This post is the first in an occasional series of Travel Tip Tuesday Posts. It will be a quick and easy read and include links to (hopefully) useful sites.
I have been on the road enough times that I have some travel hacks sorted out. I know it’s easier to take the ipad and not worry about a computer because you don’t have to put it in a separate tray when you go through the security check. I know you need a different adapter for the UK compared to the US. I take my own extension lead and power board that way I only need one adapter but can plug in all my Aussie devices at once. I know it makes sense to use packing cubes to make organising your suitcase easier. I even have those roll up vacuum bags that you can squeeze the air out of. I know about putting things inside your shoes. I know about making sure you are well dressed when you go to the airport to increase your chance of an upgrade. I know about having my carry-on bathroom stuff in a see-through bag. I know about wearing your heavy clothes on the plane.
This stuff I know!
It’s not the mechanics of packing I have a problem with. What I am not good at is taking the right amount of the right stuff. I always, always always overpack and end up bringing things home clean and pristine, albeit a little wrinkled. I end up wearing the same few things and lamenting my poor choices of what I thought I would wear. I pick up a particular jumper and think to myself “when did I think I was EVER going to wear that. Why didn’t I bring XYZ jumper instead!”
I have learned I don’t need something different to wear everyday but I still take too much. Viz a viz
The nice outfit in case I get an invitation to a fancy dinner (hasn’t happened yet!).
The fancy shoes to match the nice dress for the yet to materialize dinner invitation.
The extra pair of pj’s in case you can’t wash…I have always been able to find some way to wash my clothes, it’s not like I am going to the moon!
The 6 changes of shorts/pants/skirts – 4 would probably be plenty
The 10 T-shirt’s/shirts/tops – 6 would definitely be enough
The jacket and the wet weather jacket – I could get a wet weather jacket that looked ok to wear anytime
The hiking boots and runners – I don’t think I can cut down on these. I can’t run in hiking boots and my runners are not sturdy enough to hike in.
It’s not just the ‘wasted” outfits that are a problem. As a solo traveller I have to be able to manage all that stuff on my own and still be able to fit it and me into a toilet cubicle!
(Just an aside I think that is one of the main hassles of travelling alone – going to the bathroom and having no-one to watch your stuff!)
I need to be able to hoike that suitcase into the back of the car, onto the train, up the stairs by myself.
For my next trip (to Scotland – I’m excited) I have set a challenge to take just one 15kg checked bag and no carry on other than a backpack. (I will have an overnight layover, so need a change of clothes) That will give me 8 kg of wiggle room if I end up buying anything.
I have a few months to get organised and I have decided to base my travel wardrobe on the “capsule” theory of a few outfits you can mix and match. 14 items – 30 outfits. That sort of thing. You’ve seen them no doubt.
That’s what I am going to do! You will be my accountability partners! I will limit myself to 15 items (not including underwear etc) and 4 pairs of shoes. Two of which will be runners and the hiking boots.
Let’s see how I go! I will post again when I am packed.
Here are a few links I will be using to help me out.
In April this year, I took a trip to the USA. I took two completely different routes: the Fast Lane and the Maine Road. Three weeks in New York, a city that’s always open and humming, book-ended a five day road trip to Maine, which I discovered, was mostly “closed-for-the-season”.
My plan for Maine was to take in few hikes in Acadia National Park, do some serious lighthouse spotting and sample authentic lobster rolls in their natural setting. I knew it would be a bit chilly but that didn’t matter after all, spring had sprung!
It should have twigged as I was tried to book accommodation. Most of the AirBnB listings said they were unavailable for the dates I was trying to book. I naively thought they must be just be very busy. I kept scrolling until I found someone taking bookings. I ignored the small print; “We re-open on April 14th” I would be there from April 7 – April 11th. A few days shouldn’t make that much difference? Should it?
Being from the mild subtropics, I didn’t understand how comprehensively closed everything in Maine would be. The larger cities of Portsmouth and Portland were business as usual, but the small beach-side towns in between, were in fact, “closed” except for the local grocers and a few cafes. In the end, this only added to the appeal of an impossibly “Pinterest” worthy coastline which I enjoyed without crowds. My loves for quiet hiking, quaint architecture and lighthouses were well served. The iconic lobster roll, on the other hand, was well and truly off the menu as a summer only delicacy.
Day 1: New York, New York to Kittery, Maine. (454 km)
Picking up the rental car from Laguardia Airport on a Saturday morning was a good idea. I missed the weekday traffic heading out of the city and I got a better deal compared to getting it in Manhattan. I caught the M60 bus bus from Harlem and then the free shuttle bus from the airport concourse to the rental car office.
