Food First: What to do upon arrival

Farmers Market Maui and Deli in Kaanapali, Maui, HawaiiOne of the most critical travel lessons we have learned over the years is to plan our trip to have enough time upon arrival to a) get our car if we’re getting one (see our earlier post about how to skip the queue and get away quickly), and b) go grocery shopping at once, even before going to our accommodations.

Especially when we are staying in a self-sufficient unit with a proper kitchen.

We nearly got ourselves into trouble in France before cementing this lesson into place. We’d arrived in town late on Saturday, about 9:30 pm, only to discover the only grocery store still open (most closed at 8 pm) closed at 10 pm, and they all would then be closed for both Sunday AND Monday since Monday was a stat holiday! Not only that, but the restaurants were all set to be closed, too. (Uh oh…). We barely got enough provisions to get us through to Tuesday before we were getting shushed out the door. Lesson learned.

Now, I scope out the grocery stores before we leave, and choose the one or maybe two we will go to first carefully because we both have food issues, and that makes it all go much quicker than it would otherwise. We usually get local reusable grocery bags, preferably with the place name stamped all over it so they have souvenir value, and stock up royally, including a good starter kit on the wine and liquor.

Then, we don’t berate ourselves too badly when we realize the next day that we still missed getting something fundamental, despite our best efforts to “think of everything,” and we make a secondary quick trip to a suitable local store.

On this trip to Maui, we hit up Whole Foods near the airport as our first stop, and then checked out a local vegetarian market just down the street from us the next day. The food shopping part of it has turned into a major part of the adventure, in fact, because we usually find new treats we’ve never seen before. Makes it fun!

Chatting with other folks in our current building, which we learned from them is actually a timeshare and they are regulars here, we discovered their first stop of choice is Costco, which actually seems like a good idea. At least for meat.

We’ll look for Costco on our next trip. Whole Foods and other natural-type markets will always be number one for us because of our tricky food issues, but Costco would make a terrific second stop!

I love not being restricted to restaurant food for every single meal the whole trip, and this strategy of stocking up even before we go to our unit is working really well for us now!

Photo: Our next-day grocery stop was the local (Kaanapali, Maui) vegetarian food store, Farmers Market Maui and Deli. Lots of wonderful finds in there! But definitely no bacon. Ha! That we found at Times Supermarket, just down the street. All is well.


I’m really online now! Not just “sorta…”

One travel discovery we’ve been making is that wi-fi doesn’t necessarily mean a level of service we can do much with (very, very slow; only one device at a time; a very limited amount of data; no service at all after all for whatever reason (“Oh, sorry, it went down last week and the internet company can’t fix it until next week”); no security whatsoever; etc). I mean, we had no wifi on the TGV train yesterday, all the way from Marseilles to Turin. Can you imagine that? Six hours of beautiful blogging time, gone. So I wrote postcards the whole time, instead, lol!

But now, oh joy, we have a nifty little device an Italian cellphone company has put out to market in honour of this year’s Milano Food Exposition. (Should we adjust our itinerary so we can go? We’ve been thinking about it…hmmm…) They want tourists to upload tons of pictures of the expo, and share comments and experiences about it on social media, so they’ve made a way for it to be easy and cheap for visitors to get online.

I think it’s brilliant!

Actually, being a bit of a data hog, I did two things.

I have a new, Italian SIM card in my phone now (Orange, which I mentioned earlier, is a French company that operates in Spain and France and Ireland but not Italy…of course), with a company called 3. It’s the one that Telus has partnered with here in Italy, so I’m happy to go with the one Telus is friendly with.

That was gigantic step one. Haven’t had cell service since leaving Spain, and it’s been a lot harder than I thought it would be.

In addition, we have a nifty new device called a WebPocket. It’s a personal wifi hotspot-maker that allows us to connect up to 5 devices at once, and gives us 20 GB for 30 days of data! For a laptop, that’s not that much, so I’ll have to be sparing still, but for Jeff’s iPad, our Kindles, and both our iPhones, it’s amazing.

WebPocket Mobile WiFi

WebPocket Mobile WiFi

This little device actually is pocket-sized, and the idea is that one family member will just carry this in their bag so everyone in the family can connect their phones to it while visiting in Italy without needing a separate SIM card for each device. (I just know how much I use, and I didn’t want to have to carry the portable modem with me all the time, so I decided to do both.)

The other great thing about it is that it is unlocked, so when we move on to Ireland, at least in theory, we’ll be able to put an Irish SIM card in it and carry on. (Guess we’ll see if it works as advertised.)

Tourists are only allowed to purchase one specific model, but Italians have even better versions available to them, which makes me wonder if/when such devices will come to North America? It would be such a great tool for our trailer, or for Carla and Tom at their cabin…

Bottom line of today’s trip to the cellphone store: We are no longer beholden to the wi-fi mercies of the places in which we stay. I can’t say enough about what a relief that is!


Great packing advice from Sue!

The day before we left for our grand adventure, our friend Sue, an experienced traveller, gave us a last-minute packing tip. She said to go and get a bunch of these packing cubes and organize our belongings into them.

She said that it helps SO much to be able to keep things organized without it all getting smushed together and mixed up when you are looking for that one particular top or pair of socks. Instead of rooting through the whole suitcase, we would just have to look through the packing cube with the tops, or the one with the socks.

She also said that they are a great way to sort-of unpack for quick stopovers, without having to totally unpack and repack everything the next morning. Just drop the cubes into the dresser, and you’re done!

I really didn’t think I had enough time to go to Vancouver to get them, so I didn’t think I’d be able to take her advice for this trip. I did need some luggage locks still, though, so I popped into the local travel shop to pick a couple up, and there were the packing cubes, right there in my neighbourhood!

I grabbed a bunch without actually knowing how many we’d both need, or which shapes/sizes to get. As it turns out, I didn’t quite get enough.

But I absolutely love the ones I do have! What a great invention. They really do work to let us pack a lot of stuff in really tightly without getting all jumbled up and lost, and they really make packing up for the next leg of our journey a lot easier.

When we get home, I will get some more to round out our collection.

They make a huge difference!

Thanks for the awesome travel tip, Sue J!




Now we know…

So, the morning we leave Mallorca for France, we drop some stuff off at the post office to mail home.

We finish up, leave, and walk back out to the car, only to find a bylaw officer giving us a parking ticket.


Turns out that, on Mallorca, parking spaces painted with blue paint instead of white are paid spots, and the meter was hidden across the street behind some huge, communal garbage bins. White parking spots are free. Blue are most certainly not free, not even when the meter is hidden and the spots are for going to the post office.

Nice trick. 40Euros worth.

Of course, we could skip our flight to Marseilles and go 15 km into Calvía on Monday to plead our case. Ha ha! Not.


At least we’ll know for next time? At least now YOU’LL know for when YOU go to Mallorca. Which you, seriously, should do. What a beautiful, classy island.

(Even the bylaw officer was nice about it. It was already all written up and entered into his system, too late to reverse. He looked really sad for us, actually.)

Call this a hard-learned Travel Tip.

(Damn…oh, sorry, said that already…)



I’m Awake!

OK, I'm Awake Now

OK, I’m Awake Now…

So, um… when you are sharing a hotel room with a sleeping beauty (that would be EA), and you wake up at an ungodly hour in the still-dark morning and can’t get back to sleep (that would be Jeff), maybe wait until it’s kind of time to get up before trying to make coffee with the Nespresso machine that is located a few feet away from said sleeping beauty’s head…

It’s remarkable how much like a jackhammer a Nespresso can sound…