written by john lewis

Travel Category Archive

The last flower of Latium

Title quote: Olavo Bilac

One of more fun experiences since being in Brasil has to be the language. I knew Portuguese was supposed to be similar to Spanish so expected I’d pick some stuff up quickly and at at least have the pronunciation down.

I was told pretty shortly after arriving that it can be considered offensive speaking Spanish as a gringo in Brasil and expecting to be understood (so don’t…). But the first surprising impression was that Portuguese here sounds less Iberian and whole lot Eastern European. It’s vastly different. Reading is much easier but hearing it, and having some Spanish knowledge, doesn’t really help at all.

There are some funny (for English-speaking ears) aspects to Brasilian Portuguese pronunciation. My favorite has to be words that begin in the letter ‘r’ – where it is pronounced with an ‘h’ sound. So people like my brother Richie get called “hitchie”, Ruth turns into “hooch”, the currency Real or Reais is “heyal” or “hey-eyes”, etc.

Another awesome aspect to Portuguese is that speakers can’t have a harsh consonant end to a word, which is most notable on imported English words. Something like a Big Mac from McDonalds turns into “biggie mackie de Mackie-Donallls”.

But this is my absolute favorite: Hip-hop Rap turns into “hippie hoppie happie”.

Listening to Brasil’s gangster-rap-thug-dudes singing about “happy musica” endlessly makes me smile :)

Posted in: A gringo in South America, South America, Travel

New year update

My slackness at blogging in 2008 seems to have carried over to 2009 and through our move to Brasil (where at least I thought I’d have something to blog about). So here’s my attempt to engage and enlighten… with a quick update.


Santiago was our first stop after leaving New Zealand and where I popped my South American cherry. Flying into the city looked a whole lot like Mackenzie country and the Southern Alps. Santiago itself is a very cool city with a lot of modern aspects – we felt pretty safe there. The smog is unreal though and your sinuses will struggle. Another almost annoyance is trying to work out what stuff actually costs as the currency is roughly 400 Chilean pesos to the Kiwi dollar.

Buenos Aires

Next stop was Buenos Aires, flying over the Andes was amazing. BA has probably become my favorite city outside of NZ. It is amazing, and Pablo, it must have been very tough to leave! We’re hoping we’ll get a chance to go back and stay for much much longer. We stayed in Palermo which was a really funky part of the city but almost overrun with dog shit. The hostel we stayed at, an old geriatric home, was certainly full of character. One of the folks there showed us all the ways to spot counterfeit currency – which appears to be quite a problem there as even the odd ATM will deal it out. For my Wellington-acclimatised self, the heat was oppressive.

Sao Paulo
We then flew up to Sao Paulo and I got to catch up with my brother for the first time in years. I think I’ll save Sao Paulo and our Brasil travels for another post but this city is enormous. It just goes on and on and on and on:


I hope you’ve all had a great break and your new year is going well.

Posted in: South America, Travel

American pie

DSC_0076.JPGI got back last weekend from almost 2 weeks in the US of A traveling about with Sarah and Jeff. This time, purely for fun and fun it was :)

We covered some fairly impressive ground too. San Fran to Chicago to Indiana to Columbus to D.C. to New York and met some really cool people along the way.

Some highlights for me were:
- Seeing my old hometown in Indiana for the first time since 1993
- Visiting the Threadless retail store in Chicago
- Going to an Ani DiFranco gig
- More Apple stores in San Fran, D.C., 5th Avenue, and SoHo and buying one of these bad boys (oh yes!)
- Experiencing ZipCars (totally needs to come to Wellington)
- Ice Skating in Bryant Park
- Driving a Pontiac on the freeway for hours in a dead straight line at 90mph
- Finding really friendly people in New York and seeing it snow (LOVE that city)

Had a really good time and I think I’m really starting to fall in love the States. If anyones knows how hard or easy it is to emigrate there I’d love hear about it.

Posted in: Travel

Random thoughts from SFO

This is probably the earliest I have ever turned up to an airport, ever, so I have some time to kill and hopefully an opportunity to try and make sense of my thoughts from the last week. As I type, someone nearby is listening to my iTunes library – I wish I could see what songs they’re listening to.

San Fran rocks. Period. There appears to be far less homeless people than what I remember as a kid in the early 90s. Would be interested to know if that’s just my memory or the truth. I had forgotten how cheap food can be also – although I’m feeling fairly toxic and a few pounds heavier as a result.

WiFi is available everywhere. It’s great. Even better when you have a WiFi enabled device like the iPod Touch. I’m very interested to see what features I end up using the most. So far, using Safari for email has been a lifesaver.

TechCrunch was a blast. Met some very cool people and lots and lots and lots of money – and it makes me want to move here. Now. Can a Kiwi company actually be successful without moving here? I don’t think so.

