Paris, Part 1: Let’s fix the annoyances of air travel and make it joyous again

Day 1 of any trip overseas involves waiting in lines, taking your shoes off, and strapping yourself inside a metal tube full of explosive liquids.

Note: yes, you could technically go all Young Bruce Wayne and trade coats with a homeless person before sneaking aboard a cargo ship, and yes, there are people who’ve rowed across the Atlantic, but we are talking about getting to Paris before 2028.

So how can we fix airports and flying?

Here are a few ideas.

Idea # 1: Trains, trains, trains

Nobody likes driving to the airport at oh-dark-thirty, paying for parking, and taking a shuttle to the actual airport. How could we make this suck slightly less?

Trains.

Take your luggage and hop on a train that takes you directly to the airport.

Boom, no driving, no parking, no hassle.

SeaTac does have a train to the airport now. Though I live in a one stoplight logging town far away, it would be seven separate flavors of awesomesauce to catch a ride to Olympia, hop on that train, and hit the airport.

Sorry, parking lot barons. You provide a useful service, but trains would eliminate a major annoyance.

Idea # 2: Make boarding less silly

Right now, how do you get on the plane? IT IS THE CHAOS.

Let’s make this infinitely smoother by boarding window seats first, back to front. You go, Window Warriors.

Next up, middle seats.

Last to board should be aisle seats and first class / VIP people. Having them get on first slows things down. What’s the great thing about getting on first and waiting longer for takeoff? Feed the people holding special expensive tickets some special and expensive champagne while they wait and get them on last.

Idea # 3: Seats that fit

We have the numbers: average number of people who are tall, short, whatever.

Make seats on planes reflect real people instead of a mythical average, so anybody over six foot doesn’t have their knees shoved into the seat in front of them and average to shorter people get a break on price for taking up less space. But if we’re making prices reflect reality, average it all out to cost the same as now instead of overcharging tall folks.

Idea # 4: The adorable screaming bebes

Hey, I’m a father, and I get it. You want your pookie to see the world, or visit grandma.

HOWEVER: Itty bitty babies and toddlers don’t do well on long international flights, and by don’t mean well I actually mean a 10-hour flight often includes a free 10-hour chorus of screaming and inconsolable babies.

Babies and toddlers won’t remember a trip to Paris or Tokyo.

Multiply the age of the pookie by TWO and that’s how many hours the kid should fly. A baby can do two hours, a two-year-old can handle four, and so on.

Idea # 5: The Kiosk of Dumb Questions

At the Brussels train station, helpful staff stood at a kiosk to guide confused travelers to their train.

Airports around the world should do this. Otherwise, sleepy passengers wander the airport, staring at screens and asking random people questions in languages they don’t speak.

VERDICT

Traveling by plane is more annoying than it should be, but we can dream. What would you do, if you could wave a magic wand and fix it?

Great food, beautiful beaches and giant man-eating reptiles

Technically, I live in a temperate rainforest, which is a fancy way of saying we get 100+ inches a year, which feeds our giant trees and keeps everything green. 

Costa Rica is home to some of the best tropical rainforests in the world. And since tourism is the country’s No. 1 business, they work hard to protect their forests, beaches and wildlife.

The wildlife is what really impressed me. We were lucky enough to have two naturalists show us around, and both of them could spot a rare bird, insect or monkey long before we did. Some of these shots (especially the ones of birds) are actually using my phone through a spotting scope, which is tricky. 

 

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As a kid, I loved monkeys and would spend hours at the monkey section of zoos in Germany, Holland, New York–wherever we lived. So for me, Costa Rica was amazing, because you couldn’t step outside without seeing monkeys: capuchins, squirrel monkeys and howlers.

The howlers make scary noises and are bigger than the others, and they don’t come close to people, but they’re not aggressive. Vegetarians with a bark far worse than their bite.

The capuchins are pretty common and aren’t afraid of people. You’re not supposed to feed them, though some people still do, but even if you follow the rules, the capuchins hang around waiting for people to (a) drop food or (b) leave fruit or other goodies unattended. Because they will jump in there and steal your fruit.

Squirrel monkeys were a special treat. They travel in packs of up to 90 members and the males try to impress the females by jumping insanely large distances between the trees. Like the capuchins, they aren’t afraid of people and would come down on lower branches to check us out. Not to beg or steal food, just to be curious. Beautiful little guys.

The crocodiles were intense–and you don’t swim in the rivers anywhere near where they are.

For folks thinking about traveling here, two things stand out: the food was amazing, regardless of what restaurant we visited. World rankings right now: Costa Rica, Greece then Japan, I kid you not.

The second thing is the level of service. Prices aren’t as insanely cheap as you’ll find elsewhere, but I’ve never seen such good service, top to bottom, from the naturalists on tours to the hotel staff to the bus drivers. Maybe it’s because tourism is their No. 1 industry and they make it a focus instead of an after-thought. Everything ran smoothly.

It’s a clean, safe country. 11/10 would recommend. 

Photo of the Day: A castle passageway in Luxembourg

Tunnel below a castle in Luxembourg. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.

Tunnel below a castle in Luxembourg. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.
Tunnel below a castle in Luxembourg. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.

Castles are the best — but hard to shoot. The light in tunnels and dungeons is usually terrible. This passageway was a happy exception and I love how the shadows intersected.

