Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Resist and endure

October 22, 2017

 

resist

 

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.

 

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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.

Some pictures of Newcastle upon Tyne in the rain

November 5, 2016

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That’s a street running towards Bigg Market…

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The River Tyne…

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Now that’s not a bad photo

At a conference on the Warta and a stay in Warsaw

July 27, 2016
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River, idle chimneys, and the cradle of the Polish state

Saturday 02 July 

I manage to use the ticket machines to get from Warsaw Airport to the Central Station and then to Poznan.  Since I am sitting by the door of the compartment, people ask me questions.  I shrug.

I plod through Poznan more-or-less in the right direction and manage to find the Ibis.  I have to pay upfront, otherwise it is OK.

Ruth texts me to suggest a meeting.  I go out to have some soup and dumplings.  Then I find her fashionable expensive hotel in the rain.  I toy with a beefburger.  She pays.  She appears daunted by the way people have not done what they said they were going to do.

Sunday 03 July

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Welcome barbecue

I go to the station and buy a ticket to Warsaw.  It costs about 180 zl, as opposed to 80 zl to get here.  I can see what they mean.  I wander through the Old Town and think that the main square looks fake, as Ruth suggested.

I go over the bridge to the University of Technology.  I need to go to the opening ceremony to justify the welcome barbecue, I think.  The choral singing is good.  I secure some food at the barbecue and wave at Ruth passing by.

Monday 04 July

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Opera House in Poznan

In the first session, some guy mumbles on about the Rio Olympics.  I ask him about counterfactuals. Then one Robyn Moore presents a toolkit for getting value from volunteers in NZ.  This is jolly interesting.  Then some guy mumbles on about ethics.  I say that I have a Code, I do not need them.

The next session I go to is about MCDA.  People are turned away at the door.  We look at a picture of a cow that failed to jump over a fence.  I send an email to Robyn Moore.

Then it’s something about education in a very large lecture theatre with very few people.  A guy goes through a routine presentation about…something…in an incomprehensible Italian accent.  Then an old Russian woman reads verbatim some elementary points about education.  There are reinforced by some incomprehensible parallels from the theory of dynamical systems.  Then the session chair (a young woman from Ukraine) has a few touristic slides about Ukraine and two background slides about her summer school before giving up.  Then a survey of the performance of graduates of a university in the Philippines that would have failed as a GCSE Business Studies project.  The most important thing was personal appearance…

Then I get to grips with my polycarbonate lunch.  It is slightly better than I expected, and I can eat almost half of it.

After that, a very interesting session on Defence & Security, with an outstanding paper on what one can say about the (semi-) rationality of terrorist organisations.  David Lane comes and sits next to me and then goes away again.  There are also good papers on terror queues (aka resource allocation of secret agents), evacuation and police positioning.

Then a mildly interesting walking tour.  Many buildings had been built by the Germans.  So they looked German.  I had noticed that.  Also the people are very orderly and disciplined as well.

Tuesday 05 July

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Animated crowds converge on conference dinner

I go to a techy session and the thing on text analysis for plagiarism is quite interesting.  Then a thing on charitable orders comes down to putting some prices = 0.  This makes it more difficult that the general problem.  WTF.

A thing on implementation in plenary recommends greedy algorithms, since you are too confident in your view of the future.  Like the cow jumping the gate.

I spend some time sitting in a room with Ana Isabel Barros in case someone wants to be mentored.  They don’t, so she talks with her mates in Dutch.

There is no coffee.

A session on decision support.  A Serb is cross-examined about skiing injuries.  The session chair shows a picture of her car crash, which explains why there is not a lot in her paper.  A guy gives an incomprehensible presentation on sepsis, followed by a DNA.

I manage to find my way to the conference dinner and even sit next to Sally Brailsford, who seems happy to see a familiar face.  Then Brian Dangerfield joins us and we do not get drunk this time.  The duck is nice.  We find our way to the Ibis on the tram.

