Getting to Australia Without Jet Lag

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Famous surf beach on Phillip Island is one of many reasons to make the trek to Australia.

Melbourne in Victoria Australia is a terrific destination for a vacation. A lot of people avoid travelling to New Zealand and Australia because they think it is too far to fly.  From San Francisco or Los Angeles it is about 12 hours (depending on the wind) to Auckland. For people on the West coast it is equivalent to flying to Europe. I have made the trip over a dozen times now in one direction or another. This time I mentally prepared to continue on to Melbourne–another 4.5 hour flight. (There are direct 14 hour flights from LAX to Melbourne on other airlines.)

On both legs the Air New Zealand plane was their new style with seats in Economy that have these foot rests that if you have control of the entire row you can create a bed. It does not do you much good if you are flying with a bickering married couple from Oak Park, Illinois like I did. I smiled as I imagined the three of us stretching out on “bench.” However, great if traveling with children.

I had done some reading about avoiding jet lag and I tried a few new ideas. First I ate dinner at 7 in the airport (a few slices of wood-fire pizza). I avoided alcohol both pre-flight and en route. I declined the dinner and took a couple of Advil PM. I slept really well–at least 8 hours. Then I ate lightly until I arrived in Melbourne.

I was tired when we landed in Auckland and would have loved a shower. Instead I drank a flat white. I stayed awake all day both to speed getting on the right time zone and because there were penguins to see and friends to enjoy. I slept soundly and I woke up around 3 a.m. The key is to not panic or stress when you awake off schedule. Just as we can go without eating for longer periods than we often think possible–we can function for a few days with less sleep as we adjust.

On the way home I ate a light lunch and then declined a big dinner. I drank some hot tea and ate the cheese and crackers offered. I lucked out and had the row to myself, so I got to try the new “couch” in economy. It works quite well and would have been even more restful if the cabin lighting had not malfunctioned. They could not be dimmed. I still managed to get 4 or 5 hours of sleep. I watched quite a few films–watch The Dressmaker if you can.

I arrived in Sacramento by noon. I stayed up until 8 p.m. It was easy to go to sleep because it was already dark. I slept straight through until my alarm went off. I felt great today.

What do you do to avoid jet lag?

Getting in Right Mindspace for Vacation

I am a fan of Air New Zealand so when I booked my flights to Melbourne and Adelaide Australia I choose them again. I flew Southwest to Los Angeles International Airport to save money and car parking hassle.Everything went smoothly. I was in the Tom Bradley International Terminal awaiting boarding and I finally started to get excited about my planned vacation.

Air New Zealand is known for its creative air safety videos. They often amuse and passengers actually watch the safety announcement. On this flight the new video. I was delighted to see their latest video featured many famous surfers and the overall impact was to put me in the right mood for this vacation.

I needed to transition to full frontal summer temperatures and to a more hang loose attitude. This video really gave me a push to chillax.

Coping with Le Tour Rest Day Withdrawal with Netflix

Watch on Netflix: Rising From Ashes about Rwandan bike racing team.
Watch on Netflix: Rising From Ashes about Rwandan bike racing team.

I do not expect many of you to relate to my Tour de France withdrawals on a rest day. You have to be obsessed to find the rest day between stages 9 and 10 a trial. I was distracted by my drive from Roseburg OR to Sacramento, still I got home at 5:30 p.m. and all I had was stage reruns on-line. I wish I had known about the clutch of cycling movies on Netflix. Bicycling magazine just tweeted these five titles.

A couple of them I have watched on Air New Zealand: Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist and Stop at Nothing: the Lance Armstrong Story. They are both intense films that give you a window to the passions that drive a world-class cyclist. Any film about Lance makes me angry. So how do you cleanse?

30 for 30: Slaying the Badger is a documentary focused on Greg LeMond. He is one of my heroes and this focuses on Greg’s relationship with Bernard Hinault (the Badger).  One of the other films I have yet to watch: Clean Spirit. I have yet to watch it and the description reminds me of my favorite cycling film, Chasing Legends. Clean Spirit is about the Argos-Shimano (now Giant) team in 2014 Tour de France season and includes Marcel Kittel. Rwandan cycling team

The final film is the most inspiring cycling film yet made: Rising From Ashes. I first learned about this documentary about the Rwandan cycling program after the genocide at Storylines Conference. I ordered the DVD and watched it many times even though my copy skipped. It was my first choice for viewing today. Parts are difficult to look at especially because it is real; however, it is overwhelmingly uplifting. Everyone should watch this film! Plus watching people ride on homemade wooden bikes will make you hug your bike.

Exploring Auckland’s Central Business District

We arrived in Auckland very early one morning. Our Air New Zealand flight arrived ahead of schedule and customs are a breeze in Auckland International. We rented our car from A2B, drove to St Heliers, ate breakfast at Kahve, freshened up at a friends and then drove to Auckland’s central business district (CBD).

Tevis and Sarah Harriet on way to St. Heliers.
Tevis and Sarah Harriet on way to St. Heliers.

We dropped our car with the valet at Britomart (between the shopping center and transit center), and walked around Britomart and into Milse for exquisite dessert.

One of the many yummy desserts at Milse in Auckland CBD at Britomart (the shopping center, not the transit center).
One of the many yummy desserts at Milse in Auckland CBD at Britomart (the shopping center, not the transit center).
Marcos and Sarah Harriet enjoying frozen desserts at Milse.
Marcos and Sarah Harriet enjoying frozen desserts at Milse.

Afterward we walked up Queen Street and High Street stopping at shops along the way–always Unity bookstore. Then over to Sky Tower. We paused to watch some brave/crazy souls ride a slingshot kind of bungee (except Sarah who could not bear it). Then we walked round to the Auckland Art Gallery and stopped for a cup of tea at the cafe. After seeing the Goldie Maori portraits and then back toward the Quay.

Bicycle sculpture at Queen and Quay Streets.
Bicycle sculpture at Queen and Quay Streets.
Rock archway leading to Queen Victoria Park.
Rock archway leading to Queen Victoria Park.

Our day was fun, relaxing and a great way to ease into a new time zone. One of the great things about visiting New Zealand at the end of November is the long days of light.

 

 

 

 

Designing the Perfect New Zealand Adventure, Part I Penguins

These plywood penguins are helpful educational tools, but I want to see real penguins in the wild!

My adult kids and I will be celebrating my birthday and Thanksgiving in St Heliers, Auckland, New Zealand. I am so excited to share my favorite places in Auckland with them and tackling some adventures such as climbing Rangitoto. We will make a traditional American groaning feast for my Kiwi friends and then we will pursue our own adventures.

Every trip begins with booking tickets on Air New Zealand. For $50 one of their helpful advisors will help make more complicated reservations over the phone. Sometimes there is a savings if you are traveling to several places within New Zealand during your stay. This trip I made all of my reservations on line. Their easy to use site allows me to book my flight, pick my seat and let them know if I have special dietary requirements or need to bring an extra bag.

With my bookends of arrivals and departures (and notice that you lose a day on the way over from USA and live your last day twice on the way back), I begin to fill in the middle points. If I have confirmed dates in certain places I typically log on to Booking.com and make my hotel reservations, Kayak.com for auto reservations and then Trip Advisor for ideas for things to do and for reviews of hotels if I am undecided on Booking.com.

I am going to South Island for a combination of penguin viewing and cycling.  Penguin viewing was my highest priority: I want to see both Fiordland penguins and yellow eyed penguins. And I want to visit Stewart Island (mainly for kiwi birds).  My challenge was figuring out the best places to see these and then create an itinerary that is reasonable and fulfilling.

New Zealand Penguins website is a life saver.  It lists several options for each type of penguin that I want to view.  I decided to visit Lake Moeraki in South Westland, Stewart Island in Southland, and Dunedin in Otago for my three penguin stops. I created a matrix for Dunedin since there are so many options. I have begun searching the various penguin guide websites and emailing for more details. I will soon have my tickets or reservations.

The complicating factor is the cycling. I really would like to cycle the Otago Central Rail Trail from Queenstown to Dunedin (the last bit by train). I had to establish the timeframe for that before I could solidify my penguin plans. And I had to make some adjustments to my plans. Originally I thought I’d drive from Queenstown to Lake Moeraki to Invercargill to Dunedin, but the cycling trips begin in Queenstown. Some quick changes to my itinerary and voila! I am able to do everything I want to do.

It is a very full schedule, and not everyone would find four days of cycling the “relaxing” bit. I am super charged about it.

Touring Buckingham Palace State Rooms

 

 

Outside Buckingham Palace

About a month before my departure for the Tour de France I read a tweet from VisitBritain about the state rooms at Buckingham Palace opening for visitors from July 26 to September 28. On previous visits to London I toured the fascinating Mews (stables) at Buckingham Palace so I clicked through and bought tickets.

Did not give it much more thought until I was in France and looking at my itinerary for the end of my trip: ticket on Chunnel to London, check; hotel reservation at The Ampersand, check; tickets to War Horse at Theater and Buckingham Palace state rooms, check and check. Leaving myself a little time left over to go book shopping.  My flight from Heathrow was not scheduled on Air New Zealand until 4:00 p.m., so I had time to take the tube to the airport. I was all set to make the most of my 24 hours in London.

London is an easy city to navigate with the underground, taxis and footpaths through parks. My hotel’s location was perfect: a half block from the South Kensington station on the Piccadilly (red) Line. The Ampersand did not exaggerate its charms in the Booking.com email advertising its special rate. It is beautifully decorated and the service was superb.

Buckingham Palace

I already blogged about the thrill of seeing The War Horse on stage. So let us fast forward to the next morning and Buckingham Palace. A quick trip on the Tube and soon I was walking past the Queen Victoria Memorial and looking at the gorgeous Buckingham Palace gates.

I was just here on Tour de France Stage 3 and so I reveled for a moment in happy memories. When bike guide Daniel asked me the highlight of my trip while we were in the Pyrenees, I said riding the race course into the heart of London, turning the corner at Big Ben and seeing Buckingham Palace and then the finish line. I felt like a rock star. I reserved the possibility that Paris might top it, but it did not. So it was great to be back to the best spot of my Tour adventure so soon.

The Royal CafeIt took a few minutes to find the visitors entrance on Buckingham Gate Road, and then a couple of minutes to change my computer print out for actual tickets. I arrived just in time to the correct waiting area to be able to get through security and enter the state rooms a few minutes past my appointed time. 

Wow, the Queen must feel like she is slumming it when she visits the White House.  During the week, she lives above the store, so to speak, and what a store! Beautiful works of art, mostly portraits of family, fill the rooms where official drawing rooms and ballroom. In addition, there was a very interesting collection called “Royal Childhood.”

Buckingham PalaceI decided to forgo the free headphones and enjoy the rooms and the overall ambiance. After the walking through all of the rooms, I enjoyed a snack at the café and a browse at the gift shop.

The exit takes visitors through the garden. I wondered if the Queen or any of the royal family gets to enjoy the garden on their own or only on official occasions. Not that I feel sorry for them. This is one of their many stately homes and most of the others offer much more privacy. Still, what must it be like to grow up seeing art masterpieces hanging on the drawing room walls?

Garden at Buckingham PalaceAfter a quick trip back to the hotel, I hopped on the Tube to head to Heathrow Airport with about 10 pounds of new books. Air New Zealand docks in the hinterlands so I got plenty of exercise before the 10.5 hour plane ride home.

South Kensington Tube station

Spending time in Yorkshire and London reminded me why I have returned again and again to England and Ireland. Looking forward to the next opportunity. 

 

 

Getting to New Zealand

I just met a couple of young women who are making their first trip to New Zealand next week. Their enthusiasm is wonderful; I can almost guarantee that they will have a trip of a lifetime. When I tell some people that I just got back from New Zealand they get a wistful look and say, “Someday.” Or “It’s so far.” Then they tell you they have gone to Europe countless times. Obviously the American lack of geographic knowledge is getting in the way.  So here is a quick primer.

North Island and South Island comprise New Zealand.
North Island and South Island comprise New Zealand.
Whimsical Air New Zealand airplanes include "Crazy About Rugby"
Whimsical Air New Zealand airplanes include “Crazy About Rugby”

New Zealand is two islands–North Island and South Island–in the Pacific Ocean with the Tasman Sea between it and Australia. The most common mistake is to think New Zealand is Tasmania–the smaller island on the southern Australian coast. Or to think that there is little distance between Australia and New Zealand when it is another 5 hours of flying to get to Sydney. (In spite of this, it is worth the extra effort to visit Australia). The British refer to Australia and New Zealand as the antipodes–meaning the far opposite end of the world. Technically the Iberian Peninsula is the antipode of New Zealand. People feel a little less like they are at the end of the world with modern communication technology, but there is still a sense of isolation.

If you live in California the good news is the time required to fly to New Zealand is about the same as to London. Last time we flew from San Francisco to Auckland it took just over 11 hours. Usually it takes about 12 to fly out, and a little over 11 hours to fly back. Okay, so it is not a quick trip, but it is a heck of lot less painful than flying to Cambodia or South Africa. Plus Air New Zealand schedules their flights so you board, mess around watching videos and eating dinner, then turn out the lights and (hopefully) sleep for 6-8 hours. Then they bring up the cabin lights and you hear coffee being made in the galley kitchen. Stretch, eat breakfast and voila! You are at your destination.  Or alternatively, watch a marathon of movies.

My friend UK Sarah has a much longer journey from England. She has to fly 24 hours either through Hong Kong or through California. We now have a tradition where she breaks her return journey to New Zealand in either San Francisco or Los Angeles and we play for 2-3 days in my home state before she finishes her flight home. I wish I could make that offer to all of you. Of course California welcomes all visitors even if my guest room is not available.

There is one go-to airline: Air New Zealand.  It is not the only airline. Quantas also flies to New Zealand. Air New Zealand is a member of the Star Alliance for you point seeking travellers. Air NZ does not beat the Asian airlines for service to the individual flier; however, Air NZ comes out on top when you consider the terrific customer service on the website or on the phone, the humorous safety videos, the friendly staff at check in and on board the plane, the more than adequate in flight entertainment service, and free New Zealand wine.

Google: What time is in in Auckland, New Zealand?
Google: What time is in in Auckland, New Zealand?

clocksThe time difference also confuses people. I cannot claim to understand how the International Dateline works. Everytime I think I get it I look at the map with the crazy line and lose the thread again.  I actually have two clocks in my house to keep track for Skype calls. If you are on Pacific Standard Time then today you are three hours ahead and a day behind.  In other words, if it is 3:00 p.m. here on Monday, it is 12 noon on Tuesday in Auckland. It gets tricky because they are on opposite seasons and also practice Daylight Savings. New Zealand will “fall back” on April 6 and “spring forward” on September 28. While most parts of the US will spring forward on March 9 and fall back on November 2. If this is all too much math for your brain, there is always Google.

Once you get to New Zealand it is easy to fly from city to city via Air New Zealand or the Australian carrier Jet Star. Driving is an option; however the roads are not as fast as interstates in the USA and you have to weigh time and money. Also getting between North and South island is a challenge for people like me who get seasick in a bathtub. I have gone on road trips from Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin and it is worth renting a car to see more of the countryside. They drive on the left (please do not say “the wrong side of the road”). I actually find it easier and inexplicably more intuitive to drive on the left. Automatic (non stick shift or manual) cars may be harder to come by in New Zealand.

If you take a deep breath when you arrive in Auckland, listen to the Maori greeting as you enter the terminal, and allow yourself to adjust to “middle earth” time, you will be richly rewarded.