SPAIN Part two plus Milano and Singapore September 21-November 5th

We dropped Allison off and drove home past the pink lakes and Flamingos not your every day sight, and once home we started an extra big clean up outside of Paula’s. The storms had done minimal damage but we wanted to rake up leaves and clean the tile areas to stop them blowing into the pool. The sad truth is you need to use more water to clean up after the damage from too much water.

It gave me something active to do while I was sad, missing my girl.

We decided to walk to the massive shopping centre and really started to comprehend how big it is. I did get some new sunglasses.

It’s still high temperatures and after a long walk on the Sunday to check out the damage at La Zenia beach to see how the clean up was coming along, we were grateful for Paula’s pool to cool off in as the sea water though getting better wasn’t up to our standards for swimming.

The local powers that be have actually been quick to get the beaches back in shape for people to enjoy sunbathing etc, but obviously the water cleanliness is up to Mother Nature.

We decided to walk out for dinner on Sunday night and after doing the strip walk thought we’d try the one place offering tapas, hmmmmm wish we hadn’t bothered. Malaga will hold those precious memories of good tapas in a vibrant atmosphere.

Monday saw us at home for the day except a food shop trip. We were looking at car rentals, flights and started looking at booking our holiday in Cavtat, Croatia for August 2020.

Because of the length of time we will be up this part of the world in 2020 we have to play the numbers game carefully with The Schengen zone agreement. One of the reasons we love Croatia is it gives us the opportunity to extend our stay in Europe as it’s not in The Schengen zone and it’s beautiful coastline and history are pretty near impossible to beat.

It was time to change our rental car, which meant another drive to the airport. The handover of the old vehicle was fairly quick but again the new car with a different company was drawn out and painful. But finally we were on our way in our little Ford Fiesta. The last car had been a small suv ( Opal, Mokka) which was bigger and much more comfortable for our road trips with Allison on board too.

Now that it’s just the two of us we can zoom around in our fiesta Spanish party car.

Wednesday we decided to start looking at the beaches close by and started and ended at Punta Prima which we thought was lovely. By now the water had cleared up and was beautiful for swimming in.

That evening we went to the town of Villamartin to go to the Chinese restaurant. Sitting outside we were stunned by the amount of people and traffic, there was even traffic patrolmen guiding people.

The stream of people were heading into the plaza.

So after we finished eating we walked over to see what was going on.

The plaza is a huge two story complex with a stage on the ground level, meaning all the bars and restaurants all only need to pay a minimum amount to pay for entertainment that they can all share. Turns out on this evening Les McKeon from The Bay City Rollers was going to be performing.

Thursday I decided to call the Singapore consulate to confirm if they would let me into the country with an outgoing ticket if my passport had less than six months on it. Apparently NOT! So spent the morning organising an appointment at the Australian consulate in Madrid and getting paperwork printed, booked a pet friendly hotel so we can take little Dolly the dog with us, with her mums ok. Dolly arrived the next day Friday to stay with us for a week and with the passports taking three weeks ( no emergency passports here) we had to go ASAP so I’ll be good to fly to Milan on the 28th October.

Phew another adventure in the life of travelling.

Friday we spent organising ourselves for after our July reunion cruise with our buddies from 2010 Europe trip. Organised a car hire to get to Luton airport from Southhampton, flights to Dubrovnik and organised our accommodation in Cavtat for six weeks at the same villa we stayed at in 2018.

Had a catch up dinner and show with our Columbus ship mates on the Friday night. Always good company.

Saturday we spent organising flights to NZ in January to see my dad, the rest of the family and friends before we take off in February for most of 2020.

Sunday saw us pack up the car along with Dolly dog and head to Madrid for my 11am Monday appointment at the Australian consulate.

We had a couple of coffee stops and water/ toilet breaks for Dolly and arrived at our pet friendly hotel by 3pm. We’ve never taken a dog to a hotel before and Dolly was brilliant.

It was in a strange area where the food markets are and we had to go through a barrier each time and confirm we were staying at the hotel.

There was absolutely nothing around except the big warehouses so we went for a drive to see where the consulate was and grab dinner out.

It wasn’t a fantastic opportunity to sightsee but luckily we have been to Madrid before and eating in a local area was great for watching every day Spanish enjoying their evenings at the small local parks and cafes.

My appointment on Monday couldn’t have been easier or quicker and fingers crossed The passport arrives back from Australia ok and in time for our flight to Milan end of October. They will let me know when it arrives and we can decide whether to go collect it or get it couriered. If we go back to collect it hopefully it will allow us a few days more to sightsee there.

