Travel

A short blog about swimming…and nakedness…in Iceland

We’ve just returned from our third trip to Iceland.  Tourism in Iceland, as everyone knows, has been booming ever since the volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010 with spectacular effect & people all over the world realised there was an unspoilt land of fire & ice that they could visit relatively easily.

volcano
Now that’s what I call an ash cloud – photo credit Martin Reitze

In 2016, American tourists exceeded the Icelandic population of 340,000 people for the first time & 2 million tourists per annum are forecast to visit by 2020.

Just about everyone is interested when you mention that you’ve visited Iceland but, as a swimmer, one of the most frequent topics I am quizzed on is – “What’s the story around using public swimming pools in Reykjavik?  I hear you have to take a naked shower in public?…” and this seems to be putting a lot of people off.

This blog is an attempt to reassure those shy and nervous swimmers.

My pool of choice in Reykjavik is Laugardalslaug.  There are a number to choose from including Vesturbaejarlaug which can be reached on foot from all the city centre hotels.  I love Laugardalslaug because it has a giant 50m outdoor pool where the water is geothermally heated – and that means you can swim outside even if it’s snowing or blowing a gale.

Laugardalslaug

The 50m pool in the foreground & children’s freeform pool behind

I swam there during a snowstorm in January 2016 and it’s been one of my enduring memories ever since – I often find myself thinking about it.  Also – if like me you’re used to swimming in a 20 or 25 metre long indoor or basement pool, it’s hard to imagine how different a 50m outdoor pool will feel.  But different it is.

The other point to mention is that as well as being comfortably and naturally warm, the water is far purer than we pool swimmers are used to and is only lightly chlorinated.  This is possible because the water is carefully and frequently monitored for bacteria but also because care is taken to make sure that everyone is properly clean before they get into the pool.

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Helpful diagram showing you where to wash!

So – don’t turn up with your costume on under your clothes because you have to strip off in the changing rooms & get showered with soap before putting your swimming costume off.  This process is supervised – not intrusively – but it’s someone’s job to watch from the background to make sure the rules are followed.

Briefly – these are the rules.  You turn up & pay your entrance fee.  We travel light so we also rent towels from the front desk. You’re given a rubber wristband that allows you through the entrance gate & also locks & unlocks the locker you select in the changing room.  There are completely separate male & female changing rooms.  Take your shoes or boots off outside the changing rooms in the corridor – there are racks or lockers to leave them on.  Inside the changing rooms, choose a locker, strip off & dump your stuff, grab your costume, head for the showers and give yourself a wash.  The showers have a rack outside for you to leave your towel or costume.  Put your costume on and run to the pool – literally if it’s snowing outside!

laugard-steamy

Steam rising from the tubs

Everyone in Iceland has been doing this since they were tiny tots so the displays of nakedness are very matter of fact.  In the changing room you will see every shape & size of (in my case) woman and every age from toddlers to elderly women.  I noticed this week that they’ve cracked under tourist pressure & put in a few private shower cubicles – so if you’re very self conscious, use one of those.  Whichever you do, I promise no-one will give you a second glance.

Back to Laugardalslaug – as well as the 50m pool there’s a huge indoor pool (25m lanes), a big outdoor freeform pool with a slide for children, a range of cold & hot tubs (a cold seawater tub at 8ºC & then a series of more traditional hot tubs at varying temperatures going from 28ºC up to either 44ºC or 46ºC) and a couple of steam rooms (one appears to be for naked people only but I didn’t dare look in there). laugardalslaug-aerial We spent well over 2 hours there last week and it was very relaxing.  We took the No 14 public bus from the harbour & it costs 440kr (about £3) per person per journey.  The entrance cost for 2 adults including towel rental was about £20.

The Blue Lagoon is worth going to once in your life just to see it if you’ve never been.  It’ll cost you about £50 per person for entry and you must book well in advance as they’ve started doing timed entries to prevent overcrowding.bl  The water really is blue.  We went January 2016.  It’s a good thing to do on your way home if you have a late flight – the bus company will break your journey to the airport so that you can visit.  It isn’t suitable for swimming and is a bit of a mish mash of loved up couples in face masks standing about having cocktails and gangs of teenagers squealing and taking group selfies.  I found it busy, overcrowded and I felt as if we’d been well & truly processed.  If you’re a foodie, a London chef friend of mine says he had one of the best meals of his life in Lava restaurant at the Blue Lagoon.

