Author Archives: Peter Jones

Margate

Margate on Kent’s Sandy Coast


I have an affinity for seaside resorts in the UK. I spent many years in my childhood at Margate on Kent’s sandy coast. There was an amusement park there called Dreamland. It was the highlight of my year to go there.

Recently in London I saw the amazing “Hills of California” and it was an incredible play based around a family in Blackpool. The northern equivalent of Margate. Blackpool was the UK s biggest and most famous amusement park and coastal resort. Complete with a tower that resembled the Eiffel Tower and two pioneering piers that were the talk of the world. When the railway station opened in 1846, tourism took off and by 1911 Blackpool was the busiest station in the world! Ironically sea swimming first helped propel Blackpool and Margate onto the map.

Something that never was considered was suddenly the thing to do and so it grew through the 1800 s into a fad. It sadly came to an end as tourism began to explore the sun and warmer climates and warmer seas but it took until the 1970 s for the Brits to invade Spain and bid farewell to glorious Blackpool and Margate. Now they are day trip destinations and entertainment venues but the seaside will never be the same! In 2021 Blackpool celebrated its 125th anniversary.

Dreamland in Margate, once closed reopened and the literati started to head back there to live and work and create. I still remember the jellied eels and cockles as if were yesterday, The stall is still there. Alongside the Turner Museum and the beach is as sandy as ever. It brought back memories of donkey rides along the sand.

Suitcase

I Never Check my Bag for This Reason…

Airports. I never check my bag. And when I place my bag over my seat it’s usually close by. Above. My bag is a muji roller bag. Navy blue. Nothing special. 100 pounds. It’s perfect for what I take. So on a recent flight London to I had to place my bag a few overhead bins away as it was full above me. No big deal. Plane landed in London. 6 and half hours later. Grabbed my bag and walked out with my daughter but then… I said to her… my bag needs replacing. Wheels are blown. And wheels are everything. And now as I was about to turn into the main zone of passengers dispersing into the airport cracks and crannies  I realized. It wasn’t my bag. It looked like my bag. Same color. Same size but it wasn’t. The wheels! I freaked out and raced against the traffic fighting the swarm of passengers spilling through the walkways off the plane and got to the plane at last.

I explained the situation to a lovely flight attendant who immediately made an announcement on the mike. There were not many people left at that point. And there was this lovely lady looking frabtic and upon hearing the announcenent totally relieved  and being so nice while I  started a conversation about how terrible I was. A flight attendant came rushing down the aisle with my bag and we all agreed they looked the same. She was so nice. My bag victim and I was so apologetic. And we switched bags and made as if a peace exchange  and off we went. That could have been much worse. Imagine if I had arrived at the hotel. So I wondered if bags should have a lock tied to your key. Unique. So that this can’t happen. Or does it only happen to me. Interested to know.

How do you Read When you Travel?

I am always looking around on the plane or by the beach to see how people read when traveling. Paperbacks, hard backs (yep some people like to carry those bricks around with them) and iPad kindle or I phone. I usually carry three types. Never hard back. And lately when I travel, I try to grab a kids book of the places I am visiting.

Kids books are beautifully curated and have pictures or illustrations. They put their elders to shame. I don’t take guide books because they are so heavy. And often I only need 10 pages. My favorite book is VivaVenice. A perfect curation of Venice through the ages.

At the beach a Kindle is tricky. Sun and sand and water not helpful. I don’t like reading on my phone but I carry the kindle app on iPad and phone just in case. I buy books at airport if they are exclusive. Not out in USA. And they’re good! As a testament to airports the sale of paper backs at airports is still considerable. I guess the most important thing of all is to read. I am re-reading Harry Potter with the grandkids. As they say…I couldn’t put it down.

Happy reading.

Fire

Paris in Smoke…

I remember the day well. April 15, 2019. I was in Paris. I heard fire engines and saw smoke in the distance. I was in Montparnasse at the time. South of the center. I could smell the smoke in the air   The news was everywhere. A fire in Notre Dame. An accident. I had been there in the morning to see some of our groups . I remembered all the moments I had stood in the square. Meeting teachers and students. Wandering into the cathedral to see the magnificent stained glass. Thankfully saved. That evening I walked down to the river. Notre dame was still smoldering but the fire was said to be under control. A gathering had taken place. The crowds sang patriotic songs. It was incredibly  moving.