We arrived back in Cabo Roig on Monday evening in time to cook dinner and binge watch a funny show called “Back to life”. Quite entertaining. Last week we watched the series “ an ordinary woman” from Russia, also a great watch.

Paula has a firestick for watching shows on her tv and we also change our VPN and hook the iPad up to the tv to watch stuff from Australia.

Tuesday I got Paula’s sewing machine out and hemmed some pants and after food shopping we basically spent the day reading, and doing some office work. Life is often just like at home just somewhere different. Bills have to be paid, calendars tagged, shopping, washing.

The week continues to have beautiful sunny warm days and we take walks along the coast and swim in the sea which is now back to normal after the storms and sometimes we’ll have a coffee at one of the beach kiosks and dry in the sunshine. It really feels like a summer holiday when you get to enjoy the beach.

I had a dental appointment to see about a root canal and go back next week to start the treatment. Very professional looking outfit and good pricing. Let’s wait and see how it pans out.

As it turns out, could not have gone better, forty minutes tops in chair, no anaesthetic required as nerve dead, go back on the 21st for filling in root then next day for composite filling over the lot. $400 Australian all up.

We had a lovely day at Cartagena in the sunshine exploring this town which was the base for the Spanish Armada .

Fantastic old Roman theatre which had only been rediscovered in 1990 and what a lot has had to happen to bring it back. After centuries being built upon by churches and homes the Spanish have managed to renovate it to such a standard that a part of each of the sites history is preserved whilst bringing the old theatre back to life.

A new one has been built next door.

The town is lovely for strolling and the harbour port offers boat rides which we did take a 45 minute catamaran tour. Not quite as spectacular as the photos displayed had you thinking but, it’s always nice to be on the water on a sunny day.

Two dinners out one with Lesley and Mark, Dolly dogs mum and dad which was great with drinks at a bar first before a sumptuous Asian fusion dinner.

A Chinese with all of Paula’s friends at the chinky, quite a gathering requiring two tables of 9 and 12. Met some other lovely interlopers like us, visiting their Friends from the group and hopefully we’ll catch up next year in Ealing where one of them lives.

A day trip to the town of Murcia which also encompassed a reconnaissance of the Murcia airport for picking Paula up whom unfortunately has had to cut her trip early to undertake a skin cancer treatment.

Murcia was another lovely day trip, and we managed to see a civic parade which was the start of the weekend celebration of Espania Dia.

We enjoyed a delicious tapas lunch, soaking up the people watching and sunshine which has been delightful.

Sunday morning the 13th of October we walked to our pick up spot for our trip to Benidorm and The Rollingstone tribute show. Our friends Beryl and Alan got on about an hour later as we rode around the countryside making pickups but still only 21 on the coach.

The deal included a lunch, dinner and breakfast as well as accommodation at the hotel Poseidon resort, tickets to the show, transfers to the Benidorm palace and of course the ride there and back, for 95€ each we thought it was great value.

We had plenty of time when we arrived for a lovely walk with Beryl and Alan through the old town and quite a way along The esplanade of the next bay enjoying a cold drink at a waterfront cafe and heading back for a quick nap,shower and dinner before the show.

What a brilliant night! we caught up with our other partners in crime Pat and Derek inside The Palace and even another of Paula’s friends found us.

After enjoying a fantastic show we three couples walked to the Rock n roll bar down the street where we watched the last of a Blues brothers set, then an incredible Argentinian guy who had the crowd in his palm from the first minute. At one point he was on the table tops playing his fiddle and entertaining everyone with his endless talent. Next at about 1:15 we had a change again, another guy who looked like Bryan Ferry and who did sing a Roxy music song but was mostly doing 50s Rock n roll.

I think he may actually have a preference for Roxy Music but the gig called for rock n roll. He wasn’t disappointing. Plenty of dancing occurred and just the great atmosphere and geniality of the other patrons made it a night to remember.

All of a sudden it’s well after 2am and we decide we better call it a night.

After breakfast the next day Beryl, Alan, James and I went for another walk and coffee before meeting Pat and Derek for lunch, they had come to Benidorm in Derek’s camper van and staying a few extra days for a change of scenery.

Derek comes from Blackpool and we love his English sayings like yeah anytime come and stay at My Gaff.

And Alan pointed out it wasn’t a surprise I had a bit of a headache as I’d been necking it the night before, meaning I’d been guzzling down the grog.

What a great little trip away, as Pat said isn’t just fantastic we all met on a cruise and here we are having a night out together in Benidorm. Yip one of the wonderful moments that travelling and meeting new friends gives you.

