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Great Keppel Island, Queensland, Australia

Going to Great Keppel Island was a great decision, however driving there from Brisbane was not! 
First, Eumundi

We arrived in Brisbane on Friday evening, and decided to drive to Eumundi and stay there for the night, having been there for the first time last year.  That was a good decision, all the more so for meeting wonderful hosts through Air BnB and staying in their comfortable and homely Queenslander that sits over three hectares of land – providing a lovely backdrop to a lovely breakfast chat.  

Eumundi is known for its fab markets on Wednesdays, and now Friday’s too, and Saturdays.  From food to clothes, to jewellery to art, it’s all there at Eumundi markets and worth a visit if that’s your sort of thing.  It’s a quaint little Aussie town too. 

Road trip 

We then set off on the remainder of the 628km journey, expecting to see some sites of Queensland along the way.  The fact is, Queensland isn’t that interesting to see from the road, it definitely has wonderful sights to see, but not from a road trip.  Living in Scotland, visiting Italy frequently where my family live up in the Tuscan hills and living in New Zealand, I am spoilt for road trips that delight the eyes.  We quickly realised we should have just flown to Rockhampton, and this would have allowed us an extra night on Great Keppel. Next time…. 

We stayed with another Air BnB host after our long drive, this time in Yeppoon, which is a town half an hour from Rockhampton and close to where you catch the half hour long ferry to Great Keppell Island, or GKI as locals refer to it. 

Off to the Island 

The ferry across is in the morning, however the ferry back is in the afternoon, so there is a few hours of cross over between guests, however we scored as we were going to have Keppel Lodge to ourselves for the duration of our two night stay.  There is a restaurant at The Hideaway resort, and a snack shop which was low on supplies while we were there, so bring your necessary supplies of tea, milk, bread, etc.  depending on how reliant you want to be on the limited choice on the island.  There is a Pizzeria but it wasn’t open while we were there. 

The first thing that strikes you about the Island is the fine, white sand and stunningly clear water, it’s just breathtaking.  Popular with boaties, there are always boats anchored just off shore each night.  If you are into snorkelling, kayaking, sailing, swimming, SUP boarding or taking long walks along beautiful beaches this is the place for you!   

Unfortunately there is a huge resort languishing, neglected and unused, on Fisheman’s Beach, although there are grand plans which frankly sound horrific to me and, it seems, to a number of the small few who are actually locals to the island.  It doesn’t detract too much, but as we took a walk from Fisherman’s Beach up to a lookout, it did feel like we were walking through a set for “Lost”!  

Another day we retraced our steps up to the lookout then continued on and over to the other side of the island, to Leeke’s Beach.  Another paradisaic beach, with not a soul to compete with.  


Leeke Beach

We took a Kayak trip out to a small island then it was snorkel time out to the disused underwater observatory – a great spot for seeing lots of fish,  if not so much for the Coral.  The water is so beautifully clear, it created a wonderful sensation as we kayaked across.  Brett is a local and he guided us, giving an insight to what is going on and how things have changed and the good spots for coral or fish sightings – he arranges tours from The Hideaway.  

We noticed lovely patterns in the sand, made up of tiny, perfect balls of sand.  Intregued, we watched for a while and realised the artists were teeny, tiny crabs!  We watched as they scuttled across the sand, dashing down holes and the popping sand balls out!  On our return from a walk in late afternoon the sea was so flat calm it resembled glass and allowed us to easily spot Dolphins fishing – wonderful! 


Beach art

If you want to get far from the madding crowd, chill out and relax in beautiful beach surroundings then I’d recommend it – just don’t drive there!  I think out timing means it was fairly quiet, however in school holiday time it’s rather busy.  


Fisherman’s Beach



We parked out car securely at 422 Scenic Highway, Rosslyn Bay. Call 61 (07) 4933 6670

We got the ferry with Freedom Fast Cats 

We stayed at Keppel Lodge - great hosts in comfortable if tired accommodation, rooms are directly off the central living, dining kitchen area.  I’d describe it as old school NZ Bach style accommodation.  It is just off the beach, and a stroll from the snack shop and Hideaway. The kitchen is well equipped for self-catering.  

