Monday, June 28, 2010

My top 5 recommendation (if I had to)

Once again because i can barely limit myself to 5 let alone classify them they are in no particular order.

1. Aitutaki, Cook Islands. A beautiful island in the South Pacific. We visited after a recent hurricane, and while the devastation was heart breaking the way the people got on with their lives and made sure their neighbours were ok really lightened my heart. DH is Cook Islander so maybe I'm biased, but I think you would truly struggle to find a more beautiful location in the world. Oh, and make sure you try the raw marinated fish, Ika Mata.

2. Singapore. My favourite stop over city, the gateway between Australia and Asia and Australia and Europe. Who can pass up the Chili Crab, a night visit to the zoo or a ride on the MRT. A clean and safe city that is a great first trip into Asia.

3. Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina. I didn't know what to expect of this city, but I was completely taken back by it. It's a little bit of the east, with a little bit of the west. The food is awesome, try some cevapcici (sausages) with Avjar (red pepper paste) and Sopska salad. Wind your way through the city in both day and night to get the contrast with the lights on. Enjoy some sweets of helva and baklava (starting to see a trend?). Once in Sarajevo take a day trip to Mostar.

4. San Antonio, Texas, USA. One of those locations where the food got me, that wonderful boarder town flavour that's hard to find in most American/Mexican restaurants around the country. The atmosphere and the blending of cultures and times are also big draw cards for this city.

5. Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia. They always say you put off those places in your own backyard and I still can't believe that I put off the Great Barrier Reef for so long, but our day trip out their was amazing and I've been told that you can go overnight and these are even more spectacular. Even though sections are showing signs of too much human interaction, the underwater beauty is still stunningly so.

This was a struggle, maybe next time I'll have to classify my top 5 by area or "genre" e.g. favourite cities, most unexpected, favourite Islands, favourite outdoors

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pretty Beach House - Wish list

My mother, being an avid traveller from a young age, is as notorious as I am for finding (and keeping) amazing places in airplane magazines, newspapers and other sources. She found this little gem, and knowing her daughter also likes to dream passed the link onto me.

A sister property to the also lovely Bells at Killcare, Pretty Beach House is located on the southern side of the Central Coast Region, just north of Sydney.

With all your meals cooked by the renowned Stefano Manfredi, the property only holds a maximum of 3 couples at one time, giving you almost exclusive access to the property. The Pretty Beach area is a great place for a nice drive, a quick swim or to browse in one of the boutique shops in the Killcare or Hardys Bay areas which are in the vicinity.

So why is this on the wish list and not something I can see myself enjoying in the near future? For the cost of a weekend, DH and I could visit his family in the Cook Islands or spend a week or two in Southern Asia.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Las Vegas

June 2010

This is my second trip to Las Vegas in 6 months. Unintentional, but no matter how many times I've been to the strip (5 in fact), it's something that still keeps me spell bound.

This trip was the first ever where The Conservatory at the Bellagio has been open when I've been on a visit, and while it was beautiful, it didn't stand up to my expectations, perhaps waiting too long sets the bar in your mind too long? The designs and animals made from flowers and plants do make you realise how clever some people are, my favourite was the snails and the bees.

My tips for a Las Vegas visit?

1. Always take a walk or drive down the strip

2. Visit one of the local outlet malls for a deal, in particular the Coach outlet always seems to be packed

3. See one of the natural areas, whether it's The Valley of Fire, the Hoover Dam or Red Rock Canyon

4. Watch the fountains at the Bellagio, seeing them outdoors with the music playing in the background makes you feel like your in a Hollywood movie

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lake Taupo

June 2010

Our original plans had been to take the drive out to Whakatane for a trip out to White Island, an active marine volcano, however due to poor weather we went to our back up plan - Lake Taupo.

Lake Taupo is about a 80 kilometer drive from Rotorua, or around an hour. Our first stop was the visitors centre to check out the different options we had in the area. DH already had his mind set on the Hukafalls Jet, so off we set. It was overcast and well, raining, but that didn't stop us from being the only 2 passengers in the boat for a spectacular ride to the spectacular Huka falls. Once we finished our lone jet ride, we took the short drive to the lookout to the falls. The Huka Falls, while only over a 20 meter drop, gush 220,000 litres of water every second.

Once leaving the Huka Falls, we took another short drive to visit the Aratiatia Rapids. A damned section of the Waikato river, the dam is released a certain number of times a day (three in winter) so that you can experience what was once the largest rapids in Australasia. Look familiar? It was also the site (or one of many in NZ) of a scene from Lord of the Rings 2. Can you pick which one?

Once leaving the rapids, we headed back to town to enjoy a burger at Burger Fuel, a New Zealand gourmet burger chain. The burger was wonderful, filing but wonderful.

After lunch we headed down to the boat harbour to catch an afternoon cruise around the lake and to see the maori rock carvings. These carvings are over 10 meters high and only accessabl;e by boat. They are quite impresive, but due to the poor weather the rocking boat made it difficult to get many good shots.

After a great crusie, but a long day we got in the car and started the shortish trip back to Rotorua.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rotorua and Lake Taupo

What a weekend. It started with picking DH up from Auckland airport, after a dark and wet drive we arrived late night in Rotorua, to the faint background smell of sulfur...

Up early on Saturday to visit the Wai-o-tapu thermal area, in order to make sure we got the Lady Knox Geyser at 10:15 am. Since we were early we were able to spend about 40 minutes walking around two of the three tracks they have outlined in the area. It was interesting to see the changing water colours, the bubbling pools and the constant supply of mist across the waters.

After a 400m drive at 10:10 am we arrived at the Lady of Knox geyser. They stimulate the geyser so it goes off at the same time each day, the secret? Environmentally friendly soap, otherwise there is no knowing when it will spout or how high it will go. After this we took a detour past some mud baths, which due to all the rain looked more like muddy water, but still you got the idea.
We left the Wai-o-tapu wonderland to visit the Buried Village. Unbeknown to us it was the 124th anniversary of the Mt Tarawera eruption, so entry was free! You start in the museum, then weave your way through the surrounding area to see what they have uncovered over the year.

By this stage we were both a little hungry and took a detour via Rotorua town centre for a stop at Capers. A cafe/deli that has a set menu for breakfast and dinner, but has a great selection of sandwiches and salads behind a glass cabinet, as well as hot selections including a wonderful seafood chowder. Highly recommended.

After a hearty lunch we decided to test the weather and visit the Rotorua Redwood forest, or the Whakarewarewa forest. We took the shortest walk, 30 minutes at a easy pace and were interested to find out that the Redwoods in Rotorua, although imported from California grow at twice the rate due to the nutrient rich volcanic soil.

After a brief rest in our hotel, we got picked up for our evening at the Mitai Village. This is a maori cultural experience, with the hungi (underground cooked meal), performance that includes a waka (canoe), as well as the haka (dance) and a walk through their grounds. The meal was wonderful, due to the cooking process the meat just fell off the bone and was so tender. The highlight of the evening though was the add on option of visiting the local kiwi birds at Rainbow Springs, the endangered local birds are so cute, but so hard to protect in the wild and the work they are doing at Rainbow Springs is something people should pay close attention to.

Next? Our day at Lake Taupo.


I've been meaning to do this for a while, put together a collection of my travels, whether they be overnights or weeks; my desired destinations; or anything that comes across my path as "I wish".

My plans are to document current as they happen, fill in the blanks of the past from travel diaries, notes, reviews and postcards.

So here we go.....