“Wild Thoughts 2”

 

I’m doing a Blogging 201 course  so I’m writing a weekly blog on anything in my head – watch this space.

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This weeks blog – “Wild Thoughts 2”

Photography as you all know is my passion…

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Thinking about travelling?

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Recently I have met a few women who live on their own and they are nervous to travel alone, seriously these small group type tours are made for you. I suggest you select a tour that involves your personal interest – fishing, opera, architecture, tramping, cycling, photography, wine and food, farming etc. This way the people on the tours will have shared interests with you –  you might even like them :):)

There are tours for everyone  – use Google to discover one to suit you. I am listing a few tours to give you an idea of the broad range available. Not recommending just mentioning them. Check on Trip Advisor before you book hotels and tours; sometimes it is surprising what you learn. There are far more tours than time and money to partake of. I could travel continually – not sure I want to but I could be tempted. Lotto is the answer!

I know most of my friends travel somewhere exciting every year. Some are photographers and they tend to single out photographic tours or workshops. But not everyone wants to get up an hour before sunrise or miss their G&T at 5pm! Holidays are expensive and you need to consider tailor-made excursions. Some travel 5 star plus, some go on Intrepid Journeys. Some fly economy some fly business. However you travel or wherever you go  there are always helpful hints and ideas to make the voyage easier. I wrote a blog on packing recently, a couple of people said it helped them.

(Comment box at end…please add your tips, thoughts and favourite small group ideas, and share my blogs with your friends..)

I like to make my travel as easy as possible so I am happy to pay extra to have a car meet me in a foreign city. In New York and London especially; so much easier than fighting through hoards of people to a taxi ramp that looks like a wreckers yard or lugging luggage from one platform to another to catch a different train line in a London subway.  The extra $$ means I arrive relatively relaxed, that is worth a lot to me.  Mind you I am travelling alone. If you have a spouse to share the stress and carry the bags I’m sure it is much easier. What happened to old-fashioned porters I wonder??

I will never forget struggling up 50 stairs with my luggage over a small bridge and down 50 stairs when travelling from Florence to Cinque Terre…it nearly killed me! Europe is like that. Actually  elevators existed as far back as ancient Rome; Archimedes was building them in 336 B.C., and gladiators and animals rode lifts to the Roman Coliseum arena by A.D. 80 So why they don’t have lifts is beyond me.

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These days many folk book online but it isn’t actually cheaper, agents get paid by the hotels and wholesalers, not by you.  Recently I spoke to someone who proudly told me they’d booked everything themselves online, a complex trip with airline connections etc. That is all very noble until things go wrong, and they do go wrong. You realise you didn’t allow your self-sufficient  time and you’ve missed a connection. Then you pay;  you pay with a stressful few hours and with a cash outlay, neither are very funny.  If your travel agent makes the mistake he or she pays! Recently I missed a flight in the USA, my print out said it was departing at 11-30am and when I checked in they said the flight left at 9-15am. I showed them the paper  print out and was I sent to a different desk where  3 staff looked at their screen and announced I had to pay US$100.00. I was OK paying  as in the back of my brain somewhere an alarm bell was ringing…I remembered my agent had changed that flight but I hadn’t printed out the new details. All I wanted was to get onto the 11-30 am flight which of course was already over booked  as most American flights  are! Then the staff supervisor said “who changed the flight?” They didn’t know if it was them or my agent, so they refunded my $100.00 ushered me through an express way and I was on the flight quick as  a flash of lightning.The flight I originally wanted in the first place as well ! Had I not booked through an agent I would have been in all sorts of trouble. So I think  agents are invaluable. If you live in Auckland and don’t have an agent I suggest you call Steve at Fortis Travel.  A type of insurance. is the way I see it. I still do a heap of research but they often have hotel specials etc. On the subject of insurance, paying with your Visa Gold card gives you some insurance but some destinations it is definitely insufficient. Read the small print. When I went on safari to Africa for example, I took out additional insurance.

A friend recently arrived at a hotel all booked by her travel agent to be told they had no rooms available! A quick call to her agent and a 3 way phone chat soon had them booking my friend into a suite at no extra charge. And so the stories go.

There are many women who travel on their own ( and a few men).  I suggest you google trips that pertain to your interests. There are many garden tours in Europe and similarly painting, music or art appreciation tours. There are numerous cycling and photographic tours and other  genre too. I have listed a tiny selection here… but these trips are going to be far more rewarding than a 1000 or 2000 person cruise ship in my humble opinion.

 

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APT is a travel company renowned for running excellent coach tours, owned and operated by Australians.

Typical of their trips…10 day Discover with Botanica World Discoveries the wonderful gardens of England and Wales in Spring with this relaxed tour in Southern UK while accompanied by a Botanical Guide. Highlights include The Chelsea Flower Show and 32 hectares of Bodnant Gardens or this one : Discover the pristine lakes, Romanesque architecture and gardens of the Italians Lakes district, before crossing into Slovenia to the beautiful town of Bled. Continue into Croatia then sail along the picturesque Dalmatian Coast.

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 ART….Try this  trip  to Japan.199x199xJapan1-199x199_jpg_pagespeed_ic_9zQUXshaT3LMC-0688-Edit

Chihuly Glass – I’ve seen his work in the USA and London and love it.

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An ‘ornament’ I spotted in Bond Street and regret not purchasing 😦 as we often do when travelling.

 

FOOD AND WINE

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New Orleans

Stories by Ken Burns Tauck’s 8-day Cajun Country and New Orleans tour includes Tauck Exclusives like Stories by Ken Burns, a Cajun house party, private demo at the New Orleans School of Cooking, an authentic streetcar tour, a private jazz experience at Preservation Hall, a private farewell jazz reception and dinner at Arnaud’s, five nights at historic French Quarter hotels and more!

Vietnam

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HALONG BAY IS A BEAUTIFUL PART OF THE WORLD.

A fun tour with Peta Mathias might be the best ticket…

“We start our tour in the north in Hanoi where we find out how to make rice paper and tofu, eat street food which is THE Hanoi specialty, learn how to cook at my friend’s house and drink the famous Hanoi fresh beer. We then jump on a plane to Hué (which is like going from Paris to the South of France),where we stay at the most exquisite French Art Deco hotel. Hué is the ancient Imperial Capitol of Vietnam and is most famous for its intricate imperial cuisine, fabulous imperial sites and is a huge centre for Buddhism.

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Culinary Tour of North India 11 Days / 10 Nights

Our tour starts in Delhi, which offers a panoramic vista of heritage and modern India that you will experience during the city sightseeing tour. Mughlai Food will be our first culinary experience known for its richness, exotic use of spices, dried fruit and nuts.

I loved India and my earlier blog might be useful. How to avoid Deli Belhi etc.

CYCLING

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Take a cycle holiday in France to enjoy the scenic beauty, enchanting culture,  delicious food and fine wine the French countryside has to offer. From the iconic high passes of the Alps and Pyrenees to the gently meandering valleys famous for their wine production, it is possible to find cycling routes in France to suit all abilities and interests.

Ireland

  • Cycle along Kerry’s dramatic Emerald coastline.
  • Meet the welcoming people of Dingle and Kerry and explore the many small villages along the way.
  • Cycle the world famous Slea Head and Adelaideexample – DAY 3 Springton to Tanunda – Enjoy the picturesque scenery and infinite views as you ride into the epicenter of the Barossa Valley • Some of today’s ride includes parts of the world-famous tour down under cycling race.

 

HISTORY

Summer Antarctic Expeditions exploring New Zealand’s remote Islands are popular for the adventurous. Check out Heritage Expeditions. Galapagos to the Chathams and further south from $800.00  a day.

PHOTOGRAPHY –  “have camera will travel”

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Alaska with our best known Kiwi photographer Chris McClennan We are very excited to be putting together an exclusive Alaskan Winter photo tour for 2016 featuring the famous Iditarod dog sled race, the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and of course some spectacular Arctic landscapes.

Kenya 2017 with Daniel Cox ( I’m going on his Alaska Brown Bear trip this year) read on.. 16 Guests MaximumOPTION 1: FULL SEAT Allows each guest to have a seat and window on both sides of the vehicle. This gives ample room for camera gear and allows for photographing from both sides of the vehicle –  This is what makes this tour so special, an experienced guide and space! Two different pricing structures depending on your vehicle needs/preference.

Antarctica  My dream trip –  this tour flies from Punta Arenas, Chile to Antarctica’s King George Island and back, eliminating days of travel in the challenging waters of the Drake Passage. John Paul Capanigro is a superb photographer, one of the best!

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Photos by John Paul Capanigro

 India 2015 – hurry for this one.. but another dream photo trip. I’ve been to Rajasthan and loved every day! Led by Brendan O’Hagan and organised by CANON NZ for photographers.

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Rajasthan place in the sun.

CRUISING – I have never been cruising so this advice is from a trusty friend.

Major decisionSIZE DOES MATTER”

 Large ship or boutique vessel??  this has a huge impact on your enjoyment. Large cruises offer an exceptional array of entertainment options, dining venues, and amenities and are typically the way to go if you’re traveling with younger children or a large group looking for lively nightly activities.  However I imagine you’re hoping for a more intimate, relaxing luxury experience with attentive service and a sophisticated ambiance so please consider choosing a smaller luxury cruise.  Silver Seas are evidently top-notch. Their small ultra-luxury ships can sail up narrow waterways into the heart of a city, or tie up right at the pier while others must anchor off shore, these factors can make quite a difference to your holiday. I’m saving this treat up for my older age!!

FISHING

I hear Mexico is amazing fishing. Cabo Fishing offers world-class sportfishing charters in Cabo San Lucas Mexico, possibly the best sportfishing waters in the entire world, that is after New Zealand I say. (tongue in cheek!) April May and June are the best times so escape our winter.

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So folks, cash in your childrens’ inheritance and travel while you still can. If you are alone look at the tours I’ve mentioned.. small and manageable. ( Ideal for couples too of course) I can’t keep listing tours but trust me there are some awesome adventures waiting to be had!! And don’t take more luggage than you  can carry; lighweight with 4 wheels, passport and go!! See you there!!

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Pondering’s.

LMC-9323People doing what people do – at a Sydney family bar…The Pavilion in Clovelly.

Being away from my normal surroundings for 5 of the last 7 weeks  has been an interesting time in many positive ways.

I observed a lot of different age groups, cultures and behaviour. I came across snippets that amused me and moments of pure joy. I watched less television and met many new people. I watched the movie Frozen more than once and had to admire creepy crawlies and other strange and precious objects according to an 8-year-old boy! I made Leggo towers and dressed dolls and people say ‘what did you do on your holiday’!!

I had fun watching another generation learning, living and loving as many my age do.

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We all have sweet memories of children playing in shopping bags.

My grand-daughter aged 2 1/2 gave me pure love, no questions asked. My oldest grandchild at 8 1/2 ( yes half years are very important) also gave me unreserved love, but in a different way to the toddler. These are precious times and I know in a few years this will all change. I spoke to the mother of a 15 year old daughter( almost 16 she kept reminding everyone). She prefers her friends company than her Mum’s. Her Mum understands this but never the less it is a profound change in allegiance. Mothers ( and fathers) do everything for a child from birth and in a blink of an eye the roles are reversed.  My boys are middle-aged business men, husbands, fathers, career people with mortgages and families. Men who still care about their mother and actually talk with their mother? They ask how I’m doing and feeling. I can start to see the beginning of the role reversal. Scary from my point of view… but it is the natural order of life and one cannot fight it.  One must be grateful and enjoy the moments. We see life being snatched away from family and friends, we don’t know when our number will come up. But we do know it will come up. So savour the moments my friends, make peace with your family and friends, forgive those who have hurt you and move on. “Make each day count” is a real concept, not a dream.

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I watched my daughter in law organise her 3 children, coping with a husband that travels a lot, not an uncommon lifestyle. She organises the summer holiday activities, the family outings, the ball games, the summer camps, the food, the shopping and so much more. I was total impressed that she has help to do the never-ending food shopping, how sensible is that, after all it’s a thankless task and one that is difficult to do with 3 children in tow, and every week the food needs replenishing. I thought why didn’t we do that when we were young Mums’ !  At least order groceries on-line to be delivered. Such a time-saving concept.

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Simple healthy eating.

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My other daughter in law has meals delivered every Monday. They come with the recipes and they take no more than 30 minutes to prepare, many take much less. Well balanced, fun food. The herbs and spices arrive measure out, the vegetables, the vacuum packed meat or fish and a selection of fresh fruit. A wonderful time-saving concept for working parents. I totally get why mothers shop online. The American ‘on line’ catalogues are awesome and it is so much easier than carting kids around shops. Many shops do not even have seats or what I call book corners for kids, they certainly don’t encourage you to bring your children shopping. I think they miss out big time. My grand children will sit and read or play on their Mums’ phone quite happily for 10 minutes or longer. Especially when screen time is a treat for them not away of life! Retailers complain about ‘on line’ shopping but they need to look at the experience they are offering. One of my gripes is changing rooms to try on clothes that have no chairs, no shelves and no mirrors in the cubicle! These shops don’t deserve customers!

If you wonder what to buy your adult children for  presents, there are many  great ideas, think outside the square.  A contribution to food deliveries or I also like the idea of museum annual memberships or zoo passes. All great family gifts. Tickets to musicals, cultural events and so forth. After all most children have more than enough toys.  Another great gift is the annual photographic sitting with a local professional photographer. Every one takes snaps of their children these days, mostly on their iPhones and they are good. But professional photos have that “extra” something. iPhone photos get lost in cyber space. Seriously family photo session every year or two at least  gives  treasured memories for years. As grandparents you will appreciate these photos to look back on them as the twilight years come along.$200.00 goes a long way. ( I personally do free sittings regularly)

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This photo will keep that family smiling for years.

I heard some young Australians talking about a party they attended and they kept talking about the “Mossman Housewives”..sounded like a TV  sitcom. Perhaps it should be. I asked what was meant by this and was told that these women were fortyish and sat around waiting for the party to happen..rather than being the party that happened.!! They were mothers and career women who were probably dead beat tired on a Friday night, they had organised a sitter, worked all week, and suddenly had a chance to sit down!! I kind of felt sorry for the Mossman Housewives! I recall those years only too well

Family holidays are a great concept too, especially for spread out families; a week together on neutral territory every 2 years becomes a special and integral part of life. The memories are ongoing and the relationships strengthened. My family live in 3 countries so meeting up somewhere makes huge sense. Hawaii here we come!!

During my adventures I had the pleasure of going whale watching in Sydney. Within 20 minutes from Circular Quay you are out on the water beyond the heads in whale territory. Money back if you don’t see whales ! Between June and late August 20,000 Humpback whales pass Sydney migrating north to the tropical northern waters where they calve, then they return to the cooler Antarctica waters for our summers. This year 122 Humpbacks have been seen passing in the last few weeks through the Cook Straight in New Zealand so numbers are definitely increasing.These animals have a natural curiosity and often when they see a boat they pop their heads up and say hello. They are massive and yet so gentle, they make amazing snorting /calling noises to each other and seem quite playful.  When they breach they are like a missile rising above the water surface to crash down again. On this last trip they were inter acting with a large pod of dolphins. This is nature at its best and so easy to get out and enjoy. Reservations advisable at Sydney Whale Watching.LMC-9311-Edit-Edit

You can see the Manly high-rise in the distance and Maquarie Light at the Gap.

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Note the whale appears to be chasing the dolphin.

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The best dumplings in Sydney.

Sydney CBD has so many people and at lunch times the streets are crowded, the Pitt Street Mall is crowded and the entertainment is wonderful. I look at the Britomart or Queen Street in Auckland and the lunch time crowds are really  small. Sydney is so buzzy…maybe NZ  needs a few more thousand people. I know there are no houses to live in but surely more people would create more of everything including houses. There are eateries everywhere and the Westfield Mall in the Sydney CBD has the most amazing food hall called Food on Five.  Din Tai Fung is a chain of eateries and claims a Michelin Star.Our food halls are  absolutely awful, as is the food and the atmosphere and most of us don’t go near them. Why can’t we have a food hall styled on Westfield in the Sydney CBD?? Come on Westfield you treat us like poor cousins on this side of The Tasman!! Let’s change the culture and create something special, we might even support you. I would.

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Pitt Street Mall, Sydney foto from rediff.com

I’m delighted to observe that passing through International Customs in NZ, Australia and the U.S.A. has improved out of sight in recent times. Traveling has become far more enjoyable and affordable. Airport lounges are now available to most people for a small cost, ask about day passes etc. The Emperer Lounge in Auckland is one such lounge.  If they can sort the air quality on planes I will be really happy!

I wrote a blog about packing recently and I must say reading my own blog did help me on this past trip… So My packing is improving! I could have done with a woolly hat and gloves in Sydney but it was colder than it has been in 50 years! One can’t pack for every possibility.

I’m quite looking forward to returning home, I miss my friends, but I know I will miss my family sooo much after spending so much time with them.I’m writing this at 30,000 feet as we commence our descent into Auckland.

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Home to roost at the end of the day, and I’m home for a month or two as well.

Welcome home Kiwigran 😍😍