18 January 2012

End of My Travel Diary: Los Angeles

After enduring the worst turbulence of my life, I was thankful to arrive in LA and even appreciated the stability of the two hour wait to get into the country.  I was looking forward to walking around in shorts, observing the beautiful people and soaking up the glamourous atmosphere.  As soon as we got to the hotel, the shorts were on and we headed straight to Rodeo Drive; just a short walk from our Beverly Hills hotel.  The father is so good to me.  It was beautiful and expensive and we spotted a man wearing a white pleated skirt so it was a pretty successful little wander.  However, it had the air of a film set about it.  Having seen Pretty Woman, I'd been predicting a huge busy street crowded with bitchy women but in real life it seemed much smaller.  This feeling continued throughout our stay in LA.  Our obligatory walk down Hollywood Boulevard was all sleaze and no sparkle.  Our tour of Melrose Avenue, the supposed shopping area, left us wondering where all the good shops were as we passed tacky boutique after tacky boutique.  Why did you deceive me The L Word?  Is this where the residents of 90210 shop?

We did however, see A LOT of beautiful people.  By accident, we stumbled upon what was apparently a showbiz hangout on Santa Monica Boulevard (we got Sheryl Crow stuck in our heads constantly) in our quest for good herbal tea (we didn't find any).  There were meetings going on all around us, with expensive suits mixing with casual LA dress.  I swear I saw a guy from 90210 touching skin with someone from pretty much every table, while wearing a rather elaborate ethnic cardigan.  Much to my ego's dismay I kept nearly walking into oh-I'm-so-casual-my-hoodie's-fallen-off-my-shoulder girls whose perfect faces made me feel a little ill with jealousy.

But the worst part of the trip was that it rained TORRENTIALLY the day we planned to go to Venice Beach.  No pretending to be a West Bev graduate pour moi.  We decided to cheer ourselves up with a Tim Burton exhibition...but it was closed.  So we I consoled ourselves myself at Bloomingdales before heading back to our hotel to collect out bags and fly home.

At least I saw the Hollywood sign!

15 January 2012

New Zealand: Auckland

So our final stop in New Zealand was Auckland.  Yet another city on the coast, something that is fast becoming a permanent resident on my life checklist, Auckland has a modern feel with lots of contemporary architecture.  Of course, New Zealand's history lies in its nature, which explains why it is fiercely protective of it and strives to preserve it wherever possible.  An example of this unique natural environment is the island of Rangitoto, which was formed when a volcano erupted about 600 years ago.  Succession has taken hold of most of the island, covering it with trees and plants, but large areas of lava still remain.

The father on the lava!

The crater of the volcano

Actual succession! (biology geek)
The coolest part of our exploration of Rangitoto was walking through caves that had been formed by molten lava.  This would so not have been allowed in the UK.

The father outside a lava cave

Inside a lava cave, my flash cancelled out how pitch black it was!
And so to my favourite part of the whole trip, you guessed it: there were animals involved.  Dolphins to be exact.  Hundreds of them.  We even saw a mother and baby whale.  Here are some photos I managed to snap when I wasn't a little bit awestruck or crying.  I'm not joking.

That slug thing there is a whale.  Honest.
Our view on the boat back to Auckland
We also went up another volcano: Mount Eden, and were treated to some pretty stunning views.

The crater
So this concludes my New Zealand adventure.  Beautiful country, friendliest people I've ever met and oh yeah we saw a bit of rugby.  Sweet.

14 January 2012

New Zealand: Wellington

Long overdue penultimate post about my travels in New Zealand, I only got back...like, three months ago!  Get off my back already!

So to top off the idyllic sights of Hanmer Springs, the father and I were treated to the most beautiful ferry journey of my life.  Ok so ferry trips are never that thrilling (most sea looks the same) but this one was something special.  The ex-English channel ferry (fun fact for you there) wound its way around the wiggly coastline of the south island before breaking out into the open ocean for a short while to reach the north island.  The views were pretty spectacular, I'm not sure my photos do them justice.  I felt like I was going on some form of adventure, possibly with a ring involved or something...

I also spotted my first dolphin of the holiday!

Leaving Picton

I found that Wellington was a pretty cool place, it had a bit more personality than some of the other places we'd stayed in: south island can seem a little small town to a city lover like myself.  The fact that it was on the coast was a definite positive for me, imagine being minutes from views like this:

Something pretty amazing that Wellington has to offer is Zealandia; a wildlife sanctuary devoted to preserving an area of land as it was before us nasty Europeans went and ruined it all with our cats etc.  It's hugely beautiful and has loads of native critters which just wouldn't survive outside of its protective fences.

This little guy is a takahe, what a cutie!
We walked back from Zealandia through Wellington's botanic gardens where I spotted this binocular/cute robot.

My favourite part of our stay in Wellington was a walk we did along the coast to see the red rocks, but more importantly the seals that hang out there!  It was a glorious day, and despite winter having barely been replaced by spring we were in shirts for most of the walk.  The rugged coastline was impressive before we even arrived at the red rocks and the father couldn't resist a bit of bouldering.  Finally, after waiting with the giddy excitement of a schoolchild, I began to spot seals!  It has taken a lot for me to edit my photos to this small selection so I hope you appreciate it.  They were just so blubbery, I really wanted to go and pet them all!  Daddy wouldn't let me.

The Red Rocks

Our stay in Wellington concluded with yet more animals!  God I loved Wellington.  We went to the zoo, which I swear had been created to only include cute animals.  Or it may be that I just find everything cute...the only exception being the African Wild Dogs, which I'm sorry to say were just a little ugly.  Again, I so wanted to include every photo I took but I have painstakingly cut it down for those of you who aren't quite as obsessed with animals as me.  Weirdos.

I'm literally squealing at this photo, red pandas are SO cute!