This is part of a huge network of passageways beneath fortifications beneath a castle guarding the river in the capital. A great position. There was no cover, no way to get up the cliff, and there were cruder tunnels carved into the rock with firing positions. An interesting place. I’ve seen a lot of castles and this one was both ancient and well-preserved.  Continue reading “Photo of the Day: A castle passageway in Luxembourg”

Photo of the Day: How many students can fit in this autorickshaw?

The Nikon of Infinite Beauty

I counted about 15 students inside, on top or hanging from the back of this auto-rickshaw. It's the Indian version of a cab, with three wheels and a lot more excitement than boring Yellow Cabs back home. With the right driver, an autorickshaw ride can be like a Formula One race through side streets and packed traffic. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.
I counted around 15 students inside, on top or hanging from the back of this autorickshaw. It’s the Indian version of a cab, with three wheels and a lot more excitement than boring Yellow Cabs back home. With the right driver, an autorickshaw ride can be like a Formula One race through side streets and packed traffic. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.

If you travel to India, autorickshaws are everywhere, working as cabs and hauling cargo. They have three tiny wheels, itty bitty engines and are more like motorcycles than cars, but they’re cheap and useful, especially in big cities.

These students commuting home after school broke what has to be a record for how many people can fit inside an autorickshaw. Well played, students.  Continue reading “Photo of the Day: How many students can fit in this autorickshaw?”

Photo of the Day: Hand this tiger a script and he’ll read the nightly news

This tiger is cooler than the other side of the pillow. He's got authority, doesn't he? Like you could hand him a script and he'd read the nightly news. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.

This tiger is cooler than the other side of the pillow. He's got authority, doesn't he? Like you could hand him a script and he'd read the nightly news. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.
This tiger is cooler than the other side of the pillow. He’s got authority, doesn’t he? If feels like whatever he said, if he could talk, would automatically have weight, as if he had a British accent and the rumble of James Earl Jones combined. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.

Sometimes, body language is everything.

When I shot this tiger with the Nikon of Infinite Beauty, the tiger didn’t even look in my direction. He didn’t care. I don’t think anything would phase him.  Continue reading “Photo of the Day: Hand this tiger a script and he’ll read the nightly news”

Photo of the Day: This is NOT the set for a sci-fi movie

Dubai train station and skyline. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.

Dubai train station and skyline. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.
Dubai train station and skyline. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.

This looks like something George Lucas had his CGI wizards do for STAR WARS EPISODE 12: THE REVENGE OF JAR JAR BINKS, for the scene where Jar Jar lands his shuttle for serious diplomatic negotiations with Trade Federations robots or whatever.

But no, it’s a real photo. I shot it in Dubai, which has the craziest buildings in the world. Some neighborhoods look very old school, like it’s the 1500s, and others are going hard for the Buck Rogers vibe. And until somebody builds something bigger, they’ve got the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, which Tom Cruise put to use in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL.

 

Random Photo of the Day: Houseboat in Kerala, India

Houseboat in Kerala, India. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.

Houseboat in Kerala, India. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.
Houseboat  floating along the backwaters of Kerala, India. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.

So I’ve been on houseboats in Kerala twice now, and it’s something I’d happily do again. Beautiful.

There’s a network of canals, with rice fields below the canals and villages alongside, all connected to giant lakes. An amazing place. You sleep in the houseboats, eat there, and visit villages. Also: we ate huge local tiger shrimp with massive claws. They looked like extras from STARSHIP TROOPERS.

Bonus photo: closeup shot from the houseboat.

Detail from a houseboat in Kerala, India, floating on the backwaters and canals. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.
Detail from a houseboat in Kerala, India, floating on the backwaters and canals. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.

Random Photo of the Day: A simple river valley

Columbia River Valley. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.

Columbia River Valley. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.
Columbia River Valley. Yes, this is a ginormous river. Do not try to swim across it. There are also giant sturgeon in here, which are like dinosaur fish, unchanged for a zillion years. Interesting creatures. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.

There’s something special about black-and-white landscapes, and not simply because Ansel Adams turned the genre into an art form. This is a stretch of the Columbia River, which is not in Columbia at all, but in Washington state — not to be confused with Washington, D.C., with the D.C. standing for “District of Columbia.” It’s like they WANT us to be confused.

There’s a petrified forest near where I shot this, and on the other side of the river, a row of giant steel horse sculptures that you can hike up to see. Worth your time, if you’re driving on I-90 and need a break. The entire northwest corner of ‘Murica is glorious to photograph: Washington state, Alaska, Hawaii — you could spend a lifetime hauling around a Nikon of Infinite Beauty and shooting up the place. I recommend it.

Random Photo of the Day: A sunset in Germany

Sunset in Germany. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.

Sunset in Germany. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.
Sunset in Germany. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.

Shot this at a wedding rehearsal dinner for a cousin, who got married in an actual castle. NOT TOO SHABBY.

Also: we drove around Germany, Belgium, Austria and such in the Citroen of Itty Bittiness, which could get up to about 160 kilometers per hour before shaking to pieces. Everyone is required to rent a car in Europe and zoom-zoom on the Autobahn, which will make you come back to ‘Murica and think that 70 miles an hour is completely nancypants.

Here’s a gratuitous shot of the Citroen, and yes, it had a red roof for some reason. Nobody knew why.

The Citroen of Itty Bittiness goes faster than you think. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.
The Citroen of Itty Bittiness goes faster than you think. Photo by Guy Bergstrom.