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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

I can’t believe I haven’t done a Tree post since July. I know it’s long overdue, but I’m going to come back to an old favourite of mine, the Ti Kouka or cabbage tree. In fact, just this morning on my lockdown walk, I whipped out my phone and snapped a cabbage tree. I might keep that one for another day, because I wanted to show you these trees, nestled away in remote Milford Sound. Mitre Peak, the mountain in this shot, is an iconic sight in New Zealand, featuring in tourism brochures, and adorning many biscuit tins and chocolate boxes in my youth! Tourists to New Zealand will recognise it too, even if their visit to Milford didn’t really show the mountain due to the high rainfall the area gets (about 6.5 metres or 252 inches per year)! I didn’t get to see it on my previous visit to the fjord* either.

It was just starting to rain (of course) when we were there, but Mitre Peak was visible right to the top. I was thrilled to see the cabbage tree on the banks of the Sound, knowing I could capture this uniquely NZ view.

Mitre Peak in Milford Sound, and ti kouka or cabbage tree in the foreground.

*Even though it is called a Sound (a river valley filled with sea water), it is actually a fjord (a glacial valley filled with sea water).

Another in the Thursday Tree Love series – find all the other bloggers doing it here.

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Social media today reminded me of what I was doing eight years ago today, when even a simple morning coffee stop was magical. We only had a couple of days left in northern Italy, where we had spent the entire month of August, and so we were on a mission to see as much as we could before heading south. It was our last day trip to explore the beautiful Dolomite mountains, an hour or two north of our base in Vittorio Veneto. We had ventured into the region a few weeks earlier, but this time we went armed with advice. Klara and her husband in next-door Slovenia had recommended a driving route through the region, and Arianna, the young host of our Airbnb apartment, suggested a coffee and pastry stop in San Vito di Cadore to ensure the day started well.

And it did. The scenery driving through San Vito di Cadore was stunning, and we sat on the balcony at Fiori Pasticceria where we enjoyed a coffee and pastry as a late breakfast. It’s one of the things I love about Italy – pastry for breakfast! This isn’t a bad view for a break in a drive, and a caffeine fix, is it?

Coffee with a view

Though there was more to come. We had visited Cortina d’Ampezzo previously that month, explored the centre and noted the huge ski-jump used in the 1956 Winter Olympics. In the midst of summer, it was hard to imagine these areas blanketed in snow, but of course this is a popular ski area too. Leaving Cortina and driving south-west gave more hints of the beauty to come, as we turned and looked back over the town. Wherever we looked there were craggy mountains, many with those distinct Dolomite shapes that are so famous.

Looking back at Cortina

We could have continued on to Austria, but we drove that route back in 1991, when we drove from Innsbruck to Villach in Austria with an unplanned short-cut through Italy. It was one of the reasons we came back to this area 22 years later, having had an early taste of its scenery. And M, Klara’s helpful husband, had specifically recommended driving the Giau Pass. We climbed through winding roads and forests, past those walking many of the local trails – kicking ourselves that we didn’t really have the time to do this – before emerging above the tree line into glorious, 360-degree views.

The view south from Giau Pass
View from the top of Giau Pass travelling west

The little restaurant at the top had an Austrian-influenced menu (only 40-50 kms away) and some delicious seeded bread, and was a popular stop for the many bikers enjoying the thrills of the bends and steep gradients of the pass, as well as for the more sedate tourists (like us) in cars. There was a short climb behind the hotel/restaurant that afforded more spectacular views. I was in heaven, my camera was working over-time, and the scenes are burned into my brain. I’ve just spent some time playing with Google Maps and their street view, and the views are perfectly captured there. If you want to experience some of this drive, search for Giau Pass, and play with street view. You’ll see why I adored this drive. And as armchair travelling is all we can do at the moment, why not?

Giau Pass was the highlight (in more ways than one) of this route, but the hours spent exploring this area, across to Moena (where we inadvertently drove through a residents-only area of this cute little town, and as a result received a 90 euro fine months later), through the San Pellegrino Pass, and then down to Bolleno before heading home were happy ones.

As with our short visits to Switzerland and Slovenia earlier that same month, I kept wishing that we had known to take days to do this, to plan stops in beautiful mountain villages or valleys, and walk the trails alongside mountain rivers or in wide, expansive vistas. I watched the hikers with envy. One of my long-term plans for retirement is to spend more time in Europe, and go back to these spots to indulge in my walking holiday dreams. But COVID may have changed the holiday landscape forever. So I am glad I was there once, on this day, eight years ago.

A (costly) view from Moena

Note: I’ve actually written about this drive before, on my blog of the trip here, so this is repeating a lot of information. Apologies to those who were reading me eight years ago!

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It’s blustery outside today. I look at the date – mid-August – and I’m worried that the spring winds are arriving early, as they did last year, and that this will be a permanent change. So many unpleasant permanent changes in the world in the last few years. I guess if it is, it is a small price to pay compared to the raging fires and searing heat I see elsewhere in the world.

The sound of the wind in the trees reminded me of this sentence, which I wrote a long time ago, and had forgotten about until recently. When I posted it previously, someone commented that it was a “found poem.” As it is the only type of poetry I could possibly write (as my month of poetry/experimenting with form posts on x365 Take Two attests), I thought I’d share it with you.

Gale force winds
don’t stop a lot
in this windy city,
except for long
hair styles and wrap
-around skirts.

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