Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Honkers-Kiwi-Aussie Tour: Day 13 Alexandra, NZ

We head for the magnificent railway station in Dunedin, reputed to be the most photographed building in the country, for the 9:30 excursion train on the Taieri Gorge Railway.

"The Taieri Gorge Limited train is Dunedin's prestige tourist train operating from the historic Railway Station. Departing daily (except Christmas day) it takes you on a journey through the rugged and spectacular Taieri River Gorge, across wrought iron viaducts and through tunnels carved by hand more than 100 years ago. With full commentary, photographic stops, comfortable heating in winterand on board refreshments the train offers year round, all-weather entertainment."

Photos just can't do the scenery justice so we opt for buying a dvd.
Next through the village of Lawrence, where we make a quick photo op stop, to Alexandra where we camp for the night.

The Honkers-Kiwi-Aussie Tour: Day 12 Dunedin, NZ

To Oamaru to meet New Zealand's number one church organ expert Dr. Ron Newton, who very kindly invited us back to his home for lunch. It was a pleasure to meet him, his wife and children.
In search for a campground in Dunedin, we inadvertently find the steepest street in the country and balk at driving the campervan down it. We find a camping spot in South Dunedin do some laundry, have dinner and settle in for the night.
"Oamaru is a coastal town located 116km north of Dunedin and servicing Rural North Otago in the South Island of New Zealand. The Town is famous for it's superb collection of historical Whitestone buildings, and it's rich Victorian Heritage. The central row of trees enhance fine examples of the beautiful limestone buildings along the main street. The Forrester Art Gallery, the Museum, the Opera house and the Historical Precinct, with it's fully renovated Victorian hotel, the Criterion, all contribute to this unique town's character."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Honkers-Kiwi-Aussie Tour: Day 11 Ashburton, NZ

Taxi to Wellington Airport which wins for most scenic and user-friendly airport. Forty minute flight into Christchurch where we taxi to the campervan depot to pick up the vehicle that will be our home for the next week.
Grocery shopping at New World is a fun experience and we head out to Ferrymead Heritage Park. Ferrymead Heritage Park features an Edwardian Township complete with Picture Theatre, School House, Church, Bakery, Jail and Railway Station as well as a fascinating array of museum and heritage collections. There are tram rides on weekends and trains running first Sunday of month and every Sunday December to February . When operating, unlimited tram and train rides are included in the entrance price.
Camping in Ashburton is quiet but average.

The Honkers-Kiwi-Aussie Tour: Day 10 Wellington, NZ

We have a pre-ordered breakfast delivered to our room and pick up a rental van for the day. First to Southward Car Museum: "The founders and benefactors of the trust, Sir Len Southward, KBE, OBE and Lady Vera Southward, began collecting cars In 1956 when they purchased a Model T Ford for £40. This vehicle has been given pride of place in the museum and remains in the condition in which it was originally bought."

We are amazed that this truly world class facility is not teeming with visitors. This vast collection includes many microcars including: a bond bug, goggomobil, isetta, Fiat 500 & Suzuki CV1.

After a quick lunch, we drive out to: The Wellington Tramway Museum was incorporated in 1964 as a non-profit organisation to preserve tramcars and other items of tramway interest, to establish and operate a working tramcar museum and to foster an interest in tramways generally.
Comuter train into Wellington - taxi from station to Hotel where we crash out.

The Honkers-Kiwi-Aussie Tour: Day 9 Paraparaumu, NZ

Up early to catch comuter train into Britomart station in Auckland where we transfer onto the Overlander bound for Paraparaumu.

"The Overlander is a journey through the heart of the North Island, travelling between Auckland - New Zealand's largest city and home of the Sky Tower, to Wellington - New Zealand's arts and culture capital. Along the way you pass the Central North Island ski towns of National Park and Ohakune, popular with young and old alike. You also see fantastic views of New Zealand farmland, the volcanic plateau, Mount Ruapehu, the world famous Raurimu Spiral, and stunning river gorges - all from our panoramic windows or open air viewing decks allowing you the best possible views. All carriages feature large panoramic windows giving sweeping views of the magnificent North Island. The Observation carriage includes a mix of seating including lounge style seating. The lounge style seating is arranged at the very rear of this glass backed carriage enabling you to enjoy a totally unique Overlander experience. "
Short walk from the station to Elliot's Motorlodge where we have booked in for the night. Our suite - complete with kitchenette - is so lovely I threaten to move in. The staff went well beyond the call of duty to make our stay comfortable.