We ate at The hideaway – with little competition and seasonal staff, it’s a pleasant place and the food was fine but they don’t make that much effort and the staff are clearly there to make their cash and have days off at the beach. 

We kayaked with Brett who runs tours from The Hideaway

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Paola’s picks of Wellington cafes

When there are so many places to choose from, it is tricky to narrow the choice.  However, these are some, and I do mean some, of the places I keep going back to.  In no particular order:


One of the first places we dined in when we moved to Wellington, we soon learned this is a firm favourite for many locals and the place to go for breakfast eggs.  Well known for lovely fresh baking, Floriditas is a lovely place to dine any time of day, though my favourite time of day is brunch.  However the team behind this lovely establishment opened another venue a few doors up.  Which leads me to…

Loretta on Cuba

I followed the progress of the transformation of the space that became Loretta on Cuba just over a year ago through Instagram.  The transformation produced an award winning space that works perfectly.  Even better, the interesting and frequently changing menu provides delicious options.  Some of my favourites are the orange and brandy warm rice pudding or the amazing waffles with coconut yoghurt and seasonal berries.


Always busy for good reason, it’s always good!  Wellington coffee legends, husband and wife team Bridget and Jeff who founded Caffe L’Affare, came back onto the scene with their new, all encompassing venture.  Roasting their own beans, baking their own bread, they also own Acme, design the furniture,… Bridget keeps a keen eye on tables so the queue is always well managed.  It’s all good! (Though I still grieve for the Breakfast Pizza, no longer on the menu).

Ti Kouka

Tucked up a dark stairwell on Willis Street, many miss this gem so I delight in introducing friends and colleagues (it’s near my office) to the famed Salted Caramel cookies, not to mention the great menu of interesting dishes that changes regularly. Chef Shepherd Elliott and brother Jessie are the geniuses behind Leeds Street Bakery, so the sweet cabinet is always tempting and the bread is always freshly baked.

The Canteen

Follow these guys on Twitter or Instagram and prepare to be tempted beyond your sweet tooth limits with freshly baked delights.  I love the pulled pork flatbread for a quick lunch in the retro, fairy lighted room.

Hillside kitchen

One of the new kids on the block, the fresh space and coiffed moustached welcome from Jules says you’re onto a winner.  The Lamb Brioche was delicious, and the tweeting of the seasonal, what’s available now, menu tempted me I to try the Fig, mascarpone and apple tartine.  I was inspired to make my own version for a dinner party starter, to much success.


Down at Clyde Quay Wharf, Mojo Coffee have yet another winner, with a menu cultivated by Martin Bosley.  A great space, with bar tables and stools one side, and tables an”d chairs in the other, this is a deliciously busy spot.  The 12 hr cooked beef ‘mince on toast’ is so tasty I haven’t yet moved passed it!

Chocolate fish

Two words: Scallop Sandwich.  So good are these sammies, my mother within a few hours of arriving from the UK made sure a Scallop Sandwich at the Chocolate Fish cafe was part of the schedule!  A quirky cafe in what feels like a dilapidated building is the perfect location for bringing kids and dogs, although the conservatory at the back is an adult only zone, for sitting in the sun over looking the harbour.

Maranui Cafe 

An old faithful, viewed by many as an iconic Wellington cafe, the funky diner is always busy.  A great selection of cabinet food and wholesome menu provides food for all occasions through the day.  Strong Havana coffee and a fabulous view over the beach, it’s a firm fave and visitors we take there have loved it.  Also where I saw Orlando Bloom and Richard Armitage hanging out, brunching, during filming of The Hobbit.

Posted in Restaurant Review, Travel.

WBC Restaurant, Wellington

We were off to a good start. As we ascended the stairs to WBC Restaurant on Victoria Street, guests descended telling us “You’re going to LOVE it!”. Great, bring it!

Sure enough the, more compact than expected, restaurant had a table free however there was a caveat – we had to relinquish the table at 8.30pm. I questioned the fact they don’t take bookings, however for big groups later in the evening they do, and they had. I explained we were celebrating so didn’t want to be rushed, so a compromise was met that we’d move when another table came free. Within five minutes of sitting down, we were told they’d made other arrangements and we could have the table for as long as we want – perfect! Great customer service.

