Tuesday 30 November 2010

Hunts to Lady Travellers

Henry Higgins observes in My Fair Lady that ‘an Englishman's way of speaking absolutely classifies him / The moment he talks he makes some other Englishman despise him’ (my autobiography will be entitled: ‘Everything I Learned in Life, I Learned From the Musicals’). In my travels I have noted that this is also true of English-speakers around the globe.

English people take the piss out of the Irish, Welsh and Scottish accents. Americans make fun of the English. Many people make fun of South Africans (though in my experience very few can pull off a convincing SA accent). On several occasions Australians (who, to my ear have a discernibly Australian accent) have told me very seriously that Australians don’t have accents, ‘not like Americans’.

I have had my (Irish) English corrected by English people – but, conversely, have also frequently been asked if I really were Irish because ‘you don’t have an Irish accent’. Thanks for asking. And yes, I am sure.

Then there’s the Kiwi accent. My first true exposure was last week in Auckland. I had the tv on as background noise while I was packing and I heard a lady offering ‘hunts and tups’ for Christmas cake decorating. But what I like is that people here take the mickey out of themselves. Another ad (for timber decking) has a woman shaking her head mournfully at ‘boys and their decks’. Except with a Kiwi accent it’s much funnier …

Personally I like the fact that people in different parts of the world have taken the basic medium of English and added their own local flavour to it and I don’t see why any one version is any better (or worse) than any other. Because when it comes down to it, thinking your accent is superior to someone else’s is just another form of snobbery.

So here’s the deal: I won’t make fun of your accent and you won’t say, ‘Irish? Tirty tree and a turd! Top of the mornin’! Begorrah!’ Oh, and while I think of it, journalists and travel writers please try to resist the temptation to refer to Irish people and their brogue (charming, thick or other).

Super, thanks!

Monday 29 November 2010


Today I drove from Picton (Marlborough Sounds) to Hokitika, 400km in all, through very Alpine scenery.

I can’t say that it was the most riveting day, though, and this is one of very few photos because (as previously noted on this blog) driving and photography are mutually incompatible activities. But I made it safely to Hokitika, which is about half way down the South Island’s west coast and I’m staying at a very sweet B&B – the kind with homemade biscuits. Yum.

Instead of telling you about today’s route (the 1 and then the 6 and then the 65 and then the 6 again and then the 69 and then the 7 and then back on the 6) can I tell you more about my blissful weekend?

On Saturday, fortified by French toast (with bacon, my FAVOURITE thing) I went for a 5 hour hike along the Queen Charlotte Track. Lots of up and down so I think the French toast was deserved. My feet weren’t entirely happy to be back in hiking boots, but I ignored them and admired the scenery.

On Sunday I soaked up the sun, read my book, drank wine, went swimming … I do these things so you don’t have to. But I think the highlight (pun alert!) of the weekend was last night when I walked up the hill to look at the stars. I had no torch (my ipod was doubling as music and light source) and it took a few minutes for my eyes to adjust. But still I thought I was seeing things when the stars came at me at knee height. After a freaked-out moment, I realised that the little lights I was seeing through the trees weren’t stars at all – they were glowworms. Oh, they were lovely, lighting my path up to the observatory. (The observatory consists of a cluster of hammocks at the top of the hill.) At the top of the hill, I climbed into a hammock and looked up at the stars. I recognised Orion and the Southern Cross (I think) – there were also several planes and one that might have been a satellite. It was so beautiful that I cried a little bit (yes, okay, I had had two glasses of wine, but still) because sometime I feel very lucky to be a Lady Traveller and see the things I’ve seen.


As a bonus for Anonymous who did my research for me and discovered that the Isle of Innisfree did, in fact, used to do the Dublin-Holyhead run, here’s a picture of her:

Friday 26 November 2010

Three Days in Paradise

Oh you in the Northern Hemisphere – if you don’t want to turn an unbecoming shade of green, you might want to stop reading now.
For I am in paradise.

This morning I got the ferry from Wellington to Picton. On the open deck, a man came over and sat down beside me. ‘Hghuten morgen,’ he said. I can’t prove it, but he didn’t sound German and, for the purposes of my theory that Wellington=Switzerland, I’ve determined he was in fact Swiss. In fact the ship was chockablock with Germans, Scandinavians and Icelanders – I think they might have outnumbered the New Zealanders. I wasn’t the only Irish person though – a board in the lobby revealed that the ship used to be known as the MV Isle of Inisfree … I think I might have crossed the Irish Sea in her a time or two.

The Cook Strait is notorious for offering a bumpy crossing, but we were lucky and it was relatively calm – though the wind blew like a bizem (is that a real saying or just something I made up?) - enough to clear the deck once we were out of Wellington Harbour. The last hour of the journey is through the fjord-like Marlborough Sound (is that why so many Scandinavians - they have to try to visit ALL the fjords, the same way Muslims are obliged to try to visit Mecca?)

