Tag Archives: Travel

Getting ‘Used To’ Travel.

FtrainSeveral years ago when some friends and I and boarded my local F train that’s part of New York City’s lovely subway system, a very funky odor greeted us. Basically, it smelled like crap. I suggested we move to another car, while another friend said, “You’ll get used to it.”

Are you kidding me? Why should we have to get used to it I wondered, as other passengers sat there reading or staring blankly in the practiced effort of avoiding eye contact.

Airline travel can sometimes be a similar experience. We’ve gotten “used to” things we feel we can’t control. Last week on a flight to Seattle, the flight attendant asked all passengers if they would kindly remain seated upon landing so a family traveling together could exit first. The plane had been delayed an hour leaving New York and it was going to be a tight connection for these folks to make their next flight. No problem, I thought, what’s a few more minutes? Apparently, it’s a big deal to a lot of people. The family could barely make it though the gauntlet of passengers who just couldn’t wait to get off the plane first.

We may be captives for a few hours in a flying can but that doesn’t mean we can’t be civilized. We may not be able to move to another subway car to get away from an offensive smell, or passenger, but we can show good etiquette.

Earlier this year Jaunted posted 8 Ways to Avoid Being ‘That Annoying Passenger’ on a Flight, I figured it bears repeating and, hopefully, you’ll pass it on:

Ah, airline travel. Could there be a more perfect example of a love/hate relationship? We feel fortunate for the opportunity to travel anywhere around the globe in a day; however, we’d be lying if we said the experience was always a relaxing one.

Airline travel is no longer comfortable in economy class, and it’s up to us to do our part to stop the bleeding. Some of these recommendations may seem small and trivial, but a little goes a long way at 30,000 feet!

Here are a few ways for you to help make someone else’s flight more enjoyable, and to avoid being “that guy” at the center of happy hour horror stories:

Don’t use the seats for balance as you walk down the aisle. Instead, use the overhead compartments. If you reach up and slide your hand along it, you’ll be able to catch yourself if there’s a sudden bout of turbulence. Every time you grab the corner of a seat, you create an earthquake, and if you’ve ever had someone do it to you while you’re nodding off, you know how annoying it is.

Along those same lines, don’t use the seat in front of you to pull yourself up when going to the rest room. Use the arm rests to push yourself up, as grabbing and pulling on the back of the seat is on par with kicking it.

Turn your bags back to front in the overhead. Time and time again we watch people put their bag sideways and take up the space of two. Don’t do that! It simply delays takeoff when the last people can’t find space and the flight attendants have to go around and turn the bags themselves.

Look behind you before reclining. We know you have the right to do it, and most times it’s all right, but sometimes, especially in smaller planes, we’ve wanted to knife the person sitting in front of us. We’re on the tall side – six foot two – and we’ve had situations where one minute we’re working on our computer, and the next the laptop is under our chin and we couldn’t type a word comfortably even if we had Tyrannosaurus arms. Take a peek behind you and just make sure you’re not making someone more uncomfortable than the comfort those extra few inches will provide you. That’s not too much to ask, right? By the way, if someone does it to you, all bets are off and everything is fair game. That particular time, we felt no hesitation or guilt for having to push on the seat to access the bag at our feet. We hate to say fight fire with fire, but sometimes it’s the only way.

Don’t eat aromatic food. Notice how we didn’t say bad smelling food, as that leaves too much up for interpretation. You might love the smell of tuna, but the other hundred people on the plane most likely do not. We had a man next to us eat canned octopus in garlic sauce once, and we spent the next three hours keeping the woman on our right from shoving the can down his throat.

Introduce yourself to your seatmate. You have to walk a fine line with this one as we’ve all heard people complain about the person next to them who “wouldn’t shut up,” but at least say hi to the person next to you. We find most people are up for some conversation, and sometimes it turns into a pleasant back and forth. That said, feel it out and pick up on people’s signals. If they’re fiddling with their earphones, casually give them a chance to end the conversation. But, at the very least, make an effort during takeoff and landing. To us, it’s weirder to sit next to someone for three hours and not say a word than it is to introduce yourself.

