San Francisco

 us west coast  Comments Off on San Francisco
May 132014

Arrived safe but tired after direct flight to LA then onto SF. A very warm welcome from Joe and Kate, who live in the Mission District, then amazing pizza for lunch(?) at Arizmendi Bakery.

On Tuesday we caught the BART to Embarcadero (the pier) where you could see the Bay Bridge. Nice warm day, high 20s, locals are complaining of heat wave. Tomorrow is predicted to reach 32!

Bay Bridge

Bay Bridge

Off then to ride a cable car, still manually operated up and down the steep streets since the 1870s. It took us to Fisherman’s Wharf where we got our first view of the Golden Gate Bridge. No fog today!

Cable cars!

Cable cars!

The architecture here is pretty diverse but there are lots of Victorian style houses. The Painted Ladies are across from Alamo Square – there are six but two are under restoration.

The painted ladies.

The painted ladies.

Narrow gaps between houses.

Narrow gaps between houses.

Live Free or Die

 united states  Comments Off on Live Free or Die
Oct 072012

Leaving the Cape we headed north, along with half the population of New England. It was Columbus Day long weekend and the good folks of America were heading to the mountains for a spot of leaf peeping. White Mountain is toward the north of the ultra-conservative state, New Hampshire. Here the folks take their ‘Live free or die’ motto quite literally, you don’t have to wear a seatbelt or a motorcycle helmet…

Anyhow back to the leaves. We stayed at Campton, West Campton in fact – I think there are just two addresses in West Campton. The Kancamagus Highway spans the White Mountain National Forest and is a most beautiful drive especially in the Fall. There are many places and walks to stop at along the way – if you can get a parking space!

You can peep at more photos here.


 united states  Comments Off on Harvard
Oct 032012

Harvard University, in Cambridge just west of Boston, is the oldest in the US, established in 1636. We joined a tour led by one of the students who gave us some insight into the history of Havard.

It was an enjoyable tour, we learnt much trivia (or campus legends?) including which famous graduates (past presidents, Tommy Lee Jones, Portman) or non-graduates (Damon, Zuckerberg) stayed in which dorms. Did you know the John Harvard (the University’s first benefactor) statue is not actually a likeness of him but rather of a 19th-century student?

Some more photos from Boston are here.

 Posted by at 4:28 pm

The Freedom Trail

 united states  Comments Off on The Freedom Trail
Oct 022012

The Freedom Trail in Boston is a walking trail that links 16 various historical landmarks and sights.
After a late start we caught the subway then a ferry to our first stop, the USS Constitution, built in Boston in 1797 and still in commission!

The Bunker Hill Monument commemorates the Battle of Bunker Hill, where in 1775 the American colonists faced the British (and lost).

After lunch at Figs, the rain started to fall lightly as we continued the trail through North End. The Burying grounds along the trail dated back to 1660 and are the final resting place of many of the patriots involved with the revolution.

 Posted by at 3:55 pm
Jul 092010

Just home from a quick escape to South Australia. After hiring a car in Adelaide we spent a few days in two of the best wine regions, Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. Good food was also on the agenda and we ate our fair share at 1918, Maggie Beer’s, the Barossa Farmers Markets and Magill’s Restaurant. Our B&B in Tanunda, Blickinstal, was excellent.

Our best cellar door experience was at Smallfry where Wayne sat down with us for about an hour and ran through the wines as well as his experiences as a winemaker. We also visited, but did not taste at, Jacob’s Creek (just to check out the massive visitor’s centre), Hugh Hamilton (quite busy) and Alpha Box & Dice (closed for renovations).

View Barossa 2010 in a larger map

Two Hands cellar door – brand new and very up-market with wine prices to match. Definately some great Shiraz but better value can be found elsewhere.

Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop stocks her full range of foodstuffs. We grabbed a picnic lunch by the dam before watching a quick cooking demonstration featuring (yes, you guessed it) verjuice. The demonstration was in the kitchen used in filming the television show, The Cook and The Chef.

Some sheep.


 new zealand  Comments Off on Nelson
Mar 052010

It was decided to spend our final day in Nelson.  First though we stopped in at Lake Rotoiti to visit the giant eels under the jetty.  It was looking quite eerie this morning.

Nelson is about 90 minutes drive north of Tophouse.  As the sunniest place in New Zealand, today it did not disappoint.  After walking through the parks, by the ocean and around the town, we both decided it would be a very liveable city.

On the northern outskirts of Nelson is the Founders organic brewery.  It is located in a historic park that employs an old lady determined to take your park entrance fee even if you just want to go and buy some beer.  Fortunately it was almost 3pm on Friday and time for the market and the gates to open wide to all.

And it wouldn’t be New Zealand without a flock of sheep and some fresh fush’n’chups to finish off the day.

New Zealand 2010 – trip map, photo gallery.

Mt Robert Circuit

 new zealand  Comments Off on Mt Robert Circuit
Mar 042010

We chose to stay near St Arnaud because it is situated next to the magnificant Nelson Lakes National Park.  We set off this morning on a walk up the northern face of Mt Robert with spectacular views of Lake Rotoiti.  The track was quite steep and narrow and the mountain face clear of trees (previous fires and grazing) which was great for the views, but not so great for erosion.

On the way up we walked through some beech forest which then gave way to alpine flowers and grasses living in the harsh exposed conditions atop the mountain.

It was a great walk on a perfect day which took just over four hours to complete.  After lunch, we had a closer look at the clear waters of Lake Rotoiti.

Marlborough wine

 new zealand  Comments Off on Marlborough wine
Mar 032010

Once back in Picton we procured a hire car that would eventually take us back to Christchurch.  First though, we had three nights in (near) St Arnaud, only a 90-minute drive west through the grapes from Picton.

Just outside of Picton is Johanneshof Cellars.  They only have a small planting of Pinot Noir, but have developed a reputation for making excellent Gewurztraminers from local grapes.

We then made our way back through Blenheim and stopped at only a couple more of the many wineries there.

Tonight we stayed at the haunted Tophouse, where we were relieved to learn the murder-suicide that took place in 1894 and the story of the resident ghost were unrelated.

Mar 012010

One of the many reasons we came to the Sounds was to walk part of the Queen Charlotte Track.  We’ve both been to New Zealand a few times (skiing, bike riding) but never really to tramp.  You could probably argue easily that we still haven’t done any serious tramping but it was good to get in a couple of day walks and check out the tracks and scenery.

The Queen Charlotte Track is a reasonably easy walk and runs mostly along the ridge between Kenepuru and Queen Charlotte Sounds for 71km.  We chose to walk from Craglee to Camp Bay which took us about five hours.  After quite a steep ascent for an hour, we joined the official track and began to enjoy views of both the Sounds.

For lunch we deviated off the track a little to Eatwells Lookout where we enjoyed a great sandwich and almost 360-degree views of the Sounds.

We finally descended through the ferns to Camp Bay where we caught the boat at Punga Cove Resort back to Craglee.

Topped off a great day with a bath under the stars and a little proposal…

To the Sound of Picton

 new zealand  Comments Off on To the Sound of Picton
Feb 282010

After another big breakfast at The Cornerstone, we walked to the Blenheim train station to catch the TranzCoastal once again but this time only for a short trip to Picton.  At the station we learnt of the earthquake in Chile; the subsequent tsunami warning had meant the coast-hugging train was delayed by two hours leaving Christchurch.  We couldn’t wait as we had a boat to catch so luckily there was also buses going to Picton and we jumped on.

After a quick look around Picton we boarded the Mail Run boat to take us to our accommodation in Bay of Many Coves.  Being a Sunday there was no mail to deliver to the local residents so the boat trip turned into a bit of a scenic tour of Queen Charlotte Sound.  First stop was Motuara Island, a bird sanctuary, where we were able to walk around and without much trouble at all see and hear lots and lots of birds.

Next stop was the pristine Ship Cove where Captain Cook landed a few times.

The boat is also used by walkers to get between various sections of the Queen Charlotte Track.  We made about three stops in Endeavour Inlet, dropping off and picking people up before making our way into Bay of Many Coves and our accommodation for three nights at Craglee.  We were greeted by Rosie, a cold drink and some delicious home-smoked salmon.