Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A taste of love

A few things that I learned from the lovely Camille about wine tasting:

*Most tasting should be done early in the day, preferably before lunch because your sense of taste is more active then (and it’s a great excuse for a relaxing and well-deserved lunch after all that hard work).

* Most of our ability to taste actually comes from our sense of smell, so get your nose in that glass and smell the aromas!

* Oh, and speaking of glasses: Camille wasn’t even aware of the “glass shape” hubbub that certain glass manufacturers are spouting off about. Just make sure that the opening is narrow so that it confines the wine aromas in the glass as you’re about to sense them.

*Do not eat before tasting a series of wines or all will be lost.

*If your palette gets tired, have something familiar to bring it back to neutral. In other words, if you are a coffee drinker, have a sip of coffee. If you smoke, have a cigarette (yes, it’s true. One vintner noted that he had to begin his tasting education all over again once he quit smoking).

*Don’t change your toothpaste just before a wine tasting (really).

*Do not swallow (ahem). Getting wasted will not aid in your quest to find the most delicious aged grape.

*Spit with flair. Try not to spit so hard into the spittoon that your expelled wine splatters all over that carefully tended countertop.

*Wines have many different flavors that can be attributed to things we know and love to smell and eat like fruit, flowers, chocolate, etc. Therefore, when you are learning to identify and categorize tastes in wines, you can practice using a smelling box that consists of plant/flower essences, spices, and essential oils. Camille noted that it can be expensive to establish a smelling box, but is well worth it.

*When tasting, one of the first things to establish is whether the wine contains a dark or black fruit. Dark fruits are obvious things like black plums, cherries, black currants, etc. A wine might also contain a red fruit note like cherries, raspberries, strawberries, etc. Light fruits are things like pears, grapefruit, citrus, etc. These single fruit notes are not always present or so easy to identify, but can be a good starting point.

*Pay attention to all aspects of the wine: the way it looks, the way it smells before tasting, the way it tastes when it first makes contact with your tongue, the way it tastes when you aerate it, the way that it tastes after you expel it.

*There’s so much to all of this, and I can’t wait to learn more. Camille spent two years of intensified tasting and is still learning. Wine tasting is a true labor of love.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Encountering Camille

The wine bubbled on his tongue, aerating to reveal black fruit, dark chocolate, and a hint of tomato vine. Camille knew wine, having spent two years prior to this one in France, studying to be an Oenologist - a scientist of wine. I first met Camille while suiting up for a kayak trip around Tasman Bay, his quiet determination to walk a 6 hour track in this popular national park enhanced by the flimsy yellow backpack strings pinned decidedly to his shoulders.

We met again at trails end, his gaze following applications of lotion and light makeup after a hot shower returned sensation to my kayak-weary limbs. Camille looked much the same as our morning meeting, unfazed by a day of winter tramping, his quiet demeanor contrasting youthful visage. He may have been 22, but judging by the softness of his skin, he couldn’t have been more than 25.

With a 5-minute warning from the driver for our return to Nelson, I piled my bags into the van and stumbled into the first available seat. Camille arrived last, inviting his blonde tramping partner to choose her seat, he took the last, sitting beside me. We spoke of hostels and NZ travels, comparing notes with others in the van. My bare-bones YHA hostelling experience paling in comparison to various BBH hostels described by many, including the gold status given to The Paradiso in Nelson for it’s sauna, hot tub, tasty breakfasts and, most notably, chocolate pudding for dessert. And as it turns out, Camille was spending another night at The Paradiso, while I was booked at the more central, and austere YHA Nelson. By the end of the 1-hour drive we spoke long enough to cement a bond and I was saddened to part with my new friends from Paradiso.

Arriving in Nelson after dark, I quickly realized that there was little to do on this winter’s night when all but the most enterprising restaurants had closed their doors at 5pm. As I walked the silent streets scouting for food and the bus depot, a colorful van whipped past and dropped a dark-haired man off at a nearby bank. On closer inspection, the side of the van was tagged in bubble letters spelling out P-a-r-a-d-i-s-o. Camille? I couldn’t tell for sure in this darkness, but this person before me had an uncanny resemblance to my French bus mate. I quickly crossed the street to avoid an awkward encounter at the ATM, and thought nothing more of it.

