Category Archives: Our Travels

Tango in Argentina

On our way to Antarctica, we stopped into Buenos Aires, Argentina. Lynn prearranged a tango lesson . It’s Argentina — why not? We had been traveling for over 20 hours and got a chance to tour Buenos Aires, it’s a vibrant South American city — more about that later.

Our tango lesson started at 8:30 p.m. Imagine having very little sleep in the past 24 hours and you have to muster the energy for a dance lesson. She had booked a private lesson so it was just us and our 2 instructors. We videoed their fancy footwork, check them out:

Once we started taking lessons, we were re-energized and forgot that we were running on fumes. After our 1 hour private lesson, our instructors took us to 2 different Milongas (tango dance clubs). The first Milonga was more formal and absolutely crowded.

Men sat at tables on one side of the room while ladies sat at tables on the other side. To get a dance partner, a man stares at a woman across the room and if she nods, she is accepting his request for a dance. It’s not a pickup thing — they just love to tango! You would see young men dancing with older women and vice versa.

After dancing at the first club, our instructors told us about a totally different type of Milonga. It was for a younger crowd and was as much about young people hanging out socially than tango. But the dance floor was big and the place had a really hip vibe. Lynn danced with our instructor and they were amazing together. The club is called La Catedral:

Earlier in the day, we toured Buenos Aires starting at Casa Rosada — a government building in one of their famous squares:

The square was bustling with a band playing and Brazilian ladies in native dress.

Our next stop was Caminito (“little walkway” or “little path” in Spanish). This place acquired cultural significance because it inspired the music for the famous tango “Caminito” (1926), composed by Juan de Dios Filiberto.

After a bit of walking, we found a nice little watering hole called La Peru Caminito where we sampled local beer.

We ended our tour at Recoleta Cemetery, in the upscale Recoleta Barrio of Buenos Aires.
The cemetery includes graves of some of the most influential and important Argentinians, including several presidents, scientists, and wealthy characters.

Internationally, Eva Perón is the best-known person buried in this cemetery. There’s also the tomb of Rufina Cambacérès who was buried alive. 

The thing I found most interesting is that many of the mausoleums  have glass where you can see the caskets inside. Odd.

After touring Buenos Aires and dancing Tango until 1 a.m. – we started our journey to the bottom of Argentina and the city located at the bottom of South America: Ushuaia. We left at first light but were able to catch some z’s on the 3 hour plane ride.

Ushuaia is located in Tierra del Fuego and is normally windy and rainy. We were lucky to arrive to beautiful weather. We visited the Tierra del Fuego National Park, just a few minutes outside of Ushuaia.

The national park has lots of hiking trails so we took time to stretch our legs while enjoying scenic vistas.

We then boarded a catamaran and cruised the Beagle Channel before leaving for Antarctica.

Alas, it was time to make our voyage to Antarctica — check out that blog here.

Polar Plunge into 33 degree Antarctic Water. Wait – What?

After 5 days in Antarctica, we continued our journey on day 6 along the Orleans Strait by kayaking Cierva Cove in Antarctica. It was our first really sunny day and surreal to be floating among whales and penguins.

We began following a humpback whale who was leisurely paddling through the cove.

Everywhere you turn, penguins were gracefully slicing through the frigid waters on a quest for krill.

This one almost jumped into our boat.

We were raided by a group of Vikings. Luckily they came in peace and offered hot chocolate with a splash of Jameson.

After a few hours on the water, we reembarked the ship. She’s quite photogenic, don’t you think?

We had just settled into our cabin when we heard an announcement over the speaker system “For those who want to do a polar plunge, report to the lower deck immediately“. Polar plunge, eh? What could go wrong? Well, they had a doctor on hand in case anything went awry. We had 150 people on the ship and about 20 staff — 37 of us crazy people elected to take the plunge. Don’t believe me? Here I am in action:

It was kinda like jumping into a slushie. As soon as I hit the water, every extremity froze as if to say “what the hell are you doing to me?”. Once I surfaced and made my way back to the boat, an extreme sensation of exhilaration covered my body, it was a fantastic feeling. Awaiting my return was a shot of schnapps. Ah, I can now feel my legs!

