Sunday, October 23, 2016

Travel Pet Peeves

I don’t normally talk about travel in negative terms, but there are just those times! You know, the time your flight was canceled and you were reticketed in the middle seat of your new flight? Or that screaming four year old that Bill Cosby so aptly described in this skit.  But what about things you can actually do something about?
  1. The overtalker:  Oh, you’ve sat next to this one.  The person who has decided that you (and not the on-flight movie) are their flight entertainment.  All you want to do is sleep, and they are on a roll about Aunt Matilda’s bursitis.  What can you do?  Well, I would most likely explain that I need to rest rather than talk (you can put your ear plugs in at this point).  Or I’d have my headphones at the ready and make a show of being very interested in that video or song.
  2. The oversized person sitting next to you who is taking up half your seat: I would do my best to get moved to another seat, but you may just be out of luck if it’s a full flight.  Quite honestly, I would file a complaint with the airline about what happened (stick with it for a phone call or two) and they usually give you some sort of compensation for your trouble.
  3. Arriving at a hotel overseas at 7 am (after a 12 hour flight) and having the front desk look at you unsympathetically.  They have even asked me to leave my luggage and return at 3 pm for check in!  I would first try their manager (who may be more sympathetic).  The hotel may be completely booked, and there may be nothing they can do… so, at that point, I would leave my luggage with them and pick an activity that takes a few hours (like getting on the hop on hop off bus). As in the previous case, I’d make a complaint call if the employees were terribly rude or the wait time was intolerable.  Of course, you can avoid all this by booking the previous night at the hotel so that the room is waiting for you when you arrive.  If they give your room away – then you really have a cause for complaint!
  4. Hotel guests who don’t give a second thought to talking loudly, laughing, giggling, or slamming doors in the middle of the day or night when you’re trying to sleep.  If the noise is too loud or continues, I call the front desk.  Occasionally, I’ve asked to move to another room.  But, even then, what if  your roommate snores?  You can beat a lot of the noise issue by bringing ear plugs or noise canceling headphones.  I would avoid confronting other guests in case you get a mental case rather than a reasonable person.
  5. People who bring odoriferous food onto the plane.  I gag at the smell of curry (it’s a genetic thing, I think – my dad did as well).  Broccoli or fish might also be considered a “no no”.  I was once on a British Airways flight where they SERVED me curry!  As if everyone who’s vegetarian loves the stuff.  I nearly gagged and they had zero to offer me other than that particular dinner.  There are several fixes for this:  1) bring your own food and snacks (which I always do now).  2) contact the airline ahead of time to ensure your food requirements are met.  Sometimes the generic “vegetarian” will get you nothing but curry.  3)  ask for a regular meal and eat around the meat if you’re vegetarian and can’t get what you want from their vegetarian menu.
  6. Airlines with surly crews.  I was on a British Airways flight (same one as above) and when breakfast came, I was given a fruit cup (which was all I had eaten off the curry tray from the supper before).  They handed out croissants to everyone else on the plane, but when I asked for a croissant as well, I was curtly told “No, you ordered vegetarian meals!”  As if a croissant wasn’t vegetarian???   So, the only thing I had to eat the entire flight was fruit.  Note: This is also part of a very bed recommendation for flying British Airways!
  7. Having the person sitting in front of me on the plane recline his seat backward into my lap!  As if the small amount of room I’m given wasn’t tiny enough, I now have Mr. Potato Head angrily stating his right to this privilege while I’m trying to keep claustrophobia from setting in completely. I’ve not yet found a remedy for this other than to politely ask if the person would mind lifting his seat back just a bit.  You might be able to change seats, but if the flight is full… you are out of luck.
  1. Rude Locals.  First, let me say that I have rarely experienced this in Britain (only once that I really recall).  But, Paris was a whole “nother” ballgame.  I’ve been seated next to the kitchen door at the Lido, ignored at various restaurants, and given completely incorrect directions to places on purpose (and from their metro transportation desk!).  I’ve heard that if I even spoke a little French, the story might have been different… but I don’t.  And (to me) just because I speak a foreign language is no reason to lie to me, ignore me, or treat me as “less than.”  Obviously, Paris doesn’t need my travel money!
  2. Hotels that skimp on hygiene.  I was at a hotel in Scotland who picked up my dirty towel from the floor where I’d left it and hung it back up for me to use!  They also left me only one small bar of soap (no shampoo or any other toiletries).  We were miles from a town, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience!  Later, I ran into the housekeeper and stocked up on towels and toiletries.
  3. Complainers.  Anytime, anywhere!  I don’t care if you’ve landed in a snowstorm or hate the food… shut up so the rest of us can have a decent holiday!  (ooops… I wasn’t very politically correct there.)  Honestly, turn it around, willya?  Use the extra time at the airport to check out the shops or plan fun things to do once you get to your destination.  My flight was cancelled and layovers lasted up to 9 hours.  I turned it into an adventure and it was hilarious!  I got rides on golf carts, shopped at stores, had a lovely dinner at an airport restaurant and met people I wouldn’t have met otherwise.  It’s all in your approach!
I’ve seen tons of these “pet peeves” lists on the net. Everyone has something they wish would not have happened during their trips… would love to hear yours and what you did to circumvent the frustration!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Full English Deconstructed

