Author Archives: Peter Jones

Spain

I have always loved Spain. I first went there during the Franco era in a very beaten-up car that barely made it across the border. It was all beaches and Paella. But my favorite memory is a trip I took to the White villages (Pueblos Blancos) a few years ago. The white villages are a necklace of hilltop villages strategically spread along the Andalusian interior. The road that connects the villages is breathtaking. Arcos de la frontera tips the clue that these places were built along the border between the Moors and the Catholics. Painted white because of the heat in the summer and breathtaking because like good border defenses the towns were nestled in the mountains and hills of southern Andalusia.

When we visit Granada, Seville, and Cordoba we get a fully sculpted picture of the influence of the Moorish occupation. Cathedrals and churches converted from mosques but still retaining are some of most stunning interior architectures.

One of the bigger towns, Ronda, that boasts a fabulous gorge, has a bridge that connects the old town to the new town. There’s a beautiful bullring and some fun tapas bars for the evening paseo; I had a travel moment. In the back streets we came across a young boy being tutored by an older man in the art of bullfighting. The boy had a cape. He was practicing quietly under the guidance of the older man to move the cape and kneel and turn as if he were in the arena. It was so unreal. Just the two of them. He didn’t see us. He was super focused on the old man who was maybe once a bullfighter. It seemed so out of time. So bizarre but strangely beautiful…there it was. A passing of the baton. A generational lesson. Under a hot afternoon sun not far from the old bullring and a million miles away from everywhere.

Piscine Deligny-Paris

This is a story of swimming pools and Paris.  When I first was a Tour Guide I noticed during a sightseeing tour a swimming pool that was incredibly crowded on the banks of the River Seine.  It was big and opposite one of the most famous museums in Paris.  So, I decided, as I love swimming, to return and find out more about the spot.  As it turns out, this was the Piscine Deligny.  It dates back to the 1800’s.  This barge on the Seine, was one of the first swimming pools in Paris.  Opposite what is now the Musee d’Orsay, it had a fascinating and checkered history.

See the source image

Built in oriental style and with water originally drawn from the Seine, it was pretty sketchy in terms of hygiene and antics.  It was a frequent hangout for the decadent and the famous.  Few swam, most posed, and during the later part of the 20th century, most woman went topless, prompting the legislature at the National Assembly to protest as it was distracting workers! They had the view!

It all came to an end one fateful day in 1993 in the middle of the summer.  Maybe too many parties, too much history, but the Seine swallowed up the pool during a July storm.  Thirteen years later, the Piscine Josephine Baker was built on a barge using more sophisticated technology and a sliding roof for cover in the winter.  It’s a public pool and one of the highlights of my visits to Paris.  Josephine Baker was a black American who fought in the resistance during the Second World War for her adoptive country, France.  Now that’s another story.

Eiffel Tower!  No way.

London’s Open Air Theatres

 

See the source image

When I think of London, I think Pubs, the Royal family, and theatre. And I think of rain and summers that fly by without a summer day in sight. But, ironically I think of open-air theatre. London houses two of the most famous open-air theatres in the world.

Let’s start with my favorite. The Regents Park open-air theatre. Founded in 1932, its located on the inner circle by Queen Mary’s Garden. By the rose garden. Its season is the summer.

See the source imageI have seen Midsummer Night’s Dream there so many times and it never tires. The clouds come in, the rain starts, the planes boom overhead, and the birds fly from tree to tree. It’s part of the set. Puck delivers his closing line and then the mad dash across the park, in total darkness and often pouring rain as the audience run for the last tube, a late restaurant in Soho or a taxi home. When I lived in London, I was always at the park. Sometimes at the Zoo, sometimes at the open-air pool but never got to the theater.

