Off to Oz

March 12, 2017

I’m on my way to Australia for about 2 weeks. Daily updates will be on my post-one-photo-a-day project at 365Project.org. One album will be my favorite images , the other will be a record of and comments about the day, site or photo .

Photography isn’t the only reason I travel, but it is one of the major ones. Necessity may teach me to pack lighter, but here is my travel kit for now.

j-20170309_115651-850

Bottom Row, left to right: Tripod, assorted ties for attaching tripod to pack.

Row 2: Olympus 12mm f2 (multiply focal length by 2 for 35mm equivalence), Panasonic 20mm f1.7, Panasonic 14-45mm f3.5-5.6, Olympus EM10 MkII with Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8, Flash.

Row 3: Two lens hoods (which I should have reverse mounted on the lenses for this photo), SD card reader with cable, White balance cards I’ve been playing with, 2 types of lens cleaners in baggie.

Row 4: Two empty filter cases because replacing a filter in the field without an empty case requires either 3 hands or setting a filter down , stack of ND and CPL filters, Filter step-up rings because the lenses take 3 different sized filters and the CPL won’t fit any without a step-up ring. 2 batteries in baggies with charger and power cable, spare SD card.

The ‘What If something goes wrong…’ row : Replacement or second camera – Olympus E-PL1 with Olympus 14-42EZ f3.5-5.6, 4 spare lens caps, spare rear lens cap attached to spare body cap, External hard drive with 2 128gb USB drives, Filter wrenches.

Top Row: Case for E-PL1 in baggage which also serves as a belt pouch for spare lens(es) in places that don’t allow backpacks, Padded insert designed for photo gear, which goes in the adjacent carry-on backpack

Not shown: Ultrabook computer, any evidence of photographic talent.


2017 Shoehorned Sandwich

February 12, 2017

My trip folder names are boring. 2014 Fall – Japan, for example. I broke the pattern with 2015 Fall – Slovenian Splurge because it just fit. The trip formerly known as 2017 Spring – Portugal has become 2017 Shoehorned Sandwich.

May looked good for Portugal because it warms up and dries out as Spring progresses (duh, just like most places). My stopover city on the way home, Paris, is less desirable in late May because the French Open adds demand for accommodations. Who knew Springtime in Paris was a thing?

Google Images of Paris parks in Spring http://bit.ly/2kWhnSw

So I shoehorned the trip between the start of the Open, and a date reached by subtracting the number of nights I wanted in Portugal and Paris. I can’t remember doing such precise travel date setting since retiring, except when traveling with a friend from the US of A.

What about the Sandwich?  I’ve kept trying and failing to add more unplanned days to my trips. Actually, more nights without booked places to sleep. I started planning this trip with the best of intentions: book 1 night before and after flights. Immediately remembered budget places near metro stations in Paris sell out early. Booked all nights in Paris when I bought the airline tickets in early Dec.

OK, so first night Lisbon will be easy – but – the next day is a public holiday, so first 2 nights. The more I read about Lisbon, the less it seemed like a relaxing place in which to recover from let jag, uh, jet lag. Lisbon has an extensive light rail system. One line ends at Cascais, a former fishing town that became a weekend and day-trip destination from Lisbon. It shouldn’t be warm enough for beach goers in April, so I’m in.

Google Images of Cascais  http://bit.ly/2lEIzoD

The last night is in Porto. Easy. Done. Except the oldest part of the city, the one of most interest to tourists, is on steep hills.

Google Images of Porto http://bit.ly/2lEv2xE

Damn, my knees are older than the rest of my body. The best value budget sleeps nearest metro and bus stations were down to their last few rooms. I added 2 more nights. My knees thanked me.

Good, that left many unbooked nights – but – while putting the bookings on a calendar I saw I’d noted May Day when deciding on flight dates. Not just a big public holiday, a 3 day weekend. Plan was on the 3rd day to head south to the Algarve region on the Southern coast. It’s the warmest and driest part of the country. Plan was to stay 3-5 nights, but that meant moving on during a 3 day weekend. No thanks. I needed a Plan B.

OMG. Sintra is a 30 minute bus ride from Cascais and it’s on a rail line to the Algarve via Lisbon.