Half a day later, as I sat on the top deck of the Inter-islander Ferry, Camille re-appeared offering a double take as he made his way to the rail for an unobstructed view. A long gaze confirmed his presence, not surprising considering that he had told me of his plans to head north. Recognizing me, he changed course and sat down beside me. After a polite greeting, he proceeded to tell me of the morning’s hitchhiking adventure that brought him to the ferry in record time (he had left Nelson at least an hour later than I had). He seemed both pleased and amazed at his luck. I don’t remember much more of our conversation during the 4-hour ferry ride except for the fact that he would be flying out of Auckland to France the day before I would leave for the States. That, and he was planning a wine tour of Waiheki Island with his friend who would be meeting him in Wellington. I desperately wanted to ask if I could tag along, but soon realized that I would be travelling from Bulls on the day that he planned to go.

As the ferry turned toward Wellington Harbour, Camille left the deck with his belongings, muttering something about strong winds. After a few attempts to find him in the cabins below, I returned to the top deck assuming that I would not see him again. Yet there he was, easily spotted in his red parka, standing by the baggage claim belt. We chatted for a few minutes, and then got separated when loading onto the shuttle bus. Looking away when he stepped on the bus so that he would not feel obliged to sit near me, Camille walked past without a word and sat a few seats behind. A man close to my age sat beside me and we immediately struck up a conversation about things to do and see in Wellington. I saw Camille again briefly, passing him on the bus platform, his profile hinting at a sadness that I could not be sure of. Knowing that we would be parting within minutes, I thought it best not to disturb him. Only in retrospect did I realize that it is far better to endure the awkwardness of a goodbye than the part indifferently, as if we had never met.

Once again, I was saddened by the thought that we might never meet again, and a bit annoyed with myself for failing to ask if I might join him on his trip to Waiheke, yet half-hoping that I might find him again in Auckland. In spite of the distractions of cosmopolitan Wellington and two days on a farm in Bulls, the cadence of his words echoed in my head for days, much like Luciano’s had, only this time with the poetry of English pronounced by a Frenchman allied with our shared love of wine and stunning landscapes viewed from high vantage points.

So it was with a great deal of amazement that I spotted a black-haired man with a familiar playful lope across the street from the Auckland International Hostel just as I arrived on Saturday night. This time, my double take was met with Camille’s bright smile and a cheerful greeting. I immediately asked how his trip to Waiheke had been and he replied that he was planning to go on Sunday, asking if I would like to join him. “Yes,” my over-enthusiastic reply giving away a bit too much eagerness, qualified by, “ if that’s o.k.” revealing a bit too much vulnerability. He hesitated to respond, but did not retract his offer and said that he would go over details in the common area of the hostel once I had settled in.

Minutes turned to at least an hour when I was delayed by laundry, conversations with new roommates and who knows what else. When I finally made it to the common area, Camille was busy setting up a game of beer pong with a couple of German men, and either he didn’t see me, or chose not to acknowledge me in front of this younger crowd. At any rate, we did not discuss plans that night because I failed to see him again in spite of perching myself in an obvious spot in the lounge with a book for hours. The next morning just as I was heading upstairs to pack for a day of yet undecided adventure (having given up on the Waiheke trip), whom did I run into but Camille. “We’ll need to leave by 9:15.” He spoke casually, as if he had expected to meet. I went along with it even though it would only give me 15 minutes to finish breakfast and get ready. I left him to eat his ginger cookies and tea while I hurriedly cleaned up my dishes.

Although I plan to tell more of our adventure on Waiheke, I tell this tale because of the un-canniness of our encounters. It is not so uncommon to run into the same people throughout a common course of travel in New Zealand. There are only so many roads, and in winter, not too many places to eat or to rest one’s head. I ran into several other people who I recognized periodically from place to place, thinking little of it. My encounters with Camille were exceptional because of their timing. Each time, just as I was about to leave, or in at least one case, as I was about to arrive, Camille would be there, present and happy to see me. Perhaps I’m reading too much into these encounters, or being too mystical about it all, but this is not the first experience that I’ve had with repeated crossings, and usually there is an obvious exchange that takes place to confirm the reason for our meetings.

