Saturday, August 20, 2016


We have not lived in the wild, or in camper-vans, or in Youth Hostels, (they call them backpacker hotels here) where the wild life is always heard loud and late.  It doesn't matter, New Zealand is a wild country.  It has wild oceans, volcanoes, thermal geysers and birds a plenty.  It has seals, whales, dolphins and penguins.  We have come here late spring/early summer and the winds can blow.  It can also be as beautiful a place as we have seen.  Miles and miles of unspoilt country beckoning us to drive spectacular drives, walk the best designed nature trails in the world and be left completely breathless, figuratively and literally.

It's been awhile since we last posted - bad internet and just plain tired after days of hiking/walking through the bush and rainforests of NZ.  We now have good internet, so there are no more excuses....

Waterfalls are everywhere, above is in Milford Sound

Taupo / Rotorua have thermal geysers scattered throughout and it looks like the towns are on fire.   It's crazy wild "tramping" with craters that are boiling and steaming around you.  

Kaikoura was one of my favorite towns we visited -the town itself was small and unimposing, but the wild life seen here was phenomenal ....

Let's start with the seals - can you tell the difference between a seal and a walrus?

An incredible hike was to visit the Ohau Stream seal pups!  During winter hundreds of New Zealand fur seal pups travel up stream and interact socially with each other while their mothers are feeding at sea.  We must have stayed for an hour watching them in awe...

Picton Sound

All through New Zealand are wonderful walking trails, many through rain forests and wild bush.  We always felt safe because New Zealand has no harmful animals like poisonous snakes, scorpions, or venomous insects. 

Deer we thought were wild but not,  Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen live in New Zealand during the off season and are now heading to the North Pole.

Abel Tasman National Park

We are at the "Pancake Rocks" in Punakaiki on a rainy day.  
Rich was excited to get there and broke a tooth --- come on, we all know you are brighter than that....

These stacked rocks were 30 million years in the making from dead marine creatures and plants under the seabed which turned into layers of limestone that emerged to look  like a stack of pancakes.

There are blow holes at high tide that are extremely impressive here too

These are the pancakes Rich knows best!

I have never seen Penguins in the wild, unfortunately like my Kiwis, all we saw were signs

The kids are pretty wild here, most travel in packs on buses that cater to the youth.  They hop on and off a bus and stay in an area as long as they like.  Daughter Renata traveled this way last year when she was here.

Ahhh!  This is the kind of wild life I enjoy - wild crayfish with garlic butter!!

Summer in New Zealand with all the wild flowers in bloom!

Southwest New Zealand is one of the great wilderness areas of the southern hemisphere and is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990.

Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand's Southern Alps

Our "hostel" in Queenstown!  Mind boggling "Lord of the Ring" views....

The Pohutukawa Tree is New Zealands native Christmas Tree.  The wildly beautiful tree blooms bright red flowers in December and is found all over New Zealand.  Driving along the coast we saw spectacular blooms of trees much larger than the small one pictured.

We got a little wild in Dunedin and went to the Speight's Tour.  At the end of the tour, John our tour guide taught us to pour a proper drink and said "Have at it- drink as much as you can before the next tour group comes in...."  We were the last tour group of the night : )

Still on the hunt for Kiwi......

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Basque Country Buffet

We had a computer crash while travelling - so we will get ourselves caught up!  Currently, we finished 2 years of travelling and have come back to San Diego, California to spend the holidays with family and friends and make plans for 2016!

Happy-Hour-Heaven!  Never in my life have I witnessed such a display of food.  The variety and quality of small appetizers called Pintxos (pronouonced pinchos) overwhelm you. Door after door of welcoming culinary buffets.  25-30 platters of fish, pimentos, jamon, chorizo, bruchettas, vegetables, prepared in many different ways, with more arriving from the kitchen.  Each kitchen daring the other restaurants to match their gastronomic efforts.  Swine and Dine shangri la.  Ahhhh.

In search of the next Pinxto Bar - so many to choose from, so little time!


Of course Richard couldn't wait to share the "Swine and Dine" experiences  San Sebastian is known for.  In fact, the city holds the 2nd highest Michelin Stars per capita in the world.  On our budget, we went to the popular Pinxto Bars and ate to our tummies content...

- Rich, "I'll take one of each"  - Bartender, "Help yourself to as much as you want.  When you are done, we count the toothpicks and you are charged 2 Euros per toothpick."  
It was an expensive night....

Before San Sebastian though, I don't want to forget the few days we spent in Bilbao - the largest city in the Basque Country (and at one time known for the commerce of iron ore and  renowned for their ironwork of swords in the 16th century called "Bilboes")

We walked the city along the estuary and crossed back and forth over the 17 bridges Bilbao is known for....

The colorful La Salve Bridge

We walked through the streets of the Old Town....

...and experienced the gothic St. James Cathedral...

..... to the modern Guggenheim museum...

The amazing Guggenheim Museum -a must see if you make it to Bilbao!

Now back to San Sebastian....

Not only is San Sebastian known for good eating it is known as the place to vacation for the people of Spain.  Beautiful playas or beaches, 

Thomas and Amaya are a young Basque couple that invite strangers into their home to share a Basque meal.... long as you help of course!  Checkout how we cut the potatoes.  Insert a knife partway through the potato, then break off a piece of the potato in small chunks.  The broken edge of the potato allows the starch to be released into the soup efficiently. 

The menu was Snapper Basque Style and a Sofrito Soup with Chorizo.  Basque cooking is rustic without the use of spices.  The key ingredients are sweet paprika and Pimiento sauce.

Olive Oil, Onion, Chorizo Sausage, Potatoes, Sweet Paprika, Salt, and Water.  These few ingredients make for a very tasty soup or stew.

Simple Simple Simple - Fish laid over sliced potatoes fried in olive oil - thrown in the oven for 20 minutes and...

.... the chopped garlic fried in olive oil tops the fish!

Wow!  The smells coming from these 2 dishes make for a couple of happy people!!

The strangers - Jill, Barbara, Steph, Lauren, Rich, and myself became friends in the home of Thomas and Amaya over a wonderful Basque dinner and Spanish wine!  TOPA!!

We loved San Sebastian, but we were excited to get down to Madrid and meet up with Renata.........    So off we go!