Tag Archives: Pietro Place

Day Flight

The BA Day Flight

How I love that day flight.

You can work through the day on the plane, arrive looking roughly the same as when you left, and get to enjoy a great meal in London before you begin your journey.  Or better still, grab a hotel night at the incredibly convenient Sofitel that is situated at Terminal 5 at Heathrow.  This hotel is a dream especially if your onward connection the following day is on British Airways and therefore in Terminal 5.

British Airways operates day flights from New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Boston.

The flight time from Boston is 5 hours and 50 minutes and while it is not recommendable for people who are trying to save a hotel night by sleeping on an airplane seat, the difference in a healthy travel experience and a somewhat acceptable looking human being emerging from the plane is well worth it.  The great news is that during the summer months you can connect all the way through to Paris (if you are a BA fan) or to more exotic places like Palma in Mallorca (I’m a big fan).

Imagine – you depart Boston at 8:10 am, do some work, watch a movie, connect through to Paris, and by midnight you can be sitting down in a restaurant on the Boulevard Saint Germain, as I did in the Café Louise.

At that point it is still only 7pm in the evening on Boston time.  True confession: I am a secret addict of the day flight.

Soccer

The Barbarian Invasion – The Dark Side of Soccer

It’s the start of soccer mania.

The greatest game in the world is everywhere this summer. There is the Copa America in the USA, the European Nations Cup in France, and not to mention soccer at the Olympics in Brazil.  This is definitely a summer for los fanáticos.  Carried live on TV in the USA, there is not a day that goes by when some important game is not catching the eye of the devotees.

But there is a dark side to soccer as demonstrated recently in the beautiful port city of southern France, Marseille.

The ugly side of ultra-nationalist thugs fighting against an opposing teams’ army of thugs or tearing apart local restaurants and bars and fighting with the police.  It should not be this way but soccer quite often has a dark side.  This summer it has again reared its ugly head.

When we choose to travel, we travel to open our minds, embrace different cultures, take a chance on speaking a language that we are unfamiliar with, and get close to the sights and sounds of a place that is unfamiliar.

In brief, learn and enrich yourself with the tools of the trade – tolerance, openness, and kindness.  With this, and a guide book or willingness to get lost, one can take a chance with a phrase or two, and get to meet people from different places with different languages, different religions, and different perspectives.  When I see the dark side of soccer, I see such a misconnect between the beautiful game and what this ultra-minority of racist hooligans take from the sport.

Here’s the deal – it’s not their sport, it’s our sport.  Prejudice in any form is a terrible waste of life.

I will sit back, watch the games, marvel at the moves, enjoy the backdrop of beautiful cities, and know that there is nothing wrong with supporting your nation. But that has nothing to do with being an ultra-nationalist.  No wonder they banned alcohol in the cities where the hooligans are heading.  What right do these guys have to paint the Russian or English fan on their drunken bodies?  Shout out against all forms of racism and fanaticism.  You never know, it could be happening at a place near you!  See you out there somewhere.

Soccer

Champion's Final

Champion’s League Final

It has become a habit – catching the two greatest club teams in the world at a venue in some foreign place and watching the drama and spectacle of the absolute pinnacle of soccer’s elite competing for the Champion’s League trophy.

Of course, what better story than a repeat of the story that unfolded two years prior in Lisbon.  It’s the story of Atlético Madrid versus Real Madrid at the San Siro Stadium in Milan, Italy.

This is the story of Madrid’s gritty side and the working class suburbs around the Calderón Stadium (Atléti) and the chic neighborhood along the Castellana where the Bernabéu Stadium (Real) is located.

It’s the struggle and fight against the privileged and wealthy aristocratic classes.

The Republic against the Falange party.  A war and nearly a century later, the marks in the sand have still not been forgotten in Madrid.  Even though the players and multimillion dollar salaries come from many different countries, to wear the badge of Atléti is all together a different story than to wear the badge of Real.  Here we were again in a different stadium to relive the battle.

Italy is one of the only places in the world where two teams share the same stadium.  In the case of San Siro, the teams are AC Milan and Inter Milan.  The fans of both teams have learned to detest each other through family tradition!  But this weekend they would transfer the ownership of the stadium over to the Champion’s League.  Two of the three greatest teams in Spain would vie for honors.  I go every year to this event because I love football.