That said, Silicon Valley has little originality. Most presentations from TechCrunch were companies that were taking an existing process and making it better, or faster, or easier. There were few ideas that were trying to fundamentally change things. Don’t get me wrong – they’re really smart people, some of them will make a lot of money and their users will thank them for making their own lives easier. Operating from 10,000 miles away in a land full of sheep might not be such a bad thing.

People are unable to tear themselves away from their iPhones/Smackberries, etc. That said, having cell networks that support the efficient use of those devices is a major plus. Did you know iPhones, when you have a couple hundred in a room, all try to find the WiFi and thus crash it?

The Apple Store was a life-changing experience in terms of thinking about brands, tech, and how they can relate to and involve people. This was a massive highlight for me.

Yes, the coffee was shit – can’t have been going to the right places. Good coffee must exist somewhere.
Tequila shots don’t exist – they come in glasses and are hazardous. Proceed with caution.

Hammer was cool – Steven was lucky enough to get a photo with him. I had an absolute ball with Mr APHH ripping around the city and the conference with him.

Kawasaki is funny and a genius. Telling Xobni: “That’s a dumbass name. I hope you didn’t pay for it. If I was your investor I’d shoot you.”

Meeting people that burned through $50million during the last boom and are back for more (and investors are willing) blows my mind. Meeting other business and tech celebs was crazy but thats probably more to do with being a Kiwi and so far away than anything else.

The companies I liked the most were seldom liked by others. Kerpoof, for instance, was brilliant (or so I thought) and was aimed purely at kids to be creative online. WooMe was another where I thought “Cool!” – but others were less impressed than I was.

I’m humbled by the response at TC, online, and back home to Ponoko appearing at TC. Amazing. Engadget crushed our blog, not to mention Ars Technica, Boing Boing, Read/Write Web, etc. It blows my mind. A little gutted I didn’t bump into Peter Griffin at the conference.

Being told by a Kiwi millionaire to “forget about the f…ing Govt” was humbling and has made me think hard about my perspective on myself and NZ.

Oh, and I can’t forget… I’m need to send some Curiously Strong Mints to the people at Ink Comms.

Customs coming into the States wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. We’ll see what it’s like on the way out in a few hours.

Posted in: Travel, Work

Hola from TechCrunch

Now that it’s past 9am California time we can finally announce something we’ve been wanting to talk about for a little while now…

Ponoko is part of the TechCrunch40, and we’re one of the companies presenting. Huge achievement by the team to get selected and invited over. They received over 700 applications and personally interviewed over 175 companies to narrow it down to 40, of which Ponoko is a part of.

Geeking out at The Palace – stay tuned.

Posted in: Travel, Work

I love my iPod Touch

Arrived into San Fran yesterday and made tracks to the Apple Store pretty much as soon as we could:


It was a mind blowing experience as far as a retail store goes. It wasn’t that large but was laid out well – the store was heaving with staff and people of all ilks. Upstairs, part of the area was laid out like a lecture theatre… but someone was actually there giving a lecture and people were actually watching it. It’s crazy!


But I am now the proud own of one of these babies. Very cool, very pretty. In Apple heaven.

Posted in: Travel

My go bag

My go bag:


Posted in: Travel, Work

Sa for Samoa

DSC_0168.JPGGot back this week from one awesome trip with S to Samoa. It was absolutely brilliant and I’d thoroughly recommend it. Highlights for me would be the people, they’d have to be some of the friendliest on earth. Driving on the right side of the road in our wee rental Chevy jeep. Big old glass Coke bottles, stacked next to coconuts in the fridge and snorkeling in pristine warm sea waters. Check out the set on flickr.

Consider it for your next holiday!

This coming Monday I’m presenting at the Emerging Web Technologies and Trends conference in Auckland. Run by Brightstar it looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’ll be talking on introducing Web 2.0 concepts. It has meant a bit of hard return to work from a holiday straight into getting a presentation together but also quite rewarding at the same time.

On the remote chance someone reading this blog will be there… I look forward to seeing you there!

Posted in: Images, Travel

Service notice

I’ve been back in Wellington and back at work for over a week now. In that time I’ve re-experienced Wellington winter (not good) and also a pay rise at work (very good). I had hoped to have updated my blog more while I was away but I elected at the time to enjoy sitting in the sun a little longer. Since I’ve been back I’ve been meaning to post my updates of the places I visited since I left the Midlands. This is still forthcoming :)

I have, however, been having some Web 2.0 fun (sorry JD, couldn’t resist) with my first photos uploaded to flickr and first video uploaded to YouTube. I’ve been slowly organising my photos from the trip and putting some up on flickr, I have photos from Paris and Barcelona on there now and shortly my Granada set shall appear.

