Thursday, 8 November 2018

Road Trip Adventures in Northern New Zealand

It's great fun  to head off on a solo road trip, bubbling with that delicious feeling of freedom and filled with the anticipation of finding new places to explore.  Last week I was free of all my normal commitments so grabbed the opportunity and took to the road. I had an idea of where I was heading but was mainly just going to go with the flow and see where opportunities took me.  One place I had wanted to visit for years was the Kauri Museum, at Matakohe, so that was my only definite destination.


My first day was spent having a lovely long catch up and chat with my sister in law at the beautiful seaside town of Mangawhai Heads. Late afternoon I drove across country to the small town of Dargaville, stopping briefly at the village of Paparoa to admire a beautifully restored villa which the proud owner showed me through, the old country store and the grandiose bank building, now no longer in use. Banks were pretty important to small town life in years gone by.
The Paparoa Store, established in 1884


Those were the days, when banks were banks!  It seems very grand for a tiny village but would once have serviced farms and villages for miles around

 This was my first visit to Dargaville which lies on the Kaipara River, a fairly muddy looking river it has to be said, and the town is probably not the most exciting of places to visit.  Like many small towns in New Zealand it has a rather dismal main street with many empty shops and an air of decline about it. Nevertheless it has some pleasant residential areas, some lovely old villas and makes a perfect base to visit some beautiful places nearby.


Looking along the Kaipara River and the town of Dargaville

And looking south along the river from the Dargaville Museum
Verdant rolling countryside surrounds the town so on my first morning I went for a drive to explore it, getting quite lost but, in the spirit of going with the flow, loving it all the same.  I am not a fan of driving on unsealed roads however I soon found myself on one and decided to stay  on it for quite some time. Absolute bliss to be alone on the road entranced by the stunning views out to sea and the peaceful isolation of the farms along the way, a total contrast to life in the city.


A replica gum diggers hut at the Dargaville Museum
In the afternoon I visited  Dargaville Museum, a surprisingly good museum for such a small town. It is not well sign posted and can be hard to find but keep looking, it is worth the effort.  Located on a hill just outside the town it has commanding views over both the town and the river and is crammed with  plenty of items of interest, well displayed.  I highly recommend it.   The displays cover  the history and people of the area, stories of the gum diggers, ship wrecks and collections of all manner of things from thimbles, to bottles, to piano accordions.  Apart from the museum staff, I was alone, spending a good couple of hours there, thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to linger for as long as I liked. As it started to drizzle I headed back to my motel to relax and cook some dinner.  Note: There are very few places to eat out in Dargaville.


Kiwi on display at the museum

The next morning dawned fine and sunny, perfect weather to explore.  My first stop was at Bayly's Beach, ....north of Dargaville.  Bayly's Beach is part of the spectacular Ripiro Beach, an unbroken  107 kms, or 66 miles long, running down the west coast of the north island.  It is longer than the more famous, but incorrectly named, 90 Mile Beach. The beach is a designated road so 4 wheel drive vehicles are permitted to drive on it but must observe the usual road rules. You need to be careful, though, since many a car has become bogged in the damp sand. I don't have a 4 wheel drive so just parked near the beach and walked.  With high cliffs of lignite behind me, long breakers curling onto the shore, the wind blowing sand into eddys around me and nobody else on the beach as far as I could see, it was wild and wonderful. I sat in the dunes for quite some time mesmerised by the surf,  the sea, and the sea birds squabbling and calling to each other until it was time to go and explore some more of Northland which I will write about in my next post. So far it had been the perfect day on the road.

Above and below: The glorious Bayly's Beach...not a soul around, just me and the birds, paradise!






Thursday, 25 October 2018

The top 15 most read blog posts on A Wandering Widow Solo Travel

This is my 200th post on A Wandering Widow Solo Travel.  I find it hard to believe there have been so many, and this morning I got to thinking about what a fun journey it has been.  Not only has it been a brilliant motivator, making me get out, do things, see the world and meet people in order to have things to write about but I've had an absolute ball in the process. Travel has always been one of my greatest loves, and makes up most of my posts, but I have written about many other things besides, like gardening, sculpture, cooking and festivals, to name a few. It has given me great pleasure to relive my experiences in writing and, I have to admit, it gives me quite a thrill when I see it is being read in some remote corner of the world. I have lost count of the many different countries showing up in my blog statistics.


