Postcard love

It was about 1995 that I first touched base with the internet. It was only via work and all we had was the ability to email and we had usenet, aka “newsgroups”.  I became a fan of newsgroups, connecting with people that had similar interests, mainly American soap operas and Coronation Street. I made some very good friends through my Corrie connections over the years and it’s given me opportunities to travel. Also, when I have traveled, I’ve often had someone living in the area that I could hang out with for a meal and a drink at the very least.

But there was another interest I discovered. Postcards. I don’t remember now how I found the newsgroup for postcard trading, whether I specifically searched for it or whether I heard mention of it elsewhere. This particular newsgroup was monitored and moderated once you joined. They also had a trading aspect. They amassed a list of names and addresses and the types of postcards you were interested in. Everyone on the list got a copy, were mandated to keep it private, and you could then send postcards to anyone on the list if you had one that matched their interest. They were not obligated to send you one in return but most people did if they could.

I have always liked postcards. Any time someone traveled somewhere, I asked them to send me one or bring me back one. It felt like armchair traveling and I could live vicariously through the pictures of far off places. I think even as a teenager, I was collecting them though the collection didn’t get very large. I do recall sending cards home when I went on a school trip to Italy and France in my last year of high school. My mother kept the cards and I re-discovered them some years later. It was very interesting to read my tiny cramped handwriting, so anxious to fit in all that I was seeing and doing on that one small card!

I always bought postcards when I traveled to new places. They make a great souvenir and are a good complement to all the photos I take, as well. You can’t get an overview of a large building or area on the ground with your camera but a postcard can give you that perspective. Often you aren’t allowed to take photos inside a church or cathedral or other place and a postcard or two is the only way to bring back a visual memory. I would file them in the album with my trip pictures plus a few extra for the postcard collection.

I always sent a lot of postcards to friends and family, too. Often I’d arrive home before the card did but it didn’t matter. I was seeing new things and new places and wanted to pass on my impressions. In this day and age of emails and blog posts and social media, it’s not something I do much anymore and that’s a pity, really.  Everyone loves to find mail in their mailbox that isn’t a bill or an advertising flyer.

Prince's Lodge, Bedford, Nova Scotia

Prince’s Lodge, Bedford, Nova Scotia

Now I began trading cards and looking for them. I would find some antique cards of the city where I live to send to people that like that sort of thing and I began to find them very interesting as well. Messages written on the back so long ago could sometimes be fascinating. People used to send postcards frequently if they didn’t have time to write a whole letter. They’d send a quick card to let a loved one know what day they’d arrive by train, or that someone was recovering well from an illness, everyday living, not just travel related. It’s a slice of real life.

Trading postcards was a lot of fun and there was almost always one or two pieces of mail in my box a few times a week. Sometimes single cards, sometimes envelopes with several. I remember taking a bus tour around the UK and we tourists on the bus, the ones that became friends and hung out together promised to keep in touch. As you do. I suggested we all send each other postcards instead of Christmas cards that year of where we all lived. It was deemed a great idea.  Most everyone that agreed to do it did it and I received cards from New Zealand, Israel, Australia, Malaysia as well as various places in Canada and the U.S. We never really kept in touch after that, though. Our group holiday romance faded away as they usually do.

My favourite kinds featured the beautiful architectural buildings found all over the world. Castles,  churches, cathedrals and other buildings of religious significance, cottages,  town halls and squares, mansions, etc. I traded postcards from that list for several years in the 90s and into the early 2000s but as the price of stamps went up and up and up, it became quite expensive and people seemed to be trading less and less so it went by the wayside. I still have two good sized shoe boxes with my postcards stored though I haven’t looked through them in some time.

I keep thinking I will weed through and save my favourites and do something with the rest, perhaps find a second hand shop that will take them off my hands. There used to be a shop locally that sold stamps and they had postcards as well but I don’t think they’re in business anymore.  Yes, I suppose I could put them on eBay if  some are collectible, that’s an option. I wouldn’t likely get a lot for most of them and it might cost more to post them so would someone want to buy them only to add on 5 or 10 dollars postage for something they might only have paid less than $5.00? I don’t know how successful it would be but I could try.

Meanwhile, I see racks of postcards and they still make me feel nostalgic for my own heyday of collecting.


