Back in June, when it was becoming impossibly hot and boring living in our rental apartment (with molasses-slow progress on our home renovation), Dear Husband and I decided to brave the outside world and travel out of the country.
Armed with passports, vaccination cards, entry documents, and recent COVID tests, DH and I embarked on a short Viking river cruise to Lyon and Provence. The tipping point was their excellent health and safety program, in which every crew member and passenger takes a short, non-invasive COVID test daily. At least we’d be protected within our bubble.
A few highlights, as this is by no means a comprehensive travelogue:
Watching the world flow by from our little balcony
Cocktail hour with witty and cultured new friends K and S
Breathtaking mountain views of the countryside
Strolling through Arles
Morning croissants and coffee
A day on our own in Avignon visiting two museums (classic and contemporary) and finding a terrific place for lunch
The uniformly excellent food, wine, service and crew on board
And a couple of lowlights:
The airports in Marseilles and Frankfurt (our connection), which were overcrowded and understaffed, with insuffient time to check all passengers’ COVID documents
We’ve been back from France for nearly two weeks — another post for another time — and have been craving Provençale dishes. This had led to some delicious experiments with tapenade.
Tapenade — like pesto — is one of those basic ingredients worth keeping on hand because you can whip up dinner in no time. The complex flavor adds richness to pasta, fish or chicken (spread a layer on top before baking), or dab it on sliced rounds of crusty toasted bread. Here’s my favorite recipe:
In a food processor, blend: 1 cup pitted brined kalamata olives; 2 anchovy fillets; 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped; 1 tablespoon capers; 2 tablespoons lemon juice (genius time saver: Minute Maid frozen lemon juice); 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil; 1/4 tsp herbes de Provence; 1/4 teaspoon cayenne; freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Last night I tried it on pizza. Whenever I make this dough (a half-recipe is enough for two large pies) I keep one portion in the freezer for the next time we need a quick meal. The result was somewhere between a traditional pizza and a more labor-intensive pissaladière. Note: You can use nearly any type of crust or even puff pastry if you’re feeling decadent and go more traditional with a rectangular baking sheet.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F, or your hottest setting.
Slice 1 1/2 large yellow onion into thin slices.
Prepare pizza pan by oiling it and sprinkling with corn meal. I used a 14″ round.
Now that travel restrictions have eased a bit, and we’re all looking forward to a proper getaway, the following article from AllTimeLists is very timely.
To which I’ll add my own pet peeves:
Passengers who lean way back in their seats, oblivious to the discomfort of those behind them.
Bringing smelly food on board.
Loud conversations, especially with your companion three rows away.
Frequently blocking the aisle to get something out of the overhead. Just pack what you’ll need for the actual flight (book/meds/moisturizer/hand sanitizer/tablet), stick it under your seat and sit the f*** still.
Removing your mask whenever you think nobody’s looking.
Stowing your small carry-on in the overhead bin. How many times do they have to announce this??
Singing along to what’s on your headphones. Yes, we can hear you and it’s not pretty.
8 Things Flight Attendants Wish They Could Tell Passengers
Remember when air travel was fun and easy? Neither do we, but rumor has it; there was a time when flying was not the pressure cooker it is today.
The air traveling process can produce quite a bit of stress. Imagine it being your full-time job. Flight attendants have the tough task of tending to an entire plane full of people—each passenger with different complaints and needs.
Continue reading to find out what flight attendants wish they could tell their passengers.
8.”Not Taking off Hurts Us, Too”
Flight attendants want to take off on time too. I mean, you are all going to the same place after all. People tend to be overly rushed for no reason. Patience and kindness go a long way!
Also, flight attendants do not get paid while the plane is sitting at the gate. Flight attendants get paid for “flight hours only.” Meaning that the clock doesn’t start until the craft pushes away from the gate. Flight delays, cancellations, and layovers affect them just as much as they do passengers – maybe even more.
Airlines aren’t completely heartless, though. From the time they sign in at the airport until the plane slides back into the gate at their home base, they get an expense allowance of $1.50 an hour.
7.”Don’t Walk in the Aisle Without Shoes”
Aside from the fact that doing this announces to the entire flight that you are the most arrogant, self-centered creature ever to set foot on an airplane, it’s also unsanitary.
“I think people don’t realize how dirty the planes are,” said a flight attendant for PSA Airlines, an American Airlines Group subsidiary. He said that while flight attendants pick up trash between flights, the planes receive a thorough cleaning once a day.