Wednesday 06 July

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Polish retro-kitsch, with a touch of Cezanne

I wake at 0400 from a dream where I am taken captive by Islamic terrorists.  I do some packing.

In our session, David Lane talks about norovirus and we have an interesting discussion about eliciting transmission parameters–I even defend him.  I do my talk and have a little difficulty with the controls.  Then a Turk seems to have provided volunteer support by a direct method, which is interesting.

Complex societal problems starts with a paper on food rescue, but it’s really routeing.

Then I attend respectfully as Ruth presents our workshop.  We start with three people and end with ten or so, she does an excellent job.

I sit through various speeches, then I plod to the station.  The other two guys in the compartment keep silent.  In Warsaw, I manage to find the Chopin Boutique B&B through rain, wind and darkness.  The Polish retro-kitsch room appeals to me.

Thursday 07 July

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Warsaw Old Town, for those who like that kind of thing

I walk up Nowy Swiat and skirt the fuzz guarding the NATO summit.  The Old Town does not appeal to me.  On my way back I check out ulica Bronislawa Moniuszki, thinking that the -i looks like a feminine ending.  A camera crew wants my opinion on something in Polish, and I have to disappoint them.

I have lunch at Dawne Smaki, which turns out to be very sensible in spite of being recommended in my guidebook.

In the evening I turn on the TV.  I watch Germany lose 2-0 to France and feel no pleasure.

Friday 08 July

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The other tourist attraction in Warsaw

I wake up and go to breakfast.  A bloke identifies himself as our host.  Neither of us is happy about Brexit. He says that Czech is very like Polish, but the countries are different.

I go outside.  It is peaceful.  I come back and try checking in online.  Bastard Airways want to charge me for hold baggage,

I go outside with the idea of visiting museums.  But I decide it is too much like effort and come  back instead and put some stuff on Twitter.

Saturday 09 July

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Numerous attempts to use the self check-in machine fail.  I stand in a long line of people wanting to fly to our right little, tight little, shite little island.  It does not move.  After a long time, a young woman takes me to the machine again so that I can fail under supervision.

Now that I have failed under supervision I can join the other line.  The clerk says I can put my bag in the hold without charged since the flight is full.  Thank you, Shittish Airways.

But the flight is fine.

When I get home I see that the back garden is overgrown.

Two weeks in Ukraine

July 13, 2016
Monument to Great Famine, Kiev

Monument to Great Famine, Kiev

Sunday 19 June  

I get to Gatwick in spite of cancelled trains.  Then Ukraine International Airways take a long time to find the plane.  I am met at Kiev.  It is hot.  I have a headache.  I get lamb stew and mashed potatoes at a restaurant that apologises for being on a trial basis.  It costs 300 UAH.  I manage to eat the mashed potato.

Monday 20 June

I join Kiran and Nalini, the other 2/3 of our party, together with boss Igor, guide Natasha and driver Vlad.  We see some churches, and have lunch in a place where I do not lose my wallet.  In the afternoon, we visit Pyrohovo–a kind of open-air museum of peasant huts.  Vlad gets a permit to drive round.  I have a burger in a place called The Burger.

Hut in Pyrohovo

Hut in Pyrohovo

Tuesday 21 June

We go to the Lavra.  It is hot.  A different guide takes me and Kiran down some caves with holy dead bodies.  Then we escape an exhibition of micro-miniatures and get Scythian gold instead.  I give Natasha some money in an envelope.  Kiran gives her some money not in an envelope.

A long day awaits without hotel room, toilet, air-conditioning.  I go to Petrovsky Market and it is far too hot.  Then I have some expensive lager in an underground ‘pub’ off Khreshchatik.  I eat in a decent place called Prepuce.

Vlad appears.  We drive to the station.  We wait.  We get on.  It is hot and humid.  My cell-mate contrives a through draught by wedging the door open with a shoe.  Sleep.