Wait until the row in front of you deplanes before deplaning yourself. We’re not sure why there is so much confusion about this (cough, Europe!). It seems like it should be common sense and common courtesy, yet inevitably there always seems to be someone who thinks they shouldn’t have to wait and who tries to push past us as we’re trying to exit our row. We were once in the second to last row of the plane and had the man in the last row almost knock us over as we stood up from our aisle seat and stepped out. Needless to say, words were exchanged – it’s just plain rude. If you happen to have a tight connection, be nice and quietly ask permission to go ahead (there’s nothing worse than a panicking person screaming about their connection… it’s a rookie traveler mistake and no one takes you any more seriously whether you ask nicely or act like a knucklehead. In fact, it’s the people who are pushy that we want to help the least).

Don’t stand in the aisle when waiting for the bathroom. We know you have to go, but we really would rather you not stand over us while you wait. It’s already tight quarters, and hovering over someone sitting in an aisle seat doesn’t make it any better, not to mention that certain body parts tend to line up with our face when they’re standing next to us (this is also a common time when people tend to rest their hands on the back of seats). Stay in your seat until there’s no line, or wait in the food galley until the person in front of you comes out. Thankfully, airlines have started to police this themselves and it doesn’t happen as often as it used to.

Deep breath, rant over. Happy flying!

Discovering Nova Scotia: Part 5—Northumberland’s Beaches

IMG_2066Out of Pictou heading west on Highway 6, the last thing I expected to come across on my Nova Scotia  road trip was a lavender farm.

Open daily from June-September, Seafoam Lavender Farm is family run; its mission is to promote health and wellbeing through the cultivation of this shrub. While the long winter had delayed the season, new growth was beginning to sprout among the variety of lavender beds laid out in row upon row and owners Dave and Suzy Belt have big plans for their crop.

Lavender's bounty extends well beyond this basket.

Lavender’s bounty extends well beyond this basket.

Their onsite shop is already stocked with an assortment of bi-products from the beloved purple buds, from skincare, to food, to household products. It was pretty impressive but the winner was the vanilla ice cream sundae that Suzy brought out topped with perfectly fresh whipped cream and a generous drizzle of lavender syrup.

Traveling is often about finding a new favorite thing. The Belts get two thumbs up for all their efforts and for spoiling me with their unique and super delicious treat.

IMG_2063

Lavender lemonade, the perfect twist on a hot day

Throughout the drive, I’d been wondering about these so-called “warm waters” that were always in sight. I mean, I’ve been to Maine and that water never gets warm. Here I was much further north, just how welcoming would these waters be?

Recommended by the folks at Seafoam, Rushton’s Beach is the warmest salt-water beach in Nova Scotia and I caught it at low tide where a wide sandbar seemed to extend forever. There was barely another soul in sight.

Since arriving in Halifax, the clear blue skies made the sunny weather seem tailor-made. Screw the bikini back in the car, I stripped down to my undies and walked into my first summer swim and into one of heaven’s gates. If water can be gorgeous, this was it.

IMG_2067

Another perfect summer day at Rushton’s Beach.

On the walk back to the wooded parking lot, dogs trotted towards the beach with wide canine grins, their owners walked lazily behind them. In its mouth, a black lab held a bright orange ball as it ran along the long boardwalk leading to the sand. It was around 5PM and I looked back at this perfect hour, on a peaceful slice of local life and wished I could stay. Similar beaches dot the Northumberland coastline, each offering one of nature’s best forms of free therapy.

I didn’t think it could get any better but a stay that night at a defunct railroad station would make this trip unforgettable.

Next Stop: A trip back in time.

Discovering Nova Scotia: Part 4 –The Province’s Birthplace

photo-10Passing through the harbor town of Pictou, where the summer seasonal ferry to Prince Edward Isle operates, a newly opened food kiosk served up an excellent basket of fish and chips to my road weary travel. It was clean food, the batter light and crispy, the chips homemade. Waterfront Fries prides itself on using grandma’s recipe. It was a great find and one that would put me on a fish and chips trail.

IMG_1953

Things that may you go, pull over!

