Archive for February, 2011


February 25, 2011

Last weekend was a get together of the pensioners club aka Roy and his contemporaries aka the Okoroire crowd! A lovely BBQ evening was held at Bill & Estelle with much laughter and LOTS of chat about pensioners, gold cards and the like ……it must be said that Bernice and Linda (oh, and Antony) had no idea what they were all on about!

btob Bill and Bernice

l&b Bill and Linda

mtoe Malcolm Ron and Estelle

ptor Pat, Janet, Malcolm and half of Ron

We are sure that everyone, like us, is totally shocked at the news of the devastating earthquake in Christchurch earlier this week.  We know that there was little effect in Oamaru so friends and family are all OK, but our hearts go out to all those affected.  Jason, Erica and family are in Ashburton, just an hour south of the epicentre and we are pleased to report that they are all well, albeit a little shaken.

The past week or so has seen us travel a bit around the northern part of the north island in search of the elusive motorhome that will become our home for the next however long.  we have made what we consider a reasonably thorough search which has taken us from north of Auckland in Siverdale, to Penrose, to Pauanui, to Paeroa, to Manukau, to Mt Maunganui, Tauranga and Rotorua.  Yesterday, Thursday 24th February, we headed off to Hamilton to view yet another van.  We did not go with much conviction as we had just about come to the conclusion that we would not be able to get one to tick all the boxes which meant we were having to look at getting one with the view to have some work done on it to fill our requirements. 

However, as soon as we saw the one in Hamilton, we knew that it was the right one.  In typical Vannini fashion, we made the owner an offer after just a brief viewing.  He was a little taken aback and suggested that we may like to go for a drive in it first!!!!  Those of you that know us well, will know that all our major purchases i.e. houses, have been made after one viewing and bought on the spot!  The same can now be said of the motorhome.

We did go for a drive, it drives beautifully by the way, and so we quickly negotiated a price, stunning the owner a little at the speed and conviction of our views. We will pick it up at the end of next week as he has a couple of wee tasks to attend to.  Then it will be ours, we will be having a few things done to it immediately, such as fitting another solar panel and a couple more house batteries to boost our energy capacity.  Bernice would like to attend to some decorating matters, but we will see how far we get as we would like to head south to pick up our gear.

That means the next chapter of our lives begins, more Vannini Manoeuvres are on the way.  It may not be as diverse as Europe but keep watching for the Vannini adventures in New Zealand.

Oh, and the motorhome is a Coachmen Mirada, it is a 2004 model, it is 10metres in length, it has everything that we could want or need at this stage. 

160120395_full  160120412_full Looking out the front.  The slide-out is out on the left hand side160120418_full Looking toward the rear.  The kitchen is in the slide-out.160120437_full Looking from the bedroom forward.  It closes off so the early bird does not disturb the late riser. Toilet on left and shower on the right out of view.  160121214_full King size bed.

You will see why it needs a complete redecoration which should not take too much or too long.

Now we need a name for the said motorhome, all (clean) suggestions appreciated and welcomed.  The leading contender at the moment is “Hotel Splendide” after an odd movie we watched recently!

First two weeks back in NZ

February 16, 2011

It is really nice to stop and stay still for a while and where else could be nicer than writing this whilst looking out over the North Shore Bays across roof tops and lots of trees to Rangitoto and the harbour – thanx Steve and Leslie! Our first week was spent catching up with the boring bits.

Those boring bits included some beautiful home made Pizzas,


of course with home made Mozzarella cheese


And the view from the front deck to Rangitoto is not bad either


We are looking around for a motorhome, the one we had our eye on was sold the day we arrived back in the country so we missed out there, never mind, it looks as though there are plenty around, we just have to  get ourselves around to view a few.

In between we are catching up with friends and family and getting all the small jobs done we need to get on top of.  Such as Roy getting his hearing aids sorted, get a haircut, and buy a few summer clothes (its hot and humid here!!).

The second week we are spending in Whangamata to chill out a little and to do some swimming in the warm sea.  Something we have been looking forward to for some time.   As well, we have been off looking at motorhomes whilst trying to gain as much knowledge as possible so that we do not fall into any traps, and there are some apparently!

Steve manages to make a very good compost down here as well as in Auckland.  But down here he also grows very good sized slugs in the compost.