Shakespeare is a tale of two cities. Stratford and London. In London, if you ever have the chance, go book a seat (better a seat) at the Globe Theatre. A rebuild of an original theatre built in 1599, burned and rebuilt in the 1600’s only to be shut down by Puritans in the mid 1600’s. Damn Puritans! Spoiling all the fun! Eventually torn down to make way for housing and then rebuilt again in 1997! It is a beautiful reconstruction of Tudor architecture. Situated close to its original site in Southwark by London Bridge and famous Borough Market along the ancient Thames. This is where Shakespeare wrote and performed his works. Julius Caesar was probably the first play performed at the original Globe. The new theatre serves winter as well with the Sam Wanamaker Theatre. Using only candles as lighting it recreates a theatre experience like no other. Art isn’t easy but you get to travel to a time when it was more difficult than you could ever imagine!! Go travel and visit the Globe Theatre on a high school trip. You won’t be disappointed!

Image result for globe theatre pictureImage result for globe theatre picture

Gladiators, 12 Yards, Heartbreak Hotel

So, the English made it all the way to the final of the Euro championships and then…heartbreak…again. How strange sports combat is. Almost unwatchable at the end. This gladiatorial battle spent over 2 hours of tactical maneuvering with two breaks in between and it came down to 12 yards. The distance between a penalty spot and the goal. And there it was. 60,000 fanatical fans, all cheering England on against the enemy Italians. A penalty shoot out. 12 yards. A towering goalkeeper in the Italian net who was 6ft 7, moving along the goal line intimidating the penalty shooters. It all came down to the this. 32 teams, all reduced to two teams on an English summer night, and certainty that one team would win and one would lose. The penalty shoot out. As glorious an event as sports can provide. A shooter, a goalkeeper and a referee with a whistle. And the sounds of the masses resonating around the stadium and anguish and nerves and breathtaking tension filling the evening air. Inevitably England’s long torturous journey from the distant 1966 England victory against the dreaded Germans, would come back to Wembley for redemption. This time. The team was better. The Italians weaker. The English scored after 2 minutes. England would be assured of victory and an end to the curse that showed no mercy for 55 years! Ignominy against Iceland, heartache against Spain. Prince William, Boris Johnston, David Beckham all there to celebrate the victory that was assured. The Queen sending a message of good luck. The Queen. Even she had become interested! She likes horse racing and ascot and maybe rugby but not this sport of the common man. Surely, we were assured now! This was England. The cup was coming home. Brexit was worth it, we didn’t need those dastardly Europeans. We had survived Covid. We would walk once more with dignity down Wembley Way as champions, if not of the world, of Europe. Teach those Europeans a thing or two about decency.

And then. It happened. The equalizer.

And then the penalty shoot out. Last minute substitutions were made to put our best foot forward. But the goalkeeper had a reach unimaginably long. The guy was from Naples. How did they breed them so tall there! And in one second, the hopes and dreams of a nation were gone. 55 years would no longer be the number of lost opportunities. We had lost the moment. Just at the very end. 12 yards. Indecision. Nerves. And suddenly it was gone. Rome celebrated. The Italians were the winners. 12 yards. Fans barely able to watch. Torment, tears, a long journey home on the Underground.

The World Cup will come around shortly and we will try once more but never will that cup feel so close as it did on that fateful evening at Wembley. 12 yards.

Coming Up for Air

I knew the pandemic was nearly over because my local bakery in Boston, in Seaport called Flour, finally opened its doors fully after a year and several months of operating at 10 per cent.  I can recall the early pandemic days when none of us were quite used to the world that was about to hit us.  Numbers were pitching badly, the pandemic was crippling everything from restaurants, bars, schools, flights, trains…everything closed…..and somehow Flour had limped through.  As had we.

I used to go there pretty much every week at least twice.  Orders had to be made online, sandwiches and stuff left in between the glass doors, no contact, just a wave to familiar faces that worked there.  And then slowly it became easier.  Not perfect, but accessible.  Still nothing inside but a few more people and some lovely conversations with the always lovely staff there. And then it happened.  There was a crowd.  A queue and it was busy, and I had to wait a little longer and there were people hanging inside and eating outside and then I realized, that the weathervane had changed.

