I loved this so much, I had to share. What happens when the Kiwi sense of humour grabs your attention for a serious reason. Why can’t we Brits get our act together for our own version? David Walliams, perhaps?

7 Things You Didn’t Expect To Find On A Cruise Ship

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Preconceptions.  Everybody’s got them.  Even if you try to keep an open mind and like to be surprised.  Try these cruise ship surprises on for size and see what you reckon…

A sense of adventure

If you think cruising is a little, well, *tame*, then think again.  You can bring your sense of adventure via your destination, whether it be Antarctica, the Mekong river, the Norwegian coastline or the Galapagos Islands, Iceland or a trip up the Amazon.  Itineraries are getting much more adventurous, and there ‘s plenty of scope to get your adrenaline on.

Sails

Two of my business colleagues have been on a tall ship cruise and just loved it.  Imagine working the sails with the crew, lying in the nets at sundown, and even climbing to the Crow’s Nest (perhaps that’s not one for me…).  Think of those tiny ports off the beaten tracks that these ships visit, and hear the theme from Robinson Crusoe all over again.

An education

From the inner workings of MI6 to the intricacies of chocolate production, it’s surprising what I’ve learned on board.  There’s even an opportunity for students to take a semester at sea.  No danger in wanting to play hooky on that one.

A love of art

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From actual artist’s studios at sea all ready for your participation to a vibrant collection of art on board, you’d be surprised at the feast for the eyes to be found, and one that can rival the scenery.  I’ve even watched glass blown on the top deck of a ship, and seen museum exhibits in a fascinating display.

The Mouse and his mates

If you bring your children, you’d be surprised at the range of characters prowling a ship.  From Dreamworks to Disney and even Noddy, they’re all doing the rounds to entertain you.

Healthy Living

It’s not all about the gourmet indulgences….well, it can be.  But you could actually leave lighter and fitter than you embarked.  I still maintain that I spent the best 147 calories ever on an arugula and almond salad with raspberry dressing.  The spa cuisine onboard is magnificent, the gym facilities are superb, and there are all kinds of free activities to get your adrenaline flowing and your calories burning.

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Time on your own

I have not yet failed to find solitude on a ship.  Whether it’s an undiscovered lounge, a stray chair on a deserted deck, or a little corner of the library, there’s always a little quiet place with your name on it.

What’s surprised you at sea?

Loving the Alien: Roswell – New Mexico Part 2: Departure

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Part 1 can be found here: https://jacksonbernadette.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/loving-the-alien-roswell-new-mexico-part-1-arrival/

You left us as we finally landed, unscathed, at Roswell airport.

I’ve just searched for Roswell Airport online. I’ve been doing it an injustice: it’s Roswell International Air Center.  But it looks much the same as it did that snowy day when we finally kissed the ground and successfully readjusted the bonds of earth.  That’s to say it has a small terminal building looking rather like an office block and not much else.

Here’s what its official website has to say about it:

The Roswell International Air Center (RIAC) is located five miles south of the central business district of the City and is the core of southeastern New Mexico’s industrial activity. Prior to 1967, these 4,600 acres was the home of Walker Air Force Base, one of the largest installations operated by the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command.

That’s no slouch of an airport; it’s served its country well.  But it wasn’t exactly designed as a gin palace/entertainment centre/relieve you of all your cash kind of airport.

So we patted ourselves down, checked to see that our brows weren’t sweaty and strode purposefully to the hire car desk.  A bored woman chewed the end of her pen, and looked at us in some amazement.  “We got cars, but we got no snow chains honey.  Unless you got your own…” as she eyed me up and down, taking in one small bag and nowt else “I can’t do nothing for you.”  We stepped back and mustered Plan B.  No drive into the desert, just the museum.  We arrived at the taxi desk.  A somewhat more harried man gave us an unfriendly look.  “I got no cars.  Have you seen what it’s like out there?”  We had.  Both from several thousand feet, and rather less happily at close quarters.

We walked to the door and looked outside.  A small tunnel had been dug leading up the path to the terminal.  Its borders rose way past my knees.  Walking was clearly out of the question.

So it was back to the desk.  All flights were currently suspended.  “Have you not seen…?”  Er yes.

