Slice of Heaven – Part III

A final snapshot of New Zealand…….

In a patchwork of weather patterns which saw me peeling off layers often down to a t-shirt and other days of cold and fog, New Zealand, with its history, stretches of coast-line and spectacular mountain ranges, is a lovely part of the world to find yourself in.

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One is continually stunned by a beauty which seems is made for large expensive lenses and slow shutter speeds.  It is those photographers who can capture the scale and beauty of the landscape.  They catch the perfect light, the lift of the land, the panorama of the sounds and an incredibleness of a country which somehow seems too captivating for words.

551.JPGNow it is no secret I love a city.  I really am a city girl at heart and sometimes, I just like the feel of concrete beneath my feet.  And of course, cities are made to be walked.

Even when the streets (like some folk) show their very disagreeable side, even when overcrowded with tourists, even when the weather is miserably inclement and even when I get hopelessly lost I am still smitten by a city.

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I walked a lot through the bigger cities of New Zealand.  Some days I was driven with a purpose to see something in particular and other times my wanderings led me to a cocktail bar or bakery……… which I swear was coincidence!  Sometimes its nice to walk without purpose or a plan.  Just filling my skin with that moment of solitude.  If tired, I occasionally hopped on public transport but for the most part, I saw everything on foot.

I liked Wellington a lot.  It reminded me so very much of San Francisco with its steep winding streets, its fog covered bay, the hill set houses and its lovely architecture.Lean+Timms+Welly+Like+a+Local++(44+of+110)[1]007366140

Located right in the westerly belt known as the Roaring Forties, the city did indeed live up to its name The Windy City.  Howling winds can whip through at up to 160kmh with average daily gusts of 30kmh so its probably not the best place to hang out if you want to practice your skill as a sabre juggler!

The wind in Wellington became difficult toward the end of one day.  It was that sort of icy wind that will always find that tiny gap between your coat and the bare nape of your neck and as most know, I am not a fan of windy weather.  Gusty winds tend to make me irritable yet although I was having possibly the worst bad-hair day ever, it just didn’t seem to matter.

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The harbour-side city Auckland hit the mark too with its ferries, super-yachts, galleries, restaurants, bars, cafes and the very iconic sky-tower.

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And then, there were all of the little towns and places in between.  Those places where my heart felt so glad for just being there.

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And as quickly as the New Zealand trip began, it ended.  I guess that’s just how travel goes sometimes…….x

And that’s the beauty of this city……

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‘Our first glimpse of San Francisco – just a little foggy’

It is winter here in America.  It really should be all mittens and scarf weather however it is not at present.  That is not to say it isn’t chilly but the weather here in San Francisco really is beautiful. Blue skies and a winter day warmed by the Californian sun.

Day and night, San Francisco is a wonderful place.  A city of infinite possibility. There is just so much to do and see and eat and experience. I really have developed a deep affection for this city with its gentle enduring fog, its steep hills, galleries, painted ladies, exquisitely beautiful architecture, murals, light filled spaces, mission district, cable cars and spectacular coast line. It really is stunning.    For all its stunning beauty though, San Francisco does have a couple of drawbacks (I’m just saying).  I have listed them so you can see what I mean:

1. It is illegal to beat clean a rug outside of your home
2. It is illegal to walk an elephant down Market Street unless it is on a leash
3. And number three, which happens to be my personal favourite – it is illegal to use ‘used underwear’ to wipe your windshield clean!

I guess if you can live with those small legalities then San Francisco could definitely be the place for you.

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‘One of the many murals dotted about in the city’

Today we sat huddled on ferry on the way to Sausalito.  On the trip across the bay we got to marvel at one of the most iconic landmarks in the world: The Golden Gate Bridge. It is a pretty amazing structure with its 1.7 mile span and to think it was built in 1937. I always thought ‘golden gate’ was a reference to the colour of the vaulting carroty orange Art Deco arches but it actually refers to the beautiful reflection of the sun off the bay.  This bridge really is  breathtaking.

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‘The Golden Gate Bridge’

We have also ventured out to the Napa Valley which is just over an hour’s drive (almost two by public transport) north of San Francisco. It’s the wine, food and arts capital. It is a very beautiful area and after sampling many a good wine from this beautiful region I seriously needed a napa!