We didn’t get picked up till 5:30 pm so you really got plenty of time to enjoy getting out and about.

So I had a birthday here in Spain. We had an airport change of cars at Alicante and a pick up of Paula at Murcia airport in the evening. But during the day we enjoyed visiting the town of Alicante and a lovely waterfront lunch at the marina there.

Paula had to fly back early for a hospital appointment but made arrangements once it went well to fly back to England for a few days and come home on her original ticket.

This allowed us to organise a final catch up lunch with all the gang from our cruise last year and say goodbye to everyone. All of them great travellers and excellent company. As Beryl said Hasta Luego not Adios.

While Paula was here we also had a last dinner at the Chinese with whomever turns up every Wednesday night.

James and I took a day trip to Tarbaca island, just off the coast.

A small island with half residential homes ( think Mediterranean village houses ) and the other half more nature reserve with a small walled cemetery, remains of a goal and some beautiful clear waters for swimming.

We initially thought we might stay overnight but after seeing the prices at the eateries we’re glad we didn’t. A day trip was fine.

We dropped Paula off very early on the Saturday morning and said our thank you’s and goodbye as when she arrives back we will have gone on a road trip for the last six days of our time in Spain.

What can we say! how generous to offer your home to new friends and allow us the opportunity to live locally with a few trips away using her home as a base.

Humbling to meet such kind and generous people in our travels.

Hope one day we can reciprocate.

Before we knew it our trips to the dentist to finish my root canal and James check up and clean were done, we’d tidied up and repackaged our suitcases, enjoyed a couple of drinks with Mike and Val, Paula’s neighbours and enjoyed our last walks and swims at the beach and it was time to take off for our last days in Spain on a little road trip.

Our first stop was Valencia and after navigating the narrow streets inside the old town we made it safely to our Airbnb and met Irina our host.

We could not have been more delighted with our choice of accommodation or it’s location.

With our little penthouse cottage having awesome views and comfortable living arrangements, we settled in quickly and went out exploring.

Valencia is an incredible place and probably more attractive than Barcelona in many ways.

We did however find it a tad more expensive than a lot of Spanish towns and cities especially after Malaga.

We only had two nights here and will have to come back to experience more of Valencia outside the historical centre. We had been here before in 2015 but again that was just an appetiser.

Having googled great towns to visit from Valencia we plotted our next few days travelling with our next stop to be the furthest north to Morella. Described as one of the prettiest towns in Spain we booked a nights accommodation at The El CID hotel, coincidentally it started hosting guests in 1928 the year of both my parents birth.

A comfortable room with great views of the surrounding countryside and just inside the old city walls.

We had a wonderful time exploring the Castile and township.

Dinner in Spain often doesn’t begin to be served until at least 8:30 pm so we had an opportunity to have a drink in the bar and a quick nap before heading to the restaurant for a delicious meal of courgette thinly sliced and sandwiched between ham and cheese then lightly breadcrumbed and pan fried, followed by slow cooked Pork. With a bottle of wine and coffee around £12 each.

The next morning we enjoyed a couple of coffee con leches before heading off towards our next stop Tirig.

We had heard it was a lovely town with cave paintings.

Little did we know it has the most concentrated amount anywhere in the world. Striking it lucky we perfectly timed a guided tour from the free museum for a few kilometres walk there and back to see some original paintings, see a Little Rock shelter built approximately 200 years ago with an incredible domed roof and see the incredible scenery and hear about the areas past.

Fantastic! We shared the tour with a couple from a France and another from Brazil who actually had pretty good English and helped with some of the translation.

How wonderful to experience something so incredible just by travelling the road least travelled.

Onto our stop for the night the town of Requena.

A smaller old historical town with plenty of churches and a rich history associated with the wine industry. The town sits high overlooking the surrounding areas of vineyards.

The town has quite a delapidated feel in many streets, but there was several quite extensive renovation projects happening which will help preserve this town for many years still.

Again we ended up eating at the hotel, seated near the fire as the weather has turned cooler morning and evenings now, we both enjoyed a delicious red wine and James had Iberian sirloin and I had melt in your mouth duck.

An included breakfast the next morning and we were back on the road heading towards Xativa.

Another beautiful old town surrounded by a more modern and still vibrant township bought more interesting streets to explore.

We visited the old church and witnessed a christening, popped in to see the amazing larger than life paper mache puppets used in the towns corpus celebrations, found some of the water fountains the town is known for including one of only four remaining gothic fountains in the Country.

