Retail is hurting because of competition with Internet shopping. And I believe it’s suffering because shopping has become so boring. The shops on Main Street in almost every city around the world is practically the same. So when I travel I am looking for something unique. Sure I love Anthropologie, but I can always shop there at home. London used to have more unique shops. Now I search for them. Of course the atmosphere is still London-ey.
Neighborhoods are distinct and some streets are closed to auto traffic. Plus London still has some large and unique department stores. My favorite is Liberty (not Harrods). And when I got to Liberty I have to go to the floor with Liberty fabric and Rowan yarn. I also love Liberty’s customer service and their help with getting VAT refund.
You can get a VAT refund if you buy goods worth over 50 pounds. Save your receipts and take advantage of help from the first shop where they will give you the VAT refund envelope. I prefer to make time when I depart to go to the VAT refund desk (all the way to the left in Heathrow Terminal 2) before I check my bags. Sometimes they ask to see the goods. You can get cash (but what to do with a bunch of foreign currency?) or get a refund to your credit card (preferred). If you forget or run out of time, I believe you can also mail it in.
Today I opened my new AWAY luggage. I have been hearing about this luggage on the Satellite Sisters podcast, so I used the $20 discount and ordered the regular sized carry -on model.
The box was waiting on my porch when I got home from a road trip to the coast. My AWAY luggage is beautifully packed.
The bag is wrapped in this cotton sack and it will make a great dirty clothes bag when I travel.
One of the great features of AWAY luggage is the security system. I set my own combination and lock the toggles into place. The Carry-On also features a charging station for your phone.
After a miserable experience dragging my largest suitcase around Copenhagen and England, I am ready to go back to traveling light. My go to carry-on is worn out and my Rick Steves suitcase/backpack was destroyed by airport baggage handlers. I’ll give a try making it my only bag for my New York- Maine trip in August.
It is Independence Day in the USA and I am celebrating my travel independence with my AWAY bag.
The African penguins are on the second floor of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, past the top of the Kelp Forest and adjacent to the Splash Zone. The area was empty of people when I first arrived. I sat on the carpeted bench and watched as child after child discovered the exhibit. “Penguins!” they’d exclaim with the face lighting up. Many sea creatures scare people because they are potentially lethal–jellyfish and sharks–but everyone appears to find the penguins charming and funny.
The penguins at the Aquarium are fed daily at 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. There is no special ticket required to watch the keepers feed them fish and answer questions from the audience. There are also interactive displays to expand your knowledge of penguins. African penguins are among the most threatened species because of their dwindling food supply and habitat, but the Aquarium stays upbeat.
The Aquarium is part of AZA Species Survival Plan, a zoological conservation program that is keeping endangered animals alive and maintaining their genetic diversity through collaboration and sharing of, in this case, the birds around the U.S. When I compare the rich, stimulation that African penguins have in the wild with the sterile, almost two-dimensional exhibit space, I have to remind myself how they can be ambassadors that inspire people to care about what is happening to these wonderful birds in Namibia and South Africa.
Need a penguin fix and can’t get to Monterey? Watch the live Penguin Cam!
Over in South Africa, an organization called SANCCOB is leading the way in studying, rescuing, and rehabilitating wild African penguins. Through their Chick Bolstering Project, SANCCOB biologists monitor African penguins in the wild and bring abandoned, injured or starving chicks in for care. Together with colony managers, they also rescue and hand-rear eggs that have either been abandoned by their parents or when the adult penguins were found nesting in areas outside of the protected colony area. Last year Monterey Bay Aquarium Aviculturist Monika Rohrer journeyed to South Africa to volunteer with SANCCOB. (from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website)
On quiet days when there are few visitors the penguins get to go for a stroll outside their enclosure. Watch the penguin parade.
What does the perfect day look like to you? Of course it depends on where you are. In New York City it might start with coffee and a bagel, include a visit to the zoo in Central Park and end with a Broadway play and a nightcap. I remember one day in Belfast it included taking the bus into the central business district and fossicking around the shops, enjoying a coffee, then listening to Brian Keenan read from his latest novel at the literary festival.
Today is a perfect day at home. I am free of engagements and I can do what I like. I’ve walked to the bakery and farmers’ market. Then I went through my stack of travel magazines. I am watching Poldark (season 1) and Netflix. It is a pretty day and mild weather for July. It is a good day for a bike ride or a hike. My perfect today is full of rest instead and may include a nap. Once the kids, my brother and I were in Dublin and our perfect day included a long afternoon of drinking coffee and enjoying our own company. Then we found the perfect stew for dinner.
Auckland is someplace I have spent many of perfect day. It often includes a visit to the Auckland Museum. I just received the Spring newsletter (remember, seasons are opposite the Northern hemisphere) and there is an interesting new exhibit opening in October called “Sound.” It spotlights the history of pop music in New Zealand. I will check it out when I visit in November. Days in Auckland also include shopping in Trelise Cooper and Unity Books or taking the ferry and mooching around Devonport.