At the end of the day’s drive, I settled in at the Pictou Lodge Beach Resort, a comfortable hotel with an unobstructed view of the Northumberland Strait. Its budget-friendly accommodations range from standard rooms to log cabins. It’s also got Chef Thomas Carey, whose amazingly delicious seafood chowder took first place in the 2014 Taste of Nova Scotia Chowder Cook-Off. With a reliance on the sea, Nova Scotians pride themselves on the culinary traditions created from the waters that surround them. Tonight, I would learn how to eat a lobster like a local.

IMG_1978

One of the many activities offered at Pictou Lodge Beach Resort.

The lesson was delivered courtesy of Monica MacNeil, who writes EatLikeALocal. She was also partly responsible for my expanding waistline. MacNeil’s skills around this crustacean are impressive, even if I was a buttery mess. She knows good food and if you have any plans to visit, you may want to look her up. An ambassador for all things Nova Scotia, she’s an outstanding guide and a great teacher.

Anyone interested in learning about lobsters might find the Northumberland Fisheries Museum Lobster Hatchery a curious place, you can even adopt one.  Newborns are no bigger than ants and it takes years for them to mature to a size large enough where they can settle on the ocean floor. That’s if they don’t get eaten first. Here you’ll see lobsters of all sizes. My favorite was Blueberry, named for her genetic mutation. I was thankful my eating lesson had taken place the night before because in gazing at her beauty I could see no lobster in my future.  Fish and chips were another story.

IMG_2012

The only blueberry in my future is off the shrub.

A visit aboard the Hector was a reminder there’s no place like home. This replica of the ship that made Pictou the birthplace of New Scotland provides a glimpse into the arduous journey of the 189 Scottish Highlanders confined to it for more than a few weeks in 1773. Anyone with an ounce of Scottish blood may want to check it out.

IMG_2032

Mrs. MacGregor keeping it real.

One of the highlights of any road trip is pulling over whenever the fancy strikes. You cultivate a discerning eye and a sixth sense for what looks right. It was a pleasure to witness small-town life with mom and pop run operations, dollar stores, bars and restaurants. That is one of Nova Scotia’s draws. There are also lots of laid back cafes and a cozy one is Mrs. MacGregor’s Team Room. Known for her melt-in-your-mouth shortbread (which also make great gifts), she serves up her own recipe of fresh seafood chowder. In fact, the only thing that seemed to rival a fish and chip trail was the possibility of charting a chowder trail. Good reasons to return.

But the coastline was teasing and I wondered if I’d ever get a chance to step into its so-called “warm waters.”

Next Stop:    Who needs France when you’ve got lavender growing in your own backyard!

Discovering Nova Scotia: Part 3–No Time Like the Maritime

GabrieausThe charming town of Antigonish is a great base for day tripping to points of interests along the Northumberland Shoreline and some of Nova Scotia’s other shore areas.

Some travelers dislike staying in B&Bs, and I get it, but the Antigonish Victorian Inn might change your mind. Set amongst four acres of farmland, each room in this heritage house is well-appointed with comfy beds, curtains that keep the morning light at bay, free wi-fi and cable. Rates are wallet-friendly and the Inn has welcomed visitors from dignitaries to international travelers, so they know what they’re doing.

antigonishvicinn

A cozy welcome at Antigonish Victorian Inn.  Photo credit: Visit Antigonish

Easy to get around, Antigonish has pretty much everything you need on its main street.

A road buddy scored a tiny rose gold teacup on a chain at Aphrodite; a boutique that carries locally sourced fashion, art and jewelry. Now in its 7th year, there’s an International Film Festival held here each October. Antigonish is also known for its beloved St. Francis University, July’s highland games that celebrate Scottish sports and music, its access to outdoor activities, and…beaches. But the only dipping tonight would be at Gabrieau’s, one of the regions most coveted restaurants.

Big Island oysters, fresh and sweet, were served raw and baked. A bottle of L’Acadie, a local crisp and sparkling wine that won a top award at France’s Effervescents du Monde, provided the perfect pairing.  Cape Breton snow crab salad with local radishes was quickly inhaled. A main course of plump Maritime mussels from the Eastern Shore with pan-roasted, smoky haddock was complimented by Tidal Bay, a Nova Scotia appellation white wine. A pecan tart with buttery pastry and a slightly salty flavor provided a perfect finish.

