Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Tipping is always accepted

Tipping is not mandatory but is accepted worldwide.

I will repeat: Tipping is NOT mandatory but is accepted worldwide.

"Do I have to tip here?" a friend asked a waiter while dining on a holiday in America.

"It is expected," the waiter replied.

"So is good service," my friend returned with a sarcastic tone.

Tipping is not customary in Ireland or in the majority of Northern Europe. It is of course accepted and by some staff even, expected. But it is not customary.
When service is good, better than expected, excellent and personal,  I tip, as do many others. Often we just round things up to the nearest euro, or obvious figure.

But I despise the expectation of tipping.

In America and Canada, it is tradition. Many waiting staff, bartenders etc are earning below the average wage and so tipping brings their wages up to standard. It makes sense really, and a lot of times the price before tipping is very good value.
So tipping is fine there, until you are unsatisfied with your service, had a very unpleasant waitress, had to wait a long time, etc. In America and Canada - you are still expected * to tip. That annoys me.

The act of tipping should be at discretion of the patron being served. But in the States it is not, it is just expected, good or bad - hand over your cash.

I was on a tour in Europe a few years back with some Australians, the tour leader told the group as they arrived in France "you will be expected to tip in restaurants here." She lied, well she withheld the truth what she meant was "As a tourist who does not speak French, you will be expected to tip in restaurants here."
The same can be applied to most EU countries.
Tipping is always expected by tourists - but it is at your discretion.

If a group of Americans sat down to lunch in Ireland and did not leave a nice tip at payment, the staff would be insulted. If the group were Irish, they would not pass any notice.

Also I find quite funny that the higher price bracket you climb in Europe, the more expected* the tip is. If your lunch costs €10 in a cafe no need for a tip. If it costs €35 then a tip is anticipated - like you have not paid enough in the first place.

Tipping is a lovely gesture. I worked as a waitress in Ireland - and I understand the importance of the extra change, the appreciation that is parcelled with it.

But it should never be expected or forced, it is always at your discretion.

*Not mandatory

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

“If you tick yes – you can't scuba dive”

We had a very rough boat trip from Koh Samui to Koh Tao in Thailand. Almost everyone on the boat got sick and those who didn't were hanging on for their dear lives on the upper level trying not to get thrown over board.

Ningaloo Reef dive, Australia
I didn't get sick – but I was shook up when we pulled into the glorious scuba diving island of Koh Tao. My partner however did get sick, at one stage he contemplated jumping over board just to stop the horrible motion – but land was in sight so he clung on. When we walked into the the Easy Divers center, he was still yellow, still clinging to his belongings like someone off a ship wreck.
The lovely lady told us to fill out some forms quickly before we collapsed into our beach hut.

As he could not speak, grunt or even stand straight I took over the form filling duty.
To help me hasten she told me “If you tick yes to any of the questions, we can't let you scuba dive.”
I wanted to scuba dive – so did he.
So I ticked No all the way down both sheets, filled out names, address, numbers, emails and set off to across the white beach to settle for the night.

For the next two days we did theory classes, passed out tests and then set off into the water.
In those perfect tranquil turquoise waters we passed our 18m scuba diving lessons and received our licenses. The fish, the coral, the sharks – it was all amazing and despite our quarrellings on dry land – in the silent under water we made the perfect partners. This was our couple hobby.

Ningaloo Reef dive, Australia
It was another six months before we got the opportunity to scuba dive again. This time it was on the Great Barrier Reef – off the coast of Cairns, Australia. We booked on to an overnight ship and were prepping to earn our 36m scuba diving license. We were terribly excited about the night time dive.

There were no rough waters to contend with – so once on the ship, we had to fill out the obligatory forms again and this time he was well able to sort out his own. Except on this occasion there was no kind advice on offer.
In the box saying Asthma – he ticked yes.

The instructor nearly lost his life. He told us “you can't scuba dive if you have asthma.”
My partner replied “I can, because I have a license for 18m.”
“But you need to breathe – you could die down there” came the chilling response.

I wanted to help, but all I could think was what if he did die – his mother would kill me!
In the end the instructor agreed, but not before a test dive and a new form where the No box was ticked beside Asthma query.

During the first dive, I have never been so nervous, I was all over the place. I never concentrated on my own process at all, I kept watching him, every two minutes I signaled ok? And he responded. I was up and down in the water because I could not keep myself steady.

Is everything OK???
Before we went down the 36m, the instructor warned us “You will feel a lot more pressure down there, if anything goes wrong – we know nothing about your asthma ok?”
Never mind him – I was crazy with nerves.

About 5m on the descent, I felt a tug on my hand as I watched him ascend.
Heart in mouth – what was going wrong – could he not breathe – was he dying???