The menu did need a bit of explaining, such as what was Laab moo and Chook chook chicken, but all the descriptions confirmed that it was yummy food combinations.

We were with our Auckland Whanau, the Kiwi’s sister and brother in law, celebrating their 18th wedding anniversary, and after a round of cocktails we started with four small plates, so we could each taste everything ordered. The waitress was delightful, friendly and helpful with a bit of fun and also discernment on when to leave us to contemplate.

The special small plate of Tuatua fritters were a sensation – pillows of subtle flavour behind the dark, fried skin, with a lovely aioli. Heavenly. The Laab moo was rich in the winning combination of chilli heat and fresh flavours. Pork and shitake dumplings were just right. Tom yum squid was covered with a light batter and deliciously devoid of rubberiness.

For the main event, the anniversary couple decided to do the ‘Boots n all’ Wagyu Beef – at $76 this was a great choice, as it came with a healthy portion of beautifully cooked wagyu beef on a bed of greens, with a lovely gravy and porcini mushrooms, grilled asparagus and fabulous duck fat cooked potatos.

The kiwi had the most tender Penang beef cheek curry, and I had the warahau fish – with beautifully crispy skin and still moist and perfectly cooked flesh, on coconut rice served with a refreshing cucumber mint salad and tamarind – just beautiful.


Two of us caved to the short dessert menu, with brother in law having the Lemon curd Eton and I enjoyed the Mango mousse with coconut custard, light and tasty.

Really and truly, it was all flawless, faultless and so damn tasty. My only irritation for the evening was why I hadn’t experienced this fabulous dining experience before now! The urban interior was cleverly softened by materials to ensure although a bustling restaurant, you could still chat and enjoy conversation. Staff are attentive – I saw that each time a table was moved a waiter ensured there was no irritating wiggle to annoy guests with. Staff were busy, charming, attentive and discerning – so good we left a tip, which we don’t do often in New Zealand.

I think I am in love!

WBC Restaurant, 1st Floor, 107 Victoria Street, Wellington 

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Twitter 101, conclusion

Part III – The basics

Twitter has a good Help Centre that covers the basics, however let me run through a few for you.

Replying to a tweet:

When accounts you follow tweet, their tweet will appear in your timeline, or stream, in real time.  You can reply to tweets. Just to be clear, you are responding to the person who wrote the tweet directly, and publicly.  If you saw the movie “Chef” you will understand why I am making this clear!  Click on the “reply”button in the tweet you want to respond to.

By starting a tweet with @acctnamehere your tweet will only be seen by the person you are tweeting and anyone else that follows both you and that account.  If you want all your followers to see it prefix the tweet with a . like this .@paolabrett and it will appear in your followers’ stream.

Below is an example of an interaction using mentions (in my first tweet), then Rod Drury replies to me.  I reply so my followers will maybe see that tweet, then I get a direct reply again from Rod Drury and finally @matthewbrett uses the . to keep the tweet visible to all while replying. 

Twitter Interaction

RT – Retweet:

You can retweet a tweet, effectively you reshare someone’s tweet to your stream. Twitter provide a retweet button in tweets, when you use this a green box will appear above the tweet and say it was retweeted by you.

Example of a quoted RT

Example of a quoted RT

In the web version you are limited to just straight forward retweets,  however in Twitter apps it’s possible to quote a tweet and add some comment of your own, if there are enough available characters.  

Select ‘quote tweet’ in the app, then make your comment and the letters ‘‘RT’ (retweet) before the actual tweet so it differentiates between your thoughts and those in the retweeted tweet. I view this as very important, as you attribute content to the appropriate person.

MT – Modified Tweet:

You can also modify tweets, where you quote only part of someone’s tweet, removing some of their content to make room for your own.  You would put your comment first, then prefix the tweet you are quoting with MT (modified tweet) just before the tweeter’s handle so followers understand it’s modified and they are not seeing the full, original content.

Use of MT

Use of MT


You can mention someone in a Tweet by using @personstwitterhandle and this means they are notified they were mentioned in the tweet.  So, if you are talking about a person or business, you can ensure they see the tweet by using their twitter handle and ‘mentioning’ them.

