Monday, 12 February 2018

Step Back in Time at The Howick Historical Village, Auckland

Three years ago I visited the marvelous historical village of Den Gamle By in Aarhus, Denmark. It was a wonderful experience and I wrote about it in a blog on 4/3/15 ( you may find this in the search box)  Last weekend, at a loss as to how to spend a dull and overcast afternoon, I decided to visit the Howick Historical Village, just a few kilometres from my home.  I had been there a few times previously but not for a number of years and I have to say I was enchanted all over again.  It is not on the scale of Den Gamle By but what it does it does extremely well.

Opened in 1980 and set on 7 acres adjoining Bell House, an elegant two storey home gifted to the historical society by the Bell family and now used as a restaurant, the village portrays a typical Fencible settlement between 1840 and 1880. 

Fencible settlers often had to live in tents while waiting for their cottages to be built.  it must have been a shock.

Some settlers lived in these raupo huts and had to wear raincoats to bed if it looked like rain!  Tough times!

The Fencibles, the name comes from the word defencible, were retired British soldiers who, together with their wives and children, were offered free passage to New Zealand in order to become a New Zealand defence force.   The Fencibles had to be no older than 48, industrious and of good character.  They were in effect military reserves in that they were expected to have some other sort of employment to complement their pensions and to be on call if needed. They were supplied with small cottages and an acre of land which became theirs after seven years of service, several of these cottages are now in the village.
The Puhi Nui Homestead of William McLaughlin (1861)

The kitchen in Puhi Nui
Today there are 30 buildings to explore ranging from raupo (reed) shacks to small two room cottages to two storey mansions, many donated by the original families.  Laid out as a typical settlement the village includes a church, a blacksmith's, a couple of school rooms, a courthouse, a pub and a water mill.   Apart from the raupo shacks the buildings are original, not reconstructions, which have been lovingly restored by craftsmen and a devoted band of volunteers.

John Bycroft's Flour Mill (1855)  Put a coin in to operate the water wheel.
The Howick Courthouse (1848), believed to be the oldest administrative building in New Zealand

I had a brilliant afternoon wandering the streets of the village.  Since the day threatened rain, although none came, there was no more than a handful of other people there and it was quiet and peaceful.  I had most of the houses to myself and took my time examining everything and exploring the history of those intrepid early settlers. The Pakuranga school room (not the one pictured) brought back memories of the 100 plus year old school room I was educated in at primary school, now sadly demolished.

Ararimu Valley School (1876) built from pit-sawn totara
The museum is open every day except Christmas Day, New Year's Day, ANZAC Day and Good Friday. Every third Sunday of the month there is a live day when volunteers dress in colonial costumes and the village comes alive with a working blacksmith, baking,  games and any number of other colonial activities, great fun to attend, I'm sure. That will go on my "to do" list. 

Howick Arms  (1848) Owen Lynch used one room of his tiny two room cottage as a licensed hotel

A view of the village across the lake, note the raupo hut to the right and the fencing to the left
The picturesque church is a very popular venue for baptisms and weddings and other parts of the museum are available for hire too. Extensive planting of heritage trees and crops together with free range chickens, hens and geese  add to the authenticity and general ambiance of the village 

There is an admission fee , free parking and a cafe on site that does not require an entry fee to the village. There is also a small toy museum where children can experience some of the games played in colonial times and they can marvel in the school rooms at the meticulous hand writing demanded of children back then.  Ah those were the days!  

Sweet dreams, baby.  A very practical colonial cradle

I loved my quiet stroll through history.  In this crazy modern world it is so good to reflect on quieter times even if the reality is that they were tough. Reflecting and sauntering in peace and tranquility was the perfect way to spend a dull afternoon and I am determined not to leave it so long between visits in the future.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Street Art of Glen Innes, Auckland - Bradley Lane

All over the world street art has become a popular way of bringing art to the masses.  Many cities now have art trails showcasing enormous murals covering the sides of buildings -  Berlin has the Dirkenstrasse area, Zagreb has at least 15 giant sized murals dotted around the city, Melbourne has murals throughout its Laneways, San Francisco has the Mission District and, of course, England has Banksy.  Auckland, New Zealand has the Bradley Lane project in Glen Innes.

Artists: Askew One and Elliot Francis Stewart
Started in 2013 by local artist, Gary Silipa, who had participated in mural projects in both New Zealand and overseas and was determined to create a similar project in Glen Innes it has now been running for 5 years and is going from strength to strength.  During Auckland's annual Art Week artists work on the walls of Glen Innes using them as giant canvasses for their art. People come to watch the artists at work and to view an indoor exhibition of their smaller works. There are also art talks in the spectacular Te Aro Arts Centre opposite Bradley lane.

