Do you like piña coladas (and getting caught in the rain)?

Helloha,

A ferry from Belfast landed us in Cairnryan, with Hertz handing these sensible looking travelers the keys to our vehicle equivalent, the Volvo. A dependable steed, her GPS (hallelujah, last rental car and we scored a Siri!) rerouted us around traffic to Edinburgh.

A city of blocks, bricks and steeples, tweed, kilts, leather and brass, the aesthetic was gorgeous. The Scots are diverse and inviting, with a seemingly evolutionary resistance to the cold. Our first night was spent at a beautiful hotel in the heart of old town, but cringing when we realized we could get our next three nights for cheaper than this one, we checked out of our treaty digs and drove a few miles down the road to Marina’s brand new, charming, and seriously underpriced B&B. Tucked up on the top floor of a huge villa under a big duvet was the best place to warm a still infected throat and listen to the wind whistling in the jet black night.

We took our free days as opportunities to go for drives and connect with people. A long day trip to Stirling Castle, through Glen Coe and up to Fort William was amazingly scenic. We also went out to the famed seaside town of St Andrews, with quick stops at the beach and golf courses.

Back in the big smoke, we had a chance meet up with Hayden from Maia’s Pakuranga rugby team. He had been away for a similar time as us, and told us of his exciting solo stories over a beer, also letting us in the loop that the next day he was surprising his parents by coming home from his OE early. We were so excited for him and wished we could have jumped on a plane back to all our loved ones too.

Homesickness really hit us about then, but thankfully Maia’s family (on his mum’s side) went out of their way to meet up with us and we had such a good time with Nick and Amy, Scott and Sue. They put their weekend aside to host us and we were so appreciative to have been welcomed and looked after. They’re wonderful people and we hope to keep that long line of connection going with the Scott’s Scots.

With an early flight to Heathrow, then LA, we stayed at the airport’s Snoozebox for our last night. A brilliant concept, we slept cheaply in a converted container for a quick start in the morning. Our wake up call came a bit early though because the downpour cut out the generator and emergency lighting flooded the room from 2:00 am. Excited to be on our way home, we didn’t mind too much.

Before we knew it (euphemistic hyperbole) we were back in LA, with a day at Disneyland. The child in me never grows up, and I couldn’t sleep the night before, grinning ear to ear in anticipation (I’m still like this for Christmas, it’s nuts). It was everything I had remembered it to be, a truly fun and magic world for everyone. I can’t wait to go back!

Our layover up, we then flew to Hawaii. It is incredible! We’re staying in Oahu, on Waikiki beach. The pineapple is unreal, the scent of frangipani intoxicating, and palmed beaches so good they’re almost certainly a mirage. I love this place and we both agree it would be very easy to live here. This holiday-after-the-holiday is really hitting the spot, and we’re chilling while we can before it’s back to routine. The beach bars are amazing (heed caution with the mai tais – I had one and thought someone had slipped something in my drink, but it was just the rum taking full effect), surf is refreshing, and temperature tropical. Did I mention the shops? I think this is the perfect place for a holiday. Hawowii!

Tomorrow (weather permitting) we are going swimming with giant turtles on the north shore, paddle boarding down a river, jumping off a big rock, and mazing through the Dole plantation. Then it will be a couple more days of relaxation before we arrive back in Aotearoa on 25 November. Home sweet home.

There’s photos of Scotland and the US below, but before I sign off please let me say a huge thanks for encouraging me as I’ve blogged. It’s always nerve wracking putting yourself out there, but writing to keep in touch with you has been some of the best parts of my trip. I hope I haven’t been too verbose, that my words have lit up a smile or two, and that our stories have maybe even brought back memories of/provided inspiration towards your own travel journeys.

I deeply appreciate all your comments and enthusiasm and I’m sure going to miss this creative outlet (until I can think of something else people might like to read).

Thank you for your support. Can’t wait to see you soon in godzone New Zealand.

 

Edinburgh – on our seven(!) year anniversary. I swear I was just 19.

 

Edinburgh – one night only, one night onlyyyy

 

Edinburgh – man about town

 

Edinburgh – the two damn fine centres

 

Edinburgh – the Kelpies(?), such huge and beautiful art

 

Edinburgh – Stirler pearler

 

Edinburgh – pull up the drawbridge!

 

Glencoe – the scapes 🦄

 

Glencoe – massive

 

St Andrews – home of golf

 

St Andrews – le beach

 

Edinburgh – Nick, Amy, Maia, Sue, Scott – this is the only photo where everyone has their eyes open but that corresponded with reduced smiles. They’re really a happy bunch!

