7 Easy to Use Apps for Boomer Travelers

Traveling is sometimes very frustrating without some useful tools at our fingertips. I am a traveling boomer and find the following apps very useful and easy to use.

Keep track of your trip

Tripit was recommended to me by a fellow traveler I met at the Women in Travel Summit. Tripit will get information from your received emails about your upcoming trips. Hotels, air flights, and conference dates. It alerts you to any changes in gates, flight times, or delayed flights. It will help you find another flight if your plans change. It maps your entire flight on your iPhone. It allows you to share your itinerary with others.  Tripit Pro costs $49 per year.

Both Tripit (free) and Tripit Pro organize your plans and share with others. Tripit Pro will alert you if a better seat becomes available, track your reward programs, and save money with VIP travel benefits. No more carrying around paper copies of your hotel confirmations or your travel documents. Everything is in one place.

Book your hotel

Booking .com  Manages your booking by showing the check in and check out time. You can become a “genius” with Booking.com when you book your hotels and post reviews of hotels and restaurants. Genius status allows you to check in early, check out late, and at many of the hotels outside of the US, you can get a free drink. This status offers rates at a lower price and rewards you with points for stays at other hotels. Becoming a genius is not that hard to do. The app is very easy and convenient to use. No more useless paperwork to carry around. The app is free for iPhones.

 

Connect with your friends and family you left behind

WhatsApp Messenger is free. You don’t have to use your cell phone to make expensive phone calls from outside of the country to home. It’s available for the iPhone and other smartphones. It uses your phone’s internet connection, not your cellular plan’s voice minutes. Data charges may apply. Check with your phone service before using. All messages are saved until you access them.  Make sure that the people you plan on connecting with also have WhatsApp installed on their phones before you leave the country. This free use does not include 911 calls.

Find Culture Activities

Culture Trip app is free. It provides reviews, customer ratings, and so many possibilities of exploring the culture of the city you are visiting. Type in the name of the city and up pops “The 10 Best Day Trips from …. (the name of the city) “, “Top ten things to do and see”, “Best restaurants and coffee houses”, and a lot of pictures. Information on the app is provided by local people and includes background information on the sites to visit. No more bulky travel guides that take up space. You won’t have the appearance of a tourist.

Find your way around town

Use Google Maps for walking around town. Download the directions using the Internet connection in your hotel room. Use the walking directions. It is much easier than using a paper map. Remember those? I could never read one which caused conflict when traveling with my husband. I never knew which was east, west, north or south. No worries with Google Map. It tells me which direction to go.

Know the exchange rate

XE Currency App is free. It is very easy to use. Enter the amount of the currency for the country you are visiting. Enter the rate of the US dollar and it will be converted. You will know exactly how much money you are spending. No guesswork here. It also allows you to make international money transfers “quickly, easily and securely, 24/7”.

Your Personal Translator

Google Translate is free. It is impossible to know the languages of all the countries you visit. I speak Japanese (can’t read Kanji), Spanish and English. I will be in Switzerland for three weeks and don’t know the language. Use Google Translate by speaking or typing in the text of your native language. Click on the language to be translated to and the voice will produce the proper word. No more bilingual pocket dictionaries.

Now you are ready to travel!

 

 

 

 

Am I Too Attached to my Computer?

I think it’s fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we’ve ever created. They’re tools of communication, they’re tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user.

Bill Gates

I think I am becoming too attached to my computer. I had to buy a new modem because mine was out of date. This was discovered during an online chat session with my carrier Cox. Where do the real guys hang out? The speed was very slow and I was confronted with the rainbow circle turning it’s colors over and over.

I installed the modem following the instructions on the box. In my next life, I want to be a computer programmer. The modem was still moving at a very slow pace. I was able to get ten minutes of work done and then the dreaded colored circle began to turn the colors of a rainbow, pink, green, blue.

I contacted Cox again. Have you ever tried to call your Internet company? It’s a secret. They hide the number somewhere. I was able to get in touch with them online. We have a “chat”. I answer his questions and he takes over my computer with his magic wand. He tells me that I need to clean out my Mac.

