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.
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.
There are typically two reasons that people travel to England for a vacation of any sorts. 1) They want to see the old-world cottages, the old appeal of a simpler time of life, and everything the historic side of England has to offer. 2) They want to see London and everything that it is today, a city only second to New York in world significance and diversity. Well, there’s actually a place in England where you can get both of these aspects with one trip: Brighton.
Brighton is a relatively mediocre town by the sea, by all accounts, until you really dive into what the town is offering. Located south of London, Brighton is like a trip to a modern city – if that modern city happened to pop up around the turn of the century before last. You still have big buildings. You still have modern roads. You still have a lot of diversity. But you also have unspoiled suburbs that give you a taste of old-world England. You have great museums, a Royal Pavilion, and many old-school pubs to break up the city pace.
Brighton isn’t exactly an undiscovered location. Many tourists head here every year. However, it’s nowhere near as busy as London, so there’s plenty of room for sightseeing and typical vacationing.
What’s so special about English villages? It can’t be denied that there is a certain appeal about the quaint brick cottages, winding lanes, stone walls, gentle streams, footbridges and greenery of English villages. There is something unique about village life, perhaps stemming from the history that goes back centuries, sometimes as far as medieval times, that many parts of the world outside Europe just don’t have. Of course those countries have their own unique histories of natives, aborigines, etc, but villages…not so much. Perhaps that’s why they appeal to so many ‘new world’ countries (USA, Australia, New Zealand, etc) which share a language and heritage with England but lack village life. It helps that numerous writers and artists have immortalised the English countryside too, think of Thomas Hardy, William Wordsworth, J.M.W. Turner and John Constable.
Most English villages have certain things in common: they usually contain at least one pub, a church, a park/common/green/square, a groceries shop and a post office. These places tend to provide a feeling of community and many villages have a local sports team or some kind of association that brings people together, and usually has annual fetes, fairs or other events. The pub or church (depending on your sensibilities) seems to be the heart of village life. Cities are more multi-cultural and anonymous, but they lack that quintessential English character. That’s not to say that city-life is bad: it’s ever-evolving, fast-paced and fun, but it’s just difficult to experience the simpler existence of old England. The rural idyll also appeals to many people; the cottages with Tudor beams, immaculate village greens, ancient graveyards, fruit trees, winding rivers and endless fields.