Posts in category travel - page 2

Going to Japan

Matt's photo of Mijajima Shrine I’ve wanted to visit Japan for quite some time but the opportunity never seemed to present itself. When my friend Matt wrote to me about his trip there and posted some great pictures of Japan at his photo blog I was more tempted than ever.

With my project reaching a milestone this week it seems like the perfect time to take a well deserved holiday. Clarissa can’t get the time off and isn’t too interested in Japan so I’m holidaying solo again (first time since Vancouver/BC in 2004).

The good news, for me at least, is that Matt’s brother Jo is living and working in Fukuoka and so hopefully he’ll help me find my feet for a day or two when I get there. We might even check out the ski/board conditions and head up there so I’m packing my ski-trousers – I’ll be wearing my jacket during the day as it’s quite cold this time of year.

There are so many things to see and do that I’m going to grab a £120 7-day Japan Rail pass which I have to purchase before I enter the country as it’s not available to Japanese residents.

Matt also helpfully pointed me at Japan-Guide which has lots of information but tomorrow I’ll head into town and pickup something I can put in my pocket. I’m not sure what net access I’ll have out there – my TyTN smart-phone will work apparently but C&W Guernsey have no roaming partners!

I can’t wait!

[)amien

Back in mostly one piece

I’m back home again after our whirlwind of activities in Southampton.

The indoor carting was quite cool fun although as usual the carts felt too slow and the indoor surface meant sliding on every corner regardless of slowing down so no attempt at fine tuning those race lines to the edge of your tires. Well, maybe there was, but I wasn’t slowing down enough to find it.

Clay pigeon shooting was fantastic. It’s the first time in my life I’ve fire a real gun and this was a double-barreled Beretta shotgun. I did pretty well and came third in our group behind a friend who used to play for Guernsey and another friends father who’d done it a long time ago. I even beat the whole team on one set that involved overhead clay pigeons although the debris did manage to fall down and hit my in the small of the back.

The comedy club was quite good although there was a fair amount of heckling at the start from a small group. The compère went to great lengths to try and shut them up with a variety of put downs but in the end had to have them removed. The New Zealand guy was pretty fast ‘n humorous but then pick on some guy who’s girl went and sat next to another guy to the point where the woman ended up walking out and the guy stood up and told him to get on with his act and stop picking on them before running out after his girlfriend.

Oops.

Our table was absolutely covered in bottles of beer us having ordered ice buckets of 5 bottles of beers each – not actually that much all considered but it did look a LOT and put it in some kind of perspective.

The second guy on was much slower and less in your face being a bit of a stoner with a crazy shirt.

At this point my headache from earlier in the evening kicked into overdrive and having made my apologies to the groom-to-be I ambled back to the hotel along the streets of Southampton. My brain had helpfully made some sort of semi-conscious route and I found myself back at our Ibis by 10pm.

There the headache took full force and the fact our Window wouldn’t close properly became a problem with my headache and the noise outside. My room-mate Glyn was quite patient with my as a ran a wet towel and placed it on my head. The Ibis guy, who was possibly Dutch but definitely weird came up and failed to fix our Window with his miniature set of tools.

Thankfully I found my sponge earplugs in my pockets from that days shooting and plugged them into my ears for a reasonable nights sleep.

Sunday was paintball day and we set off on a McDonald’s breakfast (we tried to find other places serving hot food but were running out of time).

I managed quite well not getting shot until about the 4th game where I got a hand-splat to my glove. The enemy team were cheating a bit at this point and we had to start getting marshals to go over and point out to them that yes, they were covered in paint and should report to the dead zone.

I eventually got shot on my head which although hurt like crazy for a few seconds soon went down and hasn’t left a bump.

Unfortunately in the last game, a free-for-all, some European girl decided to shoot my bottom from quite close range as I ran through the undergrowth and so I took a big bruise. I always seem to get one at paintball but I thought I’d managed to avoid it until then.

All in all a very good weekend and apart from antlers and pink hair the stag got off quite lightly especially compared to my brother-in-law’s one in Prague.

Tired now, good-night!

[)amien

An open letter to FlyBE on usability

Last night I booked some flights with your web site and must say I’m rather disappointed with the experience. We needed to book two return flights with one going out on a different day but both returning on the same flight, and ideally next to each other.

FlyBe logoIt is a little disappointing that to book two different flights that you have to book each one separately despite obviously being possible on the phone or with non-airline sites such as Amazon. To avoid booking one and finding the other not available and being left with useless tickets we decided to book each using a different computer so that we could try and make sure it went through at the same time.

Our first issue was that once you have chosen your flights there is no indication of the dates again until the payment has been processed. Other sites seem to have no problem displaying a “current itinerary” down the side at every stage yet with yours this place is instead full of such great things as “You saved £10 booking online!” in giant text and other less important details than a reminder/confirmation of what I have chosen thus far.