Writing up notes for my blog - Port Douglas, Australia
 A Wandering Widow Solo Travel has now reached close to 50,000 readings so I thought it would be fun to see which were my most read posts.  Here are the top 15 starting with the most read at the top. 6 of the 15 are about places in New Zealand, my stunning homeland.

If you are interested in any of these posts they can be found easily by typing the title in the search box at the top right hand side of the blog.

Art Deco in Napier
Oamaru - New Zealand's finest Victorian town  

Napier - the Art Deco capital of the world

Des Goupillieres - Troglodyte village, Loire Valley, France

The Giant's House Sculpture and Mosaic garden, Akaroa, New Zealand

Gibbs Farm, Kaipara Harbour, New Zealand - An art lover's dream

Flavigny Sur Ozerain...and Chocolat (France)

Tracing the Ancestors - Bradford on Avon, England 
Den Gamle By, Aarhus
   


Akaroa - New Zealand's only French village

Craft Beer - Smog City Brewing, Los Angeles

Saltaire - Yorkshire, England

The Ghan Adventure - a train trip through outback Australia

Den Gamle By - Aarhus, Denmark
The Ghan, Australia

Homestay on a Turkish Farm

Top Tips for Solo Travelers - Updated 
 ( this is the second post of tips)

Day Trip to Waitomo

They are just a small sample of the many and varied topics I have written about over the last few years.  There will be more adventures to come, I hope.

Meanwhile this is one of my favourite travel quotes and I think it is one all keen travelers can relate to: "Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote and I shall be happily infected until the end of my life"  Michael Palin

Happy travels, everyone!

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Rangitoto Island, Auckland, New Zealand - A Must Visit for a great mix of geology, botany, stunning views and social history

600 years ago the Maori living in Auckland must have been terrified when Rangitoto erupted for the last time. The great spurts and rivers of lava looked to them like flowing blood so they named it 'The day the blood of Tamatekapua was shed.' after  Tamatekapua, a chief from the Te Arawa tribe who had arrived in New Zealand around 1350 and been killed in battle near by.  Rangitoto had erupted several times before the Maori migration though, rising out of the sea floor as far back as 6000 years ago.  Now standing sentinel at the entrance to Auckland harbour it is an iconic, dormant volcano beloved by Aucklanders. It says 'Auckland' to everyone visiting the city and 'home' to Aucklanders returning. Although not considered to be extinct the possibility of it erupting again is slim. Rangitoto is 5.5km wide and 260 metres at it's highest point, interestingly it's conical shape looks the same, or almost the same, from which ever angle you view it.


Rangitoto Island
Despite living in Auckland all my life, and seeing Rangitoto on a daily basis, I had visited it on only a handful of occasions, the last time at least 20 years ago.  While my family from England were visiting recently my daughter-in-law took my grandson to the island for the day and came home thrilled and excited by what they had seen. This spurred me on to go for another visit myself.


It was a perfect morning as I drove to the city to catch the ferry
So last Saturday I was up at the crack of dawn to catch the 7.30am ferry to the island, about a 35 minute trip. It was the most perfect of spring days, calm and sunny with the water smooth and reflective.  Once on the island I set off straight away on the 2 and a half kilometre climb to the top. The path is well marked, sloping upwards all the way but not arduous, at a steady pace it takes around an hour to get to the summit. At this early hour of the day there weren't many people around and most of the time I was alone on the path which was pleasingly peaceful and gave me time to just enjoy and observe without distractions.






Left: The path to the summit



Right: Ancient lava flow still looks recent








Rangitoto is a fascinating place, the fields of exposed black lava  still look surprisingly fresh even after 600 years.  Despite the fact that the island is composed of volcanic rock, air borne dust and leaf matter have settled over hundreds of years to enable 200 species of plants to grow and thrive, relying solely on rain for their water.  Rangitoto is home to the world's largest pohutakawa forest, pohutakawa are known as the New Zealand Christmas tree for their red flowers which cover them at Christmas time. There are rata, wild orchids, a kowhai grove where the native tui get drunk on the flowers' sweet nectar, and even, strangely, alpine moss.  
Plants establishing themselves in the lava fields.  
It is interesting how plants adapt to different environments, even mangroves, which normally grow in mud, can be seen growing on the volcanic rock at the water's edge.

