Trains, Trolleys & Tuk Tuks-Getting around Lisbon

When you visit Lisbon, don’t even contemplate renting a car.  The traffic is crazy and the streets are uneven cobblestone narrow lanes.  Picturesque the crooked quaint streets are, but you do NOT want to drive here.  Trust me.  Instead, enjoy the public transportation system and treat yourself to a tuk tuk too.

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If you are a typical American, you are dependent on and feel lost without your own car.  In Europe, it’s practical and easy to let someone else do the driving.  So here’s a quick guide to public transportation in Europe.  Buy your travel card (could be paper or plastic depending on country) and use your credit card to put money on it to use as needed at the machine at the bus/train/trolley station.  We usually start with 10 euros on each of ours and then “top off” or add more $ at the machines as we use it up.  Ride costs vary but are usually 1-2 euros each trip.  Machines will be around the stations, usually with a line waiting to use, and just step up when it’s your turn, select your language and the machine will walk you through the process.  Easy peasey.

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As you proceed with your card/ticket, you will either just slap it on the pad at the machine turnstyles to enter the station or at the station just inside the door as you enter the trolly or sometimes it will be fed into the machine and spit out on the other side.  Just watch the other passengers and follow in style.  Grab a map of the subway or trolley lines at the station and off you go!  Most systems are color coded, i.e. in Lisbon we took the red line to the blue line to get around the entire town.  Inside the subway, trolley, etc. you will usually see a map of the system with the stops called out.  Just watch for your stop and if you miss it, get off at the next stop and switch tracks to go back.  It happens!  Keep your card handy as you sometimes have to use it to get out of the turn styles upon arrival.  Make sure you look for the green light vs. the red light so the exit you pick is active.  Don’t be that crazy American tourist trying to exit a closed lane.

I have to give Lisbon A+ for their public transportation.  In addition to a great metro (subway) system, they have trolleys/buses for easy around town travel and trains to get out of town and explore Sentra, Porto, Evora, etc.  All except the trains use the one transport card.  For trains, you have to get a separate ticket.  We found out that they assign seats on the train tickets after we sat in the wrong seats and had to move.  Oops.

For fun, we tried a tuk tuk one day for short ride.  For $10 euros for the two of us, the lovely lady took us in her three wheel golf cart-like tuk tuk and proceeded to tell us stories about Lisbon during our trip.  Travel + a story!  She explained that Lisbon is quite safe but there are lots of “soft” crime meaning pickpockets.  She told us about a tradition where the governor pays for 10 weddings a year at a big event in June.  Unfortunately, our driver is engaged to a Porto resident not a Lisbon resident so she was not qualified to enter the wedding raffle.  She contemplated finding another boyfriend but decided to keep him.  Ah, true love! Hint:  look for electric tuk tuk vs. a gas one so you aren’t sucking in deadly fumes on your lovely ride around Lisbon.  Cheers!

Eating & drinking in Lisbon

Pastel de nata.  Pastel de Belem.  Whatever name you want to call it, in Portugal this is the national treasure and really all you need to know about Portugal food.  It is the food of the Gods.  Flaky crust, warm egg custard interior with torched sugar top that oozes creamy goodness as you bite into the lusciousness.  Seriously, I am in love with a tart. I’ve already searched for where I can find it back home in Seattle and am considering how to smuggle home a few (or a backpack full) to tide me over.  Full.  On.  Obsession.

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Yes, the seafood is pretty good here too.  Thom had a grilled sea bass at the Fado place near our arbnb that was quite tasty.  BTW, Fado is seriously promoted here.  You can walk almost any curvy ancient cobblestone street here and find a Fado bar where the music starts about 9 p.m.  We ordered right before the singing started.  Big mistake-no food service while the singing is going on.  Thank goodness the singers were really loud so their soulful tunes covered the sounds of our stomachs rumbling loudly in hunger.  Finally around 10 p.m., the singing stopped and the food flooded out to the hungry patrons.  Fado was nice but since it is sung in Portugese (duh!) and I couldn’t understand the sad words, it was a one night and done for us to enjoy.