If you truly love football, and you can only travel to one event, this has to be the event.

More important than a World Cup final or Olympic gold medal, the Champion’s League final is the culmination of a year’s work, a year’s qualifiers, and a celebration of the greatest players in the world.  Not to mention, this year it was in Milan – a revisit to a stadium I had not been to in 15 years.

The game was anything but anticlimactic.  It was amazing.  It came down to 22 exhausted players locked in a dead heat and having to shoot penalties just before midnight.  Of course, as in every sport, there is heartbreak, a lucky break, and a winner or loser.  In this case, my team for the night, Atléti, yet again would lose out in the last seconds of a game that went on for over two hours.  They were the warriors (and in my view the winners) but sport can be cruel.  Penalties are almost the ultimate gladiatorial form of combat.  Sudden death, 12 yards, two players, a striker and a goal keeper, and 85,000 people looking on.  There can be nothing quite like this in any sport in the world.  No heartbreak more imaginable in that moment.

We left our Spanish friends in the stadium and exited as quietly and quickly possible.  It was late and we needed to make other plans so we dove out of the San Siro and into the night ahead of the crowds.  We were sitting in a restaurant that a friend of ours knew very well called the Trattoria Toscana on the Corso di Porta Ticinese.  It stayed open beyond 2 o’clock in the morning.  We had a fabulous seafood pasta, incredible shrimp with the finest olive oil, and some great white wine to wash it down with.  We would live to fight another day.  As they say, it’s only a game!

Champion’s League

Champion’s League

Champion's Final

Leonardo Da Vinci and Armani

A Tale of Two Museums – Leonardo Da Vinci and Armani

What to do on a beautiful spring morning in Milan?

In light of the fact that we had a long day ahead of us with a soccer game that would stretch until midnight, what better compliment to il calcio than a bit of culture and fashion.

I had never seen The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci.  We had figured out a way to jump onto a sightseeing tour without doing the sightseeing (always handy to avoid mediocre guides) and thus gain entrance to the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie.  In an airtight salon, with strict procedures by group, I got to see something that had been on my to-do list for years.  The room that The Last Supper is in is austere and simple.  At the far end of the chapel is a crucifixion scene by Giovanni Donato. It faces Leonardo’s Last Supper where Jesus announces his betrayer.  Someone always lets the team down!  This is one of his greatest works, badly deteriorated and suffering the ravages of time and vandalism, but it still provides an experience unique and spiritual.

What better way to compliment a 15th century mural by one of the world’s greatest ever painters than a visit to the ultra-chic Giorgio Armani’s Armani/Silos that was opened in 2015?

Housed in what was a granary, Armani captures his passion for fashion in a place whose central force was all about the beginnings of food.  There are more than 600 outfits and around 200 handbags and accessories from 1980 to the present.  There is a fabulous little café outside with great sandwiches and incredible olive oil for dipping.  The whole experience capped with an espresso and an Armani sugar cube.  Made me want to rush out, grab an Armani jacket somewhere, and wear it for a day.

If only to know that Armani’s designs are as timeless as the painting that preceded it in the morning.

Artists are artists.  Lucky to get a glimpse into a Renaissance mind in the year 2016.

Leonardo Da Vinci and ArmaniLeonardo Da Vinci and ArmaniLeonardo Da Vinci and Armani Leonardo Da Vinci and Armani Leonardo Da Vinci and Armani

Peter Jones Pietro Place Milan's Canals

The Revitalization of Milan’s Canals

When most people think of Milan, they think of the Duomo, La Scala, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and The Last Supper.

These are the “iconic” parts of Milan that are on every sightseeing tour if you happen to be passing this way.  Let’s face it; Rome compared to Milan is pretty much a non-issue.  Rome has the lot – the history, the museums, the beautiful evening light, and of course the weather.  But Milan is a city of the north; closer to its German neighbors and a stone’s throw to France.  Milan has a certain atmosphere about it.  It’s a young city, a city famous for its fashion houses and beautiful people, and a nighttime scene that can rival Spain.  Furthermore, with the advent of the high-speed train network, notably the Frecciarossa, Milan to Rome is a cool 3.5 hours.  Two cities that were so diametrically opposed have been brought closer together through modern transportation. And who would have thought that Milan has a touch of Venice to it as well!

