On October 27, 2018 United Airlines UA 931 was diverted to Happy Valley Goose Bay in Newfoundland, Canada. Shortly after take off from Chicago O’Hare International Airport, one of the pilots announced that the captain’s window had shattered and that an emergency landing was required. The flight from Chicago to London had been diverted and delayed for more than six hours on what seemed like the edge of civilization in Northern Canada.
A Personal Account
For over a decade I have been enjoying my travels with British Airways but on this one occasion I found an online offer with United Airlines that I thought was a very good deal. It was not a direct flight. I was scheduled to fly from Houston to Chicago and then from Chicago to London.
I wonder now if the cost of the flight was worth the hassle I went through. Flying from Houston to Chicago was nothing memorable. However, in Chicago, I should have seen the signs before I flew out that day. The desk at the gate had announced the the flight was oversold and too many people were scheduled to fly out. United was offering $1,000 to anyone who would volunteer to fly out on the next flight. If I wasn’t scheduled to work the next day I would have taken that offer.
It was then later announced that the plane was delayed and when the plane was available it was then announced that we were flying on an older model plane because the plane we were scheduled to fly out was having technical issues. Again, I should have seen these signs and taken the offer.
Once the plane took off, I tried to find peace an quiet on the long flight to London but about 30 minutes into the flight the captain then announced the emergency landing in Canada. I was happy we were landing instead of anything worst. After landing and waiting for about an hour, it was later announced that we could not leave the airplane because the air base we landed on was not a civilian airport. There were no hotels or any place to go and rest.
We landed in Goose Bay in Canada. The onboard map displayed our location far to the north of Canada. Looking out the window you could see sparse civilization with few buildings spread across the snow covered landscape. All I could see was snow as far as my eyes could see. There were military planes there so I assumed we were on a military base.
The captain assured us that a rescue plane would be sent out to get us before we could continue our journey. It took over six hours for the plane to arrive and happily it was a brand new luxury plane with way more seating available than our current plane. Because it was so cold outside, we could not walk over to the other plane, we had to be shuttled to the plane on school buses. Once onboard we were able to continue our journey without any further incidents.
What I learned
The experience itself was an uncomfortable journey. I later read online that United regularly lands in Goose Bay Canada because of faulty airplane issues. Had I known this before I would not have flown with them. At the very least United compensated us with $500 for the inconvenience. Will I be flying with them again? Well, I have little choice now since they have given me a credit to use only with their airlines. Perhaps I’ll use that money to fly somewhere closer to the UK and enjoy a nicer flight.
I hope that this account helps other people who might be flying with United Airlines and experience similar issues.
After 112 years of being displayed, Dippy the diplodocus is leaving the Natural History Museum in London.
Today a four man crew begins to dismantle this memorable replica in the Hintze Hall.
Furthermore, the dismantling process will take up to four days. Due to the work, the main hall will be closed to the public. In it’s place, the skeleton of a modern day blue whale will be showcased.
Many people around the world come to the Natural History Museum to see this iconic figure. Unfortunately, Dippy the diplodocus’ future appears to be heading into storage.
The current plan is to take Dippy on a tour around the United Kingdom starting in early 2018 and then ending in 2020. After which there does not appear to be any plans to display the dinosaur. Dippy will surely be missed.
Dippy the diplodocus background
First of all, Dippy the diplodocus is a replica of the American discovery in 1898. Newspapers billed the discovery as the “most colossal animal ever on Earth”.
As a result of the discovery, Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-born millionaire businessman, set out to acquire the bones as a centrepiece for his new museum in Pittsburgh.
Consequently, when King Edward VII, Prince of Wales, visited the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, USA he requested a replica of the dinosaur. It was presented to The Natural History Museum in May 1905 by Andrew Carnegie.
Dippy is also one of 10 replicas of the original Diplodocus carnegii. Other museums with replicas include Paris, Berlin, Vienna, and Moscow.
Sadly, Dippy is the main reason why I visit the Natural History Museum in London. There are many wonderful exhibits in the museum. There is an entire hall full of dinosaurs as well. However, it is difficult to imagine the Museum without its centre piece.
