Trottings: Sicily shorted

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.

 

Trottings: Sicily shorted

During a short trip to Sicily, we decided to travel to Taormina, hillside tourist spot on the east side of the island.

 

We chose accommodation via AirBnB (ABB), not in Taormina, but in Gallodoro, a village even higher up the mountain than Taormina. Although this is also billed as a tourist village, there is little there – apart from a magnificent view, although that is probably how Taormina started.

 

We were there at the end of the main season, but early September, so just into the shoulder season. The village has two restaurants, but both were closed, not for the season but for that day. Wouldn’t you have thought they would get together, and make some arrangement – maybe pooling revenue? There were still a few summer tourists around. Worse, the villagers – and this has a population of 400 – did not know the restaurants were closed. Even the bar owner did not know.

 

We also found no 711-type shop, or any other, but fortunately we had stopped at a supermarket before we got to Gallodoro.

 

The village, as most hillside villages, has many between-houses steps. One came down two sides of ours, close to the apartment. So close that on the balcony, one feels obliged to greet the person. I regarded this as a plus, and the traffic is slight – four people a day?

 

Parking was just across the street from the apartment. However, the road led nowhere except to the top of the village (same way back), so probably always space. But if no space, there are options further up the street. Ten steps from the apartment is a little square – which could be called Piazza San Nicola, although I don’t think it has a name. At one time, there was a church there, and the shell of the building remains.

 

The little piazza has a couple of benches, and a railing, and a spectacular view. Down over the village, and where you realise how steep is the hillside. And where you realise that it would take not an earthquake, but just a tremor, to bring the whole village down.

 

Then further in the distance, the buildings by the seaside from Taormina. And of course the sea and the hillside.

 

The apartment?

 

Problems again with what is offered on ABB and what is delivered. I searched for a property that provided WiFi. But in Gallodoro, WiFi was available only upstairs in the owner’s apartment. I blame this more on ABB. They obviously have no system to check what is offered and what you pay for is there. Yet ABB got its full commission on this false-pretences sale.

 

(I have had this problem before. It is clearly something ABB needs to fix. ABB appears to be unconcerned, as I have had no response on either of these matters. I think that one day this will allow the growth of a rival, as obviously other travellers have had the same experience as me.)

 

The Gallodoro flat is very good for its price. The view is great, from one room. From the balcony, you have to look out at one side to see the view, because facing the balcony is a bare wall – 1m away and thus blocking any view.

 

The lounge needs better lighting; there is just one in the centre of the room.

 

Bathroom. There is a step up, that most visitors will trip up, because the tiling is dark. But not as bad as a trip down. There is a bidet – which I used for its more useful purpose – a footbath.

 

The shower unit is small. I needed to enter sideways; some overweight Chinese children and American adults might not even get that far. The shower unit is also small once you get inside. Sure I knocked my head, elbows, knees – but it is so small that it is hard to reach as far down to your calf and feet – which makes that footbath in the bathroom even more useful – or bring your leg up.

 

The shower unit is cheaply made, so does not work well. It is not easy to slide the doors closed. On my visit, the shower-window-screen partly came out of its setting, and one of the shower doors itself out of its guide-railing.

 

There is no microwave oven; not advertised, but would be nice. But the owners provided coffee, coffee machine (proper expresso style), sugar, salt, and even biscuits; also not advertised, but nice.

 

There is washing machine and clothes line.

 

 

 

The Fox

Trottings = Trip Jottings

 

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Trottings: Exit – England out of UK.

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.

 

Trottings: Exit – England out of UK.

I propose the England hold a referendum to leave the UK.

 

-No more social support payments to Scots, Welsh, and, worse, Irish from the North (NIWS). We’ll give that money saved to our English social service. (I think we should paint that on the campaign bus.)

 

-No more foreign immigrants taking our English jobs. (That’s Irish and Welsh and the Scots who can bear England’s mild climate.)

 

-No longer a parliament with foreign members (NIWS) that makes decisions on England-only affairs. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it is based in Westminster. Many of its members are foreigners from NIWS; why should they rule our lives?

 

-We will establish our own parliament – and finally be equal. Northern Ireland has its Assembly, Scotland its Parliament, Wales its Assembly. Why not England?