With this said, I’m still not sure what the reason is for this set of chance meetings except to say that when with Camille I felt a fondness, a sense of closeness, and a lightness of being that only comes to the surface for me when I’m most relaxed and happy. If nothing else, he was a reminder for me of a way of being that requires nothing but the time and space to breathe into each moment and settle in. I will miss Camille, and in the missing I will remember him with love for the moments made magic by our time together.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

When next in Auckland

Here's what I'll do when next in Auckland:

* Get oriented at the top of Mt. Eden (this helpful dial points in all directions, near and far)

*Take a plunge in the salt water Tepid Baths

*Exchange a book at the Viaduct Harbor book exchange

*Feed a red-eyed gull (even though I know I shouldn't)

*Forget the time at Albert Park

*Peer through a tiny window to the world outside

*Visit the giant, fiberglass squid

*Witness industrial ingenuity in action like this rolling bridge at Viaduct Harbor

*Drive one of those funny little cars on the left.

*Take a ferry ride to Waiheke and Tiritiri Matangi Islands

*Bungee jump off a stone tower in Albert Park (just kidding!)

Tonight the stars are out, the moon illuminates my keys and there's a sweet Summer breeze at my back. Yes, I've returned home, and I'm no longer sure where home is.

That I miss New Zealand is an understatement. This means that I will return. For many reasons.
I'll list a few here:

Where else but New Zealand do you find a polite reminder to curb pollution, set in stone?

Where else does garbage look so appealing? New Zealander's take their waste very seriously with common reminders on waste bins such as, "can that be recycled?"

Public art is playful and found everywhere!

A book exchange in the midst of one of the most highly touristed sections of Auckland, located in a shipping container, no less!

I could go on (and I will). 

I plan to fill in more than a few open gaps in this blog over the next few weeks. Stay posted if you want to see and hear more on my travels in the Land of the Great White Cloud (aka Clack Central).

Monday, July 15, 2013

Blinded by stubborness

Yesterday was the day I had planned to go to Piha. 2 weeks ago I shuffled hostel and bus bookings so that I might have an extra day to take a few short day trips like this from Auckland.

That was the plan.

However, at the last minute I decided to leave today open to chance, as I know from past experience that really interesting things can happen when plans are left open. In other words, I threw my original plans out the window.

Well, all but one.

I had one fixed agenda for the day that was non-negotiable: I had a small gift to deliver to an artist who I admire deeply. This gift was made by hand, fired by wood, and carefully packaged to survive baggage handlers of all kinds. It survived an 18 hour international flight as well as 4 weeks of New Zealand travel. With just over one travel day left, I was bound and determined to give this gift a New Zealand home.

In the morning my roommate asked what I had planned for the day, and I could tell by the way that she asked that she was looking for company. So instead of being open to possibilities, I told her that I had a delivery to make and left it at that.

I made my delivery and wandered to Mt. Eden for a great view of the surrounding area. Then off the Mt. Eden Village for some browsing, chatting and lunch. When I returned to the hostel after sunset, my roommate asked what I had done during the day and I related the above, stating that it was a much-needed relaxed day (hard to believe that I needed to relax while on vacation, I know). Then I asked her what she had done, and she told me that she climbed Mt. Eden and then took a winding road trip to Piha and KareKare beaches.

"Really," I replied (a bit stunned by the news), "how was it? I was hoping to go there myself."

Sometimes we create our own obstacles.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Gems are often found in the tiniest spaces. Near the end of a day biking up and down Waiheke Island hills for gruelling hours* of wine research with my friend Camille, I found a tidal pool with tiny, irridescent sea stars. This one is about the size of my thumbnail. Camille and I counted five stars in this pool - the only pool with such a wonderous constellation.

*more on this later

Bending the rules

In many parts of NZ snow is a rarity. On the drive from Bulls to Auckland our driver was kind enough to stop for a quick snowball fight. He tossed a few my way and missed, but a few other passengers took the opportunity to pelt him square on - his wide girth offering an easy target. In the meantime, I took the time to stomp around a bit in the white stuff, cleaning the last remaining sheep doo from the soles of my boots - as a courtesy to surrounding passengers.

As we piled back on the coach, the driver announced an amendment to the rules: "No hot foods and no snowballs!"