Now , much of Notre dame will open in late 2024. In 2025 it will fully return.  But not quite the same. The spire has disappeared forever. But a new top will take its place. A year ago I went for a virtual tour of note dame. From the construction through completion   A time travel.  A virtual tour. We went high up to watch the stained glass being meticulously put in place. The stone masons carving the guardians of Notre dame. The gargoyles. It was a surreal experience. But now in 2024 we will see the real Notre dame back. Our lady. Over 860 years old. Over 9 million visitors. It’s good to have you back.

eye patch

Jetlag is all around me

eye patch

I’m in a business where Jetlag is all around me. Most people in my office fly transatlantic at least 5 times a year. I  fly more than that. And so what is the trick of Jetlag. Is there a secret beyond a sleeping pill or a beer and a Benadryl. The answer is not completely conclusive. If you take an overnight flight and the overnight flight lasts 6 to 7 hours and you’re traveling in economy, there’s a fairly good chance you’re going to sleep for about an hour. Yikes.

In other words, no sleep. When you get to the other end Because it’s early in the morning if you’re trans Atlantic, the hotel is not gonna be ready. Not to mention that you’re going to look pretty dreadful. But there are ways to overcome some of the negative impact of Jetlag. First there are the things to eliminate. Alcohol and caffeine.   And the most important and single danger you will encounter. Unqualified light. You have to be able to control the light that’s hitting you.  Either the airplane artificial light or the light outside as day breaks. They can be your enemy.  However, you can have some control at minimizing the damage.

Trying to adjust or fool  your circadian rhythm is the answer to your sleep/wake cycle so here’s a few basics. Always use an eye mask so that you can create darkness whenever you want. Also use earbuds as a  headset so that you can sleep easily without looking like a DJ on an airplane and minimize noise. Always carry sunglasses and as the plane is about to touchdown be sure that you are wearing them. You may even look like a rock star! Let’s be clear, none of this will rescue or convert one and a half hours of sleep into eight hours of sleep in your bed.

However, you can fool your body a couple of times into believing that it got the sleep it needed so that it can help you see the sites you want without feeling like you need to head back to the hotel and go to bed and who wants that?

Lonson

Battersea Power Station – London

If you’re in London for a few extra days and you want to do something different. Combine sightseeing The Thames with Battersea Power Station.

It’s a four-steeple architectural gem. It’s almost one of the first sights you see from the air as you fly into London. Only recently has it been renovated and fully decked out to attract sightseers and people looking for smart new upmarket places to live in the center of London. 

Accessible by tube and by the Uber riverboat. It’s one of the many urban renewal projects that dot our city landscapes. London has many and it has helped boost tourism and local revenue.

We took lift 109 to a reimagined observation deck situated on one of the steeples with incredible views of London and a thrilling experience as you hurtle to the top and literally beyond. But…It was a little disappointing because the people that were introducing the experience could not convert the fun and excitement we were about to have. And yet it costs 19 pounds, so not cheap!   We deserve better than that. And I’ve noticed that as a trend. Guiding and curation are an art. Maybe it’s training, maybe it’s staff shortage or maybe the people who run the place haven’t got a clue…more likely.  This is a huge opportunity. People want to buy in the shop. I bought a magnet…Maybe i would have sprung for more! They had a corny photo set up.

The photo booth was broken. So come on. It’s a big deal and the price of the apartments and the coffee there would suggest that money is coming in. So enthusiasm at every level would be helpful.

