Thursday, July 5, 2018

Death by Selfie: is social media worth it?

Shannon Falls, British Columbia
The tragic death of three young people at Shannon Falls, near Vancouver, BC, Canada, while out for a day fun with friends, has saddened many.

The group of friends were hiking near the falls, when one, a young woman, fell in. Two young men, one her boyfriend, fell or jumped in while attempting to rescue her. All three died.

News of the positive yet daring adventures of one of the deceased - a vlogger* - made me think of this death-by-selfie piece I wrote a few years ago. For me, the connection is the drive to share life experiences in social media. I'm not suggesting the friends were doing anything foolish when the accident happened; it just seems timely to share.

*Vlogging is a form of blogging based on videos (the vlog category is popular on YouTube).


- by Roberta Westwood

Think that selfie is fun? Harmless?

Aside of the downsides of "missing" the experience of where you are, because you're so busy capturing your selfie, you may be surprised to to learn that taking selfies is actually dangerous.

What starts as playful fun can cross the line when selfies become an obsession, in which you become less aware of your surroundings and take ever-increasing risks.

Especially for men. The truth is that while women take more selfies than men, 75% of selfie death victims are MEN.

Selfie deaths?!? Really? You bet.

Selfie-takers have been killed by:
  • Falling off cliffs while taking selfies (many)
  • Falling over viewpoint barriers
  • Falling over a cliff when leaning on a gate that gave way
  • Sitting on boulders forming a safety barrier over a gorge, which gave way
  • Falling into a volcano crater
  • Falling down stairs
  • Falling down stairs while taking a selfie at the Taj Majal
  • Falling off bridges (many)
  • Falling off dams (several)
  • Falling into a pond
  • Falling into a spring
  • Falling in irrigation canals
  • Falling into water reservoirs
  • Falling into a quarry filled with rainwater
  • Falling into a well, while leaning over it to take a selfie showing the depth
  • Taking selfies in a melt hole (cave) at the front edge of a receding glacier, when the roof gave way
  • Taking selfies with waterfalls (several)
  • Standing in rivers while taking selfies
  • Waves, when standing on the beach (several)
  • Waves, while standing in the surf, in a storm, taking selfies
  • Taking selfies with trains (several)
  • Falling off moving trains while taking selfies
  • Climbing on top of moving trains
  • Climbing on top of stationary trains mistakenly believed not in service (many by electrocution)
  • Crashing cars while taking selfies or uploading selfies while driving
  • Being hit by cars
  • Being hit by a car while taking selfies with airplanes
  • Standing in a boat to take selfies (drownings)
  • Climbing on a fountain to take selfies
  • Climbing onto a glass dome to take selfies, and falling through
  • Climbing on girders in a construction site to take selfies
  • Preparing to take a selfie by hanging from a rope from a high-rise
  • Leaping to take a "flying selfie" (at Machu Picchu)
  • Falling into a geyser while taking a selfie
  • Posing with guns (many!)
  • Posing with grenades
  • Posing with a rattlesnake
  • Posing with tigers at the zoo (several)
  • Taking selfies with a walrus at the zoo
  • Posing with a bison in a national park (gored)
  • Posing with an elephant near their tent on a safari
  • Getting out of a vehicle to take selfies with a herd of elephants blocking a road

Places where selfies have banned, due to deaths:
  • In Pamplona, Spain, during the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona
  • At New York State zoos (tigers)
  • Anywhere in Mumbai (India has very high selfie deaths)
  • In Japan, selfies and selfie-sticks on train station platforms are banned

Places where selfie bans have been proposed, due to high selfie deaths:
  • In Paris, at the Eiffel Tower
  • In Rome, at Trevi Fountain
  • In Rome, on the Spanish Steps

Do you believe me now?

Even if you are not killed, just imagine the extent of serious injuries any of the above could cause.

Seriously, have fun out there, but don't let it cost you your life (or limbs!)

Related resources
List of selfie-related injuries and deaths - Wikipedia
40% Selfie Deaths from India, Selfie Obsession kills over 60 people Worldwide - Phone Radar
Mumbai sets no-selfie zones as deaths linked to selfies rise - Associated Press
No Selfies Allowed: Social Media Bans at Landmarks - Conde Nast Traveler
Selfie deaths: six people who died while taking a selfie - The Week
In Goa, red flags go up on beaches after tourist deaths: Selfies can be dangerous - The Indian Express
Selfies can be deadly - and India leads the way - Economic Times
Two young women struck by lightning while taking selfies - Economic Times
Death by Selfie - Martin Parr

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Campiglia Marittim (near Livorno)

If you are fortunate enough to return to Livorno, Italy on a cruise port call, and have already visited Florence, the surrounding countryside, and Livorno itself, you may find a daytrip to a nearby historical town is a relaxing alternative. Here is a little town I discovered when a client asked me this exact question.

