Saturday, February 28, 2009
One Bright Red Wizard's Car - Spotted outside Christchurch Cathedral. The Cathedral allows the Wizard (see him below in the next post) to park his car near the front door of their institution - and they also store his ladder for him - which is rather a lovely irony when you consider he oftens pontificates (negatively) on the subject of religion.
And here is The Wizard himself - an institution in Christchurch.
During the summer you'll find him in Cathedral Square most days (weather permitting) at around 1pm, ranting and raving about everything from religion and politics to love and bureaucracy.... usually from the top of his ladder, though this particular day he obviously wasn't feeling as spritely as usual.
Friday, February 27, 2009
I took a break from the slightly manic task of contacting thousands of New Zealand tourism operators this morning and instead, sank into the gorgeously squishy leather sofas at Aikmans in Merivale. I couldn't get up again........well.... not for a good while anyway.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Just when I thought Christchurch couldn’t possibly deliver another festival, along comes the Latin Festival. It kicks off on Saturday and will run throughout the day in Victoria Square. You can enjoy Spanish food, arts and crafts, live music and dance. And at night you can head to the Town Hall to watch dancers perform the Argentine tango, the Cuban salsa and the Brazilian samba.
We've moved from inkjet prints to etchings - another work from one of New Zealand's leading printmakers. Click on Cleavin to see the full series thus far.
For an adventure you’ll never forget head straight for White Island (Whakaari) – New Zealand’s only live marine volcano. If you join White Island Tours with Pee Jay, you’ll get an in-depth insight into what makes this ancient volcanic island tick. And it’s impressive. There may not be any vegetation to speak of, but you get all those fabulous volcanic colours that I love – deep slate greys, sulphurous yellow (in fields of sulphur crystals), bright oranges, russet browns – they’re all there amid the steaming, the hissing and the bubbling. You can read all about the island’s fascinating history by clicking on www.whiteisland.co.nz
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
If you scroll down you'll see some of the photos I took last week on the largest of our southern isles, Stewart Island. Most people are surprised to see Stewart Island's beautiful white sand beaches - that's something they associate more with the north of New Zealand - like the above. This is exactly how the very beautiful Medlands Beach on Great Barrier Island looks. In fact, it's exactly how all of their beaches look. I visited Great Barrier in 2007 and I was always amazed to find I was the only person on these pristine expanses. It's all about the isolation you see. Great Barrier may only be a 35-minute small plane ride from Auckland airport (or a 4-5 hour ferry ride), but the island is still without many of the conveniences of the mainland. That's the beauty of it. It's unspoiled and because the Department of Conservation administers over 70% of the island, you can be guaranteed beautiful bush landscapes and thriving bird life. It is well worth the effort of getting there!
As the retail crunch hits home shops are going to all sorts of creative lengths to lure in customers. There are sales everywhere and I've been snapping furiously at some of the better sale signs. I love this one - a simple brown shopping bag dangling above the front door. And isn't that a great name for a fashion store!
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
As I launch myself into the massive task of writing Frommers New Zealand 6th edition it's fair to say I have hotels on my mind - especially bedrooms and bathrooms. I'm very picky about hotel bathrooms - bedrooms too, although by the time I get to any hotel bedroom I'm usually so tired I'm way past caring what I actually sleep on, or in. But, with gorgeous rooms like these at Queenstown's super-chic Sofitel, it's also fair to say I'm usually very spoiled. www.frommers.com www.sofitel.co.nz
Monday, February 23, 2009
You'd need to be a whole lot braver than me to think about the view when you're about to leap 192 metres (630-ft) in a controlled free-fall from Auckland's Sky Tower! I admire the person who stuck around to take the photograph! But if you're an adrenalin freak, this 'high-flying' activity will be just the ticket for you. www.skyjump.co.nz www.aucklandnz.com
Like many people, I have been known to make jokes about Greymouth - mostly to the effect that it is aptly named; but when I visited in November last year, the sun was streaming down and this usually-dull little town took me quite by surprise. I roamed the streets with a friend, taking photographs and we came away with all sorts of gems. I particularly liked the solid green bulk of this old Art Deco building, which now serves as a popular cafe.
There’s a thrill a minute in this country and one of the newest is the 10-metre high, ice-climbing chamber at Hukawai Glacier Centre at Franz Josef in South Westland. It’s the only one in the Southern Hemisphere apparently – not that that will tempt ME into polishing up my ice pick any time soon! But I did like the idea of looking into the fully glazed ice chamber and being able to take photographs. Shame about the lack of ice climbers. Perhaps another time! www.hukawai.co.nz
Sunday, February 22, 2009
When I was on Stewart Island earlier this week, I had a lovely experience - a night kiwi spotting tour, which took us from Oban and Half Moon Bay, around the coastline and into Paterson Inlet to Glory Cove. It was just on dusk when we left Oban and as the skies closed in we were treated to one of Stewart Island's famous sunsets. This was just the beginning of it. And yes, we did see kiwis - three in fact, roaming the lonely sands of remote Ocean Beach, pecking for sandhoppers in the seaweed. It's the only place in New Zealand where you can see them (on a tour) in the wild, roaming beaches foraging for food.
I love a good boatshed - there's something very appealing to me about their simple architecture - and on Stewart Island in New Zealand's deep south, you can still find plenty of them. This pretty little cluster sits on the edge of Half Moon Bay in Oban, the main settlement on the island. www.stewartisland.co.nz
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Loved this gathering of signs - complete with resting gull - at Oban on Stewart Island.
A perfect blue-skied day helped too of course www.stewartisland.co.nz
This, believe it or not, is a classroom!
The lucky kids at Stewart Island Primary School get to have some of their lessons on the beach at Half Moon Bay in Oban, which is directly across the road from their school. When I was there on Wednesday, the teacher led her 'brood' across the road and set about taking their sports lesson in the sand. Delightful. They must be the luckiest school kids in New Zealand. www.stewartisland.co.nz
Friday, February 20, 2009
Every time I drive past Lake Mapourika near Franz Josef in South Westland, my imagination goes into over-drive. There always seems something moody and mysterious about the place – its surface a near-perfect mirror for the brooding stands of kahikatea that fringe the lake edges. It’s also home to an amazing array of birdlife – some of our rarest species in fact, including the kotuku (white heron), bellbird, tui, Bush Robins, Grebe, Blue Herons and the rarest of all the Kiwi species, the Rowi. The Department of Conservation run a kiwi recovery programme on the far side of the lake. I arrived at the lake just in time to see Glacier Country Lake Tours hauling their red boat from the water after a busy day of tours. www.laketours.co.nz
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Small Nugget at Sydney Cove, Ulva Island. Feb 2009. Ajr Sydney Cove, Ulva Island Feb 2009 Ajr I've just spent three glorious days working in the deep south - on Stewart Island, which sits about 30 kilometres south of Bluff, across the Foveaux Strait. And for those of you who thought the sun only shone in the North Island, take a look at those blue skies! The two shots above were taken at Sydney Cove, a completely empty beach on Ulva Island, which is a bird sanctuary in Paterson Inlet. It is a near perfect little island with just 11 kilometres of coastline and you get to it via a seven-minute water taxi ride from Stewart Island. Oban, Half Moon Bay, Stewart Island. Feb 2009 Ajr And these were taken at Stewart Island's main - and only - township, Oban. It was a beautiful afternoon when I took these shots but regardless of weather, Half Moon Bay is always pretty with its multitude of boats moored in the harbour and its little holiday homes creeping up the bushy hillsides.
Leaving Stewart Island by Ferry
Feb 2009. Ajr
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I'm jumping the gun a bit here because it's not quite autumn in Arrowtown yet; but this is what it looks like when it is - a shower of red, russet, green, yellow, brown and orange. That's Arrowtown House in foreground. I wrote about them recently. Just enter either Arrowtown House or Meet the People into the blog search box (above left) [or click on the titles in the label line below] and you'll be able to see inside this gorgeous new accommodation. www.arrowtownhouse.com
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
When I'm reveiwing accommodation properties for inclusion in Frommers New Zealand - and I'm just starting the 6th edition now - I'm always looking for places that set themselves apart, not just in their comforts and service levels but also through creativity and individuality. I like it when owners go the extra mile and think about the small things - because as we all know, it's often the small things that count most. So naturally I was delighted to discover these gorgeous little hand-stitched fish 'swimming' around the edges of table napkins at the very lovely River Birches, which offers stylish accommodation on the edge of that prime fishing location, the Tongariro River, near Turangi in the central North Island. www.riverbirches.co.nz
I spotted this gorgeous old brick building just south of Dunedin Airport the week before last. It's the sort of abandoned factory I'd love to have the money to restore and convert into a home. A little too close to the railway line and the highway perhaps but imagine all that interior space!
Monday, February 16, 2009
This is Adunya. He is nine years old and he attends his local primary school at Negele Gorbitu in the Yirgacheffe region of Southern Ethiopia. He is able to do so thanks to Fair Trade coffee and New Zealand’s Trade Aid organisation. In 2008 Trade Aid imported around nine shipping containers of coffee from the Oromia Coffee Farmers’ Co-operative Union – the organisation that Adunya’s coffee-farming parents sell their coffee to. The social premiums from those purchases alone will be enough to fund the construction of a new five-classroom school, which will provide more than 600 pupils like Adunya with an education. Without Fair Trade and buyers like Trade Aid, Adunya’s school would not exist. Fair Trade purchases also fund medical centres, drinking water and better roading in rural Ethiopia. www.fairtrade.net www.tradeaid.org.nz
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Here's another view of Christchurch's amazing Catholic Basilica - the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, which makes all other Christchurch buildings seem tiny and almost entirely forgettable. If you click on the Cathedral title in the label line below, you'll see many other shots I've taken of this grand building.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
My rapid-fire journey around the South Island on Wednesday and Thursday came with ever-changing weather conditions. By the time we arrived in Bruce Bay, an hour north of the tiny beach town of Haast in South Westland the rain was falling. But it cleared again late afternoon and I got these perfect-blue shots of the bay, complete with stone piles arranged by passing motorists. The Makaawhio Marae that we were visiting is directly across the road from this pretty scene - which also included frolicking dolphins.