New Zealand Adventure #3 – Bathroom Funnies

New Zealand Adventure #3 – Bathroom Funnies

Bathrooms in New Zealand have a sense of humor.

Public bathrooms were almost uniformly clean, plentiful, and well-maintained. They were also sometimes surprisingly humorous.

There were the public bathrooms that gave you 10 minutes, then they would unlock the door…ready or not. Then there were the ones that wouldn’t unlock and open the door unless you washed your hands.


There were murals…



paintings on the wall…



and sneaky peeking observers.

It was an adventure.

New Zealand Adventure #2 – Breakfast

New Zealand Adventure #2 – Breakfast

The food was very good in New Zealand, but what I remember the most are the breakfasts. Maybe it’s because I rarely have time for a sit-down breakfast at home. My habit is to grab a cup of tea and toast with almond butter, or something similarly easy. But breakfast at cafes around New Zealand was a treat and a necessity before a long morning of hiking.

The cappuccinos were works of art.

Not so much the decaf…


Perfectly poached eggs were often on the menu.


Do you see how delightfully orange the yolks were?

Bright orange yolks are not something I have seen since we kept backyard chickens several years ago. The orange color comes from carotenoid pigments in the hen’s diet. If they are fed orange things (cantaloupe, winter squash, carrots for example) and dark leafy greens, the yolks will be more orange. If they are fed corn, they will be medium yellow. And if they are fed more wheat and barley, the yolks will be a lighter color. The color makes no difference in the nutritional value. One interesting thing I found is that different countries prefer different colors. New Zealanders, Australians, and Southern Europeans prefer their egg yolks to be more orange, while Northern Europeans prefer them to be more yellow. Germany is divided in the middle.

By law, no artificial coloring is allowed in chicken feed, but some farmers will add marigold petals to give yolks an orangey color boost.

Smoked salmon was also a common item and was delicious.

Plus the occasional waffle or French toast, sometimes with more salmon.


One morning I had something called Turkish eggs. It turned out to be poached eggs with harissa, yogurt, zatar, and Dukkah. It was unexpectedly different and flavorful.


My fellow travelers from the U.S. were introduced to vegemite. I think you must have grown up on it, they were not fans. Having an English Mum meant we smuggled Bovril back from the U.K. every time we visited.


It has inspired me to be more creative at breakfast, at least on the weekends.



New Zealand Adventure #1 – Mount Cook, March 2023

New Zealand Adventure #1 – Mount Cook, March 2023

A question I’ve been asked since we returned is ‘What did I enjoy the most about New Zealand?’. Maybe a better question would be ‘What was the most amazing thing about the trip?’ I’d have to answer that it was a small country’s incredible variety of terrain and flora. There were mountains, rainforests, coastal bluffs, lakes, and fjords.

Here is a sample of the variety. I am going to break this into several posts. There is simply too much to tell you in one.

The second day of our tour with New Zealand Trails took us to Mount Cook. The scheduled hike was a steep trail up the mountain. Unfortunately, it was closed by the park because of dangerous conditions. The first rainfall of the season had fallen overnight bringing snow to the higher elevations. The trail would have been icy, slippery, and muddy.

Mount Cook

Mount Cook

Our guides did a quick reset and it was decided to hike on the Hooker Trail. It’s part of the benefit of going with experienced guides who can turn on a dime when a change is needed to the itinerary.

Our group ready to hike on the Hooker Valley Trail

Our hiking tour group ready to hike on the Hooker Valley Trail

You can see we are all decked out and prepared for cold and wet conditions. Our dog trainers say that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear. They never cancel a class. We were ready for the challenge.

Steve and I, prepared for the weather

Steve and I were prepared for the weather. Bring it on!

The overnight rain had not only coated the mountains with snow, it had also created multiple waterfalls coming down into the river.

Roaring River

Roaring River

I wish I could include the roar in this post!

We crossed several hanging bridges on our hike. I was careful not to cross at the same time as one of our group who liked to jump up and down while we were on the bridge.

The payoff was at the end where we saw icebergs that had broken off from the glacier into the lake at the end of the trail. You can see the waterfalls coming off the mountains.


The next day dawned bright and clear with blue skies. We could finally see the top of Mount Cook in the distance.

Mount Cook

Mount Cook

Stay tuned for more adventure.


January – Planes, Trains, Automobiles…and much more

January – Planes, Trains, Automobiles…and much more

After three years of isolation, we are finally traveling again. But, I am definitely out of practice. Packing is a laborious event, when before it was automatic. Thoughts of airport check-ins, security lines, passport control, and crowded terminals fill me with dread.

In the last 4 months, I have been to Dallas, Texas for a funeral and reunion with cousins in November. And in early December I spent a week in Hawaii with a friend to celebrate her retirement.

Together with my husband and another couple, we explored and hiked the redwood parks just north of here in late October.

The redwood burls look like creatures from “Lord of the Rings”, otherworldly.

And finally, the two of us took a trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island in B.C., Canada to visit the ‘storm hotels’.

All of the above is why you have not heard from me lately.

Following are some details of our trip to Canada. It’s a tale of trains, planes, and automobiles; plus the ferry and a bus. They say life is about the journey, this vacation was certainly to a large extent about the adventure of travel.

Throughout the last few years of drought in California we (my husband and myself) have watched the storms hit the west coast of Vancouver Island in Canada with envy. The low-pressure systems would sit just off their coast bringing a generous amount of rain. At the same time, a high-pressure system just off our northern California coast kept the rain away from us. The town of Tofino (at the end of the road in western Vancouver Island) has an average of 128 inches of rain annually! It’s a popular place for nature lovers and is crowded in the summer with surfers, kayakers, beachgoers, campers, fishers, and whale watchers. In the winter the visitors come for storm watching.