Piazza della Repubblica
Campiglia Marittima is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Livorno in the Italian region Tuscany, located about 90 kilometres (56 mi) southwest of Florence and about 60 kilometres (37 mi) southeast of Livorno.

Situated in a hill overlooking the sea and the surrounding countryside, the town has medieval origins but traces of Etruscan and Roman civilizations can be found as well.

Apritiborgo Festival scene
Creative Commons image, tanran2 on Flickr
If you visit in August, you may be in for a treat. This is when the town hosts Apritiborgo Festival, a street art festival that has been held annually since 2005. It usually takes place in mid-August, from around the 11th to 15th (be sure to check the actual dates for the year you visit).

Campiglia Marittima's past is linked to metal-working activities, This is evidenced by the Val Fucinaia furnaces and the remains of mining and metallurgical works in the Archaeological-Mineral Park of San Silvestro.
Rocca de San Silvestro
Archaeological-Mineral Park of San Silvestro

All other images: Wiki Commons

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Picture perfect Bering Sea

What an incredible itinerary!

Image copyright Corey Arnold (aka coreyfishes)
The real reason I have chosen to highlight this particular voyage, however, is for the photographer onboard for the September 4, 2019 sailing: Corey Arnold (aka Corey Fishes). Corey is a fisherman who honed his photography skills while fishing the Bering Sea. I recently discovered is work, and it is truly stunning. While he continues to fish, Corey has won numerous international awards and occasionally does a special gig, like this one.

Bering Sea Wilderness: Pribilofs, Katmai and Kodiak

13-night National Geographic Expedition Cruise
Sailing roundtrip from Anchorage on the National Geographic Orion

Expedition Team - Special Guests

July 9-21, 2019 - with photographer Ralph Lee Hopkins
September 4-16, 2019 - with photographer Corey Arnold

Image copyright Corey Arnold
Embark the National Geographic Orion and explore the unique cultural heritage of the Bering Sea, where Russian, American, and Aleut influences intermingle on wild and remote isles. Sail the legendary Bering Strait en route to Provideniya, and glimpse traditions of the indigenous Yupik in this “Gateway to the Arctic.” Delve into the region’s fascinating World War II history in Unalaska, visit the incredible wildlife sanctuaries of Alaska’s Pribilof Islands, and spy brown bears on the Alaska Peninsula.

Trip Highlights
  • Sail the legendary Bering Sea aboard the National Geographic Orion, and disembark on remote islands to discover tiny Aleut communities
  • By special permission, get up close to the millions of seabirds and fur seals that inhabit Alaska’s Pribilof Islands—sometimes called the Galápagos of the North
  • Step foot in Russia’s seldom-seen Far East, and glimpse the local indigenous culture during a traditional Yupik dance performance
  • Go on a Zodiac cruise in coastal Katmai National Park, and capture close-ups of resident brown bears fishing and digging for clams

About the ship

The state-of-the-art National Geographic Orion serves as our luxurious base camp for voyages to the far-flung corners of the planet. A fully stabilized, ice-class vessel, the Orion is at home navigating polar ice as well as small harbors in Europe. The ship accommodates 102 guests in 53 cabins, and is equipped with kayaks and Zodiac landing craft, diving and snorkeling gear, and sophisticated video equipment that allows access to the underwater world.

Please contact me for your chance to be part of this amazing adventure!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Port Frejus, France

A largely European invention, 3-4 week 'long stays' escapes in France, Greece, Malta, Portugal and Spain, are popular with budget-minded travellers. It was as I was searching long stays apartments in the French Riviera for a client that I stumbled across Fort Frejus. Its seaside location and Roman ruins caught my eye, and I was called to learn more.

Fréjus (Occitan: Frejús, French pronunciation: ​[fʁe.ʒys]) is a commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France. It neighbours Saint-Raphaël, effectively forming one town.

The many ruins around Frejus make one curious about how toe town came to be.

The origins of Frejus probably lie with the Celto-Ligurian people who settled around the natural harbour of Aegytna. The remains of a defensive wall are still visible on Mont Auriasque and Cap Capelin.

