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Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Fiordland, New Zealand #travel

Fiordland is the largest National Park in New Zealand and at 1.2 million hectares (3.1 million acres) is also one of the largest in the world. It is an area of wilderness that stretches from Martin’s Bay in the north of the South Island to Te Waewae Bay in the south, and from the lakes of Te Anau, Manapouri, Monowai and Hauroko. It contains 14 fiords, some of which reach up to 40 km inland.

The area is known for rain. It rains over 200 days each year, which makes the waterfalls spectacular. The heavy rainfall creates a permanent freshwater layer above the sea water within the fiords. The freshwater is stained by tannins that cut down the sunlight and restrict marine life to the top 40 meters of water depth.

Whales and dolphins frequent the area, along with little blue penguins and fur seals.

We cruised up the coast and visited Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound. The scenery is simply stunning, and my camera got a real workout.

Dusky Sound

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Entry to Milford Sound

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One of the many waterfalls that tumble down the steep sides of the fiords into the sea.

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As you can see from this photo, Milford is spectacular with tree-clad cliffs and waterfalls. Captain Cook and many of the early explorers sailed right past Milford Sound, not realizing the existence of the fiord.

There is one road in to Milford Sound. By car it takes about 2 –3 hours via Te Anau. The bus ride is about 4 – 5 hours. Access is available by plane or as we did on a cruise ship. Some people walk in via the famous Milford Track, which is a four-day walk.

If you’re ever in this part of the world, I highly recommend a visit.

The Tasmanian Devil, Australia #travel

During our recent visit to Tasmania, I was determined to see a Tasmanian devil. I have seen them before, and they fascinated me with their grunting and growling and their surly, cantankerous  natures. I knew that the population of devils has experienced difficulties during the last ten years, and I wanted to see them again.

A Tasmanian devil is a stocky black or brown mammal, about the size of a cat. They have short back legs and since their front legs are slightly longer this gives them an ambling gait. They are carnivorous and have powerful jaws and sharp teeth, used to tear apart their prey of snakes, birds, fish and carrion.

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Early settlers named them devils because of their spine-chilling growls that filled the night. At one time, farmers thought that they attacked their livestock, and the population was almost wiped out. Once they became a protected species the numbers of devil increased until the mid 1990s. A large number of devil died with an illness called devil facial tumor. It is a type of cancer that made lumps form on the animals’ heads. Once they were infected the tumors made it difficult for the devils to eat and they died in the thousands. Captive breeding programs have saved the species from extinction but they are still vulnerable.

We visited Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary where they take in injured animals. In most cases, they attempt to release animals into the wild, although they have a few animals that are unable to live in the wild due to ongoing injuries or problems. Along with Tasmanian devils, they had lots of kangaroos, wombats, emus and koalas. Hubby and I loved our visit here. The staff and keepers were friendly and helpful and answered loads of questions. Their enthusiasm was infectious.

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What do you think? Would you like to come face-to-face with one?

A Visit to the Exmoor Owl and Hawk Centre, England #travel

I’ve always been a big reader. Although I read primarily for entertainment, I learn all sorts of random facts and pieces of trivia. The moment I read historical romances featuring falconry, I was fascinated.

I’ve never mentioned my fascination to anyone, but when we were planning our recent trip to Britain, I decided I’d do some research. I was delighted to discover the Exmoor Owl & Hawk Centre, which not only offered the chance to fly birds but bed and breakfast accommodation too.

The Exmoor Owl and Hawk Centre is situated in a beautiful part of the world, in the Exmoor National Park and not far from the small village of Portlock.

Exmoor Bed and Breakfast

According to their website, the some of the buildings date back to medieval times. It was certainly a beautiful spot and very peaceful.

Bedroom at Bed and Breakfast

This was our bedroom, which was very comfortable. The breakfast the next morning was delicious and set us up for the morning of owl and hawk flying.

Hubby and Owl

We were given gauntlets plus a pouch full of chicken wings/legs to feed the birds as a reward when they flew to us. You can tell by Mr. Munro’s expression that he was enthralled with the birds. I was too, and would repeat the experience in a heartbeat. This little fellow was beginning to molt, which is why his feathers look a bit ruffled.

Hubby and Barn Owl

This is a barn owl. He was very pretty, but not very cooperative. Not long after this photo, he flew up into the rafters and refused to return to either of us.

Barn Owl

A close-up. Isn’t he handsome?

