International travel benefits the brain

A recent article in The Atlantic quotes Mark Twain, who wrote in his travelogue The Innocents Abroad that travel is “fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” The article goes on to talk about how travel may help us be more open-minded and increase our creativity…

Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, Spain

Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” says Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel. Cognitive flexibility is the mind’s ability to jump between different ideas, a key component of creativity. But it’s not just about being abroad, Galinsky says: “The key, critical process is multicultural engagement, immersion, and adaptation. Someone who lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture will likely get less of a creative boost than someone who travels abroad and really engages in the local environment.” In other words, going to Cancun for a week on spring break probably won’t make a person any more creative. But going to Cancun and living with local fishermen might.

Link to the full article…  For a More Creative Brain, Travel

Reading about The Innocents Abroad got me thinking about other classic travel books…

The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck – enjoyable read while traveling in Baja, Mexico.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – enchanting memoir of Paris in the 1920’s.

In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin – in 1974 he quit the London Sunday Times Magazine via telegram (“Have gone to Patagonia”) and disappeared into the then little-known and remote tip of South America.

Thank you Nikki for sharing the article and inspiring this post!

The Quiet Traveler

The page of notes I created in my journal.

I am an introvert. Recently completing the Myers-Briggs personality test confirmed my thoughts, and reading Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking deepened my understanding.

The terms “introvert” and “extrovert” were first made popular by psychologist Carl Jung in the 1920s and then later by the Myers-Briggs personality test. Cain defines introverts as those who prefer less stimulating environments and tend to enjoy quiet concentration, listen more than they talk and think before they speak. At the other end of the spectrum, extroverts are energized by social situations and tend to be assertive multi-taskers who think out loud and on their feet.

Everyone spends some time extraverting and some time introverting. Don’t confuse Introversion with shyness or reclusiveness. They are not related (Myers & Briggs Foundation). Viewing these terms as opposite ends of the spectrum it makes sense that many of us spend time somewhere in between. I may spend more time on the introversion side but I can enjoy a good party and the overall high energy… I just do it my way, by spending more time with people having one-on-one conversations.

So how does being an introvert relate to my love of travel…

Flying solo for me is all about solitary time. I like to sit on the aisle where I feel there is some breathing space, and where I can get up without bothering anyone. Reading material, journal, things to do are always in my carry-on bag.

Road trips are a favorite of mine. Jay and I love having the time together without distractions. Often I drive and he reads to me, or we listen to a book on tape together. We talk, take turns napping, listen to music, research where we will stay and eat as we approach our destination.

Lately, we find ourselves choosing to spend more time in one place. Last January we spent a month in San Miguel de Allende. Experiencing the breadth of the city and all the various activities that go on there.

Slow travel, like slow food, gives us time to savor and process at a comfortable pace.

Another favorite book of mine is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s bestseller FLOW: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. His comment on the book Quiet ~ Finally someone has exposed the feet of clay of the extraversion industry. It is a wonder it took so long. Those who value a quiet, reflective life will feel a burden lifting from their shoulders as they read Susan Cain’s eloquent and well documented paean to introversion — and will no longer feel guilty or inferior for having made the better choice!

As Mahatma Ghandi said,  In a gentle way, you can shake the world.

Gluten-free food in airports

Gluten-free in airports often means a bag of nuts and maybe a piece of fruit… one of my favorite gluten-free blogs: Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, talks about this in her post gluten-free in airports. Change is coming and the big news from Shauna involves our own Alaska Airlines…

“I’m thrilled that Alaska Airlines has started selling a gluten-free snack pack on its flights. They sent us one a couple of months ago to see what we thought. Olives, hummus, multi-grain crackers, almonds, a fruit leather, and dark chocolate? Yes, please. I wish we were flying on Alaska each time we travel this summer, just for that pack.”

Meanwhile when you return home from your travels and are looking for creative, tasty gluten-free recipes, Shauna’s new cookbook, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef: A Love Story in 100 Tempting Recipes, is a delight. The New York Times names this cookbook one of the best of 2010!

Try this recipe from Shauna’s blog some night when friends are coming over…

Black Bean Roasted Pepper Hummus

1 poblano pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 15.5-ounce can black beans
1/4 of 15.5-ounce can garbanzo beans
2 cloves garlic, peeled
juice 1 lime
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
pinch chili powder
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
1/4 to 1/3 cup sesame oil or olive oil (depending on the consistency you like for your hummus)

Roasting the pepper. Preheat the oven to 450°. Massage the olive oil onto the pepper. Put the pepper in a sauté pan and slide it into the oven. Cook, tossing occasionally to sit on another side, until the skin of the pepper starts to blacken and separate from the rest of the pepper, about 20 to 25 minutes. Pull out the pepper and put it in a bowl. Tightly cover with plastic wrap and let the pepper sit until it has cooled completely. Peel it and seed it.

