Travel

Day 6 Blog Challenge – Thank You For Making A Difference!

Day 6 Blog Challenge – Thank You For Making A Difference!

Making A Difference!

How often do we say to someone we meet, “Thank you for making a difference!”

My personal experience is – ‘not nearly enough!’ And I meet people almost daily who make a huge difference in my life; I just don’t tell them that they do. Maybe in subtle ways they get the message, but they need to hear it loud and clear.

Today I’m going to shout out to some people who are changing my world, one coffee at a time.

Seattle

I arrived in Seattle on the 11th day of December. It was cold! Probably not cold in local terms but definitely cold in Aussie terms. When I left Australia on the night of 11th of December, it was hot! No, it wasn’t the shortest flight across continents in history, or space travel, it’s just the quirky bit about crossing the International Date Line that landed me in the US of A seemingly two hours after I left the fair shores of Brisbane, Australia.

But here I am in the beautiful city of Seattle, meeting some really amazing people. All have had a profound effect on me but there are some who have made a bigger difference in my life than they will ever know.

This Is A Shout-Out To RedWing Cafe!

My second home in Seattle: The RedWing Cafe

Collectively, the staff at RedWing Cafe have been responsible for maintaining my sanity, and therefore the safety of others, for the duration of my holiday. Individually, they brightened my day every time I made the twenty minute trek down the hill from 63rd Avenue S to be greeted by a warm smile, friendly hello and large Cappuccino as I walked in the door.

God Bless You All At RedWing Cafe

Anyone who knows me well or keeps up with my blogging, knows not to approach me before I am caffeinated. Am I addicted to coffee? Yes! Generally I have just one cup of coffee a day, therefore I don’t think my health is compromised in any way because of the addiction; the safety and well-being of family, friends and the general public? Now that’s a different story. My one cup of coffee, best partaken of early in the morning, is the difference between:

  • civil and grrr!
  • pleasant and ‘stand clear!’
  • ‘Hi there’ and ‘just give me the coffee and no one will get hurt!

Anthony co-owns RedWing Cafe with Su; Bringing a successful business to 9272 57th Ave S, Seattle

Su and Anthony brought their vision of a much-needed cafe to the Rainier Beach area at 57th Ave S. Their dream has made a huge difference to the lives of the locals who call this area home.

Su (and Anthony) own Redwing Cafe;

It Really Is A Serious Problem

The severity of my addiction goes beyond having a hot beverage of caffeinated liquid in either a ceramic or paper cup. If it was that easy I could simply make a cup of what is generally considered Instant Coffee, within minutes of opening my eyes each morning, and the world would be a better place for everyone. But since my discovery of the Cappuccino, especially a large one with a double shot of espresso, the instant variety is no longer a part of my vocabulary. It just doesn’t happen!

It’s Complicated!

There are Cappuccinos, and there are Cappuccinos! There are some that I struggle to describe in terms of real coffee and there are some that I would walk over broken glass to get to, well, almost. It comes down to how conscientious the Barista is about their craft – and believe me – pulling the perfect shot is almost an exact science. There is a little wriggle room, but not much. My heroes at RedWing Cafe have perfected the craft of pulling the perfect shot and consitently provide the ideal combination, every time. Steamed milk blended expertly with the perfect shot; what more could I ask?

Danielle greets everyone with the same great smile that says ‘Welcome! We’re glad you’re here.’

The Coffee Is The Best!

This is a great photo of Danielle but trust me, she looks even better with a large Cappuccino In her hand; as long as it has my name on it. Danielle, you make great coffee!

And it isn’t only about the taste of the coffee; RedWing Cafe provides the perfect place to sit, either alone or with friends, and just soak up the incredible atmosphere.

Just one of the beautiful tables handcrafted by the very talented Shawn

It’s About The Ambience …

From the amazing tables lovingly handcrafted by Shawn out of a maple tree that once shaded the owner’s backyard, to the menu that specifically caters for vegetarians and vegans but is equally enjoyed by those other people (the carnivores).

