So no sooner are we back from Canada, than we’re both back to work. As a result I’ve taken the opportunity to upload various pictures from our trip.
This being the middle of winter, there aren’t that many pictures, since aside from a day in Medicine Hat we spent the majority of the time on Beth’s parents ranch. Luckily the snow didn’t hit until the day after we arrived, and with no further major snow we had no problems getting back to Calgary to catch our plane. Having said that, when we set off for the airport on New Years Day morning, the temperature was a very chilly -23Â°C – which thanks to the brewing Chinook Wind had hit 5Â°C by the time we reached the city, and is expected to climb higher in coming days. Of course the winds also gave us a pretty bumpy ride as the plane climbed out of Calgary too.
All the pictures are loaded in to the recent pictures feed – with the majority of the pictures, a series of pictures of the ranch in winter, being stored in a special photo set. Depending on how things go, I may well blog about some of the rest of the trip over the next couple of days, particularly whether our decision to try the new British Airways service will change our travelling preferences for future trips.
Many of you will probably have heard me grumble about the prices of direct flights from London to Calgary. Thanks in part to the take over of Canadian by Air Canada, the only major carrier operating a direct service has been Air Canada. The impression I’ve got over recent years is that they’ve tended to take advantage of that to make some money on the tickets – the cheapest direct tickets sometimes costing twice as much as some of the indirect competition. However, all of that is going to change come December, as after an absence of eight years, British Airways are starting up direct flights again, which hopefully should bring about some competition on the route and bring the fares down a bit.
Recently Vonage one of the big names in the VoIP arena announced a deal with The Cloud in the UK to allow free access to all of their hotspots for the Vonage Wi-Fi phone. This piqued my interest, as with the phone, for the flat rate of Â£7.99 a month the phone allows you to make and receive phone calls for free to any UK land line number. Indeed the Wi-Fi phone can connect to any wireless network anywhere in the world and give you free calls to any UK land line.
Looking at the site, although it seemed like a good deal, aside from trips to Canada, where it could significantly cut the cost of phoning home, it didn’t give much of a price advantage over our existing long distance provider. However, on digging through the site a bit further, I found the Virtual Phone Number option on their list of additional features. What this provides is a second phone number for the account in any of the countries in which Vonage provides service, which includes Canada. So although it didn’t save us any money with outgoing calls to Canada, we could set up a phone number in Alberta, and then our friends and family in Canada could call us for at most the cost of a long distance call in Canada, rather than an international call.
A bit of background reading found that Vonage isn’t compatible with Sky boxes, so we couldn’t get rid of the BT line even if we were able to (the broadband connection goes over the BT line). Also a concern was that none of the Vonage hardware actually offers the fallback to a normal phone line that routers such as the Speedtouch 716 (emergency calls are still somewhat of an issue with VoIP, and of course unlike a normal phone, it won’t work if there is a power cut) which would have been a show stopper. However I found that since the Vonage configuration allows us to forward calls to our numbers to any other number, we could forward the calls on our Vonage numbers to our normal BT line at no extra cost, allowing us to carry on making use of the extensions in the house, stay within our Sky agreement, but still have a Canadian number. The only restriction would be that we would have to make outgoing calls on the Vonage phone rather than any of the others.
So with all of the issues addressed, we took the plunge, and now have an additional line with a Reading number, plus a Medicine Hat number in Canada. Beth’s parents gave the new number a try, and found that as well as saving them money, the call quality was much improved to, Beth’s Dad said it sounded like Beth was in the next room rather than thousands of miles away. The one irony though is that since we could only get Canadian numbers from a limited number of ranges in large towns and cities (Calgary, Lethbridge, Red Deer or Medicine Hat near Beth’s parents) it is still a non-local call for Beth’s parents to reach our Medicine Hat number. Indeed such are the confusions of phone costs, and the level of UK competition in the market now that their call from Jenner to Medicine Hat using the regular phone company still costs slightly more per minute than if we called them on our long distance provider from the UK! (Calls to Canada on both Vonage and Call18866 who we have been using up to now are only 2p per minute.)
We’ve had a definite case of torn loyalties at the moment with the ongoing Winter Olympics, none more so than tonight.
In case you haven’t heard, the British Womens Curling team have been knocked out of the competition – as a result of the Canadian team beating the Danes.
Reading regularjen.com today, Jen was blogging about the problems of giving and recieving Christmas presents to and from the other side of the pond, something that Beth and myself have discovered over the past few years. I guess it’s one of the things that doesn’t really come up in those living abroad guides – but maybe it should.
Ourselves and our Canadian relations have tried various different things when it comes to Christmas and birthdays. On one occasion Beth bought presents for Canadian friends and relations over here, but then ended up spending almost as much again in postage. On another occasion a Christmas present from Canada has been three times over the Atlantic when the post office in Canada made a mistake on the parcel, and the British Post Office sent it back return-to-sender, by sea. We eventually got it just before Easter!
The method that worked best was of course the year we went to Canada for New Year, so we packed all the presents in the suitcase. However, second best is using the wonders of Internet shopping. We have accounts on a selection of big Canadian online retailers, all of whom are quite happy to take our UK credit card.
The key thing to remember though is to use the local site for the destination, so in our case amazon.ca for sending to Canadian relations.
After spending yesterday afternoon finishing off all the captions and descriptions, and leaving the computer uploading all the pictures to Flickr overnight, we now have a gallery of pictures on our Photo Galleries page.
Having now been all the way through the complete set there are at least two pictures that didn’t survive the corruption of the memory card, although all the pictures I thought came out well an wanted to see at full size appear to have come out well, including quite a few taken in Glacier National Park, and the prarie sunset picture that I have included here.
The second memory card from the new camera transferred without problems, as did the memory stick from the camera phone. In future I guess I’ll be very careful with the new memory cards, and only put them into the Mac, as the only difference in handling was to try to open the card on Windows XP, rather than let the Mac handle it.