Simon Willison’s Weblog


42 items tagged “travel”


Weeknotes: Camping, a road trip and two new museums

Natalie and I took a week-long road trip and camping holiday. The plan was to camp on Santa Rosa Island in the California Channel Islands, but the boat to the island was cancelled due to bad weather. We treated ourselves to a Central Californian road trip instead.

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Weeknotes: Taking a break in Moss Landing

Took some time off. Saw some whales and sea otters. Added a new spot to Niche Museums.

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Letterboxing on Lundy

Last week Natalie and I spent a delightful two days with our friends Hannah and Adam on the beautiful island of Lundy in the Bristol Channel, 12 miles off the coast of North Devon.

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San Francisco Recommendations: comics, fashion, food, and more

I’m not a huge comics person, but that said I strongly recommend a trip to Isotope Comics in Hayes Valley on a weekday. Go on a weekday when the owner is running the store. He is incredibly charismatic and positively vibrates with enthusiasm about comics. He also has an incredible collection of toilet seats lining the upper wall of the store, each one illustrated by a famous comic book artist. Make sure to ask him about them.

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Help us plan a trip to the English countryside

The Mechanical Music Museum in Northleach in the Cotswolds is a hidden gem—definitely worth dropping in for their tour.

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Good travel book for recently retired man?

The new Atlas Obscura coffee table book is worth a look.

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Practical gift ideas to positively improve a friend’s life and hobbies

I’m a big fan of the Dorling Kindersley travel books, which are chock full of photos, maps, diagrams and illustrations. Thanks to the internet there’s really not much point carting around a reference-style guidebook like Lonely Planet—TripAdvisor etc will always be more comprehensive and up-to-date. This makes guidebooks more important for general inspiration and browsing.

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Where should we stay in Nashville?

For a delightfully unique Nashville experience, I suggest looking up Santa’s Pub. It’s a dive bar in a double wide trailer run by a man who looks a bit like Santa, and every night there is karaoke night. Aside from being a bit smokey it’s an enormous amount of fun.

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Which online platform can you recommend for organizing group trips? I’ve review startups that tried to build that, but failed a lot. Anything you can recommend that you used or use continuously?

TripIt has worked extremely well for me for trips with up to 9 people.

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What are some of the best offbeat attractions in London?

Camden Passage antiques market in Islington (near Angel tube) should be right up your street. It’s full of fascinating characters and intriguing shops, including bits and pieces of WWII memorabilia.

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How do I become a global nomad as a software engineer?

Go freelance, start working on projects and build up a reputation as an excellent engineer who gets high quality work done on time. Build up a large roster of satisfied clients who wish to work with you in the future, and know how to successfully work with you via email and video conferencing. Now pack your laptop and head off around the world.

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What steps can I take to protect my data in case my laptop gets stolen?

Set up full drive encryption—that way if someone steals your laptop they won’t be able to access your data without a password.

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What are the cheapest ways for a single man to eat in London without cooking?

24 hour fried chicken joints are a relatively cheap source of calories if you want hot food and don’t want to cook.

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I am 17 years old and I plan to travel solo for 3—4 months around Europe. Do you have any advice? I want to taste a bit of everything that Western Europe has to offer, to walk on small roads and use as little money as possible.

Don’t stick to just Western Europe. Eastern European countries are much cheaper and often much more interesting.

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What is the best city to host a convention in US and why?

I can’t say I’ve tried every city, but my personal favourite US city to attend a conference in is Portland, OR. Amazing food, great public transport (the tram service is free within the city center, which includes the convention center) and plenty of interesting things to do and see outside of the conference.

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What should one bring on a trip to London?

Bring an unlocked smartphone (Google Maps is essential, it has excellent public transport directions—don’t trust Apple Maps). You can get a pay-as-you-go SIM when you arrive, provided your phone is unlocked (check that you will be able to put a UK SIM in it).

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Planning on visiting Portland for new years. What should I do/see/experience?

Eat street food! Portland has a well deserved reputation for some of the best street food anywhere. Nong’s Khao Man Gai is a must, but ask locals for recommendations or just follow your instincts and get stuck in.

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When traveling, what methods do you use to find unique, uncommon local experiences like art, music, events & shopping?

I run the following google searches:

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What are some fun things to do in Camden Town, London?

Check out Brew Dog—excellent craft beers and really good (and interesting) burgers.

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What are the few must-do things in London before one leaves this place for good?

In terms of museums, it really is worth checking out the big four: the British Museum, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the V&A. They’re all exceptional (and free to enter). Here are some highlights...

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What are the coolest things to do in Dalston Junction (London, UK)?

That’s about 20 minutes from Broadway Market (at the south end of London Fields) which is very nice at the weekend.

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For a first-time visitor but longtime Anglophile, what’s essential to see and do in London?

Don’t spend too much time on the tube. It’s fast and convenient (and a marvellous piece of Victorian engineering) but its often better to walk if your journey is less than three stops. London is a delightful city to walk around, and you’re certain to see all sorts of interesting buildings on a 10 minute walk through any area. Get a data SIM for your phone and use your maps app to avoid getting lost and you’ll have the freedom to explore all kinds of interesting streets that most tourists who stick to the tube for everything completely miss.

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What is the best travelling iPhone application for a 9 day trip through Europe?

Instapaper is essential—it will let you save any web page for offline access on your iPhone which is fantastic things like Wikipedia and Wikitravel.

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Is it reasonably safe to visit Ethiopia and then to fly from Ethiopia back home via Cairo?

If you’re specifically interested in the Cairo leg then yes, it’s safe. Cairo is a modern city if over 20 million people. Tourism is Egypt’s most important industry and they are very, very good at protecting that cash cow even during times of political turmoil. If you pay attention to the news and don’t go actively looking for street riots to get involved with you’ll be fine.

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As a first timer, what are the best tips while flying business class to get the most value?

Wear something really scruffy, so that when you get up to go to the bathroom the stewards can sniffily tell you “I think you’re in the wrong cabin, Sir”—and you can say “No, actually I’m sitting just over there”.

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Where are the best places to go in London on a weekend for free?

Just walk. One of the joys of London is that any walk you take is guaranteed to turn up interesting architecture and surprises. I once spent an afternoon walking from Paddington to Tate Modern and saw loads of fascinating places that I had no idea were there. Use Google maps and look out for interesting looking squares, parks and back streets. These days I also tend to pop open Foursquare’s “Explore” tab every now and then to see if I’m walking near something particularly interesting.

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What are the cheapest hotels in Granada, Spain?

When we were travelling around Spain in 2010 we found reliably gave us the best prices on hotels— and were both good for hostels

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What are some site/app options for event recommendation/discovery?

Our site recommends events (conferences, meetups, expos, guest lectures etc) based on who you follow on Twitter. In my opinion it works extremely well in suggesting events that would be a good fit for you.

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Is there any fairly easy way to travel internationally without taking a corporate airline, cruise, bus etc?

Apparently there is—I haven’t tried it myself, but it’s not impossible to hitch hike on someone’s yacht. It helps if you know how to sail, but if you know how to cook that can get you on board as well.

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What are the best things to do, see, or eat in Marrakech?

Stay in a Riad. We stayed in Riad Laârouss and absolutely loved it—the best place we stayed in Morocco or Egypt (and we were travelling in North Africa for three months). Peaceful, friendly and with a plunge pool for cooling off.

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