The menu caters for all tastes and a variety of dietary needs

Master Craftsman

I was lucky enough to be sitting at my favourite table when Shawn called in for a coffee. His craftmanship is reflected in so much of the outstanding decor at RedWing Cafe. Warmth and comfort emanate from every table and piece of timber on an otherwise cold, wet Seattle day.

Shawn called in for a coffee and stood humbly by one of the outstanding tables he carved for the cafe.

It all works to make RedWing Cafe my home away from home and the perfect place to write. My favourite writing-space is upstairs in either of the two back corners, but the downstairs section works just as well.

Ed is always ready with a smile and warm welcome

Everyone at RedWing Cafe makes a contribution to creating the perfect place to enjoy a great coffee and spectacular food.

Tyree takes care of the food department and makes the best Avocado Toast on the planet!

The combination of fabulous coffee, food and exceptional staff make RedWing Cafe the place to be in Seattle if you are in need of a great place to hang out.

Franky keeps everything running smoothly in the kitchen and dining room.

Franky, Tyree and Brett make sure hungry diners enjoy the best food, every time. Did I mention the Avocado Toast? You really haven’t lived until you’ve tried this RedWing Cafe speciality.

Brett creates another breakfast culinary masterpiece for a diner on-the-run

My apologies to the many people behind the scenes at RedWing Cafe that I either didn’t meet or have the opportunity to photograph; just know that you all contribute to creating a great dining experience and I thank you all sincerely.

Tristan is just one of the great Baristas who keep the coffee coming in my direction.

Thank You RedWing Cafe For Making A Difference

Judging by the people I meet at this amazing place, I’m not the only one whose life has been changed for the better by the staff at RedWing Cafe. I may only be passing through Seattle for a short time, but I will be holding up each and every one of the inspiring staff of RedWing Cafe as a yardstick by which to measure cafes in the future.

RedWing Cafe – I Thank You – And I Will Return

Ready to write!

To sit at my favourite table again and indulge in a Cappuccino and Avocado Toast, surrounded by such happy and dedicated people will be all the incentive I need to return to Seattle. I look forward to walking through the door and greeting you all with “G’Day – I’m Back!”

Until then, keep doing what you do best:

Making a difference in people’s lives, one coffee at a time, at RedWing Cafe

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 13 comments
Day 4 Blog Post Challenge

Day 4 Blog Post Challenge

I believe in starting where I’m at…

It is Day 4 of the Blog Post Challenge, yet this is just my second blog post. By my calculations I still have another two posts to write today so that when the Day 5 Challenge lands in my inbox tomorrow, I’ll be ready for it. But for now, I will just start where I’m at and focus on the number ‘Four’. Four Seasons to be precise – or lack thereof.

Where I currently live, the seasons are neatly compartmentalised into four distinct categories: hot; cool; cold; warm. There is enough variation in the weather to justify cluttering up my wardrobe with those quirky three-quarter sleeve, light weight tops that are neither hot nor cold, depending on the season. But it hasn’t always been that way. I have lived in climates that have been singularly extreme: hot and hotter; and where there were only two categories: hot or cold.

My Island Adventure

For two years I called Penang home. It was two of the most memorable years of my life and I could happily have stayed there forever, but duty called me home. Penang is a tiny island off the mainland of Malaysia. There were only two variations in the weather: it was either hot, or hotter. The ceiling fans rotated at a rapid rate twenty four hours a day, three hundred and sixty five days a year. They never stopped!

Penang has one of those climates where you step out of the shower, dry yourself off, and within seconds you need to repeat the process. But I loved it! Friends would ask if I missed winter while living in such a hot climate and the response was always a resounding – No! I still hate winter with a passion, but that’s another story.

My Inland Adventure

In 2011 Central Queensland beckoned me. I loaded up my car, a small sedan, with everything that I considered to be essential for a six-month adventure, and I drove. The car was so heavily laden that when I stopped along the way to buy a supply of coffee beans, just in case I couldn’t buy them there, I had to be very creative about how to fit them in. Had I known what was in store for me, weather wise, I could have sacrificed all those quirky three-quarter sleeve tops and made room for more practical things, like more coffee beans.