Once on the road, it was a compromise between the scenic coastal route and getting to Kittery before dark. I headed east through Connecticut and Rhode Island, turned North on the I395 at New London up to Worcester, Massachusetts, then through New Hampshire and finally Kittery, Maine.
Six states in less than a day! Trying doing that in Australia!
My first attempt to photograph a lighthouse was foiled by a gated estate! I could see the Old Saybrook Breakwater Lighthouse on the headland, but couldn’t figure out how to get to it as it was surrounded by private homes and a large golf course with big warning signs!
The tiny town of Kittery, on the New Hampshire-Maine border is the oldest town in Maine. Already around 5 pm by the time I arrived, I just managed to snag photos of the sun setting behind a bridge that looked just like the Sydney Harbour Bridge (the Piscataqua River Bridge). My accommodation for the night, a stylish AirBnB was right on the banks of the Piscataqua River. I chose to stay on the Kittery side because it was considerably cheaper than the Portsmouth side. An easy stroll across the Memorial Bridge took me into the commercial heart of Portsmouth within a few minutes so no harm done by saving money. I wandered around the quiet streets, looking for food and settled on Fat Belly’s Bar and Grill because it looked friendly and cosy. Turns out they make a mean veggie burger and serve nice cold wheat beer!
Kittery – Oldest Town in Maine
The Bridge across the Piscataqua River on the Border of Maine and New Hampshire
Sunset in Plymouth
Piscataqua River Bridge 1
Memorial Bridge – Plymouth
Warren’s Lobster House – closed!
Enjoying a wheat beer at Fat Belly’s
Day 2: Kittery to Mt Desert (360 km)
The next morning I headed out for the Whaleback Lighthouse on Kittery Point and discovered it must be the chicken’s day off!
My first attempt at a lobster roll was at Lobster Cove, York.
“No, honey” the waitress said, “NOT at this time of year!” Eyes rolling as if I should have known better. No lobster in Lobster Cove?
Empty car parks with massive capacity and tourist shops with boarded windows made it obvious that this town was used to big crowds. I was one of the few who braved the weak spring sunshine and the stiff wind that held squawking gulls in one spot, despite their flapping wings.
Meh…I am not much into shopping and the scenery was still open, so I was happy!
The Nubble Lighthouse at Cape Neddick was resplendent and Ogunquit quaint beyond belief with adirondack chairs chained to scenic spots. The main inconvenience? Closed shops = closed public toilets!
As I headed further north the piles of deep snow became more frequent and I kept my jacket-gloves-scarf-hat combo at the ready.
Old Orchard Beach reminded me of an aging, overblown gigolo with its fairground, ferris wheel and tall-legged wooden pier. The temperature reminded me of Antarctica!
Once again – no lobster roll.
“No Ma’am” pffffft… “only in the summer!”
I made good with half a sandwich and soup. I’d been in America long enough to know a ½ sandwich would be enough!
Old Orchard Beach Pier
Clams on Old Orchard Beach
Giant pippies – Old Orchard Beach
Shut up tight!
I picked up groceries for my two night stay on Mt Desert Island and settled in for a frosty night in a old colonial cabin right on the edge of the Acadia National Park.
Day 3: Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor.
Another early start had me crunching along the snow covered carriageway, past logs dripping in icicles and the rustling of turkeys hidden somewhere in the scrub. Acadia National Park had been described to me as one of the most beautiful parks in America but it was here that my (wilful) ignorance of the seasonal closures proved to be the most inconvenient.
The Park has a loop road, the majority of which was closed. I was restricted to a few limited sections. This did not deter me from a long walk around Eagle Lake after jumping a low fence. I had a lingering guilt that I had not paid the entrance fee suspecting I should have, to someone, somewhere, even though the booths were closed. I half expected to find my wheels clamped when I got back to the car.
It was sunny and -6ºC. I was well dressed with thermals, fleecy hiking pants, a merino wool jumper, goose down jacket, woolly socks, two pairs of gloves, scarf, balaclava and beanie.
This Aussie knew there was no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes! I picked my way through the snow like the Michelin Man, feeling a tad overdressed when some locals walked past in three less layers than me. After three hours walking around Eagle Lake, I headed into the town of Bar Harbor for lunch. This time I was determined to find the now elusive lobster roll. Haven’t they heard of a freezer up here? Five cafes and another hour later, I settled for – you guessed it – soup and ½ a sandwich.
My little mascots! Frozen!
Darn it’s cold!
Bubble Rocks – Acadia National Park
Day Four: Bar Harbor to Portland. (260 km)
Today was the day for “THE lighthouse”. The Bass Point Light which perches on craggy, often snow covered rocks with frozen waterfalls bedecking the plinth on which it sits. On attempt No 1 I found the carpark alright, but couldn’t find a path down to the rocks below. I figured that you could only reach it by boat. The boat tours, were of course, “closed for the season”. Never mind, I thought, next time I’m in Maine! I headed off to a nearby town for a warming coffee at Sips Cafe. I told the cafe owner about my predicament and she kindly explained where the path was:
“From the car park, look to your left. Find the dirt path hidden behind the toilets and follow it down as far as you can go.”
