Tag: New Zealand

The view from my office

Welcome to my office

These photos are taken at the workplaces of people I met whilst travelling last year.

Fraser Island

Fraser Island. Technically the truck is Rhett’s office – our guide for three days.

Sunset Fraser Island

This is his evening commute. Sunset, as the tide comes in.

Whales, - Lady Musgrave

The crew get to see this after a day of looking after customers on a day trip to Lady Musgrave Island. You would think that they would be blase about this. No. The crew are every bit as excited as the customers when they spot whales.

New Zealand 90 mile beach

The coach drivers view on 90 mile beach, Cape Reinga, Far North. New Zealand. Every day he sees this. Beats the M25 on a Friday evening. Not a bad commute.

New Zealand The Remarkables

Get a hotel job in Queenstown overlooking The Remarkables. The receptionist at our serviced apartments had previously worked for a hotel on a carpark on the M6 outside Manchester. Which view do you think she preferred?

The Pacific Coast

Or work in the cafe on the Pacific Coast Train for Kiwi Rail.

Trans alpine rail

Or the Tranz Alpine Railway. Just for a change of scenery. The cafe with the best views in the world. And it changes every day. The light, the weather – something new to see.

Northern Territory Uluru

It’s a long commute – but worth it. Uluru. When Rhett isn’t spotting dingos on Fraser Island he spends his winter here.

Which view would you choose? Touch choices I think.

 

 

New Zealand by Train – The TranzAlpine with KiwiRail Scenic Journeys

KiwiRail – is this the best way to see New Zealand?

When planning the New Zealand trip with New Zealand Self Drive Tours I asked them include two railway journeys. One was the Pacific Coast with KiwiRail, from Christchurch to Picton and the other was the TranzAlpine from Christchurch to Greymouth.

The DH and I started our month of roadtripping New Zealand with the Pacific Coast trip. We loved it. And so it was, two weeks to the day since the DH aka Sleeve Notes and I had set out from Christchurch Station to Picton, we were back at the station with our son.

I just love railway stations and trains. We had not seen this part of New Zealand before so I was a bit like a child in a sweet shop. Even better, our son was there to share the journey. It was his first full day in New Zealand and he started his adventure travelling across the mountains of the South Island on the TranzAlpine with KiwiRail.

The son is a massive fan of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. I had planned for the two weeks he was with us, with the help of Self Drive Tours, to be as LOTR related as possible. And what a start. The scenery is just magnificent.

This train was much busier than the last trip – two big tour companies had booked out most of the train. This meant that one of the two open air observation carriages was jammed packed. We made our way to the second one at the front of the train which was relatively empty. A good way to blow away the jet lag. And of course when it gets too cold (it does in winter) and you have to retreat inside for part of the journey, the seating on Kiwirail is comfortable. The windows are extra large so you get an excellent view.

For an introduction to New Zealand this was the best way to start my son’s 2 week adventure. The contrasting scenery takes your breath away. More spectacular views (yes 24 year olds can be impressed with views – this is New Zealand) were to come during the road trip. As he said, you never know what you will see next.

For most of our four weeks we were road tripping. And while New Zealand is the ultimate road trip destination drivers need a rest and an opportunity to sit back and enjoy the ride. And this is the best way to do it. You will need to book tickets in advance as it is a popular journey.

While our first train to Picton was not full, this train was. All seats are reserved so if you just show up to go it is likely you won’t get a seat. Both are lengthy journeys and you will probably need food. While some people brought picnics with them there are excellent snacks (the hearty brunch wrap was my choice) available on board. Don’t miss out on the Kapiti ice cream. The Menu is here.

If you are planning to visit New Zealand, I urge you to take the train at some point during your travels. On my next visit I may just jump aboard the Northern Explorer from Wellington to Auckland. Here Flying and Travel shares their experience of the trip. Yeah, I need to go soon.

 

 

 

 

A Warm Welcome at Waipoua Lodge

On the road in New Zealand

The DH aka Sleeve Notes and I stayed in many different accommodations during our four week road trip in New Zealand. We travelled from Christchurch to Auckland, via Picton, Blenheim, Greymouth, Hanmer Springs, Franz Josef, Queenstown, Bay of Islands, Waipoua and Cape Reinga by plane, train and automobile. Mostly on the road in a hire car. All organised (bar the last few days when we went freestyle) via New Zealand Self Drive Tours.

