Beach Bums Have it Made – Dunedin

After our overnight cruise in Milford Sound with Real Journeys, we had a long drive to Dunedin. Delia programed our GPS we had affectionately dubbed Harriet, and we were on our way. Harriet (GPS) threw in some interesting routes along the way and we saw more of the country than we ever expected including small gravel roads with lots of sheep and not a person in sight.

New Zealand Farmlands

Even the farming communities have beautiful scenery.

“Look at that beautiful herd of deer, Delia!”

She looked and we admired how many of them were standing in a gorgeous green field.

“There’s another herd!”

And another, and another. In New Zealand, they raise herds of deer along with sheep and cattle. That was a surprise. Venison is regularly featured on restaurant menus.

After many hours of driving, we drove over a hill and were greeted with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. Every turn was a wonderful new scene. We were ready to find our new home for the next few nights with the Beach Bums in Brighton, just outside of Dunedin.

What a treat! Janine greeted us at the door. The end result of our journey? A jaw-dropping view of the ocean, just outside our windows and the most comfortable space imaginable.

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Dunedin

The windows were open on this beautiful afternoon and I loved hearing the waves crashing against the shore. We settled in and then went upstairs to have a glass of wine with Janine. Her husband, Ross, was out of town so we never did get a chance to meet him. We spent hours laughing with Janine. She and Ross built the house five years ago and were married on the small bit of land with the tree in the upper photo. It’s an island during high tide. Janine also loves photography so you know we had plenty of topics to cover.

We were also greeted by a few of her other family members…

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The next morning we headed to one of Janine’s favorite places, Tunnel Beach. It is a steep grade down. It’s the climb back up where you pay for the privilege of visiting and for the large lunch planned for later in the day. Well worth it.

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Tunnel Beach

The tide was high, so there was no real beach to walk on, but it was beautiful with the crashing waves and hidden treasures. When we got to the bottom of the path, Janine had suggested to us that we continue through the tunnel.

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There was a roughly cut tunnel with steps. It was such a wonderful surprise.

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And through the tunnel was a very peaceful and beautiful place with fewer people. I climbed over some of the rocks and found a place to sit where I could just listen to the waves and stare out at the ocean. I love abstracts and this is a place of many textures and colors.

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After a bit of fun with some beautiful ladies from Malaysia, I headed back up the hill on the long climb.

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We spent the afternoon at the Royal Albatross Centre which is the only place in the world where the royal albatross nest on a mainland.

albatross

It was a fascinating tour and the New Zealanders have done an incredible job in support of this majestic endangered species. Later that evening, we went back to the centre to see the small blue penguins. They didn’t seem to want to see us, so we only saw a few and it was difficult to get photos. Still, it was a beautiful night on the coast. Tired and happy, we returned to our B&B and had a great night’s sleep.

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In the morning we woke to another beautiful sunrise, sent our fond farewells to Janine and headed back across the South Island to our next adventure. I highly recommend visiting Janine and Ross if you are heading to their area of the world. We felt at home from the first hello until the last. I hope to see you again, Janine. Thanks for everything.

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Making Waterfalls from Raindrops- Milford Sound

On the way to Milford Sound

The rain seemed to be following us along this trip, but I was hopeful that we’d have some blue sky at Milford Sound. The day dawned with just a few clouds. It was a four hour trip from Queenstown and we started around 9:30am so we’d have plenty of extra time to get there before our cruise boat left the dock.

When I was planning the trip, I heard from numerous people about the beauty of the south island. Still, I was amazed. Every turn exposed another incredible view. There is little traffic so it’s easy to pull off on the side for photos. We stopped in Te Anau, which is about halfway, to pick up snacks at the local grocery store. From that point, the drive is one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen. The canopy of the rain forest reaches out over the road and it feels like you’re encased in a tunnel of green. Every now and then the road takes you to places where you can see the massive mountain tops.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

We made it to the port and relaxed until it was time to board. The clouds had definitely rolled in and the rain had started.