 

Edinburgh – Snoozebox

 

LA – Starwars ride line

 

LA – you can leave me here

 

LA – Christmas Mickey

 

LA – best ride ever, roller coaster in the dark

 

LA – 50 foot drop. Where’s Dana?

 

LA – supercalatastic

 

LA – big band

 

LA – teacups

 

LA – loves a bit of Disney

 

Honolulu – Waikiki by dawn

 

Honolulu – Waikiki catching rays

 

Honolulu – glory days

 

Honolulu – lapping it up

 

Honolulu – oh so blue

 

Honolulu – straight out of the jungle

 

Honolulu – waltzing through the Royal

 

Honolulu – we survived the mai tai

 

Honolulu – yeahhhh baby

 

Honolulu – a million thanks you guys xxx

 

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Takin’ a trip up to Abagavenny…and then over to Irelanddd

Hey there, how’s it going?

Following London we went rural, retreating to the grassy knolls of the Cotswolds. It was dusk as we arrived in quaint Broadway, and a wild deer inquired of us from behind a tree in the woodlands as we crunched down the gravel drive. I would love to have spent longer in the countryside amongst thatched roofs, wild flowered meadows and near frozen streams in my Hunter gummies and quilted jacket on horseback with a dog alongside, but it was a pit stop visit as the valleys were calling, “it’s been toooooo long, huuuuuuuurry upppp and get heeeeere”.

South we went to Abertillery, Wales. I was ultra excited to arrive at my uncle and aunt’s place, the Corlett’s northern hemisphere home, where we were welcomed with Rita’s scones and sponge and stayed for a week. We were lucky to have three tour guides in Bruce, Kar and Jess, and had some great adventures together.

Cardiff is a fantastic city, with many excellent marbles in it’s bag. There’s historic buildings (including castle), a gorgeous setting by the bay, and cheerful ambience that makes you want to join in with the locals. We also visited Llangorse Lake (in the Brecon Beacons) to set eyes on the Welshie’s infamous summer haunt, and I only wish I could have been there for peak season’s themed parties and unmissable ‘Llangorse’s Got Talent’. We ventured to Abagavenny, out to Karen and Mike’s in Caerphilly, and to the very cool set up of Best Bets in Crosskeys. We walked at the park amongst the last of the autumn leaves, James Bonded at the movies, curried at a lovely Indian, and joked with proseccos in the comfort and warmth of the living room while admiring the tri-colour pined mountain beyond. We celebrated halloween and the All Blacks’ victory (Dan, you’ll always be the man) with friends, fireworks and sambuca, and recuperated the next day with legendary roast potatoes and Roly dog’s cuddles (well, they were mainly reserved for Maia).

We saw too little of Rita and Den, my third set of grandparents, but how good it was to be reunited. The treat box, overflowing at my last visit (15 years ago) with king size Cadbury delights (“take a few, go on”) has both relocated and expanded – it has taken over the the fridge’s fruit and veg bin and is full to the brim. Unsurprisingly, Rita and Den are the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. They’re positive, generous, kind, and quick to laugh – everything you know and love about Welsh people, and then some.

Packed lunches from Kar, it reached the shitty occasion you dread the moment you arrive – time to hit the road. Being located in places so geographically separate is really hard, and we all hugely miss our Welsh family when we’re not with them. Though they’re always in our hearts and spiritually saved a place at gatherings, there’s nothing like seeing them in person.

Rushing through see you soons in rip the bandaid off fast fashion, we were sadly on our way. Well, just. Thank goodness Maia nearly pulled out into another car, switching my tearful emotions into check your bloody blind spot ones as we drove down Rose Heyworth one last time. Bruce, Kar, Jessie, Rols – thank you so much for having us you guys. Until the next hello (let’s not make it too long).

With a punctured heart missing NZ and Welsh family, we sped up to the top of Wales and caught a massive boat to Dublin. It was one heck of a day, and we were exhausted arriving when it was black out. Local music we were meant to see, but good intentions be damned because nothing could right us but a good kip. We thought. Next morning we both woke up fluey and have remained that way for the entire Irish trip. Diddle dee potatoes.

We got knocked down, but we got up again and pushed on with the itinerary – nearly tracing the outline of Ireland in a week. Remarkable spectacles included Wicklow National Park, top town fishing hub of Kinsale, and beaut Killarney (throughly recommended to us by the locals were also Kenmare and Dingle, but unfortunately we couldn’t get there). We got windswept at the Cliffs of Moher (neat, but they charge you!) and wished it stopped raining so we could explore the beaches and surrounds of Downings (right up the top, above Letterkenny). Ireland is an outdoor, pub lover’s adventure island – we were just missing a couple of weeks and good health. It would be amazing to see more of the national parks, tiny towns, and glorious Wild Atlantic Way. Maybe there’s a next time.

Tonight we’re in Belfast and tomorrow we ferry to Scotland – our last stop before we start to head back home.

Photos follow. Please excuse the lack of Irish ones – we didn’t get out and about much.

Love to you all and see you soon (Jinn, I’m hoping you still remember me because I hear you’ve been living the dream at your luxe abode!)

Xx

 

England – Broadway

 

England – Broadway

 

England – Broadway

 

Wales – park time with Roly

 

Wales – Bru and Kar

 

Wales – terrible punters

 

Wales – at Best Bets

 

Wales – Cardiff

 

Wales – inside Cardiff castle

 

Wales – get in the photo Jess

 

Wales – getting a very cool piercing!

 

Wales – Jack the lad

 

Wales – the babes. So lush!

 

Wales – boom, boom, boom

 

Wales – heading north to Holyhead

 

Ireland – Dubbers

 

Ireland – the new vegan on the lookout for breakfast haunts

 

Ireland – cutting through Wicklow NP

 

Ireland – give me land, lots of land under starry skies above

 

Ireland – the crew (all two)

 

Ireland – Moher

 

Ireland – Moher out to the Atlantic

 

Ireland – Galway’s strictly Coke drinker

 

Ireland – and a hot whiskey for the lady. It’s got medicinal qualities.

 

Retrouvailles – [rediscovery] the joy of reuniting after a long period of separation

Oui, oui Paris! Dreamily portrayed in images and film, revisited in twinkle eyed reveries by those who have been before, and celebrated the world through for its culture and sights, how could my experience equal the hype? With long-docked expectations but belly butterflies of excited hope, we touched down for a visit that would leave even me charmed and cooing over the city of lights.

The French capital blindsided me, taking me by the hand and twirling me through the boulevards. My doubts were blitzed, and through clearing mist emerged a city of impossible elegance and ultimate refinement. Indulged with ‘bonjour madam’s, banana-Nutella crepes, autumn leaf layered parks, Haussmanian buildings, glove fingered days, and bridges aglow by night, Paris was a spoiling host.

Mum (she really should have been a detective) booked an apartment in a top location for us to join the resident population. We stayed in Passy, 16th arr., a chic neighborhood reclining on the banks of the Seine. With contemporary museums, wide roads, and excellent but relaxed eateries and shops, Passy is a homely urban village.

We cycled and took the red bus around Paris, marveling at the ordered grand plan, famous monuments, and inspiring symmetry of the great city. We loved pedaling around and picnicking in nearby Versailles (a city itself), with its organic markets, flowered meadows, and – of course – palatial gardens. The metro was both conquered and conqueror, for just as we began to master it, the turnstiles gave Maia a hematoma reminder of who’s boss. Mum made red lipped shop assistants laugh explaining her ‘jaune’ roots resulting from my at home salon ‘do gone wrong (do they even match the colour in the container with the one on the box? My experienceS would think not). And I scoffed vitamin c and soaked cafe napkins with nose fluids as my cold persisted, not one ounce as graceful as the city I strolled in, but glad as anything to be there.

After four nights in Paris, the Eurostar escorted us through the chunnel to London. Karlene awaited at our Notting Hill apartment, and she popped out the door in a tear-filled reunion. Away working on a mega yacht, it has been a long and much less sunny year without her home. We headed up the road for a classic pub lunch and good chat, then proceeded to get the hang of our Oyster cards.

We had a lovely little rhythm going. Each day we visited the Wellington origins of The Grocery Store before venturing to a new area of the city. Town favorites were the action outside Buckingham Palace with royal helicopter landing and in-residence flag up, the golden grandeur of Big Ben, and regal patience of the guard’s Black Beauty horses. We walked the colour pencil streets of nearby Portobello, recharged in the tranquility of Holland Park’s Kyoto garden, and shuffled through crowds of the Columbia flower market. After being amongst the packed footpaths and the dark, windy depths of the tube all day, it was always wonderful to retreat to the apartment’s lofty ceiling sanctuary, crunching the stones of the communal gardens out back or enjoying a hot tea on the enveloping couch.

And then came the Rugby World Cup semi final. Winning tickets in the ballot was the catalyst for our whole trip and for the day to finally arrived was a mega trip highlight (especially for Maia, who nearly slept in his jersey the night before). Game day was full on, as we journeyed to Richmond to meet up with the Garners, Sullivans, and one each of a Hunt and Mitchell pre-stadium for another heartwarming get together. The rain started to spit, but three rows back with the anthem sung proud and the haka so close, we didn’t give a second thought to our dampening clothes. We were in our element, in very good spirits, and thrilled to cheer on the ABs to narrow victory in the massive match up. It was a spectacular day turned night of celebrations.

Ever struggling with impermanence, the time came for see you laters. Tears are highly contagious, and my eyes were stinging until the bus stop after we hugged Mum and Karls goodbye. Our time in London was a reminder of the importance of family and taking time out to come together, no matter the distance. Of seizing the moment and doing things while you can. Mum, Karl and Dad encourage and inspire me in this way, and I always treasure shared times. Thanks so much to you guys and for deleting my excuses. Without you all I would never have left the airport.

Homesickness will be kept at bay, because today Maia and I go from our country retreat in the Cotswolds to Wales. We were sad to leave London without managing to get in our many planned rendezvous’ with friends, but look forward to spending longer next time and clinking glasses that have been silent too long. For now, we can’t wait to see the Corletts & co. in the valleys, where we’ll be living it up for the final then ferrying to Ireland.

Love, hugs, appreciation and apologies,

D xx

 

Paris – strolling
Paris – Eye full
Paris – I’m so pretty, oh so pretty
Paris – three amigos taking the easy ride
Paris – Champs
Paris – all dressed up
Paris – near the Seine
Paris – she’s a good one
Paris – night workers / cyclists
Paris – on our local, my favourite, Inception bridge
Paris – chilly nights
Paris – hot chocolate delights
Paris – floating under the ponts
Paris – Louvre
Paris – Ma
Versailles – spot Dora
Versailles – bike gang
Versailles – market for our picnic supplies (don’t worry we found the bread and cheese)
Versailles – Declan giving us the run down (he is so knowledgeable)
Versailles – troublemakers
Versailles – at the small palace. So tiny, isn’t it?
Versailles – at Marie’s romanticised village. Her very own farm where she could play peasant.
Versailles – farm ctd.
Versailles – back at the small palace
Versailles – cycling the paddocks
Versailles – topiary galore
Versailles – on my way
Versailles – garden gnomes
Versailles – he’s good at charades

 

Versailles – more small palace
Versailles – this place is huge
Versailles – the big daddy
Versailles – looking comfortable King Louis
Versailles – taking flight
Versailles – looking out over the grounds
Versailles – the scale is unreal
Versailles – Where’s Wally?
Versailles – at the Meryl Streep(?) movie garden
Versailles – inside
Versailles – Mum
London – first powwow
London - triple treat
London – triple treat
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London – Buckingham
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London – on the Thames
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London – Ben
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London – darlings with a good brew
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London – Notting Hill
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London – felt stall
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London – touring
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London – Portobello
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London – party bus
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London – baby you’re a firework
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London – bus
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London – at Twicks
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London – we spy Brad!
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London – think I’ve found myself a cheerleader
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London – Kyoto hangover cure
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London – at Holland Park
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London – blue jean baby at the flower market
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London – autumn richness
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London – this smile hides a whole lot of self induced woes
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London – party people
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London – get yer flowahs
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London – animal heaven
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London – match ready
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London – my girlllll
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London – sorry phone is doing these all out of order! Us pre game

Anchor me

Morena (/pō mārie),

The salty sailors are now standing on solid ground and there’s a lot of updating to be done. Read on for more, and wishing you are well wherever your screen is lighting up.

We joined the Deriya Deniz in Castellamare, making a disheveled and drenched first impression, thunderstorms drenching us en route. Conversely, we were instantaneous fans of the mahogany gulet and her team. Home sweet home for the week, this elegant sailboat cruised us around the Amalfi coast and Gulf of Naples. Our journey was one extending from sea to land, with the DD shedding bicycles at each port for our learned and luminous guide, Alex, to lead us in actively experiencing the culture and natural wonders of Southern Italy.

Storms of the initial days required that we cut down our first planned cycle to 4km, a laughable warm up until you add in Napoli traffic and flooded roads. At destination Pompeii (eheu eh-o eheu eh-o) we marveled at humongous ruins, permissibility to touch original frescoes, and whopper Mt Vesuvius in the background (now half its original size but still hugely imposing). In the afternoon we trained to end of line Sorrento, a gorgeous town on the cliff’s edge, famous for mythical sirens, limoncello, cream of limoncello, meloncello…(which led to contraband being brought onboard and having to bribe strict Russian stew Olga with a 50/50 split).

