Try This On for Size - Visiting Recife, Brazil By Travis Monk

21 二月 2013

Fearless travel writer Travis Monk braves the streets of Recife Carnival in search of sights, sounds, smells and sequins on behalf of Seven Seas Worldwide. If you're going carnival-ing or just need some extra space for all your clothes, sequins, feathers, beads and whatever else you're carrying in your luggage (we won't judge) take a look at our excess baggage shipping which can save you a bundle on airline fees.

I open the balcony doors of my hotel and look out onto the street to see assorted bright colours and shapes flowing down the thoroughfare like vibrant sewage.

I am in Recife, north Brazil for international shipping company Seven Seas Worldwide. One of the locals making their way into the centre of town, wearing a sequined Tyrannosaurus Rex costume, looks up and makes direct eye contact with me, similar to the moment when the Tyrannosaurus Rex stares inside the car in Jurassic Park – but sexier. She beckons me to come and join the party. Luckily I had been planning to all along, and quickly unpack my hummingbird costume.

I've been to the Recife Carnival every year for the past six months and the reason I keep coming back is the overwhelming sense of inclusion and the acceptable nudity. But it’s mainly the inclusion thing. No one is an outsider here – not even the man who dresses up each year as a computer virus – and the feeling that one can belong to a place almost as soon as your sandals touch the hot tarmac is something that throbs through Recife like a mobile phone on a marble table.

Recife Carnival is not as commercial as Rio’s famous carnival. In Rio, it’s all too easy to stumble across a flamboyant dancer dressed as a Pepsi vending machine or to watch from the curb as groups of excited performers on extravagant floats distribute sample packets of a new fabric softener. Recife is different. There’s no money here. People spend years perfecting their costumes, putting everything on hold until they find the right sequin or button. One elderly lady in town has spent 34 years on a dress she still hasn’t worn. By all accounts, it’s a sartorial representation of South America’s growing economy. It measures half a mile wide and so far includes 3 million sequins, 80,000 feathers and a billion beads. She apparently told neighbours “I just can’t find the right belt.”

As I approach my darling Tyrannosaurus Rex, my path is intercepted by a Brontosaurus. Not a real one. This instead is an ostentatious fellow whose choice of costume provides the perfect route to enticing conversation. As their chins begin to wag, I step in to highlight the absurdity of a Brontosaurus dating a Tyrannosaurus Rex but my Jurassic accuracy falls on deaf ears and I buzz into the nearest bar for several shots of Rabo-de-galo. “The night is young!” says my bartender as he places down another glass to mark the observation.

Unfortunately it didn’t get any older either. I passed out.

 

Ski Someday - The Slopes of Switzerland by Travis Monk

12 二月 2013

Our own indomitable travel writer, Travis Monk, braves the slopes of Switzerland in the name of experience, skis and excess baggage.

“Do the ‘Cheese’. Now the ‘Wizard’s Hat’. Now do the ‘Falling Tree’. And the ‘Angry Conker’. And the ‘Pensive Hamster’.” My ski instructor Tomas is reeling off a load of ski moves to me but I'm having a hard time keeping up. This is because I haven’t got my skis on yet.

I was told before I ventured out here that Zermatt, Switzerland offers some of the most breathtaking views of skiers falling over and since I arrived last Tuesday for Seven Seas Worldwide, it hasn't failed to disappoint. The most rewarding aspect of a skiing holiday is watching smug people fall over; though this is something I've yet to convince Tomas who is adamant that I memorise his bewildering lexicon.

With my feet securely inside my snap-buckle ski boots, I slide uneasily down one of the more moderate slopes at the resort, pursued by Tomas and his faithful dog Duke who – despite wearing top-of-the-range ‘dog-skis’ - appears to be managing as badly as me.

I didn’t want to go on a skiing holiday but I was roped into it by my friends Jocasta, Alexandra and Pip-Pip. I had visited Jocasta’s apartment in the Dordogne valley during the summer to finish my latest advice book ‘How to Throw a Memorable Funeral Wake’ whereupon Jocasta mentioned she was going on a two week break to Zermatt and that my company would be most welcome. I get the feeling I was only ever invited because I have a helicopter but nevertheless I accepted.

The nearest I had gotten to the skiing experience before this is when I fell down a flight of stairs and lost my wallet, so Tomas had much to teach me. A local skiing instructor can set you back about £50 a day. That’s for a good one. There are many unskilled skiing instructors operating in Zermatt and they’re easy to spot because they often refer to skis as ‘long flat shoe things’. They also complain of the cold and their lessons last about fifty seconds. Tomas is a competent instructor, though he has a distracting moustache which has caused me to ski into a tree on more than one occasion.

Later in the day, my pals and I took a trip up to Klein Matterhorn using a cable car. This was a particularly arduous trip as there is no cable leading up to Klein Matterhorn, but we got there eventually. There’s no prejudice up here: Professionals and beginners can be found rubbing shoulders and falling over together without discrimination.

If this skiing trip has taught me one thing, it’s that human beings can’t just go to a picturesque location, find a nice bench and admire the view; they have to attach unnaturally long things to their feet and risk injury there too.

I’m just skimming the surface of the human condition here. Well, I would be, but I don’t know how to skim either. Fortunately I do know about shipping which is why I can safely say that if you want to send your skis ahead as excess baggage you probably want to get an online shipping quote now. Or your skims. Or anything else, for that matter.