I have long drooled over the Liberty of London fabrics and clothing. It is harder to find the fabrics in the USA. J Crew carries some of the clothing. I have been to the fabric corner of Harrods numerous times to stroke and oogle the Liberty fabrics, the whole time not realizing that they have an entire department store near Oxford Circus!
I had just started the #5 Jane Austen walking tour (more on this in future blog), when I looked down Argyll Street and spied Liberty stores at the end of the street. I had to detour.
Starting with the stunning florist at the entrance, the entire place is a palace of beauty. My heart beat faster as I tried to take it all in. I quickly recalculated the day I planned. I was not going to rush through this store. I wanted to soak in every display, every lovely English item.
Liberty does not just carry their own brand. You can find Stella McCartney baby outfits in the children’s section and designer clothes throughout. I started in the stationary shop and looking at bags and scarves. Some of the prices were quite reasonable and some made me hyperventilate. I bought some notecards and decided I may as well sign up for the loyalty points program because I was headed to the third level where the fabric and yarn is displayed.
I thought I might be going to a yarn shop in Islington at the end of the day, so luckily I had tucked in a couple of patterns that I plan to knit for my expected grandson. I shed all my bags and jackets and prepared for a good long browse.
Trudy asked if I needed assistance. We had a wonderful time trying to sort it all out with different weights and US and UK measurements. She is a very experienced knitter and we shared back and forth. The wifi in the store is excellent so I was able to show her Little Cotton Rabbits (I could hardly believe she had not seen this UK treasure!). She showed me her knitting project. In the end I spent more than I expected and I could not be more pleased.
I looked through many more departments and I stopped in the cafe for tea and an English cheese tray. The lovely customer service department refunded my VAT. Yet, the highlight for me was shopping with the assistance of Trudy Healy-Potter. She is a textile designer and offers classes at Liberty.
She showed me how she spliced three patterns from the Rowan loves… pattern book to create the colorful sweater she has almost finished. Not only am I excited about the projects I will be knitting this summer in anticipation of Grandson #1, I am reenergized about the craft overall. Liberty is so clever to have Trudy on their team.
I have been moving my home and office since I got back from New Zealand, so I am behind on blogging about my trip. I cannot help but notice that all US social media is leaving a little space (after election coverage) to talk about the last episode of Downton Abbey airing on PBS this Sunday evening. The season traditionally ends with a Christmas episode that plays on Christmas Day in England.–obviously delayed in the USA. I bought Season 6 on Google Play so I have already seen the conclusion and I will not spoil it.
It did make me think about Adelaide’s equivalent of Downton Abbey: Ayer’s House.
Growing up in California I can relate to places like Adelaide, South Australia. The sprung up, new fortune, scratch-a-community-out-of-the-bush feeling is one I know well. Whether it is a gold rush or agricultural land rush, the place history is not very old and the challenges of creating a “showplace” home to create status in a brand new community is familiar. When I walked up the circular drive to Ayer’s House in Adelaide it felt like a mansion in Grass Valley of another mining tycoon.
This particular tycoon, Henry Ayers, exaggerated his work experience. He was an office clerk but he claimed other skills so he could get a subsidy to emigrate to Adelaide with his wife Anna. He did well with the Burra Burra mines and ultimately served as the Premiere of South Australia five times between 1863 and 1873. He built a huge house in downtown Adelaide near the Botanic Garden. Even now it is gracious.
I went to see it because I saw a flyer on the bookshop window advertising the exhibit of costumes from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I have watched all of the episodes on Netflix and the costumes depicting a wealthy feminist detective and her entourage solving mysteries. Sometimes with television I am disappointed with the reality of a set or costume because the camera can fool you. These costumes are the real deal–recreated couture to emulate the roaring 20’s.
I was ready to join the enthusiast crowd of women who sew or craft to go through the exhibit, but first I stopped and spoke with the docent at the front door. It was he who told me about Henry Ayers and why the house is worth a look even when there is not a fashion display in every room.
To make it more interesting, the museum staff also created a bit of a whodunit to solve while you walked through the rooms. I did not need anymore entertainment as I was completely enraptured with the clothes themselves. Beautifully made from exquisite fabrics, I enjoyed talking to other women who sew about where they source fabric and how hard it is to find. We all laughed because even though we were from USA and Australia, both of our mothers used to look at a garment in the department store and say the equivalent of “You could make it yourself for less.” Now it is quite the opposite. No one can say they are sewing to be thrifty.
This gives full permission to sew as a creative expression. Many of these garments are impractical and designed and executed as a celebration of beauty.
The show, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, is based on Australian author Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher book series. I have looked for them in the US and have not found them. The gift shop had a new copy of the first in the series Cocaine Blues. I bought it for my Mom. Then when I found a secondhand bookshop at the Central Market I was able to pick up quite a few more in the series. My Mom read them first and now I am reading them. They are not as complex as say Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series, but neither do you have to worry about gore or upsetting physical violence. I hope Ms. Greenwood makes her books available electronically in the USA so more people can enjoy them.
If you are interested in fashion that pushes the envelope and is inspiring and beautiful, the check out WOW! The World of Wearable Art dates for 2016 are September 11-October 9 in Wellington, New Zealand. Tickets are available here.