Natural History Museum London outside

One of my favourite things about London is how it’s basically a large collection of villages that have all grown together to become a big city. Taken as a city, it can seem overwhelming, but once you start to treat each area as it’s own place to visit, you’ll find it a lot more manageable.

Top 8 Things to Do In Kensington

Natural History Museum London outside

One of my favourite things about London is how it’s basically a large collection of villages that have all grown together to become a big city. Taken as a city, it can seem overwhelming, but once you start to treat each area as it’s own place to visit, you’ll find it a lot more manageable.

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sunrise over the pier Florida Keys

It’s time for the 19th edition of my series which features some of the most popular photos shared on my Facebook Page over the last couple of months. I’m starting today’s post off with the above, a shot of a gorgeous sunrise over the Florida Keys, which was totally worth getting out of bed for!

If you’ve missed any of this previous versions, check them out here. Now, let’s get on with 16 more spectacular photos from around the world!

17 Spectacular Photos From Around the World: XIX

sunrise over the pier Florida Keys

It’s time for the 19th edition of my series which features some of the most popular photos shared on my Facebook Page over the last couple of months. I’m starting today’s post off with the above, a shot of a gorgeous sunrise over the Florida Keys, which was totally worth getting out of bed for!

If you’ve missed any of this previous versions, check them out here. Now, let’s get on with 16 more spectacular photos from around the world!

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Phone box australian outback 2

This branded content is written by me and sponsored by HoldNoMore.org.

One of the more vexing things about travelling is when something happens that requires me to make a phone call. Ok, so being caught up in a mafia gunfight would also probably be a bit of a bother, but we’ll stick with the phone call for this post.

Usually, this happens because a bank transaction has been turned down by a helpfully protective automated security system, which thinks my desire to buy a beer thousands of miles from the last place I bought a beer is A Bad Thing. Bless it’s little robot socks.

After I’ve scrabbled around for local change (or found a friend with pockets full of local currency), had said beer, and pondered as to the inevitable robot uprising, I then at some point have to Make A Phone Call to unlock future beer purchases.

Obviously as I’m overseas, this is usually achieved via the magic of Skype, or Google Hangouts, or whichever internet technology offers me the cheapest calling experience from wherever I am.

The process requires me to first synchronise my time with the customer service hours of whomever I’m calling. Hint: always pick services with 24 hour customer services to avoid being that person on hold at 3am.

I then have to track down the international phone number for the outfit I’m calling. Sometimes this is helpfully printed on the bank card. Other times it’s hidden very far away in the depths of a customer service website.

Finally, I get to place my call across the gulf of thousands of miles through globe spanning wires, at which point I am greeted by an excited robot voice, thanking me for my custom.

Then I’m put on hold.

If I’m lucky (I use the word loosely), there will be some decent hold music that will tinnily warble away at me as the minutes pass on by. If I’m unlucky, I’ll get to listen to something that sounds like someone found a MIDI sequencer from 1984, and has looped four bars of it for eternity, interspersed with messages telling me that “Your custom is important to us”.

This will go on for some time.

After all this, I will finally get through to an actual person. Who will invariably be barely able to understand me due to the poor quality of my internet connection, and likely hang up. If I’m more lucky, they’ll be able to understand me, but then we’ll get disconnected anyway.

If I’m really really lucky, I’ll be able to actually talk to them and resolve the problem.

That usually happens on around the fourth try, by which point I’m thinking that our ancestors decision to give up pebbles as a form of payment and telegrams as a means of communication was A Bad Idea.

Anyway, it turns out that my frustration with being on hold is not something I am alone in! Let’s have a look at some fascinating facts.

  • 53% of Americans say they spend 10 to 20 Minutes on hold every week, which adds up to
    13 hours annually
  • 86% of consumers report being put on hold every time they call a business
  • American consumers have wasted over 60 million precious hours waiting on hold
  • 270 billion customer service calls are handled annually, with roughly 50 percent unresolved

You may be wondering, well, this is all jolly sad and annoying, but what can *I*, a mere person at the mercy of the call centre system, actually *do* about it?

