Europe 2017 Travel Diary: Notre-Dame de Paris

The setting for Victor Hugo’s novel: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was made into a Disney animated film in 1996 with the same title.

I grew up watching the Disney film. I had a soft spot for poor Quasimodo… hated the evil Frollo… and loved Esmeralda’s kind and caring nature. 
Having watched the movie (many times) when I was a kid, I could not pass up the chance to see the famed cathedral in person.

Unfortunately, we did not have the time to see and explore the inside of the cathedral. The line going in was pretty long and we were only in Paris for a day. Nevertheless, I was still quite happy to have been able to at least admire it from outside.

Hoping one day I will be able to come back…❤ 

Europe 2017 Travel Diary: Work It

May 27, 2017 at Jardin des Tuileries.

Three girls with a camera and a tripod. There was bound to be lots of photo op moments. This was one of many. 

We were walking around the Jardin des Tuileries when Rea suddenly exclaimed, “This is it!”. “This is what?” Glaire and I asked. “I think this is where Heart Evangelista took one of her Paris photos!!!”. 

Heart is a famous female celebrity back home in the Philippines. Rea wanted to recreate a picture of her in Paris that had more or less the same background — a long pathway with tress lined up on both sides.  

“Abtik! Abtik!” — Rea’s favorite expression when she wanted us to hurry up, prompting us to start doing some poses. Glaire and I settled for walking towards the camera while Rea clicked away.

We look quite serious here, but it was actually pretty difficult to keep a straight face while doing this. Few seconds after this particular shot, we were all doubled over laughing out loud. 

Some people near us and some who were walking by gave us funny looks, probably thinking we were very weird. We did not care one bit. Haha! 

EU2017 Travel Diary: Outset

 

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May 27, 2017 — Arrived in Paris, France. It was bright, sunny and REALLY WARM.. such a contrast from the cold and windy winter weather I left behind in Wellington (NZ). I had just come from a very long flight — 12 hours from NZ to Hongkong and another 12 hours from Hongkong to Paris, but I was too full of excitement that I didn’t feel the least bit tired.

This photo was taken just as we were setting out to explore the city. To my left is Glaire, a friend of mine who I’ve known for 8 years now. We met while volunteering in one of the rural hospitals back home (Philippines). The lady a little bit to the back is Rea. She’s Glaire’s friend (both of them are currently living and working in Singapore). I had just met her that morning, but we hit it off pretty quickly and it felt like we’ve been friends since forever.

Together in our next two weeks in Europe we would be chasing after trains, walking ’till our feet got sore, and drinking lots of wine! — details of which are going to be for later stories. For now, we’re going to start from the very beginning… Bonjour Paris!

 

Tongariro Crossing: Mangatepopo Carpark to Soda Springs

I have decided to break down my Tongariro Crossing post so that I can get into more detail without making things too long and too dragging. There’s a total of six parts coming up, each post discussing one major section of the hiking track.

First up is Mangatepopo Carpark to Soda Springs. We woke up early Saturday morning and drove from our motel in Taupo to Mangatepopo carpark, which was the end point of the hike — ( took about an hour ).

We were to be picked up by a shuttle, which we organized beforehand, to bring us from the end point all the way to the start of the trail. We arrived at about 0700 and were supposed to be picked up by 0720 but due to some mix up with our shuttle company, it wasn’t until around 0820 when we actually went on our merry way. We “officially” started our walk at around 0900.

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We were lucky that the weather turned out to be really good during our trip — it was all gloomy and wet days prior to this, and back to raining quite heavily again now as I am writing this post.

With the sun shining high in the sky that day it wasn’t long before all the layers at the start of the walk (see first photo above of us wearing our puffer jackets) got shed off one by one… Down to a thermal on the above photo and then down further to my tank top on the photo below in just a few minutes. Haha.

