Situated in a newly planted park in the shadow of the soon to be opened Freedom Tower, the memorial takes the form of two giant water features constructed on the site of the foundations of each tower.Water cascades down the sides of the features and then falls into darkened square chasms in the centre.
Embedded on the viewing platform railings on the perimeter of all four sides of each feature are the names of more than 3,000 victims of 9/11. Visitors are encouraged to leave flowers , notes and other mementos.
Iceland appears to be the must see destination on the top of everyone’s travel list lately, and not only in my circle of family and friends, who’ve been yearning to travel there.In fact, Iceland has garnered substantial interest and has become so popular just in the past year that it won the viewer’s choice award for Lonely Planet’s, Best in Travel. Reykjavik was the favourite city and Iceland won favourite country.
Iceland also rose to the top of The National Geographic’s Traveler Magazine’s list of the world’s best destinations in 2012. From the Blue Lagoon, massive glaciers to the gorgeous waterfalls and temperamental volcanoes, the scenery and nature is nothing short of a visual masterpiece.
Additionally, Reykjavik is also home to many artists, musicians, writers and designers and is known to host numerous art festivals throughout the year. Currently, the most popular festival, the Reykjavik Arts Festival (RAF), established in 1970, opened on May 17 and runs until June 2, 2013, with Art, Space and Audience, being this year’s theme. From theater, dance to visual art and music, this festival encompasses not only local talent, but talent from all around the world.
Photo Credit: Sigurpor Holm Tryggvason
There are far too many works on display, including experimental art, performances and new innovations to name them all, but some notable ones include, Bang on a Can All Stars, six original radio plays by both established and upcoming playwrights, The Iceland Dance Company and Iceland Symphony Orchestra, combined with Harpa Concert Hall, will exhibit two of Igor Stravinsky’s musical choreographies: The Rite of Spring and Petrushka. Additionally, Iceland’s best-known actors, the heavy-metal band MUCK, the Icelandic Sound Poetry Choir and the Icelandic Sign Language Choir all combine to form, The Sound of a Bugle in a Shoebox: Magnús Pálsson performances 1980 to 2013.
Photo Credit: Tryggvi Runarsson
The 10 Most Common Travel Phobias
I’ve been working in travel for 30 years and have become accustomed to the most common travel phobias! The phobic traveller will always worry that “something” could go wrong! Are you one of them…?
Here are 10 of my picks for the most common travel phobias, and how to overcome them!
1) Checking in online has caused the traveller great worries.
This travel phobia is very common. Why? Because the traveller thinks if a problem occurs while checking in online it means they won’t be able to get on that plane. Never fear, as this is really not an issue. Though it is rarely published, checking in can still be done with most airlines at the airport. Bags can be dropped at the bag drop area, and you can still get your boarding pass at the airport – it is just a bit more time consuming.
2) The next most common phobia is the worry that bags will be lost, arriving sans sacs.
The answer to this is simple. Should your bags not arrive, you go to the airline customer services – these would be located at the arrivals area, and even in the baggage claim area. You give them your luggage tag and they will have to locate your bags, as it’s very possible the luggage has gone on a flight bound for a different destination than yours. The airline will give you a tracer reference and take your details to get the luggage delivered once found. You can claim compensation for the items you have had to purchase within a certain time-frame (to be advised by the airline); if you have travel insurance you can make a further claim with your insurance company.
3) What if my flight is delayed?
Air congestion is a modern-day travelling issue, as there are so many elements to battle against. The biggest problem is usually the weather, or strikes at airports. It can also be due to the airline losing their slot, so having to wait to get back in the take off queue. Stay calm, and keep checking for updates; don’t let the airlines fop you off, as if the delay goes into the next day, they are obliged to put you up at their expense. Never cancel your reservation, wait for the airline to do that and re-route you, this is referred to as “involuntary change”, meaning not at the traveller’ s request. Once again you can claim for delay from your insurance company, but be sure to have read all the cans and cannots when taking out the policy.
4) The phobias continue, into the realm of seating.
The worry of not getting a good seat. I know the seat I want, but my travel agents have not pre-assigned the seat that I asked for! The seating issue really upsets the traveller, as they cannot understand why a simple request such as this could not have been completed. Well, here are some answers which may help you to understand the nature of pre-assigning seats:
Most Airlines prefer the traveller to assign their seats with online check-in. British Airways, for instance, allows pre-assignment only 24 hours prior to departure, and if you want to pre-assign a seat before the 24 hours then expect to pay a steep fee if you have purchased a cheap ticket and have no executive card of a certain tier. Seating can never be guaranteed, as if the type of airplane changes, so does the seating configuration; this is a common feature. Don’t worry about the seat you never got, just make sure you are the first to get online and get that seat in the future, before anyone else does!