Shelley and Hawk

We moved outside and flew this hawk. I thought the birds would be heavy, but it was easy to hold their weight.

The owner of the center answered all our questions, and when he learned we were from New Zealand, he told us about his New Zealand owls. We have only one, commonly called a morepork. Mr Munro and I have seen one when we visited Little Barrier Island, but most New Zealanders have never seen one, although we often hear them call at night. We were allowed to have photos with the morepork or Ruru.

Hubby and Morepork

They’re quite a small owl. I’d call them cute.

Shelley and Morepork

Exmoor Countryside

This is a photo of the narrow country lanes and the beautiful countryside. If you’re ever in the Exmoor area I highly recommend a visit to the Exmoor Owl and Hawk Centre. It was a holiday highlight, and a true bucket list experience.

Recipe – a vegetarian dish #recipe #travel

The first time I tried Koshari (a vegetarian dish) was during a visit to Egypt. It was a lunch staple on our river boat as we cruised down the Nile from Luxor to Aswan.

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This is our small river boat. The larger, more luxurious boats dwarfed ours, but our smaller size meant we passed through the locks first.

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The Nile river brings life to the area. The grass is a vivid green and the crops thrive in the soil with plentiful water, but once away from the river, it’s very dry.

Here is the recipe for Koshari.

Ingredients:

1 cup basmati rice

50 ml olive oil

2 1/4 cups of vegetable stock – water is okay if you don’t have stock

250 grams brown lentils

100 grams small macaroni

20 gram butter

2 onions, thinly sliced

Baharat Tomato Sauce:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, finely chopped or grated

2 1/2 teaspoons baharat

1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes

400 grams canned cherry tomatoes

200 grams canned chopped tomatoes

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

Baharat:

You can buy this online or from specialty stores. I made mine since I had all the available spices in the cupboard.

2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.

To make the sauce:

1. Heat the oil in the saucepan, add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender.

2. Stir in the baharat spice and chilli

3. Add the tomatoes and season to taste. Simmer until thickened. Stir in the vinegar and keep warm.

To make the base:

1. Heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in a pan, add rice and stir to coat. Season to taste, then add the stock. Cover with lid and cook on a low heat until the rice is tender and the stock absorbed.

2. Cook the lentils until almost tender, then add the macaroni. Stir until the pasta is al dente. Drain and combined with the cooked rice.

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3. Heat the butter and cook the onion until golden brown and crispy.

4. To serve, divide the rice mixture into bowls and spoon over the tomato sauce. Garnish with the crispy onion.

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Shelley’s Notes:

1. We added spinach leaves to our tomato sauce. We also had some kidney beans in the fridge, so we added those as well.

2. We didn’t have cherry tomatoes. I used a 800 gram can of chopped tomatoes.

3. I think I’d garnish with parsley or fresh coriander in the future, rather than the onion.

Verdict: Delicious! I will definitely make this dish again.

Arctic-Alpine Garden, Tromso, Norway #travel

Any visitor to Norway knows how expensive it is to travel and sightsee in the country. When our cruise ship stopped at Tromso, we discovered the Arctic-Alpine Botanic garden, which was a short walk from the port. Even better, admission was free.

Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden, Tromso

It was in a gorgeous spot, overlooking the valley of Tromsdalen and the mountain Tromsdalstind in the background.

All the plants come from alpine regions of the northern hemisphere, and the garden is open from May to September. It is run by the Tromso University Museum.

Tulips

I love tulips, and these ones made a stunning display. There were also black tulips.

Himalayan Poppies

These blue Himalayan poppies were in full flower and absolutely beautiful. Such a pretty color. I’d never seen blue poppies before.

Himalayan Poppy

Himalyan Poppies and Me

The day turned fine and hot. This is me posing with the blue poppies.

Flower and Bee

Waffles at Botanic Garden

There is a small cafe in the gardens, and hubby and I purchased a waffle and coffee. In Norway, the waffles are served with jam and cream or Brunost, which is a brown cheese made from goats’ milk. I expected the cheese to be strong but it was quite sweet and soft and went perfectly with the waffle.

If you’re in Tromso, a visit to the Arctic-Alpine Botanic garden is the perfect way to while away an hour or longer. I highly recommend a visit.

North Cape, Norway #travel

The North Cape on the island of Magerøya in Norway is in the Arctic Circle, and it is the farthest land point before the North Pole (Apart from the Svalbard archipelago). During the summer months, the sun doesn’t set and daylight is constant for two and a half months.