All the hotels and motels we booked through the tour company were good. Many were excellent.

One was outstanding.

Waipoua Lodge

A couple of days before our stay here I received an email from the hosts of Waipoua Lodge  with a menu, requesting that we pre order our evening meal. This was the first clue that this was going to be a memorable place to stay.

The choice of food was simply outstanding – not a long menu – which is in my mind usually a good thing, yet it was clear that the person who put his menu together understood and loved food. I was not wrong. Slow cooked pork belly, rillettes of lamb, salmon with basil and lime were some of the choices for the mains.

Dinner

Unusually for Instagram fangirl me I did not take any photos of the food we ate that night. We were the only guests at the lodge and, with a personal chef and waiter aka Fran and Ian, this was a dining experience we wanted to immerse ourselves in fully. Food bloggers will tell you that once photos have been taken, notes made, the food is cold. This was not going to be a night like that.

Fran kindly sent and gave me permission to us a photo of the main that the DH had, Slow Cooked pork with chilli and lime. DH said it was outstanding. It was (I tried it too).

Waipoua Lodge slow cooked pork

I had the salmon for my main which was also excellent.

For pudding the choice was easy, the lemon souffle, a signature dish of Waipoua Lodge. A melt in the mouth taste experience. Yet this is Waipoua Lodge – here you get invited into the kitchen to watch Fran make it. She made it look so simple, and in theory it is. How can something with four ingredients, that takes moments to make and minutes to bake, taste so good?

I have yet to make it (sorry Fran still no oven). As guests we left with the recipe and an invite to be a member of her online cookery school. And when I get a kitchen I will be making a few of her recipes.

The accommodation

And while I have focussed on the food – because it is so very good – I need to tell you about the rooms and the location.

The lodge is on the edge of the Waipoua Forest miles from any town or village. We travelled from Auckland on SH1 then travelled via Dargaville on SH12 to the lodge. The last 45 km drive on SH12 was particularly spectacular. A magnificent coast and as you drive over the ridge you see the forest. It can get pretty windy up there, camper vans have been blown over, and as Ian said, if you think that is spectacular, it just gets better. It does. There are some pretty spectacular drives in New Zealand – add SH12 to the list.

A Warm Welcome

From the moment we arrived at the lodge Ian and Fran made us feel so welcome. It was as if were invited to a special house party and we were the only ones on the guest list.

They ushered us into the lounge room and served tea in vintage china cups. We chatted about the journey, our travels, the lodge and just about everything. Conversation was easy as if we had known Fran and Ian for years. A time was agreed for dinner and we were shown our room with some suggestions of a walk in the bush walk if we wanted to stretch our legs after the long journey.

Bush Walk Walipuria Lodge

The rooms are beautifully appointed. Comfortable with good bedlinen and top notch Aotearoa Koha Spa toiletries this is luxury 5 star accommodation. Yet is is not at all stuffy. I felt that we were staying in a friend’s home. A friend with immaculate taste in home furnishings and who cooks like a Michelin starred chef.

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After dinner, we chatted for hours with Fran and Ian. It was an extremely relaxing evening. I hope they enjoyed the conversation as much as we did. I think they did.

The next day, after an excellent breakfast, Ian gave us a detailed and fascinating talk about Waipoua Forest and the Kauri Trees. We had visited the Kauri Museum the day before. I was somewhat underwhelmed and thought it poorly curated. I learned more from Ian about the history of the area, the impact of the deforestation, in his short and informative chat than I had in an hour or so at the museum, with its display of some big trees, a bottle collection and waxwork figures. And that is a shame, because the Kauri and its history shape this part of New Zealand.

Ian suggested some places to stop on the drive to our next destination, The Bay of Islands, and then we reluctantly took our leave, back on the road again.

But not before Fran and Ian, owners and custodians of Waipoua Lodge, took one last photo for their scrapbook. Here we are with their dog. Bonnie.

On the steps of our room at Waipoua Lodge

 

Note: Phil and I were paying guests at the lodge. Fran and Ian did not ask me to write this (they did ask us to rate them on TripAdvisor and I have).

Addendum August 2017

Fran and Ian have now sold the lodge – and bought a luxury yacht.

Travel is my high and I need another shot of it

Travel

When you travel you will possibly be all of these things.

Exhausted, happy, sad, frustrated, angry, in pain, relaxed, tired, excited, snappy, hungry, hangry, worried, stressed, restless and contented. You will never be bored.