53d6d1ba-20fb-11e5-b40f-22000af93a2dWell, I have good news! The time has come to make your voice heard! Enter the #HoldNoMore campaign, with the goal of stamping out having to hold at all, and move us instead towards a non-voice based messaging system utopia. All of the text, none of the music!

A wondrous vision!

Imagine being able to drink *all* the beer, and then converse happily via text with someone who will respond to you at some point and not judge your slurring OR hang up on you because your internet connection / beer intake renders you indecipherable!

I know, it’s a world changing vision.

All you have to do to make this utopian vision a reality is head on over to the HoldNoMore campaign website, and vote for whichever company raises your ire the most with their hold tactics.

Then a giant truck covered in speakers will rock up and play said companies hold music right at them! This seems entirely fair as a starting point – an opening salvo in the war on hold music. Presumably, after listening to said hold music for a period of time, the message might be received that an alternative solution, not involving holding at all, could be found.

Since those nice people at AT&T were so good as to invent the concept of being on hold, it seemed only fair for them to take the brunt of the first #HoldNoMore speaker truck excursion, happily rendered for your viewing pleasure in the video below.

After initial voting on which brand should "face the music" , the hold no more group took action and blasted their LA building

If you want to get even more involved, you can do so by taking to social media, and posting a picture of yourself on hold. With your “hold face”. Hashtag, you guessed it: #holdface. Go get em… and share your best in the comments below! Until the next time… please wait… your attention is important to us.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of HoldNoMore.org. The opinions and text are all mine.

Tired of waiting on hold? Join the revolution! #HoldNoMore

Phone box australian outback 2

This branded content is written by me and sponsored by HoldNoMore.org.

One of the more vexing things about travelling is when something happens that requires me to make a phone call. Ok, so being caught up in a mafia gunfight would also probably be a bit of a bother, but we’ll stick with the phone call for this post.

Usually, this happens because a bank transaction has been turned down by a helpfully protective automated security system, which thinks my desire to buy a beer thousands of miles from the last place I bought a beer is A Bad Thing. Bless it’s little robot socks.

After I’ve scrabbled around for local change (or found a friend with pockets full of local currency), had said beer, and pondered as to the inevitable robot uprising, I then at some point have to Make A Phone Call to unlock future beer purchases.

Obviously as I’m overseas, this is usually achieved via the magic of Skype, or Google Hangouts, or whichever internet technology offers me the cheapest calling experience from wherever I am.

The process requires me to first synchronise my time with the customer service hours of whomever I’m calling. Hint: always pick services with 24 hour customer services to avoid being that person on hold at 3am.

I then have to track down the international phone number for the outfit I’m calling. Sometimes this is helpfully printed on the bank card. Other times it’s hidden very far away in the depths of a customer service website.

Finally, I get to place my call across the gulf of thousands of miles through globe spanning wires, at which point I am greeted by an excited robot voice, thanking me for my custom.

Then I’m put on hold.

If I’m lucky (I use the word loosely), there will be some decent hold music that will tinnily warble away at me as the minutes pass on by. If I’m unlucky, I’ll get to listen to something that sounds like someone found a MIDI sequencer from 1984, and has looped four bars of it for eternity, interspersed with messages telling me that “Your custom is important to us”.

This will go on for some time.

After all this, I will finally get through to an actual person. Who will invariably be barely able to understand me due to the poor quality of my internet connection, and likely hang up. If I’m more lucky, they’ll be able to understand me, but then we’ll get disconnected anyway.

If I’m really really lucky, I’ll be able to actually talk to them and resolve the problem.

That usually happens on around the fourth try, by which point I’m thinking that our ancestors decision to give up pebbles as a form of payment and telegrams as a means of communication was A Bad Idea.

Anyway, it turns out that my frustration with being on hold is not something I am alone in! Let’s have a look at some fascinating facts.

  • 53% of Americans say they spend 10 to 20 Minutes on hold every week, which adds up to
    13 hours annually
  • 86% of consumers report being put on hold every time they call a business
  • American consumers have wasted over 60 million precious hours waiting on hold
  • 270 billion customer service calls are handled annually, with roughly 50 percent unresolved

You may be wondering, well, this is all jolly sad and annoying, but what can *I*, a mere person at the mercy of the call centre system, actually *do* about it?