One thing I noted was how few birds were on the island, the reason being that there is little food and no fresh water source.  I did however spot some tui, a fantail and  sea gulls. The island is also predator free.
What a view!
At the summit of Rangitoto I spent some time admiring the expansive view of Auckland and surrounds, enjoying the perfect day and reluctant to leave.  Eventually I set off again taking the detour 200 metres down the mountain to explore the lava caves. These are tubes formed when molten lava cooled forming a crust while hot liquid lava continued to flow underneath.  Visitors can walk through the caves however do bring a torch or cell phone to light your way...they are very dark. The landscape around the caves is primeval and magical.






Left: A view through one cave and into another


Right: Moss and gnarled roots surround the caves







Back at the base of the mountain I took a walk along the coastal  path to look at the historic baches.  A bach is the New Zealand term for a simple holiday home and comes from a time when single men, or bachelors, were housed in small, plain accommodation huts at forestry and mining sites. In the 1920s and 30s around 140 baches were built along the shore line of Rangitoto on leased land. There were a number of permanent residents on the island although many of the baches were used as holiday homes and fishing retreats.  
Bach #38 open to the public on some summer Saturdays - note the volcanic coastline
When the leases ran out in the 1970s and 80s it was decided by the government not to renew them and to demolish most of the baches to preserve the integrity of the island,  now only 35 remain, protected with  heritage status.  Back in the 1930s it was a lively little community where dances and parties were held on long summer nights, now it is sleepy and sparsely populated, a quiet echo of times gone by.  In this age of ever increasingly stylish and grand holiday homes they are a nostalgic reminder of the holiday homes I stayed in as a child.  Bach number 38 was built in 1937 to house the island's first caretaker and is open to the public on some Saturdays through summer. It is well worth a look as an example of a simpler life.
Inside Bach #38 and the old cooker still works well



















 Then it was back on the ferry to return to Auckland. I was thrilled with my day on Rangitoto and won't leave it so long before I go back again.  I suppose it is the old story of taking things for granted when you see them every day so I would encourage everyone, Aucklanders, New Zealanders and tourists alike to get over to Rangitoto for a close look at a truly fascinating island.

Note:  For those less able there is a 4 wheel drive road train, with a full commentary, to take you to the summit.

There are no shops on the island so you must take all refreshments with you and take all rubbish home



Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Sculptureum - A unique sculpture garden and art gallery, Auckland, New Zealand

If you are looking for a perfect day trip from Auckland you shouldn't go past The Sculptureum at Matakana, around an hour's drive north of the city. If you follow this blog you will know that I love sculpture gardens and sculpture trails because they combine two of my favourite activities - walking and enjoying art.  At The Sculptureum I was in heaven, this is the best combination of both I have ever seen. Ever since the Sculptureum opened early in  2017 I had been itching to visit and having family visiting from the UK recently gave me the perfect opportunity.  What a unique and wonderful place it is.




Successful lawyer and keen art lover, Anthony Grant,  had spent many years collecting art to the point where he had so much he had to store it in warehouses.  Eventually he felt it was time to share his collection with the public so he and his wife, Sandra, spent around 10 years developing these beautiful and unique gardens and galleries. They chose the name Sculptureum, a combination of sculpture and museum, to reflect the idea that his gardens are a repository for museum quality sculpture and art. They intended it to be colourful, whimsical, fun and enriching. It is all of these things.




The three immaculately groomed gardens are diverse and broken  into themes including the classical
garden, a philosophical garden, a whimsical garden, a palm garden and the famous pink snail garden. There are live birds in aviaries, turtles in eye level tanks and rabbits which are housed in a cleverly designed, escape proof run called Rabbiton. The six galleries display glass art, abstract art, and art made from recycled materials. Thrillingly there are pieces by Picasso, Cezanne and Rodin along side inexpensive but quirky works included just for fun. The centrepiece of one gallery is the astonishingly beautiful large glass chandelier by artist Dale Chihuly


And here I am just hanging out with Mark Twain


Left: Some quotes in the philosophical garden










The snail garden is very popular with visitors.  Note the meerkats up a tree in the background and the bright red pig to the side.  There is something to see everywhere you look.
Dale Chihuly's chandelier


Wind tree from recycled material









This goat is made from hundreds of forks











  Since we had a four year old in tow we intended to spend only a couple of hours at The Sculptureum but ended up spending around three and a half.  The four year old loved it.  There were plenty of magical, whimsical pieces to keep her happy and, of course the rabbits. 

There is also an excellent quality restaurant on site called Rothko where you can have meals or simply light refreshments.  

