Thursday, October 29, 2009


I arrived in Auckland after a 6 hour (and very bumpy) flight to Los Angeles (there were a lot of white knuckles), a three hour layover in LAX, and a 12 hour flight across the Pacific. (After being in several airports in a little over a week, I realized that no matter what country you're in, airport employees are a perpetually angry and frustrated people.) It has been VERY windy here, and I hope the wind dies down, otherwise my flight to Takaka (the beginning of the Heaphy Track) may be canceled, which would royally suck. It's spring here, and the weather, despite it being incredibly windy, is very nice. Although, several times while walking around aimlessly, the near cloudless sky would immediately turn grey and begin raining. It's also quite hilly -- walking around for 6 to 8 hours makes for a serious workout. I have not encountered any surly carnivorous parrots ... yet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

On the Road Again

Heading out to NZ today, hopefully JFK continues to have no delays. Although, with all the rain, it looks like I'll be testing my packs resilience to water earlier than I thought. I have a green waterproof cover for it -- it makes me look like a turtle.

Pack weight is 19.27 percent of my body weight, which is ideal

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cadbury World

I went with three of my cousins to Cadbury World. I was expecting to see a lot of the manufacturing process and the plant itself. You don't see these things at Cadbury World. Instead, you're taken into an acid trip inspired walk through a chocolate obsessed universe. I can't show you too many pictures, because they can litterally melt your brain, as if it were made of chocolate. If you survive the tour, you are rewarded with the option to buy copious amounts of Cadbury's chocolate for cheap. Unfortunately, even though you are at Cadbury World, they still won't sell you Cadbury Eggs unless it's Easter (I nearly stabbed an employee after realizing this.)

Native Cocoa Beans

A family being sent unknowingly to their chocolate doom

Warwick Castle

To the Midlands

After spending the previous day at the gallery and then walking around London doing my best to get lost, I took the underground to Edgeware. My cousin and uncle picked me up at the station and drove me to Leicester in the midlands. Before meeting me, my uncle decided to stop in a local shop across from the station to buy some slacks for the first time in two years, because when you need slacks, you need slacks. It was about a two hour drive to Leicester, and I sat in the front passenger seat, on the left hand-side. It was strange. We stopped in a small town along the way to see a memorial dedicated to Frank Whittle (the inventor of the jet engine). Besides a good slack bargain, my uncle likes planes ... a lot. After arriving in Leicester, we had tea (very appropriate), and my uncle showed me a few of his paintings, several of which were of planes, go figure.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Second Day in London

St. Peters (This was the only shot I could get without a wide angle lens.)

Shakespeare's Globe Theater

A random shot of the Thames at night

Parliament and Big Ben at dusk

The London Eye from the north side of the Thames

Slept late this morning. I was either tired from all the walking the previous day, haven't adjusted to the time difference yet -- which is unlikely since it's only five hours -- or most likely, I was simply being lazy. And so, with all the strength I could muster, I rolled out of bed, fell out, and headed to The National Gallery.

Nearly everything in the gallery, which is huge, from the 13th to the 17th century is either a terribly boring portraiture, or a commissioned work by the Catholic Church, because after 400 years, the church felt that they did not own enough paintings of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. To me this is an unhealthy obsession, but I digress. I like El Greco, even though his subject matter was narrow, e.g. Jesus, he painted the dude like he was going to a disco. And for a 17th century painter, his work always looks modern to me. With the exception of Salvator Rosa's Witches at their Incantations (bizarre), there wasn't a lot of other work made before the 17th century that made me stop and stare for more than a minute. I saw a few unfinished Michaelangelo paintings, and a da Vinci cartoon (a sketch for a painting), neither of which exemplified how good those guys were. Then I saw some self portraits by Rembrandt (awesome), some Vermeer (I'm aware of his use of light and the historical context, but his work is boring), Rubens, and Caravaggio. After walking and looking at every painting in about 45 rooms, I spent the remaining time ogling the impressionists. I saw a bunch of Turner's, who could paint the living shit out of a seascape. And then there were some Degas, Cezanne, Lautrec, Monet (better than Manet), and Seurat (a masochist) works. I even saw a Klimt and Redon (highly underrated). Seeing the Van Gogh work was the icing. There was a crowd around his Sunflowers, which is iconic, but for me, The Mountainous Landscape Behind Saint-Paul Hospital confirmed the fact that the guy was a mad genius (he painted it during a year long stay at an insane asylum!). The painting is so far beyond the work of his contemporaries, cutting off his own ear is no surprise.

Monday, October 19, 2009

First Day in London

Buckingham Palace (The Queen was home, said hello, she was pleasant.)

Parliment on the Thames from the London Eye

Big Ben (It's pretty big, but I don't understand where the "Ben" comes from.)

The Thames River from the London Eye

The Tower of London -- Henry the 6th died here May 21st 1471 (That's a long time ago.)

London Bridge from the Tower of London (One of the best pictures of the day.)

I also took a picture of a sweet gold chalice in the Tower of London, but was immediately barked at as soon as the automatic flash went off by two Beefeaters (not a derogatory word, look it up). The room was dimly lit and the cup was behind glass. I chose poorly. However, I speculate from the vast number of gold cups and enormous solid gold punch bowls -- yes, punch bowls -- that these guys enjoyed a drink or few in the day, but in awesome style.

To London

I don't know what I was thinking, but I completely neglected the amount of traffic through New York City on a Saturday night. It took well over an hour to get from Hoboken, NJ to JFK. My cab driver apologetically told me he would have to speed whenever he had the opportunity -- not in those words exactly, but in broken English I understood. Luckily I had checked-in online, and as soon as I arrived I sprinted through security, and made it to the gate with a few minutes to spare. I will never underestimate New York traffic when traveling to the airport again. I'll also give myself more than an hour and a half to get to the airport when traveling internationally -- you'd think this would be enough time considering you were skipping the lines by checking-in online, and were traveling to an airport that only took 30 minutes to get to previously.

I walked onto the plane and sat down in a window seat in "World Traveler Plus" class, but don't let the title fool you, it's only SLIGHTLY better than coach. Anyways, in jest I made a comment to the guy sitting next to me about there not being any wi-fi on the flight, to which he was unexpectedly knowledgeable about. This dude was on a business trip to Spain, stopping over in London for the day, but more importantly, he was in the exact same line of work I was, except for the fact that he was on the client facing side. And so, to the annoyance of everyone else around us, we talked shop for about an hour. It's a small world indeed.