Archive for the ‘friends’ Category

Meeting a Kiwi in Huelva

November 24, 2017

Our brief stay in Faro was coming to an end, we have enjoyed our time here but it’s time to keep moving – so many places to see, things to do, and time creeps on. We are unable to catch a train out of Faro this time as trains between Portugal and Spain are non existent here, however there is a bus service, but we are very fortunate that we are being picked up by a friend, Michael.

We met Michael 3 years ago when it was our first year of being hosts at Shakespear Park where Michael was a Summer Ranger that year. He frequently called in to have dinner with us whilst we were camping so we got to know him reasonably well, now it was our turn to call in on him! Michael is teaching English in Huelva which is about an hours drive from Faro and he offered to drive over and pick us up.

We arranged to meet by a restaurant near the marina in Faro at 11am, I got a message from Michael at 10am to say that he had arrived as he had forgotten about the 1hour time difference between Portugal and Spain. We were already at the restaurant ready and waiting so time to head off.

We had a lovely trip across into Spain, not that you realise that you are crossing borders apart from a small sign. Michael was a very good tour guide pointing out sights along the way. Once arriving on the outskirts of Huelva, we headed out to a beach that Michael has found which is mainly deserted, the locals think that it is winter therefore it’s cold….yes, it is only 22C today….so they don’t go to the beach.

Roy & Michael on the beach

spot the crowds (and spot a cloud, we haven’t seen any for weeks now!).

After a quick tour of the town, Michael dropped us off at our hotel in town so we could settle in, have a siesta and we were to meet up later in the early evening. We are starting to get into the Spanish way of life….lunch around 2-3pm and then think about dinner at 8-9pm, oh wait, we don’t usually have lunch back at home until around 2pm or later so perhaps we already work on Spanish time!

Christopher Columbus statue in the main square

We headed out along the Main Street to find a tapas bar for dinner and to catch up with all the news and happenings. Michael did the ordering for us as our Spanish is almost non existent however we do try! Much to the hilarity of locals. We had a lovely dinner of many different things including a plate of the famous Iberian Jamon and some cuttlefish, also a local delicacy – they were both delicious.

We arranged to meet up again the following morning as Michael had to go to the next town for some paperwork issuing so we were going to tag along for the ride.

With his paperwork sorted in two minutes we then headed for Palos de la Frontera, not far from Huelva and is famous as this was where Christopher Columbus set sail from in 1492 eventually reaching America. We were hoping to visit the Christopher Columbus museum and see the replicas of his three ships, the Santa Maria, the Pinto and the Nina. Along the way there was this statue to Columbus on the riverbank.

We arrived at the museum to find that it was closed on Mondays….typical. Never mind we could see the ships from the wharf further around.

With the largest ship only 60ft in length, they weren’t large ocean going vessels.

The entrance to the museum is also a wetland reserve, there was a large picture sign at the entrance showing the birds we may be able to see, many of which looked very familiar

Especially the Pukeko at the bottom third from the right! We were surprised to find them here, they are also found around Faro and we were surprised to find that the bird is the symbol for that region!

Boats were moored in the shallows nearby

After a stop for a drink, it was time for Michael to drop us off at the rail station. With fond farewells we hope to see you again in NZ Michael, perhaps even at Shakespear??

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Art, wine & food

November 1, 2017

César Manrique is a well known Lanzarote artist and architect who had a great influence on his home island and its buildings. He advocated successfully for low rise buildings across the island as well a traditional paint colours. We visited his home not too far from where we were staying, the home has now been turned into a museum and art gallery.

The house is built low in amongst the lava tubes and bubbles with rooms cut into the rock, art decorates the walls which is not only his own but other artist friends as well such as Joan Miró and Picasso. I have to admit that I was not particularly enamoured to his art work but I did enjoy his sculptural works.

The pool area looked inviting too.

