Mangonui, Far North

We have got internet again. We drove up here from Russell today with a couple of stops along the way: we visited the Treaty House at Waitangi and stopped for pies and slices at the Bake House in Kerikeri, saw the Stone Store and enjoyed the beautiful Taupo Bay.

We had our accommodation all picked out for Doubtless Bay, but when we got there it turned out the owners went banktrupt and the hotel was closed down. So we checked our different guides and nothing sounded quite good. We went to 2 places but neither one looked particularly inviting – names withheld. So we stopped at one we had seen while driving: good choice. We have a wonderfull new room, with an incredible view – more sunset pictures! – over the bay.

I am writing this on a laptop kindly lend to surf a bit. We got a “chilly bag” to pack a picknick for our trip to Cape Reinga tomorrow, a map, tons of tips where to go and what to do and why not to do the bus tour to the cape, which I was not in favor of anyway. And we got a really nice TV for tomorrow’s rugby finals. Rolland already declared he wants to get a six pack and watch. I still think we should find the local pub (they always say tavern but the sign always says pub …) for that occasion.

On a different note: I got totally eaten by sandflies in Russell. I have 22 bites on the right foot and 16 on the left, legs not counted. It really hurts. At night I have to get up every couple of hours to cool down my feet with cold water. Only other thing that helps a bit is tiger balm. I think I am allergic to the salve I got at the pharmacy. Sandfly bites are not like moskito bites! They sometimes start bleeding without me even scratching them right after I was bitten!

Our Bay of Islands cruise the other day was also very nice, we could not go through the hole in the rock because there was too much wind and waves but we did see dolphins and baby dolphins and I think I got a couple of nice shots. According to the crew they were not very playful that day but it is nice enough to see so many wild dolphins swim alongside the ship.

The Treaty House was well worth that trip as well. After all it is one of “the” historic sites of NZ. The grounds are very nice and they have a lot of information on the Treaty of Waitangi, the history surrounding the treaty, the times and the people.

Kerikeri was not quite as cool as it is made out to be for the bus tours they offer – of course we did not visit all the places but we have already seen a winery (ate at one actually) and plan to go to Waiheke on our last day. The historic sites are nice.

So now we need to go do some shopping for breakfast and picknick and of course get us some dinner – if I can get Rolland away from watching Simpsons.

Greatings from the Far North!

PS: we saw a pink and yellow katamaran anchored near Russell yesterday. We named it Sponge Bob.

Russell, Bay of Islands

We are nearly up north now. We made it here despite 24 hours of rain in Whairangi. We spent 2 days around Whairangi. The second day it was raining so we did some bad weather activities, like visiting the clock museum, tasting the remaining 2 beers at the Frings Brauhaus (Drought and rye beer ‘Catcher’), eating hokey pokey ice cream and taking pictures of the most photogenic waterfall of New Zealand which had become a steaming mud monster due to the rain.

We got started on the drive rather late and it turned into an adventure of itself. It was dark and raining. The street was always in danger of flooding or landslides. The meadows to left and right had turned into the swamps they used to be before the sheep came.

Sometimes it seemed there could not be civilization at the end of this road, in the end we made it here in one piece and found a very nice place to stay and that is where we will remain for the next 2 nights before finally going up to Cape Reinga. After that it is back south, to Auckland and then on to Samoa.

Back from the US

After a week in NYC and 2 days in Michigan we are back home.

We had a great stay in the US! My last trip to the US was 10 years ago and I never realized how I missed it – especially Michigan.

I’ll be writing more in the next few days and of course I took a ton of pictures.

What to do in NYC?

We have booked our flights, found a hotel and now I am looking for things to do in NYC. We’ll have 5 full days in New York before continuing to Detroit for a friend’s wedding.

So what are the most important things to do in NYC? I need some ideas and I don’t have a travel guide (yet).


Dents du Midi, SunsetWe are back from vacation. Like last year we went skiing to Les Crosets in Switzerland. This year nobody got hurt and nobody had to return home to work. We had good skiing conditions most of the time. For those interested I put up some pictures on flickr: Les Crosets 2008.

Tomorrow it’s back to work.

Travel Journal – Part 2 Borders to West Coast

Hadrian's WallWhen we left Lancaster we first drove South by accident and learned the hard way that on the M6 Southbound there is no exit after Lancaster for 17 miles.

Another sad thing was that just about an hour or so after Lancaster somewhere between a few hills “The Bay” (the local Lancaster radio station and Andi’s favorite because they were always playing Scissor Sisters and have the coolest jingle which Passi can already imitate quite well) was gone. Melrose Abbey

We passed Carlisle and went directly for the Hadrian’s Wall. We took a nice walk along the wall, watched sheep, cows, tourists and painters and got back in the car to drive into the Borders to visit the ruined Abbey’s in Jedburgh, Melrose and Dryburgh. On the first night we stayed in Melrose right next to the Abbey and were of course standing before closed gates in the morning because we got up too early. So there was some more sheep-watching to do to pass the time.

After Melrose we drove to Dryburgh Abbey where Sir Walter Scott is buried. It’s a very quiet place up between the hills and not so easily found. On our way north towards Edinburgh we made a short stop and a picnic (crackers, cookies, some fruit & tea) at Scott’s view. Even thought it’s “just” a scenic view point it is really beautiful up there and this picnic is one of my favorite memories of the whole trip. I did take pictures but none of them do the magnificent landscape any justice and so you must either go there yourself or imagine the lovely green hills, the river and the old woods (and sheep) that have fascinated so many others before me.

Oh and one more thing: if you stay in Melrose for a night have an “ale braised steak” at the King’s Arms. Maybe I am wrong and my memories play tricks on me but it was the best dinner I had in the whole week.

Edinburgh Panorama: Old TownIn the afternoon of the 25th we arrived in Edinburgh with no plan and no map. I could write at least 2 pages about the ensuing chaos. It only took us about one and a half hours to find a place to stay (Highstreet Hostel – we couldn’t know there would be a few Monty-python-esque lumberjacks snoring away there) and took of for a walk of the Royal Mile which ended in the Edinburgh Panorama: HolyroodRoyal Mile Whiskies shop. Before going there we had already taken the standard pictures off of Princes Street (or whatsitcalled?) and been to the Scotch Heritage House (another whisky store). We had dinner at a pub with the interesting name “World’s End” which I had selected by its colorful exterior rather than anything else. We weren’t quite into the Whisky-thing yet and so declined the Glenkinchie, which I still haven’t tried, for an apple crumble as dessert. But bear with me our desserts would soon be changing.

We spent a quiet evening reading: I was deep into “Pride and Prejudice” and Rolland studied the newly acquired whisky book (the first one anyhow, we bought ‘the Jackson‘ later in Oban).

The next morning we took the car to the ‘King’s Stables’ what a fitting name for a parking garage near the castle and visited Edinburgh castle with the Scottish crown jewels. We were there so early we had to wait for the castle to open and even then there was a line of people waiting. When we came out of the castle the line was half across the parking lot in front of the castle. After the visit to the castle we had to go back to the Whisky store to get what Rolland had already dreamed of (if he slept at all with that snoring monster next to us) the whole night: a 1977 28-year old Convalmore.

Stirling Castle: Great HallAfterwards we drove to Stirling to visit the castle there and got ourselves a quick ‘Gregg’s lunch’. The Stirling Castle is well worth a visit because there is a lot of effort being made to restore it to a more original state as the Stuart kings would have seen it. While they are renovating there is a most interesting exhibit helping the visitor explore the archaeological secrets in the castle.

Our route then went through “The Trossachs” – a nationalpark – and we stopped just short of the coast in a really nice little hotel called Falls of Lora. Since we still were not totally into the Whisky thing we quite appreciated the HUGE selection of whiskies in their bar but didn’t take advantage of it and each tried only one single malt.