 

-Hitler would never have allowed that.

 

-Devon and Cornwall can fund their own poverty. Oh, sorry, ignore that; they’re in England. We will take the money that we give to NIWS and give to those two counties. Oh, sorry, we’ve promised that money somewhere else.

 

-NIWS will no longer be allowed to use our own language, English, unless they make an annual ‘free-access’ payment.

 

 

The Fox

Trottings = Trip Jottings

WYSKs: France to build airport folly; Russia inbound loss; SAGging in May – Singapore Airlines Group; Fast air in the US.

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FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

WYSKs: France to build airport folly; Russia inbound loss; SAGging in May – Singapore Airlines Group; Fast air in the US.

WYSK = What You Should Know.

 

France to build airport folly

France has decided (again) to build a new airport 30km from Nantes in the northwest. It is planned as an international gateway to west France.

 

There is no known demand by travellers or airlines for such an airport. The demand would be to serve the city, which has a 285,000 population.

 

And despite that ‘international gateway’ aim, the new airport has a French name – Aeroport du Grand Ouest, say AGO.

 

Nantes already has an airport. Only 8km from town, in 2015 it handled 4.4mn passengers, +5.7%. Its capacity is 3mn. Some say it could be expanded to 4mn capacity. We reckon it could go to 6mn with better traffic management.

 

There are about eight airlines that use the current airport on a year-round basis, and will presumably be happy to move to AGO.

 

Building AGO is expected to cost US$644mn (€580mn). Opening capacity would be 4mn passengers (ie below current actuals), growing to 9mn in 2050. That indicates authorities know it will be a failure in money terms – an average annual growth of just under 4%.

 

Based on the 4mn passengers, the airport will cost US$161 per passenger to build, US$72 on 9mn. However, these cost estimates are old, and inevitably go over budget on such grand projects. We expect AGO to cost closer to US$1.25bn – thus US$330 and US$139 per passenger.

 

AGO is planned to have two runways, although only one is needed for the forecast opening traffic volume.

 

Nantes is considered the ‘capital’ of Brittany. Paris is 2-hours away by TGV.

 

 

Russia inbound loss

Not only is outbound travel from Russia falling. The same is happening for inbound travel, including of course, the all-important visitor spend.

 

Based on Q1 indicators, visitors to Russia will spend only US$6.3bn over all-2016. That would put Russia on a level with, say, Norway, or below Hungary.

 

In addition, that figure would be about half Russia’s peak, in 2013.

 

(We have worked on data from the World Tourism Organization for these findings.)

 

 

SAG in May – Singapore Airlines Group

Middling Month of May. Seat sales at parent airline SIA grew 4% over Jan-May. That may not look impressive, but it is better than earlier years – -1% for the same period in 2015, flat 2014, +3% 2013.

 

However, there are a number of items that should be on SAG’s ‘To Fix’ list:

-Tiger seat sales flat in the month although +3% YTD (our estimate). This is bad for an NFA*. But the reason is known – SAG is growing Scoot at the expense of Tiger.

-Seat factors; not easy to read these, but here goes:

 

-At SAG it is 76% +1pt YTD (our estimate).

 

-For an FSA* that would be fair, although it should be on 80%.

 

-But that 76% incorporates SFs of two NFAs……which would make 76% bad……but with Silk, operating hard-to-fill routes as a regional FSA, it makes the SAG total, once again, ‘fair’.

 

-One day, SAG will accept market realities and either make Silk an LCA*, or shut the airline down and operate its flights under the SIA brand, and/or with one of its NFAs.

 

-Scoot’s fast growth (see below) hides its low seat factor – 82% YTD. It needs at least 85% and aiming for 90%.

 

-Tiger is also at 82%. Same comments as for Scoot, but given Tiger’s business circumstances (an artificially-restricted operation) these results are fair. As an established NFA they should be higher, but those operational limitations change the situation.

 

The good news:

-Silk +12%; good for a mature airline.

 

-Scoot +50%. Good, even for an NFA, but to be interpreted against Tiger’s emasculation to give Scoot its growth, see above.

 

*Notes: FSA = full-service-airline. LCA = low-cost-airline. NFA = no-frills-airline. See earlier posts for our definitions for these three types of airline.