I have endured long flights, watched movies I cannot remember, read books, walked dogs on beaches, slept in a swag and scrambled barefoot over rocks to swim in a pool with crocodiles.

I have learned to paddle board, considered divorcing my husband when kayaking in the Katherine Gorge, snorkeled over the Great Barrier Reef, hiked the Kings Canyon Rim, slept for hours on a bus where the landscape never changed, travelled in a 4WD on Fraser Island, seen a kangaroo whose best friend is a pig and visited a city devastated by an earthquake.

In NSW I ate some of the best food I have ever tasted and eaten endless ham sandwiches with tour groups in the NT, breakfasted at Macca’s, brunched on the best poached eggs in Melbourne (nowhere has matched that city for brunch) drank the best coffee made with freshly roasted beans (again in Melbourne) and sulked over lack of beetroot.

But I have never been bored.

How can you get bored when travelling?

When I was planning this four month trip to Australia and New Zealand, someone asked me “don’t you get bored being on holiday for so long?”

What?

I waited a moment and answered with one word. “No.”

What I wanted to say was how could you possibly get bored when you travel? When you are seeing so much, meeting so many new people, doing things that will challenge you and change you?

I didn’t. I just knew that they would not get it. Because what they mean by a holiday and what that is to them is not what it is to me.

This is not a vacation, this is travel

In their map of the world a holiday is seven days escape from work, be it to a caravan in Bognor or a villa in Majorca, eating ice-cream and sitting on the beach. And after seven days of not doing much they think that is it time to go back to the 9 to 5. Because that is what you do. Hate Monday, live for the weekend and if you are lucky get a week away in the sun.

And there is nothing wrong with that. Been there, done that and probably will again. I like holidays. Long ones, short ones, package holiday and round the world travelling ones and weekends in sumptuous B&B’s and camping. I like to go travelling, while I still can.

I don’t get bored when travelling – because every holiday, every weekend away, being down under for four months or a package holiday to Skiathos for a week, a day out to Weston Super Mare, I see as an adventure. That is my map of the world.

I do get bored restless sometimes. When it rained for a week in Melbourne and I had watched every episode of Stranger Things I was ready to climb walls. Cabin fever did set in. Previous to this house-sit I had been on a ten day adventure in the Northern Territory. And while I had a love/hate relationship with that trip, with hindsight it was one of the most amazing journeys I have ever been on.

I was a broken woman

I ached and I wanted a bed and a shower and not to worry in case a dingo stole my shoes. After seven days of continuous rain and when the bites had healed and I had eaten brunch and cakes and Greek food and done all the washing I was restless. Eager to get back on the road again. Travel is my ‘high’ and I needed another shot of it.

Housesitting and travel plans

Yes I loved the comfy beds the hot showers, the food, did I mention the food in Oakleigh? Yet I was eager for more. New people, old friends, trying new food, seeing new places, getting on a plane (despite pre travel jitters that hit me before every flight) I crave the change. I feel that I may be addicted to change. Once healed I needed adventure again.

I could have wallowed. I didn’t. There was a road trip from Sydney to Brisbane to plan and book. New Zealand was a blank page. Flights in, flights out and no plan to get from A to B. So while it poured with rain, in between dog walking, kamikaze magpie dodging and eating souvlaki I stopped procrastinating and got on with transport and itinerary planning.

And yes I had procrastinated. Most of the trip had been planned in March. Flights had been booked, trips to Fraser and Lady Musgrave Island planned to fit in with flights. The NT trip to Kakadu, Alice Springs and Uluru was sandwiched between two house sits in Melbourne. An unexpected three day window filled with a visit to Tasmania.

Yet this bit of the trip was blank. And while I like to think of myself as free spirited Phoebe, Monica is stronger in me. I need a plan. Yes I do like to have room for some spontaneity, I am not that rigid, yet I have learned that I do need to know some basic whens and hows and so does my husband. I don’t want to arrive in a strange city without a bed for a night. That said we arrived in Brisbane with a room pre booked and hated it so much we found another room in 5 minutes thanks to free wifi and Booking.com.

This needing to know where I will be sleeping is possibly a symptom of my anxiety. I didn’t know that till now (see this writing malarkey really is my therapy). Perhaps realising that I can turn on a sixpence will reduce this anxiety and  the need to be in constant control?

