Good Friday

It was Good Friday, and all the stores and museums in Nuremberg were closed today. So we walked around the walls of the old city, which are mostly still intact. We started by going just inside the walls and enjoying the architecture.

Decoration on a random building
A river runs through the center of Nuremberg
City walls, from the inside

And then, after lunch, we walked around the city again, on the outside this time. The path follows what was once the moat around the city.

City walls from the outside
The walls from the path along the moat

After a long day of walking, we had dinner at a small cafe along the river.

View from a bridge over the river
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We spent the day wandering around Nuremberg with no particular objective, other than enjoying the ambience of a medieval European city, the lovely spring weather, and the contrast of old and new.

I also like the combination of city and nature here.

There is so much to see, that even the reflections in the cathedral windows can have interesting detail.

The lovely spring weather means that there are new leaves and blossoms everywhere. This was especially welcome because at home we are having freezing rain and power outages.

And, of course, I love the contrast between old and new.

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And We’re Off

Two local transit rides, three flights, four airports, and 18 hours after stepping out of our front door, we arrived at our hotel in Nuremberg, slightly the worse for wear. Actually, quite a bit the worse for wear, but whose counting. While Jan unpacked and had a bath, I went out to get pre-paid mobile plans for our trip. It gave me an excuse to check out the city.

By the time I got back, Jan found a lovely local restaurant for an early dinner. We hadn’t eaten since breakfast on the plane, so we though 6:00 pm was a reasonable time to eat. Good thing. The place was fully booked, but Jan talked them into giving us a table as long as we were finished by seven. With jet lag in our bones, we weren’t likely to linger, so it sounded like a deal.

In addition to delicious local dishes, they had Dunkles Hefeweizen, one of my absolutely favourite beers. Though to be fair, I have a lot of “favourite” beers.

Dinner gave us a bit of a second wind, so we went for a walk through the center of the city to get ideas for the weekend. There are a number of market areas that we will be sure to check out tomorrow, but none of them are quite as photogenic as the cathedral.

So that’s what people did with their spare time when they didn’t have Facebook and Twitter…

At dinner, I was telling the bartender how much I love Dunkles Hefeweizen, and how I always look for it whenever I visit Germany. I didn’t think too much of it – I often get enthusiastic about things that I like. But as we were leaving, he pulled me aside and gave me a bottle of this to enjoy later.

As you probably guessed, I’m working my way though it as I write. Something tells me this is going to be a very good trip.

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Two More Days…

Spring is on the way here, but it can’t come soon enough for me.

There aren’t any flowers outside, but the orchids are still blooming inside.

But it doesn’t really matter, because two days from now we will be in the air. More details to follow…

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Last Day in New Zealand

Our first couple of days in New Zealand were cloudy and rainy. Not cyclone level rain, but enough to soak us to the skin and to cloak the Sky Tower in mist. By the time we made it back to Auckland for our final day, the cyclone was long gone and we were treated to clear skies.

We spent the day wandering around the Auckland harbour front and enjoying the warm summer weather (and trying not to think about what was waiting for us at home). I’ve posted a number of pictures highlighting the public art in New Zealand, but today I want to show how it seems to pervade the national consciousness in things large and small. First up, a building decorated in Greco-Roman vases. I have no idea what the point is, but it is really fun to see.

And then, nearby, a building under construction had fencing up to screen the construction site. But instead of plywood plastered with fliers, it had this…

… and then, in a small park, a nod to the earthquakes that are a regular feature of life in New Zealand.

At the entrance to this park, this mosaic in the sidewalk.

Our last full day in New Zealand was my birthday, and we managed to get a table at a fabulous restaurant, on the balcony, overlooking the harbour. They weren’t sure they could give us a table on the balcony, so we mentioned that it was my birthday, so in addition to getting the table we wanted, I got this…

Lovely restaurant. I highly recommend it.

And then, after 24 hours of flying, we were back to this.

The title of this post is our last day in New Zealand. It may have been the last day on this trip, but it will not be our last day there. We will be back.

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Today was mostly a travel day as we head back to Auckland for our flight home. Thanks to frequent roadworks along the way, the trip took over five hours, but we still had time for a lovely walk along the lake after we arrived.

Public works of art have been a consistent theme during our visit to New Zealand, and today was no different. They come in many forms, some functional (built into the paths), and others purely for pleasure.

Our hotel was right on the water’s edge, so we were treated to a stunning sunset as we sipped wine on the balcony.

Three days from now we will be in the air, and in four we will be in the snow… 😦

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Windington AKA Windy Wellington

Today we took advantage of the lovely weather to just wander around downtown Wellington. Yesterday’s hike up the mountain and our aching legs had nothing to do with it at all. Honest.

We headed down to the waterfront where we had a lovely view of the Museum of New Zealand.

As we were walking along the waterfront there were a wide variety of musical performers – violin accompanied by a dancer, a man playing bagpipes and taking requests, and this – live opera from a “tower”. Not something I’ve ever seen before.

As suggested by the title, apparently Wellington is known as “Windy Wellington” or “Windington”. We really hadn’t been exposed to that aspect of Wellington … until today. Hold onto your hats – literally.

And if there was any doubt, these flags give you a sense of the wind.