 

 

  1. Fast air.

International air passenger traffic to-and-from US is growing fast – particularly impressive, given the size of the market.

 

New Q1 data (from NTTO – National Travel and Tourism Office) show seat sales grew 7%. Of the regions we track (Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, and sometimes Dubai/UAE) the big moves in the big markets were UK +6%, China (half the UK size) +24%. The biggest AsPac country-pair is still Japan; it grew only 3%, and it is still below its peak in 2013.

 

For the big Gulf-3 airlines, we do not track Qatar, but the UAE (Emirates, Etihad) was +12%. The UAE market is big – almost the size of France – and including Qatar would make it the same size as France. (Remember, however, that some (most?) of this is not UAE-bound, but onward transit traffic to Middle East, East Africa, Indian sub-continent, the stans, and others.

 

The March terrorist attack in Brussels caused the expected fall on the US air traffic, pushing Q1 down to -10%. Interesting is that France is a good +6%, with each of the three months growing – despite Paris suffering a big terrorist attack last November.

 

 

The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.

Post-ATF Fam Tour

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.

 

 

Post-ATF Fam Tour

TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

ILOCOS: UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE TOUR, 4D/3N.

Organised by Department of Tourism. As programmed; see report for actual.

Program, main details (commercial names noted):

 

DAY ONE

Flight Manila-Laoag on Philippine Airlines. Lunch at Cafe Ilocandia, Laoag, Ilocos Norte. 2-hour bus drive to Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Check-in at Hotel Luna, visit the hotel’s art gallery. Dinner at Cafe Leona.

 

DAY TWO

Breakfast at the hotel. Vigan Heritage Tour, on foot. Visit Burgos Museum, which was the official residence of a martyr of Bagumabyan, Father Jose Burgos. Visit Burnayan pottery shop, which began with Chinese immigrants in the 1500s. Lunch at Cafe Uno. At Curimao, visit Marcos Museum and Paoay Church. Dinner at Sitio Remedios. Return to Vigan. Massage. Overnight at Hotel Luna.

 

DAY THREE

Breakfast. Drive to Laoag. Check-in at Plaze del Norte hotel. On Laoag tour, visit the Sarat Museum, Burgos Museum, Bani. Lunch at Cafe Preciosa. Massage. Dinner at hotel.

 

DAY FOUR

Breakfast. To sand dunes – 4×4 jeep ride over sand dunes. Picnic brunch at Paoay Beach. Check-out of hotel. To Laoag airport for flight Laoag-Manila on Philippine Airlines.

 

 

Trottings; Travel Jottings On This Post-Tour At ATF.

 

DAY ONE

The domestic terminal at Manila airport is clean and modern. There are even laptop charging areas – but with only Filipino plugs, not universal. And all retail outlets, six of them, were only F&B – nothing else. Internet connection was poor. Philippine Airlines tent-cards promote its own WiFi network at the airport, but staff recommend you use the airport’s one. There were two airport WiFis available, and it was not clear if both were official.

 

The flight was uneventful, but acceptable. Drinks and snacks (of unknown provenance).

 

Laoag’s airport is a small provincial airport, the region’s only commercial airport. Drummer-band to greet our arrival. Based on what I saw, the airport is expanding its terminal about double. At present it is a basic and unattractive airport from another era.

 

Laoag, capital of the province of Ilocos Norte (IN) at the top of Luzon island, is the Philippines’ northernmost large city.

 

IN is Marcos country. Imelda, wife of the deposed-late-president Ferdinand Marcos, is a local senator, and daughter Imee is governor of the province. Their other children are Aimee, Ferdinand Jr (‘Bongbong’), Irene. Bongbong is a senator in the national parliament.

 

We take a tour-bus from the airport to Paoay, where we have lunch in the Herencia restaurant, one of two restaurants in this big church square. The church is long, baroque style, and built before the adjacent church tower. There is a two-storey government building in the square, which houses the other restaurant.

 

Continue in the bus for about two hours to the Unesco-heritage town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur, not IN; one of six Unesco World Heritage sites in the country. Vigan is the centre of the cultural area, and also known for its old stone houses (bahay na bato) made from hard adobe stones.

