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Monthly Archives: April 2009

What a sad Queensday!

The weather was gorgeous for the Queensnight. Everybody enjoyed it and then there was Queensday with the same glorious weather that ended in tragedy. Shortly before noon, when the Queen toured the city of Apeldoorn (45 km east of Amsterdam), a lunatic decided to crash his car into the watching crowd and came to halt within spitting distance of the open bus with the Queen and the Royal Family. At this moment 17 injured of which 5 heavily injured and 5 death persons. What a tragedy. My thoughts are with those people.

queen-on-queensday-2009-shortly-after-the-car-crashed-into-the-crowd

There were many cameras and TV cameras covering this horror, providing the world with horrible photos and TV footage showing people flying around when they were hit by the car, but I’ll share just one photo of the Queen whose day it was supposed to be. It shows the horror just after the crash. In front of the Queen you see her younger sister Princess Margriet and directly behind her Princess Maxima, the wife of her son Prince Willem Alexander. All festivities came grinding to a halt.

10 Questions For (27): Carol Ferndale of Around the Planet

Happy to introduce to you: Carol Ferndale of Around the Planet, English, but having lived in Kyoto, Stockholm and other places. Writing about science, travel and books!

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1) Who Are you?
I’m a blogger, writer, teacher and physics student. I worked for rather a long time as a teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages, a job which led to a significant amount of travelling and work overseas. I went into this partly because of the travel opportunities, as I have always been fascinated by different places and cultures. Also, I studied Psychology at university in London for my first undergraduate degree, and this involved a lot of study of memory, language, linguistics, thinking and learning, so teaching English overseas seemed to follow on nicely from that. In Japan I also started to do a lot of proofreading and rewriting of stuff like local government reports, teaching materials and academic research papers.

After coming back to the UK, I decided on a complete career change, and I am now studying physics, as I had always wanted to know more about natural science, but had had a very traditional young ladies’ education at a girls’ grammar. We learnt a lot about literature, art and drama, but things such as physics and chemistry were given scant attention. When I went to university and met people who were doing things such as engineering, chemistry and medicine, I realised that my own education had gaping holes in it.

Now, as well as studying, and doing travel and science blogging, I write a lot commercial material for people who do not have English as a native language. Other areas I have written about are health and fitness, Web 2.0, language learning, and such interesting subjects as the evolution of dogs! Actually, I have written a bit about Darwin and how his theory of evolution by natural selection was received.

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2) What do you like about what you do?
About travel blogging: I like introducing people to new places and new events. For example, Stockholm is a bit off the popular tourist track, but I’m hoping that my blog entries will inspire people to go there. I also enjoy interviewing people who have been on really monumental trips, such as my interview with David Rogers of Last Train to Lhasa.

3) What don’t you like about what you do?
I can’t think of anything in particular that I dislike about what I do. I suppose if I didn’t enjoy what I do, I wouldn’t do it.

4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it.
It all started when I was hired by an American company to write posts for about seven blogs that they had on the go. These were mostly travel blogs, and I really enjoyed writing the posts. So this set me thinking, why not start up my own blog? So I registered a domain, found a host that had been recommended to me, and there I had it, my own travel blog. I started it up for a bit of fun really, and also out of a desire to inspire people to travel, and to inform people about some of the out-of-the-way interesting places to go. I also write about popular holiday resorts as well, and the sort of thing that you can do when you get there.

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
Some of the loveliest cities are London, Paris, Ghent, Stockholm, Kyoto and Hong Kong.

For areas, I really love the South of France, and have spent loads of time there.

I also like the Fethiye region of Turkey, and some of the resorts along the Lycian coast.

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
Here are but a few of them:

For hostels: Ghent Youth Hostel known as De Draecke or The Dragon. I’ve stayed here a few times. You can get rooms for just two people, and they do a great buffet breakfast. The hostel has a bar, where people tend to congregate in the evening. One summer I spent a great week at this hostel, and got to know a zany crowd of psychologists from Eastern Europe who were in Ghent for a conference. Another time, I was here for the Ghent Music Festival. De Draecke is just a stone’s throw away from Sleepstraat where there are a selection of great Turkish restaurants where you can get Turkish pizza, salad and a carafe of wine for a very reasonable price.

