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We have written about this site in the past, but they have added more links, and now it’s my favorite flight tracker of all. I'm not usually at a loss for words, but all I can say is: This one is simply amazing.
When you log on to an Airport Monitor, you'll find all kinds of neat information. The first thing you notice are little planes moving across the screen. The green planes are taking off; the blue ones are landing. This is current airport action, so by clicking on any plane you find live, detailed information (shown on the right side of the screen, in the blue box labeled Flight Information). All information may not be available (such as flight origin and destination), but the type of plane and altitude are almost always shown. What’s really cool is that you can go back as far as March 23, 2005 and replay flight activity -- and all those details are available.
Every Airport Monitor includes maps of the airport and surrounding area. You can zoom in or out. The closest detailed map is 5 miles; the furthest out is 80 miles. Naturally, the further you zoom out, the more airplanes you see. Whether you live near an airport or just love plane spotting, you'll enjoy checking out these Airport Monitors.
The only downside is that they don’t yet have one for every airport. So far, these airports use Passur.com’s software: Boca Raton, Boston, Burbank, Cleveland, John F. Kennedy, John Wayne Orange County, LaGuardia, Los Angeles, Louisville, Martin County, Nantucket, Newark, New Orleans, Ontario, San Jose, St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Teterboro, Van Nuys and Westchester County.
BONUS WEBSITE OF THE WEEK:
Even if you don’t watch "South Park" (like me), it’s still fun to build your own South Park character.
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Bonjour! Getting out of Paris was a nightmare for my dad, his girlfriend Nancy, my sister Carol and me because we had so many bags. If you retain only one tip from this entire European trip, it’s this: Be sure to pack light when traveling by rail.
Paris was so busy, we could not get a taxi to take us to the Gare Lyon train station 20 minutes away. Our hotel clerk suggested that my sister and I run 5 blocks to Gare Du Nord train station to get a taxi or two (because we had so much stuff). At Gare Du Nord the taxi line was 40 people deep, and we had no time to wait. Across the street we spotted a bunch of van and limo drivers looking for suckers like us. We had no choice but to get ripped off (95 euros = $115.). The good news is we made our train on time, the van was brand new, and our driver was excellent. AS Limousine Service; tel.: 06-60-97-45-67.
VALIDATING TRAIN TICKETS
We were booked on the second of four daily high-speed trains to Geneva. The French high- speed train is called TGV ("trains à grande vitesse"), and it really is fast. Top speeds range from 155 to 186 mph. We made all our rail reservations before we left the States through RailEurope.com (800-848-7245), and it was very easy. The rest of my family bought point-to-point tickets, because it was cheaper than a multi-city or multi-day pass. But I was staying longer in Europe longer so I got a Eurorail pass. RAIL TIP: Before using a Eurorail pass on your first trip, be sure to get a validating stamp from the ticket counter. Then make sure to fill in the day of travel on your ticket before getting on the train. If you don’t, you risk a hefty fine or confiscation of the pass. If you have a point-to-point ticket, you need to validate them. To avoid penalties, insert the ticket in one of the yellow time/date machines near the track.
PARIS TO GENEVA
Traveling in Europe by train is a pleasure (unless of course you have too many bags). Their rail system is far superior to ours. Trains are fast, clean, smooth, comfortable, reliable, and take passengers nearly everywhere on the continent. Each seat reclines, has plenty of leg room – and a tray table. Hungry passengers can visit the bar car, for a wide variety of drinks and snacks. I had the only food I can order in French: "a croque monsieur" (hot ham and cheese). Our first-class tickets cost $94 USD (plus $11 for a seat reservation) for the 245-mile trip to Geneva. It took only 3 hours, 28 minutes.