Milan boasts a neighborhood of canals that had been forgotten about and then resurrected to create a vibrant restaurant and bar scene that for most people is one of the best kept secrets in Europe.

The Navigli is situated southwest of the historic center.  In its heyday, the canals formed a 150 km network that connected the city with the main rivers and the large lakes to the north.  They were used for irrigation and more importantly transportation.  The earliest known construction was in the 12th century.  Because of this ingenious way to transport goods and irrigate farm lands, Milan became the country’s largest inland port despite the absence of a main river.  This “little Venice” thrived but then with the advent of roads, it fell into decline.  What consisted of five canals has now been reduced down to three.  But a renaissance of sorts took place around the main canal, the Naviglio Grande.  It is a trendy locale with high house prices but it is a cool urban neighborhood that represents an edgy Milan.  This is really where everything happens with cruise boats, restaurants, bars, and a fabulous antique market.  I got to eat in one of the great restaurants called Fiaschetteria Il Montalcino on the Via Valenza #17.  We took a couple of beers in one of the bars, walked over a beautiful iron bridge, and gazed in wonder at the shimmering lights on an ancient canal.  I could not believe this was my first time here.  I could not believe this was Milan.  Travel is a wonder.

Navigli canal Peter Jones Pietro Place Milan's Canals

River Tour of London’s History

A River Tour of London’s History

A remarkable aspect of London is the way they have adapted their new skyline to an old river.

When I was growing up, the Thames and the embankment areas were barely used.  There was one boat that would take you from Westminster to Kew Gardens and Henry VIII’s palace of Hampton Court and another boat that would travel as far as the tower and Tower Bridge.  It was as if the river ought to be ignored and certainly to all intents and purposes stopped at the Tower.  The French have long made fabulous use of the Seine.  It was inevitable that the Brits would someday catch up and would start to develop a world-class waterfront to showcase London.

And so it goes that pretty much everything starts around Westminster and heads east towards the new developments down at Canary Wharf.  The east of London, once a wasteland full of warehouses and disused wharfs, is now a principal point of traffic with its own airport, super high-speed trains, and new buildings that pop up it seems every six months or so.

For me, one of the greatest joys in London is to take a river tour of London’s history.

These are essentially boat rides that encompasse the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the London Eye, Shakespeare’s recreated Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern at the old Bankside Power Station, and the fabulous new London City Hall, the Shard, the Walkie Talkie, the Gherkin, and the Millennium Bridge, otherwise known as the wonky bridge.  Not to mention the fabulous Tower Bridge and its neighbor, the ancient Tower of London.

So a bunch of us decided to do this journey using the Thames RIB Experience boats.  Essentially, it’s a high-speed boat ride eastward down the river with different possibilities for location – Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, or the Thames Barrier.  It is a great ride.  You embark at Embankment Pier and the journey can take anywhere from 30 to 75 minutes depending upon how far you want to go.

The boat twists and turns in spectacular fashion as you get into open water after Tower Bridge. It’s powered by 740 horse power, in other words it moves very fast.  It rained a bit but nobody got wet because the boat was moving at jet speed!  It was one of the fun ways to see the river and count the changes that have graced this skyline.

One shout out to London in the midst of the Brexit catastrophe – Congratulations!  You have a Muslim mayor, the son of a Pakistani postal worker, in this most cosmopolitan city.  So proud to be a Londoner!
River Tour of London’s History

River Tour of London's History

Brexit: The Days After

Brexit: The Days After

As a Brit living in the USA and holding a UK passport and a USA passport, I felt that I had this unique opportunity to work and travel in 29 countries.

That changed. The United Kingdom has just experienced a political nightmare.  What most thought would be a very passable referendum to remain inside of the European Union sparked such fierce political divisions that the vote went into the night and became a cataclysmic defeat for those that wished to remain in the EU.

The political fallout from this is still happening.  The Labor Party, Britain’s main opposition party, has been splintered and almost certainly sidelined for many years to come.  The Conservative Party has lost its leader and the Prime Minister.  As two populist conservatives, Boris Johnson, the disheveled and outspoken ex-Mayor of London, and Nigel Farange, a leader of the generously named but highly racist Independent Party, became the outspoken leaders for the “leave” camp.  Neither of these two villains will see power but they did enough damage to offset the gains made by being a member of the European Union for the last 45 years.