The pandemic was moving on.  People in the streets, at ball games, less masks and smiles you could see again.  And then I knew we would be back traveling soon.  So, maybe not the French café in my favorite neighborhood by the office on the Rue Cherche Midi, maybe not my hangout in London in Soho or the Piazza Della Rotunda by the Pantheon in Rome.  Not yet, but getting there.

Imagining a world less remote, less tied to zoom.  The sounds of flights overhead filling the sky a little more each day.  I can feel the pull of travel as countries start to open shop . Travel is what we do.  What we all need to do.  Out of the backyard and into the neighbor’s yard.  A jump once more into another place.

And there was Flour.  Busy and bustling and looking half normal.
I loved my sandwich today!  Always have, but today felt super good.

Pete

THANK YOU TEACHERS!

I am so honored to have spent my life and my career working with teachers. This week, Teacher Appreciation Week, is probably a good time to take stock of all the incredible accomplishments that teachers make and contribute to our way of life.

When I was a kid at school, many years ago, I can remember the names of the teachers who significantly changed my life and nudged me in the right direction.  Miss Clark, Ms. Treganzer, and Mr. Spinks.  They all helped me on my journey and gave me a better sense of direction and perspective.  That’s what teachers do.  Doctors mend things when they’re broken.  Teachers nurture and create paths of understanding.  They are our influencers.  They get to watch us mature and grow and graduate and become adults.  They help send us to college and ultimately, they guide and help us form careers that we could not sometimes have even imagined.  They take us on trips to explore new places and open our eyes to different cultures. They plant the seeds that will grow our understanding. They teach us tolerance and open our eyes to different ways of looking at things.  Solving puzzles every single day long after school has finished.  Their passion for their subject, across the spectrum from language to science is part of a shared journey.  As we come out of this pandemic.  As we begin to surface and look back we should all be deeply grateful for our teachers who have adapted to a world of remote learning and who have tried to keep spirits up and student motivation high as we all  navigated these uncharted waters.

We are nearly out of the woods, but one thing is for sure a week is nowhere near long enough to celebrate the accomplishments of teachers.  So, hats off to our incredible band of educators! We have much to be thankful for.  Gracias. Grazie. Merci obrigato. Danka Schoen.

Deeply grateful.  Long may you run.

Peter

 

See the source image

 

Vaccinated…Get Ready to Travel?!

So, pandemic month 13 is about to end as we watch the vaccines rapidly roll out in many countries across the world.  We are close to 30 percent fully vaccinated.  We will be ready to travel soon as we see countries beginning to prepare to open and more or less return to some kind of new normal.

There’s talk everywhere of developing corridors of safe travel and in many cases, we see countries opening only to fully vaccinated travelers.   And yet… the USA just over a week ago elevated most countries in the world to travel advisory Level 4.  Essentially, “Do Not Travel.”  So, while the USA is moving faster than every country in the world except Israel to vaccinate its entire “willing” population we are being encouraged to wait and hold.  It’s not a bad move.  We are nearly there.  But there are hot spots and danger areas.  Let’s vaccinate everyone who wants to be vaccinated and then open up the borders.  And, yes, we see Greece, Croatia and Iceland opening up their borders, albeit with strong caveats, but why not wait a few more weeks.  Makes sense.

Our travel machinery is ramping up.  Plane schedules are being filled and hotels are starting to take bookings after 1 year of hibernation.  There will be a summer season of travel and from September we should see our skies full, and our favorite destinations back.  Roma…Ci manca!

And what will the return look like.  Some things will seem and feel different.  Rental cars are scarce, and prices are higher.  Uber takes longer and is less available.  People are reluctant to take public transportation in general.  Masks will be a feature, not mandatory, but as in Japan, a feature of everyday life.  Restaurants will emphasize outdoor seating and slowly but surely expand their indoor potential. Although, many restaurants we love will not be returning.  Casualties of the pandemic months.

