Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Sounds of Istanbul


Sights, sounds and smells surround you, in a city hurting during this time of turbulent world events.

We have opted to stay away from Sultenhamet which is the tourist Mecca of Istanbul and found a stunning absolutely gorgeous hotel across the Golden Horn below the historic Galata tower – a monument built 600 years ago and now offers a stunning view of the city.
This hotel was once a bank and it’s opulent spaces, extremely high ceilings and acres of marble – plus stunning decor make this a very memorable stay.



I have a group of walkers and we have opted to walk the city along with the locals and stop at local restaurants to eat Turkish food with families.
Over the Galata bridge lined with fishermen catching little anchovy type fish (and even barbecuing them late in the night).Through narrow streets full of shops selling Turkish coffee, baclava and Turkish delight.
Tea sellers are everywhere with trays lined with little glasses filled with black tea.




Our eloquent, knowledgable, city guide Sirdat portrayed the life of Istanbul today and showed my tour group the major historical sites of the Byzantine period – Hagia Sophia (always being a standout ) and the beautiful mosaics of Chora.

Before lunch , Sidart took us to a poor neighbourhood built around the original city wall. Climbing the extremely steep steps we emerged on the top with an outstanding view of the city and a close up of the walls.


We ate again at Asitane – the quiet secluded restaurant beside Chora – where under the shaded trees we enjoyed food sourced from old Ottoman recipes.
I had an apple stuffed with cinnamon flavoured rice, pine nuts and currants.

The smell of barbecued meats fill the air . The call to prayer resonates through the city and the huge mosques dominate the skyline.

Istanbul can be a shock to the senses , but it is something I am willing to do time and time again .


Have a Beer not a Recce


‘Oh Dubai I am so lucky to visit you twice a year’

It was a little bit different on this trip since I only had two others stopping off for two nights in Dubai and it had to be my very best friends Hilda and Bruce .


My hotel is always in Downtown Dubai and it is so accessible to lovely casual Arabic restaurants like :
Wafi Gourmet and Baker and Spice – they are still my favourites and serve delicious Arabic cuisine, stunning salads and ‘can’t stop eating’ fresh warm pita bread. Both have a view of the famous fountain and an evening outside in these balmy temperatures is both relaxing and fun. This year the tallest building in the world ‘Burg Khalifa’ also put on an extraordinary lighting display up the full height of the building . Plus, they are within walking distance of the hotel for tired travellers from New Zealand .

After a few hours of retail therapy on our second morning , Bruce returned to the hotel for an afternoon beside the hotel pool while Hilda and I embarked a Recce !!!
Our destination was Jemeriah Beach Towers – We traveled by Mono Rail . Embarked two stops too far… Caught another tram and after retracing our steps found ourselves on the street between a Manmade canal, the highway and the monorail. There was no road side directions and after stopping a couple of people we were directed through a car park to emerge onto a boulevard ( full of Taxis… This is how people. Travel here obviously ).. One block away was the Gulf and a sandy beach heaving with people . A walkway along a coastal path past a humungeous number of restaurants on the right and the beach plus play activities on the left .. anything from multi trampolines, bouncy castles , sandy football pitches , to rows and rows of loungers ..
It was very hot and our aim was to find a ‘drink ‘ which in our terms was not a sickly sweet fruit punch but a beer and wine. That means you have to find a hotel and the Hilton sign loomed ahead.

Hilda and I spent the next hour sitting at the bar beside the beach – talking to our ‘mate’ from California about his life in Dubai.
It was fascinating and I think the best analogy he made was describing Dubai as a ‘Sanctuary’ – a city with 4.5 million people, 80% expat, all living in harmony working, earning and living in this tax free haven with wild terrifying atrocities going on all around them.
Weird yes . But the fabric of this city . Empowered by its amazing architecture, culture and wealth has created a tourism Mecca growing exponentially each year.
We were more succinct travelling back to Dubai Mall which by now was seething with people since it was Friday and a weekly holiday ( Friday and Saturday here )


There are lots of expat New Zealanders in Dubai and I miss my dear friends Lou and Peter who are responsible for helping me get to know Dubai so well.
Tonight I caught up with Deborah Nicholson from Dunedin – now nursing in Abu Dhabi and it was nice to show her my favourite haunts and chat over a glass of wine.

Turkey calls and once again my two night stopover has come up trumps and ‘done ‘ what it was meant to do. With the help of Dana my clever guide who turns Dubai into facts and history to the best hotel breakfast you can experience and a relaxing few hours by the pool surrounded by Dubai glitz and wow I can’t wait to return in August with another tour group.

Beach Forest Mushrooms

We recently spent the weekend at Lake Ohau. Sitting in the heart of the McKenzie Basin just below Lake Pukaki it is a small lake surrounded by mountains of the southern alps which would be covered in snow during the winter months and a good base for the Ohau Temple Basin Ski Field

Usually planning a weekend away means rushing to depart and arriving late. This was no exception.

Kurow was our destination of choice for dinner. I telephoned ahead so the kitchen would expect us. However, we didn’t expect  two pubs in Kurow. After starting at the wrong pub – where it was heaving with locals, young and old, farmers in their socks and all having a great time socialising and watching rugby on TV.  We certainly had a ‘good ‘ pub meal 50 m down the road at the Kurow Hotel.



We had another 45 minute drive  up to the end of Lake Ohau – staying at a property called:   ‘Lake Ohau Quarters ‘

This magnificent building was completed in 2012 – It sleeps 24 people in  purpose built accommodation for a crowd . They have thought of everything – from an extensive Kitchen, huge bunk rooms and private bedrooms, a massive lounge and dining room with vast windows to take in the view and heated with an enormous open fire and radiators lining all the walls.

Ohau 2

Honestly for a weekend with friends, or perfect extended family time or groups planning on skiing, biking and tramping this place is amazing. – check it out.

Our walk on Saturday after a good hearty breakfast  was up the Temple Stream, through an iconic New Zealand Beach Forest. The leaf litter on the forest floor was filled with all sorts of mushrooms – gorgeous to look at and photograph – but we really needed a book to identify the varieties . We took the line that they were all probably poisonous and enjoyed them in their natural habitat. We expected to see more birds but it was eerily quiet except for the odd little friendly robin.

Ohau 5


Ohau 3

There has been a lot of damage up this gorge from erosion and at some time this very placid trickling  stream must have been a raging torrent.

Two nights was all too short and stretching out on a couch in the late afternoon sun with a book and a glass of wine was rather heavenly. Our group had no trouble providing wonderful food –  from good old Bacon and Egg Pie and Frittata to Beef Fillet  and Quince tart plus extensive platters to accompany a few delicious wines.


Ohau 4

The huge  fireplace provided not only warmth but a cosy ambience. The 8 of us loved the vast living room and had no trouble relaxing, laughing and enjoying each others company.

As we drove back down the lake on Sunday we commented that it is amazing how after going away for what was a short two night stay, you feel like you have been away for ages. That is why we should take up those weekend breaks when they arise and visit a few of the ‘out of the way’ places available not too far away from home.