But for now sit back and relax and enjoy my first ever YouTube video:

Posted in: Europe 06

The Midlands

It was cool coming back from Dublin to Stansted airport and having someone pick me up. Clare, who I meet in Wellington through a good friend of mine Sal, lives in a little village in the Midlands called Thrapston. It was your quintessential little English village. The first night we were there we went to Clare’s local pub and had deep fried brie!?! My arteries are still recovering.

It was great hanging out in someone’s house as well, especially with an excellent DVD collection and an appreciation for English beer.

One day we went to Milton Keynes which is odd for England because it’s a planned city. That means grid like streets and wide avenues, etc. It just seems wrong for England but it did have a John Lewis store which I just had to do while I was in the UK. It was fun finally getting a chance to walk around a John Lewis store and just look at what it had to sell. The store did have a good selection of Tivoli equipment and also had one of those ultra-portable PCs to play with, although it was quite expensive.

Milton Keynes also had an indoor ski field, something I thought only the Arabs in Dubai were mad enough to build and use.

We also checked out Warwick Castle and made a fly by Stratford-upon-Avon. I had no idea how much of a tourist trap it was so we made a flying visit and got out as soon as we could. I also got driven past Silverstone which was pretty cool.

Above all the coolest thing was driving through the countless number of small English villages all over 500 years old with an ancient church and a pub or two. It was just gorgeous. Thanks for looking after me Clare.

Looking at the inside of the castle from one of the towers.

In the distance (about 40 miles) is Cambridge or Oxford (someone please correct me).

Looking back at the town of Warwick including it’s church.

If you look closely just left of centre you can see an awesome trebuchet. Apparently they use it two or three times a week.

In the distance to the right (about 7 miles) is Stratford-upon-Avon. The river running through the photo is the Avon.

Looking back towards the castle. If you look at the larger version you can see all the different building periods and styles that would’ve gone into the castle.

They also had a number of birds of prey. This one was looking at another bird that was making noise in a nearby tree.

Silverstone F1 raceway.

Posted in: Europe 06


I arrived into Dublin shortly after lunch and caught their bus into town. I love judging cities by their airports. Dublin had a really busy airport that was probably a little too small for the amount of work it needs to do. I got that opinion of quite a few things in Dublin and I suspect some of that has to do with the massive growth Ireland has seen with the Celtic Tiger.

By the way, if you wanted to see what it was like being part of a herd of cattle, fly with RyanAir out of Stansted.

Because of the relaxed controls when travelling inside the EU, most people just need to wave their passport at Customs and walk through. They had only one terminal for non-EU passport holders and of course they have to spend a lot more time on each of these people. The queue was quite long and very slow moving. The Kiwi girl in front of me in the queue had some problems with her work visa and that took even longer.

The motorway on the way in was busy and you could see the yet to open tunnel that they’ve spent a huge amount of money on. I caught up with Phil, who I worked with at Intergen before he got the call back to Ireland, in town. I was still feeling pretty crappy from the fever so we didn’t get up to much for the rest of the day.

Dublin is an insanely cool city. For a city only about 10-20% larger than Auckland it doesn’t feel physically larger but it does feel like it has twice the life.

Dublin city itself is pretty cool and almost all available on foot. Guidebooks suggest to not even bother trying to drive and that was backed up by the locals. I love cities that you can walk around, only the footpaths in Dublin aren’t really suited to the masses of people that are trying to transport themselves along Dublin’s streets and alleyways.

We walked down O’Connell St which is Dublin’s main drag. Past the GPO (General Post Office) where the one of the events of the rising was held in 1916. Looking at the columns closely, you can still see the odd bullet hole (see photos below). That is what I love about Europe on this trip you can literally see these little connections to history that we can only read about back home in NZ.

We went to the National Art Gallery and mainly focused on the Jack B Yates collection which was outstanding. Big thanks to Phil for introducing me to him. The gallery has been recently renovated and had quite a cool combination between the old and the new.

Nearby was the national assembly as well as the Natural History Museum which was absolutely surreal. It felt like a vestige of a colonial period whereby every natural history museum needed to kill and stuff one of everything. There was even a Tasmaanian Tiger on display.

Very close was the street (that I’ve already forgotten the name of) that U2′s Sweetest Thing video was shot. I can imagine me asking Phil for these sorts of landmarks would be similar to someone coming to NZ and asking me where they could see sheep. The street however was still pretty cool.

We also made our way to the world famous Guinness St James Gate Brewery. You could still occasionally smell hops around the place and almost all of this suburb was part of Guiness or was once owned by Guiness.

The tour was pretty cool and well laid out. There was this odd video part with three random people talking about alcohol related stories. It didn’t really make a whole lot of sense and didn’t really enforce the Guinness brand. Odd. They did have a section with all the old Guiness advertising and marketing material and TV ads. Including a section focused on the old “Guinness is good for you” or “My goodness, my Guinness” art.

