Monday, 22 May 2017

Sydney

I may or may not have mentioned that HR only gets one weekend off per month, the rest of his 'weekends' occur during the week while I am working.

I may or may not have mentioned we like to do something with the weekends we have together, you know, go away, have an adventure.

HR and I subscribe to various travel deal emails. Some of the deals look quite good and a month or so ago we decided to take the plunge and buy one of the deals.

Luxury Escapes was the company we chose and the deal was a two night stay in Sydney at the Ovolo Hotel Woolloomooloo. The deal was $599.00 for two nights, buffet continental breakfast daily, happy hour daily, free mini bar daily and use of the hotel amenities. We figured why not? We bought the deal and then booked the dates we wanted no problems.

HR decided we would take the train to Sydney so he didn't have to mess with the traffic which is dead set nuts!!!

I took a Friday off and we caught the early train to Sydney!!! The trip took as long as it would driving but was so relaxing and no pesky traffic or getting lost (that came later). The Buffet car on the train was reasonably well stocked and very well priced. As we'd left home so early, taxi to the station for 0645, we decided to have breakfast on the train - not the worst move!!

After breakfast we settled back and enjoyed the ride. I was reading Sharon Kay Penman's "The Reckoning"  on my Kindle and HR fell asleep.

We arrived at Central Station Sydney around 1130, disembarked and wandered onto the Grand Concourse in search of an OPAL card and what train we needed to catch to get to the hotel.

The lovely young lady at the help desk sorted out the OPAL card and advised us that after we spent $15.00 per day on travel any further travel that day would be free!!! We perused the boards above the hep desk and then had to figure out how to get to the Terminal and Platform we needed for Martin Place.

If you've ever read Stephen King's Dark Tower series you'll understand how I felt when I went into the underground parts to get to the train....it was like being below Lud with Jake as he out ran the bad guys...I kept expecting to see creatures coming out of the tiled walls and it didn't get any better the more we went into these areas...it was kind of surreal.

Anyway, we boarded the train and off we went. Arriving at Martin Place we needed a little direction on which way to go and there was a really nice bloke, train station staff, was very helpful. As we emerged from under the ground we were hit with the arcade of the homeless. It was confronting to be faced with these people whose only shelter was under the arches of the arcade that ran the length of the station.

Out of the station and into the gardens and getting lost!! We almost didn't get lost but there you go -we had no clue and the cabby made a quick tenner getting us unlost.

Arriving at the Oovolo and dropped our bags- room wasn't quite ready so we went in search of lunch.

Manta was where we chose to dine. It's only now looking for the link that I see it has quite the reputation and that HR and I have excellent taste.
Sitting near the water's edge we decided a light lunch was in order and chose some 'hand cut Angel chips' and a cheese tasting plate from a menu heavily seafood oriented. From the wine list I chose a Cloud Bay Sauvingon Blanc (New Zealand) and of course HR drank beer - Murray's Rude Boy Pilsner.
The cheese platter was bloody awesome; particularly the Cashel Blue cheese. Smooth rich creamy and not salty like some Blue Cheeses are. The angel chips were very tasty. The  scenery was so engrossing; trying to chose which of the many boats we should buy, that we ended up having a few more drinks and staying there quite awhile. The service was excellent as well.



Eventually we returned to the hotel and completed check in. Up to our room and it was quite a surprise. Very quirky and well set up, great views and usb ports everywhere!!! I did find the toilet with no lid a tad disconcerting. Robes to b e used, slippers to take home, a bathroom filled with toiletries and a set of scales! The mini bar was a tad disappointing with one beer, one cider, half bottle  each of white and red, water and coke. There was only one snack bag for the two days.
We didn't take advantage of the Happy Hour but we did do breakfast and let me tell you that was a nice selection to chose from each day - very tasty, a good start to the day.

Saturday, after breakfast, HR and I set out for Martin  Place station (not getting lost this time) only to find out the trains on the Illawara line between somewhere and Bondi were replaced by busses because of track work. Well gee, new in town where do we catch a bus and what way should it go??? We fluked it and got to Central Station and wandered in the general direction of China Town getting distracted by Paddy's Markets where I picked up an amazing outfit at KIMDO clothes.