DM – Direct Messages

If you follow someone and they follow you, it is possible to send Direct Messages to each other, and these messages ARE just between the two of you, and not a broadcast.

#ttrtpt – This tweet refers to previous tweet 

Sometimes it’s a struggle to fit it all into a single 140 character tweet, so you can cheat a little by spreading your thoughts across, I’d suggest no more than, two tweets.  As you prepare your second tweet prefix it with trpt – this refers to previous tweet.  It used to be This tweet refers to previous tweet, but it was shortened.

Now onto the subject of # – Hashtags

Ah, hashtags.  This could probably be a blog post of its own! A subject that seems to get Twitter newcomer’s knickers in a twist! 

It is something that irritates the heck out of me, as some tweeps do it sooo badly, and yet it’s really not that complicated!  The use of hashtags is so badly demonstrated by Twitter users at times that it perpetuates the folly of it’s use!

So, from Twitter helpcentre, this is the low down on using hashtags:

“Using hashtags to categorize Tweets by keyword:

  • People use the hashtag symbol # before a relevant keyword or phrase (no spaces) in their Tweet to categorize those Tweets and help them show more easily in Twitter Search.

  • Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all other Tweets marked with that keyword.

  • Hashtags can occur anywhere in the Tweet – at the beginning, middle, or end.

  • Hashtagged words that become very popular are often Trending Topics.”

Ok, pay attention to the next bit, please!

“Using hashtags correctly:

  • If you Tweet with a hashtag on a public account, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your Tweet

  • Don’t #spam #with #hashtags. Don’t over-tag a single Tweet. (Best practices recommend using no more than 2 hashtags per Tweet.)

  • Use hashtags only on Tweets relevant to the topic.”

I think that is pretty straightforward – consider a # as a search tool. It puts your tweet into context, associating your tweet with a specific topic. Not all tweets need to contain a hashtag. Really, they don’t!

If you attend an event it’s likely they may have an already prepared # – recently The Kiwi attended a conference and they used #WDCNZ  - Web Developers Conference NZ.  I attended the #HootupWLG last month and it became a trending topic as tweets were tagged with this hashtag. The Fifa Football World Cup trended considerably, particularly during certain matches, due to the hashtags used.

As it happens, this article was posted today – Twitter’s hashtag guide for dummies if you want to have a read!

So, I think that’s about covers the practical stuff.

Give it a go! 

It is social, so finding your feet and joining into that first conversation can be daunting – it’s like butting into a conversation you have overheard.  Keep in mind, that just as there are ways of doing that face to face, there are ways to do that online.  I think my first interaction was a conversation by two Kiwi’s living in London, discussing where to find a decent coffee – I tweeted them and made a suggestion and a lovely conversation developed, and one of those Tweeties is now a good friend!

It is a social media, but remember there is still etiquette involved, always think what would you do in person?  How would you like others to treat you?

Right.  Learn as you go. Give it a try, go forth and tweet! Have fun.


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Twitter 101 continued

Part II 

Why join Twitter?

twit logoToday there is easy access to vast amounts of information so the thought of having more isn’t always considered a bonus.  However, with the information you choose to access via Twitter, you refine the information you receive, the people or organisations you hear from, through the type of Twitter accounts you follow, tailoring it to you.

Love food?  I do, so my twitter stream is full of foodie blogger types, celeb chefs, restaurants, cafes, food festivals.  Yes, I am one of ‘those’ people who photograph my food and tweet a 120 character food review! Love wine?  I do, so follow some of my favorite vineyards – living in New Zealand there are plenty of those! I also follow some Masters of Wine so I can gain their recommendations. But that’s me.  

What are you interested in?  Who are in you interested in? Businesses related to your career?  Is there someone you admire or aspire to be? Are they on Twitter?  Are there certain products you like, perhaps they are on Twitter? Quite often there are opportunities for you to win something! Travelling soon?  Does your destination have a tourism twitter account that may provide handy information relevant to your stay?  If you live in New Zealand, following Civil Defense and Geonet can come in handy.  

And remember, as @simonemccallum tweeted, ….