It would not be a holiday with the Vannini’s without a post about wine & food. We went out of our way to try local food rather than stick to the usual tourist haunts, and we did find a few gems as well as eating at the villa

BBQ at the villa

Paella

All in all a fun holiday for us all, with great company, good food and wine, and some great sightseeing.

A day to remember

October 27, 2017

We had a full day planned, first we were heading to the northern part of the island to visit Cueva de los Verdes, a cave system formed as part of a lava tube created around 3000 years ago after a major eruption. The cave system is formed by lava streams cooling on the top developing a solid crust before the lava drained away underneath leaving the top part as the roof of a cave. In many places the roof of the cave collapsed forming a cavern, known by the locals as a jameo. The caves extend for around 6km with around 2km open for guided tours.

We purchased our tickets and waited to be taken down into the cavern before entering the cave system. Can you see Roy? and Alex & Christine waving?

And I made it this far in

before looking over the edge and down underneath to the tunnel to where we were to go next and quickly came to the realisation that there was no way that I could go that far underground. I had a terrible sick feeling in pit of my stomach, my hands started sweating, my mouth was dry and the panicky feeling was steadily rising so I made the quick decision to turn around and make my way back outside, telling the others that I just could not go through the cave system and reassured them that I was happy to wait for them to do the tour, and I would be just fine outside in the sunshine.

They tell me that it was a great tour but they all understood why I could not make myself continue into the cave system.

reflections in a pool inside the cave system, it is so still that it is difficult to detect where the water starts and ends.

a backlit cave

Apparently in earlier centuries, locals hid in the caves to protect themselves from European pirates and Muslim slave raiders. A very scary thought, especially for those of us who aren’t keen on enclosed spaces.

About 45minutes later the rest of the crew emerged from the depths to join me in the sunshine after enjoying their tour.

From here we headed to our next destination, Mirador del Rio, a viewing point about 500metres above the sea, which is along a narrow winding road that climbs to the top. Now some of you will know that Roy is not good with heights, especially when he is in a vehicle and there are steep drop-offs to the side. And it seems that Alex has inherited similar traits so the drive up to the top was proving to be an interesting one. Roy wasn’t comfortable at all and I could feel the tension rising, so we asked Alex to pull over to let Roy out of the car. It did not help that there was no where to pull off the road and that there was a line of cars behind us, with tensions and stress levels rising all round Alex finally found a spot on to safely stop, Roy leapt out of the car saying he would wait for us at the road intersection where it would be safe to pull into on the way back. It turned out that we weren’t too far from the top, we safely parked in the car park and were reunited with the Denny’s. At this point it all became a bit much for Alex and a few tears were shed, but it was just a bit of stress relief and she was quickly back to her usual self and we were off to the lookout.

the entrance with the building in the background.

We headed for the entrance and in to the building and platform, it turns out to be yet another Caesar Manrique designed building which is cleverly built into the landscape so that it is barely visible from the road. Inside is a shop, a cafe and a viewing platform, but for us it was time for some refreshments and a chat before admiring the view. We couldn’t help wondering how Roy was getting on and if he was OK, I tried calling and texting him but he had his phone switched off! Oh well, I’m sure he will be ok so for us it was on with admiring the views.

the panoramic view

It is a spectacular view however it is a straight drop down and I must admit I did not like being too close to the edge. At the base of the drop on the left hand side of the picture is a desalination plant, one of five on the island supplying the only fresh water for the island. Once we had all finished admiring the view it was back to the cars.

Now, hopefully we will be able to find Roy approximately where we left him and that he is ok. He is known for wandering off and exploring so we weren’t confident that he would be where we left him.

The trip back down the hill was much better as we were now driving on the mountain side of the road rather than the cliff edge and it wasn’t long before we reached the intersection where we had dropped Roy off, sure enough there he was, grinning from ear to ear ….

with a glass in hand and a new friend!!

We should not have been concerned at all it seems. It turned out that Roy had taken a seat on this mans wall in the shade and before long they had started ‘chatting’. Apparently they had a long conversation with a Roy speaking no Spanish and his friend speaking not a word of English. Amazing what you can do with hand gestures, the odd familiar word and sign language.