For Reykjavik I have a couple of other recommendations.  We stayed four nights in the Icelandair Marina Hotel, up on the 4th floor with a balcony overlooking the working harbour and with views across the bay.  Comfortable and quirky with a friendly and helpful team and something for everyone in the hot & cold choices on the breakfast buffet.  We had a very tasty dinner one night in a small, not fancy, family owned place in the harbour called Sjavarbarinn.  Main courses of the freshest possible fish with soup, an unlimited salad bar and a beer came to £70 for two in a town where a burger will cost you the guts of £30.

If you’re thinking about visiting Iceland in the summer you might like my blog about our summer road trip experience here.

Back to public nakedness, my worst ever experience of this was in 1986 in a hotel in Chengdu in southern China. Hot water for a shower was available in a communal bathing room from 6-7pm only.  I opened the door and was faced with 10 bathtubs crammed up against each other in a small room – each one with a shower overhead.  All but one were already occupied so there was nothing for it but to strip off & get into the shower.  The 9 other girls all silently stared straight at me for the briefest period of time that I was in there.  Now that was embarrassing.

I hope you try the pools when you’re in Iceland.  As my friend Ann Kempster remarked on Twitter last night – it’s only a very tiny spell of nakedness for a lot of reward.

Top 10 Tips for your Iceland Roadtrip

Snow covered mountains near Stykkisholmur

Snow covered mountains near Stykkisholmur

Just back from an amazing 2,000 km 5 day roadtrip around Iceland & thought I would share my top tips.  Also – if like me you’ve been meaning to go to Iceland for the past 25 years but just haven’t got round to it yet my best advice is just go.  Easyjet flies there now (even from Belfast!) so there’s no excuse.  It’s really unusual & well worth it.

Icebergs at Jokulsarlon

Icebergs at Jokulsarlon

A quick caveat – on this trip we didn’t go to Reykjavik or the Blue Lagoon & we didn’t see the Northern Lights (as it’s June, it doesn’t get dark at all).  We’re saving all that for a short winter break instead.  We flew into Keflavik airport & spent the first night at Flokalundur in the West Fjords, second night in Svalbardseyn on the fjord just north of Akureyri, third night in Skalafell near Hofn and the final night in the shadow of that troublesome volcano that no-one can pronounce the name of, Eyjafjallajokull.  Here are my tips.

1 It’s all about the outdoors.  3 of the 4 hotels we stayed in didn’t even have a tv in the room although all had decent wifi.  Everything you’re there to see is outside.  Apart from in the main cities & towns, most restaurants & bars are located in hotels that are open from June to September.  Dinner service finishes at 9pm pretty much universally.  Don’t go if you need to be entertained.

2 Don’t judge distances by the distance, judge it by the state of the roads and pay attention to your maps.

Big Country!

Big Country!

We classified our 2,000 km of roads into Levels 1 to 5 with 1 being the best (tarmac or good surface, single lane going in each direction) and 5 being roads that are under repair or construction.  The 120 mile evening round trip from our hotel in Flokalundur to the bird cliffs at Latrabjarg took us 5 hours & we completely missed dinner.  However, it was so worth it because getting to Latrabjarg & back felt like a real adventure – it’s remote even by Icelandic standards.  The birds there are so unused to humans that you can get very close to them as they have no fear.  Also – when we got back to the hotel at 10.30pm, the girls took pity on us & rustled up a few sandwiches.  There’s always a way!  Consider hiring a jeep or a 4WD if you’re heading off the beaten track.  We had a Hyundai i20 & in truth we treated it quite unfairly.

3 It’s empty.  Iceland’s population is only 330,000 people in a country slightly smaller than England, and most live in the capital.  You can easily drive for 50 miles without seeing a house and there are no hotels or shops or bars or even petrol stations outside of the villages.  Bridges over rivers are built as single lanes because traffic is so light – you just wait your turn if someone’s coming towards you.

Waterfalls like this one are too small to even both including them in the guide books

Waterfalls like this one are too small to even bother including them in the guide books

Petrol stations are all unmanned.  You prepay with a credit card & have to guess the value of the fuel you need.  If you get it wrong & pay too much – tough!  This caught us out the first time we tried it as we weren’t really sure of the exchange rate or the size of the hire car tank.  Even hotels can be people-less.  The hotel we stayed in the last night had no reception – just a lockbox with keys & a pin number to give you access to the lockbox.  The Borrowers came in overnight & laid out breakfast in the kitchen.  I found that to be a bit impersonal and am unlikely to try it again – but it was a novelty.  So – keep an eye on your fuel gauge and when the sign says no petrol station for 200km take it seriously.

4 Dress appropriately.  Daytime temperatures this week fluctuated between 3 & 12 degrees C, probably a bit colder in the snowfields north of Lake Myvatn on the way up to Krafla or up around the glaciers when the wind’s blowing.

Tiny pink flowers beside a glacier

Tiny pink flowers beside a glacier

Ok – admittedly I’m not known for being very outdoorsy but even I made some concessions – I took hiking boots (children’s department sale in Lillywhites – £11.99 – more than adequate), hiking socks, a few warm layers and a men’s pac-a-mac from Primark (£4.99).  Don’t let my parsimony stop you though.  You can spend as much as you like keeping yourself warm & dry – the other tourists were all head to toe in waterproof designer gear.

5 Prepare yourself for the expense.  We weren’t on a tight budget but we didn’t consume any alcohol when we were there & we only managed to get to a restaurant once.  The rest of the time we either weren’t near anywhere or we got there after 9pm so it was too late, and as a result we lived off picnic fodder.  The one evening meal we had out was soup to start followed by local fish & veg/potatoes accompanied by coffee/coke & it cost about £60 in a very basic restaurant – nothing fancy.

Pet lambs at a farm we stayed in - aaahhh!

Pet lambs at a farm we stayed in – aaahhh!

I think our trip all in (flights, 4 nights hotel for 2, car hire, petrol, food) will probably come in close to £1,500 with the hotels accounting for half of that.  On the upside, the national parks, waterfalls, geysers, etc are all free to visit and the hotel price always includes a decent-ish buffet breakfast.

Steam rising from the ground everywhere at Namaskard

Steam rising from the ground everywhere at Namaskard

6 Take binoculars.  Even if you aren’t a birder there are so many birds to see that you’ll want to be able to see them properly.  I regret not having an Iceland bird book or app with me as I was unable to identify half the birds we saw and am about to start trawling through retrospectively.

Puffin outside burrow at Latrabjarg

Puffin outside burrow at Latrabjarg

At this time of year the seabirds are all present (including the puffins of course) and there’s an especially diverse mix of waterbirds & ducks on the rivers and lakes.  Great for spotting Harlequin ducks surfing on the river at Laxa and Red Necked Phalaropes everywhere around Lake Myvatn.  A real treat.  There’s an odd lack of other animals.  Didn’t see a single rabbit or hare, there are hardly any cows or chickens and most livestock is sheep or ponies – the ponies in every combination of colour & hairstyle.

7 If like me you love your tea, take a travel kettle and tea bags.  Only 1 of our 4 hotels provided a kettle.

Stand back as she blows! - Geysir

Stand back as she blows! – Geysir

8 Don’t put your fingers into the boiling water rivers coming from the Geysir.  There are signs everywhere telling you the water is 80-100 deg C.  My husband still had to test that for himself however…

9 Be prepared to be amazed – you’ll see sights you’ve never seen elsewhere.  Bright blue icebergs floating in a river surrounded by seals where a glacier meets the sea (Jokulsarlon), spouting geysers, boiling bubbling mud, heat rising up out of the ground, weird man made piles of stones, waterfalls everywhere you look, cliffs made of lava that looks as though it set yesterday, a land that still seems to be forming in front of your eyes.

10 Do go out in the middle of the night – just to make sure it’s still light.  I did – and it was.

My London Life – recommendations for places to go & things to do

I find myself telling people I moved to London “the other day” but in truth it’s been over a year now since I’ve been living in central London.  I miss Ireland, I miss the countryside at home in County Tyrone & I miss being in the Learning Pool mothership in Derry at the heart of our team but I’m also really loving my new London Life.  Living here this time around I’ve found London to be jumping with things to do & I’ve found it to be a far friendlier place to live than I remember from last time – but maybe it was me who changed in the intervening 12 years.

This is adrift from my usual business related blog topics but I thought it would be fun to jot down some of what I’ve enjoyed most about the last year in London.  Might be interesting for visitors & tourists.  I know everyone will have their own favourite recommendations so please feel free to add yours in the comments below.  I’ve gone for stuff which is free or low cost & which everyone can have access to.