It was a campaign fueled by fears of immigration laced with racist terms.  Bringing “England back to England” banded around with frightening repetition.  At the end of the day, England is out.  The ramifications of this will be most obvious in the years to come.  In a global society, in a global economy, England has chosen to be isolationists fueling the immigrant polemic and walking confidently backwards into a “we once were great” illusion.  If that is not enough, English hooligans were on display everywhere during the European Championships of soccer.  To let you know what you really will be getting if you cut off the supply of bright, young Europeans who come to England to study our language, our culture, and more importantly, to work.

What does all of this mean for the traveler?

On a positive note, it means that your dollar will go further because the pound is tumbling and the euro has taken a hit as well.  It will probably mean more border checks and as England is not in the EU, the lines will be a little longer on the Eurostar and at the airports.  The fact that the United Kingdom is not in the Schengen Agreement which entitles free mobility between 19 countries will make it less of a problem.  For the United Kingdom passport holder traveling to Europe, it will mean longer lines and no freedom of movement.  It will mean that people will not be able to work freely with a British passport in any of the 27 member states and of course vice versa.  It means that in five to six years’ time, London will probably seem a little bit more English and that is not a good thing!  I love hearing the sound of foreign languages on the streets of London.  It makes me feel that I am in a cosmopolitan city, it encourages languages to be studied, and cultures to be learned.

Europe just lost one of its stars.  The United Kingdom is also the second largest economic country in the 28 countries with Germany still as number one.  But critically, Europe will still be a trading block of over 450 million people and therefore the second largest trading block in the world behind China and ahead of the USA.  The United Kingdom, in addition, may also become somewhat disunited within itself.  Scotland, who fiercely voted to remain in Europe, will probably elect to have a referendum and leave the UK.  Northern Ireland may do the same.  That would leave a very strange United Kingdom.  But for us tourists it would mean that we would have to go through border control to get to Edinburgh and the drive from Dublin to Belfast would also have a new border constructed.  Maybe we will have a united Ireland!

Of course none of this will take place right away.  Article 50 of the EU is the thing that has to be invoked.  That will set a two-year timetable for the unprecedented departure of one of the member states.  Thank goodness my grandmother is Irish!  I am applying for my Irish passport now!

 

Pietro Place Peter Jones Raden

A New Kid on the Block – Raden A22

So, there’s a new kid on the block now.

I just purchased a Raden carry-on. Check out the website! They have a really cool color palette for each of its suitcases of varying sizes. As an entry-level bag, they have introduced an incredibly affordable 22” roller with state-of-the-art Japanese spinning wheels, a fabulous polycarbonate shell, and a polyurethane overlay that creates a waterproof seal. It’s light at only 7.5 pounds and it’s four spinning Japanese wheel bases are as good as it gets.

Here’s the great stuff though – the technology within it is exceptional.

There is a pouch that contains a USB cable, sleep blindfold, orange earplugs, and the ergonomic handle is a scale. It has an app that you download on your phone, it has GPS capability through the app, and a charger in the bag itself. It’s an inexpensive $295 that should be compared to the Tumi’s of this world and the Zero Halliburton’s which retail for much, much more. My Briggs and Riley bag just doesn’t feel cool enough anymore. Check it out.

guided sightseeing tours peter jones pietro place

Guided Sightseeing Tours

I live in Boston, I am from London, and I am in the travel business.

I watch the endless flotilla of sightseeing buses in their various forms trundle through the streets and main thoroughfares of all of the major cities.  I actually love the double decker buses in London and the hop on/hop offs that have taken over most of the cities of the world.  They truly serve a vital and useful function.  When people arrive in a city, they need an overview just to get their bearings.  While it is not my cup of tea to get stuck in a traffic jam, I sort of like the views and it’s a lazy way of a getting a history lesson.

Most of the time, guided sightseeing tours are brilliant.

The guides are local and with their peculiar accents and personalities they shine.  They are great communicators, energizers, and perspective givers.  They have their arsenal of anecdotes, their funny stories, and they are often our first impression when we arrive in a major city.  God forbid the poor tour group who gets the unbrilliant guide reciting date after date, detail after detail in the most hopeless way.  These are “the Memorizers” – fear them because they are out there and they will take the wind right out of your enthusiastic sails!