My photos really don't do these gardens and galleries justice. I was so busy and happy looking I forgot to take photos.  

The Sculptureum is a world class attraction and an absolute must if you are visiting Auckland for a few days.  I can't wait to go back and now have it firmly on my list of things to do with overseas visitors.

The Sculptureum is at 40 Omaha Flats Rd, Matakana, North of Auckland
Open: Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Closed: Tuesday and Wednesday 
Buy tickets on line @ www.sculptureum.co.nz

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Byodo-In Temple, Oahu, Hawaii

Nestled at the foot of the magnificent, soaring mountain range of Ko'olau, near Kane'ohe Bay, lies the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. Within the park is the tranquil and beautiful Byodo-In Temple.   It is one of my favourite places in Hawaii.
The magnificent Byodo-In Temple under the misty mountains of  Ko'olau
The temple is a half size replica of the original, World Heritage listed, 900 year old Byodo-In temple in Kyoto, Japan and is a fine  example of the symmetry of Heian architecture. It was built and dedicated in 1968 to celebrate the centenary of the arrival of the Japanese in Hawaii. The Japanese originally arrived  to work the sugar cane and pineapple plantations and their early years were difficult, marred by poverty, hardship, and prejudice. The temple is an acknowledgement of those early days, of their hard work and of the gifts they brought to the culture of Hawaii.


The temple is a non-denominational Buddhist temple, it does not have  a community of monks or a local congregation, and is open to everyone of all faiths from all over the world for prayer and meditation. Thousands of people visit it every year.
My Grandson ringing the peace bell. I hope he has the peace and good fortune promised
Built from concrete the 11,000sq ft (1000 sq metre) temple houses an 18 toot tall  (5.5metres) statue of Buddha covered in gold and lacquer while the lush, serene gardens surrounding the temple contain large koi ponds, a three ton peace bell and a small meditation pagoda.

I highly recommend a visit to Byodo-In to enjoy its peace and tranquility, to take a step back from the fast pace of life, to listen to the bird song and the gently flowing stream, to admire the carp and to mediate for a while. It is also said that ringing the huge bell will bring you peace and good fortune, now that has to be worth a visit, doesn't it?


Above: carp ponds      Right: the meditation pagoda

Byodo-In 47-200 Kahekii Highway, Kane'ohe
Open daily 9am to 5pm                                     
 Admission : $3 per adult $1 per child                  

Monday, 20 August 2018

Waikiki - Should you return to a place that holds magical memories?

Thirty years ago my husband and I took our sons to Hawaii for two weeks. We rented an apartment in Waikiki and, much to the boys, (all the boys!), delight, hired a bright red Mustang convertible.  We did all the sights; Pearl Harbour, Sea Life Park,  a walking tour of Chinatown, downtown Honolulu, the Bishop Museum. We snorkeled at Haunama Bay and drove right around the island of Oahu with the hood down, the boys squashed in the back and all of us singing at the top of our lungs. We visited Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline, where we ate the famous snow cones with sweet beans at the bottom and stopped at a quiet local beach where we ate coconuts fresh from the tree.  We were enchanted by the Byodo-In temple, had lunch at The Willows restaurant and were privileged to see the famous musician Irmgard Farden Aluli perform there. The boys reveled in Perry's Smorgy's 'all you can eat' buffet and were thrilled to buy a 6 pack of coke for a dollar (even then that was an amazing bargain). Every afternoon, around 4pm, when the day was a bit cooler, we went to the beach and swam or sat on the sand outside the Royal Hawaiian watching people waltz and foxtrot at the tea dances held in the hotel ballroom. We loved people-watching on the beach, there seemed to be a constant stream of fascinating characters passing by.  On our way home we picked and poked in the small shops and stalls at the International Marketplace.  It was a marvelous, magical family holiday and despite the fact that the whole family is now much traveled this is the holiday we often talk about.


















    Above: 30 years ago, me and my boys at 444 Nahua, our apartment.

Right: 2018 my sons were keen to revisit 444 Nahua to remember good times  







Left: 30 years ago, my husband and son at Byodo-In temple

Right: 2018 my son and grandson in the same spot










So, should we return? Would things have changed so much our memories would be ruined? My late husband refused to return for that reason.  He cherished the memories and wanted it to stay that way. However, recently I had a special birthday and wanted to have the whole family together.  Since one son and his family live in England and myself and a son and his family live in New Zealand I was searching for a family friendly place, sort of central, where we could all meet and Hawaii seemed to be the obvious destination.