He turns me over to some other guy who doesn’t work for Cox. I find out later that I will have to pay him $100 to clean my Mac. I am desperate. He wants permission to take over my computer

I say yes. I just want the stupid thing to work

Computers can bully us. A slow and unreliable system will bring even the toughest soul to their knees as they find themselves completely defenseless against the erratic whims of their rogue machine.

Lou Ferrigno

He begins to run a package called MacKeeper. This takes about 10-15 minutes

I can’t do any checking of email, news, Facebook, or pretend to write an article.

Am I too attached to my computer?

It can do so many things in such a short period of time. Research libraries, read other blogs, check out writing retreats, reserve hotels, find restaurants, and buy airline tickets

Am I too attached to my computer?

It makes me angry, frustrated and disconnected when it doesn’t work.

Where else can I get information? I was raised at a time when there were no computers. We used encyclopedias, magazines, maps, and libraries. It is so easy to find information with the touch of a few keys on the keyboard, a question to Siri or Google on our smartphones, and a command to take us to the places we need to navigate by car. Apps that gave exchange rates, translate languages, get us transportation, and lead us around  cities we have never been before.

I handwrite while waiting for my computer to run “package scripts”. I realize that my handwriting is unreadable, it is sloppy, and not as clean when typed. I am trapped by my computer.

I stare at my computer waiting for something magical to happen. “Install time remaining: about a minute” Can I speed it up? No, it has control over me.

I sit here waiting and waiting. The screen goes gray. The blue line stops moving.

Everything is at a standstill. Do I go exercise, scream, touch my toes or start all over again? A message appears “Do not turn off your computer”. Nothing moves now. I start clicking everywhere. The annoying rainbow circle begins to spin around again. Turn off the computer. Start over the voice in my head whispers and is now yelling at me. I do what the voice tells me.

The “chat “is over.  Where did that guy go?

He didn’t help. The rainbow circle continues to move. How do I get that guy back?

He sends me a survey asking me if I was satisfied. No, I am not satisfied

I start again. Back to page 1. How do I get that MacKeeper robot icon to come back?

I found it. Now scanning. I wait patiently.

Mac Keeper is downloaded. Waiting for someone to pop up on a chat to help me activate it.

I wish I would have studied computers instead of becoming an ESL teacher. Not really.

I am waiting for the tech to get back online. He says he will return in a minute.

He is busy helping others like me who think computers should just do their thing without all of the problems. My computer is now protected from computer fraud.

Frank, the tech, found 295 sleeping processes. They were sleeping. Frank got rid of them. Thanks, Frank. Frank just charged me $119 dollars for a 3-month warranty. I have to agree.

OK, so Frank is not finished. He must get rid of all those programs that are sleeping.

Frank needs to remotely take over my computer.

I am trapped. If I say no, he won’t fix my computer. Do I know Frank? Is he honest? I don’t know. I wish I could see him. I could tell if he is honest by looking into his eyes. He is hiding behind my computer. I say yes.

Frank has passed me on to another tech. Frank needs to eat lunch.

The next tech will have access to my computer for the next 2-3 hours. I am going shopping.

My computer now flashes before me. Bringing up files I don’t understand. The remote arrow moves around operating on my files. I no longer have control. I hope my computer is not being hijacked

I return home. Turn on my computer. Yeah, my computer is fast. No more circling rainbows.

I change my password immediately.

Now, there is no excuse to write my article.

 

 

5 Must Have Culture Experiences in Quebec City

Quebec City, Quebec is the oldest city in North America. There were an estimated one million immigrants from Europe during the years 1815-1860. Many of the first immigrants were Irish. In 1861 40% of the residents spoke English. Quebec is now a bilingual city. Businesses require their employees to speak both French and English. That was a relief. My command of French only includes the words for, thank you, please, and good morning.

St John’s Gate divides the city into two parts. Old Quebec is where the tourists stay at the hotels, visit the museums, and eat. The steps are steep, the sky is gray, and there is a chill in the air. I am in Quebec City for the second time. The first time was with my husband, this time is to attend a conference WITS, Women in Travel Summit. A meeting of 500 women who write travel blogs, travel articles, books, and travel all over the world. This is serious business. Being a Digital Nomad  is a career.  Ninety percent of the women are 20-35 years old. This is their career. This is my hobby.

