Saturday, 25 July 2009

I was a bit wrong about the tourists

Back in November I posted about my visit to the Giants Causeway and how nice it was that it wasn’t spoilt by lots of tourists and tourist gimmicks.

Having now been through the place to change busses whilst going along the coast road in the height of summer I would like to withdraw those comments.

The place was absolutely heaving with tourists, coaches everywhere, car parks overflowing and screaming kids everywhere (lets fact it a geological marvel isn’t the world’s greatest family attraction!)

To be fair there still isn’t any Disynification or Visitors experience, but that may have more to do with the space constraints of getting people through (the gift shop).

Still, it’s left me with a valuable piece of advice.

If you want to see the Giants Causeway, go off season.

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Sunday, 9 November 2008

The fleck of silver


There is a saying that in every cloud there is a silver lining. The cloud that has surrounded Northern Ireland for the last 40 years or so has been so dark that it is hard to imagine that there could have been anything good to have come out of it.

But with tourists scared away by the threat of violence the over development and “Disneyfication” of the areas natural sights has never taken place.

Anywhere else in Europe something like the Giants Causeway would have a “visitors experience” there would be a stonking entrance fee and you would only be allowed to see the rocks from a distance through fear that all those tourists feet would damage the site.

With the tourism industry in Northern Ireland only now starting to get into full swing they have been able to see how people have made mistakes elsewhere and avoid the worst of them. Added to that there are still not the number of tourists that an area as naturally stunning as the North Antrim coast should expect to get.

It’s still free to walk right up to, and onto, the Giants Causeway, certainly the most spectacular natural feature in the British Isles, probably in the whole of Europe.

It’s perhaps the most beautiful silver lining, it’s just a shame that the cloud is there in the first place.

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Monday, 29 September 2008

Don’t bother with the signs


In work there have been numerous occasions where I have felt that the signs I have put up have had little or no effect. This was hammered home in true style today.

Visiting the Cathedral of San Marco is one of the “Must Do” things of any trip to Venice, every guide book, every guided tour, every recommendation is always to have a look around, and in every one I have seen there has always been the message that the cathedral doesn’t allow people to come in with bags, they have to be left in the cloakroom which is located about a minutes walk away from the cathedral.

To add to the information signs are displayed in Italian, English, German and French fully explaining. There are even signs which have images of a piece of rolling luggage with a line through it, a backpack with line through it and a shopping bag with a line through it.

In the process of queuing for the cathedral you pass at least three of these signs.

You would have thought that people would get the message, but no, at least one in ten visitors get to the front of the queue and get sent away to drop their bag off, and in a queue that can take the best part of an hour to get to the head off, that’s quite a serious issue.

About four people in front of me in the queue had a bag, we passed all the signs, no flicker, we passed the big visual one with lots of pictures of bags with crosses through them and a sign pointing to the luggage office, not a flicker, we get to the front of the queue and she is stopped by the cathedral staff on the door, after an initial attempt in Italian the, clearly weary, member of staff said “no bags” to which the woman erupted into a self defence saying that nobody had told her and they should put signage up to that effect if they wanted to enforce such a stupid rule. With a simple hand gesture the member of staff signalled to the line of signs, and the big colourful one. The response “you could have made it more obvious”

Perhaps she would have liked one posted the entire height of the bell tower which flashes in 25 different languages no bags with clear symbols, perhaps she wanted someone to spend their working life walking up and down the queue announcing, in every possible language, that bags have to be left in the office. Perhaps, she, like the countless thousand other tourists this year that will have missed the signs, needs to get to an optician sooner rather than later.

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Saturday, 27 September 2008

Shop till you drop


A couple of days ago, it was announced, to the usual levels of self publicity, that Ryanair were about to offer the ability to use your mobile in flight, at vast expense. Michael O’Leary, the chief executive, and a man who knows how to bleed the public dry, was, for once, quite open and honest about his airlines philosophy. He stated that “if you want a quiet flight, go with someone else. We’re noisy full and we are always trying to sell you something”

Noisy and full are also words that could have been used to describe my easyJet flight. It’s not been that long since I last flew with them, but I’m pretty certain that they have got even more into the “sell sell sell” mode than they used to be.

They have even now introduced lottery style scratch cards, where you can win up to £25,000 (though I would suspect that this might just be in speedy boarding credits or a free luggage allowance for the year)

It’s led me on to think about what else the budgets can try selling.

Coming Soon…

  • Speedy Evac, pay £20 and guarantee to be one of the first people down the escape slide should the plane be involved in an accident.


  • £1 charge for using the toilets.


  • “In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, credit card machines will fall from the ceiling. Insert your card, enter your PIN number, and once a £5 charge has been debited from your account an oxygen mask will be released.”


  • £7.50 for the life jacket (perhaps a special deal could be arranged, £10 for a life jacket, and an oxygen mask.)


  • £35.95 for a seat, if you don’t pay this fee you have to stand all the way to your destination (not as daft as it sounds, some budgets have been investigating using harnesses similar to hanging roller coasters and perch seats, so that they can squeeze in double the number of passengers by having them all stand for the flight – it would prevent DVT!).

I would like to point out all these are my copyright, so if Stellios or Mr O’Leary decide to introduce them, then I accept all major world currencies, or lifetime free flights with a full-fares airline.

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Saturday, 2 August 2008

It’s amazing how much your feet hurt after doing nothing


Over the last two days I have sat on a train for two hours, followed by sitting on another two trains for two hours (with 20 minutes standing in the middle) then walking a short distance then standing in a field for an hour, then catching various trains, funiculars and cable cars with a short 20 minutes walking in between.

Yet, despite the lack of any vigorous exercise in the above-mentioned itinerary my feet still ache.

Perhaps I should have broken in my new shoes before I headed off on my trip (I brought them the day before I flew out).

Perhaps I shouldn’t have brought £10 shoes from Tescos.

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Friday, 1 August 2008

Be careful what you book, you may get exactly what it says


When I booked my Hotel in Luzern I had a couple of options. The one that looked most intriguing was the converted jail.

It was a working prison up until 1998 and was then converted into a theme hotel, with the cells turned into bedrooms.

The problem is, I can’t see where the conversion is. If anything it was worse. Prisoners got TV’s and (at least in the UK, I assume it would be same in Switzerland) would have had their lawyers onto the case about the sharp metal edges to the bed that I managed to scrape several layers of skin off on my way past

All in all, it would have been cheaper, easier, and more pleasant (probably) to have been arrested and taken to the proper jail for the evening.

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Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Poznan closed for redecoration


What I had planned to be a packed day of museums and sights turned out to be a bit of a damp squib.

The museum to the Poznan uprising, which started after World War I to ensure that Poznan was part of the re-created Poland rather than Eastern Germany, was closed for reorganisation

The Museum of Musical Instruments was closed for redecoration

And the Archaeology museum was just closed for no apparent reason.

Does Poznan want tourists? Well, No, they do rather well from being the main trade fair site in Poland so they can probably afford to have all their museums shut if they wanted to!

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Sunday, 27 July 2008

An ode to Andrex


I’ve had an upset stomach today. I’ve been making regular stops for “comfort”. Thanks to the only paper that is available in Poland it is now painful to sit down.

For future reference: All-ways pack a roll of soft tissue paper!

I could never have survived austerity conditions.

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