"Tiger slug" Limax maximus (L.) an import.  This specimen is approximately 150mm long

We had a quick trip back to Auckland on Monday so that Roy could get his hearing aids fitted, that done, you have to look very very closely to actually see them, they are amazing, and they are Bluetooth enabled!!  Once he gets the hang of them, we should not have to have the TV going at full volume!

Today, Tuesday we headed off to Tauranga and Mt Maunganui for the day so that Roy could get his ears dewaxed and for us to visit a few motorhome businesses. We have seen a couple that tick all the boxes (a snip at $595,000!!)  now we need to win Lotto, or become a little more realistic.

We have also got back into the swing of barbequed food.  It is well over thirteen years since we have consistently had barbeques.  Of course the weather up here allows plenty of opportunity.

Had a walk along the beach this afternoon at about 2:30.

crowded beach    

It was difficult to avoid the crowd!

Boy, it is hot and humid, takes a little getting used to again. 

Campervan Parking

February 4, 2011

Now about the Campervan parking sites.

A lot of communities in France, Italy and Germany (areas that we know of), and certainly other European countries as well, have recognised the value of providing facilities for overnight stopping for Campervans.  These facilities are separate from and provide a different service to those provided by traditional Camping Grounds which may be community or private businesses.

They take , the form of a simple carpark, providing a secure area within which campervans can park.  The spaces provided allow for the parking of the vans.  No provision is made for space to extend awnings, park accompanying vehicles or provide long term parking.  They more often than not have a limited stay policy of either one or two nights at a time.  The whole objective is to provide a place for people to overnight, spend money in the town, create as little mess as possible in a restricted area and go away with a good impression of the town. They provide campervans with off street parking and they are usually very central to enable people to walk to attractions and shops, or at least are very close to train or bus stops.

First they need to be well signposted, this means at entry points to the town they have directional signs with simple symbols as well as wording.  They also require signage at the site to illustrate the facilities provided.

camper4_thumbSign indicating day and overnight parking.  This is sometimes free for a short period,  hourly rate for a few hours, or an overnight rate.  The parking area may have a standard gate, ticket and pay to exit system or in many cases a warden who appears in the late afternoon/early evening and collects fees from people and again in the morning early to catch the late comers from the night before.  Fees vary up to a maximum of 10Euro a night and depend a bit on facilities.

camper5_thumbThis sign shows facilities provided, day and night parking, water facilities (this particular symbol is for fresh water supply, but there are others for grey and black water disposal), picnic facilities (generally trestle table type facilities), Pay for parking, children’s playground, cycling and walking access, dogs allowed, and there is an information facility (generally just a map of the town with some businesses advertising to pay for it.

camper3_thumbThis is a view of the area for parking.  Separated into bays with a drive down the middle in this case. Landscaped to the extent of grass and shrubs between and at the rear of the bay areas. The children’s play ground was a shared facility with the blocks of flats.  This view is from the roadside

Camper1_thumb This view is from the dump station, out toward the road.  In total there would have been parking for about 32 vans in this area.  Being winter there were only about twelve vans in the night we were here.

camper2_thumb    This is the dump station area at the inner end of the parking area.  It provided an area with facility to dump grey water (the grate in the middle of the concrete pad (well shaped to drain into the grate, and provided with a hose to wash down).The stainless steel structure provides black water disposal points in the base at either end (these have flushing facilities).  There are then two or three taps for attachment of hoses to provide potable fresh water.

The types of facilities at these stations varies as does the cost.  Some have an additional cost (coin in the slot) to use the facilities.  In addition some have a couple of power outlets (again coin operated) that provide limited power facilities. Most of these areas a maintained by the local street cleaning personnel or by the warden on a regular basis.

At none of them would you find shower or ablution facilities, the whole point is to provide facilities for self contained vehicles,  at the same time minimising costs and maintenance and not competing with the local camping grounds.  You may find additional facilities in small communities where there are no camping grounds.

  dogs_thumbAnd finally the one in Perigueux provided an area for a dog WC.   In other places there was signage and plastic bag dispensers for dog doings disposal.

So come on Oamaru, Waimate and other small towns here is a minimal cost solution to attracting more people to your towns. 