From what we understood, Pedro (not sure of his name but this seemed to fit), was a farmer, he was cutting up corn stalks for feed for his 25 goats. He looked after his goats, milked them and made cheese from the milk – all of this information was gleaned with the appropriate hand gestures.

He also made wine, cue the picture above, and brought out a bottle of wine and two glasses, one large glass for Roy and one small one for himself. By the time we got to meet him, Roy was well into his second glass of wine and was very chirpy. I had a taste of the wine, it was very similar to grappa….in other words strong stuff! No wonder they both looked so happy.

We are not sure if Pedro knew where New Zealand was, or how much he understood, but as well as the above info we did get that he was ‘solo’, and he did get that we were married and that Alex was our daughter. What we do know is that we should not have been concerned for Roy at all as he was making new friends and enjoying local hospitality!! We Vannini’s are gaining a bit of a reputation for making friends with the locals.

All in all, it turned out to be a memorable day for the Vannini’s and their combined phobias.

Family connection

October 26, 2017

Who would have thought that I have a family connection to Lanzarote? My cousin Pauline and her husband Pat live in Playa Blanca so it was without a doubt that we were to arrange a get together. Now the last time I saw Pauline was 7 years ago which was a very brief meeting at a family gathering in Yorkshire, prior to that it would have been 1963 when I was 4 years old that I last saw her as this was when we emigrated to New Zealand.

We arranged to meet in Playa Blanca, Pauline had given us excellent instructions on how to get there and exactly where to park, and sure enough she was waiting for us in the car park. I cannot explain how emotional and exciting it was to finally meet up, but let’s just say that I was really quite overcome.

After the welcome we wandered down to the main part of Playa Blanca and ended up at a lovely restaurant on the waterfront where we all had lunch together. I really admire Pat & Pauline, as they have really immersed themselves totally into the local culture including learning Spanish and organising their own residency applications, it takes some courage to step out of your usual comfort zone and routine to live a very different lifestyle and move away from familiar surroundings especially when you are retired…..oh wait, it must be in the genes, we have also been known to up sticks and move on to new horizons!

L-R, Pat, Bernice, Pauline, Barry, Christine, Ian, Alex and Roy.

We had a lovely lunch overlooking the sea, and just as we had finished our lunch a familiar figure wandered up to our table to say hello. Yes, it was my neighbours from the flight over! Small world eh? We chatted for a bit before they continued on their way. I must be memorable!

After a look around the foreshore, Barry, Christine and Ian went off to have a look around the shops whilst a Roy, Alex and I headed off to Pauline and Pats lovely home for some family talk.

Pauline’s mum Maude and my mum Hilda were sisters, part of a very large family of 19 children, my Mum Hilda was number 17 in the line up, whereas Maude was the 11th. Our grandma was an amazing woman, well, she must have been to birth, feed and clothe all those children and it was lovely to hear that Pauline knew lots about her as she had spent a lot of time with Grandma in her young days.

Pauline had some photos for me, some of which I had never seen before including a picture of my Grandma as a young girl as well as some pictures of my parents wedding day with Pauline as a wee tot presenting Mum with a horseshoe.

I was completely blown away when Pauline brought out a couple of letters that she had kept, both from me! One was written by me as a 4 year old (clever clogs that I was!!), when Pauline had just had her first baby and before we emigrated.

the letter and envelope.

She had another letter written by me from when I was 12, it brought back some hilarious memories of everyday life. I had forgotten that I was in an all girl pop group with 4 of my friends, we sang at socials, and apparently we even wrote a couple of songs as well….we were obviously the original Spice Girls!! Shame the fame and fortune did not follow.

Pauline also had a picture of Grandad and Grandma together, Grandad died when my mum was 10years old and I don’t think I have ever seen a picture of him before.