Twitter tip

Of course, it’s not just about gaining information, it is also about sharing.  It’s a social thing, it’s about interacting. I am a communicator, I love to talk, write and let people know my opinion – presumably my Italian heritage has something to do with that!  Twitter also gives you the opportunity to chat with others on topics that interest you, a way to talk to kindred spirits, as it were.  

By following accounts/people who cover subjects you are interested in, you tailor the information shared in your twitter stream.  You can control it.  Over time some of the accounts you follow may have conversations or retweet (RT) other accounts and you may find them of interest and add to your follower list.  If someone isn’t living up to expectations, you can unfollow them.  

How do you get started?

Signing up for a Twitter account is pretty straight forward, using your full name, creating a password and providing an email address.  You will need to choose a handle (your twitter account name – mine is my name @paolabrett), either use your name, as I have done or get creative. Twitter will let you know if the name is available, and you can always change it later.

Twitter will take you through a quick lesson once you sign in and have a name.  They will suggest some Tweeters you may wish to follow so you can build your timeline (unfortunately they tend to suggest celebrities, however be assured that’s not all you will find on Twitter, promise!).  To find out more about accounts, click on their name and you will see their profile and the last three tweets they posted.

Twitter will also ask you to upload an image and write a short profile for your account.  Before you do, consider what you want to achieve – what is your online persona going to be?  Is this to network for business purposes? Be professional.  Is it a fun personal account? Let your personality shine.  Is it a hobby account?  Talk about your passion.  Just remember, once it’s out there, it’s out for the world to see!  

There are some fab short videos here, with a more tech viewpoint but very informative: Pluralsight 

In the next post I will take you through some of the basics, etiquette and the like to help you on your way to becoming an established tweeter.

Posted in Life.

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Twitter 101

twitterPart 1

Initially I thought of writing Social Media 101, but truth be told I am a huge Twitter fan, can’t stand evil Facebook although I do have an account, still assessing Tumblr’s value, no idea where to begin with Google+,Pinterest drives me nuts however I love instagram but that’s pretty pictures. Twitter is ‘ma thang’.  At 140 characters, it means I can share thoughts in the moment, no need to make a note then sit and write a blog post later!   Yes, some may call that lazy, I’d call it efficient.

Here’s my witter about Twitter

Amazingly, in this uber connected world we live in, I still find people who ‘don’t do Twitter’ – who’d have thought! – and the reality is for many that’s also because they don’t ‘do’ social media.  That’s fine, it IS allowed (really?!).

However, there are those who would use it if they ‘got’ it, some who say ‘I feel I should do Twitter but I don’t know where to start’.  Or they are like my husband, who opened a Twitter account back in 2008 but rarely uses it (13 tweets, following 27, 13 followers) and doesn’t see value in it.  That’s until I win yet another prize through Twitter and he gets to benefit from joining me at dinner, theatre, etc!

So, what IS Twitter?

My Twitter profile

My Twitter profile

Twitter describes sells itself as a place where you “create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers”.  It’s an online social networking and microblogging service, where users send and read short 140-character text messages, that may include  photos, videos and web links, called “tweets”.

It’s real time, it’s public, it’s global.  Only registered users can read and post tweets, unregistered users can only read them. I consider tweets as short broadcasts.  Once you send a tweet, it’s out there for all to read, whether they are following you or not.

It’s a great way to connect with many different people and businesses locally and globally from like minded people, those who share similar interests and hobbies, brands you love, keep up to date with the news or a source of learning from subject experts and yes, even your favorite band or celebrity.  For some they use it to promote themselves and use it as a business tool to showcase their expertise and network.

That is, unless you lock your account – but then that would lead me to a rant about it being SOCIAL and you can’t be social if you lock all the doors and windows, close the curtains and stay inside! You can tweet, but no one will hear you.  Pointless.

Twitter is about interactions.

In the next part of this series I will go into why ‘do’ Twitter,  then go on to the how.

P.S. Since I first drafted this series the Kiwi, my husband, has taken heed of the content of my posts and in an update to the above I can confirm he’s now tweeted 58 tweets, is now following 118 tweeps and now has 25 followers.  Will keep you updated!