The Phocaeans of Marseille later established an outpost on the site.

Julius Caesar founded the city as 'Forum Julii' meaning 'market of Julius'; around 49 BC. he also named its port 'Claustra Maris' (the sea barrier).

This was once one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean; its port was the only naval base for the Roman fleet of Gaul and only the second port after Ostia until at least the time of Nero.

The richest architectural era is undoubtedly that of the Roman city with many buildings making it the richest concentration in France after Arles. The most notable are the amphitheatre and aqueduct. Ruins of a lighthouse and baths are also still visible.

Life here takes place amongst the Roman and Gothic architecture with the 'old tile' roof tops and tinted walls. Everything blends in happily with the recently developed port and its neo palladian design and carefully selected Provençal colours .

Port Fréjus, which has a capacity of 750 moorings, is surrounded by beautiful fine sandy beaches. As a backdrop there is the massif de l'Esterel, the (Esterel hills) and its 'Nature' base situated on the sea edge, as well as protecting the area and its environment.

A highlight of the year is the 'Bravade', a feast day celebrated on the third weekend after Easter, in honour of Saint Francis de Paul. In the town of Frejus, located to the south west of Cannes the festivities last for three days and includes parades accompanied by flutes and drums, with locals dressed in traditional costumes. There are musical performances from the young people of the town, concerts of classical music, blessings and traditional services in the cathedral and churches of the area and of course the feast itself.

Fréjus organises several other fairs throughout the year, including a pottery fair.

Many sporting events are held here, including the annual 'Roc Azur' mountain bike event.

The Gare de Fréjus railway station offers connections to Toulon, Nice and several regional destinations. Long distance destinations are accessible from the nearby Gare de Saint-Raphaël-Valescure. The A8 motorway connects Fréjus with Aix-en-Provence and Nice.

Read about the Port Frejus long stay on pages 9-10 of this flyer.

If you would like to explore a long stay here or elsewhere, please contact me.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Planning a travel surprise

I stumbled across this blog post on Smart Women Travelers today, and thought it might come in handy for someone plotting a surprise...

Creative Commons image Ted McGrath (time-to-look on Flickr)
"Most people like surprises. Well, the good kind anyway. Longtime readers may remember when I planned a surprise trip with my husband a couple years ago. He had no idea where we were going except for the daily clues. Each day in December, I posted another clue to where we were traveling. It was fun to plan, fun to read all the comments where we were going, and so much fun to give away the prizes at the end.

So what’s involved if you want to plan a surprise trip for someone? It all begins with a destination. This might be something specific like Disney World, a cruise, a trip to the beach, or a larger geographical area like southern California. The next important ingredient is..." [read more on Smart Women Travelers].

Planning a Surprise Trip for Someone – What You Need to Know - Smart Women Travelers
How to Plan a Surprise Trip - Headed Anywhere
How to Plan the Ultimate Surprise Trip - Trip Advisor
Surprising My Dad with His Dream Vacation to Alaska - Princess Cruises Blog
How to Surprise Your Family with the Gift of a Disney Cruise - Disney Blog
Surprising the Kids with a Carnival Vista 5-Night Sailing with the Family - Smarty Pants Mama
Planning a surprise trip? Give her eight days' notice - Telegraph

Feel free to contact me if I can help you plan a surprise trip for a loved one!

Sponsored content (mine!)
Cruises - my cruise website

Saturday, April 28, 2018

South Pacific - without the flights

Here's my latest pick for an incredible itinerary.

How would you like to sail the South Pacific for 51 nights, yet only need to roundtrip flights to San Diego?

October 28, 2019: 51-night South Pacific cruise sailing roundtrip from San Diego on Holland America's ms Amsterdam

Can you identify this Coat of Arms from
one of the nations you will visit?
Itinerary: San Diego, California - At Sea - At Sea - At Sea - At Sea - At Sea - Honolulu, Hawaii - Lahaina, Hawaii - Nawiliwili, Hawaii - Hilo, Hawaii - Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii - Kailua Kona, Hawaii - At Sea - International Dateline - At Sea - The Equator - Fanning Island, Kiribati - International Dateline - At Sea - At Sea - At Sea - Pago Pago, American Samoa - International Dateline - Apia, Samoa - At Sea - Savusavu, Fiji - Suva, Fiji - Dravuni Island - Lautoka, Fiji - At Sea - Luganville, Vanuatu - Port Vila, Vanuatu - Mystery Island, Vanuatu - At Sea - At Sea - Nuku`alofa, Tonga - Vava'u, Tonga - International Dateline - At Sea - Alofi, New Zealand - At Sea - Rarotonga, Cook Islands - At Sea - Bora Bora, French Polynesia - Raiatea, French Polynesia - Papeete, French Polynesia - Papeete, French Polynesia - Moorea, French Polynesia - Rangiroa, French Polynesia - Fakarava, French Polynesia - At Sea - Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia - At Sea - The Equator - At Sea - At Sea - At Sea - At Sea - At Sea - San Diego, California