The next day, we made our way to Cuverville Island to Kayak with the penguins.

Our new friends, James and Don

After kayaking, we had the opportunity to hike up an 800 foot mountain for better views of the island. It was a bit slippery ascending the mountain but certainly worth the effort:

On the way back down, it was even more slippery so a friend and I decided to slide down on our butts to the bottom — we were laughing and enjoying the ride.

Our next stop was Useful Island where we enjoyed beautiful icebergs illuminating blue ice.

As we were taking the zodiac around Useful Island, there was a chinstrap penguin that was following our boat yelping like crazy. Then out of nowhere, he tried to jump into our boat!

Useful Island had lots of seals, here are just a few of the seals we saw during our journey.

We were really fortunate to see killer whales (type A, B1 and B2), humpback whales, and blue whales. I’m not talking about a few whales here and there. I bet we saw over 100 whales. For me, whale watching will never be the same.

The captain said that in 40 years of visiting Antarctica, he had never seen blue whales. That’s how special it was.

Our final day of our 2,068 nautical mile journey landed us at Port Lockroy — a research station that has a working post office! We mailed a few postcards just to see how long it will take to be delivered (most likely 12 weeks).

Recap

This was an amazing journey and it tops our list of travel. I didn’t mention the 12 naturalists and scientists that accompanied us on our trip. They graciously provided presentations about their discoveries and the state of the earth. Global warming is certainly real. One of the scientists gave a compelling presentation on what could be done to curb global warming and it was enlightening.

We also had a guest speaker, Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of the first man (Tenzing Norgay) to summit Mt. Everest. He provided an amazing presentation about his father and also shared with us his adventures (he has also summited Mt. Everest).

I’ll leave you with a video that recaps our trip, I hope you enjoyed learning more about Antarctica!

You visited Antarctica? Why?

When I told friends we were visiting Antarctica, the first question was WHY? Let’s cast aside the fact that this was my 7th and final continent to visit — in the coming blogs I hope the answer to WHY is evident.

On our flight from Atlanta, a lady sat next to us and told us she had flown over 1 million miles. We didn’t think much about it but later overheard her say she was going to Antarctica. We then learned that she was a National Geographic photographer and would be aboard our ship! Her name was Susan Seubert, an awarding winning photographer. We became fast friends and came to appreciate her savvy with the camera and her incredible gift. Her pictures have graced the covers of many magazines. We knew this was going to be an epic trip.

We started our trip at the end of the world — Ushuaia, Argentina — at the bottom of South America. We boarded the Lindblad Explorer | National Geographic ship and set out for our 2 day journey across the infamous Drake Passage. The Drake Passage can be a perilous journey due to high waves but we were lucky to have relatively smooth seas.

Geographically, Antarctica is at the bottom of the earth and is directly south of South America.

Here is how it looks if you tilted the globe looking directly into the South Pole:

You won’t find hotels, homes or shops in Antarctica — it is only inhabited by scientists, researchers and support staff from many countries. Signed in 1959, the Antarctic Treaty was put in place by 12 countries who agreed to keep Antarctica peaceful and open to scientific research. This is where much of the studies regarding global warming are conducted.

After 2 days of sailing, we reached Iceberg A57a — 10 miles of floating tabular ice.

Icebergs are created as they slide off land’s surface into the sea. They are named by the area in which they came (Antarctica is divided into 4 quadrants; A/B/C/D) and are sequenced based on the number of icebergs from that quadrant. So A57a represents the 57th iceberg to slide off land in the A quadrant. Why the small “a” at the end? This particular iceberg slid off the land in a huge chunk and then divided into 2 pieces larger than 10 miles wide — therefore it became 2 icebergs (A57a and A57b).

A few hours later, we reached False Bay in the South Shetland Islands. We hopped on a zodiac and encountered our first Leopard seal. This place was teaming with them — we saw at least 5 or 6. Leopard seals love to eat krill and wait for it — penguins.

After celebrating our first Antarctic experience, we awoke to a new adventure — we had reached the Antarctic peninsula at Paulette Island. As we anchored off shore, we could hear loud squawks and could faintly see over 200,00 small dots on the island.

Look closely at the dots on the land — it’s over 200,000 Adelie penguins!