Airlines are increasing their flights.  But airlines are also more cautious and wary of losing even more money than they have experienced so far.  Cheap flights will be available but less so than before. Transatlantic capacity will ramp up and group travel will almost certainly make fully vaccinated people the rule rather than a recommendation.  Restaurants, airlines, and entry to sporting events and theatres will almost certainly demand a Vaccine ID type passport/card.  In Europe it will be a matter of months before they introduce a card showing a vaccination.  No card….No entry, No boarding, No go!

Will everything return as if this was a blip on the landscape.  Will we be confronted by crowded museums and lines at places like Versailles and St. Peter’s as we phase back to the crazy days of a bygone era.  I don’t think it will ever quite be the same.  We will adapt and will do things differently and most importantly we will never take for granted the wonder of a crowded vaporetto in Venice or a pedestrian traffic jam along Oxford Street in London.  Maybe we will have become more tolerant and more conscious of the things that drive our economy.  Maybe we will be kinder to each other.  Do things  with a smile rather than a weary look of frustration.  Remembering all those lost months of no travel and no business.  Locked in and working remote.  Zooming to places rather than being there!  Good to hold those memories and never forget how grateful we are for busy people racing through those airline terminals, dashing for an Uber or the metro.

The pandemic days will remind us all that we have just lived through something that will change us forever.  And honestly, it hopefully will make us better travelers and better ambassadors as we explore new places and touch the tip of possibility once more.

See you out there somewhere.

Peter

 

Thoughts on Covid, Vaccinations and Resuming Travel!

What’s happening.

It has been a year without travel.  A year lost in many ways.  A year when we have stayed at home, learned new things about ourselves and spent more time with our loved ones.  Ironically, we have also spent more time reaching out over Zoom or whichever platform we use to connect frequently with friends and family we may not necessarily be in touch with as often.  We are all remote in more ways than one.  We have lived under this dark cloud for a year, and only now, do we find ourselves coming up for air.  For those of us who love to travel, it has been a year of not traveling.  For businesses it has more often been a year of heartbreak and failure as the pandemic has ruptured large parts of the economy.  In Travel, in entertainment, restaurants and bars it has been as close to a disaster as one can imagine.  And yet we endured.  Reinvented ourselves, changed our models and our perspective and moved sideways or backwards or jumped through barriers that we previously were too fearful to jump through.

And here we are. March 2021. Ironically as spring surges ahead and the first buds appear around the shrubs in Western Mass, the metaphor reminds me that we are slowly lightly moving along.

Vaccines are rapidly being deployed, Covid testing is fast and efficient and rates of Covid are dropping.  Yep, there are surges and still it’s chaotic in places but overall, the signs are good. The world has changed and won’t be quite the same, but we will get back to a near normal routine.  The economy will recover and travel…beloved travel will start up again.

We already have groups departing for Costa Rica, the DR and Ecuador.  Slowly Europe will reopen and even though masks will remain in place, even though there will be strict rules on Covid testing and vaccines, travel will return. Global airline travel fell by 66% in 2020.  The largest decline in history.  Tourism accounts for 1 – 10 jobs around the world. In some parts of the world, tourism is the economy. International arrivals in those countries fell as dramatically as 97%.  It will take some time to recover. On a positive note, we have had a 50% decrease in carbon emissions and our oceans and canals are cleaner than ever.  And we read more than any other year we have ever read! Books….and Netflix!

As we move to our second Easter under the pandemic, this one brings hope and optimism.  The sky is still empty over my house as I look out into the western horizon, but a few more planes have passed by this month. The snow is gone.  Let’s hope that the pandemic continues to melt away with it.

Destination Updates

Iceland is open to vaccinated travelers and people who are prepared to have a Covid test on arrival.  Even if you show a recent Covid test. If you test positive, then you are quarantined at your expense in a quarantine hotel.

Ecuador is open as is Galapagos with proof of vaccine or negative Covid test.  No test on arrival.

Costa Rica/Dominican Republic… Vaccine or negative Covid test.

100-Years of History

The other day I was reminded of what a century can mean. My uncle passed away at the amazing age of 103 last week. I got to interview him about three years ago in his apartment near Regents Park. I was curious about his travels and war time experiences. We chatted about his life in London as a child, my Dad, his family and travels. We talked about the London fog and smog and his lovely wife and partner, Rhoda, while drinking cups of tea with biscuits to keep us going on our journey through time.