Crickey! Another hot day!

Four Seasons?

I arrived in Moura late January. It was hot! And it stayed hot – very hot, until one day the weather Gods turned the heaters off. No warning, no transition; just no more heat. Summer ended and winter began with nothing more than a day between them. At the end of winter, summer began in the same way. The cold switched off and the summer heaters turned on without any warning. No Spring, just as there had been no Autumn. The three-quarter sleeve tops stayed safely stowed until I made my way back to a temperate climate. Despite the lack of four distinct seasons, my love of living in Central Queensland persuaded me to extend my six-month adventure to five fabulous years that are etched lovingly in my Most Memorable Years album.

Those Quirky Tops!

And those quirky three-quarter sleeve tops? I’m glad I kept them. For the past four distinct seasons in my new home, they have served me well.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 6 comments
Blog Post Challenge

Blog Post Challenge

The Pen Is Poised And The Gloves Are Off!

Let The Blog Post Challenge Begin

Today I signed up for a Blog Post Challenge – to post a blog each day of January. So, I’ve taken off the gloves, the virtual pen is poised, and I’m ready to write. Given that I’m already a few days behind, I either have to write fast to catch up, or resign myself to the fact that I’ve failed before I even begin. I’ll try the former but live with the latter if I have to.

Ready To Write…

It’s Personal

My idea of blogging is that it’s a personal thing, well, for me anyway. I don’t have a set theme for my blogs, apart from the majority of them just neatly slipping into a travel theme. But I like to think I’m a personal blogger – someone who just writes because it’s fun and it usually seems like a good idea at the time. So if you choose to follow me on this quest, don’t expect miracles because there won’t be any. I’ll just be plodding along, building up my mental muscles and stretching my creative biceps as I go.

Inspiration?

When I travel, my blog is filled with photos, held together with the memories of being there. Inspiration comes easy when you have stood in front of the magnificence of the Taj Mahal, or the splendour of the Bund and Shanghai Harbour at night.

Standing in front of the Taj Mahal

The Bund – Shanghai

Or ‘No Idea’?

When I am not travelling, my blog is interspersed with silent pauses as I sit in silence, wondering what the heck to write about.

My day usually starts with a ritual coffee on the verandah to ease into the morning, and continues with nothing more exciting than a trip to the mailbox.

So dear followers, if you are subjected to a flowery description of the path leading to the mailbox, you’ll know I’m home from whatever exotic island I’ve recently travelled to, and I have no idea where the next inspiring thought will come from. And this is indeed the blog post challenge.

The path to the mailbox

Time Will Tell

One my favourite songs by Air Supply is ‘Making Love Out Of Nothing At All’. Now let’s see how I go making a story out of nothing at all. Can I create a gripping read out of something as mundane as opening the mailbox? Will I post a blog a day with the Blog Post Challenge? Only time will tell.

Given that I’m already a few days behind, I either have to write fast to catch up, or resign myself to the fact that I’ve failed before I even start. I’ll try the former but live with the latter if I have to.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 2 comments
The Beauty Of Seattle

The Beauty Of Seattle

Traveling – it leaves you speechless,

then turns you into a storyteller.   Ibn Battuta

The beautiful buildings of Seattle have left me speechless many times, but the beauty of the city is not only in its buildings and parks, but in its people. Seattle has some amazingly beautiful people calling this spectacular place home.

There is something special about Christmas time at Macys

At every turn, while walking around Seattle, there is something spectacular to photograph. Macys stands out with its Christmas window display, shining star, and the snowflake lights depicting what is typically winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

It is magic!

Tiny lights transform this street into a magical scene.

The lights draped around the trees transform the streets into a winter wonderland.

Pike Place – Markets

And The Shopping…

The Pike Place Market is one of the more famous landmarks of Seattle. A gathering place for tourists and locals during the day, transforms into a trendy area to dine or just take in the view of the water on the other side of the market shops, at night. And who could forget seeing the Market sign in the scene from the movie, Sleepless In Seattle?

The famous Seattle Fish Market

This  fish market holds pride of place at the front of the market, and the fishmongers still toss the fish to each other, ready to be wrapped for the waiting customer. Performing for customers and throwing the fish to each other has made the Pike Place Fish Market world-famous.

Modern buildings dwarf the icon but the Space Needle is still quintessentially ‘Seattle’

Seattle Icons

Another, and possibly older icon, is the famous Space Needle. If you ever watched an episode of Frasier on TV, you will no doubt have seen the Space Needle through the apartment window and in the logo. What used to loom large is now dwarfed by much taller buildings, but the famous icon is still reminiscent of all things ‘Seattle’.

The photo doesn’t do justice to the beauty of snow falling on Christmas Eve in Seattle

And the highlight was?

Standing on 3rd Avenue on Christmas Eve and feeling the soft snowflakes falling on and around me. My first white Christmas and it was spectacular!

On a snowy Christmas Eve in Seattle

Christmas Day in Rainier Beach, Seattle

The beauty of Seattle is matched only by the beauty of the people who call this spectacular place home. Seattleites have seemingly been touched by the magic of the city and exude the magic in everything they do.

God Bless You Seattle!

No matter where I go in Seattle I meet people who exude sincere hospitality and support:- Jennifer, Shawn and Jackson, the wonderful hosts at the Airbnb; the bus driver who stopped his bus late one night, crossed the street, and made sure we were okay as we waited for the bus home; Anthony, Su and staff at Redwing Cafe who feed my daily caffeine needs and make the best Avocado Toast on the planet; the shy young man with the great smile at Steak ‘n Shake who makes the BEST Butterfinger milkshakes; the staff at CityMD where I took my injured wrist to be checked; and far too many more to mention in one post. I love you all!

Rob, the young man with the fabulous smile at Steak ‘n Shake.

You have turned a great holiday into an unforgettable memory of a beautiful city, and I thank you all sincerely.

And the highlight was standing on 3rd Avenue on Christmas Eve and feeling the soft snowflakes falling around me. My first white Christmas! It was spectacular.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 1 comment
And The Sun Came Out Today At RedWing Cafe

And The Sun Came Out Today At RedWing Cafe

The Long Way To RedWing Cafe Coffee

Because there is no rain (yet) and to prove that RedWing Cafe coffee isn’t the only thing I think about, I actually took a slightly longer way to the RedWing Cafe this morning. The comparative warmth of the sun peeking through some dark clouds in the distance, and lighter ones close by, made it an easy choice to take longer to get there. In the process, I took some photos of the beauty of this part of Seattle. We’re staying at Ranier Beach and almost every direction we take as we leave the house has a fabulous view of the water.

The view from Cooper Street

There are so many things along the way that seem unusual for this time of year, apart from the weather of course. I didn’t get a photo of it, but there is a huge Holly bush in a front garden on 61st Avenue S. When I say unusual, I mean it would be  ‘unusual’ in my part of the world, but very ordinary in this hemisphere. Trees stripped bare of their leaves; holly bushes; cloudy skies; cold weather; ivy climbing across buildings; moss and wet leaves underfoot. Nothing that we would expect to see this close to Christmas in the Land Down Under, but here, it just looks and feels like winter. Coupled with the sights and sounds of Christmas all around, the winter scenery brings to life all the Christmas Cards ever sent or received.

View from the end of 63rd Avenue

What Better Way To Spend Winter Than Reading

On long, cold winter days there is nothing better than being snuggled up somewhere warm, with coffee in one hand and good book in the other. The trend towards community libraries is something I have noted lately in Australia and it is certainly a big deal here. Conveniently close to the RedWing Cafe is a cute little library that people can borrow from or share books with.

Borrow a book or leave one to share

And Now, The Coffee…

I could have spent hours taking photos of interesting things along the way, but my first RedWing Cafe coffee of the day beckoned. The usual 15 minute walk had dragged out to almost 25 minutes and I was starting to feel the first signs of caffeine withdrawal. So, with my camera securely stowed in my bag, I soldiered on down the last hill. As I turned the corner from Water Street S into 57th Ave S, the RedWing Cafe sign stood out like a beacon on a starless night. I had arrived.

My second Seattle home: The RedWing Cafe

Yes, the sun is actually out; it just looks a bit dreary because the ground is still wet from the recent rain. First task: order the coffee and some coffee cake. Luckily, my favourite table was empty so I made my way over, taking the first layer off as I walked. With coat securely hung on the peg, I retrieved my iPad from the bag.

Coat securely hung on the peg; I’m ready to write

Once my iPad was set up, I had to decide whether to peel off another layer.

Decision made: I’ll just leave my outer jumper on. I’ll wait until the warmth of the coffee warms me from the inside before stripping back to the long-sleeved t.shirt.

With iPad set up, there is only thing left to do

Without coffee, nothing gets written. Period. (Nancy Kress)

That’s better!

And now, with coffee and cake safely delivered, I’m ready to start writing.

Life is good!

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 0 comments
Exploring Seattle – One Coffee At A Time

Exploring Seattle – One Coffee At A Time

In Search Of Coffee in Seattle

When you arrive in a new city, especially when staying out of town, you need to know where the coffee is. My first day in the Seattle area was spent in search of a comfy place to drink my morning cup-of-joe, which has become the ritual for kick-starting my heart and getting my eyes not only open, but functioning as they should.

A quick search online highlighted the Stone House Bakery as a place to be able to partake of a reasonable cup of coffee. Google Maps pointed towards the water, which isn’t too far away. But, there were a few twists and turns along the way, including a very steep and slippery path. This was not going to be sustainable long term and certainly not an option for the return journey.

This was a seriously steep and very slippery path

Christmas Spirit

The Stone House Bakery was right next to the bottom of the slippery path. This quaint place reflected the Christmas spirit that is alive and well in Seattle. There is a definite push to go back to the traditional Christmas sentiments of old and this place was no exception. with Christmas spirit hanging off every corner and flat space. Warmth and Christmas oozed from the festively lit windows and we were drawn into the cozy atmosphere that greeted us as we stepped through the door.

An Almond Croissant and coffee sufficed as breakfast – both really good – but as good as everything was, there was something lacking that would prevent us making the Stone House our regular haunt for our morning caffeine. WiFi, or lack of, was just one of the sticking points. When I asked the waitress about the WiFi, the response, as she walked away was, “If I could only remember the password…”. We didn’t see her again.

The Stone House Bakery

The Stone House would become our ‘sometimes’ place.

On The Way Home….

We left the Stone House Bakery and walked along the water for a couple of blocks. To our surprise, when we turned left we found another coffee place – the RedWing Cafe. Unlike the Stone House where we were the only customers, the RedWing was full of people. It looked warm and inviting, so we made a commitment to explore it another day.

Update:

The RedWing Cafe is now my ‘go-to’ place for my morning coffee, except on Mondays when they are closed. On Mondays I will find a Starbucks – not quite the same coffee – but just as good for WiFi and power outlets.

It’s all good!

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 1 comment
And Another Day Dawns

And Another Day Dawns

Another Day Dawns –

8.30 am – eyes slowly open. OMG! We were supposed to meet my travel-buddy’s friend downtown at 10.

Quick shower; throw on some jeans and a couple of layers of t.shirts and jumpers, ugg boots, make-up and I was ready to go – but when I said my eyes were open – they were open; they just weren’t functioning too well. Oh – and I grabbed my coat on the way out the door – and needed it – it was kind of cold at that time of day.

I don’t know how we did it, but we arrived with time to spare.

Breakfast was at a diner called ‘Geraldines’. I ordered a Cappuccino, as usual, only to be (apologetically) told they only had filtered coffee. The coffee arrived and was drinkable, but didn’t quite cut it as my usual caffeine-kick-starter. I’d forgotten how Diners work and the coffee kept on coming, but I called it quits after the first cup.