From the markets we wandered through to the Chinese Garden of Friendship. Stunningly beautiful and well wort the time, it was sad that such a haven of peace was spoilt by the constant traffic hum in the background.







After the gardens we pondered our next move- go to Spotless stadium and watch the NEAFL match between the Brisbane Lions and the Giants, have lunch in China Town or got to the Cinema and watch Arthur - we figured a train ride to the stadium where we could get junk food for lunch and then return to go to the cinema.

Guess who got on the wrong train? By the time we got back to Central it was too late to try again so we figured we'd go to Darling Harbour and catch a Ferry to somewhere. We caught a Ferry, bought some Sushi and Dim Sum, and did Darling Harbour....






What great way to spend an hour!!!

Right we're going to the Cinema!  Or are we? Would have been good if we could have found one easily. We gave it up as a bad joke and strolled back to the Hotel, ordered room service and settled in for the evening. HR and I are not night people.

The following day after breakfast we caught a cab to Central with the luggage and caught the train home.

I think the deal was a good one and worth the money. I still am not a fan of Sydney.

Stay tuned for future adventures ...........

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Aftermath

Generally when HR have been gallivanting about the world we are extremely happy to return to Australia (Austen Tayshus) the Great Southern Land (Icehouse) that nestles Under a Southern Sky (Paul Norton).

Upon our return from that Slice of Heaven  (Dave Dobbin) New Zealand it's as though It's Been Raining For So Long (Dragon). We're in a state of Confusion (ELO) our Feelings (Morris Albert) are in a turmoil.

There was more than One Perfect Day (Little Heroes) on our trip that we just want the aeroplane to Take Me Back (Noiseworks). After our trip we are left asking is there More Than This (Roxy Music)?

After our trip to America (Simon and Garfunkel) we were only too happy for the plane to Take Me Back Home (Slade).  We went to San Francisco (Scott McKenzie) and visited Alcatraz and then we flew on the Silver Bird (Mark Lindsay) to Florida. On the way into Universal Studios we visited Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffet) but we didn't get to Mexico (James Taylor).

I think we need to go Cruisin' (Smokey Robinson) again, for me Cruising (The Rascals) is sorbet for the traveller. Hagalicious and I are contemplating Sailing (Chris Cross) for the end of year break - though when School's Out (Alice Cooper) and the Holiday (Madonna) is upon us they do charge like wounded bulls!

Anyway Don't Worry Be Happy (Bobby McFerrin) I am sure HR and I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor) and will bounce back like a Rubber Ball (Bobby Vee)..........

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Land of the Long White Cloud - the end

We left Dunedin the next day....
We would return to Christchurch for an overnight stop and then fly home via Sydney.

We stayed at the Sudima Christchurch Airport and for an airport hotel it was excellent! Plenty of parking, well appointed rooms and a great restaurant - Acheron - but we'll get to that later.

It was a bittersweet return as we wanted to spend more time exploring Christchurch but, we were at the end of the trip ad we both felt a little sad.

After checking in we decided to go do a little souvenir shopping and off we went to Westfield Riccarton and meandered around. We hadn't had any lunch and dinner was a long way off so we looked or a place to have a cuppa and a snack...we found Theobroma.
Ostensibly a chocolate shop Theobroma also serves beverages and delicious foods - Menu
HR had a hot chocolate which was served in  lovely shaped mug with  warmer under it, HR was so impressed he had to buy the mug and warmer!

I ordered the Honey Dew Green tea - refreshingly delicious.

Now we decided that a proper lunch would ruin dinner so we settled for Pancakes served with ice cream and drizzled with maple syrup.

It was as delicious at it looks!! Totally brilliant choice.

