Sunday, July 28, 2013


During the years that I've been doing this blog, I have done posts about various and varied weird and wacky laws of all types—local and state laws and even bizarre driving laws.  Well…today I'm sharing some truly weird laws concerning food.  And weird doesn't even begin to describe the absurdity.

1)  Greene, New York:  It's against the law to eat peanuts and walk backwards down the street while a concert is playing.

Apparently it's okay when a concert is NOT playing.  How about this?  Is it okay to walk backwards down the street while a concert is playing if you're eating cashews rather than peanuts?  There had to be some reason for the lawmakers to actually spend time on this and vote to make it a law.  I wonder what the reason could have been?

2)  Massachusetts:  At a wake, mourners may eat no more than three sandwiches.

This totally baffles me.  Why would there be a law governing how much people are allowed to eat at a wake?  And for that matter, why does it apparently apply only to sandwiches?

3)  Beech Grove, Indiana:  It is forbidden to eat watermelon in the park.

So, at all those summer picnics in the park, eating watermelon is a crime?  Did rival picnic groups end up in a watermelon fight?  Did Gallagher show up with his watermelon smashing sledge hammer?  Again, one can only wonder what happened to result in such a weird law.

4)  Riverside, California:  One may not carry a lunch down the street between 11 and 1 o'clock.

First, I'm assuming this means 11AM and 1PM as in the normal period thought of as lunch time.  But the purpose of the law?  Was there a time in Riverside's history when hoards of hungry people prowled the streets during those hours looking to steal a lunch from some unsuspecting pedestrian?

5)  Maryland:  It's against the law to eat while swimming in the ocean.

Another assumption—this relates only to people and not to anything that actually lives in the ocean, which makes it a gray area for Aquaman?  Apparently it's okay to eat while swimming in a lake, pond, river, or swimming pool.

6)  Marion, Ohio:  It's a violation to eat a donut while walking backwards.

Again the prohibition on eating something specific while walking backwards.  What is it with the walking backwards stuff?  So, people living in Greene, New York, who want to eat their peanuts while walking backwards need to travel to Marion, Ohio, and people in Marion, Ohio, who want to eat their donuts while walking backwards can do it in Greene, New York?

7)  Carmel, New York:  It's illegal to eat ice cream while standing on the sidewalk.

Hmmm…is it okay to eat the ice cream while walking backwards as long as you aren't standing still?

8)  Rosemead, California:  Eating ice cream in public with a fork is prohibited.

My first thought is…who eats ice cream with a fork.  But, moving beyond that.  Apparently it's okay to eat ice cream while walking backwards as long as you aren't using a fork.

9)  California:  It is illegal to eat an orange in your bathtub.

Now they've gone too far!  Bad enough to mess with what you're allowed to eat in public, but in the privacy of your own bathroom?  How is it possible to even enforce this law?  Knowing that eating that orange while in your bathtub is illegal, close the bathroom door so no one can see that you're actually in the tub while eating that orange.

10)  Boston, Massachusetts:  It is illegal to eat peanuts in church.

Does this apply to anything happening in a church building such as a social gathering of some sort or only to a church service? It would seem to be impolite to eat anything during a church service.  Again the peanuts are being taken to task.  I guess that means it's legal to eat them while walking backwards down the street while a concert is playing since it's Boston rather than Greene, New York.

Well…that's the list I found recently of 10 Weird Food Laws.  Seems to me that they should all be taken off the books as frivilous and basically unenforceable laws.  And just plain WEIRD.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Murder At The Museum—it sounds like the title of a movie, a play, a television show…perhaps even an exciting book.

Or could it possibly be an interactive murder mystery game or murder scavenger hunt played by real people in a real museum?

I've participated in interactive murder mystery games with various themes and locations.  One of them was a three day event starting in Chicago, moving onto a train, and ending in New York City.  Many such events are held in historic old hotels, quite often purported to be haunted, where the atmosphere and surroundings fit the activity. They were all fun activities that I thoroughly enjoyed.

And because of my experience with that, an article I saw a couple of years ago really caught my attention.  It was about a company that organizes murder mystery games and scavenger hunts.  There are several companies that stage these type of events, but this one is a little different.  Their venues consist of major museums in large cities with the characters and clues relating to that museum's specific collections.  The article talked specifically about a murder mystery adventure scavenger hunt that took place inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (pictured above)—not exactly a small, out of the way museum.

