"My mind sees that I am nothing, my heart sees that I am everything, between these two poles my life unfolds."

Monday, May 28, 2012

We Begin Our Tour

Sometimes I wish I could be the 'Curator of All Things Miniature' :)

Monday Greetings! I trust your weekend was enjoyable. We had lovely weather and I spent a lot of time outside tending to my garden (mostly weeding) and reading in my garden shed (aka my 'summer office') - I was so relaxed, I even nodded off a few times - and that rarely happens to me during the day. I'm currently re-reading The Republic of Nothing (winner of the Dartmouth Book Award) by Lesley Choyce. It's a humorous, cozy story, set on mythical Whalebone Island, aka the 'Republic of Nothing', just off the coast of Nova Scotia and is chock full of some of the most wonderfully eccentric characters ever assembled into one book. The link above leads to a good brief synopsis.

As promised, here are more travel pics from our time in New Zealand. Our first morning there, we hauled ourselves out of bed (the hotel we stayed at was only a few hundred feet from the Rotorua Lake harbour front) and went for a long walk along the beach. My new header pic was taken that same morning.

Rotorua has an abundance of walking paths throughout the city. In all of their literature, and also posted along the walkways, is the reminder to keep to the tracks at all times, due to the geothermal nature of the area. We saw numerous mud pools and steam vents along the perimeter of the lake that were cordoned off. 

It was very lush and we heard a lot of beautiful, unfamiliar bird songs.

This is Mokoia Island, a rhyolite lava dome.
It's famous for the tale of Hinemoa and Tutanekai, an old local love story. 

Sulphur rock sparkling in the sun.

On Friday, I plan to share with you an exciting speed boat ride we took to the base of Huka Falls and a lizard some experts believe predates the dinosaurs that's born with an extra something you'll just have to see to believe... Also, I'll be announcing the June recipient of the 'Whoo Loves Ya Baby' award - and you can all breathe a sigh of reief as we say bid a fond farewell to the monthly caption contest - it's enough that you visit... you no longer need to be funny as well!

Friday, May 25, 2012

It's Coming Up Dandelions!

On the Monday of this past long-weekend, I visited a couple of local antique malls. The lilacs are finally in bloom and I'm sure you can imagine how heavenly the scent was at this pretty spot outside Rocky Mountain Antiques. We had beautiful weather over the weekend, and then thankfully received some much needed rain all day Tuesday and Wednesday - things are really going to green up here now :)

While in New Zealand, I met the sweetest, older Hungarian lady (somewhere in her early 80's) at a second-hand establishment. She was wearing a winter coat (it was +14C!) and remarked to me how chilly it was - they're just heading into their winter season and I actually noticed quite a number of people sporting jackets I'd wear here at -14C. Turned out she was the store owner and had emigrated to NZ some 38 years ago. When I mentioned I was from Canada, we both had a chuckle - Canadians and Hungarians know cold, but after 38 years she's understandably become accustomed to a much warmer climate.

Speaking of cold, I thought this was a real blast from the past. 

It initially looked very 70'ish to me, but turns out it's a product of the 50's.
I found an ad for it on the net, in the Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Washington) 1954.

Thanks to all that rain, the dandelions are now out in full force!

Have a great weekend - more trip pics next week.

Monday, May 21, 2012

As The Crow Flies

Monday greetings, I trust your weekend was enjoyable - it was a long weekend here and a lot of people are still off work today - hopefully you're one of them :) I thought I'd share a few more pics today from our recent trip. When we were on our flight out of Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand, I was able to quickly snap these. 

These next eight are from when we were approaching New Zealand. 
Needless to say, I was pretty excited (& overtired) by this point!  

The scenery was truly magnificent.

This grassy mound (about 5 kilometres from downtown Auckland) caught my eye at the time. I've since found out that it is Mt. Eden, a dormant volcanic cinder cone whose summit (196 metres above sea level) is the highest natural point on the Auckland isthmus (narrow strip of land with water on both sides). A cinder cone or scoria cone is a steep conical hill of tephra (volcanic debris) that accumulates around and downwind from a volcanic vent. The bowl-like crater is 50 metres deep. This volcano last erupted some 28,000 years ago.

Mt. Eden (one of about 50 volcanoes in the Auckland volcanic field), is one of Auckland's most famous landmarks and is a great viewpoint for 360* views arond the city. Apparently because of the type of volcanoes in the this volcanic field, Mt Eden and any of the other existing volcanoes in the area will not likely erupt again.