On to food:  for many years now, and probably longer than I care to remember, my day has always started with a biscuit and a cup of leaf tea then I have breakfast which consists of more tea and a filling meal.  Well, there is change!   ‘Miss Routine’ (or as a dear friend of mine calls me ‘Little Miss OCD’) starts her day now with complete difference……seriously, I’m living on the edge :)!  My day begins with a cuban coffee – the guy who served me my first cuban said ‘baby, once you have one of these you’ll never go back’ and he was right.   And this morning my day began with a ‘cuban’ and ‘The Rebel Within’.  Which is, you question? Well I’ll tell you.

‘The Rebel Within’ is a softly boiled farm egg entirely (and I have to say mysteriously because I really don’t know how they did it) encased in a perfectly cooked asiago cheese, green onion and sausage muffin cake. It was plate lickingly good. I don’t know if ‘lickingly’ is a word but the muffin was seriously good! It actually topped the ‘dynamo donut’ that I had the day prior.  That little delicacy was a cake donut topped with crispy bacon and sautéed in bacon juice – can you believe I actually wrote bacon juice because I thought it sounded healthier than bacon fat! And this cakey little donut was served with sautéed apples (they also received the bacon juice treatment) and maple glaze. Need I say more.

We have eaten some really great food in San Francisco – a burger at a diner, freshly cooked crab and shrimp down at the wharfs, cured meats, hand-made pasta in Little Italy, pot stickers and pho in Chinatown and have had some good beers and better conversations in ‘dugout’ bars dotted about the city.  Rudyard Kipling once said “San Francisco has only one drawback. Tis hard to leave” and no truer words have been spoken.  We leave San Francisco first thing tomorrow morning (Thurs) after spending seven great days here.

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‘Shrimp with a Margona Cocktail.  That is correct.  That is actually a Corona beer in a Margaritia!’

Having said all that, I have also opted for the healthier food alternative too – the ‘farmers markets’. And these markets were seriously impressive! I just love a farmers market and have been known to literally drive hours to go to a really good one back in Australia. It’s a little community of energy and passion and produce. For some reason I especially love a market in winter. I don’t really know why but perhaps the markets seem less bustling, less crowded and it’s the time of year you don’t just get the summer staple of salad greens and tomatoes. Winter markets offer up what I consider the ‘underdogs’ of the culinary world (and who doesn’t love an underdog). This is the time of year you will find your beets, your nips, your broad beans, your swedes, your nettles, your kales and your brussels. All of the nice old fashioned (the purists call them heritage) winter vegies. At these markets, held at the iconic ferry building at the foot of Market Street, I stocked up on a couple of things portable to the state of Georgia. Home-made preserves, jams and pickles. Had I not, I would have been Mrs Hubbard with a very bare cupboard when arriving in Georgia.

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Now, by nature I am a walker. Walking is my preferred mode of transport. I call it the ‘foot falcon’ – the way you get around without a car. I love walking in cities or in any destination I find myself in.   It really is the very best way to see and experience a place.  And I like to be an independent traveller. No plan!  Just a trusty local black and white map folded in the back pocket of my jeans, my camera in the other and some money stuffed somewhere about my person.  There are no booked tours, no coach tours to sight-see with 40 other tourist crammed onto a bus followed by a boring buffet lunch, definitely no staying in my room watching cable and no sleeping in late until 2:30 in the afternoon for me.  I am up and walking because when you walk you find little nooks and crannies and a wonderful insight that the tourist doesn’t generally see. It’s a great experience of the world beyond your own little door.  My husband Steven and I don’t, at times, like to do the same things.   We are two very different people with very different tastes and ideals.  Quite often he will do his thing and I will very happily go and do mine.  Mine usually involves walking and it was whilst having a bit of a skulk about that I found a couple of little gems.

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1.  The unique and beautiful architecture of the city buildings and the steep streets with their amazingly pretty houses.

2.  A great little second hand book store: and there was nothing more comforting than to be sitting in that lovely little store with a really good cuban (coffee – not the man), the smell of old dog-eared pages and watching San Francisco pass by. After a reasonable rummage I also mananged to find a couple of books to buy.  And you know, there is still plenty of room in my port for the books which fit snugly along-side the fab vintage jumpsuit I purchased earlier in the day at an obscure little store. And by obscure I mean I could have purchased a pair of vintage rattle snake skin riding boots together with matching earrings along with a plate of warmed scones with jam and clotted cream!

3.    A grungy little deli/diner on Geary Street: where they serve up tongue, brisket, corned beef, lox etc all on rye breads. I had one of the tastiest bowls of chicken broth and matzo balls followed by brisket on rye. YUM!

And that’s the beauty of this city. You just never know what you will find.

Next stop…..Atlanta Georgia.