Category Archives: Travel

How to minimise jet lag

You love travel. That’s why you’re reading this post. And we all like different things when it comes to travel, for instance destinations, modes of getting around, and budget. But if there’s one thing we all agree on, it’s our dislike of jet lag.

After all, there’s nothing quite like being cooped up on a plane for 12 hours or even more, crossing through multiple time zones and ending up at your destination as an insomniac by night and a lethargic sloth by day, especially when your trip is only a few weeks in total.

I used to suffer enormously from jet lag, but as I traveled more I began to change my ways and picked up a few tips that I want to share with you. I categorise these tips into two groups: Obvious and Not So Obvious.

Obvious Tips:

  • Try to fly west instead of east, when possible. Generally, flying west is easier on the body.
  • Talk to your doctor about sleeping pills. (Before I’m reprimanded for saying this, I accept no responsibility for Deep Vein Thrombosis or any other possible side effect – that’s why I suggest you talk to your doctor).
  •  Stay hydrated with water before, during and after your flight.
  • Go on a big walk or hit the gym the day before your flight.
  • If it’s night-time at your destination, try to sleep with the aid of eye-shades, neck support, a blanket, noise-cancelling headphones and relaxing music like Enya and Fleetwood Mac.
  • If it’s daytime at your destination but night-time on the flight, play some upbeat, lively music and watch an action film.
  • Take a big outdoor walk or hit the hotel gym when you arrive at your destination. Get some sunlight, drink lots of water and stay up until at least 8.30pm.

No So Obvious Tips:

  • Get some Vitamin D pills and start on a daily course about a week before you depart, and keep it up as long as you need to. Vitamin D is some of the good stuff that we get from the sun, and it also helps the immune system so prepares the body better for the stresses of travel.
  • Put your watch/clock to the destination time as soon as you board. If you have a transit stop, ignore it and set the time as the final destination.
  • As soon as you take off, close your eyes and visualise yourself at the destination, on the destination time. Is it 3am? You are asleep. Is it 7am? You are waking up and having breakfast.
  • If it’s night-time at your destination, have a glass of wine. If it helps you sleep, why not? Just ensure you drink plenty of water too. 
  • Eat as if you’re at the destination time zone. Sometimes I pretend that dinner is actually breakfast.
  • What you eat is critical. Of you want to sleep, carbs are great, but if you want to stay awake, stay off the carbs!
  • Freshen up with a moist towel. Feeling fresh and clean means feeling awake.
  • If it’s daytime when you arrive, spend a bit of time in the sun without sunglasses. Our eyes play a big part in absorbing sunlight and this can help with regulating the body clock.
  • Have a light dinner to help you sleep on your first night. Avoid dairy or meat after 6pm.
  • Have a high-protein, low GI breakfast on the first day after you arrive. It’ll help with maintaining your energy levels during the day so you’ll be back to your usual routine in no time.
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Photos from Alcatraz

On the first of this month Andre, Eunsoo and I made it to Alcatraz on a splendidly sunny day. The photo opportunities were plentiful but the highlight was the audio-tour….it wasn’t one of those monotone museum tours – it had variety and special effects so never a dull moment!

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All images appearing on this blog (solange.posterous.com) may not be reproduced, copied or manipulated without the written permission of Solange Francois© 2010

 

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And a few more travel tricks

The third installment of my travel tips and hints saga (after this one and this one).

  • An iPod Touch is the perfect travel companion if you don’t want to carry a laptop with you. You can connect to the net when there is wi-fi, take notes, use Skype, email, Facebook and Twitter, record voice memos, check the weather, plan with the calendar, download maps, check-in for flights, read books, play games, listen to your music and with a multitude of useful apps, much more!
  • Buy a drawer sachet to put into your suitcase – keeps everything smelling fresh. I love lavender or vanilla.
  • Don’t take the entire bottle of your favourite perfume/cologne. I carry The Body Shop’s Chrome Atomizer – also great for nights out back home!
  • Take an external harddrive with you to save your photos as you go.
  • Use www.carhire3000.com to hire your car around the world. They act as a middle-man between you and various agents, so you get a better deal.
  • When traveling with a group, carry a small notebook and pen at all times so you can record how much you owe each other rather than waste time trying to count up exact change in restaurants, etc.
  • If you’re somewhere slightly dodgy, use plain black headphones for your iPod/iPhone instead of the tell-tale white ones.
  • I’ve mentioned previously that flattery can go a long way. So can a simple smile 🙂
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The Castro District, San Francisco

If you haven’t seen Milk (starring Sean Penn as Harvey Milk), you should. It’s an excellent depiction of the life of the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.