Posted in Life.

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Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand

To the tune of cicadas and birdsong, we walked the 70kms of Queen Charlotte Track from 1st to 5th February 2014. We flew from Wellington to Picton with Sounds Air, who also transferred us from the aerodrome to town (for a $7 fee each way) on the Saturday morning in good time to catch our 10am boat.  We hopped onboard a Cougar Line boat in Picton, with our back packs, for the hour long sailing to the start of the Track at Ship Cove. However, our back packs stayed on board as we were taking advantage of the pack carrying service Cougar Line, as well as other carriers, provide ($105 per person & pack). Yup, we were flash-packing.

Start at Ship Cove

Ship Cove, walk start

Ship Cove, the start of the QCT

As we cruised through Queen Charlotte Sound the distance we intended to walk struck me, as I really had no comprehension how far 70kms really was!  I have ‘bagged Munros’ (a Munro is a mountain over 3000ft in height) in Scotland, so I am fine about hill walking although these would normally be day trips.

We knew we’d arrive at Ship Cove around 11am, so the initial suggestion of just walking to Resolution Bay (4.5k walk) didn’t wash with us. We decided we would continue on to Endeavour Inlet, a total distance of around 15km, with peaks of around 200+ meters along the way.  We immediately discovered that the start of each stretch of Track seems to involve an immediate, relatively steep incline so my heart got racing pretty fast, but then I am not the fittest! On our side was this stretch being nicely shaded by forest trees, providing shelter from the sun.

By the time we reached our first night’s accommodation legs and feet were feeling in need of a rest.  However, the pretty views of Queen Charlotte Sound and various bays along the way, as well as the amusing persistence of Weka (native New Zealand, wingless bird) in trying to get fed, kept us going. Fortunately, we’d planned to have a rest day after the Punga Cove to Portage (or Camp Bay to Torea Saddle) stretch of 24.5km the following day, and this turned out to be a wise plan.

A wee cheat

The second day saw us cheat, just a little!  We took advantage of the Cougar Line shuttle across the Inlet to Camp Bay (Punga Cove), to save us the 12k walk from Furneaux to Punga, as the walk was already going to be 24.5k long.  Unfortunately, Cougar Line picked us up later than the scheduled 9.30am, making a later start.  On a hot and sunny day this wasn’t great, preferring to get going sooner.  (In retrospect, we would have crossed the inlet and stayed at Punga Cove and headed out earlier from there.)

The Long day 

This is the long day, the hardest day.  This is another start from the bottom and head straight up to the top of the hill at a 45 degree angle walk. Initially we had shade of pine forest on our side.  However, even in shade it was warm. Then it got hot, it got sunny, at times it felt like torture. Then, lo and behold the most fabulous view of stunning hills and sea.  It was enough to keep you going, especially as you got to glimpse Kenepuru Sound for the first time, it’s water colour quite different to Queen Charlotte Sound.  However, there are periods on this part of the track, particularly on the Kenepuru Sound side where you are exposed to the elements, in our case full sunshine.

As I mentioned, I am not the fittest, and the ideas that ladies don’t sweat were truly thwarted that day.  Even my eyelids felt like they could provide faries with a lovely salt spa pool!  The refreshment of walking into native forest was immediate – the lovely, slightly damp, shade had an immediate impact on my energy levels and those of Mr Fitness himself, the Kiwi.

By the time we got to Black Rock campsite I was feeling sore, tired and seriously questioning what on earth I was doing! Meanwhile, there was a lovely view down the Sound to Picton.  We were almost on the downward path and it did take considerable effort – and a caramel slice – to get me going.  We finally made it to Portage around 6.30pm.  That was a well deserved long, hot shower that night!

A day off

The following day was a rest day, we slept in, had a relaxed breakfast then wandered down to the Peppers resort and hired a double kayak and went out on the Sound for a bit then just chilled out and read.  We had dinner at the restaurant, watching the sun set over the Sound.  Food was good if a little over priced.  I did mention that my dessert had clumps of gelatine in it and even had a lump on the plate for the Chef to see, and I feel if I’d mentioned this in Wellington it would have come off the bill but not in Portage.  No competition.

