Vacation 2017: Palm Springs – La Quinta Resort & Club

Hands down one of the best vacations in a long time, and that’s huge praise considering I usually only get euphoric after San Francisco or Seattle.  The desert area of Palm Springs is typically not the type of destination I gravitate toward, seeing as how it’s terribly hot and to be frank, a bit unfamiliar to me. But this year I’ve been dealing with a lot more stress than I’m used to and the usual eat-run-sightsee-circus I generally put myself through didn’t appeal to me. In the spirit of trying something new I decided to check out the quiet but refreshing La Quinta Resort & Club in the city of La Quinta, California.

Disclaimer: not a sponsored ad/comped stay etc. etc. just a nice discovery that I’d thought I’d share for those of you who might want to travel somewhere neat sometime, etc. (back to the post)

As far as I know there’s no real easy way to get here other than driving in–you may have to fly then drive about 2 hours to come into the Palm Springs area. I’ll spare the locals the boredom of me explaining how to get here. Suffice it to say, a car is needed if you’re a mere mortal like me and protip: load a bunch of water, Gatorade and maybe a snack or two because your road food options are all fast food. I’m not going to knock the McDonald’s stops though–they have $2 vanilla iced coffees and I like McGriddle breakfast sandwiches (oooh, such elevated brekkie.)

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Once a very popular getaway for Hollywood stars, now a destination for golf, tennis, and other outdoor recreation.
La Quinta Resort was established sometime in the early 20s-30s, with the original casitas and other structures well-preserved throughout the ages. Since then the resort has grown to include more facilities that include not only regular rooms but full quad-style units, some with private patios and hot tubs to others with full kitchens and living amenities. By luck the casita I was assigned was part of the original rooms built in 1926. Despite its proximity to the lobby and main restaurants, the open layout of the resort and the lack of high rise structures makes the entire area feel expansive and free.

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Can barely see the casitas but they’re there behind the trees. Each little grouping has about 3-4 rooms together, with a small shaded seating area per room.
I unfortunately can’t tell you how the golf or tennis is because I don’t play either but if you want to be outdoors–you’ll have all the choices in the world. I didn’t see many folks outside for too long because average temperatures were in the 100-110Fs (37C+) during most of the day. But here’s some pictures while I was exploring the grounds:

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Behind this is the Fitness Center which I didn’t get to, but it looked pretty rad. There are also cruiser bikes to rent if you want to ride around the property which I should have done at nightfall. Hopefully I can come back next time to do more. I pretty much spent most of my outdoor time at the Plunge Pool which is the adults 21+ pool:

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It was quiet here all day, but by 4 pm I practically had it all to myself. First come first serve cabana-loungers in the back.
It’s hot and harsh and the sun is a serious force to be reckoned with. My cheeks peeled on the first day just because it was way drier in the desert than the humidity we’ve been having back home. But after the second and third day you get used to it and it’s sort of pleasant to step outside and be enveloped in the encompassing warmth. Remember to drink/replenish fluids, don’t be like me and forget. Heat illness is a serious thing. And don’t even get me started on sun protection. Sunglasses, hat, a shirt, and sunscreen every time I’m at the water. Even on the short walk from the room to breakfast you can go zero to lobster if you don’t cover up.

I am admittedly a n00b at resort vacationing so please excuse my wonder, but I do appreciate that the Hilton/Waldorf-Astoria experience was as advertised. I like to answer the post-visit reviews because it’s a genuine chance to give feedback and appreciation for the staff. There was nothing lacking period, from arrival to the room to the restaurants or grounds and amenities. If you’re needing to get away from it all but want a pleasant, relaxing, efficient stay, here it is.

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Entrance to Morgan’s in the desert–named after Walter H. Morgan, the original builder of the resort in the 20s.

Penultimate dinner at Morgan’s. American steak and seafood house featuring CA wines and fresh ingredients.


On the left: a mix of Spanish influences in the architecture and decor of the grounds. Right: Lilly Pulitzer offerings in one of the several boutiques on-site.