Acting on a recommendation by my cousin Eve, we went to the Anthony Boudain-approved seafood joint, Cervejaria Ramiro.  Far away from the main square and tourist area, we walked through Lisbon’s Chinatown and into the best food ever.   We thought by going “early” at 7 p.m. it would not be so busy as most people eat late here after they enjoy their afternoon siesta and go back to work for awhile.  Nope.  Even at 7 p.m. there was a line forming and the #’s were being given out to wait until you could be seated.

After a short wait though, we were directed upstairs from the main floor craziness.  The iPad with the menu was quickly discussed with the friendly wait staff that wanted us to order everything on the menu.  Having checked out the reviews, I knew to go with the garlic shrimp, garlic bread and steak sandwich for Thom.  With no choice to go with a single glass of wine, I had to order the “small” bottle.  Once again, cheap and delicious, I couldn’t finish the wine before we left.  So much wine, so little time!  Soaking up the juices with the bread, the garlic shrimp was divine.  Thom was making yummy sounds as he enjoyed the steak sandwich and stole a few of my shrimp.  Seriously, we could eat this every day and be very, very happy.  Total bill for two with wine was under 25 euros.  Thanks, Eve, for the tip!

Last night we just cooked in our teeny, tiny kitchen.  We found that every train station has a grocery so on our way back from Evora we picked up eggs, bread, etc. for a quick breakfast dinner (with wine of course!).  I still can’t understand how anyone can eat the huge slabs of salted cod you find in all groceries.  Must be an acquired taste.  The food is very inexpensive here in groceries and restaurants.

 

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Tower of salted cod at the grocery store. 

 

Coffee is not a big deal here.  Most people drink espresso in cafes.  We didn’t even have a coffee maker of any type provided in our arbnb.  We found a cheap coffee press at Flying Tiger for 8 euros that we’ll leave for the next guest.  Cheaper to do that than buy coffee out every day.  We found one Starbucks at the train station but that was it for national coffee chain stores.  Tea is not big here either though we did have a hot water kettle provided in the apartment.  Next time I’ll bring more Starbucks instant coffee to tide us over as you just never know.

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For lunches, toasties are big here, as in grilled cheese and grilled ham/cheese.  We’ve had several of these and for about 2 euros each, provide a quick and hot lunch.  Tarts and toasties-that’s seems to be my standard diet here with cheap and tasty wine to wash it all down.  The sangria is amazing with so much fruit and spices that it is a tango on your tongue.  Even the food carts get into the vino action.  We found “wine with a view” on the waterfront in Belem, cork bar and all.  A perfect way to end a day in sunny Portugal!

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Chapel of Bones

“We bones in here wait for yours to join us.”  This message over the door greets visitors who enter the Chapel of Bones.  Disturbing and disruptive.  Unlike anything I had ever experienced,  Capela dos Ossos is in the Church of St. Francis in Evora, a cute Portugal city that has been around for 2,000+ years.

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Three monks, concerned with the values they saw in Evora’s society in the 1600’s, created this macabre chapel to give residents a place to contemplate their love of material things against their inevitable death.  Using locales from the cemeteries around town, skulls and bones were gathered to form the walls, columns and ceiling.  Full corpses of an adult and a child also are on display.  To stand in that room looking at this religious expression of protest against wealth and status from so long ago shows that society never changes.  You have that same wealth disparity today across the world.  Will  human beings ever learn?

Not my cup of tea usually but staring at the display made me reflect on the need to be in the present, appreciate my blessings and not take one minute of this precious life for granted.  Because, just like these bones and skulls staring back at me, we will all join them some day.  All that matters then is the lasting good that we are able to create while alive.  Unfortunately, though, most shun thoughts of our eventual demise and focus on gathering as many material things as we can while alive.  The old saying “you can’t take it with you” comes to mind.  Why on Earth then do we spending all our time working to buy stuff that we don’t really need?

On Mother’s Day, I appreciate that Thom and I created two really outstanding human beings who are now making a difference themselves in the world.  Hannah and James make me very proud every day of the worthy life I have lived.  Until I depart to be only bones, I can only hope to continue to do good work and live a life well served.

Shopping in Lisbon!