As it turns out, he had traveled extensively during the war. He just hadn’t mentioned it to anyone! He told me about his journey on a merchant ship across the Atlantic, his fear of submarines (but not sea sickness!) and his stay in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It was funny because I had traveled across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary a couple of years before and the ship departed from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. I recall that the journey across the Atlantic was stormy and there was lots of sea sickness on board. I remember the grey emptiness from horizon to horizon. I tried to imagine how a 20-year-old kid sleeping on a hammock would have dealt with that journey and the paranoia of a submarines here or there. His first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. Ellis Island where all those weary travelers had arrived and sought a new life. His first glimpse of Times Square. I thought of Anchors Away and Gene Kelly, the towering Empire State building. He loved the USA.

And then the train trip across the USA. To Chicago and then onwards to San Francisco. A week on a train across the USA. A bunch of kids in the middle of a war that would change the face of Europe for 50 years. His first glimpse of the Golden Gate bridge, the West Coast. Chinatown. Imagine. He was part of a group of twenty-year-old’s traveling across the USA in 1941 to pick up a French Reconditioned Cruise ship (converted to an aircraft carrier) and then heading down to San Diego tracing the shoreline of California. They spent some time in San Diego, to allow finishing touches to the hastily assembled carrier before heading south and passing through the Panama Canal. Pacific to Atlantic! Then the treacherous journey back to England protected by the comfort of a convoy and several destroyers. Several boats were lost across the Atlantic. Many men lost their lives. And then, back to Portsmouth. And home. He had been away nearly a year. He had helped deliver an aircraft carrier to the British Navy and went onto minesweeping off the east coast of Scotland.

When I look back on that conversation, I wished I had more time. I had thought up more questions. He had been born at the very end of the first World War, the start of the Russian revolution and in the middle of Spanish flu pandemic that claimed 50 million lives worldwide. He had witnessed a century of changes.

He lived a long enough life to enjoy his grandchildren and his great grandchildren. He grew up over the trendiest shoe shop in all of London by Camden Town Tube. Now called the British Boot Company specializing in Doc Martins and having as its most famous customers, punk groups The Sex Pistols and The Clash. The shop owners knew him well as he popped in from time to time on his way to the local supermarket.

Even when he was 102, his electric scooter provided him with a means to get out and ride along familiar streets. He was a Londoner. And in the end, he got to see a ravaging pandemic that would take nearly 11 million lives. He was one of them.

This illustration of Bill with his lovely wife Rhoda was done by Gayle Kabaker in celebration of his century.   To see more of Gayle’s work please visit:  linktr.ee/gaylekabaker

London Calling….

 

A week of interesting possibilities. Travel is starting to turn its wheels and airlines and tour operators are ramping up for a return of summer business. This past week the UK announced they have coincided with a rapid decline in COVID-19 cases and vaccination rollouts. Come June, the UK is hoping to be at or near normalcy. What does that mean? Johnson and Johnson now have a single shot vaccine that will be available for 18 and under.

For travelers, there is no date set to jump on a plane and travel to “anywhere.” However, airlines, tour operators and cruise companies are starting to figure out the next stage. Vaccine passports and rapid Covid testing. Delta is continuing with keeping the middle seat free in coach even though it is costing them millions of dollars. Their hunch is that it provides confidence to the consumer when booking a flight. Southwest airlines stayed with the middle seat free option until they re-evaluated because of financial pressures and reverted to full occupancy where they can. Airlines are still touting the fact that the air inside the cabin is cleaner than most environments. But, with one less person or two per row, it’s a tough sell to say it’s safer. Ironically, bargain still plays out stronger than safety and people are prepared to fly on fuller planes for a cheaper fare.

Life at the next stage after the pandemic and slowly the world is moving. Restricted capacities will still be a way of life through the end of 2021. In general, it will affect theatres, stadiums and performance venues. Until the numbers recede to optimum levels and the vaccine reaches a higher percentage of penetration.