We made our way to Brown Bluff — another island just off the Antarctic mainland.

Here we encountered a new species of penguin — Gentoo. They are curious and will walk right up to you.

Just looking around – we were surrounded by glaciers, icebergs, penguins and incredible beauty — very surreal.

As we traversed from island to island, we saw whales, albatross, penguins and icebergs. We reached Snow Hill Island where a group of scientists were camping for 2 weeks to study the impact of an iceberg that broke away from the island about 20 years ago.

In 1902, a group of scientists built a wooden hut known as Nordenskiöld House and the group of Argentine scientists were reinforcing the hut. We were able to go in and visit the inside of the hut — this small space slept 6 people! As the iceberg broke off, thousands of 20 million year old fossils emerged and they were still uncovering them as we visited.

After leaving Snow Hill Island, we spotted our first blue whale. Blue whales are the largest whale on earth and we had an up-close encounter.

After sailing for a few hours, the ship captain revved the ship up and pointed the bow of the ship towards a huge ice sheet on Admiral T Sound. The boat penetrated the ice sheet and came to rest about 50 yards into the ice sheet. Now that’s not something you experience every day!

We jumped on the zodiac and made our way to the ice sheet where everyone spent a hour exploring. In the picture below, that is Susan Seubert (the award winning National Geographic photographer) in the middle. She took the picture of us jumping in the air using my iPhone.

After reembarking the ship, we had a BBQ at the stern of the boat. How cool is that?

Recap

After 2 days of traversing the Drake Passage and 3 days visiting islands, we still had lots more in store. Keep following our blog and we will continue the story.

This trip was epic and was the first trips we’ve taken where most of the people on trip were as well (or better) traveled than us. For most of the passengers, this was also their 7th continent to visit and we were able to share stories about common trips we’ve taken. It’s as if we were with “our peeps” — adventurers and wanderers.

Here a quick video that gives you more of a sense of what we discovered in our first 5 days:

Bruce Springsteen, Hamilton and more in NY City

For about a year, we talked about visiting New York City with our good friends Bob and Diane. Lynn and Diane were longing  for the big city —  culture, shows, fine dining, museums, shopping and miles of daily walks.

Bob made it happen – he gave Diane tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway for their anniversary so we were all in for taking a bite out of the Big Apple.

Broadway Shows

Hamilton on Broadway

The impetus for our visit was to see Hamilton on Broadway. Bob researched the musical, listened to the soundtrack and educated us about the show before we even left for our trip.

The musical is about the life of Alexander Hamilton — one of the founding fathers of the United States. Hamilton was the founder of the nation’s financial system and the first secretary of the Treasury.  But his life was full of interesting happenings and was ended tragically in a duel.

What makes the show iconic is that it’s not an ordinary musical. No operatic singing — all songs are rapped bringing a hipness to stage that is unique, interesting and incredibly cool.

If you haven’t seen Hamilton — see it! I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Bruce Springsteen on Broadway

About a year ago, I read the auto-biography of Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run) and became an even bigger fan of his music as I listened to older albums that I hadn’t known about before. 

I really got wrapped up in his music and it became one of the top artists on my personal playlist.When we decided to go to NY, I knew we had to see the Bruce Springsteen musical. It’s been on Broadway for almost 2 years and will be ending at the end of 2018. 

Imagine having Bruce Springsteen over for dinner, sitting in your living room and telling you his life story.  How he started out, the struggles he faced, the rejections, the depression, the meteoric rise to stardom, and the relationships he made along the way. And as he starts telling you his story, he belts out songs you know and love that represent that time in his life.

That’s what the show was like. Set in a small intimate venue, there were no pyrotechnics, no props, and no backup singers. Just Bruce, his story, and his incredible gift of music shared with you.

Wicked on Broadway

We also saw Wicked on Broadway. This is a musical about the Wizard of Oz but told from the story of the Wicked Witch of the West. We saw this before seeing Hamilton and Bruce Springsteen and thought it was one of the best musicals we had seen. Then we saw Hamilton — even better! Then we saw Bruce — the best!

Fine Dining

New York City offers pretty much any cuisine you desire and on almost every block. 