We planned this trip six months ago. We couldn’t have known that, ironically, the storms would hit our little coastal town with 30-foot waves and a deluge of rain while it was mostly rain-free in Canada. Sure, the sky was grey while we visited but very little precipitation fell to spoil our beach walks and hikes. At the same time, Fort Bragg had flooding and power outages.

Below is a picture of the sky as we drove into Oakland to catch our train.

Leaving the Bay Area the clouds looked like a second city floating above the buildings of San Francisco below


Amtrack Coastal Starlight

Both my husband and I love trains, so we started our little holiday with a 23-hour train ride from Oakland to Seattle on the Amtrak Coastal Starlight. The train originates in Los Angeles, traveling up the coast before it reaches its final destination in Seattle. We had a private room with a small bathroom, the seats converted into 2 generous bunks for sleeping. By day we had a comfortable chair, couch, and large picture window for watching the world flow by.


The beginning of the trip was in darkness, we boarded the train at 9:30 pm and the room was set up for sleep. Leaving Oakland the train traveled through the delta. Regarding the water below with weariness, the tracks seemed to be barely above the water. We heard that this same train, scheduled to leave the following day, had been canceled due to anticipated flooding.

The sound of the clicking and clacking of wheels and the gentle rocking of the train lulled us to sleep that night. We woke in the morning to a snowy landscape in Southern Oregon.

While we breakfasted on cheese omelets, our room was converted back into a sitting room. We arrived in Seattle on schedule that evening. Since our next train (to Vancouver B.C.) left early the next morning we booked a hotel near the train station. I was impressed by the Embassy Suites hotel, only a block away, where we visited the bar in the restaurant for a snack of fried artichoke hearts and a glass of wine before retiring for the night.

Early the next morning we boarded another train to Vancouver in B.C. Canada. It was an easy crossing of the border, two passport checks were the only red tape. From Vancouver, we took a taxi to the ferry terminal for the trip to Victoria on Vancouver Island.

We spent one very pleasant afternoon and evening in Victoria at the Victoria Regent Waterfront Hotel, which is centrally located in downtown Victoria.

City view from our hotel room in Victoria

On our ‘to-do’ list was a visit to the Irish Times pub where we had spent a pleasant blustery evening several years ago when we last visited Victoria.

Irish Times Pub in Victoria

Shepherd’s pie and a pint were a must.

Shepherd’s Pie at Irish Times

The next morning we picked up our rental car for the 4-hour drive to Tofino. So far we hadn’t seen any rain although our daughter, who was house and dog sitting back home, reported a power outage due to strong winds associated with the storms hitting the coast of California.

In Tofino, we stayed at the Pacific Sands Hotel where we had a small studio apartment overlooking the beach.

Beach off the Pacific Sands Hotel in Tofino

We did find a few places to watch the waves crashing on the shore. The sky was grey and gloomy but it didn’t stop us from long beach walks.

Tofino Beach

We had one memorable hike through the rainforest on an elevated walkway. About a mile in length, the wooden walkway took us up high on a ridge and then down into a ravine with a stream where salmon spawned. The richness of the moss, ferns, and trees in the forest felt ancient and primordial.

Although Tofino is a small town of just over 2,000 permanent residents, several accomplished chefs have settled there and opened restaurants. A few of them were closed because it was just after the busy holidays but we had no difficulties finding wonderful places to eat.

Although the restaurant Roar is in a hotel that looks to be something straight out of the ’60s, the food was excellent. We sat near the kitchen where we could watch them cooking over an actual roaring fire. It reminded me of the TV show Bear, which I recommend.

We had breakfast one morning at the Savory Island Pie Company. The menu did not limit itself to pies and we had excellent croissants and scones to take away for another morning.

After four amazingly cozy days in Tofino, we drove back to Victoria for 3 more days at the Victoria Regent. This time we had a small apartment with a full kitchen. We were surprised to learn that the hotel had originally been condos and there were some full-time residents. Our room overlooked the harbor, and we could watch seaplanes land and take off from the balcony.

Victoria Harbor

Then it was time to take the ferry back to Vancouver, a bus (no I didn’t forget it) to the airport, and a plane back to Oakland.

After hearing horror stories of travel experiences over the holidays, we felt lucky that everything went smoothly. We arrived home to mostly clear skies as the storms had moved north to Vancouver Island.



April – Scenes from Paris

April – Scenes from Paris

We just spent two weeks in France, what an amazing place! Paris is my favorite city and it felt like returning to an old friend. Renting an apartment makes you feel like a native and early spring is the perfect time to go, the city is less crowded and Parisians friendlier.

I don’t intend to write a guide book on Paris (or Normandy where we spent the second week), you will find an abundance on the market. Here are some snapshots of our week, mostly food oriented although we did a lot of walking to justify the indulgence.

Dinner at EXOFFIER at 18 rue de l’exposition, where the chef has cooked for two of our past presidents.

And is famous for his souffles.

The confectionary shops were full of Easter goodies.

Easter Bunny

And other wonderful temptations!

All manner of macaroons

Another memorable evening at Les Bouquinistes at 53 Quai des Grands Augustins.

We were too busy enjoying the food to get more pictures.

The weather could not have been better, it was perfect for strolling and sitting in cafes. My idea of a perfect Paris vacation has to include plenty both.

Italian was on the menu at Gusto Italia, 11 Rue Amelie which was just around the corner. Even French pizza has a fanciful touch.

Cheese pizza – fish shaped crust

heart shaped pizza

If you get to Paris, I recommend the restaurants listed. And, Uber will deliver the pizza on a scooter if you feel like staying in.