University of Washington

The rest of the day was spent exploring the University of Washington Campus. I took lots of photos of the magnificent buildings, interspersed with the occasional squirrel or bird. The only disappointment was that the fountain was turned off – I guess the University grinds to a halt over the holiday season, although there were still people around – probably tourists – like me.

Two squirrels scamper across the path

No fountain today…

 

I managed to get a photo of a bird in flight.

As we made our way away from the main hub, we stopped at a Deli for a cold drink. Unlike the other days, today had  warmed up a bit, due apparently to a prediction of rain for the next week.

The University of Washington precinct covers a large area and has a very ‘cozy’ feel; lots of coffee shops for hanging out in that are very user-friendly, with free WiFi in most of them.

A quick stop at Trader Joe’s for some groceries and then back to the cafe opposite the Deli we’d stopped at earlier. I knew they had free WiFi because I’d been using it while we were at the Deli.

Beautiful Seattle at night.

Dinner at a Thai Restaurant near the bus stop was the perfect way to end the day.

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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 0 comments
Seattle Adventure – The Sequel

Seattle Adventure – The Sequel

It pays to attend to the tiny details when planning a Seattle adventure.

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,

And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!     Robert Burns

The famous words from Robert Burns’ poem ‘To A Mouse’, written in 1785, were never more meaningful than at the moment I arrived in Seattle to start my new adventure.

The lead up to meeting my friend in Seattle included very regular communication between us – one of us in the US and the other (me) in Australia.

Departure Plans Okay –  Arrival Plans In Need Of Tweaking

Plans were created and confirmed – flight details exchanged – and everything coordinated, almost to the minute.

We would meet at Seattle Airport on Tuesday 12 December; one arriving from Brisbane at 9.30pm and the other from Santa Rosa at 10.30pm. The first one to arrive would wait at the Baggage Claim area for the other.

Simple!

The one from Australia was leaving Brisbane Airport at 10.30pm Monday, so they would meet the other in Seattle on Tuesday night, right?

Departure from Brisbane Airport

W-R-O-N-G!!!

Neither one of us considered that quirky little thing called the International Date Line, even though both of us have crossed the line from both directions, many times.

After a two-hour delay in Honolulu I arrived in Seattle, stressing about not being able to contact my friend to let them know I’d be late, only to discover they weren’t in the designated meeting place. Understandable; I figured – they were probably looking for me somewhere else. With the free SEA-TAC WiFi I was able to call them on WhatsApp, our favourite form of communication.

Now you really have to use your imagination here because I want you to picture the scene that played out with that call. It goes something like this… Oh, and a key to the scene is the timing – approximately 11.40pm Monday night.

Phone: “Ring, Ring”
Friend: “Hello”
Me: “Where are you?”
Friend: “California”
Me: “Why are you in California?”
Friend: “Because it is Monday night. Where are you?”
Me: “At the Baggage Area in Seattle ……. Airport (the penny started to drop)”.
Friend: “It isn’t Tuesday yet”
Me: “OMG! How did we get that so wrong?”

Baggage claim area at SEA-TAC

Designated meeting place in Seattle Airport – Empty!

Next Problem…

Midnight was fast approaching. The accommodation was booked for Tuesday night and I had no phone – only Internet, thanks to the free WiFi at Seattle Airport. Options started flying around my head faster than the Bullet Train from Shanghai, including the idea of spending the night and the next day at the airport. But I was in desperate need of a shower and sleep, not necessarily in that order and neither of which were available at the airport, so I decided I should find a hotel online and hopefully they’d have a shuttle, since Uber wasn’t going to be a starter without a contactable phone number to communicate with. And I knew that once I stepped away from the free WiFi, I was well and truly on my own.

In the search for a phone I came across the Luggage Storage area that had two uniformed gentlemen attending it. I asked for directions to somewhere to buy an American SIM Card, or to a pay phone – either would do. I explained the dilemma that I found myself in and one of the kind gentlemen offered to show me a feasible solution. He escorted me to an area where a number of hotels offer a free phone service for the purpose of booking a room in an emergency. The hotels even offered a free shuttle service. A quick call and I had secured a hot shower, a bed and the means of getting to them.

