Monday, 27 June 2016

Something to celebrate

Away from the doom and gloom and turmoil in the UK, husband and I are celebrating our silver wedding anniversary in Agios Nikolaus, on the Greek island of Crete. As we had met on the Greek island of Alonnisos, when we decided to go away to celebrate our anniversary we thought where better than somewhere in Greece? We had been here before a couple of times and been smitten by the place and the hotel just outside the resort, where we are staying. The weather is reliably hot and sunny. The food is good. All the ingredients for a super lazy week in the sun. Sadly we return to grey, wet England tomorrow, but for now here is the current view from my sun bed.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016


I do not think that we were being unrealistic, when we went away at the beginning of February, in expecting to find some changes to the lane, on our return five and a half weeks later. This is our lane taken from the end of our drive, looking towards the bottom end of the lane and the main road, which is really another lane.

It looks like a country lane, but we are not really in the country. We live on the outskirts of a village, a few miles from Chester. There ar just three houses in the lane, with a fourth house at the end of the lane on the main road. We live in the middle house - a Victorian cottage. It was originally two farm workers cottage, which have been knocked into one at some point in the past. Then various owners have altered and extended it. Both of the other houses are modern having recently been rebuilt. They have also both been for sale on and off over the last few years. Consequently we have been expecting that we would have new neighbours for some time now. Living next door to a house that is for sale is unsettling. Will the house sell? And if so when? Then there is the uncertainty of not knowing if your new neighbours will be to your liking. Would you be better off if the old neighbours stayed?

After a couple of sales had fallen through, the first house at the bottom end of the lane sold eventually, at the end of October last year. We had been given some brief details about the new owners and we were interested to see what our new 'lane mates' would be like. Husband has met the wife and two children and we have both met the husband, when they were making one of their many vists to the house, but seven month after they became the owners of the house our new neighbours have yet to move in. More than once they have said that they will be moving in in the next few weeks, but the house continues to stand empty and unloved. The garden, which has had no attention for some time, is fast becoming a wilderness.

Then turning in the other direction towards the top end of the lane and the farmer's field, again photographed from the end of our drive.

The house there has also been for sale, on and off, for about eight years now. We were delighted when we found out that the current owners of this house were trying to sell, as we have never got on with them and we know that the wife has never liked it here. This house has also had offers that have not proceeded to a sale, if we are to believe what we have heard from the neighbours. There is a bottle of champagne 'on ice' to celebrate when they eventually go, but it is looking increasingly as if it will be vintage by the time they move out. Before we went away in February we were told that this house was 'under offer'. Consequently we had high hopes that by the time we returned, the house would be sold and we would have some new neighbours. Imagine our delight when we arrived home to find a different car in the drive of the next door house. However, it did not take us long to realise that we had the same old neighbours with a new car! The sale, if there ever had been one, had fallen through and the neighbours had decided to take the house off the market and stay put, much to our dismay.

We have even thought about moving ourselves to put an end to all this uncertainty, but have not seen anything that would suit us and after all the effort that we have put into the cottage we really do not want to be starting again with another house.The lane is looking paricularly good, at the moment, with the hawthorn/May in flower and I am left wondering why wouldn't anyone want to live here?

Sunday, 24 April 2016

From South to North

 Next stop - New Zealand. It is a big country of two islands. Stunning scenery from snow capped mountains and glaciers, turquoise lakes, fjords and waterfalls, hot springs and geysers to palm trees, sandy beaches and vineyards. It has it all. Most visitors concentrate on North Island or South Island, but we had to do a sprint through both islands, over the course of three weeks, as husband has family on both islands. Some go for the high octane sports, others for the wildlife. We went for the scenery. Here is a snap shot of our trip.
After Sydney we flew to Christchurch on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island. Here the recovery from the 2011 earthquake is underway. Below is the now famous cardboard cathedral 

that has replaced the old brick cathedral which is currently a sad sight, while it is decided if the old building can be safely repaired.

Leaving Christchurch we drove south west to Queenstown, stopping for lunch at Lake Tekapo - below.

From Queenstown we went on a very long all day trip to the fjord of Milford Sound, which should have been all blue skies and sparkling water, but what we got was grey skies and heavy rain. The waterfalls from the cliffs around the sound were stunning but everything was so grey!

Next day, weatherwise, normal service was resumed we explored Queenstown itself and we took the gondola high above Queenstown to get this view of Lake Wakatipu.

After Queenstown we travelled north up the west coast to our next destination of Lake Wanaka. On the way we stopped at Arrowtown, which grew up in the 1860s following the discovery of gold in the River Arrow. Today there are more than 60 of the original wooden and stone buildings, but no gold. It looks like a film set from a western. Pity about the cars.

From Lake Wanaka we moved onto the Franz Josef Glacier, where the cloud base was almost down to ground level. Consequently the visibilty was poor and we did not see the glacier. Our next stop was Hokitika- another little town founded during the 1860s good rush, but not nearly as attractive as Arrowtown. The 2013 Man Booker Prize winning novel The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton was set here during the gold rush. We stopped on the way there at this treetop walk, which was quite a feat of engineering 20 metres above the forest floor. I found this a bit unnerving as it swayed around as we walked along, with quite a drop below us.

Then it was onto Nelson (below) in the north east of South Island. Here it was warm and sunny which was much appreciated after three days in the car and two cool grey days.

One day we explored Nelson and the next day drove west up the coast, stopping for lunch at Mapua waterfront - below.

Then it was time to leave South Island and take the Interislander Ferry from Picton - below

through Cook Strait and the Marlborough Sound to Wellington on North Island. We then  drove to Martinborough, where we stayed three nights in this impressive looking, but disappointing hotel. While in Martinborough we took advantage of being able to walk to some of the local vineyards and sample the wine.

From Martinborough we drove north to the volcanic and geothermal area of Lake Taupo, which at 606 square kilometres is New Zealand's largest lake. Here we spent three nights staying by the lake, giving us two days to explore the area. We did a cruise of the lake during which we saw see these Maori rock carvings created by a local tribe in 1980 at an area known as Mine Bay.

In the afternoon it was back into the car to investigate the area around the lake, which took us to the Huka Falls, where  New Zealand's longest river, the Waikato, is slammed into a narrow chasm dropping 10 metres into a surging pool. The roar of the water was deafening.

The following day we visited the amazing  Orakei Korako cave and thermal park.

    Initially a ferry took us across the river -  above, to a valley of hot springs

silica terraces

and colourful mud.

The next morning it was time to move on. We travelled north again, up the Thermal Explorer Highway to Rotorua where we again stayed by the lake, with its distinctive sulphur aroma. While there we had a very pleasant swim in the hotel's geothermally heated swimming pool.

We only had one night here. Then we were off again. Up north to the Coromandel Penninsula and a two night stop in Whitianga, which gave us a day to take in some of the local scenery by taking the ferry across the harbour then walking along the coast.

Now we had one day left in New Zealand. We  had a drive along the Pacific Highway which winds around the Coromandel Penninsula before heading to Auckland for an early flight to Hong Kong, via Melbourne the following day.