Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hugo Rifkind on Music Festivals

They're like camping, only worse:

Over the years, I suspect, I have spent too much time in tents. I have tightened my flaps on the veldt, as lions yawned 20 feet away. I have hurled bottles of shampoo at marauding Indian monkeys. Thanks to an accommodation mix-up as a teenager, I once spent a month living in a two-man tent with three boys, a girl, and a small, flatulent dog. And yet, when I am asked to consider the true horror of camping, it is to Pilton that I always return. The Glastonbury Festival, 2005. Friday morning. The flood.

...and another airline bites the dust

Keeping an airliner on the ground doing nothing is like burning money, so most airlines are pretty much a 24/7 operation.

In the constant quest to for carriers to undercut their rivals airlines are going bust on a regular basis at the moment.

What happens if the airline goes bust after you've paid?

What happens if the airline goes bust after you've taken off?

There are not happy thoughts, are they? As an alternative can I point out that the magical trifecta of Front Room, Sofa and Telly is far less likely to go into receivership while you're kicking back with a packet of Jaffa cakes and a Sopranos DVD.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Is Heathrow the worst Airport in Europe?

It's hard to say - there's a lot of strong competition.

Nevertheless, this article makes a strong case for elevating Heathrow to the coveted status of 'Number One depressing Airport in Britain'

The boss of American Airlines knows who he's voting for:

“I would have to say that Heathrow is in many ways the worst of all the airports that my company flies to in Europe.”

Plus, as a bonus, the picture caption sums up the whole story in six words: 'Heathrow - a bit of a dump'

So, do you STILL want to go to Paris?

La Ville-lumière is, it seems, in the grip of a rodent epidemic.

Don't worry though, something's being done;

A two-month advertising campaign, which began yesterday, is advising inhabitants to report brown rats to the police. Officials want them to identify neighbours whom they believe to be the source of the plague

I don't want to spoil anyone's fun (much) but people aren't generally considered to be the source of rats. It's more the mummy-rats that are implicated here.

The authorities claim that the number of rats in Paris hasn't gone up, although they fail to explain why they're suddenly so very visible on the Paris streets.

It's all in hand though, the Paris Council has created its own anti-rat team, Service Municipal d'Actions de Salubrité et d'hygiène - which also goes by the terrific soubriquet Le Smash - to exterminate the rodents on public property.

Until Johnny Frenchman has sorted out this furry infestation of the World Capital of Romance it might be best to hold off on any visits though. You could spend your Bank Holiday Weekend somewhere a bit nice. Your house, perhaps?

Everyone likes a Top 10 list

And what's better than a Top 10 list?

Two Top 10 lists!

This one, from popular geek den Den of Geek, gives you 10 movie-sourced lessons on why you should never board an aeroplane.

The sequel, explaining why you should never go into space, is even better - if a little less relevant to my premise.

Check 'em out!

Monday, April 28, 2008

So. Do you STILL want to go to New York?

One of the prime beneficiaries of the new era of budget travel is the bedbug. These nasty little beasts have set up bridgeheads around most of the major international airports.

That's OK though. We're going to hunt them with dogs. That'll work.

Friday, April 25, 2008

New Sod Abroad Facebook group! Exciting, no?

No. Probably not.

Still, it's there and it's a great spot to post your own tragic travel experiences either as a warning to others or as a way of enabling a lazy author to 'research' his next book.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

As you can well imagine, I totally :heart: BAA

If you have a tolerable holiday, they get revenue from you.

If you have a miserable time stuck in the airport lounge because your pilot was too drunk to fly, the Air Traffic Controllers in France fancy a day off, or because BAA have bought a shonky computer network from a bloke in a pub then they get (if anything) more revenue from you because you're trapped in their airport buying goods and services from their approved franchises.

Which is nice.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Not 100% relevant, but marvellous

Picture of the Day

Next time you decide to drive a car overloaded with squabbling children and mouldy camping equipment to some godforsaken corner of Europe that isn't even worth building on, remember this: The owner of that caravan in the fast lane is probably wearing one of these.

It is, as the packet says, especially suitable for long distance driving, night driving, and drunk driving.

And it might not be working...

Culture, Korea, and HG Wells

With St.George's day upon us, and thoughts of our shared culture uppermost in our minds, it's important to reflect on what Britishness really is.

It isn't bowler hats, morris dancers and fried breakfasts. We aren't a backward-looking people. There's no time for nostalgia and hidebound monoculturalism when we're busy getting phalanxes of Polish builders to knock up more and more Starbucks outlets or learning Mandarin so we can sell Johnny Foreigner some more riot-suppression kit.

Paradoxically, the most 'English' places you can find are the Costa Del Sol (which has been transformed into a rather more arid Blackpool by waves of migrant cabbies) and, most surprisingly, a small corner of Korea.

The people who go to these places aren't tourists in the conventional sense. They're Time Travellers who fear the bright future where we all live in one enormous Tesco and, instead, seek a safe haven in the mid-Sixties.

The mid-Sixties are pretty hard to access with our current technology so instead they've built the lost Albion of their childhood dreams somewhere hot.

The thing is, these arch-conservatives can migrate away from our island home all they want but they'll never be satisfied. Once they get past the novelty of washing some oilier-than average fish & chips down with an overpriced bottle of San Miguel while they're reading a suspiciously thin copy of the Daily Express the crushing realisation that there's no weather and so they have nothing to talk about will destroy their souls more thoroughly than a thousand Asylum Seekers hostels would have done.

They might as well save themselves a few bob and just buy a boxed set of Heartbeat DVDs. Except they can't.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Stag Nights: Bad enough at home.....

The true and tragic tale of an overseas Stag Night. It's full of amusement and unpleasant incident in equal measure. It's funny because it's true.

