Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

VISIT TO PERM, RUSSIA SEPTEMBER 2019

January 11, 2019

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Karen Hewitt writes:

I need to ask you if you know people who would like to go (or return) to Perm. Many of you know what is involved, although of course it changes slightly from year to year.

One point – as far as possible that person should have an Oxford/Oxon connection. Local residents, people who are close, people who are/were at the universities, students at the Department for Continuing Education, people with relatives here, etc.
That doesn’t mean that we are ruling out ideal people from further away, just that we hope to select as many as possible with some kind of Oxford connection. After all, it is Oxford which is twinned with Perm. 

The Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre together with Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education is arranging for a group of eight people to visit Perm as guests of the Perm State University. They will live in families with at least one English speaker and will have many opportunities to observe real Russian life. The visit is part of an exchange scheme in which the payment made by you supports the visit of a Perm teacher to Oxford.

Perm is Oxford’s twin city in Russia so the visit is open chiefly to people in Oxfordshire or with an Oxford connection such as attendance at OUDCE summer schools. Others will be considered if we do not fill all places. The programme of the fortnight can vary according to individual interests. As guests of Perm University you will be asked to talk to University students, while your activities can include: visits around the city, and to the Urals countryside; canoeing along the Silva river; professional and specialist contacts with economists, lawyers, local politicians, (and lectures if you are willing and able); visits to art galleries, concerts, ballet; studying the work of the city council and local voluntary groups; taking part in family life with your hosts and their friends. Previous visitors on this scheme have seized all sorts of opportunities to see how Russian society works. Several have returned for a second visit.

A knowledge of Russian is not necessary since interpreters will be provided, but obviously you will learn more if you know a little Russian. Participants should be physically fit and willing to walk reasonable distances. Some of our hosts do not have cars, and walking, climbing flights of stairs and public transport are normal. And you should be adaptable…

DATES: Saturday 7th September to Sunday 22nd September 2019 (Fifteen nights) The journey is by British Airways scheduled flight to Moscow. You will travel from Moscow to Perm by train – about 900 miles and the first day of the Trans-Siberian route. You will have a few hours in Moscow on the return journey.

COST: £1050 This includes air fares, train fares, other travel in Russia, accommodation with a family, breakfast and many other meals, a programme of activities including two visits to the opera or ballet, and two full day tours. It does not include visas, insurance, and some cheap meals. We will arrange your visas and inform you in June of the cost. Currently official visas are £50 plus admin and special delivery postage – in total about £85. You will need to go to London to give your fingerprints, but otherwise it should be straightforward.

Better email Karen if you are interested and sufficiently Oxonian!  You can also read about 2012…

Challenging times at the Premier Inn (Cumberland Lodge) Southampton

November 23, 2018

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My visit to Southampton was marked by the normal provincial routine of inflated prices, offhand service and disappearing change.  I say nothing of dirt, grease and cracked crockery.

The Premier Inn (Cumberland Lodge) proved to be a remarkable experience, even ignoring the automatic door that opened with deathly slowness as you tried to gain admittance.  Upon arriving, I signed up for a £ 9-50 breakfast and paid with a £ 20 note, for which I got £1-00 back, until I protested.

Then check-out was at midday on the following day.  At ten o’clock I went out to the shops and when I got back…they had taken my stuff away.  Eventually after protestations I was admitted to the linen room and got some of it back.

Surely taking people’s things away without asking is theft?

So when I finally decided to depart shortly before midday I had a sudden urge to go back and check that I hadn’t left anything behind, but the keycard had been deactivated.

When I checked out I was asked how things had been and I said they had been difficult for the reasons above.  The reception staff searched briefly for an Internet address and then said I could find it myself so as to complain, there was nothing they could do for me.

Following our previous experiences, we can only say:  don’t go to Southampton and if you do, don’t stay in a hotel.

11 pictures, 8 days, 4 places, 2 countries, 1 holiday

June 8, 2018

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Ljubljana Castle was quite a nice tourist attraction (from the outside).

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And there was also a bijou opera house, which put on a very nice performance of Pepelka/La Cenerentola/Cinderella:

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The orchestra were especially good and really tore into the music as though it meant something, while our Angelina dealt very prettily with her coloratura and the Prince also impressed. The Slovenes’ idea of bringing their Slovene children along was less successful, causing me irritation and the children an eternal agony of boredom. I’m not sure the grown-up Slovene’s really got bel canto either.

