What to Know Before You Go…Chapter 2

Chapter 2  The Internet, Web Resources, and the Travel Agency

As you start your trip planning and you are trying to determine where you want to go, use the Internet. There are a number of travel sites, but the best way, in my opinion, is to use Google and put in such things as “vacationing in Australia, or Europe, or France, or the Caribbean, etc”. Many site will come up and you can take your time and look at all of the many places that you can see and things that you can do. On our recent trip to Australia, we knew we were going to Cairns as our first step on our journey, so my wife Googled Cairns. From Cairns, which is north on Sydney, we were able to go out to the Great Barrier Reef, rode the train up to and through the Rain Forest, then rode the Skytrain back down over the Rain Forest to sea level, and back to the city of Cairns, which in itself is well worth seeing. We found all of this on the internet….then went to our agent, who had also suggested these attractions, and made the ticket arrangements.

And, you can use a site like Expedia to get an idea of flights into almost any destination in the world. They will give you prices and times, although the prices are often on bad connecting flights , or bad times, but it gives you a very good idea of when and where you can go. Trip Advisor is another good one, as this give first hand experiences from travelers.

These sites, and many others, are great for travel information, but not always good for ticketing. As I have said, and will say many more times, the local travel agent can get the same, if not better, price….they can give you the experiences of other travelers, and they can do the “hard work” for  you, such as the reservations and ticketing. That is their job. But, you can do the pre-planning by using the Internet to get your general idea of where, when, why, and what you want to do.

A word about the Travel Agency. Only the good ones have survived the Internet. And they have survived because they can offer a service that the Internet cannot. As with almost any professional services these days, you can get almost any service on the web. But, you get what you pay for. I have planned and taken trips using nothing but the internet, with sites like www.hotels.com, and  www.expedia.com, and they were good trips. But, for the most part, I was “flying by the seat of my pants”. And, when all said and done, did not save a penny. Now we use an Agency exclusively. And, a couple of other factors as to why to use an agency….(1) some are specialists, like with Cruise Lines…(2) many of the agencies are really experienced. :Been there done that”  is true for many and this experience is passed on to you…..(3) Your individual travel agent in an agency will become “your good friend”, and they will have your interest foremost in their mind as they plan for you. This is that valuable factor…and can make the difference in your travels.

Next section is entitled….”Make a List”….and this is one of my favorites, for many do not do this until they get someplace and say, “I should have made a list of these things to bring”. Stay tuned.

Safe Place…Just there, so I know!

 

  • #1 is New Zealand (in my mind)

    One of the safest places, and we were there…must agree….It’s been said that there are more sheep than people on New Zealand‘s North and South islands and, indeed, even the largest Kiwi cities seem quaint and down to earth. On the Global Peace Index (an annual report put out by the nonprofit Vision of Humanity), the country ranks No. 4 as the most peaceful, behind Iceland, Denmark and Austria. It’s also perceived as one of the least corrupt countries in the world (behind Scandinavian stalwarts Denmark, Finland and Sweden), according to the nonprofit Transparency International. Why is that important? It means tourists are less likely to be singled out by organized scams, and if you do have a problem, it will be handled in an appropriate manner.

 

Viking Cruises….Ocean and River

Effective January 1st…I am the Redding agent for Viking Cruises, and am very pleased with this opportunity. We just completed our 3rd Viking Cruise…and I am now “a believer” in Viking. They are great. No wonder they are consistently rated #1 among the Cruise lines.

Viking Cruises, both in their Ocean and River Cruises, offers cruises where you truly explore your destination-through its food, culture, countryside, and customs. You learn about the lands through which you travel via informative talks that bring history to life through cultural adventures, in-depth pre-trip materials, and on-demand programing-all designed to help you experience the most from your travels.

So, just send me an e-mail at    ron@ronlargenttravel.com   and I will get you brochures, information, details on the Cruises, both Ocean and River…and we will go from there. Viking is a winner.

Getting Around in London

Having lived here many years ago…then having visited several times over the past few years….and knowing the way the world is growing…..an issue in London that could come up is …”getting around”. And, when you are in a “season”, such as now being the Christmas season…crowds and traffic increases significantly, as London is becoming one of the most popular tourist and travel destinations in the world…folks are coming here from all over the world.

First, all traffic drives on the left side of the street, versus the right side, which is most common in most of the modern world. Secondly, the streets are quite narrow at times….so not a lot of room to change lanes, etc…..even the main streets are not that wide, so you have to be very alert to traffic on all sides. Thirdly, the volume of cars, taxis, and buses can be overwhelming at times…and all coming and going in various directions can be very intimidating. It compares with NYC, Rome, and Bangkok in volume, but very well organized, and the lines and signals are followed by all….might be called organized chaos.

