How to Stream Video When Traveling Overseas

netflix, can't stream, overseas connection, vpn
Error messages like this are all too common when traveling overseas.

Have you every been traveling overseas and had trouble connecting to Netflix, Amazon, Skype, Facebook or other video streaming and social media sites?  That’s because the websites you are trying to get to are often restricted by (or to) the country you are traveling in.  But there is an easy way to get around the restriction.  And it has the added benefits of increased security and privacy.  It’s called Virtual Private Network (VPN).  To learn how VPN works, and how to get it, see below.

I was traveling in Europe when the Super Bowl was on TV.  NBC was streaming it, but when I tried to access the NBC Super Bowl streaming web page and click on the “stream video” button, it just sat there doing nothing.  I figured the country I was in was blocking me, so I set up a VPN connection using StrongVPN, a VPN service that I have used for years, and like.  They are very fast and very secure.  (Check it out here: www.strongVPN.com).  Within seconds, I was streaming the Super Bowl.  I could have just as easily used StrongVPN to stream Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Skype, and any of the other websites, often blocked by foreign countries.

How Does VPN Work?

Traveling Overseas

When you are traveling outside your home country, but want to access websites in your home country as if you were there, and with additional benefits of improved security and privacy, use VPN.  The way it works is you subscribe to StrongVPN, and download a simple client app into your computer.  With one click, it connects you to your home country via StrongVPN servers in the country you are traveling in.  From that server, StrongVPN creates a virtual private network back to their server in your home country.  It usually takes just a couple seconds.  Once connected, you browse the internet just like you normally would.

vpn - virtual private network, strongvpn, strong vpn
While traveling, StrongVPN provides an fast, secure encrypted connection back to your home country.

 

The connection is very secure.  And there’s an important added advantage when you are connecting to the internet through a wi-fi connection (e.g. in your hotel, cafe, hotspot, etc.).  Wi-fi is insecure and hackers can lurk as you type passwords and such and intercept them.  StrongVPN encrypts your internet traffic before it goes over wi-fi, so it can’t be intercepted.

Your home country can be the US, UK, China, and many more.  Visit StrongVPN’s website for a complete list.

Traveling in China

China has very restrictive internet access policies.  If you are in China right now, it is possible they are blocking access to VPN websites.  If so, try this link: StrongVPN China.

vpn in china, secure, private, vpn - virtual private network, strongvpn, strong vpn
While traveling in China, StrongVPN provides an fast, secure encrypted connection back to your home country.

 

 

If you are traveling in China, and want to do some online banking or eCommerce, you will need the IP address of your home country to safely conduct your private business on the Internet while you are in another country.  StrongVPN gives you that.

In addition, China often limits access to social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and streaming video websites.  StrongVPN makes it appear that you are accessing those websites from the US.  So it just works.

How to get VPN

To learn more about VPN and try it out, go here, or, if you are in China, go here.

MacBook Air: The Best Travel Computer Just Got Better

Apple just updated their MacBook Air. It’s the best travel computer you can find. Walt Mossberg reviewed it at the Wall Street Journal, and I include highlights of that review below. Of the new MacBook Air, Walt says “these are gorgeous, very thin and light, but very sturdy aluminum computers.

The MacBook Air is our favorite computer for travel. Apple upgraded their MacBook Air family of laptops with several important new features. It already features the same multi-touch trackpad technology found on the iPad. And like the iPad, it starts instantly, resumes where you left off, and has a longer battery life.  And it comes with a ultra-reliable travel-friendly Solid State Disk (SSD). There are no moving parts in the SSD, so it is much more reliable, and can handle the bumps that are an unavoidable part of travel.

The new MacBook Air now adds the following features:

Faster Processors Intel Core i5 and i7 processors provide 2.5X speed boost

Apple core i5 and i7 processors

Backlit Keyboard This is my favorite feature. Now you can type with ease in even the dimmest light. A built-in ambient light sensor detects changes in lighting conditions and adjusts the display and keyboard brightness automatically. From a seat in a sunny café to a seat on a cross-country red-eye, you’ll always have the perfect lighting for any environment.

Apple backlit keyboard
Apple backlit keyboard

High-speed Thunderbolt I/O With one port, MacBook Air gives you access to a world of high-speed peripherals capable of transferring data up to 12 times faster than FireWire 800 and up to 20 times faster than USB 2.0. Or use the Thunderbolt port to connect the new Apple Thunderbolt Display and transform your ultracompact MacBook Air into a complete desktop workstation.