The next page, that of your details, then completely omits GUERNSEY as a country forcing us to choose UNITED KINGDOM. For a business that used to be called Jersey European it seems you have forgotten that the Channel Islands are not and have never been part of the UK. Would it be that hard to get it right? After all you’ve even got VATICAN CITY listed although I doubt you get many bookings from it’s residents.

The next part automatically includes travel insurance – which is of course completely unnecessary if you are booking on credit cards or have a travel policy but it there it is and switched on as default. This adds to the whole spiraling-supplements experience that seems to be FlyBe.

Also here is a “I’m a UK resident” check-box. What do I select being from Guernsey? Do I tell the truth and uncheck it or leave it checked as you forced me to choose UNITED KINGDOM as my country?

An option here lets me choose my seat for an extra £5.00. There is no indication of course that it is £5.00 PER PART not per booking so for return trip will be an extra £10. The conditions also make it clear that you can renegade without refund on this arrangement if you feel it’s not safe or that you didn’t make it to the front of the queue within the allocated check-in time.

We struggled through and elected to pay the £2.50 per-person-per-leg-per-hold-item charge. If there’s one thing that’s really annoying about commercial flights it’s the time it takes to get into your seat while people try to stuff over-sized items in their overhead lockers, other people’s overhead lockers then under the seat in front of them. With a supplement on hold baggage I can only assume it’s going to get worse.

Finally, the payment screen and one that seems okay apart from the fact that you’re about to pay for something you can’t get a refund on and there is no final confirmation as to what it is you are buying in contrast to every other e-commerce site I have ever used.

In order to ensure we both got our flights we clicked okay at the same time.

One completed, the other came back with a card error despite the details were okay. I can only assume your system was not happy about processing two different transactions with the same credit card details.

Hitting “retry” to return us to the previous payment screen led us to a page saying our booking was now invalid as that level of seat had gone and now only more expensive ones were available.

Joy, we get to do it all over again for one of our tickets.

Luckily for us we managed to get the second booking through, albeit at a more expensive price.

Using your site is like playing Russian roulette.

[)amien

Adventures in Jackson, Wyoming (part 2)

Jackson

Jackson is a rather small cowboy style town that apparently is even busier in the summer than the winter. Everybody in town is very friendly and helpful apart from the miserable bar staff in the Cowboy Village who could barely be arsed to tell us what they had available to drink. We spent more time at a bar called Sidewinders which is a sports bar with far too many televisions and watched American “Football”.

The people at our hotel, The Ranch Inn, were incredibly helpful and also had a free open WiFi hot-spot which my laptop made it’s new best friend.

Either Jackson has a problem with under-age drinking or they are a little paranoid about it. I was ID’ed in a bar (okay), a liquor store (not buying anything just with somebody who was) and when ordering a pint of pale ale with my meal in a restaurant. It’s kind of strange how they are so strict on alcohol yet we went to watch Underworld 2 at the cinema and some 10 year old child sat through the whole gore-fest.

Jackson Hole (Teton Village)

We were a little disappointed to find that the main ski – Jackson Hole – is a 30 minute $3 bus ride away but we’ve done worse. The area only has 11 lifts and minimal grooming so you are left wondering exactly why the 10 day lift pass is over $500.

There are some great runs although many are quite steep and the masses of recent powder leave the unfit and untrained struggling. Alas, that seemed to include me but I still managed to have a lot of fun.

Inghams

Our rep was a nice woman called Nikki. Originally Scottish but having lived out in Jackson for a while she now talks with a very strange accent.

While our rep was nice it’s worth mentioning that while Inghams can provide you with a lift pass for slightly less dollars than the resort they also convert that dollars to pounds there and then at a rather pathetic $1.6 to the pound rate so it may not work out so well. My ski hire was also more expensive per-dollar than going to the place directly which I did once my 3 day rental expired and I switched equipment.

So I don’t forget I’ll leave myself a little marker here. 160cm ski’s, 8.5 US boots and release tension setting 8.

Return trip

We said our goodbyes to James who was still in hospital and attached to lots of medical equipment and to Jim who would be his entourage home now Warren had hassled the insurance enough to get them to do something other than say “yeah it will be fine”. As he pointed out walking into a hotel and saying “the insurance is paying for this” doesn’t elicit a “that’ll do nicely” response without paperwork or something.

The return trip was much shorter than the one out there and we were able to fly from Jackson straight to Atlanta which cut out another flight entirely. Alas the Delta transatlantic flight was much more crowded and too cold to sleep even with the paper thin blankets they provided.

It was with little surprise that I fell asleep quite quickly when I got home having left Jackson at 11am on Saturday and arrived home 2pm on Sunday after a brief Q&A with the people at Guernsey customs.

Sleeping when I got home was, of course, the stupidest thing to do because it meant a whole night of sleeplessness followed by a day of sleeping.

The joy of time-zones.

[)amien