At Picton I had to get a water taxi (isn’t that wonderful?) but by the time I got to the dock it was ten past twelve and my taxi had been due to leave at midday (the bags were very slow to get off the ferry). But in an example of kindness I’m discovering is very typical of New Zealanders, the taxi driver (skipper?) saw me at the pier ‘looking lost’ (as he put it) and came back for me.

A 15 minute whip across the bay brought us to Lochmara Lodge = Paradise. This is an eco lodge that you can’t drive to: it’s only accessible by foot or boat. The accommodation is not particularly fancy, but the setting is glorious. There is a café on site, tame birds wandering around, a sculpture trail and a grove of hammocks at the top of the hill. I found these this afternoon when I went up with my camera. I curled up in a hammock and fell asleep for two hours. How’s that for relaxation?

Tomorrow I’m planning to take my packed lunch (courtesy of the café) and walk along the Queen Charlotte Track. Right now, I’m planning to have a glass of wine and an early night. I can hear the beautiful birds calling and the sound of the waves from my room. Oh, it’s enough to make you sick.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Are Comparisons Odious?

Several writers observed that they were (Christopher Marlowe, John Donne and a few others, which is very ironic or else perhaps they planned it as a practical joke?) and I’ve been trying to stop myself from comparing place A with Place B … But without any prompting from my conscious mind, my brain goes through a mental catalogue flip-flip-flip­ until it finds the stored image that most tallies with whatever it’s seeing.
Which is why I’m going to tell you that Wellington makes me think of Switzerland. Not worse, not better, just redolent of things that (before now) have said ‘Switzerland’ to me. This may have been helped along by my pilgrimage to Katherine Mansfield’s birthplace. In my head she’s stored under New Zealand – Short Stories – Garden Parties – Switzerland – Square Face. (By the way, on the off chance anyone reading this is passing the Salvos’ Shop in Richmond, Melbourne, they might find my copy of Uncommon Arrangements - an excellent group biography looking at the self-consciously modern approach to marriage taken by some literary types in the 1920s, including Mansfield and her husband John Middleton Murry.)
Wellington is charming: small (population less than 150,000), clean, ringed by green mountains and with streets that all seem to lead to the waterfront. (Arguably, that’s where the Swiss comparison breaks down, Switzerland not being known for its coastline, but I would counter that many of the big lakes in Switzerland look almost like little seas…)
There are pretty wooden Victorian villas, of which the house where Kathleen Beauchamp (aka Katherine Mansfield) was born is a good example:
I arrived here this morning and spent the day walking the city from end to end (takes about, oh, 45 minutes). Apart from a visit to the Beauchamp/Mansfield house and a pilgrimage of another sort to Te Papa (the Museum of New Zealand, guided tour to follow) I enjoyed winding along the streets, having a coffee here, a crepe there and poking into some of the interesting looking shops. If my bag weren’t so heavy, I’d be tempted to buy, but it is, so I’m not.
When I finish posting, I’m planning to take a ride on the cable car to have a drink and admire the view. Yes, the cable car. See, it’s obviously not just me who looks at Wellington and thinks Switzerland.
Edited to say:
I decided that I didn't really provide enough photographic evidence to do my theory justice. So here's another photo of Wellington, this one taken from the top of the hill:
And here is the cable car (more of funicular, really):

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Auckland Afternoon

Trying to work out if Auckland is (whisper it!) a bit sleepy or if it was just me, I took an alternative route back to my hotel, bypassing Queen St and turning onto High St. This was much more like it.

Lots of deco buildings, some promising-looking bars and an excellent bookshop.

Unity Books turned up trumps with a copy of How Did You Get This Number? by Sloane Crosley whose book I Was Told There’d Be Cake was one of my favourite 30th birthday presents.

I liked this example of gardening-meets-art with imaginative use of moss,

and (being how lady voters and lady travellers share a common aim of female independence) appreciated this memorial to the advent of women’s suffrage in New Zealand in 1893.

Auckland Morning

After a day of rain, yesterday, (highlight was a visit to Auckland Museum, perched in the middle of a very pretty park/former volcano) today was bright again. After breakfast I got the ferry to Devonport, just across the harbour from the CBD.

Devonport is pretty, with lots of Victorian and Edwardian houses and, for some reason, many secondhand bookshops (though I didn’t find any treasures, boo). I walked up to the summit of Mt Victoria, another volcano. Great views.

Auckland Evening

First impressions of Auckland: clean, amazing light, view of the water everywhere.

I arrived on Monday evening and once I’d found my hotel set off down Queen St, the main artery of Auckland’s CBD. Over Queen St itself, we’ll draw a veil – picturesque it isn’t, nor very interesting. But Queen St leads to the harbour and that is picturesque – full of ships of every size and shape, from naval vessels through container ships to little sailboats.

The Hilton in Auckland is perched on a pier and looks like a cruise ship.

I decided it ought to have a bar with a good view, and indeed it had. The bar was called Bellini and thanks to the power of suggestion I ordered a classic peach bellini. I sipped it and watched containers being lowered into a ship. It must be the five year old boy in me, but I love this: something about the bright colours of the containers and the simple puzzle of slotting them all into the ship.