Most importantly, to be able to guide at the highest level, to recite history and communicate it effectively, and to move and change the narrative depending on the ebb and flow of traffic, requires concentration.  A guide should never be the driver of the vehicle.  That would detract from guiding and driving.  The other day there was a tragic accident in Boston with a “Duck Boat.” The “Duck Boats” in Boston are a fun tourist attraction – old amphibious military vehicles restored so that they can drive down the streets of Boston and then on into the Charles River.  It is an incredibly successful concept that has been replicated in other cities where tidal barriers permit.

But there is one problem and it’s a big problem.

The driver, situated about 15 feet above pedestrians on the street, is doing two separate things at the same time; each requiring their own expertise.  Drivers need to have good vision of everything around them, they need to solve short term problems, and they must stay alert to everything on the road and the sidewalks.  In addition, they have to read traffic signs, respond to hazards, and be aware of their spatial significance.  They are essentially driving a tank through narrow and busy streets.

In addition, they are tour guides.  They have to provide commentary, anticipate what they are going to see, and move their commentary around as the traffic changes its pattern.  So how can you do two things at the same time?  Texting and telephoning while driving in most states is forbidden.

Yet these guys drive around with blind spots everywhere, high above pedestrians, bicyclists, and scooter drivers and they are expected to be 100% alert to the changing driving conditions.

It’s impossible.  The tragic accident that happened the other day was proof of this.

What is the city going to do about this?  It looks at the moment like nothing and why….because Boston Duck Tours brings important revenue to the city of Boston.  Shame on you Boston and shame on the Boston Duck Tours.  Add a separate driver to each vehicle; a second set of eyes to help watch for pedestrians and other vehicles on the road.  It cost someone their life the other day and that is too big a price to pay for profit and gain and tourist dollars.

guided sightseeing tours

Brexit Pietro Place Peter Jones

The Brexit Debate

On June 23, the UK will hold a historic referendum that will determine whether they stay inside of the European Union or exit.

“The Brexit,” as it’s called, has divided the country.

Britain was a relative second choice to the initial family of six countries that formed the early version of the European Union in 1957.  The French, under President Charles de Gaulle at the time, had little time for the English, and the English had little time for the French.  But England joined in 1973 and became a big player in the EU which now has 28 member states.  They also enjoy a semi-unique status inside of this massive economic trading block.  The Brits retain their currency and want nothing to do with the open border policy that is known as Schengen.  With the exception of the UK and Ireland, the rest of the EU is obliged to adopt.

For most European member states point of view, the Brits are already getting a sweet deal – Trade collaboration, protection, and stimulus of a huge economic block but they still retain sovereignty over their borders and currency.  Especially in light of the recent immigration crisis that has resulted from the Middle East conflict.

So which way is this going to go?

Right now current polling suggests that the “stay-in” vote has a slight edge over the Brexit vote.

It’s too close to call but David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, has staked his reputation on the “stay-in” stance. However, the flamboyant Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who is considered to be a potential heir apparent for the Prime Ministership, is on team Brexit.  The right-wing UK Independence Party and some would say openly racist party, UKIP, is solidly for Brexit.

For me, I like the European Union.  I enjoy the international flavor of London with the open flow of European workers in hotels, bars, and restaurants.  I love hearing the languages.  On any given day in any given restaurant or hotel, you can speak with a Pole, Slovenian, Italian, or Spanish citizen.  It creates a better community and in many ways it teaches us through trickle down to love thy neighbor.  Yep, even the French!  I like moving through the open borders of Schengen on my Euro passport.  I can remember when I was growing up in London traveling “abroad” on our holidays to strange foreign places with sunshine and warm seas called Spain and Portugal.  They were third world countries recovering from decades of Fascist dictatorships.  Now they are integrated into a powerful block of healthy economies that make them better.

Consolidation is the way of the future; just like airlines and hotels.  It is economically impossible to survive and prosper as a tiny island state.

Frankly, to sit on the lawn, looking out across the English channel, lamenting the days when once we ruled the waves, smoking the pipe and sipping the Pimms, talking about India and places in Africa whose names have since changed, is a daydream of colonial bygone days.

