Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Photos’ Category

A road trip is, for a photographer, a series of missed opportunities. More so, when it is raining, which was the case as we headed north a few weeks ago. The rain and the mist created an ethereal atmosphere, the trees and the hills fading into layers of grey. I love that look – I always have. I was dying to catch it with my camera, but it was teeming, and so I wasn’t getting out of the car as my camera isn’t weather-proofed. Nor, to that matter, was I. So we drove up the coast and then headed into the hills in the centre of the island, just enjoying the scenery, taking artistic shots in my head. At least that way I couldn’t blame my camera or my poor photography skills for not being able to capture the beauty of what we were passing.

We stopped overnight in Taupo, which is only ever an overnight stop for us, and for so many domestic and international tourists. We secured our lake-front motel unit just as it started to rain again, meaning that the walk I wanted to take after five hours in the car didn’t eventuate. We sat inside and watched the black swans and ducks glide around on the calm water aas the rain fell steadily. One day, we’ll stay for longer, go for some walks in the nearby bush, check out the geothermal sights of mudpools and geysers (as it has been 30+ years since we have done that), and maybe finally get that walk around the lake.

After a few more hours drive the next morning, we arrived in Auckland. It’s been a long time since I have driven into the city there – usually we arrive by plane for business or a quick weekend away – and so the experience of the dense but fast traffic on the motorway unnerved me! I felt like the country bumpkin come to town, despite the fact that we’ve driven in and around much larger cities overseas. But since my rainy-day-but-very-gentle accident last year on our local motorway, I’ve been a much more nervous passenger – to my husband’s frustration. We both arrived at our central city hotel with some relief!

We were in Auckland both because it was a) on the way, and b) to indulge two passions, namely the Husband’s love of casinos (I am so grateful we don’t have one in Wellington!), and good food. So my husband headed off to the casino for an hour or so in the afternoons and later at night, when I had the chance to curl up for a nap, or read my book. During the day we walked through gardens, went to the museum, indulged in some food nostalgia with Thai food at lunch (lunchtime Thai food is very different – or should be – from dinner-style Thai food), and decided not to do any shopping!

After a very good meal and pampering experience at Sidart, NZ’s Restaurant of the Year last year, we drove further north. Apart from my sister’s wedding 11 years ago, I’ve only been north of Auckland once before. (I’ve been to Paris more often, which is shocking to me as I write this!) When we there for the wedding, I saw an area with vineyards and native bush and boats and coves and artists and potters, and vowed to return to spend more time there sometime in the future. We had planned to make the trip this time last year, but father-in-law care issues put paid to that, as did COVID in March. So it was good to finally get there, and prepare to relax and explore.

And that’s exactly what we did, as I anticipated here. We relaxed, and pottered around the region. It’s only an hour or so from Auckland, linked by one of NZ’s few toll roads (the fee is a whopping $2.40!), and I’ve heard of so many of the beach communities, which are the weekend playground of Aucklanders. But during the week in the middle of the school term and university exams it was perfectly empty, with just a few travellers doing what we have been told to do – go out and see New Zealand, and try something new. It is spring, and so the weather was warm, and typically we could have fine weather then torrential rain followed by sunshine again within a few hours. That at least meant that we could take things easy with a long lunch or coffee or nap on the couch as the rain came down, before heading out again.

One of the favourite things we did was visit a winery with a celebrated sculpture trail. “It’ll take you about an hour,” they said at the ticket desk, but that didn’t make allowances for a camera happy couple who enjoyed the art and the natural surroundings and wandered slowly. The art was interesting; amusing sometimes, weird others, breathtaking, and puzzling, and exactly what art should be. The natural backdrops were perfect, and the pathway led us through the native bush. This sculpture in the midst of the bush refers to the ghosts of kauri trees, so many of which were felled for their timber before restrictions were put in place. The sadness at the thought of the lost kauri (and those which are currently under threat by a spreading fungus) led to joy as the path wound up into a young(ish) kauri* forest. As we walked to the top of the path, we walked through gates with bells, reminiscent of the torii gates in Japanese temples, yet in a uniquely NZ environment.

The trail begins and ends at the Brick Bay winery restaurant, the Glasshouse. so of course we stayed for lunch, blissfully happy at the warm day, the sights we had seen, the water lilies and the pond and sculpture in front of us, and the particularly nice pinot gris I enjoyed. In fact, the food was just as good as everything else, and we booked to return a day later, when we knew the weather was not likely to be conducive to anything except a long lunch and wine-tasting!

We visited many of the seaside settlements, some more appealing than others. One was clearly the base for the rich and famous from Auckland, although I don’t really understand why you would want to recreate an upper class suburbia at the beach. But elsewhere there were endless inlets and coves, and uncluttered hills with winding roads and fabulous views, which is where I would built my holiday home if I had the money.

The famed local market was a little (or a lot) disappointing, perhaps partly because a) I found some gorgeous hand-made jewellery and didn’t buy any, and b) it was so much smaller than I had expected. I’d anticipated hours of happy wandering and tasting amongst artisans and fresh produce and food, and it didn’t deliver. Still, it was fun it itself, and the crepes we had for breakfast there were delicious! And a visit later to a local handmade pottery place saw the acquisition of a lovely large platter that – surprise of surprises – we both really liked.

The only other disappointment was discovering “Charlie’s Gelato” (albeit without the required apostrophe in their roadsign, which almost stopped me trying it but not quite!) on our last day there. It was only a few minutes from where we were staying, and was so good!  The summery temperatures were perfect for gelato, and it would have been hard to resist if we’d gone earlier in our stay. (As you might know if you followed my Lemons to Limoncello three months in Italy, I adore gelato, and ice-cream generally). Maybe that’s a good thing!