While Lisbon is so impossibly picturesque that you feel compelled to take pictures of everything, it is also heaven for shopping.  Not even in London did I find so many unique items for gifts and myself, of course. 

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Where to begin?  Well, there is the LX Factory under the bridge that looks like the Golden Gate.  Filled with shops and cafes, it also houses the coolest bookstore I have seen and I LOVE bookstores.  Obolodamarta not only had multiple levels filled with books, it also had a temporary exhibit of Kinetic Art.  The inventor himself walked us around and told us stories about each of his creations.  From a miniature printing press to a Charlie Chaplin story machine, it was so fun and interesting.  I love just stumbling into these experiences as we often do as we wander.

Thom was tempted to get a tattoo at the local artist shop at LX Factory but I veered him away and took some great pics of street art instead.  Who knows if he will leave Portugal with new ink but maybe another day.  Tattoos are not a decision to be made in the moment but after careful reflection.

The next day we left our Alfama district and meandered up and down the cobblestone streets.  Definitely need to have sturdy shoes with grip to hike these streets in Lisbon especially as they get slippery in the rain that was off and on all day.  Finding a store that made bags out of recycled signs and garbage as well as bicycle tires, I was tempted but held off buying.  Pricey but worthy. 

Ducking out of the rain into the Cork Store by the fort proved to be an expensive interlude as we bought multiple gifts for folks who read this blog so I will say no more.  Let’s just say I bought so much I asked for a quantity discount and got it.  Always the bargainer I am!  Just expect Christmas present from Portugal my family and friends.  Thom is obsessed with man jewelry and got yet another bracelet for his already full wrist.  Seriously, that man wears way more bangles than I do. 

Thom also loves shoes so when we found a store with the unique concept of buy a pair of awesome shoes, get a bottle of wine, we both considered it but wisely remembered how full our closets are back home.  We also passed on the sardine shop knowing that while they look cute, they aren’t our cup of tea.

At Typographia, we could have gone wild but restrained ourselves to buy only 2 t-shirts. Very similar to our favorite store in Shanghai that had original creative designs on quality t’s, this little shop had so many cool t’s to choose from that it was hard to narrow it down but the one we choose for James was the best.  In chatting with the shop clerk as she rang us out, she asked if I had really read the words spelled out on the typewriter keys.  I had and it was hilarious but irreverent, just like our son, who will be the recipient.  We laughed and then the conversation somehow turned to weed.  In Portugal, the legal limit of pot is one gram but it’s still not legal though they won’t arrest you with that amount or less we were told. Sharing that we didn’t smell it all the time like we did in Seattle walking the streets, she said we just weren’t walking the right streets.  Point taken.  Shirts bought.

When visiting Portugal, I would suggest packing an empty suitcase and LOTS of Euros.  Whether you go for cork or sardines (they are obsessed with this salty little feller) or Port wine, etc. you will enjoy engaging with the locals as you find treasures to bring home.  Here’s hoping our luggage isn’t over the weight limit going home!

 

 

 

Walking Munich

With only one day to explore Munich, we chose to take a historic walking tour offered by InMunich.  My brain is in overload with all the cool facts and interesting stories that our tour guide, Hein, shared with us.  Meeting in Marienplatz Square at 10:45 a.m., we got a quick summary of the history of Munich before the glockenspiel went off at 11 a.m. serenading the huge crowd with music, bells and the moving characters that illustrate the history of Munich.  Fantastic.

Hein guided us over the next three hours through the streets of Munich, pointing out the beautiful buildings and giving us the backstory of each one.  Admittedly, I am the ignorant American who obviously never paid attention in history classes as I learned more about Hitler and WWII from Hein than I did in school.  Munich lost 80% of their buildings to the war but they rebuilt beautifully.  The few buildings and parts of buildings that did survive the raining down of bombs were on the tour.  As Hein asked various questions, the answer was always “beer”.  To distract a pet monkey who saved a royal baby from a rampaging baboon, what did they offer?  Beer.  When the town folk didn’t have enough gold to get the Swedish King to leave them alone during a takeover, what did they offer him?  Liquid gold, aka beer.  And so on.