We even found the famous restaurant that was on the Jerry Seinfeld show — you remember the Soup Nazi, right? Here is the restaurant from that episode. I had soup there — it’s actually very good!

Museums

There are so many great museums in New York. We started by visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art (called the MET).

It’s hard to take in The Met in a day — it is the largest museum in the USA and gets over 7 million visitors a year. It boasts art from America, Europe, Egypt, Greece and Islam.  

Diane being creative

We also visited the Museum of Modern Art, it has a great collection as well. It houses the iconic Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh — you know – the guy that cut off his ear and mailed it to his lover to show her how much he loved her

Starry Night prompted Don McLean to write a song about it (Starry Starry Night), listen to it here. Van Gogh also had a similar painting that I like even better:

We also visited the American Museum of Natural History. Similar to The Met — you could spend all day here. It had the biggest dinosaur bones I’ve ever seen. I wish we had more time to experience it all.

Finally, we visited the 9/11 Museum at One World Trade Center. The new One World Trade Center is beautifully designed and inspiring.

Local graffiti artists painted this building

Before entering the museum, you see a memorial called Reflecting Absence that honors the victims of the September 11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

The memorial, designed by Peter Walker and Israeli-American architect Michael Arad, consists of a field of trees interrupted by the footprints of the twin towers. It contains the names of everyone that tragically died that day.

You can spend hours in the museum and learn all about the backstories of heartbreak and experience stories of people that suffered  that day. You also learn about the heroes of the day. Below is a firetruck that was devastated from falling debris.

If you get a chance to visit the museum, please do. It is sad yet empowering — highlighting the resilience of Americans.

Shopping

Shopping in New York is like no other place, they have just about anything you need.  Lynn and Diane had a field day visiting all the shops and I enjoyed the 24 hour Apple store.

Miles of Walking

We stayed in Manhattan and took advantage of Central Park.  You can walk or cycle it. Citibank offers low cost bicycles you can use all day long for $12.

Here are a few pictures from our walking adventures around town.

Montreal Canada: A Bike Friendly City

Our oldest son (Cameron) was married in April 2018 and we were excited to vacation in Montreal with Cameron and his wife Kara. After visiting with them in New Hampshire, we drove towards Montreal.

It was fall in New England and we joined the “leaf peepers” by taking in the change of seasons.

We took the opportunity to stop at Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Vermont to have apple cider and cider doughnuts — they melt in your mouth.

If you get a chance to visit, it’s worth the stop. Located in Waterbury, Vermont, Ben and Jerry’s original location is also just up the street.

Montreal, Canada

A great way to experience Montreal is with a tour on bicycle. This city is so bike friendly, it’s safe and easy to navigate.

We started our tour at Mount Royal Park where we learned that Montreal’s namesake came from the words “Royal Mountain”. It was a chilly fall day but plenty of people were out enjoying the day. 

We made our way through narrow streets of Old Montreal along cobblestone streets that offered a distinct European feel.

Montreal is a mashup of French and English architecture and is home to world-renowned universities.

Cameron being a goofball

In 2017, McGill University was ranked the number 1 student university in Canada is ranked 32nd worldwide. After cycling, we came back to visit the Redpath museum, a donation-only museum that’s worth a look.

We made our way along the St. Lawrence river — the connector between the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. This area of town has a hip vibe, with a mix of old and new. 

Notice the old mills in the background — now government protected as they determine what to do with them.

As you cycle along the river, there are plenty of spots to chill along the way.

Habitat 67

Across from the river is Habitat 67, a model community built for Expo 67 by architect Moshe Safdie. It began as a thesis project for his architecture project at McGill University. Essentially, the building is made up of cube dwellings — coined an “architectural wonder” in 1967.

After cycling, we visited the underground city — interconnected shops, boutiques and office buildings that you can walk in the winter without experiencing the cold.

Montreal Art Scene

We also took in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts — you can spend an entire afternoon exploring the exhibits.  The museum is housed in multiple buildings but they are all connected via underground tunnels. 

Notre Dame

No visit of Montreal is complete without peaking inside of Notre Dame — Montreal’s most famous church.

Gardens of Light

On our final night in Montreal, we visited the Gardens of Light at the Botanical Gardens.  Located next to the Olympic Stadium — the site of the first Olympics in Canada.

At night, the Botanical Gardens is illuminated with a juxtaposition of light and art.

What’s Next?

Montreal is an interesting city with incredible eateries. Since Cameron and Kara are Vegan, we ate vegetarian most of the visit and the food was amazing.

Leaving Montreal, Lynn and I will venture to New York City to take in some Broadway shows with friends — stay tuned for an upcoming blog.

I’ll leave you with a sight you don’t see everyday — this dog seems to be the perfect sidecar companion.

Would You Climb This Bridge in Sydney Australia?

After snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, we boarded a flight for our next adventure. Below is our view as we descended into Sydney Australia. If you look closely, you can see the Sydney Opera House.

Sydney Aerial View

OK, maybe it’s not so obvious — I’ll help you out:

Sydney Aerial View 2

Speaking of the Sydney Opera House, it was originally bid at $7 million for construction but ended up costing $100 million.

Sydney Opera House

It was supposed to be completed in 4 years, it took 14.

Sydney Opera House Night

Arnold Schwarzenegger won his final Mr. Olympia body building title in 1980 in the Concert Hall.

Sydney Opera House Day

If you get a chance to visit, be sure to book a tour — they offer tours almost every hour. More than 8.2 million people visit the Opera House every year. The architecture will not disappoint.

Sydney Opera House Inside

Designed by Jorn Utzon, he was fired midway during the construction. Sydney did not appreciate or recognize his genius until many years later. Jorn was a bit difficult to work with and seemed to take vacations during critical junctions of the construction. He was reluctant to ask for help, didn’t have a plan for how to support the weight of his design before construction started. This led to his firing so he left Australia.

Sydney Opera House

At the 1973 opening ceremony, Utzon’s name wasn’t even mentioned. He was banned from the Danish Architects Association. He never returned to Australia to see his masterpiece completed.

Fortunately, things started to turn around at the end of Utzon’s life. He earned the Pritzker Architecture Prize for the design in 2003 and the opera house re-named the reception room the Utzon Room in 2004. Apparently, that’s how long it takes for a project’s iconic importance to outshine resentment about its creator.

The Iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge

When we decided to travel to Sydney, the first thing my good friend Joey said was “I am climbing the Sydney Bridge”. He asked everyone else if they were in and I was the only one willing to do it.

BridgeClimb Sydney Twilight Climb

The bridge climb was started in 1989 when Paul Cave helped conduct a Young Presidents Organization World Congress in Sydney, which included a climb over the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Sydney Bridge Climb Night

After the initial climb, it took Cave 10 years and millions of dollars of research to gain acceptance by the city of Sydney to allow the climb to be opened to the general public.

Before climbing, you spend an hour with personnel that go over all aspects of the climb and teach you to use the tethers designed to keep you safe. It gets quite windy at the top, so the tethers are a must.

Sydney Bridge Climb Apex

Once you reach the apex, you get the best view of the Sydney Harbor.

Sydney Bridge Climb Steve and Joey

BridgeClimb Dawn Climb Sydney Opera House

Once the climb is complete, you earn a certificate!

Sydney Bridge Climb Certificate

Around Sydney

While visiting Sydney, be sure to take a city tour — there is so much to see.  We saw the grade school that Nicole Kidman attended (it looked a little like Hogwarts from Harry Potter).  We also saw Russell Crowe’s home, can you pick it out below?

Sydney Russel Crowe Home

It’s the penthouse apartment with the yacht moored next to it.

Russel Crowe Home

Russell has a great view of one of the more iconic landmarks in Sydney – Mrs. MacQuarie’s chair. Located by the Royal Botanic Gardens, the bench known as Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair was carved out of sandstone in the early 1800s for Govenor Lachlan Macquarie’s wife, Elizabeth. It became her favorite spot to look out at the harbor and it served that same purpose for Lynn who took a moment to rest there.

Mrs MacQuari Chair

A tour will also take you to Bondi Beach. Bondi is an eclectic township with a hippy vibe.

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach 2

Bondi Beach has a beautiful beach area surrounded by an abundance of shopping.

Bondi Beach

Another popular spot is Manly Island — a short ferry ride from Sydney. We personally enjoyed Bondi Beach better but we happened to return from Manly Island at sunset and got a really nice surprise.

Sydney was preparing for VIVID — a festival held yearly that showcases light, music and ideas. During this festival, they light up the city in red, blue, pink, and purple. They were testing the lights for the upcoming festival and our ferry ride brought us back just in time for the display.

Sydney Skyline Night

Sydney Opera House Night with Skyline 2

Sydney Skyline Night

We also toured vineyards about 2 hours outside of Sydney. On the way there, we stopped by a nature preserve and saw kangaroo and koala.

Kangaroo

We also saw my favorite childhood animal that I came to know watching Saturday morning cartoons – the Tasmanian Devil!

Tasmanian Devil

We saw Kangaroo in the wild several times. The last sighting was at a winery — they were just hanging out catching some shade from the vines.

Kangaroo in Vineyard

What’s Next?

That wraps up our trip to New Zealand and Australia.  Keep checking back to follow our upcoming travel adventures.

If you are not subscribed to our blog and would like to subscribe so that new posts come directly to your email, scroll up to the right top section of this page and type in your email address.

I’ll leave you with a few of our favorite pics of the trip.

 

 

 

Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef

After an exhilarating trip to New Zealand, we turned our compass towards Australia to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. Arriving in Cairns Australia, we followed a scenic highway to Port Douglas.  It was night, so we couldn’t see the ocean, but the hairpin turns along the coast kept us focused. We would make this trip several times during our stay, here is how it looks in the day:

Cairns_to_Port_Douglas

Along this ocean by-way stands a rock-balancing area where locals and tourists express their creativity. Flanked by a beautiful backdrop, the rocks are endless.

Balancing_Rocks

Port Douglas is a hip town, with a nice marina and plenty of shopping and restaurants.

Port_Douglas_Marina

Port_Douglas_Town

We rented a spacious house on AirBnB that offered luxury accommodations just a few miles from the town center.

Great Barrier Reef

Our focus for Port Douglas was snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, we envisioned calm waters and endless reefs, something similar to this:

Great Barrier Reef

We were organized. A few months in advance, we signed up for the snorkeling trip, but the day before we arrived in Port Douglas, the trip was cancelled due to high winds and waves. The company we had chosen was worried about people getting sick on board, so they bailed on the trip.

Luckily, we had a few days in Port Douglas so we checked with some companies that had larger boats to see if we could make it out. We found a couple that were willing to go but they had a disclaimer about getting sick on the way out. Weather improved a bit but there were still 3-4 foot waves. We were determined to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef so we signed up.

Great Barrier Reef

The trip out was not nearly as bad as they had warned. It was a little bumpy on the 35 mile trip to the Great Barrier Reef but none of us got sick. You can see the choppiness in the water but that did not obscure the incredible views underneath.

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Before the trip, my family bought me a Go Pro for my birthday. I was very excited to use it and it was working well.

Great Barrier Reef

I attached it to a head strap and as I swam from reef to reef I was anticipating the great video I would capture along the way. The reef at times was only about 3 feet underneath and at other times it was 25 feet below. When it was deep, I would dive deep to get up close to the fish down below.

Great Barrier Reef

After snorkeling for about 45 minutes, I surfaced to find that my Go Pro was no longer on my head!  Disheartened, I came back aboard and told everyone the news. All the Go Pro video I had taken during our trip would be lost!

Then word got around on the boat and the ship photographer said he had found a Go Pro in the reef! Exuberant, I was happy to find it was mine!  Later, I watched the video and could see the exact moment I lost it — I could see it come off my head and float to its resting place on top of the reef that was about 10 feet below!

Daintree Rain forest

Cairns is about a 1 hour drive from Port Douglas and we took advantage of visiting the Daintree rain forest. In Cairns, you hop on a gondola that takes you on a 2.5 hour trip over the tips of the rain forest. It has stops along the way where you can visit the rain forest up close.

Daintree Rain Forest

The end point is the town of Kuranda where you can shop, have cocktails or lunch, and watch the locals and tourists blend. To get back to Cairns, you board the Kuranda Scenic Railway where you will get a stones-throw view of waterfalls and incredible scenery.