Battersea wake up. 

guns tsa

TSA and Gun is Surreal

I’m English living in the States. I’m not a fan of guns. So the other day, wandering through two different airports I saw these two signs. The idea is that if you try to take your gun as a carry-on and get caught, yeah, x-ray machines usually catch them, it will mean that you will lose and not be able to get TSA pre-approval anymore.

guns tsa

Wow! And it was really weird to see something that told you that you had to check over size bags and ….your guns. One second. If you’re trying to bring Christmas crackers back from the UK for Christmas celebrations…Guess what. You can’t. I have no problem with that. They’re like a mini firecracker. But guns are ok to check! Oh well, how weird is that?

travel

Climate Change and How it Affects Travel

If anyone doubted that we have a major tsunami of a climate change happening. Look around. It’s chaotic, extreme and plentiful. Patterns are out of rhythm. Warm and balmy days followed by severe temperatures. As a traveler, I feel torn. My plane journey is not helping. The bus is not helping. Even trains are not helping. Cruises. The monstrous 5000 floating hotels that pollute our coastal cities and seas are not helping. So. What to do. Traveling is important. It enriches and teaches us about differences and maybe helps us to approach the world with greater tolerance.  It sparks adventure. Something that sparks to most of us. Can we make a difference beyond just curtailing our travel plans. Traveling is a huge piece of our economic health. Creates jobs and adds greatly to a countries gdp.

Do we slow our travel. Business travel has never recovered from Covid. Zoom has replaced it. That helps. Should we avoid those wish list places, cruises and multi faceted mega all inclusive resorts. If we did we would likely shave some of the strain from our daily travel grind. Should we stop visiting the Arctic and Antarctic circles. Essentially leave them be. It would help a little. Nothing is a silver bullet. Awareness and an analytic would help. To fully understand the damage we are doing. Maybe slow it down a little. Dont stop traveling. Just be smarter and more selective and maybe we will see a difference. Cruises are banned from entering certain harbors. That’s good. And make travelers be super aware of how to offload recyclable garbage. It’s often not clear and therefore it goes to the waste pile. Lots of small ways that keep us moving but keep us aware.

CHRISTMAS

Christmas in the Countryside

Every year for the past 30 years, we have created our Christmas in the countryside. It’s cold and crisp and the houses and farms all around us are lit up as if it is a movie. The town next-door lights the bridge, and there is a hustle and bustle as the restaurants and bars are open to the freezing customers who sometimes trudge through mounds of snow, and sometimes not.

Christmas is a strange and beautiful time. A time to exchange presents and say goodbye to the old year and begin the new year. It’s a time to pull Christmas crackers. It’s a time to also remember how fortunate some of us are and to wish good tidings across the world in these difficult times. A time  to wish for peace and better times ahead. It’s  a time to play the Bells of Dublin by the Chieftains, watch White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life.  Here in the countryside looking up into the brilliant sky of sparkling lights, tracing the shape of the plough , being with our family it’s humbling.

Metro

Paris Metro Prices Rising

I just learned that Paris metro prices are doubling over the Paris Olympics. I hate what
that is all about. I don’t think London doubled their prices over the Olympics. Nor
Barcelona. What’s that all about?

The idea is to get people to use public transpiration without feeling ripped off. And why does Paris not have a tap-in, tap-out system like every major metro in the world except Moscow! If you’re going to charge more, make it easier. Not that bloody Navigo system that makes an Oyster card look state of the art!

And I love Paris!

WINDRUSH:PICTURE FROM WIKIPEDIA

Windrush

Lovely statue in Waterloo station to remember the Windrush generation. From 1948
until 1970, nearly half a million people moved from the Caribbean to Britain, which in
1948 faced severe labor shortages in the wake of the Second World War. Those who
came to the UK around this time were later referred to as “The Windrush Generation.”

I worked in Brixton market in the early days. It was so lovely. Such energy and hard
work as the West Indian community integrated into the post war staid English culture.
Music, cricket, fruits and vegetables I had never seen before. Fun, laughter and
colors everywhere. That was the Windrush generation.

It’s nice to see a statue that celebrates these brave people who came to work in our strange land of grey skies and rain and bad food from their island in the sun.

Their legacy is everywhere.

Hangers

What Do you Take from Hotels?

A friend of mine was telling me a story of what a friend of hers takes from hotel rooms under the guise of its ok as “I have paid for room!” And I wondered why hotels install those coat hangers that essentially are designed as a deterrent to people taking them home. I mean really, who takes coat hanger’s home! I have enough of them. I need to get rid of them. So, who are these people. What else do they take!

Apparently, they are out there. Towels, toilet paper (yep believe it or not) shampoos, lotions, bathrobes, basically anything not locked down. Crikey! I am often struck that the one thing you need, toothpaste for example, hotels are stingy, mainly not providing. But I was shocked.