Grandad and Grandma Womersely (OMG, Mums double)

But the next picture of the family (14 surviving children) brought shouts of laughter when Alex Roy and I were pointing to the different characters in the photo as we could see that my nieces Sarah and Frances resemble a couple of these characters and brother Steve as a young man has a doppelgänger in the picture!!! We shall see if they agree.

back row l-r: George, Fred, Doris, John and his twin Maude, Tom (his twin died),Alice, Bill

Front Row l-r: Betty, Alec, Mary, Grandma (Alice), Ella! Hilda, Edna

I am picking that this photo was taken in around 1938.

After talking, laughing and swapping information throughout the afternoon, it was time for us to leave to drive back to our villa in Costa Teguise.

I shall treasure our visit for years to come, and we hope we shall be able to meet up again soon.

We’re off

September 26, 2017

Oops, sorry to those who received a half written blog entry yesterday, it was a slip of the finger on the screen.

Bags are packed, passports are at the ready, currency exchanged, what else can there be to do? Yes, we’re off tonight, I can hardly believe that the time has finally arrived for us to step onto the plane for the loooong flights ahead of us.

We finished our housesitting duties last week when Jack & Chris arrived home on Thursday. We really enjoyed our housesitting stint as we were able to catch up with lots of friends and family, plus it was a nice change for us. On Friday we headed to the van, quickly got sorted and made our way down to Papakura for a couple of nights. We caught up with friends Bill & Linda for dinner at the Papakura Club on Friday evening which was lovely to see them and catch up on all their news. Saturday we exercised our democratic right to vote, watching the results come in later that evening but gave up watching after 30minutes or so, pretty unexciting viewing. Sunday we headed off to Kopu to where the van is having some R&M done on it whilst we are away, we stayed the night before returning to Antony’s on Monday. Today has been doing all those last minute chores before we head away, getting the last of the washing done, repacking the bags and taking out what we don’t really need, plus Roy had an appointment with the specialist for his final injection ready for treatment to begin next year when we return.

So that’s about it folks, we fly out later this evening (actually in the early hours just after midnight) for Singapore where we have a short 2hr stopover before the flight to London. We shall endeavour to update the blog on a reasonably regular basis where and when we can. In the meantime, stay safe and well out there!

Visitors

September 8, 2017

Whilst we have been housesitting, we have had the opportunity to have a number of our friends come to stay with us. And yes, we have approval of the home owners Jacky & Chris to have our friends and family to stay. Over the past few weeks we have had lots of friends come to stay, it’s almost been like running a Lodge!!

We have mentioned previously that we had Pat & Sue visit for a few days. It was a very relaxing time spent playing cards, rummikub and doing jigsaws. After Pat & Sue left, friends from our Tokoroa days came to stay. We have known Wade & Lindsay for a long time, as in since before marriage, children and life took over. It has been great having them to stay and catching up on each other’s news. They were just into their third night with us and we were having such a lovely relaxing time with them when Lindsay got a phone call from France which was to cut short their stay. Her younger brother and best mate Bruce had suddenly collapsed and died at his home near Toulouse. We were/are in shock. It was a quick pack up of all their gear, phone calls made to family, flights were getting sorted, quickly feed them before they hopped into their car for the evening drive to their home in Hamilton. All done within an hour or so, they were soon on their way to collect what they needed and get a bit of sleep before they flew out to France. We wished them safe travels and our sincere condolences to them and their family at this stressful time. Bruce will be sorely missed.

A day or so later friends Skip & Mindy came to stay for the weekend. We met Skip & Mindy at Shakespear as they are very good volunteers on the park, helping out every Tuesday on Volunteer day as well as many other days. This last week or two has seen them helping out with docking of lambs at Shakespear and at least two of the other Regional Parks. They are an amazing couple and we really enjoy their company so it was lovely that they could come up and stay for a couple of days R&R.

Skip, Mindy and Roy sorting out puzzle pieces.

Next we had Ron & Janet for the weekend. Now these folk are some looooooong time friends, as in Roy & Janet started school together as 5 year olds – just a couple of years ago! And Ron & Janet spent a lot of their teenage years at Roy’s parents place where they all spent quite a bit of time together socialising and generally having a good time along with a few others whom Roy is still in contact with. Roy was also best man at Ron & Jan’s wedding, long before I came upon the scene.

concentrating on playing Sequence

This weekend we are due more visitors…..more on them in the next blog.

House sitting

August 21, 2017

It’s been nearly a week since we arrived at Whakapirau to take up our house sitting duties with the handover taking place last Sunday. We quickly settled into some semblance of routine before our first guests arrived. Pat & Sue arrived on Tuesday for a few days stay, they are fellow motorhomers whom we have travelled with over many months the past few years. This year they have wintered over in Kaiteriteri so it was lovely that they flew up to join us for a few days of catch up.

Of course I neglected to take a single picture of us together, I did try one evening when we were playing cards but my attempt at selfies failed yet again, I have figured it is because my arms are too short, and no, I shall not be investing in a selfie stick any day soon. So you will have to be content with a picture of the view from the deck.

view from the deck looking across to Pahi.

We really enjoyed their company especially the many games of cards (girls reign supreme) and getting us back into doing jigsaws which is always a little difficult in a motorhome with lack of space in which to spread out the jigsaw pieces. So far we have done a couple that we have picked up at the second hand store which I shall be returning to in the next few days to swap over the Puzzles.

One of the completed puzzles

We did not get up to much, mainly spending our time catching up interspersed with the occasional bit of farm tending i.e. herding escaped sheep back into their paddock, feeding the hens and collecting eggs, sharing plenty of good food as well as imbibing in the odd vino. All too soon it was time for Pat & Sue to return south and they left on Saturday. We have more guests arriving today but more on them later. In between we have been to evening drinks with the locals at the beach and had one of the locals round for dinner and others for morning tea. All in all quite a social time.

Tokerau Beach

August 12, 2017

We spent a glorious two weeks with Marg & Gary at Tokerau, not doing much in particular but somehow managing to keep ourselves busy and occupied without getting in each other's way.

parked up on the spare section next door. Marg took this picture on one of the fine days!!!

The weather has not been particularly nice, but then again it is winter and it is what we expect. At least we have been fortunate with mild temperatures however that just means it has been very wet and windy.

There was the odd foray out to do a bit of fishing, and a bit of catching as well. As usual I neglected to take any pictures. Note to self, get yourself sorted and into the habit of picture taking again! I did get into some more knitting whilst we were at Tokerau and ended up using up all my bits to make a scarf which I gave to Marg. Just so that you are not disappointed, I kept up my picture-taking-slackness and forgot to take a picture of it!

Marg & Gary had three of their granddaughters visit one weekend and I ended up knitting a couple of bunnies for them, I can't remember the significance of why it had to be bunnies but it was a quick knit up of simple square and sew it up carefully to make a bunny.
Sewing up bunnies….and no, the rum is not mine, it's Roy's.

We left Tokerau Beach to head back down to Uretiti with a short overnight stop in Kerikeri. However, those plans quickly changed to a two night stopover in Kerikeri. One: because the weather was atrocious and we didn't feel like driving through torrential rain and gusty winds and Two: because we came away from Tokerau with a parting gift from Marg….a nasty cold with a hacking cough! Thanx Marg, just what we wanted – NOT!

We have both succumbed to the nasty bug and are doing everything we can to get rid of it as quickly as possible as tomorrow (Sunday) we are due at Whakapirau to take up our house sitting duties for a month, and we do not need to pass on our bugs to Chris before he heads off to join Jacky on their trip hiking the Norwegian fiords.

So another quick wrap up of life with the Vannini's. The blog will become much more interesting soon enough as we head off on another adventure so be sure to watch this space. Meanwhile we look forward to our sojourn at Whakapirau and visits from lots of friends and family.

