All posts by gregandelaine

Breathtaking Beauty Abounds

Sometimes I get so frustrated – there just seems so much to see and do in New Zealand – I just want to do it all at once. I had an ingenious idea recently – an awesomely beautiful scenic train ride on the TranzAlpine train. Its run by Kiwi Rail, and I should imagine it must be rated as one of the most scenic trips in the world. The train runs between Christchurch, Arthur’s Pass and Greymouth and if you’re like me, you’ll be awe-struck by the sheer beauty.

breathtaking beauty of NZ

What I love about the trip is that you don’t have to take days away from home, although that would be nice as well – the journey takes 4½ hours. You don’t have to buy a return ticket either – you can take a one-way journey and explore a bit in Greymouth. A popular trip is to visit the Franz Josef Glacier. Its a magnificent 12 km glacier, but its very setting, in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park is an added attraction for nature lovers. In fact the area around the Franz Josef Glacier and the Fox Glacier is a World Heritage Site. Once you have seen this, you will realise, like me, that we live in a stunningly beautiful country. I can’t wait to fill you in on more of our breathtaking travels in New Zealand.

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Christmas Markets at Home & Away

 

Manchester Christmas Markets spread throughout Manchester offer European Delights
Albert Square, Manchester Christmas Market

Skyping with our Uk friends, they were telling us of their trip to Manchester’s Christmas markets. Apparently they are held all over the city, each with their own personality, themes and products. They have a German Christmas Market that is very popular, listening to my friends it seem to be about the abundance of food and drink. Warmed spiced cider, egg nog and mulled wine, It seems strange to us here in our summer  the idea of drinking warm drinks, we tend to have our chocolate ice cold not steaming in mugs with whipped cream on. Mind you I really would like to visit one and soak up the atmosphere.

Delicious english fudge for sale at the Manchester Christmas market
English Fudge at the Christmas Market

We have own Christmas markets here not quite the same as in Europe but they have great atmosphere and are loads of fun. A mixture of our own culture , showcasing some fun ideas and Christmas novelties from home and abroad.

Christmas markets in New Zealand are multicultural, in Auckland you can find Scandinavian Market
Auckland’s Scandinavian Christmas Market

 

A Variety of Christmas Goods are available at all the Kiwi Christmas Markets
Featherston Christmas Market – Wairarapa

Now the type of drinks  and food you will find on our markets reflect the fact it is our summer, with more BBQ cuisine and beer likely to be found than anything else. Although I have found some interesting cocktails to serve at our Christmas lunch, mind you as long as it has vodka, cranberry juice and ice I am a happy lady.

 

Wine and Dine at Picton

Picton is one of those small villages that seem entirely too good to be true. It’s the very definition of “quaint village”. Picton is tucked away in Queen Charlotte Sound, in the South Islands. It’s located in the middle of New Zealand’s wine county, so you can imagine just how amazing your holiday would be. The Marllbourough Wine Region is the place where most of New Zealand’s wine is produced, and you will have the choicest wines, even before they hit the main markets. That is the kind of holiday that would make any wine aficionado jealous!

Picton Village New Zealand

It’s not just about the wine. Picton is a charming little village, located right on the bay, and the people are amazingly friendly.You need not travel far to experience the beautiful countryside, and the breathtaking coastal scenery. There are restaurants along the harbour, where you can dine on freshly caught seafood as well. For those who are interested in something more active, the Queen Charlotte Track is an option. It’s a beautiful track along the coast- and it’s 71 km long. It’s the ideal place for those who love to hike, and would want to take a weekend off and run to the wilderness.

A trip to ‘Middle Earth’

 

Replica of The Green Dragon Inn, found in The Shire and seen in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies
The Green Dragon Inn

Thought this post I would share a day trip we did from our home. We thought it was about time we did a trip to Middle Earth! Yes , we decided to visit Hobbiton, where they filmed the Middle Earth village that can be seen in the Lord of the Rings & Hobbit  movies. We decided to go via an organised tour, as you have to take the guided tour for Hobbiton anyway and it gave hubby a chance to relax ( yes its Elaine writing today) and enjoy the drive. It really is a lovely scenic drive and the tour company took us one way and back the other. There are many tour companies operating trips but  we went with a private tour as we took the family. It was a good decision, looked after us very well and we got to learn some interesting facts about our own neighbourhood.  The route took us past a historical battlefield and other famous Maori sites special to Maori Royalty. The Waikato River and Taupiri Mountains where fabulous and a definite day out for us another time.

A Historical and special area of the Waikato tribe. http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/1711/taupiri-mountain
Waikato River, with Taupiri mountain at left

Enjoyed it so much will definitely use them again for a family trip out. So much easy than having to organise everything and everyone by myself!!! The village is amazing, although I would have prefered a longer tour. Info about the filming, designing and building was given. Being a bit vertically challenged, the kids and I had no problem with the size of the homes. Food was organised and we ate in a private area next to the Green Dragon Inn along with a drink in said inn! All in all a great day out.

