Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weird Tours That Make You Scratch Your Head And Say…Huh?

The month of May is just a few days away and with that, at least here in the Northern Hemisphere, people are thinking about summer vacation. Where to go. What to do. Travel far from home. Stay close by. Fly. Go by train. Drive. Take a cruise. So many decisions.

I came across a series of articles geared toward vacation activities and travel that I'd like to share with you over the next few weeks.

And first in the seems that any place of even minimal interest to the average tourist offers a tour. All major travel destinations have a variety of tours from which to choose. However, there are a few tours out there that are really out there as far as their subject matter. Here are a few legitimate tours of the unusual, weird, and even bizarre.

In The Ghetto—Los Angeles, California: This bus tour goes through what is locally known as South Central, an area of Los Angeles that has become synonymous with gang warfare and poverty. The tour guides are former gang members. Passengers must sign a release waiver before embarking on the tour. And with the sight seeing comes some education. Reformed gang members recall their lives on the streets. All proceeds go toward helping gang members find jobs. The sights include LA County Jail and a graffiti lab. The price, at the time I read about this tour, was $65 per person which includes lunch.

Tour de Sewer—Paris, France: If your fantasy is to live underground, indulge in a little Phantom Of The Opera role playing, then you'll be happy to know that there are several tour companies that offer the experience of exploring the underground sewers of Paris. There is even a museum dedicated to the below street environs where you can see videos and displays showing the evolution of sewer technology. The tour sights include drain pipes and underground tunnels. The price, at the time I read about this tour, was 4.2 Euros per person (less than $6 at that time).

A Paranormal Activity—Edinburgh, United Kingdom: If you're afraid of the dark, you might want to think twice before embarking on this tour. High levels of paranormal activity have been reported in the cramped passageways below Edinburgh's South Street bridge, a space once used as storage vaults for merchants in the 1700s. Then the spaces were used as living quarters for the city's poor. Rumors have long circulated that the underground lairs were used as dumping sites for murder victims. In order to help detect ghostly presences, tour members are issued hand held Electro Magnetic Field recorders to carry with them as they tour the vaults. The price, at the time I read about this tour, was 8.50 pounds per adult (about $13.50 at that time).

Love For The Slums—Mumbai, India: With the success of 8 time Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire, what has been termed "poverty tourism" has become popular. Over a million people live in the 550 acre area known as Dharavi, one of the largest slums in Asia. Whether the tour is considered exploitation or educational is up to you, but 80% of the profits are donated to help Mumbai's poor. Similar tours are offered in the slums of Jakarta, Indonesia, as well as Kenya. The price, at the time I read about this tour, was $10-$20 per person, depending on the length of the tour.

Dead Celebrities—Hollywood, California: The "Deadly Departed Tour" explores nearly 100 sites of celebrity scandal and death, a feast for pop culture lovers. The tabloid tour lasts over three hours and is usually offered Wednesday through Sunday. The price, at the time I read about this tour, was $40 per person.

Hunt Or Be Hunted—Port Hardy, British Columbia, Canada: For over ten years Great Bear Nature Tours has been taking visitors into the wilderness in search of grizzlies. For anywhere from two to seven nights you go into the wilderness searching for bears with a biologist as your guide. Binoculars and rain gear is provided. Also included is a private room at the Great Bear Lodge with meals. This is an ecotour in a remote wilderness with breathtaking scenery. The only shooting is done with a camera. The price varies according to length of tour.

Scandal Sightseeing—Washington, D.C.: There are an abundance of tours available in and around Washington, D.C., but this one is done with wit and irreverence by the comedy troupe "Gross National Product." On this tour you'll visit the familiar such as the Jefferson Memorial and the White House, but the guides let you in on the juicy details other tour operators tend to leave out. The price, at the time I read about this tour, was $30 per person.

Have any of you ever taken a weird, off beat type of tour?

For the next few weeks my blogs will be about vacation type stuff. This blog is tours from the unusual to the bizarre. Next week (Sunday, May 2) I'll be talking about how to determine if a tour is right for you or if you're better off traveling to a vacation destination and sight seeing on your own.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ten Secrets You CAN Keep From Your Mate

Last week I blogged about five secrets you should NOT keep from your mate. This week it's the opposite side of the coin—ten secrets you CAN keep from your mate.

You usually think of keeping secrets from your mate as things that can come back to bite you in the ass, so to speak. Today's headlines about people in the spotlight and their no longer secret activities certainly attest to that. But like most rules, there are exceptions. Here's a list I read recently of ten secrets that might be best kept to yourself rather than shared with your mate.

1) The sacrifices you've made: This includes things like skipping dinner with friends to attend your mate's office party. Or, to take a page from O. Henry's The Gift Of The Magi, selling one of your possessions so you can afford to buy something special for your mate as a birthday present. Don't spoil your good deed by acting like a martyr and making sure your mate knows of your sacrifice. It should come from your heart, not from your ego.

2) Your partner makes the bed wrong: Or maybe it's the dishwasher that's loaded wrong, or washing the cars, or trimming the bushes. Whatever it is, unless you want to do all those chores by yourself, be thankful your mate willingly shares the load.

3) You hate the gift: Especially if it's some sort of a clothing item that's not your style. Instead of exchanging it like you want to, give it a try…wear it to work or to a function you're attending. You might be surprised at the compliments you receive and your mate will be pleased to see you using the gift. And keep in mind that if you complain it could be the end of the surprise gifts! :)

4) You can't stand your mate's mother/best friend/favorite sweatshirt: Tread lightly, especially if it's a new relationship. If you issue an ultimatum, you might find that you are the one left out in the cold all by yourself.

5) How often you get hit on: Telling your loved one about every incident where someone has tried to hit on you will only make him or her jealous and could lead to low self-esteem. As long as you're not returning the advances, keep it to yourself. Again, there's no purpose in boosting your ego at your mate's expense.

6) Your clothes are uncomfortable: He gives her his jacket because she's cold, but now he's cold. She's wearing new high heels and her feet hurt. The collar of his dress shirt is starched too heavily and it's rubbing against his neck. Don't ruin the evening by complaining about being uncomfortable. Sometimes it's best to suffer in silence.

7) The details of your romantic history: You can go through a rundown of exes, but keep those sordid details to yourself.

8) You're bored: There are times when you will be dragged to your mate's favorite activity, find yourself watching TV shows you don't like, or going to movies that aren't your taste. But you do it—you suffer in silence—because you love your mate. If the relationship is healthy, your mate will return the favor and suffer in silence while doing something you enjoy. And who knows, you might both find a new activity that you can enjoy together.

9) I told you so: You can think those words all day, but resist the urge to say them out loud. There will be a situation where you are wrong and you don't want your mate throwing it in your face.

10) You're thinking about sex: Chances are, so is your mate. Stop thinking about it and make the first move!

Do any of you have secrets you think are better kept to yourself rather than bringing them out into the open?

Summer vacation time is almost here. My blogs the next few weeks will deal with vacation and travel topics. Come back and check out the weird tours that will make you scratch your head, how to figure out if a tour is right for you, the quirky questions tourists ask, great American train trips, and the obstacles incurred when flying.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Five Secrets You Should NEVER Keep From Your Mate

We all have secrets, some bigger than others. Some more important than others. Even in the healthiest of relationships, there can be secrets. These are usually the little white lie type of secrets such as not being as enamored of his favorite sport as you've led him to believe.

According to a recent news article I read, some secrets you keep from your mate and some should never be withheld. What secrets should never be kept?

1) Addictions: This is information your mate needs to know, whether your addiction is shopping, alcohol, drugs, or even one that has certainly been in the headlines lately—sex addiction. Your mate can help you deal with whatever your addiction might be which is certainly better than you sneaking around and hiding things.