Weather on the improve, day two saw us mount bikes at Piano de Sorrento and pant our way through a five switchback morning introduction, envying the e-cycles as they took off like ET ahead. We soon lost our breaths again because we had reached the Amalfi coast’s single road, described as hugging the cliff like a lover (Alex, 2015). Stunned ‘wow’s were the best we could do with eyes bulging to take in the sheer drops, snaking headlands, and wide blue sea. Twisting our way round this impressive stretch of pavement, we rested our legs amongst Positano’s warm shades of vertically stacked houses, stopped to overlook the fishing village of Praiano, and peered at the unbelievably beautiful pirate-sheltering fjord of Furore from above. Ultimate road trip dreams surpassed, we coasted in to Amalfi town for pizza in the piazza and fell fast asleep with the sea’s gentle rocking.

On yer bike again, we squished in a hard and fast uphill to Ravello, an otherworldly town sitting high with the angels and lost our stomachs as we leant on the balustrades of Villa Cimbrone’s gardens. Back onboard, el capitan and crew sailed us around the jet set’s glamorous and secluded Capri before sheltering in an Ischian port.

The next morning was our hardest cycle, involving a full rotation of Ischia and a 9km hill climb. My snotty nose was streaming, and I was sure I had no vagina left on completion of the ascent. Ange was a trooper and managed to get it done sans vomit despite a big tummy bug. Fortunately Alex surprised us all with Ischian wine, encouraging us to the end like rabbits to a greyhound. Meanwhile, Sole had to rest the final cycle days out onboard, thanks to his problematic rugby caused slipped disk. In time out, he managed to score himself the title of crew favorite, king like feeds, injections from the captain, and nickname ‘Mario’.

Our last full day was spent in great relaxation, strolling up Procida’s pastel painted fishing town (perhaps the prettiest town in the south) and sailing to Naples for Meg Ryan-esque pizza (if you’re wanting to know what she’s having, it’s the margerita pizza). We returned to home port by sunset and had a fab time joining the crew in a few celebratory bevvys for the last night.

Yesterday, we cried waving bye to Ange at Naples airport (thanks so much Mum and Ange, it was amazing to spend such good times making memories with you) and flew to Paris.

Oh Paris, why has it taken so long for me to visit? Jump right to first place on the podium as city apple of my eye. I’ve never seen anything like Paris. Tonight is an evening cycle in a the city of lights, and we’re here for four more days then chunnel with Mum to London to meet up with Karly and watch the ABs in the semi.

Photos be below.

Lots of love and All Black everything,

X

Naples – regional trains thunder and lightening combo
The tour
Piano de Sorrento – nervous Nelly
Pompeii – pedestrian crossing!
Pompeii – brothel sign post
Castellamare – readying to set out with Vesuvio behind
Amalfi coast – getting closer
Amalfi coast – on it
Amalfi coast – what a ride
Amalfi coast – the team
Amalfi coast – stopped here for the best ever lemon granita
Amalfi coast – looking out
Amalfi coast – Judes
Amalfi coast – Furore below
Amalfi coast – Furore
Amalfi coast – sheltered from tourists
Ravello – villa grounds
Ravello – ethereal villa vistas
Ravello – cheerful garden surprise!
Ravello – villa
Ravello – the sweetest
Ange
Ischia – wind picking up
Capri – from afar
Capri – the lighthouses
El capitan and Viv prepping the needles
Loving the treatment
Departing Ischia
Procida – bellisimo
Procida
Procidians
Procida – up high
Mum
Procida – outlook
Chari and Brian
Naila and Pete
Holly, Ange and Mum
Quick dip off Procida
Francesco and Alex
Travel well, DD

 

The Italian Job

Hey hey,

We Carmen Sandiegos hid out in Tuscany, gained two accomplices in Rome, then headed to our next destination of Naples.

Our earliest tracks could be found at the secluded castle of Montegufoni in Chianti, Tuscany. Here we made vege soup, sipped red wine, and listened to rolling thunderstorms crack overhead. When we could get out amongst nature, we drank in the tear dropped Cyprus trees, heavy branched olives and measured lines of grape vines. We saw a squirrel with a nut shoot up a tree, watched miniature bats flutter at dusk, and poor Maia brought all the mosquitoes out from their stagnant lairs.

With the autostrade as our backbone, we visited petite and cultured Florence, her cityscape an outdoor gallery, buildings works of art. Other drives took us to the circular heart of Siena, steep brick lanes of San Gimignano, and rental nightmares of curb grinding.

Tuscany to us was a magnificently timeless region of Italy, it’s small villages, artisan products, and proud locals nested in the lush countryside. It was a place that encouraged you to slow down and enjoy yourself, and we loved dumping our backpacks on the floor and doing just that. (Thank you Dad, it was perfect).

