911 National Memorial – December 2011

I have written in my personal blog a few different posts about 9/11, how I feel about the day, how I felt about the day, where I was, where were you? and more.

On September 11th, 2011 I watched (as I am sure you did as well) the memorial events of that day and the opening of the 9/11 memorial at the WTC site. I knew that day that I wanted to go there.

You may or may not be aware, but you have to make reservations and because it was so new, it was very hard to find a date that was open. I also wanted to find a date that was in December so that I could go and see the Rockafeller tree. I made a reservation to go to the memorial before I even booked my airline ticket.

The day that we went to the memorial it was a very sunny brisk December day in New York City. The Church that stood amongst the horror of the day is now a museum and has historical artitfacts from that infamous day in history (http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/congregation/spc/)

After stopping there we went to the 911 Memorial visitors centre (http://www.911memorial.org/) which feels almost like a sales office for a condo or home developer, but that is where you pick up your tickets and make a donation if you wish (the memorial is free, but donations are accepted to keep it running).

And then you have to follow the signs to the site. It is a long walk through a maze of contruction of the new World Trade Center (Freedom Tower) and all the buildings going up around the site. The locals no longer call the site “Ground Zero”, they call in the World Trade Center site. The Freedom Tower is rising up out of the downtown core – over 70 stories high and will be 1776 feet when it is complete (http://www.nyc-tower.com/). The Freedom tower is actually 1 World Trade.

Once you go through the long lines, many security check points, metal dectectors and more, you are finally inside the memorial. It is hard to explain how you go from the loudness of the construction, the streets of New York and everything going on outside the fences, into the serenity of the two pools and the water. All you hear is the sound of the waterfalls in the two square pools of the footprints of tower 1 and 2 World Trade. It is quiet and somber and comforting and sad all wrapped into one emotionally filled place of memory.

The pools have all the names of the people who perished in the North Tower, the South Tower, the Pentagon, Shanksville, all the planes and those who died in the 1983 bombing of the World Trade Center, in bronze along the footprint of the building.

There are computers on the wall of the visitors centre that are for you to put in a name and it will tell you where to find the person.

The pictures do not do the the waterfalls and the footprints justice. They are HUGE! The waterfalls spoke to me in a way that I hope you can understand by reading these words.

When you see the picture here you can see the waterfall. It has a beginning and an end into the first ‘pool’. Then the water falls into the black hole into the centre, and that we can’t see where that ends. Because it never ends. To me it represents the ‘cemetary’ of this sacred place that is the 911 National Memorial.

They will be opening the second part to the memorial on this year anniversary which is an indoor permenant exhibit of artifacts collected at the site. I am not sure if that is something I would go and see personally, but I can understand the people that would. As you can see below, at the visitors site center, they had this captain’s hat, shoes and other personal items in a case. It still had dust and debris on it.

I am glad that I made the trip to the site, and I think if you are in New York you should add it to the list of what not to miss.

Travelling with technology

I have to say I have come a long way in a short period of time with many things….and technology is one of them.

I remember when I first starting blogging it was March 2009. I was in the airport waiting to meet a friend in New Orleans, and I had so many thoughts in my head and not even a note pad to write anything down. I didn’t have a smart phone at the time, I didn’t have a laptop (still don’t), or an Ipod. At that time, it was me and my old flip Nokia phone and my point and shoot digital camera.

Oh, how things have changed in three short years.
I was starting to get things organized for my trip to Hawaii and realized now, that travelling has become me and my entourage of technology!
I didn’t have an IPod three years ago. I think I had a very small MP3 player. Since then I had an old generation 8GB touch, which I filled up with 1100 songs and had no more space for apps. The old one didn’t have a camera. It had all the capabilities for wifi and stuff like that, but I had no idea how to use it.
Fast forward to today where I have a new generation 32GB touch. WOW – what a difference that makes – over 2000 songs, a camera and now space to add as many ‘apps’ as I want. I need apps for the LONG flight across the US and then to Hawaii (11 hours flying and then connecting times in airports). So, Lisa meet angry birds, simon says, words with friends, family feud, scrabble and more……

Since that trip to New Orleans I have jumped into the world of the DSLR camera. If you have one, you understand me when I say that it is an additional appendage to your body. It has a life of its own – its own camera bag (which really becomes a purse for flying) because you have your carry on and your camera bag.

The bag has lenses, battery charger, and all of that. But wait….there is also the point and shoot small mini camera that fits INTO the purse that is already in your suitcase for evening, or somewhere that you don’t want to shlep the big bag. That also has its own charger, but the camera itself is small so it really isn’t too intrusive to everyday life. Currently I carry tha around in my purse at all times, so I am used to that.

