Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lost Luggage Saga Update

Good news! I just got a call from BA that they have cut a check for everything I purchased in Seattle when my bags were delayed. Pretty quick turn around time from the time I filed the claim to getting a response. They told me it would be about 14 days as I am a Silver Executive Club member when I first called. Last week I got a letter saying they have a high number of complaints and it may take longer than usual, so I was pleasantly surprised when I got the call today that a check has been cut.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I've Recovered

Last night I had to laugh when I went to spell check my blog posting and over 50% of the words came back as misspelt. I guess as I was in Poland it was using a Polish dictionary and didn't recognize the English words. At dinner on Tuesday night I was taken to a traditional Polish restaurant. Reading through the descriptions some of the foods sounded familiar such as cabbage stuffed with meat, tomatoes and rice. The spelling of this was nothing like what I expected
(see top right menu item)
, so I asked a colleague how it was pronounced and sure enough the pronunciation was exactly what I thought it was. I unfortunately didn't try them instead we ordered as a group and had 2 massive plates of meat brought out everything from ribs to chicken to pork to steak tips. Absolutely amazing.

While I'm talking about food I might as well switch to beverages. I tried many local drinks during my 3 nights in Krakow. Vodka drunk before dinner as an aperitif is sipped, vodka drunk after dinner is drunk in one gulp. Had a very good cherry vodka served ice cold and an apple vodka.

All this eating and drinking I needed to get some exercise, luckily you can easily walk around Krakow and see all the sites. So I decided not to opt for some of the tourist transportation options. You could see these little cars and horse and buggies everywhere but luckily they were not very forward so you could walk by without having people pressuring you to take a ride. I unfortunately didn't spend any time inside the many churches and museums as I typically only had a couple of hours in the evenings to check things out. I did manage to see quite a bit while there.

I know not a topic that should be avoided in mixed company however it is very fitting here and nothing too controversial. It seem liked everywhere you turn there were churches or photographs of Pope John Paul II. The park across from my hotel had a photo exhibition comparing Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II. The home where Pope John Paul II lived prior to becoming pope was nearby and has now been converted to a museum. The photograph below of seven statues represents the 7 sacrements in the Catholic religion. I don't remember what the rocks symbolize.

Yesterday afternoon I took a walk through which is where the Jews were evacuated from during the Holocaust. I didn't make it across the river to where they were relocated and Schindler's factory is. Walking through the area is a very somber experience. Plaques and memorials and synagogues commemorating those that were lost during the Holocaust. The picture on the bottom left is actually a restaraunt that has created mock storefronts of shops that might have been there in the 30s.

Parting Thoughts
It just wanted be me if I didn't talk about toilets as well. Men's and women's public toilets are designated by a circle or a triangle. I was asked to guess which was the men's and which was the women's I guessed wrong. I was also lucky not to encounter a public restroom that charged, many restrooms in restaurants and public places charge a fee even for customers. This may have been why I saw a woman peeing in a public park.

I definitely think that Krakow is worth a return visit so I can spend some time exploring the inside of buildings as well as the outside.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Writer's Block

It was bound to happen sooner or later - I've got writer's block. That probably sounds odd as you're reading a post that I have obviously written, or then again maybe I've hired a ghost writer for this one. My writer's block strictly pertains to my trip to Krakow. I've enjoyed the trip and I should have lots to say however every time I sit down and try to write I can't come up with a darn thing. Here's hoping that inspiration will strike on the way home tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dragon Breath

Not a long post today, just wanted to share the below photo with you. It's not very often that I encounter a fire breathing dragon on my travels.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Stopped By Security

Today was my lucky day, I was stopped by security twice. Going through the security checkpoint at Gatwick airport on my way to Krakow, the baggage screener pulled aside my bin that contained my liquids and jacket. I thought this slightly odd as all the liquids meet the size requirement and were in a clear plastic bag. The agent informed me that all liquids must be in a security provided clear plastic bag not one of my own. If liquids are in my own bag they can be confiscated by security. I have had no problems in any of my travels for the last 6 months at any airport with this bag so I inquired whether this is just as Gatwick as this restriction does not exist at any other airport. The agent replied that this is according to the transportation authority and should apply at all airports.

Of course I don't believe this as I would have been stopped on one of my countless other flights if that was the case. Looking up the rules of liquids in hand baggage the following appears on the BA website. I may be missing something here but the rules state a plastic resealable bag which is exactly what I have - this just was simply a case of a guy not understanding the rules.