The Castro (district) became a gay centre following the Summer of Love in the neighbouring Haight-Ashbury district. When Milk began his political activity in 1972 as a gay activist the district further blossomed as a gay destination.

I took a walk up Castro Street and admired the multitudes of rainbow flags, the half-dressed mannequins in shop windows, the relaxed, cheerful crowd and the saucy, double entendre names of shops.

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All images appearing on this blog (solange.posterous.com) may not be reproduced, copied or manipulated without the written permission of Solange Francois© 2010

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The strangest conversation I’ve ever heard on a bus

Scene – On the number 6 bus in San Francisco at peak hour in the afternoon, a man in the middle of the bus starts telling everyone on the bus about his drug addiction. Some other passengers tell him to shut up, and others contribute to the conversation.

Meth man: “Hey everybody! Guess what? Tonight I’m gonna smoke some meth! Do you know what that is?”
Old African American man (who is sitting up front): “Yeah, I know what that is! Does it make you as horny as it makes me?”
African American woman: “All I know is that it ages you 40 years in about 1 year.”
Meth man: (Nervously) Ah, haha, no it doesn’t! What it does do though is brings you closer to Jesus Christ, it’s the ONLY WAY! Who wants to smoke some meth with me?”
Old African American man (to boarding passengers): “Watch my coat! Nobody step on my coat!”
Meth man: (Desperately) “Oh man, I’m gonna get it in 3 hours, oh, I just need to make sure I get some before sunset, oh man!!! Please just let it be before sunset!”
Man sitting to my right (talking to a man that’s standing): “Um, sir? You have a toothpick sticking out of your pants.”
Toothpick man: “Oh, thanks.” (Tucks it into his pocket)
Meth man (after incomprehensible mumbling): “FURTHERMORE, let me tell you something. A man can eat a 10 pound steak and NOTHING CHANGES!”
Old African American man: “Now you just ain’t makin’ any sense. I’d shut up now if I were you.”
Meth man: “Ahaha, do you speak Greek? Are you saying that I’m speaking Greek?”
Old African American man: “Do I LOOK like I can speak Greek to you?”
Man to my left starts reciting Greek grammar from a huge book, and I am left wondering if I’ve been drugged.

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More little travel tricks

Following on from this post a few weeks ago, here are some more tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way:

  • Check out your route on Google Maps before taking cabs, especially if you’re alone or in a country where they might take you on the scenic route! Note down main street names and even ask the driver to take you via certain streets to let them know that you know where you’re going. I often take map screenshots on my iPod.

  • In addition, if you’re a lone female in a cab and you feel uncomfortable at all, fake a phone call and even state the taxi number if you can read it, e.g. “Hi Bob, yes I’m in the cab, should be there in about 10 minutes.”

  • Remember that most commodity items will be cheaper almost anywhere else in the world than New Zealand. Of course, there are exceptions everywhere but generally you will find what you need so there’s no use in overpacking.

  • If you’re in a city for a few days it might be worth investing in an unlimited 3 or 7 day train/bus pass. You’ll have more freedom in moving around, won’t have to keep taking out cash to pay for tickets, and you can do a good deed if you leave before it expires by passing it on to somebody else.

  • If you have a daypack you might have to check it in when visiting certain sites and museums. Carry a small fold out carry bag to transfer your valuables into when you check your daypack.

  • Look at bookingbuddy.com, priceline.com and hotwire.com for great hotel and flight deals in USA and Canada.

  • Ask locals for directions – sometimes there’s a little trick for getting from A to B that you couldn’t possibly know about but will save you plenty of time.

  • Call ahead to confirm that venues are open, especially in South America and Paris! Sometimes places just close for no reason.

  • Buy local magazines for suggestions on special events, restaurants and gigs. Some will have discount vouchers too.

  • If you use your iPod or iPhone as an alarm and you’re staying in a hostel dorm, put the device into a cash belt and strap it around your waist overnight to avoid it falling out of bed and possibly disappearing forever.

  • Carry several locks with you and also a luggage security cable. If your backpack/suitcase doesn’t fit in a hostel dorm locker you can lock your valuables in the locker and then secure your backpack/suitcase to a fixed item in the room with your security cable.

  • Take a Dyna band away with you so you can do some basic resistance exercises on the road.

  • Take the time to do your research online. For example, you can plan to be in a city for a certain special event, or you can arrange to visit museums on their free or reduced entrance fee days.

  • Use Twitter to find out information about the cities you’re travelling to. I’ve connected with some awesome people who’ve given me great tips, and I’ve even met up with some of them.