But WAIT….we are going to hopefully go snorkelling in Maui at Molokini crater! That means we need a waterproof camera! Well, of course you can buy disposable cameras which I have done before in Mexico and Bahamas…but WAIT again….last year I won a camera on an online travelocity contest – an Olympus digital camera – which just happens to be WATERPROOF! BUT….I have never used it before and I am not comfortable leaving my Canon powershot at home and taking this one in lieu of it…so do I take THREE cameras on my trip….CRAZY RIGHT???!!!!!
So, now of course I have moved into the smartphone generation. On my trip to New York in December I had my blackberry but didn’t have the phone on because roaming is so expensive. On the day that we were going to the 9/11 memorial we were eating pizza and they had free wi-fi so I turned the phone on and posted some pics on facebook, but that was it.
I have been told by many that you can buy a data package from Rogers or you can ‘unlock’ your phone and buy as pay as you go from where ever you happen to be, and that will save you from all the charges. So…last week while out with my dad I had my phone unlocked. So, I am ready for the phone challenge while travelling abroad.
Which leaves me to the last piece of technology advancement I am about to move into……the ereader/tablet generation. I love to read, and part of what I love about reading is the ACTUAL book – the paper – the feel, etc. BUT…with everything I am now carrying to travel, books are an yet another item to take along – so why not add MORE technology – a tablet size piece of equipment that can carry thousands of books, newspapers, magazines all in 7 inches. RIGHT? Well, sure why not? *LOL*
I haven’t bought one yet, but will by the end of the week. I would love an Ipad, but it is out of my price range right now. I think I will end up with a playbook, but I will keep you all posted on that, as I figure out my next step in technology advancement.
I am not sure if I can live without any one of these items now while travelling. It sounds silly as I write that but, it does seem true in a way:
  • the smartphone generation makes corresponding to others instant – with BBM, Whatsapp, texting, calling and of course posting photos on facebook wherever and whenever you see something interesting.
  • the digital camera era and the advancement of photography really now allows anyone to shoot THE perfect dream shot with a wide range of cameras big and small.
  • the ability to have all your music in one place – leaves nothing left a home – you can listen to whatever genre music you want at any time, without bringing cds with you now, or before that cassette tapes.
  • and lastly, not having to carry books, magazines or newspapers with you again. Think about that, and how amazing that is. Downloading missed seasons of shows or movies to watch on long plane rides. All of that is possible now.
Think about all of that the next time you need to pack for your vacation, business trip, road trip, and maybe my thoughts here today won’t seem as crazy and out of control as you think!
Leave a comment here about what you think you couldn’t leave home without! I would love to know!!!

Flat Stanley goes Cruisin’

I watched “Up in the Air” last night, and in the movie the lead character’s sister takes a poster size picture of her and her husband to be and send it to all their friends to take pictures of them all over the US. It made me think of Flat Stanley.

Maybe you have heard about Flat Stanley. He is a character in a book written by Jeff Brown back in 1964. The character Stanley gets flattened by a bullentin board that his father buys him and his brother.

He uses his new flattened status in very interesting ways, he can get mailed in a envelope to visit friends in far away places.

This story created a phenonmena called The Flat Stanley Project. (http://www.flatstanley.com/) It was created in 1994 to create a global literacy program where students can read Jeff Brown’s book, and create their own Flat Stanley and mail it to friends and family have his story told by others through words and photographs. (http://www.flatstanley.com/about?subpage=project)

My friend’s niece who lives in New York mailed her flat Stanley to her aunt here in Toronto and asked if she would take care of flat stanley and send his story and some pictures back home.

That was around the same time that my mom and were going on our cruise. Flat Stanley came with us. He had a really good time on the cruise. His passport was valid for at least six months (cruise line rules of course). He met my friend and her family for a smoothie in Miami before the cruise. He partied at Margaritaville in Grand Cayman, and at Senor Frogs in Cozumel and on deck on the cruise ship. He also got in trouble because he wanted his picture taken with a life preserver when we were waiting for the tender to go to Grand Cayman (how did we know you weren’t allowed to take pictures in that area)!

People actually recognized him on the pool deck and pointed and shouted – “hey look, it’s Flat Stanley”….

Overall, for the five days of vacation, my mom, Flat Stanley and I had a great time. When we got home, he had to go back to New York to be with his family, but maybe he will come on another adventure of mine someday, I think it would be so much fun!

Here are some of Stanley’s photos:

Side bar to previous Passport post

There are a growing number of countries that require a passport to be valid for at least six months past your intended period of travel. So, if you are planning to travel in April of 2012 your passport needs to be valid until at least October 2012.

Every island/country is developing their own rules as it relates to how long your passport should be valid for after your period of travel. Bahamas and Jamaica for example, say that they need to be valid for six months. Costa Rica for example is 90 days. You really have to check with the consulate of the country you are travelling to, so that you can confirm what the validity needs to be.

It also means that your passport isn’t really valid for 5 years, it is valid for 4 1/2. We are not like our friends south of the border or our British cousins across the pond, that have passports valid for 10 years.  That would really be too smart for our Canadian Government.

I would assume that the costs would be relative to the number of years that a passport is valid, but I think most people would agree that they would pay more money to not have to deal with this issue every 4 1/2 years. I know I would.

I should also add to my earlier comments about the Service Ontario offices. If you take your passport there, you need to be careful, because the wait time is longer than going to the main offices. In person at a main office, the delievery time is 10 business days, at a service ontario office it is 20 business days.

Be aware…and if you have a passport that is getting ready to expire, you really should take care of it sooner rather than scrambling at the last minute.

The importance of your passport

The first thing my uncle told me after I starting working in travel was, “GET A PASSPORT”. I can still hear his voice saying to me, “if they tell you there is a deal for $49  to Cuba and it leaves tomorrow, you can’t go if you don’t have a passport”. He was (and still is) right about that.

But that was then and this is now. Now you really need a passport to travel anywhere. Who would have thought that you would need a passport to cross border shop in Buffalo? But now you do.

Everyone seems to dread going to the passport office.  The last time I was at the office at Yonge and Sheppard, I was in and out in 20 minutes, and that includes parking, and walking into the building and up to the 3rd floor.

There are also a lot of Service Ontario centres that offer passport renewal services only. I actually learned this recently through some clients of mine and on some posts on facebook. The Service ontario website doesn’t mention passorts on their site, but it has a lot of other useful information (http://www.serviceontario.ca)

For all the information on passports you can visit the Passport website (http://www.ppt.gc.ca) and you can get everything you need, including the forms. You can also fill them out on line and submit them.  You still have to go in person to take in your photos, forms etc, but the electronic form is supposed to speed up the process.

My advice is to just get it done. Stop procrastinating. Stop thinking about how much time it will take, and just go.