Don't Buy This Stuff (1)

12 二月 2013

If you’re travelling abroad or relocating overseas soon, you’ll want to buy a load of unnecessary travel items to accompany you on your journey (and later on, the fill the attic).

I’ve found a few interesting holiday-related gizmos on the website thefancy.com - a refined location on the web for all manner of stylish, purchasable objects that you never knew existed – and thought you might want to take a gander before you print your e-tickets and stuff your passport in your bumbag.

I may have been a tad harsh when I said earlier that these items were unnecessary. Some of them are. In fact, plenty of them are. However, the Stowaway iPhone Wallet Case looks like a rather nifty invention for the seasoned traveller. A flap at the back of the phone lifts up to reveal a compartment for storing your most important credit cards, debit cards, library cards, Blockbuster membership cards, whatever. It’s quite a thick case, naturally, so if you’re one of those iPhone users who occasionally looks to the heavens and says ‘Why can’t my iPhone be marginally thinner?’, then this is probably not the case for you.

Should you have travel sleeping or breathing comfortably on the plane, or you just want to make the passenger next to you think they’re flying with a Storm Trooper, why not bring the Breathing Travel Mask onboard with you? Well, there are a number of reasons, really. If it works, great, but if it doesn’t, you’re essentially a strange person with a robot-face who keeps scaring the children.

Parents going abroad with a little one may be in the market for one of these. After all, they’ve decided that going abroad with a baby is a good idea, so they’re probably not the wisest owls. Actually, out of all the travel gadgets, this could be the most practical – a bag for baby things which you can open and let the baby sleep in like a miniature travel cot. Aww.

Perhaps the stupidest thing in my list features one of our most recent comedy classics. ANapoleon Dynamite Sleep Mask. Yes, this is a novelty item that is funny for no longer than twelve seconds but, hey, a mask is a mask and it will earn you geek points. Not sure who with. The Elder Geeks perhaps.

Leaving thefancy.com for now, take a look at what Firebox is offering the campers among you. Ladies and gentlemen, the Camper Van Tent. As camper van tents go, this is pretty snazzy and will break the ice with fellow campers. Either that,or they’ll just stay away from you all week and call you the ‘Weirdo Tent Guy’.

Remember, a build-up of unnecessary travel items may well result in excess baggage, which we can fortunately help with - get a shipping quote online now.

Don't Buy This Stuff (2)

03 二月 2013

Once again, your faithful shipping service, Seven Seas Worldwide, has trawled through the web to find some of the more quirky travel items for sale. And when I say ‘quirky’, I mean ‘useless’. Yes, this is the blog for those of you who make rash purchasing decisions based on novelty value alone. Okay, there’s a recession on but have you seen this Swiss Army Lampshade? Only £174.99!

From Firebox.com comes the Biolite CampingStove. Now if you’re partial to the odd weekend away huddled underneath polycotton canvas in a remote field, this could actually be of some service.

After you’ve pitched your tent, embark on a little biomass-gathering expedition, collecting a sufficient pile of wood, twigs, pinecones and whatever else you can find. Then drop it all into the Biolite Camping Stove and its internal fan will create an enduring, super-efficient combustion fire for keeping you warm and cooking your food. Not only that, the heat generated is converted into electricity, allowing you to charge your mobile devices via a USB port. Pretty nifty.

If you’re lucky enough to be shipping abroad for a beach holiday offering eye-catching marine life, why not fit an underwater camera to your face? Well, why not?

The 8MP Digital Camera Mask is a combined snorkeling mask and camera, allowing you to show what you saw beneath the waves to friends, family and other people who aren’t interested. If you’ve ever watched one of those expensive, sea-based, BBC documentaries and thought ‘I wish I was filming that seahorse’, this is the gadget for you.

It’s a little-known fact that posh adventurer Bear Grylls is actually a wuss. Everything that takes place in his survival programmes are staged and choreographed to make it seem like he’s some sort of expert. But he’s not. He shrieks like a little girl when he walks through a cobweb. However, his brand remains strong and some of the items being sold under his deceitful name are actually pretty good.

Take the Bear Grylls Compact Multi-Tool for instance; an excellent contraption containing screwdrivers, knives, a wire cutter and a bottle opener. This is an essential item for those who transform into Bear Grylls just because they took a wrong turning whilst travelling from the hotel to the local shop and only ever end up using the bottle opener anyway.

Speaking of tools...

Have you ever seen a child at the airport riding their little wheeled suitcases or ‘Trunkies’ and thought ‘I wish I could ride my luggage’. Well now you can with the Micro Suitcase Scooter. It folds away neatly and is permitted as hand luggage. I tried finding an image where the person using the scooter doesn’t look utterly ridiculous but this proved impossible.

Something that’s taken the ‘Useless Gift’ world by storm in recent months is the Scratch Map. This is a regular world map without any detail – until you scratch away the surface as if it were a big Lottery Scratchcard. Hang it up somewhere and scratch away each area you’ve visited. It’s a fun and novel idea and if you hang it somewhere where people can see it, you can show them just how well-travelled or strangely unadventurous you are.

I’d also like to remind you that if you're prone to buying useless accessories on a whim, this may well result in an excess baggage-related situation while abroad. I'm just saying.