Posts tagged: road trip

Slow Travel Through France {part 3}

By , August 8, 2011 1:34 pm

To get from the south of France to Paris, we decide to take a road trip with my parents. Usually on family trips like this, the car would be packed in with my siblings and the only sounds you can hear is all of us screaming (how we like to talk to each other). This time around, it is a lot quieter with just the four of us, my parents and Me and Frenchie.

Slow Travel Through France

Slow Travel Through France

The south of France is known for its endless fields of lavender during the summertime. Once we crack open the windows, the aroma of lavender quickly finds its way in the car and this is all we can smell for the next twenty miles. We make a photo stop and sneak a piece of the lavender in our pockets to save it for later.

Lavender

Lavender

My Parents In A Field of Lavender

My Parents In A Field of Lavender

In appreciation of Roman architecture, we visit the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge. It is nice to get out of the car and do a little walking. As weekends are extremely busy, the place is filled with international tourists. There are also lots of folks hanging out in cabanas by the water. With the sun blazing, the rocks are absorbing all the heat so it gets really hot in this region.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

Our next stop to see Ardeche is something new for both my parents and I. At a scenic viewpoint, there is a goat greeting us outside our car. Yes, this is very random. We drive in closer to the Ardeche River to get a upfront view of the Pont d’Arc. It is an impressive natural arch right on the river. There are lots of swimmers and canoers and I can see why this is a popular camping spot.

Nice Goat

Nice Goat

Ardeche

Ardeche

Pont Arc in Ardeche

Pont d'Arc in Ardeche

In addition to the pretty villages in the south, the cities are also very interesting, so we spend a night in the city of Lyon. The old city is buzzing with nightlife as everyone is out having dinner and drinks. Eating in Lyon is always yummy as there is so much variety. We try pork knuckles and white-skinned Lyon sausages, which are all very tasty. To walk it off, we do a late-night stroll up to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere for a complete view of the city.

Pretty City of Lyon

Pretty City of Lyon

Lots of Chimneys

Lots of Chimneys

In the morning, after making a stop at the bakery for chocolate croissants and coffee, the fun begins as we visit the various traboules. Back in the day, silk manufacturers and merchants would transport their products through these passageways so they can get from their house to the river faster while remaining sheltered. Traboules are one of the highlights of Lyon and it is well worth seeing as it unique to Lyon and a few other French cities.

Traboule (source: petitesandrine @ flickr)

Traboule (source: petitesandrine @ flickr)

A Famous Staircase

A Famous Staircase

Another Nice Staircase

Another Nice Staircase

Notre Dame De Fourvière

Notre Dame De Fourvière

View From Notre Dame

View From Notre Dame

My parents are very pleased with their trip to the south of France. Some of the things they pointed out, that I thought is worth mentioning, is how many of the places we went to see are free. In the US, we have to pay to see everything, including state parks. And even amidst a busy summer, many spots are not packed like it would be in the US. But they are most impressed with the landscapes and how they are so different from one place to the next. Then the dining experience is unforgettable each time. I think my parents like the south of France as much as I do.

Sky of Lyon

Sky of Lyon

Everything is going well in the south. As we make our way north, everything changes when we get to Paris. We will return to drama in our next post.

To be continued…

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

New Zealand North: Discovering The City Of Auckland

By , February 1, 2011 5:00 am
Children Playing In Buckleton Beach

Children Playing In Buckleton Beach

Our stay in Auckland is easy, as public transportation is plentiful and for the most part, the city is clean with various neighborhoods to discover. Right away, I am impressed with how culturally diverse the city is, something I had not seen so far in New Zealand. Like many other large cities, there are lots of trendy restaurants and shops; western luxuries I feel very comfortable being around.

Ferry Building Now Full Of Restaurants

Ferry Building Now Full Of Restaurants

Holiday Cheer While Shopping

Holiday Cheer While Shopping

The city is nicknamed “City of Sails” because of all the yachts in the harbor. As we make our way to the Fish Market on foot, my attention alternates between the design details on the urban dwellings and the yachts that are bigger than my last apartment building. While I don’t fancy boats so much, I do wish some of that attention to design was shared in the waterfront homes in San Francisco.

Auckland Harbor

Auckland Harbor

Your Very Own Parking Spot

Your Very Own Parking Spot

Enjoying Coffee At The Harbor

Enjoying Coffee At The Harbor

My second favorite stop in the North Island is Buckleton Beach (with Wai-O-Tapu being the first). It’s a short drive outside the city of Auckland and not much of a tourist attraction, but it is here that I come to understand why people love New Zealand so much. As I lay on the tree branch that afternoon looking at the kids jumping off the wooden platform and giggling amongst each other with their parents nearby, but not glued to their sides, I imagine what a safe, outdoor wonderland it is to grow up in New Zealand. There are so many different hikes to go on and get lost for hours or days. There are so many beaches where there is no one else. This is a place where you choose your pace of life. This is a place where you eat free oysters right on the beach rocks. This is a place where you go through the tolls and pay later. This is truly the great outdoors where you can be by yourself or with others. This is a lifestyle.