Milford Sound

The majority of pictures I’ve seen of Milford Sound include blue skies and clear mountain tops, so that’s what I expected. Now I know that it rains on Milford Sound 182 days a year, so the odds were 50/50 that we would be there during the rain. My friends who just visited told me about the increase in the number of waterfalls during the rain storms.

Milford Sound

As we moved into the sound, I stood on the open bow of the ship. By that time it was pounding rain. We slowly moved in towards a towering waterfall and I stood as close as I could to the front and closed my eyes as the wind pushed the spray into my face. It was such a magical moment. We moved on to the place where the ship would be moored overnight.

The mountains here are made of solid rock and there is no soil. Lichens and mosses take hold and an occasional tree. Once one tree finds a crack to hold onto or lichen to use as a base, other trees will start growing by intertwining their roots with the original tree. At some point, the load gets too much to bear and the original tree will give way pulling down all the trees and much of the base moss and lichen. It leaves behind a bare strip on the side of the mountain. I could see a number of places on the surrounding mountains where that had occurred.

The rain stopped briefly while we were out on a speed boat ride and we returned to the ship for dinner. We met one couple from San Francisco who were on a tour with a group of about forty people and they were the only Americans. The one question they kept hearing from people from outside the U.S. was their opinion about Donald Trump. I know Delia had a long conversation with one man, but I wasn’t really interested in discussing politics. I was actually glad to be away from all the chaos on this trip. During dinner, the rain started again. By the end of dinner, it was dark and we went back to our cabin to sleep.

It was still dark when we got up and headed to breakfast. The winds were very strong and the boat was rocking back and forth. In the distance we could see that the number of waterfalls had increased. It was difficult to open the door to the outside corridor on my way to the cabin and I held on tight every step of the way. I tend to get motion sickness and wanted to lie down for a bit. Delia managed to get a few amazing videos while I was resting.

This one shows the incredible size and amount of water from one of the larger waterfalls.

The second video shows the strength of the wind pushing the water back up and parallel to the ground until it finally falls further out over the water instead of directly down.

On the return trip to shore, there were dolphins near the bow of one of the other ships. I did get to watch them leap out of the water. They were amazing.

On the road after our cruise, I managed to get a few pictures along the way.

Milford Sound

While Milford Sound involved a lot of rain, it was still incredibly beautiful and we had wonderful waterfalls to enjoy. I don’t have many pictures to share, but I’ll treasure the memories. 

Harriet and the Perfect Glass of Iced Tea

I settled in on the stool at the Public Kitchen and Bar in Queenstown, New Zealand. Twenty four hours earlier, I’d been eating at Moo’s Gourmet Burgers watching the surfers and walking along the incredible beach in Manly, Australia, 1200 miles away.

Manly Beach

Manly Beach

Richard, our Sydney host, was kind enough to take us to the airport. We were flying Virgin Australian Airlines and wouldn’t you know it, they weighed our carry ons. Mine contained my backpack with all my camera gear, so it weighed double what it was supposed to. In the middle of the check-in area, we are reworking the contents of our bags. I pulled out my backpack and set it aside. The woman didn’t require that my backpack get weighed, or I would have been in big trouble. And…thank goodness, no underwear came flying out as we frantically tried to get our bags to compliance. The flight itself was uneventful.

We picked up our rental car and while I was focused on staying on the left, driving on the other side of the road, I had forgotten to disengage the emergency brake. Now, in my defense, there was no indicator anywhere that it was on until I looked out my side mirror and saw the car smoking. Delia figured it out quickly and we were back on track. Knowing that we are going to be driving thousands of miles on this trip, we added a GPS to the car rental. Several miles later, the GPS is telling me to turn left to our location.

Left? There isn’t a road to the left. So now, I’m cussing the GPS and calling her defective. We continue driving for another 5 miles looking for a road to the left. We finally spoke to some construction workers who redirected us back to where we were originally. Well, the GPS was right and the Remarkables Lodge had a tiny hidden driveway. Phew! Our GPS was working and it was only me that was defective.