Quirky Travel Related Bits and Pieces

Reindeer-on-the-rocksI was perusing a summation of 100 things that you didn’t know, something the BBC news published online, and a few links jumped out at me that could be travel related (some at a stretch, admittedly).

New York City always had a reputation for having a few neighbourhoods that were rather scary for non-residents but in recent years, most areas of the city have been “gentrifying” a lot of formerly low-income areas into chic neighbourhoods that are attracting up and coming businesses, galleries, restaurants and visitors. Oh, and all with higher rents. It’s getting more and more difficult to find an affordable place to live in the Big Apple if you are not making buckets of money but there are still three places left you might try. They are Carnasie and Bay Ridge, both in Brooklyn and South Shore, Staten Island. You can read more about that here.

If you are planning on a trip to Norway, do be aware that recent television trends are for “slow” events, including a knitting marathon. Now they’re looking at televising a reindeer migration. You might want to watch out for that if you’re a fan of nature or, you might want to watch out for that to avoid that particular day. Having said that, after a long day sightseeing, it might be just the thing you need to relax and fall asleep. The migration takes weeks but even the broadcasters recognize that’s a bit much and would restrict the televised event to about a week. More about that here

There are a lot of destinations in the world where hordes of mosquitos might have a negative effect on your enjoyment of the great outdoors, depending on the time of year that you visit. Here’s an idea for a great repellant that will be kinder to your skin than the usual DEET filled solutions. After testing a variety of natural alternate solutions, Victoria’s Secret’s perfume called Bombshell was found to be very good at keeping the little critters away for more than 2 hours. The drawback is that it has to be fairly highly concentrated and the perfume is not cheap. But if you use it, it might be worth a try! More details on the experiments herel

Anybody that travels for business knows about all the paperwork they need to do for travel expenses and reimbursments. Here’s one of the more unusual claims. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was reimbursed $33.31 for a “business trip” to the moon in 1969. Yes, *that* trip to the moon. Aldrin has published the claim form though it isn’t specified what he was reimbursed for, though likely some sort of transportation expense transferring between airports en route between Texas and Cape Kennedy. He also published a customs declaration form that all three astronauts had to sign on re-entry and arrival in Honolulu airport!

It’s not out of the realms of possibility that you might have to do the same. Apparently, a company called Space Adventures plans to send tourists to a private visit to the moon starting some time after 2018. You won’t get to land on the surface but you’ll do a turn around it and the trip will include a visit to the International Space Station to acclimatize yourself to being in space. They have already taken a few people up into space and there are other companies that plan to do the same including Virgin Galactic. It will cost you, though, so start saving now!

If you’re a football fan (soccer for North Americans), this might be just the ticket. There’s a new hotel in Salford, UK overlooking the Old Trafford football stadium. Most fans will know that’s the home of Manchester United. The 133 room hotel is owned by a group of former United players. It’s filled with memorabilia and there’s even a football pitch on the roof where they also have pre-match barbeques. The views over the city are amazing and there’s easy transport nearby into Manchester city centre. Obviously, it’s convenient if you’re going to be attending one of the games but I would expect it would book up pretty quickly far in advance of those. It’s called, what else? Hotel Football. Here’s the kicker (see what I did there?), the rooms, normally costing about £95 for a double, nearly triple the cost for the game days to £250.

And finally, if you are a gay man, it looks like some of the best places you might want to live or visit are the Scandinavian countries, with Iceland being ranked as the best one. Canada is ranked number 6, I just thought I’d mention that since it’s my country! Uganda and the Sudan are ranked at the bottom of the scale. The survey is based on 115,000 men all over the world and the website has quite a few interesting statistics and results.

Travellers know this thing is true

St. Augustine's Chair, Canterbury Cathedral

St. Augustine’s Chair, Canterbury Cathedral

The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page. – Saint Augustine

Worst Travel Advice

London from a different perspective. Looking up!

London from a different perspective. Looking up!

I read an article this morning written by a Lonely Planet journalist called “The World’s Worst Travel Advice”.  It was actually published a few months ago but I hadn’t seen it before. In a nutshell, the list goes like this:

1. Women shouldn’t travel alone
2. Don’t eat the street food
3. Take traveler’s cheques for emergencies
4. Italy has the best pizza in the world
5. Plan everything/Don’t plan anything
6. You can’t get on Facebook in China
7. Bringing more clothes means less laundry
8. Bring enough contact lens solution/sun block/tampons/over-the-counter medicine for the entire trip
9. Bring a knife for protection when you travel to (xxx)
10. Don’t bother with a travel guide, you can find what you need online.