He just had to equalize.
We did pass the 36m license and everything went according to plan – but we have not been scuba diving since. He is mad to do it – but he needs a partner.
And this partner needs time to breathe!

Sharks were the least of my worries scuba diving!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Titanic Belfast Museum

I cannot tell you HOW excited I was when I received links to the "sneak peak" inside the six story Titanic Belfast museum which opens on March 31.

The amazing exhibition which opens to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic took over three years to build - the same length of time it took to actually build the Titanic Ship.
Take a few minutes to think about that - think about technology, modern machinery, equipment and our perceived intellect. And in the early 1900s they built the beautiful, majestic (slightly flawed!) ship to transport almost 2,300 passengers to America in the same amount of time to build a museum.
My thoughts: This exhibition/ museum/ banquet/ conference centre is going to be epic!

According to the press release 80,000 people have pre-booked tickets to see the museum - so I better get my skates on! People from over all the world will descend on Belfast in April to commemorate the greatest ship.

The magnificent sweeping staircase give the Titanic Suite (caters for 1,000) that awe-some effect. But there are nine other galleries to give you an insight into the whole Titanic experience.

A replica of the grand staircase boasted by Titanic. 

Gallery 1: Boomtime Belfast - step back in time and get acquainted with Edwardian Belfast.
Gallery 2: The Arrol Gantry and Shipyard Ride - Visitors take a metal elevator up the Arrol Gantry, the enormous steel structure built to facilitate the construction of Titanic and her sister ships. Believed to be the first of its kind, the ride is a five-minute journey in a six-seater car that rotates and moves up and down along a circuit accompanied by CGI, audio and special effects. - How exciting!!
Gallery 3: Watch as they launch the Titanic!
Gallery 4: The Fit out - experience the reality of the inside of the RMS Titanic through a 3D Cave
Gallery 5: The Maiden Voyage - photos from the event.
Gallery 6: The Sinking - Enter a darkened tunnel where the temperature, soundtrack and images all evoke the
tragedy of Titanic's collision with an iceberg and subsequent sinking, with the loss of 1,500 lives.
Galley 7:  The Aftermath - The inquiries, lifeboats and Harland & Wolff following the sinking.
Gallery 8: Myths & Legends -The movies, the books and more
Gallery 9: Titanic Beneath - Explore the ship wreck and the debris left behind.

Titanic Belfast visitors will get to see what life was like on board the ill-fated ship. 

I feel exhausted thinking about it all - but it has been a trip I have been waiting a long time for.

The world’s largest Titanic exhibition expects to give you the sights, sounds, smells and stories of Titanic, as well as the City and people which made her.Visitors will learn about the construction of RMS Titanic and the wide and rich story of Northern Ireland’s industrial and maritime heritage.

Raise a glass  to a new era for Belfast and Northern Ireland.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

My Left Foot

Anyone who knows me will smirk, or probably laugh when they see the title of this post, as 'My Left Foot' is a subject very dear to my heart – and I am not referring to the Irish movie.

No, 'My Left Foot' is actually my own left foot, the one attached to my left leg.

The subject came up recently in relation to two questions I was asked in different circumstances.
The first was 'What part of your body would you change if you could?'
This should be a question on vanity, it is usually related to cosmetic surgery, weight issues or distinguishing marks.
My answer: “My Left Foot.”

The next question a few days later came from a more sophisticated conversation.
“Name one thing/ obstacle holding holding you back in life”
Again my answer: “My Left Foot.”

Nice - if ya don't fall over!
(c) fifiheavey

It is important to be fully fit to travel, to partake in activities, to walk, hike, jog, run etc
Healthy I am, fit also to an extent, but one body part always lets me down and that is my left foot.
Going for a hike -
Sightseeing walking tour-
We may need to run for the bus-
Dancing is compulsory-
Are all great, but even prior consultation with my foot cannot guarantee I will not fall before the final hurdle.

A few too many ankle injuries now compounded by plantar fasciltis (Heel Spur) problem, means that at least a quarter of my brain must focus on the stability and the strength of my left foot for ALL activities.

Traveling around the world has caused major damage to my pockets and bank account, to my stress levels but the most damage has been caused to my feet.
Sunburn, corns, bruises, cuts have and a whole lot of strain have taken their tolls on the pair that carry me around.
But it is the left one that has the weaker will, that destroys my chances of competing in marathons, that niggles at me when we decide to go hiking, or dancing, or just walking around in a circle.

Ok on the way up - but not on the way down! Hiking Franz Josef, New Zealand
(c) fifiheavey

Any sympathy out there?
Has travel caused you injury?
Do you have a small issue always preying on your mind??