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.

Dunedinweb1

 

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…

Dunedinweb1

Dunedinweb2

Dunedinweb2

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.

Dunedinweb3

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.

Dunedinweb5

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

Dunedinweb6

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.

dunedinweb8

dunedinweb7

 

dunedinweb9

Dunedinweb11

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

dunedinweb10

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.

Dunedinweb3

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.

Dunedinweb4

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.

 

 

Day Two- Sisters on the Loose in Maine

After arriving at our apartment very late night before last, we all slept in. Sleeping in was more about not waking to an alarm than actually sleeping late, since we were all up by 7am Maine time, which is 5am in Denver. So, when Judi stopped by with the still hot-from-the-oven blueberry muffins, we were ready. Yum! What a perfect way to start the day.

Then we were off to start our day in Camden, a beautiful sea side town just a couple miles away.

Jim Rogers, from Oklahoma helped us park and then told us where to get the best photos of the harbor. He and his wife have visited Maine 8-9 times. He especially loves Camden. Michael was just walking by with his early morning cup of coffee and agreed to take the photo for us. Thanks Jim and Michael!

Jim Rogers and the girls.

Camden Maine Harbor
Camden Harbor

Camden, Maine Harbor

Then we heard a splash, and there was little Stella in the water. I never would have guessed a dachshund would be willing to jump off a wall into the water for a ball. I wish I would have captured that shot.

Blog1Stella

Straightening the flag
Straightening the flag

We had lunch at Cappy’s. We have mixed reviews of the food. Wendy loved her haddock chowder and I had an excellent reuben sandwich. Mary and Victoria were a little disappointed with the clam chowder and club sandwich. Our server Mark was fabulous and we had no complaints on the view.

The view from Cappy's.
The view from Cappy’s.

Then we couldn’t resist the LL Bean Flagship store in Freeport.

Mary and I next to the boot.
Mary and I next to the LL Bean boot.

Blog9

After seeing the area, I wouldn’t really call it the LL Bean store, instead an LL Bean village. The best part? They will ship our purchases at no cost and they can do it right at checkout. Thank goodness. I can’t afford all those overweight luggage charges.

So what happens on a sisters’ trip in between eating, shopping and visiting the sights? Maybe just a little bit of fun.

Blog12

What happens in Maine stays in Maine, except when you have a blog.

Blog15

We ate dinner at the Taste of Maine and with one minor exception that was fixed right away, it was fabulous. The best parts were the quirky atmosphere and our waiter, Tommy. Tommy had a great sense of humor and the food was really good, especially my hot fudge sundae!!

Mary and Tommy
Mary and Tommy

Blog16

It was a late night once again, but we wouldn’t have skipped anything.

I discovered sea glass jewelry.

Only Wendy held back and didn’t buy from LL Bean.

We had delicious food all day, starting with Judi’s homemade blueberry muffins.

Final Thoughts for the Day:

Camden This is a beautiful town with fabulous small shops and a lovely waterfront. We only saw a small portion of the area, but we really enjoyed our time here. I would definitely visit again.  Sisters’ Rating- 5 out of 5 stars

Cappy’s Chowder House– The food reviews were a little mixed, but my reuben sandwich was wonderful. Wendy also loved her haddock chowder. The clam chowder was a little watery and the turkey on Mary’s club sandwich was a bit dry. The atmosphere and views are wonderful. I’d suggest a visit if you’re in town. Sisters’ Rating- 4 0ut of 5 stars

LL Bean Flagship Store Freeport was a bit of a drive from where we were staying, but it was well worth the trip. I can’t usually find my size in the local stores, but found the perfect fitting pants in a very short time. The stores are fantastic. I think the ability to ship things home at no cost could be dangerous. It’s easy to forget exactly how much you’ve bought, so be very careful. This is another place I highly recommend. Sisters’ Rating- 5 out of 5 stars

Taste of Maine– We loved the unusual atmosphere of the Taste of Maine. There were wonderful characters throughout, including some fantastic Halloween decorations. The view was nice and our food was good. The only exception was the clam chowder. I returned it because it was way too salty for me and a little too watery. But Tommy replaced it with my hot fudge sundae and I was a happy girl. We would definitely go back, especially if Tommy is working! Sisters’ Rating- 5 out of 5 stars

 

Experiencing an Ahhhh Moment – Mosaic Farm

Mosaic Farm Luxury

You know that moment when you’ve finally arrived? That moment when you just want to collapse? That ahhhh moment? When I was shown my suite after 40+ hours of flights with layovers and a two hour drive, I experienced that moment.

I was finally in Africa, South Africa to be exact. I pulled in to Mosaic Farm near Hermanus and was welcomed by Vitalis and Simone. I stepped out of my car and they called me by name. All the tension left my body and I could have melted on the spot.

They quickly took over handing me snacks and drinks while my luggage was taken to the suite and I relaxed in the Lagoon Lodge. Then it was time for Simone to show me where I was staying. I’m sure my jaw dropped to the floor when I stepped inside. I’m not sure I’ve ever stayed anyplace that was so luxurious.

