Super Travel Shoes: allbirds

I just finished canvassing for Sacramento Mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg. It meant walking door-to-door for over 6 hours with a few breaks for coffee and lunch. In the past I might have worn running shoes, but on my Australia adventure I got sore feet. So I started a search for better travel shoes.

I saw an ad for allbirds–a shoe made with New Zealand wool–and ordered a pair. I loved the packaging.IMG_9480

I started wearing them and they were instantly comfortable. There was no awkward break in period.

IMG_9481Today was the real test. I walked all day on pavement and while my feet are not singing they are not barking either.  I am excited to take them to Italy in May.

IMG_9482They are just funky enough to be stylish.

Happy World Penguin Day!

Meet someone who does not find penguins amusing and I say “Avoid that person if you can!”


Penguin trash can. Photo by Tevis Spezia

Today is World Penguin Day. Penguins enjoy 2 special days a year–and why not? On this day I bring to your attention the opportunity to participate in penguin science.

Click through to a Science Alert and help scientists count penguins, chicks and eggs in research photos. The headline reads “Scientists need your help looking at photos of adorable penguins, seriously.” After trying it I would compare it to playing Where’s Waldo, except that it actually matters.

You may also want to help Greenpeace protect their Antarctic homes by signing their petition.


Sharing Travel Resources


Over New Zealand; photo by Sarah Clare

My son Tevis is spending 4.5 months in Southeast Asia on a backpacker’s holiday. He made all of his own travel arrangements. I was having difficulty finding flights from London to Florence and Venice to London. I sent Tev a WhatsApp message asking for advice.

When Tev worked at Google he used a travel hack that was first available to Google employees then to public. Go to and then search for flights. It is an amazing summary of available flights without all the palaver you find on Travelocity and similar sites. I was able to fix my flights in no time.

I also rediscovered a copy of Smithsonian Journeys, a travel quarterly magazine, that I had saved. It appears to be a new venture. You can buy each issue for $13.99 but cannot subscribe yet. My copy is Fall 2015 and the theme is “The Inca Road.” All of the articles are about the history of the Inca empire and all sorts of interesting articles from Ecuador, Peru and Argentina. It is an interesting approach that plays to the Smithsonian’s strengths. Priced like a paperback, it is worth saving.  They also have tours and other services.

I just discovered a local Jane Austen Reading Group at my local library. As I was leaving I mentioned that I would miss the next month as I will be in Italy and then spending a few days in London. One of the members recommended Walking Jane Austen’s London. Sometimes the best resources are found by word of mouth from other traveller’s.



Devonport Lookin’ Good


Last time I was in Devonport the streets and walkways near the ferry terminal were under construction. The project is complete and the area looks fabulous. The library is also remodeled and enlarged. Devonport is looking good.

We parked up the hill and walked down the main street to the “best ice cream in New Zealand.” I had to try it. First because I had to test their claim and also because they had this fab fake cow for kids to milk (just water). It was good especially on a hot day.


After mooching around Devonport we stopped at Bette’s cafe for a light repast.



When I lived in St Heliers one of my favorite outings was taking the ferry to Devonport to shop for used books and knitting supplies. I stopped in at Wild and Woolly Yarns and had fun shopping for my grandbaby to be.

Devonport was the last stop on our Northland road trip. We drove over the bridge and through downtown Auckland and back to St Heliers. It is lovely when the adventure ends in such a special place near to my heart.


Northlands A New Zealand Must See


Hundertwasser Public Toilets in Wakawaka

People are often pressed to decide where they will concentrate their few days in New Zealand. If you only have a week, then many people barely touch down in Auckland and then proceed to the South Island to see the many national parks or for the adrenaline adventures. If you have two weeks you might add Auckland or Wellington. It seems only when people have 3 weeks or more that people make it to the Northland (the long peninsula of land North of Auckland).