 

We stayed at the Hotel Luna. Unfortunately, some people when they hear the name will think of Luna Park, and even to those that don’t it, it will not sound special. It is.

 

On the first floor is what is called a museum, but I would call a gallery. Two-almost-three rooms of paintings, sculptures, and other artefacts. Some modern (not modernist), some old, some religious. In other words eclectic, and impressive.

 

The hotel’s management should create a room/shop to sell works of local artists. Items in the gallery can be for sale or not, and those in the shop may not be collector’s pieces, but commercial works. The Philippines has many talented artists of all types.

 

Room rates are not low-provincial (lowest prices around P2000) but it a cultural gem. The overall style is comfortable wood. Unfortunately, though, it is a hotel and not a cultural centre. And thus because most rooms do not have windows to the outside or even to the atrium, that is a giant negative.

 

My room was well and stylishly furnished and equipped, albeit a bit cramped – as though everything (including a postered-bed) had to be fitted into the space available. For instance there was a 3/4-seat L-sofa, which has probably never been used apart from storage. The room was off one of the gallery rooms. Slightly awkward when leaving the room if there are people visiting the gallery rooms, although it also made me feel slightly special; perhaps people would think I was the owner?

 

The main tourist street in Vigan is about 1km long. Said to have originally been homes for Chinese traders, most are now little shops selling souvenirs, as well as eating places, and even some inns.

 

At the top end of the street is a big church, St Paul’s Cathedral, in a big square, Plaza Salcedo. And even a McDonald’s (and a Jollibee) – so the place must be OK! The area is somewhat unkempt – although I accept that 100s-years-old attractions cannot all be Singapore-neat-and-tidy – but attractive nevertheless.

 

The church was built in the 17th century, and is very big inside. (Sorry, I’m not qualified to describe eglesiastical (don’t look it up; it doesn’t exist) attractions or otherwise of churches; they are basically all the same to me – so either big, small, dark, etc.)

 

Outside the church are some Chinese carvings – reference to the Chinese presence (private, not government) during the Spanish times.

 

The square also houses a music fountain, next to the church. Somewhat incongruous for a Unesco heritage location, but obviously not everyone comes for the old culture, and you can’t eat culture either. (Hence, McDonald’s.)

 

There is 30-minutes free fountain show every night. There is also an airconditioned VIP enclosure, and a roof – which obviously our group had access to. The music varied from PSY to Beethoven (sorry, Beethoven to PSY). The fountain attraction was started two years ago, by the local government.

 

The local government has (unspecified) plans to add tourist attractions, and there is some work taking place. But the place is still isolated – being at least a 2-hour drive from the closest airport, Laoag, and nothing much else around – as this trip showed.

 

(Such comments are intended as constructive criticism. There is little point to saying this is a nice place to visit, and a foreign tourist spends three days and $750 and sees a musical fountain.)

 

 

 

DAY TWO

Visit Syquia Mansion in Vigan, an impressive ancestral home, part of which is still occupied by descendants of a former president, Elpidio Quirino, a Chinese-Filipino. In the part of the mansion that we (and other tourists) could visit, were some impressive ancestral artefacts, furniture, and antiques.

 

At the Vigan Conservation Complex we visited is an arts and crafts museum, training centre for the local handloom weaving technique. There is also a small shop selling samples of the cloth, with prices probably 50% of Manila’s (low) prices.

 

The Museum of the North provides information on the local tribes in the area; many still live in the nearby Cordillera Mountains.

 

Visit the Cordilleras museum in Laoag. When it officially opens, entrance cost will be P50. The museum is interactive. Museum completed November 2015. Some comments:

-Pieces are exposed – meaning they can be touched, even picked-up. This will end badly. Pieces will be damaged or broken – not necessarily deliberately, but out of 500 who pick up a cup, one will drop it.

-All explanation signs are in English language only, whereas 90% at least visitors will be Filipino, and 25-30% will not understand written English enough to understand.

 

This visit was followed by a ‘cultural show’. Unfortunately, it is hard to explain how good this 15-minute show was – partly because of the often-negative sense of the words ‘cultural show’. The presentation was part of a play, with singing and acting, in period costumes. Because it was in Tagalog, and we had no information (in advance) of the story, I cannot say what it presented – although it was part of the Filipinos’ struggle for their country.