53d6d1ba-20fb-11e5-b40f-22000af93a2dWell, I have good news! The time has come to make your voice heard! Enter the #HoldNoMore campaign, with the goal of stamping out having to hold at all, and move us instead towards a non-voice based messaging system utopia. All of the text, none of the music!

A wondrous vision!

Imagine being able to drink *all* the beer, and then converse happily via text with someone who will respond to you at some point and not judge your slurring OR hang up on you because your internet connection / beer intake renders you indecipherable!

I know, it’s a world changing vision.

All you have to do to make this utopian vision a reality is head on over to the HoldNoMore campaign website, and vote for whichever company raises your ire the most with their hold tactics.

Then a giant truck covered in speakers will rock up and play said companies hold music right at them! This seems entirely fair as a starting point – an opening salvo in the war on hold music. Presumably, after listening to said hold music for a period of time, the message might be received that an alternative solution, not involving holding at all, could be found.

Since those nice people at AT&T were so good as to invent the concept of being on hold, it seemed only fair for them to take the brunt of the first #HoldNoMore speaker truck excursion, happily rendered for your viewing pleasure in the video below.

After initial voting on which brand should "face the music" , the hold no more group took action and blasted their LA building

If you want to get even more involved, you can do so by taking to social media, and posting a picture of yourself on hold. With your “hold face”. Hashtag, you guessed it: #holdface. Go get em… and share your best in the comments below! Until the next time… please wait… your attention is important to us.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of HoldNoMore.org. The opinions and text are all mine.

Read More

Stonehenge clouds

There’s nothing quite like a good bit of British weather. The sort that gets right in your face, blows you off your feet, stings your eyes with fat drops of water, and makes a mockery of your umbrella.

This was the weather that found us at Stonehenge on a recent day trip from London - a bitingly cold squally wind combined with freezing raindrops. The sort of thing that would usually have you hiding in a pub and warming yourself by a nice, reliably crackling fire.

It didn’t dampen the mood of our guide though. No, Phil, representing City Wonders Tours, barely batted an eyelid as the wind threw his raincoat around his body in unholy shapes. He just kept on telling us, with barely controlled excitement, all about the history and discoveries of one of Britain’s most fascinating ancient monuments, as we attempted to remain anchored to the Earth.

Stonehenge, Bath and the Cotswolds–A Day Trip From London

Stonehenge clouds

There’s nothing quite like a good bit of British weather. The sort that gets right in your face, blows you off your feet, stings your eyes with fat drops of water, and makes a mockery of your umbrella.

This was the weather that found us at Stonehenge on a recent day trip from London - a bitingly cold squally wind combined with freezing raindrops. The sort of thing that would usually have you hiding in a pub and warming yourself by a nice, reliably crackling fire.

It didn’t dampen the mood of our guide though. No, Phil, representing City Wonders Tours, barely batted an eyelid as the wind threw his raincoat around his body in unholy shapes. He just kept on telling us, with barely controlled excitement, all about the history and discoveries of one of Britain’s most fascinating ancient monuments, as we attempted to remain anchored to the Earth.

Read More

Sigiriya from a distance Sri Lanka

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Sri Lanka twice, once for just a few short days, and then again for around a month where I had more time to explore. I was asked recently how I would recommend spending two weeks in this gorgeous country, and thought a nice long itinerary post would be the perfect answer.

Two Weeks in Sri Lanka – Suggested Itinerary plus Travel Planning Tips

Sigiriya from a distance Sri Lanka

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Sri Lanka twice, once for just a few short days, and then again for around a month where I had more time to explore. I was asked recently how I would recommend spending two weeks in this gorgeous country, and thought a nice long itinerary post would be the perfect answer.

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Sunset on the Cambrian coast California 6

We recently accepted an invitation from Visit Cambria to come and take a look at what their region has to offer, all part of my ongoing efforts to see as much as of California as possible during my time here (see more of my California exploration here).

It turns out Cambria has plenty of things to do, from exploring rambling hilltop castles, to spying on Elephant Seals, to walking on sparkly, moonstone-filled beaches. And that’s before I even mention the food and wine! Of which there might have been some. You’ll have to read on to find out.