Time to go home

July 18, 2017

It was soon time for Alex to head back to her home in London, not that we wanted to visit to end as it was rather lovely having her with us.  We left Jacky & Chris’ on Friday after a wonderful few days stay with them, their hospitality is always wonderful and their generosity boundless and we cannot thank them enough for it all. 

 We started our journey back to Auckland in the early afternoon, stopping at the Cider Shed for lunch along the way.  This reminded Alex of her ‘cider fridays’ when she worked in Cromwell during university holidays.  She, Antony, Claire and a couple of other friends would apparently treat themselves on a Friday night with a pizza and a cider or three after working hard in the orchards all week. 

We arrived at Antony’s late afternoon and it wasn’t long before we all were at the train station catching a train into Britomart.  Here, eldest son Simon met us for a drink before he was due out for the evening but it gave him a chance to catch up with Alex and say hooray before she left.  I forgot to take a picture of us all together but I did take a picture of the bar with its interesting lights

Macs Brew Bar in the old Northern Steamship Company Building.

Claire and her husband Matt arrived to join us for the rest of the evening, first they all had a cocktail or two Alex and Antony enjoying a cocktail.

It was time to move on and we all walked to a nearby restaurant,  passing through the lovely lit up dining and bar areas at Britomart.  They really have done a great job in sprucing up this area, we can remember not so long ago really when it was not the best area of town to be in, especially at night.

We went to the Hanoi Cafe, a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner where we had a fantastic evening, with great food, excellent service, wonderful company, oh and a few more cocktails! 

 The menu is very good and extensive making a decision on what to have difficult so we ended up asking our excellent waitress if she would choose a selection of plates for us all to share which turned out to be the best way to go.  The food was fresh, tasty and came with delicious sides as well.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

L-R Antony, Roy, Bernice, Alexandra, Matt and Claire.
All too soon it was time for us to catch the train back to Papakura.  Have we mentioned before how we love travelling by train?  it makes life so much easier and for the senior person of this touring party of course the train trip is at no cost as those over a certain age can travel outside peak times for free on public transport.  

The following morning we had to get to the airport so that we could reluctantly allow Alexandra to travel back to London. Some of us are not very good at saying goodbye, with just a few tears shed.  She arrived home safely on Sunday evening NZ time. 

We are now looking forward to our trip to the UK and Europe which is less that 2 months away, and for Antony to join us all for Christmas in London.  

Tiki touring

July 16, 2017

It’s not all relaxing and enjoying the smallholder style of life, we have also done a bit of tiki touring around the area.  We headed off for a day trip around the district with our first stop at the Matakohe Kauri Museum which is just a few kms from Whakapirau.  The kauri is a slow growing tree with beautiful timber  

We spent a good hour or two wandering through all the exhibits.

Here are a couple of small sailing boats built of kauri, with a single large plank of timber in the background which stretched the length of the hall.

I was amused to see the following sign inside one of the small sailing dinghys. 

From there we headed to Dargaville and then onto the Waipoua Forest to see Tāne Mahuta, one of the largest living Kauri trees.  Tāne Mahuta is a giant kauri tree (Agathis australis), its age is unknown but is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years. Its Māori name means “Lord of the Forest”.  

It’s vital statistics are as follows: Trunk girth 13.77 m (45.2 ft),  Trunk height 17.68 m (58.0 ft), Total height 51.2 m (168 ft), Trunk volume 244.5 m3 (8,630 cu ft). Total volume 516.7 m3 (18,250 cu ft).



Alex in front of the tree.

A local Maori guide who happened to be there told us that many many years ago when he was assisting to build a track to the tree, 11 men held hands with arms outstretched to surround the tree.  He also told me that there is an even larger tree but that it is is another part of the forest and a long walk to find it.  We will not be endeavouring to find it this time, besides the heavens opened just as we completed the visit to this tree.

Another day, Mike the friendly local who did the killing  execution bumping off processing of the sheep the other day, offered to take Alex for a jet boat ride around the upper reaches of the Kaipara harbour.

That’s them zooming off across the other side of the harbour, viewed from the deck.