 

And so I can comment only on its artistic quality. Again unfortunately, I am no expert, but if it had been in a theatre, I would have stood up to applaud, and shout “Encore!”. Although this was in a provincial town in the northern Philippines, many Filipinos have extraordinary cultural talents (singing, music, painting, more).

 

Imee Marcos spoke to us, saying nothing special. (That is the major special skill of politicians.) But she was welcoming, cool (dressed in jeans), and so I liked her and, by extension, that the Marcos’s were maybe not that bad. (My thought processes can go like that……)

 

After her address, she stayed for photo-ops, amplifications, etc. She told me that 61% of the province’s revenue comes from Overseas Filipinos – which seems extraordinarily high and so I may have missed some qualifications there.

 

Prompted by me, she added that tourism is about 10% of the province’s revenue. And she also agreed with my growth projection of 20% in five years, but did not seem convinced. She said the province counted more visitors from China in the past. But since the points of contention (atolls/almost-islands in the South China Sea, long considered part of the Philippines, and now claimed and, some cases, defended and built-on by China), they no longer come.

 

They came mainly for gambling, not the culture – even if China (or, rather, people, not the government, so ‘Chinese’) figures in much of the local history. Also, times were more peaceful – possibly because it was built around trade. Today’s conflicts are built around politics and national pride.

 

She includes tourism as a priority for her province. But she also adds agriculture and industry, which rather devalues the priorities; not everything can be a priority. She talks of attracting hotel groups (although that rarely happens until enough visitors-come-guests are there, or they are subsidised). And also of creating access to the east of the area, across the Cordillera mountains.

 

I told her she should call the region ‘Top of the Philippines’ – top = best, and top = geographically. She added that yes, it is also a song – Cole Porter’s ‘You’re the Top’.

 

But it is going to be a longhaul, unless Vigan (which is not in Marcos’s province) can be smartened up, and then more international visitors may come. Or perhaps start with a heavy push for domestic tourists.

 

In the Ilocos Museo museum in Laoag, not yet open to public, I told them they needed to protect the pieces on display – which most visitors will touch and move – against breakage and wear-and-tear.

 

At Bantay, just outside Vigan, we stop at another church – St Augustin with its bell tower. Climb to the top where there are 360d views of the countryside including the Cordillera mountain range one side, and the coast side on another. Pleasant interlude.

 

 

 

DAY THREE

Visited so-called ‘Malacanang Palace of the North’ opposite a new hotel and conference centre, the Plaza del Norte.

 

Ferdinand Marcos was born in the area (at Sarrat) and in Batac there is a museum about him and in the adjacent mausoleum, his embalmed body.

 

The Marcos family used this as a breakaway residence until 1986. Then after he was deposed as president, it was taken over and run by the government, and then became a sort-of pro-Marcos museum, displaying aspects of his life. Was called Vigan House, changing its name to MP after 1986 and the ‘people revolution’ that deposed Marcos.

 

Also, the view over Paoay Lake is so beautiful and peaceful that it would be an inspiration.

 

Nice hard wood floor. Still not worn. And some red brick floor tiles. All well done. I told them they needed to put benches for people to sit. Everywhere there are signs saying Do Not Sit – which makes you think of sitting.

 

And they need to sell something to visitors. I guess they cannot sell statuettes or keyrings of Marcos, so it might need to be some kind of F&B outlet. It need not spoil the atmosphere and environment of the place.

 

Management told me that they could stage special events here, although I saw no details, so that may require a ‘personal’ approach.

 

This day we went to wind farm, of which there are three in the province. Ok, one was the first in the Philippines, but I cannot see this as being much of a tourist attraction for visitors, certainly foreign visitors. That said, we all took photographs of them – one set along a 2km stretch of beach, another in a sort-of tiny national park, including a walk to a set of rocks and things by the sea. Nice, but not really special.

 

There is a wind farm at Bangui on Bangui Bay. I note this because this is presented as a tourist attraction. And it seems to be, for domestic tourists. Road in this part runs alongside sea, making it a visibly pleasant trip.

 

The Bangui wind farm is big local tour attraction, but it is a rock formation. And it is by the sea, and windy and sunny, and a 10-minute walk to the site, with donkeys for those with no animal compassion. Costs P15 to get in.

