Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Our first time in Europe, we struggled with jet lag the first day or two, but by the time we picked up a car in Paris, we were well adjusted (having flown only from Bangkok, not NZ), and likewise the second time, when we collected our car after a week in Rome. We then became more blasé, and flew into Paris at 6 am – albeit after a business class flight (thanks to all the airpoints/frequent flyer miles I’d saved up from all my business travel), when we had managed a few more hours sleep than usual on the 24 hour flight – and picked up a car at the airport and drove a few hours to Orleans. We were exhausted when we got there, and it’s not something we would recommend. Likewise, there have been some horror stories of international travellers arriving in New Zealand in the early morning, immediately collecting a car, and either falling asleep at the wheel or making fatal errors because they weren’t alert enough to remember to stay on the correct, left, side of the road.

So these days, we try to include a few adjustment days before we start driving on foreign roads. On this trip, we’re going to have three days before we jump into driving, so hopefully, we will have had a few nights sleep and will be alert enough to remember to stay on the right (in both senses of the word) side of the road when our natural inclination is to keep left.

That’s why today we’re going to be in London (having sensibly written and scheduled my Microblog Monday posts for the next month), adjusting to an upside down time zone, maybe having afternoon tea somewhere, and hopefully exploring somewhere new in this amazing city. Or maybe we’ll just be snoring off on the Tube or in a hotel lobby until our room becomes available (worst case scenario – nine hours after we arrive), recovering from travelling from the other side of the world.


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I am taking up a friend’s suggestion that I run a competition to guess where I’m going on my next trip, and the winners (first to guess* correctly) will receive a postcard from the destination they identified. (Two qualifications to this: 1. Assuming postcards are still available for purchase (if not, I’ll make a photocard on my return), and 2. The postcard will have been bought from the destination, but might not be posted from there.)

We’re going to eight countries on this five-week trip, seven of which will be new and exciting for us.

Clues (I might add to this list later in the week):

  • It will take a total of about 31 hours travelling time (from home to hotel) to reach our first destination, which is really only a stop-over to go onto the others.
  • Two destinations (or more, I’m not sure) might offer the opportunity to see (or even better) photograph puffins.
  • According to internet historical weather data, I have to pack for daily high temperatures ranging from 5 C (41F) to 33C (91F) … and in at least one destination, rain, lots of rain.
  • Only one of the destinations would require me to get a visa, but given my mode of travel to enter this location, it turns out I don’t need one there either.

* If you already know where I’m going (because I’ve told you), and you want a postcard too, email me your address at malinzblog(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)nz.


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I love travel photography. That’s no surprise to those of you who know how much I love to travel. But I’m a bit shy, and I’m not very good at asking people if I can take their photographs. My husband is much better at it than I am, and he is especially good at getting children’s photos. Neither of us, however, like getting our own photographs taken. So when last week’s photo challenge was to take a portrait of someone in their natural habitat (work, hobbies, for example), I groaned. I had great plans of snapping the builders putting an extra storey on the house next door, or the road workers just down our street. But I didn’t. Then I thought that a photo of myself sitting at the computer, or my husband reading on his iPad, would be a good example of an environment. But that wasn’t going to happen. So, on my walk the other day, I sneaked this photo of a mailman, as he turned the corner ahead of me.

P1020635 mailman web

The other challenge at the time was for perspective. This could be something as simple as a scene showing perspective by distance, or a forced perspective (the classic “holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa is an example of this), which I have always felt are … well … forced. The idea of showing the perspective of distance is easy when you live in the hills. So I was lazy and didn’t go out actively seeking shots. On the same walk that I found the mailman, though, I came up the stairs that deposit me (puffing) near my house. Maybe the difference between the stairs at the bottom and top would be perspective, I thought. And so I snapped away. I’ve since discovered that there’s a name for this – vanishing point perspective. I hope you’re impressed, not with the photograph which is very average and quite boring, but with the fact that I regularly climb these stairs (I’d already climbed about 20% of the stairs to be able to even see the top) at the end of my walks around this hilly suburb.