Note that these sites only cater for self contained vans.  Very seldom have we seen any non self contained vehicles in Europe.  These would have to use normal NZ style camping grounds.  Which I might add are superior in most cases to those found in Europe.

Here is another example, this one in Fouras.  In this case an area used as parking has been dedicated to Campervans.  there is no charge but there is a restriction to only allow one night overnight use.  It is in a residential area right on the waterfront.

DSCF6110This overview shows the layout of the service area. 

Parking for about ten spaces was situated on both sides of the service area.

The waste bins at the back are also used by residents as their waste disposal point.  In France, in general, there is no door to door rubbish collection.  Instead these large bins are situated at a number of locations handy to concentrations of residents.  They then bring their waste to the bins.  More often than not there are recycling bins at the same locations.. It is amusing to see groups of men arriving up to these locations and getting rid of the rubbish and then standing around gossiping.

DSCF6109  Note that the toilet disposal at this site is merely a manhole with a lifting strap, down which the toilet is emptied.

DSCF6112The grey water disposal is a standard pad, there is a potable water supply at the right here, shown as the pedestal in the top picture.

DSCF6111Again a sign post stating facilities.

Here is another facility in St Lo

Situated in a designated carpark alongside the river about 1km from the centre of town, 100 metres from butcher, baker and bars

carpark 5

carpark 1 Service point has water, power, wc disposal and a grey water dumping point.  Charge for power was 2E per hour.  Room for about 10 campers.


carpark 2 A  typical services post.  This one provides for black water disposal, power and potable water.  Thses photoes show shots of all three sidescarpark 3 carpark 4

These type of facilities are often located in Municipal parking areas.  During the day the area is used for normal parking, but from say six pm onward they allow for the overnight parking.  More often than not they are a dedicated parking area either separate from or forming part of a municipal parking facility.

In summary they provide a secure environment for campervans, an easily monitored site (from a municipal point of view), because they are restricted to one or two nights they do not compete with private or municipal camping grounds catering for longer stays.

They are a very effective means for a community to attract touring vans at a minimal cost, in fact they would pay for themselves on an on-going basis.

Hong Kong

February 3, 2011

Saturday 29th January 2011

Breakfast in the Hotel and then take the courtesy bus into downtown Kowloon.  Had a quick look along famous Nathan Road before we took a trip on one of the Open Top Bus Tours of the area so we could get a good overview of the area.

threeAll set and ready to go

bear 1Now where have we seen these before, oh yes way back at he start of our trip when they were displayed in a square in the centre of Helsinki.  See the blog for the 5th September 2010

Once we had been through the streets of Kowloon, we then took the ferry across to Hong Kong to pick up another tour there. 

ferryFerry across the harbour

freeboardTallest building in Hong Kong and the fourth tallest

junkSampan on the harbour

The sights, sounds and smells of Kong Kong were enjoyed. 

finsWell perhaps not quite so enjoyable this shop selling shark fins.  The size of the pair at the bottom is immense.

oopsTypical packed street as far as traffic is concerned.  Strangely the footpaths are not that busy.

One thing we could not get over was the scaffolding methods used in Hong Kong, all bamboo, with men leaping up and down the levels with such skill.   No ACC/Health & Safety in sight.

bamboo artistry 1Over twenty floors of bamboo scaffolding surrounded this building


bamboo artistryMore detail shot.  The bamboo is tied together with polypropylene tape of the same type as is used as strapping for packing

catcherAt the base of the scaffold there is this catcher.  These are often on more than one level up the scaffold obviously  to catch inadvertent dropped items.


scaffoldAnd this is what it is all built out of.

We have some amazing film footage of a team of three guys dismantling a scaffold on the side of a six or seven storey building.

tallSnow in front of the second highest building in Hong Kong


tedSnow’s mate hung out to dry

As part of the tour we also took the cable car ride to the top of Mt Victoria at the back of Hong Kong to soak up the views (hazy though they were).

aboveView from part way up the tramway

Victoria Peak The peaks at the top

PoutineAnd here is another blast from the past.  We first tried Poutine in Vancouver (and there is absolutely no need to try it again)  Note James that this is advertised as “authentically New York”

maksand this is a Michelin premise at the top of the Peak

  down Lookin down into Hong Kong

angleI tried to give some idea of the steepness of the slope up which the tramway ran.

