Canadian Wanderer

Travel plans, thoughts & lessons

Month: August 2016

Cape Town: a world away yet but more affordable than ever

A weaker currency, more affordable airfare, relaxed visa rules and an abundance of natural beauty have all helped spur international travel to South Africa.

According to Bloomberg in this article “the rand is the third-worst performer against the dollar among 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg over the past 12 months, having declined 12 per cent, and reached record lows against both the U.S. currency and euro earlier in 2016″.  The Canadian Dollar has risen 45% against the Rand in the past four year making our dollar go further on sightseeing and accommodation in South Africa, an attractive alternative given how much it’s declined relative to American Dollar making travel there more expensive for Canadians.

cad rand

Along with Johannesburg one of the main gateways for international visitors to South Africa is Cape Town, a historic port city settled by the Dutch in the 17th century that lies between the sea and Table Mountain. Here’s a look at this diverse destination in a KLM iFly video.

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iFly Little Secrets of Cape Town, South Africa’s Mother City by iflymagazine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

New study reports jet lag is worse for travelers flying East

Normally I wouldn’t pay much if any attention to a study published in an outlet called Chaos: Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science especially one with a dry academic title as “Resynchronization of circadian oscillators and the east-west asymmetry of jet-lag” however another online source, Science Daily, helped put it in enough layman’s terms that it was actually interesting and helped answer one question I’d formulated after years of long-haul jet travel: was jet lag worse when I travelled East? The answer according to a team of University of Maryland researchers is that yes, it is thanks to how our internal body clock ticks. More from the Science Daily article:

Travelers frequently report experiencing a significantly slower jet lag recovery after an eastward vs. westward flight. While some are quick to dismiss this complaint as being ‘all in their head,’ new research suggests it may be caused by the oscillation of a certain type of brain cells. Circadian rhythms, which govern jet lag recovery, are controlled by the synchronization of many neuronal oscillators within the brain. Brain cells within the hypothalamus — the region of the brain that governs circadian rhythms — undergo daily cycles of activity.

But after a rapid time zone shift, the brain’s oscillatory circadian pacemaker cells are incapable of instantly adjusting to a rhythm appropriate to the new time zone.

So a team of University of Maryland researchers decided to explore whether the east-west asymmetry of jet lag could be understood via mathematical models of these oscillations of cells within the brain, and made some interesting discoveries about the dynamics involved, which they report in the journal Chaos, from AIP Publishing.

Source: Science Daily East-west asymmetry of jet lag recovery due to oscillation of brain cells

Boeing at 100

It’s been a century since William E. Boeing took the fortune he made in timber in the Pacific Northwest and invested it in the fledgling field of aviation but the company he founded has survived and prospered and been at the forefront of many of the 20th century’s aviation innovations. To celebrate that achievement I’ll share a look back at Boeing’s first hundred years and add a few of my most memorable Boeing flights.

Wanting to avoid a wicked case of jetlag flying to Tokyo several years ago I opted to drain my United Airlines Mileage Plus frequent flyer account to redeem for an award on All Nippon Airlines (ANA) whose Boeing 777 nonstop flight from San Francisco was equipped with a new business class that features cubicle-like private seats which fold down fully flat to allow a restful night sleep. Here’s a video review of the ‘staggered business class’ as it’s called on this aircraft.

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All Nippon Airways Review by Geek Beat is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The in-flight service and dining aboard ANA was impeccable with a choice of western or Japanese cuisine served with very personal attention paid to each guest. A choice of warm or cold saké was offered with a corresponding brief description from the steward as to the subtle flavour differences from region-to-region. Needless to say I drank all the attention – and saké –  all in.

While sadly several global airlines have announced in the past year plans to phase the iconic Boeing 747 “Jumbo Jet” out of their fleets it’s always been a pure pleasure to ascend the stairs to the upper deck and enjoy the business class service in this cozy space. My last visit to the upper deck was on a transatlantic trip to Madrid onboard British Airways who instead of having all passengers face forward seat them facing each other separated after takeoff by a privacy screen.

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photo by author

The upper upper deck comes with a few other perks such as the handy storage cabinets beneath the windows which is far more convenient that stowing carry-on items in the overhead bin. The champagne flowed freely and the service while not quite as formal as on ANA was as warm and personable, especially from an attendant born and raised in Seville who took the time to tell me all about his hometown and come by later with a champagne refill and handwritten card with key sights and festivals not to be missed.

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photo by author

Another very memorable 747 ride was also in business class on the upper deck on a Northwest Orient jet landing at the old Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong in 1998 a week before the airport with its runway jutting into Victoria Harbour was decommissioned. The low and slow final approach coming in seemingly metres above the rooftop antennas was an exciting introduction to what has become one of my favorite destinations.

The story of the 747 and it’s revolutionary size and design is a fascinating one and for those who are interested there’s an excellent documentary, the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet – The Plane that Changed the World, here.

As the 747 is reaching the end of its operational life, Boeing’s innovative 787 Dreamliner is finding aviation fans for its flyer-friendly features including higher humidity and lower cabin pressurization, both or which help ease the effects of jet lag. Watch Boeing maneuver this All Nippon Airways 787-9 Dreamliner through the skies as it practices for the 2016 Farnborough Airshow.

Watch this on The Scene

If you haven’t taken in the Boeing tour just north of Seattle it’s well worth the detour. More information here.

It’s been quite a century of flight for Boeing and here’s a look back at the firm’s first century.

Flight review: best economy seat on WestJet Boeing 767

After revelling in the service and comfort of the Westjet Plus seats on the outbound flight of a trip to Maui as I wrote about in this blog article I opted to fly the return portion in economy seats that aren’t too far behind Plus  literally or figuratively.

The larger Boeing 767 aircraft WestJet took delivery of last year are ‘wide bodies’ in airline terminology meaning there are two aisles instead of just one down the center as is the case with the airline’s main model, the Boeing 737. Row 5 is directly behind the separate Plus cabin but as there is no fixed wall offer an inch or two more legroom than the Plus seats themselves and double the amount of regular economy seat legroom on this aircraft. I’d studied the WestJet seat maps after confirming my flight noting that they showed as extra legroom seats so fully expected to pay a small premium as with exit row seats but happily found these roomy seats actually cost the same as any other economy seat to assign in advance, which is $20 one-way making it one of the best values in the skies for a flight of 6 – 7 hours.

Boeing 767 seat map

plus seat map

Wanting a window I reserved 5K which offers loads of legroom, in my case around 8 inches between my knees and the seat pocket in the back of the last row of Plus seats. That’s an admittedly inexact estimate made using  the paperback I’d bought for the flight as a crude tape measure so your dimensions may differ but it helps to illustrate just how much room this row of seats offers.

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The tray table folds out of the armrest which shaves a little of the seat width but given the large amount of legroom I was quite alright with that small concession.

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Row 5 on the left and right side of the airplane actually get views from two windows which is fairly rare in economy cabins I’ve flown.

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As there are only seven of these roomy seats on the aircraft they are in short supply and will be reserved well in advance so would recommend calling your travel consultant or WestJet to check availability as soon as possible after confirming your flight as I’d definitely recommend paying the small seat assignment fee to reserve these seats as they are a real bargain.

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