Ashtrays on planes…

Anyone who has taken a plane in the last 10 years around the world had a nice little message telling you that you are not allowed to smoke on board. And for those traveling on a US airline will have had the extra little bonus about the federal offense and that you will get sentenced to death in case you tamper with the detection device.

On a recent plane from Asia back to Canada, on board of a very recent 777 that had a completely updated interior, I got this message again. So can someone tell me why there is actually an ashtray in the lavatory, especially if it is placed just below the big “No Smoking in Lavatory” sign:

I can understand an ashtray in very old planes (those that are over 10 years old and that didn’t go through a complete overhaul since). But on a very modern one, I have to say that this evades me completely! Perhaps they are expecting the regulation to change, just as this is becoming the case with cell phones and wireless devices for Internet access.

Update 10 March 2011: I finally got an answer from the team at the AirplaneGeeks Podcast – here is the link to the episode with the answer:

Swiss Francs are not accepted as a currency at my Canadian Bank!

I had some Swiss Francs that I wanted to get exchanged and put on my Canadian bank account today. So I happily go to my branch here in Ottawa with my foreign money, wait kindly in line and when comes my turn, ask if they could put this on my bank account, expecting to get charged a ridiculous amount for transaction fees, and potentially even requiring them to send it to a central place to process the currency exchange. Well, it’s even more fun than that: They simply won’t take it!

It really sounded like the currency from Switzerland was the equal of the one from a third-world country where the exchange rate changes by the minute due to civil war… so when I asked what currencies are actually accepted by my bank, the answer was simply US Dollars and British Pounds (at least one European currency, thanks to the Queen). Yes, you’ve read correctly, my bank in Canada isn’t even willing to exchange Euros.

And for those who ask, I am banking with one of the biggest ones in Canada who charge a fortune for a normal account per month, not a small unknown internet bank. I was already convinced that the banking system in this country is completely outdated, but this was just the little extra that confirmed everything. The only solution for me is to go to a currency exchange place downtown (yes, where the tourists go) and then take the Canadian Dollars to bring them to my branch! Not impressed…

Winterlude in Ottawa, 2nd year

As posted in my blog last year, people in Ottawa enjoy going outside when the temperature drops below -10 degrees Celsius. Winterlude, or should I say the celebration of Winter, this year is no exception to the rule. Today was a beautiful day here in Ottawa and provided for a great excuse to go and see the ice sculptures and the canal before the end of the “Bal des Neiges” as it is called in French.

Ice sculpture at Winterlude - Ottawa, ON

In addition to the great ice sculptures, local inhabitants go and skate on the canal… well, I’ll see next year if I want to give it a try again. It’s been so long that I haven’t skated on ice that I’m not sure if I could actually still stand straight.

Ice skating on the canal - Ottawa, ON

Continue reading Winterlude in Ottawa, 2nd year

Discovering Yokohama in Japan

I flew over to Japan this week-end, staying in the largest tower of that country, call the Landmark Tower, located in Yokohama. On Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit a little this interesting town. Overall, even without any Japanese knowledge, you can walk around, eat at restaurants and do some shopping. And with my very very basic japanese, I can actually say thank you :-)

Landmark Tower, Yokohama, Japan

Living in Ontario, Canada – Part 1

Or should I be more specific… living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – Part 1. I’ve crossed the Atlantic in November of 2006, just in time for winter, which I survived, and am now enjoying my first Canadian summer. To summarize this blog post, I really like living in the capital of this huge country. People are really nice, and many of them speak a language that reminds me of French, hidden behind an accent and some strange ways of saying things, that is for someone who grew-up on the other side of the Atlantic. As for when living in the UK before coming to this side of the world, there are things that come as a surprise to me, some constructive comments and other random thoughts not really worth mentioning. In no particular order, I’ll be covering the milk distribution, the temperature during winter, batteries recycling, the Canadian-French language, buying geek toys, hockey and weather news on USA channels.

Continue reading Living in Ontario, Canada – Part 1

Ontario vs. UK: Which is which…

Yesterday, I went to an Ontario Park called “Murphys Point”, about 150km South-West of Ottawa. Beautiful place. Having visited the UK last year, I was surprised by the similarity of the landscape in Ontario, Canada and some regions of the UK such as the Lake District or Southern Scotland. A hint, one has more hills and mountains than the other… I’ll let you be the judge :)

Is this in Ontario, Canada
Is this in Ontario, Canada?

Or is it this one?
Or is it this one?

Why leave the towels on the rack in hotel bathrooms?

In almost every hotel I’ve been in recent years, there has always been a little card in the bathroom with a text similar to this:

Dear Guest,
Every day, millions of gallons / liters of water are used to wash towels that have only been used once. You can help the environment by putting your towels back on the racks, which will mean “I will use it again”. If you leave it on the floor, it means “please replace”. Thank you for helping conserving Earth’s vital resources.

As a good Swiss who is mindful of the scarce resources on the small planet we all live, I always put my towels back on the rack. But nine times out of ten, when I get back to my hotel room in the evening, I find that all the towels in the bathroom have been changed! This leads me to a simple question: Why did I even bother?

Currently staying in San Diego, California, I guess that the underpaid illegal immigrants who clean the hotel rooms in the region don’t understand English very well, but the hotel management could explain the rule during training. If it’s to make the guest feel he did his ecologically-friendly action of the day to feel better when he steps in his huge SUV as he will have forgotten it anyway in the evening, then don’t bother putting that little card in the bathroom.

OK, I’ll stop my complain. But to all the hotel mangers out there, please stop providing me the impression that if I do this little thing, I’ll help save the planet, and then show me that you didn’t care in the first place and that this little card in the bathroom was just part of the hotel policy to provide a better “experience” to its guests.

Update: Day two of staying in the same hotel… I had to continue my experiment. Well, nothing changed, still got new towels when I came back to my room.

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What is it with receipts from taxi drivers in Miami?

Early this week, I went on a business trip to Miami, Florida and four out of five taxi drivers, when I asked them for a receipt, handed me a paper without writing anything down! I would have been able, at wish, to write down anything I wanted on these receipts and claim the money back… With one little problem: they would all have had my handwriting. Every time I asked the driver to fill the paper out, he looked annoyed, as if these 10 seconds could have been used driving a customer and making money for them.

Then again, after you’ve experienced them driving through the city, it might be just that… The red light is the enemy as it doesn’t make the $ counter go up. Two choices: accelerate and go through even if it is a dark orange or accelerate as fast as possible as soon as it’s about to get green to catch-up the lost time. The biggest problem with these two options is when you have more than one taxi at an intersection… :-)