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Dawn on Milford Sound

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It is dawn, Wednesday morning, on the top deck of the Milford Mariner, moored in Hamilton Cove in the Milford Sound.  A cloudless sky, slowly brightening, the Southern Cross still shining overhead.  Wow.  

We started our voyage to Milford yesterday morning.  After a somewhat hurried breakfast at Joe's Garage (our third in a row; what a great place!) we boarded our bus.  Our driver was Carl.  He said hello.  Then didn't stop talking the rest of the day.  Born and raised on the South Island near Queenstown, a former guide, he was a fount of knowledge about everything kiwi.  At one point Andie said to me, "he talked about wool for twenty minutes.  That's when I stopped listening."  He also talked about deer farming, the difference between fencing for deer farming vs. sheep farming, the details on the road on which we were driving, the deterioration of the quality of driving on said road, the reason for said deterioration, and many other things.  He was delightfully …

Andie and Alan's New Zealand, part 1

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I have resolved to start up my old practice of keeping travel logs, just like I did the last time I graced New Zealand's shores.  It was 1986, I was 25 years old and headed to Wharton in a few months, the travel log was a paper notebook, and Ronald Reagan was President.  Who'd have thought that it would be the last of those facts for which I would be most wistful now, 31 years later???

Andie and I departed SJC on Thursday afternoon, Mar 30,  for a 9 day Spring break trip.  Andie was faux annoyed at me for not letting her skip Spanish class that afternoon.  ("I'm gonna steal ur food on the flight and you'll have nothing to eat, so there.  Ur in for a long 16 hours sir," read the text.)  The trip was long and smooth, we even made a rather short connection in Auckland with 20 minutes to spare, and arrived Saturday mid-day in Queenstown.

We checked into our AirBnB apartment, with a view of the lake and the "striptease" club across the alleyway (one of …

Sailing the BVIs

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The cool thing about a sailing vacation is that your hotel doubles as your entertainment, your view changes everyday, and instead of splashing water on your face to wake up, you dive into the warm, blue Caribbean (or whatever sea you happen to be plying). However, there are some drawbacks to this sort of trip: cramped quarters, nautical heads, seasickness ... landlubber concerns, trivial really. So it was with some trepidation back in January that I booked eight nights aboard a Sunsailsailboat in the British Virgin Islands. No captain, no cook, just the four of us and the sea. "It's for your 50th," said Ava, "let's go! I'll figure out something for the seasickness." What a trooper. I only hoped that the ultimate solution for the seasickness that has plagued her since birthing our children wasn't spending her nights ashore. "Have a nice night on board that stuffy, bobbing, vomit pit," I imagined her saying as we left her on the ste…

Doing

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Vacations are either about doing or seeing. On seeing vacations, you see things -- museums, famous sites, family. There are variations to this rule, of course. Foodies go on vacations to eat, wine tasters to taste, music lovers to listen. Or so I hear.

I like doing vacations. Go somewhere cool and do cool things. There may be seeing involved (mountain peaks, white beaches, rushing rivers) but the seeing (and eating, tasting, and listening) is in service to the doing. To quote Yoda: "Do or do not. There is no try." I bet he's a cool guy to vacation with, easily the best of the Jedi.

Today we are wrapping up 10 days of a doing vacation in the great Northwest. I think, in fact, in a career of doing vacations this may just be my masterpiece. Our down moments have been few and far between, and we will return to California tired and relaxed. The best vacations, you go home (and even to work) to rest.

It started a week ago Friday, when we flew to Seattle and made our …

It's not you, my blog, it's me

Hello, blog. Yes, I know, I haven't written in a long time. I'm sorry. It's not you, it's me. I could make up some excuse about only writing about travels that involve airplanes, but you'd see that for what it is: a shallow cover-up of my generally lazy tendencies. No, there's no one else. Really, check my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Even Buzz. They are equally bereft of my quality sardonic wit. Since we're being all honest with each other, I have a few things to tell you. This may be hard for you to hear, but here goes. We have done many interesting things since you and I last got together, and several of them even involved travel. In other words, they belonged in a blog called Eagletravels. Are you OK? Should I go on? There was Pinecrest over Labor Day weekend, our 20th anniversary trip to Debbie's house. The fall was full of football games (Stanford and flag) and birthday parties and the holidays a whirlwind of parties and fun. …

This England

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This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle
The parks. The beautiful trees, the sound they make in the wind and when it rains, the shade they provide.
The farmers' market across the street every Sunday.
Meat pies.
This Earth of majesty, this seat of Mars
English ice cream: Scoop. The Cow and Bean.
The British Museum. Very big, didn't see everything in six visits, the Greek and Egyptian relics.

The Tower. Nothing to fear, just a man in a mask with an axe.
La Fromagerie: our shop of sacred cheese.
This other Eden, demi-paradise
Walking to work through our neighborhood, across Oxford Street, down the finest shopping sreet, through a park and past a palace.
Books, Will on #19, Andie on #9. Our local library, big with great books and nice librarians who asked us questions about the books, which kept us from spending too much money at ...
Daunt Books.
This fortress built by Nature for herself, against infection and the hand of war
Castles.
The many and varied birds of St. James Park.�…

Too Much Gear

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Wear sunscreen, my children
As you leave the M6 and start to make your way into the Lake District, on narrow roads through rolling hills dotted with sheep and criss-crossed by meandering stone fences, you pass through charming villages with one thing in common: they have lots of gear shops. I notice these things because I love gear shops, and in the Lake District they are all over the place. Windemere, Ambleside, Grasmere, Keswick - four villages no more than about 20 miles apart, each charming and touristy in a Carmel sort of way - each featuring about a dozen (more in Keswick) cool gear shops. The place is awash in fleece, gore-tex, and hiking and climbing shoes. There are enough tents and sleeping bags to outfit the entire English nation. The walking sticks, placed end to end, would probably reach the moon. Or at least the top of Everest.
We wonder, how can all these places survive? When some adventurous businessman walked into Keswick and saw a dozen gear stores, why did he s…