The storyline for the particular adventure mentioned in the article has an assistant museum curator questioning the authenticity of a Leonardo da Vinci painting the museum is about to acquire.  He is murdered, but before he dies he leaves a code on his appointment calendar [a tip of the hat to The Da Vinci Code? :) ] in addition to cryptic clues connected to secrets hidden in and on specific works of art in the museum…clues that point to the identify of the killer.  The participants are given 4 suspects (the chief curator who is about to announce the acquisition of the De Vinci painting, a multi-millionire who put up most of the purchase money, the wife of the dead assistant curator, and an art dealer who specializes in Old Master paintings) and need to determine the killer and the killer's motive.

For this particular game, there were 40 people who paid the fee to participate in the museum murder mystery.  They are split up into 10 teams and given 22 questions linked to 22 works of art in the museum.  They're given directions and a map of the museum's galleries.  A traditional scavenger hunt has the players going from house to house collecting specific items on a list provided to them such as a potato peeler or a red pen.  But with the museum game the teams are collecting 22 bits of information about specific pieces of art that answers the questions given them.

Each team headed in a different direction, moving in and out of the numerous galleries in a 2 hour competitive hunt.  The clues and questions are tailored specifically to the museum's collections.  That game storyline can be used in any number of museums with questions and clues changed to fit that museum's collections.

Those participating in the event at the Met all agreed that in addition to being fun, it was very educational.  Those playing the game didn't need a knowledge of art to be involved and they all agreed that they learned several things during the course of the game.

With the success of the museum murder mysteries, the company has recently expanded their menu to include a scavenger hunt for Harry Potter lovers and history themed scavenger hunts in historic locations such as Salem, Massachusetts.

As I said many paragraphs ago, I've participated in several interactive murder mystery games and thoroughly enjoyed them.  And the idea of a scavenger hunt and/or murder mystery game in a major art museum or historic location sounds like a truly fun time.

Have any of you ever been involved in one of these?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Is A Guided Tour Vacation Right For You?

As we approach the middle of the summer vacation season, I'm exploring things to think about when considering a guided tour.  I'm referring to vacation tours of several days rather than the two hour tour hitting the highlights of a specific city or tourist attraction.

Or the three hour tour that left Gilligan and friends stranded on that island for several years.  :)

Some travelers find the sight of those large tour buses spewing out hoards of vacationers at tourist attractions enough to make them cringe.  Others love getting on the tour bus and not having to worry about planning an itinerary, making hotel reservations, or booking transportation...especially in a foreign country.

How do you know if a tour is right for you?  Finding a tour that meets your travel needs might be easier than you think.  You just have to ask a few pertinent questions.

Do you know anyone who recommends this tour?  Just because a particular tour got a good review, or rave comments on one of the travel websites, doesn't mean that your taste agrees with those who left comments.  But you know your friends and family, know their taste and whether it agrees with yours.

Will the tour help with a language barrier?  Possibly you can get by with a guide book and a foreign language phrase book, but not being able to communicate in the local language can prevent you from seeing some place you really wanted to visit.  And a tour guide can definitely expedite border crossings.  Finding a good tour operator can be the difference between an enjoyable trip and a disappointing one.

Does the tour solve transportation problems?  In the developed world, most tourists feel comfortable renting a car and going out on their own.  But in the developing nations transportation can be the biggest challenge you'll face on your travels.  With dangerous and in some cases even non-existent roads, driving yourself can be quite impractical.  Other times, a car is not even an option with alternate transportation being very expensive.

Does the tour operator share your ideals?  Even though travel expands our minds and challenges our beliefs, a tour operator who runs their business in a way that truly offends your sensibilities can totally ruin the experience.  This is particularly important if you're seeking out cultural tour experiences.

Does the tour offer more than your guidebook?  Sometimes a guidebook is all you need to experience what a location has to offer.  But for other locations a tour guide can often give you a deeper understanding than you can get from a guide book or pamphlet.

Who is the guide?  Taking a tour where the owners of the tour company are your guides can provide a far better experience for the traveler than one of the massive tour operators.  The small operators can't afford to develop a bad reputation while the large companies often have transient, part-time help that doesn't care as much as the small business owner does.