  1. Hang out in any of London’s independent coffee shops and bakeries.  There are hundreds of them and they’re all magic.French-BakeryStay away from the chains.  As well as some of them dodging UK tax they are also as boring as sin, usually packed and they often serve coffee that tastes rotten and is way overpriced.  Locally to me I have the French Bakery in County Hall (south side of Westminster Bridge on the Southbank) & I have the Greensmiths Food Company on Lower Marsh St – the most divine & affordable cakes are baked on site by the chef for their cafe.
  2. If you want to impress someone with a great view & a bit of history then take them for tea in the Southbank Marriott hotel.  I know this is a direct contradiction of my recommendation No 1 but I can’t help being contrary.  It’s the old GLC building and was the seat of London government from the 1920s until 1986.GLCMany of it’s original features have been retained by the new owners including the beautiful wood panelling throughout the common areas.  Don’t miss the photographs taken at the time the building was going up and don’t miss the many period cartoons of Ken Livingstone & Margaret Thatcher.  The tea rooms look out directly over the Houses of Parliament, the River & Big Ben.  My friend Tom Phillips & I called in there recently although we didn’t even buy anything – we just had a look around – no-one seemed to mind.
  3. Eating Lebanese food on the Edgware Road and shopping in some of the local grocery stores.  Magnificent & easy on the wallet.  Completely authentic & cheaper than getting on a plane.  Sights and sounds from afar & waves of aniseed from the outdoor shisha smokers as you walk along the street.
  4. Ronnie-ScottRonnie Scott’s at Sunday lunchtime for intimacy, jazz and a taste of old world glamour.  It’s exactly as I imagine clubs in New York to have been in the 1950s in my mind’s eye.  Red velvet & table lamps, waiter service even if all you want is a glass of water, prime people watching…time travel without the machine.
  5. Last minute tickets to the theatre or the ballet.  We go to see everything that we have time for.  If the show is completely sold out you can queue for returns – you get lucky about 50% of the time in my experience.  You can see shows at the National Theatre on the Southbank for as little as £12 (or even £5 if you’re prepared to stand and aren’t yet too decrepit).  Some plays are better than others of course but they’re all enjoyable.  Going to see live performance is an incredible privilege and it’s just so easy in London.
  6. Joining the curator-led tours at the National Gallery.  These are brilliant, last an hour & they are free.  I’ve been on 4 or 5 so far & have seen different paintings every time.  Having the curator explain the paintings gives you a completely different perspective & insight.
  7. Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel – live art in the making & constantly changing – and I mean constantly changing.Queen-with-teapot  Maeve McLaughlin snapped this picture of the Queen last week and it was gone the very next day – her Majesty had been replaced with a rather rubbishy robot – which again has since been replaced by something else.  Utterly amazing.  Do not miss it.  It looks a bit menacing at first glance but it’s perfectly safe and there’s a 24 hour car wash going on in the middle of all the photography shoots and biker gatherings and film-making and all the other stuff that’s going on.  About 5 minutes walk from Waterloo station.
  8. Visit Parliament for free.  You don’t have to pay.  You just show up at the visitor’s entrance, queue & go through security and next thing you know you’re in Westminster Hall surrounded by history.  Dependent on how busy it is you might even get into the Gallery to observe Parliament in action if you’re lucky and well behaved.  The Parliamentary Outreach team is working hard to make Parliament more accessible to us all so watch their website for the free events that take place from time to time.
  9. Send off for free tickets to BBC recordings.Billy-BraggThe one we got tickets for was in Maida Vale Studio to be part of the audience for a Radio 4 Mastertapes show featuring Billy Bragg.  It was utterly brilliant and so was he.  Look on the BBC website where all their open events are advertised.  All you need to do is email them & you’ll find out a few days later whether or not you’ve been allocated tickets.  Be sure you show up in time on the night as they overbook & you might not get in if you’re last to arrive and everyone else has turned up.  Great fun and completely free.
  10. Sign up for some low cost learning related events.  The two I attended & enjoyed the most in 2012 were Tedx Houses of Parliament (happening again 14 June 2013, tickets go on sale tomorrow 4 March, great lineup again this year, I thoroughly recommend this) and the Mozfest (from the Mozilla Foundation) which will be happening again in late October 2013 in London.MozillaHang out with some like minded people & learn some stuff too – what’s not to like.
  11. Take the riverboat up or down the Thames using your Oyster card.  Viewing from the River gives you a different perspective on the City and you can see stuff you wouldn’t normally see.  If you manage to get as far as the O2, go over to the ExCel conference centre by cable car – also using your Oyster card.  Great fun and not anything like as terrifying as it looks from the ground.
  12. My last one is spending summer evenings in the parks.  The Serpentine Bar & Kitchen was a particular favourite of Team Learning Pool in summer 2012 – we spent the long summer evenings in their garden – eating pizza from the woodfired oven, drinking a few light ales, watching the ducks swim past & speculating about how much fun it would be to have a Learning Pool summer party in a flotilla of those pedal boats.

