Life Hack: Travel Like a Pro

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How not to pack!

On a recent NPR Life Kit podcast the hosts distilled the travel advice of professionals for packing and planning a trip down to seven rules. Some of the advice may seem a bit extreme if you are going from say, New Jersey to Orlando for a Disney vacation. Even so,  if you are traveling with a family of four and everyone brings two bags, watch out! You never need as much stuff as you think. A more realistic approach will free you up to enjoy your travel more.

There is a some entertaining stuff including the pro, Doug, who takes a MacGyver approach to packing. His packing essentials include a scarf that can be used as a sunscreen, hairband, hat, napkin, towel, blanket, pillow, dust mask, and more.  Listen to hear the number of ways you can use dental floss! The point is give preference to things that serve multiple purposes.

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You never know how far you are going to have to walk with your luggage, so travel lighter than you think you can. Can you launder along the way? Bring only things that can be worn multiple times. And leave room for that special merino t-shirt.

I learned to travel for three weeks on an international educational trip to four countries with one carry on bag. By the end of the trip I had some clothes I was happy to leave behind in Cuba, but it allowed our large group flexibility and speed we’d never had without luggage restrictions. Once I had accomplished this, there was little point in over-packing ever again. I sometimes overdo it when I take local trips in my car. So thank the airlines for their extra charges, as it incentivize you to watch YouTube videos on rolling your clothes or using packing cubes. and leaving that extra bag behind.

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My battle tested AWAY carry-on size bag works great now that I’ve stopped using the battery. After having the airlines inconsistently apply rules about whether I can take the battery on the plane or check it, it is just easier to leave it at home. 

Plus in most places you can pick up supplies along the way, also providing opportunities to explore markets and find new products. I have discovered better throat lozenges, tampons, honey, man-size tissue, and many other products by shopping local. One trip with my friend Cameon (before 9/11), we arrived at the gate with a carryon and HUGE shopping bags full of Donegal sweaters and Waterford crystal. We were ridiculously overloaded and we smiled our way on board. We couldn’t get away with this today.

People who travel with me know that I commonly underestimate how long it will take to travel distances. I’m never able to do as much as I hope. The pros advise to focus on one main event each day and then fill in as you have time. I prefer to travel alone or in small groups so there is time to stop for another flat white. Everyone appreciates a little breathing space in the itinerary.

What have you learned along the way? What tips in the podcast do you want to try?

 

Dot’s Castle Beckons Near Oamaru, NZ

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Dot’s Castle, or Riverstone Castle, appears much smaller in this photo than it does in real life. It is impressive for size!

I was enjoying coffee with Ole and Karen and telling them of my travel plans. Karen shared a tv clip on Dot’s Castle and they both thought the food at the Riverstone Kitchen was really good. I decided to make it my destination for lunch. It took a lot longer to drive there than anticipated (and I don’t think I took any wrong turns). I arrived an hour before the dining room was closing, and I needed to eat and get underway to not miss the little blue penguins return to Oamaru.

IMG_9615 (1)I did a quick turn through Dot’s “best Bloody shop for miles.” It was an interesting collection of home design items, but all breakable, largish items that are like dead weight when you travel. She also offers an interesting plant selection–again not great for overseas travelers. After my week driving through South Island, I could understand the draw. The mostly small towns that dot the countryside don’t offer a lot of shopping options. Here in one stop you will likely find something you want or need or at least have fun trying.

I was pretty hungry by the time I sat down to order, and I’d been self-catering for a couple of days, so I was ready for a proper meal. I ordered the brussel sprout salad and fish and chips. I also discovered Hopt elderberry flavored soda. It was all so delish and satisfying. The Riverstone Kitchen was started in 2006 by Bevan and Monique Smith and focuses on local flavors and produce. Their dad (Neil) and mum (Dot) manage the dairy business that allows Dot to build the family castle from locally quarried stone.

I also enjoyed gazing out at the kitchen garden and castle in the distance. Children played and people walked dogs on a long stretch of lawn with hedgerows. I recommend making a stop at Riverstone part of your road trip on South Island’s Highway 1.

Blenheim is Beautiful Wee City

Blenheim is in the heart of the Marlborough wine district. It is a popular destination for wine tasting, weddings, or a romantic get-away. And people live here (about 26,000). Their town is practical. I enjoyed the sewing shop and the ladies at Whitcoulls bookshop and their reading suggestions. Then I was looking for the information centre and I got a little lost and so discovered the most charming part of town.

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This beautiful urban space is part of a redevelopment of the rail way into a trail and park. The beautiful government building and creative use of gabion retaining walls in the landscaping inspire.

6440921_MAIN_1565019617The lovely ladies at Whitcoulls helped me find a couple of books by New Zealand authors. I read When It All Went to Custard by Danielle Hawkins in the next 24 hours and enjoyed it. Perfect to revel in a farm-town romance n the middle of an all-star agricultural region. Now I’m reading their second recommendation, The Ice Shelf by Anne Kennedy.