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The first part of the trek was fairly easy — mostly flat ground with proper walkways and some walking boards over the damp areas. This was the least challenging and tiring out of all the sections (Average time to complete it is about 1-1.5 hours ). If you do the hike in the future, savor your time here… things will only get harder, I tell you. Haha.

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By the time we arrived at Soda Springs, we were still feeling pumped and full energy.

From the main track, Soda Springs Falls can be seen. We initially debated whether we do the side track going to it or just carry on to the next section of the track. As it was only 10 minutes away from where we were, we decided to just explore the waterfall area anyway. There was no proper pathway going to the falls and the ground got more wet, and muddy the nearer we got and we had to climb up onto rocks as well. Three in our group, who were just wearing normal sneakers, decided to stop at a certain distance while two of us who were wearing hiking shoes were able to to go all the way.

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After some photos, we then went back to the main track where we had a quick water and toilet break — Just a bit further along was the last set of toilets which we would come across in the next few hours so we thought we’d make use of it. After that… we then went on to the next section: Soda Springs to the South Crater, where the infamous Devil’s Staircase was awaiting us.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Tick ✔

 

WE DID IT! Conquered this 8.5 hour trek (19.4 km) comprised of some really steep climbs and gravelly downhill slopes — Mt.Ngauruhoe (photo below), which is one of the features of this hike, is also known for being a film location for the Lord of the Rings movie! Our bodies and feet are now very sore but I’d say it was all worth it. Tongariro Alpine Crossing ✔✔✔

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Punting at the Avon: Christchurch NZ

When we visited Christchurch as part of our road trip down the South Island back in 2014, one of the activities that we did while we were there was Punting on the Avon.

Punting refers to boating in a punt —  a flat-bottomed boat, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water with a punter generally propelling the punt by pushing against the river bed with a pole.

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There’s two departure sites for this  punting activity in Christchurch. There’s the CITY one and one at the PARK. Ours was the one at Hagley Park, starting off from the historical Antigua boating sheds. Price is 28 NZD for an adult and 12 NZD for a child.

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Each boat can sit a maximum of about 10 people. As we were the first ones to arrive for this batch, we had more of a choice on where we we were going to sit. I loved where I was seated! — At the very back and just a little above everyone else, right in front of the punter.

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We had a leisurely ride down the river with the Botanic Gardens around us. The overall mood all calm, peaceful and very relaxing.

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Belmont Regional Park NZ 🌍

Because my #journeyto30 includes trying to be more fit and healthy (as well as hiking the Tongariro Crossing and Running in the Waitomo Marathon), I did some walking/jogging with a friend today at Belmont National Park.

There are a couple of walks that you can do within the park… each varying in difficulty level and in the amount of time needed to do them.

Our favorite one is the Korokoro Dam Loop — an easy grade walk that only takes an hour. It’s perfect for those days where you’re wanting some activity or exercise outdoors but not really looking for something strenuous.

Calm, quiet, peaceful and away from the crowds… it’s also good for the days you want to unplug from the hustle and bustle of everyday life (or social media as there’s no cellular service within the park).

HOW TO GET THERE: ( Information taken from the Greater Wellington Regional Council Website)

Via State Highway 2:

  • Cornish St – a 10-minute walk south-west from the Petone Railway Station via the pedestrian overbridge and Pito-One Road. Or take the Korokoro exit from SH2 and follow Pito-One Road to the park entrance.
  • Oakleigh St via Dowse Drive or take a No. 150 bus from Petone Railway Station or Lower Hutt
  • Stratton St via Dowse Drive. The park entrance is at the end of Stratton St
  • Hill Rd via Grounsell Crescent or take a No. 145 bus from Melling Railway Station (peak hours Mon-Fri)
  • Kaitangata Crescent, Kelson or take a No 150 bus from Lower Hutt or Waterloo Interchange to the top of Major Drive
  • Dry Creek via Hebden Crescent, near the SH2 and SH 58 (Haywards Hill) intersection. The park entrance is a 10 minute walk from Manor Park Station

