Tag Archives: travel

It Begins

He planned his next move in the same meticulous way he had always done.

Several years ago they had taken out insurance naming each other as the beneficiary.  The insurance company had paid his claim after a few months while they waited for the police to declare that he wasn’t a suspect in the murder.  The lump sum they paid was still sitting in his bank account. He thought his decision not to draw on the money to buy a fancy car or another luxury item so as not to draw any attention to himself was the right one.

Apart from the two weeks following his wife’s death, he had taken no time off from the office and so had plenty of holidays owing to him. He decided he would take some time and go on his first trip.  If travel really suited him and he found the faraway places to his liking, he would then resign his job and travel.  He had the insurance money and a fairly large savings account that they had set up for their retirement, so money was not going to be a problem.

Because his wife had had no desire to travel outside the country, he was not an experienced traveller.  So one day on his lunch hour, he visited a travel agent to get some help.  It was decided that a photo safari in Africa would be the way to start his world travels.  Here he would see those large animals that ranged the wide open spaces that he’d always longed to see.  After a few days considering which tour to take he made his choice.

He had played with photography in the past, mostly taking photos of his garden and on the rare occasions, they left home, taking photos of the places they visited.  He was in luck – the local photo club was meeting each week and new members were welcome.  He knew that he could learn much from them in the few weeks before he set off.

But he also knew that the others on the tour would have high-end cameras and so his next move was to a camera shop where he paid (in his mind at least) an inordinate amount for a camera.  He was assured by the helpful assistant that it was “user-friendly” and if he had any problems she “would be very happy to help him.”  This with a somewhat flirtatious smile.

Next stop, new luggage, suitcase and backpack.  Then off to a menswear shop in whose windows he had often peered but into which he had never ventured.  But he left with all the clothes he would need for the safari.

He would need a passport.  This was easily arranged and he paid extra for it to be available urgently and for it to be delivered by courier.

There were no children from the marriage and no close family and so he told his friends and work colleagues that he was going away for a while to be on his own and get over the loss of his wife.  He had an alarm system installed in the house, gave a spare set of keys to his neighbour and eventually, he was ready to set off.

All that remained was the short wait for tickets and vouchers for the tour and for the passport to arrive.

He spent the few days before he left imagining the wild animals he would see, roaming around and living in their own habitat, rather than in a zoo.

To be continued….

Related posts       Faraway Places

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A Day in the Country

IMG_5565

Town meets country

Several months ago there was a rash of comment in the media about Biddy a cheesemaker who produced farmhouse cheeses in what was considered to be not the correct environment.  In fact, MPI (the Ministry of Primary Industries) threatened to close her down.  She is only one of three farmhouse cheesemakers in New Zealand and with the help of friends, customers and cheese lovers, they all fought back and now with many restrictions they are all back in business with many added regulations that impose a financial burden on these small artisans.

Anyway, while visiting a friend who owns and runs a small lifestyle block, 4.48 hectares on which she raises cows and sheep and has a magnificent vegetable garden, we watched a TV programme on Biddy the Cheesemaker and there and then decided to visit her.

Well, eventually this week, we made the journey.  A bright sunny winter’s day saw us leave reasonably early (9 am) to travel the 120 kms to Cwmglyn, Biddy’s farm.

Well, we started with coffee and shopping in Greytown a delightful small town in the Wairarapa full of delightful shops – antiques, coffee, and many clothes retailers but no large retail outlets.  What a joy.

So, after perusing the shops and each making a purchase, and enjoying lunch we set off to the wide blue yonder – Eketahuna.

eketahuna a

It really is a long way from civilisation as I know it.  Fields, followed by fields, followed by fields.

eketahuna2

After twisting and turning through the countryside we came across a sign for CWMGLYN, the farm.  As we had prearranged our visit for 2 pm, we arrived on time and after wandering around the farm for a bit found our hosts.  Biddy and her husband Colin initially meant to grow trees on their small block but when Biddy was given a cow several years ago, she decided to milk her and the whole cheesemaking story was begun.