6.”Cut Us Some Slack”
It really makes no sense why some passengers can be so abusive to the flight crew. The flight attendants did not cause the rotten weather that delayed the flight, the unruly behavior of the person behind you, the congestion at the destination airport, or almost anything else you are screaming at the flight attendant about. Please show them some compassion!
5.”We are Not Mind-Readers”
You know the old proverb about what happens when you assume, right? So don’t fly off the handle because the crew didn’t fulfill an expectation of yours that you didn’t verbalize. Keep in mind that these are flight attendants, not your siblings or parents.
Flight attendants can not read your mind. Have some patience! They can’t tailor service to every person, and people sometimes people forget that.
4.”Take Responsibility for Your Actions”
“I just wish I could tell passengers, ‘Be more responsible for yourself,’” a flight attendant for American Airlines said. Next time you are on a flight and have issues you caused yourself, take accountability for your actions. Be more responsible! Also, to go along with the no-shoes item, responsible behavior means respecting everyone else on the flight.
Clipping your toenails, snoring so loud you can be heard on the ground 35,000 feet below, or doing personal business under a blanket, should never be done on a plane. Remember, this is an airplane, not your house. This is a public space, not a private one. Respect the existence and rights of others.
3.”Don’t Ask if a Delay Will Result in a Late Arrival”
There is a difference between a pilot and a flight attendant. They have been trained to fulfill different roles, and one is not able to perform the duties of the other.
In the case of delayed flights, the flight attendant won’t know any more than you. They won’t know if the flight’s lost time can be made up during the flight or if it will result in a late arrival. So, don’t get annoyed when you ask them, and they don’t have an answer. In fact, don’t bother asking at all.
2.”You Have Never been in Extreme Turbulence”
More than 2 million people fly in the United States each day, and yet since 1980, only three people have died as a direct result of turbulence. Of those fatalities, two passengers weren’t wearing their safety belts.
During that same time period, the Federal Aviation Administration recorded just over 300 serious injuries from turbulence, and more than two-thirds of the victims were flight attendants. What do these numbers mean? As long as your seat belt is on, you’re more likely to be injured by falling luggage than by choppy air.
Speaking of falling luggage, don’t try to game the system by wrapping twine around your refrigerator and calling it carry-on luggage and only get about half of it inside the overhead bin.
One of the easiest ways to earn the ire of a flight attendant is to put your carry-on in a full overhead bin, leave it sticking out six inches, then take your seat at the window and wait for someone else to come along and solve the physics problem you just created. Measure your bag at home before you pack it a carry-on.
A carry-on bag’s typical dimensions are 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels. If yours is bigger, check it in. Yes, the checked bag fee is a pain, but your huge item is creating an injury risk for yourself and everyone around you.
For weeks, I’d been dreading this: several days in Austin to clear out our remaining belongings — we’d sold the house in late March –, sell two cars, close our safe deposit box, and then drive 3-4 days back to Oregon.
Luckily, we were able to accomplish said tasks quickly, ship the boxes instead of loading them into our Titanic-sized, impossible-to-park rental car, and fly back instead. As I’ve often remarked, there is almost no problem that can’t be solved by throwing money at it. (Though, to digress, this apparently hasn’t worked for Bill and Melinda Gates.)
This allowed us time to visit with family and friends and reflect on some of the unexpected pleasures of dining out during a pandemic.
Pandemic Travel 2.0
Waitstaff no longer hover over your table, telling you their life story (“Hi, I’m Bruce and I’ll be your server tonight, although I’m really an actor and I’ve written this cool sci-fi script…”).
Table spacing makes for a much quieter experience. You might even be able to hear your own conversation.
Maybe it’s an illusion, but everything just seems cleaner.
Silverware arrives wrapped in a napkin, rather than having been sitting out on the table.
Many restaurants have streamlined their menus, so the choices are better thought-out and fresher.
People are too far away to eavesdrop.
As for air travel,
Fewer travelers = speedier security. They sure want you to keep moving.
Nobody seems to worry about liquids anymore.
Better filtration = less chance of catching a cold or flu, never mind COVID.
Even anti-maskers have to wear one.
A discreet cough or two (into your mask of course) and no one will attempt to ask what you’re reading or whether you live at your destination.
Fewer travelers = less luggage. For the first time in recent memory, our checked bags were already at the carousel by the time we arrived at baggage claim.
