Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Monday, 27 October 2008

Labour Weekend at Himatangi Beach

Labour Weekend here in New Zealand means a 3 day weekend, so of course we headed away to meet up with our friends from the Caravan Club. "Labour Day" public holiday came about because of the efforts of Samuel Parnell, an English emigrant carpenter who settled in NZ way back in the 1840s, and insisted on working only an eight hour day. Eight hours work, eight hours recreation and eight hours sleep was his philosophy. The Labour Day Act became law in 1900.

Robin was itching to get away in the caravan as it has been 3 months since our last rally. We spent the weekend at the Himatangi Beach Motor Camp, at Manawatu, about 140 kms from Upper Hutt. This camp has many permanent caravans on site and is full of families who come out most weekends over the summer months, many bringing their dogs with them. Beach buggies packed with Dad and the kids head off for a fun time playing in the sand dunes. More serious fishermen load up their beach buggies with rods to try their luck surf casting. Then in the afternoon they all come back and hose the salt and sand off their vehicles, and we saw many sorry looking dogs being hosed down too.

There was a story going around the camp about a couple of cars caught in tide overnight so we all had to go down to the beach and check that out. It was certainly a sorry sight. There were two vehicles in the water and the high tide had already covered them. Seems a local hunter was coming back and drove into a deep hole while crossing the stream. His friend came to tow him out and this car started floating down the stream into the sea, and the electrics shorted. The only way out was for the two of them to clamber out of the sun roof. This could have very easily ended in tragedy for them both.

It was great to catch up with our caravan friends and they were all interested in hearing about our recent trip.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Happy Birthday Jenny

Another birthday has rolled around
Happy Birthday Jenny!!!

Robin is taking her out for a nice meal tonight so she doesn't have to spend the evening (after being at work all day) cooking on her birthday.

He says there are three reasons she doesn't need a present this year.
1: She has just had a long holiday overseas and
2: While away she bought FIVE gold charms for her bracelet, and
3: Didn't buy me a present for my Birthday while we were away.

Many thanks for all who sent cards, emails, and messages.

Monday, 20 October 2008

It cost HOW much?

In mid September while in UK (you may remember) Robin had a mis-hap with the rental car. Just a small matter of blowing the two right hand tyres, bending the tyre rims and a bit of damage to the car suspension. The cost of this little accident has now appeared on our credit car bill. As expected, we have been charged the insurance excess of 600 pounds. That equates to NZ$1675.09. Ouch!!!

We were just so thankful that no other vehicle was involved, and that no one was hurt.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Sunny Saturday in Godzone

(Godzone = God's own country = New Zealand)

Today was a lovely warm spring day. We welcomed a visit from Jenny's daughter Nicky, who called in to see her Mum on the way down to spend the weekend with her friend Heather in Wellington. Nicky checked out the photos of our trip, dropped off a birthday gift, and collected a few goodies to take back for the grand-daughters.

Nicky and Jenny

Then we headed into the big city ourselves to have a look around the Craft Show. Plenty of stalls there with all sorts of things on offer, (not a great many craft related, we noticed) but there didn't seem to be a lot of money changing hands. A sign of the economic times perhaps? We started our Christmas shopping early and picked up a few gourmet food items for gifts. A delicious Belgium waffle with jam and cream made a tasty light lunch.

They start young in the bungy sport these days. We spotted these children having fun on a "reverse bungy" at Chaffer's Park on the waterfront. They are strapped in to a seat, the rubber cords are pulled tight, and away in the air they go, bouncing up and down, having the time of their lives. See how high they are in the air.

A J Hackett started bungy jumping in New Zealand way back in 1988 in Queenstown, in the South Island. We have to admit that this sport is not for us - there is no way that we could stand on a tiny platform over a river with cords tied around our ankles and jump off!!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Back to earth with a thump

We have been back home for a week now, and it was back to earth again with a thump!! As usual, the alarm clock is set for 5.00am, then it is a matter of out of bed, shower, breakfast, make the packed lunches and out the door to work. It wasn't so long ago on our travels that our timetable was like this: wake up naturally, make a cup of tea and take it back to bed, watch the morning programme on TV, and plan our day's sightseeing!!

We collected Muffy from the cattery and had to pay a king's ransom to get her release!! She is worth every penny of course. She gave us the cold shoulder for a while to teach us a lesson for abandoning her. After a few cuddles, and a nice combing to get some tangles out, all was forgiven. She has been following us around the house like a little puppy dog.

While we have been away Spring has sprung and our Kowhai tree has beautiful yellow blossoms cascading down. Spring is a lovely season, with Summer and Christmas coming up fast.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Food for Thought

Travelling and holidays is all about new experiences - and trying new and interesting food is certainly one of life's pleasures. So we thought we would share with you some of the culinary delights we sampled on our trip.

We passed up the pickled lettuce and braised peanuts but can give a big "thumbs up" to the popcorn shrimp, satay sticks, sugar cane juice, battered prawns and Chinese pork. Sadly we didn't make it to Raffles Hotel for High Tea.