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One of the larger conference halls/meeting rooms, and the Santa Rosa mountains in view on the top left.

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From the main entrance and shopping area (sunny area), through a passageway to the original casitas.
It was great to really slow down, decompress, rest (naps anyone??) and enjoy a mid-year break. I haven’t been writing as much for quite a few reasons–I’m trying to save money and so I’ve been acquiring less overall, but it now enables me to do things like this. And after I got back from the Philippines last year I’ve been mentally challenging myself to want less so I can divert funds to experiences I can share with others, like food, travel or music.

When the fun money fund is restored, I should like to come back.

Packing 101: Philippines 2016

Packing 101: Philippines 2016

Disclaimer: I’m not about to teach you how to pack for a trip to Asia–there are actual bloggers who do that sort of thing for a living; I just want to talk about what I ended up bringing and what worked or didn’t. 😀

I realize I’m five months late on this but hey! it’s still fun to discuss, n’est-ce pas?

Background:

Left California in December (aka 55F-79F highs/lows) to go to Manila “winter” (mild rain, humidity 80%+++, makes 80F-95F feel like 90-105F)

Activities: city travel, island stay (4 days), exercise (running)

Things I brought:

Tops: cotton short-sleeved tees, tanks (a few each), a light cardigan, rayon long-sleeved split neck blouses

Dresses/bottoms: one polka dot 3/4 sleeve dress, two pairs of Levi’s cutoffs, Uniqlo Ultra Stretch skinny jeans, Everlane culottes

Shoes: brown Saltwater sandals, running shoes, Nike Free RN Flyknit, Sam Edelman ballet flats

Special: three bikinis (to rotate wash/dry), goggles, water shoes

Outerwear: Arc’teryx rain jacket, Uniqlo Ultra Light down jacket

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The winning bits!

What worked:

  1. Arc’teryx rain jacket: you would think wearing what amounts to a huge plastic tarp would be insufferable in humid rain, but it actually was surprisingly comfortable. Not to mention it doubled as an emergency layer when we entered heavily air-conditioned areas. Note to self: you can get sick from the AC-inside, hellfire outside dichotomy. bring scarves too, it gets cold AND dry when a draft is blowing on you all day.
  2. Long sleeved (rayon) blouse/top: counterintuitive when you think about humidity and heat, but I was more comfortable in these blouses (and looked more put together) than in a tee-shirt. As long as the material is breathable and not constricting, I actually did better and preferred to be covered up rather than exposing my arms.
  3. Levi’s shorts: wore these more than the culottes which needed to be ironed every night. They broke into my shape in just the right way and were comfortable as all get. The only downside? full exposure to mosquito bites 😦
  4. Saltwater sandals: an impulse Amazon buy right before leaving. Not the most comfortable of all footwear (there’s a pressure point under the arch for me that kept bugging after 2-3 hours of wear.) but it goes well with the summer-casual dressing. I would have brought my Birkenstocks but I didn’t want to risk getting them damaged at the beach.

What I forgot and wished for:

  1. Tweezers and nail clippers – sounds basic. I thought I’d be able to borrow some from the family I was staying with–which I did eventually, but when my nails broke while at the beach I made a note to make it part of my makeup/grooming kit.
  2. Goggles – this was my fault. I forgot/couldn’t find mine, ended up buying a pair while on vacation. Unnecessary necessary expense.

What I learned:

  • Pack a beanie for the long plane ride (doubles as eye cover) and keep drinking water throughout (bathroom line be damned.) Hydration and sleep so that you feel less beat up when you get off the plane.
  • You really don’t need five tee shirts when three and daily washing suffices. YMMV on what facilities and opportunities are available to you regarding cleaning your clothes while traveling, but I still only used a good half of what I packed and the rest was just sitting in the suitcase.
  • Importance of curating (ugh, I hate that word) your closet IRL so travel packing is less annoying: after a few years of culling (also buzzword) my stuff into the things I really like and use time and again, all my potential building blocks for an outfit are thematically related. All that’s left to do before departure is ensure they are in good condition (I repaired a seam that was coming undone on a top) and you’re done.
  • Whatever you forget or is broken or missing can usually be replaced while abroad (except for special medications, most likely.) Don’t sweat the small stuff and try to relax!

