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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Wellington Cable Car, a symbol of the city.

Wellington, New Zealand

Wellington has a historic cable car that still takes passengers up the hill from the central shopping street. It's a quaint and rather fun thing to do if you're a tourist. The ride up the hill takes about 5 minutes. It departs from Cable Car Lane off Lambton Quays, the main shopping area and goes up the hill to the hillside suburb of Kelburn. A short walk from the Kelburn stop is the Wellington Botanic Gardens.

At the end of the 19th century, Wellington was expanding and with its hilly terrain the idea was put forward that a funicular train could take passengers up to the steeper areas and that land was opened up for housing. The cable car was officially opened in February 1902. The cars are slanted, with steps inside them to connect the internal horizontal areas.

The track is a single track, except for this one location where it divides into 2 and the ascending and descending cable cars pass each other. The passengers from each car wave! The tunnels are lit with colourful lights which flash in different patterns so passengers get a quick light show!

At the top of the hill, there are restaurants and shops, a cable car museum and lookout areas. Although the restaurant has the best views!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

1847 wines Chateau Yaldara

Barossa Valley, South Australia

Childhood trips to the Barossa Valley marked Chateau Yaldara as another favourite to visit. Not so much for the wines when you're 10 years old but rather for the 'chateau'. It had that european storybook feel to it. Needless to say, it did come as somewhat of a shock when, as an adult I found out the 'chateau' was built in the 1950s! The winery itself dates back to 1947, as a postwar German immigrant, Hermann Thumm, established it on the banks of the North Para River. The company that now owns the winery calls it 1847 wines Chateau Yaldara. The 1847 refers to the date the area was carved up and made available to European farmers. Yaldara apparently is the local indigenous people's word for 'sparkling'.

Upon entering the chateau, you find yourself in the main tasting room. Local produce is also sold here.

There are 2 smaller private tasting rooms, either side of the main room. It's all very English gentlemen's club in decor!

Hallway to the cellar, or as I referred to it, 'the bottle room'!

The garden area has the appearance of an older winery, it's pretty and restful.

Winery buildings with the Chateau Yaldara crest on them.

The winery's restaurant is called 'Hermann's' after the original owner. There's outdoor seating which looks out onto the garden, it was late afternoon when I visited and there was quite a convivial group of friends seated there having enjoyed their lunch!

The vineyards coming into the winery.

Road arch with the 1847 wines branding. Chateau Yaldara, 1847 wines can be found at Lyndoch in the Barossa Valley. Coming from Adelaide, the turn off is the road named after the founder Hermann Thumm Road before you get to the township of Lyndoch.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Torpedo Bay Navy Museum

National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy

The Navy museum is across Auckland harbour from the city centre. It's quite a nice ferry ride to Devonport and then a stroll along the coastal road to Torpedo Bay where the museum is located.

View back across the harbour to the city centre.

The New Zealand Navy is based at Devonport and a small navy museum was established in 1974. The current museum is quite new and was opened in 2010. The buildings that houses the museum though date back to 1896 and were constructed as a base to control naval mines at the mouth of the Waitemata harbour.

The exhibits relate to New Zealand's naval history back to the 1840s.

A replica ship's cabin.

Maori cloak.

A section of the museum has large picture windows which look over the harbour to the Auckland city centre.

This little display really interested me, it's a sailor's collection from when he spent time in Japan at the end of World War II. There are postcards, photographs he took and a Japanese model of a theatre performance.

There's a cafe at the museum as well as a children's playground outside. Behind the museum and up the hill is the World War II bunker and gun placement. You can explore the tunnels and see old guns, canons and searchlights.

The museum is free to visit, the walk from the ferry wharf is an easy one along the harbour with picturesque old homes lining the road.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Watervale Retreat

Clare Valley, South Australia

Very reasonable, I would put this in the budget accomodation category but with lots of nice perks.


