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

TheTajMahalFromTheEntranceGate 234x300 More from India    The Taj Mahal in Photos

GuesthouseAtTajMahal 300x108 More from India    The Taj Mahal in Photos

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Travel to India

Here is a set of photos from my recent trip to India….

More to follow over the weekend when I have time to write.   So for now I will leverage the old saying "a picture is worth a thousand words…" almost…

Here we go:  first photo — guess where 

IMG 1302 300x160 Travel to India yes, you guessed it — Heathrow, UK…….Then the next one..

IMG 1308 300x210 Travel to India Yes, this is the route map…

BangalorePalace img1 300x120 Travel to India  Guess what place?

IMG 1458 2 300x107 Travel to India and this?

Answers coming in my upcoming postings

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China – Travel in Time – Shanghai in the 1980s

Another morning view – this time from Huahai Lu in Shanghai…. Do you remember this?

Koljo China 33 1024x725 China   Travel in Time   Shanghai in the 1980s

Were you in Shanghai in 1989?  If yes, then you would remember the groups of old ladies practicing Tai Chi Quan on the sidewalks…It was pretty interesting to watch…

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China – Travel in Time

OldChina 1 1024x653 China   Travel in TimeEarly Morning at a Train Station in Central China — North East of Shanghai — and Yes, the year is 1989….and Yes, you see a steam locomotive….

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Hotel Safe – Comments on an Article On-line

I came across an article from an otherwise good travel blog "Perrin Post" which highlighted some things about the hotel room safes that I believe are both clearly stated by most hotels and should be known to us travelers.

Just how safe is a hotel safe? That’s the question on my mind after inadvertently leaving my travel jewelry case (fashion jewelry—not fine jewelry) behind in the in-room safe of room 215 at the Crowne Plaza in Hollywood, Florida, a couple of weeks ago. I was in a rush to pack up and check out of the hotel, and I simply forgot to retrieve my stuff from the safe. The next morning, when I realized my mistake and phoned the hotel to see what they could do, I was told that another guest was now inhabiting room 215 and that the hotel could not send an employee to access the safe until after the guest had checked out. I was assured that, once the guest left, the hotel would open the safe and see if my jewelry was still in it.

Interestingly, I was never asked for the four-digit passcode that I had programmed into the safe.

A couple of hours later I heard from the hotel again: They had opened the safe (no passcode necessary) and found the jewelry there, and they would ship it to me. A couple of days later I received a FedEx package with everything in it and intact. The FedEx bill? $116. I’m not complaining—I was thrilled to have my belongings back—but I did learn three lessons from this episode

(from Perrin Post blog)

The three lessons the article highlights are the things that made me write here 

  • Remind yourself to check the safe before you check-out —- Of course!!! The same applies for making sure you did not leave items on the bed side table or on the hotel room office table or bathroom counter….or phone charger plugged into a hotel electrical outlet in the room…!  I have done all of the above and never forgotten stuff in the safe — so that tells you…!
  • The second claim is that you need to realize that the safe is not really that safe — again, another truism! Of course it is not!  Every safe is possible to break into…And in some hotels, management even posts a sign near the safe to clarify that to you – i.e. the safe is not a perfect deterent…However, the safe is still better than leaving things out in the open
  • The advice to carry a combination lock to store items under lock in our suitcase is also not perfect — that lock even invites attention and guess what if someone wanted to get into your suitcase — they can!

The more secure way to handle your valuable items is to ask the hotel for a safekeeping with them…..And the second option (the one I like) is not to travel with your most precious posetions.  Enjoy the travel – and do not cause yourself stress by thinking about how to protect your valuables. 

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Carry-on Bags for Air Travellers

I have always wandered what is on the mind of the air traveller (seasoned pro or someone who takes a flight or two or rarely) when they start pushing a bag in the overhead bins of the plane they have just boarded…I see a lot of amuzing and in some cases dangerous (for their fellow passengers) exercises – as folks try to shove and push a bag into the luggage compartment of a plane.