At attempt No 2, THE lighthouse mission was accomplished. Tick! Another photography subject off the bucket list!
Next, another hike took me around Wonderland followed by the Jordan Pond Shore Trail (Acadia NP) before hightailing it back to Portland for the sunset. Low clouds and a pink sky gave a perfect backdrop for the Portland Head Light at Cape Elizabeth
My night’s lodging, an AirBnB in Preble Street, was a large, rambling early 20thC Eastlake and Stick style home, with six bedrooms, several bathrooms, a pool room, a music room, a huge kitchen and at least three cats. The owner had texted me from Mexico, with the code to open the door and insisted I make myself at home. So I did; by having a good (but respectful) poke around looking at all the art and artifacts which covered nearly every surface. After a busy day walking and driving I was happy to snuggle up and read a book I had found on the shelf eating Italian take away with one of the super friendly cats on my lap. By this time, I had abandoned the idea of lobster entirely and was extolling the virtues of AirBnB via Facebook to my friends back in Oz.
Day 5: Portland to New York.
With a late flight out, I had all day to take in Portland and started off with a self-guided architectural walking tour around the Weston Boulevard neighbourhood before heading downtown to check out the Art Gallery.
Portland, Maine is a town full of beards and while apparently not as Hipster (with a capital H) as Portland, Oregon it certainly had a small h hipster feel to it. The Sisters Gourmet Deli, a case in point. Fabulous food with modern (retro) styling.
A different kind of street art
In original condition?
Buglight – Portland
The Old Portland cemetery
Architecture walk Portland
Three more lighthouses, the Bug Lighthouse, the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and the Ram Island Ledge Light finished things off nicely before I headed out to the airport for my flight back to New York.
You’ll be pleased to know, I finally got a lobster roll. A mini one; as part of High Tea at the Plaza Hotel in New York. It was OK but I’m kinda glad it was only mini sized!
Over-rated; lobster, if you ask me…
As it turns out, the “season” re-opens mid-April, so perhaps it would have been better if I had gone a week later when the Park was fully open. But then I would have missed the ice and snow and the beaches which I shared with those squawking, stationary gulls.
So what’s the deal with the Old Chooks I hear you ask? Well you know, I ain’t no spring chicken anymore and as someone on the other side of fifty, I thought old chook was a fitting moniker. But the old chooks didn’t start with this blog. No; they have a rich and varied past.
I found them in an op shop (thrift store) in Wollongong. They were originally wine bottle stoppers with corks attached to their bottoms. I fell in love, paid the $2 asking price and brought them home. I did some surgery to remove the corks and Ruby and Esmeralda went into the camera bag.
They were considerably smaller than the garden gnomes you see some people take on holidays and it was my intention to take them on my travels and have them do fun and interesting things. I didn’t matter that they weren’t really chickens; they were close enough.
Their first big outing, “Old Chook’s World Tour Part 1” was to the Australian outback in 2013. They flew with me to Adelaide from Sydney and then came on a road trip through parts of the River Land of Victoria and then up to Broken Hill. Nearly 2000 km all up. They had a great time. Cracking jokes on Facebook and generally amusing my friends. (Maybe they only amused me but I was having fun!)
Unfortunately they languished in the bottom of the camera bag for a while. They came everywhere but they had developed stage fright. When I got a larger camera, there was no room for them and they got put aside.
Ruby and Esmeralda did not make any more appearances until 2016 when they went on a cruise to Kangaroo Island. Once again, they joined in on the fun, had a few too many cocktails and on their first shore tour in Eden, ended up going overboard, literally. (I left the zip of my bag undone….)
I was genuinely upset and searched for a new photo mascot. First, I found Penny, the grey seal in Mornington Peninsula. She had plenty of personality but failed her audition because her supine stance meant she couldn’t pose very elegantly.
Later that same year, I found Spark and Button in Bright, Victoria (think about it!) They have made limited (i.e no) appearances other than their debut performance on Facebook
Chooks, however, have been the inspiration for my souvenir purchases. A few times I have had to deviate from the theme and get other avian species like ducks, canaries, kiwis and once, a polar bear (Yes…. I know, I know but at least it was an animal!) It has also given my family and friends a rich source for gift giving ideas and I have an impressive collection of garden chickens.
Chooks also are a favourite subject to photograph.
From now on, I am going to make a serious effort to take Spark and Button with me on my next journey but if any fishermen down near Eden finds Ruby and Esmeralda; let me know; there is a reward!