Because Switzerland is not part of the European Union, we had to go through customs. But it was real quick, and the agents did not ask us any questions. Nor did they stamp our passports -- they just glanced at them. Because Switzerland borders France, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein and Italy, three major languages are spoken here: German, French, and Italian. Of course, most people in the tourism industry speak English, so communicating is seldom a problem. Switzerland is famous for its neutrality – which is probably why no one has invaded Swiss territory since the early 19th centuries. The country is very safe, clean and orderly. The only criminals visitors need worry about are pickpockets -- and there aren’t too many of them.
TAXIS & SWISS FRANCS
Geneva always makes the Top 10 Most Expensive Cities in the World list. Nearly everything in Switzerland is ridiculously expensive. That’s particularly true of Geneva taxis. A trip from the train station to our hotel -- four blocks -- cost 20 Swiss francs ($15.55). I know – why did we take a cab? – but we didn’t know how close the hotel was, and besides we had too many bags to schlep.
On the same route the following day, the taxi driver charged my dad 30 Swiss Francs ($23.17) – and neither I nor my bags were in the taxi. I couldn’t allow myself to get ripped off like that again, so I walked to the station. (I also didn’t want to feel or look like a bunch of circus clowns in a compact car.) When I heard the driver charge my dad 10 CHF more, I asked two policemen standing nearby if we were being ripped off. The one who didn’t understand English gave me a blank stare; the other shrugged his shoulders and said with a heavy accent, "Taxis are very expensive in Geneva." My response was, "Gee! You think? Thanks for your help. Now eat another donut."
Swiss francs are abbreviated either with the official banking name CHF (from the Latin name of the country, Confederation Helvetica), or Fr. or Sfr. The current exchange rate is 1.00 CHF = 0.76 USD. That’s like having everything 24% off -- but it’s no bargain when everything seems to be 50% more expensive than the U.S.
We checked into the four-star Royal Hotel (part of the Manhotel group). The Royal is four blocks from Lake Geneva, and has 172 rooms. It caters mostly to business travelers, but leisure travelers feel quite comfortable too. We were upgraded to the renovated section of the hotel, and put in a junior suite. The interior of this section was sophisticated, with exquisite wood furnishings. The room was sweet, and the marble bathroom stylish. The best part is that all Manhotels offer free wireless internet. I can’t complain about the staff at the Royal -- or anywhere throughout Switzerland. At every hotel the service was top-notch -- professional, prompt and friendly. Room rates at the Royal start at 220 CHF ($170), and include an American/European style breakfast (bacon and eggs, pastries, cereal, fruit and coffee). If you eat too much, you can work it off in the small fitness center. Royal Hotel Manhotel: 41, rue de Lausanne, CH-1201 Geneva; tel.: 22- 906-14-14.
MY SISTER'S GENEVA HOTEL
FYI: My sister Georgette and her husband visited Geneva a week after us and stayed at the Sofitel Hotel. She said it was in a great location, walking distance from the train station and from the old town. Georgette and Cam were in a top floor suite which was very small but cozy -- the bed and the sheets were amazing. Their room had a loft with a couch and TV. The bathroom was small but had a large tub and everything was done in marble and mirrors. The French decor with heavy draperies with trim, blackout shades and antiques made the experience first class and worth repeating. The service at the Sofitel was great, which is what they are famous for. Rates start at $185 USD a night. Sofitel Geneve: 18-20, rue du Cendrier, CH-1201 Geneve; tel.: 22-908-80-80.
SWITZERLAND HOTEL RATINGS
Visitors can judge a Swiss hotel by its stars. Five stars signifies deluxe; four means first class; three stars is superior; two is a standard hotel, while one star means a minimum hotel (it has the most limited of facilities). However, in Switzerland even a one-star hotel can be clean and reasonably comfortable.
TOUR OF GENEVA
In the lobby we were surprised by my good friend Andy and his fiancee Rebecca. They were also slowly making their way to Zermatt for my brother’s wedding. These two showed up just in time for the two-hour tour of Geneva the tourism board set up for us. Anyone can get one. Daily tours cost 15 CHF ($11.67); seniors and students pay 10 CHF ($7.78). For more info on a Geneva tour, click on Geneva-Tourism.ch.