 

It is said to be the first windfarm in Southeast Asia, and provides power for the Luzon island.

 

Bangui windfarm started in 2005. Was the country’s first; the Burgos windfarm is new.

The road down to Burgos is new, for this attraction. Many tourists here from Manila.

Bangui started in time of Marcos. There are 96 windmills in the whole province; the long term plan is to have 200.

 

Near Laoag there is a tourist attraction of open-jeep rides on sand dunes. One passenger in the cabin, and two stand in the back. But there is certain to be an accident one day, hopefully not too serious, from when some basic safety features will be introduced. Minimum needed are crash helmets (those in the back simply hang on), and possibly some sort of harness (although that might be worse if the jeep overturns).

 

There was also sand-surfing there.

 

Fun; a pleasant hedonistic interlude from our primarily-culture tour.

 

We stayed at Fort Ilocandia resort near Laoag. Big, and popular with Chinese tourists from the Philippines and China – partly because of its casino and grounds (for families). It has some sporting facilities including a golf course, and a mini zoo – which is not animal-friendly and should be either improved or shut down.

 

 

 

 

OBSERVATIONS/AMPLIFICATIONS

-Before the arrival of Spanish colonisers in the 1500s, the tribes of the region traded with merchants from China and Japan. The Spanish first settled in Vigan, which became the centre for the ‘galleon’ trade between the region and the Spanish settlements in Mexico, especially from Acapulco. Some towns are named from these times.

 

-Some in the region of Burgos, north of Laoag, are thinking of developing surfing resorts. From what I could see, the waves did not seem to be good enough for that, but this is not my expertise.

 

-Ilocos is considered an energy-producing province – hydro, solar, and now wind. The region produces rice, sugar, salt, tobacco.

 

-There is a village named Marcos, but named after father of ex-president Ferdinand Marcos. And also what is called, unofficially of course, Malacanang Palace of the North, on Paoay Lake.

 

-Just outside Laoag is a village called Vatican Of The Philippines because, say local commentators, it produces many priests.

 

-At the time of our visit, I noted many road works including a fair amount of bridges. That presumably is (literally) a concrete example of what governor Imee Marcos is doing to improve the infrastructure of Ilocos.

 

-The Philippines department of tourism has a director for the north. Moving from Manila, he has been in the region for 11 years.

 

-Sampled local dishes such as the longaniza (sausage), empanada (meat pie), bagnet (deep fried crispy pork crackling).

 

-Calesa (horse drawn cart) tour in Laoag and Vigan which, given my pro-animal sensitivities, I declined.

 

-We had a 2-motocycle police escort for all our bus trips, including those out to dinner in the evening. They rode ahead to clear the road for us. This ensured that on the 2-hour trip Laoag-Vigan, for instance, we saved at least 30 minutes.

 

-Many if not all of the restaurants we stayed at had their own WiFi. It seems standard. When you walk into a restaurant, you don’t first ask for the menu, but for the WiFi password.

 

-We did not visit, but from here some visitors might want to visit the Cordillera Mountains as well as Banaue, location of the 2000-year-old rice terraces. These are about 100km from Vigan.

 

-A good circuit could be Baguio, 100km southwest of Banaue, the Banaue and Vigan. But that misses Laoag and Ilocos Norte, which was the centre of my visit. Whoops.

 

 

 

The Fox

Trottings = Trip Jottings

Trottings: In Sicily.

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.

 

Trottings: In Sicily.

Casa Giannone

The GPS guided us to this out-of-the-way 6-room B&B in Santa Flavia, just outside Palermo, Sicily. I missed a turning, and although the GPS self-corrected, I think the corrected routing was actually the ‘back-way’ to the inn.

 

It was like A TV ad I have seen (I think for AirBnB or hotels.com) where the driver drives past unkempt and mildly-threatening villages and villagers, mud tracks, darkness, until arriving at a wonderful and welcoming property.

 

CG’s owner came out in the street with a torch to signal our arrival. Driving up a short slope to a stone parking piazza, and we were home! I found out the following morning that only the last quarter of the property was actually the B&B; the others were private residences.