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Back to Sea Level

 Coming down from the mountains can be a challenge:

First, there's the issue of  air pressure. My ears were so well adjusted to the high altitude that when the first set of switchbacks ended in valley, I was back to deaf ears (well, really, a one-eared deafness - probably worse for the comparison). I might have attributed this to a mild cold that was working it's way out except for the fact that on the ascent of the next "hill" my ears returned to normal.

Secondly, there's culture shock to contend with. Phones, internet, tv, shops, and restaurants were never in sight way up there at the Anahata Yoga Center. And as much as I enjoy it when I'm in the middle of it all, it is a big adjustment to return after a week of minimal stimulus. Since the week's retreat was all about being more mindful* during waking hours, adjusting in and out of a quieter life has been another chance to apply the process of awareness. Needless to say, this is why this blog has been a bit quiet of late. I will do some catching up over the next couple of days.

Finally, there is a letting go that is a necessary part of retreat. Spending lots of hours with others in a close situation has the potential for powerful bonding. It is possible to keep to oneself in these situations, but that's not where the gems are generally found. During retreat I have a tendency to form close bonds with one or two others and, in keeping with this trend, I found a great friend in Annie. I knew as soon as I met her that we would get along well: she is generous, open, receptive to new ideas and knows how to "get things done" when things are needing to get done. That, and she shares my sister's name, although I didn't realize this at first (in New Zealand many vowels are pronounced in slightly different tones. In this case, Annie sounds more like "Ennie" in East Coast US English parlance). We spent a powerful week chatting, rooming, Karma-yoga-ing, eating, chanting, and meditating together, and although there was no sense of exclusivity to our friendship, Annie was always the one I could turn to when I needed reminders of home.

It was Annie that I descended the mountain with, de-briefing from the dramas of our week in a beautiful café in Motueka just before parting on Sunday. And it's Annie that I miss the most these 4 days later. I hope we stay in touch, but for now I must let go knowing that there is a chance that we may never meet again. That is the reality that has been so hard to come to terms with during these weeks of travelling so far from home. It's been hard adjusting, and yet, I wouldn't trade these friendships (however brief) for anything.

* actually we were practicing yogic awareness - slightly different than Buddhist mindfulness

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Internetless Week

Tomorrow begins another chapter of this journey: a week at a yoga retreat center overlooking Golden Bay. I've been looking forward to this for a long time, and although I have spent many hours in yoga centers on retreat, this one promises to be special. For the location, for the company of like-minded souls and for the Swami who resides there.

I met Swami Muktadharma in Baltimore many years ago and he impressed me deeply. My first encounter with him involved a set of rollerblades. He was sitting in the front room of Yama Studio and was asking his assistant to help him find a pair so that he might go skating down York Road, saffron robes trailing behind. I've intended to study with him in NZ ever since.

Anahata Yoga Center is off the grid, so there will be no internet service for me (or anyone else). It's been a long time since I've gone without my daily twitter fix, but somehow I'm looking forward to the break. Hopefully I'll have time to do some writing while I'm there.

In the meantime, stay well and know that you are all in my thoughts!

Dancing Light

A quiet day today, and one of the sunniest to date, I decided to take it easy and visit some very local sights. In my stubbornness to get moving after a late start, I chose the WRONG bike from the Barefoot Backpackers bicycle shed: this one was the only fully functional bike (by that I mean that the brakes worked AND the gears shifted on cue, instead of at random), however, it was a child's bike. This translated into excruciatingly painful thighs after only about 10 minutes of riding. To alleviate the pain I rode most of the way out of the saddle - the equivalent of using a variable speed Stairmaster for an hour straight. I earned my keep today.

The culmination of the trip was worth every drop of sweat: PuPu Springs is the clearest water source and river that I have ever seen. The Maori have names for the spirits of many things. One of them is Ko Hine Korako. She is the spirit of "springs and rivers of the Eastern seaboards" and said to be embodied by morning light dancing on the surface of moving waters. I met her today and am so pleased to know her now by name.

waters so clear that you can see 27 mitres down

The sound of bubbling underground springs

Sea level to clack height

I realize that it's been a bit quiet around here lately. Lots of moving of late: one night here, two nights there. This translates into a quick unpacking of essentials, instantaneous determination of the best things to take advantage of in a particular area and then absorbing as much as possible in a short amount of time. Days are shorter here: it's Winter and we just passed the Solstice. Anyway, I'm not complaining, but if I do this again, I will plan a longer stay and will spend more time in each place.

