Renting a car – the user experience

I need to rent a car at Schiphol (Amsterdam) airport next week. I figured that as the location is in the Netherlands, I’d try first. Indeed, a very user friendly website in Dutch comes up. I happily try to book a car. It starts off smooth enough, but I soon run into trouble, as I can’t decline my CDW. Nor can I get car seats for the kids. So, I try Hertz. They do let me choose car seats, but no declining CDW there either.

So, get on the phone with the Schiphol desk. Very helpful, but it turns out that only North Americans can decline CDW, so I need to book from And yes, not only can I decline CDW, but I also pay about half the price as I would have on! I still need to call back tomorrow for the car seats, but it’s worth the effort for the savings.

One of these things one has to know. Would have been nice if there’d been something about CDW on, but they probably don’t expect Dutch-speaking Canadians to land there.

Nahanni watershed one step closer to protection

The government recently announced a large expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve, from the current 5,000 sq. km to more than 30,000 sq. km. Once the park expansion process has been completed, it will become one of Canada’s largest park. It is already considered one of Canada’s greatest parks.

Torngat Mountains National Park – landing page

I have created a landing page for the Torngat Mountains National Park photos with some links to additional information on the web (the little that is available).

The page uses a refreshed design. I will gradually move the rest of the site to the new design as well.

German article on the West Coast Trail

The German Globetrotter magazine just published a full-colour article on the West Coast Trail in their Fall 2007 issue, entitled “Gaiters Please!” They used four of my photos for the article. I didn’t have any mud-photos, so they had to find someone who actually encountered the trail’s famous mud.

Falling into the tourist trap

CNN Travel posted an interesting article on tourists traps. They contend that many of the world’s top tourist icons are a let-down. Stonehenge is described as “an isolated pile of rocks in a usually muddy field”, and on Big Ben “Once you’ve seen it, you’ll know what time it is — time to go somewhere else”.

I agree. We stood in line at the Eiffel tower for about half an hour last year and gave up, as it would have taken us all day to get to the top. For me, the Niagara Falls were a big let-down: in my elementary school geography book the falls were depicted in a simple line drawing (no colourful photos in small-town Dutch elementary school books in the 70s!) as a huge waterfall surrounded by natural forests. When I visited the falls years later, that is what I expected to see. Something like Victoria or Iguazu falls. I was totally shocked by the city, towers and other traps surrounding the falls. Ever since then, the falls have been disappointing to me, even though I have been there four times now, and the falls themselves are quite pretty.

Steve Wright wrote a good article about evaluating tourism experiences and expectations earlier. Obviously, as far as CNN is concerned, many of the top icons don’t pass Steve’s test. But lesser known icons like Petra in Jordan, fare much better.

Amazing pictures of Peru

My good friend Will just returned from an amazing trip to Peru. He’s posted some of his photos. He covered a bewildering variety of habitats in just over a month! Now PEru will have to climb up on my list of places to visit.

Photos of Torngat Mountains National Park

I have posted my first batch of photos from Torngat Mountains National Park. More are to come.

Canadian icon celebrates 60 years

The De Havilland Beaver bushplane, a true Canadian icon, celebrates its 60th birthday today. This little plane that could was developed specifically for the Canadian north, with ample input from pilots. It’s most commonly seen on floats, but can also fly on wheels or skis. Nearly 1,700 of the planes were built. Despite its age, there are still many hundreds of Beavers flying all over the north. It’s been hailed as one of Canada’s top inventions.

What does this have to do with tourism? Float planes in summer (and planes on skis in winter) are a classic way to get around in Canada’s north, or even between Victoria and Vancouver. What is a more truly Canadian travel experience than a flight in the noble Beaver?

Northern Ranger

I just returned from a fantastic trip to northern Labrador (map). As part of the trip, I took the Northern Ranger back from Nain to Goose Bay. The Northern Ranger is a passenger/freight supply ship Serving communities between Black Tickle and Nain, Labrador. The ship is not aimed at tourists – it is truly a lifeline for the local communities. However, this provides a truly authentic cultural experience. This is the Labrador as the locals live it. Highly recommended.

As there is very little information available online, I have created a Northern Ranger page.

I will report on the Torngat Mountains and the communities along the way soon.