2) Unhappy Workplace: Use your common sense on this one. Little misunderstandings with a co-worker don't need to be brought home and turned into something they aren't. But if you have a boss or co-worker who continually tries to force his attentions on you (sexual harassment), sabotages your work efforts, or otherwise makes your work life impossible, it's a sign you need to talk to someone. If there's someone at work you trust, talk to them. But almost make it a point of talking to your mate so he or she won't be blindsided when you've finally had all you can take and explode.

3) An Undermining In-Law: In-laws traditionally and notoriously get a bad rap. But there are some in-laws who intentionally undermine your self-confidence and purposely set out to hurt your relationship. Your mate needs to know what's going on. Talk to him or her about what's been happening before it gets out of hand to the point where the relationship is permanently damaged. If your mate is more concerned with his or her relative than with you, better to know it earlier than later so that an informed decision can be make about the true viability of the relationship.

4) How His Or Her Treatment Makes You Feel: Don't whine to your mate about every little mistake. However, those small mistreatments can build up over time and if you never say anything your mate will never realize you've been hurt by certain things he or she says or does. Instead of fixating on specific individual things, talk to your mate about patterns of behavior that bother you and come to an agreement about what is and isn't appropriate for your relationship.

5) A Past Marriage/Engagement/Serious Relationship: It's difficult to keep a prior marriage a secret, but it has been done. The reality, however, is that it shouldn't be kept a secret. There's no need to go into long drawn out detail about what was good and what was bad in the previous marriage. And it's definitely a bad idea to continually bring up your past marriage, especially if you're making a comparison between what might have been good with the previous marriage and problems you're having with your current mate. But you do want to be honest with your current mate so that something from the past doesn't sneak up and kill your new relationship.

Do you think it's okay to keep some secrets from your mate or should there be no secrets at all?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What's In Your Junk Drawer?

It's spring and that means many good things—shiny new leaves on the trees, colorful spring flowers, sunny days that don't include below freezing temperatures at night. Unfortunately, it also means seasonal chores—putting away the winter coats and clothes, getting out the summer clothes, switching over from furnace to air conditioning, rounding up the garden hoses and sprinklers, and finally the inevitable once a year chore of spring cleaning.

And speaking of spring cleaning, shouldn't that include straightening out and organizing that famous catch-all known as the junk drawer? Don't deny that you have one. Everyone does and it's usually in the kitchen. What are some of the common items kept in a junk drawer?  The following items were on a list a saw a couple of days ago.  Some of these items are in my junk drawer and some aren't.  Actually, I have two junk drawers.  One is for miscellaneous kitchen gadgets that are definitely not organized.  The other is for those items that truly fit the description of a junk drawer.

1) Scissors: These are a must in a junk drawer. They don't need to be an expensive pair, but they do need to be there.

2) Paper clips and safety pins: When something needs fastening, it's a nuisance to rummage through your office for a paper clip and sift through sewing supplies to find what you need. It's very convenient to have a few of these items handy in the kitchen.

3) Pens and pencils: Another must for the junk drawer. Everyone always needs one in the kitchen. This is where a lot of the free give-away promotional pens end up.

4) Bandages: Just in case you cut yourself while chopping veggies.

5) Gum: Always a nice surprise to find a stick of gum or piece of candy.

6) Rubber bands: While they're essential to a junk drawer, they often end up running amok. You need to put them in something so they won't get tangled with everything and with each other.

7) Bag clips: If you have the kind with magnets on them, then you probably keep them on the freezer or refrigerator. But if they don't have magnets, you'll most likely keep them in the junk drawer.

8) Batteries: Many people keep batteries in their refrigerator, but it has been debated whether or not this actually extends battery life. I keep mine in my junk drawer, mostly AA and AAA batteries since they are the most used.

9) Mini tools: It's good to have a few tools handy such as mini screwdrivers and a hex key for those quick emergency fixes that don't require dragging out the big tool box.

10) Emery board/nail file: It's nice to have one handy to smooth those little snags that happen while working in the kitchen.

There are drawer organizers made for the specific purpose of putting that junk drawer in some kind of order. I've given up on them and have returned to the basic disorganized junk drawer.

What kind of stuff do you keep in your junk drawer?