Finnair are experimenting with using biofuel, made of grease and fat recycled from restaurant kitchens to power their planes. They have been using it since 2011.

Emitting less greenhouse gas than regular aviation fuel, it does not compete with food production or negatively impact biodiversity. The only drawback is that it costs twice what teh airline pays for aviation fuel. Finnair believes with increased demand  and the development of supply chains will see the cost fall.

(and no it is odourless, you wont smell French fries or hamburgers in the exhaust fumes).

 

 

I woke up in Australia as a massive thunderstorm rolls over the city I live in.

Australia woke up to news that a siege that had taken place in the centre of Australia’s biggest city ended with deaths. This happened 300 kilometres (200 miles) from where I live while I was sleeping.

Like many Australians, I feel sick and sad.

My condolences go to those impacted by this terrible day. This is information about the siege.

 

 

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Will I keep flying?

I often search in multiple websites for a fare or series of fares.

When I am disciplined, I create a nice spreadsheet in which I enter airline, origin and destination cities, fares etc This seems to take effort and is frustrating.

When I am not disciplined I write fares on post it notes which pile up next to me. After a while, I cannot read my scrawls or remember my abbreviations and get frustrated!

Enter Pintrips. It only works in Google Chrome though as a free web app extension.

Signing up was easy.

Once set up, I activated the Pintrips toolbar. It sits on my browser’s top bar.

I can now search for the flights I want  on any normal trip site eg Skyscanner, Expedia, Orbitz etc.  Just like Pinterest, I “pin” the flights I want to keep track of. These flights with real time prices are saved to my “personal trip board”.

I can compare these flights side by side without going back to all of the websites I have searched on. I can also share these choices with other travelers so we can make a decision.
I can then go directly from the flight I have chosen to the appropriate booking website.

Huge fan in theory. I love the idea.
In practice, the pinning does not always work. Not all of us use Google Chrome. Pin trips is not compatible with all of the fare search engines I like to use. When I attempt to book, the interface is not as smooth as I would like and I found myself re typing flights.
Result: I am still using spreadsheets!

 

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77 000 readers provided one million votes in the Conde  2014 Readers’ Choice Awards to identify the top 100 places to stay in the world. Reflecting the readership, the top 100 list includes a diverse range properties from across the globe. Is this the time to confess I have not stayed at any of the Top 100?

Number one was Londolozi, Sabi Sands,  in the Kruger National Park, South Africa which consists of five lodges located on 35,000 acres of protected bushland populated with wild animals:

Rates start at $US1200 per person per night.

Condé Nast Traveler magazine was founded by former Sunday Times editor Sir Harold Evans in 1987. It is a “luxury lifestyle” travel magazine which has won twenty-five National Magazine Awards. I enjoy their very well written articles, great photo journalism and lists of luxury places, that I could never justify paying for! There is a UK and a US edition. Circulation sits at about 800 000 so about ten percent of their readers contributed to the Top 100 list.

 

 

 

I think everybody has been bemused this week at the news of the recent behaviour of the daughter of Korean Air‘s CEO on board Flight KE086 from New York‘s JFK to Seoul. Heather Cho was a senior vice-president at the airline and the airline’s head of cabin service.

Ms Cho (Photp: Getty Images)

Ms Cho (Photp: Getty Images)

If you have missed what happened; Ms Cho was seated as a passenger in the first class section of  the A380. She became angry at the way a junior flight attendant served her some macadamia nuts. Apparently, he failed to ask her if she wanted the nuts. To add insult to injury, he served them in a bag and not on a plate. (Apparently Korean Airline First Class passengers are not allowed to open bags of nuts).

Ms Cho then called the purser in charge of the flight to account for the incorrect procedure.  Dis-satisfied with his response and believing he was responsible for the junior steward’s mistake, she demanded that the purser get off the plane.  At this point, the plane returned to the gate.

The flight was delayed by around 20 minutes impacting 250 passengers before their nine hour flight. The purser flew to Seoul on another Korean Air flight.

Reportedly, South Korean aviation regulations only allow a plane preparing for takeoff to return to the ramp if the pilot determines there is an emergency situation involving the safety of the aircraft or its passengers. The rules state that violators can face up to 10 years in prison but in this case, the South Korean transport ministry may merely issue an official letter of warning to Korean Air.

Ms Cho resigned yesterday apologising for her behaviour after an avalanche of criticism hit the airline. Korean Air itself had initially defended the CEO’s daughter saying she was merely doing her job.

 

Korean Air Lines flies to 133 destinations with its fleet of 158 planes. It has ten A380s. Skytrax rate them as a four star airline which is what I personally rate them. The CEO has (or had) all three of his children serving in senior roles.

In other news, macadamia nut sales in Korea have dramatically increased this week.

So was Ms Cho maintaining the airline’s high standards?  Or being a spoilt brat? Or endangering life?

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louvre-pyramid-lineup-mc-2x1

Parisinsider.com

The Paris Musee Pass is one of the best kept secrets of the city. At most Museums in Paris, the pass allows me to skip the lines. I most relish, being able to avoid the ghastly long Louvre queue and pop through a mysterious back entrance and into the centre of the gallery. Tres bien!

paris-museum-pass-3versions-2x1

Most cities have some sort of pass that covers the main attractions.  In some cities I will grab one and in others I spurn the option.

citypass

 

 

 

 

 

Whether I buy a pass or not buy a pass depends on these five things:

  1. My Goals for that city 

I like to get the “feel of a city” and experience what the locals do . This may include some attractions and museums but it may not. Think of it this way, Ii someone came to your city and only saw the “touristy”things, would you say they have really seen your city?   On the other hand going to Paris and not seeing any art would be a travesty! So, researching  what I will see and do in that city is important to me.