I’ll finish up with my favourite pic of the boys from last summer, snapped outside of the Queen Victoria in Connaught Village.  London summer evenings are pretty perfect and should be enjoyed outdoors.  London’s a great place to live and visit.  My advice for London Life is keep your eyes open for all the wonderful things there are to see, be friendly to the people you meet and when anyone invites you to stuff – say yes!

Boys-with-beers-Connaught

Loch Leven Seafood Cafe review

I’m straying a bit from my usual territory here with a restaurant review.  The Loch Leven Seafood Cafe on the north shore of beautiful Loch Leven near Ballachulish and Glencoe is just too good to miss & I wanted to share it with all of you.

We called in there last Monday night when we were staying close by.  The food is divine.  Fresh fish & seafood perfectly cooked – no wonder the restaurant was busy despite the fact that it was a Monday & to be honest its location is somewhat remote.  If you’re visiting in the summer it’s probably worth booking first.

The company started out as suppliers & exporters of fresh fish and seafood and they used to have a few benches in the car park for customers to snack on shellfish they had bought in the shop.  This became so popular that 5 years ago the owners (some Scottish, some Spanish) decided to bite the bullet and open a restaurant.  This mix of cultures is reflected in their uncluttered menu.

Everything is about the food and the view from the windows (see my 3rd photo) – so don’t visit if you’re obsessed by glitzy decor…let’s face it – you can get that anywhere!

The first photo above is of my main course – fresh and lightly cooked scallops in light soy sauce with sesame seeds.  Simple and delicious.  Without doubt the best meal out I’ve had this year.

I was impressed by their people (friendly and welcoming without being overpowering).  I asked for their raw tomato soup recipe and the chef gave it to me without hesitation, even offering to mail their special Arbequina olive oil to me when I mentioned the liquid/hand luggage on planes issue.  Also the simplicity of their menu which still managed to have something for everyone.  It just shows you that even in a recession excellent businesses that have really thought about their business model, care about good customer service, execute relentlessly and have their team completely on message will thrive.

Two people, three delicious courses, £70 and a view to die for – what’s not to like?

I wonder if they could be persuaded to open the Lough Neagh Cafe…

Scallops

Loch_leven_seafood_cafe

View_from_seafood_cafe

Top 10 things I love most about Palm Springs

Ocotillo_pool_xmas_2010

I’m on holiday in Beautiful Palm Springs in the southern California desert this week so it’s only right that I should tell everyone how lovely it is here.  This is my top ten not anyone else’s – I’m just getting that in now before people start giving out about the fact that golf or celeb spotting aren’t mentioned anywhere on this list!

1.       It has to be the weather.  OK – so it gets a bit hot in the middle of summer but the rest of the year you can’t fault it.  It makes outdoor living a reality.  Even Palm Springs airport is outdoors (it calls itself a resort-port instead of an airport – how cool is that!)

2.       Our wildlife – especially the glorious variety of colourful garden birds & hummingbirds that you see everywhere.  I also have a soft spot for the bats that appear at twilight and the roadrunners I see running across the lawn when I’m swimming early in the morning.  You can also visit the Living Desert if you want to see the stuff that lives here but isn’t readily visible – owls, tortoises, big horn sheep – check it out at this link http://www.livingdesert.org/

3.       Healthy, tasty, cheap vegetarian food – it’s everywhere.  Without doubt the worst thing about living in Northern Ireland for me is the poor choice of restaurants to visit for people that don’t just want to eat steak or chicken (I know – market forces – small population – I accept it’s my fault…)

4.       The people – most people who live here are blow-ins so there’s a rich tapestry of stories from pretty much everyone you meet

5.       The ubiquitous palm trees – who would have thought there’d be so many different types – don’t knock em until you’ve tasted a date shake

6.       Location, location, location – easy driving distance to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix & San Diego – just in case you ever get bored

7.       The flowers – especially the spectacular cactus flowers that are blooming right now and this year’s flame red ocotillo flowers – absolutely spectacular

8.       The mountains – changing colour all day long & allowing you to walk in snow at the top of the tram ride – even when it’s roasting hot down in the valley

9.       Mid century architecture everywhere & giving Palm Springs it’s unique retro look – it’s what we’re famous for & you can’t see it anywhere else

10.   The Ocotillo Lodge where we live – built in the mid 50s by the Alexander company & still exactly as it was the day it was built – just beautiful & with the best pool in town – that’s it pictured in the photo.