Lunch at Puzata Khata

Lunch at Puzata Khata

Wednesday 22 June

Lviv station

Lviv station

We arrive in Lviv.  Welcome signs of recent rain.  We drive round some places–main interest is drawing up to the kerb so that Nalini can get in and out.  Kiran and I do a walking tour. At least we get to sit in the Armenian church.  Typhoid and the paraffin lamp were invented in Lviv.

Thursday 23 June

Building in Zhovka

Building in Zhovka

We go to Zhovka, a small town.  It rains, unfortunately not enough to keep us in the minibus.  We proceed to a monastery at Khrekiv, where Brother Dmitri says he had earlier been a violinist in an orchestra.  Irina the guide and I walk to a magic well, leaving Nalini on a bench.

Nalini says that her grandfather sold his land.  We are cheerful on the way back to Lviv.

Friday 24 June

I wake up early and look at the computer.  The referendum is going badly.  It gets worse.

At breakfast a Dutchman tells me how bad Brexit is.

Determined trudge from Kiran and Nalini at Kamenets-Podilsky

Determined trudge from Kiran and Nalini at Kamenets-Podilsky

We drive towards Kamenets-Podilsky.  I brood about having left my two-pin adaptor behind and how I will manage if so.  K-P is like a Ukrainian version of Durham, with tourist facilities but without tourists.  Our guide is keen to get on with things.

We drive to Ivano-Frankivsk, where the Nadiya is quite nice and I do have the adaptor of course.   I can’t work out how to get into the hotel restaurant and go to place called Desyatka.

Ivano-Frankivsk

Ivano-Frankivsk

I speak to the waitress in Russian, she replies in Ukrainian, I agree with everything and it works out fine.  Young people in brightly-coloured clothes are happy to be alive.  I have chicken and rice and beer.

Saturday 25 June

I have some black pudding at breakfast, a change.  We walk round I-F with the guide Marta.  There is a gallery-style thing in the foundations of a fortress.

Child-cooling apparatus, Ivano-Frankivsk

Child-cooling apparatus, Ivano-Frankivsk

We drive towards the Carpathian mountains.  It is all right.  We arrive at the sadyba, which is somebody’s house they are renting out while living in the one opposite.  We go to a museum where the daughter of a man who taught himself 50 musical instruments gives a demonstration to us and a large group of Americans.

Sadyba kitchen

Sadyba kitchen

I spend the evening searching the sadyba for my glasses.

Sunday 26 June

I wake at 0539 to look for my glasses.  They are in the bag with the computer stuff.

We see a picture of Indira Gandhi done by a peasant artist from a newspaper.  We drive somewhere else and get on a chairlift.  They stop the chairlift so that Nalini can get on.  We look at a view.  We come back.  We drive to a souvenir market.

Shadows of the Carpathian Chairlift

Shadows of the Carpathian Chairlift

Marta wakes me up to have my dinner.  It is quite nice.

Monday 27 June

We go to a museum of the film ‘Shadows of the Forgotten Ancestors’ by Paradjanov.  It’s on YouTube too.  The woman speaks for a long time.  Then Martha interprets.

Call that a waterfall?

Call that a waterfall?

We go to Yaremche, where we see an exhibition of models of buildings in Carpathia.  Then somewhere else with a souvenir market and what was a waterfall.  Marta tell us about her tour company.

Marta sees us off

Marta sees us off

We get on the train in Ivano-Frankivsk.  The provodnitsa complains when I do not buy anything from her.  I lock the door.  The floor of the toilet is very wet.

Tuesday 28 June

The train reaches Odessa.  We are driven to the Aleksanrovskiy Hotel.  We have a city tour.  It is hot.  We stay in the minibus.

Main street in Odessa

Main street in Odessa

Wednesday 29 June

We get in the car and drive to Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, where there is a castle.  Then we go to a winery with many steps and see some films and an exhibition about the Swiss who worked there.

