Balcony Harvest in September

We have someone in the family who likes to have a daily dose of fruit salad. While I was making it, I  remembered having seen one of the last ripe strawberries on the hanging planter on the balcony. We are heading towards late September by now.

I managed to pick one for the center topping, before I got sidetracked by another little plant.

fruit salad

This is what one of the strawberry planters looks like in June.

balcony strawberries

While picking the strawberry, I found this baby pine tree within the leaves of the strawberry plants. September is the time to repot trees (by now I’m an expert on baby trees), so I started digging for soil in one of the floor planters.

My, my, what a surprise. I had a potato plant earlier in the summer, raised from an old wrinkled potato. When it was time for harvest  I must have overlooked these two. Are they edible? Of course, they are.

balcony potatoes

My balcony life never seizes to amaze me. Of course, it is not all my doing, but nature itself. I feed the birds on a regular basis, not with store-bought seeds, but with old bread. They in turn bless my planters and soil with seeds from their other end. 🙂 The perfect cycle of life.

A Good Reason to Travel

What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.

— William Least Heat Noon —

Sketched by Momoko Fujita

Sketched by Momoko Fujita

Review for Inn on Frederick in St. Andrews, Canada

We spent two nights at the Inn on Frederick in St. Andrews. It has the perfect location sitting in the center of town, but yet one block away from Main Street, so it is fairly quiet. It is also in walking distance  – just cross Main Street – to Passamaquoddy Bay.

St. Andrews pier

We had booked the vacation home as the price for two double rooms at the same inn was almost equal to the price of the house, and yes, this was the better choice for us.

The innkeeper, Mr. Jay Chung, is a very accommodating fellow. Don’t be fooled by his college-age looks – he’s got a 16-year daughter, who helped serve breakfast in the morning.

I mostly enjoyed the privacy of the porch.

Inn on Frederick patio

We made very little use of the livingroom and kitchen downstairs, but mostly ate out.

Inn on Frederick livingroom

The bedrooms and bathrooms are on the second floor.

Inn on Frederick

The inn’s breakfast, we all agreed on, was phenomenal. The first morning, we had an omelet wrapped in crepe, with fresh fruit and yoghurt on the side.

breakfast

The second morning’s breakfast was just as inviting to our eyes.

breakfast 2

And yes, we slept well in this air conditioned house during this very hot weekend of 33 C. Our son used the jacuzzi a couple of times, we had our rooms cleaned and refurbished each day, and we had a very pleasant time there.

I highly recommend it, if you come here as a family.

5 Best Ways to Keep Taxi Drivers Honest

It’s that time a year again when some of us not so seasoned travelers have to hit the road again. From past experiences and based on current inquiries about local taxi fares, I decided to come up with a list of pointers to look out for.

1. It is best to hire a taxi through your hotel or local friends. We hired a taxi through the hotel while we were in London last month. The fare was 10 pounds more than a street taxi, but at least the price was fixed. This proved useful as we encountered an accident on the main road and our driver had to take quite a detour. Nobody enjoys the feeling of doubt whether you have just gotten ripped off or not.

From Leadenhall Market in London (the banking district) to Heathrow Airport, most quoted a fare of 60 pounds. Our taxi was 70 pounds and it was worth it!

2. If your cab hire is not done through the hotel, get the driver to commit to a price. If you are in the U.S.A., e.g., don’t forget to ask whether this includes taxes, service charges, etc. Some taxi drivers do not mention the total charge and surprise you at the end of the ride.

If you are with fellow passengers, repeat the agreed upon total price, and name them as witnesses. A cunning driver might insist after the ride that you had misunderstood the quoted price.

3. Take a photo of the taxi before you get in or note down the license plate. This knowledge might also prove useful in deterring him from overcharging.

4. If your arrival by taxi is at night, remind the driver to turn the interior light on all the way. Here comes the important part – ask your fellow passengers to watch you pay the money as they are your witnesses. Then count out the notes in a strong voice, ask for confirmation of how much you have handed over, before he puts it away.

I have learned this from my New York cab driver who insisted I had not given him the full amount (which I had), but my tired fellow passengers in the back seat were no suitable witnesses either. We were just not prepared for this kind of deception.

5. Somewhere along the ride from e.g. the airport to the hotel, ask for the local police number in a casual way. Then store it in your mobile phone. Make sure the taxi driver takes notice of this.

I know it is difficult after a long flight (sometimes even a short one), when you have to deal with locking up your home, getting to the airport, checking in, waiting for your delayed flight, picking up your luggage, dealing with immigration, and finding your way to your destination.
But you have to stay alert up to the last minute until your feet hit the sack or your elbows hit the hotel bar.

New York City

I will be making use of my own list in Nottingham quite a few times next week. But besides keeping taxi drivers honest, I also intend to visit the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (England’s oldest inn), say “Hey up me duck” to the locals, and I also hope to catch a glance of our son while his farewell partying ends for the semester break.

10 Random German Travel Facts

Two weeks from today I will be attending a Sri Lankan wedding in London at the Gherkin. Then the following months, I will be spending a few days in Nottingham with our son, our summer holidays will take us to the U.S.A for a family event, and in September I’m back to London for 24 hours for our daughter. Yes, we do travel a lot.

Here are the random facts I have gathered.

Air Traffic:

* In 2012, Germany’s air traffic carried 23.5 million passengers on domestic flights.

* Air traffic among Germany’s 27 biggest airports has gone up 19% since 2003.

* Air traffic for international flights has increased by 65% in ten years.

* The busiest airports are Munich, Berlin-Tegel, and Frankfurt.

 

Frankfurt Airport:

* Frankfurt Airport was awarded the Air Cargo Excellence Award 2013 for Europe.

 

Travel Spending:

* In 2011, Germans spent 60.7 billion euro on vacationing in foreign countries.

* In 2012, women spent 1.648 euro on traveling, while men spent 1.947 euro on average.

 

Accommodation in Germany:

* In 2012,  Germany registered  407 million lodgings. This is the first time ever for lodgings to have passed the 400 million mark.

 

Frankfurt Airport

Frankfurt Airport

Travel destinations:

* In 2012, the biggest increase in German tourism went to the Azores with 28.9%.

* In 2011, Germans took 40 million trips with most of them heading to Spain, Italy, and Turkey.

…Passenger to Frankfurt. (Masterpiece Edition) by Agatha Christie, available on Amazon.de