Foto Friday #11

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The Unicorn is a mythical creature, right? They are often associated with rainbows and fair maidens. Unlike most mythical animals which seem to be portrayed as scary and mean, the unicorn is usually considered gentle and good. Unicorn lore dates back several thousand years, but occasional “sightings” are still being reported today… like this one spotted at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival!

City Scene: Auckland

There are many reasons why I think Auckland, New Zealand is a delightful city. It is picturesque, vibrant and friendly; and it’s geologically fascinating as well, since it has two large harbors and was built on a large volcanic field. It is also where we met up with our brother-in-law and his new wife to begin a cruise around Australia and New Zealand together. They proved to be the perfect travel partners – pleasant and laid back – just like Auckland!

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We arrived at The Rendezvous Grand, a beautiful hotel superbly located in the cosmopolitan center of Auckland and within easy walking distance to numerous city landmarks. Our companions had arrived a day before us, but on the afternoon of January 3rd they were waiting in the hotel lounge where they welcomed us with a drink and a toast… cheers to a wonderful trip ahead!

The four of us spent the late afternoon and evening walking up Hobson Street, passed St. Matthew-in-the-City, around the Sky Tower Complex, and back down Queens Street jammed with shopping, art and nightlife. Along the way we found Federal Street, one of Auckland’s newer foodie precincts for dinner at an open-air restaurant, complete with friendly birds who were loitering at the table next to ours, no doubt hoping for food. It was a perfect evening to be outside, quite unlike the winter weather we left back home.

The next day we were rested and anxious to see the city. The first order of business was to book our Auckland City Express Tour. Lucky for us, a bus was scheduled to depart just as we walked to the counter for tickets. Better yet, we were the only ones there. Timing is everything! It turned out to be a private 3-hour tour showcasing the highlights of what makes Auckland so special. From the many volcanoes, working farms and gorgeous gardens, plus learning about the Maori culture and history along the way, it was the best possible Kiwi experience.

On the tour, we visited Bastion point where the harbor views were stunning, drove past the glamorous houses on Paratai Drive, and stopped at Mt. Eden, the highest volcano in Auckland. This, and the 48 other individual volcanoes that surround the city, are all considered extinct although the volcanic field itself is merely dormant. We drove through Parnell Village to visit the historic Holy Trinity Church, and over the Harbor Bridge for a view of the Waitemata Harbor and to learn a bit of maritime history at the Viaduct.

We stopped at One Tree Hill to see a working farm on our way to the Auckland Domain. The Auckland Domain is the city’s oldest park where the explosion crater and most of the surrounding tuff-rings of the Pukekawa volcano can still be seen. I found it wondrously beautiful considering how destructive it once was!

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After the tour, we stopped briefly at the hotel for our city maps, then headed off on foot to the Sky Tower. The iconic Sky Tower is the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand and offers breathtaking views for up to 80 kilometers in every direction. As we walked around the observation deck, we spotted our hotel and our ship among the many amazing sights below and beyond.

Back down on solid ground, it was a short walk to Albert Park, home to some of the most majestic and distinctive trees I’ve ever seen.  On one corner of the park is the Auckland City Art Gallery and Gardens, and on the other is the original park-keeper’s cottage, now a museum. The park has earned a special place in the hearts of Aucklanders and visitors alike.

By mid-afternoon, we met back up with our travel partners who had opted to tour outside the city that day. We headed to Princes Wharf where cruise ships dock at the Viaduct Harbor. Checking in at the ship was quick and easy, so we returned to the pier to explore the area before embarkation. The harbor was full of handsome yachts, including those used in the America’s Cup race. We saw the KZ 1, a sailing yacht used to challenge for the 1988 America’s Cup, now on display near the National Maritime Museum. We toyed with the idea of having a nice, cold beer at The Ice House we passed, but we didn’t have enough time to warrant the cost, so we stopped at a cozy little bar next door and toasted once again to the cruise ahead.

We sailed away from Auckland at sunset just as a golden glow spread over the city. The sky was soon glazed in shades of orange; and with the Sky Tower and Mt. Eden in the background… it was the perfect final image of this City Scene.

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Foto Friday #10

All over the world, trees are planted by squirrels who bury nuts, then forget where they hid them. Maybe the tree in our yard where this effervescent little guy sits was planted by his great-great-grandfather!

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And maybe if we plant an idea, a smile, a good deed or a kind word…  it will grow into something big and beautiful, too!

Foto Friday Series and  a response to RDP #71: Effervescent

A Quiet Morning

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The faucet at the kitchen sink is dripping again. Hmm, I thought we fixed that! It’s amazing how loud it sounds as I lounge in my favorite chair with my morning coffee. Just as I take a sip, the automatic ice-maker deposits its latest round of fresh ice into the freezer’s dispenser. The sudden racket startles me and coffee dribbles down the front of my pretty pink shirt. Now I’m perturbed… even the clocks annoy me! We have two pendulum clocks; a grandfather clock in the dining room and a mantle clock over the fireplace. Usually the pendulums swing at the same pace, but this morning one is out of sync, so the normal “tick-tock” in unison now resonates “tick-tick-tock-tock” instead. How can that be, I ask you? They both show exactly the same time! I take a deep breath – and another sip of coffee. Tap-tap-tappity-tap-tap! Are you kidding me? The obnoxious woodpecker is causing commotion again today. He thinks it’s funny – I know he does – to drill like a jackhammer on the gutters of our house rather than one of the dozen trees in our backyard. I march out onto the deck, flinging my arms like a mad woman to shoo him away. I settle back into my chair, slip my shoes off, put my feet up and grab my cup of coffee; which unfortunately has gotten cold, but I drink it anyway. A faint clank and a whoosh of air tells me the air conditioner has kicked on and there will be a bit of white noise until the temperature inside the house has met its goal. I reach down and pull a light-weight blanket over my bare feet (they get cold when the air is on). A contented sigh escapes me as I begin to relax. Beep, beep, beep! The dryer down the hall indicates the clothes that have long been tumbling are finally dry. If it wasn’t so quiet in here, I might have missed the signal. Wait, what? It’s not quiet in here! It’s chaos! I might as well get up and fold the laundry… and change my shirt!

Playing with words this morning, this is my response to RDP #68 Word Prompt – Play

Shifting Seasons – a poem

It’s the middle of a long hot summer where I live, but I have the changing seasons to look forward too! In a few months my morning walks will be gold instead of green.

 

SHIFTING SEASONS

Roses are drooping

Petals are falling

Ground is scorched by

the heat of the sun

 

Moon is waning

Stars are hiding

Eeriness conquers

the dark velvet skies

 

Summer is folding

Autumn is calling

Crisp, pretty leaves

now crunch at my feet

 

Storm is brewing

Cold is looming

Icy winds bite at

the innocent breeze

 

Color is fading

Nothing is growing

Dreary days plague us

as winter sets in

 

Air is warming

Snow is melting

Clouds weep with joy

for hope has returned

 

Green is bursting

Birds are chirping

Spring has arrived

all’s right with the world!