It’s raining, it’s pouring…

Yes, and with the residual summer heat, it’s almost unbearable. I guess it might have something to do with climate change.

But, assumptions aside, I guess that’s about all we can expect from being nearly at the end of summer.

Outside, its been overcast most of the day, but I have to go out so I’m sure we’re going to get rain.

It’s been threatening for the last few days, and the meterology department, who rarely get the weather right, have been telling us there’s big storm movements coming our way.

The other night we got a hint of it with a few short sharp heavy falls, but then nothing.

So, half past two in the afternoon and I’m off on the grand child pickup run, one from the school up the road, and one from the railway stations some distance away.

Sitting in the car, I’m watching the dark clouds gather, whilst in the other direction the sky is blue. A rather fascinating contrast. Then, suddenly, as it hit 3 pm, time to collect the child, you guessed it, it began to rain.

Not five minutes before, not=r five minutes after, but just as I stopped at the slot for her to get in.

One wet child in the back.

We then head for the railway station, about three km away, and half way there, stuck in a traffic jam, the rain stops. I get a call from the child on the train, just to make sure I have remembered to pick her up.

The clouds are black and low, but there’s no rain.

Instead we have a lightning display, and sit in the car counting the seconds after the bright lightning strike. Younger grand daughter is trying to be brave, but the cracking thunder scares the both of us.

The train is arriving, and, you guessed it, the rain suddenly becomes torrential, and poor elder grand daughter gets drenched in the short distances from the train to the car.

A few minutes later it stops.

Weather is unpredictable, and sometimes a complete pain. At least I didn’t have to get out of the car, but the damp children, that will live on for a day or so as all wet material does, and for some reason seems to be worse in cars.

Let’s see if the weather can be kinder to us tomorrow.

Oh, and something else, we need the rain, specially for my garden. Water is very expensive these days, where once it was not.

Searching for locations: Vancouver to Kamloops, Canada

This morning started with a visit to the car rental place in Vancouver.  It reinforced the notion that you can be given the address and still not find the place.  It happened in Washington where it was hiding in the back of the main railway station, and it happened again in Vancouver when it was hidden inside a hotel.

We simply walked straight past it.  Pity there wasn’t a sign to let people know.

However…

We went in expecting a Grand Jeep Cherokee and walked out with a Ford Flex, suitable for three people and four large suitcases.  It actually seats 7, but forget the baggage, you’d be lucky to get two large suitcases in that configuration.

It is more than adequate for our requirements.

Things to note, it was delivered with just over a quarter of a tank of gas, and it had only done about 11,000 km, so it’s relatively new.  It’s reasonably spacious, and when the extra seats are folded down, there is plenty of baggage space.

So far, so good.

We finally leave the hotel about half-past ten, and it is raining.  It is a simple task to get on Highway 1, the TransCanada Highway, initially, and then onto Highway 5, the Coquihalla highway for the trip to Kamloops.

It rains all the way to the top of the mountain, progress hampered from time to time by water sprays from both vehicles and trucks.  The rain is relentless.  At the top of the mountain, the rain turns into snow and the road surface to slush.  It’s 0 degrees, but being the afternoon, I was not expecting it to turn to ice very quickly.

On the other side of the mountain, closer to Kamloops, there was sleet, then rain, then nothing, the last 100kms or so, in reasonably dry conditions.

Outside Kamloops, and in the town itself, there was evidence of snow recently cleared, and slushy roads.  Cars in various places were covered in snow, indicating the most recent falls had been the night before.

We’re staying at the Park Hotel, a heritage building, apparently built in the later 1920s.  In the style of the time, it is a little like a rabbit warren with passages turning off in a number of directions, and showing it is spread across a number of different buildings.

It has the original Otis elevator that can take a maximum of four passengers, and a sign on the wall that says “no horseplay inside the elevator” which is a rather interesting expression that only someone of my vintage would understand.  And, for those without a sense of humor, you definitely couldn’t fit a horse in it to play with.

The thing is, how do you find a balance between keeping the old world charm with modern day expectations.  You can’t.  Some hotels try valiantly to get that balance.  Here, it is simply old world charm, which I guess we should be grateful for because sooner rather than later it’s going to disappear forever.

In my writer’s mind, given the importance of the railways, this was probably a thriving place for travelers and once upon a time, there were a lot more hotels like this one.

Searching for locations: Taurangi, it’s an interesting town

Located at the bottom of Lake Taupo, in New Zealand, staying here would make more sense if you were here for the fishing, and, well, the skiing or the hiking, or just a relaxing half hour in the thermal pools.