Things To Do In Cambria: Beaches, Castles and Dining

Sunset on the Cambrian coast California 6

We recently accepted an invitation from Visit Cambria to come and take a look at what their region has to offer, all part of my ongoing efforts to see as much as of California as possible during my time here (see more of my California exploration here).

It turns out Cambria has plenty of things to do, from exploring rambling hilltop castles, to spying on Elephant Seals, to walking on sparkly, moonstone-filled beaches. And that’s before I even mention the food and wine! Of which there might have been some. You’ll have to read on to find out.

Read More
Yosemite view of El Capitan
The nice people over at Vanguard Photo have recently asked me to take some of their new travel photography gear on the road, find some nice things to take pictures of with it, and share it.
Given that travelling around and taking pictures of nice things is pretty much My Favourite Thing, obviously this was a no-brainer.
Another no-brainer was the first place I went to start this process off – Yosemite National Park in California.

My favourite photography spots in Yosemite

Yosemite view of El Capitan
The nice people over at Vanguard Photo have recently asked me to take some of their new travel photography gear on the road, find some nice things to take pictures of with it, and share it.
Given that travelling around and taking pictures of nice things is pretty much My Favourite Thing, obviously this was a no-brainer.
Another no-brainer was the first place I went to start this process off – Yosemite National Park in California.
Read More

Tower bridge and river Thames london uk

Normally, having my luggage mislaid in transit is not a disaster. In London in particular, the lost baggage delivery system is somewhat efficient (presumably through lots of practice), and in our case, after going through the requisite paperwork after our luggage failed to appear on the carousel, our bags were promised to be delivered the following afternoon.

In this particular instance, the lost baggage was a little more critical. Not only because I was just wearing a t-shirt and it was both unseasonably cold and pouring with rain, but also because I had a visa appointment at 9am the following morning, and all the supporting paperwork I required for that was in my luggage.

Review: Staying in London with FindAFlat

Tower bridge and river Thames london uk

Normally, having my luggage mislaid in transit is not a disaster. In London in particular, the lost baggage delivery system is somewhat efficient (presumably through lots of practice), and in our case, after going through the requisite paperwork after our luggage failed to appear on the carousel, our bags were promised to be delivered the following afternoon.

In this particular instance, the lost baggage was a little more critical. Not only because I was just wearing a t-shirt and it was both unseasonably cold and pouring with rain, but also because I had a visa appointment at 9am the following morning, and all the supporting paperwork I required for that was in my luggage.

Read More

Middle Falls McCloud Shasta Cascade from above

Up in the northeastern part of California, around a 3.5 hour drive from San Francisco, is the Shasta Cascade region. This part of California is excellent for lovers of the outdoors and landscape photographers like me, offering mountains, lakes, potentially live volcanoes and of course, hiking and photo opportunities galore.

Shasta Cascade and Redding: California’s Great Outdoors

Middle Falls McCloud Shasta Cascade from above

Up in the northeastern part of California, around a 3.5 hour drive from San Francisco, is the Shasta Cascade region. This part of California is excellent for lovers of the outdoors and landscape photographers like me, offering mountains, lakes, potentially live volcanoes and of course, hiking and photo opportunities galore.

Read More

Westminster abbey shot with LG G4

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of LG. The opinions and text are all mine.

Ah, smartphones. I remember my first one, almost a decade ago (!) -  a venerable device with an actual keyboard, with which I could access the internet using a technology called WAP. At least, I think that’s what it was, my memory is a little hazy.

Unfortunately, back then, no-one had really twigged as to the potential that this technology could hold, so other than finding out train times it wasn’t all that useful.

Reviewing the LG G4 Phone– Plus how to win one yourself!

Westminster abbey shot with LG G4

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of LG. The opinions and text are all mine.

Ah, smartphones. I remember my first one, almost a decade ago (!) -  a venerable device with an actual keyboard, with which I could access the internet using a technology called WAP. At least, I think that’s what it was, my memory is a little hazy.

Unfortunately, back then, no-one had really twigged as to the potential that this technology could hold, so other than finding out train times it wasn’t all that useful.

Read More