I have visited New Zealand over a half dozen times and lived in St Heliers for 5 months and yet I never made it north of Matakana. I was going to borrow a car and go for a few days on my own, and then my friend UK Sarah asked if she could come along. And bonus! she did all the driving. This allowed me to really enjoy the landscape as we drove along.


Detail of the women’s sign for the public loo at Wakawaka

The Northland region is subtropical and as you drive north on Highway 1 you can feel a shift in vibe. There is a strong Maori influence and definitely more relaxed.


Fun railroad for families in Wakawaka


Classic colonial architecture at Lupton Lodge

There are a number of places to stay along the way. We stayed over three nights along the way–one night each in Omapere, Pahia and Whangarei. The last place we stayed was a low key but exquisitely restored Lupton Lodge. We reserved a table for dinner and selected our entrees ahead by email. Everything was delicious. I relaxed and Sarah took advantage of the pool to go for a swim.


Main bedroom in our 2 room suite at Lupton Lodge

The whole experience was too brief! I was texting back and forth with my son and I realized that I would really like to spend 2-4 weeks every winter in New Zealand. I can imagine staying in Kerikeri or some other bach in the Northlands.



Ferry to Russell for Lunch


The Bay of Islands stretch between Pahia and Russell. Tis truly beautiful.

Russell is most easily reached by ferry. The ferry ride is not long and feels like an outing. Like a hay ride or a sleigh ride. Anticipation rises as you draw near to Russell.


The ferry crosses  frequently and costs an adult $12NZ round trip or $6NZ return.

Once we got to Russell we were not hungry or thirsty. My friend UK Sarah had explored the Anglican church on a previous visit so we set off to find it. You cannot get lost in such a small village. The church and yard are lovely. We spent about a half hour looking about and then returned to the village proper.


Back in the day Russell was the Las Vegas of New Zealand. Whalers and sailors and bad boys looking for sex, alcohol and other good times or mischief stopped in Russell (or Hell Hole). Now Russell is a quiet retirement community and fun place to visit for a day.

I was craving fish and chips and we found a great place in the Gables Restaurant. We sat outdoors and enjoyed a hearty lunch in the garden.


There is definitely a certain laid back vibe in Pahia and Russell. It is probably the light and the water. Make sure you have set aside some time to just hangout.





Waitangi Worth a Visit


The house where the Queen’s Governor General James Busby and family lived when he hosted the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, which legitimized the movement of Europeans to New Zealand under international law.

UK Sarah and I continued our road trip to Pahia and checked into the Pearl of the Bay motel. We spent the first night noshing on a picnic dinner we assembled at the Farmers Market and catching up on our reading and email. The next day we drove straight to Waitangi, which is adjacent to Pahia.


The Waitangi Treaty Grounds charge an admission to non-Kiwis. When we were there in January the new museum was just days from opening. The gift shop was still small, although there is a lovely cafe with outdoor dining between the main entrance and the waka or war canoe.



Hobson Beach shelters the iwi Ngāpuhi’s ceremonial war canoe, the world’s largest. The war canoe inspires some silly pictures by tourists.


Te Whare Runanga is a carved meeting house for the local Maori iwi.

As the website says: Te Whare Rūnanga (the House of Assembly) is a carved meeting house in traditional form but is a unique expression of its purpose. It stands facing the Treaty House, the two buildings together symbolising the partnership agreed between Māori and the British Crown, on which today’s Aotearoa New Zealand is founded.

We spent a couple of happy hours walking the grounds on the mostly paved trails or elevated boardwalks, reading the exhibits and walking through the Treaty House and carved meeting house. There was a bus of tourists yucking it up at the waka, but we were able to easily walk ahead of them and enjoy the grounds in relative peace.

The Treaty Grounds was readying for the annual ceremony celebrating the historic occasion on Waitangi Day–a national holiday. This particular ceremony is always marked by loud and angry protests from various Maori people. Free speech is alive and well in New Zealand. This year was also going to include the museum dedication.