Apple Thunderbolt display
Apple Thunderbolt display

With the larger display, and backlit keyboard, think of this as an iPad on steroids. The new MacBook Air comes preloaded with Apple’s new Lion X operating system. The MacBook Air comes in two sizes. The base $999 model has an 11.6-inch screen (versus 9.7 inches for an iPad) and weighs 2.3 pounds (versus 1.5 pounds for an iPad). The larger – but still thin and light – model starts at $1,299, has a 13.3-inch screen, and weighs 2.9 pounds. There are options for more SSD storage and faster processors.

MacBook Air quickLinks to Amazon.com product information

MacBook Air, 11.6-Inch Laptop, 128 GB Solid State Drive,
1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, Mac OS X v10.7 Lion

MacBook Air, 13.3-Inch Laptop, 128 GB Solid State Drive,
1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, Mac OS X v10.7 Lion

MacBook Air, 13.3-Inch Laptop, 256 GB Solid State Drive,
1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, Mac OS X v10.7 Lion

A few months ago, I reviewed the first MacBook Air and the iPad here: My Favorite Travel Computers

As I said in that review:

The MacBook Air is my ideal travel computer. Though not as light as the iPad, it has a real keyboard. Since we are usually blogging on the road, the MacBook Air’s keyboard is easier and faster to type with than the iPad’s touchscreen keyboard.

Here are highlights from Walt Mossbergs review of the new MacBook Air:

MacBook Air Has the Feel Of an iPad In a LaptopNew MacBook Air

Some of the nicest, if little discussed, benefits of using an Apple iPad tablet are that it starts instantly, resumes where you left off, and has a long enough battery life that you aren’t constantly fretting about running out of juice or looking for a place to plug it in. And it can do a lot of things for which people use laptops.

What if somebody designed an actual laptop that worked this way—you know, a computer with a real keyboard and a larger screen that could run traditional computer software and store more files than an iPad? And what if it was almost as light and portable as an iPad? Well, somebody has, and that somebody is Apple itself.

Like their predecessors in the Air family, these are gorgeous, very thin and light, but very sturdy aluminum computers. And, like their predecessors, or like iPads and smartphones, they rely on solid-state storage—flash chips—instead of a conventional hard disk to hold all your files. But Apple has dramatically reduced the physical size of the flash storage to make room for larger sealed-in batteries, so battery life is longer. It has also cut the price from the last version of the Air, a 13-inch model that cost $1,799 with a solid-state drive.

The new models are designed to hardly ever require a traditional bootup or reboot. The idea is that you’d only reboot if you had a problem, or installed software that required a reboot, or if the machine had been idle and unplugged more than a month. But even booting is very fast.

Unlike on many netbooks, these two new Apples also have high screen resolutions so you can fit more material into their relatively small sizes. The 13-inch model has the same resolution as Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro and the 11-inch Air has greater resolution than the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Also, unlike on many netbooks, they feature full-size keyboards, though the 11-inch model has reduced-size function keys.

Singapore for business and pleasure

Singapore is one of my favorite cities to visit. Though I generally visit on business, there is always time for pleasure… and Singapore is a fine place to enjoy dining, night life, lush tropical parks, beaches, and shopping.

Singapore River Boat and bridge
Scene along the Singapore River

Singapore’s legendary efficiency is obvious from the first moments after arrival. You will breeze through customs in a matter of seconds, thanks to their embrace of modern technology.  On the way into town from the ultra modern airport, you may note that cars never go over the posted speed limit. The streets are immaculate as they wind through a veritable garden of paradise. Then the city appears ahead – pristine, luminous, shiny and new.

The Fullerton Hotel with River Kids sculpture
Sculpture surrounds The Fullerton Hotel (in the background)

My destination is The Fullerton Hotel in the downtown financial and arts district. The hotel’s Colonial style belies the cool modern interior, welcome in the tropical heat of Singapore. Built in 1928 on the Singapore river, the Fullerton Building was the centre of Singapore’s commercial, social and official life. It was home to three of the most important institutions of Singapore – The General Post Office, The Singapore Club, and The Chamber of Commerce. Even if you don’t stay here, it is worth a visit… there are several excellent restaurants, as well as a first rate international buffet, and a bar that is set amidst the lovely original ceiling and pillars of the old Post Office… and enjoy an evening stroll by the river to enjoy the various sculptures along the way.