The author goes into a bit of explanation on each one. Some of these are common sense, some are myths busted, and the one about Facebook and China doesn’t even seem like terrible travel advice at all, just a statement of more or less fact.

Is this the “worst” travel advice? I probably wouldn’t classify it as such though number 9 might be kind of sketchy. Bringing weapons anywhere in this security conscious day and age will probably bring you a lot more trouble than safety. If you’re worried about your safety somewhere, don’t go!

My own opinions of most of these:
1. I would travel alone to places where I think I’d feel comfortable. I don’t tend to go out at night when on my own though could if it’s a bright, busy place like a tourist area. You take precautions no matter where you are, with or without someone else.
2. I would be cautious about street food as well but apparently in most places, it’s perfectly fine. Maybe I’ll bend on that one a bit. As the author pointed out, you can get sick from food in perfectly good restaurants just as easily.
3. I don’t take traveler’s cheques with me anymore. I take my ATM card and two different credit cards. If the ATM card doesn’t work, one of the credit cards will and most banks will give you cash advances on credit cards like Visa and Mastercard. If you make a payment before you go, putting the card into a credit amount, you won’t pay interest on the cash advance. It’s an option.
4. Does Italy have the best pizza in the world? Maybe, and I’ve had some pretty good pizza there. I’ve also had some “meh” pizza there. It’s like anywhere, I’d say.
5. Now this one speaks to me. I do a lot of planning. I like to know where I’m staying. I like to make sure the rental car is booked and I like to pre-book things like theatre tickets. I know reservations and bookings can still be messed up but at least I’ve got the proof I made the booking. I make lists but I’m also willing to jump off them if something interesting shows up as far as things I want to do.
6. China is bound to be very interesting, even without Facebook. Seriously. Yes, the government there has cracked down on internet access. That shouldn’t stop you from going.
7. It stands to reason, the more you bring, the heavier your bags are. Soap weighs a lot less.
8. Yeah, I agree with the author on this one, you can get most of your basic needs and over the counter meds most places you go or you’ll find something similar. It might not be a familiar brand but a pharmacist won’t steer you wrong and it’s an adventure trying to cross the language barrier. Now that sounds like it adds an element of risk but if it’s really something you need to be careful of, see a doctor.
9. Knife? No, If I feel that uncomfortable, I won’t be visiting there.
10. The author does have a bit of a conflict of interest here. He writes for Lonely Planet, after all. I do love travel guides, though, and I like to buy them for new destinations. There’s so much information, history, hints and tips and it’s all in one place. Scouring the internet can be pretty overwhelming sometimes. I generally use both.

I don’t think I’ve ever been given terrible advice aside from someone once telling me not to eat pasta when I went to Italy. Their reasoning had to do with my taking a bus tour, and the garlic in the pasta would recirculate through the air system on the bus and offend others. My reasoning is that everyone else on the bus would be eating the same thing! Problem solved!

Have you ever been given advice for travel that turned out to be unfounded or untrue? Mythbusting? Or given great advice? Pass it on!

Canadian Passport-to-go

passport_leafI’ve been the owner of a Canadian Passport continually since the early 1990s. I would take it with me into the United States even before they insisted Canadians must have a passport to enter the U.S.A. Up until recently, we had to renew our passport every five years which always seemed ridiculous to me. Most other countries’ passports were good for 10 years and for an adult, that’s sufficient. I’ve always said I’d pay a little extra for a 10 year passport and now it seems I’ve finally got my wish!

My coworker is renewing hers this year and told me that we now have the option to renew for either five or ten years! The current passport fee is a stinging $120 (it was just under $100 last time I renewed, about 3 and a half years ago) but for only another $40, it’s good for ten years (plus the cost of the photo, of course, so you can add another $20 on top of that.). That’s great news and about bloody time, Canada!

Little by little, over the years, the Canadian government has started changing their requirements to make it simpler to get or renew a passport. You used to have to have a guarantor that could only be someone of a specified list of professions like doctors, lawyers, politicians, teachers, dentists, pharmacists, clergy, etc. who have known you for two or more years to certify that you are the person who is applying for the passport. Now, the guarantor just has to be a Canadian Citizen who has a valid passport or one that has expired less than a year, though the two year familiarity rule still holds.