New Zealand Plans

When you have a month in New Zealand, a country that has so much to thrill, excite and amaze you, a plan is good. When a third person who has different interests to you is joining you for a couple of weeks and would rather put needles in his eyes than go on a tour of wineries, you need a plan.

In 2011 Phil and I travelled in a campervan from Auckland to Christchurch. When it was good it was awesome when it was bad it was not so awesome. We had no itinerary, booked as we went along and it worked out OK but we missed so much and ran out of time.

This time, after wasting hours getting jaw dropping quotes from Camper Van and Motorhome hire companies, trying to work out how to fit in almost everything we wanted to do I and failing, I used a travel agency, New Zealand Self Drive Tours. I found them via Facebook (sometimes those annoying ads are useful) gave them a list of what me, my husband and my son wanted to do, flights details and they planned and booked it for me.

I worked with them to tweak it and there is some spontaneity as the last 8 days there is no plan. No accommodation, no activities just the car and us and I like that we have no idea where we will be or what we are doing. I also like that for most of the time we just turn up and the hotel is booked and the car is waiting for us and we know how many km’s we will be driving each day.

Road trip New Zealand

I am currently in New Zealand, have been for a week and so far the plan is working. The car is easier to drive than a camper. Not for one moment have we wished we had got one.

The rooms have been warm and clean and the Coastal Pacific Rail journey was breathtakingly brilliant. Phil and I have travelled to Christchurch to Picton on the Pacific Coast Railway, driven from Picton to Christchurch via Blenheim and Hanmer Springs.

In Blenheim we had a lovely day touring the wineries with Highlight Wine Tours and were guided around the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre Air by Bunty, a 96 year old World War 2 Spitfire pilot.

We have bathed in thermal pools in Hanmer Springs, driven past snow capped mountains and followed a steam train through Weka Pass. Yesterday we rode on a vintage tram around Christchurch and walked around the city at sunset. Tomorrow we travel the Tranz Alpine Railway.

Yes I am worried how I am going to cope when I get back to the small house in November. Being in one place and shopping and cooking and the grey skies. I am sure that the Farsickness will kick in and know that I need to come up with a strategy to manage that.

I am confident that I will.

In the meantime – New Zealand awaits.

There will be mountains and geysers and hot beaches and Hobbits and planes and trains and automobiles to transport us.

#notboredyet

 

New Zealand by Train -The Pacific Coast Railway with KiwiRail

  • Long White Cloud

The KiwiRail Pacific Coast Railway

Travelling on the KiwiRail Pacific Coast Railway had been on the someday list for far too long.

Boarding KiwiRail in Christchurch

Someday became today

For five years I have dreamt of it. It became reality due to saving and planning. And a real desire to make it happen.

This was Day One of a four week trip, by plane, train and automobile with New Zealand Self Drive Tours. What a way to start. Travelling along the Pacific coast from Christchurch to Picton. In 2011 I drove along part of this route in a camper van with my husband and it was breath taking. We were staying in Blenheim and while at the station this train was there, with its open air viewing carriage, dining car and carriages with huge windows to maximise the view from your seat. I said then that I would be back and I would travel on this train. And five years later, here I am.

Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud, did not disappoint.

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I should be so lucky

So many people when they heard of my travel plans tell me that I am lucky.  If lucky means working and planning for this trip since 2011. If lucky means focussing on what I needed to do and I De-cluttered and downsized for this. If lucky means assessing what was important to me and knowing that it wasn’t stuff it was travel, then I am lucky.

I wish I could travel

And oh the people saying that they wished they could travel. The ones that say ‘I’d love to go to Australia/Canada/Rome/Paris but… I can’t because’ …

How many times have I heard these words ? Hundreds of times.

Just do it

Well I just did it. One of many things that had been on that someday list for far too long. I made them happen this year. Put a date on it.

Don’t tell me you wish you could. If you really want to, you will find a way.

New Zealand in a campervan – Napier and Dannevirke

A challenging journey

The drive from Taupo to Napier was challenging but stunning. I have only a couple of photos of the trip which is a shame because it was spectacular.

We stopped, to recover from the journey, at a winery/cafe/gallery and had cake and coffee. Her we met two English couples who were combining driving, cruising and the train journey from Picton to Christchurch for their New Zealand experience. I can recall that conversation as if it were yesterday, but not the name of the place we stopped at. Which is why I take photographs of everywhere I visit, signs and all, except here. Possibly because the journey had traumatised me with rain and poor visibility and those precarious roads.