What it boils down to is some thinking prior to heading to the airport.  You need to have the "RIGHT" carry-on bag.  Otherwise you may be very frustrated or worse – having your bag to be checked…

So, what are the good carry-on bags?  Here is a list based on my experience and that of people I know:

The list I have organized here is my persnal preference – and is based on the combination of characteristics like (a) price for the luggage; (b) convenience of use; (c) easiness of carrying it; (d) organization capabilites it provdes

Here we go:

  1. Kirkland Signature 21.5 Expandable Carry-On – I own one of those and am proud to say have owned the previous version of this one as well.  350 664551 847  1 Carry on Bags for Air TravellersI have over 1.5million miles logged on my previous one — the current one I own is barely 1 year old and holding well
  2. Delsey Helium – I own the larger versions of these bags.  Must admit have not used this particular model but judging by my other experience with Delsey and the organization capabilities this model offers – this carry on bag is a solid product to use.   it offers a padded laptop sleeve so you can easily access your laptop if you have packed it in the roll aboard.
  3. Briggs and Riley Explore 19 Upright:  This is a more utalitarian look bag.  In has in-line rollers (similar to the Kirkland one above) and in a way resembles more a backpack rather than a suitcase, but it is a strong one and per the manufacturer offers warranty even for damage caused by the airlines.  I think that is cool — but check on it at the time you are buying it.    
  4. Samsonite Hyperspace 21.5 Carry-On Spinner:  This is a bag which offers good features – i.e. spinner wheels which is a great feature for manuevers when in a rush at the ariport.  It has also a couple of external pockets for easy access (e.g. for your toiletries – as you cross through security). The Samsonite has one draw back – it is heavy…
  5. IT Luggage – World's Lightest Carry On: this is a claim by the manufacturer.  And it appears to be true.  The bag is really lightweight – a traveller'smajor plus  but there are also negatives about it – the same reason the bag is very light makes it also vulnerable if it has to be checked in that one time when you may not be able to find overhead bin space and/or the plane is one of the regional jets…So be weary about this.  The bag offers little structural protection for your content but hey it is very light.  
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Flight Attendants’ Luggage

I rarely post write ups on issues I experience while traveling. Why? Because all of us usually remember the good about a trip rather than the bad. So to that extent, well, I prefer to focus on the positive about my trips. This time around though I think I will have to voice my gripes — in this case – about the flight attendants' practices of using overhead bin space for their own luggage.

On my last flight, on a Friday evening, while headed home after a business trip, the first of two flights I had to take was delayed by quite a bit of time (over 40-minutes) as a result we flew late into Dallas where I was to take my next flight going home.  Lucky for me the flights were all delayed so I was able to make it on board of a delayed flight (thank you AA gate agent).   

But as I was one of the last passengers on board – I had to check-in my roll a board bag.  I was not enthusiastic about it, but oh, well I WAS GOING home….

My surprise came when we landed and I saw that a whole overhead bin next to my seat was taken by luggage of one of the flight attendants!  Yet I could not bring my luggage on board — and I had to put my briefcase under the seat due to the lack of overhead bin space.   

Now, why is the flight attendant using that space???? She can use the luggage stowage that is at the front of the plane and allocated for the crew!  My bet was that she just wanted to be near her suitcases in case she wanted to retrieve something…. NICE !

So, if anyone from American Airlines is reading — yes, I like your airline, but REALLY?! please instruct your flight attendants to leave the luggage compartment to the passengers…!  After all it is intended for them…!


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Bulgaria in Images

Here are a few interesting photos from our recent trip to Bulgaria.  In my previous article I provided a guide on how you can get from Kazanlak to Istanbul.   So in this update I just wanted to post a bunch of photos from various corners of country so you can enjoy its natural beauty….

Here we go….

Sunset Krqn9 243x300 Bulgaria in Images Sunset in a small town  DSC 0033 199x300 Bulgaria in Images 

Sunflowers16 300x199 Bulgaria in Images          Sunflowers5 300x176 Bulgaria in Images

DSC 0260 300x199 Bulgaria in Images          DSC 0263 300x199 Bulgaria in Images

And a gallery of sunsets in a small town in the Valley of Thracian Kings

And if you would like to see a lot more photo albums from various places in Bulgaria – Thracian tombs, old fortresses, mountain resorts, monasteries, and more follow the link here

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