En route

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Personal picture. Grand Central Station, New York, November 2014.

I need respite.

These last few weeks have been full of #adulthood–the daily stresses of work, construction and disruption at the house, increasing responsibilities. I am doing my best to respond to all of them with poise and efficiency, but I need recharging time.

As for blogging regularly, that seems to have gone awry these past couple months. It’s a combination of avoiding shopping/thinking about material goods, to shifting of resources: I’ve been spending a lot more on food and drink. I’ve also been back at climbing and running with a vengeance and have achieved some modest gains in both hobbies. These are all things that have pulled me in other directions and made me better equipped to beast at my own life–with perhaps the exception of greasy food and coffee. Those are purely for fun.

With all that a-brewin’ (hah), I’m looking forward to the upcoming travel this week to  Seattle, Washington–follow my photo diary (of sorts) on Instagram. Stay in touch!

Bouldering at Joshua Tree

Bouldering at Joshua Tree

This weekend I took my suburban self out of the concrete jungle into the desert park known as Joshua Tree.

Last year I took up bouldering after my friends encouraged me to try it at least once. I got hooked pretty easily. Bouldering is rock climbing without the use of special gear; just a pair of climbing shoes with rubber soles suffices. There’s traditional rock climbing with rope and harness which is more common and more well-known. I enjoy bouldering because of the low start-up costs (not as much gear) and because it doesn’t require a partner (a belayer, someone who holds the tension for a rope climber.) I’ve come to enjoy the sport quite a bit, so when I was offered a chance to go bouldering outdoors I was excited to try it out.

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Welcome to Joshua Tree National Park.

I am fortunate to know some amazingly buff and excellent people from my local climbing gym. We headed out to Joshua Tree (or JTree as I’ve heard people call it) early on Saturday morning. It’s about two hours from my home, but it was a nice clear day with hardly any traffic. I hadn’t been to JTree since I was nine, so I didn’t have much context heading in. I just remembered it was hot and dry and full of spiky things that can hurt you.

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That assessment still stands. Many pointy things abound.

Since I went with a fairly advanced group, there weren’t many routes I could really climb. I’m not quite as strong or as skilled as the others just yet, though someday I’d like to be. Still, I managed to finish two routes (climbers say “to send a route”.) I sent two routes. The first one was an unmarked warm-up problem in The Outback area.

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The other lady in the far right corner is starting Chuckwalla V6, a much tougher problem than what I’m working on.

In the U.S. routes are rated using the Hueco scale. Problems start from V0 and go all the way up to V16. At the easier end of the scale, some use the designation “VB” (sometimes said to designate “basic” or “beginner”) for problems easier than a V0. I’m definitely at this beginner level!

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On the aptly-named Dragonscales boulder.

Dragonscales in the Planet X area was really fun. It is about 20 feet tall and the many cracks and grooves make it an easy climb. Of course “easy” is a relative term–for me, the starting move was a few inches out of my reach. Luckily my spotters were there to pile some crash pads underneath me to boost me up to a good height. Crash pads (the mattresses on the ground) are essential to providing some measure of fall protection. Of course, it is still advisable to climb within your limits and always go with a group of people.

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Success!

I’m really glad to have gone bouldering outdoors–it was one of my goals that I wrote down for this year. Now that I’ve accomplished it, I can’t wait to go back and go outdoors more. It gives the gym workouts a purpose if I know what moves I’m practicing to get better for outdoors. As free-spirited as it sounds, you really can’t beat being out in nature and fresh air.

Photographs from New York

I finally have gotten around to editing my pictures from my trip to New York. Here’s a few I’d like to share with you all. I usually try to write a little bit about the things I’ve photographed–mostly for my own good. It makes me sad when people post pictures of their adventures online, and half the time it’s the same building or scene over and over again, from different angles. Or just a picture of some object. Not everyone is a photographer with an eye for composition and symmetry, so I understand that. But at the very least, put a little caption of why you recorded the moment. Anyway. Without further ado, here are my impressions and memories of NYC.