It may have been the Linden Estate Winery or River Valley or neither of these. I have included the links because I have just spent hours on the internet looking for the place we stopped at. All I can say, it was after the challenging mountain drives and in the valley, and pretty much the first place to stop on this drive. And you will need to stop, after the drive. The other couples in the cafe were with me on that one.

Napier

Napier

New Zealand rarely disappointed me on this trip, yet Napier just did not do it for me. I had been looking forward to seeing all the Art Deco buildings, and yes there were plenty of them. However it all seemed a bit run down. There was a lot of refurbishment going so perhaps I caught Napier at the wrong time.

So many of the Art Deco buildings were ruined by modern shop fronts.

Look up and you can see the beauty of the buildings.

We didn’t linger. We only had three days until the ferry crossing to the South Island, and we had plans to meet our new friends in Wellington. Back on the road.

Heading south

We were on Highway 2 and again the landscape changed as it so often does in New Zealand. The road was straight and there were no big mountains with windy roads to navigate. We travelled through small towns with Ma and Pa shops and no campsites. We skipped Norsewood, a town settled by Scandinavians in the 1870’s, although I was tempted to stop and take a look around given my Norwegian heritage. If I am ever that way again I would make sure I made time to visit this unique village, a little bit of Norway in New Zealand.

Dannevirke, by comparison was much larger, and like Norsewood, founded by Scandinavians.

Dusk was falling, we needed somewhere to park up and then we saw a sign for a campsite. On locating the house of the site manager and paying in advance we were given a key to the gate and the facilities.

We drove for 10 minutes or so through a forest and found this. A complete contrast to any other site we had stayed on. This was not a Top Ten site with thermal heated pools and luxury kitchens. This was basic camping.

We were possibly the only people there. There were a few static caravans on the site and these interesting chalets. We never saw another person while we were there.

The toilets were reminiscent of 1970’s camping holidays with the Guides. Basic, cold, peeling paint and spider webs. The communal kitchen was underwhelming. Looking at the website now it seems Dannevirke Holiday Park has had a much needed makeover.

The location is beautiful. The wildlife abundant. This is a get away from it all campsite.

Although it seems the wildlife could be dangerous.

How could Bambi be so bad?

We slept so well, no light pollution, no people, no noise at all. Perfect. Well rested for our long and challenging drive to Wellington the next day. I am glad we stopped off at Dannevirke.

New Zealand in a campervan – Havelock and happenstance

Havelock was not our planned destination. Phil and I had lingered in  the vineyards of Blenheim and were on our way to Nelson. The roads were windy and the driving challenging, we were tired so decided to stop and stretch our legs and get a coffee.

Havelock was the first town we came to. We parked up the camper and went to look for a cafe. Most of them were offering Green Lipped Mussels. Had no idea what they were, or that they were a delicacy of the area.

As we wandered toward the marina area, we found a small camping site, and our fate was sealed. We were tired, it was late afternoon, Nelson was a long, windy road away and they had one vacancy so we checked in.

I went to check out the wi-fi. In the laundry room there were computers to use and that is where I met Barb. We got chatting she lost her $2 worth of internet time and I found out where they were eating that night. Barb was with her husband Pete and they had been to Havelock before, it was one of their favourite places to stay. The pub they were eating at did great steaks and green lipped mussels. They didn’t stand a chance. I had already decided to gatecrash their dinner.

We were only staying the one night, had very little cash on us and the only cashpoint, in the only supermarket,  was broken. We found a cafe that took card payment, had some tea and then wandered around this tiny town.

We had stumbled upon a gem of place, once a gold mining settlement now the green lipped mussel capital of the world,  Havelock has a selection of galleries and small independent shops. The town has a slightly arty feel to it. It is the base for the Pelorus Mail Boat which serves the remote communities in the Marlborough Sounds. Day tours can be booked for NZ $128 or you can use it to be dropped off at one of the communities and be picked up a week later. Something I would quite like to do.

And so to dinner at the Havelock Hotel.  We had popped in for a drink in the early evening to check out the pub recommended by Barb. It was as if we had walked into a bar in the 1970’s.  Time seemed to have stood still in this pub. They did take cards (we had no cash) but only for over a certain amount so they put our drinks on a tab (without taking the card) because we told them we would be back later to have dinner. That is trust for you. And of course we went back, asked Barb and Pete if we could join them, they said yes.

Green lipped mussels and a steak cooked on a stone.