My second encounter was of course when I was out taking photographs in Krakow this afternoon. There were some flags flying on some buildings an American, an EU and some other country I don't recognize so I took a picture. As I was putting my camera away I was approached and told no pictures are allowed as that is the US Consultate. I apologized and walked away, not nearly as many hassles here as in Dubai.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Two Days Too Late

I got a new Blackberry Pearl this week at work. I didn't think I needed a new phone and if I did get one I wanted a full keyboard not the stupid hybrid but I was told no unless I get approval to spend the extra money. The only good thing about the pearl is that it has a camera. This would have been very handy over the weekend when I was out for a walk with my sister and her family. I decided not to bring my camera as it is heavy and I didn't feel like lugging it around. Of course shortly after we head out we encounter a family of geese. Two baby goslings that probably weren't more than a day or 2 old and their parents. They parents were not too happy that we were approaching them and starting hissing. I was kicking myself that I had decided not to bring the camera. If I had gotten the pearl before I left it would have been very handy at least now I will always have some sort of camera with me. Haven't yet taken any pics with it. I'll work on that later this week to see what the quality is like.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz

What a relief. This morning when I went down to the front desk I could clearly see my suitcase sitting there. It arrived early in the morning after a nice holiday at Heathrow. Of course this was not before I had gone to Nordstrom's to purchase a few choice items to wear - I figure it is being re-reimbursed by either BA or my travel insurance and I deserved some nice new clothes for all my hardships. I am overjoyed to be reunited with my long lost luggage.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Almost Around the World in 7 Days

Last Sunday I boarded a plane from Shanghai to London, yesterday I left for Seattle. Hard to believe that I have almost circumnavigated the globe.

I should have known the trip would not go smoothly when I got to Heathrow 2 hours ahead of time and the queues were massive and not moving. The friendly voice on the pa said that there was a fault with the baggage conveyor belt each flight was being called individually. After about 45 minutes the belts were working and then my flight was called. I dropped off my bags and headed to the gate. Once in Seattle there were still many people waiting for bags when all of a sudden they stopped coming out. Unfortunately they had made no announcements but they had a table set up with paperwork for about 40-50 customers explaining that the bags did not make the flight. Don't worry the box of gifts for everyone arrived only my clothes are somewhere in transit. I was told that the bag was on the 3 pm flight so I thought maybe I would be lucky and the suitcase would be at the hotel when I arrived. Not so much. Of course I thought it's only clothes and easily replaceable.

It wasn't until this morning when I was getting ready that I realized I forgot to take my jewelry box out of my suitcase when I brought it downstairs and put it in my purse. I'm sure everything will be fine and my bag will arrive today but at this point I'm a bit frazzled. My co-workers are teasing me that I went to Gap to buy clothes for today when I should have hit Nordstroms. If nothing arrives today that is where I will go for my clothes for tomorrow.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

And The Winner Is

Last night the winner of the London mayoral elections was announced and the conservatives won. Ken Livingstone is out and Boris Johnson is in. He will be sworn into office today, none of this waiting around for a few months with a lame duck. Moving swiftly may have prevented the small mishap that occurred in Italy this week. The elections earlier this month provided an upset to the sitting government and in one of their last moves in office they published on the web all citizens tax returns for 2005. It was claimed that this was posted under freedom of information and democracy. Of course the site came crashing down as people flooded the website to find out what their neighbor or co-worker makes. The information has since been removed.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Election Day

With all the suspense over the Democratic primaries in the US you may have overlooked the fact that today is election day in the City of London. Elections for Mayor and some London assembly positions will be decided today. The incumbent mayor Ken Livingstone looks to have an uphill battle against Boris Johnson. Not being eligible to vote I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to the process here but I have found out that voters can vote for 2 candidates - their first choice and second choice. I should say there are 10 candidates running for mayor so lots of choices. As a result of naming a first and second choice candidate the results aren't expected to be announced until Friday evening.

As with elections in the US this election before it's even the end of the day is shrouded in controversy. The news at lunch reported of voting irregularities in a borough. Any marks on the ballot other than the selection of candidate make it invalid, however station staff were writing on ballots as they were handed to voters - thereby making those votes invalid. It's nice to see it isn't only the elections in the US that are rife with controversy and impropriety.