The co-op movement began in Antigonish in 1861 and Chef Mark Gabrieau is proud to be part of its enduring legacy. He tills his own parcel of land on a co-op acreage where he grows seasonal fruits and vegetables that make their way onto his menu. A proud ambassador for Nova Scotia’s food movement, he’s won numerous awards, including the 2013 Taste of Nova Scotia Prestige Award for Restaurant of the Year.

IMG_1951

The province’s lighthouses have their own draw.

For anyone remotely interested in where their food comes from, Nova Scotia’s cuisine is heavily influenced by the land and sea. Whether it was breakfast, lunch or dinner, a majority of the food I ate was locally sourced, meaning profits go back into the community. With tourism being such an integral part of the province’s revenue, it’s yet another good reason to return.

The next morning a stroll through the Antigonish Landing Trail, a wildlife sanctuary for birds and a local hiking and kayaking spot, was the perfect way to start the day before hitting the road.

Next Stop:  Finding my way around a lobster.

Discovering Nova Scotia: Part 2—Earltown to New Glasgow

photo-9Tucked away in Earltown’s Cobequid Hills, Sugar Moon Farm is a family owned sugar camp renowned for its maple products, especially its pancakes and the liquid gold you pour on them. I’d taken Highway 102 north from Halifax and on the way made a pit stop in Truro to visit the Glooscap Heritage Centre. The Mi’kmaw are Nova Scotia’s Aboriginal people and this museum celebrates their culture and legends. Afterwards, a small hike in Victoria Park, where I barely made a dent in its 1,000 acres of natural beauty, got my appetite going.

Open year-round, Sugar Moon Farm’s log cabin restaurant with its seasonal and local menu attracts visitors far and wide. It’s as popular for its food and tours, as for its access to hiking and biking trails, skiing, and snowshoeing. The only thing better than working out is the reward of eating good food afterwards.

photo-5

There’s good stuff cooking at Sugar Moon Farm.

Quinta Gray who runs the business with her husband let me sample the cream of their crop. A bit of a maple freak, I fell for a mid-season harvest and some of the best stuff I’ve ever tasted. Along with fresh-baked biscuits with maple butter and some maple baked beans, I made quick work of a stack of stoneground organic wholegrain buttermilk pancakes. Their all-you-can-eat service kept any pangs of guilt away. Throughout the year Sugar Moon features chef nights to showcase some of Nova Scotia’s finest. Day or night, single or traveling with a family, it’s a sweet spot for a getaway and I left trying to figure out how to make that happen.

IMG_1854

Celtic spirit isn’t hard to find in New Glasgow.

A visit to the riverside town of New Glasgow, founded by Scottish settlers, found the culture and spirit of this Gaelic community alive and kicking. At the indoor-outdoor New Glasgow Theatre, two young girls in green plaid skirts performed a traditional highland dance. Their black leather laced slippered feet whispering across the worn and weathered wooden planks of the gazebo. A festival town, one of its most popular attractions is The New Glasgow Riverfront Jubilee. Held every August, it showcases domestic musicians and is a great way to get turned on to old and new sounds in its lovely outdoor setting along a lazy river. Camping, B&Bs, and more traditional hotels accommodate the thousands of visitors who gravitate to this town throughout the year for its music and hospitality.

Next Stop: On the road and headed for Antigonish, known for its Highland Games, beloved St. FX University and…food.

All Caught Up In the (Beautiful) Game.

KansasCity

Who knew Kansas City had such a strong futbol fan base?

I can’t believe it but I’ve caught the fever.  World Cup fever, that is.

A friend opened a bar in my neighborhood during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.  In support of my new local, I logged a lot of time there and watched a handful of games.  Although it’s been said this kind of fever is contagious, I walked away entertained but unscathed.

This time, something changed—Brazil 2014.

Maybe my resistance was low. I’d just returned from a road trip where I was out early and up late. If I had to pinpoint it, maybe it began when I somehow succumbed to watching the Brazil vs. Chile match. From there, things just heated up. I found myself crying over Mexico’s heartbreaking loss to The Netherlands, swooning when Colombia beat Uruguay, and delirious when Costa Rica defeated Greece.

