Tuesday Travel Tips... Computer leads, Cords and Chargers

When I first travelled in 2001 I didn't even take a mobile: my camera had an LCD battery.  Now I travel with (in no particular order)
  • Computer charger
  • Camera battery charger
  • Camera USB cord
  • SLR Camera charger
  • Adapters for USA, England and Europe
  • Back-up drive
  • Phone charger
  • Phone USB Cord
  • iPod Charger
  • iPod USB Cord
  • iPod
  • SLR Camera
  • Point and Shoot Digital Camera
  • Phone
  • Computer
I am amazed how quickly we have managed to complicate our own lives with cords, attachments and plug-ins.  I would award a Nobel Peace Prize to the person who facilitates universal electricity sockets and a universal battery charger.  Music to my ears!


Farmers Markets

I have just finished reading Eat your Heart Out, by investigative journalist Felicity Lawrence (see Gaurdian review on link). Without exaggerating, this book has completely redefined how I think about shopping for food, supermarkets and food marketing generally. It's release coincides with two similar books by Michael Pollen's, The Omnivores Dilemma and In Defence of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. Whilst I have not yet read Michael Pollen's books, people who have say that they have equally shaped and redefined how they eat and shop. Michael Pollen was the academic who when recently touring Australia was widely quoted as saying "don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognise as food". Without getting too much on my soap box I would urge anyone with an interest in their own health and more broadly the health of the planet to read one of these books.

Thanks to this book I am now trying to shop as locally and as directly from the grower as possible. Tomatoes are in prime season in New England so this week I'm eating tomatoes as well as summer
squash, eggplant, basil, corn and for fruit, the first of the apples for the season and probably the last of the white peaches.
Look at the wonderful collection of heirloom tomatoes I managed to get - no more expensive than regular ones bought at the supermarket and with great names like Brandywine, Pineapple, Chocolate and Cherokee. All with their own distinctive taste. If anyone has any suggestions of how to cook with squash I'd be very grateful!

The Biggest Yard Sale

There are approximately 13,000 graduate students and 7,000 undergraduates at Harvard. The majority of these students live in Harvard affiliated housing. Whilst some of this housing is dorm-style where basic furniture is provided, the majority of students live in small, unfurnished studios or one-bedroom apartments. With the average graduate degree lasting 2 years, this amounts to a high turn-over of both lodgings and the furniture that goes with it. The result? Come the beginning of September the biggest "yard" sale of cheap furniture and storage items I've ever seen. Everywhere you look there are things for sale: walk down the street, turn the corner and invariably there will be some piece of furniture going at a price. Walking home yesterday I found myself in a housing complex that caters for families. Outside was the unofficial babies and kids toys Yard Sale: rows and rows of pushes, bassinettes and toys (no photos unfortunately).
Today I discovered this:
This sale is open every weekend 10am-3pm until the end of September. All the furniture in this photo will be sold by the end of the day. They have another two truck loads for Sunday and still more for the following weekends. Everything you could possibly need in a dorm from coat-hangers to couches and microwaves.
The benefit of this (and other sales) is that my apartment is slowly starting to take shape. My mattress arrived today so I am now able to sleep on my bed, I also bought a second hand armchair so that I can do my reading in the alcove looking over the Charles.


Meeting at Airports

Just before I left Australia I was unfortunately part of an elaborate "Airport-Run" disaster. Miscommunication, poor time management and general 'Barnett' vagueness were all to blame. Without boring you with the details - based on someone else's instructions I diligently arrived at the airport one morning only to find that no loved one got off the plane. An hour and a half and several phone calls later I was to discover that I was 12 hours early - the person in question was arriving at 1930, not 0730.

This event has prompted our family to come up with an "Airpot Contingency Plan" - which encompasses amongst other things, the direction in which we exit through customs and a designated meeting place that can be translated across different airports. Whilst this may seem a little OCD I was reminded of the relevance of these rules when I got off the plane in Boston yesterday. Heather-Jean and Don Wheeler (my Boston "host family") had very kindly agreed to pick me up from the airport. The flight was confirmed, the plane was on time, I sailed through customs and then... no one was there! Heather was no where to be found! Perplexed I waited - perhaps there was traffic? Time passed and I gradually became more concerned about the passing of time and what I should do. After what seemed ages, but was really only a little while, Heather and I did eventually find each other. She had also been waiting and watching the Arrivals door patiently (and then impatiently) for a good while. As it turned out we had been only 2 metres away from each other but it took the clearing of the arrivals hall before we spotted each other. If only we had had a Contingency Plan!

As well as picking me up from the Airport, Heather, Don and Adriana also very kindly took me to Target for some "essentials" and then cooked me dinner before taking me back to my apartment. All of this topped off with this gorgeous "welcome" pack - tea, coffee, yummy new england cookies and lots of other little tit-bits to carry me through the first few days in a new city. Thank-you!
Just quickly for those who heard me talk about my apartment many, many times before I left Australia, here is the view I woke up to this morning. That's my window!
And Sunset tonight!
I think I'm going to like living here!


Tuesday Travel Tips - People in Unexpected Places

I've been in London almost 10 days and almost everyday for the first week made attempts to catch up with friends from uni who were staying in Kent.  Try as we might, our schedules never quite aligned and whilst I fly into Dublin tomorrow on my way to Boston (!), they leave to head back to London.  Ditto for a friend from the Women's who is currently moving between Ireland and London.  Trying to make arrangements to see people seemed to be getting the better of me.  

No matter, content to be entertained by Clare and Shane who have generously leant me their 'couch' for the week, I found myself strolling through Portabello market in Notting Hill on Saturday morning.  Maybe it was a mutual love of chocolate brownies, but Tess and I almost literally bumped into each other at the pastry stall.  I didn't even know Tess and Mike had left Australia yet - they were in London for 4 days before heading to Turkey for a sailing trip with other Royal Melbourne friends.  A great chance meeting, and an excuse to have lunch out.

Another chance encounter on Sunday.  A fairly well organised breakfast catch-up with Lucy Forbes who has been living the expat life in London for the last 18 months.  It was great to see her and Louise, another ex-RMH person from Intern days!
It's a small world after all :)


Tuesday Travel Tips... You Can Never Have Enough...

No disasters this week - just a blissful week in Paris topped off with a wonderful girls-weekend with two friends currently living the ex-pat life in England.  So I thought I'd put this post out to you... 

What can't you travel without?
For me, I can never have enough undies.  They are the first thing I pack and the last that I remove in the cull.  I can survive with only one pair of shoes, no hairdryer, a couple of clothes changes but clean undies are an absolute necessity.  I usually have 10 pairs while traveling, minimum 7.  Excessive perhaps, but they take up little room, are light and importantly, mean that you can spend more time seeing the sights and less time washing your 'smalls' in the hotel sink!

Feel free to leave your "must haves" on the comments board.


Tuesday Travel Tips - When a cheap flight becomes expensive

There are no words.

There may have been tears.

TIP: Don't try and fly discount airlines with a years worth of baggage.