Saturday, 22 April 2017

Lost Luggage - Lessons Learned

Two years ago I embarked on a pretty awesome two week trip to the US and Canada which involved multiple destinations and therefore multiple flights. It was on this trip that I experienced the loss of my hold luggage. At this point in my life I had been on a fair few trips but was by no means a seasoned traveller and I certainly didn't think that my luggage would ever go astray that was something that happened to other people, not me! How wrong I was.

To give you some context myself and my parents set off from our local airport Newcastle (NCL) headed to Toronto (YYZ) Canada, as this wasn't a direct flight we had a stop over of a few hours in Heathrow Airport's (LHR) new Terminal 5. It was at this stage of the journey that we made our connecting flight but our luggage did not. If you aren't aware Terminal 5 has an all singing all dancing new baggage system behind the scenes. Unfortunately on the day we travelled this all singing all dancing system failed and there was no viable back up in place. So not only was our flight affected but also thousands of others were affected too. So when we arrived in Toronto we were informed shortly after landing in baggage reclaim that the bags were not loaded onto the flight. I think if we were staying in Toronto for the full two weeks of our trip there would have been a good chance that our bags could have been reunited with us but as we were only there for 3 days and moving on to Las Vegas and Los Angeles it made tracking that bit more difficult.

We waited at the British Airways desk that was opened in Baggage reclaim to be issued with a credit card with money loaded on, so that we were able to buy some essentials etc. We were advised that this could be done on-line through a website that British Airways had provided, but this link wasn't working so we decided to wait in the queue and have something there and then to ensure we could buy some essential items. I would certainly advise you take this option as it seemed as though the link to apply for money wasn't working its thought due to the high number of people trying to access this site so those travellers who didn't wait likely were unable to claim this emergency fund.

I have learned quite a few lessons from this experience that have made me a more savvy traveller and I've also realised how little I actually need to pack for a two week holiday, before this I was the notorious over packer! If at all possible try and pack everything you need into a carry on eliminating the need for a checked in bag, you can always get essentials such as liquids you are unable to pack etc. at the other end. If you do need to take a bag to be checked in make sure you pack a few items in a cabin bag so that you aren't left short at the other end should you need anything.

I was finally reunited with my bag on my return home from my two week trip, British Airways decided by the time they had located my bag and my location it would be easier to send this to my home address than to my Hotel in Los Angeles. Thank god for travel insurance is all I can say!!

Have you ever had your luggage go missing? What was your experience with being reunited with your luggage? Please let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The History of Rome Podcast ~ My Companion for the Daily Commute

About July/August last year I began to grow tired of my usual song playlists on my commute to work and the radio stations were no help to busting my boredom. Now my commute unlike may other is only 15 minutes nothing I know compared to a lot of people who can have upwards of an hour to pass the time, but I found myself just going through the motions and then being completely demotivated on my arrival at work which then lead to a less than productive day.

It was following a conversation with a colleague that I discovered the History of Rome Podcast. I am a massive history nerd and I particularly have an interest in Ancient Rome so I knew this Podcast would be right up my street! My colleague said that he had downloaded it from ITunes, but me being an android user I didn't have access to that on my phone, what I would be using to listen to the Podcast. Luckily a quick search on Spotify and there it was so I mediately followed and downloaded the playlist and began to listen.

The podcast is a series that traces the rise and fall of the Roman Empire from the days of Romulus and Remus to the very end dealing with why the Empire fell when it did. There are 179+ episodes to this series so I knew that it would keep me busy for a good while. I had a brief idea of what happened during the reign of the Roman Empire but I didn't have a definitive timeline of which emperor was ruling and at what time and also what each emperors strengths and weaknesses were as some Emperors were more effective than others. 

As well as charting the comings and goings of each Emperor and their successes and failures in battle the podcast looked at a variety of different topics that encompass the Roman Empire from the daily life of a Roman citizen, to how the Romans celebrated 'Christmas'. It covers everything you could possibly want to know about Ancient Rome and my inner history nerd was more than satisfied. The podcast finished recording in 2012 and the podcast producer Mike Duncan is now recording a similar series based on the Revolutions of American history.

As mentioned I started listening to this podcast around July/August 2016 and I still haven't finished yet, it usually takes me my journey to and from work to listen to one episode give or take and I have had a few breaks for times when I have not been in work etc. It has had a massive impact on my concentration I find my mid is engaged by the time I reach work and I'm more alert ready to start the day and has had an impact on my productivity at work. So if you have an interest in Ancient Rome like me or you are just looking for a new podcast to listen to to broaden your knowledge base then i cant recommend The History of Rome enough!

Check out the Podcast accompanying website for more info here

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Surviving New York During a Snow Storm

I made a recent trip to New York City and it just so happened to be the week that Storm Stella hit the north east coast of the US.Not the best timing for a Trip to the US but what's a girl to do when the flights and hotel are booked and a lot of time and effort had gone into the planning of the trip, you just grin and bare it and hope that its not has bad as everyone predicted.

I arrived in New York on the Sunday before the storm was due, to freezing conditions but the sun was still shinning, that's OK I an cope with the cold as long as the sun is out. If the weather can stay like this for the next four days I am winning, but alas this was not to be. It was similar weather to that what I arrived to on the Monday cold but bright so I was thinking usually it warms up a bit before a big snow storm maybe I have got away with this maybe the snow will have been blow off course and will by pass us and I will be lucky to have gotten away with it!

How naive I was, I awoke to snow covered roof tops and inches of snow covering the roads and footpaths with snow falling thick and fast as well as huge gusts of wind, winner!! Not to be deterred and hoping that the snow fall will stop any time I ventured out. I had been told that the museums should still be open and the like so I jumped on the Subway down town with the plan of visiting the Ground Zero Museum and Workshop. As I came out of the subway station a short walk from the Museum I saw Starbucks and it was open, so I decided to grab a quick breakfast before making my way to the museum, while I was enjoying a bite to eat and taking full advantage of their free WIFI I checked Google maps to see how far a way the museum was and how long it would take to walk it was then that a little alert popped up on my screen telling me that in actual fact the Museum would not be open today!! Bloody hell I've come all the way down town what can I do now? I thought best thing to do would be to visit the 9/11 Memorial as this was outdoors and something you can just walk up to. Unfortunately due to the bad weather I could see the Memorial but I couldn't get as close to it as you normally would be able to but was still very moving to be in the place that the horrible tragedy took place. Having paid my respects at the Memorial I thought I would nip in quickly to Target that was just a little further along the street to see if I could get some Knicks clothing for the Basketball game I had tickets for that evening.

Oh My God!! Trying to walk 300m up the street was incredibly difficult the now was not falling as massive hail stones punching you in the face no matter how well wrapped up I thought I and coupled with that the winds had picked up and were reported to have reached 60 mph. As you can imagine it was very treacherous conditions and it was starting to get a little dangerous. Once I had, had a little look in Target and hoping that the wind and hail would ease off I headed back out in search of the Subway station to head back up town, I didn't want to get stuck down here far away from the Hotel. I got off the subway at Madison Square Gardens, as I had, had no luck finding anything with the New York Knicks on I figured the Gardens would have a shop I could pick something up. As I came to ground level I was fortunate to find a discount sports clothing stores and picked up a T-Shirt. Once done in their the wind and hail had picked up again so I ran into TGI Fridays and decided that this was as good a place as any to grab some lunch and once again wait for the wind and hail to die down a bit before heading out, I was lucky this place was open as a lot of businesses had made the decision to close that day for the safety of their staff.

By this time a lot of the day had gone, trying to walk in 60 mph winds takes up a lot of your time!! So once I had eaten I headed back to my hotel to freshen up before heading back out for the Basketball that evening. When I headed back out the snow and hail had finally stopped and the wind had died down considerably so the worst was now behind me, thank god!!

The next day I headed back out to pick up where I left off with my New York sight seeing, taking in a tour of the Rockefeller Centre and a little stroll around Central Park. I was amazed at how quickly the roads and pathways had been cleared, there were people out doing this on the Tuesday and it looks like people had worked through the night to ensure that everything was done for the Wednesday. The snow unfortunately piled up at crossroads and I found a few crossings to be a bit dicey trying the clamber over huge piles of snow but for the most part getting around by foot was no problem at all. By the Thursday I had noticed massive trucks scooping big piles of the snow into the back and it appears that it gets shipped elsewhere to melt as the city just cant handle that amount of melted water!!

New York in the snow is so pretty and Central Park in particular was magical. Apart from losing one day of sight seeing the city was incredibly resilient and bounced back pretty quickly and was back to its busy bustling self in no time at all. I would definitely need to re-visit this amazing city in the summer one to do all the things I didn't get a chance to but also to experience how different the city can be in the warmer weather!

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