We had visited the tourist centre so having parked and paid for town parking we did the town before driving up the twisting narrow streets to Xativa castle.

Built purportedly by Isobel Borgia the history reaches further back to the tenth century and has several distinct styles. Definitely Arab and Christians have had their hands on it and has held a prison back in Aragon days.

It’s high location over the surrounding area offers 360 degree views from different vantage points. A most enjoyable visit.

By the time we arrived at Bocairent our stop for the night we were both happy to find our accommodation to be quite luxurious and we had a comfortable late afternoon nap before heading in to look at the historical town centre.

The light was going fast so although we managed a few photos most will have to wait till tomorrow.

We did however enjoy what we saw and deciding that we would head back to our hotel to eat were once again thrilled with our meal.

They bought our nuts, bread, aioli, and a free tapas of Finley crumbed fish pieces before James was presented with a hot stone plate of steak pieces and I the lamb shank minus the bone and delicious cooked eggplant.

I had two glasses of cava , James two beers, a large bottle of mineral water, and a coffee each, presented with complimentary chocolate brownies all for 44€.

The next day we explored all over the town and surrounding area getting some beautiful shots and seeing the local cemetery open went in-for a look.

There were dozens of families cleaning the plaques of their dead loved ones polishing them till they gleamed and it was almost like a competition as to whose family cared the most.

Before long it was time to head toward Alicante for the night as we prepared to leave the next day to Milano Italy for a few days before heading to Singapore then Sydney.

Milano was a quick two day visit and we had booked an airbnb which didn’t let us down in style, comfort and closeness to transport.

We spent our first day going into the city centre to visit the Duomo

Outstanding experience walking the roof and getting a close encounter with the architecture.

We visited the big gallery shopping centre before arriving back to our accommodation.

Our last day we took the train to Como and took a ferry to Bellagio and back. The weather wasn’t stunning but you could see on a bright sunny day it would be even more spectacular than how pretty it still looked.

Of course I googled so we could tell which house belonged to George Clooney.

Before we knew it we were back at Milano airport and preparing to take off and leave our adventures behind. Lots of great memories made along with new friends and old friends it was an awesome time.

We touched down in Singapore for our fourth visit in 2019. We booked The Park Royal this visit as we had checked it our on a previous visit and liked its location and pool.

I got to go Wedding dress shopping with Allison which is a highlight for mummy’s to do. Photo shown is not the dress chosen for their big day but you get the idea of how beautiful the dresses are.

and we got to meet the adorable miss Penny, Allison and her James’s little cockapoo puppy. The Sunday Penny has her last shots in the morning which meant she was allowed to socialise with other dogs and people so we all went to a lovely park where at the restaurant it’s dog friendly and so is the park.

What a really lovely day we had.

Another lovely short visit came to an end and on the Monday evening we flew out of Singapore, homeward bound for Sydney just over 31 weeks since we left at the end of March.

In the 14 weeks till we leave Fremantle on February 12/2020 we have two weeks in New Zealand a wedding in Canberra for daughter Allison and her James, countless catch ups, investment property maintenance and all the usual round of accountants, lawyers, doctors etc plus two house sits booked.

