City by the Bay!!!!

San Francisco!So SF is a pretty awesome place but after 2 weeks of the tranquility of NZ it was a bit of a culture shock!

So we started out on fisherman’s wharf… And we got there by cable car… Which is the most awesome method of conveyance ever! 

So the scheme is this… There is a rope running beneath the road and rails… And this is constantly moving. The driver controls a leaver which clamps onto the rope and hauls the car along. The driver can let go and use brakes made of wooden blocks to control the speed… This does cause the smell of burning wood to rise up at the bottom of a hill!

  
Fisherman’s Wharf is fun… It’s heaving with shops and food and things to spend your money on lol (which we did!)

There is a short stretch of beach which we sat on and watched the world go by.. Such a lovely treat to sit and look at the Golden Gate Bridge in the afternoon sun. 

  
And if you’re down that way… Order the clam chowder! It is super awesome tasty! And it comes in a sourdough bread bowl which you can dip, nibble or just ditch afterwards.

So next morning then and it was time for the big one… Alcatraz!

  
I’d really been looking forward to this one… We set out from pier 33 and sailed for 15 minutes to the island. The federal notices are still in place warning the general public that it’s a prison. You still follow the 1/4 mile path up to the cell house… The same path walked by the prisoners and into the processing area, this still has the showers and the area where they provided them with clothes etc. It was said of Alcatraz.. “If you break the rules; you go to prison, if you break the prison rules you go to Alcatraz”. Everything was a privilege and you were promised nothing but food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. It was pretty amazing to stand on “Broadway” the central passage of the cell house; the areas all had names like that and “Broadway” is the most famous. To get a sensation of the place, the grim oppression of it… 

   
 This was a place of punishment. It has to be said that whilst I agree in reform there are a few news stories that make me think that The Rock should reopen for business.

In the afternoon we visited The Castro.. This is the massive LGBT part of town and somewhere Twizzles and I feel very comfortable… The whole area just feels very open, welcoming and relaxed… We did some shopping here and had Mexican for lunch, the crosswalk in the centre of the area has rainbow tracks on the ground and up on a flagpole at the start of Castro is the biggest pride flag you’ll ever see! 

   
 We rounded out our trip with a quick visit to Chinatown 

  
(mostly to get another suitcase lol) and finished up in Lori’s diner on Pine&Powell… Now this is the place to go for an amazing all American dinner, burgers, shakes, beers and everything else you’d expect in a classic diner! 

  
Do you know, I’m finishing this on the last plane, the final leg of our round the world adventure. I know Twizzles hasn’t written about penguins yet, I’ll get her to do it. And perhaps she might share a very special thing that happened on the flight from Boston to Reykjavik.

I’ll write something to conclude this voyage in a few days time.

Meanwhile, be extremely excellent to each other.

Love and hugs 

Z xx

Lakes and Mountains 

Setting out from Blenheim on a very pleasant morning we were making for the west coast town of Greymouth. I’m sorry to report that there was nothing massively exciting to report on this leg of the journey. Twizzles did a share of the driving which she seemed to greatly enjoy which left me to relax and enjoy more stunning scenery.But I did do this: 

   
 Arriving in Greymouth on a rainy Sunday afternoon meant that this otherwise lively coastal town was quite dead. But after a quick lunch it was onwards to the Great Alpine Highway and our overnight halt at Bealey. Now New Zealand has many single track river bridges and you quickly get used to them. You also get used to railway lines snaking over your road and back again but… I will never forget the single track bridge that was shared with the railway… No not next to the road… Trains and cars share the same space in both directions!! Weirdest thing I have ever seen!

  
Driving up the highway was a little disappointing but once you hit the mountains all expectations of a mountain road came true including rock fall shelters and even an over bridge to direct a waterfall away from the road!

We arrived at Bealey tired but awestruck by what we saw… I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

   
   
Amazing right? But after a good night sleep we had to move… We were heading this way:

  
And in true adventurer style we left at first light… Destination: Lake Tekapo!

We were planning to see the Glacial lakes Tekapo and Pukaki and if we were lucky… The Tasman Glacier itself… Again… Pictures rather than words

   
 
  
And that evening at Tekapo, New Zealand gave us the most astonishing gift 

  
I’m writing this in Auckland departure lounge waiting for the flight to San Francisco… Twizzles will be sharing her thoughts about the penguins we visited soon.

New Zealand is the most wonderful beautiful amazing country and you must visit here. Stop reading and go book your flight!

Thank you New Zealand… We will see you again

Peace love and be extremely excellent to each other 

Much love 

Z xx

Wine on the South Island 

We landed on South Island in a torrent of light drizzle and headed for Blenheim. We were already running late for our wine tour so we made our way as quickly as we could to the motel. Then disaster!! *thunder and lightning sounds*… Bank cards wouldn’t work!! We called Barclays and as is often the case you need to try twice with a call centre to get the helpful person. The second guy saw what was wrong and got us through to fraud where he bent the rules just enough to get us back up and running again! Good thing too because we were going to buy wine!

So at Steve & Jo’s wine tours we saddled up and hit the trails.

We had about 2 1/2 hours to get through 5 wine tastings… Why 5 you say? Because there was a gold medal at stake! Yes if you get around 5 cellar doors out of a list of about 20 in a day you get a Golden Mile medal. We had less than a day to do this and Twizzles and I work best when there is some pointless or absurd prize at the end. So 5 cellar doors, much delicious wine, one amazing tasting platter and 5 bottles sitting happily in our panniers we made it back with a gold medal each! Proper heavy metal one too!

We are definitely doing this again in the summer but the weather held and it made for a great ride. Big thanks to Steve & Jo, Cherylea motel for being both very comfortable and understanding, Finlay at Barclays and the wineries at Frammingham, Forrest, Wairau River, No. 1 and Giesen for an amazing afternoon!! 

Catch up time.. Wellington 

The South Island is an amazing place and it’s been hard to find the time to write so let’s talk about the capital… Wellington.

First of all… It’s nicer than Auckland (sorry, but it is) 

The city sits on the edge of a massive bay surrounded by mountains which gives some lovely views and a few driving challenges.

We went first to Weta workshop which a a nice tour showing the process they use to build up props for the various movies they have worked on. There is obviously loads of Lord of the Rings stuff there but I was delighted to find props from the Halo promotional shorts including the one and only fully scaled and operational Warthog! (If you understand that last sentence you’ll know why I was excited!)

They have a fully rigged armoury there too which I was starring at longingly and Twizzles said out loud “you just want to go and play don’t you?”…. My wife knows me!

We spent a bit of time and money in the shop before heading back to town.  And yes it was all Lord of the Rings stuff lol. For a mere $16000 they will make a replica Sting sword for you… Their masters swordsmith makes it to order and to the highest standards. Basically, you could take it into battle!

Now unfortunately Twizzles wasn’t feeling too well in the afternoon so I took a ride on the cable car myself. Not as steep as Kyiv but longer with intermediate stations lol.

Wonderful views from up top and I sat, relaxed, wrote a few postcards and just enjoyed the view.

 
The next day we drove up to Rivendell but found the most beautiful reserve and would you believe it… Rainforests!!

  
We crossed a swing bridge (a metal Indiana Jones bridge) and went for a walk. As is so often the case, it’s so hard to describe in words what it was like… Beautiful hardly does it justice but it will have to do.

Nearby is the area used for the Rivendell scenes and although it’s all gone now there are signs up to show where things were and this…

  
A half size replica of the gate way and here is Twizzles wondering if Mordor is left or right.

And just in case you missed it…

Here are her Tattoos again..

  
Seriously adorable right?

Z xx