Recently at a very nice 4-star hotel in London, the coat hangers were simply not stealable. And according to my friend, with good reason. Hotel thieves are out there. Walking out in broad daylight under cover of a suitcase with a stash of lotions, shampoos and towels and toilet paper. But not the coat hangers!

tour manager

Tour Managers Appreciation

tour manager

It’s sometimes said that Tour Guides or Tour Managers are an important link between the past and present. Like an ancient storyteller they recount history, massage facts, and pass them through generations. And like an actor in a play, every telling, every anecdote is different each time. It’s a fascinating business. They need to be equipped with a few languages, and for sure a super personality. They don’t regurgitate history or current events; they paint pictures and bring to life ancient stories well-trodden. They must imagine even though they have seen or been through the story a million times, that this is a first time for their audience. Their excitement must be palpable to their audience. That’s the gift. That’s when the transfer of knowledge happens. And funny enough, it happens frequently and can be life changing.

Every year we celebrate our group of Tour Managers with an annual meeting somewhere in Europe. This year it was Lisbon. One of my favorite cities. The starting point for many explorers in the 15th century. And there we were. Our merry bunch of explorers getting together before the holidays and the new season begins.

chicago

When Different Languages Speak Volumes

I just recently attended a language convention in Chicago. It was the national convention for teachers who teach foreign languages. Teaching in itself is an amazing profession. You become an influencer you create curiosity, and you teach tolerance.

We work in partnership with educators, across-the-board. Teachers of math, teachers of science, teachers of language, teachers of history and English. But this weekend, it was our privilege to host  language teachers . They are an amazing group of people. They travel, they travel with kids. They teach kids other cultures and how to break through using language to understand cultures that they would never usually interact with.

Teachers change lives. They help kids change direction and furthermore, a lot of the kids go study abroad. And many of them will end up living overseas. Language is a gift. Even if you try and you’re not brilliant, it’s a real gift. Thanks to all of the amazing teachers who travel with us and all who came to see us in Chicago. Love Chicago!   

And on this particular day before Thanksgiving, let’s hope that the educational blocks we build seep through. Never a better time than now to teach tolerance and hope that we can achieve some kind of stability in our troubled  world.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The Lovely World Travel Market, WTM

Every year, I go to the World Travel Market, WTM, in London. It’s a fabulous journey in more ways than one. I take the underground, and if the day is nice, I usually begin my WTM adventure by taking the cable car renamed the “London Cable Car”that soars across East London with views looking along the winding River Thames and the massive development of East London that once was a wasteland.

Travel is an extraordinary sector in our global economy over $15 trillion industry nearly 12% of the overall global economy. Imagine how devastated this economy was for two years. Now, in 2023, it’s reported that we are higher than 2019 levels. Great news all around.

At WTM, the world is divided by a central corridor of cafés and food places. Oh, wish it would be that simple! One side is Asia ,Africa, Australia, Middle East and the Americas and the other side is all of Europe. There is a huge technology section that straddles the two. There are places that are conspicuous by their absence. No Myanmar. No Russia. And no Israel. Booths that seem to have grown beyond all imagination are the Saudi and Quatar booths. Saudi, previously not a tourist destination is now a huge player. And then there is the traditional fringe market. Cuba, hanging on a limb, trying to compete with glitzy Caribbean destinations.

Somebody asked me once why I go to the world travel market every year. It’s to see colleagues, to bump into friends and most importantly to have a walk around the world and to see or gain ideas for new places, new destinations and see what’s going on in travel. There are lots of entertaining talks about about sustainable tourism and new trends in travel in general. And the Elizabeth line, the new underground line in London, takes you all the way to Custom House, and makes the journey from central London out to the conference center even faster than before.

Walking around World Travel Market is a walk through the world. A glimpse of every country imaginable. Music, costumes and a rich piece of global travel fabric, all under one roof! And in the end, a chance to chat with old friends, get some ideas and if you really want to to discover a little bit of the east end of London, walk around or get off at Canary Wharf.

London weaves modern with ancient in a totally groovy way.

I can’t wait to see you again. What a great conference. This was. Thank you