Corridors for travel are being actively discussed. Greece and UK. Spain and Italy. Everyone is looking for a way to fill their hotels and restaurants. In addition, the Europeans and the UK are dealing with the Brexit nightmare. Brexit is largely remaining undercover because of the pandemic but as we move further out of this, the Brexit issues will start to emerge effecting tourism.

Most travel companies are starting to ramp up. Getting ready. USA to anywhere is still fragile. USA to USA will probably go first. Then the Caribbean. Then the world. And it will start to move fast depending on vaccines and rates of infections. It will probably start to form a more normal rhythm at the end of the summer with established corridors enabling travelers to move safely with restrictions from one zone to another. By December the world should be open. Again, with a combination of vaccine travel documents, rapid Covid tests at airports and hotels and reasonable capacity limits in entertainment venues. Nearly normal or new normal!

The good news is that the Tokyo Olympics is officially on in late July. The Euro soccer championships is a go in early June across the entire European continent. Theaters will start opening in the UK and pubs and museums will begin their awakening. Now we can start to imagine walking through Covent Garden on the way to St. Martin’s Lane for a night at the theatre. Now we imagine a walk-through Baroque Rome and a nightcap in the Piazza Navona. What seemed like a lifetime away is within reach. We may have to show up at the airport even earlier, tolerate longer lines at immigration entry as not everything will return to normal. But, hey, it’s better than I could ever have imagined a few months ago and feels like were heading somewhere soon.

Clocks are moving forward. Things are happening. New regulations are being put in place so we can start traveling again.

Carnival and Pancake Day

I’ve experienced the beauty and craziness of the Carnival in Venice.  A fabulous and amazing costume drama like no other.  People travel from afar to parade around the squares, canals and alleyways of this truly unique city.  Hotels would be overbooked; the city would even have a limit on the number of tourists allowed.  This year, alas, we have no Carnival.  Only memories of the beautiful colors, costumes and posing amidst a spectacular backdrop of waterways, gondolas, palaces and piazzas.  Tourists would flock from all over the world to be part of this crazy scene.  Pure theatre.  Surreal and worth at least a peak once in your lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I’m from London and grew up in a country that celebrated Mardi Gras in a whole different way.  We ate pancakes!  We called the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday…..Pancake day!  Shrove Tuesday.  The English version of Mardi Gras.  No costumes, fireworks or song.  Just…..pancakes. To denote the clearing out of the larder and beginning of lent.

Pancakes…. It was the culinary highlight of the cooking year in our household.  I never knew why we couldn’t have pancakes more often, but rules were strict.  Pancakes on pancake day. Pancakes, according to some, denote the 4 pillars of the Christian faith.  Sustenance (flour), creation(eggs), purity (milk) and wholesomeness (salt).  Not that I had a clue.  And not that anyone who was English really had a clue.  No, we were just so happy that on this day we were able to enjoy something quite tasty.  Pancakes with delicious Golden Treacle or lemon and sugar.

Mardi Gras is exactly 47 days prior to Easter Sunday so the date is a bit of a moving target and that always confused me when I was a kid.  Pancake day should be like Christmas.  A fixed date!! Rumor has it that pancake racing, yep…racing, started in 1445 in a town called Olney when a woman was interrupted with her pancake making by the calling of the church bells.  Off she ran, pan and pancakes in hand, to attend the Shrove Tuesday service!  Hence, pancake racing began its humble start.  Later, tossing the pancakes was added to the race.

Image result for uk pancake day clipart

So, while cool cities like Rio, Venice, Sydney, New Orleans, Goa and Nice may boast extravaganzas with flowers and music and dance and costumes, the Brits have …Pancake day. And Pancake races.  A little ironic for a nation not traditionally known for its cuisine culture.  No wonder the Europeans were okay with Brexit!!

The Super Bowl, Vaccines, Covid and Travel

February’s under way with lots of snow in the northeast and Tom Brady wins his 7th Super Bowl. He used to be our guy. But he left us and opted for warmer weather. So now we’re all Buccaneer fans!

