How long is forever? Sometimes just one second

Hello!

On this rainy Sunday, let’s talk about another wet land: the glaciers of New Zealand! Franz Joseph was on top of our Must See list as we started in NZ. My brother had contacted me a few days prior to our arrival in the glaciers zone to say happy birthday of course but also to tell me he wanted to offer me a sky dive experience… What better place to do it than in the glaciers?? Don’t get too exited, it did not happen… First, my mad foot needed to be cured ASAP. 15 days of antibiotics and a traumatizing egg bursting later, all that was left of the poisonous spider was an enormous scar, still visible as of today. Second, the impossible weather. Foggy, raining and windy, what was the point?? Third, probably my lack of confidence in my ability to jump from a plane…

Both time I went to Franz Joseph I first had a stop in Hokitika. It is only after wandering in the ‘city’ the second time around that I had to admit I had already been there, once, when the Intercity bus took a two hours break… Lonely Planet says it is a nice place, worth to spend one or two nights, and that’s about the only thing I’ve been mad at them about. Because Hokitika may have plenty to offer, I absolutly hated it. Can’t get anymore boring, wondering in the city on a Monday with everything closed. Sunset viewpoint yes, but not enough to make it a stop! We were staying at a lovely hostel though,Birdsong Backpacker. We had one of the private rooms, that actually consisted of two rooms and a bathroom. The common area is fully opened on the coast with a very nice kitchen, there is a balcony bif enough to have a meal or read a book in the sun.

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So as I’ve mentionned before, the first morning we woke up in the glaciers it was raining a bit… To say the least… Very foggy on top of it. We only had one day and two nights planned in Franz Joseph so we had no choice but to go for it anyway… The man from the hostel told us ‘when it rains, the glaciers is blue’, so why not? We were with that French girl then, that we met back in Punakaiki, Laurence, that had the same itinerary as us up to that point. We took all our strength to get in the shuttle that was to take us to the glacier site, armed with the huge umbrellas the hostel had landed us. Downpours of rain by the time we arrived, so much fog we couldn’t see anything. Did not matter, we did the hike as far as it is allowed, and yet, we did not see the glaciers… However, we met a group of 3 guys, the only ones on the trail. One English man that had been travelling for 8 years in a row, one crazy german guy, Oscar, who had spent the past 6 months in a tent , the only human being that I’ve met that claims to actually have seen a wild kiwi one night he was camping in the woods, and A., the cutest English man I had the opportunity to meet! They stayed at our hostel then and it is one of the best nights we had on the trip! That’s when I started to understand how amazing it is to meet people on the road, people you are going to share your entire life story and all your dreams with for just one night, wake up the next day and leave without a word of goodbye and later realize you don’t even know there names. These nameless people are the ones I remember the best. And Oscar and his rainbow world of course…

We were staying at the Chateau Backpackers, hostel that we only picked because of its name. Very cheap, free soup, what more could we ask for? The dorms were very basics, although we did have a girls only dorm, but it is one of those hostels were you just feel at home. Very homelike kitchen where they serve free soup everynight, they also have a ounge room with a huge flat TV screen and tons of DVD to borrow for free. Of course we watched the Lord of the Rings, with some free pop corn offered by the hostel for those who want to spend some time watching movies. There is a room downstairs that I called the Fire Room, with obsviously a fire and stuff to hang your wet clothes, and sofas to have a read while warming up. By the time we arrived that night after the hike in the rain, this room was unapprochable because of the horrendous smell of wet dirty socks…  The manager is lovely, there is a hot tub, there is nothing wrong I can really say about that place. Just go and try it for yourself!

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But, I took a detour by the glaciers once again when my mom came to visit, I would have hated to stay on a failure like that… The glaciers are, I find, a very unusual sight in the rest of New Zealand. I still don’t really understand what they are doing there, but what I know is that they are slowly disappearing. They say slowly but I was astouned by it actually, I think the glaciers decrease by something like 20 meters each year.

One more thing about Franz Josef: Picnics Bakery.

Cheers!

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Heading south

Hello!

Hump day YAY!!

In early September, I was lucky enough to move my little brother in his new flat, where he would start off university. We took the car, both of us and the rest of his stuff, and drove all the way down to Bidart, a good 5hours from where we live.