My plane landed from Auckland at 9:30 a.m. It took no time to exit the plane and pick up my bag. The only snag in my plan was collecting my rental car from Europcar. There was no one at the office, and multiple attempts to contact didn’t result in a response, so after 1.5 hours I canceled my reservation and rented from Budget (and saved money!)

IMG_9286What worked like a charm was my visit to Blenheim’s top pie baker, The Bureleigh. I enjoyed a steak and blue cheese pie for lunch at the picnic bench outside the shop. I sat in the winter sun questioning whether I needed my winter wool coat, and so thankful I visited Blenheim.

International Book Buying

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I discovered Hatchard’s via a collection of postcards of The World’s Greatest Bookstores.

I feel much better about my propensity to buy too many books when I am traveling after hearing one fellow bibliophile call it patronizing the arts. Yes, I am a patron of the arts. And it is much easier to tuck a beautiful special edition of The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield in your bag than a painting or sculpture!

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The collection includes a postcard featuring Moe’s in Berkeley. I look forward to exploring this bookshop!

My Auntie J and I volunteer to send postcards to potential voters to encourage them to be a good citizen. She found a box of The World’s Greatest Bookstores. There are 50 featured, and one is for Hatchard’s in London. I’d somehow never heard of it or been there.

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El Ateneo Grand Splendid looks like an opera house more than a bookstore! A reason to go to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I love Foyle’s in London. It is popular with television writers too and appears in the Netflix adaptation of Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Christopher Foyle in Foyle’s War is named for the bookstore. It didn’t rate a postcard though.

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The bookstore on the left is Alabama Booksmith from Birmingham, Alabama. The Hatchard’s postcard is on the right.

I have only been to a couple of the book shops featured: City Light Books in San Francisco, The Strand in New York City, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee and Powells Books in Portland (as often as possible). With bookstores in Goa, India and The Bookworm in China, I can’t commit to visit them all. One thing I can safely guarantee, I will always return with more books in my bag than when I left home.

Shopping for the Unique London

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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.

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Nothing says London like a classic black cab.

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.

Happy Local Yarn Shop Day!

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My closest store: Rumpelstiltskin on R Street in Sacramento

I am very fortunate as there are several stores that specialize in knit/crochet supplies. Babetta’s is my other go-to if I am in the burbs. Rumpelstiltskin is my closest shop and the one I bonded with when I began knitting 30 years ago. It recently changed ownership and the new management is bringing a fresh enthusiasm to knit, crochet and weaving.

Today is “support your local yarn store day” and Rumpelstiltskin was offering lots of exciting extras. I bought the store t-shirt for just $5 with my purchase. I bought the yarn to make the spring challenge and got the drea renee knits “The Shift” pattern for free! I also discovered a new zine called Making.

I love supporting a local business and getting new inspiration and projects. It is a complete bonus when the store is close enough to bicycle to on a beautiful spring day! My basket was full of cotton yarn on the way home. Love.

Swatch: Fine Fiber in Camden, Maine

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I have plenty of knitting projects, especially after shopping in New York City, but that does not mean I can resist a beautiful wool shop. The Cashmere Goat is definitely one of the prettiest and full of tempting yarn. I mooched around looking when a little girl’s sailor jacket by Sublime caught my eye. This led me to squeeze the Sublime baby cashmere silk DK. Mmmm.

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Gail and Wren apologized for the Sublime pattern book #688 being out of stock at the moment. I decided I shouldn’t buy yarn for the project until I got hold of the pattern. After returning to Sacramento I checked with Babetta’s and it wasn’t in stock. The Cashmere Goat made such an impression I am going to order it from them rather than one of the many on-line sources. Afterall, we can’t expect the lovely shops that provide lessons, give us the chance to feel the cashmere and wool, and offer advice and troubleshooting, if we don’t actually purchase our project supplies from them.

Shopping Spree on Humboldt Bay

Everytime I go to Humboldt County to visit friends I don’t have a serious intention of shopping. Then Harriet and I start fossicking around Arcata. All of the shops are unique and interesting–no chain stores on the Plaza. There are certain stores we always pop into. This particular day Nora wanted to have brunch at Renata’s Creperie. We stopped at the aptly named Fabric Temptations and I bought a wonderful book called Hygge Knits. Then on to Hot Knots to browse at clothes and the Garden Gate for garden related gifts. We walked across the street to Caravan of Dreams where I found the ceramic pie pan that had been elusive.

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Special of the Day at Renata’s Creperie

We moved on to a new store that I’d never explored: Scrap. It is like a thrift store for paper, fabric, and all kinds of interesting items for collage and assemblage! I had a fascinating time, bought enough stuff to fill the back of my Mini and only spent $43.

We drove around the Bay to Eureka and started at Henderson Center where my favorite yarn shop has moved and I bought wool for a new project. There are many other wonderful stores including a Japanese market and a very good toy store. I was able to buy my grandson’s birthday present instead of relying on Amazon.

Then we continued our mooching in old Town Eureka. The wonderful local writer Amy Stewart and her husband own Eureka books. I went a little crazy getting used classic children’s books to donate to my local elementary school. I found another beautiful knitting shop in Old Town called Knitterly. By this time were famished again and stopped as Los Bagels for a sandwich.

It was a super day and I have no buyer’s remorse. It makes me happy to boost the Humboldt County economy.

 

 

SWATCH: Mrs. Hedgehog’s Knit Shop

IMG_1336One of the joys of travel is squeezing in quick shopping expeditions to a wool shop for new knitting projects or a great book store. I had identified Mrs. Hedgehog’s Knit Bits in Cowes on the Isle of Wight before I left so I didn’t look for wool in Denmark. I also packed a few patterns that I plan to knit (after my disastrous assumption that I could translate Norwegian patterns when I got home).

It turns out that Google thought the shop was one place, and it was not. So I found my way there by asking other merchants on High Street until I found it on the corner of York Street and Mill High Road. It was the Big Woolly  Weekend and I was hoping to find a public knitting event to join. There wasn’t anything planned for Cowes so I focused on looking for yarn for a baby sweater.

Mrs. Hedgehog offers only acrylic yarn but in a great range of colors. The shop also offers everything you’d need for tools and some kits and patterns. I found a range of colors I loved and I might still have held out for washable wool, but the women in the shop were so friendly and helpful, I made a purchase.

August, 2017 postscript

I just finished the sweater inspired by a sweater Princess Charlotte sported in a photo in People magazine. I used Purl Soho’s “Little Girl Fair Isle Sweater” for the sizing (12 month) and adjusted for higher weight yarn. I adapted the sheep graph from Donna Smith’s “Baa-ble Hat.” I gave it to Amy’s expected baby girl.

24 Hours in Monterey, California

I had a little less than 24 hours in Monterey on a Wednesday-Thursday. Monterey takes some effort to get to since you have to get through San Jose traffic. Every time as I approach the peninsula I wonder if it really is worth it–and then I see the Monterey Bay and ‘yes!”

Ever since I saw my friend Jen’s photos of the penguin parade at the Monterey Bay Aquarium I have been hankering to visit. I lived in Pacific Grove in 1984-5 and when I return I like to eat at my favorite restaurants and check out favorite beaches and walks. A lot has changed in 30 years so some flexibility is needed.

I was driving up from Bakersfield after a business meeting, so I got there too late to eat at my favorite dinner place SandBar & Grill on Wharf #2. I checked into the Lone Oak Lodge on north Fremont Street. It deserves the good reviews it received on Trip Advisor: clean, comfortable and spacious in a good location for under $100 a night. After a long day of driving I was ready to stop. I made a cup of decaf with my in room coffee maker and checked my email on the free wifi.

After a great night’s sleep I checked out by 8:30 so I could try a new breakfast place, LouLou’s Griddle. It is located on the same wharf as the SandBar & Grill. It was a beautiful, brisk morning. The wind was already blowing so I was relieved to find hot coffee and a seat at an inside table. It is a popular place and once you taste the food it is obvious why. The food is excellent in addition to the classic diner charm in a great location.

I returned to my car and headed to Pacific Grove to enjoy the ocean views at Lovers Point. Pacific Grove was originally a Methodist church camp with many of the smaller homes built as cabins. Lovers Point was Lovers of Jesus Point. There is a trail and walks from Asilomar to the Aquarium in New Monterey. The views are incomparable with opportunities to see otters and other sea life.

I like shopping in the Pacific Grove village. Over the years some things have stayed the same, like the classic post office and library, and other things have changed. Holman’s Department store closed. You can still buy books at the Book Works shop. I discovered a new shop Tessuti Zoo with unique gifts and colorful crafts made by the shop owner.

I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for a couple of hours of fun. (more to follow) I walked around Cannery Row and a ways down the Monterey Bay Recreation Trail. Next time I’ll explore bike rentals at Adventures By the Sea bicycle rentals at 210 Alvarado Street. You can cycle over 3.5 miles to Pacific Grove via Cannery Row.

I was ready for lunch around 1 p.m. and I really craved Gianni’s Pizza. Alas, they are only open for lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So I circled back to Vivolo’s Chowder House that I passed at 127 Central Avenue. It was a happy discovery. It looks unimpressive from the exterior but it is elegant and the clam chowder deserves its local favorite status.

I debated doing more in Monterey, but the traffic is always miserable going through San Jose at rush hour. I decided to drive back via Santa Nella so I could see how full San Luis Reservoir is and enjoy a less stressful drive. The reservoir is completely full and the hills are the greenest I’ve seen in 7 years.

All together a very happy adventure.