Making the hummus. Put the black beans, garbanzo beans, garlic, lime juice, avocado, chili powder, and the roasted poblano pepper into a food processor. Pulse it up until everything has blended into a chunky mix. Taste, then season with salt and pepper or more of any of the ingredients you feel it is lacking. With the food processor running, drizzle in the sesame oil until the hummus has reached the consistency you desire.

(Note: it will thicken as it sits in the refrigerator, so adjust accordingly.)

Refrigerate immediately and let it sit for at least 4 hours before eating it. Well, you can swipe a taste, if you want. However, the true flavors will not emerge until the hummus has sat for a bit. Plan ahead. Feeds 4.


What to do when your flight is canceled

Earlier this month Alaska Airlines canceled our flight from Boston to Seattle after de-icing fumes filled the cabin. First we deplaned, leaving our luggage on board. Soon snacks and drinks arrived to keep us all fat & happy. I was optimistic that once the fumes had been circulated out we would re-board… but that was not to be.

When the announcement was made canceling the flight, Jay was immediately up and heading to the gate to get our luggage off the plane. He was in the first group of 10 to enter the plane (over 200 people were on board). As soon as Jay came out with our luggage we headed to the hotel. Alaska Airlines had arranged to put everyone up at the Hilton Hotel connected to the airport. If we had a cell phone we would have been calling Alaska reservations to reschedule our flight as we walked to the hotel, but we did not.

Arriving second at the Hilton we were immediately checked into a room. The reservation clerk asked for our boarding passes and we gave them to him. Up in our room, Jay was on the phone to Alaska Air. After a reasonable time on hold, an agent booked us on a flight leaving two days later – ouch!

Frustrated, but still thinking strategically, Jay decided we should have our boarding passes and went down to the hotel reception desk to retrieve them. On the trip back up in the elevator, two women from our flight were comparing notes on the flights they had been re-routed on. One was leaving the next day via Washington DC, the other had been booked on a flight three days later via LA. Long story short, another call to Alaska Air had us leaving the next day via DC. And the next day when we checked in at Delta for the commuter flight to DC they definitely wanted to see our boarding passes from the cancelled flight.

All things considered we feel Alaska Airlines handled the situation well once we were off the plane (they delayed getting us off the plane and out of the fumes). Once the flight was canceled, agents gave everyone cards to fill out asking what form of compensation they would like – miles or a coupon for another ticket for a set dollar amount. We are frequent fliers with Alaska Air and chose the miles (no one year expiration date like the coupon).

Lessons learned:

Hold onto your boarding pass

Be persistent about what you want

A recent article in the New York Times – How to Fight Back When Your Flight Is Canceledhas further suggestions:

Use Twitter for help

Increasingly airlines, including JetBlue, Southwest and Delta, are using Twitter to notify passengers of major flight cancellations and assist in rebooking.

Read the fine print

Each carrier spells out how it handles canceled flights in a “contract of carriage,” which can be found on the airline’s Web site. Print this out before you head to the airport, so when issues arise you will have the pertinent pages on hand for reference and even show to an airline employee who may not be familiar with the details.

Avoid Being Bumped

The last passengers to check in for a flight are often the first to be bumped when a flight is oversold. So be sure to check in before you head to the airport. Many airlines allow customers to check in online, as much as 24 hours in advance.

Report Lost Bags Immediately

If your bags don’t make it off the plane, report the lost luggage to airline personnel before you leave the airport.

Travel yoga

Bring your yoga practice along when you travel. I asked Djuna Mascall, our yoga teacher, for a travel yoga sequence. Something that would allow us to continue our practice while we are on the road. Here is Djuna’s travel yoga sequence with her thoughts on each pose. I have provided relevant links to the Yoga Journal, if more information or a visual is desired. So, take a deep breath and begin.

  • Sun Salutations as a way of warming up, or as a practice in and of itself. Consider practicing the B Series which includes low lunges to open up the front of the hip, as well as the simple A series.
  • Bharadvajasana, simple seated twist that can be done on the floor or in a chair. Emphasize the length of the spine, lift of the chest (sternum bone), relaxing shoulder blades. Hold the twist for several breaths to gain the full benefit to the organs.
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Dog pose. This pose is great to practice with your hands on a chair or low bench, so you can really lengthen the spine and ground the heels.
  • travel yoga
    Triangle Pose

    Trikonasana – Triangle Pose. Focus on the feet, grounding the inner edge of the front foot and the outer edge of the back foot. This pose is one to do everyday to keep the hips open, spine long. It tones the legs and core. Consider practicing this pose against a wall, if you have one, to preserve good alignment.

  • Padottanasana – Standing wide legged forward bend with feet parallel, slightly pigeon toed. Consider practicing this pose with support under the hands, especially if you have been sitting a lot, to really emphasize the length of the spine.
  • Setu Bandha – the bridge pose, a back arch with the chest open. We often practice this pose with a block under the pelvis/sacrum. A wonderful pose to open the chest and front body, allows for deeper breathing, counteracts the forward slump of sitting, energizing pose if your energy is low, great for kidneys.
  • Supta Padangusthasana – supine stretch, one leg up with a strap around the foot, the other leg straight along the floor. Emphasize relaxing the back body against the floor, pressing up through the inner edge of the top foot, grounding the down leg and pushing out through the down heel. You can also take the leg to the side or across the body to open up the outer hip and lateral leg. Great for sciatic pain that can be a result of sitting for long periods. A wonderful back release for the lumbar spine.
  • Viparita Karani – legs up the wall with support under the pelvis (a folded blanket). Hold this pose for 5-10 minutes (or longer). Wonderful for the entire body, brain, spirit! Great for insomnia and for sciatic pain. Also good digestion pose.

Note from Djuna:

You can practice these poses as a series as written. You may decide to start with Supta Padangusthasana before doing any standing poses. It’s nice to get a twist in at the beginning of practice, definitely before back arch. I wouldn’t practice the back arch on it’s own (without the unwinding poses following), but any of the other poses can be done on their own.

Namaste.

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.

Traveling without a plan

Opening ourselves up to new experiences is part of the intrigue of travel. Our best travel stories are of the unexpected surprises along the way… positive and even seemingly negative at the time. Things that happen which give us a jolt, put us on a different trajectory, let us see a situation in a different light.

My first trip to Europe in the summer of 1976 with Jay was this way… as backpackers we alternated between camping, hosteling and our favorite – pensions – small inexpensive European hotels that often included a home cooked breakfast. Our parameters were certain cities or towns we wanted to visit and our airline tickets back to the states at summer’s end. I think we had one guide book, otherwise we would get tips from other travelers and check in at the tourist centers at the train stations.

This past February when we decided to escape the NW grey and spend the month in New Zealand I found myself fretting about how to plan a month away. How to know exactly where we wanted to go, how long we would want to stay in an area… not to mention feeling the responsibility of having to make those decisions and then implement them by doing all the research and reservation making.

So, we decided to pack our guidebooks, bring my laptop, book a hotel for our arrival in Auckland… and leave. What freedom and what fun. We found some towns we wanted to linger in and other areas where we just kept on driving. The flexibility allowed us to totally change our plans on the South island in order to spend time with our niece in Queenstown – a city we had not planned on visiting.

An offshoot of this attitude is that last minute travel can translate into last minute flight deals or other last minute savings. Emailing a day ahead for lodging in Nelson, NZ for 5 days, the reply came saying the cottages were booked but we could have the villa for the same rate. If you have access to the internet simply search on “last minute travel” and the city or area you are heading to.

This Sunday reading the New York Times travel section, I learned that the Frugal Traveler has just begun a new series “Getting Lost“. Taking it even a step further than we did, his intention is to show up in a place, and figure it out… with the goal of getting lost (literally). Here is an excerpt:

“Which is why I’ve lately been wondering, how does it feel truly not to know where you are? Are the guidebooks, GPS devices and Internet forums pointing us in the wrong direction? In our efforts to figure out where we’re going, have we lost something more important?

Hence this new series, “Getting Lost,” in which every few months I will try to lose my way all over the globe, from developing-world megalopolises to European capitals, from American sprawl to Asian archipelagos. (For the moment, I’ll avoid deep wilderness and deserts; I want to survive.) It’s a challenge that requires special preparation — that is, nonpreparation. In the past, I’ve researched destinations to death, zooming deep into Google Maps and uncovering unusual restaurants in the darkest corners of the Web. Now I am avoiding maps. I am shying away from Chowhound and Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum; I will not ask my Facebook friends who they know in Moscow or Addis Ababa.

I am, in short, trying to break free of the constraints of modern travel, of a culture in which every minute is rigorously planned, and we grade destinations based on how they live up to our expectations. I want to have no expectations. I plan to show up with neither hotel reservation nor guidebook; instead of devising my own itinerary, I will let the place itself guide me, and in doing so, I will, I hope, find myself caught up in moments I never could have imagined.”

Isn’t part of the reason we travel to get out of our known environment? Embrace the mystery? We all have our own comfort level around how much to let go, but what might happen if we challenge ourselves to embrace some, if not all, of the void?


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

Pack light & right

If you’re not going to wear it more than three times, don’t pack it! When I read this at Rick Steves’ travel website I had an aha moment and began paring down my clothing pile. My habit is to put together the clothes I think I might want to take a week or two ahead. As travel time approaches I check the weather of our destination, pull out my suitcase and start editing. This time I happened to look at Rick Steves’ website and found a helpful guide for packing… there is a guide for men as well.