therefore, being the most feeble tourist train in the world is quite an achievement. It’s an accolade on a par with being the shortest midget or most incomprehensible tramp..
Step forward, then, the tourist train at Sydney’s Bronte Beach. The tiny circular track occupies part of the park just behind the beach, and the train goes round. And round. And round. There’s no sense of mystery, no deviation, no point.
It’s the only ride there, as well, so it can’t exactly hide its pitiful existence behind something good. The train sticks out like an elephant in a ballroom.
And the strange thing is, despite living in Sydney for nearly five years and going to Bronte regularly, I have never seen anyone other than the driver sit on the shame train.

Crap things I've seen while travelling. No1

In the first of an occasional series on crap things I’ve seen while travelling, I bring you The Bucket Fountain, Wellington, New Zealand

Back in the late 1960s, the tramlines of Wellington in New Zealand were pulled up along one of the main shopping streets, Cuba Mall. The street was paved and this crazy water fountain took it’s place.

Like the old board game, Mousetrap, the idea is one thing from the top sets a series of events in motion. In this case, the top bucket fills up with water and becomes so heavy the bucket tips on a hinge and pours its water into the bucket below. This then fills and the sequence is supposed to continue… except it doesn’t. Instead water splashes all over the place and when there’s a wind (not unusual in Wellington, I hasten to add), shoppers passing by get drenched.

To be fair, no one in Wellington thinks the Bucket Fountain is any good, to the point where they actually switched some of the buckets around on one refit to purposefully make it splash more.

There’s a website dedicated to it click here and on Friday and Saturday nights, jokers sometimes stick a load of washing up liquid in it making Cuba St look like a foam party with this very odd contraption at its centre.