Just outside the small town of Watervale on the edge of the Clare Valley. A perfect location for a weekend in the valley, easy driving distance to the wineries  in the area as well as the local attractions. The bushland setting was really relaxing, there are only 4 cabins and there's quite a bit of space between them so noise from your neighbours isn't an issue.

View from the front deck, another cabin can just be seen.


It was a well appointed cabin with a bedroom, a walk through small single bedroom, a bathroom and a lounge and kitchen area. The beds had electric blankets (important in the very cold winter months!!) the cabin was air-conditioned and there was an overhead fan in the bedroom. (The air conditioner could be switched to heating in the cold weather) 

The kitchen was well stocked and for those who wanted to cook there were some staples: salt, pepper, oil provided. Items to make a continental breakfast were included, such as milk cereal and fruit and the nice surprise the following morning was freshly baked bread!

Free wifi was included.

Optional Extras

There are onsite animals, emus and alpacas to go and see.

I can recommend the Watervale Retreat, the cabins had everything you would need for a short stay or for a place to base yourself when visiting the Clare Valley. Lovely environment and perfect for a peaceful break.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Pukekura Park

New Plymouth, New Zealand

The town of New Plymouth sits on the west coast of the North Island, it's about 4 hours driving distance from Auckland and 4 hours to Wellington. One of the town's main attractions is Pukekura Park. The park was established as a recreation ground in 1876, I love the fact that European settlers would try and replicate what they had left behind in the old country and bring it to the new one. The New Zealand climate, with plenty of rainfall, is perfect for British style gardens.

By 1907 the recreation ground had be renamed Pukekura Park as Pukekura was the name of the stream that had been dammed to create the pond. The park was a centre for the town's leisure activities and a tea house was opened in 1931. It's since been restored to its art deco glory and is still a tea house.

The park has been added to over the years and is now 52ha which includes a cricket oval, a stage area where WOMAD is held each year, a small zoo, a children's playground as well as walking paths and themed areas.

I really liked this sculpture in the lilypond, I liked the reflections in the water. A bit of research tells me that the artist who created this sculpture is Michael Smither and it's called Aoterea (the Maori name for New Zealand)

I just called this 'The Red Bridge' put apparently it's called 'Poet's Bridge', the original one was put in place in the 1880s and had to be replaced just before World War II as it had deteriorated badly. It reminded me of bridges in Japanese gardens and sure enough my research tells me that it's based on the red lacquer bridges of Nikko, in Japan! 

The fountain is the Queen Elizabeth II fountain commemorating her visit in 1955. The white spheres are part of the Festival of Light that is held in the park each year from December to February.

The huge ferns kept amazing me, they looked like palm trees!

This enormous fireplace belonged to Captain King's home, at the back is the oven. The house was built in the 1840s and was burnt down during the Maori wars of 1860.

This quaint chocolate box house is called The Gables, it's now used as an art gallery. It was originally built as a Colonial Hospital in 1847 to provide health care to the indigenous population. By 1907 the now derelict building was moved from its original site to where it is currently and was converted to a family home. In 1934 the house was gifted to the local council, it extensively restored in the mid 1980s and converted to an art gallery.

The park has themed areas, this is the Kunming Garden, the materials for the Chinese structures in this garden were imported from New Plymouth's sister city Kunming. The pavilion was made onsite by Chinese craftsmen and it was constructed without the use of power tools, nails or screws.

This Japanese Torii was a gift from New Plymouth's Japanese sister city Mishima.

From a distance this waterfall looks quite real, but it's all manmade!

The original waterwheel came from a local diary factory and was placed in the park as a centenary project in 1976, but was later replaced with this replica.

The park is a lovely way to spend a few hours and the New Plymouth Regional Council has a really good website that gives information on the different features to be found there.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

City of Adelaide Clipper Ship

Port Adelaide

The City of Adelaide Clipper Ship is the oldest composite clipper ship that can still be seen today. Composite refers to her construction, she's got an iron frame and a wooden hull. Prior to seeing the ship I had been vaguely aware of the story to return her to Adelaide, there was quite a bit of local media coverage of the efforts made to bring her back. It wasn't until I had visited the Cutty Sark that I realised how unique she was, there are only 3 clipper ships remaining. The Cutty Sark which has been beautifully restored, the Ambassador which is just a skeleton beached in Chile and The City of Adelaide.