Woo hoo — home sweet (temporary) home in one day, not four. So what if we’ll have to load 17 boxes into our car and lug them to a new (also temporary) storage unit; the kids can sort out our crap when we cross the rainbow bridge!
The World Wildlife Fund reports positive developments in this otherwise hellish year.
“The last 12 months have brought hardship to every corner of the globe that we have not collectively experienced in generations. But they have also brought us closer in unexpected ways and shown us just how connected we all are; that people and nature are intrinsically linked.”
World’s first solar-powered LED fishing net helps sea turtles swim free Hundreds of thousands of turtles are unintentionally caught by commercial fishing vessels every year. WWF partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and scientist Jesse Senko of Arizona State University to design the world’s first solar-powered LED fishing net. This year, the team is working together with the manufacturer to scale and produce the nets.
Images from a new camera trap reveal the highest-elevation sighting of a tiger in Nepal, captured at over 8,000 feet in a densely forested area. High-altitude habitats may provide refuge for tigers and help connect their territory between Nepal and India. The finding also expands understanding of tiger habitats now that there is evidence of their use of high-altitude areas.
A new project produced in collaboration with private landowners across North America’s Northern Great Plains will help improve one million acres of grassland to help fight the climate crisis. WWF joins forces with The Walmart Foundation, McDonald’s, and Cargill to invest more than $6 million in this initiative.
WWF partnered with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe; their economic arm, REDCO; and Rosebud Tribal Land Enterprise to secure nearly 28,000 acres for what will become North America’s largest Native-owned and managed bison herd. The new Wolakota Buffalo Range can support 1,500 bison and is a hallmark of WWF’s partnership with Native nations to develop healthy bison herds for conservation.
The greater one-horned rhinos in Manas National Park—their population once completely decimated by poaching—are making a comeback thanks to joint conservation efforts under the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 initiative.
Today, there are around 3,700 greater one-horned rhinos in Asia, up from only 200 at the beginning of the 20th century.
WWF has invested in Ocean Rainforest, a small for-profit company that operates a seaweed nursery, farms, and processing facility around the North Atlantic’s Faroe Islands. Seaweed is a fast-growing marine vegetable that is both a nutritious food source and—because it is highly efficient at absorbing CO2—a valuable carbon sink.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reached every corner of the world and has had sweeping negative impacts to people and communities, threatening lives and livelihoods.
As communities try to cope in the short term, the Namibian government, civil society, and passionate conservationists have rallied—with support from WWF and key partners—to help fill the void the pandemic has created. The Conservation Relief, Recovery and Resilience Facility (CRRRF) fund was developed—a coordinated national effort to provide immediate financial relief to Namibian conservancies affected by COVID-19.
From coastal shores to the Arctic to coral reefs, plastic pollution negatively affects all ecosystems.
WWF analyzed the plastic use of five companies, including McDonald’s Corporation and The Coca-Cola Company, and identified just how much plastic companies were using and where it went after its disposal. Adding 100 more companies to the project could keep more than 50 million metric tons of plastic out of nature over time.
After years of scientific research, advocacy, and community and government engagement by WWF-Cambodia and other partners, the government of Cambodia abandoned plans to build the Sambor hydropower dam on the Mekong River and put a 10-year halt on future dam construction on the river’s main artery.
A free-flowing Mekong protects the world’s most productive freshwater fishery and supports breathtaking biodiversity, including the largest population of Irrawaddy river dolphins on Earth. WWF-Cambodia is poised to support federal development of a sustainable energy plan that promotes clean and renewable energy alternatives while keeping the mighty Mekong intact.
In response to the 2019-2020 bushfire crisis in Australia, WWF launched the largest and most innovative wildlife and nature regeneration program in the country’s history. The goal is to double koala numbers on the east coast of the country by 2050, with the hope that the recovery of this species will also benefit other local species, as well as boost the local economy of regional communities. WWF is using specialized drones to disperse eucalyptus seeds, with some models able to plant 40,000 seeds per day.
As part of an industry forum that includes more than 70 companies across the seafood supply chain, WWF released the first-ever global standards for tracking seafood products from source to sale. So far nearly 50 brands—including grocery chain Whole Foods Market—have committed to begin implementing these ocean-saving standards.
Kangaroos can learn to communicate with humans, researchers say
Kangaroos can learn to communicate with humans similar to how domesticated dogs do, by using their gaze to “point” and ask for help, researchers said in a study published on Wednesday.