Oops! The Remarkable Lodge showed us arriving the next day so they had to take about twenty minutes to get the room ready. Did I screw up the arrangements and was it for just this night or more nights to come? I was a bit panicky, but it looked like my lodging was scheduled for the right days. Still, our room was a welcome sight once we finally were checked in.

Okay, I know you are wondering about Harriet already, but I wanted to give you a bit of back story so there is a clear understanding about how our day went.

We headed to Queenstown for dinner and only had a few hours to spend. Queenstown is beautiful and while it is a resort style community, it is not as crowded as the resorts in Colorado and not as elite. And…the views are spectacular!

Queenstown Lakeshore

We stepped into the Public Kitchen and Bar and were welcomed by Harriet and the rest of the staff. Harriet is from England and asked for our drink order. Knowing I was still learning how to drive the New Zealand way, I decided not to have a glass of wine and instead ordered an iced tea. I am an iced tea addict and it sounded like the perfect dinner drink.

Harriet was very confused. An iced tea? She looked at Ruby, her coworker who paused, and then said it’s going to take us a minute to do it right. Then Harriet was all over it. An iced tea?

It was the prettiest and most perfect ice tea I’ve ever had.

iced tea

And…on top of all that, dinner was amazing. What a fabulous end to what had been a difficult day. We were in New Zealand where the iced tea was delicious and the scenery so pretty it doesn’t translate in pictures. 

Thank you Harriet!

Street Art in Newtown Sydney

With a limited time in Sydney, it wasn’t possible to visit much of the street art, but what I saw near the St. Peter train station was incredible. All of these photos were taken in a one block area. I can’t imagine what other treasures are in the city.

Newtown Street Art

 

Newtown Street Art

Newtown Street Art

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The paintings are so diverse. This is just a small sampling of what I saw. I’d love to find out from the artists what inspired them to create each piece.

Here is a Facebook Page dedicated to the street arts of Sydney.

Blue Mountains Review – Australia

Our visit to the Blue Mountains was primarily around Leura and the Jamison Valley where we rode the Cableway, the Skyway and the Railway. In between there is a beautiful walk through the rain forest. It was still very cloudy and raining, and that added to a bit of mystery and beauty that most people don’t get to experience.

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We couldn’t see our mode of transportation until it made its way slowly out of the clouds.

Blue Mountain Skycar

Most of my photos have raindrops on them, just due to the heavy rain. I found myself taking the time to really enjoy the view instead of seeing it primarily through the lens of my camera.

Blue Mountains

The rain isn’t surprising since it is, you guessed it, a rain forest.

Blue Mountains

My favorite part was the Scenic Walkway through the forest. The tapping of the rain on the leaves from all directions in different tones was amazing. I closed my eyes and just listened. Some were loud and others very quiet and in the background running streams of water were unseen as they made their way down the valley. The shades of greens alone were unbelievable. There were slight moments of calm between people walking by. I could have sat along the path for hours just taking it all in.

Blue Mountains Scenic Walkway

And then it was time to head back into Sydney. Finally, the rain stopped and we stepped aboard a ferry to take us back to Circular Quay.

Ferry

I discovered a few houses along the way that I wouldn’t mind owning. Maybe some of my real estate friends can help.

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Sydney Harbor Real Estate

And then back to Sydney Harbor.

Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney Opera House

Our trip to the Blue Mountains and all the attractions before and after were well worth it. The city of Sydney is beautiful, but it was really nice to see a bit of the countryside and the rain forest, especially in the heavy rain.

Sydney Edition – Part Two

Sydney Rain

It was pouring rain in Sydney when we set out before sunrise. Raincoats, an umbrella and a bright yellow waterproof cover for the camera bag were the fashion statements for the day. As we stood on the train platform, I looked around at business men and women with their shirts plastered to their backs. They looked miserable and I felt bad for them. We were dry for now, except for our jeans and shoes. We’d woken to an alarm in order to meet the driver and mini-bus for our tour to the Blue Mountains with a number of stops along the way.

Our driver Steve warned us that the views and activities could be a bit of a challenge under the circumstances, but we were up for about anything.

So, what was on the anything list?

Red necked pademelons at the Featherdale Wildlife Park.