ROAD TRIP NEW ZEALAND. Monday 21st January 2019 FINALLY! After 16 weeks based in Auckland with the occasional side trips to some beautiful northland areas and visits to family and friends we packed up the car and waved Auckland goodbye as we headed South on our no plans road trip. The new owners of Matipo Road the old Shaw family home since 1956 take possession this week and start their redecorating. We look forward to catching up with them on our return to Auckland to see what they’ve achieved. Meanwhile we are going to let go of all the stress of cleaning out the house and saying goodbye to the property where lots of memories were made and enjoy seeing more of this beautiful country. After leaving Auckland our first stop was Waihi for James to fuel up his belly and I bought some 3/4 pants which are nice and lightK fo trip. Waihi is a cute old town with enough going on to make it a place I’m sure people enjoy living ,there. A quick stop off to my niece in Welcome Bay to gift a punch bowl set we headed on to Whakatane for our first night stop. $99 for the night got us a clean double room with en-suite at The Whakatane hotel in the Main Street. Complete with shared kitchen facilities, laundry and comfortable lounge area with outdoor seating we felt we did ok. Dinner will be bbq chicken, salad and rolls we bought at countdown. Got to use these facilities when we have them. Over the next days we traveled the coastline as much as we could stopping for a night in Hicks Bay at the hotel there. Gisborne in a bnb run by two gorgeous older men with lots of little home made treats and luxury aircon. Napier in another bnb and from which we were able to visit my sister in law Jan and her partner Alan in Taradale. The scenery was great particularly from Hicks bay to Gisborne. We arrived into Wellington early evening on the Friday and decided to book for three nights and take the ferry to Picton on the Monday morning. We lucked in getting a studio in The Terrace, right in the cbd. A pleasant walk to the waterfront for pizza and a bottle of red wine. A treat as we had been cooking wherever we were at which sometimes was as basic as two minute noodles at Hicks bay when after taking the coast and walking up the East Cape lighthouse we were too late back for takeaway shop or general store. Our first full day in Wellington was spent at Te Papa museum. After going through the Gallipoli exhibition and New Zealand’s migration and indigenous peoples history we were thrilled to have purchased tickets for their exhibition of The Terricotta warriors from China. The next day started rainy and overcast so we headed up the Coast after doing a reconnaissance for the ferry next morning to Paraparaumu to The Southward car museum. We also visited a few of the old haunts from the days I had lived there back in the mid 80’s. Before we knew it we had been gone from Auckland a week and were lining the car up at the wharf to drive on and start our South Island adventure. It was an early start to be on the wharf by 7 pm and after a lovely crossing we arrived at Picton around 11:30. We decided to drive towards Nelson which we did and after a late but substantial lunch began heading towards Takaka a lovely town with a hippy feel about it and found a great bnb run by a couple originally from Belgium. They have been living in NZ for seven years and have put together a lovely homestay experience, including spa tubs, indoor pool and sauna. Although we didn’t hear many voices during the evening there were quite a few in the kitchen/dining/ living room to enjoy breakfast the next day. Surprisingly most visitors were from Germany or The Netherlands and it was completely coincidental. Not one had booked knowing that the hosts would be able to communicate in German/Dutch With them. After our breakfast and our first full day in the South Island to look forward to we drove towards Cape Farewell and after a few lookout stops we decided the heat was just too much to go trekking out in the full sun and ventured back to Puru springs to walk a short spin in the bush and check out these beautiful clear water springs. We started driving towards Westport when I saw a sign showing St Arnaud was not far off the track. I remembered how beautiful it was from when I had visited many years ago and so we ventured there and weren’t disappointed. We decided to look for accommodation in the town and found a ski lodge that takes bookings all year round and run like a backpackers. Super clean and great facilities. The next morning we drove up Mount Robert to take in the views of lake Rotoiti and took a walk up one of the tracks through the Forrest before heading back towards Westport. We made quite a few stops to view gaze and happily made Westport early afternoon and snagged a great room at the Tripinn backpackers for two nights. What a lovely room in this old historical mansion with en-suite for $100 a night. We headed off to Tauranga Bay and the seal colony during the drive the road and coast was covered in a sea mist and when we arrived we couldn’t see the beach to start with, but as we walked it cleared into a beautiful afternoon with great views and incredible ocean waves crashing on rocks and lots of NZ fur seals lounging around then braving the waves and sea to head off oozing for their dinner. We walked towards the lighthouse and back before heading back to town to shop for supplies and cooking risotto in the large shared kitchen. Our room was everything we expected, comfortable, roomy and we were delighted that it was also very quiet. There was a 9pm curfew for drinking and all quiet after 10:30pm. I think most we tired travellers whom were glad for a good bed and early night. The next day we headed to Karamea and onto The Oparara Basin where you walk through the native bush to either the Oparara caves or the Moria Gate Arch. Both fabulous walks and sites. We planned to head to Dennison and old mining town and great view point but the sea mist which had cleared briefly was back, but with over 100 kms back to Westport and 16 kms on gravel to start