Google Images of Sintra http://bit.ly/2lEqO8T

I had figured to hit it in mid trip as I meandered north to Porto. It works better making it the second stop then doing a base camp over the long weekend in Faro as the third stop. Faro is a good transport hub for day trips in the Algarve and interesting in itself.

Sintra is on steep hills, budget sleeps in or near the flat area by the train station… you know the rest. Booked 2 nights in Sintra, 4 in Faro. Aargh.

Adding Faro and Sintra to my calendar removed the aargh because then I saw the filling of the sandwich: Ten unbooked nights in a row in a relatively small country. Woo hoo.


Fall Trip: Atlanta with a side of Paris

July 24, 2016

I can’t recall going from initial idea to buying flight tickets so quickly, or planning a trip mostly based on another’s suggestion. I’ll be house sitting and cat tending for a dear friend in Atlanta, GA. Her job sometime requires being away from home for a week or 2 at a time, returning for weekends or a week depending upon the assignment. My 4 week house sit will include at least 1 week with her. I haven’t seen her in 11 years, so 1 week works for me.

Think about it (I did). I travel for several reasons: 1) New people, places and things, 2) Photography, and 3) Food. A month in Atlanta will be plenty of #1. I haven’t spent more than a trivial amount of time anywhere in the South since age 13. Her place is within walking distance of the college where she works, in a neighborhood with many faculty and post docs. Not exactly typical Atlanta. However, access to ‘typical’ and photography is a very close bus line which connects to 2 metro rail stations. I have no doubt a city I’ve never been in will stimulate my photomojo for a month. And, in appreciation, I will work at learning how to create some ‘Aww…’ worthy cat photos.

As for food, didn’t the South invent and perfect artery clogging, pork fat flavored, salt delivery systems? Seriously, a major appeal to house sitting is access to her well equipped kitchen. I haven’t had that since leaving the US in 2008. Actually, I haven’t had access to a kitchen of any sort. I’ve loved to cook since not long after grad school. I’ll see if I remember how.

Atlanta by way of Paris? By way of Tokyo is the rational choice. It’s the shortest and lowest cost route. But I’ll have to change planes somewhere, so why not stay a few nights? I’ve recently been there, done that in Tokyo. So I selected Paris because it’s Paris. Also there are rational reasons. Air France has non-stops to both Bangkok and Atlanta, a Premium Economy class with 6 more inches of leg room, and the fare is same for a few nights layover as a few hours layover.


Travel Whim Met Reality, Part 2

April 13, 2016

I figured it was time to start monitoring lodging availability for Seville and Jerez de la Frontera. Traveling by whim is good in theory. But just in case let’s see if there will be rooms. There won’t.

May 1st falls on a Sunday. So what? D’oh! May Day is a big holiday in some countries. In Jerez, the week following May 1 is their second biggest event of the year, La Fería del Caballo*. That’s when I wanted to visit. So, instead of Seville and Jerez and overnight trips, it will be Seville and day trips. Jerez is close enough for a day trip. It’s no big deal. Not better, not worse, just different. But I’m sure glad I checked 2 weeks in advance.

*Horse Fair, for the sort of families who have owned horse ranches for generations, plus their friends and social equals. The public has access to the outer layer of the grounds, but the rest is invitation only.

 

 

 


Travel Whim Met Reality

March 25, 2016

My forearms were hurting a bit from too much mousing but the trip ideas were flowing so I stuck with it for a few days. The result is a plan with my ‘must sees’, interspersed with unscheduled days.

Some destinations could not be left to whim because of price and availability of desirable lodging. Why?  Spaniards away from home for a spring weekend affect supply and prices. Old towns sell out before the new part of town. On hilltops, the upper old town sells out before the lower old town. By ‘sells out’ I mean in the range I’m willing to pay.

The Map of The Plan:

 

#1 Fly to Granada. 3-? nites
#2 Between #1 and #3 with some or all in #2 Seville. 0-6 nights.
#3 Arcos de la Frontera, a hilltop walled town. 2 nights
#4 Somewheres inside the magenta loop. 5 nights
#5 Cáceres in the old town. 2 nights
#6 Salamanca on a weekend. 2 nights
#7 Not on map – #8 Segovia – #9 Not on map. 7 nights.
#10 Cuenca in the upper old town. 2 nights.
#11 Toledo in the old town. 2 nights
Last night in Madrid then fly to Stuttgart.