The Honkers-Kiwi-Aussie Tour: Day 8 Auckland, NZ

To Whitcoulls Book Store for a book signing with Bill Bryson. We purchase a copy of his book "Down Under" to read while in Oz. Bryson, a consumate pro who could not have been more charming, signed the book for hubby - a graduate of Durham University of which Bryson in Chancellor.

Met Val a writer/sub-editor at the New Zealand Herald and we enjoy lunch with her at Mecca in Mission Bay. Originally from South Africa, Val shared some interesting insights into life in New Zealand.

To Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter/Underwater World :

Head for the Antarctic Encounter, where you’ll be taken back in time to the life-sized replica hut of intrepid South Pole explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott. Come out of the hut and into an Antarctic snowcat, where you’re transported to a magical world of snow and ice. Frolicking in the white wilderness is a colony of sub-Antarctic Penguins. From your snowcat, you’ll get a fantastic fish eye view of the birds as they swim underwater.
After your Antarctic encounter; head to the Amazon tank to view the deadly Piranha. Now step onto the moving walkway in the Underwater World, you’ll come face-to-face with a Broadnosed Sevengill Shark, proudly displaying some of the most powerful jaws on the planet.

Lovely diinner at Capri in Mission Bay with charming Willmett(e) relatives Les, Bronwyn, Mary-Anne & David.

The Honkers-Kiwi-Aussie Tour: Day 7 Auckland, NZ

Auckland(pop., 2001: 377,382; metro. area pop.: 1,158,891), North Island, New Zealand. Located on Waitemata and Manukau harbours, it is the country's principal port and largest city. Founded in 1840 as New Zealand's capital and named for George Eden, earl of Auckland, it remained the capital until superseded by Wellington in 1865. It is a major manufacturing and shipping centre. A bridge links it with the growing northern shore suburbs and with Devonport, New Zealand's chief naval base.

Walked from hotel to the New Zealand Archive, Auckland Regional Office where, with the aid of very helpful staff, hubby found a lot of new information on the family history front.
Bus downtown and lunch at Cafe Cremo - delicious ginger slice. More research at Auckland City Library before dinner and early night at hotel.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Honkers-Kiwi-Aussie Tour: Day 6 Auckland, NZ

Took bus to Hong Kong Airport for Cathay Pacific flight to Auckland, NZ.
The flight is full and we did not get the seats we thought we'd booked. I am not feeling well so the 10 hour journey was not a pleasant one.
Early check-in at he Mt Richmond Lodge, Best Western .
After a nap and a shower we are met by long-lost relatives Bronwyn & Nancy who take us to Purewa Cemetery for some genealogy research. We enjoy a tasty lunch in a cafe on the beach then drive up Mt Eden, one of many extinct volcanoes in the area, for a spectacular view of Auckland. Formed 20,000 to 30,000 years ago, Mount Eden (Maori name Maungwhau) is the highest volcano on the Auckland isthmus.
Back at the hotel we do some laundry, have another snooze and a bite to eat.

In the Maori language, Auckland is known as Tamaki Makau Rau, the city of 100 lovers. It earned this name because it was a place desired by all and conquered by many.
The Auckland region is an antipasto of environments laid out on a huge platter to make one amazing city, boasting three harbours, two mountain ranges, 48 volcanic cones and more than 50 islands.
Auckland's population is approximately 1.3 million, making it by far the largest city in New Zealand, with one third of the country's entire population.

The Honkers-Kiwi-Aussie Tour: Day 5 Mui Wo, HK

Took the ferry to Central and then the Star Ferry to Kowloon. Walked along the "Avenue of Stars" - the Chinese equivalent to Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Jackie Chan and Jet Li's commemorative plaques were getting a lot of attention.
Walked back to the ferry dock's via Nathan Road where every few steps someone wants to sell you a handbag or a tailor made shirt.
Duck into the Captain's Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel- a quiet oasis - for tea.
Next to the home of racing driver Matthew Marsh , his new bride Jessie, who had very kindly invited us to dinner. It was interesting to finally meet some of Rupert's Hong Kong friends.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Honkers-Kiwi-Aussie Tour: Day 4 Mui Wo, HK

We enjoy a buffet breakfast at the hotel and the five minute walk to catch the 10:00 ferry to Central, Hong Kong. The 50 minute trip into Hong Kong harbour is stunning and a snip at $22.60 HK return per person (divide by 6 to get Canadian dollars).