Then back on the bus and head back across the harbour to Kowloon, do a spot of shopping.  No imitation watches handbags or anything else hawked at us constantly were purchased, and no tailoring facilities were taken advantage of either.

hk undergroundRoy went and tried the Hong Kong underground.

Back to the hotel for a bite to eat and then off to bed as some of us were feeling the effects of changing sleep zones.  As well we both seemed to have picked up a coughing bug along the way.  Hopefully a good nights sleep would help.


Sunday 30th January 2011

Woke up this morning to find that Bernice had had some sort of allergic reaction or something, as her face was bright red and very swollen and puffy.  After breakfast it was off to find a pharmacy to get some antihistamine tabs then off to do a bit of retail therapy, although we must say that not a lot was actually done, as we found that prices were not that cheap even after serious bartering and walking off. 

ivoryA  magnificent example of ivory carving in a shop window in down town Kowloon.

We also took in a visit to the Hong Kong Museum of Art where they had an exhibition of replica statues from the Louvre which they were encouraging you to feel the statues.  As well we visited the antiquities exhibitions as well as many more.

washingHanging out the washing

By this time it was nearing our departure time so it was back to the hotel to get our luggage and catch the coach to the airport.  Next problem, no coach for us!  For some reason it did not turn up, so after many phone calls and rushing around, we eventually got a  cab to the airport arriving in enough time to get to the flight in good time.

Onto the flight, the final leg to getting home, and we must say that we were both really looking forward to being back in good old NZ. 


Monday 31st January 2011

NZ, give yourselves a pat on the back, coming home through the lovely carved welcome gates with the sounds of birdsong floating around you and the smell of fresh clean air! Top that off with friendly immigration staff (yes, that smile makes you feel so damn welcome) and you feel like you are home. 

We were quickly though customs and waiting for us were Simon and Antony.  Off over to Steve & Leslie’s place in Torbay where we are staying for the next however long.  After a welcome shower and change of clothes it was off for a bite to eat. 

Back to Steve & Les’ where we attempted to sort out our luggage and clothing, did a pile of washing, then Steve and Les came home so another catch up with them before we had dinner, then as we were starting to fade rapidly, time for bed.

Oh its so nice to be home!

Cheerio Old Blighty

February 3, 2011

Thursday 27th January 2011

Time to pack up and leave our lovely apartment in Greenwich, with bags in tow we headed for the DLR (Dockland Light Rail) then onto the Tube toward Kings Cross.  It was here that we were going to meet up with Alex as she had flown in from Iceland.  Roy and Bernice placed their luggage into storage at the station so that we could be unencumbered for the day.

After meeting Alex we headed across the road to Carluccio’s for lunch and a catch up. 

Snow and Blue Snow met Blue , a bear Alexandra brought back from Iceland

Then it was time to say farewell so that Alex could get home and we could get our last minute fix of London.  The weather had turned rather chilly with even a few snow flakes falling so it was not great weather for wandering around.  Late afternoon we called it quits and headed off to Heathrow.

meccano on a grand scaleFrance may own Meccano now, but the builders of London are still producing buildings using Meccano techniques.

At Heathrow we checked ourselves in and had a lovely check-in person who changed our seating so that we could have a centre row of three seats to ourselves.  It was not too long before it was time to board, we got nicely settled into our seats when an announcement came over the PA that our flight departure was delayed as some of the crew had got stuck in traffic getting to the airport. It did not seem too long before engines were started, but then came another announcement that a cargo door was not closing properly so they were waiting on engineers to arrive to fix it….we finally got underway just over 2 hours after scheduled takeoff.  An uneventful flight for the rest of the trip and landed in Hong Kong. 

 wright bros Wright brothers in Hong Kong airport

What an amazing efficient airport Hong Kong is, from the subway that takes you from your arrival to the luggage collection area and customs to the general size of the place.  We were met by our transfer person who took us through what seemed like many floors and many miles to get to the bus.  Then we took off for the hour long trip to our hotel (we were the last to be dropped off of course!) in Kowloon soaking in the evening sights of Hong Kong.  It was into our room, dump the luggage, head downstairs for a quick bite to eat before heading back to our room for a decent nights sleep.  (Of course it was now Friday night!).