Along with six other couples, all Americans, we learned of Hitler’s early years as an aspiring artist.  Hein told us that if he could go back in history, he would make sure Hitler made it into art school vs. getting rejected which led to his career in government and killing.  Most powerful moment was seeing “dodger alley” where the Resistance would run to get around the mandatory saluting to the Nazi regime off the major square where Hitler made campaign speeches.  Seeing the beer hall where Hitler had one of his first major oratory moments as he came into power was also chilling.  So many times over the course of the tour, Thom and I would look at each other and mouth “Trump moment” because it feels like history is repeating itself with our lying, power hungry, amoral POTUS who would rather let citizens die if it meant his agenda was approved.  Terrifying.

At our break halfway through the tour, Hein encouraged us to make use of the public bathrooms and Starbucks but I chose a different path.  Cold and needing an instant warm-up, I got a shot of good whiskey at an Irish pub.  No ice just whiskey.  My friends, Kurt and Ernie, would be so proud of me.  Later, we would fill up on a good German dinner of sausages/sauerkraut/potatoes for Thom and white asparagus/potatoes with hollandaise sauce for me with a side of pretzels, of course, and a carafe of wine.  Cheers!

Rocking with Bruce in NZ

One week ago, we were THIS CLOSE to The Boss. In Auckland, NZ.  It was AWESOME!

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Travelling over 7,000 miles from Seattle to NZ to celebrate Thom’s 60th birthday with Bruce, we enjoyed a week on Waiheke Island off the coast of Auckland before the big day.  On Saturday we boarded the ferry to the mainland, picked up our tickets in Auckland and made our way to Mt. Smart Stadium.  Along the way we dropped off a bag at our roadside motel, hastily booked when we discovered the damn ferry didn’t do a late night run to the island and we would no doubt be stranded sleeping on a ferry terminal bench if we didn’t take action.  Those that have been to a Bruce Springsteen concert know that he has great energy and can play.  ALL. NIGHT. LONG. When we saw Bruce in LA and Seattle last year, he played for four hours straight.  Which is awesome if you don’t have a deadline to cross the ocean to your lovely airbnb cottage.  Not daring to leave the concert early, we decided to grab a few hours rest at the “no tell motel” before going back to the island the morning after.  Wise we are.

For this concert, Bruce had two opening acts which was unusual because he usually works alone with no opener.  Arriving just in time to be one of the first 500 in line, we got the coveted pink bracelets and #’s written on our hands.  The NZ stadium crew were very organized, walking in 100 fans at a time in order to avoid chaos.  We got to know some lovely people while we waited in the shade of the trees outside the gates.  Thom was even interviewed for a NZ podcast.  While Thom’s sign didn’t get Bruce’s attention, it did solicit lots of comments from the crowd as did his “Icky Trump” protest shirt.  My hubby-always ready to discuss politics-is not shy about voicing his opinions.  Luckily this crowd was very anti-Trump so many lively discussions ensued when they asked us, “WTF-how did you elect that wanker?”

Finally inside, we were about three rows from the front of the stage.  WOWOWOW!  As many times as Thom has seen Bruce, this was the closest he would get.  Ever.  Fitting for a journey as long as ours.  When interlopers without #’s on their hands tried to cut in front of us, the friends we made standing around us including a NZ policeman, joined voices in protests and summoned security to move them behind us.  One entitled lady thinking she could just cut in front of me was cussed out by Thom and others, with the cop counselling Thom not to touch her to avoid getting kicked out of the concert. Wouldn’t that have been awful?  But, properly restrained but still giving her what for, Thom did not get ejected.  Standing firm, we “policed” our area and made sure we kept up close and personal with Bruce.

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The openings acts, Jet and Marlon Williams, were good but everyone had come to see Bruce and the E Street Band.  Finally the 40,000+ fans got him as he strolled out in his trademark checkered shirt and belted out Darlington County.  Steve Van Zandt was of course his usual crazy self with his head scarf and floral pants.  When Bruce declared it was “ass-shakin time” they turned and let their bums do the talking.  Impressive.  Interesting, the crowd in the stands were seated and fairly quiet unlike the standing mob on the floor where we were.  Bruce eventually ran to the sides and got them engaged but they were definitely more reserved than the US crowds that danced for 4 hours straight last year when we were in LA and Seattle.