How big is the tour group?  When it comes to tours…size matters.  Small groups allow you to have a more personalized experience while large groups keep the costs lower and allow you to meet more people.  Know your preferences before you pay out that non-refundable deposit.

How much free time will you have?  Even those travelers who always prefer guided tours to independent travel want some free time while on the tour.  Before booking your tour, find out how much free time is included in the schedule.

Where will you be staying?  Make sure the level of accommodations matches what you're looking for from the tour.  If you're wanting a back to nature roughing it experience, you don't want to find yourself in a chain hotel every night.  If you want a pampered experience, then a mediocre motel each night won't give that to you.

Even if you are one of those travelers who don't want to have anything to do with a guided tour, there are some parks and historical sites that only allow people to visit if they are part of a licensed tour group. Denali National Park in Alaska and Hearst Castle in California are two that come to mind.

Have you ever taken a guided tour vacation on a large tour bus?  What did you like or dislike about the experience?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Quirky Questions Tourists Ask

At one time or another when we were in school, we've probably all heard a teacher say that there are no stupid questions in an attempt to get us to express our curiosity about something without being embarrassed.

However, as an adult that old adage doesn't apply to all situations.  The travel industry is filled with weird, quirky, and in some cases just plain stupid questions asked by tourists.  Here's a sampling of some from various sources.

Actual Questions Asked On Cruise Ships:

Does the crew sleep on board?

Is the island surrounded by water?

What happens to the ice sculptures after they melt?

What time is the 2 o'clock tour?

Can you see the equator from the deck?

I know that ships often serve smoked salmon, but I am a non-smoker.

Can the iced tea be served hot?

Will I get wet if I go snorkeling?

Should I put my luggage outside the cabin before or after I go to sleep?

Does the outside cabin mean it's outside the ship?

Where is the good shopping in Antarctica?

And cruise ships aren't the only place that tourists seem to have absurd questions.  Here are some actual questions received by Australians from foreigners, along with some well-deserved replies given to the questioner.

Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (question from the UK)
A:  We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.

Q:  Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? (question from USA)
A:  Depends how much you've been drinking.

Q:  I want to walk from Perth to Sydney—can I follow the railroad tracks? (question from Sweden)
A:  Sure, it's only 3000 miles, take lots of water.

Q:  Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia? Can you send me a list of them in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Hervey Bay? (question from the UK)
A:  What did your last slave die of?

Q:  Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia? (question from USA)
A:  A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe.  Aus-tra-lia is the big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not…oh forget it.  Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night at Kings Cross.  Come naked.

Q:  Which direction is north in Australia? (question from USA)
A:  Face south and then turn 180 degrees.  Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q:  Can I wear high heels in Australia? (question from the UK)
A:  You're a British politician, right?

Q:  Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (question from Germany)
A:  No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers.  Milk is illegal.

Q:  Can you tell me the regions in Tasmania where the female population is smaller than the male population? (question from Italy)
A:  Yes, gay nightclubs.

Q:  Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia? (question from France)
A:  Only at Christmas.

The Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom put together an international list "of the most inexplicably simple queries fielded by tourism officials."

Are there any lakes in the Lake District?

Why on earth did they build Windsor Castle on the flight path for Heathrow?

Is Wales closed during the winter?

Why did they build so many ruined castles and abbeys in England?

Do you know of any undiscovered ruins?

And here are some tourist questions asked at Niagara Falls:

What time do the falls shut off?

How far into Canada do I have to go before we have to drive on the other side of the road?

How much does it cost to get into Canada and are children a different price?

And here are some goodies from Minnesota:

I'm coming in July and I want snowmobile rental information.

We want to tour the Edmund Fitzgerald. (the ship sank in a storm in Lake Superior in 1975)

One traveler asked to see the bridge in Minnesota with the arches.  She was shown various photos, none of which were the bridge she was looking for.  She finally identified a picture of the St. Louis Gateway Arch as the bridge she wanted to see.  She was given directions to Missouri.

And finally …these tidbits.

One tourist to Scotland asked what time they fed the Loch Ness Monster.  Another visitor to New York City thought they would end up in Holland if they drove through the Holland Tunnel.  A traveler in Miami asked a tourism official which beach was closest to the ocean.

So, I guess the bottom line is to maybe think about that question a second time before you actually ask it.  :)