2. How long will I be there for?

If I am only in a city for a day, then I will generally spurn a pass. If I am there for a week, then I may get a 3 or 4 day pass and load up the attractions on one day. In some cases the difference between a 3 day and 7 day pass is so minimal, that I will go for the more epensive option.

3.  Will it be actually useful?

Do I actually plan to do any of the things the card covers? Many people buy them thinking they will be useful but never go to many of the attractions. No use buying a $60 card and not using most of it.

4. Does it include public transport?

Be careful here. In some cities, paying a regular City Pass and a regular Public Transit multi day ticket is cheaper than buying a combined City and Transit pass.

4. Are there other ways that will cover me?

For example, the museum I really want to see may be free on a certain day. I  have found my Credit Card gets me a discount. Or I may find they have a two for one program linked to your hotel. I ask a few questions at the tourist office or check out advice on Trip Advisor or Lonely Planet to see what is going to work best for me.

 

Should I decide to get a Pass, I check to see if it is cheaper online – Sometimes I will get a better price.

 

 

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I have commented a few weeks ago about the TV show “Embassy”, that portrays the trouble travellers can get into while overseas.

The Guardian newspaper is reporting today, twelve of the strangest things Australian travellers have asked help for from embassies or consulates. My favourites are:

A mother wanted the embassy in Bangkok to book accommodation and a return ticket to Australia for her son, then provide an embassy driver to take him to the airport.

and

Why won’t the Australian Embassy come and pack my bags for me? I’m an 80 year old travelling by myself and I’m too old to pack my own bags.

The rest can be found here. Have you heard of strange requests for official help?

 

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I am not an organised tour type of person. After being encouraged to do a walking tour by my sister, on my first trip to Berlin, however, I now believe that walking tours are the best way to see a city. I have now done that Berlin walking tour five times now!

Walking tours are the best way to be introduced to a city. It allows me to see and feel the city  while learning about its history, architecture and culture while getting exercise! I am not trapped! If you do not like the tour, I can wander off!

Walking tours are the best way to find out what the local issues, concerns, news and gossip are.

I have found that generally the guides are more adept at telling you which tourist traps to avoid and which ones to embrace!

Unusually large Copenhagen Walking tour

Unusually large Copenhagen Walking tour. I am at the back!

Walking tours are a great springboard for finding out things that locals know. A walking tour introduced me to the best German restaurant I have ever eaten at in Berlin. I discovered the best cheesecake in the world in Copenhagen. I learnt where the best hot pools were in Rejkavik. I was invited to an underground arts rave in a subway station.

If you are travelling with friends or family, a walking tour can defuse the intensity of the time you are spending together. You get to mix with others.

Are you a walker?

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I hate tourists that damage the buildings or the natural environment. Its a massive bugbear of mine.

The question is how much do we want these people to be punished? It seems Italy is getting tough.

This week,  one such vandal was fined $US25 000 for attempting to carve his initials into the Colosseum. This AD70 amphitheatre built during the Roman Empire stands 48.5 metres high and welcomes over six million visitors a year. I have visited it twice and it still inspires me.

The 42-year-old Russian tourist  had used a stone to carve the letter “K” into the surface of a wall inside the amphitheatre. He was caught carving the 25cm (10 inch) letter by a guard who handed him over to the police.  Rossella Rea, the director of the Colosseum, said “You cannot write on a historic wall, it’s absolutely forbidden,”

Sadly five vandals have been caught damaging the Colosseum this year. Apart from the Russian,there were:

Stupid behaviours deserve huge fines. Yes?

 

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I have heard of self service airlines before but this week’s story out of Siberia gave me the chills!

Seventy passengers hopped off their UTair Tupolev 134 in order to push it, after its brakes  froze in minus 52C temperatures at Igarka airport, above the Arctic Circle in Russia. The airport tractor was not able to budge the plane.

This video shows the pushers, most of whom were oil and gas workers wanting to get home:

Eventually the plane made a successful flight to the regional capital of Krasnoyarsk. Clearly their de-icing machine was working!  Apparently, the Problems developed because “the wrong kind of grease was used for the landing gear”

NB UTair safety record is a little spotty. They have had eight air accidents since 2007.

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Passports are such a crucial tool. It seems crazy to me in this modern world that I still need to show a physical bundle of papers to cross a border (or in the USA fly on a plane domestically).

On a visit of mine to Zimbabwe, I met an Irish guy was staying in my hotel. While sitting in Harare‘s Africa Unity square, he had put down next to him, his moneybag. It contained his cash, passport, credit cards, driver’s licence and even a copy of his birth certificate.  After some minutes, he realised that his bag was gone. Worse, his passport, ID, cash and cards were all gone. He was stuck in Harare with no means of identification. Even if his family sent money, he had no means of collecting it without ID. This incident struck me as to how valuable a passport is.

Once I have reached a city, my number one goal is to ensure my passport is kept safe. I do not want it lost, stolen, dropped in a drain, damaged or soaked in rain!

I therefore, unless required by local law, avoid wandering around a city carrying my passport. I leave it locked in my hotel safe or some other safe place.  I do not carry unless I specifically need it for opening a bank account, cashing a traveller’s cheque/check (not that I do that anymore) or getting a visa. (and of course, if travelling internationally or flying through a US airport).

For ID, I carry my driver’s licence, an electronic image of my passport on my phone and a paper copy. I also have one backed up on both googledocs and dropbox. Should the police request my passport, then I can show them these and explain my passport is back in my hotel.

In fifty years, I have only had one incident where I have needed my passport. A night club in Seattle demanded I show my passport to prove my age (I was 45). The bouncer refused my driver’s licence and I went to a different club. Bizarrely, I went to the same nightclub the next night and my licence was accepted.

 

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