Saturday, August 23, 2008

Read Me

Here are a few cool links for you travel-fans.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fay Day?!

The mandatory evacuation was rescinded at 5:30 this morning. Although I hated setting the alarm and getting up that early on a day off, it was certainly nice to know that Marc and I would no longer have to fight traffic and try to find a place to stay. We contemplated leaving last night and I'm so glad we nixed that potentially expensive plan.

It's now about 3 PM and, although it's pretty windy, the sun is out and we've only had one short rain shower. I've found myself angry with meteorologists before when they've gotten it wrong, but I'm happy they missed this one. If my husband was off of work tonight, it would be a near-perfect day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fay Update

So far no rain and just a mild breeze...nothing to get freaked out about.

Nevertheless, the city has ordered a mandatory evacuation for those of us who reside in "Level A." That means you're either in manufactured housing or you live in a low-lying area (our house). I've packed for 3 days in case I have to go teach Wednesday; my violin, camera, wedding photos, hard drive, and soon computer will be in the car and ready to hit the road. For where, I'm not sure yet.

Hopefully this is all a big overreaction, but I suppose you can never be too careful.

Holding Our Breath

When you train to be a teacher, you learn that the first few days of school are crucial to the success of the whole year. There's even a book and video curriculum--The First Day Of School--that many universities and school districts use in order to encourage methodical planning, establishing procedures, and trying your darnedest to kick things off on the right foot.

So today was the first day of school. And tomorrow we will not be going.

Right now Tropical Storm Fay is looking a bit less menacing than she was earlier today, but the expected winds and rains are enough to merit cancelling classes. I'm not too worried, yet--so far we've only had showers and a nasty sky, but very little wind. The interesting stuff should start happening later this evening; hopefully it won't get too dramatic around here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Different Kind of Trip

Most of my travels these days are semi-independent. I scan Marc's baseball schedule, pick out the cities I'd like to experience, see what works with my school calendar, and book a few trips.

Once there, I spend most of my time alone, walking, eating, exploring gardens and museums, and just trying to soak it all in. My school schedule is so rigid and demanding--it is incredibly liberating to have a few days in a cool place when I can do exactly as I choose.

But it's also wonderful to be able to visit a great city and, at the same time, hang out with a few of the best people you know.

I went to Portland, Oregon last week to see my sister Mary and her husband. Fortunately, my husband was also able to meet us there and our quartet had a great time together.

My dad called to ask what we did on our trip. He seemed disappointed when I couldn't give him a laundry list of attractions--we didn't see any movies, visit any museums, or scream at amusement parks. Instead, we saw the city like locals, with locals...over beer and tots, shopping in a used book store, walking the waterfront with no particular aim, and just driving around admiring the lovely bungalows and their perfectly manicured gardens.

And even with the jaw-dropping beauty of Mount Hood, a comforting breakfast at Bumble Kiss, and the calming fragrance of the Rose Garden, there's one memory I'll probably treasure most.

The night we all played Rock Band.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Thrill Is Gone

I used to love getting on a plane. I don't mean when I was a little kid--when I was a kid my family never flew--but just three, four years ago. I loved the anticipation, knowing I was about to go someplace far away, too far to drive. But I also loved the act of flying--the airport energy, the protocol before taking off, and that funny feeling in my stomach just as we left the ground.

I'm so sad that this has all been replaced with frustration and fatigue.

There was an article in our paper this week about the hassles associated with flying here in America. Interestingly, foreign carriers are providing much better service. It's upsetting to know that it doesn't have to be like this, that there are solutions and in other countries the skies are still friendly.

But I got particularly upset with one point in this story. In trying to justify why European airlines provide some of the niceties no longer seen on our big carriers, David Castelveter explained that American travelers demanded safety, reliability, and lower prices. Supposedly, airlines stripped away the extras in order to meet these demands.

When I flew to Toronto two weeks ago, I planned to leave Tampa at 6 AM, connect in Atlanta for an hour, and arrive in Toronto at about 11:30 AM. I could then share a cab with my husband, have lunch with him, and then walk around town a bit by myself until attending the Rays/Jays game that night.
I reached Atlanta on time, but about an hour after we boarded the plane for Toronto, we were de-planed. There were about 30 empty seats on the plane, and despite the announced "hydraulic leak," I'd bet a 7 dollar lunch voucher that the less-than-full flight had something to do with our little snag.
So the big question...what did they do for us? Not a thing. We all had to race to the Delta counter and ask them to re-book our flights. I am lucky. I was on vacation and disappointed, but it was easy for me to be flexible and change my planes. Some other folks were headed to funerals, important clients, and their children.

My one hour layover suddenly became ten, and I was forced to connect again in Cincinnati before finally reaching my destination at almost 10 PM. I missed my ballgame, two good meals in a cool city, had to pay $60.00 for my own cab, and killed a whole day "traveling." Not my idea of reliable.

I, for one, would jump for joy if I had to bring my own water bottle and granola bar, paid a few bucks to check my luggage, and in return departed and arrived on time.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

It's Like This Whole Other Country

I spent most of last week in Toronto, Ontario. I'll post a few real travel stories up here once I get my laundry done and open my mail, but here are a few things that stick out in my mind.

  • Canadians care about the environment. Not in the "Oh let's have a story about green vacations in our newspaper" way. They really care, and it shows in their lifestyle. You see bikes everywhere, and the bus and subway systems are efficient. It was totally normal to see people carrying water bottles into restaurants and getting them filled rather than using another glass at their meal. And recycling bins are as common as trash cans; in fact the waste receptacles have separate slots for glass, cans, and litter. No excuses.
  • Toronto residents love art. Nearly half of my photographs depict some cool sculpture or building design, and while some of them are installed in high-profile places, plenty of them are on side streets and in residential areas.
  • Canadians take their beer seriously. If you're a real beer drinker, Toronto has some outstanding beer bars and even more authentic pubs. I will not be happy until I can find some St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout down here in Florida, it's one of the nicest brews I've had in a while.
  • The people are fabulous. I can be somewhat shy, especially when I'm in a new place and a little less sure of myself. But the friendly faces and warmth, people who seemed genuinely interested in having a conversation...they killed that shyness immediately. I had so many great experiences with the locals, and I know part of that is because I worked a little harder to put myself out there, but most of it is because Toronto is just full of outstanding people. I can't wait to go back.