Yep, I know the Brits struggle with the French and the French struggle with the Brits but this is the future and that is the past.  They gave us garlic, baguettes, fabulous cheeses, champagne, and wine.  The Brits have the beer, the aristocracy, theatre, and tradition that still lives.  Not to mention the culinary delights and natural wonders of the other 26 European countries.  This is not just a powerful economic trading block, it’s a new way of life and I am grateful to be a European.  I don’t want to lose the touch of Europe that we would lose if we took the narrow view and leave.  We would have to rename the song “Rule Britannia” into “Fool Britannia.”  The UK would be marginalized.  It would become a niche business!  That would be a drag for all of us.

New York

I love New York.

I love the buzz of the city, I love the subway, the crazy yellow cabs, the skyscrapers, the tiny neighborhoods, and of course the theater.

The other evening I saw two plays back-to-back: Long Day’s Journey Into Night and The Father.  This was two days after I had gone with my daughter to see The Sound of Music. Nuns, nannies and Nazis, all intertwined around a delightful and timeless score. The Nazi bit was a little grim but it’s pretty light with the sing along stuff! So here I was in NYC taking in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, an intense play, three and a half hours long, by playwright Eugene O’Neill. The Father is a French tale by French playwright Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton who was the one who single handedly transformed a 1782 Choderlos de Laclos novel to make the incredible play Les Liasons Dangereuses.  It’s pretty intense. It’s a study of the tragedy and gradual deterioration associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Brought tears to my eyes as I thought about my father too.  And what to do after all of that? Head to a great restaurant of course and that would be Esca, my favorite restaurant in New York on 43rd between 9th and 10th Avenue.

The next day, I grabbed the metro and went down to the Empire State Building and took a stroll from 33rd to 14th street on the High Line, a fantastic community effort along the discarded elevated train tracks. It dropped me off right in the meatpacking area and I got to pop into Soho House for a quick bite and a view from the rooftop pool across the Manhattan skyline. I then took a walk through Central Park, saw the seals in the children’s zoo and thought how amazing to have such green space in between all of this bigness and towering glass structures.  Of course I ran out of time and jumped a yellow cab to La Guardia. I should have taken the Acela, but honestly, at three hours and 50 minutes, it still doesn’t make a lot of sense when you have an urgent appointment back in Boston.

Plea number 100: Open up this Eastern seaboard corridor Mr. President and run fast trains down the line.

The Acela is anything but accelerated! It’s slow and the service on board is dreadful. Why is Amtrak so bad?

High Line Park

High Line Park

Central Park

Central Park

Long Day's Journey Into Night

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Droning On

Let’s face it; flying is not what it used to be.

We pile into a tube, we wait sometimes for an hour on the runway, and we hover with trepidation over a busy airport waiting to land. We do all of that increasingly on a jammed plane with no empty seats available for breathing room and staff that appears to care less and less about customer service. Then add to that the natural fear of flying that lots of people have.

My daughter, for example, is in a perpetual state of angst for the entire flight.  My mate Sergio in Italy who flies all over the world has to close his eyes taking off.  It’s understandable. When you think about it, it doesn’t seem natural that we are all sitting in a metal object watching videos and having a beer at 35,000 feet in the air knowing that this thing weighs, without the 200 passengers inside of it, about 770,000 pounds!  So that adds a minimum, judging by today’s girth issues, another 40,000 to 50,000 pounds with the luggage! And there are only two engines that our lives depend upon!

Of course, it’s good to know that the incidence of imminent danger on an airplane is less than driving a car, walking to work, taking the train, or riding a bike.  I get that but it still feels a bit weird.  And then I read that with the increased sale of consumer drones, there is the ever increased likelihood that there will be an accident involving a drone and an airplane.

Consumer drones? Are you kidding?

In fact there was a drone incident just the other day at Heathrow Airport in London.  A British Airways flight coming in from Geneva hit by a drone as it came in to land.  Thankfully nothing happened but do we really need this kind of toy in the hands of casual consumers?  It’s bad enough when a flock of geese gets sucked into the jet engines when the plane is landing or taking off.  But to have a drone hit an aircraft either accidentally or not is alarming.

Let’s discount the isolated incidents of pilots who carry hangovers on the plane (thank goodness for the breathalyzer!) and the occasional crazy passenger who creates havoc with the flight attendants.  Let’s not even mention the occasional flight attendants who create havoc with passengers!  But seriously, who needs drones?  The news that my son-in-law law just received a drone from his dad wasn’t reassuring either!