The next change was not really for the better though it’s an understandable one. The technology is changing and many aiports now use retinal recognition so now, if you wear glasses, you must take them off for the photo or ensure that the frame doesn’t cover any part of your eye or eyebrow whatsoever. Easier just to take them off. Avoids glare as well. The part I really hate is that you can’t smile in the photo anymore. I really hate that. Passport photos are bad enough without being able to at least attempt to soften the “Prixoner in Cellblock B” look with a smile. I suppose, again, it’s to do with your eyes needing to be completely visible. Still sucks though.

My passport isn’t expired until, I think, next year so I will definitely be going for the ten year option.

Online forms to download here
Canadians should probably register here before they travel out of the country. Helps if they need to contact you in an emergency.
Here’s a general “dashboard” for links and resources for Canadian travellers.

Travel Festival Webcast on Saturday

I’m a fan of Rick Steves’ travel shows and his travel advice. Yes, he and his company conduct tours in Europe and no, tours aren’t for everyone, as I’ve just finished explaining earlier today. But if you’re a fan, and can work out the time difference, there is a day of web-seminars today. They start at 9 a.m. Pacific time, noon on the east coast of America, 1 p.m. Atlantic time where I am, and so on. I’m reblogging the details from Liberated Traveler here for those interested.

Liberated Traveler

Rick Steves is hosting another live travel festival tomorrow.  The webcast begins at 9:00 AM Pacific Time and can be found at this link.  What seminars will he be offering?

  • 9:00 a.m. European Travel Skills
  • 11:30 a.m. Packing Light and Right
  • 2:00 p.m. France
  • 4:30 p.m. Italy
  • 7:00 p.m. Europe 101: Art and History for Travelers

I enjoy letting the webcast play as I dream about my next travel plans.  Have a great weekend!

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Beautiful Blogger Award!

beautiful-blogger-award1I am hugely flattered that a fellow blogger and reader Kim at Tranquil Dreams  has given me this Beautiful Blogger Award.  She lives in Montreal and has been recently blogging about her visit to Hong Kong! She blogs about all kinds of neat things including food and movies and travel.

Beautiful Blogger Award Rules:

The idea behind the Beautiful Blogger Award is to recognize some of the bloggers we follow for their hard work and inspiration.

1. Copy the Beautiful Blogger Award logo and place it in your post.
2. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
3. Tell 7 things about yourself.
4. Nominate 7 other bloggers for their own Beautiful Blogger Award, and comment on their blogs to let them know.

So … 7 things about me.
1. My first camera was a Polaroid instant camera that was given to me for Christmas when I was about 12. I’ve never looked back! While I’ve never taken photography as far as I could have, I still love it and I love taking photos. They are the most important souvenir of my travels.
2. Travel – ah yes. I went on a school trip to Rome and Paris in high school and craved travel after that though it took me a lot of years to be able to afford to go.
3. I thought about becoming a teacher but when I saw the lists of teaching graduates and not that many jobs, I changed my mind. I am a computer programmer and though it frustrates me some days, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
4. I love the British television show Coronation Street. It’s quite popular here in Canada and I’ve made a large number of very good friends through it and gained a fiance as well!
5. I’m in a long distance relationship. My fiance lives in Salford, U.K. which is next to Manchester. We visit twice a year and communicate daily via various forms on the internet. Eventually he’ll move to Canada.
6. I’m not really very good with spontenaity. You really have to give me a bit of notice first.
7. My favourite book is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I’ve been a lifelong reader for which I thank my parents.

So there you have it.

Seven blogs I read regularly:

Bucket List Publications

A Word in  Your Ear

Habitual Runaway

Taking to the  Open Road

London Historian

Corrie Canuck

Margaret’s Miscellany

I do enjoy all the blogs I follow here on WordPress and elsewhere. I thank you for all your information, your lovely travel adventures and photography. Thank you for reading my blog!




The Wish List

Everyone has one. Where would you like to go if money was no object? If you had the time, the energy and resources? Is there a location on that list that has a priority?

In my early days, the top of my list was the U.K. and London. I was always an Anglophile, very much into British history and television programs. My favourite books were those that took place on the sceptred isle. The first chance I got to travel as an adult, the U.K. was my destination of choice and because I wanted to see everything I could, I chose a bus tour around the U.K. and went with a friend.