Add the public transport to this mix, and it is amazing that all goes together so well. The underground, or metro, or tube…is world famous and absolutely massive in size….again, nothing really like it in the world. Well posted, once you get the idea and “swing of it”…very easy to navigate, but be prepared for crowds. The system works so well, so thousands use it daily….and it goes about 20 hours a day. The double decker buses are great, and go all over the place at all times. The bus stops may have 5 or 6 buses stopping at these stops, but the bus numbers are well posted…and the numbers are what you watch for. For example, but #10 runs up and down Knightsbridge…which takes you right to the Royal Albert Hall…#6 goes to Trafalgar, etc. The taxi system is very popular and very busy….and historically are the basic means to get around. Not cheap, and at times, not much faster to get from one point to another due to traffic, but very comfortable and safe, and they are well regulated, so no need to worry about being “ripped off”. The drivers are usually very friendly and will help as much as needed….they appreciate the tourists. The interesting thing is that many, many locals, including business folks and local shoppers, use the taxi system….so they know it works well.

So, in summary…getting around is pretty easy to figure out…and pretty easy to go from one place to the other. The key is to get the many maps, from the general maps to the bus maps to the metro – tube maps…and most of this is on various apps now. But, and this is a big “but”…be prepared for crowds, which can really slow down the entire system. When the hotel concierge says 30 minutes, give yourself 45 minutes, or even an hour, and so it goes. And, be prepared for crowds at the seasons….and if you want to see the “changing of the guard” in the summer, for example, be prepared for massive crowds lining up at the fences an hour, or more, early. And,, when one is in these tourist areas, look for the higher places to view the event…looking over the crowds, even though maybe a bit further away.

Just some thoughts on “getting around”. Can be done without much difficulty…but prepare, and be prepared.

Enjoy the travel in London….it will be a unique experience…..

Why London?

I am often asked, Why London at Christmas?  This being my 5th year here in the last 6….I guess I know it is safe to say…”the most Christmas music of any city in the World at Christmas”…..and this includes the full spectrum of music, from the broadway musicals in the West End, to the most professional classic music at St Martin’s……to the unbelievable production programs at Royal Albert Hall….London has it all.

In addition to the music, and more on this to come….the lights decorating the City are the most dazzling, extensive, and creative of any city in the world. From the exotic street lighting decorations to the fabulous window decorations….nothing in the world compares. Having been in NYC a few years ago …. no comparison with London. And, along with the decorations, come the crowds….and they come from all over LONDON and England, but from all over the world….so you have big crowds everywhere. It is one of the busiest times in the year for LONDON.

The music is the big draw for me….and it has to do with the churches and Royal Albert Hall, which is the main music center for the country. It is our Kennedy Center in NYC, etc….or the Staples Center in LA….RAH has it all, and it has it all year round. Starting, though, in early December, RAH becomes the center for Christmas musicals, and music activing. It is a huge circular hall, so probably seats 10,000 visitors, and has been remodeled several times to make it acoustically near perfect. Even though you can sit in the “cheap seats”, which I do and like, every seat in the hall is a good seat.  I sit up high in the back, as you can get a good perspective of the entire Hall and the music is clear and loud, when needed…and when the audience is singing, it is a sight to behold and to hear. Really, nothing like it in the world, in my opinion.

Then, there are the churches. From Westminster Abbey to St Paul’s Cathedral….there is some kind of church service or Christmas music service every day…and at some of the churches, twice a day. It is tradition….and for hundreds of years, the churches have been the foundation for music at Christmas. At some of the churches, like the Piccadilly Church a block from Piccadilly Circus….they have a daily hour long music offering at noon…for all of those that are in the area at the time. Each day at St PAUL’S, there is a music and prayer hour….and so it goes. This year we have 7 musicals scheduled in 6 days…a couple of years ago, 8 programs in 8 days…..and these will range from an organ concert at Westminster to a full blown musical production at RAH.

Then, there is West End, or the Broadway of LONDON. All of the major productions are running, so all of the attractions connected with the Theater are in full operation, which includes the Jazz Clubs, Rock music clubs, etc. it is just a vibrant time in the entire Covent Garden – Leicester Square area….literally the “Times Square” of London….but full of music.

So, London at Christmas…means Music at Christmas for me….and there is nothing better in the World if you like classical and concert music….in a marvelous Christmas celebration environment.

More to come…

 

 

Nuremberg….

Nuremberg is much larger than what I expected, and a center of commerce and industry for this area of Bavaria. It is right on the Danube Canal, which is a major transportation resource…..and then the city itself historically has been a major rail city.

We took the included tour of the City….as well as the walking…but suffice it to say that the city has put the Nazi movement in perspective, clearly indicating the size and power of Hitler and the party. The huge Nazi HQ building is still in place, as is the Congress Hall area, which is only 2/3rds completed…then we saw the area where Hitler would hold the rallies, which were attended by upwards of 300,000 party faithful.

The Old Town, for the most part, survived the bombings in WW II…and the Castle is a Medieval marvel. We had a great tour of the area, with a very knowledgeable tour guide that did college work in Oregon. It was an afternoon tour, so our final couple of hours was at the Christmas Market, which is the largest in Germany, and may be in Europe. There are a total of 4 large Christmas markets, but we were at the largest at the Old Town town hall,,,right in the square in front of the Catholic Cathedral, which was not very impressive, and near to the Lutheran Church, which was very impressive. The market itself was jammed with probably 10,000 folks doing their shopping, and this was a big day, as the last Saturday before Christmas.

The day ended with the Captains Dinner…..a full and fun day…Nuremberg is a must to see to fully understand the nature of the Nazi Party, and Hitler, and how Germany was learned and rebuilt from the War.

More to come…