Day three, easy! 

On day three we were only walking for a short distance, as we were heading to Lochmara Lodge in Lochmara Bay.  We realised we should have walked this the day before, then had a rest day at Lochmara Lodge instead, however we now know for next time!  It took us just over 3 hours to walk from Portage to Lochmara.

The final stretch 

The rest of the track is easier after that long 24.5k stretch, particularly the last day of walking from Lochmara Bay to Anakiwa.  More gentle inclines and more meandering through forests.  Since the majority of walkers start from Ship Cove you can feel a sense of splendid isolation as you quite often don’t meet other walkers, particularly on the long day as quite a few miss it out.  By the time we were walking to Anakiwa on the last day the sound of traffic across the Sound travelling Queen Charlotte Drive seemed a rude imposter! We did meet quite a few walkers heading from Davies Bay up to the lookout, that stretch was quite busy.

Mountain bikers can use the track, and all we came across were good at slowing down, giving way (although we gave way to them) and letting us know how many were coming behind them or part of their group.

I am so glad we finally got around to this walk!  It was beautiful, a little challenging at times but achievable and we got to see the Sounds in a different way.  I hadn’t considered the Marlborough Sounds as a destination before, just some pretty scenery you pass on your way through.  How wrong I was!  I will be back for sure.  If you feel committing to a number of days is too much out of your trip then try a day walk, which is absolutely achievable.  Boats can drop you off at different bays and you can arrange a pick up too.

Meanwhile, I feel rather smug I live in such a beautiful country!  Love New Zealand!

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Anita B&B, Agrigento, Sicily, Italy

After booking our accommodation in San Francisco via Airbnb I searched for accommodation in Sicily and found Anita B & B.  There were four of us heading to Agrigento to visit the Valley of the Temples and the B & B would meet our needs and seemed reasonably priced.
Good communication with Angela, who runs the B & B, meant we established that the Kiwi and I along with my parents would have the run of the B & B as it has two rooms, and there was secure car parking available for my parent’s car. Perfect!

View from a bedroom balcony

On the day of our arrival, I sent a text to Angela to let her know we were about half an hour away, as she asked for notice of our arrival.   Unfortunately, the text didn’t arrive so we got to the B&B to find no one there. Mama called Angela and they chatted in Italian, with Angela confirming she needed a bit of time (she was actually making tomato passata when we called!) to get there and she would also need to make up the beds.

We went for a wander to check out the town and get some lunch, returned a couple of hours later to meet Angela, a lovely, warm and friendly lady who was apologetic for the wait and preparation required.  However, we’d timed it well and she’d finished the preparation required for our stay.

large bedroom

The bedrooms are large, one with a lovely wee balcony and bright en-suite bathroom, the other with a large terrace with views down to the water.  Both have air conditioning, a necessity!  The room with the large terrace has a king bed and two single beds in there, along with a desk.  The bathroom is off the hallway before you enter the bedroom.  Both bathrooms were clean, their only down-side being the size of the shower cubicle – teeny tiny, don’t drop the soap!

Another bedroom

The lounge and kitchen area is to the front of the building, which you enter straight from the street.  It is a gloomy room and the navy sofa and navy table cloths on the two tables don’t help the cause, it’s not a comfortable space but the chances are you will spend little time here.  There is a television, a gas hob and fridge stocked with items you can purchase for a reasonable price.  A coffee machine is there for your use, Angela giving us instructions although she comes in each morning to set breakfast and make coffee if you wish.

We had a pleasant stay here and it did all we needed it to do without fuss, in a clean and pleasant environment, reasonably priced and with a very pleasant and lovely hostess.
The only issue we really had was with the secure car parking. This is a street away and down the hill, only a few minutes walk, at additional cost.  We were parking a large car in the garage but it’s an awkward L shape and with locals parking outside the doors Dad ended up damaging the paintwork of the car trying to park the car in the garage – a hassle we could have done without. Angela only charged us for one night as she understood the difficulty we had.