Perhaps, if enough people miss Dippy, then maybe he will be brought back for the public to enjoy.
It has been a over a week since the Brexit results were announced and I have witnessed uncharted waters that the world has been plunged into. As an American living in London for the past 10 years I have come to see myself as a Londoner and have a unique perspective of the events. Now that we are in this new world I would like to provide my personal insights into the past several days. But first I’ll start with a summary of events.
The night before Brexit
Perhaps like many people in the United Kingdom, I stayed up late that night watching as the results slowly came in. The days before I watched as politicians verbally battled each other to sway the voters towards their arguments. In the news, other countries were reporting about their worries of the UK leaving the EU, but no one seemed to seriously think that it would happen. People on Facebook were discussing Brexit and no one believed that the people of the UK would vote to leave. It seemed an unthinkable result.
As the hours slowly passed and the results continued to come in, members of the Leave Campaign had resigned themselves to a loss. Nigel Farage made an announcement early in the night, conceding defeat. However, that was premature. By the time we reached around 4:30 a.m. it was evident that the Leave Campaign had won and we as a country Brexited the EU.
The days that followed Brexit
Shock spread throughout the United Kingdom as people came to the realization that the world had changed for them. Some of the voters did not think they would win, others voted Leave as a protest vote. Many of the people who voted Leave had their own personal reasons and came from a diverse background. The Remain voters were shocked even more when they woke to the news that they had been pulled out of the EU.
The first of the big casualties began with the Prime Minister David Cameron. He quickly made an announcement and resigned his position. The news reported that “he had fallen on his sword”. Those words would be embraced by the media and used over and over as politicians resigned on a daily basis in England. The opposition party shook to its core as the party members rebelled against their leader.
Jeremy Corbyn the leader of the Labor party probably knew that his members would try and push him out but he had no idea how far things would go. As of this writing he is still struggling to maintain power after many member resignations and a vote of no confidence. It appears that any day now he is going to be challenged for the leadership of the party.
The demographic divisions
First of all, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU while Wales and England voted to Leave. We clearly have a north and south division however, the overall vote of the United Kingdom as a whole was a majority Leave. This has resulted in a relationship strain between the north and the south.
The demographic divisions go a step further than geographical. As the results came in it became apparent that most of the rural country voted out while the major cities such as London voted to remain. Age groups were divided between older generations voting out while younger generations voted to remain. Then lastly, there seemed to be a division between people with degrees and those without. Those without degrees voted out while those with degrees voted to remain.
It is this latter demographic that has been targeted by educated people within the city of London. Facebook quickly trended articles and posts stating that the United Kingdom was pulled out of the EU by the uneducated working classes while the degree bearing people were forced to accept the results. But ultimately, it was the Remain Campaign who became complacent and assumed they would win, thus resulting in a lower voter turnout for them.
Backlashes happened in three different forms. First you had the educated and youth of London protesting the results in London. Secondly you had hate crime reports increase throughout England specifically targeting Polish people. Thirdly you had Scotland threatening the UK to veto the results or to run their own referendum for independence from the UK.
In the EU, many countries and politicians were also shocked at the results and soon found themselves scheming for a future without the UK. They announced that they would treat the UK harshly for leaving; this show of harshness was to deter other countries from trying to leave the EU as well. However, other countries are closing watching the UK and seemed to be waiting patiently for their turn to come.
There is so much more detail to talk about, but this is pretty much a summary of the events. As an American I personally think that Brexit is a good idea for the UK. I believe that the UK as a country has its own sovereignty and that unelected foreign leaders have no right to impose their own views and laws on the British people. The EU is not a United States of Europe and in my opinion it is too diverse to ever be one. Each country still retains its culture and language, its own history and its own people. It is true that people can travel freely throughout Europe but the cost is high.
Global economies have been thrown into turmoil; the UK is navigating uncharted waters without a captain at its helm. Things will stabilize eventually, but it will take time and probably a few years. In the end I think this was a good decision by the British people but it will be up to history to tell how things turned out.