She has only four cows and the one in the photo with this townie is called Nellie.  Nellie decided that I was a friend and she was particularly interested in my iPad.

All cheese produced is named for the cow from whom the milk came and we tasted Nellie’s cheese.  Delicious.

middleton-model-railway

We then went on to look at the husband’s joy – The Middleton Model Railway.  Apparently, ths is one of the largest model railways in the country, and what a joy it was.  We spent some time making the trains go but as Colin was otherwise engaged at the time, we didn’t see all of the clever things he can do with his ‘toys’.

So after saying goodbye to Nellie and her friends, and buying some farmhouse cheese we made the way back home.  For me, it was a totally different day and one I enjoyed tremendously.  We are now going to see if there are any other artisan businesses we can visit.

A Year In The Life of …

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
― Mary Oliver

Well once again I have fallen badly behind.  My excuse?  We have had a very busy time this year and are only now finding time to do the things we enjoy – and I certainly enjoy writing my blog.

The year started with a hiss and a roar and I related much of it in a post in April.

Then it was off to Europe for three months.  What a lot of fun that was.  We have friends in Como and made this our base for our travels.  Coming back to Como to welcoming friends (and a washing machine) was great.  These people have been my partner and his family’s friends for years and so it was with some trepidation that I agreed to go to Como.  And I am so glad that I did.  They welcomed me with open arms and within a few days I felt one of the family. We enjoyed our time with these people and their family.  Three little grandsons were around almost every day and Claudio aged 3 was teaching me English.  His constant plea was ‘Storia Judith”  Well of course it was a picture book but as I know little or no Italian and he knows no English,  story reading time was hilarious.  He kept correcting me and I don’t know how many times he told me “pompiere” was the word for fireman.  “No no” he would say and fall about laughing at my pronunciation.  What a joy he was.

We had lunch with friends of our host and hostess at a lovely villa on the hills above Lake Como.  A dazzlingly beautiful day, great fun although much of the conversation went over our heads.

Venice (of course) beckoned as did Tuscany, Spain, France and the UK.  Three months is a long time to be away but hardly enough time to do all the things we wanted to do.  A visit to Germany to meet our friend’s mother who is 93 years old.  A pleasant day indeed.

In Switzerland we had lunch with our hosts’ son who lives in Como and works in Lugano.

We spent a couple of weeks in Spain with our hosts and then went on to Barcelona for 9 days on our own.

Tuscany of course, was a delight.  We stayed in a lovely converted farmhouse five minutes from San Gimignano for almost a week discovering and rediscovering the countryside and lovely towns and villages.  Florence called again and this time we found ourselves in a 15th Century converted farmhouse owned by a delightful young couple and only a ten minute bus ride from Florence.  I have said before that Fiesole is one of my most favourite places in this wonderful world.  I waxed lyrical (?) about Fiesole when I stayed in Florence last year.

And this year we visited my favourite spots in Florence having somebody to share these things with at last.

We came home after our trip to Europe with the prospect of moving house looming.  We were still in the brother-in-law’s house but after a few days back here I organised the removal company to deliver the furniture.  What a huge job unpacking all that was.  Forty six years of living in one house had my partner moving boxes and boxes and boxes of belongings.  My furniture and effects?  They were and are, still in storage.  Note to self –  make a decision about this..soon.

But now after three months we are totally settled into our new abode.  My stuff is still in storage and by the way, talking of storage, the arsonist who set fire to the storage facility at the beginning of April has been charged and is currently being tried.  Would you believe he has pleaded Not Guilty even though there is CCTV coverage of him entering the facility complete with petrol can.  Well let’s see the outcome of this trial – what a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“You can have the other words-
chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity.
I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly,
but I’ll take it. ”

― Mary Oliver

Note Mary Oliver has long been one of my idols.  So today we have two of her quotes and the one at the beginning of this post is my all time favourite.


