My day generally starts with a morning walk along the beach or the hillsides looking down at the coast not far from where I live. Up until a few months ago my beautiful cavoodle dog Cleo was my companion on these walks but sadly she has now passed away. Weekend walks were often a little more adventurous - having the time to explore new places and have my husband come along. One walk we had planned to do for sometime was the Paekakariki Escarpment track walk - a new 10km track which opened last year. Dogs are not permitted on this track so as we no longer had our lovely Cleo there were no excuses for us not to do it. So two weekends ago on a cloudy Sunday morning we drove to Paekakariki, parked our car not far from the train station and started this highly recommended walk.
You can begin the walk at either Paekakariki train station or Pukerua train station. We decided to start at Paekakariki which meant we would finish up at Pukerua Bay Station, catch the train back to our car at Paekakariki and possibly reward ourselves with coffee and a treat at one of their cafes.
The walk starts of gently before you wind your way up 220m above sea level on fairly narrow tracks and steep stairways with awesome views across to Kapiti Island, down to State Highway 1 and the railway tracks. The estimated time given to do this 10km walk is 3 1/2 hours but for most it only takes 2 1/2 hours. We did the walk in exactly 2 1/2 hours from station to station.
I had been warned during the summer months the track was often congested and with it's narrow tracks and steep steps overhanging the road and ocean below it can feel quite intimidating passing other walkers. Fortunately the track wasn't too busy the day we chose but there were still occasions where we had to tuck ourselves into the cliff sides to let people pass or manoeuvre ourselves carefully past other walkers on stairways.
As well as the amazing views, one of my highlights were the 2 swing bridges - but like some of the steep stairways these are not for the faint hearted. Fortunately I enjoyed them and the wicked side in me even enjoyed rocking the bridges to intimidate my poor husband who wasn't too excited about heights.
As the views of Pukerua Bay come into sight you can be forgiven for thinking you are near the end but don't get too excited you probably still have several more km's to walk.
As you reach your end destination you have a real feeling of achievement - you conquered those heights, you witnessed amazing rugged coastal views and you can now, without guilt catch a train back to your car and if like me love a good coffee and cafe, indulge in some tasty food.
Get Wonderfully Lost in the Historic Centre of Guanajuato City, Mexico
I had such high expectations for this thoughtfully chosen destination. I searched reviews, looked at photos and had trustworthy recommendations. Why then the doubts? My pre arrival journey to a destination is often filled with fears and disappointment. I anxiously look for the visuals I ingrain before departure, and demand to be delighted on first sight. The taxi journey from Leon Airport to the historic centre of Guanajuato City was no exception. I was seeking out hillsides with colourful facades, cobbled streets and plazas - to no avail. On entering the first tunnel with it’s decorative entrance I had hope, and as we continued down the winding streets and through another tunnel, and then another, I knew my doubts were unfounded. On arrival outside our hotel I felt sure I would love this city, on entering our hotel room and opening the balcony shutters, I was in love.
Founded in 1559, Guanajuato is the Capital of Guanajuato state in Central Mexico. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, once a wealthy silver mining town and referred to as the most beautiful city in Mexico. Standing on that balcony with its breathtaking view, I could truly see why. Our hotel room faced directly onto the cobblestoned Plaza de Paz, with outdoor restaurants, food vendors, a picturesque fountain, and the most incredible view of San Miguel Hill with it’s statue and those brightly coloured dwellings I had been searching for. The 17th century Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato completed the view and left me feeling overwhelmed with excitement and ready to explore.
“Put down your map and get wonderfully lost”. One of my favourite sayings - partly because of my total incompetence at reading maps and secondly, I believe the best places are often found by accident. Guanajuato with it’s unique network of underground tunnels, narrow streets and alleyways that wind up and down the hillside is the perfect city to explore on foot and indulge in just that - getting wonderfully lost.
Guanajuato has a relaxed feeling. Wandering around you’ll experience locals chatting on roadsides in their native Spanish, sitting aimlessly on park benches, or couples young and old unashamedly showing affection. I couldn’t help feeling envious that in this busy and stressful world we live, these people have it sussed. Every corner you turn there are delights – a man walking his donkey, Mariachi bands, men pushing trolleys piled high with local beers, street vendors selling chargrilled corncobs, Frida Kahlo printed on t-shirts and bags, churches, markets, cantinas, plazas with outdoor restaurants, and the best bakery ever.
I will forever remember our walks up San Miguel Hill. At the top of this hill is a 28-meter tall statue of independence hero El Pipila, and the most mesmerizing jigsaw puzzle like view over the historical centre. If you find walking difficult there is a funicular to take you up, but we enjoyed making it our daily or twice daily exercise - at sunrise and sunset - enjoying the many fine examples of neo classical and baroque style colonial architecture on the way. The Teatro Juarez with its beautiful entrance straight from ancient Rome, the Universidad de Guanajuato dating back to 1732. The universities students bring a young vibe to this historic centre and a reminder that you have in fact, not stepped back in time. Guanajuato also has an impressive range of museums – Museo Casa Diego Rivera, Museo del Pueblo de Guanajuato and probably the most famous - Museo de las Momias.
You could believe you are in Italy, Greece or Spain - Guanajuato resembles all those places to me, but as we sat in Plaza de Paz, watching the full moon rise over the hill, drinking a margarita with a bowl of guacamole, followed by the most delicious authentic tacos, we knew it was Mexico - 1/2 the distance, 1/2 the price & 1/4 the tourists!! – and we loved it.
Enjoying the Gastro, Arty & Scenic Delights of New Plymouth
Having the option to fly to any destination in New Zealand for a birthday weekend away with my husband, the indecisive Libran woman I am could not have been happier with her final choice - New Plymouth.
New Plymouth is the major city of the Taranaki Region, on the West Coast of the North Island. It is named after Plymouth, in Devon, England and where the first English settlers migrated to in New Zealand. My own ancestors sailed the long voyage on the William Bryan, leaving Plymouth on the 19th November 1840 and finally arriving in New Plymouth on March 30 1841. Having visited New Plymouth as a child, to see where my great, great grandparents originated from, and then 10 years ago with my own children - I was delighted to see changes and how far this city has come.
The three most important things to me besides my family are coastal scenery, food & art - I certainly hit the jackpot with this visit to New Plymouth. The most noticeable change has to be the food & art scene. New Plymouth has become a gastro & artists delight - watch out Wellington!!!
Arriving too early to check in to our lovely airbnb accommodation - Autere St Cottage, meant we had time to find a cafe for breakfast. We were not disappointed with our first cafe of choice - The Federal Store - great food & coffee and in a very cool environment.
Much to my pleasure the rest of our time away followed suit as we indulged in a gastronomic weekend - discovering New Plymouth's abundance of great cafes, bars and restaurants. Our weekend took us to dinner at the quirky and amazing Social Kitchen, brunches - at Monica's and Chaos, a casual dinner at a Southern Indian Restaurant called Kathakali, and great coffees at Ozone Coffee Roasters, pre dinner drinks at Frederics Bar - I recommend them all.
One thing that will never change and another reason I chose New Plymouth is it's spectacular coastal & mountain scenery. Mt Taranaki/Egmont on a clear day delights you by appearing majestically above the sky and can be viewed from various vantage points in and outside of the city. Being disappointed on my birthday visit that the mountain was covered in cloud, I was delighted to be presented with the perfect quintessential view of the mountain just before our departure. New Plymouth is a surfers paradise and has long stretches of stoney, rugged but never the less beautiful beaches and the 10 km Coastal Walkway has to be the most enjoyable way of exploring them.
The new Len Lye Centre was another drawcard for choosing New Plymouth so on our second morning after enjoying brunch next door at Monica's, we took in the amazing visuals of the Govett-Brewster/Len Lye Centre's architectural structure from the outside and then inside to enjoy Len Lye's kinetic art and film. One of my highlights was seeing Len Lye's Eiki projector which he would have purchased from my late grandfather who was the importer of these reputable machines.
New Plymouth is home to many talented artists of different mediums but the art that stood out for me and was the amazing street art - not surprising as New Plymouth was originally home to the infamous BMD duo. Their bright and quirky works can be found down alleyways and more noticeable parts of the city.
Another recent addition is the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge. This amazing white bridge built in 2010 is reminiscent to a breaking wave or a whales skeleton and is 83m long, giving walking or cycling access across the Waiwhakaiho River. On a clear day you can get one of the best views of Mt Taranaki/Egmont through the structure of the bridge - unfortunately this wasn't to be on the day we visited but still a very impressive structure to view.
No visit to New Plymouth is complete without a visit to Pukekura Park with it's array of native and exotic plants, pretty lakes, red bridge and home of WOMAD. Other places of interest we enjoyed on our weekend away were the Puke Ariki Museum, Oakura Beach, popular with the surfies, Waitara Beach where we watched people fishing for whitebait and looked in disbelief at how much driftwood had been washed up on this wild beach. Further down the coast we sat on a beach straight from a Michael Smither painting - New Plymouth you've done my ancestors proud.
A passion for photography and a love of travel - Liz now enjoys combing the two.
Better Beach Babes