Did you know there are many cherry blossoms in London? Perhaps the most famous place to see cherry blossoms, this time of the year, is Japan. They dedicate forecasts and calendars to the blossoming of the sakura (cherry blossom). They even produce many sakura themed products such as cherry blossom chocolates, ice cream and many different types of drinks, including beer. A quick browse on Twitter (#hanami, #sakura, #cherryblossom) will produce many beautiful pictures of cherry blossoms.
London is one of the most popular destinations in the world and visiting during the spring is as much a treat as it is visiting Japan. During the spring each year cherry blossoms in London bloom for a short few weeks. The city has many green spaces which attract visitors and many of these places have cherry blossoms blooming.
Where to see cherry blossoms in London
Some of the most popular places to visit for cherry blossom viewing include:
Although these are some of the largest and more popular places to visit, there also many small and hidden parks around London with beautiful scenery.
For example, I live next to King George’s Park, located in the Wandsworth borough south of the river Thames. For many years this park has bloomed beautifully with cherry blossoms. It is one of the most perfect places to have a picnic and view the cherry blossoms.
Hanami – is the traditional Japanese custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers, especially cherry blossoms. Many Japanese people have picnics in the park and enjoy viewing sakura (cherry blossoms).
Below is an example of the cherry blossoms in King George’s Park.
Where else can you view cherry blossoms in London? Believe it or not, they are everywhere. You will find cherry blossoms randomly throughout the city, next to buildings, grocery stores, houses and anywhere there is a patch for a tree to grow. So if you are visiting London, the month of April can be a very colourful time of year.
Cherry Blossoms around England
One more thing. Cherry blossoms are not limited to London. If you take a trip out of the city, you will find many cherry blossoms out in the countryside. They are not as dense as you would find in Japan, but there are still quite a few nice scenes out in rural villages. If you like cherry blossom viewing, feel free to comment on where you have seen them in London our out in the countryside.
London Comic Con is an event that is held twice a year primarily for Sci-fi and Cosplay fans. I am sure there are many people who would probably disagree with me saying, “what about the role playing card games, comic book signings, artist showcasing their artwork, celebrity Q and A’s and of course the plethora of vendors selling and promoting their goods and services”. Of course there are plenty of events at London Comic Con; however, the cosplayers seem to dominate the event.
The first time Linaka and I went to London Comic Con was in 2008. Back then, the event did not seem as busy as it did this time around. In 2008 there were big name actors such as Battlestar Galactica’s Edward James Olmos and many of the cast from that show. Additionally there were other actors from tv shows and movies such as Chronicle’s of Riddick’s Christina Cox. The May 2008 event felt like a real treat.
There weren’t many cosplayers then as there were this time around; however, back then there were many more professional cosplayers. By professional I mean people hired to dress up for the occasion. Also, it felt like there weren’t enough big actors at this event.
How London Comic Con was different in 2015
Perhaps over the years, London Comic Con has increased in popularity. This time around, it felt like there were too many vendors of varying quality. Some of the products on offer seemed like something you would find at a local flee market or antiques show, while others were very commercial. The number of people crowding the event also made it difficult to get around or to take pictures. In a way, it felt like the essence of London Comic Con had some how been lost in the endless crowds and vendors.
My experience could also be influenced by my previous visit to London Comic Con and more recently by visiting Anime Japan in Tokyo. Compared to what I saw in Japan, my expectations in London were probably a bit too high. It was still a fun event.
I have to admit that some of the cosplay costumes were very good. There were a few professional cosplayers present but many of the home made cosplay costumes were amazing. It almost felt like the real event was happening outside. When we walked out of London Comic Con, we entered a crowd of fully dressed Sci-fi and anime enthusiasts. You could see thousands of people dressed in their favorite characters walking around, talking and enjoying themselves. We didn’t stay long enough, but it seemed that the real party was happening outside and late into the day.
Figurines, Cool Cars and More
How could I forget the figurines, the cool cars and the random miscellaneous stuff going on. Three of the most unforgettable cars were present: Mad Max’s car, the Batmobile and “Back to the Future’s” Delorean. You could easily stand and take pictures with each of these cars. However, there was a fee to do something with the Delorean. If you could go to London Comic Con for anything, the cars are a must see.