Bidart is in that beautiful surfing region, area code starting in 64, region that we name: le pays basque. As sad as I was to let my last brother go, after years sharing our home, watching movies and picking ridiculous little fights, I was very happy with that short week end, and I did not have any worry the day I left him in the rugby territory of france.

Bidart is a small village, very basque, counting no less than 3 frontons! A fronton is the name they give the field for that very tipycal basque sport: la pelote basque. I know what it looks like but I’ve never actually seen anyone play that game, I think that would be an experience and I hope I will have the opportunity while he is down there to see a game.

It is a surfing coast as I said, very dramatic landscape, very green with a lot of gorgeous beaches and huge houses.

If you have a chance to go down there, remember to try a gateau basque, the traditonal cherry cake from the local boulangerie.

That was a lot of Frenchness for one day, I hope I made it interesting enough!

Cheers!

M.

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Bidart's boulangerie

Bidart’s boulangerie

One of bidary's fronton

One of bidart’s fronton

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Nothing can bring you peace but yourself

Hello Friday!

I’ve enjoyed my first day of freedom today, as I’m done working at the shop. I will be moving on to a new job on Tuesday, job that is just about everything I’ve never wanted for myself… But it is a job and that is all that matters, a new beggining sort of, and that will give me some time to think about how I really want to play my life from now on…

So I left you last week with Tangariro National Park, and I hope you enjoyed the post because really, I can’t say it enough, it is one of those places you want to see at least once before you die.

From National Park, we took a bus to Turangi, then another one to reach Wellington. It is quite a long way, it goes up and down the moutains, most times it is winding, some others it’s plain boring. Tipical New Zealand landscapes, I remember I was looking through the windows at the green hills covered with whites dots (aka sheeps) and I told myself ‘here it is, New Zealand, I want to remember that very bus ride, because it is everything I love about that country’.

I went twice to Wellington, both times only for the sake of taking the InterIslander to the other side… In December with Mom, we chose the very night of the World Premiere of the Hobbit to stay for the night, and I mention that because we had the biggest troubles finding a room… We finally found one at Nomad’s, the first and only time I stayed in a Nomad’s hostel, and they very nicely agreed to give us the very last double room for $115 (FYI, a double room at Nomad’s will never exceed $70). In the end, it was a very nice room, we had a lovely sleep but I would advise you never to approach the kitchen! I also tried Rosemere Backpackers, which was among Lonely Planet’s best hostels, but I wasn’t too impressed with it. First, it’s on top of a hill, try to get there carrying your backpack. Second, it is right outside of the free wifi zone (Wellington is a free wifi zone – don’t laugh, those who have traveled NZ will know how to cherish that info). Third, it was very noisy. What I liked was that it used to be a brothel, and that they painted everything purple and green inside. Oh, and free breakfast.

I found Wellington so amazing I regretted not to have had enough time to settle therefor a few months, take one more waitressing job and just enjoy myself for some time… The city is full of surprises, lots of shops and amazing cafes, restaurants and ice cream shops. My favorite part was the wharf, where we had the most amazing ice cream in NZ, at Kaffe Eis.

I really haven’t spent enough time in Wellington to say anymore about it, but here are some photos that will I hope make you want to take the trouble to stay a little longer than I did.

Cheers!

M.

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Slovakia Day 1

Hello!

Probably you all have heard at least once in your life about Slovakia… But little do we usually know about the country itself. I must confess here that all I knew about it was that it was in Europe. That’s in Salamanca that I met my friend N., in an Erasmus exchange just like I was, the loveliest girl I had met in a great many years.

It’s only when she invited to come and visit her that I did a bit of research, and knowing that it was part of the Union and even using the Euro, I jumped on a bus and met her in Bratislava. I couldn’t believe it when I realized the bus ride was going to be 24 hours, so I finally took a map and Slovakia is definitly a long way! I chose Eurolines as there was a bus from my city to Bratislava. I do appreciate the low cost that is Eurolines but I’ve always hated it as a transportation mean. I don’t know, there is always something very confusing about it. Probably the drivers being unable to speak English or any kind of language that most travellers can understand makes it always such a struggle and a worry not to hop on the wrong bus.

On my way to Slovakia, we had hungarian bus drivers speaking only hungarian, with a very old bus. That is one other thing I hate about Eurolines, you never know what sort of bus you are going to get. Some of them are brand new, free wifi and individual TVs, others are so old, very uncorfortable and way too small for the crowd they take in. We only stopped 3 times in 24hours – my bladder still remembers – and got stuck at the border with Germany for more than half an hour. Whatever happens to the ‘there are no borders in Europe?’