Footsteps then leading to Rome, we euphorically met up with Mum and Aunty Ange. I had been so nervous to meet them that I paced the train station for hours, oblivious to their messages that they’d already checked in at the hotel. We excitedly joined forces and skipped to the hugely impressive Trevi Fountain then to the Spanish Steps, both lit up spectacularly at night but, unfortunately for our sightseeing eyes, under works. After, we endured the worst meal in Rome – scrambled eggy pasta, owner embarrassingly berating kitchen staff, and Maia and I cringing as Mum and Ange offered the establishment ‘constructive criticism’.

Our next day was considerably more successful, as we toured the wow-worthy scales of the Vatican City and Colosseum. They were sensational. Maia was able to navigate with some dexterity, thanks to the educational qualities of none other than Assassin’s Creed (offering to continue the tuition when we get home. I see what you’re doing there, Solomon!).

After a quick pit-shop, we metroed to Hotel de Russie (featured in Alex Polizzi’s Italy) for pre-tea drinks. Permitted entry at the door, we scooted through to the garden before security realized their mistake, and enjoyed every sip of the three cocktails (one gratis!) and note of the waiter’s serenade that followed. It was an occasion to treasure (thank you so much, Ange), and we stayed so long in this oasis that we axed dinner and jogged to our next booking of Billy Elliot at the theatre. Though a great show, we significantly overestimated our immersive Italian experience to date, and our peepers began to blink closed from interpretation efforts, so at half time Ange refused the pass out ticket (the remainder of us accepted them, feigning return) and we all sleep walked back to our accommodation.

Having made magic memories in Rome and with pockets full of boiled eggs from the breakfast buffet, the band of merry folk went south to Naples. The Jekyll and Hyde of Italy, the city has a bit of somethin-somethin, but it is imperative you are mindful of safety. Rough and ready, Naples is alive, busy, grungy, loud, and young. There is heaps to admire, taste and visit, and a big walk around the city revealed beautiful churches, concert set-ups, palaces and scores of pizzerias. On these rounds we also saw an old dear icing her knee surrounded by police post-mugging, which reminded us how volatile the place can be. Italians love Naples, the city on the bay pulsing under the mighty Mt Vesuvius. Though it wouldn’t be our first choice of Italian destinations, it was a distinctly and surprisingly likeable rogue for these four Kiwis – just watch your back.

Today we all begin a week long bike and boat tour of the Gulf of Naples and Amalfi Coast. With Maia’s busted back and my throat infection, we’ll probably be scooped up by the dreg-collecting van at the rear of the pack, but the itinerary looks amazing and it will be lovely to continue the trip with some family company.

Take care until next we chat.

Photos below (cred to Ma and Angie for their snaps).

Tuscany – the castle
Tuscany – castle courtyard where there was a beautiful Australian/Canadian wedding during our stay
Tuscany – waiting for the bat show
Tuscany – bad photo of good soup during the storms
Tuscany – Florence the Beautiful
Tuscany – Florence duomo
Tuscany – Florence water scene
Tuscany – Siena sun
Tuscany – Siena squares
Tuscany – San Gimi
Tuscany – Castellina in Chianti
Tuscany – revisiting a favourite of 15 years ago
Rome – grappa toast
Rome – leaky boat by the Spanish Steps
Rome – first non-selfie
Rome – Vatican City
Rome – the two appropriately dressed group members at the Vatican
Rome – Vatican
Rome – impressed by the architecture
Rome – sending (or stealing?) Vatican post
Rome – me and Mama
Rome – making the most of two hands
Rome – scouting out the Colosseum sights
Rome – Mum getting sneaky snaps
Rome – ing around
Rome – Mum and Ange
Rome – my favourite buildings of the trip so far – incredible symmetry
Rome – in front of bella buildings
Rome – at Hotel de Russie
Naples – hmmm lost
Naples – that way

In bocca al lupo – in the mouth of the wolf

Ciao bella,

In Italia we are, after a voyage across the Grecian seas. San Marino was our first haven, before we tracked north to the village of Portico di Romagna, then across the country to our Cinque Terre base of La Spezia. Hold on tight, our Fiat ‘Green Machine’ is quite the swift rolling stone.

An ultra duathlon, consisting of 10 hour ferry (departing at 3am) followed by one hour taxi and six hour drive got us from Corfu to San Marino. Fresh off the ferry, we hailed a cab to get us to the rental car depot. It turned out the ‘driver’ was a regular retiree in disguise, keen to pick up a few extra euro. We ran red lights with no seat belts, stopped four times to ask for directions, and broke down twice (he said flat batteries were the result of satellite interference, pointing with a crooked finger to the heavens), before I eventually spotted Europcar and we slammed the doors on the chauffeured nightmare.