If you like figurines, there were many vendors selling a wide range of them. You could find anime figuring as well as comic book heroes such as Batman, Superman, and Supergirl. You could also find cute Japanese miniature dolls as well as figures of Godzilla and other various monsters. Besides that you had stalls of networked computers showcasing various video games. One odd game was Farm Simulator 15, for anyone interested in raising crops. I guess there is a market for that type of game in Europe.
Lastly, there were workshops on how do make your own character, your own costumes and how to color in Photoshop. For some reason Linaka and I did not see any stalls with actors. There seemed to be a big lack of them. We were there most of the day and only saw one talk by an animator giving a seminar in Photoshop.
Overall, it was a good experience. I felt a little let down with the quality of the event, but it was still fun. The number of cosplayers increased and the costumes were phenomenal. It was a great event for taking pictures and for seeing some of the cool cars such as Mad Max’s car, the Batmobile and the Delorian. If you want to see a lot of cool stuff, meet other Sci-fi and anime fans or just dress up, this is a cool event to visit each year. If you like this article, don’t forget to share it or if you want to add your own comments, use the form below.
Living in London these past few years I had toyed with the idea of taking a trip to Paris, France. I had traveled through France a few times before but never to take a tour of the city of Paris. So this March, for Linaka’s birthday, I decided it was time that we made the effort to skip over the English Channel and take a day trip to French city.
Preparation for a day trip to Paris
Although Paris is relatively close to London, it is not as simple as driving down to the coast. The distance between the 2 cities is almost 300 miles and about a 6 hour drive. Linaka and I decided that we could do a day trip by taking the Eurostar. The trip via the train, at 200 mph, takes roughly 2.5 hours. We also had to consider the currency. Since we were only spending a day in Paris, we decided that € 200 Euros would be enough for us to get around, buy food, snacks and anything else we might need. Lastly, we were traveling light. There was no need to bring along heavy luggage, just a backpack, our cameras and a few snacks from Britain.
The night before the trip, I searched online for tourist maps. Amazingly, you can find hundreds of downloadable tourist maps online for Paris. I decided to print a couple. For some reason, I felt that the train station, Le Gare du Nord, would have tourist maps. If they had any maps, they most likely would have been in French.
For any day trip to Paris, or France in general, I recommend knowing the local language. I studied French for 3 years prior to this trip, but since I had not used it in years, I was really bad at communicating. However, I remembered enough French to understand it and read it. Even though there are many people who speak English in France, you can stumble into a small shop where the owner does not speak English. A short audio course on French can go a long way.
What we did in Paris
We arrived early in the morning at Le Gare du Nord. Most of our time was spent sleeping on the train. For a bullet train, the Eurostar is not very comfortable or wide compared to the Shinkansen in Japan, but it was the quickest way to France without flying. Before starting our touring, we decided to eat some breakfast.
As we exited the train station the first café we saw was Au Baroudeur Patient. One thing I liked about this café was the fact that they had their menus in various languages. You could pick up a menu prior to entering and read what they had to serve. I ordered an egg and mayonnaise dish and it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was pretty nice. The best part of the meal was the French bread. I also enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate while Linaka tried the local tea.
One thing we learned quickly was the closer you are to train stations or tourist attractions the more expensive things get. For example, we walked into a small shop near the train station to buy a bottle of water. The cost for one small bottle was €3 Euros, very expensive. Linaka and I decided to walk down the main road from the train station. Not long into our journey, we stopped by a small local shop and found the same size bottle water on sale for 80 cents. That pretty much informed us on pricing close to tourist areas.
Getting to the Eiffel Tower
Linaka wanted to explore Paris by walking from the train station to the Eiffel Tower. I, on the other hand, wanted to take a bus or the underground Metro, mainly because I wanted to get to the tourist areas as quickly as possible. However, we took our time and began our day trip by walking.
We discovered the lovely Parisian traffic, many side streets with tiny shops and uniquely designed McDonald’s restaurants and of course we saw lots of French people. After about an hour of walking, we realized we were still far from the Eiffel Tower. That’s when we decided it was time for us to use the public transport.
Taking the public transport was a great idea because it only took us 15 minutes to get to our main destination. We purchased a day pass for €7 Euros. It was a great bargain as it allowed us to use it to get around for the rest of the day. A day pass allows unlimited travel via the underground Metro or buses for that day.
I really enjoyed taking the underground Metro. You never know what you might see or hear. When we took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower, there was a man playing a French tune on an accordion. It felt like one of those old French films where some anonymous person was playing in background while the main characters have their climatic dialogue in the foreground.
The Eiffel Tower
I had seen many pictures of the Eiffel Tower, seen it in movies, read about it in history books, but this was the first time I had ever seen it in person. As we walked out of the Metro underground, it slowly emerged from behind the marble building blocking our view. It was extraordinary. From a distance it seemed like there was a lot of haze or smog in the air, but the Tower looked magnificent. I stood in awe as I admired this centuries old monument constructed by a bygone generation.
I never thought or imaged that I would ever see the Eiffel Tower in person. Standing before it, and seeing the iron lattice reminded me of the many great and creative things man is capable of. For that moment in time I felt like I was part of history. Thousands of tourist had come before me to admire and photograph the momentum and thousands more will come in the years to come. For me, I experienced a moment in time that I will never forget.
Notre Dame de Paris
I have to admit, whenever I visit a new place I have an inclination to visit ancient churches, temples and cathedrals. Notre Dame de Paris was no exception. It is one of the most famous cathedrals in the world and ancient with several centuries from its construction. I think it is this attraction to the French Gothic architecture or simply the fact that I have seen this building in so many movies, documentaries and stories that I was marveled by it. The number of carvings, saints and gargoyles that surrounded the entrance seemed like an army of guardians.
I thought there would be an entrance fee, but like most any church, it was free to get in. What was more amazing was the fact that people were praying inside. While Linaka and I wondered through the cathedral, a Catholic mass took place. Some how I kept thinking it was a tourist attraction and I kept forgetting that it was still a church which conducted a ministry.
Inside the cathedral there were ancient artifacts, statues and paintings. Some of them I recognized while others were completely foreign to me. What also surprised me was seeing a statue of Joan of Arc (Jeanne D’Arc). Here was a historical person I had read so much about. Although it was just a statue and representation of Joan of Arc, it still represented a sign of respect for a person who played an important role in history. Visiting Nortre Dame is one of those places anyone should go. The architecture is beautiful and the number of artifacts, paintings and statures are enough to believe you are walking through a museum. Notre Dame is well worth the visit.
Exploring the small shops
As our day trip to Paris was coming to an end, Linaka and I decided to explore some of the streets and shops around Notre Dame cathedral. Linaka was looking for a specific manga shop she had read about on the Internet. Not far from the cathedral there is a street with several shops specializing in comic books, games and models. Time was running out so we did not have much time to explore much, but we managed to go into a Chinese shop which sold martial arts uniforms and equipment.
The shop owner only spoke French and I was able to manage enough of a conversation to buy a kung fu uniform and a Tai Chi fan. It felt like I got a bargain for €20. I would have loved to have purchased a double edge Chinese sword, but it was beyond our budget and I probably would not have been able to get it back to England.
We took the Metro back to the train station, Le Gare du Nord, where we decided to have one last meal before boarding out train. Across from the train station was a fast food place called Quality Burger Restaurant. It was actually a McDonald’s type restaurant with very cheap food. Ordering was similar to what we saw in Japan. You walk up to an ordering machine, pick your food and pay for it. Then you take your receipt to the cashier and he gives you your food when it’s ready. For a restaurant called Quality Burger, the burgers were very cheap and plain, but at least we weren’t hungry afterwards.
We took the train back to London; however, before boarding the train we went through security and passport control. It was similar to airport security and passport control. It was a slow process and the border agents seemed moody but once passed them, the trip back home was pretty smooth. After a long day trip to Paris, getting home late at night we were knocked out and sleeping. For a quick trip across the pond it was nice. Now that we have seen Paris in more detail, we probably won’t be going back any time soon. If you have experiences you would like to share about your trip to Paris feel free to comment below.