Monday 22 November 2010

Avion, Avion

My Adorable Nephew knows where his Mamó lives ('Dublin') and where Yiayia lives ('Serres'). When asked where Auntie Nehneh lives, the cherub replied, 'avion.' And, you know, there's some truth to that - I have been spending a lot of time on avions since Gregory has known me.

Recently I've taken to counting the number of avions between me and HOME. There are eight in all for a total distance of 29772km - and today I ticked the first leg off the list: Melbourne to Auckland.

[I was planning to introduce a new 'airport review' feature to the blog, but failed to do the necessary legwork this morning because I spent all my time in Melbourne Airport queuing. First for an hour and a quarter to check in, then for security (the man ahead of me had locked his laptop in his rucksack and lost the key...), then for immigration, then to board.]

All that queuing makes a girl sleepy so you'll have to wait until tomorrow for my first impressions of New Zealand.

Oh vwah!*
xxx HTLT

*tm Gregory Killian

Thursday 18 November 2010


It rained, I packed. The highlight of the day was going to drop off some things at the Salvos'.

A Lady Traveller's life can't be glamorous every day.

I console myself with holiday porn - pictures of some of the places I'll be visiting on my Pacific travels, like Lake Wanaka:

(image via telegraph.co.uk)


Wednesday 17 November 2010

Pretty Williamstown

Packing for NZ/Canada/Home has commenced. Despair is likely to follow soon. I'm avoiding the issue by looking at pictures of Williamstown. It's a pretty seaside village/suburb of Melbourne where I went a few weeks ago to take the saltwater cure for my toes.

Pretty pier where you can buy seafood off the boats,

pretty boats,

more pretty boats (if you squint you can just see the skyscrapers of the CBD in the background),

pretty old people on the beach, cackling in Greek (+ birds cackling in bird):

and my absolutely, positively non-pretty feet - trust me that it's better that you see them covered in foam.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Onwards & Eastwards

It's ironic really. This is, to all intents and purposes, a travel blog - but most often, the thing that gets in the way of blogging is travel. Yesterday, for example, I was in Brisbane for work and didn't get back to Melbourne until late. (I suppose another way of looking at it is that work quite often interferes with blogging ...)

It has occurred to me that I should overhaul my phone and get one of them there smartphones so I can blog on the road. I promise I'm going to look into this when I'm at home for Christmas.

Speaking of which - this post was really intending to be about my travel plans for the next few weeks. I've been in Australia for 4 1/2 months - the longest I've gone without crossing a national border since ... well, I don't know. (I've said it before but I think it bears repeating - it's not until you get to Australia that you realise quite how far it is from everywhere else.) That will all change on Monday when I go to Auckland. Yay! New Zealand! New country!

I'm spending two weeks in New Zealand and then I am flying from Auckland to LA to Toronto (to see LTBB and his lovely wife), back to LA and then on to London and then, finally, home to Dublin in time for Christmas. Lady Traveller is on the move!

Friday 12 November 2010

Shades of Grey

Where were we? There was rain, there were clouds, we watched the rain, we stared at the clouds ... and then on the third day the sun rose again and there was light. Grey light, strained through stormclouds, but light all the same.

We trekked to the beach and, while Stu surfed, Sunny licked sea water from her fingers, Georgie chased Sunny and I took photos.

And although the scene may have been far removed from the conventional Australian stereotype of blue skies and white sand, it was still beautiful.

Hard to see where the sky started and the sea stopped.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Great Ocean [Road] Rain

People rhapsodise about the Great Ocean Road. It's one of Australia's Must-Sees. But not necessarily when seen through a veil of rain ....

Yes, sadly the weekend I spent with Georgie and Stu and Sunday in Anglesea was the weekend when Victoria decided to remind me of seaside holidays spent in Donegal. Watching the rain. Rushing outside when there was a break in the rain - only for it to start raining again.

Deciding the rain had to stop sometime, we went for a drive and I took photos. Of the Hawaiian dancer in the rain.

And the rain out of the passenger window.

Eventually we did the only sensible thing and sought refuge indoors. We went to Wye River General Store - an upgraded local shop with a very nice cafe (though on the pricy side) and a fire.

(Georgie checking out the offerings.)

I chose a lemon tart. I chose wisely. It was was delectable.

Sunny recommends the chocolate milkshake.

Coffee drunk, cakes eaten, we went back outside to watch the rain some more.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Lighthouse Envy

I love lighthouses.

I fantasise about owning a lighthouse with a sweet little keeper's cottage beside it. I'd probably sleep in the cottage, but have my workroom in the lighthouse and also AMAZING parties.

I would fall asleep every night listening to the sound of the sea.

This specimen, at Aireys Inlet on the Great Ocean Road, would fit the bill very nicely.

Monday 8 November 2010

Before and After

Camp Cove, Sydney, 11 July:

Camp Cove, Sydney, 7th November:

Winter palette:

Summer palette: