No rain today. This is excellent news. And not only for us – it’s clear that everyone in Auckland is sick of the rain. People regularly tell us that “we had terrible floods last week” or “it isn’t usually this wet here”. I get the sense that no one realizes the floods made international news. I know there are areas with significant damage, but we honestly haven’t seen any of it yet. Fingers crossed…

I wanted to see Mount Eden (also known as Maungawhau) because it looked like an interesting park and it has wonderful views of Auckland. It was about 5 km from our hotel, so we decided it would be a pleasant walk. We missed two small details. The first was the heat/humidity. The forecast called for 25 degrees C, which is quite pleasant. But when you add in the humidity, along with intense sun, it was very warm. And the other detail was that it was all up hill. Gently at first, and then…

And then … not so gentle. Yes, we were headed for the top. When you add that to the humidity, we were, let’s say, “warm”. Fortunately the lovely views of Auckland were accompanied by a wonderful cool breeze. Just the thing to enjoy.

Maungawhau is the revenant of two overlapping volcanoes that erupted 28,000 years ago. It is a sacred place, and the most sacred part is the crater, which is home to Matoaho, the guardian of secrets hidden in the earth.

No one is allowed to enter the crater, but we can respectfully visit the site, and enjoy the cool breeze, and the views.

The walk to Mount Eden was mostly uphill, so the walk back was mostly downhill. Thank God. We stopped for lunch and much needed water half way back, which was great, except for having to stand up and start walking again after lunch. But we were treated to more of Auckland’s lush vegetation. This was a banana tree, growing beside the sidewalk. The first picture is the flower, and then the fruit.

I mentioned earlier that all the locals are sick of the rain. Apparently they are also sick of their mayor, who was very slow to declare the state of emergency. We were treated to a demonstration calling for the mayor to resign. The speaker at the rally sounded incredibly pissed.

No idea what is on tap for tomorrow. But I do know it won’t be minus 30, so we’re all good.

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A Bit of a Washout?

If you’ve been following the news, you probably know that Auckland had historic floods last week. The rain today was nothing like last week, but we were still pretty wet by the time we got back to the hotel.

Early on our walk we spotted Aukland’s Sky Tower piercing the low clouds, so I couldn’t resist taking a picture. I do that a lot.

And then the rain started, and more of the tower was obscured.

And then … you can see where this is going, can’t you … it started raining harder…

By the time we made it to The Buoy Cafe and Eatery (the location for Rubens in My Life is Murder) we were soaked, but laughing in spite of it all. We were painfully aware that it’s minus 30 degrees at home, so a little rain didn’t seen like a big deal. And because the weather kept many tourists away, we got a window table for lunch without any wait.

I mentioned the floods in Auckland. It was bad enough that the airport was closed for a day, and we had the option of rebooking our flights with no penalty. But we figured (correctly, as it turns out) that things would be close enough to normal by the time we arrived. It is very clear that things were bad last week – everyone tells you that “it isn’t usually this wet…” – but in most of the city, things are pretty much normal by now. Certainly it would have been a mistake to cancel our trip. The only direct evidence we’ve seen of the flood is a few water-logged low spots in the parks. These pictures were taken in Victoria Park.

It’s mid-summer here (did I mention that it is minus 30 at home?) and the flowers are beautiful – even in the rain. Perhaps, especially in the rain.

This flowering shrub was stunning, but unfortunately I have no idea what it is. If anyone knows, please pass the name along. Not that it would grow at home, but still…

After we changed into dry clothes, and the rain stopped, we took another walk to Albert park. (You’d almost think that Auckland was part of a British colony from Victorian times…) The ancient trees were stunning. I think these trees are some variety of Cork Oak, but I’m not sure. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

I started the post by suggesting the day was a bit of a washout. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We had a great time and laughed a lot, even if I was soaked (quite literally) to the skin. But I’m still looking forward to tomorrow when it’s supposed to be sunny.

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And So It Begins

When we left home we’d just had a foot of snow, and our patio looked like this…

We were looking forward to 24 hours in airplanes (and by “looking forward to” I mean “dreading”) before we would be in New Zealand. Fortunately, the “upgrade Gods” smiled on us and we were in Premium Economy to Vancouver, and then … joy-oh-bliss … business class to Auckland.

The weather is fantastic here. Today was spent just getting settled and a feel for Auckland. Tomorrow we are looking forward to a lovely holiday.

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We’re getting ready for our next trip. A very long trip. Just shy of 24 hours from takeoff, to touchdown at our destination in Auckland New Zealand. If you measure door to door, it is even more. I’m tired just thinking about it…

This is going to be quite an adjustment, especially in terms of weather. It is mid-summer in Auckland, while here it is … not.

It’s all very magical in a “I wish I was somewhere else”kind of way.

Fortunately, soon enough I will be somewhere else.

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Calm Before The Storm

It was a beautiful, unseasonably warm November day in Washington DC. I was here on business, and we took the opportunity to extend our visit into the weekend. We spent Saturday enjoying the perfect weather and visiting the National Gallery of Art. A special exhibit on Vermeer’s Secrets caught our attention, but we also enjoyed some of the more unusual pieces of art. This was a large rooster sculpture on the outdoor roof patio.

In the atrium we admired a very large mobile by Calder.

Even the stairwells have an artistic flair.

On the walk back to our hotel I took this photo with a different perspective of the Washington monument.

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Home Again

The full moon from home.

We had a wonderful time on our trip to Oregon, but it is still wonderful to be home again.

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Last Day

We started our last day in wine country at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars seated on the patio looking out over the Willamette valley.

The hilltop location was perfect for sunflowers.

Then we were off to our next tasting, following a wine truck down the narrow winding road through the trees back into the valley.

Our next stop was Domaine Drouhin.

And then it was back to the cottage for our last night on the hill watching the sunset. As we sipped our wine, a flock of birds flew overhead and we all instinctively covered our wine glasses just in case. We thought we were safe, when suddenly…

I’ve been told that having a bird poop on you means good luck, so I’m taking this as a good omen for our next visit.

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St. Innocent Winery

After a leisurely morning we headed south to St. Innocent Winery, thanks to a recommendation from Allan. The drive took about an hour, but it was well worth the trip.

St. Innocent Vineyards

It was an idyllic setting overlooking a small pond.

St. Innocent had something we hadn’t seen at the other wineries – a tasting menu with food pairings. It really helped to spotlight the strengths of each wine. We loved it.

I would highly recommend St. Innocent – it was probably our favorite so far. We took a different route back, crossing the Willamette river on a very small ferry.

While waiting for the ferry, we spotted a nest with a juvenile Peregrine falcon (we think) calling for food from its parents.

A view of the Willamette from the ferry.

Then it was home where our designated driver had a glass of wine in her happy place.

And then, after dinner prep, it was up the hill for another sunset in everyone’s happy place.

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Country Roads

After a quiet morning we headed south for a wine tasting at Cristom Vineyards.

We had a cheese tray with the last glass to tide us over till a late lunch.

The tasting room was in the middle of the vineyards.

The Pinot Noir grapes are beginning to ripen.

Then it was off to Left Coast wines for lunch – with wine, of course.

We shared a pizza from their wood fired pizza oven. They asked if we were celebrating anything, and we said “the fact that the border is open again”. So we were treated to a complementary glass of bubbly.

Then it was back to the cottage.

Another evening watching the sunset.

A short walk back to the cottage in the twilight allowed some interesting pictures – the light was amazing.

Then it was back to the cottage for dinner and a relaxing evening … wait for it … drinking wine.

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This Never Gets Old

We visited two wineries yesterday – Elk Cove and Kramer Vineyards. At the first we tasted wines while looking out over the vineyard. At the second we watched birds of prey riding the air currents while searching for their dinner.

We had our lunch between the two tastings at the Horse Radish in Carlton. The food was divine – we will definitely be back. The scenery around the two wineries was not what we expected. They are in the hills surrounded by forest and small farms selling farm fresh chicken and quail eggs. The roads were scenic but also very narrow and winding. I was glad that I wasn’t the one driving.

And then it was back to the cottage to watch the sunset with a glass of wine. It never gets old.

It’s off to another wine tasting shortly, but here is my view as I write this.

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