Valentine’s day coming up, and the vaccine is slowly and painfully being distributed. Some states moving faster than others but the wheels are turning.

Some questions arising this week. International questions. Is there any place open right now? In brief, from a traveler’s point of view…. not really. Europe is still closed, but they are vaccinating at a decent clip.  Airlines are insisting on a Covid test requirement for all International flights. Domestic, while threatening to do the same, has not instituted a Covid test requirement yet. That may change and masks are still mandatory on all flights.

Until we reach levels of herd immunity (75-80%) it’s unlikely we will see any relaxation.  In addition, Vaccine Passports are now being used and phased in on some cruises.  Expect that to gain popularity as the vaccine program rolls out more extensively.  For 2022, it will almost certainly be a standard factor in travel.  It may mean adult only passengers will need to have a vaccine passport.  Not sure quite how this will pan out, but more clarity will develop over the next month or so.

Some resort hotels are now offering Covid testing as a way to offset the fall in demand for warm climate vacations.  Airlines have seen a massive drop off because of the new ruling that prevents travelers returning to the USA without a prior test.

The world is moving at different speeds when it comes to vaccines.  As would be expected. Follow the money.  Two countries do not publish Covid data.  Tanzania and North Korea. Tanzania is full speed ahead on opening, but it hasn’t reported a Covid case since last April. Only 509 cases total have been reported and that number has not budged, while its neighbors are off the charts. According to the President of Tanzania, it’s all down to divine intervention. Good luck with that during safari vacation season!

Some great news on the transatlantic front.  JetBlue has announced it will open up a Boston and New York London corridor in May.  Blue sky is coming!!  Great Business class (Mint) at a fraction of the price of the regular carriers and twice as nice!  In addition, the economy fares are great with more amenities than their competitors.  JetBlue is in the transatlantic business….hooray.

Peter

Trains-Part 2

I have so many memories of night train travel from my early traveling days. The Paris -Venice overnight train. Heading out through dreary suburbs in grey weather as night fell and arriving into Stazione Santa Lucia early morning. I remember because it was my first time in Venice. I think everyone remembers their first time in Venice. The Stazione with its newspaper stand and its chaotic rumblings of morning commuters. Jumping onto Vaporetti to go to work. Canals, gondolas, a fantasy land of an unimaginable feast to a kid who had never seen a place like this before. Hand delivered by the night train. I’ve taken the night train from Aswan to Cairo. From Nairobi to Mombasa. These were fabulous journeys.

 

There’s a fantastic poem by WH Auden called The Night Mail. It traces the journey of an old steam train traveling from London to Glasgow with the post. It was written in 1936 and it’s still one of my favorite times. We had to memorize it at school.

Here’s the link.   Night Mail by W H Auden – Famous poems, famous poets. – All Poetry

It emulates the journey of a steam engine pulling its carriages up, up until it reaches the top of its climb and then picks up speed on its way down to Glasgow. The meter is the magic of this poem. I read it the other day to my 3-year-old granddaughter. I still remembered it from all those years ago. Teachers are amazing. And my next blog I’m going to talk about trains and places I’d like to go when this pandemic finally breaks.

See the source image

 

eurostar-train

Trains-Part 1

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about overnight trains…. They’re coming back!

I remember when they were so fashionable and …. expensive and then one day they disappeared. I also remember the unfashionable but super functional aspect of a night train. Tour companies would use couchettes all the time to travel from Paris to Venice, from Paris to Avignon, Paris to Madrid and Paris to Rome. An afternoon sightseeing and dinner somewhere in the Latin quarter before heading to the Gare du Lyon for a night journey across the European cities and towns that sparkled in the distance. Night trains were a way for tour operators to save the overnight in a hotel and provide a fun experience. Six to a cabin in times gone by.

Baguettes in hand and the trundle of tracks to put 700 to sleep before you awoke to the sparkling blue of the Mediterranean!  Then budget airline companies like EasyJet and Ryanair introduced the cheap and fast option to replace the train lines with airport lines and delays! Nothing was ever the same!

