Thursday, November 11, 2010


Ask alex, I am a water fall cynic, but Niagra took my breath away.  I was just in Toronto for a business trip, which took me to the fantastic town of Niagra and the falls themselves.  From my 16th floor room at the double tree I could see one half of the falls and the amazing mist which they create.

In a half hearted attempt to rid myself of a hangover I went for a run down to the falls and was blown away.  They are big, I mean kind of huge.  The air had that great crisp early winter chill where just breathing feels like it is doing your body good.  The water is the color of liquid jade, and the mist is freaking amazing.  Actually, I think I will let the photos do the rest of the talking...


Sometimes life tires me out.  Getting on my plane from Bush internat'l to Costa Rica two nights ago I was struck just how f'n tired I am right now.   Leaving the life of a paid wanderer behind I thought would provide a bit more stability but the last three weeks have been anything but stable.  Not that I can complain, I've been surrounded by friends, been inspired by the company I work for, been more excited and enthusiastic than I've felt in a LONG time, and drank a wee bit too much.  And maybe that is exactly why I am tired.  Living life to the extremes tires a person out.  I spend so much time running from place to place like a crazy woman, drinking it all in, but everyone needs a pause, a break, a moment of stillness.

Traveling for a living has taught me this.  To search out that place between breaths, between places, between people.  To search for a quiet spot in the in between.  I am learning how much I need this to survive.  How I need to make a little time each day where I am alone, not talking, not working, not really doing anything.  And how stopping for a moment we realize the absolute beauty which surrounds us.

Friday, October 22, 2010

november is here... well almost

I like to forget what month it is.  I realize that we have almost 10 days of october left but as I am missing out on Halloween I've decided to forgo the end of October and move straight into November.  Plus we've just gotten our first winter rains here in Northern California so I feel fully justified in this calendrical adjustment.
Today I drove up to Kenwood in Sonoma county under the rainy skies, passing by fields of grape vines, their leaves turning a fall yellow.  The hills are yellow too, that ruddy yellow of dried grass, but a couple more days of rain will turn them their winter silvery gray.  As I drove  I was thinking about the normal descriptors people use for gray: gun metal (or maybe that is for cars), steel, aluminum, etc.  I decided that the sky was the color of that pale almost white ash that develops in flakes on burning logs, ash gray.  And the light was flat, pressing the hills into a painted backdrop of burnished gold grass with the dark olive stain of oak trees lining the clefts in the hillsides.  It was a pretty drive.


My room looks like a bomb went off, which is not a real deviation from standard practice, but gives me anxiety all the same.  I've realized that 3 years of living out of a back pack has given me some strange habits; the one at hand being a deep desire to know that I am all packed up and ready for the next day's adventure.  The problem is that this packing for this departure is a bit more complex than my normal day to day packing and repacking of Poppy (my Osprey waypoint 65L pack).  In the next two weeks I have to brave November in Toronto, the beginnings of the dry season in Costa Rica ( I just checked the weather there: a high of 80 with thunder storms), and then I wrap it all up by moving to Antigua, Guatemala... for a year.
Moving is not my favorite activity, though the prospects of having my own little place where I can grow a basil plant and make coffee and put up photos sounds AMAZING.  Right now I am focusing on those images rather than the overwhelming feeling that thinking about packing brings up. ufff.
Catch you in Guatemala or Chepe or Toronto.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

travel residue

I was laying in bed last night reading Paul Theroux's brilliant Ghost Train to the Eastern Star and found myself sifting through my memories of Asia.  The sounds, the smells, the snippets of memory which stay with you.  It is funny how after time memories of travel begin to feel dreamed up, how what once were crisp edged experiences become more and more hazy strange.  What is even more striking is that a writer can capture aspects of these places which bring memories back to life.  They awaken forgotten sensations and experiences, sharpen soft edges, and stir up emotion.  There is something about Theroux's writing which so captures places.  It makes me want to re-read the Great Railway Bazaar, a book I read on my first travels to South East Asia and re-live a bit of that adventure.
Thinking back on all of it I wish I had spent more time writing and drawing about all of my travels.  I suppose there is no time like the present.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

God brought me there.