 

I’m glad I found the advice to book lodging in Amsterdam before buying airline tickets. There was precious little availability for my preferred flight dates. Because I have 11 hrs and  15 mins between arriving from Bangkok and departing for Granada, I chose to stay in the airport in a… well… they call it a ‘Standard Cabin’.

amsterdam-yotel

A gatekeeper prevents optimists from bringing anything larger than a carry-on bag into their Yotel (that’s the correct spelling). One must use airport baggage storage or be checked through to the next flight.


Spring Trip Sprouted

February 1, 2016

Five days ago I realized it was time to either plan a spring trip or not do one. Things were looking grim until I found a direct flight to a city I’d love for a layover on the way home. Not much got done in the last 5 days except a rough route plan, deciding when to go based on climate norms and buying tickets.

The yet as unnamed trip will be Bangkok – Amsterdam – Madrid – Granada by plane, then wandering Spain until it’s time to fly to Stuttgart, Germany. I’ll stay in Stuttgart until the pull of Amsterdam wins.

Why Spain? Last year was an appetizer. This time will be a multi course meal of highlights in Andalusia province and on the central plateau centered on Madrid, interspersed with short bus hops stopping somewhere simply because there are places to sleep, goodies to eat and people to practice speaking Spanish with.

Why Granada? The Alhambra.

Why Stuttgart? Both Porsche and Mercedes-Benz have world-class museums. I can also reach Amsterdam in half a day by bus or train, which appeals more than picking a date to fly months beforehand.

Why Amsterdam? The old center is storybook beautiful. It has more canals than Venice, more Rembrandts than anywhere else. One+ parks will be a dazzle of flowers, though outside the city, millions of farmed tulips will be headless stalks before I arrive.

Why 6 weeks? My health insurance covers emergencies and hospitalization for less than 7 weeks outside of SE Asia. It also lowers the average cost of day by spreading the airfare cost.

Decades ago I first read the quote ‘A luxury once sampled becomes a necessity.’ Not so much for me. When I did splurge it balanced the pervasive living beneath my means.

For me, the worst routine part of travel is enjoyment lessened or prevented by fatigue. Last September’s flying business class experiment reduced fatigue and jet lag way beyond what I thought possible. I could claim taking business class on the Bangkok – Amsterdam legs of this trip will be to retest my findings. Nope. Oh, it will, but the real reasons are I can afford it, and a luxury once sampled is in danger of becoming a necessity – at least for my looong flights.


September Slovenian Splurge

August 3, 2015

A few weeks ago, dry of ideas for a fall trip, I decided on another High Season in Chiang Mai as a substitute. I got busy. Booked a room and flights. Reviewed my writings on what was best done before the high season tourists arrive. Of course, then I got an idea for a fall trip.

In spring 2013 the 2 major disappointments of the Adriatic trip were not seeing the Skocjan Caves in Slovenia and Plitvice lakes in Croatia. I passed on the caves because after 3 days of cold and rain in Slovenia, I went south for drier and warmer. I figured I’d return for caves and lakes at trip’s end.

By the time I returned to Zagreb it was HOT. Too hot for long train and bus rides needed to enjoy visiting the caves and Plitvice lakes, so I flew home a few days early. That was an easy decision because I knew someday I’d return to Italy and could see the caves and lakes then.

Why Skocjan caves? Google Images. Why Plitvice Lakes? Google Images.

I have tickets for 18 September days starting and ending in Vienna. Don’t know yet which way to head after I’m done with caves and the lakes, besides the other places in Slovenia I wanted to see in 2013. Austria is OMG expensive, so 2 nights in Vienna may be it. Within 50 miles of Vienna are borders to Hungary, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Should be easy to make a loop trip through all three.

Why Vienna? It’s an experiment. Maybe taking a non-stop daytime flight and stopping for the night before continuing will significantly reduce travel fatigue and jet lag compared to leaving Bangkok at 1 or 2am, and landing somewhere before dawn to change planes 3-4 hours later. Vienna was the closest to my destinations. Another fatigue experiment is flying business class for the first time. A while back I realized I could be spending more than I’ve been, so why not?

BTW, I’m still going to Chiang Mai as planned.