North Cape cliffs

On the day we visited, it was cold, even though it was mid-summer. This is the view we saw on our arrival. About half an hour later, the sea and cliffs were shrouded by fog.

North Cape Pre Fog

North Cape

There were hundreds of people and dozens of buses at the cape. I decided to purchase and post a postcard with the special North Cape postmark. Service at the souvenir shop – slower than a snail. I swear I was in the line for half an hour.

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North Cape flowers

We saw a few herds of reindeer gazing on the side of the road. They are not wild, but are released to graze the area during the summer months. The cape area is popular for bird watching and hiking.

North Cape globe

This is the globe right on the point in front of the visitors’ center. Not much of a view with the fog obscuring the sea beyond.

Midnight Sun

Hubby took this photo at midnight, as you can see by his watch. The sun set at midnight and it rose at midnight.

Shelley Midnight Sun

This is me at midnight. While it was fun seeing the midnight sun, I’m not sure I could handle the lack of daylight during the winter months.

How do you think you would cope with only a few hours of daylight per day?

In Dublin Fair City #travel

During our recent cruise we stopped for a day in Dublin. We’ve visited Dublin before, but it was fun reacquainting ourselves with the city. Drummers welcomed us as we disembarked from the cruise ship.

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Our first stop was to the Georgian House Museum in Fitzwilliam Street. Mrs Beatty, the widow of a wine merchant, was the first occupant of the house. The house is furnished and appears as it would have during 1790 – 1820 period. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take photos, but it was well worth the visit. Dublin has lots of Georgian buildings, and I enjoy the elegance of this time period.

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Two doors for Georgian townhouses.

Our next destination was The Book of Kells and the Long Room at Trinity College. The queue was long but I passed the time chatting with the man in front of me in the line. He was there with his wife and two adult children in a family reunion of sorts. My advice to anyone intending to visit in the future is to buy your tickets online before you go. It makes the wait much shorter!

The Book of Kells exhibition was crowded, but the illuminated manuscripts are beautiful – so much artistry in the illustrations. It was exacting work and done by more than one scribe. Due to the delicate nature of the manuscripts, no photos were allowed.

My book lover’s heart was looking forward to the Long Room, part of the Trinity College library. It is floor to ceiling with books and so impressive. It thrilled me.

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Dublin_TrinityCollege Long Room Shelley

This is me in the Long Room. Check out those ladders to get to the top shelves.

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Dublin is full of history. Dublin Castle is mainly 18th century in origin, although a castle has stood on this site for much longer. It is open to the public, apart from during state functions. We merely admired the exterior.

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A view of Dublin Castle

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Temple Bar is the cultural and entertainment center of Dublin. It’s full of pubs, expensive drinks and tourists. U2 own a bar here.

The weather for our day in Dublin was fantastic. The locals were out in force too, and I’ve never seen so many people with red hair. A lot of pale skin was on display due to the heat. I managed to get a bit burned and I had sunscreen, so I imagine there were lots of sunburnt people that night.

If you’re in the market for knitwear, there are some beautiful jumpers, hats and scarves available to purchase. I dragged hubby around several stores in my search for an Irish green scarf. Mission complete. I’ve worn it a lot this winter and get lots of compliments since it is a bit different to those in New Zealand.

We had a fantastic day, did heaps of walking and got enough culture to make me happy. Dublin is a fun city to visit for a day or longer.

Hot Springs, South Dakota – Graveyard for Mammoths #travel

A Smithsonian article turned up in my inbox this week about mammoths that lived on an island in the Bering sea. They became extinct on this island around 5600 years ago and experts have concluded this happened because rising sea waters contaminated the water table and therefore their water supply.

This reminded me of our visit to Hot Springs in South Dakota a few years ago. The city of Hot Springs is the southern gateway to the Black Hills. In 1974 a construction crew were working on a building site and hit a tusk. They called experts who found a site full of bones, and what turned out to be a huge Columbian mammoth gravesite.

The area was once a sinkhole and over the years, many mammoths and other animals fell in, and unable to climb back out, they perished.

The site has turned into the largest collection of mammoth skeletons found in the United States. They have found 60 mammoth skeletons and at least three woolly mammoth skeletons.

Work on the site is on-going and volunteers are still uncovering new finds.

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You can see the skeletons and tusks in the above photos of mammoths that ventured too close to the sink hole and died.

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This particular head and tusks is known as Beauty because it is so beautifully preserved and symmetrical.

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This is a life-size model of a Columbian mammoth, and that’s hubby standing in front of it so you can get an idea of the size. The tusks are huge, and the mammoths must have been a fearsome sight in the flesh.

We loved our visit to the mammoth site. It was fascinating, and we spent some time wandering around and taking photos. If you live anywhere near Hot Springs or are visiting the area, I highly recommend a visit.

Loose With Llamas in Dartmoor National Park #travel

Llamas originate from South America and are closely related to the camel. They are domestic animals, used for packing supplies. Their feet are padded, which allows them to travel easily over rocky terrain without disturbing vegetation, and they’re capable of navigating very narrow paths.

Llamas are gentle animals, and this good temperament combined with their ability to pack supplies has birthed a new type of eco-tourism tour—Llama trekking.

Llama and Hubby Looking at View

I’ve wanted to go llama trekking ever since I saw a special interest piece on our local television a couple of years ago. I was thrilled to discover they did llama trekking in Dartmoor National Park in Devon and immediately showed hubby.

“We should do this,” I said.

After discussing the tour and how to fit it in to our schedule, we duly booked. As our tour approached, I watched the weather and crossed my finger it wouldn’t rain.

There were four of us trekking plus the two owners. Each of us had a llama each plus there was one alpaca. I volunteered to be in charge of the alpaca. I mean, who can resist their adorable faces.

Llama Trek Shelley

The tour was two and a half hours long with an afternoon tea break—a Devon cream tea—at the halfway point.

Llama Start at Trek

This is the start of our tour where we met our llamas and my alpaca. We were given a quick talk then off we went.

Llama on Dartmoor

We walked up hill and down hill…

Llama Trek Dartmoor Ponies

We came across some of the other wildlife – a herd of Dartmoor ponies.

Llama and View

We took in the glorious views then stopped for a delicious afternoon tea of home made scones, jam and clotted cream with a cup of tea.

Llama Trek Shelley and Paul

The walk over (3 miles of walking), we posed with our companions and said goodbye.

Those rumors about spitting llamas…evidently, they only spit at each other and are well-behaved with humans. Our llamas were well-behaved and high with the cuteness factor.

I’m a llama trekking convert, and would happily recommend trekking to any animal lover. I can’t wait to repeat the experience!

Jane Austen Writes Up a Storm in Chawton #travel

Jane Austen, author of novels such as Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Mansfield Park, moved to Chawton on 7 July 1809. Her brother Edward, who was adopted by the Knights, provided the cottage for his mother and two sisters after he inherited the estate left to him by the Knights.

These days, Chawton in Hampshire, England is a delightful village with a tea shop, a pub, a community hall, a church and some pretty thatched cottages. The house where Jane Austen lived with her mother and sister is directly opposite the tea shop and is now a museum dedicated to Jane.

A short drive away is Chawton House, the estate owned by Edward Knight, Jane’s brother. Edward lived elsewhere and let this estate to tenants. The Chawton House Library is also situated here—a special library featuring works of women writers from 1600 – 1830. Unfortunately, this was closed on the day we visited but the setting is beautiful.

This is a picture of the cottage from the main street.

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This is a picture from within the gardens, which are surprisingly big and full of plants for healing and also for dying fabrics different colors.

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During our visit to England this time, I was surprised by the fact that many of the historical properties allowed photos (as long as the photographer didn’t use flash) and in many places we were allowed to touch and open cupboards. Most of the places we visited also had clothes available to try out. I couldn’t resist trying a Regency bonnet. What do you think?

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Jane wrote many of her most famous books while at Chawton. Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma. It amused me to see that Jane experienced publisher problems too. With me, it is the Publisher Who Shall Not Be Named, but Jane’s publisher didn’t want to publish a second edition of Mansfield Park. A new publisher called John Murray approached her, and she ended up publishing with him. While she was generally happy with her new publisher, she felt he took too long to get her books to market.

They have Jane’s writing table in the museum. It is made of walnut and has twelve sides. It is quite tiny and wouldn’t do at all for a present-day writer!

Jane Austen_Desk

Jane became ill and in May 1817, she and her sister Cassandra moved to nearby Winchester to be near a doctor. They lived in this house, which is now privately owned.

Jane Austen_Winchester House

Jane is buried in Winchester Cathedral.

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Are you a Jane Austen fan?