P1020645 stairs sm


Those were both last week’s challenges, and I haven’t even begun to think about this week’s subjects, so I’m slipping behind. Last weekend I finally completed the book of my blog Lemons to Limoncello as I noticed there was a 40% savings offer to get it printed. It required detailed proofreading and polishing the formatting, and I am delighted that I have finally ordered it, even beating the deadline for the discount. I’ve been shopping for the trip – a cheap tripod (though my husband has suggested I’ll have to leave some shoes behind if I want to fit it in my suitcase*) – and researching and reading about my destinations, figuring out where I can see particular species of wildlife, and trying to learn how to photograph in different conditions.

Real life seems to have taken over – now that’s perspective for you!

* Needless to say, I was not amused.

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After the gym this morning, I stopped around the bays at one of my favourite cafes for a welcome coffee, after abstaining over the weekend. The good weather of the past week of so had vanished, and we were encased in misty rain and low clouds, limiting visibility and sucking the colour from everything except the bright yellow and orange lifeguard stand in the middle of Oriental Bay, pointless and forlorn, useful for only a few short days this summer-in-name-only.

Unlike the sunny days we basked in last week when locals and visitors had filled its tables inside and out, today the cafe was not crowded. I had avoided it for the summer months when school holidays and cruise ships had contributed to crowded waterside cafes, and today it was just how I like it. Cosy inside, with its deliberately kitsch 70s decor, there were a variety of customers; a man on his laptop between meetings, the three elderly women catching up over coffee and cake, a few young couples, including the couple grabbing a coffee in the under cover outside tables so one of them could smoke, later replaced by a man who was simultaneously indulging his caffeine, nicotine and crossword addictions, and of course, there was me, reading, watching, and writing.

Outside and also under cover, a sleepy bulldog was curled up in the dog bed, looking ever so slightly grumpy and unappreciative when one of the staff woke him to give him a pat. He was then regularly disturbed by deliveries and customers coming and going, wearily opening one eye to check on proceedings as they walked by. He’s trying to sleep again now, his eyes closed, weighed down by his wrinkles, plump and perfect, unlike my own.

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As a blogger, I’m quite enjoying the weekly photography challenges, because they give me topics to write about. Yes, I know it’s cheating a bit, and I may tire of it, but this week’s challenges gave me two very appropriate topics.

The first was Shadows, Light and Absence of Light. This photo of the new fence, on our renovated driveway, was perfect one evening. For the first time in the more than twenty years in this house, I both like the fence is required to surround our driveway, and feel confident that the metalwork holding the driveway up (I’ve mentioned before that it hangs off a hill) is secure. This time last year we had just begun work on the driveway, as we had to replace all the steel support structures holding it up. It cost us a fortune, dug uncomfortably into our retirement funds, and meant that we couldn’t travel for a couple of years, but it had to be done. And now it can even give me pleasure.


The second challenge this week was Still Life. I took a lot of photos, though you’re only going to get to see a couple. Needless to say, I learned a few things about Still Life photography and me:

  1. I don’t have the equipment to light things beautifully
  2. I don’t have the patience to light things beautifully
  3. I would need to spend a lot of time to find an artistic and appropriate layout of precious objects
  4. When you take close-up photographs in the sun, you can see all the dust on surfaces, props, etc, and therefore …
  5. Attention to detail is important
  6. A moving metronome on a Mozart Sonatas book next to a little statuette of Beethoven probably doesn’t qualify as a Still Life, given that the thing I liked most about the photo was the blur of the metronome as it ticked and tocked!

Still (no pun intended), my final two choices were representative of the last week. The Travel Still Life photos reflect the shopping I’ve been doing (hiking shoes and cute woolly hat now purchased), and all the research time I’m spending online. I’m including two – I think I like the composition of the second one the best, but the first has the additional feature of a booking confirmation. (Though it doesn’t show the time it takes to make those bookings!)


This week, finally, we have had consecutive days of beautiful weather, so in the evenings – both with guests and alone – we have enjoyed relaxing outside in the garden, just sitting, seeing, and being still. We’re going to do it again tonight.