English fish and chips are a real delight, don't know how they do the batter but it is light and crisp, and we enjoyed the scampi too. And what can beat the "full English breakfast" to prepare yourself for a day of sightseeing. After having a large breakfast we often made do with a "cream tea" each for lunch, that's scones with jam and clotted cream for those who don't know. Toasted tea cakes were rather nice too. We drool at the thought of those chocolate covered, custard filled Crispy Creme Donuts we enjoyed at Birmingham. Apple and cinnamon pancakes were delicious too, and sticky date puddings. Beef and Yorkshire pudding, steak and ale pie, steak and kidney suet pudding, Cornish pasties, we certainly tried all the English favourites. And Jenny enjoyed kippers for breakfast, and sampled whelks at the sea side. Robin did his bit for the local economy by drinking a pint of English Carlton beer most evenings.

Apple & Cinnamon Pancakes

We tried some maple flavoured chocolate and a packet of maple cream filled biscuits - a bit sweet for our taste. Jenny really enjoyed a glass of "ice wine" - the grapes are picked off the vine when frozen and this intensifies the flavour.

New York steak, Philly Cheese Steak, giant pretzels, an American pancake breakfast, Hershey's chocolates, lemon meringue pie, hot cinnamon rolls for breakfast, take away pizza eaten in the sunshine, hot dogs in Central Park. Those Americans know how to eat - everything is super sized - just as well we weren't there too long. Jenny missed out on going to Bubbagumps in Time Square for shrimps, maybe next time.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Facts and Figures

Fancy a bit of trivia about our holiday? How about this then:

We travelled on 8 flights for a total of 54 hours flying time. Wonder how many kms we flew? And took four shuttle rides and local taxi trips in Singapore, London and New York.

Drove 2 rentals, needed the second car after Robin blew two tyres out!! A total of 1780 miles.

We took one 5 day bus tour, 8 sightseeing bus trips and 1 horse and carriage ride. We enjoyed an 8 day canal boat trip, 6 sightseeing boat trips, 2 ferry trips, 2 cable car rides and rode on 2 "big wheels", The Singapore Flyer and the London Eye. Add to that our 6 train rides plus we sampled the underground rail systems in London and New York.

We visited 4 countries, Singapore, UK, Canada and USA, staying at 12 hotels, 5 B & B's, on Narrow Boat Gypsy Rover, and in a friend's home. While travelling around we visited 10 museums, 2 castles, 2 palaces, 4 cathedrals, 2 abbeys, 3 churches, a falconry, a zoo and a primate rescue sanctuary. Plus lots of other sightseeing, visits to parks, walks along piers and beaches, interesting little villages, places of interest, memorials - you name it, we probably did it.

We spent time catching up with 5 of Jenny's quilting penfriends. Margaret of Birmingham, Janet of Cromer, Glennis of Chipping Norton, Rose of Hythe, and Gail of Canada. It was so nice to see you all.

Wrote 49 blogs at Internet Cafes and hotels, the airport, public libraries and on Dot and Derek's computer.

Happiness is clean laundry

"Find the Laundrette" was the mission as we travelled around, and in between times Jenny did some washing by hand and turned our hotel rooms into a Chinese Laundry.

Robin tripped and fell down once and dropped his camera 3 times.

Jenny tried her very best at navigating but sometimes got yelled at.

All in all we had a wonderful 9 weeks travelling.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

A long trip home

Our shuttle collected us at 11.20am on Sunday and drove around the city picking up other passengers, cases were flung in the back and extra people squeezed in. Then it was off to JFK Airport to drop everyone at different terminals. What a huge area this facility covers. Our first flight of the day was on American Airlines and left at 3.55pm - we were not in the least impressed with the service (or should we say lack of service) that this airline offers Economy Class passengers. Want to watch a film? Then hire a set of earphones. How about something to eat or drink? Pay as you go. This would not have been so bad but we were seated right by the galley and watched as the business class passengers were served with drinks and hot meals, we could smell the delicious aromas as the meals were delivered. The last straw for Jenny was when the hostess carried a coffee pot around for them all, she was convinced that we would at least get a nice hot cup of coffee. Sadly, no, we were served water instead. Wonder if those in the front of the plane realised that the majority of passengers did not qualify for this level of service? It was not a short trip either, but a six hour flight.
American Airlines 767
After a short stopover in Los Angeles we then boarded our Qantas flight on Sunday evening for the 13 1/2 hour flight back to Auckland. No complaints about the service on this flight. As we settled down to sleep we lost a day crossing over the International dateline so arrived at Auckland Airport at 5.30am on Tuesday morning. Son Michael tracked us down and we all caught up with each other's news in the coffee bar.

We were due to leave for Wellington at 10.00am but prior to that flights to the Capital were cancelled due to stormy conditions. Off we went to collect our bags, line up with all the others to rebook on a later flight. 4.30pm was the earliest one we could get on. So we sat around the airport all day, drinking coffee and eating overpriced food as more and more flights were cancelled and people were getting stressed. The storm had abated in Wellington but then descended on Auckland and it was too windy for the smaller planes to take off. We finally got away at 6.15pm, arriving at Wellington just after 7.00pm. Many thanks to Kathryn and Graeme who came to collect us and drive us home, it was most appreciated. What a long tiring day!!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

New York New York

What are our impressions of New York? Noise, yellow cabs, blaring horns, pedestrians everywhere, buses, steam coming out of vents, Broadway Shows, police cars, bicycle rickshaws, and did we mention the yellow cabs? We reckon there are more cabs in New York than any other type of transportation and they all drive with their hand on the horn!! The tour guides call them yellow cockroaches. We are very centrally situated on west 49th Street, just a block or two from the neon signed, lively Times Square. It all happens here at night, shows, restaurants, and people everywhere.

Times Square at Night

So what have we been doing in the Big Apple? We have taken 3 bus tours, this is a great way to get an overview of the city. Have been driven along 5th Avenue, down Broadway, to Little Italy and Chinatown, Greenwich Village, East Side, West Side, Harlem and The Bronx. We have viewed impressive buildings such as Empire State, Chrysler, Macys, United Nations, Rockefeller Centre and the Wardolf Hotel. And seen the Brooklyn Bridge, Madison Square Gardens and Museum Row.

We have enjoyed two "cruises". The first was the New York City Waterway Cruise, which gave us a different view of the New York skyline, and a close up to the Statue of Liberty. Then we went underground on the local subway all the way to Battery Point, where we jumped aboard the free Staten Island Ferry.

John Lennon Memorial

Other highlights have been taking a walk through Central Park. Squirrels, birds, families, joggers and us enjoyed the views, the lakes, the trees with the impressive skyline in the background. Imagine...... there was the tribute to John Lennon at an area called Strawberry Fields, a must see on our visit to the park. The Beatles, and John Lennon of course were part of our teenage years.

Another moving experience was our visit to Ground Zero. Construction has started here and we were lucky to be guided to a building overlooking the site where we had very good views through a large glass window. We well remember 9/11 happening. It was Robin's birthday home in New Zealand (NZ is a day ahead of the rest of the world) and we were out at a birthday meal with our friends from SLG. The terminals for credit cards were not operational and it was not till later that we found that all credit card transactions were routed through the Twin Towers, so that was why it was not working.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal at Stardust restaurant, billed as the home of singing waitstaff. The waiters and waitresses sang their hearts out as they delivered the meals. Seems that are all looking for the big break to get on to Broadway.

This is our final evening in New York. We can not believe that 9 weeks have gone by so fast. Tomorrow we face the long air journey home ( 6 hours plus 14 hours), so that will be a tiring day. Then we must finally go back to work!!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Washington DC

Lincoln Memorial
Our tour around Washington DC was a lesson in American history. We must confess that our knowledge of all this was sadly lacking, but we are much better informed now. Our tour was in two parts, and started off the previous evening. We visited the Lincoln Memorial, all white marble, and the imposing 19ft statue of Abraham Lincoln looks out across the Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building.

Washington Monument

The next morning we toured around several memorials. Franklin D Roosevelt's is set with huge granite blocks and waterfalls. Arlington National Cemetery is set with row after row of white headstones, the burial ground for servicemen. President Kennedy is buried on a knoll where he once stood and expressed the thought that he could stand there forever. An Eternal Flame burns in his honour.

The Iwo Jima bronze statue is 32ft and depicts the raising of the American flag at the Marine Corps Memorial - truly an inspiring piece of art. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is in quite a different style. This takes the form of a long low vee shaped granite wall set into a bank and inscribed with all the names of those killed or missing in action in the order of their loss. The National World War 11 Memorial honours the 16 million who served and features arches and fountains and a field of 4000 gold stars, to commemorate the 400,000 who died in this war.

The White House
We then went to see the U S Capitol building, which boasts the third largest dome in the world, after the Vatican and St Paul's. This is where Senators meet to shape legislative policy. What visit to Washington can be complete without a visit to the White House, the home of every US President except George Washington? We went there too for our obligatory photo. Since 9/11, the road in front of this most famous building has been blocked off to vehicular traffic.
After all this history we visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. We almost breached security when we tried to enter the building through the food hall. A security guard came running up and ordered us away, and around to the main entrance. We were just trying to save our poor aching feet some extra walking!!! Robin was particularly thrilled to be there, as it was something that he really wanted to see. There was an excellent display of all the various space vehicles as well as many different types of aircraft.
Tomorrow it is off to the Big Apple!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008


Philadelphia is the birthplace of American Independence and is steeped in history. We took a twilight horse carriage ride through the old part of town and saw all the old vintage buildings that played a part in this city's early years. As the horse carriage clip clopped along the old cobbled streets you could almost imagine being part of Philadelphia's past. Our hotel had a restaurant named "Benton's" so we thought about asking for our share of the profits that they had made over the years. While in Philly we tried their famous "Philly Cheesesteak" for dinner.

Today we walked around town and entered some of the buildings we had passed on our ride. We went to view the Liberty Bell, and the Senate and Supreme Court buildings. We also visited a little building in this complex which had a copy of one of the earliest versions of the Declaration of Independence. This version was penned three days before the signed copy and was used to inform the public of the Declaration.

We have now travelled down to Washington DC.