The study involved 11 kangaroos that lived in captivity but had not been domesticated. Ten of the 11 marsupials intently gazed at researchers when they were unable to open a box with food, according to the report. Nine alternately looked at the human and at the container, as a way of pointing or gesturing toward the object.
“We interpreted this as a deliberate form of communication, a request for help,” Alan McElligott, the Irish researcher who led the study, told Reuters in a call from Hong Kong.
“Wild species are not really expected to behave as those subjects were, and that’s why it is surprising.”
The findings challenge the notion that only domesticated animals such as dogs, horses or goats communicate with humans, and suggests many more animals could grasp how to convey meaning to humans, the paper asserts.
“We’ve previously thought only domesticated animals try to ask for help with a problem. But kangaroos do it too,” concluded co-researcher Alexandra Green from the University of Sydney.
“It’s more likely to be a learned behaviour when the environment is right.”
SYDNEY, Dec 16 (Reuters). Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Karishma Singh.
This is all very cool. Now, my question is:
Can kangaroos teach humans how to communicate with each other???
Perhaps the only upside to what I call the “pandammit” is that I’m not shopping like a drunken socialite, to quote my friend S. Which doesn’t mean I’ve stopped shopping altogether; it’s more that I’m buying different things.
Big-ticket items flew out the window as life got simpler and our activities remain close to home. Meanwhile, entire categories (hello, hand sanitizer) became essentials. What a topsy-turvy world! (Google reports that the expression “may be an adaptation of the medieval verb ‘tirve’, meaning ‘to turn or to topple over’. It has also been suggested that ‘turvy’ is an allusion to ‘turf’ and that ‘topsy-turvy’ means ‘with one’s head on the turf’.”)
Amazon – miscellaneous household items, esp. hard to get stuff
Whole Foods delivery in the early months
Fresh fruits and veggies from farmers’ market and small specialty grocers
Wine and booze – do you even have to ask why?
TV streaming services
Vitamins, supplements, acetaminophen PM
Face masks — whoever predicted one would need a wardrobe of these?!
Fresh flowers to maintain sanity and illusion of elegant normalcy
Makeup, especially lipstick – kind of pointless when wearing a mask, no?
Hair salon – spreading out appointments and doing trimming/touch-ups myself until desperate
From the Department of What’s The World Coming To…
Barcelona’s Liceu opera reopened on Monday. Its first concert was performed in front of an audience of plants, NPR reports. Much nicer for the performers, I surmise, as at least plants don’t cough, rattle candy wrappers, and forget to shut off their cell phones.
Then again, this plant appears to have nodded off.
Remember the “freshman 15”, aka the pounds everyone seemed to gain their first year at college? It’s déjà vu all over again.
Back in the day, the culprits were pizza, beer (and/or weed), and nerve-wracking new experiences like late-night cramming and unprecedented freedom.
This is different, and not just because I’m older. Month after month of the same old, same old has led to inertia and tedium with a constant low hum of anxiety buzzing along underneath.
I don’t really care what the government is recommending… Dear Husband and I are staying put except for essential and unavoidable tasks. Since we can’t travel or eat out with friends, we’ve amused ourselves by cooking food from different cultures and pretending to be elsewhere. Unlike traveling, however, we are not burning calories by walking extra miles through cities, museums, and the like. Even my Fitbit is bored. The result: packing on extra poundage like a wild animal in captivity.
Like many of you, I eat when I’m stressed even if I’m not physically hungry. And what I’ve realized, as my own little world keeps shrinking — while I’m not — is how many of my essential needs aren’t being met… which leads to stress… which leads to snacking.
Order and control. Toss this one right out the window. We have no idea when this will end and can’t do much about it except to continue social distancing and wearing a mask. Plus, staying informed is highly overrated when so much of the news is just plain sickening.
Anticipation. It’s hard to plan for a trip or special event when there’s nothing on the calendar. And being worried about catching the virus en route does dim one’s enthusiasm.
Personal space. If you’re someone who needs lots of alone time, a pandemic is not your friend.
Sleep. Stress and worry make sleep elusive, or fitful at best. Which in turn affects your body’s balance of the hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin decreases it. When the body is sleep-deprived, ghrelin levels spike, while the level of leptin falls, leading to an increase in hunger, especially for junk food. (I don’t know how it knows, but it does.)
Variety of experiences. When going to the grocery store is the weekly highlight, life’s a little blah no matter how nice your home or neighborhood is.
Anyway, it’s useful to know the triggers. Now I need to get serious about my action plan, as I refuse to buy a larger-size wardrobe. Who’s with me?