Singapore Sculpture Business Men
Fantastic sculpture of business men near the hotel
Singapore Sculpture Three Men
Another fine bronze sculpture in the area

The legendary Raffles Hotel is a short walk away. Immortalized in the novels of Somerset Maugham and Rudyard Kipling, the hotel exemplifies Singapore’s colonial-style architecture amid lush tropical gardens. Go there for tea, drinks, or fine dining – including the Long Bar – home of the world renowned Singapore Sling, and the Tiffin Room, which continues the tradition of Afternoon Tea. The Raffles Hotel Museum looks at the history of the Hotel largely in the context of the Golden Age of Travel. This period, spanning 1880 to 1939, saw the rise of popular tourism and coincided with the opening of the Hotel. This was the era when Singapore was known as the “Crossroads of the East“. Museum hours are 10 am to 7 pm daily. There is no admission charge.

Singapore River Tree
Strolling along the Singapore River

My favorite time to shop is at night, to see buildings adorned with garish signs, and people strolling down the streets, chatting with friends, looking for bargains. Though there are numerous places to shop around downtown, if you are shopping for electronics, cameras, and gadgets, consider heading over to “Little India” – a bustling earthy part of town, where you can let your hair down and haggle with the merchants for the big deal of the day. The various pictures on this blog were taken with a camera I bought in Little India – Nikon Coolpix 8400 8MP Digital Camera with 3.5x 24mm Wide Angle Optical Zoom Lensmy favorite camera, ever!

To fortify you for your evening of wheeling and dealing, follow your nose to one of the wonderful Indian restaurants that are everywhere in Little India. Hidden among the bustle of Little India is Race Course Road . On this tiny lane you will find Banana Leaf Apolohoused in three units of a two-storey shophouse it is most famous for its fish head curry. The restaurant has been open for 30 years, serving both North and South Indian cuisine to locals eager for a taste of great curry, and tourists, like us, who have heard about this a restaurant from an expat friend (thank you Pam!).

Singapore Indian Food
Our feast at the Banana Leaf Apolo

A recent article in the New York Times Travel section, 36 Hours in Singapore, offers up more ideas of things to do and places to stay…

“A long tradition of strong regional cuisine and strict hygiene laws makes for some of the world’s best — and safest — street food. Nowadays most of the hawkers are concentrated in covered food halls so that ingredients are kept cool, and preparation methods and cleanliness can be kept to a uniform standard. At the Maxwell Road Food Center near Chinatown, vendors sell everything from dumplings to onion pancakes to dessert: at Tian Tian (No. 11), try the chicken rice; at Hokee (No. 79), the soup dumplings, and at No. 848, fresh fruit and juice (one, a bitter gourd and honey mix, promises “to reduce heatiness (sic).” Prices are 1 to 8 Singapore dollars.”

Yahoo Travel offers 5 of Singapore’s best restaurants with a view

  • Sky on 57, Level 57 SkyPark Tower 1, Marina Bay Sands Hotel, 10 Bayfront Avenue
  • Level 33, #33-01 Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1, 8 Marina Boulevard
  • Barnacles, Rasa Sentosa Resort, 101 Siloso Road
  • Clifford, Fullerton Bay Hotel, 80 Collyer Quay
  • iL Cielo, Level 24, Hilton Singapore, 581 Orchard Road

And the Lonely Planet Singapore (City Travel Guide) gets good reviews as a handy paperback (200 pages) and written in conjunction with a Singapore resident. The expanded coverage of neighborhoods includes two new walking tours and three new excursions; plus helpful cultural insights & local secrets from a comedian, curator, theater director, writer and scholar. If you have access to a computer the content is updated daily at lonelyplanet.com.


MacBook Air: Why It’s The Best Travel Computer

Today I am updating this post on our new MacBook Air. It’s the best travel computer you can find – we won’t be going anywhere without it. Walt Mossberg reviewed it at the Wall Street Journal, and I include highlights of that review below. Of the new MacBook Air, Walt says “these are gorgeous, very thin and light, but very sturdy aluminum computers.

The new MacBook Air now features the same multi-touch trackpad technology found on the iPad. And like the iPad, it starts instantly, resumes where you left off, and has a longer battery life.  And it comes with a ultra-reliable travel-friendly Solid State Disk (SSD). Solid State Disks don’t store as much as regular disks, so you don’t want to use the MacBook Air for storing hundreds of gigabytes of multimedia, for example. But for travel, the storage capacity is fine – keep what you need on the computer, and leave the rest at home.