we weren’t home much before 7pm and with the kitchen in full action we’re glad we were heating up leftover risotto only. The next morning was Friday February the first and we packed up the car and headed towards Greymouth stopping at quite a few lookouts along the way to check out the Wild West Coast in all its wind swept glory including perpendicular point. A couple of walks down to beaches and then onto Punakaiki tavern for coffee and out onto Punakaiki coastal walk to view the pancake rocks and blowhole. This area lies on the edge of the Paparoa National Park and was fantastic. Especially on such a wild day. We headed into Greymouth but the weather had turned to heavy rain and so after heading to a cafe for lunch decided against visiting The Shanty town attraction with its gold mining history and head into Hokitika where we picked up a cottage for the night on Airbnb. Pretty nice to have a whole house to ourselves and three bedrooms to choose from. Old home but we’ll set up for travellers and we cooked a lamb roast for dinner. The weather actually fined up later in the day but was so late in the afternoon that it wasn’t worth going out and we used to the time to relax. Saturday the 2nd February saw us heading to Hokitika Gorge for a walk to see what is normally Turquoise waters but after the rain more milky but still pretty. We got back on the highway and headed tonRoss a historic gold rush town and stopped for lunch before making our way towards Franz Joseph Glacier where we headed in for the one and a half hour walk. I was devastated to see how much the glacier had receded since we took the kids there in 1996. Unbelievable really sad. We headed on towards the Fox glacier area where we booked a hotel for the night. Spent the evening looking and booking accommodation for our three nights in Singapore in April. Once we have confirmed bookings with Andrew and Jett for their arrival in May will book those too. Always something to plan and sort out to keep the travel plans in action. Our Sunday turned into a marathon of walks all the way to Wanaka. Lookouts, walk around Lake Mathieson and The blue pools saw us head into Wanaka later than we normally do and with few accommodation options ended up in a hotel near the golf course which did have kitchen facilities so we saved again cooking at home. Monday we had a walk around the town centre and then a drive around the lake before driving on to Cromwell where we had booked two nights due to costs and low availability in Queenstown. Actually this ended up being one of our best rentals. Really decent sized studio with free laundry services and decent sized kitchen bench and brand new bbq outside. Again we cooked both nights here and even froze a meal to take on with us to Te Anau to heat through in our electric frypan. Our day in Queenstown was enjoyable from the walk round the lake, walking through the town, which had grown exponentially since I was last here, and a great view from up the gondola. Again pricing kept us moving on but not to anywhere cheaper, Te Anau was probably the most expensive we had paid so far and not that awesome but was a really great location right in town and right across the road for our pick up by coach on the Thursday down to Milford Sound and cruise. Nice for James to have a rest from driving and it was a very pleasant day. Not much in the way of waterfalls as it’s been dry here for a few days but the scenery all day wasn’t too hard to take. What we did like is that the coach had a glass roof and really large picture windows on side of coach. We’ll set up for everyone to see maximum views on the trip. Great coach driver/ orator as well. We went with Go Orange. The next day we spent on a tour of Doubtful sound. Attractive scenery once again and met some lovely travellers whom were great to share the day with Katherine from Singapore travelling solo and Tammy and Louise driving around in Big Bertha their massive rental campervan. Thanks girls you made a great day even better. After getting off the tour we had booked a night at Mossburn old railway hotel less than 100 klms on so with an easy drive and comfortable accommodation, great in-house restaurant and pleasant staff we were very happy campers. Our next stop was a backpackers in invercargill on the Burt Munro weekend. The town was full of bikers and lots of events to keep them happy. With so many great cafes, interesting buildings and lots of motorcycle shops and paraphernalia James was in his happy place and I left him at the motorcycle museum and headed off for a well overdue haircut. We had organised a catch up with Christel and Paul Raynes at their beautiful home and enjoyed a wonderful evening. It’s so special when travelling to have these visits with people that you know to give life a little bit of a normality and make you feel connected with your family and friends. The next day craving a little rest from touring we headed to Riverton a coastal town not far from invercargill for two nights. We had chosen a bed and breakfast in an old two story home run by Barry and Sue who turned out to be quite the odd couple but very hospitable. Barry was the host listed but it was Sue doing all the work while Barry who had quite the eccentric personality was off ice skating or riding his bike while Sue did all the running of the house between them they had 12 grown children! One great thing about our accommodation was that we had a DVD tv and as I had never watched The worlds fastest Indian, the movie about Burt Munro and his landspeed record was great that they had it here in their collection so spent an evening sitting up in bed watching it. Anyway Riverton and the surrounding areas were beautiful and we really enjoyed our little trips to the different beaches around the area. The One day we kept on running into this one couple Sharon and Steve from England but like us are just travelling the world. We ended up sharing a bottle of wine at Orepuke cafe after they popped in knowing that was where we were headed next. It was delightful company and we hope to meet them somewhere else in this big wide world. On our way back into Riverton we decided to go to the town to check out dinner options when as we come to the bridge we see lots of people looking over the bridge railings so as James drove the car I stuck my head out to see what they were looking at to find it was a big school of bottlenose dolphins. Well they entertained everyone for about an hour as they made their way slowly out of the estuary, leaping and showing off in such a marvellous display. How wonderful it always is to see these magnificent creatures and the joy it brings to all who witness them. Our next journey was taking us onto Dunedin and having found some accommodation in the city we were able to easy walk around seeing all the beautiful preserved buildings of yesteryear. Including the gorgeous Dunedin railway station where we booked a trip on the Taieri gorge trip for the next day at 2:30, this would allow us to get up early and arrive at Larnach castle to get the early arrival special. Having contacted one of my dearest friends from childhood we caught up with Karen after she finished work at around 8:30 pm for drinks, quite a few drinks actually. But it was great to see her after too many years and she even called the next evening just as we were arriving funnily at the same bar for dinner and headed over to see us again. Awesome!. Sooo after our quite a few drinks that first night it seemed we didn’t feel quite as cheerful about getting up early the next day, BUT we did and so glad as the scenery along the way was out of this world. Sea mists of long white cloud enveloped the hills around Dunedin and with the spectacular waterways and mountains was jaw dropping. Larnach castle was gorgeous, so much restoration done and still going on. What a labour of love and devotion by the Barker family whom bought it in a rundown state and lived there while bringing it back to life. No small undertaking. Boy what a sad story the original family have. For all their wealth and community standing they either died young, killed themselves or bickered over the money. Our afternoon train ride couldn’t have been better timed as we headed back to our hotel from the castle for a rest and lunch before we needed to walk down to catch our train. Five hours of diverse scenery, outstanding building feats to make this rail journey possible to move goods throughout the Otago and beyond area. More unbelievable was that we were allowed to stand out on the open areas between carriages to take photos etc even over the viaducts with over 100 feet drops. The staff are fantastic and a real credit to the company. Making sure everyone had as enjoyable time as possible. Then a few more drinks with Karen afterwards topped off a Grand day. After checking out on Valentine’s Day we headed towards port Chalmers and were delighted at what a gorgeous little town it was. The port was operating moving containers, the Majestic Princess was in dock as well and with the fabulous lookouts around the town and a cemetery with a great view as well it was a lovely stop. One lady taking her grandson to look at the wharf action from one of the lookouts said it’s like watching a toy town and that’s exactly what it was like. The gloom had set in low clouds and drizzle which later became rain, but, it didn’t dampen our enjoyment of our trip up the coast.stopping at Morekai on Karen’s suggestion took us to the lighthouse and the unexpected seal colony. First there were signs and fences then next thing we’re in a large open area full of seals lying around while their fellow seals wandered around on rocks below and some swimming. We even spotted a penguin swimming. What a highlight. Best was everyone there was respectful and just loving it. Really fantastic. We stopped at Hampden town for some world famous fish and Makikihi potatoes made into chips no they weren’t lying they really were that good. We drove into Oamaru and after a look around town and drive and coastal walk decided we would find accommodation here for the night. This town has so many incredible Victorian buildings and a real quirky feel. Certainly worth a look. Ps happy Valentine’s Day. Time the next day to take the trip inland to Tekapo and the gorgeous turquoise lakes. On the way the scenery was once again stunning with several stops for photos including several dams. Then just before we got to the lake we came to Tekapo airport with signs offering scenic flights, having already enquired at another airport and been put on a list we decided to take the opportunity when it was available and had a fantastic flight over Lake Tekapo and Tasman, Fox ,Franz Joseph glaciers and a close up look at Mount Cook. What a treat. Lake Tekapo didn’t disappoint but unfortunately the church of the good shepherd was overrun with tourists and a take no photo policy that wasn’t there last time. On to Timaru and a lovely overnight stay in a semi backpackers in another grand old home. The next day we were disappointed that we missed catching up with our relatives Nadine and Stephen from Darwin by perhaps an hour but luckily we will see them in April in their home town. We had made arrangements with Diana and her dad Rudi in Christchurch that we would stop and stay with them from Sunday. We met them on our 2017 world cruise and caught up with Diana and partner Frank when they were in Auckland earlier in our NZ stay. We were looking forward to spending some relaxed time with them even though Diana was working long hours at this time of the year. Anyway we started making our way towards Christchurch on the Saturday and at Ashburton a campervan show had us pulling over and paying the $5 admission to see what was on offer. This was quite a cool concept, there were new camper and caravans on display but also people were able to display and sell their own second hand ones. This gave way to a huge array of all styles, tastes and vintages and was a very entertaining wander. Stayed the night in a not so glamorous side of town but was brand new and quite well appointed. Sunday morning saw us off to visit Roz and Russ from our 2010 Cosmos tour, unfortunately Russ suffered a stroke late December and although looking great still getting tired after an hour or so. We didn’t, we hope over stay our welcome but it was fantastic to see them both and look through their new home. Great taste and after building something new decided to sell all their old furnishings and buy new. They could get a job styling show homes. Just lovely to see them. Onto Diana’s and Rudi’s to settle in for a few days. But we did go into the city gardens to watch the last of the summer free Sunday concerts. We met Frank there and with such a lovely venue and sunny afternoon no one went home disappointed. After a rest it was time to venture out to dinner at one of the best Thai restaurants I’d been to. We met Rudi’s other daughter Leonie, her husband Graeme and one of their sons Scott there to share the delicious meal. Thanks Rudi for shouting us all it was very kind. Monday bought more good weather and James and I headed into the cbd which from Diana’s is very close. After visiting the information centre we took the tram tour brochure and just walked it’s route. It’s an easy city to walk in as it’s all flat and I don’t mean that as a funny since it’s still recovering after been knocked ‘flat’ by several earthquakes. A lot of rebuilding has happened and lots taking place. Hopefully they will use this opportunity to build some significantly interesting places as a few looked awfully like dark boxes. We had a few good stops, one for coffee one for a lie down under a tree in the botanical gardens and one for lunch at the RSA. There are some great places to see and the Avon river running through adds something tranquil that lots of cities don’t have and still offering punt rides on the river quite charming. There are surprisingly a lot of very old structures that stood up to the earthquakes so still lots of historical buildings surrounding the new. Definitely worth taking the time to walk the city centre or take the tram tour if times an issue. Tuesday Rudi came with us as James drove Rudi’s flash motor to Akaroa. A place early family of mine had settled at when they first came from Denmark. The drive was scenic as it’s all volcanic and lots of beautiful bays as well as grazing hills. Akaroa was delightful and I’d like to go stay a few nights to fully enjoy its charms. It’s a Mecca for the tourist crowd and coincidentally the port of the day for the ship Columbus on its 2019 world cruise. The ship we sailed on last year for ten weeks of its 2018 world cruise. Of course we did run into two couples who had been on it last year and they thought about 60 repeat world cruisers from the year before. Young Leigh whom was part of the entertainment crew last year came past and he’s now the entertainment director. He didn’t look quite as fresh as he did last year. Another lovely drive home through lyttelton and it’s tunnel and it was rest time before sharing the evening with Diana. Wednesday saw us have a relaxing day at Diana’s catching up on our housekeeping administration and James had the car booked in to have the brakes checked to make sure all good for our journey back to Auckland. A lovely evening again with Frank joining us for a few hours and Rudi also coming in for dinner. It was a treat to relax for so many days in one spot and just as well as the next day we headed off thinking we’d probably take three days to get up to Picton. As it turned out we headed to Hanmer springs had a little lunch break there and not interested in doing the adventure thing or soaking in the hot pools on a warm summer day moved on back towards the coast and headed into Kaikoura where we were keen to stop and stay. Unfortunately no accommodation available so we drove on to Blenheim but not before enjoying watching a huge pod of dolphins having fun just off the beach. They were the most playful either of us have ever seen dolphins before. Literally doing 360deg flips and huge leaps. Was absolutely spellbinding and such a treat. We also stopped on the way further north to watch the seals. Sooo sooo many of them and lots of babies as well. They were vocal and entertaining as they waddled along, some having little fights, some swimming some just relaxing but really great. We got an upgrade from the hotel we booked in Blenheim to a really large studio apartment which meant we were also able to cook there as well. So we decided to book the ferry back to the North Island and call it time on our trip around the South Island. Headed into Picton early so stopped for coffee outside a cafe when who’s voice should we hear, none other than Duncan from our 2017 world cruise and consequent catch ups in Hong Kong, Auckland and their home in Opua in the bay of Islands. Soon Angela his lovely wife joined in the reunion and none of us could believe we had run into each other so randomly. What a great surprise and laugh. Wonder where we’ll next meet up? Finally snaring some accommodation in Wellington we were able to board the Interislander ferry with confidence that we wouldn’t have to drive for hours after disembarking to find a bed for the night. So long South Island it’s been another fabulous part of our road trip. HIGHLIGHTS WERE, obviously catching up with friends and making new ones makes the experience greater, but also the diverse scenery and wildlife feature big on our memories. The gorgeous towns we drove through that have retained their old heritage buildings and charm. Our flight over the glaciers and Lake Tekapo a big highlight. Milford and Doubtful sound we’re lovely day trips. The pancake rocks at Punakaiki, and the fact there are so many wonderful places just off the road to see and enjoy. The dolphins at both Riverton and Kaikoura plus all the seals we stumbled upon. The amazing forests and native bushwalks, and apart from the occasional rain we had a very good run with the weather. Let’s see what our trip up the West Coast of North Island, through the forgotten highway and up through Taupo etc brings.

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