Artist: Component
Glen Innes is a poor, working class suburb and the idea behind the project was to add life and colour to otherwise blank walls and to prevent them being tagged or graffitied.   Known as the Bradley Lane project, for the small alley like street where it began, murals done by both local and international artists now grace many walls around the township bringing to the community a sense of pride.

Artist: Andrew J Steel
It is well worth visiting Glen Innes to view these murals.  I live only a few kilometres away and until last weekend had never walked the alleyways and back areas to view this art.  I was gob smacked.  Bradley Lane is a  scruffy, back-of-shops area, with rubbish dumpsters outside most buildings, a bit of litter lying around and a general down at heel air but, wow!  the art!  It is amazing.
Artists: Misery and TomTom

Artist: Elliot Francis Stewart

Personally I think Glen Innes is missing a trick.  This project should be promoted all year round and the alleyway should be tidied up, that is the least the artists should expect. Putting it more fully on the map would bring a lot more visitors to the township. I encourage anyone interested in street art to go, you won't be disappointed just make sure you walk around every bit of the town centre, murals are everywhere, even in hidden corners and walk ways.

To get an idea of the Bradley Lane project scroll through just a few of the  murals below.  

Artist: Graffiti Murals

Artist: Berst
Artist: Gary Silipa

Artist: Elliot Francis Stewart
Artist: Beck Wheeler
Artist: Dside
Graffiti artist competing in a competition outside Glen Innes' stunning Te Aro Arts Centre

Sadly, Bradley Lane is the back area of shops and small businesses so some of  the murals are partially obscured by dumpsters and rubbish bins.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Waiheke Island - a jewel in Auckland's crown

It's a dilemma a lot of families must face - where to go on holiday when you have a small child who gets car sick just driving across your own city.  Luckily we have Waiheke Island, just 21.5 kms by sea from  our homes in Auckland so it was a no-brainer.  You can get there by passenger ferry from downtown, which takes around 40 minutes, or go, as we did, by car ferry which takes closer to an hour.  The car sick prone grandson was excited about "the boat that takes the car", had no tummy troubles and loved the whole adventure. We were off to a great start.
And we're off!
The minute you land on Waiheke you know you are on an becomes slower, more relaxed, its 40 kilometres of golden sand beaches beckon, the narrow roads ensure you drive at a more leisurely pace and the stresses of the city seem to simply melt away. It's great, just an hour from Auckland and you are in another world.

 The island has long been the hangout of artists, eccentrics, writers and alternative life stylers and there's still a bohemian vibe about the place, despite the fact that over the last 20 or so years increasing numbers of affluent Aucklanders and ex patriots have 'discovered' it. Now millionaires mansions nestle side by side with small artists shacks in a happy melting pot of island dwellers. Of the 9500 or so permanent residents around a 1000  commute to Auckland for work.  The 21 kilometre long island really is a place of two halves.  The western side is well populated with a great choice of beaches, restaurants, vineyards, and trendy shops, perfect for holiday makers to fritter the days away.  The eastern side of the island is mainly agricultural and more like the Waiheke I knew as a child; quiet, rural, and like the whole island, incredibly beautiful.

Oneroa Village has cafes bars, restaurants, shops, art galleries and stunning views

Yours truly at Wild on Waiheke
NB: They are not all mine!
A plump kereru in our garden
We rented a house with an expansive view over a nature reserve prolific with birdlife so enjoyed daily visits from beautiful native birds including tui and kereru (wood pigeons). With two small children in tow our days were spent mainly at the beach, building beach pools and sand castles, splashing in the shallows, and surfing in the small rollers breaking on the shore. Other times we  slurped on ice creams, settled for afternoon snoozes or fired up the barbecue and generally just hung out enjoying a glass of wine, the adults, that is!  One afternoon we visited Wild on Waiheke, a vineyard which offers wine and beer tastings, clay pigeon shooting, archery, and a children's playground. Tasting wine while watching happy children play is a great way to spend an afternoon.

 There are plenty of coffee bars on the island, all offering a delicious brew.  In the main village of Oneroa you are spoilt for choice.   Oneroa hums with visitors, (the island's population doubles in the holiday season), and the views from the main street are spectacular but at times its a bit too busy so coffee at the quaint Omiha Hall, in Rocky Bay, a quiet, more rural part of the island, is the ideal spot to just stop and smell the roses, metaphorically speaking.
Oneroa Grocer

Saturday Morning Ostend Market

If you want a taste of what some of the island's resident artists and writers have to offer go to the Saturday morning Ostend market, you'll be sure to pick up some good books, crafts or  sample some tasty snack food. Just down the road is a large, well stocked supermarket.