Amsterdam Youth Hostel: I once spent a brilliant week here, visiting all the Amsterdam Art Museums such as the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Rembrandt House. It was also a very thoughtful experience going round the Anne Frank House. The hostel was very lively and I met people from all across Europe and North America.

For hotels: The New Otani in Tokyo is very nice, as is the Novotel Orchid in Singapore.

For homes: my apartment in Kyoto! I still miss my lovely balcony and the tatami matting, as well as the fabulous view of Mount Hiei from the front door.

For a place to study French: Centre Mediterraneen d’Etudes Francaises – the accommodation is simple, but the school is in the most breathtakingly beautiful surroundings I have ever come across, with colourful gardens, secluded buildings, a Jean Cocteau Amphitheatre and a view of the sparkling blue Mediterranean. In the evening you can walk through the grounds with the scent of blooms and the bright flicker of fireflies.

7) Your top 3 most memorable food experiences to date and why?
One of the best has to be a Korean restaurant that some of my friends took me to in Kyoto – but I’m not sure of the name of it!

A favourite Kyoto eatery was Shin-Shin near my home in Kyoto, and also indian restaurant Didi in Kyoto.

Also some of the Italian restaurants in my locality were fabulous.

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?
Some of my worst experiences were also the most hilarious. One was my first experience of camping with my Belgian penfriend in Malham in the Yorkshire Dales. After a pleasant evening spent in the Buck Inn, singing and drinking with other campers, we awoke to find ourselves soaking wet. It had rained and we discovered that the tent wasn’t waterproof! We shrugged it off and went back to sleep. The next day we walked to Settle and found a builder’s yard where we bought some plastic to cover the tent – end of problem! I think we just saw it as all part of the big adventure.

A similar experience was when backpacking and camping through France with a friend, heading south. At one point we found ourselves staying overnight on the campsite in the small French town of Joinville. It was bucketing down with rain, and we couldn’t even take refuge in the local cafe, because nowhere in Joinville seemed to be open after six o’ clock in the evening.

Another time was when a friend and I decided to try and find grape picking work in the South of France – we couldn’t find any work at all, and spent time trekking around following job leads that didn’t materialise. All we got was a day’s work loading lorries – it was quite well paid for the time though. Having said that we met some really nice Moroccans and spent time with them playing the guitar, drums, singing and eating the plentiful fruit that was around. We also stayed with French friends who had a smallholding rural Provence and spent much of the time partying, listening to folk music, having barbecues and swimming. So what was intended as a working holiday turned into a hanging out and having fun holiday. I guess that wasn’t too much of a disaster!

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9) Can you offer the readers 3 travel/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?
Leeds is a prosperous city in the north of England. It has some beautiful arcades some of which go back to Victorian times, and others which are streets which have more recently been covered over. If you like top shopping, but want to stay indoors, Leeds is the place to be! I think Leeds has all the good things about a city, but without the stress and congestion, plus, you are never far from beautiful countryside such as the Yorkshire Dales.

The Art Gallery in Leeds is wonderful to look round – you can find works by local lad Henry Moore, and the collection of paintings is world class. And when you are tired of taking in all that art, you can relax in the cafe that connects the library and the gallery – it is a real feast of polished wood and tilework, and the lattes and cake are gorgeous.

If you enjoy pubs, try the famous pub crawl that is known as the Otley Run – it starts to the north of the city, takes you past the two universities and into the town centre. If you like real ale you will find plenty on this route, and one of the pubs is even an old barge!

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?

My observations.

Thank you very much Carol for being my guest. You are a real multi faceted woman. I found your significant other Blogs Science Notebook and Bibliofile.

#winewednesday – Question: Who “Owns” a twitter hashtag?

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The story is quite simple:
Shortly after the birth of #traveltuesday (read my post here), Eric aka @TwSommelier had the great idea to launch #winewednesday on Twitter and today we have the second #winewednesday.

A great idea indeed, but, but, but: To my view that doesn’t mean that TweSommelier “owns” the hashtag neither does he “own” the discussion. I believe the following:

  1. The tweets are “owned” by the respective twitterati
  2. Without the participants there is no #winewednesday
  3. This good initiative should have a more solid foundation than one mere Twitter Account holder, no matter who the account holds.

The reason for this post is twofold:
Last week, shortly after the first #winewednesday, I asked TweSomelier who would recap the #winewednesday event and I meant that on a weekly basis. His answer was that he had just recapped it in a couple of tweets. Now my problem is that whenever he decides to terminate his twitter account, all participants stand to loose a great experience. So my suggestion is to give #winewednesday a more permanent basis than one based merely on a Twitter account. I’m sure there are more participants out there who are willing to participate in a more permanent form.

Then I hit upon Twibes and created there Twibes/WineWednesday. As soon as TweSommelier noticed, he asked me to hand over that Twibe to him as the founder of #winewednesday. At this moment Twibes is in Beta and it is far from clear whether it will have any value at all eventually. Today it doesn’t have a lot of value as the tweets only are one page long and do not go back in history. Twibes is clear about the Twibe owner: The one who first tweets a group is the group “owner”. Twibes doesn’t provide (yet) for handing over a group. Should I hand the twibe over to TweSommelier? For the moment I’m not prepared to “hand it over” (apart from the fact that that would mean striking the Twibe and ask TweSommelier to re establish the Twibe), because I dare TweSommelier to give the whole #winewednesday movement a bit more permanent basis. Maybe I’m on a wrong track. So I’m asking my readers:

What do you think we should do?

  1. create a community Winewednesday blog?
  2. Create a Wine Wednesday Ning community?
  3. Leave it as it is? or
  4. Other suggestions?

Exciting Twitterday at Travolution’s #travsummit

There was a really hilarious video about airline surcharges, but now it’s taken away from Youtube [ed July 2010]

Originally I was planning to attend the Travolution Travel Summit in London today. However, some wonderful guests from Down Under had booked in my hotel, so I couldn’t afford to hop over to London, but in between I could have a look into the stream and sometimes throw in a thought or question.

As Twitter is the trend in conferences nowadays – you see rows and rows of people with laptops, blackberries and Iphones Twittering away- you almost don’t have to attend them in Real life.

Just sift through under 1,000 tweets at Search.Twitter.com/#travsummit and you know almost all.Note my clever little trick in altering the number of Tweets in the search url from 50 to 100. So you have only to scroll through 10 pages of Tweets. Also remind that after a certain period Twitter seems to flush its search caches.

Some notes from the #travsummit stream some of which I have to check out more in depth:

  • On a personal note, if I would have attended, I would have been torn between Looking and listening, posting Tweets and making photos. At the next conference I will attend, I will be making photos only. I missed catching the faces today.
  • The word boring is becoming Cool. “Just keep your eyes on the ball” as Bill Marriott says it in an recent interview with startup Hoteliers Magazine and do what you are good at is a wise advice in the present economic circumstances
  • Everybody points to USG (User Generated Content), but it is my experience that only 40% of my guests produce USG in the form of writing into my guest book and only 5% write a review online.
  • Google top 5 tips for conversion: -No doubt. -Simple check-out. -Limit steps. -Limit warnings. -Quarantine check-out (thinking about redesigning my hotel website).
  • Travellers typically make 12 searches on 22 websites over 29 days before making their first booking says Google.
  • Home Away vacation rentals is growing very fast.
  • MS demonstrated an interesting huge new touchscreen Surface. Go see the Demo video taken at Sheraton Hotels and Resorts. European price approx UK PND 11,000.
  • Together with Photosynth (also from MS) Surface has some cool features

Other Travel Bloggers:

  1. Jeremy Head is one of the first posting about the summit at his Blog Travel Blather Travolution Summit: 7 things I learned today
  2. Worldreviewer is a good second who posts about the summit.
  3. Stephan Ekbergh posted about it
  4. Ben Colclough of Trailbeater posted about it
  5. I almost forgot Hotelblogs who devoted several blog posts on the summit:Business Leaders on Stage, Update from Ailines, Innovators in Digital and online Travel and some more

Latest Update April 22, 2009 17,00 hr … It took me almost 12 hours to find the video back. And at Travolution you will find more coverage. Rest my post further:-)