Friday, November 25, 2011

Quirky—OK, OK, weird—travel stuff

Most travel items fall in the category of need or gee, that looks like it’s useful. Boring things like adapters and converters for international travel and alarm clocks and travel purses/wallets. Or packing aids like compression bags and packing cubes. But there is another whole category I am discovering: weird things that sound useful but just a bit whacky.

For instance, I’ve discovered a quirky website, the place to buy a Buff. What is a Buff? It’s a odd scarf/beanie/face covering/whatever-you-want for your head. Check it out here, it’s a hoot. I might even get one.

Then there is Scottevest (pronounced Scott-y-vest), the company whose ad Delta Airlines refused to run. If jacket meets carry-on bag is your thing, this is the company to go to! And there is shirt meets bug spray, the Bugsaway Halo shirt, sold by or Also at Magellan's is the luggage scale meets flashlight. I read on one blog that it was appointment only for cruisers who were worried about overweight luggage to use their scale on the last full day of the cruise. Oh, shopping travel is so much fun!

I’m discovering all these interesting places by reading the Independent Traveler, which has tons—probably literally, were I to print out all the fascinating content!—of travel-related information. Like "35 Travel Tips Revealed: Top Secrets of Travel Writers." One of those tips is to bring a travel scarf that doubles as a purse. Seems like a great idea, but there isn’t a store closer than Albuquerque and there is no online way to buy. Too bad!

Speaking of purses, Epiphanie is a wonderful site for camera bags for women. I am getting very tired of plain old black bags to carry my camera equipment in (Note to my old English teacher: I KNOW I shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition but it just seems so awkward to say " which to carry..."). Some of these bags seem so lovely and I am sorely tempted to get lyric or lola or maybe stella. There are other places for beautiful—if not quirky—camera bags. For example: here and here and here.

And, of course, the ever popular Rum Runner, or how to smuggle any liquid on board your cruise ship because the cocktails on board cost more than dinner out back home.

I can’t believe I am now starting to think about our vacation in 2013, a river cruise in Europe. Might even take the kids (don’t listen, Kathy, Ken, Greg, Yolanda; we haven’t really decided yet) if the stock market doesn’t completely tank. I’d like to do a 30 day river cruise (I think such a thing exists) from somewhere in eastern Europe to Amsterdam with options for shorter segments for our kids who are still working. I need to spend more time looking at which companies are best for our purposes and then which boats. Are they boats? Or are they ships? Our old and—sadly—deceased friend, Captain Paul, said a boat could be carried on a ship but not vice-versa. So, by that standard, they are river “boats.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mumbai, here we come!

Booked our first tour so now I feel like we really, really are going on this cruise!
Thanks to a previous cruiser I discovered Mumbai Magic Tours and have booked them for Sunday, June 3, 2012. Gosh that seems a long way away! Through Cruise Critic Roll Call for the Sun Princess World Cruise 2012 (you’ll have to join Cruise Critic to read the messages) I’ve enlisted six other people to join us in the Mumbai Magic Tour. Should be a great tour! I’m working on some others, even further away in both time and distance, in Le Havre for a Honfleur and the beaches of WWII fame. It’s hard to say how much to do how soon.
Princess has updated the schedule for the cruise and we now know we are leaving Sydney on May 16th from the  Barangaroo Wharf 5, Hickson Rd, Barangaroo, Sydney, Australia. Try to find THAT on a map. I’ll save you the trouble, it’s here but it’s not the wharf by Circular Quay, it’s over by Darling Harbour. On the google map there is a ship docked there with sort of a greenish top. It means we will sail out under the Harbour Bridge. Cross your fingers for good weather for us! But when we come back on August 29th, we will dock at Circular Quay. Greg has said he would be on the Harbour Bridge as we sailed out so we’re going to get a really big US flag to hang on our balcony for him to see as we sail out.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I’ve lost my flags!

I have a flag counter here and I wanted to make it a bit different. Well, I sure did that! And in the process lost all the count of how many different people from what country had looked at my blog. I don’t think I’ll ever get to the count that gaznjo has: 12,259 from Oz, 2,330 from the US, through 63 from Bahrain, down to 22 from France, but I had quite a few and I’m desolate that the list has vanished. That will teach me to tinker with my blog! 