Next to us all night was a couple from Italy who had planned their vacation to NZ to see Bruce at Christchurch and Auckland.  Dedicated.  Another woman also interviewed with Thom for the podcast had taken a 36 hour flight from India.  Crazy.  The gentleman in front of me helping with crowd control in our group was from Poland.  Everyone had stories to tell about Bruce and the impact he and his music had on their lives, making it easy to bond quickly with complete strangers.  I will always remember them fondly.

While he sang hit after hit, the moving rendition of “41 Hands” brought tears to my eyes as I saw everyone raising their hands and feeling the heartfelt lyrics so relevant to the tensions we are all feeling today in our world, whether in the US or NZ.  The Boss ended his three hour jam with an acoustic version of Thunder Road.  Brilliant.  The concert of a lifetime.

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Bruce and E Street Band say good-bye to Auckland and the end of their world tour.

 

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Bruce ends the show with Thunder Road.

 

 

 

 

Hiking Waiheke

Up, down and all around Waiheke Island we went this week and everywhere we looked were amazing South Pacific views and surprises along the way.  Sometimes we just got lost and wandered into private driveways, hugged the narrow side of the roads with no sidewalks in sight or took the “tramping track” on beaches and through forests.  What fun AND great exercise!

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Stunning views from the cliffs

Of course there were moments when I didn’t think I could go another step or climb another hill.  Yes, Waiheke Island is one rolling hill after another and there are stunning views from the cliffs as a result but the journey can be challenging no doubt.  Thom would break into singing “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s off to work we go, we’re lost again oh no..” as we hoped that the journey would end before we passed out from exhaustion and hunger.  Note to self-pack food 0n these excursions because we always get lost and several hours later stumble upon civilization starving.

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The “double finger salute” after we got lost and had to climb yet another hill

First, we hiked a steep trail along the water by the wharf but then decided to veer off onto what looked like a country road though we soon found out at the top of the hill that it was a private driveway for the stunning homes overlooking the bay.  Oops!  Out onto the road, we stumbled upon WWII bunkers and observations compounds.  Though they never needed to take any action, the islanders were ready just in case of invasion.  I hope #45 doesn’t start another world war but Waiheke will be ready just in case.

On other days, we walked the width of the island from Shelley Beach to Palm Beach which is about 3 miles.  It always looks closer on the maps but once we start out, we are pretty committed to finish the walk. When we walked to the wineries though, and I had completed several tastings of excellent island vino, I insisted we take the bus home because the fitbit was already showing 5 miles logged for the day.  I’ll actually come home from vacation feeling fit and losing weight from all our excursions.

Today was the best walk of all-we took on Te Ara Hura.  This walkway runs along the northside of the island from Oneroa to Palm Beach.  We started on the beach at Oneroa and lost the trail so we double backed to the street section and found our way through woods with LOTS of steps up the hillside hugging the coastline.  Thankfully at Little Oneroa Bay there were facilities and a snack store to get the best popsicle in the world-some lemon, orange, coconut creation that made me swoon.  Off again, up and down we went for miles until finally, as my energy was flagging, we hit the down trail to Little Palm Beach.  This “clothing optional” beach has sand so fine and water so warm and clear it makes you never want to leave.  The cool waters were a wonderful respite from the heat and sweat from the five mile walk.  Ahhhh……another day in paradise!

Wild for Wineries on Waiheke

I picked New Zealand for Thom’s birthday trip based on Bruce Springsteen’s tour schedule. A bonus was that the beach cottage I selected to be our home for the week was on Waiheke Island, the so-called “Island of Wine”.  Score!  Small boutique wineries abound, a total of 20+ on a gorgeous South Pacific island with only 8,000 residents but lots of wine-loving tourists.  The unique warm micro-climate here is perfect for producing grapes that transform into gentle Rose, fruity Merlot and expressive Syrahs.