Still Life in the Garden with Drinks





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Yesterday I kicked myself as I drove again to the gym, around the bays, where the harbour was a flat, reflective, surface, the boats and boathouses sitting perfectly in the morning light, just waiting for me to photograph them with the camera that, you guessed it, I’d left back at the house.

Still, I worked out at the gym where the glass doors were flung open onto the balcony, enjoying the feelings of a summer come at last, and realised I didn’t need a camera to appreciate the sights, or to take them for my blog readers.


Then, I drove further east, through movieland – occasionally called Wellywood, the base of Peter Jackson and Weta’s extensive movie-making businesses, the birthplace of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies, where work on Avatar and many other movies is ongoing – through to the seaside suburb with the movie-industry-induced high residential prices, and always the feeling as if you’re on holiday at the beach, where I was meeting a friend who had escaped the Polish winter for a week or two, and had been welcomed home with a perfect day.

We sat beachside to catch up, appropriately donning hats and sunscreen, over coffee and avocado-smash toast, enjoying the sight of the interisland ferries passing out in the channel, plotting some last adventures offshore before her years in Europe end and before old age (and, in my case, lack of funds) gets us.


Then I drove home around different bays, enjoying the spectacular views and making note of old piers for future photography assignments, noting truly that you can’t beat Wellington on a good day, even though this year they have truly been few and far between.


The afternoon was spent working at my in-laws, taking advantage of the lack of wind to chop down/prune some trees, to collect bags of lemons which my in-laws hate to go to waste but forget to give away, the by then inevitable visit to the tip (which is much less frenzied on a Monday), and a few minutes to play with my camera, enjoying the different angles of their raised flowerbeds, and the copulating butterflies who were also taking advantage of this stunning day.

The day ended with drinks on our deck, shaded by one of our trees, taking therapy not only from the alcohol and fine weather, but from watching the tui and fantails and many other nondescript and therefore nameless birds in our trees, the quantity of which (as I had learned earlier in the day from national radio) apparently decidedly reduces our stress levels (as I am sure my bird-watching friend are well aware). It’s good to have another reason to relax outside with a camera, a drink, and each other – not that I needed one after the pleasure of spending time with friends and the satisfaction of a job well done.


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I have a confession to make. I had a two-month break from going to the gym. I was disrupted by Christmas and New Year, the terrible weather, and an appointment with a surgeon about my knee (though surgery was discounted, that makes it more difficult in some ways), and then basic inertia set in. I’ve been back the last few weeks, but I’m procrastinating about a decision I have to make about the gym. To stay, or to leave. I have an emotional connection with this small, quality group of gyms – one of the owners was my personal trainer when he was still qualifying as a physiotherapist, back at the turn of the century. And I enjoy the therapy of the drive around the bays to the gym, always different, always dramatic, regardless of whether it is fine or stormy, whether the sea is rough or calm.

These days I am taking my camera with me more frequently. So this morning, driving home after a good workout, I was pleased to see some yachts out on the water, with a large container ship moored further away. I braced myself against the wind, and tried some photos. But the sea, the hills and the sky all blended together a little too much, on this colourless morning.

Yachts on Wellington Harbour

I drove on, and as I came around into the inner harbour, I decided to try again. This is our little city on a cloudy morning, where the buildings hug the water and are framed by the hills. (I’m pleased to report the sun is out and the sky is now blue! But no, I’m not driving back to repeat the photo!) There were no cruise ships in the harbour, though there were two yesterday when it was warm and beautiful, so today we locals had it all to ourselves.

Wellington waterfront


In case you hadn’t already guessed, one of my photography challenges this week is to take a panorama. The other challenge was to take just one shot and use that. I guess it is supposed to encourage careful planning, deliberate framing, and accuracy. In keeping with the beachy theme, my one shot is below. I have to confess though that it involved no careful planning, only a little deliberate framing, and happily some accuracy! The husband and I headed north to an estuary one lunchtime this week, determined to make the most of a warm day, and enjoyed a picnic by the water. On the menu was bacon and egg pie, of course, and afterwards, I got my camera out. This little fellow was not upset that we didn’t share our lunch with him, and posed nicely. What could be more summery? Green grass, sand, and a seagull.

Seagull on grass



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