The next day we would continue to Oban and I will continue my journal tomorrow.

Travel Journal – Part 1 Lancaster

So here I want to give a short account of our trip to Lancaster and Scotland. This is part one about the 3 and 2 quarter days we spent with the Schoellers in Lancaster.

Sch̦ller Familienphoto We arrived very late on Friday evening Рor rather night Рwith the Sch̦llis in Lancaster. Driving left was quite weird in the beginning especially since it was already dark outside and while still on the ring route around Manchester we managed to accidentally leave the auto route and had a little trouble getting back on our route.

But finally we arrived quite a bit later than anticipated since the plane was late and our driving not the fastest including some little unnecessary excursion around a couple of crossroads in Manchester.

Still we were greeted very enthusiastically, stayed up much later talking and listened to Scissor Sisters on the radio.

You can read more about our stay in Lancaster on Andi’s blog. We had 3 very nice days in Lancaster. On our first day we went shopping and geo-caching in and near Kendal where we were also introduced to Gregg’s sandwiches, “buy 2 for 2 pounds” and typical weather “now is it raining or has it just stopped?”.Da muss man sich einfach hinsetzen

On Sunday we wanted to see the sea as all visitors do and so we introduced the “tea-time on the Morecambe pier” type of excursion. Which of course includes lots of playing with the most interesting pavement games (what else could one call them) with nice old men hopping around in a labyrinth and meeting strange dogs who were not quite so scary after all.

In the evening the big people stayed up late to give presents to Andi for her third 29th birthday. Our present was something of a “Wink mit dem Zaunpfahl” – an English Jamie Oliver cookbook. And the hint was not about the cooking! On Andi’s birthday we took another shopping trip – this time to Lancaster with its most famous Costa coffee and the rather infamous chocolate muffin. Truly you need not eat anything else for a whole day after such a chocolate muffin, dark and tasty with chocolate chips and liquid chocolate filling accompanied by a vanilla flavored hot chocolate. But Andi made us buy pasties because we just had to try them. And in the evening there was the most memorable Passi-drinks-Lassi dinner. (The game store was quite memorable too!)

Passing by a book shop I acquired the Jane Austen collection and with envy did I see the selection the fish monger had to offer.

On Tuesday we said our goodbye’s and left to drive north to Scotland. We later heard that a certain small boy didn’t take that very well as he was in Kindergarden when we left and could not really say bye bye. But we had promised to return for a big Halloween dinner with Micha & Sandra.

Phat Loot Monday

Phat Loot Monday So today after the gym I went shopping and got myself a few late souvenirs.

First everything went quite according to my plan to simple get the two really nice herbal tea mixes that were empty. But when I passed the mall I couldn’t resist to go in and check wether the grocery store in there might have my favorite whisky and wether it might be cheaper than elsewhere.

Well they did have it and the price was ok.

So I am walking up to the checkout (Kasse?!) and then it happend, the whole vacation came back in a second: the same moment I saw the sign “now offering up to 100€ cash-backs with purchases 20 € and more” I heard they were playing “I don’t feel like dancing” and as the “Mediamarkt” was next door that’s where I went next.

Since the cashier in the grocery store didn’t ask if I wanted cash-back – I guess it’s too new over here and rather unusual – I never remembered to ask for it and so I stood there with a cd for 5.50€ and NO CASH.

Stupid me.

Of course in the UK it wouldn’t have been a problem as you can pay any small amount with a credit or debit card anywhere. Here they are quite picky about that.

So I asked: “Is it possible to pay this with my debit card?”

The nice lady – looking rather like Snape at that moment – shook her head. I must have looked very disappointed because suddenly she turned into a smiling Dumbledore and said: “Ok but just this one time”.

So here I am sitting listening to the song and looking forward to a taste of Cragganmore.

PS: yes we did watch a Harry Potter movie last night.