I saw a sign somewhere that said that Taurangi was New Zealand’s premier fishing spot. I might have got the wrong, but it seems to me they’re right. On the other side of town, heading towards Taupo, there’s a lodge that puts up fly fishermen, and where you can see a number of them in an adjacent river trying their luck.

It’s what I would be doing if I had the patience.

But Taurangi is a rather central place to stay, located at the southernmost point of the lake. From there it is not far from the snowfields of Whakapapa and Turoa. Equally, at different times of the year, those ski fields become walking or hiking tracks, and the opportunity to look into a dormant volcano, Ruapehu.

It is basically surrounded by hills and mountains on three sides and a lake on the other. Most mornings, and certainly everyone is different, there is a remarkable sunrise, particularly from where we were staying on the lake, where it could be cloudy, clear, or just cold and refreshing, with a kaleidoscope of colors from the rising sun.

I don’t think I’ve been there to see two days the same.

However, Taurangi, on most days we’ve visited, is even more desolate than Taupo, both on the main street and the central mall. The same couldn’t be said for the precinct where New World, the local supermarket, a Z petrol station can be found. There it is somewhat more lively. The fact there’s a few more shops and a restaurant might help traffic flow.

There is also a mini golf course, and in the middle of winter, it is a bleak place to be, especially in the threatening rain, and the wind. It had also seen better days and in parts, in need of a spruce up, but it’s winter, and there are no crowds, so I guess it will wait till the Spring.

In the mall, there’s the expected bank, newsagent, gift shop and post office combined, and a number of other gift shops/galleries. But the best place is the cafĂ© which I’ve never seen empty and has an extended range of pies pastries and cakes, along with the fast food staples of chips and chicken.
Oh, and you can also get a decent cup of coffee there.

There are two other coffee shops but we found this one the first time we came, we were given a warm welcome and assistance, and have never thought to go anywhere else, despite two known change of owners.

But despite all these reasons why someone might want to stay there, we don’t.

We have a timeshare, and there’s a timeshare in Pukaki called Oreti Village. That’s where we stay.

Searching for locations: Central Park, New York

It’s a place to go and spot the movie starts, or perhaps their dogs.

It’s a place to go for long walks on idyllic spring or autumn days

It’s a place to go to look at a zoo, though I didn’t realize there was one until I made a wrong turn.

It’s a place to go for a horse and carriage ride, although it does not last that long

It’s a place to go to look at statues, fountains, architecture, and in winter, an ice skating rink

I’m sure there’s a whole lot more there that I don’t know about.

I have to say I’ve only visited in winter, and the first time there was snow, the second, none.

Both times it was cold, but this didn’t seem to deter people.

But…

We escaped, before the real cold set in, and made it back to the hotel.  We’re going to return because there’s more to see.

Like statues,

Sir Walter Scott, of Ivanhoe fame, a Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright, and historian

Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and lyricist,  He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement

Christopher Columbus, hang on, how did he get in this collection?

Fitz-Greene Halleck was an American poet notable for his satires and sometimes called “the American Byron”

And someone who’s not dead, and not likely to freeze in the cold air, a drummer, who was doing his best to entertain the few people who stopped to list.

And he wasn’t all that bad, either.

Searching for locations: Oreti Village – No two sunrises are the same (2)

Oreti village

Pukawa Bay

North Island, New Zeland

On the southern tip of Lake Taupo

Three days after we arrive.  Cold.  Red Sky.

A warning that the weather is going to change.  Will it be rain or snow?

20180811_173146

It is as cold and peaceful as the first, but the sun is not yet shining.  All we have is this ethereal pinkish tinge to the sky

20180811_173156

Before the first clouds appear.  The surface of the lake is like a mirror, reflecting the sky, and clouds.

20180811_173201

How soon will it be before the boats begin to appear?

Searchings for locations: Oreti Village – no two sunrises are the same (1)

Oreti village, Pukawa Bay, North Island, New Zealand

On the southern tip of Lake Taupo

Our first morning there, a Saturday.  Winter.  Cold.  And a beautiful sunrise.

20180812_073230

This was taken from the balcony, overlooking the lake.

The sun is just creeping up over the horizon

20180812_073241

It gradually gets lighter, and then the sun breaks free of the low cloud

It lights up the balcony

20180811_074651

And the trees just beyond, a cascade of colorful ferns.

20180811_074622

It looks like its going to be a fine day, our first for this trip, and we will be heading to the mountains to see snow, for the first time for two of our granddaughters.