Right next door to our cottage was Goldie Estate.  How convenient!   A popular place for island destination weddings, you can see why when you climb through their vineyard to the top of the hill by the spreading tree overlooking the bay, which has surely been the backdrop of many a wedding photo.  This was our first stop and I was taken aback by the boldness of the tastings. This is some serious kick ass wine. Only 4 short nips and I was ready for a nap afterward.  What is in the fertile soil of this island that packs such a punch?  Damn.

Next up, we spent an afternoon walking several miles uphill to three wineries conveniently located in a cluster so you can stumble from one to another.  We were good and ready for a rest when we arrived at Wild on Waiheke.  A destination for tour groups, this winery was like a playland for winos, offering laser skeet shooting, archery (always a good idea when drinking) and lawn chess.  We spurned all activity after our hike and sprawled in the always present and now my favorite furniture in the world-lawn bean bags.  Under a tiki umbrella, we rested in the shade and I tasted their Merlot and Syrah while Thom sipped a non-alcoholic ginger beer made locally.  I don’t care for ginger beer-it tastes like Airborne but that’s just me I guess.

Because the wineries are mostly only open from 11-4 p.m., we reluctantly rolled out of the bean bags and off we went racing across the nearby field to Te Motu Vineyard, which overlooks the Onetangi Valley.  I went for a trifecta tasting of their Rose, Merlot and Syrah.  Not having eaten lunch, I ordered a basket of bread and olive oil (locally made) to soak up the alcohol and Thom enjoyed a  Pear and Basil organic soda.  Very interesting and refreshing.  Their Syrah blew me away-the peppery kick to it that comes natural here plus fruity overtones was devine.  A bottle to take home and savor was safely tucked away in the backpack and off we ran once again through the vineyards to the next winery, Stonyridge Vineyard.

Next to a vine-covered brick building, Stonyridge has olive groves and vineyards that surround a large deck with comfy couches.  Best of all, large pillows were strewn all over the hillside with umbrellas inviting you to lie back, enjoy the wine and gaze at the grapes ready to be harvested soon.  Alas, I was at my capacity for the afternoon and I didn’t partake of a tasting there but perhaps another day.  So much wine, so little time.  Cheers!

Life on Waiheke Island is good & different

What we love about travelling is learning about new countries, soaking in how the locals live and the uniqueness of every place we visit.  Sure, we also shop, dine and wine along the way but mostly we just try to get lost wandering around and getting off the beaten track.  Here are some of our observations from experiencing Waiheke Island, New Zealand:

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Sailboats are docked in every bay waiting to be sailed off into the sunset.  No docks anywhere on the island.  We saw one guy walk out to his boat during low tide from our beach and it was fairly far out.  Walk or swim are apparently the options to get out to your boat. The low tide/high tide ritual is amazing. We saw some very large fish trapped in a shallow pool of water by the road and I thought Thom was going to jump in and hand wrestle one but that wouldn’t be good sport now would it?

Public art can be found along the roadways and in the small villages that dot the coastline.

Butterflies are plentiful but only the orange/black monarchs.  I notice because the butterfly is my spirit animal-always flying on to new places we are.

Water is precious and only procured by collecting rain water in cisterns.  This means short showers and no ice.  Glad there are 20 wineries on the island as margaritas would be hard to do without ice.

Ham, venison and lamb are the popular meats with seafood not as plentiful as you would think for an island in the South Pacific.  Butcher shops outnumber seafood markets 3 to 1.

Lots of birds but haven’t seen a ground animal creeping anywhere.  The birds are good for insect control.  There is never a still moment of absolute quietness due to the constant humming of insects 24/7.  So, birds are necessary but the wineries have to net their vines to prevent birds from feasting on the grapes.

While you hear the insects, you don’t see so many until dark when the mosquitos come out.  Not sure why but none of the houses have screens on any windows/doors.  You can open the windows during the day for sea breezes but not at night cause the mosquitos will invade and bite you.  We even have a plug-in auto diffuser of repellent in our cottage which scared us when it went off.  We thought it was smoking but it was misting toxic shit to keep us safe and unbitten.  Thinking “oh we don’t need that” we unplugged it and proceeded to be midnight snacks for the invaders while we slept.  Now the toxic mist is looking less lethal and more necessary.