Pretty nice, eh? I thought so too.

If you're interested, please get in touch. We have group space on this sailing with very attractibe fares.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Parikkala Sculpture Park

Creative Commons image mikeancient on Flickr 
Just 3 hours east of Helsinki, tucked next to the Russian border, lies the town of Parikkala.

Creative Commons image
1030333033@N08 on Flickr 
While relatively isolated, the tiny town receives more than its share of visitors, drawn to incredible sculptures created by Veijo Rönkkönen.

Officially known as the Parikkala Sculpture Park, the Veijo Rönkkönen Sculpture Garden is one of Finland's most important examples of contemporary folk art.

"Rönkkönen is more than an installation or a sculpture park; it’s a community, and although some of the artwork is disturbing, the forest is unquestionably quite magical, an amalgamation of many different worlds coming together all in one place." (The Culture Trip)

Creative Commons image 1030333033@N08 on Flickr 
What causes the sometimes 'creepy' reaction is the facial expressions of the concrete statues. Some even have human teeth. The uniqueness of each statue is also what makes the whole collection so special.

"Veijo Rönkkönen was only 16 years old when he started working on his park. Veijo had recently got a job as a press worker in a paper mill in his hometown Parikkala, a job he held for 41 years. With his first pay check, he purchased ten apple tree seedlings and a bag of concrete to create a garden around his family home. For the next fifty years, until his death in 2010, he dedicated all his spare time and money planting flowers and trees and creating hundreds of caricature-like sculptures, mostly of full scale human figures." (Amusing Planet)

Creative Commons image
1030333033@N08 on Flickr 
A recluse who enjoyed his own company and practiced yoga, Veijo continued to live in the family home, adding to his works.

"Veijo Rönkkönen's yard, and the path leading to it, are filled with over 450 statues, 200 of which are self portraits of the artist in Yoga positions he has mastered. The statues have loudspeakers hidden inside them, and the sound effects add to the eeriness of this place." (Oddity Central)

Creative Commons image 1030333033@N08 on Flickr 
While Rönkkönen was happy to share his sculptures, leaving his park open to the public, he never wanted to meet his admirers. Instead, visitors left impressions and notes to him in a guestbook.

Veijo Rönkkönen was recognized with the Finlandia prize in 2007, but sent his brother to collect the prize on his behalf.

Following his death in 2010, Rönkkönen's family sold the site, hoping it would be preserved. The ITE Association is partnering with the new owner, an art lover named Reino Uusitalo, to repair the sculptures and provide guided tours.


Satisfy your curiosity with this view of the park entrance (on Google Street View).

Creative Commons image mikeancient on Flickr
If you go, why not stay a few days? There is plenty to see and do, including ample birdwatching, Ateljee-Koti Seppo Saukkonen (250 works by the artist), Honkakylä Merchant’s Museum, Museum of Horse-Drawn Vehicles & Agricultural Implements, Parikkala Dairy Museum and the Papinniemi Archaeological Site. (Visit Parikkala)

Parikkala Sculpture Park - Official Website
The strange Park of Veijo Rönkkönen - Big in Finland
Veijo Rönkkönen Sculpture Garden - Atlas Obscura
The Sculpture Park of Veijo Rönkkönen Is the Weirdest Place in Finland - Oddity Central
Veijo Rönkkönen’s Sculpture Park - Amusing Planet
Recluse Dies, Leaves Behind Hundreds of Secret Sculptures in Finland - The Culture Trip
The Parikkala Sculpture Park Reviews - Trip Advisor (rating 4.5/5)
How to get from Helsinki to Parikkala - Rome2Rio
Cottages and Vacation Rentals nearby - Go Finland
Parikkala Sights and Attractions - Visit Parikkala

Patsaspuisto 10
Creative Commons image mikeancient on Flickr