Thoroughly drained but at last making inroads, we sped up Italy’s svelte calf. The temperature dropped to 12 degrees, and a curtain of purpled black clouds closed in, releasing an almighty storm at the junction. We persevered, and as the night got darker and the fog joined too, we wound our way up through the mountains – Maia as operator, me as co-driver, hunched, squinting and hopeful that the next corner would reveal our abode. When at last we arrived exhausted and sodden, we didn’t deny ourselves an R Kelly ‘World’s Greatest’ moment. Cause hey we made it, mmmm.

Oh San Marino, you were worth the journey. It turns out the cheeky place is actually a country, not a region of Italy! Well I never. A UNESCO medieval city, we slept in the sky, high by the first tower. When we woke, we reveled in both the hotel’s exceptional breakfast, and that it felt like we had been floo-powdered into the Middle Ages. 700 years old, San Marino is striking for its solid construction, immaculate maintenance, and also it’s preparedness to evolve. San Marino might have deep roots, but rather than rot into a shell of a fortress, it continues to honor its heritage and grow a small community with schools, arts centres, concerts, and boutiques. This gives the place, frequented by many tourists, an admirable local and authentic vibe. We adored San Marino, it had a full weekend’s worth of things to see and do, and catered for a wide range of people. Beautiful spot (please google image it, as my foggy photos do nothing to capture the splendor).

Our green bug next escorted us to Portico di Romagna (60km SE of Bologna). We drove through gorgeous countryside and arrived at The Shire. Yep, there were communal vege gardens, riverside walks, fences made of tree branches, and even a village festival with brass band going on in this 400 person home away from home. We stayed at Al Vecchio Convento, recommended by the darling Debbie Bradford. From the moment we arrived we felt part of the family run accommodation, and participated in (err, maybe hindered) daily life as much as possible. We went truffle hunting and played with the truffle dogs, hiked the mountains, took a yoga lesson, and learned how to make proper ravioli and tagliatelle with hilarious Michelin trained chefs. The whole family is modest but extraordinary and their talents compliment beautifully to culminate in a full service, personal and wholesome experience. It was a dream to live close to nature and with the locals. We felt so comfortable, welcome and meshed into this beautiful existence that it turned out terribly hard to tear ourselves away. They have a good thing going on and I admire so much their inclusive, family oriented, importance on what really matters, way of life.

Tooting a più tardi to Portico di Romagna, we aimed, fired, and poorly missed our target of La Spezia on the east coast. Lost in Florence and in La Spezia itself, we doubled our trip time to six hours (I see the navigational pattern emerging too, and as co-driver plead lack of GPS). Not to worry because we eventually got to our B&B (oftentimes cheaper than hostels) and rose with the sun to an epic view out over the port, before exploring the Cinque Terre.

The Cinque Terre seaside fishing towns are strung close together on the rocky Italian Riviera and can be visited in a single day by train or boat, or over a couple of days if hiking. Nearly all the pretty settlements are bang on the waterfront, with the characteristic brightly painted exteriors, and many pesto/seafood delicacies on offer. Stretching high up the hills behind are terraced gardens being tended to by bucket-hatted Italians and gorgeous walking trails. The Cinque Terre is understandably popular, and even in autumn there are swarms of visitors crowding the five lands’ narrow lanes. Heading upstairs to one of the bars or restaurants is a lovely way to enjoy a rejuvenating breather watching the tide and world go by.

Tomorrow we adventure to a castle in Chianti, Tuscany, just outside Florence. We’ll be based there for approximately the next week (thanks Dad, we are so looking forward to it!) with day trips to surrounding areas. I’ll be back in touch with more news there. In bocca al lupo (good luck!) til then.

Today’s post is dedicated to our sweet golden mate Louie. We’ve been giving all pups we come across extra love in your name, boy. Run free xxxxx

Scroll on down to picture town.

 

San Marino – the pants are back but the views are worth it!

 

San Marino – where they still have archery tournaments

 

Portico di Romagna – Maia was instructed to swap his Nike Free ‘disco shoes’ for these babies

 

Portico di Romagna – guy’s gone wild

 

Portico di Romagna – don’t go chasing waterfalls. Family will be familiar with this face.

 

Portico di Romagna – our adopted home

 

Portico di Romagna – truffle hunt begins

 

Portico di Romagna – Otto and Matteo on the scent

 

Portico di Romagna – chuffed to see a wild truffle

 

Portico di Romagna – white ones are extra rare. Well done Otto!

