Fall Colors of Austin, Texas

The Fall Colors of Austin — This week the weather in Austin was very nice – a great opportunity for going out with the mountain bikes and enjoying both the exercise and the colors of the Fall.   Admittedly, Austin is no New England – the colors of tree leafs changing in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New York are spectacular, but the local ones in the Austin Hill Country are interesting enough for us to enjoy..!

Well, all I can say is judge for yourself – here is my latest gallery of snaps from one of the trails in Austin, Texas, Thanksgiving, 2014

 

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Organizing Photo Albums

Why photo album…?

An old saying states “…a picture is worth a thousand words…” – this statement is true (in my opinion) and while mostly it is being used in cases when we try to convey a complex idea via a pictogram or a drawing, the same adage can be applied to the notion of describing a place via photographs.

So to that effect, I decided to allocate a portion of this blog to photo albums of places I have visited and explored.

Hopefully here you will find a plethora of cool and interesting images from around the world.

Here is a sampling of the galleries I have about China…

ENJOY!

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IHG Rewards – fails on a survey

Not sure if any of you out there have had my experience with survey taking at IHG (Intercontinental Hotels Group) – but I just had a frustrating experience.

I am sitting in the Admirals Club on my way from a very long trip in Asia and saw the email from IHG Rewards.  The email asked me to take a 15-minute survey and provide feedback on loyalty programs….So I decided to help and answer the survey.

Being tired after the long flight – the experience that followed me taking the survey, caused me to write the email below back to IHG…

What a dissapointment…!  And when you think about it – a survey is such a simple and effective tool…Except in this case it certainly will backfire on IHG – at least in my case…

======= My response to IHG Rewards is below =====

Dear IHG

 

In the future please FIX your survey process — So you wanted me to take a survey…. Fine!  And I did …!  But then you told me at the end of the survey - after I took the time to provide you with the information that “Sorry our quota has been filled..”

 

REALLY???!!!   You did not know that at the point I entered the Survey Web Page??!!!???

 

This is really a very bad practice!

=========================================

Turned out – my attempt to reply back to IHG Rewards did not happen easily – the “Reply” action did not reach an email address.  I need to figure out how to email them.  In the mean time – my rant is on my blog…and will be on Social media…

I hope someone in IHG actually reads my rant…and decides that better treatment of your members is a good idea…!

Comments?

 

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Plovdiv Bulgaria on Lonely Planet’s Best Travel Destinations in 2015

For those of you who have been to Bulgaria – you probably had wondered like I did for many years – why is Bulgaria essentially a destination often considered as the “off the beaten track” place…Well, things have changed drastically – Plovdiv is now on the Lonely Planet’s best places to visit in 2015.  The city made it as number 6 on that list !

Plovdiv has also been selected as the Culture Capital of Europe for 2019 - this is another proof of the great things the city has to offer to its inhabitants and visitors alike.   The city offers incredible architecture – in the old town, Roman amphitheaters – one of them actually functional, great food and nice weather.

From Plovdiv you can go and explore tons of different place around Southern Bulgaria.  Places like:

Just to name a few…

If you are now ready to head to Bulgaria, you may want to consider a few handy books:

  
For those of you who really want to feel as if you never left Plovdiv – then get a T-Shirt…. There is a good one above…

Other than that, you can just go ahead and plan a trip to see the place for yourself.

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Beijing Pollution – Yet Again a Key Topic

It feels like I just finished writing about this a few minutes ago and here it is – yet another posting on the impact of pollution in Beijing.  This time it is on a very public event – the Beijing marathon.  The article and photos from International Business Times (link here) certainly provides a grim view of the event…

 Beijing Pollution   Yet Again a Key Topic

Hm… Would you like to be a runner in the group above???

For those of you who are driven by facts, here is the table updated on a regular basis by the US Embassy in Beijing and this link will get you the latest measurements summarized by the Embassy: Beijing Air Quality Guide

Here of course is the link to my previous posting on the subject – just last week…

 

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Beijing Pollution – Center Stage Again

I like traveling in China – it is a vast country with a long history, interesting places to see and learn about.  There are certainly also tons of places to see for their natural beauty.  Having said that – you need to be aware of some not-so-pleasant aspects of traveling and/or living in China – the pollution problem of Beijing.

I have posted on that topic a number of times – here are some previous postings, but the topic keeps coming up as the situation does not appear to improve.  In a recent article the situation is highlighted again

Days of heavy smog shrouding swathes of northern China pushed pollution to more than 20 times safe levels on Friday, despite government promises to tackle environmental blight.

Visibility dropped dramatically as measures of small pollutant particles known as PM2.5, which can embed themselves deep in the lungs, reached more than 500 micrograms per cubic metre in parts of Hebei, a province bordering Beijing.

The World Health Organization’s guideline for maximum healthy exposure is 25.