Roswell boasts a small cafe, currently known as the Cappuccino Grill.  We settled down with a couple of coffees.  Then a coke an hour later.  Tea after that.  At some point our two pilots emerged and dumped two copies of Flight International in the empty magazine rack.  We read both, cover to cover.  Grilled cheese followed at some point.  A rather meagre apple pie.  A somewhat ironic “I saw the aliens at Roswell” badge.

Finally the sun came out.  In the distance, the glorious sound of a small prop plane became clearer.  At 5pm, some 8 hours after our arrival in Roswell, we finally took off for Albuquerque.  And in the distance, I swear I could see a small grey being thumbing whatever orifice passed for its nose.

Travel Snippets: Falcons On A Plane

I’ve long been a lover of all things avian; in fact my first job in the morning is to ensure a well-stocked bird table.  So you can imagine my delight when I found that there are special arrangements made for feathered birds of the air by the aluminium variety.  Hat tip to the forums on http://www.flyertalk.com for making me aware of Royal Jordanian’s arrangements for the carriage of falcons onboard.

Firstly, you should be aware that falcons may only be carried in economy class.  They should be properly hooded, and must be seated by the window, along with their handlers, and only in the aft section.  They must be properly tethered to the seat leg, and carry valid health certificates and entry documents.

One falcon is charged at three times the normal excess baggage rate, and more than one falcon per handler requires that an additional seat be booked.  There is a maximum of two falcons per seat (to avoid squabbling over the arm rest?).  Finally, and somewhat beautifully, there is a restriction on the number of falcons depending on the nature of the aircraft: 10 on narrow bodied planes and 15 on wide bodied.

My mind then went free-wheeling on the potential for in-flight services.  Would they (on audio only, as they’re hooded) get Kes as the in-flight movie?  Seeded snacks? A special carrion service?

I’ve just checked the RSPB website and it reckons there are 1402 UK breeding pairs of peregrine falcons.  On that basis, they deserve all the on board pampering they can get.

Travelogue: Messing About On The River in Ghent

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I have a dirty little secret.

You might even share it.  You see, I love Belgium.  Butt of all those jokes about naming famous Belgians (there are quite a few, actually) and never as hip as the Netherlands, Belguim has so many charms to offer.  How can you not love a country that purposefully failed to elect a leader for a year (last year in fact) and got by just fine.  Perhaps we should try it.

Now of all the places in Belgium that have captured my heart, it’s sweet, friendly, beautiful, vibrant Ghent that tops the list.  Think Bruges without so many tourists, a little less lace, almost as much chocolate and a little more attitude, and you’ve found Ghent.  Nestling on a network of canals, and with a large river port tucked away somewhere you never quite find, Ghent keeps dragging me back time after time.  I swore I would never be one of those people to keep returning somewhere, but she keeps calling, and I keep being seduced by her siren charms.

There are many, many things to do on the Ghent travel list, but here’s one that always lulls me into a Zen-like state: taking the river boat to St Martens-Latem.  The Lys or Leie is known as the Golden River and is described as the most beautiful river in Flanders.  It undulates its way through the most spectacular countryside, full of wildlife and bordered by the kind of houses that give me a bad case of house-envy.

There is plenty of people watching to enjoy too.  Groups of women laughing over glasses of iced tea and beer. Whole families settling in on deck with a kaas plat or two, complete with celery salt and the famous Ghent mustard, then a steaming plate of stoverij to enjoy.  It seems as though this is some regular ritual for the Gentse people, and I think it may have become one of mine.

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St Martens is known as the Artists’ village, full of sculpture and galleries.  You can see a lot of the sculpture in the riverside gardens en route.  An hour there is never quite enough, especially if you have lingered at the boat to watch the ritual feeding of the ducks.  As soon as the boat docks and the gangway is lowered, a choir of quacking begins…solo voices blending as the river swells with the black and white stripers, moorhens, an occasional goose, more species of duck than I have ever seen before.  Then a window opens in the galley, and the leftover bread emerges to feed the hungry flock.  I tried counting, but gave up at 47 participants in the feeding frenzy.

The journey back is equally Zen-like.  The gentle undulations of the river.  The vast numbers of pleasure craft of all types and sizes.  A heron, insolently viewing us while flexing his wings, perched on a rotting post.  Messing about on the river: so quintessentially Belgian.