There are nine in our family, four children and five adults, so we booked two apartments at The Embassy Suites, Waikiki, one road back from the beach. Embassy Suites is family friendly with a generous breakfast included in the price and the best happy hour I have ever come across - drinks are free for two hours every evening! Our days were happily busy, plenty of time for the children to swim in the pool and time for sightseeing as well.  Some of the family went to Pearl Harbour and we all took an excellent round island tour one day. We watched the Hilton Village's fireworks from the beach one night and during the day walked along the beach watching the multitude of surfers riding the waves. We had cocktails at the Royal Hawaian and at The House Without a Key and drank cool juices and beer at Maui Brewing and The Yard Bar. We had professional photos taken at the beautiful Kahala Resort and drove there in a stretch limousine, since the hotel told us it would cost the same as two taxis!  That was fun and a novel experience for the children. We rode the Waikiki Trolley and shopped at the vast Ala Moana Mall and the Waikele Outlets. We enjoyed the band playing by the pool each evening and took full advantage of Happy Hour while the children swam or ran races or danced to the music.


Palm trees, golden sand, balmy temperatures, trade breezes....what's not to love?
My birthday was very special and everything I could possibly wish for especially having my family together. I woke to find the lounge full of pink balloons and a cake with, I forget how many candles on it 😉. The children were fizzing with excitement.  I love how children enjoy birthdays regardless of whose it is. That evening my family took me to a luau at the Hilton Hotel.  It was an absolutely wonderful evening with great food, music, hula dancing and entertainment all under a stunning sunset and then a clear, bright starry sky. Walking back to our hotel that evening I felt incredibly blessed to have such a lovely family and such a perfect birthday. It was romantic walking along the beach under the stars with waves gently shhhhing on the shore and the faint sounds of Hawaiian music floating across the water from the hotels.


Happy Birthday, Grandma!

So, back to my question: "Should you return to a place that holds magical memories?" 


Waikiki has changed substantially from the Waikiki of 30 years ago.  It is busier, there are more people and more traffic but it still manages to retain a laid back charm somehow. There is a happy vibe about the place.  Perry's Smorgy has gone, although judging by the queues outside Eggs and Things that must be the new 'popular'.   There are many, many places to eat, you are spoilt for choice. Unfortunately the  International Market Place has been demolished and replaced by a large modern mall which is just a replica of the many other malls around Waikiki.  I had read differing reports about The Willows restaurant which had been fantastic 30 years ago so rather than destroy that memory we decided not to return there. It may still be good, I don't know.
My husband and sons at The Willows August 1988

Much of the beach along Waikiki is sadly diminished after several big storms and general erosion over the years.  On our first trip it was wide and safe with a gentle slope off into the sea, now it is narrow and has a very steep drop off in places, too dangerous for our young children to swim in, but there are plenty of spots they can.  The tea dances at the Royal Hawaiian are now a thing of the past too. Our accommodation was superb and the free fireworks on the beach were fun. We were there for just one week and had two very young children in tow so had less time and flexibility to do all the things we had done 30 years ago. Nevertheless it was a fantastic family holiday and we were glad we had returned enjoying it just as much as the first time but differently. My well traveled eldest grandchild summed it up " That is the best holiday I have ever had!" So, we made new memories which in no way alter our original ones and they are memories our whole family can share. I have to admit I felt deeply nostalgic at times, though, thinking of the times spent there with my husband and youngest son, both, sadly, no longer with us.
Preserve those memories

I think the key to enjoying a return visit to a place of magical memories is not to expect it to be the same and not to try to replicate your first holiday there.  We did things differently but enjoyed some of the places and memories from the past. It was the perfect way to celebrate my birthday.


At my birthday luau, Waikiki Hilton

Monday, 18 June 2018

A Foodie Weekend in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Recently I went to visit my cousin, John and his wife, Jan, in their new home in Napier. They had relocated from Auckland about a year ago so I was looking forward to seeing them and learning about their new life in  Hawkes Bay.  As it turned out my short visit evolved into a fantastic foodie weekend.  It hadn't really been planned that way but like all the best getaways, one good thing led to another.
Stunning views of the central North Island mountains from my flight to Hawkes Bay
A glorious sunny winter's day was a perfect start to the weekend as we headed out to the small seaside settlement of Clifton to get a view of the large gannet colony of Cape Kidnappers. 