After wandering around in disbelief, I laughed with delight. Then, it was time for a brief catchup nap in the lap of luxury.

What a way to start a trip of a lifetime.

Sisters’ Trip Update – Planning our Trip to New England

Camden, Maine
Planning for our trip to New England is moving along at a fast pace. 
Once you helped us select the amazing destination two weeks ago, Wendy and I began our research. Our excitement level is high and we’ve discovered that there is simply too much to see in such a short time. It’s been difficult to narrow our choices. I anticipate this is the first of many trips to the area. All of you have great taste!!

The budget for our five day trip is $500 each, not including airfare. I’ve run the numbers for either three or four travelers since we may have one additional family friend (adopted sister) traveling with us. The travel dates have been modified to better fit our collective schedules, so we will be traveling in late September, a perfect time for the area.

Airfare:

We are flying from Denver to Boston on Southwest Airlines at $314 each roundtrip, including the early check-in fee.

Car Rental:

The rental car (full size) from Advantage is $275, including taxes.

Lodging:

After spending an hour or two on HomeAway, we were delighted to find a mother-in-law style apartment near Camden, Maine. It sleeps four people and is a real bargain at $425 for four nights. The ratings are exceptional and the owners are very friendly. We debated staying in two different places during our travel, but after reviewing the options, decided to find one location more central to all the places we are planning to visit. We’ve never used Homeaway before or stayed in a home style rental, so this will be a new experience.

Attractions:

So far, it looks like we will be seeing parts of Acadia National Park, the White Mountains in New Hampshire and the coastline between Bar Harbor, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough time for the Ben and Jerry’s tour in Vermont, so I’ll just be buying a pint or three of Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream and eating along the way.

Preparing our own breakfast and packing lunches and other snacks will help us stay within budget. However, dinner will be out on the town at fabulous restaurants. We plan to take advantage of all the amazing seafood options. I’m not sure how we are going to decide where to eat. Any suggestions?

At this point, it looks like we’re on track and have a little extra money to spare for park entrance fees and unexpected costs.  It has really helped to split the expenses between more than two people. Here is our budget so far.

DRAFT BUDGET

  Three Travelers Four Travelers
Airfare $942 $1,256
Budget $1,500 $2,000
Rental Car $275 $275
Lodging $425 $425
Gas $150 $150
Meals Out $300 $400
Meals In $150 $200
Balance $200 $550

It’s amazing that we can visit so many states in five days. I love planning a trip, don’t you?

Sisters’ Trip Update – New England It Is

New England  Lighthouse
The results are in!

Thank you for all of your input and votes. My sisters and I are headed to the New England area for our sisters’ trip. Now we just need to decide on our itinerary and what areas we will be traveling.

The initial plan is to fly into Boston or Bangor, rent a car and then drive through a number of states. Each one of us is going to pick two places we want to see and then we’ll set up the schedule. From lighthouses, to specific towns, covered bridges and a Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory Tour, we’ve already received some great suggestions from those who recommended New England.

Being landlocked in Colorado, the a visit to the Atlantic Ocean is a definite. The rest will develop as we select our must sees. We are still intending to try to keep to our budget of $500 each, not including airfare. I’m finding that renting a car at one airport and dropping it off at another adds to the expense, so we’ll see what discounts are available.

Travel Budget Plan

  1. Do our research on places to stay and book in advance
  2. Select B&B’s, motels or hotels that serve breakfast and are not in the costly city centers
  3. Buy a cheap cooler when we arrive and fill it with snacks so we can limit our eating out
  4. Select and budget in the key places we want to see and then fill in with low cost or free places to visit
  5. Rent a small car that gets better gas mileage, but is still comfortable enough for three people and luggage
  6. Utilize discounts that may be available to us: senior discounts, AAA, online booking

If there is anyone who can spot a discount, it’s Wendy. I know she is already on the hunt. Do you have any tips that you use to stay on a travel budget?

In Other Travel News:

I’m headed to White Sands National Monument  in New Mexico this weekend with a small group of my photographer friends. When they say “white sands” they mean it. What a beautiful place. I can’t wait to share the pictures.

With my trip to Namibia less than two months away, I visited the Global Travel Clinic and recieved one shot in each arm yesterday afternoon. One to prevent Typhoid and the other Hepatitis A. Ouch! I have a couple prescriptions to fill, including anti-malaria pills, Cipro and motion sickness prevention patches. Planning continues…

Sisters’ Travel Update – The Destination Finalists

Many of you suggested destinations for our sisters’ trip scheduled later this year. We received an incredible list of proposed destinations. Curious as to the results? My sister, Wendy and I, have recorded our very first video in order to provide an update.

Listen closely to discover the three destinations we have chosen as finalists.

So what’s next? Your vote!

Later this week I’ll be adding a poll so everyone can vote on one of our top three final destinations and everyone who participates will help decide where we’ll be traveling. Once the selection is complete, we’ll start the process of planning and report back on the journey every step of the way. Remember, all of you are making the final decision. We will not be voting.

Thank you for playing. We’re looking forward to our trip.