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Hotel Vecchio Borgo, Palermo, Sicily, Italy

Trolling through the accommodation possibilities for Palermo, the Hotel Vecchio Borgo stood out as a potentially decent resting place, all the more so due to their offer of paying up front to secure a €54 bed and breakfast rate – deal!
My parents arrived in Sicily before us, so checked in before picking us up from the airport. The secure car parking turned out to be rather complicated, with the garage being 20 minutes away and one of the staff would drive and park it and you needed to give notice of when you wanted your car back.  Too complicated, especially when it was my parents own car, not a hire car and it’s a large car.  When the staff saw it, they conceded to letting Dad park right outside the hotel, in the chained area and in clear view of the reception staff.
That sorted, onto the rooms.

The corner bedroom

As per the website, the rooms were rather elaborate however clean and pleasant. Our room was a bit more spacious than my parents’ room but it did the job.  Staff were efficient and friendly.  There is double glazing in the rooms, which is needed as our room over-looked a small piazza where the locals liked to hang out in the evening.

The surprise came in the morning, when we went down for breakfast.  What a breakfast!  There was a selection of cereals, fresh fruit, hams and cheese, rolls, bread for toasting, yoghurt, cakes and tarts, brioches and fruit juice. You placed your order for the type of coffee you desired, as you do in Italy.
All in all, this was a pleasant hotel, well situated for walking around Palermo sites and near shopping areas as well as very reasonably priced. Unfortunately, it’s opposite shared rubbish bins, and this being Sicily, the rubbish mounts considerably and looks rather unattractive, leaving the street feeling neglected and a tad rough, but it was fine.  Continue straight up the street and in the next block you find nice apartments and good shopping!

Hotel Vecchio Borgo, Via Quintino Sella, Palermo

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The Blakemore Hotel, Bayswater, London, UK

We got a deal through wotif for a one night stay at The Blakemore Hotel, situated in Bayswater.  The hotel is in a great spot really handy to Hyde Park, convenient for the Central Line tube stations and a pleasant neighbourhood of shops and restaurants.
We arrived at the hotel early, around 12 noon after our long-haul flight from San Francisco.  Our room wasn’t ready so we confirmed that it would be ready for 2pm, per our booking confirmation.  The surly receptionist told us that the policy is 3pm access so we replied that our confirmation stated access at 2pm, she hospitably snapped back saying ‘no, it’s always 3pm where does it say that’…so we showed her!  After a long-haul flight and no sleep for 24 hrs this was the last thing we needed.  She conceded, said we would get the room at 2pm so we left our bags and went out to find some lunch.
A thunder storm downpour made sure we got soaked so we returned to the hotel a little before 2pm and the room was still not ready…by 2.40pm we were sick of waiting and enquired again, to be told we would have to wait until 3pm!  The Kiwi wasn’t having any of it, so it was sorted out and finally we got access to Room 15 feeling rather irritated.

recently refreshed room

The hotel appears to be going through a refresh and the room looked recently renovated, with a lovely big bed in a decently sized room.  The bathroom looked flash, however as we used it we realised how badly designed it was!  The soaker showerhead is placed so you end up soaking the floor of the bathroom and the loo, as the screen is too short.  The shower and bath controls stick out at the side of the wall so you end up bashing yourself as you shower.  There is no space for the loo paper holder, so it sits on the floor and potentially the paper will get wet from the shower!  Another situation where it’s style over substance, but everything worked well and it was clean.

Stylish bathroom

Breakfast was included, and it was the usual suspects for a continental breakfast.  No selection of teas though, and just big urns of prepared coffee which I didn’t touch as I couldn’t imagine it would be any good!
Really, the hotel’s selling point is it’s location and the price we paid through the wotif offer of £99 made it good value.  Had the staff been a bit nicer and more professional about access to the room I would be raving about the place, although if I had paid full price I would have been most unhappy about the staff’s attitude.  The wi-fi connection was a bit ropey and didn’t always work from the room, which was another irritation.
The UK hospitality industry may need to remind their staff what the term “hospitality” means.  I have found on this trip that the language barrier has been an issue, where Eastern European staff are employed without sufficient English to truly communicate in an effective way and hospitable way.   Certainly the Blakemore may need to remind it’s staff that a warm welcome is appreciated by customers and that there is a certain way to handle issues that may arise.

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