In a proper Kiwi pub.

It turned out the Barb and Pete were from Melbourne and were on the same flight as we were a few days later. They had travelled around New Zealand frequently in a camper van and gave us some good suggestions where to visit on the South Island. We got on so well we went back to their van for drinks and that is when they invited us to spend Christmas with them.

Being English we thought they were just being polite. We had only just met. Why would you invite us for Christmas? We were planning to skip Christmas. We didn’t say this of course, instead we politely said oh, yes, I am not sure what our plans are. Thankyou for asking. We hadn’t yet understood that Aussies don’t say anything they don’t mean.

We knew we would see them at the airport, and the next day said our goodbyes and headed off to Nelson to loop the top of the South Island before travelling south to Christchurch. I gave no more thought about Christmas until we met them again, in Kaikoura.

While my relationship with the van with the bed in the back (as the camper eventually became known) was not always an easy one, travelling this way gave us an opportunity to meet people.

In Bay of Islands we met Tim and Jo Ann while admiring a sunset. We then stayed with them in Wellington and got to see Oscars in the WETA boardroom and a film at The Roxy.

They suggested we visit to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre and go whale watching in Kaikoura, which is where we met Barb and Pete for a second time. It turned out that we had also been in Tauranga, on the North Island at the same time. We were meant to meet.

We met Barb and Pete because of the unplanned stop in Havelock . That is what I like about having no particular itinerary, just going with the flow. When you allow people into your life you gain experiences you could not have imagined.  When you open your life and let in whatever the universe has planned for you, amazing things happen.

coincidence

And yes, we did spend Christmas with Barb and Pete.

 

 

New Zealand in a camper van – Marlborough, trains, planes, automobiles and wine

Two weeks was not enough time to fully appreciate New Zealand. I constantly felt rushed. Indeed we lost a few days there due to Qantas grounding all flights, although the upside was we did get to know LA a bit better and enjoy the Carnaval.

We did not have a planned itinerary and relied a lot on the suggestions from people we met on the road. Which is how we discovered that there is more to Marlborough than vineyards.

Planes

The couple we met in Northlands, who gave us a roof over our head in Wellington, suggested we visit Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim. So we did.

The museum houses Sir Peter Jackson’s personal collection of WW1 aircraft and artefacts.

The museum is self guided, well laid out and interesting.  Peter Jackson (yes the Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson) has been an aviation enthusiast all of his life and this museum is just part of his collection.

I found the museum fascinating. My husband was like a child in a toy shop, as he had been an airfix enthusiast as a child.

As you would expect from a museum from Peter, the attention to detail is second to none. The artefacts are labelled with a full history about them and how they were acquired. Many of the aircraft are displayed in their historical settings, every one has a story to tell.

There is a cafe and a gift shop, and a chance for dressing up. Us being the big kids that we are, could not resist.

I recommend a visit if you find yourself in Blenheim. Great for families too as it really bring history alive.

Cars

After our visit here we popped next door to the Omaka Classic Car Collection. My husband was delighted to look at old cars. As was I.

He pretended to know about the engines and stuff.

I love old cars because they are so beautiful.

Modern cars are by comparison box like.

Each one had details of who had owned them, where they were made and all are really well cared for. Not so family friendly or as well laid out as the aviation museum, but fascinating if, like us, you love old cars.

Vineyards

After indulging in aviation and motoring history, we went to a vineyard. The wine is why most people visit this region.

It was lunch time and we were at Wither Hills.

After wine tasting and the excellent lunch, we chilled out on the beanbags in the garden, overlooking the vineyards.

There are dozens of vineyards in Marlborough. Some of them you will have heard of, others are small family run ones. Wither Hills is where Kate and Wills had lunch, 3 years later,  so we obviously had chosen the best place.

We were driving so the wine tasting had to be restricted, of course.  However there are a number of companies offering tours of the vineyards. Bubbly Grape was the one that was recommended to us. You can also hire bikes to tour the area. Although I am not sure that combining cycling and drinking is a good idea.

Another vineyard we visited was Cloudy Bay.

Here we ordered a tasting platter. Then sat outside and enjoyed the views.

We did visit a few other vineyards, these were the two that stood out in terms of setting and style and the only ones we ate at. We had two days there and it was hard to drag ourselves away from the region.

We camped just on the outskirts of Blenheim.

We had ducks for company (they followed us everywhere) and somewhere to catch up with the washing, such is the glamour of camper van living. The wooden truck was a holistic healing centre.

We also did a bit of train spotting. When we go back to New Zealand we plan to take this train. Driving is pretty challenging in New Zealand.

Although I like this car.

Next stop Havelock, some green lipped mussels and meeting some people that changed our plans for Christmas.

What the Asparamancer said

My daughter was a guest at a Hen weekend recently where they were all asked to bring stories about dating disasters. The bride to be was to guess the person the story was about. My daughter story began with the words ‘I was at my mom’s Christmas Party’ and the bride immediately shouted out my daughters name. It seems that amongst my daughters friends my house parties were legendary.

Now one could think, how cool that your daughter and her friends enjoy your parties. I would like to think that too.

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So I will tell you another story. When I was on the Whit Tour with the Jockey Men’s Morris in May 2011 I had my asparagus read at The Fleece Inn. For this you are given a bunch of asparagus and drop them randomly on the table. One stalk slipped out of my hands before I dropped the bunch and I got a knowing look (more of that in a moment). This Asparamancer told me two things. One was to get all my affairs in order as I needed to make sure all the plans were in place for a long journey. This was a bit uncanny, as I was, as readers of this blog know, going to be embarking on the round the world trip in October 2011. I had only just that week announced to my work place of my intention to take redundancy in order to travel. Nothing was booked. A  few close friends knew I planned to travel. The asparagus reader could not have known that. Then she came back to the asparagus that had got away. This indicated, apparently that sometimes after a drink or two I may be a bit loose with my words and say things I may regret, and I needed to be mindful of that.  On the coach we all shared what the asparagus reader had told us. When I mentioned  the bit about the loose tongue at parties, all my friends burst out laughing.

So I have appear to have a reputation of giving and enjoying parties. Which is fine. Except that my parties include lots of wine. And beer. Well I have friends who are Morris men so naturally there is beer. All in the safety of my own home. Well sometimes in other peoples houses. And always lots of lovely home cooked food and samosas and music and people enjoy themselves. They must do because they keep coming back.

We scaled back on parties this year, we were recovering travellers and had lost the house party mojo. There was no decent weather for a BBQ and now no young kids around to want a firework party. At Christmas we held a poker party and a vinyl night. Close friends and family who played poker, listened to vinyl,enjoyed shared food and well yes some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, craft beer and organic cider.

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Our round the world trip was on reflection a journey to new world wine growing regions. Paso Robles California (they keep the best); Marlborough, New Zealand and the Hunter Valley and Margaret River in Australia.  We enjoyed our wine responsibly, most of the time. We also discovered the delights of a Sunday sesh in Melbourne (thanks to What’s Dave Doing) at Riverland Bar and a post, cooling drink, after a very warm day trip to Williamstown relaxing with craft beers, food and Chloe.

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This is the view from our seat in Chloe’ s Room overlooking Federation Square and the Christmas Tram.

And this is the lovely food we enjoyed.

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In SE Asia we drank beer, as it was cheap and we were hot. In the last 11 days of travelling I lost about 12 pounds in weight, due to a combination of beautiful healthy freshly prepared food, the heat, and no wine. We did save a lot of babies but that is another story. I had already lost about the same amount of weight in Fiji for the same reasons, despite spending most of the day sleeping in a hammock.  I was slimmer and healthier than I had been for years when I returned home.

Back in the UK I soon slipped back into bad habits.  At first, because we were broke and had no jobs, and had enjoyed the cleansing diet in SE Asia, we ate healthily and drank occasionally. A year later, and the bad habits had crept back into our lifestyles. I had the ill health of my mom to contend with, unemployment, and lots of other stuff that is life. I put on weight. I decided to start running to combat the weight and my low mood, then got ill so had to stop.

And now it is almost Lent. Traditionally people give up things. Some people give up chocolate or wine. And some people take something up for Lent. A food bank charity has suggested that people donate what they save at Lent to them. One year I read of a family who lived on the minimum wage during Lent. They wanted their children to be able to reflect on how privileged they were, so had to forgo cinema visits and ballet lessons. They didn’t eat out and cut back on grocery bills. And donated what they saved to some charity. What a good idea, I thought. Then I read  ‘this excludes our mortgage payment’ and that made me very angry indeed. The smugness of living a comfortable life and let’s pretend to be like poor people mentality infuriated me. I have lived on Income Support and know what it  is like to have only a pound in my pocket to feed a family of four. And that same smugness creeps into Live Below the Line, which is why I blogged about that too.

However, it has made me think, could I, should I give up wine for Lent?

Oh and I have just read this blog about the Asparamancer so there seems there is a pattern in her predictions……

Am I still travellingcoral?

I have spent the past few months sharing my photos from the round the world trip I took with my husband last year. In a few days we will have been back in the UK for a year. Which is why I sometimes wonder that to call this blog travellingcoral and to use that as my twitter name is wrong somehow.

Yet in my head, I am still travelling. I have written before that I still can’t get used to having actual wardrobes and live in nearly the same clothes I wore on the trip, I expected that to last a few weeks, but it has lasted 52 weeks.

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I didn’t leave my heart in San Francisco. I left my soul in nearly every place we visited. I ache to be back in New Zealand, to spend more time in Bay of Islands and the Coromandel Peninsular, to visit friends in Wellington and see more of the South Island. And I wished we had gone to Yosemite when we were in California, spent more time in Santa Cruz and stayed longer at Pismo Beach.

We spent nearly two months in Australia yet only scratched the surface. Even though the cost of everything is migraine inducing and I have no idea where one buys underwear (no Marks and Spencers) I’d go back in a heartbeat. Melbourne got under my skin and I miss it so much.They have free BBQ’s in public places, and trams, and seating like this.

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I follow some brilliant travel bloggers and when I read about what they are up to and places they have visited my heart literally aches. Yet these same bloggers were wonderfully helpful when planning the trip and continue to inspire future travelling plans. Thanks particular to these guys: http://whatsdavedoing.com/ http://www.ytravelblog.com/ and also look at this if you are even remotely interested in travelling http://nomadicsamuel.com/top100travelblogs

In a previous blog, about why you need to travel while you still can I mentioned how Mom had encouraged Phil and me to take this trip. And now she has gone my one big tie to my adopted hometown has gone too. Ok I still have a house and a son and a husband here, but other than that….. well I don’t have a job, the kids are in their 20’s and I don’t really want to live here any more. And now one of my new friends is moving back to Sydney which will mean I will have nearly as many close friends in the Southern Hemisphere as I have in the UK.

My memories of SE Asia weren’t my fondest. We were travelling with G Adventures and of course in a group you can always expect there to be tension occasionally. I think this group was unique in that one individual managed to alienate everyone in the group within 24 hours. All of us tried to get along with her, some with more success than others. As we often had to travel for 5 hours plus on mini buses, it did become a sometimes comical but always a tactical manoeuvre to avoid being in the same bus this person was in.DSCN0313

If this sounds cruel, I am sorry, yet it is true. All of us on that trip would have had a better experience if she had not been there.

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We developed a penchant for singing Hollywood Musicals very loudly and discovered new versions of Doe a Deer (linked to beer and Saving Babies) and she was always offered the seat at the front with the driver. The tour guide sacrificed his single room and shared with a traveller so that no one else had to share a room with a person who despite having the biggest bag didn’t seem to wash or change clothes.The suitcase was full of food she had brought from Canada and she was still eating it 11 days later.

Pong, our wonderful guide, in an effort to calm her and give us respite encouraged her listen to Buddhist Chanting. Can you imagine sharing a cable car with her? This is the impact it had on one of us.

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Yet looking back at the photo of that trip with G Adventures brings back good memories, especially with Sean, Kelly, Jojo and Gemma. The hours we spent looking for this eh Sean!

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And I got to eat wonderful food, took part in karaoke (what happens in Krabi, stays in Krabi) and saved lots of babies and enjoy views like this.

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So am I still travelling? While not having left the UK in the past 12 months Phil and I have had a number of mini breaks. Hay and Brecon for the food, scenery and the books; Winchester for the markets; London for the theatre, The Tate and London Calling to see Paul Simon in Hyde Park (all London visits are due to the generosity of my wonderful daughter and her partner). I am off to Malvern to visit the flea market and Carnival Records and browse the vinyl with my new friends and Holly the Australian Cattle dog who I met via Facebook (the friends not the dog, obviously). And drink tea and eat lots of cake probably.

And yes I am still travellingcoral. Travelling isn’t about visiting places and taking photos. It is is about how what happens and who you meet shape your life. The people I met on my trip are the lasting memories, strangers who became friends.The new friends in the UK, my mom’s illness and now her passing have and will continue to shape who I am. And may it never stop.