Let’s get drones back to what they are meant for….oh hang on….killing lots of people in faraway places without risking too much collateral damage.  I’ve taken it off my Christmas list to Santa!

Image courtesy of http://aviationbuzzword.com/you-can-now-file-a-flight-plan-for-your-drone-operations-to-alert-nearby-pilots/

Visa Wars

Visa Wars

The European commission seems to be moving closer to deciding to implement a new visa hurdle for USA and Canadian citizens traveling through the European Schengen countries.

That excludes UK and Ireland, but the hotspots like Italy, Switzerland, Spain, France, and Germany will all be affected.

So what is it all about?  Well, under US entry requirements, the US will not allow visitors from the European Union who reside in Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania to enter without a visa.  Under the EU law and EU prior agreement, there is a reciprocity between the EU and the USA and Canada that enables USA citizens to travel visa-free in the EU, and EU citizens to enter the USA via the visa waiver program using the ESTA protocol.  Now in these complicated days, and partly because of Schengen, the USA is no longer prepared to except visitors from the countries specified.

The Schengen Agreement is a treaty which led to the creation of Europe’s borderless areas.  It was signed near the town of Schengen, Luxembourg in 1985 and in 1990 a supplemental agreement proposed to abolish internal border controls and a common visa policy.  The Schengen treaties were adopted into the European Union law almost 10 years later and today allow citizens and tourists alike to freely travel from country to country.  The Schengen area operates pretty much like a single state for international travel purposes – no passport control at airports or borders.  It currently covers 26 European countries and a population of over 400 million.  The only opt-out countries are Ireland and the United Kingdom but Schengen is a core part of EU law and EU member states without an opt-out anymore.  Any country joining Europe has to opt into Schengen.

So with the proposal of this new EU policy, of course everybody is up in arms.  Really until the EU sorts out its Schengen borders, this issue could have a dramatic effect on USA tourism to Europe and probably would reduce down tourism to the Schengen countries by about 30%. How scary is that Europe?

Understandably, the USA is holding firm.  It is election year and these are issues that nobody wants to touch.

In addition, the USA points out that the reciprocity between the principle players in Europe and the USA can stand alone.  But the EU is having none of this.  The European Parliament is very close to voting to institute a visa fee for all USA and Canada citizens that travel beyond Ireland and the UK.  In other words, the EU commission is treating this deal as a big deal.  The rights of all EU citizens whether they are Italian or Romanian have to be seen to be equal.  The selection of some member states for visa requirements is considered to be anathema.

The USA has had a two-year warning on this but now this period has expired.

If the parliament votes to create this, it will cause confusion, madness, a loss of tourism, and simply add to the chaos of the current Schengen mess.

All of this comes at a moment when the Europeans are in a quandary.  Austria has just introduced a “border management” plan at the Brenner Pass due to the current crisis.  In addition, multiple spot checks are occurring on many frontiers throughout Europe.  So while the letter of the law, in this case the Schengen Agreement, is a marvelous example of the freedom to move within a block of countries without passports or controls, the current migrant crisis has made this a can of worms too.  Greece, Italy, and Spain are all the recipients of most of the migrants that come to Europe illegally.  Their main goal is to move those migrants on.  That is pretty easy through the Schengen Agreement which is why many border controls are being put back up.

This is the rub though – Americans are feeling a little a bit of trepidation about traveling to Europe anyhow with the recent attacks.  Now if they have to buy a visa (goodness knows how long that will take as there is no infrastructure to do this) and then have to wait in long lines on passport controls, you have a mess beyond a mess.  The cost of all of this will impact the approximately 50 billion Euro economy that tourism brings and that represents a lot of jobs!  This is an export industry at the same level as the automotive sector.

What to do?  The smart thing to do would let go of the “holier than thou” stance in Europe and continue with the near reciprocity that we have.  If the Europeans stick to their guns, and the Americans stick to theirs, then you have a visa war as well as a migrant war and the economic consequences of that will have untold effects on European tourism and the European economy. Hardly a time to wage this kind of war when tourists are in shorter and shorter supply!

My two cents….let it be.

Image courtesy of http://www.myce.com/news/eu-commission-vp-says-copyright-legislation-is-a-factor-in-piracy-76314/