The homes here are very modest but extremely expensive with a 2 bedroom fixer upper costing close to a million dollars.  Damn great views though!  Most houses that we saw had the doors standing wide open and you get the sense they don’t lock their doors even when out on their boats.  Trusting fools.

Eggs are not refrigerated, crumpets are the breakfast carb and delicious, it’s “streaky bacon” here and takes forever to crisp up.  Tea is the hot beverage of choice.  There is no coffee maker in our cottage and no Starbucks on the island.  WTF!  But we do have a lovely teapot and hot water kettle we are using daily.

Outdoor bean bags are everywhere and quite costly running about $700 each but boy are they comfy.  Only negative is that after consuming the local wines it may be hard to stand up after reclining and relaxing.  After a few awkward attempts, you learn to roll, kneel and stand up without falling.  Got to get me some of these for our Boise cottage!

Sidewalks are different here.  Not on both sides of any road but rather they alternate sides.  First left then right but never at the same time.  No crosswalks to cross over when they switch.  Be quick and nimble and remember they drive on the “wrong” side of the road here so look in the correct direction or die.

Beaches have sections that are clothing “optional”.  Who knew?  Well, we learned quickly when  we started seeing naked bums and private parts being burned by the sun on Little Palm Beach which is next to the more traditional Palm Beach where bathing suits are worn.  Oh my!

No chain restaurants here.  Local restaurants ranging from Irish to Thai to Italian with some seafood thrown in.  Don’t expect shops to be open past 6 p.m. and wineries are only open from 11-4 p.m. so plan your days here around the afternoon sips that will knock you on your ass.  Naps afterward are highly recommended as the wine seems to have an extra bite going down and kicks in quicker than on the mainland.

Here’s to getting out into the world, appreciating diversity and savoring the journey.  May we always take the road less travelled and discover new experiences along the way.  Cheers!

Another day in paradise!

“It’s only a little further.”  Thom’s famous words as we literally walked the entire width of Waiheke Island from Shelley Beach to Palm Beach.  Take a bus?  No way not when we can traipse along for miles on the narrow sidewalk up and down hills exploring by foot.  Along the way we saw beautiful flowers, towering ferns, and a glimpse into local New Zealand life.  One of my favorite memories of our time in China was walking down the hill from the Great Wall.  Not such a happy memory for our son James who was with us and couldn’t understand the whole walking vs. taking the free bus ride.  He thinks we’re crazy.  Probably right but hey we enjoy the journey.

After exploring Shelley Beach in front of our cottage this morning, we set off on foot for the north side of the island where the beaches were known to be sandy and long.  Palm Beach was gorgeous.  Worth the walk. Families enjoyed the surf as Thom and I walked into the waters of the South Pacific together.  Oh my what a moment.  Strolling down the beach over a rocky section we entered what we quickly realized was the “clothing optional” part.  Goodness, naked bums everywhere!  Mostly older  folks but also some millennials strumming guitars in the altogether.  Walking between two naked groups while trying not to stare at not-so-private parts on full display, we found a path the led us straight up the steep hill for a most spectacular view.  I had read about the history of Waiheke Island as an “alternative” community for hippies that featured naked beaches so I wasn’t surprised.  Researching online when we returned home, I found many references to Little Palm Beach.  About Travel site advised “Remember to use common sense when stripping off at a beach. Only select secluded areas where there are either other naked people or no one at all.” Good advice.  In other words, nudism is tolerated but be discreet.

A kind tour guide who was shepherding rich tourists in a motor coach at the top of the hill shared where we could find the nearest bus stop and off we went to the local village for some fish and chips and shopping.  Most people would never just walk across an island and favor public transportation vs. renting their own car like we do.  What we saved in transportation costs though, I gladly spent on shopping.  One shop had local crafts and I picked up another pillow cover, adding to my large collection from around the world, as well as gifts and a gorgeous silver ring for myself.

We asked the shopkeeper for food recommendations which led us to The Local,  with fish and chips made to order and truly delicious.  Dessert was a deep fried pineapple ring coated in cinnamon sugar.  Decadent!  After lunch, Thom started wandering to find our bus home.  I made him stop for directions (men!) so we quickly found our stop and home we went to do a little sea kayaking and relaxing.  Another day in paradise!