The new MacBook Air comes in two sizes. The base $999 model has an 11.6-inch screen (versus 9.7 inches for an iPad) and weighs 2.3 pounds (versus 1.5 pounds for an iPad). The larger – but still thin and light – model starts at $1,299, has a 13.3-inch screen, and weighs 2.9 pounds.

MacBook Air quickLinks to Amazon.com product information

MacBook Air, 11.6-Inch Laptop, 128 GB Solid State Drive,
1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, Mac OS X v10.7 Lion

MacBook Air, 13.3-Inch Laptop, 128 GB Solid State Drive,
1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, Mac OS X v10.7 Lion

MacBook Air, 13.3-Inch Laptop, 256 GB Solid State Drive,
1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, Mac OS X v10.7 Lion

A few months ago, I reviewed the first MacBook Air and the iPad here: My Favorite Travel Computers
As I said in that review:

The MacBook Air is my ideal travel computer. Though not as light as the iPad, it has a real keyboard. Since we are usually blogging on the road, the MacBook Air’s keyboard is easier and faster to type with than the iPad’s touchscreen keyboard.

Here are highlights from Walt Mossbergs review of the new MacBook Air:

MacBook Air Has the Feel Of an iPad In a LaptopNew MacBook Air

Some of the nicest, if little discussed, benefits of using an Apple iPad tablet are that it starts instantly, resumes where you left off, and has a long enough battery life that you aren’t constantly fretting about running out of juice or looking for a place to plug it in. And it can do a lot of things for which people use laptops.

What if somebody designed an actual laptop that worked this way—you know, a computer with a real keyboard and a larger screen that could run traditional computer software and store more files than an iPad? And what if it was almost as light and portable as an iPad? Well, somebody has, and that somebody is Apple itself.

Like their predecessors in the Air family, these are gorgeous, very thin and light, but very sturdy aluminum computers. And, like their predecessors, or like iPads and smartphones, they rely on solid-state storage—flash chips—instead of a conventional hard disk to hold all your files. But Apple has dramatically reduced the physical size of the flash storage to make room for larger sealed-in batteries, so battery life is longer. It has also cut the price from the last version of the Air, a 13-inch model that cost $1,799 with a solid-state drive.

The new models are designed to hardly ever require a traditional bootup or reboot. The idea is that you’d only reboot if you had a problem, or installed software that required a reboot, or if the machine had been idle and unplugged more than a month. But even booting is very fast.

Unlike on many netbooks, these two new Apples also have high screen resolutions so you can fit more material into their relatively small sizes. The 13-inch model has the same resolution as Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro and the 11-inch Air has greater resolution than the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Also, unlike on many netbooks, they feature full-size keyboards, though the 11-inch model has reduced-size function keys.

Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs has been a bestseller on Amazon.com from the day it became available for preorder.

Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues— Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.

Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, video by Stiegemeier, music by Jónsi

If you are traveling through Europe and encounter delays due to the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, here’s something beautiful to watch while you pass time waiting for your flight. This is an amazing time-lapse video of the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, filmed by Sean Stiegemeier on May 1st and 2nd, 2010. The music is by Icelandic musician Jónsi.  The song is Kolniður, from the Go album.

A note about the time-lapse video. It was filmed using a Canon 5d mkII, which is a very fine digital camera, not a video camera.  The clarity and sharpness of the images comes from the  Canon 5d mkII’s 21.1-megapixel image sensor, and though it can film HD video clips in addition to taking pictures, Stiegemeier created this time-lapse video by setting the camera to automatically take a picture every second or so – a nice feature of the Canon camera.


What He Thought — A poem by Heather McHugh

Giordano Bruno at Campo dei Fiori
Giordano Bruno at Campo dei Fior

I remember walking through Campo dei Fiori, a lovely piazza near Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy.  That was in 1976. And I remember Ettore Ferrari’s dramatic statue representing Giordano Bruno, facing the Vatican.  The statue placed in the spot where Bruno was burned at the stake by the church, for his heretical writings on Heliocentrism – the idea that earth was not the center of the universe, but rotated round the sun. (Read more: Honoring a Heretic Whom Vatican ‘Regrets’ Burning at the NY Times)

And today, driving home, listening to NPR, I heard poet Heather McHugh read her poem, What He Thought, which features Campo dei Fiori and Bruno. What an amazing thing to be tooling along the road, and suddenly find myself in tears at the simple powerful beauty of McHugh’s words. Her poem sneaks up on me and provides a deeper understanding of Bruno and his courage to speak truth to power.