Kuranda Scenic Railway

What’s Next?

Our next blog will take us to Sydney Australia where we will visit the world-famous Opera House and explore the city.  If you are not subscribed to our blog and would like to subscribe so that new posts come directly to your email, scroll up to the right top section of this page and type in your email address.

I’ll leave you with a picture of Greg and Kathy Tawes on our snorkeling adventure to the Great Barrier Reef.

Great Barrier Reef

 

 

Helicopters and Jet Boat Adventures in New Zealand

Our final stop in New Zealand was in Queenstown — destined to bring adventure and jolts of adrenaline. We started our journey by taking the Queenstown Skyline Gondola 1,457 feet until we reached the summit.

Queenstown Skyline Gondola

We were rewarded with beautiful views of Queenstown and the surrounding area.

Queenstown Aerial View

ShotOver Jet Boat Ride

The next day brought about heart-pounding fun as we raced through a gorge at 50 miles per hour on a jet boat — missing stone walls by inches.

ShotOver Jet

Check out the video below, you can experience the exhilaration for yourself, this was our actual ride:

Milford Sound

After recovering from our exciting jet boat ride, we decided to take in scenic Milford Sound via boat.

Milford Mariner

Sailing the fjords on the Milford Mariner allow you to experience some of New Zealand’s most stunning natural attractions.

Milford Sound Mountains

Packed with mountain peaks and waterfalls, each bend of our trip brought more beauty.

Milford Sound Kathy

Ink-dark waters and superb dramatic forest-clad cliffs made this one of our trip highlights.

Milford Sound Beauty

Spending time in such beauty with great friends — what can be better?

To continue our theme of adventure, we took flight in a helicopter to the Milford Sound Glacier.

Milford Sound Helicopter

This was Greg’s first helicopter ride so it was a privilege to experience it with him.

Helicopter Greg

Seeing Milford Sound from the air was a compliment to our boating adventure. As we left the helipad, we cruised over Milford Sound and ascended several thousand feet to the top of the Milford Sound Glacier.

Milford Sound Glacier Mountains

Once there, we landed safely and were able to disembark the helicopter.

Milford Sound Glacier Landing

Want to experience it? Check out the video — you can see the beauty we experienced:

What’s Next?

Our next blog will take us to Port Douglas and Cairns Australia to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.

If you are not subscribed to our blog and would like to subscribe so that new posts come directly to your email, scroll up to the right top section of this page and type in your email address.

I’ll leave you with a picture of Joey being a goof ball. He made us laugh the entire trip with his jokes and goofy behavior!

Joey

 

Glaciers and Gorges in New Zealand

After drinking our weight in wine in Marlborough, New Zealand, we stopped off in Kaikoura for whale watching. Conditions were a bit spotty, rain was expected and they warned us that high waves may cause sea sickness. In fact, they cancelled all whale excursions after ours but we were not deterred.

Whales Kaikoura

After all the hype of sea sickness warnings, the ride was not bad — none of us felt sick. More importantly, using sonar they found 2 whales that put on a show for us as they glided across the top of the water and gently dove to expose its tail fin.

Sperm whales tail with misty backdrop Location: Kaikoura, New Zealand

On our way back to the bay, we were joined by a group of Dusky Dolphins that put on an aerial display for us.  They were twisting, jumping and doing somersaults.

Dusky Dolphins

Christchurch

After whale watching, we made our way to Christchurch, a city that’s steadily rising from the ruins of the 2011 earthquake.

Christchurch New Zealand

Here we had one of the best meals we experienced in New Zealand at a funky, yet intimate restaurant called Twenty Seven Steps — aptly named because you must walk 27 stair steps to get to the dining area. I had Grouper that rivaled any I’ve ever eaten. If you make it to Christchurch — I highly recommend this restaurant.

Twenty Seven Steps

Christchurch Sofa

TranzAlpine Train

The next day, we boarded the TranzAlpine Train from Christchurch to Greymouth.

Kiwi Rail

The train takes you on a scenic journey from East to West, ending in Greymouth.

TranzAlpine

Along this journey, we caught epic vistas, traveled the edges of the ice-fed Waimakariri River, traversed the Southern Alps, and saw miles of native beech forest.