Buckleton Beach

Buckleton Beach

Me & Frenchie

Me & Frenchie

Higher Please

Higher Please

Rocky Side Of The Beach

Rocky Side Of The Beach

Free Oysters On The Beach (Up To 50 Per Person Daily)

Free Oysters On The Beach (Up To 50 Per Person Daily)

So if you come to NZ looking to be wowed by everything, like myself, this may not be the place for you. However if you want to enjoy the outdoors and be able to hear yourself think, this is the perfect place.

So Young And In Love

So Young And In Love

Baby Starfish

Baby Starfish

Neat Rock Formation

Neat Rock Formation

With 3 other Frenchies, what better way to end our trip than to eat at The French Cafe in Auckland. We are here to celebrate Marie Hélène’s birthday and our meals are amazing.

Goat Cheese With Beets

Goat Cheese With Beets

Got To Have Fish

Got To Have Fish

Delicious Meat

Delicious Meat

One Of the Best Dinners We Had

One Of the Best Dinners We Had

No Complaints About Auckland

No Complaints About Auckland

Thank you Marie Hélène and Gérard for joining us on our world trip and always spoiling us with your love.

Fish Burger

Fish Burger

Pay Your Toll Online Or Here

Pay Your Toll Online Or Here

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

New Zealand North: Dramatic Whitecliffs of Taranaki

By , January 30, 2011 1:12 am
Whitecliffs

Whitecliffs

I head back to suburbia with our arrival in New Plymouth. In the middle of the city is Pukekura Park. I wish every city had something like this. We spend over three hours enjoying everything about this marvelous park. The botanical garden includes a collection of Japanese plants. I find a new beautiful flower, which I still don’t know the name of. The ponds are filled with ducks waiting for thoughtful visitors to bring bread. There is even an amphitheater where we spot a wild Takahē bird speeding by us. At the free zoo, I watch the cutest monkey entertain himself. I later find the funkiest white bird.

Pukekura Park in New Plymouth

Pukekura Park in New Plymouth

Interesting White Flowers

Interesting White Flowers

Boris Sitting In The Amphitheatre

Boris Sitting In The Amphitheatre

Funky White Baby Bird

Funky White Baby Bird

Cute Monkey

Cute Monkey

Cotton-Top Tamarin

Cotton-Top Tamarin

Takahē Bird

Takahē Bird

In the morning we hike in Egmont National Park through an interesting young rainforest. With all the fog, we don’t see much of Mt Taranaki. Later in the afternoon, Boris is able to finally get a decent shot of the mountain for afar.

Hiking To Taranaki

Hiking To Taranaki

Leaves In The Sunlight

Leaves In The Sunlight

Young Forest

Young Forest

Can't See The Top!

Can't See The Top!

Mount Taranaki

Mount Taranaki

A short drive later brings us to the whitecliffs of Taranaki. Here we do a hike along the farmlands. Unfortunately because of the high tides, we are not able to do the shortcut along the beach. Alone with the dramatic views, it is a great spot to just chill out.

Whitecliffs Walkway

Whitecliffs Walkway

Whitecliffs Beach

Whitecliffs Beach

MuiMui

MuiMui

Enjoying The Afternoon Views

Enjoying The Afternoon Views

Along our road trip, a French custom I am acquainted to right away with is the mandatory coffee break every 2-4 hours, regardless how we travel, by foot or car.

Enjoying A Good Ol' Cup Of Joe

Enjoying A Good Ol' Cup Of Joe

I do not regret any pounds I gained here in NZ. My favorite meats here are lamb and fish. It is so fresh and with every bite, I can taste how natural it is (without all that chemical they have in US meat). Snapper and Trevally are really good too. Some local recommendations that I did not get to try are Tarakihi and Red Gurnard. A great fishery to try all this would be at Thames Wholesale Fisheries.

Lamb With Blue Cheese And Goat Cheese Salad

Lamb With Blue Cheese And Goat Cheese Salad

As for wine, I usually drink red but here in NZ, I stick to the whites. Some of our favorite NZ Sauvignon Blancs are: Babich, Villa Maria, Tohu (on the floral side), Cloudy Bay, and Oyster Bay.

2009 Tohu Sauvignon Blanc Reserve

2009 Tohu Sauvignon Blanc Reserve

Read about beautiful Auckland in our next post.

Ice Cream Shop In The Middle Of Pukekura Park

Ice Cream Shop In The Middle Of Pukekura Park

Parrot Face

Parrot Face

Lemur

Lemur

Pretty Flower

Pretty Flower

Shaved Lamas

Shaved Lamas

Little Pig

Little Pig

Farm Door

Farm Door

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

New Zealand North: The Champagne Pool Of Wai-O-Tapu

By , January 26, 2011 5:00 am
View From Wai-O-Tapu

View From Wai-O-Tapu

One of the things I am most looking forward to in the North Island is an active volcanic area, called Wai-O-Tapu. As we enter the park, it starts to smell like rotten eggs. This can only mean we are approaching the Champagne Pool. While the name sounds quite nice, you probably don’t want to actually sip this water. The carbon dioxide in the water creates the bubbles like in Champagne. The bright palette of colors in the pool is due to the sulfur mineral deposits. I just want to stare at the pool for hours, but the smell is so strong I have to move on.