I arrived three days early to explore the city. I walked up and down the streets. Crossed under the bridge and found people going to work, pushing baby buggies, and grocery shopping. A completely different world than in Old Quebec.

Marie Rollet Hotel

I open the big red wooden door and am greeted immediately with a steep flight of stairs. It’s a good thing I travel lightly. I lug my carry on up the first flight of stairs and then another flight of stairs. The room is small, and the bathroom is tiny. There is a round glass table with one comfy chair, the TV takes over 1/2 of the wall. My view is of airconditioners outside. No problem. I don’t plan on spending much time inside. All I need is a clean bathroom, shower and comfortable bed. The hotel is an old victorian style house. Marie Rollet and her husband were the first settlers who arrived in Quebec in 1649. They came from Paris. Her husband served in the positions of apothecary and farmer. They were greeted with starvation, sickness, and threats of Indian attacks. Many of the Natives were baptized and she became their godmother.

In 1632 Quebec was returned to the French after three years of English occupation. Marie stayed in Quebec after her husband passed away. They were the only French family that stayed during the occupation of the English. The first marriage solemnized in Canada was her daughter’s.

 

La Maison Smith

The house of Maison Smith was inhabited by French pioneers on the island of Orleans in 1796. The island of Orleans is about thirty minutes from Quebec City. It is known as the garden of Quebec City. It grows all of the fruits and vegetables and raises the chicken, and lamb used in the homes and restaurants of Quebec City. There is no place to farm or grow vegetables in the crowded city. Before the French pioneers showed up, the First Nations owned the land where Quebec City stands for thousands of years. In 1608 it became the property of the New France Colonies. The house of Maison Smith was destroyed by a fire in 1865 and later rebuilt with stones. The coffee shop also operates in Old Quebec. I grabbed a cup of coffee and homemade oatmeal chocolate chip muffin two mornings in a row.

Restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens

Meat pies made with wild meat and fresh bison, meatball ragout, salt pork, baked beans, grillades, and beef stew. All naturally cooked.  The restaurant built in1675-76 and originally owned by the nuns of the Ursuline Convent. They weren’t able to financially support it so they granted it to Francois Jacquet. It is one of the oldest and largest buildings in upper town and the province of Quebec. The restaurant has an upstairs and downstairs. It is not a big restuarant. It has a very friendly and comfortable feeling.  I had dinner in this restaurant and it was very tasty. The only regret is that I should have stayed longer. I met two friends and they were both in a hurry to go to the airport or another event. I ate in less than forty minutes. Please take your time when you eat here.

J.A. Moisan Epicier (Grocery Store)

Cake in a mug, fifty different kinds of tea and coffee, cookies, candy, and chocolate. Everything you need to start your day off. J.A. Moisan was a French businessman who knew he wanted to succeed at a time when most businesses were reserved for those who spoke English. He established the store in 1871 and sold gourmet foods. He raised his children in an apartment above the store and became the owner in 1885. Quebec city experienced multiple fires in 1876 and 1881. Many of the original buildings were destroyed. His store was saved both times. He was able to attract clients from all social classes and offered rare products that were not available in other stores. The store welcomes you with a very warm atmosphere. It gives you a sense of how life was so long ago. J.A. Moisan was just another Frenchman navigating his way among the English so prominent in the city.

Fresco Wall Art in Quebec City

Boys playing hockey in the street, a mother pushing her baby,two nuns standing on the corner chatting, lovers embracing above the gate, and some very important looking men standing on the street. These murals are a must see. The murals were completed between 1999 and 2008). They have become part of telling the history of Quebec City and the people who lived there. There are a total of eleven. I was only able to find three which are located in old Quebec.  Commission de la Capitale Nationale, an organization responsible for developing and promoting the capital commissioned six murals for the city’s 400th-anniversary celebrations by the.  Old dilapidated walls now have a new face. A historical face.

 

 

An Old Friend, A New Culture: Delhi India

One of my main purposes for traveling to India is to visit a very good friend. I met Hiroko in Battle Creek, Michigan. She was a student in my ESL class. Hiroko is one of the most adventurous persons I know. We traveled to Chicago many times by train to shop and sight see. Hiroko’s husband was transferred to Delhi, India almost seven years ago. My husband became sick and we were not able to visit. Unfortunately, my husband passed away two years ago. I decided it was time to go to India and see Hiroko.