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This picture of the really rather impressive gluten-free section of Maximarket earned me a telling-off…

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…while here is a further example of disrespect to the Cyrillic alphabet–rdeča must just be ‘red’…

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The journey to Nova Gorica occasioned scenes of wild panic, as he bus managed no more than 5 metres in the direction of Nova Gorica when the driver declared it was kaputt. After lengthy consultations on his mobile, he said there would be another bus in ten minutes and we could transfer our luggage. Then he couldn’t open the baggage compartment because the bus was kaputt…

Or rather: said something in Slovene which starting from Russian I interpreted as indicating there would be another bus in ten minutes and we could transfer our luggage.

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This is the border between Nova Gorica (Slovenia) and Gorizia (Italy), with an abandoned Cold War style checkpoint–you just walk, drive or cycle on through. Wouldn’t it be great to be part of the civilised world like these two countries?  (Even though recent elections produced desirable results in neither of them.)

O Iago the pity of it, Iago the pity…

What confused me was that the signposts in Nova Gorica failed to acknowledge the existence of Gorizia (though they are now essentially the same place). Then at the suggestion of a helpful local gentleman I got the shuttle from the Nova Gorica bus station to the Gorizia train station, which was just as far from my hotel but did have a map on display, so I eventually reached safety.

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A picture of Italians talking in the street, accompanied by small dogs.

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The hills above Lake Bled had something of Caspar David Friedrich about them, or perhaps Arnold Böcklin…

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…while the lake itself provided a picturesque pre-lunch walk.

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Back in Ljubljana before flying out, some traditional British-style holiday weather cleared the streets pretty quickly–you can’t expect these Europeans to understand the point of taking one’s pleasures sadly, masochistically even.

An interesting shop sign in Ljubljana

June 5, 2018

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At first sight, this sign has two points of interest.  It turns out that trg pronounced ˈtə́rk is just square, like torv in Danish say or torg [trade] in Russian–trade happens in a square.

It does seem at first glance that GERM is an unfortunate woman’s surname though… 

On further investigation, we find that Germ is a Slovenian surname, but the less-worrying echt-Slovene form is Grm (grm being Slovene for bush), which may have arisen from somebody localising the German surname Busch: https://www.dnevnik.si/1042412578

Gosh, how exciting!

On a less happy note, the mention of Danish led a friend to point out that Sick is a surname there.  A site devoted to German surnames says that was originally the same kind of thing as Siggi, a nickname derived from the root Sieg/victory: http://www.deutsche-nachnamen.de/index.php/herkunft-a-z and it’s common in Schleswig-Holstein, which is next to DK.

VISIT TO PERM, RUSSIA SEPTEMBER 2018

February 2, 2018

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Karen Hewitt writes:

At the beginning of every year I circulate everyone with details of this year’s group visit to Perm. Many of you have been on this visit aand I hope you still think it was worthwhile. 
I would be very grateful if you could publicise it among your friends who might want to apply; I’m especially eager to have people from Oxford and Oxfordshire or at least with a strong Oxford connection who do not live too far away. (Potential applicants who live in Berkshure, Bucks, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Northamptonshire can be considered as Oxford-neighbours – if, like several of you, they are in fairly regular contact with Oxford.)

The Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre together with the University’s Department for Continuing Education is arranging for a group of eight people to visit Perm as guests of the Perm State University. They will live in families with at least one English speaker and will have many opportunities to observe real Russian life. The visit is part of an exchange scheme in which the payment made by you supports the visit of a Perm teacher to Oxford.

Perm is Oxford’s twin city in Russia so the visit is open chiefly to people in Oxfordshire or with an Oxford connection such as attendance at OUDCE summer schools. Others will be considered if we do not fill all places. The programme of the fortnight can vary according to individual interests. As guests of Perm University you will be asked to talk to University students, while your activities can include: visits around the city, and to the Urals countryside; canoeing along the Silva river; professional and specialist contacts with economists, lawyers, local politicians, (and lectures if you are willing and able); visits to art galleries, concerts, ballet; studying the work of the city council and local voluntary groups; taking part in family life with your hosts and their friends. Previous visitors on this scheme have seized all sorts of opportunities to see how Russian society works. Several have returned for a second visit.

A knowledge of Russian is not necessary since interpreters will be provided, but obviously you will learn more if you know a little Russian. Participants should be physically fit and willing to walk reasonable distances. Some of our hosts do not have cars, and walking, climbing flights of stairs and public transport are normal. And you should be adaptable…

DATES: Saturday 8th September to Sunday 23rd September 2018 (Fifteen nights) The journey is by British Airways scheduled flight to Moscow. You will travel from Moscow to Perm by train – about 900 miles and the first day of the Trans-Siberian route. You will have a few hours in Moscow on the return journey.