And on this trip I look forward to my travel days because I can see such vastly differing landscapes in a short span of time. Yesterday was the best example so far: I went from Wellington (basically sea level) to the mountains within hours. Then it was back to sea level again in Takaka on the northern end of the South Island. Sunrise on the ferry and sunset a few minutes from my hostel. Here's my journey in a few snaps:

crossing Cook Strait

clacks spotted between Picton and Nelson

While all snaps on this post were taken from moving vehicles, this one came from the drive between Nelson and Takaka... gives you some indication of the driver's speed!

Sunset near Takaka after crossing a mountain with the most switchbacks (and craziest driving) to date - reminded me of India for a moment

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Fantail

I met Luciano in the room with a view of distant snow-capped peaks. His back to the window, shrouded in black puffy down, crouched studiously over his computer, he was ready with a welcoming nod for all who entered the hostel's dining room. After a brief "hello," I quietly went about the business of setting up house (the near-daily ritual of unpacking, packing, and re-packing goods carrying the scent of familiarity), and preparing lunch. I didn't know it then, but Luciano was starving. Not for food. No, Luciano was resourceful. After all, he knew how to make espresso in the Australian Outback for Italian newlyweds gifted with bush walks courtesy of well-meaning relatives.

No. Luciano was starving for conversation. Or at least a chance to loose his verbiage on any willing ear. And what a bunch of words it was: full of wonderings, insight into the underbelly of international politics and friendships made and lost. His words were the equivalent of Huka Falls, fast, clear and bright. The cadence of his tongue lingered long after meaning faded.

I don't think that Luciano really cared if anyone was listening. I think that most people were charmed by his smile, his genial nature and his eyes: deep, black pools that might swallow you up in an act of merciful kindness. Others (myself included) were often willing to withstand a few extra minutes of chatter in light of his charm. And I was, indeed, charmed. And fascinated by this 25 year old Italian man in search of a life unrestricted by the confines of his homeland, which for him meant marriage, and having to answer to his father, the Doctor.

Luciano was searching for another way. A way that was honest and ideal and true. It's no wonder that we got along so well in spite of the years between us. Or maybe because of them. Because in that span of time I have learned at least one thing: how to listen. To others. To the river rippling over rocks. And to my heart.

So I listened to Luciano. And I offered a mirror so that he might see himself clearly, because he was a bit lost in a blur of daily worries. He didn't yet see what was plain to the rest of us: his talent for making people smile.

That Luciano was searching for love, there is no question, but he knew full well that love would find him regardless of the search. More pressing than love was his need for a job. His working holiday visa was used up during his year in the Outback and now he needed sponsorship. The local Presbyterian church was offering as much in exchange for elder care, but he doubted his ability to deal with the messy bits and was flat out unwilling to "sell his soul" to the church. He had only known the stigma of Roman Catholicism and was loathe to be part of any organisation wielding such vast socio-political power. All attempts to explain theological differences fell on deaf ears. 25 is an uncompromising age. I remember it well.

It was at 25 when I decided that I'd had enough of the seemingly endless cycle of love and heartache and a life defined by partnership. I cut loose the bonds of love and went into free fall, flitting about like the Fantail, and diving deep into the real of the unknown and into un-knowing. I have yet to land because, like Luciano and the Church, I am highly suspicious of the power that love wields. That, and I'm in search of a wider definition of love, one that doesn't involve selling my soul.

In Luciano I recognised familiar searching, longing for partnership and a mutual understanding that love can be found even in fleeting friendships like ours. I also recognised the price that we pay for our uncompromising natures: our stubbornness can blur the lines between the forest and the trees. Often what we seek is standing there, right in front of us, clear as the Waikato River, if only we choose to clear our sights of the ideal and focus on the real.

Yesterday, as I returned to the hostel in Taupo for my belongings, I met Luciano on his way out. Momentarily distracted by a text from a girl that he met the night before, he expressed worry about how to proceed, not wanting to confuse her with signals of friendship. With a twinge of jealousy, I told him to take it slowly (advice which I've never heeded). Then we embraced, momentarily compressing fluffy black down, and wished each other well.