Ever since I started visiting London, I promised myself that I would visit the Tower of London. However, it wasn’t until this year (2014) that I finally decided to visit the Tower to see the Poppies display. What made it special was the fact that 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. I felt it was a moment in history that I had to be a part of.
The Tower of London Poppies
The Tower of London is one of the most visited tourist attractions in England and has seen a long history since it was first built in 1078 A. D. It is most famous for being used as a prison; however, it started out as a grand palace in it’s early history. Although it is called the Tower of London, it is actually a castle. Surrounding the castle is a moat which took center stage this year when artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper designed the ceramic poppies exhibition filling the moat. Titled, “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red“, the Tower of London Poppies were designed to represent every British soldier who fell in the First World War. Essentially, it was a temporary memorial in remembrance of the 888,246 soldiers who died in that Great Conflict long ago.
It would have been nice if the exhibit was permanent; however, it was only displayed during the month of November. When the artist was interviewed he stated that his intention from the very beginning was to make it a temporary exhibit. The long term goal was to sell the poppies to the public and raise money for charity. The remaining poppies would go on tour around the country. The last of the poppies will find a home in the Imperial War Museum in London and a couple other museums around the country.
Attempts at Stealing the Poppies
Apparently, there were several attempts by would be thieves to steal some of the poppies. According to local newspapers thieves tried to steal poppies from the vans they were being loaded onto. Luckily none of the poppies were stolen and the ones that were purchased have found their homes.
Interestingly, the sale of fake poppies as well as real ones were uploaded to Ebay and Gumtree. Ebay took action and banned the sale of poppies, while on Gumtree poppies were reportedly being sold for over £450. It is unfortunate to see such practices but there were a limited number of these flowers made and demand for them is beyond counting. I would not be surprised if more counterfeit poppies get created in the future.
The Tower of London Attraction
I have been wanting to go to the Tower of London for years and when I finally got there, it was the best time to go. However, the overall experience is memorable. Not only do you get to see this old building, but you also get to stand by the River Thames, see Tower Bridge in the distance, across the river you also get to see battle ships and other tourist areas. The sea of tourist which flood the area might be a small draw back, but it doesn’t take away from the experience.
Many tourist will want to see the poppies but unfortunately there were only on display for one month. Still, the Tower of London and the surrounding area are still unforgettable. The tourist booths, the food and the souvenir shops will keep any content and glad to be there. If you have been there, seen the poppies or just the Tower itself and want to share your experience, feel free to comment below.
We had a fun time exploring Akihabara in the morning, but now it was time to visit Harajuku. I had heard so much about this area and I never dreamed of visiting it, but today was another fun day of sightseeing.
Harajuku a place for fashion and food
I had seen music videos and programs on television about Harajuku but this was the first time I was there. When Linaka and I arrived at the train station we had no idea what to expect. We did know that the area was famous for fashion, but we weren’t sure where to begin.
So we looked at the local map, couldn’t read it but assumed that the main areas to visit were down the main street from the metro station. We then followed most of the crowds to see where they led us to. Our initial experience was seeing the major brands and department stores. I was searching for the backstreets that sold clothing and I’m sure Linaka was looking for the same. Our first thought was to go into a large department store. Linaka’s thoughts were, “since we are here, might as well see what the stores look like”.
It was interesting to see, but after we explored the department store, we found our way to Takeshita Dori. This is what we were originally looking for, the main backstreets with small stores selling all sorts of fashion. Apparently, this is where many of Japan’s fashion trends come from. In addition to the clothing shops there were many food places selling unique foods. Something else we learned was that Takeshita Dori’s shops are targeted to a teen audience while the main streets in Harajuku are targeted to a more adult audience.
Visiting Harajuku was a quick and final visit on our last day in Japan. Unfortunately, we missed the big dress up day. Seems that each Sunday teenagers meet up and dress up in unique outfits. The first week we were in Tokyo we missed this and this time around, we also missed it. But it was still fun to visit Harajuku and see what it was all about. Besides fashion and food there are other things to see, such as temples. For anyone that likes fashion then Harajuku is a must stop place on any Tokyo trip. Tomorrow we leave Japan and return to merry old England. It has been a great trip, a great adventure and a destination we will probably return to again in the future.