We couldn’t put a word to it, but there was something about Wellington that we really enjoyed. It just felt right, and kinda has a funky vibe. These were “origami” statues in front of the Museum of New Zealand.

Random buildings had art like this.

And then, there was Cuba street. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Last, but not least, there is the craft beer scene in Wellington.
Actually, in all of New Zealand, but today we were in Wellington, so I went to Whistling Sisters and tried a flight of their beers.

Tomorrow we are back on the road heading north.

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Buns of Steel Workout #17

I’ve been told gyms have machines that project nature trails during workouts, and that many of those trails are from New Zealand. We’ve been trying to check it out on this trip. Today we took the path to the Te Ahumairangi Hill lookout in Wellington. I thought it would be medium difficulty. Oops.

This isn’t part of the trail. It’s the gentle slope leading up to the start of the trail.

This is the trail.

Turns out that was the gentle part of the trail. It got steeper.

And steeper. The path was also a bit of an obstacle course with tree roots giving your ankles a workout and providing regular balance challenges.

And then … we realized we were only at the halfway point. But the second half of the hike was … pretty much like the first half.

But when we got to the top it was totally worth it, with stunning views of Wellington and the sea. I keep telling myself that.

Along the way up, and down, there were countless gorgeous flowers. So of course, I’m going to show them to you.

At the bottom of the hill we walked past the Sprig + Fern Tavern. Not really. We actually walked into the Sprig + Fern Tavern. Those of you who know Jan may be surprised to hear that she ordered a beer (technically it was a Ginger Driver, but it had beer in it) and suggested we sit at the bar to drink it. In a trip of many firsts, this one stands out. After climbing the hill, it was cool, refreshing, and generally divine. My Nectaron Pale Ale was delicious as well.

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The Full New Zealand Experience

Some have commented we’ve had the “full New Zealand experience” … sunny beaches, floods, fingernail biting car trips through the mountains, wine tasting … a cyclone – we even had a bit of an earthquake the other night. But there is another way to look at this. We’ve had a very unusual New Zealand experience. Everyone tells us this is the wettest New Zealand summer in memory. Cyclones are not exactly an everyday experience here. And now we’ve arrived in Wellington and the weather is looking fantastic – sunny and warm-ish. Apparently this is very unusual for Wellington, but we’ll take it.

It was a short drive today so we arrived in Wellington early afternoon. Our room was ready, so we were able to check in, unpack, and visit the botanical garden a short walk from out hotel. We’ve been trying to learn the names of the plants we were seeing, but we kept hitting snags. You know, the usual stuff – floods, cyclones and such. So when everything lined up today, we went for it. As you know, I like taking nature pictures, so this will be a long post. If you don’t like trees and flowers, this would be a good time to change the channel.

I’ll start with a magnolia blossom – not native, but still beautiful.

There oh so many conifer trees here, though apparently they are not native. Note how on this one the cones seem to grow right out of the large branches., which is something I’ve never seen before.

The bee in this picture is the size of a bumble bee and the colouring is close, but not quite right.

The botanical garden had so much lush growth. The next two pictures give you a sense of it.

The botanical garden has many native plants, but also many that are non-native. These were in the succulents section.

And here are three plants unlike anything I’ve ever seen before (note the blue sky). If anyone knows what these plants are, I’d love to know.

The botanical garden is right in the city of Wellington, but you’d think you were in the wilderness. This picture gives you a sense of this.

Flowers … so many flowers.

Mushrooms have their own kind of beauty, though I’m sure this isn’t one of the things that was intentionally included in the botanical garden.

Fun fact. For the past two weeks we’ve been seeing a tree that kind of looked familiar, but we had no idea what it was. Today we learned the answer. Norfolk Island pine. At home we grow them indoors and they grow a few feet high. But here…

We keep seeing things we have never seen before, and then we saw something we thought was unique to North America. Monarch butterflies. Turns out they are native to New Zealand as well. See if you can spot the Monarch.

Two more pictures from the botanical garden.

I’ll leave you with a picture of Agapanthus, which we can’t grow at home, but which grows everywhere here – along the paths, in the ditches, everywhere. At home the closest thing is the Tiger Lilly.

Tomorrow we will see what else Wellington has to offer.

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Rain, Rain, Go Away

For the past few days, every time I put a location into Google maps, I’d get this warning…

And if you are unfortunate, you’ll get this warning…

This example was for a trip from Gisborne to Napier – the one we took just before the storm hit. Gabrielle has passed. Gisborne is still completely isolated so it is an extreme case, but the flood waters are still causing problems all over. Yesterday our path was blocked when a road was closed due to flooding, even though Google thought it was still open. Fortunately a friendly local told us to follow her, and led us to one of the bridges that was still open. When you see the rivers, you understand why it is a problem.

And today we had more rain. Not like earlier in the week, but still. Fortunately Martinborough is in wine country, so we did what one does in wine country, even if it isn’t raining.

As always, there is lots of interesting vegetation, though this one isn’t native to New Zealand. This is a Cork Oak tree, and this picture is a closeup of the bark.

We also spent some time wandering around Martinborough, which is a pretty little town built around a square that is reminiscent of Sonoma.

And after a couple of wine tastings, it’s time to relax, since we’ve had more than enough excitement over the past few days. Tomorrow we are off to Wellington for the final stretch of our visit.

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