Related Posts:

Help Two Sisters Looking for Adventure
Get Your Travel Agent Hat On -Sisters’ Vacation Update

Get Your Travel Agent Hat On – Sisters’ Vacation Update

vacation

I’m not sure what kind of hats all of you were wearing, but many budding travel agents responded to last week’s request for help planning our sisters’ vacation trip. Thanks! Let me back up and give you a quick overview.

My sister Wendy and I, and possibly our older sister Mary, have decided we need something to look forward to after all this frigid weather. Here’s a link to the post, Help Two Sisters Looking for Adventure, so you can get a little more background.

The parameters:

  • Budget of $500 each
  • Five day trip
  • Someplace off the beaten path (Wendy)
  • No strict agenda (Wendy and Jennifer)
  • Someplace that is or has an unexpected surprise (Wendy)
  • Things to do besides sit on a beach (Jennifer)
  • Wonderful places and people to photograph (Jennifer)
  • Costs for airfare and souvenirs are in addition to the stated budget

The current fabulous results:

  • Kate from Another Clean Slate: Schedule the trip around a fun event. Kate is headed to West Palm Beach to see Jimmy Buffett. He’s on tour in a number of locations this year.
  • My friend Shelly Dennis, a fellow stock photographer: South Port, North Carolina, with all it’s history, an aquarium and beaches.
  • Michelle from Getting Literal: Hawaii. Is there anything else to say about the draw of this location?
  • Kristi from Finding Ninee: Puerto Vallarta or another location in Mexico or the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
  • Mike from Past My Curfew: Cruise to Tahiti. (If we end up doing this, Mike, you are welcome to join us.)
  • Diane from On the Border: She and her husband have scheduled an Alaskan cruise for $550.
  • Clark from the Wakefield Doctrine: My friend from New England recommends a road trip through that beautiful area of the country.
  • Dana from Kiss My List: Small towns in Southern Maine, including Wells.
  • Chris from The Mom Cafe:  Caribbean cruise.
  • Aussa from AussaLorens.com: Guatemala.

Wow! Wendy and I are excited about all the possibilities, especially since we’ve never been to any of those places. Over the couple of months, we’ll be researching all of these destinations and any new ones that get added. In April, we’ll narrow it down to three and all of you will select where we’ll be headed, possibly sometime this summer. Can we do it on our budget? I’m not sure, but we’re going to give it a good try.

Thanks to all of you who have already made suggestions and those of you who offered encouragement. But we aren’t done yet. We still have several weeks to add more possibilities to the mix before we narrow it down for your vote. 

Any other suggestions?

Making the Most of Your Travel Journal- Part 1

My Thursday theme is travel. This week I’m starting with a post about travel journals. Today let’s talk about where to begin.

Travel Journal 4 web

Journaling is a wonderful way to document your travel as it happens. Each journal is a keepsake that will become a family treasure as years go on.

“We found a bumper sticker that said, ‘Beep, beep, my ass!’
My mom said I could write that, so I did.”

Travis, age 9 (now 33)

On December 21, 1989, my mother, son and I headed on a road trip from Denver to Flagstaff, Arizona to celebrate Christmas with my older sister’s family. I purchased a blank log book and we started our first travel journal. The next big trip was a sister reunion to Disneyland in 1993. My younger sister, Wendy, is an artist and drew amazing caricatures. Everything got glued or taped into the trip journal from flowers to used sugar packets.

Since then, I’ve traveled to a number of places including Germany, Africa, Antarctica and my last trip to Canada. Each trip has its own journal. My family members and I love going through the books and revisiting each unique journey. Some of my friends ask to borrow the journals if they are thinking about visiting some of the same places.

Where to begin:

The Journal

Part of my trip planning involves selecting just the right journal, although you can make one, too. On my trip to Antartica, I bought an 8 1/2″ x 11″ hard cover spiral bound drawing pad. I wasn’t going to carry it around with me. It was staying on the ship, so the larger size wasn’t a burden. Smaller journals (5″ x 7″ or less) are useful to put in my purse and carry with me as I travel about town. As soon as my trip is confirmed, I purchase my journal. I have one sitting right here for my upcoming trip to Namibia in May.  The first entry is dated November 2013.

Supplies

  • Pencil bag to store supplies small enough to fit in my purse (I also add brochures and receipts to the bag as I gather them during day so I can include them in the journal when I stop to write)
  • Pens, colored pencils and a pencil sharpener
  • Glue sticks
  • Stickers with travel themes and letters
  • Small scissors I can take on the plane

Travel Information

Not only do I cover the day to day activities, but I also include copies of documents. So each journal has my flight itinerary, hotel confirmation letters, travel agent contact information and travel insurance summaries. My journal then becomes a back up resource to the original documents. I’m careful about not including too much personal information, in case the journal is stolen. It does, however, have my name and email address so that if I lose it, someone can contact me.

For more great information about travel journals, check out these blogs:

Thrifty Travel Mama
Bursts of Creativity
Suzy Cucumber

If you have tips you use during your travel, please add them in your comments. I love to hear about your adventures and suggestions.

Making the Most of Your Travel Journal – Part 2

Next week I’ll share how to write and otherwise fill your journal with wonderful content.