OK, it's a castle.  With a tower.

OK, it’s a castle. With a tower.

We have lunch.  Kiran gives instructions about his tea and the milk.

We come back to Odessa.

Thursday 30 June

We go to the caves and the partisan museum.  Igor the boss has reappeared and interprets for Ksenia the interpreter, who is not having a good day.

Kiran and Nalini in the partisan's underground schoolroom

Kiran and Nalini in the partisans’ underground schoolroom

I do not go to the Literary Museum.  I worry about buying train tickets in Poland.

Friday 01 July

We drive.  At Sofyivka Park they say they know nothing about us, we have to pay 50 UAH to stand inside the gate, it is not possible that the guide has been paid for in advance.  We retreat to the car and get the driver to phone Igor.

Discussions.  We get our money back and begin to amble round after the guide.  She says that Euripides was the first Greek playwright.

Sofyivka

Sofyivka

In Kiev I find I have left my soap and flannel behind.  I manage to buy something that wil do as a flannel.  Then the security tag sets off alarms in the supermarket. I have a decent meal at the Prepuce.

Saturday 02 July

I get up about 4am.  My passport is missing.

Fuck.

I find it again.

The girl at the airport check-in desk acts like she is pleased to see me.  They finally locate the plane and send us to another gate.

Farewell Ukraine, hello Poland!

 

 

 

VISIT TO PERM, RUSSIA in SEPTEMBER 2015

January 20, 2015

Karen Hewitt writes:

The Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre [of St Antony’s College, Oxford] 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.

 The visit is open to anyone but we give preference to people in Oxfordshire or with an Oxford connection such as attendance at OUDCE summer schools. 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. Many 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 5th September to Sunday 20th September 2015 (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: £990 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 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 £80. Commercial visas are less hassle and about twice as much. All this will be explained.

 NOTE: The group will be limited to seven or eight people, so if you are interested, PLEASE FILL IN THE FORM OVERLEAF AND SEND IT TO PROMPTLY to Karen Hewitt (address overleaf), For specific enquiries, please ring 01865 515635. For more general information there will be a meeting in late June or early July for those going to Perm in which useful details of all kinds will be passed on.

Group Form

Experiences in 2012

Bletchley Park, 7 July

July 14, 2013

One of the scenes in That Is All You Need To Know had a new girl journeying there on a crowded wartime train, and our office outing started rather the same way.  I did see what I took took to be our lot waiting in a group at Euston, but I wanted to get a seat and they also looked worryingly like a party of keen young bikers.

After some faffing about and waiting we had a guided tour of the Bletchley Park site by a MOD bloke who looked worried on being told that most of the party comprised mathematicians.  He hurriedly said that he wasn’t going to go into technicalities.  In the picture below he is talking of the hardships endured by the Wrens who had joined up in the hope of seeing young men or the sea and ended up doing eight-hour shifts of painstaking monotony; well of course it depends on the alternatives they had–not all were debutantes.

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One idea of the trip was to generate pictures for recruitment purposes, and below we see the typical money shot of young people picnicking in the sunshine with some romantic old pile in the background.

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And here we see a model of part of a bombe receiving eager attention–one (in fact the only) complaint about the day was that there was too much WWII stuff and not enough about how codebreaking was actually done.

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In the afternoon, we had another tour, this time of the National Museum of Computing, which started off with the famous Colossus machine, also used for codebreaking of course (and very hot around the back with all those valves).

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Then the group oohed and aahed at the Harwell (Dekatron) Computer or WITCH below; it represented something of a technical regression from the super-secret Colossus but won favour by clicking its relays sympathetically. Our guide was keen to emphasise the educational value of the exhibit–children came to realise that their magic devices in fact relied on someone producing instructions–many, many, many instructions…

And after a nostalgic tour round the home computers of their childhood, our group departed well pleased with its day out. And Murray won Wimbledon on the train back to London too…