I am sitting in the huge echoing restaurant of Hotel Sahara in Santa Ana, San Salvador. Directly in front of me there is a long table full of God lovin' people. At the center sits a typical overweight thick wristed man with a neck wider than my thighs and a petite phillipina wife. According to him, God spoke to him last night and told him that he needs to learn spanish. He then went on to say that he had had no interest in visiting his wife's birth country until God told him to go there.
God never speaks to me.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not really all that dissapointed by that but I can't figure out why (S)He spends his time talking to this Yanqui.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

3 years on.

Today on the breezy bus to Rio Dulce I was ruminating that it is closing in on three years since I started this blog and my adventures to Central America.  It is hard to believe what started out as a dream, "man I wish someone would pay me to travel!" has turned into a reality.
These days things have seemed to melt into a sort of soup of memories and dreams.  My waking reality is so much like my dream time that I often find myself struggling to find the borders between memories and things I've dreamt up.
In that vein I just finished watching Apocalypse Now Redux which was a trippy experience to say the least.  The critical traveller eye in me wanted to know what dreamed up ruins Kurtz was hanging out in.  Another part of me was horrified to see such a familiar landscape under the damaging hand of war.  Watching these American soldiers thrashing around in the Vietnamese jungle fighting a senseless war dredged up some of my current thoughts on my Motherland.
As I spend more time out of the states I feel like I am getting a better understanding of how the rest of the world sees us.  This goes hand and hand with my slowly growing understanding of our history of forcing ourselves upon impoverished nations in the name of founding democracy while extracting huge economic benefits for ourselves.  How are we fooled over and over by this same story?  What happened during the last century in Asia and Latin America is playing out again in the Middle East.  It is hard to feel proud of a nation which values improving our economy over the lives of people.
None of this is meant to sound like arrogant rantings of an ex-pat. Ex-pats are generally overweight and have tanned themselves with in an inch of turning into leather so I'd generally like to avoid that classification.  Anyhow, sorry for the absolute random tangent that this blog entry has taken.  I blame all the deet I had to use yesterday in the jungles of tikal.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Memories of a country are often formed from series of images which build up into a sentiment or a feeling while loosing their fine detail.  I always chastise myself for not walking about with a notebook in which I could record the details of those swift moments, glimpses of what makes a country unique.
I was thinking of that this morning while walking the damp cobbled streets of Antigua in search of breakfast.  Sitting on the stoop of a cafe was an old man who I often see there selling carved wooden angels.  The image of him jogged my memory to another moment in Antigua when I found myself walking behind a man stooped over with a meter tall wooden angel bound to his back by a piece of rope which stretched across his forehead.  For whatever reason the image of that man moved me and I felt compelled to buy the angel just to relieve him of his load.  Then of course reason sank in and I continued past him down the road to forget about that moment until again this morning.

Friday, August 20, 2010


After a day of following unfit people up hillsides and listening to Don Pablito's recounting of the atrocities of the civil war, the sun went down-- but not before doling out an insane sunset.  I'm not totally sure how this photo happened, my skills aren't very precise, but finally after taking about 50 shots I managed to grab the exact gold of the clouds.  I was standing up on the rooftop of my hotel where I could catch the sounds of Suchitoto settling down for the evening.  Rooftops have that lovely way of managing to let you observe with out forcing you to be a part of everything, sort of the perfect place for me at the end of a long day.  I like the quiet that evening brings, the chattering of birds as they settle down for the night, the slowly quieting hum of people heading home at night.
I'm in Suchitoto, a small town about two hours outside of San Salvador which sparkles with that magic of a not quite discovered place, and makes you feel like an ultra-savvy traveler for just knowing it exists. I've spent my last two days here soaking up the beauty of its white washed walls and tile roofs.
There is something so satisfyingly beautiful about those curved red tiles.  They turn a range of reds and browns at sunset, colors which I have fallen in love with.  The roofs were the same in Trinidad, where I spent most of an afternoon trying to coax the color from the worn-out palette of my 16 year old water colors.