Via State Highway 1:

  • Cannons Creek via Mungavin Ave and the Cannons Creek Lakes Reserve. Enter from the Cannons Creek Shopping Centre car park. Take a No.61 bus (Mon-Sun), 63 bus (Mon-Sat) or 64 bus (Mon-Fri) from Porirua Railway Station to Cannons Creek
  • Takapu Road, Grenada North. Trains from Wellington stop at Takapu Road station

For all other information, visit the Greater Wellington Regional site for Belmont Regional Park here: http://www.gw.govt.nz/belmont/.

For a list of all the other walks you can do within the park, click here: Belmont Walking Tracks List.

Bringing life back to a city: Christchurch NZ 🌍

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— Spanish Mission Revival Style Buildings in New Regent Street refurbished post 2011 earthquake.

When we went to Christchurch (back in 2014), the city was still greatly recovering from the massive damage caused by the devastating earthquake that struck just three years prior (February 22, 2011 to be exact). Damaged buildings and a lot of empty lots could still be seen all around the CBD area.

Amidst the general feeling of gloom that can be felt while walking around the city, however, were fun and interesting things that showed that although this city was brought down to it’s knees, it was picking itself up again and starting to move on.

Local artists were painting murals on buildings, like the ones below, to help bring back some color and cheer.

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Re:Start — a “mall” made from shipping containers,  offered a unique alternative for retailers to remain open and for people to shop.

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These big green couch and chairs that serves as a Transitional Reading Room Parklet located in Gloucester Street.

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Fancy a game of chess? You and a friend can play using this extra large chess set in the cathedral square.

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The Transitional ‘Cardboard’ Cathedral put up as a temporary replacement for the damaged Christchurch cathedral, that symbolizes the resilience and ingenuity of Christchurch and it’s people.

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The Chalice Sculpture still standing tall beside Christchurch Cathedral that was badly damaged during the quake.

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To end this post, I have chosen a photo that may represent something more serious and somber (compared to the previous photos above), but it is something that is exceedingly significant and meaningful.

This is an artwork done by an artist  named Pete Majendie. These 185 white chairs are a tribute to the 185 people who lost their lives during the 2011 earthquake and the individuality of each chair paid tribute to the uniqueness of each person represented.

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The Strawberry Farm: Auckland NZ 🌍

“You can’t buy happiness… but you can buy ice cream and that is pretty much the same thing.”

Last weekend…we were up in Auckland for a wedding. On our way to the airport on Sunday (for our flight back home to Wellington), our friend Jason took us to THE STRAWBERRY FARM in Mangere to try their strawberry ice cream.

Yum! Real fruit ice cream made from fresh strawberries picked from the farm… such a good treat on a sunny summer day! Give it a try the next time you’re in the area!

Pin for later! 🙂

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Hobbiton NZ 🌍

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.” J.R.R Tolkien

Binged watched both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogy movies with Jan recently and was inspired to do this post. 

Welcome to “Hobbiton” — home to Bilbo and Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, hobbits of The Shire.

The area used as a filming location for the LOTR and The Hobbit movies is a family owned farm situated in Matamata New Zealand (In the North Island).

After filming for the last of The Hobbit movie was done, the set was left in place and is now a popular tourist destination in the Waikato Region.

(Almost three years ago) We did the movie set tour in Hobbiton. During the tour, an appointed guide took us around the site and told us fun facts about the filming process that took place as well as pointing out key things in the area that were significant to the LOTR and The Hobbit movies.

*The “Party Tree” where Bilbo did his speech during his birthday celebration prior to leaving The Shire.

*Bag End. Home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

*One of forty-four Hobbit homes left intact after filming of the movies.

*Winding pathways going around Hobbiton.

Our tour ended at the Green Dragon Inn with a complimentary drink included with the tour.

“The world is not in your books and maps… It is out there.” – Gandalf