Travel by rickshaw

Rickshaws are a very useful source of transportation in India. They don’t require fuel, are easy to repair, and are cheap to maintain. The investment is attainable. Bicycle rickshaws are a very cheap way for everyone to get around. They transport food, hay, bricks, heavy boxes, and people. School children ride bicycle rickshaws to and from school instead of school buses.  Rickshaws can cram up to 8 children at one time.

Rickshaws lined up and waiting for customers

My friend, Hiroko, and I decide to climb into one after negotiating the price. There really isn’t a lot of room for negotiation as a foreigner. The price starts high and is only reduced a few rupees. We climb into the small cabin. Everything is so much smaller when you are tall and not very thin. Hiroko holds out the palm of her hand and draws a circle with her finger indicating that we want to go around the local market area. We don’t speak Hindi and the driver doesn’t speak English. The driver is in his forties and probably weighs no more than 150 lbs. The weather is warm and I can see beads of sweat running down his face and neck as he peddles through the narrow streets lined with vendors.  We hit a few potholes and bumps on the way. The padded seats don’t seem to help the impact. It is a good thing that I have a naturally padded rear end. The driver is getting tired and looks frustrated. I feel sorry for him. He can’t figure out where we want to go.  He stops every five minutes and asks the question “Where is the entrance to the market?” No one knows the answer. Fifteen minutes have passed. We are lost.

He stops, descends from the bike, and summons a man who has a very good command of English. He asks us “Where do you ladies want to go?” Hiroko tells him that we want to go to the front of the market. He relays the information to the driver and gives him directions. He seems to understand and off we go. The destination was right around the corner.

This is not a place where foreigners/tourists come. There are no museums, famous temples, shopping malls, or supermarkets. These streets belong to the people and their stalls that sell fruit, vegetables, food cooked in front of you, and clothing. These people are hard working and want to you to purchase their items.

Fruit and vegetable stall

Everyday Life

We stop at a samosa stall. A man and his young son of about 12 years old welcome us into his stall. His son greets us with a “hello” and shyly smiles. We sit down on two white plastic buckets. He serves us each a  deep fried samosa filled with potatoes. I ignore all of the advice given to me about not eating street food. It is just too tempting.  We dip our samosas into a green chile salsa. I tell him that these are the best samosas. He smiles. We pay for our purchase and thank him. I hope we made him happy.

Man and his young son at the samosa stall

As we are walking down the street I notice this woman standing in the heat holding an iron.  She stands on her feet for about 8-9 hours a day. She irons clothing that the people in the neighborhood bring to her. The iron weighs about four pounds and is very hot.

The ironing lady

We stop at another stall. A man is making sugar cane juice. He is older, maybe in his late 60s. We watch the sugarcane stalks go through the grinder as the juice comes out of the other end of the machine. He smiles and I urge my friend to stop. We buy some juice and drink it. It is very sweet. I only hope that today’s food doesn’t come back to haunt me tonight in my sleep.

Sugar cane juice stand

We decide to take a ride on a tuk-tuk to the local supermarket.

Tuk-tuk

Supermarkets are not as popular with the common people as the local stalls. Supermarkets are expensive and the vegetables are not as fresh. Not everyone is allowed in the supermarket. Many of the locals are kept out. Our bags are checked at security. Men and women are lead in separate directions.  The women enter a small enclosure and the curtains are drawn. The security guard who is a woman proceeds to slide her wand all around me. I pick up my backpack and proceed into the supermarket. It is about one-third of the size of our monster supermarkets.

There are no “street” people, fixed prices, and not many customers. I wander through the store and find Kellogg products, Heinz tomato sauce, and Nestle instant and condensed milk. The prices are about triple the prices at the stall. Hiroko prefers to buy her vegetables at the local stall because of the freshness. We decide to invest in three small boxes of mango juice. We are checked out by not one cashier, but three cashiers. Not a single woman is working in the store.