Monday, July 19, 2010

a surreal life

My life lately has taken on the feeling of a chapter out of 100 Years of Solitude: multiple generations of my family eating meals at long tables telling stories of my great grandparents, grandparents, and parents; dreams which feel like life; life which feels like dreams.  Add to all that my outing to see the Surreal Friends exhibition at Chichester's Pallant House Gallery and every thing has started to take on a sepia tinted fuzzy-ness. Surreal Friends focuses on three European women who fled Europe during World War II and met in of all places, Mexico.  Their work is influenced by the surrealist movement and is rich with magic filled details, straight out of the works of Hieronymus Bosch (that's a remnant of all those expensive Art History courses I took at the Dub, parents take note!).  I went with my mum/mom, and her best friend Judy. Watching them chatter in hushed voices in the galleries reminded me of a trip to the museum of Modern Art in San Salvador which I took with a one, Alexandra, a bit earlier this year.
Seeing the art and learning about the lives of these 'European Bitches,' as Frida Kahlo nicknamed them, was inspiring.  Even more so after Eva told me that if I found myself an apartment in Colonia Roma she might come join me to live in D.F. The serendipity of her comment being that Colonia Roma is where these three women made their home during the 40's.
Learning about these creative women standing around their kitchens, telling one another stories, finding inspiration in friendship, laughing about the absurdity of life, sharing their knowledge and encouraging one another to create art, all during a time when women were expected to be perfecting their Sunday roasts, gives me even more faith in the strength and determination of the fairer sex.  Though these days my dream kitchen in Colonia Roma has to be a virtual one, formed of brief emails, inspiring blogs, long winded chat sessions, and the occasional post card from my breath taking group of friends, I am grateful for what I have.
(image: Leonora Carrington, The House Opposite)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Alex and spicey mango.

  I am a cantankerous terrible person to travel with, but somehow Alex managed to put up with me for a whole week as we soldiered through El Salvador visiting hotels and chatting up the locals. She got to eat her first shrimp ceviche on the black sand pacific coast, ate pupusas which I am pretty sure gave both of us 'funny tummy,' survived the wild streets of Santa Ana, and tried mango with hot sauce all over it while drinking cocktails on the sidewalks of Juayua. 
Anyhow Alex knows how to appreciate all the things that make traveling great and even managed to take the piss out of me a couple times.  That's all I can ask for out of life, sassy friends, good mojitos, and a nice sunset.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

being here now

I often find myself trying to recreate the sensations of being in Asia, just as one might try and remember an old lover, trying to recover the nuances, the fine details. It is funny, I knew that this would happen. It isn't a desire of wanting to return, but just a nostalgia for a time in my life. Sometimes, when it is hot, as it is today, I re-imagine the heat pressing down on my back, the sweat drawing rivers down the small of my back. I'm in Chichen Itza (well just outside), the hammering footwork of the traditional Yucatecan dances thunders from down the hall, and all the tourists look damp and uncomfortable. Ice cream or ice lollies seems the most accepted solution to the pounding sun. I opted for doing my accounts over a tour of the ruins under cloudless skies. One can only admire 'el castillo' so many times before it just becomes another 'pile of rocks.'
Back to my first tangent, Asia. My recovering of memories, or attempts at it, highlights the very core of travel. Newness, stimulates us, it fires all sorts of excitement in our nervous system. Think of your first view of the crested pyramids at Tikal, the first scent of lavender in the fields of France, your first sip of wine, the smell of Hawaii as you step of the plane. After a while these things fade, they become less impressive, the become rote, or routine. After a little while Hawaii smells like any other place, our demons and hold ups follow us and we become ourselves, the same cranky self we are at home just in an exotic locale.
But here is the very lesson, those first moments are when we are hyper-aware, when our senses our sucking up every vibration of information, we are open and in the moment, more focused on the sensations, than the email we might have to send. And I am pretty sure that is where the delight in living life comes from, the more in-the-moment we can be, the more engaged in what is actually going on around us the more satisfied we feel with life.
The thing that scares me is that modernization and technology seem to want to move away from that very concept. Actually I am guilty of it as this very moment, I am sitting at the outskirts of, 'one of the world's new 7 wonders,' with headphones in, typing away on my netbook. What does this have to with Asia? When I made the choice to leave Asia I suddenly became aware that my time there was suddenly limited and I wanted to take advantage of everything. But I realized that running about like a crazy woman trying to do every last thing was never going to happen. I instead turned to trying to enjoy every last experience that I could have. But this isn't something one can do only while traveling, it is an everyday practice to enjoy the very process of living. When is the last time you took the time to enjoy the process of bathing? Of eating? Of sleeping? We have the chance to make our very living into a ritual of joy and pleasure and yet so many of us turn it into a chore.
Maybe this is all way too woo-woo and out there, but I think there is something to this. Something to finding pleasure in the very act of being. At least this thinking helped me get my expenses done.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

