There is no hiding it : I have always been big with rankings when it comes to things, places ( or even…people) that I really like or dislike. One may think that it would be an asset when writing a blog, considering how lots of people wants to access information without too much effort.But, when making your own top 5, or top 10 (or whichever number you want to settle at), you are considering things from your own perspective. If I make a top list of my cities, I would always feel the need to explain my biases beforehand so that someone who has very different priorities when traveling can put things in perspective.
This is why I could not stop shaking my head in disbelief when reading the latest CNT survey of the “Top 25 cities in the world”. The first thing that jumps to the mind is how american-focused the responder group must be. Out of the top 25 contenders no less than FIVE cities in the US. (not to mention that New York is not one of them !!! ). Only one in Africa, NONE in South America… It is pretty obvious that this is not an international traveler list , simply an American traveler one. nothing wrong with that as long as one keeps that in mind. [Read more…]
Every year , there is a very interesting survey made for international travelers. The survey asks frequent flyers to rank the best airlines in the world. It is fascinating and mind-boggling to notice the changes in this top 1o list over the last 5 years. There used to be several American airlines and European airlines competing with the Asian airlines, famous for their level of service. In 2013 , though the landscape has dramatically changed . Not one American airlines left in the top ten and SWISS is the only European airline left in the survey , closing the list at position 10. The top 9 are all Asian or Middle-Eastern companies.
Being based part of the year in Europe I am flying SWISS airlines a lot connecting through Zurich which is very convenient and confirms the reputation of the Swiss people for their organization and efficiency.
Alas, a few months ago SWISS made a very poor decision regarding seat assignments. All international travelers are used to some seats in coach in the plane being blocked : emergency exits, some rows in the front for preferred travelers. But SWISS decided that when you purchased an Economy ticket on one of their flights , the fare does not include your seat selection. From now on, you have to PAY for the right to get a seat assignment !!
One has to wonder about how much imagination is developed by all airlines (especially in North America and Europe) to create more fees and generate more income while still trying to lure you with ticket fares that represent a ever lesser portion of your TOTAL flight costs.
This is, in fact, a fee imposed to frequent travelers. Every smart traveler should get an seat assigned on an international flight ( especially the longer ones). SWISS really needs two thumbs down on this one and I am willing to bet that they may lose their #10 spot next year.
And there is more bad news coming as regards airlines.. More on that in a few weeks.
Visiting Brussels for a few days ? if you are and do like Fish & chips , there is place that you should not miss. Fish & chips can be pretty boring but this place is special in many ways. I have been living in Brussels for a little over a year and I still have places to try but this small cosy little restaurant may be the best Fish & Chips in downtown Brussels.
When you are looking for hiking equipment, there is a lot to choose from, including a wide choice of high quality products. But, while it is easy to find something that kind of works for the purpose intended, it is not as easy to find a perfect match. I am very picky about what I buy and generally spend some time researching what is available before making a purchase decision. I believe that it has saved me, in the long run, a lot of time and money and avoid too much of buyer’ s remorse. There has been, though, something that has been bugging me a lot that I call the update and discontinuation plague. Maybe, it is just me but almost every time I find an item that really works for me, it gets discontinued !
Truth is : It does not matter whether I am buying a bag , a piece of clothing, or a camera : things I buy are either discontinued or “updated” ( see next paragraph). If I get lucky, it is only the color that I like which is no longer available .
A variant of this exists : It is when the product is merely updated, meaning replaced by a similar product which is supposed to be the same thing , only better.
Unfortunately these supposedly improved products are usually more expensive and,worse, often remove one or more of the features you bought them for in the first place. I could literally list dozens of equipment which falls into this category. As I was writing this article in my house , I thought that a picture of some of these items would be a fun way to “illustrate” this article.
So, I made this snapshot of my favorite hiking rain jacket , my favorite duffel carry-on (both now discontinued). Most great jackets for hiking look very “sporty”. When I travel I like to have a jacket that does not make me too much look like a hiker in case I want to go to a fancy restaurant . The Camden jacket was doing the job during my hike but would still be ok for me to go to a semi-formal place.The jacket was also one of the most comfortable and lightweight jacket in this category.The jacket was so good that as soon as I started using it, I guessed it would have a short career so I got a second one as a “back up”. I am glad I did since the jacket was discontinued a few months later and stock ran out very quickly. The National Geographic walkabout NG5070 ( bottom left on the image) was discontinued last year and replaced with a more expensive reference which adds at least 3 drawbacks compared to its predecessor. And guess what? It is also more pricey. My Briggs & Riley BRX backpack ( my everyday bag when I am not traveling) (top left on the picture) had an unfortunate pocket relocation and is no longer available in the discreet grey finish.Of course , looking at the picture afterwards made me realize that I could no longer hide from my readers what is my favorite color for travel items 🙂
It also looks like one of my favorite travel shirts (by Ex-officio) is also being discontinued. (On that subject, please note that I will be publishing a comparison of best Men’s travel shirts in the near future). I could go on and on about this..so how to go around this trend ?
Well the answer is obvious: when you find a travel item that perfectly fits your needs, buy at least one extra. Of course, that may not be an option for the most expensive items but for daypacks ,hiking clothes it should not be a problem.It may sound like a expensive proposition but, in the long run, you will be glad you did.