An outing at a regional park brought us unexpected delights too. We’d hoped to walk some of the seafront trails, but again the rain arrived, so we only had fleeting stops at coves in between the rain showers. But the sheer number of pukeko, a native swamp hen, roaming free was surprising, and so many of them had young chicks, all fluffy and black and awkward and cute. We couldn’t stop smiling at them.

We called in at my sister’s place in Tauranga over the weekend to see them, catch up with almost-teenage Charlie (!) and watch her volleyball game, see their new kitchen (which still needed a few finishing touches, including plumbing!), have a good catch-up, enjoy the beauty of their region, and of course to pick up some avocados from their orchard.

There was one more stop before we arrived home, but it was very special, and so I’ll write about that another time. The important thing is that we got home in time for my husband to go to golf, and for me to open a bottle of chardonnay in blissful solitude.

* I’ll write more about kauri on a Thursday Tree blogging day – they deserve more than a passing reference.

Read Full Post »

My most well-travelled friend loves taking opportunistic photos of wedding couples when she is in foreign climes. Her most recent shots were taken over the weekend of a wedding couple at Angkor Wat. Such a dramatic location for your wedding photos!

We also like taking the occasional photo of couples having their wedding photos taken. My husband started it many years ago, sans Mali, on his first trip to Japan. I love this shot both because the very traditionally dressed best man (?) is using a cellphone, and also because the size of the cellphone dates the picture perfectly!

A japanese wedding party in kimono and formal dress, with one member holding a brick of a cellphone

 

My favourite shot used to be this one, taken at gorgeous Polignano a Mare in Puglia, Italy. We saw a few wedding couples out for their photo shoots in Italy, including at Monopoli harbour (just down the road from Polignano a Mare) and in a sunflower field, though sadly, I can’t find that photo.

P1150277 polignano cliff bride

On this last trip, we saw a few couples posing in gardens and temples in Japan, and the beauty of their kimonos (which can cost thousands simply for the rental) and the surroundings caused both my husband and I to get out our phones/cameras. I like the ones of this couple.

And we couldn’t miss the couple in Vietnam either, stunning against the flowers of the flame trees in Hue.

P1120806

I haven’t included photos of the wedding we attended (of complete strangers) on a cliff at a resort in Fiji, or of the couples we saw getting married at Club Med in Tahiti over 20 years ago, but they were memorable. I’m sure I’ve forgotten others, but there was something special about the ones I’ve included here. It feels a little voyeuristic, but I figure that if you’re going to dress up and pose in public, then you’re fair game to become a holiday snap!

And thanks to Carolyn for inspiring this post.

Read Full Post »

I’ve never been one for taking lots of photos of myself, and so I’ve never quite understood the whole “selfie” obsession. But I recently realised that up until my trip this year, I’ve never been truly exposed to the “selfie” generation either.

I love to take photographs. As I’ve said before, it means I actually notice more around me, and appreciate where I am, and what I’m doing, even more than if I didn’t have a camera/phone in my hand. But I’m lucky to be in New Zealand, were there are few tourists. And my last trips were to Australia and Iceland/Norway, all of which also have low populations and were not filled with tourists when I was there. So I was blissfully unaffected by selfie-takers.

Tokyo, Kyoto, and Seoul, on the other hand, were filled with both local and international tourists. A majority of the tourists were taking selfies, frequently ignoring the beautiful flowers or the architectural details or the historic places, just hoping (or ensuring) they look good on camera. It happened everywhere in Japan, where renting a kimono for a few hours is popular for visits to temples or gardens. It was maybe worse in Korea.

Our first day in Seoul took that theme to the extreme. It was a Korean public holiday – Memorial Day. We decided to go to the Palace, and found that not only were there international tourists, but it seemed a lot of locals on their day off, or families out for the day or travelling within Korea for the long weekend. In other words, it was quite busy. As in Japan, both locals and tourists love to dress up in national costume (with the added bonus that wearing national dress gives free entry), and take photos. As inveterate people-watchers, we found it fascinating. There were families all dressed up, a group of Korean-American guys, having a great time, the occasional ethnic-Europeans looking a bit awkward, tourists from Asia (we heard Chinese, Thai, Singaporeans) There were a lot of groups of girlfriends, all taking endless photos of each other. And couples.

The vanity. Oh, the vanity.

I imagined the conversations:

Boyfriend: “What do you want to do on Memorial Day?”
Girlfriend: “I could dress up and we could go to the Palace and take pictures.”
Boyfriend: “ Sure … that sounds … um … great.”

Sometimes the boyfriends/husbands were dressed up too. But frequently they were the ones behind the cameras/phones. I felt sorry for a woman on her own, carefully posing for her selfie, scrutinising her face after the shots, no friends or partner to share the experience with. I hope she got a good photo to put on social media.

In the museums, or the off-the-beaten track locations we visited in Japan and Korea, there were fewer bus tours, tourists who tended to be older, and independent travellers from NZ (yep, that was us), Australia and France. Selfies were not the focus for anyone. Sanity reigned once again.

Then in Vietnam, we spent six days at a beach resort. I put my camera away for the whole visit (though my phone came out to snap the occasional photo of a cocktail at happy hour), but every day we saw young women getting into the pool in elaborate, carefully chosen swimsuits, purely to get their photos taken. They all did exactly the same poses. There was no originality – except perhaps in their choice of swimsuit. The pressure to conform, to display their bodies, and to do so in a sexual manner, to be as perfect as their photo/camera apps can airbrush them, to objectify themselves. It made me sad for them, and for women in general. We haven’t come so far after all. And that’s not how I thought this post would end.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »