NZ road trip 2019 part four.Christchurch- Picton

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.

Road trip NZ part three Invercargill- Timaru

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 we took a drive to Bluff the very bottom of the South Island and loved all the old homes there. This is a town dripping in historical information and well worth a drive to for the great views of Stewart island and along with the fishing and whaling history some great chowder we believe.

Wanting a little break from travelling we then 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. There was also a few interesting sculptures

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 Moeraki 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.

next stop Christchurch.

Road trip NZ part two. Picton – Mossburn

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 to Ross 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.

Next stop Invercargill.

Road trip From January 21- February 28 2019 part one

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 light for our 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.

A TASTE OF HOME AND REALITY.

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We left Croatia having experienced that true being on holiday feel. Six weeks of down time, something most of us haven’t experienced since we had Christmas school holidays. (Our summer holidays in New Zealand and Australia).

We flew to Frankfurt via Zagreb and enjoyed three nights catching up with Andrea and Thomas and their boys.

We also managed to share a dinner with Scott whom was in Germany on holiday. We hadn’t seen him for six months so was a fun evening with him entertaining everyone as he turned on his charm.

From there it was premium economy home to Sydney and 23 days of getting all our housekeeping appointments done eg: doctor,dentist, accountant, bank,real estate etc etc and enjoying spending time with friends and family.

After spending a night at our fabulous friend Cathryn’s we were back in our caravan at Umina Oceanbeach holiday park.

It’s a bittersweet time, you know that a lot of the people you catch up with that  it will only be the one time as we’re always pushing to get everything done in the timeframe we had allowed.

We had made a pledge when mum died in June to all go back to New Zealand for what would have been her 90th birthday and spread her ashes and do a clean up of the house, shed and garage for dad.

As it was it became a clean up so that the house could be sold.

Dads stroke two weeks after mum died forced the situation that he could not live alone in the house.

Getting mobile and able to live at my brothers house was the alternative to going into rest home. Either way he wouldn’t be living in the house he and mum had bought in 1956.

James and I flew out of Australia and onto New Zealand before our feet really felt like they had touched the ground. And in New Zealand we had to hit the ground running.

We had a week before my other two brothers were due to arrive to help for a bit so we busied ourselves getting the place clean.

In the end it was two 15 cubic metre skips full of garden and house waste along with countless trips to the opportunity shops to bring things to a manageable and comfortable level for living in and to put the house on the market.

The house sold quickly and we were able to live in the house till settlement January 25th 2019.

While the four of us were together along with dad and my sister in law and two nephews we spread mum’s ashes in a private moment before going to lunch to celebrate what would have been her 90th birthday. 

All four of us have different personalities but we all banded together to make all the things happen so that both mum’s wishes and dads needs were taken care of.

Unfortunately dad suffered a fall and cracked his pelvis and was hospitalised while this healed. We were saddened as we had hoped that while we were here we would be taking him out for little day trips. Instead we were visiting him in hospitals and interim care provided at a rest home.

After the brothers living in Aus left and the house sold we were then able to take some trips away rediscovering the beauty of this spectacular country.

From staying with our friends Paul and Michelle ( our 2017 world cruise buddies) in Omaha a couple of times, to three nights in Paihia the Bay of Islands, overnight on Waiheke, three nights in Pukeatua at Out in the Styx guesthouse and a night at Mount Maunganui  and finally making it to the Coromandel Peninsula the time up till Christmas was spent really enjoying the magnificent scenery, company of good friends and family and lots of day trips in the car or motorbike.

James has really enjoyed having a motorbike again and especially the time to ride it.

My brother Graeme has been generous with his time going for rides together and inviting James to go along with his friendly group rides.

We’ve enjoyed several Sunday afternoons going to Jervois Road to hear Leza Corban sing. Leza is a school friend and is extremely talented and just a joy to listen too as she sings a whole slew of genres. What a great way to end a weekend, a few wines and good music with a bit of dancing as well.

We’ve also been spending quite a bit of time on our iPads researching for our next few years of travel.

We have a couple of definite things planned and some loose ideas of what to do around them, research is invaluable so we don’t arrive somewhere without the necessary visas and or documents to prove we’re moving on ( some countries like NZ require proof of forward travel to allow you in). Of course in NZ those rules don’t apply for those travelling on an Australian passport.

It’s a difficult thing to want to remain fluid enough to take up opportunities as they arrive but still prepared so you can.

The weather has been a little unsettled but when the sun shines it’s spectacular.

Christmas time bought brother Jeff back and the new year brother Richard and his daughter Paris. Good family time and a chance for everyone to spend time with Dad and enjoy the last days of The Shaw family home.

We spent New Years at Omaha with our friends Paul and Michelle, what a hoot. They have made some wonderful friends up there whom welcome us along as well to all the fun and festivities. More great memories made.

It’s been great to catch up with so many friends from my childhood and it seems the years just deepen the bonds of affection and respect we have for each other.

As the last days of our stay in Te Atatu come to an end we are swiftly emptying the rooms and preparing for our next adventure of road tripping down through the North Island and over to the South Island before we will return to Auckland to say goodbye and fly to Sydney on March 14th.

CAVTAT, CROATIA JULY 21st- AUGUST 31st 2018 part 2

The last four weeks of our time in Cavtat have been spent truely relaxing with just the odd day trip to tick off a few on the nearby “to do” list.

This meant taking the local bus one Sunday morning to Cilipi a nearby town where every Sunday during the season they put on a folklore morning. For a small price you get a welcome drink, ticket to the local museum and the folklore dancing show. It was well worth it and we would highly recommend it if you’re in this neck of the woods.

Many of our days were spent waking up going through emails and Facebook from home, then breakfast before heading to “our” spot on the beach as they call it for the next 6-7 hours. This entailed swimming, reading, napping, chatting to our regular Croatian buddies, coffee and lunch after the noon bells from Saint Nicolas church ring out, watching the different boats and ferries come in and out and just soaking up the ambiance oh and the occasional ice cream. It’s then home for beer/ gin o’clock, dinner and often a walk around the peninsula in the evening with the occasional cocktail before home, tea and perhaps a tv series on the iPad before sleep time. Bliss Bliss Bliss.

If you asked me was 6 weeks too long the answer would be a definite NO.

This has been the most wonderful summer holiday in such a beautiful location that we would happily return each year.

If property wasn’t so expensive here on the Croatian riviera and rules for foreign ownership not quite so difficult we’d be buying in.

Saying that we have been extremely spoilt with our hosts Michael and Mira.

They come in once a week to do a thorough clean and top up soaps, dishwashing liquid, toilet paper and change bed linens. Other towels and tea towels changed every three days.

They are becoming like close family friends and we had a delightful long lunch with them at their villa upstairs eating great food and drinking probably too much wine and different limoncello’s. Oh well none of us were off to work after so all good.

My lilo got a hole in it 😞 but luckily someone finished their holiday and left one shaped and decorated like a pizza slice at the beach so after two days we claimed it and I’ve been floating around on it ever since. Even the girl at the ferry ticket stand when we went to take the ferry to Lokrum island asked why we weren’t taking the pizza slice with us.

Lokrum island is just off the old town of Dubrovnik and we’ve passed it many times and finally on one of our last few days we visited it. What a treat.

As a National Park it’s beautiful and there is just so much more to this island than just the most incredible coloured waters and great swimming. There is an old monastery which also had links to those Habsburg’s which are everywhere in Europe, an old fort, a botanical garden with even a few “exotic” gum trees and bottle brush from Australia, and so many other incredible little bays and areas to discover oh and a nudist beach. A few restaurants and bars help make it a great visit.

But Lokrum wasn’t the only trip we did these last few weeks we took a full day trip to the island of Mljet island and national park as well. This was an early start and a fairly long ferry ride from Dubrovnik main port.

We had a very pleasant day there and enjoyed all that the trip offered but feel Lokrum was probably better value unless you stayed a few days at Mljet which is not an option for Lokrum. On Mljet you can hire push bikes or scooters so you could really explore the island over a few days as it really is quite large.

Another day trip which we thoroughly enjoyed that also meant an early start was a fabulous day going to Korcula island via Ston with its walls similar to those of the Great Wall of China, its salt ponds and with a wine and grappa tasting on the way home it was a real winner.

Korcula was just the loveliest town and we would again recommend this at the least as a day trip if not overnight or few days visit.

Marco Polo was born here so of course there is the museum etc to visit, lots of great little shops, narrow lanes where people live and many restaurants enjoying the beautiful views from almost everywhere and that was just the main town of Korcula. This is a pretty big island and you could probably spend a fair amount of days tripping around to the other villages.

We also finally got to the house of Cavtat’s favourite artist Vlaho Bukovac whose family home is much larger than it appears on the outside and is now fairly empty apart from some furniture from back in the day and his paintings some which actually decorate the walls as frescos. There was fairly large grounds for this area as well.

The artist is buried in his family’s tomb at the gorgeous Cavtat cemetery.

And I finally took a peek in The lady of the snow Church and Monastery here in Cavtat. It actually had some pretty amazing art work and one wall structure that took my fancy. I’ll post a photo and I’m sure you’ll see which one I think was amusing.

As our days run out we will remember always this great visit with much happiness and hopefully we will return.

One things for sure I’ll never get sick of looking at the photos of Cavtat and know that I left a big chunk of my heart there.

Our next plane ride is to Frankfurt with a three night stop staying with Andrea and Thomas those lovely dear friends whom put us up late last year when we visited Germany for the Christmas markets. Will also catch up with son Scott who will be in Frankfurt as well that weekend before we all fly home to Australia on September 3rd from Frankfurt.

CAVTAT, CROATIA. JULY 21st-AUGUST 31st. A welcome visit from Craig and our first week.

(The red line indicates approximately where our villa is)

Four years ago we came to Cavtat on the ferry from Dubrovnik on a free day from our coach tour.

The sun was shining, the water gloriously blue, clear and clean, and the surrounding vistas magical.

Loved every second of this day and now four years later we get to spend six weeks relaxing and visiting the surrounding countryside and countries on day trips.

We booked a villa in the old town of Cavtat which is like stepping back in time with its winding alleyways and old stone houses.

The villa being on the top of the peninsula is in the most fabulous location with a few minutes walk down to the harbour on both sides.

One is the more busy side with private mostly luxury boats coming in for the day and where the restaurants and fresh produce stalls are.

On the other side the path which goes all the way round so both sides are linked by this route is the quieter side only one restaurant and places to make a spot for the day for sunbathing and swimming.

Cavtat has become more popular since our last visit which means the prices have gone up substantially in the restaurants and so has the accommodation.

However there is a buzz around and our lovely villa with terrace area is always quiet and welcoming as are our hosts.

We arrived fairly late in the evening with Michael meeting us at the bus stop where he had told our Uber driver he would be. There was handshaking and jolly hellos as we started up the path home. You can’t take a car into the old part which makes it peaceful and great for walking.

There was limoncello to toast our arrival and promises of coming down to show us where to go etc another time. Which of course he did and they have ordered a small freezer for the villa so we can then stock up at Lidl when it arrives. With offers to take us to lidl and a country drive we aren’t complaining about our welcome.

Like all new places everything is slightly different and I’m really impressed how relaxed we are now about quickly sorting out what we will need to buy or ask for to make our stay comfortable.

We quickly realised that paying $6 a day each for sunloungers on the rocky waterfront will add up so we bought thick yoga mats and a couple of cheap beach towels for our stay. We can leave them here for the next visitors.

A few days later we decided to buy an extra layer of padding to our original purchases and a couple of blow up pillows. Our age is catching up with us and our bones need a bit more comfort from the concrete shore front. I also bought a cheap blow up lilo (sea mattress) I can’t wait to try it.

We had bought a SIM card at the airport and after spending too long trying to get it to work decided it was time to go to bed and worry about it tomorrow. I had trouble going to sleep even though I was tired, I was just too excited to be back in my happy place.

A lazy first morning saw us walking to the harbour side for breakfast and walk around the other peninsula that makes up Cavtat. There is a massive hotel over there which we wandered through. A lot of package tours we suspect.great facilities though and awesome coastal views.

Anyway we did a pretty big reconnaissance of the waterline part of Cavtat. It actually climbs up from down here to the main road quite steeply, so again glad we made the choice to spend a little more and stay in the old town.

Ice cream is just huge in Europe and here it is so cheap $2 Aus for a scoop. So many flavours I’m looking forward to trying them all.

On our second full day we took the bus that goes to Dubrovnik but stopped off in the village of where there is a shopping centre.

First we walked down to the waterfront to see what it had to offer. It appeared to be more families here and a newer slightly manufactured look to the development.

Saying that having a shopping centre would be a real bonus for families wanting to self cater as we do.

Unfortunately the fresh produce was not so fresh and the meat not so appealing.

We rethought our purchasers and realised that the more expensive but much fresher and appetising fruit and vegetables down here on the waterfront would be our best bet.

We however stocked up on some other basics and made our way home back on the bus. Oh I also found and bought a bottle of gin for around $8.

Time for a walk to find ice cream and then home to cook our first meal here and of course for me to make my jug of sangria.

On our walk around the town we started talking deals with the locals on getting some discounts. Managed to get ten return tickets on ferry to Dubrovnik for the one way price. A slight discount on one trip we want to make and discount on car hire which we won’t need to have consecutive days. This will allow us to spread our sightseeing over the time we’re here.

We made a trip into Dubrovnik to check out a few things before we take our mate Craig in for a day exploring when he arrives. Having been here before we had some idea of what we want to do but it’s good to have made sure all is organised before we share a day there.

Our days started falling into a routine of getting down to a spot on the waterfront in the shade by 9:30 to spend the time there till around 3 pm when we lost the shade and it became too hot for comfort.

We’d spend the time reading, swimming, either bringing lunch or buying something simple, having a coffee and perhaps a few little shut eyes.

I still am in awe every time I look up from my book to see the beauty of this place.

Although busier than our last visit it still retains a charming village feel.

I like that there is a variety of things to do here which means you can easily stay for weeks or months here. We’ve settled in easily and happily and our first week flashed by.

Over that first next week we started seeing some of the same people each day and started chatting to a local woman who spends her time between Croatia and Germany in fact in the same town our friends Andrea and Thomas live in and where we stayed with them in December 2017. What a coincidence.

Often on the walk home we will pop into the local Pemo grocery store for something for dinner and maybe an ice cream from one of the many sellers.

Back home we relish the aircon and it’s usually early cocktail hour with James having a beer and I’ll make a small jug of sangria or a gin and tonic for me. Crackers and cheese, potato chips or peanuts are the usual accompaniment before it’s time to make our dinner.

We’re waiting for Craig’s arrival for our eating out week. With quite a few long day trips booked for his week with us I’m sure we won’t want to be cooking more than a couple of times.

Our landlord is taking us to Lidl for a big shop now that the freezer has arrived so we’ll have a better selection of meat on hand once we’ve been there.

Our trip to Lidl was mixed. It was great to have a larger selection but we still weren’t finding all the things we normally would in a large supermarket elsewhere.

But we’re getting better at just working with what’s on hand and making tasty enough meals to still believe we’re eating better at home than out.

The time came for us to go and meet Craig at the airport and start our week long program of outings and fun.

Everything went to plan , and we were soon back at our villa and having a beer to celebrate his arrival before it was time to shower and head to the ferry for our trip into Dubrovnik and our 8pm dinner booking.

We had made a reservation at the restaurant as we wanted to score a table with a view. It was a brilliant night and perfect first outing. All three of us enjoyed our chosen meals and after a quick stroll through the town afterwards headed to the ferry for the trip home.

Tuesday we had a three island cruise booked and luckily it didn’t start till 9:30 am so a fairly easy paced morning.

We visited the islands of Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan. The weather was perfect and although the first to stops weren’t long we managed a swim at them both before having our third and much longer stop where we hired a couple of beach umbrellas and a sunlounger for Craig as we had our beach mats with us.

On the boat we started talking to a lovely family from Finland on holiday with their three young daughters. Funnily we kept running into them after that and had a lovely evening drinking beer and cocktails with them on their last night.

Once home from our day cruising I cooked a risotto and we had beer o’clock while we waited to eat.

A fairly early start on the Wednesday as we had to catch the minibus at 8am for our trip to Montenegro.

Unfortunately our minibus wasn’t that comfortable and the windows didn’t allow for the best viewing but we stopped at some great places and when we got to Kotor were able to enjoy a nice lunch, guided tour and a break at the waterfront for a swim and cold drink before the return trip.