The image in the poem, of the iron mask, will stay with me for some time…

Here are the spoken and written forms of McHugh’s poem What He Thought.  To hear Heather McHugh read her poem, click on play (the triangular button).

[audio:http://travelsketchwrite.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/What_He_Thought.mp3|titles=What He Thought|artists=Heather McHugh]

What He Thought

by Heather McHugh

for Fabbio Doplicher

We were supposed to do a job in Italy
and, full of our feeling for
ourselves (our sense of being
Poets from America) we went
from Rome to Fano, met
the mayor, mulled
a couple matters over (what does it mean
flat drink asked someone, what does it mean
cheap date?). Among Italian literati

we could recognize our counterparts:
the academic, the apologist,
the arrogant, the amorous,
the brazen and the glib—and there was one

administrator (the conservative), in suit
of regulation gray, who like a good tour guide
with measured pace and uninflected tone narrated
sights and histories the hired van hauled us past.
Of all, he was the most politic and least poetic,
so it seemed. Our last few days in Rome
(when all but three of the New World Bards had flown)
I found a book of poems this
unprepossessing one had written: it was there
in the pensione room (a room he’d recommended)
where it must have been abandoned by
the German visitor (was there a bus of them?)
to whom he had inscribed and dated it a month before.
I couldn’t read Italian, either, so I put the book
back into the wardrobe’s dark. We last Americans

were due to leave tomorrow. For our parting evening then
our host chose something in a family restaurant, and there
we sat and chatted, sat and chewed,
till, sensible it was our last
big chance to be poetic, make
our mark, one of us asked
“What’s poetry?”
Is it the fruits and vegetables and
marketplace of Campo dei Fiori, or
the statue there?” Because I was

the glib one, I identified the answer
instantly, I didn’t have to think—”The truth
is both, it’s both,” I blurted out. But that
was easy. That was easiest to say. What followed
taught me something about difficulty,
for our underestimated host spoke out,
all of a sudden, with a rising passion, and he said:

The statute represents Giordano Bruno,
brought to be burned in the public square
because of his offense against
authority, which is to say
the Church. His crime was his belief
the universe does not revolve around
the human being: God is no
fixed point or central government, but rather is
poured in waves through all things. All things
move. “If God is not the soul itself, He is
the soul of the soul of the world.” Such was
his heresy. The day they brought him
forth to die, they feared he might
incite the crowd (the man was famous
for his eloquence). And so his captors
placed upon his face
an iron mask, in which

he could not speak. That’s
how they burned him. That is how
he died: without a word, in front
of everyone.
And poetry—
(we’d all
put down our forks by now, to listen to
the man in gray; he went on
softly)—
poetry is what

he thought, but did not say.

Source: Hinge & Sign: Poems 1968-1993 (Wesleyan University Press, 1994)

Heather McHugh, “What He Thought”, from Hinge & Sign: Poems 1968-1993 © 1994 by Heather McHugh and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press. www.wesleyan.edu/wespress

My Favorite Travel Computers

Sue and I enjoy traveling with minimal pre-planning and booking. Sure, before we start the trip we will have a general sense of what route we will take over the course of the trip, but we purposefully avoid making detailed commitments to itinerary until we are in country.

We like to get to where we are going, settle in to whatever city we landed in for a day or two, catch our breath, shake off the jet lag, and talk to the locals about what’s what. More and more now we pack a computer to help plan as we go. When we are a day or two away from moving on, we get on the internet and start researching towns, lodging, dining, and sightseeing further on down the road.

On our last trip, we really took this process to the limit. Here’s what we used the computer for most:

  • browsing the web for lodging, dining, sightseeing ideas, etc.
  • managing photos and video that we take during the trip
  • blogging the trip
  • checking email (we try not to do that too much, especially if we are cultivating “vacation mind”)

Perhaps ironically, bringing the computer along actually helped us travel with greater freedom and much less preplanning. Using our computer for travel, we felt more agile and able to respond to the interests and needs of the moment, rather than being locked in to an itinerary that had been cast in stone weeks or months before we arrived at our destination. I think one needs to be careful about getting sucked in to work, just because you have a computer. We made a conscious effort to use it to enhance the travel experience while avoiding the itch to check in to work.