The gannet colony of Cape Kidnappers on the Hawkes Bay coast
 Keen for a coffee, after a stroll along the shore, we spotted a cafe in a converted house set back across a field.  How fortuitous! Hygge at Clifton Bay was a delightful find.  Open for only three weeks the cafe is a new venture for former orchardist, Kerry and his school teacher wife, Robyn Brannigan. The whole aim of their cafe is to create a cosy, welcoming place of comfort, peace and enjoyment following the Danish principles of Hygge.  They have managed to achieve this and then some. With its wide views out to sea, comfortable settees, roaring log fires and scrumptious food - you must try the fig and date scones! - I could have happily spent an afternoon there. It was new to John and Jan too and they said that from now on it will be high on their list of places to take visitors.
A cosy corner of Hygge at Clifton Bay
But we had more foodie experiences to come so after a visit to the delightful and quirky potter, Maggie Taylor at MT Pots at Te Awanga, we headed to the nearby Clearview Estate Winery for lunch. I really enjoy winery lunch platters.  I think they are the perfect lunch and Clearview produces a particularly good one.  Here it is:

Hohepa feta and peperonata salad
Chicken liver pate
Barrel smoked marinated mushrooms
Chilli garlic fried prawns and chorizo
Prosciutto
Spice roasted olives and whole almonds
Sundried tomatoes
White bean dip
Cumin crackers and fresh baked bread

We washed it all down with their delicious Black Reef Blush Rose 2017

Yours truly with my cousin and his wife at Clearview Estate

Feeling well satisfied with our foodie morning we returned home for an
afternoon of rest and relaxation.


The next morning we set out for the Hawkes Bay Farmers Market.  I'm a great fan of farmers' markets and I think the Hawkes Bay Market has to be one of the best in New Zealand.  In summer the stalls are set up outside under large shady trees but this is winter so it was held inside in spacious pavilions. It is always a pleasure to wander around a market, meet with the producers of a diverse range of fruit, vegetables, meats and artisan products, have the odd tasting and listen to music in a relaxed atmosphere. 
Sauces, jams, mustards, pickles, at Hawkes Bay Farmers Market
It was also a pleasure to meet Jan's brother, stall holder, Clyde Potter, owner and director of The Chef's Garden @Epicurean and to view his lush, fresh, organic vegetables and selection of heritage seeds. Once laden with goodies we headed home to offload them before going out to lunch.


A selection of Clyde Potter's organic vegetables




















Then we were off to the Philippine Restaurant, PAK, at West Shore, Napier, to attend a FAWC, ( Food and Wine Classic) event. This festival offers restaurants the opportunity to showcase their cuisine.  The atmosphere at PAK was convivial with diners seated together at long tables. The restaurateur started proceedings with a short talk on the Philippine style of cooking, the ingredients used and the philosophy behind it. As the meal progressed she  introduced each course with a description and short explanation. There were six courses in all:


Lumpiang Sariwa - Fresh vegetable spring rolls with sweet garlic sauce and peanuts
Patotin - Sous vide duck with asuete paste, cane vinegar and vegetables
Pochero - Beef bone broth with bone marrow
Fish - Gurnard with eskabeche sauce and vegetables
Lechon Baboy - Slow roasted suckling pig with vegetables and condiments
Biko - Sticky rice cake with coconut cream, and anise 

Gurnard with Eskabeche sauce

It was a pleasant surprise since I had never eaten Philippine cuisine before. The main features of Philippine food are the three flavours of sweet, sour and salty and a generous use of vinegar.  Dipping sauces are typical and something sweet is often paired with something salty so it is not unusual to be served mangoes dipped in salt. The result is unusual but very, very tasty. I will certainly eat Philippine food again whenever I can so I guess you can say the FAWC festival was great advertising for PAK restaurant and their particular style of cuisine. It was a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon - great food, excellent company and a convivial atmosphere. Amazingly it turned out that one of the friendly, chatty people sitting next to us was a relative, by marriage, of my late husband. 
Lechon Baboy - slow roasted suckling pig at PAK
To round off a great weekend we went for a couple of walks - well we needed to after that eat fest! - and spent time chatting, relaxing and catching up on news.  All in all a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. It was so good to spend time with relatives, who are also good friends, and to revisit part of the country I am very fond of. The fact that we got to enjoy some outstanding food was a major bonus.

Hawkes Bay Farmers Market is open on Sundays from 8.30 to 12.30