When to Renew Your Passport

May 8th, 2015 | Travel Tips | No Comments »

passportEven if your passport hasn’t expired, there’s no guarantee that it will be accepted as valid for travel.  Many countries have rules requiring that your passport is valid for at least 3 months after your entry; Israel requires 6 months remaining on your passport. Even if you’re travelling to countries that aren’t as strict, your passport should be valid for your return flight and a bit beyond, as a safety measure.


Check Destination Passport Requirements in Advance

If you arrive at the airport and are denied boarding because your passport validity doesn’t meet the rules of your destination, who can you blame? With various restrictions around travel today, you should always try to be aware of the latest requirements. If you use the services of a travel agency, they should inform you of any quirks in a country’s policies. Still, with so much current information available online, you’d be well advised to research independently and confirm particulars with your agency or airline.

When to Renew Your Passport.

I always renewed my passport 7 months before the expiry date, which allowed for delays.  As a crew member, I received priority treatment, but in most places, paying an extra fee will expedite the process.

Although passport requirements may make your 10 year passport technically valid for only 9 1/2 years, better safe than sorry is a good rule to follow when travelling and dealing with passport renewal.

My eBook Travel Like  a Flight Attendant has more useful travel advice.

Bon Voyage!

© 2015, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.


Can I Carry Nail Varnish or Polish on a Plane?

April 8th, 2013 | Air Travel,Carry on Baggage | No Comments »

Is nail polish or nail varnish allowed in hand luggage on board an airplane?  The answer is yes, as long as the bottle is under 3 oz for US travel and 100ml for most other countries.

After a 2006 bomb plot discovery, all liquid, gel or aerosol items must be in containers no larger than 3 oz or 100ml and fit into a one litre clear, closed and resealable plastic bag, about 20 cm x 20 cm.  I’ve dubbed this the security baggie and it must pass though the screening machine separately from your other carry-on luggage.

Use a medium-sized zippered bag; the freezer style is more durable. It’s easy to fit all your sundries once you know that only liquid, gel or aerosol items are considered restricted and
need to be placed in the security baggie. This includes roll-on or aerosol deodorant,
toothpaste, shave cream and mascara.

For more information on what you can carry on board and how to pack it like a pro, download my eBook Travel Like A Flight Attendant. It’s filled with money-saving travel tips and advice I learned from my thirty years (and twenty million air miles) as a crew member.

Happy travels!

© 2013 – 2015, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.


Are All-Inclusive Vacations a Bargain?

July 25th, 2012 | Budget Travel | No Comments »

I’ve recently become a big fan of the lazy girl’s way to travel, the all-inclusive vacation. For most of us, holidays are meant to be a time for relaxation and renewal. Knowing the full cost of the entire trip in advance (airfare, transfers, accommodation and all food, drinks, taxes and tipping), is definitely stress-reducing and can actually be a smart way to budget.

Hidden Costs of Airline Tickets

Advertised prices for airplane tickets may seem cheap but there are often additional charges and limitations. The cost shown may be for a one-way ticket, departure and arrival dates may be restricted and the number of available seats may be limited. Airlines are usually responsible for collecting sales tax, airport security fees and departure taxes, none of which they keep for their own use. These hidden charges will be added to the cost of the ticket and can cause the final price to double. A package vacation will include reduce the possibility of unpleasant financial surprises when the final bill arrives.

Hotel Transfers at All Inclusive Resorts

Depending on the proximity to the airport, transportation to and from a holiday resort or hotel can be costly. Tourists who are unfamiliar with a foreign country can be targeted by aggressive touts or over charged for taxi service. In most vacation packages, transfers to and from the airport are included, so remember to enquire in advance about details.

Package Vacation Taxes and Tipping

Hotel rooms are also subject to taxes and additional charges. Keeping track of whom to tip and how much can be stressful for travellers. Changing money into local currency for tips, usually small bills, can be a hassle and mistakes can be made if one is tired or jetlagged. Tipping and taxes are built-in into the price of most all-inclusive resorts, ensuring consistent service and a guaranteed holiday price.