							

Writing 101: Your Voice Will Find You

This is the assignment I have been putting off because I really don’t know what I am being asked to do.  The assignment from October 2 is:

Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force.

How does that make you feel?

Today’s twist: While writing this post, focus again on your own voice. Pay attention to your word choice, tone, and rhythm. Read each sentence aloud multiple times, making edits as you read through. Before you hit “Publish,” read your entire piece out loud to ensure it sounds like you.

The plaque at the entrance to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum

The plaque at the entrance to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice

For several months I didn’t write a post.  As John Lennon said “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”  But what exciting and fun filled months they were.

I did pen a post when I was in Italy. We had been to Venice and were looking forward to going to Spain with our Italian friends who live in Como.  We started in Madrid and just happened to be there when the two local soccer teams played each other in the  football Champions League semi final.  Real Madrid won but we were assured by almost everyone we met that the other team Atletico de Madrid was the better team and should have won. Anyway, the excitement was felt by all even those of us who are not soccer fanatics.  I made the mistake of buying a Real Madrid scarf when our guide took us to see the stadium – my son quickly put me right on that score;  but my soccer mad grandson graciously accepted the scarf on our return to NZ.

Then the next day we went to Toledo a fantastic town built on several levels and dating back to Roman times.  We saw mosques, churches and synagogues and were told that the three cultures lived peaceably side by side for many centuries.  We wondered aloud what has happened to our world to make this impossible today.  Are we all too caught up in ourselves to consider the next person?  Is it possible to return to those more peaceful times or is it too late?

We went to the Prado museum and saw a wonderful display of modern and ancient art.  Here we saw the Hieronymus Bosch “The Garden of Earthly Delights” – truly amazing.  This is a tryptich with so much in it that I stood transfixed until my companions called to move me on to the other fantastic paintings housed in the   I hadn’t heard of Hieronymus Bosch until I started reading the books by Michael Connelly with Harry Bosch as his protagonist.  Good reads by the way.

We saw many other paintings including Diego Velázquez’ ‘ “The Family” that I had seen shown in books but here was the original.  Obviously, it was so much better than any reproduction I had seen.  I now have a mouse pad at the side of the computer showing The Family.

After lunch we went to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum which is very close to the Prado..  More art. We were told that this was the collection of the Baron’s wife.  With over 1,600 paintings the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection was once the second largest private collection in the world after the British Royal Collection.  Here was a dazzling display of Old Masters, 14th and 15th centuries Italian, Flemish and Dutch painters, and among other things  a collection of North American art from the 18th and 19th centuries.  This last we were told is unique in European Art Galleries.

We spent several hours there and I could have stayed all day.  I wanted to return but we had only a few days in Madrid. We really enjoyed our time in Madrid.

 The next stop was Seville. We took a boat ride on the river on a lovely spring evening and oohed at the sights. One afternoon we  spent several hours  wandering around the old part of the city, getting lost and found again.  We came across an old market where all sorts of fresh food was on sale and we stopped for coffee and chocolate cake at a very small bar inside the market.  The owner came and insisted that my partner try a Spanish wine from a local winery and I had to try Manzanilla (?).  Very pleasant half hour was spent there talking with the owner and his son.

We went to Cordoba and again marvelled at a town that had been in existence since pre-Roman times.  And again we saw how the three cultures managed to live side by side in peace and harmony.

Then Granada which has to be my favourite of the cities we had visited in Spain.  Of course we had to visit the Alhambra – a 3 hour walking trip that wasn’t nearly long enough to see everything.  We managed to get left behind the group as my companion was busy doing what he does on holiday, taking pictures.  Never mind we managed to connect with the bus before it took off for the city again.

And then when our friends had to go home, we left for Barcelona.  But this has to have a post to itself.  The buildings, the food, the people all were exceptional.

Italy Calling

Como 1

We are still with our friends in Como and having a really good vacation.

May 1 is a Public Holiday in Italy – Labour Day.  The day dawned bright and clear and it was decided that we would go to the Cernobbio on the lake for coffee and a little look around.

station at Chernobbi

This is a beautiful small place and as we know George Clooney spends much of his time here.  No, we didn’t see him.  We are told that the locals do not make any special fuss for him.  Fortunately we were with our hosts who knew just what would happen at the lake on such a lovely day – crowds of people flocking there on a mid week holiday.  So we went early in the day, found a car park and a lovely outdoor cafe for coffee.  Our hosts refer to 10.30 am as cappuccino time.

Market at Chernobbi

Open air market for May Day

We then walked around this lovely small town in the sunshine, people watching and more particularly for my architect partner, building watching.  He is an avid photographer and took many photos.

Shop keeper just opening for the day

Shop keeper just opening for the day

Street in Chernobbi

A very narrow street

We left before the town became really busy and had a leisurely drive back home for lunch and a leisurely afternoon complete with siesta.

A very wet day and a very bad head cold kept us housebound for the next day except for the necessary visit to the supermercado.

On Saturday we were invited to dinner with friends.  As they live a short distance away around the lake it was decided to leave early and visit Bellagio on the way to Erba.

Narrow road

But as we know ‘The best laid plans…”  We rounded a bend to be confronted by

cars at crash scene

A walk around the next very narrow bend showed us the reason for this long line of cars

car crash 03:05

This is such a narrow road that all traffic in both directions was at a standstill.  We waited (im)patiently for the police and ambulance to arrive

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and after having conversations with various other travelers, we decided to reverse (with difficulty) and take the alternate road high above the lake.  This is not a drive for the faint hearted.  The road drops many metres down to the lake on one side and is two way all the way.

We eventually arrived at our friends house and were all very grateful for the drink that was handed to us as we arrived.

Friendship isn’t a big thing
— it’s a million little things.
Anon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home Again

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver, 1935 –

Well now a change in lifestyle for me.

I arrived home safely from my European adventure.  And what an adventure that was.  After almost 11 weeks I was happy to be back home and ready to begin the next phase in this life.

I have lived alone for 15 years since my Dashing Young Scotsman died and thought I would spend the rest of my life so.  I was happy with my family, friends and little dog and then into this settled life came another Dashing but older man, to take me to pastures new.  He has a passion for music, for travel and as an architect, for beautiful buildings.   Of course, we plan to go back to Florence together in the New Year.

So lots of pluses to this new life.  But there are some major changes to get used to when living daily with another.  For so many years I made decisions, appointments and plans with no thought for another.  Now there are two of us to consider.  I think when living alone one does become rather selfish and so it’s very good to have to stop and think before I say “Yes” to an invitation.  The other person must be considered too.  I am learning here.

We are very involved in selling this current house (see the garden view into the beech forest as the header to the blog) and building another house.  Daily I am involved in decisions on the new house and it’s very exciting.

And I am so excited.  My sister in London has agreed to come for a visit in the New Year.  None of my family has ever been here so I shall enjoy showing her this beautiful country and introducing her to my friends and my special friend when she gets here.

So much to look forward to and so much to be grateful for.  Each day I note all the things for which I am grateful my health, my lifestyle, my friends, my family.

I have been absent from the blogosphere for a few weeks while I become adjusted to this new way of life, but now I am back.  I hope/expect to have more adventures in the future (and at present) that I should like to share with you.

I have been re-reading Mary Oliver recently and so I have another favourite quote to share with you

“….there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.”

Rainbow

My rainbow

 

Florence Day 9

Workmen have left

I awoke this morning to the sounds of silence from the street.  The workmen have gone.  All that remains are the barricades to stop people driving on the newly laid tarmacadam.

So after the call from NZ and shower I was ready to begin another day in this most fabulous city.  After my usual breakfast I took the bus into town, but again I had jumped on the wrong bus.  I realised this shortly after I got on but with my new-found confidence, I got off  and found my way to connect to the correct bus.

A different bus stop

View from the new bus stop

For several days now I have been going to the Ponte Vecchio but each day I have become waylaid by all the wonders around me.  Today was to be the day, but first I wandered around the streets again

More door knobs

More door knobs

Entrance bells

Entrance bells

Peep of anither spire

Peep of another spire

More door knockers

More door knockers

until I found a little restaurant/bar in which to have lunch.

Spag bol Italian style!

Spag bol Italian style!

Then I decided to get real so I took a cab to the Ponte Vecchio.  The bridge is fascinating and was more crowded than any piazza in which I had already been in Florence.

River Arno from Ponte Vecchio

River Arno from Ponte Vecchio

Mask in shop window

Mask in shop window

A Display of masks inside the shop

A Display of masks inside the shop

Shops full of the real thing - bling

Shops on the bridge sell only gold and fine jewellery. The real bling

Houses along the River ArnoHouses along the River Arno

Houses on the Arno

More houses on the river bank

River Arno rom Ponte Vechio

River Arno from Ponte Vecchio

Vehicles drive through this arch

Vehicles drive through this arch

Plaque  on hotel wall

Plaque on hotel wall

Plaque

Plaque depicting Virgin and child

Side street at Ponte Vecchio

Interesting – side street leading where?

Busy crossing

Busy crossing

So many sights, so many people, so much activity, it is almost overwhelming.  But around every corner there is yet another wonder to behold.
As Mark Twain said
“The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo.”

And just for fun, this is how I feel after another busy day being a tourist in Florence

Tired panda

Sightseeing is so very tiring!

 

The Adventure Begins

London skyline

Well I have now been in London for 14 days.  I arrived after two very long flights from New Zealand exacerbated by a mix up in bookings. But the frustration was quickly forgotten when I eventually arrived at my sister’s house.

Since then the time has been spent mostly in catching up on each others news and meeting family.  And I am part of a very large family.  Father was one of 13 and each of the siblings had a couple of children, with the exception of one sister and one brother who had none.  So while there are only two surviving siblings of Father’s there are plenty of cousins.  And my sister has three children and six grandchildren so life has been rather busy.

One highlight was a visit to a retirement home where one of the surviving sisters lives.  She is suffering a form of dementia.  She was perfectly lucid for most of the time we were there but then she couldn’t remember any of us, not even her son,his wife and their two little girls.  How very sad.  She also became very tearful when she was told that her brothers had died.  Very sad and scary because she is only 8 years older than I am.

NZ House

via Wikipedia

Today we have been to NZ House to have a copy of my passport certified.  Somehow I have mislaid my driver’s licence so I had to apply for a replacement.  Have you traveled on the public transport in London?  One bus ride, three tube trains and one hour and forty-five minutes later we arrived at the Haymarket and NZ House.  I had quite forgotten how big, noisy and crowded London is.  It is a shock to a “colonial” even a “colonial” who was born and brought up in London.

And how strange it is that when I am in NZ I call England “home” and when I am here I call NZ “home”  Today I felt quite at home in New Zealand House.

You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.
Maya Angelou, American author and poet
1928 – **

And London has of course changed since I was last here.  The changes to the East End are amazing –  this is because the Olympics were mainly staged in this area last year.  More on these changes shortly.

 ** Thanks to Nancy for pointing out that this originally read 1982.

Time To Move On

I have been absent from the blogosphere for several weeks recently and I apologise to my faithful followers for this.

The reasons have been many but at the top of the list is a decision I have made.  I have decided to sell my house and then take several months to travel around Europe, and France in particular.

Why now one may ask – well  I have always had “itchy feet”.  This was pandered to by my husband and his moving around the world during the busy years making a name for himself and a life for us.  When he died I spent several years between New Zealand and England where I had been born and raised; eventually deciding to settle down again here in NZ.  But here on the other side of the world we are so far away from everything and I am feeling that if I don’t do something about this restlessness now I never shall.

Then a few weeks ago I read a post from Kathryn McCulloch about major changes she and her  partner Sara have made.  Apart from selling their house and getting married in New York, they have embarked on a new life in Ecuador.  How very brave is that!  This of course, set me thinking.  Oh sure, they are younger than me and there are two of them, but so what.

So I determined to have an adventure of my own.  I do have two special sisters, one in Los Angeles and one in London and of course, any odyssey will have to start with them.  Added to that my sister in London has agreed to come to France if only for a few days while we/I decide where to spend the next few months.  Isn’t that exciting.  And I have a very good friend in Paris that I have been threatening to visit so Kay watch this space.

And yesterday, to add icing to this cake, I heard that another blogging buddy, Joss at Crowing Crone  has put her house on the market and plans to travel to France in September.  So I shall have the opportunity to meet with her and her husband IN REAL LIFE!  The excitement continues to mount.

Living roomThe house is on the market and the marketing has commenced.  It will be tendered over two weeks with the first Open Home on Sunday.  And if the other properties my Real Estate friend has sold over the past couple of months is anything to go by, it should sell easily.

Oh and if you are wondering about the Beautiful Miss Bella – I have a very good friend who will adopt her for the time I am away.  I fear though that I might not get her back.

So Europe here I come.  I will attempt to be in the blogosphere more often now that the decision has been made.

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel’s sake.
The great affair is to move. ”
Robert Louis Stevenson
,  Scottish novelist, poet,
essayist and travel writer. 1850 – 1894

and

Butterflies

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to .. Antibes

 

As I said yesterday, it was a bright sunny morning and we set off to the South of France, the Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera.

At that time, oh so many years ago, there were no GPS systems.  We had to rely on books of maps.  And few motorways, so driving was necessarily more leisurely than it is today.  Added to the fact that we were in an elderly Land Rover.  We did discuss the possibility of driving to Antibes but that was some 500 plus miles away; the sun was shining so we decided that were in no hurry.

We found a lovely place to eat our bread and cheese the local staple lunch time diet, beside a river.  Very peaceful and sleep inducing.  After a quick nap we were off again.  After a further 3 hours driving we decided it was time to find somewhere to stop for the night.  Having spent the last two nights in the caravan we thought we would treat ourselves to a night of comfort, warm bath and soft bed.  We found the perfect place.    A small hotel in a little village (sorry after all this time I just can’t remember its name) where we could get a bed for the night and breakfast the next morning.  We were directed to a secure parking area for the Land Rover and caravan  – secure parking included in the charge for the night –  and also to a restaurant for dinner.  We spent a lovely evening just the two of us speaking only to each other and to the waiting staff as we were the only diners.

Then back to the hotel for that promised bath and comfortable bed.  It was here that I first discovered the joys of the feather filled duvet common in France.  Oh the joy of that discovery.  We settled into bed only to be rudely awakened some time later by loud crying, wailing would be a better word to describe it.  The awful outpouring of grief went on for the rest of the night and so our hoped for night of peace was not to be.

When we went to breakfast in the morning – typically French with croissants, whipped butter, jam and large cups of coffee – we found out why the commotion in the night and what had disturbed us.  A woman had been travelling to Paris with her husband and children when they were hit head on by another car.  Her husband and son were killed outright while she and her daughter were both badly shaken up.  Hence the wailing.  A note here that today they would all have been wearing seat belts and perhaps might have been saved.

We paid our bill, packed up and left in a very subdued mood.  While we were enjoying out dinner the night before, total tragedy had befallen this other family.  We took time to find a public phone to call London and check on our family.

So next stop Antibes – and yes, that was yet  another experience/adventure

“Never drive faster than your guardian angel
can fly.”
Anonymous