This was James and my second time to Kotor and we were pleased at how much reconstruction had gone on since our last visit. Sadly it was just too hot to want to stroll around the town for more than the hour guided tour. The cool water was calling us.

We had a fairly easy border crossing and back home in Cavtat we decided to walk down for a dinner of pizza. Great meal with terrific service.

Afterwards we walked around the waterfront and stopped for cocktails at one of the open bars. Two local girls (twins actually) were playing guitar and singing so we moved closer to enjoy the entertainment. Found out they would be playing again on the Friday night so decided we’d go again then.

Thursday was our designated chill out day so we packed up our beach mats and headed to where James and I had started to go most mornings and set ourselves up for the next four or so hours. Had lunch at the local bakery and by the time the sun had taken over the shade we were all ready to return to the villa for a little rest before we headed out for a walk around the peninsula with the idea of an afternoon swim. In fact we walked right round then headed up to the cemetery for the view.

On the way back down we stopped at a very small cafe/bar for a drink and ended up spending a good while here chatting with one couple from England and then we all welcomed a father and daughter into the group when they turned up. Really great ending to our chill out day.

Friday saw us up even earlier than ever with a 9am coach to catch for our day trip to Mostar and the Kravice waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Happy to say we had a proper coach for this excursion which totally made the day so much more enjoyable than the cramped conditions of the minivan to Montenegro.

We had a brilliant day and we’re all blown away by Mostar and it’s bridge, old town and General vibe.

We also visited a mosque in Mostar.

And we went to a museum.

The waterfalls were lovely and though not on the scale of Plitvice were a pleasant stop for a swim and relax.

It ended up being a pretty long day as we didn’t get back to Cavtat till after 8 pm. Having bought some fresh produce including a basil plant I made bruschetta for dinner and we ate cheese, fresh figs and crackers while I made the bruschetta. Although it had been a fairly long day we were all still keen to go out after our easy dinner for more cocktails and to listen to the girls entertain us again.

It was fun to then run into both Michael and Mira our landlords and our Finnish family there.

Saturday was our second chill out day and Michael had offered to take us for a drive to the mountains behind us to get the awesome view and then a drive into the valley area for a complete contrast. We had a fantastic local guide in Michael and we enjoyed a little aperitif and coffee at one of his favourite restaurants which was cooled by the trees and water running past it. Would definitely like to go back sometime.

We found a different spot for swimming in the afternoon and then came home for our daily beer o’clock and dinner of tortellini before heading out for cocktails at our now local favourite bar. It was waterpolo night at the waterfront so an exciting addition to our evening and of course we ran into our landlords again and our Finnish family.

Sunday was our designated Dubrovnik day. Our plan was to get there and walk the walls, have lunch then get cable car up to mountains behind then enjoy a few drinks and swim before having dinner and coming home.

Unfortunately Craig began to feel unwell as we started walking the walls and he went back down and met us on our return from our walk. We had walked the walls four years ago and were amazed at how many more little rest stations offering drinks, meals there now were.

We caught up with Craig and had a pretty ordinary lunch, to be honest once Craig found the slug on his lettuce it put me right off my salad and the boys weren’t really enjoying their meals either. We decided a swim would be a great thing and it really cooled us right down.

We decided we would do the cable car and then head home as it was just too hot and Craig still wasn’t feeling that great.

The view from the top made it worth the trip but the heat really was debilitating and we were all quite sleepy on the ferry ride back but a swim once we got off cooled us down again and a rest at the villa saw us then ready to head out for Craig’s last night for a farewell dinner which was delicious and the meals were huge.

On the way home we did some souvenir shopping with Craig and we were all quite happy to have an earlier night.

Monday was a sad day. After James cooked the boys a grand breakfast and I helped Craig pack his suitcase to fit in all his new purchases we headed for a last stroll of the waterfront and coffee before it was time to walk Craig to the taxi stand and wave him off for his long trek home to Auckland.

Felt sad as we had really enjoyed his company and all our adventures together. It was great having a face from home and an English speaking friend to share some time with.

We went and installed ourselves on the waterfront and read our books and had a swim before heading home for a very late lunch and rest inside in the aircon.

Chatted about our week and how how much we had enjoyed ourselves with our mate.