The descent into Seattle Airport provided a spectacular view of the city

Problem solved!

As I waited in the designated area for the shuttle, it occurred to me that in my haste to find the solution, I hadn’t actually taken much notice of the name of the hotel. Buses came and went; some with hotel names on them, some with numbers in the window. Luckily the number 63 was the only thing I remembered from the conversation with the hotel. After about 40 minutes the shuttle arrived. Of course, if it had arrived before midnight it would have been an elegant carriage driven by two beautiful white horses. Disillusioned, I climbed wearily into the shuttle heading for the low budget hotel, instead of the Palace.

The shower was hot and the bed was warm – and that’s all I cared about until 9 o’clock the next morning when I opened my eyes to a brand new day and a brand new adventure.

And the moral of this story is:

  • Pay close attention to details on flight plans
  • When you cross the International Date Line from one side to the other, make sure you know which side is a day ahead and which one isn’t
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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 0 comments
New Zealand: The Land Of The Long White Cloud

New Zealand: The Land Of The Long White Cloud

New Zealand – In All It’s Beauty

In true Gypsy style, my travels are dictated by circumstance, and the trip to New Zealand was no different. When a friend said “Hey, why don’t you meet me in Wellington in a few weeks from now?”, I couldn’t pack fast enough!. It’s good to know that the Gypsy in me is alive and well.

The ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ used to be an accepted term for the North Island of New Zealand, but now the term generally refers to both North and South Islands. I hope to introduce you to some of the charm of Wellington, on the North Island, through this post.

Leaving home from Coolangatta Airport.

The impending landing into Windy Wellington

Windy Wellington

I should have known what I was in for, weather-wise, when the flight landed at Wellington Airport. The engines were shut down, the seatbelt sign was turned off, and the passengers were lined up in the aisle, waiting to disembark through the front door. Exiting through the rear door was not an option, we were told, because it was too windy to open it. And the plane starting rocking, from side to side, while we waited. In wide-eyed bewilderment, I asked the Cabin Crew behind me if it was the wind causing the plane to rock. And yes, it was. “Oh”, they said, “it was much worse around 1 o’clock today”. Well, it seems like four and a half hours can make a huge difference in the weather in Wellington, and I really should be grateful for small mercies, I thought.

Mental note to self:

“Avoid the 1pm flight to Wellington in future travel”. The mind boggles at how the earlier flight would have felt – given how much the plane was rocking at 5.30pm. I’m surprised they’d been able to keep the aircraft upright. I’ve since learned that only pilots with special training are allowed to land in Wellington. I think I can see why. I can also see why my travel-buddy opted to land in Auckland and take a night bus to Wellington, a few weeks earlier. Smart move – but maybe that vital piece of information would have been better shared with me, before I booked my flight. Still, I made it, intact, so in the great scheme of things I probably have nothing to really complain about.

Bucket List Of Places To See

My pre-conceived ideas of what New Zealand would be like had kept me from adding it to my Bucket List of places to visit. I imagined the country to be a lot like the East Coast of Australia, and the inhabitants a lot like Aussies, based loosely on the fact that Kiwis speak a similar form of English to us. Not English like Americans or British, but average English, give or take a few variations on the vowel sounds. I’m not a big sports fan, but I have heard that Kiwis play cricket, and some form of chasing a ball around a football field, almost as well as their counterparts on the other side of the ditch. But I can’t be too sure of the accuracy of that – not being a sports fan.

How could New Zealand, the Land of the Long White Cloud, be so different to Australia?

One of the most prominent differences is the architecture, particularly in the beautiful city of Wellington. The mixture of old, new, timber, steel, glass and colour, add up to the diversity that makes the city outstanding.

Magnificent old buildings are in abundance, nestled amid the construction of the modern buildings in the city

In the architecture, the old meets the new, on either side of the in-between. I am just a little obsessed with interesting shapes, angles and lines in photos, and Wellington gives me unlimited access to it all.