It's hot, humid and hazy as we do some sightseeing starting with the world's longest elevator:
"The Central-Mid-Levels Escalator and Walkway System in Hong Kong is the world's longest covered escalator system, according to Guinness World Records. The system, consisting of covered walkways, 20 reversible one-way escalators and three travelators, has the capacity to accommodate 210,600 passengers a day, and helps residents and visitors alike to make the 800-metre journey from Central to Mid-Levels, or vice versa, on a toll-free basis. "
Next to the The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens (HKZBG): " It is located on the northern slope of Victoria Peak with a highest point of 100 metres and a lowest point of 62 metres above sea level. HKZBG, occupies an area of 5.6 hectares was founded in 1871 as a Botanic Garden and renamed in 1975 as Botanical and Zoological Gardens to reflect the increased commitments to zoological exhibits. Construction works of the Garden started in 1860 and the first stage was opened to the public in 1864. "
Unfortunately, the aviaries are closed to the public as they are monitoring an avian flu episode.
Quick visit to St John's Cathedral on Garden Road. It is the second oldest building in Hong Kong the first Anglican service being held on Sunday 11th March 1849.

The Honkers-Kiwi-Aussie Tour: Days 1,2 & 3 Mui Wo, HK

Although stormy weather delayed our departure from Toronto on Feb 14th, our flight on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong was a comfortable one. We landed at approx 8 am local time after crossing the international dateline. Following a tip from an Old China Hand, we took the A35 bus across Lantau Island to Mui Wo - aka Silvermine bay. It was a short, pleasant walk from the ferry terminal to the Silvermine Beach Hotel (pictured here) where we checked in.

Walked around Lantau island - through small villages including Pak Ngan Heung. I'm surprised by the rural nature of the place and the lush vegetation. We meet a water buffalo along the path and it casually climbs a flight of stairs and saunters on.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Orchid Show & The Overcoat

Mom & I visited the Southern Ontario Orchid Show at Edward's Gardens at Lawrence & Leslie. We decided to get a TTC day pass which saved us $4.10 over using tokens/tickets. Coupons saved us each $2 at the show.

We where absolutely amazed at the stunning variety and the gorgeous displays of orchids. Way beyond the typical florist corsage orchids, these exquisit blossoms come in a vast range of colours, sizes and shapes. It truly was a treat for the eyes in the midst of winter.

Next to the Hot House Cafe, 35 Church St at Front St for dinner. We start with their yummy tomato basil soup and follow that with gourmet pizzettes on whole grain crusts. My CanStage member's card saves 10% off the food bill - approx $4.30.

We bundle up for the short walk to the St Lawrence Centre where we attend the "dress rehearsal" of CanStages production of The Overcoat which stars Peter Anderson. The performance went flawlessly and there were no interuptions so it seemed just like opening night except there were no printed programs available. The tickets were complimentary with CanStage subscription. It will cost $83 each for the same seats next Saturday night.

"The Overcoat seamlessly integrates physical theatre and the sweeping music of Dmitri Shostakovich to tell a richly detailed story of the transformation of a common man’s ordinary life when he acquires a beautiful new overcoat.
Inspired by the short stories of Russian author Nikolai Gogol and evoking the silent films of Chaplin, Keaton and Lang, The Overcoat lampoons affected society whilst remaining an emotionally compelling, elegiac and comedic account of the allegorical Everyman.
Set amidst the grandeur and poverty of a universal metropolis, 22 actors conjure the recognizable tale of how the need to be popular can inspire lust, envy and exquisite madness. "

Total savings with coupons and discount: $178.40

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Ron Brown Speaks at the EGG

To the Etobicoke Genealogy Group meeting at the Old Etobicoke City Hall. Author Ron Brown's presentation about unusual main streets in Ontario actually takes place in the old council chamber. We frequently use Brown's books about ghost railways and towns when we are day tripping in the car and they have led us to many interesting adventures.

"Ron Brown is a geographer and travel writer who has explored Ontario's many back roads and remote regions in search of the unusual. To encourage today's generation to celebrate their heritage, he has written best-selling books on ghost towns, back roads and vestiges of a vanishing railway era for over thirty years. His writing frequently appears in the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail and he is a regular guest on CBC Radio. A town planner by trade, Ron often travels as a tour guide and frequently gives presentations to groups interested in Ontario's heritage. Ron Brown is chair of The Writers' Union of Canada. He lives in Toronto with his wife and their two daughters." Source: Natural Heritage Books

I purchase a copy of his latest book - Behind Bars: Inside Ontario's Heritage Gaols which he autographs for me.

No such thing as a free lunch, but how cheap can you get one?

To Guelph last week to visit my daughter who's a music student at U of G. I ask her, " where's the cheapest place on campus for lunch?" She suggests we go to the Grad Pub.
Pictured here is what we got: a veggie samosa with tamarind dip, basmati rice and vegetables with pineapple juice for her; a veggie wrap and large mug of cranberry tea for me.
Total cost? $6.88 for two lunches. This is the one to beat.