 

CG is stylishly rustic – with modern conveniences. The room was a delight in terms of colours and design. No meals (B&B only).

 

Breakfast in a room with 4-tables and 4-chairs. Adequately provisioned continental breakfast. We were the only guests (this was winter after all; there was another guest in the B&B, but we saw no-one).

 

 

Pozzallo villa

No name, no number. About 5 minutes out of town. We booked via AirBnB, and best to go to that site, see the photos, read the reviews. (But see also my ABB experience below.)

 

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1102541?eluid=1&euid=07270f22-6521-af15-5b81-0ee819f50fab

 

There is not much to add. An impressive (but not in the grand sense) dwelling, beautifully rustic. And equipped so completely – even an electric shaver!

 

Highly recommended for a big extended family. Three bedrooms sleeping 10, and a sofa bed in one of the common-use rooms. There is one lounge, one dining room, kitchen, and two bathrooms, covered garage, terrace, garden. And all big and spacious.

 

You need a car though.

 

 

AirBnB silence

I booked accommodation (not those described above), and then found that the property did not have what the owner said it had (in my case, on-site parking). So I cancelled immediately – two hours after I booked. The owner eventually returned the money I had paid. But he was not reprimanded for false advertising, and the false promise continues on the ABB site.

 

Worse, AirBnB kept its booking fee. Worse again, ABB has still not responded in any way to my complaint, and has kept its money.

 

 

The Fox

Trottings = Trip Jottings

Trottings: Down-rating Emirates.

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TROTTINGS

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.

 

Trottings: Down-rating Emirates.

I was disappointed by a recent Emirates flight – this one Malta-Dubai with a stop in Cyprus. I have two complaints:

 

Safety remonstration

A serious malfunction. During the transit stop in Cyprus, passengers are asked to identify their hand baggage. Any that are not matched with a passenger are offloaded. Cabin crew do the checks with passengers, and also climb the seats to visually ensure that no bags are left in the overhead baggage-bins.

 

On my flight, my section of the plane was not checked during the Cyprus transit stop. Passengers were asked to take their bags down from the baggage bins, but there were no further checks.

 

That means:

-no check was made to link bags with passengers.

-no visual check of baggage bins to make sure they had been cleared.

 

I noticed that the other side of the aisle these checks were done thoroughly – and some checks, such as the baggage bins, done twice.

 

(As part of this procedure, albeit not a safety matter, the crew should check that the empty seats were prepared for joining passengers. This also was not done on my flight; as a result the seat next to me had no earphones, and the cushion was not in its place.

 

Inflight containment

The aircraft was an A330 but its IFE seemed to be from the time even before Emirates was established. Not one screen in the main cabin for all passengers, but not much better.

 

For instance:

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-Small screen, and mine happened to be out of focus.

-The programming did not start until about 20 minutes after take-off, whereas I and I presume many other frequent Emirates passengers expect service-on the moment I board the aircraft.

-Worst was the programming. It ran to a fixed time schedule, so if the film you wanted to see was third in the programming, you would have to wait about four hours for it to start. If you wanted to watch the sports program on rugby, you might have to watch hours of golf, football, or whatever. Same for all programs.

-Also bad on my flight was programming of movies – unless you wanted to watch all the old Star Wars films. I didn’t, so there were just two channels of films left for me. And the film I wanted to see was No 4. So I never saw it.

 

In addition, the food service operation needs reworking. I got my meal, but drinks service came when I had just finished my dessert. Surely Emirates has been around long enough to organise this properly? Or is this sloppy crew service?

 

The A330 operating the Malta flight is not a leased-in aircraft. It is part of Emirates’ fleet. The crew said there are just a few routes with this old IFE system. And says they should be converted, but by putting B777s on the routes, by this October. And the route changed – to a circle route Dubai-Tunis-Malta-Dubai.

 

 

The Fox

Trottings = Trip Jottings

 

Trottings; sailing Genoa-Palermo.

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.

 

Trottings; sailing Genoa-Palermo.

Herein is my story on my 20-hours crossing in January on the high Mediterranean seas. (Er, that’s me and the other 1000 passengers, 150 vehicles, 10 giant trucks, 20 dogs, and probably a guinea pig or two.)