In the capital, buildings were obscured by a thick haze, with PM2.5 levels in the city staying above 300 micrograms per cubic metre since Wednesday afternoon and authorities issuing an “orange” alert.

“It’s very worrying, the main worry is my health,” said a 28-year-old marketing worker surnamed Hu, carrying an anti-smog mask decorated with a pink pig’s nose as she walked in central Beijing. (from a Guardian article)

I think this problem will continue until Beijing enforces strict rules on burning coal, reduces the heavy use of two cycle motorcycles — yes, those smog spewing little machines that are used across the city – and encourages the use of bicycles…YES! bicycles – I lived in Beijing in 1987-1988 and bicycles were everywhere — now cars have taken their place…

To give you an idea that this smog problem is not a new one – you can see some photos I had taken back in 2006 (and I am sure I can find more from 2004, and 2005….and 2001) that show the haze in the city – and those two photos are from different place – one of the 3rd loop road, and a second from Houhai (park area)

BeijingSmog 150x150 Beijing Pollution   Center Stage Again

View from 3rd loop road in Chaoyang district

HouHai BeijingAug2006 150x150 Beijing Pollution   Center Stage Again

Beijing Houhai Park

Posted in Living in Beijing, Observations, Places to visit in China | Tagged | 2 Comments

Seat Pitch – Useful information on Seating across Major US Airlines

Have you wondered what is going on with space in economy class on various US airlines…?  I bet all of you have been thinking – it feels that each flight you take the space between your knees and the seat in front of you is shrinking… I know, I feel that way… Well you are not imagining things.  The reality is that over the last few years, the major airlines in the US have been re-configuring planes and seating in an effort to improve the efficiency of each plane.  After all – with increasing fuel costs and big competition for each passenger, the airline’s ability to both fill seats and increase capacity per plane, is the way to drive profitability.

Turns out in some cases we the passengers are more than willing to use the tighter configured planes if they give us low cost plane travel….

So do you have a choice in the matter?  Turns out recently a quick study has been done comparing the seat pitch for the major US based airlines.  Here is the summary view (courtesy of Conde’Nast Traveller)

541b305d17e4b1f634ef1127 CNT legroom infographic 01 Seat Pitch   Useful information on Seating across Major US Airlines

So – per this anaysis you really can decide which airline can give you the most comfortable journey for the flight you need to take.

If you are looking to compare global airlines, you can look at this site – I am not sure of the quality of the data, but it looks pretty comprehensive…

In parallel you can look at SeatGuru.com for specific seats and flights and decide what to purchase for your upcoming flight.

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Beautiful Venice!

This summer, my daughter and I had the fortunate opportunity to visit Venice, Italy for the first time.  I don’t know how Venice is the rest of the year, but in early June, it is magical.  The temperature was in the mid to high 70′s, and it was sunny every day, with sudden, brief downpours in the late afternoon.  Being relatively early in the season, there weren’t an overwhelming number of visitors and the only place that really felt overcrowded was the Piazza San Marco–home of the most-visited of Venice’s attractions.  Check out some pictures:

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Airport Parking Challenges

Airport parking is usually not a hot topic of discussions on travel sites.  I take plenty of day or short trips within the US and as a result actually consider airport parking rather important.  I like to park within walking distance of the terminals and usually can do that as I take the early flights (read 6:00 am flights) which means the lots have not been filled up yet.

However I have come often enough at the airport in the afternoon to find signs "Lot Full" preventing us from even getting to the parking area…

In multiple of those occasions I have parked in other parking areas only to find out as I drive by the closed off ones or walk through them on the way to the terminal, plenty of open spaces.   Which made me think — how does the airport parking management knows that a lot is full ?  Obviously they do not!  As a result they get unhappy customers and in some cases lose revenue as the potential customers go in search of a spot at another location…

Just 3 days ago I had the same happen again – I pulled into the Austin airport around 3:30pm only to find both parking garage and 'close-in' parking areas closed off with signs as being full….

So I parked in the long term parking and started walking to the terminal — on my way I walked through part of the 'close in' parking area — and only on 2 rows counted 7!!! I kid you not 7 empty parking spots.  Took photos of two of them — see below

austin airport parking1 300x225 Airport Parking Challenges   austin airport parking2 150x150 Airport Parking Challenges

I wonder – why Austin Airport cannot track the number of cars going in vs the number of cars going out of a given parking zone?  After all they do have cameras, the parking tickets are different for the different zones….and all in all, there should be a way to have a very clear view of what is the capacity and availability of the lot…

If someone from the airport management is reading — please try to fix that.  Customers will like it…!

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More from India — The Taj Mahal in Photos

TheTajMahal May2014 300x96 More from India    The Taj Mahal in Photos

 

GuesthouseAtTajMahal 300x108 More from India    The Taj Mahal in Photos

 

And now a higher resolution library with photos you can use:

 

 

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