On the way to gather my bags, the hostel caretaker, a woman about my age, asked if Luciano was putting the moves on me. "No," I replied, not wanting to limit the sentiment of our parting. "He's quite charming," she said with a mix of genuine concern and a hint of judgement. And for a moment I wondered about what might have been had I been willing to cross a straight and narrow line for the blurring of social norms. And left content with this unknowing.

I hope that you find what you are looking for, dear Luciano. I hope we all do.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Clacks spotted in Taupo!

My first day in Taupo was a bit of a wash. Hungover from the full moon, I think. Anyway, magic hour made up for it when I spotted more than a few clacks on distant snow-clad peaks.

Then, with beer and wine pouring freely, Italian, Scottish, Irish, German, New Zealand and American accents mingled in the communal kitchen. Now we're cooking with gas! This is what hostelling is all about.

same spot, in the morning with cloud hoovering over Lake Taupo

Near sundown, Lake Taupo, clacks in distance (you'll have to take my word for it)

Everything changes after dark

An afternoon dip in geothermal pools at the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua was so relaxing that I decided to return to soak up super moon rays after dark.

Everything changes after dark.

While the afternoon soak was shared with Asian couples, in the evening I found myself surrounded by large parties of New Zealanders. Blending in was out of the question, so I shifted into mermaid mode, gliding through steamy waters like Esther Williams in an Ed Wood film.

Needless to say, I was singled out by a chatty gentleman from Dunedin who sidled over to my quiet corner when his friends departed for cooler climes. Seemingly oblivious to the near-boiling sulphurous puddle, he proceeded to embark on an hour long diatribe that seamlessly connected the war in Afghanistan to dairy farming to Hokey Pokey ice cream (yet another endorsement for the treat which I have yet to try).

Meanwhile, I managed to avoid lobster syndrome by slithering to the teak sitting wall with each shift in subject. Perhaps this was his plan all along (which would explain the increasingly rapid subject changes). Or was he hoping that I might be wooed by the romantic setting and cemented in place by the minerals seeping through my pores? We'll never know. Departing with the "meeting a friend" excuse, I slipped right out of his hands.

After all, there's no hokey pokey allowed in the Polynesian geothermal pools ;-)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Just in case you don't see new posts here...

There are times when posting to this blog is difficult, but I can usually post to my google plus profile (I think that you can access it from this blog).

There may be other times when I can't post at all. At these times, if I have any internet access, I will usually be posting on twitter @DorothiesAll

Then there are those times (few and far between) when I have decided to go internet free. Those are very difficult days (as much as I hate to admit it).

"Perfect love comes softly, if at all."

Waikato Bus Trip Highlights:

Verdant rolling hills peppered with sheep and cattle: The cows must have velcro for hooves #PrecariouslyPerched

Bus tag: "Perfect love comes softly, if at all."

Like a box of birds

22 June Things that I am ever so grateful for (in chronological order):
1. The ferryman who replied, "Like a box of birds" when I asked how he was doing.
2. The creamy mushroom and aubergine tart purchased at the Waiheke ferry dock (36degree Cafe, you rock!)
3. Turquoise waters embraced by volcanic, oyster clustered rocks.
4. Rainstorms that pass by within minutes.
5. Lightweight wind proof rain gear and layers of clothing, removed and replaced several times over.
6. The wine-touring group who shouted, "Female power!" as I passed by on the coastal track.
7. My new moss coloured hiking boots, purchased from a perfect Kiwi gentleman (why didn't I ask for his number?!?)

8. Trees straight out of The Lorax and little birds the colour of Neil Finn's Les Paul.
9. Whittaker's Music Museum: an oasis at the end of a long journey. Filled with kind souls and kindred spirits, including a giant music box and New Zealand's oldest Steinway. Special note: Larry Whittaker plays a mean show tune.

10. A seat by the fire as I indulged in a lovingly prepared meal at the Oyster Inn, Oneroa: Lightly battered delicate white fish and thick, triple-fried chips, delicious local Pinot, cardamom-infused chocolate truffle. Thank you, Andy Harris and Sally Richardson of Stonecrop wines for the suggestion!

So good.
Have a listen to this magical music box from Whittaker's Music Museum

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Daily Flat White

Off in search of my daily flat white. Wonder what the message on top will be today? An image of the

Supermoon, perhaps? Stay posted!