Before you knew it we were jumping on planes for weekends to Prague for less than €10 and suddenly night trains were relics from a distant era.  Just like that.  Consigned to the dustbin of history….. In addition, super high-speed trains started to populate the European landscape.  The TGV, the AVE, the Eurostar and the Thalis.  Faster than ferries and less hassle and infinitely more comfortable than a cheap flight.  The fact that you can now take a train from Rome to Milan in less time than it will take you on a plane changed everything yet again.  London to Paris; one hour and 20 minutes!  No seat belts, no hassle and rarely delays.  But there’s been a rekindling of activity on night trains.  Maybe not to replace the super-fast high-speed trains, but rather to provide that element, that adventure that we all remember in days past.  And 6 to a room wasn’t that bad!

Brexit…Its Complicated!

And if the world hadn’t changed and turned upside down enough, Tourism must deal with Brexit. Its complicated. Brexit for the Brits brings forth its own problems with tourism.

Imagine a British tour guide who would meet you in Italy because he or she happens to speak fluent Italian and is an expert on Italy but has a British passport.  Well, they can’t work in Italy any longer! Even worse, let’s say I’m a tour guide who picks a group up in London and wants to take them on the Eurostar (which is practically bankrupt now by the way) to Paris.  I’m an English passport holder and with the current law, cannot move with the group to Paris.  In other words, now until there is an urgent review, you simply cannot work outside of the UK if you have a British passport.  Period.

Travel organizations often use a lot of tour guides who currently work outside of the UK who are British passport holders.  Their English is….not bad… and quite often what they lack in historical and local knowledge, they more than make up with their unique British humor and acting abilities.  All this is now gone! For symphony orchestras, traveling theatre groups, people who are in the entertainment business and need to work inside the European zone, they no longer will be able to.  Gone!  Yes, a business traveler can still pop across to France for two or three days but the rest will not be legal.

Tourism depends upon tour guides who can handle different countries and speak multiple languages.  Incredibly, the British Government has overlooked this, and probably we’re all rather ironically fortunate that Brexit took place during the pandemic.  With zero business and zero travelers on organized tours, the urgency to fix this anomaly hasn’t screamed out just yet.
The Brexit decision ultimately will probably cost the Brits a valuable place at the International table.  As the financial business inevitably devolves to Germany or the Netherlands and the center of power that London once was gradually shifts, things are going to shake up.  London truly was an international city but in the past year 700,000 Europeans have moved out of the UK.  We’re keeping close tabs on this because our business depends upon a fluid border and Brexit cannot provide that.

Right now, the UK government has yet to consider any of this.  The European Union has already moved on.  Yeah, people love to travel to the UK because of the royal family, the fabulous theater, the double decker busses and the sheer weight of tradition that envelops it.  But London will miss that injection of European talent and youth that once was there.  People came to London to learn English, to take in the sights and to take part in the UK economy and some of them stayed and became resident Brits.  They started businesses and integrated into British society.  They brought fresh ideas and loved Britain maybe more than many Brits.  They became Brits.  Gone!

With Brexit or should we say more the European exit, Britain and specifically London will not be the powerhouse it was.  I hate to say it, but I think a lot of the people that voted for Brexit would probably reevaluate their decision if they had a chance to right now.  According to current polls Brexit would never go through.  But Brexit is done.

In the USA, we had a chance to dump Trump.  We get that opportunity, every 4 years.  With Brexit, it’s done and dusted.  It would be extraordinarily challenging to reverse the curse of separation from the European Union.  We must imagine that Britain will become less of an International powerhouse.  Less of a cultural heartthrob for Europeans. T he strong possibility that Scotland will call for another referendum to join the European Union as an independent nation.  We must imagine that Ireland essentially has already left. And where does that leave us?  That leaves us with Little Britain.  A short sighted and awful decision that leaves Brits minnows amongst the Giants of Europe.  Pity.