Tag Archives: travel

Pre-flight entertainment for the whole family

How family friendly facilities can make airport waits a hell of a lot easier

A guest post by Emily Taylor

I’ve probably been in transportation terminals rife with the cries of restless kids more times than I can count. Not that I don’t have a soft spot for children, because I do; but that doesn’t make the constant barrages of their whines and wails any less annoying.

Family in airport with bags and trolley

Which is why it’s great to learn that many major airports the world over are now integrating child-friendly facilities to their overall services. In the US, Chicago’s O’Hare International has a reputation for being one of the busiest airports in the country. With that many flyers coming in and out of its terminals, things could no doubt get too loud – or even downright frightening – for kids. Thankfully, the airport has a special play area designed to keep them preoccupied as they wait for their flights. O’Hare has a playground called Kids on the Fly that features interactive exhibits showcasing many facets of how airplanes work given in a fun and informative manner. I remember how I was easily marveled by these kinds of easy-to-digest information when I was younger; and I have no doubt kids nowadays get a kick out of them just as much as I used to.

Heading over to the UK, London’s flagship Heathrow Airport is undergoing a lot of major renovations, most notably an expansion of Terminal 2 – soon to be called the Queen’s Terminal upon completion – as detailed in a report by airport parking service site Parking4less. Along with the expected larger floor space to accommodate more people, Terminal 2 will also open a John Lewis outlet – allegedly the smallest yet of the department store chain brand. As per John Lewis’ usual wares, this outlet will include items for kids and toddlers. Just as well, the nearby Terminal 3 also houses the Jetterz Kids Club Lounge, which should keep the children preoccupied with books, toys, and video games.

Asia’s airports have also gotten in on the act, with Hong Kong International’s play area being one of the best in the world. The SkyPlaza at Terminal 2 has a section called the Aviation Discovery Center which has various fun activities for kids and adults alike, including motion rides, games that teach about the finer points of aviation, and even flight simulators. SkyPlaza also has the 4D Extreme Screen Cinema, a 300-seater movie theatre which features the largest 3D projection screen in the whole continent. Finally, the entertainment facility is also home to iSports, an area for sports enthusiasts whose simulators for basketball, football, skiing, and more should be more than enough to accommodate the young ones’ seemingly never-ending supply of energy.

For me, a complete flight experience is one that includes services designed to entertain people even as they wait in between flights. This is especially necessary for families who may have a hard time keeping their kids well-behaved for too long. Given that, to have these services cater not just to adults but to children as well is definitely something that every airport should consider.

Author bio:
Emily Taylor was inspired to be a backpacker by her dad’s amusing travel stories from India. At present, she’s having the time of her life experiencing Oriental cultures. She spends most of her time abroad checking out airports, having rural roadtrips and trying an unusual amount of street food, all while avoiding mosquito bites. Once her glory days as a travel nut is over or when her dollars run out (whichever comes first), she plans to build her own family. But she’d honestly love to keep right on traveling – even with little kids in tow.

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A cold Easter in the Free State

As I mentioned in my previous post, we spent the long weekend away from home visiting the beautiful Golden Gate Highlands national park in the Free State. Other than gushing about the beauty and complaining about the bitter cold, I thought I’d share my five tips from the weekend.Yes, and some (mostly HDR ’cause I’m a little obsessed at the moment) photos.

  1. If you’re visiting Clarens (which you should!), don’t pay R60 for a pretentious breakfast. Go to the Roter Hahn Bierstube Und Deli and enjoy a very wide choice of German beers with an even better meal.
  2. Pack lots of blankets. Then another one. Also, a hot water bottle.
  3. Take a good single malt with, it fights off the cold.
  4. If you’re camping in a spot that doesn’t get a lot of sun, stay in bed ’till the sun hits your tent.
  5. Visit the vulture restaurant on the Oribi loop drive. Maybe you’ll have better luck than we did and see some of these amazing birds.

 

All  images by the author: © catterflyworx 2014. Please contact me if you would like to use any images from this site.

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Golden Gate in HDR

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We’re spending the Easter weekend in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Stunning mountains and freezing temperatures are the first two things that come to mind. These two panorama images, taken on my HTC One, were a spur of the moment experimentation with HDR. I’m quite happy with the results.

Full report back at a later stage (when not posting from my phone and dependent on patches of signal).

UPDATE: Photos and a few tips in the next post.

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London in October

In October 2012, I spent eight days in a surprisingly sunny London. I was actually there to work with the Waggener Edstrom London team, but I made sure to have some extra time to explore the city and tick off an item from my (unpublished) bucket list. I arrived on a bright Saturday morning, ready to take on the city.