When shopping for a computer for travel, the factors that we value most are:

  • light weight
  • not too big, not too small, just right
  • reliable (can take a licking and keep on ticking)
  • Mac operating system (there are plenty of PC alternatives with travel-friendly features, we just prefer Macs)

Here are our four favorite mobile computers, along with some of the distinctive travel related features:

Computer Model Weight Screen Size Battery Life Base Price
MacBook Air 3.0 lbs 13.3” 5 hours $1,499
MacBook Pro 5.6 lbs 13” to 17” 8 hours $1,199
MacBook 4.7 lbs 13.3” 7 hours $999
iPad 1.5 lbs 9.7” 10 hours $499

Though each person will have features that are important to them, for us, lightweight, a real keyboard, and ability to take a beating are critical. For that reason, the MacBook Air is the best for our needs. I detail each computer option below, highlighting the travel-friendly features that matter most.

MacBook Air

MacBook Air

The MacBook Air is my ideal travel computer. Though not as light as the iPad, it has a real keyboard. Since we are usually blogging on the road, the MacBook Air’s keyboard is easier and faster to type with than the iPad’s touchscreen keyboard. In addition, the MacBook Air’s keyboard is backlit, which makes it handy for typing in a darkened plane or hotel room.

MacBook Air

An option that makes this laptop extra robust is the Solid State Disk (SSD). When I travel, if I drop the laptop, odds are if a component fails, it will be the disk drive.  Unlike a regular disk drive, the SSD has no moving parts. It is just a chip. Note that the MacBook Pro has an SSD option, but it weighs twice as much as the MacBook Air. The iPad also has SSD, and I like it for travel, but only if I won’t be typing too much.

This laptop has it all – lightweight, compact form, full keyboard, solid state disk, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, 13.3″ screen – plus it is very cool.

MacBook Air quickLinks to Amazon.com product information

MacBook Air, 11.6-Inch Laptop, 128 GB Solid State Drive,
1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, Mac OS X v10.7 Lion

MacBook Air, 13.3-Inch Laptop, 128 GB Solid State Drive,
1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, Mac OS X v10.7 Lion

MacBook Air, 13.3-Inch Laptop, 256 GB Solid State Drive,
1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, Mac OS X v10.7 Lion

MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro is a road warriors MacBook Air. It is faster, has a bigger screen, and numerous other high-end laptop features, but it does weigh almost twice what the MacBook Air weighs. Like the Air, it has a lighted keyboard and a Solid State Disk option. This laptop is ideal for someone who needs top-end performance for work and travel, and is willing to take on the extra weight.

MacBook Pro product information quickLinks to Amazon.com
MacBook Pro 13.3″,  250 GB, 2.40GHz
MacBook Pro 13.3″,  320 GB, 2.66GHz
MacBook Pro 15.4″,  320 GB, 2.40GHz
MacBook Pro 15.4″,  500 GB, 2.53GHz
MacBook Pro 15.4″,  500 GB, 2.66GHz
MacBook Pro 17.0″,  500 GB, 2.53GHz


MacBook

MacBook

For the money, this is a great travel laptop. Not as heavy as the MacBook Pro, not as light as the MacBook Air, this is a fine laptop for the occasional traveler. Note that there is no SSD option for the MacBook, so get a nice padded case for it and be gentle. If you don’t need to type much, than the iPad is a great alternative, with its lighter weight, and Solid State Disk.

MacBook product information quickLinks to Amazon.com
MacBook 2.26GHz, 250GB


iPad

iPad

iPad Keyboard DockThis is amazing travel computer. Of the four listed in this article, it is the lightest, lowest cost, has a Solid State Disk and an agile touch screen interface. Perfect for checking out websites for travel planning and such, and if you need to type alot, you can add the portable keyboard and tilt stand.

All iPad models come with built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi. If you want to extend your network coverage further, choose iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G and sign up for access to 3G data service.

And unlike laptops, airport security usually won’t require you to remove an iPad from your carry-on bags.

iPad product information quickLinks to Amazon.com
iPad 16 GB, Wi-Fi
iPad 64 GB, Wi-Fi
iPad 16 GB, 3G (coming soon)
iPad 64 GB, 3G (coming soon)
iPad Keyboard Dock

Travel Accessories

We carry our computers around in Case Logic neoprene cases. They absorb impact well, are easy to get into and out of, and are good looking. Here’s an example at Amazon.