5) What if the weather is bad, and I go back home without a tan?
Yes the weather has reached number five in the worry chart of the phobic traveller. I am afraid there is no quick fix here. It is always best to check the best season for travel to your chosen destination, but Mother Nature may have her own idea and you might not always get the weather you are meant to. My advice is to take excursions and explore your surroundings; before you know it, you will be lying on that beach – don’t ruin your vacation worrying about this. There’s always plenty more to do and appreciate on your time off.
6) Oh no, I paid so much more for my seat than the guy sitting next to me!
Questions running through their minds, why, how, and could I have got a better deal?
Here is some advice: you can all get the best deal at that time that you book and pay for your trip, and it’s possible that someone else somewhere may stumble on a last minute deal, and pay less for more. Airlines are constantly releasing and closing seat availability into systems and they always overbook, because of the no-show factor. And in varying markets there are different availabilities, so it’s all about timing. Go on, enjoy your trip – you did get that best deal.
7) The phobic traveller has arrived at their hotel, and is very unhappy about the room.
They were promised a great room overlooking the sea, instead they have a courtyard room overlooking the hotel kitchen. The phobic traveller is seized with panic at having to endure this room for two weeks.
My advice here is don’t put up with this room, especially if you were promised a large sea-view room.
Hotels are notorious for this, so put your foot down and ask to see the manager, make sure they know you are not happy with this, and you want to be moved to another room. Hotels don’t like bad publicity, and they will find an alternative.
Tips for getting the best deal
Always be one step ahead of the next traveller; keep a chart of all school holidays and bank holidays. The only way to get the best fares is to book in advance. It’s a known fact that close to travel dates air fares skyrocket. Make sure you read the rules and ticket restrictions ensuring that you are covered for a non refundable ticket. Follow these simple steps and you are sure to get the best deal. But be certain of your dates, as when you press the final button, you will have to pay to change your ticket plus any additional costs in the air fare. With online booking so wide open, don’t leave yourself exposed to expensive seats; be smart, and create that holiday chart.
8) Another big phobia for the traveller is around exchange of currency. I hear so many stories of travellers’ woes surrounding currency exchange!
“I was ripped off by this man in the market who told me I was getting a really good rate, but when I checked the rate of exchange in the local bank, I realised what a mistake I had made and how much money I lost“.
Never trust anyone with your exchange other than bonafide banks or bureau de change, and where possible, change your money at home before your journey. There are many outlets, such as banks, post office, bureau de changes, and even department stores. Do some research and check out the best deal, it’s less hassle and your money will be covered by your travel insurance.
9) The fear of missing a flight
This causes great anxiety for the traveller, so much so that some phobics will actually get to the airport as much as five hours before departure, and some even book a hotel near their intended departure airport to protect themselves against this possibility. This phobia is very common, as it’s every traveller’s nightmare. There is good advice at hand here:
Make sure you create a check-list, and run through the list before going to bed. If your flight is early morning have two alarms – one as a back-up in case the other never goes off. Also make sure you have got transportation ready – call the cab company, check the trains are running on time, and be aware of any adverse weather that may mean you should leave earlier.
Make sure you have got everything ready so when the cab arrives there is no panic.
Have your travel documents and passports in eye’s view then ensure they are deposited in your handbag. You don’t want arrive without them.
No need to get to the airport five hours before as the airline check-in wont be open then anyway.
10) Have I got enough validity on my passport, and do I need a visa, I forgot to check this!
Many phobics do not give this a thought when booking and paying for their tickets, as most websites possibly don’t highlight this clearly or not at all! The phobic traveller will merrily book seats and not give these matters a second thought.
Then “PANIC” sets in as they realise they have only three months left before the passport expires; or a visa is required, which may take longer than the time prior to departure. What if they can’t give me a new passport in time, what about that visa? What will I do now?
Rule number one, when making plans and researching, before booking, check all visa requirements for your destination of choice, and ensure there are no current political problems. E.g. the Foreign Office is a good source of information for British Nationals.
Always check the validity of your passports, most countries will refuse you entry if you do not have six months plus on your passport.
Other Nationals can check on various websites regarding visa requirements, e.g. Visa list.
This is the phobic traveller advisory source, please get in touch with any questions, and we will be sure to get you on the right runway.
Feature image by Hartwig HKD (Flickr Creative Commons).