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7 am sunrise in downtown Manhattan.

My plane landed at 5 am on a Tuesday at JFK International Airport. This is one of the first sights that greeted me as I began from the subway station to my hotel (a good 6 block walk.) I started the walk in near-darkness but the sun rose steadily as I went along.

On the first day I mostly walked around Nolita, SoHo, and the Lower East Side. I will never forget that epic lox from Russ and Daughters. After eating my fill, I walked, and enjoyed views like the ones above. I like brick walls and the symmetry of windows and the fire escape stairs. Interesting to me is the way light is filtered/reflected by buildings. With such narrow spaces between structures, finding light in New York is all about keeping your eyes open for moments such as these. Reminds me very much of Los Angeles and San Francisco in the way the city is organized, but NY is even better for building-watching.

The next day was spent walking the High Line, an old elevated railway that has been converted into a multi-use trail/park system. I walked several feet above the Meatpacking District and Chelsea, taking in the sights of the city from above. Doesn’t that orange beanie look familiar? 🙂

My itinerary was mostly focused on visiting historical sites and iconic buildings. While I do enjoy food and art and culture, I do so primarily through my lens. A promise of a great photograph generally triumphs most needs, even hunger (at times. within reason.) My travel days usually start with a hearty breakfast and the most important visits are scheduled in the morning. When I did shop or browse, it would be in the late afternoon or at night. I believe I visited three Uniqlos on this trip. The one photographed here is the massive 5th Avenue Uniqlo. It did not disappoint. That location is the largest I’ve seen to date and had the entire Internet catalogue (and then some!) in its space.

Rain was predicted for the third or fourth day of my trip. While the rainfall thankfully never increased (just slight showers all day), the wind and colder temperature did make it quite unpleasant to be outside for any given length of time. I sought refuge in the New York Public Library and was rewarded by magnificent ceilings in the Map Room and the beautiful marble lobby of Astor Hall.

The nearby Grand Central Terminal was a logical next step. I spent the rest of that rainy day in this transportation hub, fascinated by the rush-hour flow of people and the terminal’s grandeur. It is over 100 years old and is still such a vibrant, actively used building. The magnitude of how many people have traveled through here, and the eras that the building has seen leaves a sobering impression on one’s mind.

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This captures how I feel about my entire trip. Was I even there? Did it really happen? It did. Everything moves so quickly in New York.

I wish this photo turned out better; if I could have traveled with a partner I could have left the shutter open for longer. While I wanted to capture the rush of people walking by me, I also don’t like to leave my camera alone for too long. As it was in this shot I left it on a ticket counter and hoped no one would 1. stand in front of the camera while it was recording, or 2. (most obviously) swipe and run away with it. I’m fortunate that that has not happened.

There was some time on the trip to take the train over to Brooklyn and DUMBO for coffee and dessert. Eventually, I will return to NY and focus on visiting Queens and Brooklyn over spending time in the flashy, touristy Manhattan. Nothing wrong with seeing the big famous spots but Brooklyn reminded me of LA’s Arts District which I frequent often. Next time, I know where to go.

Spent a morning photographing the Flatiron Building. It’s one thing to see it in pictures, and another to walk up and view the oddly shaped structure. When you approach it from behind or from the sides, it almost looks normal–until you come sharp around the corner and you see its iconic point. To me it is visually puzzling. I want to know how rooms are shaped inside–do they have weird corners the closer you come to the narrow point? The view is something else. What a strange, and yet fascinating decision to build on such a street corner.

I sometimes just take a photo because the light was interesting, or the colors of the facade are striking. In this case I saw the sun making areas of shadow and light on the front entrance of Le Pain Quotidien and I wanted to remember it.

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My cousin walks along a building in Brooklyn, NY.