Drinks and Meals at All Inclusive Vacations

Food and beverage costs can take a big bite out of a vacation budget. An all inclusive plan will provide meals and drinks at no extra charge. Generally speaking, the more expensive the resort, the higher the quality of food and drinks will be. Luxury packages may differ from one hotel to another, with some providing unlimited food, brand name liquor and bottled wine while others may impose a small surcharge for upgrades.

Eating at an all inclusive resort also eliminates the need to research, organize and pay for restaurant meals and transportation. Many vacation packages allow visitors to sample complimentary food, drinks and amenities at other nearby affiliated properties.

Special Discounts and Tours

All inclusive vacations will sometimes offer discounted charges for tours, golf rounds and spa treatments, if they are not already free. Before booking, be sure to ask about additional promotions that can save even more money, such as free internet or long distance calls. Travellers unfamiliar with a resort’s amenities may miss out on special deals or items that are included in the cost of their stay.

So far, my experiences have been all postive.  But as I just mentioned, a little bit of research still goes a long way towards having the cost-conscious vacation of your dreams.

© 2012 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.


Goldfinger’s House at 2 Willow Road, London

July 24th, 2012 | Travel Tales | 1 Comment »

U.K. architect Erno Goldfinger’s striking and controversial 1939 design at 2 Willow Road in London was the first Modernist structure acquired by the National Trust.

Although the building it replaced was a dilapidated ruin, local council and residents fiercely opposed its construction. Author Ian Fleming, a Hampstead Heath neighbour, disliked the plans for 2 Willow Road so much he named a Bond villain after the avant-guarde architect. But Goldfinger’s creation has an enduring appeal.

Goldfinger and Contemporary Architecture

Goldfinger was born in Budapest in 1902 and studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He supported contemporary ideals but favoured structural rationalism – that is, wood must look like wood, steel like steel – over Le Corbusier’s white box approach.

Even so, Goldfinger tempered his plan by covering the concrete at in red brick and painting the metal windows white in order to maintain harmony with the surrounding Georgian houses.

Inside 2 Willow Road

Visitors enter this former family home through a small, dim foyer. An initally intimidating spiral staircase demonstrates Goldfinger’s attention to ergonomic detail. The treads are wide enough where needed and the risers are shorter than expected, making the climb easy.

The reason Goldfinger designed a tiny entry is evident once the main floor is reached. A wall of north facing windows captures light from the heath across the street all day and combined with the higher ceiling, creates a dramatic contrast.

Modernist Designs and Materials

The living room, dining room and Goldfinger’s office are all on this level. A series of folding and sliding doors allows them to become one large area for entertaining. These rooms are masculine and imposing, like the man himself. Walls are covered in oak or mahogany-veneered plywood or painted in colours from the palettes of artist friends like Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp, whose works are displayed here.

Ingenious built-ins preserve the sense of pure volume in this space and the furniture, designed mainly by the architect himself, has an industrial edge.

The all-white master bedroom is on the top floor. Small windows create an intimate feel though the room is bare except for a low futon bed, a chair and a bank of bookcases. Capacious storage is hidden behind a wall of doors.

Goldfinger and His Plans for 1, 2 and 3 Willow Road

Along with charts marking the heights of the Goldfinger children as they grew, the upstairs nursery now contains models and floor plans of 1, 2 and 3 Willow Road. This historic house is sandwiched between two smaller terraced residences the architect built in order to fund the entire project. One was initially sold while the other was first rented and later sold.

National Trust Legacy of Goldfinger

Goldfinger died in 1987 and his wife Ursula stayed in the house until her death in 1991. The National Trust acquired the house in 1994 when the Goldfinger children left it to them via the Treasury, in lieu of paying inheritance tax. Most of the contents, including tea bags and Christmas pudding, were in the bequest. Magazines and drafting tools are lying about and it seems as though the family might return at any moment.

Since 2 Willow Road was opened to the public in 1996, acceptance and admiration of Goldfinger’s work has grown. The building that was once reviled is now a modernist jewel in the National Trust’s crown. Joint tickets are available with nearby 17th-century Fenton House.

© 2012 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.


History & Health Meet at UK Spa in Bath

July 24th, 2012 | Travel Tales | No Comments »

Historic Bath is an easy day trip from London. Visitors can tour ancient Roman ruins or indulge in a modern spa treatment. Bath is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Head out to Bath in the morning by train or bus. As the office towers and red brick houses of London gradually give way to rolling green fields lined with hedgerows and dotted with country homes, a sense of relaxation sets in.

The original Roman Baths were constructed between AD 65 and 75. Rebuilt in the 1700s, they reached the height of their popularity when Queen Anne’s regular visits to Bath made the spa fashionable amongst society’s elite. People bathed in and drank Bath’s foul smelling thermal water. Amazingly, the spring still pumps out 240,000 gallons daily.

UNESCO World Heritage Site at Bath

Visitors arriving in Bath will be charmed by curved rows of late 18th century townhouses. Elegant in their Georgian simplicity, the mellow patina of the facades contrasts sharply with the polished brass hardware and high gloss paint on the front doors. A popular door colour is oxblood red. These houses are one of the reasons Bath was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.

The River Avon runs through the heart of town, and defines Bath almost as much as its Georgian architecture or fine Roman ruins. The Pulteney Bridge is reminiscent of Italy, not surprising since its unusual shop-lined design was based on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

Ancient Treasures at Bath

The baths are an archaeological treasure, with an excavated temple, saunas and massage rooms. A trove of antique coins, mosaics, stone carvings and a fabulous gilt-bronze head of Minerva are well displayed. The Great Bath, an enormous swimming pool, impresses with its classic eighteenth century design. You can imagine lords and ladies cavorting around the columns and in the steaming, greenish-grey water.

Thermal Spa Treatment at Bath

Today’s visitors to Bath can enjoy the best of the old and the new with The Spas Ancient and Modern package, which includes admission to the historic Roman Baths, a two-hour session at the new Thermae Bath Spa and lunch or Champagne tea in the Pump Room Restaurant.

Taste Bath’s Water at the Grand Pump Room

Along with lunches and afternoon teas, the Pump Room sells a souvenir of a different kind. Visitors can buy a taste of the spa’s water. Sniff, sip and gag. The murky brew of 43 malodorous minerals is absolutely vile. But what else would you expect from ‘Bath water?’

Historic Sites in London

Visitors to the Roman Baths might also enjoy a tour of historic Fenton House or the Wallace Collection in London.

Roman Baths, Abbey Church Yard, Bath BA1 1LZ

© 2012 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.


A Tour of the Wallace Collection in London, England

July 24th, 2012 | Travel Tales | 1 Comment »

The Wallace Collection is a public museum in a stately London townhouse, filled with one of the greatest private collections of art ever bequeathed to the British nation.

The collection was amassed by five generations of one family, from circa 1760 to 1880 and is displayed in their historic former home, Hertford House. The mansion is tucked away on leafy Manchester Square in London’s west end, just behind busy Oxford Street.

Highlights of the Wallace Collection

Though the Wallace Collection is known for its superb 18th and 19th century French paintings and decorative art, the wealthy Marquesses of Hertford bought what they liked, not what they thought was fashionable. The result is something for almost everyone, from Rococo Sevres porcelain to 16thC Turkish Iznik pottery.

Medieval suits of armour, including a life-sized statue of a horse dressed for battle, are housed alongside crossbows, carved pistols and exotic jewel-encrusted daggers.

Paintings by Titian, Rembrandt and Rubens hang on the walls. The museum is also home to the famous Frans Hals painting The Laughing Cavalier.

The Marquesses of Hertford

Though the first four Marquesses of Hertford all engaged in buying fine art and decorative furnishings,the greatest collector of all was the neurotic and reclusive 4th Marquess, Richard Seymour-Conway. He spent the last thirty years of his life bidding through agents for works by the Old Masters.

Seymour-Conway willed the home and contents to his illegitimate son Sir Richard Wallace. The subsequent 1897 bequest of Sir Richard’s widow Lady Wallace was possibly the largest private gift ever left to the British nation.

Opening of the Wallace Collection to the Public

Hertford House was opened to the public on June 22, 1900. Lady Wallace stipulated that it be a closed collection, that is, nothing can be added or removed from the items donated in her will. Curators constantly work to present the collection in different lights. Galleries are updated and the museum also offers art classes and degrees and diplomas in art and design related fields.

 Hertford House as Private Home & Public Museum

A tour of the Wallace Collection at Hertford House is like visiting a stately private home, which is a large part of its charm. Visitors can wander over creaky parquet floors to admire a charmingly feminine desk that was once owned by Marie Antoinette. Or you can listen to the only recorded music from the 18th century, courtesy of a 1763 musical clock attributed to Jean-Claude Duplessis, The Elder. The clock chimes 13 different tunes, one before each hour.

Everything seems so accessible, with few velvet ropes in sight. However, behind the restrained presence of the guards, high-tech protection for the Wallace Collection artifacts from both a security and conservation aspect, is hidden in the woodwork. Hertford House still acts like a private home, not a purpose-built museum, so that large numbers of visitors aren’t actively encouraged. Hence the sensation that you have discovered a hidden treasure in the heart of London.

Dining at the Museum Restaurant – The Wallace

An a la carte menu is offered in the light-filled courtyard restaurant, where a soaring atrium provides an elegant setting for lunch or dinner. Seasonal French cuisine is featured, along with a seafood bar, cheeses and pates.


The museum provides some parking for disabled patrons, (which should be booked in advance), lifts to all three floors, wheelchair-accessible washrooms, translations of English audio guides, large print text sheets, magnifying glasses and flashlights.

On certain occasions, tours are offered in British Sign Language and/or Sign Supported Language. Please refer to their website under “visiting/access” for complete information.

Visiting Hours and Admission

Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm year round, except for December 24th, 25th and 26th. Donations are recommended as admission is free.

National Trust Homes in London

Visitors to the Wallace Collection might also enjoy a tour of two other historic London homes, Fenton House and Two Willow Road. The Victoria and Albert Museum is also a top cultural destination in London.

© 2012 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.


Historic Fenton House in London, England

July 24th, 2012 | Travel Tales | 1 Comment »

Visitors to National Trust Site Fenton House in London’s Hampstead Village will be transported into the bucolic past via glorious gardens, stately architecture and the melodies of prized early keyboards.

Wander down a quiet lane, away from the cafes and boutiques on the High Street. The entrance to Fenton House, circa 1686, is through an ornate metal gate, past lines of false acacia trees. This noble red and brown brick building is fitted with tall, white double-hung windows and massive chimneys that hover over the tiled rooftop.

 Famous National Trust Garden at Fenton House

Pass under the yew arbour into the award-winning garden. The grass is precisely mowed in alternating rows and the grounds are still “enclos’d with a substantial Brick Wall,” as listed on a 1765 notice of sale for Fenton House. Only now the wall is overgrown with ivy, bay and acanthus plants. At the end of the yard, benches appear in sunken gardens fragrant with lavender and rosemary. Magnificent mauve wisteria blossoms hang over pea gravel paths that are bordered by clipped boxwood.

Varigated holly bushes, pruned into cone shapes, become extravagant Christmas trees while a centuries-old orchard still produces more than thirty varieties of English apple.

Antique Keyboards from the Benton Fletcher Collection

Step inside to find that this merchant house is as elegant as the surrounding property. And Fenton House holds a special treat – an exceptional collection of early keyboards.