 

 

Eye – a historic village in Suffolk

The timber framed guildhall in Eye Suffolk England built in the 15th century
Timber framed Guildhall Eye Suffolk

 

It is a few years since we were in Suffolk but one of the places that we visited remains in my mind. with the unusual name of Eye, this is one of the smallest towns in Suffolk, and was once the smallest burough  England. The name of the town comes for the Saxon for island and once that is what Eye was, surronded by march and water, that has long since been drained. There is an hour and half tour that you can do that takes you around the town and where you can see most of the local highlights. Or you can head up to the Eye castle above the town for a lovely view. The original mound is thought to have been from the 11th century, and then a stone keep was later added. Restoration has given some inkling of what it was like and a modern ladder takes you to the ramparts and a view worth photographing. Another point of interest here is the guildhall, which is a timber framed building dating back to the 15th century. There are also a pair of tombs from the same time period in the local parish church of St Mary, which itself boasts of a lovely  medieval painted screen. What caught my interest though was the crinkle crankle wall that you can see if you take the town tour. Yes that is a real word (s) its lovely isn’t it, crnkle crankle – sounds more like the name for a packet of crisps but it is actually a garden wall with a sinuous configuration that is only one brick thick, making it more economical. The design of the walls is attributed to dutch engineers who came over in the mid 1600’s to drain the marches, they called them, slange muur which translates as snaking wall. The actual name is though to derive from Old English meaning zig zag.

Crinkle crankle wall in Eye, that dates back to 1600's often called serpentine walls
Crinkle crankle wall in Eye

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Eye, do so, it is an pleasent interesting town packed with history and unusual things, like the carved head below. It is not a big town but certainly worth a days visit and soem lovely B& B’s in the neighbourhood.

 

Carved Head, Eye, Suffolk another unusual find in this pretty town
Carved Head, Eye, Suffolk

 

English Countryside

 

Windermere, set in the Lake District UK this lovely town borders the LakeWindermere - Main Road.jpg
Windermere Town Center

 

Feeling nostalgic as I write this post, friends from the UK skyped us last night on the occasion of their 30th wedding anniversary. I was best man at their wedding and my wife was chief bridesmaid. They live in the UK in the same place as they got married and have lived for most of their lives, Windermere, Cumbria; technically a town, not a village but my blog so I get to change the parameters! Situated on the edge of the largest natural lake in the UK, Windermere is in an area of unqualified beauty, known as the Lake District. This area is the most popular British National Park, with all year round visitors from all over the world. The area is awash with history, poets, painters, photographers and writers,think John Ruskin, Beatrix Potter, Wordsworth. The craggy mountains, beautiful and in a lot of cases remote, tarns and lakes make an area awash with nature and beauty. Hikers, campers strollers it is a nirvana for them.

An isolated area of Lake windermere in the Lake District UK
Beautiful…

Windermere itself is set back a little from the lake but as it has grown it now is not a far walk. Around the lake there are some lovely hotels set in their own grounds that run down to lake edge, it is at one of these we had our friends wedding. A steam boat travels around the lake stopping at the small towns of Lakeside and Ambleside, both worth a visit and sailing on the lake is such a pleasure – don’t try swimming in it though it is freezing whatever the temperature! Another attractive way to travel around the lake is via the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Heritage Steam Railway a really fun trip especially with the grandkids. The town lends itself to the many visitors with attractive shops that if modernised have been kept to reflect the towns heritage, many being made from the local slate. The walks are amazing and for me Windermere is quintessentially British and somewhere I make a point of visiting whenever we are over. In fact looking to return there next year, considering what are the options? The wife wants to be over there for a good 2 months as feels we getting a bit long in the tooth to do this sort of journey in 2-3 weeks, huh she can speak for herself, I am as young as I think I am and today after writing this, thats about 25!!

Kaikoura

We’re sticking closer to home with this post, but still very much focused on nature. Kaikoura is one of our favourite places in New Zealand and although we haven’t been there for years it’s always on our minds to go back! Kaikoura is located right on the Pacific Ocean about two and half hours’ drive north of Christchurch with the snow-capped Seaward Kaikoura mountains behind the town providing a picture perfect setting. The town is also uniquely located by an oceanic trench which attracts all sorts of amazing marine life to its waters, and means you can eat some delicious seafood by the shore too. In fact, the name Kaikoura means ‘meal of crayfish’ in Maori and you can find plenty of that, as well as reliable old fish and chips.

Kaikoura is popular for whale watching and other activitiesThere are loads of opportunities to get up close to the marine life, with whale watching and swimming with dolphins being the highlights. Whale watching can be done from a boat or helicopter if you feel like splurging on a treat, and it really is amazing being up close to these huge, magnificent creatures. However, swimming with the dolphins is even better, you get to swim with pods of dolphins in their natural environment and they are so sociable and curious that if you hum a song through your snorkel they’ll come and investigate, I tried some Elvis with mixed results! Back on land you can go for some beautiful walks, with the peninsula walkway being the obvious top choice for spectacular views, it’s informative too with an impressive array of information panels explaining the geology, animals and the plants that make the area so special. It’s awe-inspiring to get up so close to a seal colony and see huge fur seals basking on rocks, and all for free! A few kilometres north of Kaikoura you can visit seal pups playing in a pool at Ohau Waterfall, seeing them frolicking in the water is simply enchanting and it’s a nice walk too. Kaikoura has so much to offer wildlife lovers and seafarers, one you’ve visited you’ll never forget it.