Mt Eden, or Maunga-whau (the 'Mountain of the Whau tree' in Māori) was one of the most important Māori sites in the Auckland area. They lived here from about 800 years ago, building a pa (fortified village site) which was eventually abandoned in the 1700s. The cone and crater of Mt Eden are protected by law and visitors are asked to respect the sacredness and geological significance of the area by not climbing down into the crater.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Shire - A Last Look

This will be our last look at the Shire (for now :) - although I'm certain I will continue to reference it for the rest of my life, lol! I have to admit that I was surprised (shocked would be the better word) yesterday to find out that a number of you have not yet seen the movies. The books are another story and I will grant you a pass on them - they're a big undertaking - but the movies are a must-see. At least give the first one ('The Fellowship of the Ring') a try - and let me know when you do - I'd love to hear your feedback. Find out what all the fuss is about!! JJ Hubby had only seen the movies, but as a result of visiting Hobbiton, he is now in the midst of reading 'The Hobbit.'

I must tell you that while away, I read 'The Hunger Games' trilogy. While they are not necessarily great literature... I couldn't put them down! I completely understand why it was turned into a movie (which I have yet to see.)

Professional thatchers were brought in to fashion the roofs on a number of the homes. According to our tour guide, a properly thatched roof will last upwards to 100 years.

It's the details that made this 'town' feel so authentic. It feels like it's been around for centuries.

Pickles the cat :) While the movies were shot, he apparently made a general 
nuisance of himself and was banished from the set on a number of occasions.

This scene reminds me of 'The Friendly Giant'!

This is still a working sheep farm. 
Pretty much everywhere you look in New Zealand, you'll see sheep grazing on the hills.

I was posting once a week prior to my time away, but have decided to shoot for twice (Monday's & Friday's) for the next while - I'll see how that goes :) Have a great weekend and thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Shire

Here's the van that picked us up at our hotel, it was an approximate 1.25 hour drive from Rotorua (where we were staying) to the Anderson farm (which is just outside of Matamata). 

I have so many pictures of Hobbiton, that I've decided it would be best to first show you the most memorable scenes from the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring today.

According to our guide, this lane was in one of the very first opening scenes.

Frodo: "You're late."
Gandalf: "A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins, nor is he early. 
He arrives precisely when he means to."

Frodo then jumps into Gandalf's cart. 

They cross this bridge, where banners are being hung in a field for Bilbo's 111th birthday party.

This road leads to Bag End, the home of Bilbo Baggins. The tree at the very top of the hill (just to the right of the chimney) is artificial. Made of aluminum and latex, it's 10,000 leaves are plastic and were individually hand-wired in place. If our guide hadn't pointed this out, we would never have known - it looks incredibly realistic.

The home of Bilbo Baggins... my life is complete, haha!

You will recall this is the stoop where Gandalf stands when he raps on Bilbo's door with his walking staff. There are just over 40 hobbit homes in Hobbiton! I was very surprised how big it was - I'd expected perhaps a dozen at best. 

As per the contract with New Line Cinema, a full-time staff of gardeners are employed to maintain a very specific 'look' 365 days of the year, right down to the height of each shrub, plant and flower. That way, whenever the studio needs to resume filming, there are no inconsistencies. To give the 'town' a true lived-in feel, the landscaping and plantings were in place 2-3 years prior to filming. In order to avoid detection, the gardeners are known for quickly hiding in the homes as tour groups pass by. 

The homes are unfinished inside. All interior scenes were shot in a studio in Wellington, NZ. However, for photo ops, Bilbo's is panelled the first few feet in and the door is kept open.

The bench Gandalf and Bilbo sat on while blowing smoke rings.

Sam's house. You may remember the moment at the end of the Return of the King, when Rosie and Sam come out of their home with their children. Each of the actors' children in real life were utilized for this scene.

All the wood used to build Hobbiton was new, but aged with a special vinegar solution.

Each and every prop in Hobbiton, be it leaded windows, hardware on the gates and doors, or a simple basket, was handmade by local artists in New Zealand. 

This is what Gandalf and Bilbo would have seen from their bench. The Party Tree and grassy knoll where the party was held, are in the foreground.

The Party Tree

Me and the Party Tree - it's so much bigger in real life - it's gynormous!

Bilbo's birthday party was held on this small field (the Party Tree is to our left). The fireworks in the movie were all real, the only CGI used was for the 'dragon.'

That's all for today! I hope you enjoyed the tour. A few more adorable homes and Pickles the cat tomorrow.