Red necked Pademelon

Pickles, the spotted python. (Remember it was pouring, so my hair was in pretty bad shape. Still, Pickles looked amazing. And, I’m actually holding a snake with a smile on my face, so I should get extra style points.)

spotted python

And…wait for it…

Delia and I holding Reuben’s bum.

koala

koala

When I was a little girl, one of our family friends gave my sisters and I stuffed toy koalas. I’ve loved them ever since, so this was one of the highlights of a wonderful day. They were beautiful.

Sydney koala

People were able to feed some of the animals including the kangaroos with some kind of grass or hay in an ice cream cone. I’m not sure what kind of kangaroo this is. They apparently come in all sizes including as tall as I am.

kangaroo

Next up? Learning about the boomerang. Steve asked if anyone wanted to try it. After nobody immediately spoke up, I raised my hand. There’s something about travel that inspires me to try as many new things as possible. It’s not thrown like a frisbee. Steve stressed the point since he’s had Americans throw them that way resulting in broken boomerangs. It’s thrown at one o’clock if you consider twelve o’clock is straight up. Then a flick of the wrist and off it goes. It took me about four tries before it finally made the return curve. Not quite all the way, but pretty close.

boomerang

Then we hiked the Leura Cascades in the Blue Mountains. It was still raining but incredibly beautiful. We were rushed, so I wasn’t able to really set up for photos, but I caught what I could. This is one place I’d love to revisit someday.

Leura Cascades

All this, and we hadn’t even stopped for lunch yet. A fantastic morning in Australia.

Finally in Sydney – Part One

I left my house at 12:30 pm on Saturday, March 12th and stepped off the plane in Sydney, Australia at 8:45 am on Monday, March 14th. Despite a bit of a delay on our flight from Denver to LA, it had been a pretty seamless trip. My friend Delia and I saved up miles for the last few years on United and were able to fly Business Class on the long fifteen hour flight between LA and Sydney. It was definitely worth it.

Sydney First Class

We arrived, our luggage arrived and we were being picked up by our airbnb host, Richard. Our space is adorable and very comfortable. We have a small kitchenette perfect for fixing breakfast or having wine in the evening. It’s in the New Town neighborhood of Sydney and a five minute walk to the train station. Our ride into the city center takes about fifteen minutes. I love being in a home in the neighborhood as opposed to on hotel row. We also have a dog who is excited to see us when we get home. Her name is Sooty.

Sydney, Australia

Sooty

After a quick shower to wash off all the travel dust, we headed to the harbor. The train stops at Circular Quay (pronounced key). As soon as we stepped off, we could see parts of the Harbor Bridge, visible from behind a huge cruise ship and hints of the Opera House.

Sydney Harbor

My stomach was growling and we were eager to have lunch, so we headed towards the Opera House and ate at the Opera Bar.

Sydney Opera House

After lunch, we walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens which includes an incredible park on the shoreline. It’s beautiful and shady with the most magnificent trees. If you look closely, that’s me at the bottom right of the picture.

Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens

There were lots of people sitting out on the large lawn areas just enjoying the afternoon sunshine and amazing view.

Sydney Harbor

Throughout the harbor area, I heard numerous languages and saw a wonderfully diverse group of people of all ages and cultures. From high fashion with stiletto heels to shorts and flip flops, everyone had their place. People watchers? This is the area.

Sydney Harbor

As the early evening progressed, the clouds increased. So we climbed back on the train and headed to our neighborhood. We stopped in at a local bar where met several of the regulars who suggested a perfect white wine. Then we picked up our groceries, ate dinner and fell, exhausted, into our very comfortable beds. All in all, a very good day.

 

 

Her Royal Furness – Ten Week Puppy Update

Thank goodness Scarlett is in good hands. I’m heading out of the country for my retirement trip and my breeders are keeping my puppy until I get back. In the meantime, she is learning how to walk on a leash. Susan and her husband have been doing such a great job and I’m anticipating a fully trained, well behaved dog when I finally pick her up.

Okay…I’m just kidding.