a memory experiment

I was Antigua, Guatemala for the last 3 days of Semana Santa.   For a lot of people this is a reason in itself to come to Antigua.  And to be honest I had been wanting to see what it was all about since I had heard about it.  My friend Alex was with me for the first night (friday) and with her background in Art History and Latin she was pretty geeked out about the whole thing.  And I have to say the whole thing is really quite impressive, but I didn't take a single picture.
I didn't really think about it at the time, but a while into it I made a conscious decision not to take a photo.  I wanted to see if memory is really affected by not having a photo to reference it.  My idea being that for so many travelers travel has come down to digital images.  Imagine (or maybe you can just remember if this has unfortunately happened to you) that your camera is suddenly lost after an incredible 2 week vacation.  Feel that sinking in your stomach, that ache of desire, what is it that you are missing?  What is it about these images that we are so attached to?  Most of us never print our photos out.  Most of our friends aren't all that interested in seeing them.  And yet sometimes its seems that our photos are more important than our memories, in fact that our photos are our memories. 
I wanted to see if without a photo would my experience of Semana Santa be changed. Though a photo doesn't capture the smell choking smoke of Copal that turns the streets of Antigua in to eerie gray passageways, nor the thundering music which signals Jesus' death, nor the slow swaying walk of the men and women who stoop under the weight of the huge platforms loaded with life size wooden sculptures of Jesus, Angels, Saints and crying Marys, something still impels us to snap away. But what it is that makes us so attached to our images?  Is it this crazy idea that with out a photo we will some how forget where we have been?
I was thinking of this again today as I was walking down the streets of Livingston to the bank.  When we focus on capturing the image we forget to take the time to absorb the details.  Considering this as I walked I tried to take the time to absorb more details, the sounds, the smells, the people.  And now I wonder if my memories of those slow moving marches are sharpened by the fact that while they were passing me I could focus entirely on that moment and not on framing a photo, or if my memories will fade with age and I will wish for a photo to remind me that I was there.
The truth is, I won´t know the answer to this for quite sometime.  Memories take time to settle into the creases of your brain.  Some make an imprint so strong that they never seem to fade, and others are forgotten precisely the moment they happen.
In all honesty, my strongest memories don´t have a photo with which to associate them.  They are standing 9 miles out in the wilderness on my first back packing trip gazing out at an endless sea of evergreen and granite.  Or the feeling of walking out in to Little India my first night in Singapore, the scent of spices and rhythm of bollywood soundtracks pulsating through the heavy air.  Or a moon rising over the freeway overpasses with Mt. Tam in silhouette as I paddle in from practice.  Sometimes that ache or desire to capture a moment is the very thing that makes us remember it with precision.  In our inability to otherwise document it, we take the time to tatoo the present moment into our minds, where it will stay with us, regardless of crashed computers or lost negatives.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A train of thought:

The loneliness of travel.  a catch-22, which captures me between a home with friends and family whom i love and a life that can't include any of those comforts but is ripe with adventures and discoveries.  To travel is to miss things, we set off and leave our beds, our toilets, our comforts into an unknown.  But by now most of what i encounter isn't an unknown, I have settled into a rhythm, not unlike from that movie, Up in the Air.  I am one of those restless souls, who sometimes looses patience with the need to document every moment digitally, I know the menu, I walk with purpose and direction, rarely with a map.  I hate my arrogance and impatience.  I miss the days of constant new-ness, where getting lost leads to a million new discoveries.  What is left is mostly routine, and yet the loneliness persists.  I am constantly leaving, constantly saying goodbye, creating new friendships with marked shelf lives, 2 days, 3 days, 2 weeks, one month.  I often feel like there is a zen buddhist teacher sitting in a slate kimono repeating an endless koan of, 'let go, let go.'  And it is true, this lifestyle is a lesson, we can't hold on, we are at our essence alone and yet a part of everything.  Beauty can morph quickly into sadness and loneliness, an unshared sunset, a missed joke, a lost story.  And yet beauty, magic, and mystery effuse everything: the discovery of a bright pink wall, grapefruit eaten in a park to the sound of bird song, a taxi driver with a map of where you are going.  I am coming to terms with the gray-ness of everything, in my life there is no longer a good or bad, everything just is. 