  • Join Couchsurfing.org. Even if you don’t want to host people or surf their couches, you can sign up to receive notifications about things going on in cities you visit. I’ve met some amazing people through this and have been able to attend events I wouldn’t have known about. And some of them for free!

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Twelve things to do in New York City

Here are some of the things I did while in New York, and you if you go, you can too!

  • Buy a salad at Wholefoods and have dinner in Central Park

  • Walk across Brooklyn Bridge

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  • Check out Carrie Bradshaw’s font door (66 Perry St) and Monica Geller’s apartment exterior (494 Grove St)

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  • Catch the free ferry to Staten Island for great views of the Statue of Liberty

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  • Stand in Times Square at night

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  • Walk through the Financial District and Wall Street

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  • Have a pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Deli (where Meg Ryan faked her orgasm in When Harry Met Sally)

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  • Get an iced coffee in Williamsburg and take in the hot, young, tattooed arty kids there

  • Visit the wonderful MoMA

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All images appearing on this blog (solange.posterous.com) may not be reproduced, copied or manipulated without the written permission of Solange Francois© 2010

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Sunset view of Paris from Montparnasse Tower

Aside from having to queue, there is one major drawback to viewing Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, and that is that you can’t see the Eiffel Tower! So I went up Tour Montparnasse which is quieter yet provides an incredible panoramic view of Paris. Go at sunset and you’ll not only see Paris drenched in the pastels of the evening light – you’ll also see the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle on the hour (every hour after dark) for 10 minutes. Unbeatable!

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Learning French in Paris

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One of the objectives of my trip was that I would live in Paris for one month and learn French. After months of deliberation earlier this year I selected a school called L’Atelier 9. I’d done what I usually do when looking for things….search on Google, read reviews and ask questions. From the beginning they were always very quick to answer my emails (and not to mention, super friendly) and the school was competitive on price. Plus, they arranged home-stay accommodation for me at no extra cost. And when I had an absolute nightmare with Paypal for the deposit, the Director, Stéphanie, was amazing and so patient!

I was placed in an Intermediate Level class with Céline as our teacher. We started off as a group of girls from Israel, Czech Republic, Holland, USA, Germany, UK and South Korea, and two weeks into it some of the girls left and we were joined by another American girl and an Australian guy. At no point was there more than 9 students in total. 

The classes were all in French and with the small size we were given plenty of opportunity to practice speaking. In one month my French improved dramatically, to the point where I managed conversations on the metro (mostly complaining about the heat) and had a chat about the football with a waiter at the café next to my house. He’d seen me in my Argentina football top and called me over to the café to express his sympathy about the hammering we received from Germany! Céline was an incredible teacher and she would write down pretty much everything so there was never any confusion about spelling or structure. What I really liked in particular was that we also learnt how people actually speak (slang and idioms) rather than merely basic, formal French.

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There are plenty of schools in Paris, including prestigious ones like the Alliance Français and La Sorbonne, but I was really after something more laid-back. With L’Atelier 9 there was homework daily but there were no tests and that suited me fine; I wasn’t there to improve my French for any professional reason – it was purely for self-interest. The school also provides many free services, including information about events in Paris and a handy tips and hints session for newcomers to the city. Coffee and tea is on tap at the school, and there is free Wifi also. During my month there I also took part in a theatre workshop session after class one day, and an aperitif gathering to meet students in other classes.

Of course, the whole experience was made all the better with the homestay I was placed in. Laurence welcomed me with open arms and we shared many laughs and evenings of long chats over wine. On my final night she prepared a delicious dinner of escargots, foie gras and macarons to share together along with Amalie, a Danish girl who’d taken the second spare room in the house during my final week. Also incredibly convenient was the location of my homestay in relation to the school. I was living in the 18th arrondissement (close to Montmartre), and the school was a 25-minute walk away in the 9th arrondissement, close to Galeries Lafayette. 

Four weeks isn’t long but it’s long enough to get to know some great people, and be missing them ever since. Some of us formed quite a tight-knit group and I look forward to seeing them all again!

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Escargots, confit de canard et macarons (Snails, duck and macarons)

Due to frogs being out of season while I was in Paris I had to try some other traditional cuisine before departing. And it doesn’t get much better than this:

  • Escargots (snails) which were prepared with a butter/garlic/parsley sauce
  • Confit de canard avec pommes persillées (duck with parsley new potatoes)
  • Macarons (a sweet biscuit that comes in all sorts of flavours, including anise, berry, chocolate, vanilla, caramel…etc)

All of these delights were delightful, even the snails which were actually so good that I had them another time.

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All images appearing on this blog (solange.posterous.com) may not be reproduced, copied or manipulated without the written permission of Solange Francois© 2010

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