Bus tours aren’t for everyone but I enjoyed it. I got a little taste of a lot of places and many of them I knew I’d like to see again someday. I did, too, and have been back to London over a dozen times so far. London is a city I will never get tired of and often try to work in a day or two on my visits to the U.K.

My fiance lives in Manchester so that’s where I’m mainly based but we have been booking flights from there to elsewhere on the European continent for the past few years, usually just for 3 to 5 days. We’ve also done day trips and a road trip around the Cornish peninsual, another place I’ve always wanted to see.

Nyhaven, Copenhagen

I’d always wanted to see Amsterdam but when we went, I wasn’t overly impressed though it was nice. One place I had never considered was Copenhagen but we went because my partner had a friend there and he’d wanted us to visit. We decided to go and spent 5 days there. Copenhagen was a surprise and we really liked it a lot.

Other European destinations on my wish list include: Lisbon and the north of Portugal in the Duoro valley, Vienna, Budapest, Prague. Other locations include Japan, China, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. I’ve been to Paris and the south of France but I would like to see more of France. Spain? Maybe Barcelona, Granada and Seville. I’ve never been too keen on the idea of Germany though I’m sure it’s very nice. I’ve also heard Poland is very good too and my partner fancies Romania for the Dracula/Vlad the Impaler connections.

There’s places I’d return to such as Paris and Copenhagen but there’s so many places I haven’t been that I want to see as well. That’s the hard part. How do you choose between a place you have been and really want to see again and somewhere you have never been? We’re going to Rome next month because my partner really wants to go. It’s my third visit but my first one was so brief it almost doesn’t count. I think this time around, I’ll really get more of a feel for the city as we’re doing it on our own without the group tour environment that I experienced both of the other times.

There are other places in Italy I’d like to see again as well including Florence. We decided against going to more than one place because dividing our time up has felt rushed in the past and we didn’t see enough of any place. Staying in one spot gives us more time to spread the sightseeing out and relax a bit more.  That doesn’t mean I still won’t end up with blisters!

We also have traveled in Canada when he’s visited me. Some areas are cities I’ve been to and some were new to me as well. We think we are going to plan a trip to New York City next. I’ve been there as well but only for a day and a bit so it will pretty much be new to me, too.

He’d really like to go to Vancouver but as that’s on the other coast, four time zones away, and there are a number of people, friends and relatives, we would want to see, we’d really need to be there for a few weeks so that will be put off until we have more time.

I love watching travel tv shows and perusing travel magazines. I see lots of lovely and interesting places that I might like to go. I also know there’s places I am not interested in and my fella agrees with me on the main ones so that works out just fine.


Where it all started

Right. So.

I’m middle aged now (sob… how did that happen?) . My family didn’t travel when I was a kid, we mainly got a week in summer staying at my grandparents’ camp (small cottage with less amenities).  When I was in high school, my school always did a couple of student trips each year during the March break. One was a cruise in the Med and the other was somewhere in Europe which would include some part of France as the French department was the sponsor. You’d still have to pay for the whole whack yourself, there would be none of these bake sales and fund raisers to send or subsidize the group like many do these days.

That’s me in the middle.

By the time I was in grade 12, I had been working part time at a department store and I saved up the money to go on the French department trip. The itinerary had us flying Alitalia in and out of Rome, with a brief stop there to see the city, then on an overnight train to Paris for three days, and another overnight train to Nice for four days along the Riviera doing side trips.

Even though I spent the last few days sneezing and miserable with a streaming cold, I was hooked on travel. And unfortunately, I wasn’t able to afford to go again for many years.

Fast forward to 1993 and I finally got to get my ass on a plane again. There was no trouble trying to decide where I wanted to go. I have had a lifelong love and interest in all things British so I had to go to the U.K. for my first foray. I decided on a bus tour to see as much as I could, (that’s a story for another post!) and it was awesome! Bus tours aren’t for everyone but I like them and took 3 more in the years to come.

By the new millenium, I was in a better financial place and I’ve been able to travel somewhere every year, sometimes more than once. I’ve been back to the U.K. many, many times and a few more places besides. I have a fiance who lives in the Manchester area so that’s the first stop and we have been trying to go on road trips, day trips or holidays off the island.

I’ve got stories, photos, plans and dreams for future trips and wishlists too!