Monday, March 15, 2010

8 de marzo

I love this poster and was trying to explain to Jesus that if it were a poster for women from the states it would have had to been written differently to address our own gringa-ness.
I had meant to take a photo of this poster near the bakery I passed every morning on my way to La Brujula for my morning coffee.  Of course by the time I got my camera and myself in the same place to take it, the poster had been covered by some other poster advertising a man in a sombrero.
Anyhow, I encountered this one on my last night in Oaxaca covered up by a poster for an event with a Buddhist nun.  So sorry to the nun, because I pulled her poster down to take this photo.
Anyhow, 8 de Marzo was pretty tranquilo en Oaxaca.  Jesus and I did discuss the difference between men and women here in México.  It is interesting because although it is similar to the issues we have in the states there is an underlying difference in culture.  Machismo is such an integral part of the culture here, for better or worse, and that directly impacts women.
Anyhow, I am too tired to get into the subtleties of this complicated subject, I just mainly wanted to share the photo.  xx

sunday in coyoacan, d.f.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

dia de las mujeres

Women's day is tomorrow and here in la ciudad de Oaxaca there are sure to be demonstrations in the Zocalo (that's the nick name for Mexico's parque centrals).  I was reminded of this up coming holiday whilst reading a most inspiring post on Rambling Spoon. The post is travel and food writing at its best, illuminating the things that are so easy to overlook and reminding us to give thanks for what we have.
As for Oaxaca, Jesus (not to be confused with THE Jesucristo) my espanish teacher has lots of interesting opinions about the state of women's rights here in Mexico.  I'll be sure to pick his brain and report back on his opnions, the goings on here and my take on all of it.

Happy Oscars.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

rambling in oaxaca

I´m in Oaxaca living with a local family and making another attempt to cement all these abstract verb tenses into my poor brain.  It´s funny no matter what the time seems to slide by here and I can never accomplish what I set out to.  In fact today I was on my way to try to finish my painting of Sto. Domingo when I got waylaid running into a Oxacan gallery owner, Miguel Angel.  He took me to an art store and to an art studio, where I suppose one can take art courses which move at Oaxacan speeds.  I managed to peel myself away and walk all the way to the cathedral when I ran into Hailey who is attending the same school as I am.  So I gave up all hopes of arting it up and got a coffee with her. 
But hell, it´s so nice to feel like I can mañana my life away here.  Normally I feel like I HAVE to do stuff because I am always moving on to the next place. 

I put some photos of it here down below.  And a random calavera because they are super chido. 

a subjunctive méxico

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

ahead of the curve

Still on coffee, the New York Times had an article today about London's coffee scene.  They had the smarts to mention my favorite drink...

'Though it’s recently been co-opted by chain stores, the “flat white” is also a symbol of serious coffee: it’s basically a cappuccino-size latte — flat and white — a style imported from Australia (some say New Zealand) when a wave of baristas emigrated from those countries. (Australians and New Zealanders are to espresso what Russians are to chess: they’re just better at it.)'

Which makes me giggle just a bit after my flat white blog entry.
On a similar note I finally began my coffee guide on

Monday, February 22, 2010


I'm back in Cayo, sitting under a ceiling fan which is struggling to stir the heavy afternoon air. I arrived here yesterday, driving the last hour in the dark through air fragrant with orange blossom.  Today I have been slow and lazy like an iguana.  My group went out to see the famous caves I opted for lunch in town and a visit to the post office. 
I've been back in C.A. for almost two weeks and it has been a bit wild and wooly. I've been serenaded by Mariachis on the back roads of Palenque, dove in two new cenotes (hello rainbow cool-ness) and partied with 28 Finnish doctors.  No rest for the weary.
Probably my favorite discovery is a torta place in D.F. that has been making tortas since 1936! Carnitas y aguacate.  Hot damn.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Can you tell me when we get to Polk?"