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Foreigners are not allowed to drive in India. They must employ “drivers”. Hiroko and her husband both have drivers who take them where they need to go. Hiroko’s husband uses his driver to go back and forth to work every morning. Hiroko keeps her driver very busy. She is always on the run. Vinod is our driver. He greets us with “Namaste” as we exit the apartment complex. We climb into the car and Hiroko begins giving directions. Vinod has a very limited command of English and Hiroko speaks Japanese. He has been her driver for almost 6 years. They have their way of working out the language differences. We are on our way to the center of Delhi.

The traffic moves very slowly. There are almost no working traffic lights nor stop signs. People drive defensively honking their horns and almost never using their turn signals. Vinod is a very careful driver. He has a knack for squeezing in front of others without hitting them. The traffic makes me nervous. I decide to focus on the people around me. We aren’t going anywhere. Women with babies and small children sit on the back of motorcycles driven by their spouses or other male members of the family. Most of the time women sit sideways. Some are wearing helmets, but the majority are not. Women don’t drive in Delhi. Vinod told us he doesn’t let his wife drive. I can understand. I wouldn’t want to drive here either. It reminds me of driving bumper cars at the state fair.

Six to eight elementary school girls wearing their green plaid uniforms and green sweaters pile into a bicycle rickshaw. The girls are giggling and catch a glimpse of us in the car. They start waving frantically and yelling “hello, hello”. I roll down the window and they all shout “What’s your name? What’s your name?” I yell above the noise of the cars and busses, “Carol”. I make the mistake of asking “What’s your name?” because 8 different names come flying in my direction. I didn’t catch a single one. Our car finally inches up and before I can take a picture of the girls a van pulls up and blocks my view. The girls are gone.

The van passes us and behind him is another rickshaw. This one has seven males in their twenties. They catch my eye and began to send me hand signals. One asks me if I want to meet his friend. I throw up my left hand and point to my wedding ring. They laugh and wave goodbye. Friendly banter in the middle of traffic going nowhere anytime soon.

First Tourist Stop

Forty-five minutes later we arrive at Qutb Minor, a 73 m-high tower of victory, built in 1193 by Qutb-ud-din Aibak. This is one of the must-see monuments in Delhi. Foreigners/tourists are charged three times the price as locals. Hiroko is considered a local. She carries a document stating that she lives in Delhi. We don’t have a guide. Other foreigners have formed a line behind us. Many of them accompanied by a private guide they have hired to shuttle them around all day. Guides are a very helpful for tourists in India. They provide valuable historical information, recommend restaurants, and protection when necessary.

Groups of Indian elementary school children dressed in their gray pants and navy blue vests are trying their best to stand in line.   Their teachers are telling them in English, “Line up here”. They proceed into the park in single line formation following their teachers. Elementary schools in India have both coeducational and segregated classes. Some of them pass by and sneak a smile and a few giggles when they see the foreigners watching them and taking their pictures. I wonder what they think about us.

School children waiting to enter the Qutb monument park

We take pictures, read the guidebook, and walk around. Every time I turn a corner, there is a young Indian couple stealing kisses and embracing. Showing signs of affection in public is not acceptable. Young people take advantage of theaters, museums, and national monuments to show their feelings for each other.

Qutb Minar

Qutb Minar

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We stop at the market on the way home to pick up some things for dinner. The market has stalls of vegetables, dry goods, pharmaceuticals, dried fruits, nuts, and clothing. Hiroko has her preferred vegetable stall. We quickly pass by all of the others who are trying to hawk their products. Hiroko walks into her vegetable stall and everyone greets her with “Namaste”. She goes about picking her vegetables. She is being closely followed by one of the workers who is holding a small plastic container with small holes.

Hiroko chooses a vegetable and he places it in the container. He tries to get her to buy mangoes, she says no. There are gooseberries, grapes, cauliflower, ginger, bananas, and cabbage. He hands the plastic container of vegetables to another man who weighs it. The tally is done by hand with pencil and paper. The next man gives Hiroko the total. She haggles for a little less and is successful. She pays with her debit card.  We leave the bag with them and proceed to the next stall.

There are no women shopping nor working in the stalls. The men lie around, drink tea, and talk to each other. I walk through the stalls observing the colorful clothing and the various choices of nuts and dried fruits. Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, dates, apricots, and apples.

Vegetable shop

Vegetable stall

This was the first day of my visit to Delhi, India. Please read Part 2.

 

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