Before the angony of defeat. (Photo credit: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)

Before the agony of defeat. (Photo credit: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)

In 1994 the US hosted the World Cup. To earn that gig, it had to start a national league. Since then, interest has operated at a simmer but after all these years America’s passion over soccer has finally reached a rolling boil. Especially among younger viewers. This is a great thing. Bars are full with men—and women. This means relationships—platonic and romantic—will be made the good old-fashioned way.

While American football prides itself as the game of this country, interest in soccer looks like it’s truly ready to take the field. It might take Americans awhile to wrap their heads around how a game can end with a tie 0-0, but they’ll get it one day. When the US made it through the group stages, it really set things afire for fans. The World Cup is breaking social media records and the US vs. Belgium match was one of the most Tweeted events ever.

Not that our boys ever had a chance.  It’s the one game we don’t own.  Unlike South Americans, and other folks who’ve been at it since infancy, it’s not a game that’s in America’s bloodstream and it’s probably going to take a lot more years to get there.  Like the gorgeous Brazilian model says in the Kia ad,In my country, this is futbol.

But that’s okay. Independence Day is tomorrow and you can still celebrate.

After the United States lost the knockout game, the country’s collective anxiety is gone. So pick a team, sit back and enjoy the quarter finals.  Take your passion, have a word with your ego and lose it in another country’s national identity. Hell, you might even find yourself hootin’ and hollerin’ for them.

The only thing more exciting than watching a match is watching the enthusiasm that a country’s fans bring with them to a game. It’s a beautiful thing. World Cup watch parties are being shown in parks from sea to shining sea across this country. Find one and have some fun.

Wherever you are, or whatever your sport, Happy Independence Day.

I’ll be rooting for Colombia, whose goal celebrations can’t be missed!

Pushing Boundaries.

Ferrocarril_Central_AndinaWhile working on a project last month, I had the great pleasure of meeting Arden Haselmann. A young woman in her last year of college, Arden is majoring in peace and conflict resolution. When I said I didn’t realize it was a major, she told me it wasn’t, that it was something she created through her own dogged pursuit. Participating in a Thinking Beyond Borders gap year program really sealed the deal for her. This organization teaches students to have a meaningful social impact. Later this year, she’ll travel to Rwanda where she’ll have ample opportunity to put her studies into action. I shared an article I’d recently read about Rwanda’s lively art scene and how its artists are expressing themselves about the country’s horrific past or with optimism about its future. It offered another view into how Rwanda is dealing with the aftermath of its genocide. I hope to interview her when she returns.

Aside from her confidence and desire to make a positive impact globally, Arden is another great example that through curiosity and a desire to tap into something that’s knocking at your inner chamber door, you can stretch the boundaries of an organization’s structure. That just because something doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean you can’t create it. Everyday I meet more and more people living life on their terms and outside the margins of cultural expectations when it comes to work and what brings them fulfillment.

While PortsAreCalling is about travel, anyone who’s been following it (and I thank you whoever you are) knows that it’s not always about travel on the traditional plane. It’s an opportunity to take a creative journey to destinations that range from north, south, east, and west, to food, literature, photography, and death. For the times when I can’t physically travel somewhere, it’s an opportunity to stretch my own mental boundaries. To meet and write about people who inspire me…like Arden.

She mentioned she’d gone to Turks & Caicos on a family vacation. When I asked how she liked it, she said it was lovely and that while she’d a great time but it felt odd to do nothing. Having lived in other countries because of her studies, she’s more comfortable diving into life on a local level. I told her she’d discovered the difference between being a tourist and a traveler.

How about you? How do you stretch your mental boundaries and where will you go?

Not everyone can afford to travel,  how will you spend your summer?

If you do travel, what’s your preference—tourist or traveler?

Share your story, let’s inspire each other.

 

Of Cats & Soccer

Crianças_jogando_futebol_de_areiaFor anyone remotely connected to someone who loves soccer, you’d have to be living under a rock not to know that as of today the doors of heaven open to the beautiful game with the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. It’s the biggest single-sport event on the planet, in which case you’ve lost your spouse, father, brother, cousin, boyfriend or girlfriend to six weeks of pure football (as it’s properly known) passion.