Although time seems to be moving at a glacial pace, our trip IS getting closer. Everytime I watch the videos from this year’s World Cruise I get alternately energized and depressed. Watching gaznjos blog and vimeo posts I am energized by the wonderful videos of the ports they went to—and, for the most part, we will also be going to next year. I think he does the videos and she picks the music; they each do a fabulous job! At the same time I get depressed because I don’t think I can ever do as well.

But I tell myself that I don’t have to do as well, I’m just doing this blog for my family and friends and they will be very happy (won’t you?) just to see and read about what we’re doing. So I’ll try some videos to add a bit of interest to my blog.

However, taking videos of Kathy’s horse show made me realize just how difficult it is to do GOOD videos! Anybody can point a camera at a thing and take a picture of it; not just anybody can make that picture or video into an interesting one. If it were easy all of us would be making movies like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade all the time. I mention that movie because we will be going to the area where at least part of it was filmed, Petra in Jordan. Naturally, we’re going to have to watch it again!

I’m going to google the ports we’re going to and see what movies—if any—were filmed at those ports. For example, Athens was the setting for, among others, For the Love of Benji and The Day the Fish Came Out (I never heard of that one either) and several dozen others filmed in Greece, mostly in Santorini rather than Athens, but how far wrong can I go watching a movie set in Greece? For movies shot in Mykonos, I hit a double: The Kings of Mykonos, an Australian movie shot in Mykonos. Really it’s a hat trick as it’s a comedy, too.

OK, I really HAVE to get cracking on some tours. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s still—let me look at the cute little counter on my blog—179 (5 months and 3 weeks) days until the cruise leaves. But it’s only 2 weeks until our second payment is due. Ouch. Then there is the third payment due about 6 weeks after that. Then we’ll REALLY know we’re going!

Anyway, I’ve put a request on the Cruise Critic Roll Call for the Sun Princess about a tour of Mumbai by a company (used by others on Cruise Critic) called Mumbai Magic. I wish I had discovered Cruise Critic long ago, before our first cruise! They have everything you could possibly want to know about cruising. And I expect we’ll have a much better time on our cruise because of the connections I’ve made on the Roll Call.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Packing? I don’t need no stinking packing!

At least not yet. But I’m thinking about it. Boy am I thinking about it!

There is a great website, the, that has all kinds of packing advice. Which I would take except that Randy, my husband, is a fabulous packer. My favorite story about how great a packer he is: We took our (then teen-aged) children on an airplane trip to Hong Kong (in the summer there) and Australia  and New Zealand (winter) with a stop in Honolulu. Hong Kong was great, it was warm, we didn’t need a lot of clothes but we did buy a few things. Did I mention we only had carry-on bags? One carry-on each and my daughter and I had a purse each. But we also had makeup and “stuff” that teen-aged girls (and their mothers) have to have.

When we got to New Zealand my daughter fell in love with some fleece lined, knee-high, leather boots. I said no initially because I could not believe that they would fit in her suitcase. Did I mention it was a carry-on?

Well, Randy managed to fit those two boots in. As he said, “Piece of cake!”

So I have my very own packer. 

But I still read the packing advice and, as someone who has always before this trip only had carry-on sized bags—in fact, we don’t even own a bigger bag than that. We don’t even own more than two carry-ons—I am seriously thinking about how we are going to pack for 104 days. Maybe more like 124 days as we are now considering staying in Australia a few more weeks to go on a trip with Outback Spirit, the Cape York Wilderness Adventure
Our transportation, a 4WD Mercedes Benz
After dinner in the campground

Before getting the tents up...

...and after getting the tents up!
We went with them once before, a somewhat adventurous tour in 2008, 19 days of camping (12 nights) and hotels (7 nights) from Darwin to Alice via Kimberly, Broome, the Bungle Bungles, and the Tanami Desert. This year’s  tour is a bit longer as it goes to the Mitchell Plateau in addition, but is otherwise the same one we did in ‘08.

We tried to show the Aussies how to make 'SMores
Our home
So we know the tour company well, we just have to decide if we want to tack on another  12 days to our 104 days (plus the week before the cruise). We did spend some time in Daintree a few years back right after one of the biggest Wets in a while. But we have always wanted to see the Cape York area. It seems to be the right time of year for it, I just have to convince Randy that two more weeks would be worth it!