Years ago I used to enjoy a series of travel books which came under the title of "How to Get Lost and Found in....." The author, John McDermott, used to refer the coming of  city style services to holiday spots  as "The goodie, damn syndrome".  Goodie, you could now get everything you were used to getting at home and, damn, because now the holiday spot was losing some of its attraction as an off-the-grid, out-of-the-way, make-do spot.  I know what he meant, nevertheless it was mighty handy to pop into the supermarket for supplies.

Oneroa Beach
Waiheke truly is a magic destination.  It offers everything for a good holiday - food, wine, beaches, bush walks, art galleries and much more. When you have lived nearby and visited regularly over the years you can take a place for granted but because it was new to the children I saw it through fresh eyes and fell in love with it again.  Conde Naste, listed it as the 4th best island in the world in 2016, and Lonely Planet  listed it as the 5th best region in the world in 2016, so you just know that this is a place worth visiting.  I just hope that with the ever increasing number of tourists the island doesn't lose its charm.

Daughter-in-law and grandchildren building a beach pool at Palm Beach

So, thanks to my car sick prone grandson, we really did have the perfect family holiday and will certainly return.  

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Happy Christmas to all my wonderful readers

Well they sure seem to come around fast, these end of years.  No sooner have you cleared away the decorations and wrapping paper but Christmas seems to have arrived again.  Anyway, I'm not complaining, I love the feeling of goodwill, the excitement of children, the time spent with family and pondering the reason we celebrate Christmas.  You can keep your packed shopping malls and the frantic rush to get things done in preparation for the big day.  I like to prepare well ahead and then spend Christmas Eve relaxing with friends or family. 

 This year was different for us.  With a son visiting briefly from England in early December we decided to have our family Christmas dinner early.  It has been a fantastic feeling heading towards Christmas feeling calm and relaxed with time to spend strolling my local  beach in the hot summer sun.
My local beach this morning, Christmas Eve

I have enjoyed another year of writing this blog. It is a thrill to know it is read all over the world and that's what keeps me going and inspires me to do things to write about.  It is a great motivator and makes my life so much the richer, so thank you, thank you, thank you!

My readers over just the last two weeks have come from:

Australia                           Mexico
Bangladesh                      Netherlands
Belgium                             New Zealand
Canada                               Norway
Croatia                               Peru
Cuba                                    Phillipines
France                                Poland
Germany                           Portugal
India                                   Russia
Indonesia                          Spain
Ireland                               United Arab Emirates
Italy                                     Ukraine
Latvia                                 United Kingdom
Luxembourg                    United States

A Happy and  Blessed Christmas and a fantastic 2018 to you all!  Let's catch up again next year!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Alone at Christmas? Worried? Don't be, here are some handy hints to help you enjoy the day

  Christmas is a day for families and friends to be together so being alone on the day can be crushing. It doesn't matter why you are alone, it could be that you are traveling, or your children all live overseas, or you have recently lost your partner. Whatever the reason the key to enjoying the day is to plan ahead to make it fun and less lonely.  Here are a few ideas I have gathered together.  I hope they help.

My Christmas Wreath
1. Book yourself on a bus tour, a train trip or a cruise, depending on your finances.  Ensure it includes Christmas Day.  There will be a real spirit of camaraderie amongst your fellow travelers and you may even find it is one of your best Christmases ever.

2. Check into a hotel or even a back packers which is offering a Christmas dinner and enjoy the company of fellow dinners.

3. Volunteer to assist at one of the many charity Christmas dinners which you will find in most towns and cities.  Christmas is a time of giving so giving your time will be satisfying and fitting.

4. Invite your neighbours, even those you don't know and especially those alone, in for a drink before they head off to their celebrations.  One of them might even invite you to theirs. If having people in is not your thing perhaps you could call on them with small gifts and your Christmas wishes.

5. Visit a loved one's grave.   In New Zealand cemeteries are cheerful, happy places on Christmas day with groups of family and friends visiting and all willing to chat.  It sounds morbid but it isn't.  I do this every year and the spirit of happiness and goodwill there is quite uplifting.

6. Even if you are not religious, go to church.  Enjoy the Christmas carols, the joy of Christmas and the feeling of community.

7. Go for a walk and wish every one you meet "Happy Christmas".  You are bound to get merry greetings back and may even enjoy some conversations.

8. Relish being alone.  Eat what you want, listen to music you like, become absorbed in a TV movie, light candles, decorate the house. If this sounds lonely just visualise how fraught a big and noisy Christmas can be, especially when that difficult uncle turns up!