Searching for locations: Kaikoura, New Zealand, and, of course, the whales

I’m sure a lot of people have considered the prospect of whale watching.  I’m not sure how the subject came up on one of our visits to New Zealand, but I suspect it was one one of those tourist activity leaflets you find in the foyer of motels, hotels, and guesthouses.

Needless to say, it was only a short detour to go to Kaikoura and check out the prospect.

Yes, the ocean at the time seemed manageable.  My wife has a bad time with sea sickness, but she was prepared to make the trip, after some necessary preparations.  Seasickness tablets and special bands to wear on her wrist were recommended and used.

The boat was large and had two decks, and mostly enclosed.  There were a lot of people on board, and we sat inside for the beginning of the voyage.  The sea wasn’t rough, but there was about a meter and a half swell, easily managed by the boat while it was moving.

It took about a half hour or so to reach the spot where the boat stopped and a member of the crew used a listening device to see if there were any whales.

That led to the first wave of sickness.

We stopped for about ten minutes, and the boat moved up and down on the waves.  It was enough to start the queasy stomachs of a number of passengers.  Myself, it was a matter of going out on deck and taking in the sea air.  Fortunately, I don’t get seasick.

Another longish journey to the next prospective site settled a number of the queasy stomachs, but when we stopped again, the swell had increased, along with the boat’s motion.  Seasick bags were made available for the few that had succumbed.

By the time we reached the site where there was a whale, over half the passengers had been sick, and I was hoping they had enough seasick bags, and then enough bin space for them.

The whale, of course, put on a show for us, and those that could went out on deck to get their photos.

DSCN1026.JPG
DSCN1028.JPG
DSCN1029.JPG

By the end of the voyage, nearly everyone on board was sick, and I was helping to hand out seasick bags.

Despite the anti sickness preparations, my wife had also succumbed.  When we returned and she was asked if the device had worked, she said no.

But perhaps it had because within half an hour we were at a cafe eating lunch, fish and chips of course.

This activity has been crossed off the bucket list, and there’s no more whale watching in our traveling future.  Nor, it seems, will we be going of ocean liners.

Perhaps a cruise down the Rhine might be on the cards.  I don’t think that river, wide as it is in places, will ever have any sort of swell.

Searching for locations: Castello di Monterinaldi, Tuscany, Italy

As part of a day tour by Very Tuscany Tours, we came to this quiet corner of Tuscany to have a look at an Italian winery, especially the Sangiovese grapes, and the Chianti produced here.

And what better way to sample the wine than to have a long leisurely lunch with matched wines.  A very, very long lunch.

But first, a wander through the gardens to hone the appetite:

2013-06-18 11.56.18
2013-06-18 11.56.32
2013-06-18 11.56.51

And a photo I recognize from many taken of the same building:

2013-06-18 11.57.26

Then a tour of the wine cellar:

2013-06-18 11.50.08
2013-06-18 11.52.08

Then on to the most incredible and exquisite lunch and wine we have had.  It was the highlight of our stay in Tuscany.  Of course, we had our own private dining room:

2013-06-18 13.22.40

And time to study the paintings and prints on the walls while we finished with coffee and a dessert wine.

2013-06-18 13.23.15

And of course, more wine, just so we could remember the occasion.

Searching for locations: Auckland, New Zealand – Another city that has a tower

Nearly every city has a high building, a tower, or a large Ferris wheel.

London had the London eye
Paris has the Eiffel tower
The Galata in Istanbul
The CN Tower in Toronto
The towers of San Gimignano
Pisa has a leaning tower

We’ve managed to see all of the above bar the Galata in Istanbul.  One day we might get there.

But, on this side of the world, there are two, the Sydney Tower, and the Sky Tower in Auckland, which we just visited recently.

20140522_153338

It’s not a tall tower, but it definitely gives great vies of Auckland, particularly to the north

20140522_150952

The mountain in the background at the top of the photo is of a volcano on Rangitoto Island.  When we were visiting, there were reports that it might become active again.

20140522_151039

To give a height perspective, it didn’t seem all that far down to the apartment building and gardens nearby.

Searching for locations: Toowoomba Flower Festival, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia

The Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers is held in September, and this year ran from the 20th September through to the 30th.

We visited the Laurel Bank Park, where there are beds of many colorful flowers,

open spaces,

statues,

an area set aside for not only tulips but a model windmill

and quite a number of hedge sculptures

There was also the opportunity to go on a morning or afternoon garden tour which visited a number of private gardens of residences in Toowoomba.