When traveling abroad, you will need an adapter to plug your computer in to.  We like the Kensington Travel Adapter.  It is a clever all-in-one unit that provides plug adapters for use in more than 150 countries. Simply slide out one of the built-in plugs and plug in a laptop, cell phone, battery charger, or similar electronic device. Here’s product information at Amazon.


Wellington, NZ

Often the motels in NZ have laundry facilities and that is where I was a few hours before hitting the road for Wellington. The old washer/dryer were quite slow and a very friendly lady from Wellington stopped by with her wash. She was curious about our travels and when she heard that we were off to Wellington, suggested we cut over to the westcoast and drive south along the Tasman Sea to Wellington… which we did. At her suggestion we took a western route through Palmerston North and down the westcoast, with beautiful views of the Tasman Sea… stopping in Paraparaumu for a break and some ice cream.

We arrived in Wellington in late afternoon.  The country driving of the past week was replaced with fast moving close quarters rush hour traffic.  Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and the seat of government. My acquaintance from the laundry room had also suggested we enter the city by the ferry terminals and drive along the waterfront. Doing that we passed through the Parliament district and we saw some fine historic buildings which set the tone for the city.

We checked out two hotels and decided to stay at the Museum Hotel. The Museum Hotel was initially located on the other side of the road, moving to its present site in 1993. Facing demolition to make way for the new Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa, the 5 storey, 3500 ton structure seemed doomed, until Chris Parkin, the owner, began to investigate the possibility of relocating the entire structure. The hotel made a 120-metre journey down an inner city street on railway tracks.

Museum Hotel, Wellington, NZ
Museum Hotel, Wellington, NZ
Te Papa Museum, Wellington, NZ
Te Papa Museum, Wellington, NZ

Keeping with its museum past, wonderful art can be found throughout the hotel.  Here’s a picture of the lobby reception area:

Museum Hotel, Wellington, NZ
Museum Hotel - lobby, Wellington, NZ

Wellington is a very walkable town.  As we found through much of New Zealand, outdoor sculpture abounds.

Wellington Sculpture, NZ
Floating sculpture in Wellington, NZ

During an evening stroll we came upon this gentleman walking his dog.  The stairs behind lead to Boulcott Bistro.

Wellington Sculpture - man and dog, NZ
Wellington Sculpture - man and dog, NZ

We had a fine meal at Boulcott Bistro.  The place is buzzing with locals.  The food was fresh and simply delicious.  We shared a Snapper on a smoked fish brandade, in a pool of red pepper puree decorated round the edges by a clam nage, accompanied by fresh green beens with basil butter and broccoli with lemon and toasted almonds.  As we have at each evening meal, we tried wines from the region – tonight is was a Dogpoint Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough (just northeast from Wellington).

Boulcott Bistro, Wellington, NZ
Boulcott Bistro, Wellington, NZ

After an early dinner we took a stroll along the waterfront…

Wellington Waterfront, NZ
Wellington Waterfront, NZ

lots of action…

Wellington Canoe Team
Canoe team bring their canoe in for the evening, Wellington, NZ

and a quote that sums up the spirit of the town…

Wellington poet Lauris Edmond quote
Quote by Wellington poet Lauris Edmond - part of Wellington writers walk

Hawke’s Bay, NZ

The drive from Napier to the wine country is a scenic and easy drive, just 11 miles south. While in Auckland, a local wine merchant in the Stables suggested half a dozen wineries that were his favorites. Among them, were Clearview, Craggy Range, Black Barn, and Te Mata Estate.  He recommended Black Barn for lunch.

Clearview had a selection of over 20 wines they were pouring.  It was a bit overwhelming, but we had a taste of most and by enlarge enjoyed them.  Clearview is located on the coast and has a nice outdoor restaurant.

Moving inland, taking a backroad route to Craggy Range, we felt like we were driving through the countryside of old Napa Valley – rolling hills, sheep, endless vineyards, shady lanes…   We could see the towering Craggy Range to our right and eventually crossed over the Tukituki river and drove back north a mile or so to Craggy Range Winery.  There we tasted their Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot – all excellent. We strolled the beautiful grounds and ended up making a reservation for dinner at their restaurant.