9. Spend the day planning something really special to look forward to.  It is  easy to become so lost in planning something on the internet that suddenly the day has slipped by.

10. Remember Christmas is just one day and tomorrow is another day.  The key is to plan ahead and to get out there.  Don't sit at home by yourself feeling miserable.

Please feel free to add your ideas in the Comments section.  

 And have the best, happiest, most wonderful Christmas!
St Heliers Bay, my local beach,  Because they always bloom at Christmas time
Pohutukawa are known as the New Zealand Christmas tree

Monday, 4 December 2017

Rhubabrb mojito recipe straight from my garden

Here in Auckland the days have been long, hot and sunny, perfect weather to be out in the garden enjoying nature.  It is my happy place. I love pottering around on my own, thinking my own thoughts and tending my plants.  Each day I am accompanied by a plump, glossy feathered tui which sits in the tree above me and sings melodiously as I work.  At the end of the day a long cold drink is just the ticket.  What better than a rhubarb mojito with both rhubarb and mint from my garden?  You'll find the recipe at the end of this post.

A corner of my garden
This year I have planted beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuces, capsicums, potatoes, spring onions, butternut and corn so I'm looking forward to many fresh, home grown  salads through summer.   Healthy crops of silverbeet and rhubarb lord it over my garden beds and many different herbs pop their heads up here and there.  My peach tree and blueberry bushes are covered in fruit and my lime, lemon and mandarin trees are covered in blossom.  It is a joy to see plants bloom, develop and then fruit and to gain the enormous satisfaction of picking dinner straight from the garden. 

Spring onions and rosemary and, right, rhubarb
 I always put in a few flowers  here and there.  They attract bees for pollination and add a lovely splash of colour to an otherwise green garden.

I grew this begonia from a bulb.
The flower is 15cm across

Silverbeet, always on hand

And here is the promised recipe:


Cut up 4 stalks of rhubarb and place in a saucepan with 3/4 cup of sugar  2 cups of water, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and a 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg.  Bring to the boil and simmer for several minutes until the rhubarb is soft. 
Strain through muslin or a very fine sieve and place in the fridge until very cold. Save the rhubarb pulp to use as a desert with ice cream, yoghurt or custard.

There will be enough syrup for several mojitos.

When syrup is cold assemble the mojito

Place 5 or 6 mint leaves in the bottom of a glass with a tablespoon of lime juice and some lime zest . Muddle well (I use the end of a wooden spoon for this) making sure the mint is well bruised and torn to release the flavour.  Pour in 2 ounces of rhubarb syrup and 1 ounce of white rum.  Add plenty of ice and top with plain sparkling water or soda water for a long refreshing drink.

Decorate with a rhubarb stalk as a stirrer and a sprig of mint.  Adjust syrup and rum to taste.  Enjoy!

#rhubarbmojito  #rumandrhubarb  #gardening

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Sydney, Australia - The Chinese Garden of Friendship

Tucked away in the back corner of Darling Harbour is, to my mind, one of Sydney's best attractions.

The Chinese Garden of Friendship was a gift to Sydney from its sister city, Guangzhou, in southern China. It was designed and built in the 1980s in recognition of the large Chinese community living in Australia and also as a celebration of Australia's bicentenary. It is a glorious oasis of peace, calm and beauty.

The dragon wall depicts Guangdong, the brown dragon and New South Wales, the blue dragon
 They are playing with the pearl of friendship.

Covering one hectare the garden has been laid out using the Taoist principles of Yin and Yang and the five elements of earth, fire, water, wood and metal.  The idea behind these principles is to emphasise Qi, that is the force of life and energy. Everything in the garden has been chosen to reflect the five elements and the life force which, when combined together, create harmony .

Surrounding a large central lake, fed by a gushing waterfall, the garden provides everything from a tranquil black bamboo grove, a bonsai corner, carefully placed rocks and sculptures, to several pavilions for viewing the lake, the koi carp and the lotus blossoms. At the highest point of the garden is The Gurr, or Pavilion of Clear View which provides a panoramic view of the garden and is embellished with intricate wood carvings, a golden roof and an ornate lantern, a symbol of prosperity.

I love this garden.  It is a perfectly formed, serene, corner in a big and bustling city. At $6 admission, little more than the cost of a coffee, you can spend a quiet hour soaking up the beauty of nature and enjoying refreshments (for an extra charge) in the large traditional tea pavilion on the edge of the lake. It is the perfect place to just pause a while. The afternoon I was there I saw only a few other people, apart from a Chinese wedding party having photos taken against a background which, no doubt, made them feel at home.  I have visited these gardens twice and intend to make them an essential part of any trip I make to Sydney.  #chinesegardenoffriendship