O.M.G.  Seriously. This week has flown by.  I made a mad dash to 'the city' today with Lindy.  I may have purchased another bag.  HOLY HELL.  Only Gemma princess of the bag, heir to the t-shirt and scarf throne could justify another bag purchase. It stems from a desire to find the perfect bag combination for the vagabond lifestyle. I am sadly coming to realize this may never happen.
I digress. The point of opening up the blog to write was to share my SF adventures.  I think I shall make a list:
  1. After an art supply binge at Flax, Lindy and I stumbled upon De Lessio which is sort of a form of salad bar heaven.  I'm not sure words can suffice.
  2. Had you ever wondered where all the SF bike messengers hang out? I found out today that they congregate at Post and Market, outside of my friend's office.  I might even go as far as to say that one can find a plethora (and I don't use that word lightly) of them wearing plaid shirts with pearl cowboy-shirt snaps in a size m/l.  I confused one such messenger with a homeless man, and the only way I knew the difference was the presence of his ultra-trendy stickered bike.  I'm not trying to be rude here, this was an honest mistake.
  3. New fashion has hit the Apple store with the release of the iPad -- royal blue t-shirts.  They look like a bunch of cheerleaders.  Not a good color choice Mr. Jobs.
  4. My current non-foodie lifestyle of worshiping 3-in-1 instant coffee and pan dulce led to a total overload when I entered the SF Ferry building.  I was so overwhelmed that I didn't try a coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee which according to some makes some killer individual drip... hmmm that reminds me I keep meaning to make a world coffee guide on .... manana manana, right?
  5. Drinking nebbiollo at 2 in the afternoon is not for the faint of heart.  Vic was so impressed I had to give him a fist pound when he picked me up from the ferry.
Bed. Out.

Monday, February 1, 2010

the flat white

After a LONG lapse of time I'm back in the blogasphere or blogosphere or whatever.  As my last entry was about drinking coffe in Leon it feels appropriate to get started again with another entry on one of my favorite beverages.

I know it is hard to keep up with me, but I did make a quick, unplanned jaunt to New Zealand in the early parts of January. The whole thing didn't quite pan out as planned, but what does?  Anyhow among some of my very exciting revelations while there was a pretty epic experience: THE FLAT WHITE. A couple years ago my friend Zach converted me from lattes to cappuccinos, we had this whole theory the cappuccinos were the tacos of the coffee world, a total digression.  But I have been converted once again, the shit thing is you can't get one here especially not from those under trained high school students down at coffee roasters.

So what the hell is this drink you might ask?  Look I am not totally sure, but what you should know, is that for me, a flat white is the perfect ratio of milk to coffee.  None of that stiff ass foam in a one inch layer on top, just a thin layer of perfectly creamed milk. AWWWWW man.  Plus the thing that may make me love it the most is that you don't have to chose a size.  I still don't know what was wrong with small, medium, and large, but this whole starbucks-ization of drink sizes does my head in.  To this day when dealing with that tall/grande b.s. I just point at the size I want, but with a flat white these shenanigans aren't an issue.

Finally Kiwi dairy in general kicks the s--t out of anything that I've ever encountered in the states, except for
Straus' from West Marin.  They've got it going on.  But seriously, the butter and the milk smell, well, grassy.  The milk just tastes better, it's creamy and lovely.

Seriously I had gotten sick of all the anti-American commentary on the coffee front, I defended ladro, and zoka, and told these uppity kiwis that we have award winning baristas up in Seattle.  But then I realized somthing: most people have gotten to know us through our largest brands.  If all you knew of coffee from the states was Starbucks you might think we only have shit coffee.  And that is such a shame as we do have incredible idependent coffee roasters.  Just as we have an incredible microbrew culture, which might be hard to believe if you've only ever tasted Bud.  So, yes, I am missing my flat whites, but I am also challenging you coffe snob Kiwis to come and give our coffee a chance as well.  You might just be surprised.

P.s.  if you have the pleasure of visiting wellington here are some coffee suggestions:
Midnight Espresso (178 Cuba ST.)
Apart from having lovely coffee they also serve a ridiculous selection of vegan and veggie foodstuffs.  They get their coffe from wellington's own Havana Coffee Works.  

As a good Wellingtonian wouldn't be caught dead in a Starbucks I checked out a couple of the local chains, I enjoyed flat whites from both Mojo and Fuel.