At the top of the complex you could get your complementary pint of Guinness and also look out over an overcast Dublin city in this stunning rooftop bar enclosed in glass.

One of the things you’ll notice in Dublin is the throngs of young Spanish kids who come over to go on English language courses. The funny thing is that they stay in these large groups and move around the city that way. And the Spanish also can’t talk to each other what we would call ‘normally’. They have to yell and put passion into their voice. So you’ll come across 30 kids yelling at each other walking towards you on a narrow footpath. I could see how this could be rather off-putting or intimidating to the locals.

We also took off one day down the coast a little bit on the DART to Killiney (the way they pronounce it, it sounds like Kilarney). The reason for the trip? To see Bono’s house… I couldn’t resist. Obviously there isn’t a set of signs to his house which is why you need your trusty Dublin guide, in my case Philip.

We walked up a road and opposite the Canadian Embassy residence is the gate to Bono’s house. There is an alley next to the house that is covered in graffiti and messages from adoring U2 fans. Just as we were about to leave, another troupe of screaming Spanish kids turned up so we made a hasty retreat.

Some of Dublin’s most expensive property is on this stretch of coast line. There is also the little village/suburb of (phonetically sounding) “Dunlearey” which is also quite nice. We wandered along the coast some more and after a pint with one of Philip’s mates we headed back in Dublin.

Temple Bar in Dublin is a part of the city that still has some of the old city lanes and some of the best bars – it is generally filled with tourists. We had a few pints and went to some of the pubs, one of which had a mad but energetic solo singer belting out songs with just his guitar.

Later in the night outside Burger King we watched some punter get chucked out before he got a chance to order his food. Something he wasn’t all to happy about. He endlessly repeated the phrase “I want my f…’n burger and my f…’n chips” to the less than amused security guard. This happened until some other and older random punter who was walking by decided to take issue. To cut the story short, the older guy decided to clock the younger one who promptly forgot about his f…’n burger and f…’n chips and disappeared. And yet another random punter who was just passing by decided to take issue with the older one for smacking him. All and all it was a rather sad but hilarious display of humanity.

Dublin was a cool city and it was great catching up with Phil again. If you get close to Ireland I would thoroughly recommend that you pop across and check it out. The next time I’m back I’d like to get around and see more of the country and spend more time than I did this trip. One thing though, Dublin is a very expensive city – probably on par with London.

One last note, the day before I arrived in Dublin, there was a bomb scare at the airport. I didn’t hear about this until I had arrived but it caused general pandemonium and havoc at the airport.

The day before I left, there was another bomb scare at the airport and this caused more pandemonium and havoc. Apparently there were some bags left alone that had a Quran on top of it… What was funny was watching the TV news interviewing people. Basically, all Irish people interviewed were saying how useless the airport is and how crap the whole thing was. Then all the English people interviewed said how good it was, everyone was doing the best they could and the extra security was needed these days.


The spire in O’Connell St in Dublin. Apparently they wanted a public monument that was neither political or religious. This is what they got.

The GPO where one of the events of the rising took place…

…complete with bullet holes.

Trinity College

Oscar Wilde tribute

Cool door in the national gallery. The larger narrow door on the left side is to move large artworks through the building to different exhibitions.

The street where U2 shot ‘The Sweetest Thing’ music video.

Grafton St, main pedestrianised shopping street.

Dublin Castle or what is left of it. I believe this was where the English ruled Ireland from pre-republic days.

I thought this was a good symbol of Dublin, old and new. The new influenced by the old while sitting next to each other.

The view from the top of Guinness.

Phil and I.

Temple Bar

Outside Bono’s house.

Alleyway next to Bono’s house. Click on the larger image to read some of the graffiti.

Killiney Bay.

And I couldn’t forget to include a shot of the River Liffey.

Posted in: Europe 06

London, second day

I realised late on our first day in London that I´d managed to pick something up from someone somewhere. I had a bad as fever and a stuffy nose. Bugger. I hate been sick, let alone the first time I´m in Europe. I slept and drank heaps of water and hoped for the best.

The next day we had to get out of our dive of a hostel and move to a new one between Queensway and Baywater. That was a bit of a mission, London was going through it´s little heat wave which was great on one hand. I love when it´s above 30 degrees. Only when it´s that hot the tube is many times hotter – add to that a fever and you can´t seem to control your body temperature or how much you´re sweating. Nasty.

We made it to the new hostel in the morning but they couldn´t check us in till 2pm so we hung out in Hyde Park for a while and enjoyed the sun. When we did get a chance to check in I pretty much just went to sleep. I woke up towards 8pm and started to make some plans for the following days but apart from that it was sleep and more sleep. The next day, however, I was going to be heading off to Ireland.

Posted in: Europe 06