Our guide, Marilyn, was kind enough to let Andy and Rebecca squeeze in the car with us for the ride/walk. When I heard Marilynn’s American accent, I asked where she was from. Amazingly, she was born in the town I grew up in: Norwalk, Connecticut. She moved to Geneva many years ago. Tour guides not only show visitors many sights, they also describe history. The history we learned was fascinating, but way too deep to get into here. So here’s a link to the history of Geneva.
Of the 180,000 people who live in Geneva, 43% of those are foreigners. It’s one of the most international cities in the world, and every major language is spoken here. That’s because many international organizations are headquartered in Geneva, including the World Health Organization (WHO), World Council of Churches and International Labor Organization (ILO). Geneva is also the birthplace of both the International Red Cross and the United Nations. The Red Cross is still based here, but the UN transferred to New York in 1945. However, Geneva has retained the UN’s European office. Geneva is also the private banking capital of the world -- and the world capital of luxury watch-making.
Geneva is Switzerland's second-largest city (behind Zurich), and Lake Geneva is the country’s largest lake (224 sq. miles). Geneva sits in the Rhône Valley between the Jura Mountains and the Alps. Because the city is so close to France it has many French influences, such as architecture and sidewalk cafes. Lake Geneva is fed mainly by the Rhône River, which comes from the Swiss Alps, and carries its waters all the way down to the Mediterranean Sea. The lake is my favorite part of the city (I am sure everyone else’s too). It’s really spectacular, and there are parks and promenades all along the lake.
Thanks to the favorable north winds that blow away air pollution, Geneva is considered one of the healthiest cities in the world.
The top attraction which visitors can’t miss even if they want to (but no one would) is Jet d'Eau ("water jet"). This fountain shoots 132 gallons (500 liters) of water 459 feet (140 meters) in the air. It’s an amazing piece of work, and the fact that it was built in 1891 is mind-boggling.
Another popular summer attraction are the beautiful flower beds. In honor of the watch industry, the city has a famous clock made from over 6,500 flowers. The Flower Clock is located at the edge of the Jardin Anglais (English Garden) and has been there since 1955.
We also visited the Reformation Wall in the Bastions Park. Built in 1909, the monument is backed against part of the ancient defensive walls that surrounded the city until the middle of the 19th century. At the center of the wall are statues of the four great figures of the Reformation movement: Guillaume Farel (1489-1565), one of the first to preach the Reformation in Geneva; Jean Calvin (1509-1564) the "pope" of the reformers; Théodore de Bèze (1513-1605), first rector of the Academy, and John Knox (1513-1572), founder of Presbyterianism in Scotland. On either side, statues and bas-reliefs represent the great Protestant figures of different Calvinist countries, and crucial moments in the movement. More Info.
There are over 40 public and private museums to visit in Geneva, as well as numerous art galleries. All public museums are free. We really wanted to visit the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum (though it’s not free), because we heard it’s the best one in Geneva. Unfortunately we did not have time -- but we’ll be sure to visit next time we’re in town. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, Avenue de la Paix 17, 1202 Genève; tel. 22- 748-95-25.
We had a choice: go to one of the museums or stroll around the lake and through the ancient streets of Old Town. We weren’t going to miss Old Town’s narrow passages that lead to all kinds of picturesque courtyards, squares, cathedrals and fountains. We stopped at a popular café in the heart of Old Town and sitting there soaking in the surroundings was the highlight of our trip to Geneva. It’s not to be missed.
Here’s a 1-minute video I made of our short trip. With high-speed the video takes about a minute to load; with dial-up, about three weeks.
Next week is when the real fun begins as we hop on one of the most picturesque trains anywhere, and travel to Zermatt to see this beautiful playground of the rich and famous. We also attend my brother’s wedding.
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Which days do I need to travel to get the lowest fares?
You've probably heard the suggestion to travel on off-peak days to get the lowest fares. However, "off-peak" varies by destination. Click Here To Read Article
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