 

Start reasonably well, although the boarding-location of the company, GNV (Grandi Navi Veloci), was not clearly marked in comparison with some others – such as the MSC cruise line. Cold windy wet night as vehicles waited two hours in line. Lots of stairs (six levels) to climb to reach our floor. There are lifts, but superbly inadequate for a ship this size – two, each with space for about six with no baggage – so that generally means maximum four people.

 

Cabin good and well equipped with four berths, but too warm and no temperature control in the room, and windows not openable of course.

 

We had booked three meals (dinner breakfast lunch) for the crossing, and the self-service cafeteria closed for dinner about 2330 (many of the timings for many things were different from those announced or written or given by crew members). Our limitations were (two breads, one starter, etc) were somewhat complicated to follow, but not a problem.

 

I did not visit the ship, but there was live music in the bar area. And one a-la-carte restaurant.

 

One floor up was what was called Fido Park, an external area for dogs to pee and pooh. I think in the summer this is an open deck area as there were also shower points here. Also kennels on this level for passengers who had not booked a cabin.

 

I am surprised. GNV has been considerate enough to provide a (large) space for dogs. But there were no plastic bags for owners to scoop their own dogs’ pooh. The ship’s crew did that. How often I don’t know. I never saw this taking place although the Park was not full of pooh so either dogs hold back, or it is cleaned every 2/3 hours. I doubt it, but maybe.

 

At night, lighting of this area is poor. Dogs are smart enough to avoid stepping in other dogs’ pooh, but owners are not so smart. And if I step into some, and then return to the ship, then I spread pooh on to the carpets. Also, the fact that it is a pee-pooh area is not clearly marked, and so there are some passengers just taking a walk, and not looking where they walk.

 

So, GNV needs to:

 

-Reduce park area for poohing, but leave the current size for walking.

-Provide square soil-filled area for poohing – 5x5m would be big enough.

-Provide plastic bags for pooh-collecting by owners.

-Improve lighting (in fact there is none; the light comes from other lights), and add/improve signage.

 

Ok, enough of the dogs.

 

As we neared Palermo, announcement said we would be arriving at 1900 (schedule was 2000, crew said 1830), and that we had to vacate our cabin with baggage by 1700!

 

But we were not allowed access to our vehicle, and so we and all passengers had to gather in the public area. There was seating for about 10 people, and so the rest were sitting on the floor, on the stairs; everywhere. Organised chaos.

 

In summer it must be big un-organised chaos – there are nearly 600 cabins and the ship handles just under 3000 passengers!

 

Worse, we did not arrive at 1900 as announced, but around 1950, and the ship had stopped moving for about 10 minutes before we were allowed to access our vehicles.

 

During this time – three hours – there was no public announcement until the one saying we could go.

 

I presume this procedure follows GNV’s operational rules, and not the whim of our crew. And so I presume the reason they wanted us out of the cabins so early was so that they could prepare them for the outward journey (which I believe was 2330 – 3h30m after we arrived. Some advice then:

 

-Use Palermo-based workers to prepare the cabins on arrival. A big-number team working hard for two hours.

-If that is not possible (it is possible, so the reason would be financial if GNV uses another system), then vacate the cabins in rotation, so that not everybody piles into the public areas. For instance, our cabin might not have been worked last, around 2000, so why leave at 1700?

-Allow people to wait in, say, the cafeteria (which was closed during this time!), and provide or offer some beverages, or even some other food. That would result in more satisfied customers, and more revenue for GNV.

 

When we were finally allowed access to our vehicles, the ship emptied in a remarkably quick time – about 15mins. Yet another reason to reduce or change that ridiculous 3-hour wait sitting on the floor with baggage – and thus not easy to move.

 

GNV sails from financial crisis to financial crisis. It has had almost constant changes in ownership or capital input – substantial ones in 2004, 2011, 2012, 2013. My experience indicates management is incompetent – although I would presume working with ships’ crews would make it difficult to introduce efficiencies.

 

One of its CEOs, who left in 2010, Silvano Cassano, has just had an unhappy period as Alitalia CEO, August 2014-September 2015.

 

After my experience with GNV, the company will go under in the next three years – hopefully not when I am on board!

 

 

The Fox

Trottings = Trip Jottings

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