If you're one of those impatient characters who just want to know how it turns out, it concludes thusly:

I wake up covered in bruises and sunburns. After getting a bite to eat, I am admonished again, this time for booking a late flight. We end up in Hogans bar again, drinking til 3pm when we make our way to the airport and a flight delay. By the time everyone rolls back into Gatwick, it is 11pm on Sunday night and my name is mud. I try not to tell too many people that I've got the week off work.

At Victoria tube, the group is now down to me and two Kevins. Garry heads south and misses the last tube. Kevin A and myself run out at Oxford Circus and jog with backpacks to the Central line, but it's too late. A tannoy is announcing that the underground has now closed for the night, and Fuck Off. We surface to a drizzly London evening. The first people we see are Polish maintenance men and cockneys about to tinker with the tube and, on street level, a group of Spaniards going one way, and a French group going another. We are forced to add to the £300 spent this weekend (not including flights and accommodation), and get a black cab home to West London. I'm home gone midnight.

Picture of the Day

Wish you were here?
I'm afraid I can't tell you precisely where this is, but I'm willing to hazard a guess that it isn't in the Home Counties.

If you've been to one profoundly disappointing theme park, you've been to them all...

An axiom which fails adequately to explain why this chap went all the way to Thailand in order to visit a Happy Shopper Disneyland.

Speaking personally, I wouldn't trust my overall well-being to any rollercoaster on the basis that they tend to be assembled by surly unemployables with 'cut here' tattooed on their throats : the idea that I might travel (at great expense) to some distant land where the natives display an even more laissez-faire attitude to health and safety than that of our own itinerant showmen would be intensely comical were it not an indictment of my basic common sense.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Picture of the Day

Ski-ing: On the downside it's very bad for the environment, it'll be cold, ski resorts are full of braying poshos and you might well hurt yourself pretty badly.

On the upside...there is no upside.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Picture of the Day

Life under canvas, it's so relaxing...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

And they say there are no winners from the Terminal 5 chaos

Of course there are. The Light-fingered baggage handler for starters. The sticky-fingered Raffles of the conveyor belt need not fear discovery if everyone's bags are lost. He can just take their pick of the choicest items safe in the knowledge that there's almost no way he could be caught in the current chaotic climate.

The other big winner is of course the auction optimist, that panglossian Lovejoy who buys unopened cases (cases that still technically belong to some unlucky traveller somewhere let's not forget) at auctions which further boost the profits of the very airlines that claim to have 'lost' these cases.

The final big winners of the sketch , of course, are clever souls like you and I who never go on holiday, and therefore never lose our stuff, so we can enjoy a long and loud chuckle at all the baggage burglars, hapless holiday makers, and Samsonite gamblers involved in the whole sorry business.

The pain doesn't stop when you land...

This splendid comment from Richard Morrison in The Times this morning, which I take the liberty of quoting in full, so elegantly does it illuminate my point that holidays are an unalloyed arse-pain from soup to nuts.

On the seventh day, thou shalt be duped

One dubious thrill of returning to Terminal 5 on a Sunday is that you discover that there's an even sleazier racket being inflicted on the travelling public than the Heathrow Express. Yes, it's the Heathrow Express Sunday service! A sign says “train every 15 minutes”, so you grudgingly fork out a whopping £15.50 for the 15-mile journey. You then get down to platform level and discover that the next train departs in 26 minutes' time. Some express service! You'd have been halfway to Central London on the Tube, had you known the full facts. “But it's Sunday,” says a station assistant when you confront her - as though her company has a special licence to con the public on the Day of Rest.

Incensed, you go all the way back up to the ticket office to demand a refund - only to find that the queue is so long that you use up the 26 minutes waiting to reach the counter.

Welcome back to rip-off Britain.

Les mots justes, Richard. Les mots justes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Which guidebooks can you trust?

Well none, obviously.

Travel guides are written by people who like holidays. They speak languages and stuff. Freaks.

What you want is some straight talking from an ordinary chap who's only there under sufferance and can't understand that awful barking noise Johnny Foreigner insists on making. Only then will you know what the place might be like for you.

What you need is...dare I say it? This.

Picture of the Day

Not that I want to worry you or anything....

Monday, April 14, 2008

Quite the most marvellous travel story ever

Thomas Kohnstamm, a writer for the Lonely Planet series, admits that he 'just made up' his guide to Colombia because he didn't want to go there.

And who can blame him? It sounds like a ghastly place. Well, as far as I can tell from this guide book I read....

Conveniently for Thomas, this media storm has blown up just before his book Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?, is published on April 22.

Lovely work Thomas.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Exciting travel-themed quiz

This terrific picture illustrates a tremendous travel-themed piece by Lester Haines over on The Register.

Now, without clicking on the link, can you guess what it's about?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Airline passengers 'gassed like badgers' shocker

Ok. I accept that you're in a sealed tube full of strangers' farts for a couple of hours, but you've all eaten the same vile microwaved concoction so any gases expelled should be effectively indistinguishable from your own.

Not in this case though.

Ghastly business. And just to think, every one of those passengers could have been at home instead, probably having a sandwich or something nice like that rather than having been trapped in a sealed aeroplane filled with a gas that - whatever its precise composition - must have been designed to kill something.

Don't bother listening to the 'Important Safety Demonstration'

You can forget the little laminated card too: The escape slides won't work if it ever comes to it, and the lifejacket's probably got a hole in.

Airlines are allowed to skimp on safety procedures, because the safety regulators are their pals. The passengers - not so much.

Still, there's a sweet little teddy bear in a flying jacket you can buy from the dog-eared duty free catalogue, so it's not all bad...