 

Portico di Romagna – you could find me here 50% of our stay

 

Portico di Romagna – mama Pepe clever truffle pup producer

 

Portico di Romagna – the streets

 

Portico di Romagna – orange flag festival

 

Portico di Romagna – very steep bridge

 

Portico di Romagna – Chef Solomon (smashed a bowl in his enthusiasm)

 

Cinque Terre – today

 

Cinque Terre – seal sunning itself

 

Cinque Terre – Vernazza

 

Cinque Terre – Vernazza

 

Cinque Terre – sneezed and put his back out. Cheerful smile!

 

Cinque Terre – Riomaggiore

 

Cinque Terre – Riomaggiore

 

Wayfarers say peace to Greece

Kia ora,

Phew, good to get that win under our belts eh! We streamed live from a Greek taverna, riding the tries and sin bins of the game, with Maia sporting a new self-styled cut for the occasion (a liiiiiittle bald patch from too much ‘evening it out’. He looked like one of my Barbies circa 1996). Go ahead and grab a cuppa as I take you through Athens, Delphi, and Paxos with me.

The port of Piraeus was our key to Athens. Arriving in the dark, weary from a labored and wavy ferry ride, we entered a city of contrasts – a place of both grandeur and decay, faith and despondency, organization and dysfunction.

Although not unique in its problems, the transparency of Athens’ social issues was confronting. Queuing for bus information, a small girl with a snotty nose and hungry eyes touched my hands but broke my heart as she begged for cents. We passed communes of homeless, pushing possessions in shopping trolleys through vandalized industrial premises. Everywhere we went, the abscessed faces, matted coats, and bony ribs of animals were devastatingly present. Where is the safety net?

Just a few streets east and west curved the yellow brick road, a NIMBY tourist trail showcasing Athens’ assets. Though we remained aware of our bubble existence, it was safe and convenient to follow these blinkered pedestrian streets. In a full day, Maiocrates and I (Danastotle) strolled through the botanic gardens, by the Temple of Zeus, past the Panathenaic Stadium, and through Plaka. The tree topper was the Acropolis, noble city watch up on the hill. Historically green as I am, I marveled as these structures brought on an awestruck feeling, same as when contemplating galaxies beyond. To think the blush, rosy marble has endured so many eras, housed such important developments, and had its paths worn by scores of generational footprints is extraordinary.

Leaving our top notch Athens hostel (grateful for a suite of Head&Shoulders/Nivea shower products – a luxury departure from 4-in-1 shampoo), we bused to the archaeological site and quiet honeycomb mountain village of Delphi. Situated in inland Greece with beautiful views down to the sea, Delphi boasts a remarkably intact theatre, stadium and sculptures, their wonderful preservation enabling us to easily appreciate ancient town planning and historical art. Delphi was a great little stop (which we’d recommend doing in a day trip from Athens).

Back in Athens, we caught an overnight bus to Corfu, then hydrofoil to Paxos – the smallest of the Ionian islands. Arriving in Paxos is like getting a puppy for a birthday present – the best of surprises and utterly delightful. The main port town is protected by two islets, resembling a fjord. The exotic beaches of Vrika and Voutoumi on nearby Antipaxos (just a 10 minute speedboat away) were astonishing with flawless water and pristine sand. We highly rate this hideaway of god Poseidon, it has left a lasting impression on us.

Today is our last in Paxos before heading back to Corfu tomorrow where we bid thanks and farewell to Greece and make for Italy.

Photographs follow.

Athens – Acropolis changing of the guard

 

Athens – Acropolis Old Temple of Athena

 

Athens – looking out over the city

 

Athens – Acropolis

 

Athens – Panathenaic Stadium

 

Athens – through Plaka

 

Athens – love the green they add to the midrise apartments

 

Delphi – the theatre

 

Delphi – the valleys

 

Delphi – the stadium and wooden spooner

 

Delphi – Sanctuary of Apollo

 

Corfu – arrived at sunrise, my favourite time of day

 

Corfu – still smiling despite 14 hours of buses and bearing the brunt of a pigeon dumping

 

Antipaxos – dreaaamy

 

Antipaxos – water so clear the boats look like they float on air

 

Antipaxos – couldn’t get enough snaps

 

Antipaxos – looking like a fish out of water (nottttt…more like in his element!!!)

 

Antipaxos – one of Karlene’s dinghy’s (left) out for a day trip

 

Antipaxos – terrific

 

Antipaxos – some good days spent here