London has tonnes and tonnes of sites to see, museums to visit, and pubs to explore. I managed to see a lot taking into consideration that I only had the Saturday and Sunday of the weekend I arrived, and the evenings after work.

My first point of business was to buy a local UK sim card. After getting lost all over the show in Europe in April (with a husband to navigate), I thought I’d place my trust in the Google. The second point of business was an Oyster card. Clearly I had my priorities sorted out, and I strongly recommend that you do this as well if you’re unfamiliar with the city.

After checking into the hotel, I set out to “pursue that flighty temptress, adventure”, only to realise nothing has opened yet. After waiting around, a little tired from the long flight, things started looking up and I managed to visit the Jubilee market, Trafalgar square, the National Gallery (amazing!), the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. I joined a Swede who stayed in the hostel with me, and we had a fantastic Indian dinner in Brick lane.

On Sunday I checked into the Charing Cross hotel, and ticked Tower bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, the Tate modern (holy crap, when can I go back?), Millennium bridge, St. Paul’s cathedral and Camden town off my list.

My week nights were filled with random pubs, amazing restaurants, and revisiting some of the sites I’d already seen to take a few photos of them at night. My last visit before departing London the following Saturday, was the National Portrait gallery and the very bright M&M’s World in Leicester square.

There is one other element that I’m saving for a post of its own, one that deserved taking a Friday afternoon off and going all the way to Watford. “To be continued…

Reflecting on London

M & Ms World, Leicester square

All  images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012. Please contact me if you would like to use any images from this site.

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Budgeting for Europe

In April 2012, we spent 22 days in Italy, France and the Netherlands. One of the toughest things to budget for was the average amount of spending money we’ll need per day. Bookings flights, hotels and car rentals before-hand meant that these costs were already accounted for. We also managed to book a great number of attractions online. What we were left with, are general day-to-day, cost of living expenses.

We are currently in the preparation phase for our next trip, and it seems that we’re again down to the cost of living expenses. This time we are however armed with the knowledge learned from our previous trip, and I would like to share some of it here. As a traveler, I know how hard it is to find accurate information on this.

When we arrived in Italy last year, our biggest shocks were how much things cost when converted to South African Rand. We quickly learned that this is the wrong way to approach purchases. Instead we took the spending money  we had, and worked out a daily allowance for the duration of our trip. To check ourserlves, we took notes of every single item we bought each day, and made sure that the average spend throughout our trip did not exceed the initial daily budget we had set.

Here is a short breakdown of what our average daily costs were, with a brief description of typical items bought. I’ve broken these down into two sections: costs with and without a rental car. The cost for the rental car is not included here, but associated costs like tolls, petrol and parking have been factored in.

In total, our average came to €74.83 per day for two people.

A summary of our expenses in Italy, France and the Netherlands in April 2012. Click the image for a bigger version.

A summary of our expenses in Italy, France and the Netherlands in April 2012. Click the image for a bigger version.

WITHOUT A RENTAL CAR

Eight days in Venice, Assisi and Rome | €78.74 per day for two people
Water taxis in Venice, souvenirs, groceries (bread, cheese, salami or other cold meats, fresh fruit and veggies, pasta, canned goods, butter and other spreads, yoghurt and breakfast cereals, some beer and/or wine, snacks like chips and cookies), entrance to museums and basilicas, Pompeii entrance fee and maps for Pompeii and Assisi, guided tour of the Vatican with audio-guides, bus and metro guidebooks in Rome, five-day metro passes in Rome, eating out for dinner at reasonably priced restaurants, coffee at cafés.

Six days in Lyon, Paris and Amsterdam | 74.64 per day for two people
Metro passes for Paris and Amsterdam, groceries (bread, cheese, salami or other cold meats, fresh fruit and veggies, some beer and/or wine, snacks like chips and cookies), artwork and souvenirs, entrance to museums and the Eiffel tower, dinner out in Paris, coffee at cafés.

WITH A RENTAL CAR

Five days driving from Rome to Florence via Pisa, Florence to Genoa, and Genoa to Turin (Italy) | €94.30 per day for two people
Single use bus tickets, groceries (bread, cheese, salami or other cold meats, fresh fruit and veggies, some beer and/or wine, snacks like chips and cookies), toll for use of all highways, diesel to refuel the rental before returning it, guidebook to the Ufizzi gallery, entrance to Medici chapel, cold & flu medicine, lunch and occasional coffee at cafés.
Note: These costs also include a dinner out for my birthday, as well as two birthday presents for me: a leather jacket and a pair of leather gloves.

Three days driving from Chambery to Chamonix, Chamonix to Bourg-en-Bresse, Bourg-en-Bresse to Lyon | 36.66 per day for two people
A taxi between train stations in Turin, a small amount of groceries, entrance to monasteries and cathedrals, two bundles of washing at a laundromat 🙂

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A night tour at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria

We spent Saturday night at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria, better known as the Pretoria Zoo. They offer night tours with knowledgeable guides, focusing on nocturnal animals. The tour starts at 18:30 and ends at around 20:30, where after groups may proceed to designated picnic areas to braai and spend some time relaxing around a bonfire. If you’d like to make a bigger trip out of this, you may also book a camping tour.

The Pretoria Zoo stretches over 88 hectares (roughly 217 acres) and celebrates its 114th year in 2013. The night tour is well worth the effort, as there are only a few other guided tours in the zoo at night and there’s no jostling for a view. The tour is however very focused, so if you want to see a bigger variety of animals it might be better to visit in the day. Photo opportunities will also be better then 😉

I managed to get a few pictures, but with my ISO set to 3200 most of them are very noisy.

An exotic buck seen in a spotlight at the Pretoria Zoo A flock of flamingoes settling down for the night at the Pretoria Zoo

A juvenile eagle owl sitting on a log at the Pretoria Zoo

A male bengal tiger seen at night in the Pretoria Zoo

A view of the union buildings and the city of Pretoria in the background, with a sundial in the foreground at the Pretoria Zoo A pack of wild dogs sleeping under a tree at the Pretoria Zoo

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Eurotrip 2012: Everything in one place

Eurotrip 2012: The route (click for more detail)

Reliving our trip in April digitally over the last few months has been amazing. Sometimes I wish I’d taken more photos and other times I wish I had spent less time behind my camera. Either way, I have loved capturing the trip here.

I’ve summarised the posts below in chronological order of events, with the photo galleries  (for those days where I could just not get around to writing) below the story of our trip. I hope this helps ease navigating the month long trip! Continue reading

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Eurotrip 2012: Day four in Paris, France

23 – 27 APRIL: PARIS, FRANCE

Continued from part 13: Day three in Paris

26 April: The creepy underground of Paris’ catacombs

As you’ll know from our visit to the Capuchin Crypts in Rome, I have a slightly morbid fascination with the way in which human remains are on display. Growing up in South Africa, this is completely unheard of and more than a little eerie.

I also realised (a little belatedly) that this scene in the Court of Miracles from The Hunchback of Notre Dame was actually far more creepy than I initially thought as a child back in 1996.

The catacombs in Paris was one of the only attractions we couldn’t book tickets for before-hand and my only advice here is the GET THERE EARLY. We stood in line for two hours, as only a select amount of people are allowed in at any given time. There are numerous warnings to the faint-hearted about the catacombs’ confined spaces and somewhat disturbing displays of remains. In addition the passages accessible to the public form an almost 2km long labyrinth some 20m underground. This tour is not accessible to young children. Though cameras are allowed, you are not allowed to use flash and the conditions are very dim.

In comparison with the very stylised displays of the Capuchin Crypts, the catacombs seemed impersonal and gave a distinct “function over form” feel.The catacombs used to be stone quarries in the 1700s. Abandoned because of the dangerous conditions, these empty tunnels became the perfect place to store the remains of approximately 6 million people when the Paris cemeteries were filled up in the early 1800s. Along the path are signs showing the cemetery that the remains originated from, as well as the date on which they were moved.

I loved the experience and highly recommend it!

Our trip concludes: Three (very lazy) days in Amsterdam

Header photo by Deon Joubert.
All other images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012.

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Eurotrip 2012: Day three in Paris, France

23 – 27 APRIL: PARIS, FRANCE

Continued from part 12: Day two in Paris

25 April: An epic tour of the Louvre
We had all the best intentions in the world to get up early, but fail miserably and choose to sleep in instead. After some coffee and a croissant from the corner bakery, we take on the majestic Louvre.

We were amazed at how much we were actually able to fit in, though I suspect this is largely down to the fact that I had planned a route through the museum in order to see everything that we considered a “must see”. Generally, I’d be waxing on about the immensity, the overwhelming awe, and the incredible collection of artwork that is housed in the Louvre at this stage. However, in this case there truly are not enough words to describe the magnificence of this awesome collection. Instead, I’ll let the photos do the talking.

Continues with Paris’ creepy underground – a visit to the catacombs.

Header photo by Deon Joubert.
All other images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012.

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The things you’ll see: Street art and alleys from Venice & Paris

Due to some crazy deadlines and loads to do at work,  I’m struggling a bit to update this as regularly as I’d like. However, I’m shamelessly hoping that I can placate you with a bribe in the form of some photos from Venice and Paris. This is an assortment of doorways, alleys, street art and other tid-bits unsuitable for a general gallery of travel photos.

All images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012

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