Hills (and more hills)

Auckland is one hilly city. I have been up and down so many hills that I've forgotten what "flat" looks like (my daily flat white is the closest resemblance). Fantastic views today up close at Roundhead Studios / Sharondalier and from a great volcanic height: Mt. Eden/Maungawhau. Photos to follow...

Greetings from Auckland!

Auckland greeting: a double rainbow and Donovan on the radio. An auspicious beginning! Photos pending (if I can figure out how to coordinate my technology)...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Message if the day: Wing it!

Today I met with two friends of my father: one true New Zealander and one near-NZer. Both had great suggestions about things to do and see, and the gist overall was to just wing it. The reason being: more fun can be had when one is open and flexible during travel, especially in a country with highly variable weather.

When all was said and done and my head filled to overflowing with names like Takaka, Whangerei, Taupo, and Bulls, I was most intrigued by the list of foods not to be missed:

Green-lipped mussels ...the name evokes visions of cartoon-faced crustaceans
Marmite, yeasty spreadable substance, thick like tar
White bait ...tiny, translucent eel served in a fritter
Fish & chips ...try the blue cod
Pies ...flaky, filling meals, found in every town's bakery
Hokey Pokey ice cream ...left foot in
Peanut slabs ...chocolate + nuts = love
Pavlova ...creamy, fruity merengue
Feijoa juice ...aka Simply Squeezed pineapple-guava
Tui beer ...named after a native bird
Wine wine wine ...local, delicious & delightful (ill be keeping an eye out for Stonecrop and TwoPaddocks myself)


Friday, May 24, 2013

Well, the timing of this article could not be better: 48 hours in Auckland I think I'll put this on my calendar for days one and two.

In the meantime, I'm busy reading travel guides, perusing maps, watching films and reading fiction and non-fiction about/by New Zealand/Kiwis as I prepare to visit this wondrous land.
Here is a sampling (in no particular order):

Fairness and Freedom: A History of Two Open Societies by David Hackett Fischer
This book is a fascinating comparison of the politics and philosophies of NZ and the US. A recommended read that offers up history and politics in byte size bits with a fair share of philosophy to round out the sampling... perfect for pre-travel inspiration. I am so impressed with the political system in NZ, by the way.

Rain (2003), Fireworks Pictures, Directed by Christine Jeffs
I'm listening to the soundtrack now. So lovely.
Anyway, I own this film and have enjoyed watching it several times over in spite (or maybe because) of it's dark overtones. It is a coming of age story set in (1970's?) NZ. Sensuous sepia scenes of no-boundaries parties on the beach intercut with difficult family dynamics - all viewed through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old girl (played so well by Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki).

Top of the Lake (2013), A mini-series by Jane Campion
Wow! I'm still digesting this one. It's Twin Peaks meets X-Files set in high altitude NZ bush country (backwoods). Feminist retreat group vs. meth lab gangsters with an alternately strong/fragile female lead brilliantly played by Elisabeth Moss (aka Peggy Olson from Mad Men).

Two Paddocks blog
I've been following actor Sam Neill on twitter for over two years now and I have to say, he is the most hilarious, insightful, down-to-earth actor that I have ever known. His blog on the Two Paddocks website  is SO funny... Oh, and he has a great "disco" section where he asks famous actors and musicians to list and comment on their favorite recordings (so entertaining).... and in case you didn't know, Mr. Neill is the proprietor of Two Paddocks vineyard in Central Otago, NZ.

And speaking of twitter, I'm following a number of Kiwis, including @JenLongshaw, who is an artist and animal lover living in Hawkes Bay (North Island). She's also very funny and has great pics of her goat Stig and various other animals on her blog. I began following her and Sam Neill on the same day (and they both followed me back the next day... so gracious).

This YouTube channel offers a great sampling of Kiwi music, although, it seems that it hasn't been updated in 5 years. Highlights include rare old footage of Split Enz, a cool hip-hop video by Twin Maori (?) sisters - Sisters Underground, and more.

Lots of great NZ music missing from this channel, but well worth checking out: Finn Brothers (and solo work by Neil Finn and Tim Finn), Bic Runga, Sean Donnelly, Conan Mockasin, Lawrence Arabia, Ladyhawke...

I could go on, but I promised myself an early bedtime, so off I go to dreamland...