England is always on my mind, no matter whether I’m charging my FitBit or baking bread.  When I first moved to England, I baked bread every week.  We never had store bought.  I didn’t work my first year in Harrogate as I was waiting on my security clearance to go through.  I became an expert baker and knitter during that time!

As a takeoff on baking, I’m coming to you today to discuss the “Full English”.  The English are VERY proud of their breakfasts (well deserved, I might add).  They even have an English Breakfast Society (yes, really!).  See

When I post a picture of my lowly biscuits and gravy with scrambled egg, my English friends respond with:

Left to right: English bacon, beans on toast, hash browns, egg with HP sauce, bangers (sausages), sautéed mushrooms, stewed tomatoes, and black pudding (which probably won’t be on your plate if you’re eating in Southern England).  Not shown is a rack of toast.

English bread, strangely enough, is different than American bread.  If you buy bread in the markets of the UK, bread loaves are larger and the slices thinner than American bread.

When toast arrives on your breakfast table at a B&B, it arrives in a slice holder like this:

As an American, it seemed strange to me to use this sort of apparatus which would cool your toast off instantly (doesn’t everyone want warm toast?).  I’ve since come to appreciate the aesthetics of a toast rack, though I don’t use one at home, myself.

Back to English breakfast (or breakie).

At one B&B, my host assured me that something called “Marmite” would be quite tasty on my toast.

It wasn’t.  The stuff should be sent to warring nations who would be too busy making funny faces to offload bombs at each other.

Needless to say, I prefer jam.  Speaking of jam!  The English have no equivalent to our jelly.  What they call jelly is what we call jello.

"Jelly" Courtesy of Anne Putnam at Linzers in London
Their bacon is much closer to Canadian bacon.  The rashers are thick and ham-like.  Not at all like our crunchy strips.

And, my first brush with bangers was not really awesome.  Many brands are so full of filler, the sausage tastes like sand (though I’ve actually been able to find one or two sausages that were edible).  That is, before I turned pescatarian.

When ordering your eggs, be aware that the English probably won’t understand “over medium” or “over easy”.  They make eggs either scrambled, poached, or sunnyside up.  Sunnyside up eggs are made by placing an egg in a frying pan and basting with hot grease or oil.

We’ll see what you think of the next bit of Englishness which is “Beans on Toast”.  I was mortified when I first saw this concoction.  In fact, I still haven’t really gotten over it, and I typically don’t eat it when I’m there.  Beans on toast are a mixture of beans, tomatoes, water, sugar, vinegar, cornflour, salt, spice and herb extracts.  They taste a lot like our pork n beans (without the pork).  They are suitable for vegetarians.

Mushrooms will be sautéed in oil, butter, and sometimes garlic.  Tomatoes are cut in half, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and baked for about 10-15 minutes.

You’ll see territorial differences in your breakfasts such as black pudding in the North (basically, congealed blood sausage).

Or cockles and laverbread (seaweed) in Wales (would that make it a “Full Welsh Breakfast”?)

As you can see, the variety is as endless as the chefs cooking for you!

As to whether I prefer a Full English to an American breakfast, well, it just depends on the day.  Sometimes, I would love to see a few vegetables on my plate and a happy egg.  Sometimes, it’s just biscuits and gravy at Dan’s in Austin, TX.