In 1952 Fenton House and a fine assortment of porcelain, paintings and furniture were bequeathed by owner and avid collector Lady Katherine Binning. However, according to the National Trust, beds and dressers were excluded from the will. These were taken by her heirs. The Trust filled the gaps with antique keyboards from the 1937 bequest of Major Benton Fletcher. All of the instruments are maintained in playing order and on a recital day, the house may fill with the unique sounds of a clavichord, spinet or virginal.

Lady Katherine Binning and Fenton House

On the main floor, the Oriental Room holds Chinese porcelain from the ninth to 18th centuries and is painted a soothing celadon green. An ancient bowl brims with dried lavender from the garden. Descriptions of the items are printed on cards which may be read at leisure.

 Lady Binning’s collection of blue-and-white china from the Kangxi period of 1662 to 1722 is displayed in her bedroom upstairs while the drawing room next door is appointed with Sheraton-style satinwood furniture. Caroline chintz curtains, inspired by early 18th-century draperies in the Kasteel Duivenvoorde in Holland, are edged in fluttering pink and white fabric petals.

On the third floor, former servants’ quarters are now a small gift shop. From this vantage point, on a clear day, the modern office towers of London are visible. But on a hazy day, especially with Baroque music in the background, the past is still very present at Fenton House.

Information on Fenton House and Nearby Attractions

Tickets to Fenton House are available for garden only, house and garden or joint with nearby National Trust property 2 Willow Road.

Visitors to Fenton House might also enjoy touring the wonderful works of art in the stately Hertford House Wallace Collection , also in London.

© 2012 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.


Chateau de Cormatin in Burgundy, France

July 24th, 2012 | Travel Tales | No Comments »

The Chateau de Cormatin is a beautiful castle in South Burgundy, France. Travellers to this region should make time to tour the chateau and its elegant gardens.

The Chateau de Cormatin rests on the foundations of a French medieval fortress built in Burgundy in 1280 by Henri du Ble. Both the chateau and its spectacular gardens are open to the public and are a popular destination for canal and barge boat passengers cruising along the Saone River.

History of the du Ble Family in France

The du Ble family can trace its noble French lineage back to the year 1000. A barony was acquired through a marriage in 1560 and Antoine du Ble further enhanced the family’s prestige by strategically throwing his support behind Henri IV.

The new king brought Antoine financial and social rewards, enabling him to rebuild Cormatin. The chateau was reconstructed using the existing feudal plan. The design – square with a tower at each corner – was both a practical and security feature.

As with many other French chateaux, the ramparts were later destroyed during the reign of Louis XIV. This indicated to the King that the nobility had no plans to revolt against his authority. The chateau’s slate roof not only showed the wealth of the du Ble family, it also announced their affiliation to the French Royal Court, as this material was the choice of royal residences.

French Chateau Staircase Architecture

The stunning open well interior staircase of Chateau de Cormatin was a relatively new development in early 17th century France. The arches and vaulting transfer the weight of the stones onto the outer walls. The plain, whitewashed space is a stark contrast to the highly decorated apartments. It allows one to appreciate both the engineering and the subtle colours of the various stones.

According to experts at the Château de Cormatin, neoplatonic philosophy, which was popular at the time, “attributed metaphysical virtues to numbers and geometrical shapes.” Therefore, a staircase designed using strict a mathematical formula was seen as representative of universal order.

Chateau de Cormatin Private Apartments

17th century French nobles would have “apartments” within their homes, which would contain four rooms: the anti-chamber, the bedchamber, the privy closet and the dressing room. Each of these rooms would be furnished according to its purpose.

At this time in French history, the bedchamber was the most important room within the chateau’s apartment and served as both a private and public place according to the time of day. Noble owners would also eat and entertain in the bedchamber.

The decor is rich with colors and complex symbolism that specifically relate to the person who inhabited the room. For example, paintings of fresh cut flowers represent the good deeds that one must perform daily, otherwise, like real flowers, their benefits will fade. The blue ceiling expresses faithfulness.

