Most mornings I get up early and take a walk on the Miramar Peninsula - where I live in Wellington. I seldom let the weather deter me and I seldom leave home without my camera.
The Miramar Peninsula sits at the South Eastern edge of Wellington - the capital city of New Zealand. The famous Maori Explorer Kupe is credited as the first person to discover Aotearoa (New Zealand) and also the first person to land on what became the Miramar Peninsula. The Peninsula is now made up of a number of suburbs, each with its own unique character - Seatoun, Strathmore, Miramar, Maupuia, Breaker Bay, Moa Point, Worser Bay, Karaka Bay, Scorching Bay and Shelly Bay - home to around 20,000 people. It is an area of rugged coastlines, sheltered bays, bushwalks as well as being the centre of the Film Industry and with a diverse selection of cafe's and restaurants. The close proximity to Wellington International Airport adds to its appeal as a great location to live or visit.
I feel very fortunate to live in this scenic coastal paradise and not a day goes by that I don't enjoy or appreciate my surroundings. I have put together a slideshow of a selection of my photos so "you can see what I see" on my morning walk.
As winter sets in my thoughts are on warmer destinations - places been and new places to discover. Some of you will be yearning a Pacific Island but for me it’s a small beach town we visited in January on the Pacific Coast in Oaxaca, Mexico. I'm not one for returning to a destination as it’s a big wide world out there and so many new places to discover but for some reason Mazunte has a strong calling for me to return. Even it’s name conjures up magical thoughts, and that’s exactly what it is - Mazunte is actually one of Mexico's Pueblo Magico's (magical towns) and surprisingly it is relatively unknown. Hopefully it will always be that magic place - with it’s huge translucent waves, amazing sunsets, a place where turtles go to lay their eggs and whales come closer to shore than the cruise ships seen bypassing in the distance.
As a single in my 20’s I spent many years backpacking and discovering the world. Now as a mature adult with my grown children departing on their own life changing travels, it is time to stop reminiscing and enjoy our own adventures.
As soon as we arrived in Mazunte I knew I had arrived at that special place, where I could relive my carefree past without feeling saddened as I often do by the effects modern living i.e. overcrowding, polluted waterways and rubbish strewn streets. Mazunte seems to attract the traveller who cares for their environment and lovers of nature. Its hippy vibe ensures your days are spent stress free, embracing the crystal clear waters of this 1km stretch of pristine beach and enjoying all that this beautiful area in Mexico has to offer.
Mazunte is a hidden gem that leaves you feeling hopeful – that life may one day be simplistic and people will realize how important it is that places like Mazunte remain unscathed from today’s hectic lifestyle. I like to think that people will one day realize experiences are more important than possessions – a lesson myself is happy to learn and embrace.
I have put together a video clip using photos taken on our recent travels to this magic place - Mazunte.
On Wednesday 4 July 2018 a rare Southern Right Whale appeared in Wellington Harbour. He swam, frolicked and breached and entertained Wellingtonians for up to a week. He caused havoc to the traffic and parking around the bays and disrupted the ferry sailings on many of those days.
Matariki, you bought smiles and joy to so many people and even in bad weather you melted our hearts - unfortunately now it seems you've decided to part.
I have put together a short video using my photos as a reminder of that special day I got to enjoy Matariki playing to the crowds at Miramar Wharf. Matariki - hopefully we will meet again soon (possibly on a brighter day).
On a recent trip to visit our daughter living in Auckland she suggested we venture out of Auckland – great idea and thanks to this we discovered the lovely area of Matakana.
Matakana is 1-hour North of Auckland. This picturesque region is a foodie and artists haven, known for its weekend farmers market, art gallery’s, sculpture trails, spectacular beaches, vineyards and craft brewers - definitely my kind of place!!!
Leaving Auckland on a Friday at 4pm it took just over an hour to get to our accommodation - 3km south of Matakana village (definitely allow more time though in summer). Having booked a cottage through book-a-bach, we were delighted to find such a cozy and creatively decorated place, set on the owner’s 10-acre property. Arriving around dinnertime we ventured into town to find somewhere to eat. A quick walk around the township, a look at menus at the various eating establishments and we finally chose Matakana Market Kitchen – situated under Matakana’s cinema. Here we had a delicious meal – would definitely recommend. Then it was home to our cozy cottage to snuggle up by the woodburner fire and begin the first of the weekends scrabble and monopoly challenges
Our lovely book-a-bach accommodation - Old School Guest House
The weekend was spent discovering the joys of this area – the famous Matakana Markets on Saturday morning, a lovely brunch at Plume Café, a drive to discover a handful of the many glorious beaches – Omaha, Tawharanui Regional Park, Ti Point Wharf and Leigh. On the way back we stopped at the trendy Sawmill Brewery for some beer sampling and a tasty platter. The afternoon was well taken up with a visit and walk around the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail. The trail takes you through native bush and a huge selection of large crafted sculptures. Being a Saturday and the All-Blacks first test match against France we headed out that night to the Matakana Village Pub for dinner and positioned ourselves in front of one of the large TV screens (and yes we won)!!! then headed back to the cottage to continue our scrabble & monopoly challenges
Matakana Farmers Markets held on Saturday mornings.
The Matakana area is surrounded by beautiful beaches
The trendy Sawmill Brewery where we enjoyed craft beer tasting and a platter
A lovely afternoon spent doing the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail
On Sunday we were up bright and early to do a long walk (this time a day planned by our daughter). A 50-minute drive north took us to the start of the Mangawhai Cliffs walk – but not before stopping to have breakfast at the nearby Harvest Blue Café.
The Mangawhai Cliffs walk takes approximately 2 hours – first walking along the beach, then up hill amongst a forest of Nikau Palms and incredible views overlooking hills and down to the rugged coast - below and beyond. After making our way back down the hill we spent the last ¾ hour walking along very rocky but beautiful coastline. This walk has often been named the most beautiful coastal walk North of Auckland and I can certainly see why.
The Mangawhai Cliffs Walk
Some of the natural fauna found in the Matakana & Mangawhai Area
Sunday, our last night in Matakana, we headed out for a drink at the Vintry which is upstairs in Matakana’s funky cinema. Here we sipped our drinks by a cozy fire - only the thought of our own cozy fire and delicious platter made up from treats bought at the Matakana Markets the day before had us leaving to venture out into the cold night. A final night of scrabble and monopoly challenges and a couple of wins for me made it a great end to a truly enjoyable weekend.
When we received our invitation to attend our nieces wedding in Hahndorf (26km from Adelaide City) I was excited - firstly I had not been to a wedding in, many years and secondly I had not been to Adelaide in nearly 30 years, when I was travelling around the circumference of Australia in a campervan. Having very dulled memories of Adelaide apart from time spent in the nearby Barossa Valley, probably drinking copious glasses of wine, I was keen to rediscover this area. With only 4 days away we had to make a decision whether to spend it all in Hahndorf & get to know that area or break the days up and have a speedy stay in Adelaide - reluctantly we decided to take the risk and split our time and rediscover Adelaide City the best we could in this very short time frame.
Being Dazzled in Adelaide City - a city of contrasts - old & new.
After attending Tessa and Jack's lovely wedding in the small town of Hahndorf, we decided to hit the ground running in Adelaide City. Adelaide is the capital of South Australia (SA) is reknowned for it's parklands set around the River Torrens, it's beautiful old buildings, museums, it's numerous creative sculputres, great cafes and restaurants. Fortunately Adelaide is not unlike my hometown Wellington and is quite a small city and much to our delight we were able to tick of a large number of these sights.
No stay away for us foodies would be spent without having tried and researched the best places to eat. Luigi's Delicatessan on Flinders Street was our first choice for breakfast and it didn't disappoint. Breakfast was delicious.
Breakfast at Luigi's Delicatessan on Flinders Street, Adelaide City
Rundle Street and Rundle Street Mall appears to be the main street for shoppers, not being an avid shopper myself the highlight for me was discovering the life sized bronze sculptures of four pigs. These sculptures named 'A Day Out' by Marguerite Derricourt are depicted in lively poses as if they are walking the mall (one even has his head in a rubbish bin). These clever additions have made this mall a tourist destination and the lively place it is .
One of the Rundle Mall piggies - part of a set of four bronze pigs called 'A Day Out'
Rundle Street Mall is also the home to another eye catching sculpture - two stainless steel spheres balanced on top of each other and named 'Spheres' by Burt Flugelman (fondly known as Mall's Balls).
'Spheres' by Burt Flugelman is a creative addition to Rundle Street Mall
'Spheres' often referred to as Mall's Balls offers a great reflective image of Rundle Street Mall.
After our walk along Rundle Street mall and still in need of some exercise to walk of our rather large but delicious breakfast we decided to take in some of the greenery and what better place to go than the Adelaide Botanical Gardens. The Botanical Gardens is a 51 hectre public garden at the north east corner of the city centre, in the Adelaide Parklands and next to the Botanic Park. Here you will find a large diversity of plants from across Australia and around the world. One of my highlights and surprising finds was their huge collection of different Cacti - way more diverse species than I had seen on my recent travels in Mexico.
Some prickly finds.
An even bigger highlight though was found outside the Botanical Gardens in Botanic Park where we discovered the most incredible century old Morten Bay Fig trees. These trees stand majestic with their huge trunks and gnarly roots curling along the ground.
The most majestic array of century old Morten Bay Fig trees
As I reluctantly left these majestic trees and walked further through the park we were intrigued with all the white feathers lying on the ground. These feathers, my guess, could only belong to one bird - the cockatoo. I was soon greeted with the sight of dozens of noisy cockatoo moving along the ground, pecking at some tasty treats. Then to my real joy I would watch them fly up in to the trees - this time Australian gum trees. The sight of these white barked trees against the blue sky and cockatoos perched up high kept me mezmerized for way too long (way too long in my husband's eyes)!!
After getting the hurry along we headed towards the Adelaide Oval (this would keep the husband happy). The Adelaide Oval is located in the Parklands, between the City Centre and North Adelaide. This very impressive world class venue is mainly used for cricket and Australian rules football, although the occasional rugby, tennis and soccer are also played.
The Adelaide Oval - even I was impressed with this world class sporting venue.
Not far from the Oval you can't help but observe the beautiful St Peter's Cathedral. This French Gothic designed Cathedral is a major landmark in Adelaide City and a majestic backdrop against the modern architecture of the Adelaide Oval.
The beautiful St Peter's Cathedral
Next it was time to head to the river. The River Torrens is the most significant river of the Adelaide Plains and runs for 85km. There are some lovely walking paths along the river or you can take a scenic boat ride on a Popeye!! We chose to do a scenic walk instead.
A walk along the River Torrens.
Our next destination the Art Gallery of South Australia, located on the cultural boulevard of North Terrace. Next to this is the University of Adelaide, the third oldest university in Australia - both very impressive buildings but sadly time did not allow us to venture inside.
Outside the beautiful building of the Art Gallery of South Australia.
Having heard Adelaide had a great food scene we were keen to explore Adelaide Central Market - the largest undercover market in the Southern Hemisphere. The market was opened in 1869 and is a gourmet haunt with over 70 vendors selling organic, artisan, and premium products - a food lovers dream.
The Colourful and Delicious Adelaide Central Market.
After a full day of walking and exploring it was time to head back to our hotel on Frome Street and have a quick rest and clean up before heading out for dinner. Having done a fair bit of walking and observing we had sussed out a place to have drinks and then read up on some great places to dine. Golden Boy (fusion Thai cuisine) won the night - was our choice to eat and certainly won the night with taste, restaurant design and service.
I can totally recommend this restaurant - Golden Boy.
Not usually an advocate of exploring and making an assessment of a city in such a short time frame I think we did pretty well seeing as much as we did and I left being charmed by this small attractive city with it's very impressive range of natural, architectural and foodie delights.
Signs of Autumn in Adelaide.
When an 8.2 earthquake struck Mexico in 2017, the State of Oaxaca, one of the areas hardest hit was bought to the world's attention. Many were unfamiliar with this area, however it was well known to my husband and myself who had just started planing a trip to this region of Mexico. The earthquake left us with concern and sadness and in doubts whether we should still venture there. Time however is a good healer, and as the months went by and Oaxaca recovered (as much as you do from a massive quake) we decided it would be fine to go.
Oaxaca City, the Capital of the State of Oaxaca is in central Mexico and is a World Heritage site and culturally rich city - renowned for it's world famous cuisine and beautiful colonial buildings. It has a lovely small town charm and we found the best way to enjoy this city was to wander around the picturesque cobbled streets in the historic centre and observe the people and their daily life and goings on. It's colourful doorways and exquisite colonial structures - many built from a native greenstone were often seen being used as creative backdrops for modelling and film shoots. The Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman with it's carved baroque facade and intricate gilt designs inside is the the most famous of Oaxaca's churches, along with its attached museum set in a former convent and are a must visit.
The beautiful cobbled streets of the historic centre of Oaxaca City.
Having a bit of fun - the colourful doorways and buildings make great backdrops for photo opportunities.
The Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman is the most famous of Oaxaca's many churches.
Arriving in Oaxaca with the knowledge we were in a cuisine hotspot, we didn't waste time before heading out to experience it's amazing offerings. You are totally spoilt for choice in Oaxaca with its great cafe's, restaurants, Mezcal and rooftop bars and food markets. At the markets you find the most colourful array of fresh and diverse ingredients - from grasshoppers to the largest selection of chillies I have every seen. Oaxaca is a popular destination for those wishing to attend one of the many cooking classes on offer. Here you experience a fun day learning how to prepare traditional Oaxaca dishes and the famous Mexican mole sauce - best off all you end the day eating your delicious achievements, washed down with a Mezcal or two (Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the agave plant native to Mexico).
Spoilt for choice in Oaxaca City with great cafe's and restaurants.
Fresh & diverse ingredients at the markets - from grasshoppers to the largest selection of chillies I've ever seen.
Esperanza from Cooking Classes Oaxaca chargrills some hot chilli peppers for the
famous mole sauce.
The central Zocalo square brings a heart to this beautiful city and is a place I will always remember. I like to immerse myself amongst the local people in countries I visit and try and experience their culture. In Oaxaca City this was easy. The people are vibrant, friendly and have a love for festivity and family time.
According to Wikipedia, a party is a gathering of people who have been invited by a host for the purposes of socializing, conversation and recreation. Not so in Oaxaca City. A party was a festive gathering for anyone and everyone - no invitation needed here. As we mingled with the crowds we were surrounded with laughter from children and parents having massive balloon fights, huge crowds applauding and giving money to buskers, street vendors selling food, beautifully woven handicrafts, balloons, plastic toys, and bands were playing and people young and old dancing. Rather than a drunken alcohol fuelled party, people were drunk with pure joy. We found it so contagious, witnessing these surreal nights - we just had to join in.
Bands playing and people young and old dancing.
We left our nights spent at the Zocalo having danced and laughed, and extremely grateful for having been welcomed at such a fun and memorable night.
I devoured every article, blog I could find, wrote notes and relished in the imagery. When Camila Cabello released her song 'My Heart is in Havana' I was excited - surely this was confirmation I had chosen the right destination.
So why apprehension the closer we got to our departure day? Cuba is a country shrouded in mystery and often misconceptions are passed on. I was told how bad the food was and how difficult it is to get internet - shamefully these things concerned me.
Whether it's the music, the quintessential photos of classic cars, salsa dancing, grandiose buildings or cheap rum and cigars that draws you to Cuba - you are in for a visual and thought provoking journey. Havana, the iconic capital of Cuba with it's 2.1 million inhabitants is true to it's images.
Striking a purple pose on the streets of Havana.
It's easy to immerse yourself in the glory of Old Havana's streets and fantasise that you are part of its glamorous and extravagant past. However, a few streets away in Centro Havana and beyond you find a different picture. On these streets you see the effects of 1959 when Fidel Castro & Che Guevara seized power and a communist revolution and dictatorship was formed. It's down these streets and along the Malecon we discovered how captivating this city and its people are and put misconceptions to rest.
Everyday life on the streets of Havana, Cuba.
Havana for tourists is broken into three areas - Old Havana (La Habana Vieja). Centro Havana & Vedado. Being a sea lover I was set on staying close to the Malecon. Little did I know all these areas are close, not surprising considering Havana's famous seawall is 8km in length. Old Havana is the historic heart of the city - a mix of restored historic buildings, museums, hotels and lively plazas and the tourist hub - rather like a facade to the real Havana. Centro Havana is where you see everyday life and where most buildings are in a total state of collapse. However the beautiful Capitolio marks the beginning of this neighbourhood and you could be forgiven for thinking you have landed in the wrong city. This breathtaking building looks similar to the Capitol in Washington DC, but actually modelled on the Pantheon in Paris. We chose to stay in a Casa Particular in the quieter, less touristy area of Vedado. Vedado is the business and residential district with a great mix of art deco and art nouveau architecture, beautiful old mansions, restaurants and the amazing Colon Cemetery. We enjoyed getting to know this area whilst still being in walking distance to explore Old Havana & Centro Havana (we recommend you download the offline maps.me before you leave home).
The beautiful Capitolio & one of the many buildings in a state of collapse
The amazing Colon Cemetery in Vedado, Havana.
A Casa Particular (Spanish for Private House) is similar to a bed and breakfast - a room and bathroom in a private home. Casas are reasonably priced and give you the opportunity to interact with Cubans, help them out financially and get an insight to how they live. Casa's are easily found throughout Cuba and can be identified by their sign. Most hosts only speak Spanish but with the offline app Google Translate - you'll be surprised how well you communicate and learn along the way.
The sign to look out for that marks a Casa Particular.
Casa Leo & Ivelis Private Rooms - One of the Casa Particulars we stayed in the Vedado area.
The Malecon with its broad esplanade and seawall is often referred as the largest sofa in Havana and became our favourite haunt. Here you find fisherman, romantic couples, school children, families, classic cars cruising by and the most beautiful sunsets. It is a popular place for Cubans to hang out with friends and socialise - often with a bottle of rum in hand. Our visits to the Malecon were made even more exciting with huge waves crashing over the seawall - closing the road on several occasions.
The Malecon - often referred as the largest sofa in Havana.
One of the many majestic pelicans flying above the Malecon.
My fears of being out of touch with family were unfounded - the internet is alive and kicking in Cuba, although not as we no it. There is no free internet - you buy a card from an ETSECA location (don't forget to take your passport) and be prepared to line up for up to 1/2 hour. 1 CUC buys 1-hour worth of internet or 5 CUC buys a 5-hour card that can be used over a period of a month. I found the experience lining up with the locals another way of discovering how life works in this country. After obtaining the cards it's easy - just find a Wi-Fi park, which are literally everywhere - everywhere you see crowds of people glued to their phones.
Cuba is changing - but what changes I observed were being embraced by the younger generation. Contradictory to what I heard, you can find decent food. In 2011 Raul Castro ended most restrictions on private restaurant (paladeres) and initiated reforms in farming and food sales, which has had a positive effect on restaurants. Havana has an abundance of quirky spaces and like other countries are following trend and opening restaurants in these spaces - El Cocinero (located in an original power station come oil factory), Sia Kara, O'Reilly 304, Cafe Arcangel, La Guarida to name just a few. The staffs are proud and hardworking, the food is fresh and tasty unlike the tired staff & food in many traditional tourist restaurants such as Floriditas. La Fabrica de Arte Cubano, an art gallery and nightclub situated at the far end of Vedado was also established inside the former cooking oil factory (next door to El Cocinero) and has since gained fame as one of Havana's premier nightclubs and art gallery.
There is a surge of new & trendy restaurants in Havana.
The art scene & some pretty hip looking Cubans are becoming prominent sights on the streets. All these are signs of changing times in Cuba and pretty good changes in my eyes.
Old cars still dominate the streets; the smell of diesel and the noise of the engines can be overwhelming in some areas. Once beautiful buildings are crumbling away, litter lines the streets and music can be heard constantly blearing from doorways or teenagers carrying small boom boxes. The people look happy, few beggars on the streets, everyone has a home, every child goes to school, everyone has free healthcare and food may be rationed but no one goes hungry. My doubts about visiting this amazing city were put to rest and I left captivated and with high hopes for Cuba's future - Viva la Cuba Libre.
Viva la Cuba Libre.
Mention the South Island and I conjure up images of mountains, reflective lakes, and snow. From an early age my family spent winter holidays touring the South Island – unlike my friends who went for skiing, my family went for my artist Mother to paint. Our holidays were spent patiently waiting down country roads whilst Mum set up easel and paints. If lucky and Dad thought it safe to leave Mum, he would drive us kids to locations where we could enjoy what winter down South offered over our hometown Wellington – jumping in ice puddles, breaking icicles and snowball fights.
Not having ventured South for sometime and hearing friends express their love for Wanaka with its natural beauty and great eating establishments, my husband and I chose Wanaka to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary. Landscape photography and good food are my passions so I was curious to see if it lived up to its recommendations. The last time I was in Wanaka was 12 years ago with my own children, I have fond memories of Wanaka's Puzzle World but apart from that, don't have distinct memories - at that time Queenstown was my favoured destination. These days Queenstown has grown beyond belief into a bustling, overcrowded tourist mecca whilst Wanaka seems to have remained in control and people enjoy this developing resort town with ease.
On arrival at Queenstown Airport we picked up our rental car and drove over the scenic Crown Range to Wanaka, stopping for lunch at the iconic Cardrona Hotel and a photo stop at the quirky tourist attraction, the Cardrona Bra Fence, Bradrona, then continuing to our destination - Wanaka.
Wanaka is the gateway to the Southern Alps Mount Aspiring National Park, a haven of glaciers, forests and lakes and with Treble Cone and Cardrona ski resorts nearby you can understand its popularity. Driving into Wanaka we were greeted with misty views of the lake and mountains and Wanaka's sophisticated lakefront township - I was excited.
Wanaka offers spectacular scenery as well as great food scene. Our visit was on the cusp of the ski season and although little snow on the mountains it was evident that the season was about to begin. Young people of all nationalities mingled around the popular Kai Whakapai Cafe and Bar - many reuniting after spending a season elsewhere. We chose to stay in walking distance to bars and restaurants and were delighted by our delicious eating experiences - our favourites being Kika, Francesca's, Big Fig and breakfasts at Federal Diner & Soul Food. There are numerous drinking establishments but my favourite bar was called Gin and Raspberry. True to its name you can sip Gin and Raspberries and in an elegant setting overlooking the Lake.
With only a few days to enjoy this scenic wonderland we had to be organised with our choices. Waking to cloud and limited views of the mountains was not what I anticipated but I soon realized how quickly the weather changes throughout the day and how the cloud breaks often, revealing mesmerizing images.
We started our 4.5km loop walk up Mt Iron in cloud, by the time we reached the top we were rewarded with clear views of the Southern Alps and Lake Wanaka.
We enjoyed the 15-minute drive to Lake Hawea - another beautiful lake, but for those who enjoy a quieter setting. From Lake Hawea we continued 30 minutes up road to the Blue Pools Track - a 20 minute bush walk takes you to the swing bridge and some incredible clear blue/green pools. We returned to Wanaka just in time for Thursday Farmers Markets where vendors sell crafts and more delicious food.
My favourite day was walking along the lakefront to the famous Wanaka Tree. This solitary tree is a magnet to photographers, with changing weather and lake conditions you can snap stunning images.
Continuing our walk along the lakefront we treated ourselves to coffee and scones at the Edgewater Resort, and then wine-tasting at Rippon Winery. The lakefront track up to the winery has mind-blowing views over vines and a reflective Lake Wanaka - if ever there was a paradise it has to be here.
As a child I don't think I appreciated the beauty of nature - maybe those hours spent down country roads waiting for Mum paid off, I now get overwhelmed with excitement when I see scenic beauty or much to my husband's frustration, another photo opportunity. It's my husband who now waits patiently!!
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.
Morning Walk on the Miramar Peninsula