I spent my last two days in NY with my cousin who traveled in from DC.  I am fortunate that she shares similar tastes with me, and did not mind me directing us haphazardly all over the city. We spent a great afternoon just walking and talking, stopping for food or rest as was needed.

Was standing near the river’s edge on tumbled rocks. The Hudson River is crossed by several bridges: shown here is the Brooklyn Bridge. To the right of the photograph, unseen, is the Manhattan Bridge.

The last 24 hours went by in a blur: brunch in Gramercy and walking through Washington Square. Dappled sunlight and more brick buildings. All the fall foliage my beach-dwelling soul could ever want at Central Park. This coupled with the brisk but sunny day made our last day in the city very pleasant. I’m generally not a park-goer, but I could see why people would want to go on such a nice day as that. There’s things to see and the leaves’ colors really are a treat for someone who lives in a place with no real “seasons.”

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Last morning in Midtown.

It would be nice if we all could go see the world outside of the one we exist in. I think travel is a good way to stay humble and to appreciate what we already have. When I came back home, I was relieved to be back in a place I understand. New York is a lot faster than I am, is always on point, and brings its A-game every hour every day. I respect that, and I’m glad I was able to see it for myself. The question now is–where to next? What ways of life have I not seen yet?

New York in Motion

I might not be able to ever finish my photos on New York at the rate I’m going…I have over 6 GB of shots and I’m feeling overwhelmed with my editing. Here are some GIFs I made from NYC. There’s so much to do in the city and so little time; if I could do it all over again I’d just film the constant movement. It’s just as they say in the movies; the city never slows down. It’s nothing like Los Angeles or San Francisco or Washington DC; it is its own kind of beast. I’m glad I was able to see it in my youth. I want to come back and see more of Brooklyn, Queens, or Harlem. Manhattan, you sure are something.

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This is Grand Central Terminal on a weekday rush hour.

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Times Square on a Saturday night.

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The early morning sky over the Flatiron Building.

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A quiet afternoon at Brooklyn Bridge Park, looking out toward Manhattan.

I hope that was enjoyable and not terribly slow on your browsers! 🙂

Lessons in Packing: NYC Edition

Lessons in Packing: NYC Edition
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I thought these two people were the closest male and female expressions of my personal style and influences. How fortuitous that they should both walk into the frame at the same time.

Looking back on my trip to New York, I was better prepared than I was for Washington DC, but I still learned things about myself and how I want to be dressed. Despite my perceived lack of preparation–I packed two days before I left (too close!)–I managed to bring what I needed with no waste of luggage space, and most of my needs were met by what I’d packed.

NYC pack list:

3 pairs of Uniqlo Ultra Stretch jeans, two black and one dark blue pair
6 long-sleeved Heattech shirts
1 Muji gray cashmere colorblock cardigan
1 H&M black cowl-neck sweater tunic
1 International Concepts short-sleeve turtleneck sweater
2 Nike Dri-Fit jackets
2 Gap men’s sweatshirts
1 Uniqlo gray sweat pullover
1 H&M men’s black and gray scarf
1 Urban Outfitters gray chunky knit scarf
1 Ecco Sculptured GTX ankle boots
1 Nike Lunarglide 5+ running shoes
1 Lands End wool walker coat (with Carhartt beanie) see below:

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At Sutphin Blvd – Archer Ave Station, the last NYC subway stop before getting onto the JFK AirTrain system.

This is an accurate depiction of what I looked like for the week I was traipsing around Manhattan.

I learned some very important things on this trip:

Wool and rain are a bad idea
My Lands End wool coat does well on a regular, dry cold day, but turns into a weight vest when wet. Thankfully I never got so drenched for it to seep through, but next time I travel to the East I’m bringing something waterproof instead. My bag is already heavy. Wearing 3 layers is already heavy. I don’t need a soggy coat restricting me on top of all of that.

Waterproof shoes sont très utils.
I was fortunate that the one damp day on my trip was actually very light rain / barely a shower, but despite that my Nikes got soaked in less than two minutes. What would I have done if I didn’t have my Ecco Gore-Tex boots? They kept my toes warm and dry and my ankles covered. Well worth the $150 I paid for them. It allowed me to still go out on that day and I ended up at the New York Public Library and Grand Central Terminal (where it was warm indoors) and I spent a good 5 hours photographing everything in sight.