Craggy Range Winery, Napier, NZ
Craggy Range Winery near Napier, NZ

Onward in to North Havelock for a bit of shopping and searching for picnic foods at a local gourmet grocery store (Bellatino’s).  Picked up a yummy selection of cheeses, fruit, smoked salmon…

Onward to Black Barn.  Loved all their wines, but especially the barrel fermented Chardonnay.  It had a black pepper nose and crisp light grapefruit taste that was unique and satisfying.  Though we don’t like Chardonnay as it is generally made in California, the New Zealand Chardonnay’s are very good – drier and finer tasting.

Finally, we went to Te Mata Winery, just before closing at 5 pm.  As with most of the wineries, we tasted many extraordinary whites.  All the wineries are producing reds too, but most of them are not working for us.  They are designed for cellaring, and are not read for easy enjoyment now.

We had an hour or so before Dinner at Craggy range, so we drove to the top of Te Mata Peak. It’s a 15 minute drive to the summit and the view of the vineyards and hills beyond is breathtaking.

Here’s a view to the west, with a storm blowing through:

Te Mata mountain, NZ
Storm entering valley, seen from Te Mata peak, NZ

Here’s a view to the East with Craggy Range winery seen in the middle-ground along side the Tukituki river.

Te Mata Peak near Napier, NZ
Te Mata Peak near Napier, NZ

Dinner a Craggy Range was very fine.  We shared a woodfire roasted pork chop, with roasted garlic, and had a carafe of their wonderful pinot – grapes from the Otago region of the South Island.

Hahei, NZ – Coromandel Peninsula

Pulling into Hahei we began to look for lodging. After some searching we found a Garden Studio at the Cathedral Cove Lodge Villas part of the Hahei Holiday Resort. Simple and clean the room is just a stone’s throw from the beach and was available for two nights. Yahoo! Jay quickly headed off to the beach for a swim and some reading.

Tonight we dined at The Church – a restaurant in Hahei serving “smart” food and housed in a historic Methodist Church. Both of us choose the evening’s special – baked Hapuka on a bed of rocket and black olive parsley risotto. Hapuka is a meaty white fish – sort of a cross between snapper and grouper. Delicious. Paired with the fish was an Amisfield Savingnon Blanc from the central Otago… quite lively on the palate with overtones of grapefruit – a perfect pairing with the fish.

Hahei, NZ
Flowers at The Church Restaurant in Hahei

Friday morning we headed over to Cathedral Cove, about a mile north of where we were staying. It was nice arriving early – parking was readily available, it was the cooler part of the day, and the trails down to the cove had fewer people on them. The hike down takes about 40 minutes, mostly down hill. We brought plenty of water for the trek. On the way down, the intense sound of locust were ever present, and resident grazing cattle would frequently be spied path-side.

Cathedral Cove Cows
Cows on the trail down to Cathedral Cove

The cove slowly reveals itself, first through the sound of the surf filtering through the trees, then glimpses of limestone bluffs rising from the ocean, worn by millennia of pounding waves. There are two beaches, divided by the “cathedral” – a cavernous hole worn through the bluff by the sea. At low tide you can walk through it, passing from one beach to the other. This is a beautiful spot, and a great place to swim and body surf.

Cathedral Cove, in Hahai, NZ
Cathedral Cove, in Hahei, NZ
Cathedral Cove, in Hahai, NZ
Cathedral Cove, in Hahei, NZ


Auckland Art Gallery

The Arrival of the Maoris in New Zealand

The excellent Auckland Art Gallery is located in the middle of downtown, just west of Albert Park.  A short walk from our hotel (Sky City Grand).

My favorite exhibit was Picturing History: Goldie to Cotton – Gallery notes say: Stories of origin and arrival, significant events, and the transformation of the land of New Zealand are just some of the themes explored in this collection exhibition. Drawing from across the historic, modern and contemporary New Zealand collections this exhibition considers how artists have responded to and interpreted New Zealand history through their work.

Te Tohu Tuatahi
Te Tohu Tuatahi

While in no way a ‘History of New Zealand’, it offers idiosyncratic glimpses into moments from New Zealands history, both real and imagined. Reflecting artists’ interests, the Gallery’s collection and the different ways artists have responded to the past. Capturing key moments from our recent past, as well as stories of the exploration and encounters of Maori and Pakeha, the contentious history of our land and its development, along with those people made famous by such historic events.

A special focus within the exhibition is the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886, and the impact the devastation it wrought had on the country.

The exhibition features works by Charles Goldie, Gottfried Lindauer, Colin McCahon and Shane Cotton, some of New Zealand’s most celebrated artists of the past and present, amongst others.