That’s my top 10 – would love to hear from you what I’ve missed.

 

 

 

Hummingbirds truly are the jewels of the desert…

One of the many pleasures of a Palm Springs location is the variety of amazing small birds of every colour under the sun that visit our back garden.  Top of the pile for me however without any close competition is the hummingbird, as commonplace here as sparrows are at home.  I can still remember clearly the first time I ever saw one.  I was with a crowd of engineers in Silicon Valley – they didn’t seem too impressed & I then felt a bit embarrassed for making such a fuss and showing myself to be such a newbie in the Valley.  Out here I see them many times a day, but each sighting still stops me in my tracks & I watch them for the few seconds they remain in a single place, feeding or perching.  In flight, they’re harder to track than a golf ball on the tv, flying in short bursts at up to 60 mph.  They are like tiny bright jewels, moving at a million miles an hour in a blur of iridescent colour & wings, chattering away to themselves constantly. 

We’re staying at the historic Ocotillo Lodge in Palm Springs.  It’s one of the many examples that still exist out here in the Californian desert of fine mid century architecture.  Aloe vera plants line one edge of the champagne cork shaped swimming pool and the hummingbirds seem to love the orange trumpet flowers.  The one I’ve been observing this morning is a female Costa’s hummingbird.  She’s about 3½ inches long and after feeding on the flowers, perched for a couple of minutes on the fence around the pool so I could get a good look at her.  Last week I watched one taking a shower in the raindrops – it sat on the fence during a brief downpour & fluffed up its feathers.

Hummingbirds are territorial & fiercely aggressive for ones so small.  They will attack other hummingbirds that are encroaching on their territory (when I’m swimming, I can hear them angrily “buzzing” at each other) and also much bigger birds without hesitation or any evidence of fear.

If you’ve never seen one check them out on Youtube, follow @WeLuvBirds on Twitter and enjoy the great bird photos they post up every day or follow @craignewmark also on Twitter – Craig has a live webcam on his hummingbirds in San Francisco during the breeding season and provides enjoyable daily coverage of news about the babies.  Thanks Craig!

My camera isn’t good enough to capture a hummingbird in flight so I’ve borrowed this picture from the excellent feedmyhummingbirdblog.com site – I hope they don’t mind.

Hummingbird-eating-flower

When size really matters…

Paul_at_e_mids

Travelling back to Belfast from East Midlands airport always provides a good bit of sport.  Why?  Watching the BMI Baby Baggage Police humiliating traveller after traveller of course.  Making them cram their bags into the cage one at a time under scrutiny.  Penalty if you can’t force your bag in there – £30.

This results in the following behaviours that I’ve witnessed in the past few weeks:

Ø  grown men in suits crawling around on the dirty floor with their clothes strewn everywhere trying to repack their bag more tidily whilst everyone else in the queue climbs over them;

Ø  pensioners who probably rarely travel being terrorised into parting with their hard-earned cash (despite our loud barracking of the airline staff);

Ø  pleading and wheedling by all sorts of people, yours truly included.

Today we watched the airline delay a flight to Edinburgh whilst a man tried & tried to repack his bag in a different way – it was just the wrong shape…

BMI Baby has a less generous hand baggage measuring system than anyone else – and those extra centimetres count when the pressure’s on.  This means that if you travel a lot, like the Learning Pool team does backwards & forwards from our Northern Ireland HQ, it inevitably catches you out.  It’s that sinking feeling when you remember you’re on a BMI Baby flight (see McElvaney’s face in the pic above).

When that happens, there’s only one thing for it – head to duty free, buy something & ask the person in there for an extra big bag.  Then unload what you can from your case into it – you’re allowed to take on an additional bag if you bought it after clearing security.  Some of the Poolies have even started carrying empty duty free bags with them – different ones dependent on the airport they’re using.  As Paul always says – Learning Pool – using innovative ways to keep the cost of your subscription low.

Remember that the next time you see one of the Learning Pool team with a duty free bag – that’s all part of our commitment to customer care!