The hilly nature of the city is depicted by the steep stairs on this street

The steep hills provide fabulous shots of the architecture, coupled with fabulous angles and lines. And I constantly find myself saying, “this place reminds me of San Francisco”. The bay windows, the steep hills, the clouds. Okay, in San Francisco it’s called fog, and here, well, it’s just cloudy, but it looks the same to me, as it hovers over the hills.

On a drab day, the vibrant colour of these buildings really stands out

An apt halo shines like a beacon in this beautiful old church

Cultural Hub

In keeping with the magnificent architecture, the many churches in Wellington make their presence felt. Dotted throughout the city, they provide more than just spiritual guidance to Wellingtonians and multi-cultural visitors.  Rather than just a spiritual home for Sunday gatherings, many of the churches offer lunchtime concerts for city workers, time-rich locals and visitors (like us).

Concerts held in beautiful old churches capture the lunchtime crowds in the city.

Classical music, played by accomplished students of the local School of Music, rang out of this beautiful old building at a lunchtime concert. And with free admission, compensated by a voluntary donation, the concerts are very popular. Guests are encouraged to bring their lunch, making it an ideal lunch break activity.

A Cello concert attracts the lunchtime crowd in a downtown church.

View From The Top

We had a birds-eye-view of the eight extraordinarily talented Cellists, having been offered seats in the Choir Gallery upstairs. The acoustics were amazing and the level of accomplishment of the seven music students, and their teacher, was outstanding.

My travel buddy and I agree that this is a city we’d love to come back to and spend a lot more time in. There is so much to see and do, and the people are amazing. The biggest difference I’ve noted is how quiet the people are. When we take the bus to and from town, we are usually the noisiest travellers on board. We tend to strike up conversations with the people around us and generally ‘Ooh’ and ‘Aah’ at the diversity of architecture and scenery  we pass along the way. No trouble spotting the tourists on our bus: We’re it! It’s us! Hey, here we are!

The Friends We’ve Made Along The Way

One of the great benefits of travelling is the friends you meet along the way – and we’ve met lots of new friends on this trip: Alexis at The Churchill; Alan on the night bus from town; another Alan at the Light House Cinema in Petone; John on the bus at Waikanae Beach; Annette on the Number 7 bus from Kingston; Jet from Rinski Korsakov’s and too many more to mention in this post. Alan (from the night bus from town) has become a special friend because of his impeccable taste – he shares our love of Rinski Korsakov’s – our favourite coffee shop in Berhampore. We’ve swapped contact details and I trust we’ll stay in touch. Alexis (from The Churchill) is another new friend that we’ve shared contact details with, and when she visits Australia later in the year, I hope we’ll be able to help her with advice on traversing our great Coastal land.

The Churchill; a great place for coffee and food.

Did I Mention The Food?

A stroll down Cuba Street opens up a world of culinary delights – equal to none. From Thai, to Wisconsin Burgers, and everything in between. The Ugly Bagel is my favourite, just a few steps down a laneway, opposite Cafe Eis.  Most cafes have a neat little bench across the front window, where we love to sit and solve the problems of the world, while viewing the passing parade of interesting people. Then there’s the Laundry, a fantastic Bar that has the greatest Hot Chocolate and Pecan Pie – I know – it’s a Bar – but since I don’t drink the strong stuff (apart from coffee), Hot Chocolate and Pecan Pie are my thing, especially on a cold and lazy Sunday afternoon.

The only way to spend a cold, lazy Sunday afternoon is at the Laundry

Travelling On

And on that note I leave the Land of the Long White Cloud, otherwise known as New Zealand, for now, with a promise of uploading many more of the thousands of photos I’ve taken so far. We are taking the ferry to the South Island on Saturday morning, and will drive to Christchurch for the weekend, arriving back in Wellington on Monday night. I wonder what the landscape will be like on the other side of the water?

extraordinarily talented Cellists.
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Posted by Maureen in Travel, 2 comments