Impulsive decisions are made when Kristina feels cold.
Did I really need an Ultra Light Down vest? No. Was I jealous of every slick person on the street in something puffy and down-filled? Yes. So many of the locals? tourists? had opted for cozy-looking North Face puffer jackets or parkas and I wanted in on the action. Thank goodness I was able to be somewhat sensible and went for the thinnest and smallest of the ULD options at Uniqlo–my mind is always thinking toward what would be California-appropriate. I don’t need a jacket rated for -20 degrees F. The locals didn’t seem to be wearing much; some ladies were able to go about in just a shawl and a scarf, but my desert blood quailed at 50F.

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Trying to blend in with the city slickers.

Did I really need this vest? Not really. And I kind of regret it because 1. there is entirely too much feather leak for my liking–every day I’ve worn it since coming back I’ve needed a lint roller to clean myself up when I get home (more than 3-4 errant feather bits. Is this normal?) and 2. my local store had it for $10 less ($39.99) AND it’s on sale next week (Nov 18, men’s and women’s ULD vests go down to $29.) I could have waited. Classic case of Kristina is traveling and wants a souvenir and is conveniently cold and wants more clothes. Now that I know you, damnable pattern, I will make sure I’m bundled up well when I go shopping! Say no to impulse temperature-regulating buys!

Buy all your consumable supplies (beauty products, medicine) at home.
I foolishly thought I could buy my $1 travel Dove body wash at a Target somewhere in New York. Duane Reade wanted $2.99 for a little 0.3 fl oz bottle of body wash. My penny-pinching soul railed at my stupidity for being too lazy to pick it up back home. If there’s a product you simply must use (a particular brand of shampoo, hypo-allergenic facial lotion), it is as important as not forgetting gloves or a hat. I’m lucky to be a fairly hardy person, but hotel shampoos and washes can be pretty harsh or just not do an adequate job. I paid the dumb tax on that one. I’d previously packed bottles of my own shampoo and conditioner before, but I wanted to avoid the pressurization kerfuffle and not have them potentially explode in my suitcase. Well, better to double bag some tried-and-true products than wander Manhattan at 10 pm wondering why the travel-sized section has a crappier per-ounce price than buying the full-sized product.

Most Valuable Items (MVI?) on this trip:

Nike Thermal Dri-Fit jacket with thumbholes that I wore for practically almost 6 days: I will buy another one of these in the future; they’re multi-purpose, has a tall collar to cover my neck, and zippered pockets kept my valuables secure. It’s the jacket I’m wearing in the ULD vest picture. The long sleeves worked out because the thumbholes made it like a partial-glove over my hand, keeping my fingers free.
Carhartt watch cap: blocked out the wind and kept my head warm. Solid little hat for $7.99 on Amazon.
– Ecco Sculptured GTX boots for the reasons mentioned above.
– a cheap pair of lycra/cotton gloves from Daiso Japan with the thumb, pointer, and middle fingers cut out + plastic dots on the palm-side for traction and grip. I had brought my mom’s 80’s style Isotoners on this trip but I didn’t even bother with those–having smartphone-ready gloves was more useful and if my fingers were a little cold, well, that’s what pockets are for, right?
– all my Uniqlo items were worn to full potential and where would I be sans Heattech? Frozen and/or very sick by now. That stuff works well; I wear it even when it’s not winter because I have no Cold Resistance.

TL;DR: maybe another trip to the East next year and I’ll have bought a proper jacket for wet/dry conditions. Also thank you for reading all the way through this post; I understand that I know very little about cold-weather climates and how to dress for it, so I beg your patience upon reading my pronouncements. What do you recommend is a good-all-weather travel jacket? Should I chance it with wool or go for waterproof down next time? Recommendations and tips for dealing with traveling in wet weather would be welcome!