Words: Neda Dorudi – The Forensic Traveller series
The Gardens by the Bay – Singapore
Singaporeans are an industrious lot. Just look at what they have achieved in their city over the past 50 years. Impressive and quite simply spectacular buildings line their cityscape and their architects show no signs of slowing down. I first visited in the mid 1970s and have been coming here at least twice a year since 2000. On every visit, another dizzying landmark arises, from the remarkable arts complex with its unique porcupine inspired roof or most recently, the Marina Bay shopping and casino complex, constructed on reclaimed land and home to every major design label on the planet, and along with Las Vegas and London’s Westfield projects, claims to be among the world’s most “epic indoor shopping malls!”
Singapore is fond of borrowing ideas from the West, particularly its former colonial master, Britain. They have erected a giant carousel wheel, a spitting image of the British Airways Millennium Wheel in London, a few years back and now The Gardens by the Bay looks very much like Singapore’s take on Britain’s Eden Project in Cornwall.
On a recent tour, it all looks a little too man made, particularly given its ecological and environmental themes. It reminded me of another British project, the ill-fated Millennium Dome. Like The Dome, The Gardens have a strong educative back story. However honourable the intentions, for The Dome it smacked of ”searching for a purpose”. I hope the same fate doesn’t befall The Gardens.
The Cloud Forest exhibit, constructed inside a gigantic sphere that has won several international architectural awards, seemed pointless – a triumph of man over nature. Give me Singapore’s excellent Botanic Gardens, at a fraction of the price, any time. The Flower Garden was more inspiring, a showcase of plants from around the word inside a giant greenhouse – a 21st Century version of the wonderful 19th century greenhouses doing the same job at Kew Gardens in London.
I couldn’t help thinking on leaving this giant complex with its hideous pink and purple railings and twee bunting, that this was man taming nature, not celebrating it. And Singapore is pretty good at that.
Carnival season is upon us and whether you are in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, or South America, there is no shortage of celebrations happening all around the world. The most well known festivals are celebrated in New Orleans, Louisiana, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, Sydney, Australia, Venice, Italy and Trinidad and Tobago.
Mardi Gras is centered mainly around the French Quarter of New Orleans for approximately two weeks and commences on Fat Tuesday, which falls on February 12th this year. However, the multiple parades take place Uptown and in mid-city, due to the narrow streets in the French Quarter. From the elaborately decorated floats, wild costumes, lively music, famous King Cakes, to the lengths people will go to in order to obtain a plethora of colorful, signatory beads, there is never a dull moment or a shortage of purple, green and gold.
Pilot’s Justine Shapiro took part in the Mardi Gras festivities when she was invited to join one of the 27 floats of the Krewe of Orpheus. In true Mardi Gras fashion, Justine wore a jester costume and adorned herself with multiple beads.
Rio De Janeiro, fittingly known as the carnival capital of the world, is no stranger to celebrations. Rio’s Carnival dates coincide with Mardi Gras, beginning on Saturday February 9th and ending on February 12th this year. During Carnival, the various samba schools, each representing their specific neighborhood, are the main draw. Samba dancers often rehearse months before Carnival and are decked out in extravagant handmade costumes with lavish headpieces. Host, Ian Wright dives head first into samba, learning from the school, Caprichosos de Pilares and ultimately taking part in the parade.
The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, takes places from February 8th through March 3rd this year and is Sydney, Australia’s biggest event of the year. Justine Shapiro takes viewers on a firsthand experience of this liberating celebration of expression and equal rights. Anything goes in this parade, from the Scantily clad costumes to dancing in the streets, drawing a crowd of over a million people to be free to be themselves. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Sydney Mardi Gras and is themed quite appropriately as, “The Generations of Love.”
The two most celebrated days of Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago fall on February 11th and 12th this year, right before Ash Wednesday and has been called, “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Justine Shapiro lets viewers inside the Caribbean’s biggest carnival as she joins in the celebration.
Music is a highlight for this carnival, with various competitions, including the International Soca Monarch competition and the National Panorama competition that innovatively incorporates the use of steel pans, garbage can lids, pots and pans to create sounds, rhythms and melodies. Bikinis with headpieces adorned in feathers are often seen during Carnival among a multitude of various character costumes, from Minstrels, Jab Jab’s, Midnight Robber’s to Dragons and Bats.
Justine travels to The Venice Carnival, which takes place in St. Mark’s Square and is centered around various types of eclectic looking masks, allowing people to maintain a bit of anonymity and play a different character. Like the other carnivals, Venice also commences on February 12th this year, marking the start of Lent. The mask contests and the water show on the Venice canals are two highlights of the Carnival and what better excuse to travel to this gorgeous city than to attend one of the biggest celebrations of the year?
This is undoubtedly an exhilarating time of year to dress up, celebrate cultural milestones and bask in the traditions that were established decades ago. Carnivals are plentiful around the world and although the five mentioned here are some of the most popular ones, they are definitely not the only ones.