MuiMui Walking Across Platform

MuiMui Walking Across Platform

The Champagne Pool

The Champagne Pool

Me & Frenchie

Me & Frenchie

Great Palette Of Colors

Great Palette Of Colors

The park is pretty large. As we continue walking, the various geothermal landscapes vary from each other significantly. For a moment, I think I see the Incredible Hulk coming out of the neon green pool.

Neon Green Pool

Neon Green Pool

Different Landscapes Within The Park

Different Landscapes Within The Park

Hot Blue Pools

Hot Blue Pools

Pretty But Scorching Hot

Pretty But Scorching Hot

Don't Fall In

Don't Fall In

Yellow Bubbles

Yellow Bubbles

Then I hear something start to bubble out of the mud pool and it’s interesting how the mud splatters. With Boris’ new zoom lens, we can accurately capture it.

Mud Splatter Looks Like A Head Of A Dog

Mud Splatter Looks Like A Head Of A Dog

Love The Zoom Lens

Love The Zoom Lens

Throughout the park, there are various geysers that spew out at different times. The largest of them all is Lady Knox Geyser. As she blows, this fascinates the crowd. I found out later, this is the first geyser Boris has ever seen.

Geyser About To Go Off

Geyser About To Go Off

Lady Knox Geyser

Lady Knox Geyser

There She Blows

There She Blows

Being here just confirms how bad I need to visit Yellowstone National Park when I return to the states.

In our hot blue rental car, we drive to city of Taupo where we randomly come upon this luxury waterfront rental at Sacred Waters. For the next couple of days, Boris and I do not depart from the compound. We leave the sightseeing to Marie Hélène and Gérard while we enjoy the amenities, which include our own personal spa made out of stainless steel. It’s pretty cool as the hot water comes in from the natural springs. For our meals, Boris and I are the head chefs where I am the lamb expert and he is the side-dish-made-with-cheese expert. What a dynamic duo we are.

Boris Feeling Back At Home

Boris Feeling Back At Home

Bon Appetit

Bon Appetit

Our Sweet Backyard

Our Sweet Backyard

Personal Spa With Stainless Steel Seats

Personal Spa With Stainless Steel Seats

Our next post will highlight the white cliffs of Taranaki.

Hot Spring In Taupo

Hot Spring In Taupo

Pied Stilt

Pied Stilt

Wild Feathered Bird

Wild Feathered Bird

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

New Zealand North: Visiting Coromandel

By , January 24, 2011 5:00 am
The Beach @ Cathedral Cove

The Beach @ Cathedral Cove

Joining us for the North Island is Boris’ mother and her boyfriend. They greet us French style, with lots of kisses and Champagne! We make a compromise with them. From this point on, we travel their style and in return, we cook for them when feasible. Thank you Marie Hélène and Gérard for giving us the better end of the deal. :)

Beautiful Natural Christmas Tree

Beautiful Natural Christmas Tree

We go for a road trip around the North Island and it reminds me a little of Maine because there is always some place to stop for delicious seafood. We stop at Coromandel Oyster Company for lunch. It is a small shack right off the road and they have a darn good seafood chowder.

Coromandel Oyster Company

Coromandel Oyster Company

Our lodging at The Church, in Coromandel, is one of the cutest accommodations. There are a handful of designer cottages all equipped for a relaxing night stay. With the four of us, we decide to go with “The House #12”, which gives us more space and amenities than we actually need.

The House

The House

More Champagne Please

More Champagne Please

We dine at the hotel restaurant the first night and the food and wine is excellent. The next night, we grill it up on our very own porch. Every French meal includes, at least, Champagne, wine, and delicious meat. With Gerard and me around, we also like to have the American delight called chips.

Fish In NZ Is Fabulous

Fish In NZ Is Fabulous

Salmon Cooked At Perfection

Salmon Cooked At Perfection

Nearby are two popular attractions. At the Cathedral Cove, the hike in is an easy 30 minutes with wonderful views. At the end, we arrive at a great beach spot for pure relaxation. Don’t forget to bring your snorkel gear.

Magnificent Views

Magnificent Views

Not Permitted To Enter

Not Permitted To Enter

Rock Island

Rock Island

The other attraction is called Hot Water Beach. During low tide, we enjoy this underground hot spring by creating a hot water pool, which we share with the other hundred folks that are here. We borrow a shovel and dig into the sand for some time to allow the hot water to escape to the surface. While enjoying the warmth, the cold tides come in and collapse all that hard work we put in to have us rebuild all over again.

Group Hot Water Pool

Group Hot Water Pool

Stay tuned for our next post on our North Island favorites.

Me & Frenchie

Me & Frenchie

Marie Hélène and Gérard

Marie Hélène and Gérard

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

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