Hearst Castle – highlight of California visit.

Hearst Castle highlight of California visit.


Late in May I visited California; the entire state has a serious water shortage.  So it was no surprise that restaurants had signs on tables reading “if you want water please ask”. However I also saw  people hosing their gardens despite regulations, so some folk don’t care! What was a surprise was arriving at the famous Hearst Castle to be greeted by a row of chemical porta a loos outside the entranceway!!


imageThe interior of the Castle is full of gems like this one.


One of many inlaid tiles.


The above fabric adorns a large 3 seater couch.



Evidently Sir Randolph insisted on leaving condiments in their bottles on the table because the castle was his escape from the formality of the San Francisco social scene!
I had always wanted to visit this castle ever since I lived I the USA as a 22 year old. The family I nannied for back then knew the Hearst Family and so the drama surrounding Patti Hearst was a daily topic.
So here I was 40 plus years later visiting the Hearst Estate. You need to pre book a time to visit and there is a selection of tours so don’t just turn up or you might be disappointed.
We were poured onto several  buses for the 20 minute ride through beautiful farmland. There are cattle and believe it or not zebras roaming in the fields. In 1919 Sir Randolph Hearst the publishing magnate started the original castle on his ‘ enchanted hill’. He also purchased exotic animals which later on when times became tough he had to sell. Fortunately the zebras survived the cull and add some colour to the sunburnt brown fields.


Zebras and cattle  roaming the coast near San Simeon

I was very keen to see the two swimming pools so I was a tad disappointed that the outdoor Neptune Pool was empty. The pool was leaking gallons of water daily , most unacceptable in the current water crisis. However the indoor Roman pool (25 metre or 81 feet) was for me the highlight of the trip. It is O.T.T. by anyone’s standards and the Murano glass tile work is quite remarkable, of which there are over 1 million tiles, some have gold leaf inside the tiles. Imagine swimming in this pool after a hot summer Californian day, sipping a little champagne perhaps.



But I digress, the castle is well maintained and despite some scaffolding I could enjoy the gargoyles and intricate decorations on the exterior. The interior has some magnificent rooms and the 16th century tapestries are stunning. There are two Egyptian statues 3,000 years old and others undated. The billiard room is impressive but no way we’re we allowed to ‘break’ the perfectly placed balls. Hearst had exquisite taste and employed the best workmen to complete the castle. The tiles, the wooden painted ceilings, the magnificent double mantled fireplaces , the wrought iron doors, the list goes on. The esplanade through the grounds is planted with azalea, Palm, citrus and boxwood. The tennis courts surrounded by high concrete walls struck me as an extremely claustrophobic setting knowing temperatures can reach 100 degrees F. If you get an opportunity to visit jump at it, I have visited many castles in Europe and France but the setting of Hearst Castle makes this rather special.The setting atop the hill has sweeping views out to the coast although in June the notorious summer fog hangs along the coast.


All tours are guided, some are wheel chair accessible. They disallow any food and chewing gum is a “no no”. Bottled water is allowed. Tours start at 8.15 and in summer they run evening tours. There is a movie on the construction if you have time to enjoy.
After leaving the castle down on the highway is San Simeon wharf and several beaches; these are covered like carpet with large lazy elephant seals. These beaches are well worth a stop as these huge creatures flip sand over themselves to cool down and generally give a new meaning to blobbing! Every so often a couple have a bit of a fight and one or two go for a swim.image

Globules of oil washed up near San Simeon



Ground Squirrel


Stags on the coast near Cambria

The entire coast has amazing marine life. South of San Simeon near Morro Rock the sea otters play in the estuary. We saw about a dozen sea otters frolicking about including two babies, they look like fur balls! It was a little distressing to see some oil on their coats from the recent big oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast.


Sea Otters and babies near Morro Rock


 Elephant Seals at San Simeonimage

The American Bald Eagle

While there we spotted a bald eagle, this was exciting as they are rarely seen this far south. The eagle was chased away by two angry seagulls. The Californian coast is famous for Santa Barbara and Carmel etc but heading inland one drives through beautiful farmland, vineyards, rolling hills and charming little cafes.

So next time you are heading to California consider driving up the coast for a beautiful excursion from Los Angeles or down the coast from San Francisco; you won’t be disappointed I promise.


FLYING – it can be like a cheap Thai massage!


Flying – something New Zealanders learn to do well. Or do we? Because we live at the bottom of the world most ‘Kiwi’s’ will fly Internationally during their life time. I know “Kiwi’s” are flightless birds however that is partly the point! My first flight outside of NZ was 50 years ago.YES 50 years ago!!  I had an aunt living in Fiji so decided to go and visit her, I had not been earning for long  so it was a very big deal financially and emotionally. First I had to fly from Dunedin to Auckland. I don’t recall the details now except to say it was the beginning of my passion to travel and see the world. I instinctively knew there was more to marrying the boy next door and becoming a farmers wife. I had to escape! (my city friends just wanted to marry the boy next door, so there you are – we are all different fortunately) I did fall for a tall dark Fijian ‘prince’ for a few weeks, but I got over him easily enough, it was the army uniform 🙂  Anyway I digress. Now days flying is not as glamourous as it was  back then,it is glorified train travel at best. We are so fortunate to have one of the best airlines in the world Air New Zealand to whisk us away to exotic destinations. California, Canada, Japan, China even Australia and more. We should support them  as the alternatives are scary! We have several great airlines serving the Pacific if you are flying to Asia.

I feel sorry for Americans who have to fly 4-5 hours internally and their domestic airlines have no idea of service and comfort. None of their domestic airlines hold a candle to other airlines, there airlines don’t even appear in the top 100 airlines list!  They have little opposition so they seem to  have stopped trying, they run on tight budgets and generally the experience is less than satisfying. The air crews are often grumpy and bored, or down right rude. The planes are over booked. They allow people to put luggage 20 seats from where they are sitting. Boarding the flight with massive cabin luggage is inconsiderate, think about it, if we all took massive bags they wouldn’t fit in the cabin space.  I blame the airlines for allowing such big pieces.   In the USA Delta charge $US25 a piece to check a bag…outrageous really. Reduce that cost and half the cabin bag chaos would vanish! Flying across the USA brings out the worst in people, me included. The passengers push and shove to squash themselves and their luggage into small spaces. The Italians are pushy too… it can be quite comical to watch.

I wonder why some flights your feet become ice blocks, others they are on fire. In this day and age why can’t the temperature be pleasant and constant? If you are hot or cold ask the cabin crew to adjust the temperature. They can alter the  temperature within about a 10 degree range. Now the new Dreamliner planes have much better air quality. The good news is that Air New Zealand have these new planes on some routes called Dreamliners with improved air quality. I know many of you are affected by the poor air quality and return home with bronchial problems. I certainly do.  The lovely medical specialist told me that airlines reduced the moisture content in the planes air supply to make the planes lighter and consequently weigh less and save fuel. Maybe I should only fly on routes with Dreamliner jets. So I am dreaming of Dreamliners on all flight routes before I age too much… as the saying goes Dreams are free! I actually now take antiobiotics when flying. I am not alone with this problem so if you always come home sick talk to your GP. Put the fun back into travel.

The worst part about blogging is that the airlines don’t read my blogs..if only they did and  took action.  Perhaps they could publish articles on flight ettiquette??

Gripes about flying are easy to write about so I apologise if this is a tad negative. However try pushing the buzzer for a blanket on a Delta flight – an hour later they turn up; imagine if it was urgent! Magazines are usually non existent or the Delta Magazine which is totally uninspiring.

On long haul international flights when you are all on board and seated meals are duly served. On many airlines when you have completed your meal it is not OK to thrust your seat back to the sleep position… The person behind you may still be eating and the wine goes every which way, or the coffee!  Wait until the trays have all been collected – PLEASE – it’s a simple thing to do and you won’t miss more than 15 minutes of snooze time… It’s called being considerate. It all comes back to consideration for ones fellow travelers. Consideration for others goes a long way in life, and in particular in public places and on public transport. No matter how many months before I fly and have booked a seat Delta won’t give me a window seat!! Or if they do it is the last row on the plane! If you try asking a crew member what the massive river beneath us is and they look blankly and say they have no idea! I hope our crews are more helpful. Then there are the pretzels..I hate pretzels. Seriously not even a choice of nuts or pretzels. I know I am sounding like a spoilt child –  well I am.

OK so now we are  all seated on the plane, relaxed and ready to go. What Is that jerking my seat? The jerking is an 11 year old, it has parents but they are not parenting so the next 3 – 4 hours is like a cheap Thai massage! Don’t let children kick the back of the seat in front of them, come on parents, show some inconsideration and teach some consideration. I have no problem with crying children, spare a thought for the parents and the child and maybe offer to help if they are in your little area, those little ear drums often react to the pressure.


When you first sit  down for a long flight Introduce yourself to the person next to you…first name is sufficient.  Even just ‘hello’. On long flights especially, I like to know who I am sleeping with!! And they may even help pass the time with intelligent conversation… If there is an emergency they might help save your life !!! At worst you have been polite. Men – please keep your voices low;  raucous loud laughter and bad language do not have a place on an aeroplane…. by all means enjoy a few drinks but remember altitude makes you intoxicated quicker and no one wants a loud drunk sitting near them – Be considerate. And lastly don’t pass flatulence; go to the bathroom rather than effect the six people sitting near to you… We had the steward come through and spray our space due to some ignorant individual recently; so be considerate to your fellow passengers.

Men are the worst at this! And on that note aim carefully, visiting the cubicles after a man has sprayed the walls, toilet seat and floors is horrible…be considerate to the next person….you are not at home now! Empty the basin and leave the place tidy and dry!!!

Ladies – You never know who will end up seated next to you, and they may not have a tolerance for perfumes or lotions. For some, strong scents can bring on headaches or migraines, so hold off until you’ve disembarked to use your favourite perfume.

Despite all those comments I actually enjoy flying.. I make the most of the time, watching movies, reading, sleeping and eating.

I am soon to fly to the USA and I will enjoy that 11.5 hour trip and then a five hour domestic flight. I wish I could say I will  enjoy the later but NO, one just suffers it !!  Thanks DELTA.. you could do sooo much better.  

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand


Every Christmas I buy books and receive books.. no complaints what so ever. Travel books remind us of exotic places we have travelled to long after the suit case is unpacked.  I think books are a great engagement, wedding and birthday gift as well as Christmas. I have a cook book  we received as a wedding gift in 1974 and I still refer to it. Every newspaper does book lists so this is mine; cook books,  photo books & children’s books; books I would give or like to receive. [ this is not necessarily a hint to my family 🙂 ] The Graham Sydney book also came in a linen slip cover signed and numbered but they are scarce as hens teeth after several weeks on the market! You could try Arcadia Bookstore ( my favourite bookstore ) in Newmarket who have one signed copy or McLeod’s Bookstore in Rotorua another store with stock.  But be quick!  So this Christmas hunt out something special in the book line. 

Grahame Sydney Paintings 1974 – 2014

Grahame Sydney Paintings 1974 – 2014

Published 2014 by Craig Potton Publishing. $99.00 including  slip cover.

This beautiful 304 page hardback in slipcase features over 200 paintings and covers Grahame’s 40 year career as a full-time artist. In this landmark book, which features many unseen works as well as his most loved landscapes and figurative paintings, Grahame delves into his childhood in Dunedin and the beginnings of his obsession with art. Most book stores have this in stock. – See more here  :


I did a photo book on New York myself a few years ago ( available from http://www.blurb.com ) This newly released book caught my attention.  Everyone loves New York and this book will jolt your travel memories. New York Through the Lens NZ mail order click on link.


A Poetic Photographic Vision of the World’s Most Exciting City

Street photographers will never tire of New York as a subject. It is the perfect setting for the genre, with candid, insightful moments appearing everywhere. Vivienne Gucwa is out there, every day, capturing these fleeting glimpses of human drama, and here she presents an elegant volume showcasing the stunning results of her ongoing quest. Lush images are front and center throughout the book, supported by insightful commentary, engaging anecdotes, tales from the road, and professional tips on how to reliably seek out and capture scenes of such perennial enjoyment.


This next book is a small gift book and a real treasure. Beautiful photography. Not newly published but still a real gem. Great value at $26.86  from FishpondTUI


A nest in the bush

Meg Lipscombe

Tui is an intimate and rare look at the beginning of a tui’s life. It is presented as a series of photographs showing the 37-day development of a pair of tui from eggs to fledglings.

The author is a photographer living at Lake Tarawera, surrounded by native forest and an abundant variety of bird life. One spring morning in 2011 Meg noticed a tui disappear into a Pseudopanax bush with a twig in its mouth, and discovered that the nest, while well hidden from below, could be seen from her balcony. By carefully removing some leaves from the bush she was able to get a clear view of the nest, giving her a rare opportunity to visually record the beginning of a tui’s life.

THIS ONE IS NOT SOMETHING YOU CAN BUY!! But it is worthy of a mention. book

Dos-à-dos binding refers to a technique whereby two books are bound at their backs, allowing you to read one book, flip the conjoined pair over, and continue reading the other book. Pictured here is a beautiful example of a sixfold dos-à-dos binding, which, as you may have guessed, combines half a dozen separate books into one.



Printed in the late 16th century this small book from the National Library of Sweden is an example of six fold dos-à-dosbinding, where six books are conjoined into a single publication but can be read individually with the help of six perfectly placed clasps. This particular book was printed in Germany and like almost all books at the time is a religious devotional text. The National Library of Sweden has a fantastic photo collection of historical and rare books where you can find many more gems like this.

Mōtītī Blue and the Oil Spill: A Story from the Rena Disaster, by Debbie McCauley

This children’s  book is based on the NZ oil spill from the ship Rena. Beautiful illustrations.

Mōtītī Blue and the Oil Spill by Debbie McCauley is a bilingual children’s picture book on the Rena Disaster, which was released on 5 October 2014 Available at University Bookstore Akld, Trade me (signed) Academy Books   McLeod’s in Rotorua and many more stores. Approx NZ$29.00

TWO Cook Books on my Christmas list 🙂 book-pop-up-straight

Depot is such a fun eatery  in Auckland City.   Al’s approach to cooking is all about simplicity and generosity. His dishes deliver uncomplicated excellence and showcase the culinary landscape of New Zealand. People and place are key to his philosophy; wonderful friends and unique locations will always enhance an eating experience. In Al’s opinion, food is the vehicle for conversation, fun and memorable occasions.  Readily available in NZ bookstores. 


I always grabbed PLENTY first when I had guests to impress.. seriously  good recipes. 

The hotly anticipated follow-up to London chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s bestselling and award-winning cookbookPlenty, featuring more than 150 vegetarian dishes organized by cooking method.Picking up the (carrot) baton from PLENTY, PLENTY MORE opens the window even further onto the ever-expanding world of vegetables, grains and legumes. Finally in NZ book stores.

I love making Blurb books, they are unique and high quality. I also  will give lessons locally (Auckland NZ) to anyone wishing to create a book of their travels or family.  Contact me  Lynn . [turquoise words contain links]

A Glimpse of India and Jodphur the Blue City are my coffee table books on India – fabulous  Christmas gifts for someone who has visited india. Jodphur the Blue City  is punctuated with famous quotes such as this one from the Dalai Lama “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito”  – Buy from Amazon



jodphur cover


Afica Safari is a collection of black and white images from Botswana and the Serengeti etc. (Cover Photo)

(I have this in stock in Auckland)

Botswana Leopard

Kiwigran goes to Turkey is the latest of the books about Kiwi Grans’ travels. These can be ordered directly from Blurb or I can custom order one for you removing references to Kiwigran! Some folk have been happy to buy as they are 🙂 (Flag photo is the cover)


My favourite children’s book is The Pacific Ocean  an educational look at that vast body of water between the USA and New Zealand ( more or less) This book was selected for the Australian Library collection. You can preview these all on line at BLURB. (I have stock of this in Auckland)

Other books areKiwigran goes to IndiaandKiwigran goes to Africa‘.   These are all aimed at 4-10 year olds.Kiwigran goes to Turkey is the latest of the books about Kiwi Grans’ travels. These can be ordered directly from Blurb or I can custom order one for you removing references to Kiwigran! Some folk have been happy to buy as they are 🙂

Z 2 LMC-9525


Bespoke BLURB Book orders take around 3 weeks to arrive in NZ as they are printed to order. Hard covers and professionally bound they are beautiful unique gifts for sure. The children’s books are 8 x10 inches approx.

If you have read to the end you deserve a joke! Laugh, I did.

English Stiff Upper Lip: On a train from London to Manchester , an Australian was berating the Englishman sitting across from him in the  compartment. “You English are too stuffy. You set yourselves apart too much. You think your stiff upper lip makes you above the rest of us. Look at me… I’m ME! I have Italian blood, Greek blood, a little Irish blood, and some Aborigine blood. What do you say to that?”

The Englishman replied, “Awfully sporting of your mother, old chap!”