On the slim chance there are any football fans reading this, than you’re not sitting pretty in Brazil right now. Cheer up, Americans may have come late to the party but interest and passion around the game has built up over the years with World Cup fever sweeping the nation. If you live in a rural area this could mean there may be a park or town square showing the matches on a big screen, which is a pretty nice way to experience it. City dwellers will have their pick of places to watch a match and anyone lucky enough to have a Brazilian restaurant in their neck of the woods will get more than a taste of the motherland. It’ll be full on excitement in Italian restaurants and English pubs this Saturday with England vs. Italy. Wherever you are, get out there and root for the underdog.

On a road trip in Canada right now, I hightailed it from Brooklyn where my mate has made our place command central for all things World Cup and where my cats are probably dressed in England t-shirts by now. It’s a great time to fly the coop and that’s my biggest piece of advice to anyone in my shoes. Unless you want to be totally ignored, do yourself a favor and make tracks.

You’ll be scoring big points.

(Photo credit: soccercat)

(Photo credit: soccercat)

To the Shores to Remember

DDAY-2Today marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day. In Normandy, solemn ceremonies, commemorative concerts, and festive events will take place to mark the Battle of Normandy.

During WWII France was a no-go zone for travelers but thankfully things have changed. We can visit that country, along with England, Germany, Poland and other parts of Europe once ravaged by war because of the men and women who stepped up. The anniversary of D-Day draws travelers worldwide. Tourism to this area gets a boost through tour companies, river cruises and individual sightseeing. History buffs, politicians, relatives of soldiers, and the small number of veterans still alive who fought that bloody battle are drawn back to France and to the beaches whose beauty should be solely reserved for pleasure but where brave men lost their souls.dday-nomorewar

For anyone raised without a father or relative who fought in WWII, this day may hold no significance whatsoever. Despite the victory for the Allied troops, for anyone interested in traveling back to understand what went down that day, Memories From Normandy are letters written by American, British, Canadian, and German veterans. They offer a personal glimpse into a day most would run from.

Today’s wars are fought differently but have created no-go zones in different countries that we may have once visited but might never step foot in again in our lifetime. Hopefully, one day that to will change.

But for those who sacrificed their lives, today we remember.article-2336753-1A29700E000005DC-945_964x569

Catch & Release Your Summertime Reading.

SuitcaseofbooksAnyone who’s ever discovered a book along the way while traveling knows what a treat it can be.  In addition to other forgotten things, travelers often leave behind books when they head home or on to other places. Some do it to free up real estate in their luggage, others do it intentionally so another soul can enjoy the literature. Reaching for a book in the common space of a hotel, B&B, hostel, or cruise ship creates a subtle connection with the previous owner. Sometimes a bookmark is left inside, or maybe some notations alongside the margin, leaving behind hints of the previous reader like perfume that lingers long after someone has left a room.

This passing along of literature is kind of like a universal kinship. We may never meet the previous reader but some type of intimacy has been exchanged as the book passes from traveler to travel, along to parts unknown. It’s not about ownership. It’s all about sharing.

For anyone who appreciates finding a good book, or open to the mystery of discovering a book, check out Bookcrossing.com. Launched in 2001, it’s a celebration of literature based on creating a world library through a social networking structure. Their mission is to connect people through books and their model is “catch and release.” After signing onto their site, readers can start leaving books in their travel wake and, if interested, can track these books and connect with other readers. To date, it has 1,204,991 Bookcrossers (booklovers!) and 10,331,054 books traveling through 132 countries. Pretty cool.

The clever thing about Bookcrossing.com is that you can leave books anywhere, which means you can do it in your own backyard. This makes life a bit more fun for those down times when you’re not traveling. No matter where you live, you’re bound to have tourists or travelers passing through your village, town, city, or countryside. You can leave a book anywhere—restaurants, a park bench, a monument, a subway. Imagine the surprise, and delight, when someone comes across this treasure and discovers it was meant for them!

If you’re the sort of reader who’s been meaning to clear out any books you may have around the house but who has trouble parting with your old favorites, this offers a great alternative. The best part is you can follow the books you set free as they make their way around the world and discover who might appreciate them as much as you do.

Happy reading and happy travels!