Puppy Scarlett

I know Scarlett and I have a lot of work ahead of us. Still, I appreciate their willingness to work with her on her leash and cat skills.

Isn’t she adorable?

 

Puppy Scarlett

Scarlett 10 weeks 3

Puppy Scarlett

Out of the Zone: Denver Macaron Class

Macaron

When my friend, Michelle, asked if I wanted to go to a Macaron class, I wasn’t sure what a macaroon was, so I googled it after I signed up. It turns out there is a bit of confusion between a macaroon and a macaron. The session was a macaron class. A macaron is a meringue sandwich looking pastry with two halves and filling in between. I had never eaten a macaron before, much less made one, but I was up for the challenge. Sur la Table, in Cherry Creek, has a multitude of classes and their kitchen is amazing.

I knew I was the rookie of the group when everyone raised their hand when asked if they had a Kitchenaid mixer. Everyone, that is, except me.

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I know…me taking a baking class is a bit of a oxymoron. I’m not much of a cook. Still, maybe my next career is as a chef.

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Chef Brett Dolce was entertaining and had lots of tips on how to simplify the process of making these complicated cookies. Is it an insult to call them cookies? I’m not really sure. The measurements and steps are very precise and require a scale to weigh the ingredients. The mixer is a must if I’m going to make macarons on a regular basis.  Luckily, I have a friend who is willing to bring her mixer over so we can do tag team baking.

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I was a bit intimidated when the class first started, but Chef Brett and his assistant, Nadine, were so encouraging and helpful every step of the way. I’m looking forward to taking more classes. Now I just need one with healthy foods to offset the sugar and butter from the macarons. 

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The end result? They were amazing and looked pretty good too. Yummy!!

One of my personal challenges this year is to step out of my comfort zone by trying new things. So far, it’s been fabulous. Have you done anything for the first time lately?

Retirement – The First Month

A month…it’s been a month since I left my job…just a few days officially, since I entered retirement. I was on the books burning vacation time through the end of February. It’s unbelievable that I’ve been gone from the police department for a month. Time has flown by and I’m not sure I can even tell you how I’ve spent my days, other than that I’ve been really busy.

First of all, I haven’t missed my job for a moment. And…I’m actually a little surprised. The people I care about are still part of my life and I can easily stay in touch on Facebook, or by scheduling coffee or lunch. So, I don’t miss my friends and coworkers.

Here are some of the highlights of my first month:

  • Contribution: Volunteering is an area of my life I was hoping to expand and I just finished my two day training at the Denver Zoo. I’m now an Ambassador and looking forward to spending four-six hours a week contributing my time to a place I love with a mission I can support. The volunteers range from teens to people in their eighties. It’s a diverse group and we had a great time.

Volunteer Denver Zoo

  • Travel: In a few weeks, I’ll be leaving for New Zealand. It’s a trip that has been under consideration for the last five or six years and it’s finally time. We’ll be on a three week driving tour that will cover highlights from both the north and south islands. Airbnb has become our best friend as we do research on where my friend, Delia, and I are going to stay. While I love the wild places, the people are definitely the icing on the travel cake. We can meet people who love travelers and have the inside track on the best adventures.
  • Puppy Love: Scarlett O’hair-a has already made her blog debut. She’ll be coming home after I get back from the trip. In the meantime, Olive and I have been really working on her anxiety by attending training. She’s very smart and it’s been a joy to spend so much time working on her skills and visiting the Cherry Creek off-leash park. Olive runs her heart out and loves to play in the water. After the initial adjustment, I’m confident Olive will be thrilled to have a little furry sister.

Cherry Creek with Olive

The first week I focused on making sure that I was busy, then it was too busy. Once I get back from my trip, I think I will be limiting the number of scheduled days so I have more time to relax and play. I’m definitely doing more than I was before I retired. Exercising is going to move higher up on my priority list. The weather is continuing to improve and I’m looking forward to hiking the beautiful places.

Looking back, it’s been a great month. Some days I need to pinch myself to make sure it’s real. You mean I get paid to do whatever I want, including napping? Yes.

Retirement is good.