Kiwi Rail

The TranzAlpine is one of the world’s great train journeys covering 139 miles one-way, taking just under 5 hours.

Kiwi Rail

Hokitika Gorge

In Greymonth, we rented a car and headed towards Franz Josef Glacier. Along the way, we stopped off at Hokitika Gorge. Starting at a swinging bridge, the walk down to the gorge is really short and well maintained.

Hokitika Gorge Swinging Bridge

Once you cross the bridge, it’s a short walk before you are rewarded with incredible views of spectacular Hokitika Gorge.

Hokitika Gorge Water

Franz Josef Glacier

The next day we drove to Franz Josef Glacier, a 7.5 mile long glacier. Since 2008, the glacier has been retreating at a rapid rate. Due to global warning, scientists expect that Franz Josef Glacier will lose 38% of its mass by the year 2100.

Franz Josef Glacier

On our way up, we saw beautiful glacier ponds sporting beautiful hues of blue and emerald.

Franz Josef Glacier Water

Franz Josef Glacier Water

Wanaka

After Franz Josef, we headed towards Queenstown, stopping off for lunch and shopping in Wanaka. A popular ski and summer resort town, Wanaka is built around beautiful Wanaka Lake. It was a short stop, I wish we had spent more time there — it was a cool town.

Wanaka City

Lake Wanaka

Wanaka

What’s Next?

Our next blog will take us to Queenstown — one of the most beautiful cities in New Zealand. Here we took an exhilarating jet boat ride that took us at speeds of 50 mph within inches of massive rock cliffs. We also enjoyed beautiful Milford Sound by boat and took a helicopter ride to the top of a glacier — it was one of the highlights of our trip!

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I’ll leave you with a picture of some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. It was during our stop over in Wanaka — the ice cream shop was Black Peak — be sure to stop in there if you get to this area.

Wanaka Ice Cream

 

New Zealand’s Premier Wine Country

After being introduced to the Maori, exploring Glow Worms, and visiting the home of The Hobbits, it was time to leave the North Island of New Zealand for the South Island.  To get to the South Island, you take a ferry across the beautiful fjords of Cook Strait.

Cook Strait

Cook Strait

The ferry ride is about 3 hours and has been described as one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world. We can attest to that. You are rewarded with spectacular views of the Kaikoura Ranges, crystal clear waters, and secluded bays.

Cook Strait

We spent our time gazing at the views, playing cards, and enjoying each other’s company.

Cook Strait

Kathy and Joey found time to clown around with their sunglasses.

Cook Strait

Our disembarkation was at Picton, New Zealand in the South Island.

Cook Strait

Malborough Wine Country

We began our journey of the South Island in Malborough, New Zealand’s premier wine country. The Marlborough region is all about world-famous Sauvignon Blanc.

Marlborough Wineries

Malborough is responsible for producing 77% of all New Zealand wines. We were fortunate to stay in an incredible hotel called The Marlborough Vinters Hotel that’s flanked by fields of grape vines.

Malborugh Vinters Hotel

The rooms were spacious with a large living area, kitchen and a king size bed. Most importantly, you could walk or cycle to several wineries from the hotel.

Malborugh Vinters Hotel

Malborugh Vinters Hotel

Malborugh Vinters Hotel

We took this opportunity to cycle to several wineries in the morning and took a wine tour (by bus) in the afternoon. In hindsight, I would probably have just cycled the entire day to different wineries because it they had plenty of bike paths that made it easy to do.

Marlborough Wineries

Marlborough Wineries

Marlborough Wineries

During our stay in Marlborough, it was Lynn’s birthday so Kathy and the gang surprised Lynn with a wonderful dinner at a restaurant in the wine country. It was a small restaurant (with only a few tables), a roaring fire, great food and fantastic wine.

Marlborough Wineries

We capped off our time in Marlborough by visiting a boutique chocolate factory named Makana Confections – yummy chocolates!

Mankana Chocolates

Mankana Chocolates

What’s Next?

Our next blog will take us on a whale watching excursion, a scenic train ride, and time at a glacier.

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I’ll leave you with a picture of one of the wineries (Hunters Wines) that we visited while in Marlborough.

Marlborough Wineries