We wandered around some more and then returned to the hotel to repack suitcases and sort laundry before going down to the restaurant for dinner.
I ordered the Seafood Chowder of course and HR chose the Bacon Wrapped Chicken Supreme stuffed with onion marmalade and walnuts / herbed potato rosti, pineapple salsa and pepper corn sauce. I was delighted with my chowder and the chicken kept HR quiet for awhile so it must have been good. Naturally we had NZ Cheese Board Selection of Kikorangi Blue Cheese, Pakari Aged Cheddar & Brie served with assorted crackers, grapes, dried fruits & nuts to finish the meal and once again we were delighted with New Zealand cheese.

We availed ourselves of the delicious buffet breakfast the next morning before heading to the airport.

And so we dropped of the obnoxious as fuck piece of shit' and checked in for our flight to Sydney.
It was with great sadness we left the Land of the Long White Cloud but we have plans to visit the North Island and then revisit the South ......

Monday, 24 April 2017

Land of the Long White Cloud Dunedin

Dunedin is beautiful.

Dunedin is also flat, compared to Queenstown anyway.

I love Dunedin.

HR and I rolled in from Queenstown looking for a public convenience. All this travelling takes a toll on the old bladder you know.

We saw the most beautiful old building and realised it was the Dunedin Railway Station

This magnificent building, designed by George Troup was opened in 1906. A majestic building indeed! And it had a loo ....
There's a heap of cheap parking to be had here. So we parked the 'obnoxious as fuck piece of shit' and scurried to the train station. Having relieved ourselves we took the time to explore the station and see if there was a train trip we might take that afternoon. There was nothing appealing, we had been in the car for several hours so were really looking to be ambulatory.



Across from the car park was a cafe and as it was lunch time HR and I wandered over to peruse the menu. The Ionic Cafe and Bar does not have a website for me to link to but I do recommend it as a place that serves awesome liver...yes people LIVER!!! I have no idea what HR ordered I had liver with bacon and it was delicious. Used to be that liver and bacon with mashed potato was a staple of the pub menu and with a family that refuses to eat the stuff I used to rely on the pub counter lunch to get my liver fix.

After a satisfying feed it was time to walk....and walk we did right to the Chinese Gardens! Dunedin has a sister city relationship with Shanghai. The gardens are beautiful and I could have spent hours there. Perhaps if HR and I retire to New Zealand (yes it is on the cards) I will pend a lot more time there.





After a lovely hour or so wandering and experiencing the gardens we collected the vehicle and toddled off to the Scenic Hotel Southern Cross. What a lovely hotel! Great reception staff and the concierge/valet was terrific, parked the car (free valet service thank you very much) and got our bags up to the room for  us. The room was lovely - clean and comfortable.
We had a Speights Brewery Tour booked for 7:00 pm, so while a had a nana nap HR went to scout the location.

A little before 7 we sauntered downstairs and across the street to the brewery. Well what a tour that was!! Worth every penny and more. Hint - take the later tour as the earlier ones are totally booked and have too many people to be comfortable - in my opinion anyway.
Our group consisted of seven people including us. Our tour guide was very amusing and informative and e really did know what he was on about. The best part of the tour of course i the tasting right at the end. We tried everything they had on tap and I have to say it was all very drinkable including the cider!!!

Returning to the hotel we discovered we were a mite hungry and so we perused the room service menu. It was almost 9 at night and we wanted something light but satisfying as we had not had dinner.

The Scenic has three dining options and the one we ordered from was the Ports O' Call Bar and Grill who had an Antipasto to Share dish on their menu. Smoked and cured meats green lipped mussels, garlic prawns a variety of cheeses, pickled vegetables, dips and artisan bread selection . What a delicious feast washed down with more of Speights cleansing ales!
The time in Dunedin was way too short and when we return to the South Island we will make sure we have enough time to get to the castles and partake of the high teas!!

We have one more trip - back to Christchurch - where it will all end.......

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Land of the Long White Cloud Queenstown

There's so much to see and do on the way to Queenstown.
There are boutique wineries and cheese places, towns and hamlets to visit and even a museum!
The Wanaka Transport and Toy Museum to be precise. This place is amazing!!!
There are so many different things to see like three humongous great hangars of 'stuff' and then all the toys are in the main building. Have to say I was not impressed with the small Star Trek exhibit but then you can't have everything. The cars were amazing, they even had an Austin A40 Countryman - the first car we owned in Australia!!!



We spent quite a while here enjoying the trip down memory lane!

Queenstown is beautiful. It has everything for everyone. Breath taking scenery, shopping, quiet retreats and adrenaline junkie fixes. HR and I could retire here, when we win the lotto that is.

Queenstown sits o the shores of Lake Wakatipu set against the Southern Alps. Picturesque is trite when considering such a beautiful scene.

We stayed at the Heartland Hotel Queenstown and I wasn't impressed at all. The girl at reception was just short of rude and not very welcoming at all. I always feel that first impressions are important and have a huge impact on how your stay will go. The room was serviceable but directly opposite the kitchen of the restaurant so we were serenaded by the crash of crockery and cutlery as well as the chefs/staff yelling at each other over the cacophony. We were booked in for two nights and this noise was constant.

After checking in we went down the hill to check out the shopping. Walking back up the hill was almost as much fun as the Fox Glacier Terminal walk!!! Talk about steep!
We found a delightful ice cream shop on the corner near the water and walked around the beautiful gardens.
Bck at the hotel we did some laundry and ordered room service for dinner. We shared some Buffalo wings, wedges and prawn twisters.
We also decided that what we had planned for our stay, an hour at the Onsen Hot Pools, was not enough so we looked at what else was available. We weren't interested in the speed boats and bunjee jumping. After a little effort on the google-ator we found a trip on the TSS Earnslaw across the lake to Walter Peak for lunch.
After a troubled night's sleep, the noise remember, we set off down the hill looking for breakfast before our cruise.
On the way down town we stopped at the Queenstown Information Centre and booked a gondola rid to the top of the mountain and decided dinner would be nice too!!

We booked into the cruise at the terminal and settled for the cafe around the corner from the boarding area for a spot of tea and toast. The Public Kitchen and Bar served a lovely cup of tea and  really special cheese rolls. The views were gorgeous.
Boarding the TSS Earnslaw was efficiently completed and our journey began.
The TSS Earnslaw is the only coal powered steam ship in the Southern Hemisphere and she is in beautiful condition - all original. There's even an actual stoker shovelling coal!! The sound and feel of the engines was almost comforting, even with the noise of the other passengers ( a full load I believe). The Captain gave commentary on the rise across. the scenery was such that there are no superlatives that would even come close to being adequate to describe it.

At Walter Peak we disembarked and wandered over to the restaurant. Now we had booked for the BBQ lunch and really had no idea what to expect....a veritable FEAST is what we got.

A splendid room set with so many choices for entree, cheeses, salads, vegetables, breads and over to the left a dessert bar to tempt the most jaded taste! But we had come for BBQ and BBQ we got! Chicken, pork, beef and lamb all beautifully prepared and succulent to the taste. New Zealand meat has a sweeter taste than Australian.
HR had a beer and I had a glass of bubbles and we literally tried everything. We were stuffed. Then we went back for seconds........
After lunch we waddled around the gardens and then watched a sheep dog exhibition followed by a shearing display.
The trip back on the TSS Earnslaw was not as noisy as the trip out.

We lumbered back up hell hill to the hotel and rested for a little before toddling off again for the gondola ride and dinner.

I love this gondola it scared the crap out of me as it took off I swear we were going to  hit the mountain!! On reflection we should have done the luge rides as well...next time.




At the top of the mountain we had a drink and waited for our reservation at the restaurant. We paid a little extra for a guaranteed window seat and a drink.

If we thought Walter Peak was an extravaganza of food it paled in to insignificance compared to the spread at Stratosfare Queenstown Restaurant. So many different options, so many choices,  HR found the 'do it yourself' Laksa and after two bowls, two prawn cocktails and assortment of desserts - creme brulee, creme caramel and some pavlova he was done!!! I had salmon, sushi, shared some of HR's prawn cocktail and availed myself of almost one of everything on the huge dessert bar. We left the meats alone as we had had a sufficiency at lunch. Tip: don't do both TSS Earnslaw/Walter Peak lunch and the Gondola Dinner package in the same day!!!! 
The food quality did not suffer for being produced in such large quantities. HR and I will return!!.

I am sure they had to reinforce the cable on the gondola to take the extra weight on the way back down.

The walk back up hell hill to the hotel almost killed me....lol. 

Next day we were Dunedin bound.....



Sunday, 9 April 2017

Land of the Long White Cloud Franz Josef

March in Australia is still very warm. March in NZ is cooler and damper but at no time did we feel really cold Thankfully the rain confined itself to the days we were driving except at Franz Josef..

The drive to Franz Josef was another wonderland experience. The greens seem greener, the air seems cleaner, everything seemed so much more majestic.
We arrived mid afternoon and settled in to the Bella Vista Franz Josef. A clean and serviceable room perfect for sleeping and well situated for going off exploring.
Was a little confused as to why we had been housed in Franz Josef when were to do our Terminal walk on Fox Glazier half an hour away....
We walked up the main street of Franz Josef and bumped into a lovely couple who had been on the wine tour with us!!! After we parted we went to Alice May Cafe for a cuppa and cake (sorry no websites) excellent service and top cakes! then we went for a walk up  the road to the bridge on the way to Fox Glacier. It ws raining lightly and we gor drenched but who cares?



After a soggy walk we ventured a little further abroad and found King Tiger Restaurant. Chinese feast here we come!!! Fried rice, dumplings, chicken and sweet corn soup and satay beef!!! Delicious!!

The next day we drove to Fox Glacier and checked in for our walk. Our guide was a real life honest to goodness Sherpa!!!! (see the picture below).We were given a brief about our impending walk, then we suited up in rain gear, warm socks and boots and into the bus for the short trip to the start of our walk.
Deceptively flat at the start we were soon huffing and puffing on our way to the top of a seriously steep climb. I don't have a picture that really shows how steep the climb was. Suffice to say not all of our group made it to the top. I almost didn't but dammit I wasn't going to be beaten!
What a great experience that walk was.Actually completing the walk was exhilarating!  
After we had returned all flights and walks were cancelled due to the weather. 

Back in Franz Josef we had a late lunch and then went to explore some of the other walks around the area.
Dinner was cold meats and cheese from the local supermarket. After all that exercise we slept very well  after all we had to drive to Queenstown on the morrow.....

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Land of the Long White Cloud Nelson

The roads in New Zealand's South Island are pretty good. Lots of road repairs going on in a timely manner and not impacting travel times too much. Mostly one lane either way with odd little slow bays and some overtaking lanes. The traffic is not heavy and....get this... if a vehicle is slow and holding up traffic they will find a safe place to pull over and let that traffic pass them!!!!!
After playing dodgem cars on the Warrego Highway for 18 years I was astounded by this courtesy!!!

The trip to Nelson was, once again, through some gorgeous scenery and uneventful.  We stopped by Picton for breakfast at the Seabreeze Cafe an Bar. While we watched the Picton ferry ply its trade to the North Island we ate divine French Toast with streaky bacon, nana and maple syrup (me) and Wairau Valley Free Range Eggs and streaky bacon (HR). Delicious food with awesome views.


After a stroll down the main street we continued our journey to Nelson.

HR and I are not huge fans of Nelson it just didn't 'feel' right for us.We did a little shopping and bought some pastries for lunch then moseyed on over to that night's accommodation.

We stayed at the Grand Mercure Nelson Monarco and received an upgrade on arrival. A visually appealing set up looked like a typical English Green surrounded by houses.


The rooms were very comfortable and beautifully appointed comprising a sitting room, kitchenette, huge bedroom and spacious bathroom.


After a walk around the beach we opted for fish and chips for dinner and were very underwhelmed with the food. 

An early night, then back into the 'obnoxious as fuck, piece of shit' (thank you Mini Brat) and off to Franz Josef.....