COST: £1035 This includes air fares, train fares, other travel in Russia, accommodation with a family, breakfast and many other meals, a programme of activities including two visits to the opera or ballet, and two full day tours. It does not include visas, insurance, and some cheap meals. We will arrange your visas and inform you in June of the cost. Currently official visas are £50 plus admin and special delivery postage – in total about £85. You will need to go to London to give your fingerprints, but otherwise it should be straightforward.

Better email Karen if you are interested and sufficiently Oxonian!

Resist and endure

October 22, 2017

 

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So here I am trying to extract some benefit from my challenging experiences at the Blue Keys Hotel, Southampton.

The first question is about being required to produce a passport or driving licence to check into a hotel in the UK as a British citizen.  This is very unusual (I have come across it twice on 40 years or so of travelling as an adult) and there is no statutory basis for it.

The Immigration (Hotel Records) Order 1972 states:

4.—(1) Every person of or over the age of 16 years who stays at any premises to which this Order applies shall, on arriving at the premises, inform the keeper of the premises of his full name and nationality.

(2) Every such person who is an alien shall also—

(a)on arriving at the premises, inform the keeper of the premises of the number and place of issue of his passport, certificate of registration or other document establishing his identity and nationality; and
(b)on or before his departure from the premises, inform the keeper of the premises of his next destination and, if it is known to him, his full address there.

That sounds stupid but at least does not include British (or Irish) citizens.

The next question is about the law of contract.  The hotel’s advertisement on their website or TripAdvisor constitutes a proposal which the prospective guest accepts by booking.  Neither side can then change the contract unilaterally–I am far from certain that the hotel can do it by a confirmation email.  It would certainly at the very least have to offer free cancellation.

If the hotel insists on ID in their original advertisement, that’s fine from a legal standpoint.  But they know their clientele better than you do, and if they are so suspicious then maybe you had better stay somewhere else.  If they introduce additional requirements not in the contract and refuse to provide the contracted service on that basis, then you can sue them for breach of contract.  In that case, they will be obliged to pay an amount sufficient to put you in the same situation that you would have been in had they provided the service, so that would include the cost of phone calls, taxi to another hotel, room in that hotel…

On the level of common sense, I think the best way of dealing with such situations is to put the onus onto the other side:

–Why are you asking me that question?

–That is a very unusual request.  Can you explain it please?

–I do not remember that requirement in the confirmation email.  Can you show me a copy please?

–Can you show me that requirement in your advertisement, please?

Failing that, just say No.  Never surrender!

Disclaimer:  The materials appearing in this posting do not constitute legal advice and are provided for general information purposes only. No warranty, whether expressed or implied is given in relation to such materials.

 

A Challenging Experience at the Blue Keys Hotel, Southampton

October 20, 2017

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So I arrived at this place and tried to check in, but occupying a room I had already paid for turned out not to be so easy. I was met with a demand for identification–either passport or driving licence-and told this requirement was in the confirmation email. It wasn’t. A work pass was kind-of accepted with ill grace. Then there was a question about whether I had driven–somehow, without a licence-that was just a question the computer asked.  Silly me.  It was my job to answer questions, not think.

I went to the room and was informed I had to go downstairs again to get the code to use the WiFi. Which didn’t work. There was a lot of stuff in the room in a refrigerated drinks cabinet that gurgled loudly. To prevent you sleeping. But no sign of what any of it cost. Like the passport and the code for the non-working WiFi, you were supposed to know in advance.

 

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The keys were not blue

When I returned at 11 o’clock that evening the front door was locked.  I had two keys.  Neither of them would go in the lock.  A search revealed no sign of any other door or of for instance an emergency phone number.

All seemed lost, but then a kind person came and shone her phone light on the lock and I managed to operate the lock.

Apart from being told off for pouring coffee from the full jug I got off fairly lightly in the morning.

One of those places which is probably perfectly OK if you have the telepathic power to accommodate yourself to the proprietors’ mindset (and in advance).

Some pictures from Swansea

October 15, 2017

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Swansea at night

Attempting to make Swansea look glamorous (as above) is quite difficult.

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Scar

Swansea does tend to resemble a far-flung suburb of Liverpool, as is illustrated by the scar I acquired in street combat.

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Houses

This was about the clearest picture I took of houses-clinging-to-side-of-valley Wales

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River view

This imitation-Newcastle waterfront was quite nice…

Some pictures from Aberystwyth

October 11, 2017
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Still life in the Medina restaurant

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Restful bookshop interior

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View over Irish Sea

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The sea-front

 

Wales Millennium Centre and Nye Bevan

October 7, 2017

IMG_2162[1]I was impressed by the Wales Millennium Centre

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and associated water features

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as evening came on,

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while Nye Bevan was ornamented with birdshit rather than the more popular tattoos.