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Tidbits...short travel commentaries

by Jan Wheatcroft

I shall share some short ideas about traveling and spending those free hours that fall into my lap when I should be working. The first is about choosing which airline to use for travel. For me, flying used to be a rather luxurious experience, whether I was traveling within the US or going abroad. Nowadays, I find traveling on American domestic airlines quite trial-filled with all of the things that are no longer offered and all the boring limitations.

When I fly to a foreign country, I want the flight to count as part of the journey as well as the trip itself and so I choose a foreign carrier. At this moment, my favorite carrier is Air New Zealand as I find the comfort level and service to be top notch. I also have enjoyed Singapore, Virgin, Japan and British Airways. Mostly, I try to combine good service with a good price but it is not always possible to get both together. Since my trip begins with the flight, the airline I choose is important to me.  

There are some things I try to have with me whenever I travel. My passport, of course, even needed for trips to Canada and Mexico now. I always have some extra passport-type photos with me. They come in handy for things like a weekly Metro pass in Paris and a visa application in case I change my itinerary. One never knows what might develop. 

Comfortable shoes, medicines, a scarf and cheerful jewelry, a few good books (I still like real books), which I can leave for others when I have read them, my camera and now my iPad; all are important. 

I do not take a phone when I travel abroad. If one is necessary, I’d buy a cheap one wherever I am. I like a small notebook to keep all my information in one place. I write down what I spend, where I go, addresses, things I like, recipes, phone numbers...it’s all there in one place. 

I used to travel with huge wads of cash and travelers checks until I came up with a system which now works well for me. No more travelers checks. I don’t know if they are even sold anymore. I carry some cash especially if I know that Bureau de Change outlets are easily found. For instance, they are all over London with various exchange rates but hard to find in Sweden, especially outside of Stockholm. Many banks do not change money. 

In Cambodia, the dollar was the currency used. Dollars were accepted in Vietnam and in Laos. So I carry dollars, but I leave money in my checking account that I can withdraw at ATM machines. I make notes in my notebook regarding how much I leave in and how much I take out so, that I won’t go over my limit. I also send extra money to my charge card and then feel comfortable using it for special purchases or treats and I keep careful record of whatever I charge as well.

Claremont is a very pretty town and I walk many mornings a week with my friend, Helen.

Helen and I often begin from my house and walk over to Bridges and look for hawks and their nests. I love the trees there. Then we might meander into the Colleges and see what changes are being made. There is always a new building going up with underground parking attached, old familiar buildings being torn down, new dorms being built or nice landscaping that changes with the seasons. The summer is a great time to see what is happening as the Colleges get ready for the returning students, as well as hosting many visiting groups of guests. We leave earlier in the warm months to beat the heat. We have wandered into the old “barrio” area just south of First Street and enjoyed all the older, small cottages and the lovely gardens. 

West of Indian Hill. we enjoy the alleyways as much as the streets. It is fun to discover just how many small cottages and rentals exist that are hidden from the street view. These walks are good for a bit of a stretch as well as for chatting and planning projects and just to enjoy the town before the day gets busy.

I have an orange bike that I am proud of—or at least I am proud of having mastered the art of riding it. I have never had a great sense of balance and it took me years to learn to ride a bike and to stay on one. As a child my mother took me to a Beverly Hills bike shop, Hans Ort Bike Shop, to have the man there teach me how to ride. After several lessons on the horse path, I was pronounced a failure.

My sons, who seemed to just hop on a bike and ride off, found this story very funny, however, it always made me sad. I was 65 before I was able to stay on the seat and actually get somewhere. I still wobble but I am back on the bike, riding in the early morning while it is still cool, up and down the streets near my house and around and around the empty parking lots of the Colleges. I ride for exercise and to learn to feel safe and in control. I watch people zip about on their bikes as if they are without a care in the world. Claremont is a lovely place to ride a bike and it is one of the things I wish I felt more comfortable doing and something I will keep working on to try to conquer my fears and develop my strength.

Summer is a time for vacations, travel, visitors, relaxation and life lived as usual. It is my least favorite time to travel as everyone else is doing it too, it is hotter and the prices are higher. But often we have to go when it works best with other peoples’ schedules, the weather, time off and children. I usually like to get my art work attended to during the summer. For those who stay at home, there are many summer pleasures like various park concerts and a peaceful quiet atmosphere.

Perhaps those moments include reaping the rewards of spring gardening or enjoying al fresco coffees at the local cafes while imagining oneself in an exotic location for a moment. Maybe it is the time to explore one’s home turf, the local mountains, bike trails or close by beaches. Summer also offers the chance to take classes or short courses or indulge in a sport or share the time with a close friend or family member. 

Whatever I choose to do, I make it something special and pleasurable and, above all, relaxing. I also believe in doing everything I can to stay cool and not let the heat get to me: fans, air conditioning, cool drinks, cold showers and cold bodies of water. Let’s drink a toast to this summer with something cool, fruity and refreshing.

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