Anyway, it was well worth the trip, for Slovakia is a little hidden gem of Europe. I found life there very much simpler, very natural. My friend lives in Pezinok, around 20 minutes from Bratislava, a small city near the mountains, full of orchards, barking dogs and vineyards. My friend’s life is a lot of time with friends, the whole family in the neighborhood, walking the dog around the block and enjoying the sun in her backyard pool. I was welcomed in a very warm manner by everyone I met, everyone seemed so proud that a French girl would come and visit their small country when I felt like the lucky one having the chance to discover them! Everyone tried a bit of their English, which I really appreciated because boy! what a language! Everyone was interested to see what words I learnt and what I thought of their country! I have missed it for sure, it hit me straight in my face as soon as I found myself in France again, the grumpy mood of everyone around.

Here is a few photos of Pezinok to start with, there will be two more posts about Slovakia and one about Vienna to come in the next few days.

Cheers!

M.

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Cafe latte!

Cafe latte!

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Winery

Winery

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La Alberca

Hello!

A good three weeks already that I’ve left Spain, and I still have a few things I wanted to talk about here.

After our first stop in Ciudad Rodrigo, we headed to La Alberca, a tiny little village that my Dad really wanted to show us. Apparently, when he first went to visit it a good 30 years ago, La Alberca was the poorest place in Spain, stuck in the middle age, with no pavements at all, pigs running around the streets, and children playing in the mud.

La Alberca has changed an awful lot, and the first thing we’ve seen there, was a huge tourist bus parked in front of the village. It has been renovated keeping the old architecture, the streets are paved, and it is full of souvenir shops. It was a gorgeous hot day, we strolled along the streets and found the most amazing Jamon shop (ham). Only if you’ve been into one you’ll know the gorgeous smell of a good smoked Spanish ham. C., Dad and I went litterally crazy in there, bought tons of ham and chorizo to take home, but also enough to make the most delicious picnic of our lives! We first bought enough for the picnic and when we realized how little it actually cost us, we went back in there and bought the whole store. La Pata Negra, probably the most expensive ham – but so delicious – on the planet is originally from that region, if I am not mistaken.

We then drove to La Pena de Francia, which is a huge monastery on top of a mountain. The sky was very clear and my Dad was so exited to finally see it without fog. They say on clear days you can see all the way to the atlantic ocean, past Portugal. We drove drove drove up until maybe, 2km from the top when… the road was closed! No way, so close from our goal and yet unreachable… Of course you can climb to the top, but we did not have enough time ahead of us, so we just sat there, looking at it while devouring our ham and cheese…

As we were slowly driving back to Salamanca, we noticed a cherry tree packed with red cherries on the side of the road… Then another one, and another one, cherrie trees everywhere! Dad didn’t want us to eat them, he says it’s stealing, as far as I’m concerned I do not care! C and I went to pick a full bag of cherries!! All the branches on the side of the road weren’t holding any cherries so I guess we weren’t the only ones unable to resist their call…

Cheers!

M.

La Alberca

La Alberca

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La Pena de Francia

La Pena de Francia

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Travel theme: sculpture

Dunedin, NZ

Castle Beach, Dunedin, NZ

At the very end of the world, overlooking the immensity of the ocean that it faces, this rock has been sculpted by the years that went by. It has seen so much more than any human being could ever imagine, maybe that is why you feel forced to silence, when you reach that little beach, that uncovers only with low tide.

I miss NZ, every single day.

If you’re interested by the weekly travel theme, have a look here: Where is my backpack?

Cheers,

M.

Travel theme: Beaches

Thank you Where is my backpack? for this beautiful theme this week… Just what I needed!

I love beaches obviously, and I have a million photos from my trip Down Under, but I tried to narrow it down to the very best… My favorite beach in the whole world is the one from Fremantle, it is perfection itself: white thin sand with blue lagoon water. If I close my eyes and concentrate really hard, I can still feel how it was to walk on it, the freshness and pureness on my skin …

Freo <3

Freo ❤

No more for today, I hope these few pics will make you travel… We are having some sun in Salamanca for a couple of days, finally!!

I hope everyone is having a great week end as well, any great plans to share?

Cheers!

M.