Beautiful French Gardens

The gardens at the chateau are notable for their variety and include an enormous maze, clipped animal topiaries and geometrically designed vegetable plots. You should allow ample time to explore and photograph the fabulous grounds.

Burgundy Chateau Travel Information

The Château de Cormatin is open from early March to early November. A guided tour is available and is worthwhile and informative.

© 2012 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.


Arrest or Detention in a Foreign Country

June 5th, 2012 | Travel Tips | No Comments »

Quirks of travel can inadvertently land you in some dodgy situations.When I was an active crewmember, I could always count on my employer to get me out of legal jams away from home.  Of course, I had an obligation to act responsibly but knowing that a colleague or head office had my back was reassuring.

Laws & procedures dealing with body searches or searches of personal belongings vary from country to country. While you must usually submit to customs or immigration searches, if they go beyond reasonable expectations for safety or security or are associated with arrest and detention, you should seek legal advice from a local lawyer or Canadian consular officials.

Vienna Convention for Travellers

Signatory countries, (currently 173), to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations are obligated to permit an arrested or detained foreign citizen to contact and communicate with consular officials from their country of citizenship. If you have been arrested or detained, signatory countries are also obligated to inform you of your right to contact said consular officials, assist you in making contact with consular officials if you request and ensure that consular officials are able to maintain regular contact or indirect contract with you as needed.

Though the convention states that these obligations should be carried out “without delay,” interpretation of this standard varies by country, so you should try to ensure that it is done promptly.

Your rights in a foreign country (more…)

© 2012 – 2015, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.


The Most Interesting Flight Attendant in the World?

March 26th, 2012 | Flight Attendants | No Comments »

For a while now, I’ve been entertained by the Dos Equis beer marketing campaign, featuring actor Jonathan Goldsmith as the Most Interesting Man in the World.  The character is the sort of passenger you’d love to see on your flight.  Of course, he’d sit in first class, but wouldn’t act pompous. If there was a decompression, he wouldn’t need an oxygen mask.  And if you didn’t have any Dos Equis onboard, it wouldn’t matter as he doesn’t always drink beer. His rich, brown, suede-like hands would be quite happy holding a snifter of cognac or a tumbler of scotch.

I began to wonder, if there was a Most Interesting Flight Attendant in the World, how would you describe her*?

  • she once water skied behind an A320 on the Hudson River
  • A three-star Michelin chef prepares her crew meals
  • the lights turn off early at the Eiffel Tower when she needs her crew rest in Paris
  • her airline repainted their planes in her favourite color
  • her  flights always arrive on time, even when they depart late
  • she  can close any overhead bin using one finger
  • she pours coffee and tea from the same pot
  • hotels  always gives her an ocean view suite, even when she has a layover in the
    prairies, but she never has layovers in the prairies.
  • passengers  ask if she would like something to drink
  • she  can disarm any door just by looking at it
  • she deices the aircraft’s wings by blowing them a kiss
  • her PA announcements reach the top 10 on the Billboard charts
  • when she asks passengers to fasten their seatbelts, you hear one loud click
  • she quit her job as a pilot because it was boring to only fly on one aircraft
  • first-class passengers want to move to economy when she’s working there, but she
    never works there
  • she doesn’t need fatigue shoes
  • pilots pay for her meals on the layover
  • she once turned down a date with George Clooney because she promised to have dinner with her crew
  • every passenger earns double air miles on her flights
  • sky marshals ask her for security advice
  • there is never any turbulence on her flights, unless she feels like sitting down for a while
  • she buys real designer handbags in Hong Kong for the price of a knockoff
  • her meal carts are never out of beef or chicken
  • she speaks every route language, but finds mind reading is much easier
  • she had jet lag once, just to see what it was like

*Okay, I know that men are flight attendants too.

I’d love to hear your description of “The Most Interesting Flight Attendant in the World.”


© 2012 – 2013, Heather Zorzini. All rights reserved.