The Cutty Sark

The City of Adelaide sitting on her barge at Dock 1 Port Adelaide.

She was launched in May 1864 which makes her older than the Cutty Sark, who was launched in 1869. A clipper ship was so named as it 'clipped' the ocean as it sailed, there's no keel and with 3 masts they carried a lot of sail and were fast ships.

The City of Adelaide carried passengers to South Australia and copper and wool back to Britain, she's historically important to South Australians as many can trace their ancestors to having travelled on her to Australia.

Like the Cutty Sark, The City of Adelaide was eventually replaced on the U.K. to Australia route by steamships. She made her final trip in 1887,  the City of Adelaide then became a timber and coal carrier, was a hospital ship for 30 years, then a training ship and finally the naval reserve used it as a floating clubhouse. She eventually sank and spent 14 months under water which accounts for the current state of her hull.

Efforts were made in Scotland where she was moored to preserve her, but floundered as the money dried up. An Adelaide group which became the Clipper Chip 'City of Adelaide' Ltd then worked to raise the necessary funds to transport her to Port Adelaide. It was the media reports of the efforts to bring the ship to Adelaide that first introduced me to the ship.

The Adelaide group's efforts were successful, she was placed on a heavy lift ship and was brought to Port Adelaide, arriving in February 2014 and was open to the public in May 2014. A group of volunteers work on restoring her and taking visitors through the ship, I went along a few weeks back and enjoyed the really informative tour.

There's scaffolding at the stern as the windows are being restored and the emblem for Adelaide is going to be placed on there.

The rudder, on one of her trips to South Australia, she lost her rudder and the captain had to bring her back to port using anchors to steer the ship. A new rudder was built in South Australia, the longest section is one piece of wood.

A picture of The City of Adelaide on the heavy lift ship being transported to Port Adelaide. The Palanpur must be absolutely enormous as The City of Adelaide looks like a toy ship! Before being transported, The City of Adelaide was placed on a cradle made of steel donated by Adelaide companies, she was then lifted on a barge and towed. When she was taken off the Palanpur, she was again placed on a barge and there she currently rests.

Inside the ship, the old hospital bed is there to commemorate her time spent as a hospital ship.

A porthole, they were tiny, I thought the portholes were the size of modern day ones. The square windows were cut into the ship during her time as a hospital ship, passengers who spent 3 months on board when sailing to and from Adelaide had a very small view of the world outside the ship!

Hammocks were the sleeping accomodation for the sailors. The City of Adelaide was built to carry passengers and she was state of the art when she was launched, even the second class passengers had a cabin.

The hooks for the hammocks can still be seen in the iron frame. During the day the hammocks were taken down and the area was used as children's play space.

I laughed when I saw this mouse/rat and the guide explained that there were a few scattered around for children to find. Family groups come to tour the ship and young children easily get bored listening to the tour guide so they're sent around to find all the mice!

This was a nice touch, the larger bible was found after the ship had sunk in Scotland. It was found floating in the water, was dried out and returned, the ship was then known as The Carrick. The smaller bible belonged to the family of captain who sailed on The City of Adelaide.

People have donated items of the era to create displays in the ship.

Portholes from where the First Class cabins were, I was told that funding had now been secured and the First Class salon was going to be rebuilt. I'd like to go back at the end of the year to see the restoration work, it'll be exciting to see what's been done.

The tour of The City of Adelaide was fascinating, the volunteer group who manage her do a great job in rather trying circumstances. The State government hasn't given them a permanent spot for the ship at Port Adelaide. The preferred location has now been earmarked for residential housing, so the ship is somewhat in limbo as to a permanent home. Her current location is quite an easy and pleasant stroll from the cafe and restaurant area of Port Adelaide, even though Dock 1 where she can be found, is something of a wasteland!