June 18th, 2015

New Zealand Customs v European

As a Kiwi, I am immensely proud of our willingness to help strangers. We can’t bear to see confused tourists poring over a map. We feel compelled to enquire if they’ve figured it out. If not, we assist. You’re among friends in this country.

Michael and Mitai Valley map

Unfortunately, the same consideration cannot be said of our driving. For some unexplained reason, we bitterly resent being overtaken by another car. In Germany, motorists hurtle down the Autobahns at over 200km and the more sedate drivers are expected to move over to the slow lane…fast! It’s a good system. In Germany, to obtain your Driver’s Licence, you must attend a professional driving school. There’s no such thing as a white-knuckled mum or dad barking out instructions and possibly passing on poor driving skills.


There are set rules in Germany. People are living cheek by jowl and if everyone did their own thing, chaos would reign. These rules ensure that people are not woken at 7.00am by the sound of a lawn mower or a chainsaw and especially in an ever-growing multi-coloured society, a balance of harmony must be maintained.


In the smaller towns of Germany, all the shops and banks close between 12 – 2.00pm. Here in New Zealand, this is unthinkable, especially as most working Kiwis use this time to do business. Yet amazingly enough, for the past 2 weeks of our vacation in Germany, Michael and I have taken to lying down and having a bit of a snooze. It’s a habit we’ll need to break when we return to New Zealand…so much fresh air to breath and walks yet to discover.

Franz & Fox Glacier walks

In Germany, coffee is served at breakfast but not again until after 3.30pm. It’s agony waiting so long between coffee breaks and by 3.00pm, I’m finding it difficult to be civil to people. I now understand why European visitors to New Zealand are disappointed to see our cafés getting ready to close at 4.00pm. At the moment, I’m missing the cabinet food of  New Zealand cafes.

Napier Cafe cabinet

Conversation with our German friends is meaningful. There’s no jostling with elbows, leaning back with hands behind heads or even a playful clout across the head by your fellow diner. No fun at all really. Politics, family squabbles and business matters are all thrashed across the table. I admit I really enjoy this part of the European maturity that seems to be lacking in New Zealand. Here’s Michael’s ‘Dream Team’ in Germany putting the world to rights.

Michael's Whanau

Happy Travelling.

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June 10th, 2015

How does New Zealand compare?

Since arriving in Germany 2 weeks ago, I am convinced more than ever, that New Zealand has the best coffee in the world! Our lattes, flat whites, Cappuccinos etc are exceptional and I am missing them. It’s something New Zealand excels in and it’s no surprise that the favourite coffee houses in Berlin and London are owned and operated by Kiwis.


Although I am getting love in buckets from my German in-laws, there doesn’t seem to be the same level of warmth from our apartment hosts. Yes, our apartment is scrupulously clean and the linen is changed regularly but there seems to be a frosty distance between us and the landlords. But in a country of over 80 million people, should I expect more?


However, there are many positives to be found in Germany. It’s a beautiful country with grand sweeping scenery. New Zealand may have the best coffee, but German bread is second to none. Meet Mr Kimmel. Twice a week, this 80 year old German Baker bakes a heavy sour-dough break in a traditional wood-fired oven. Who says life stops at 80!

Herr Kimmel

The Wednesday market in Hanau is full of fresh exotic fruits and veges I wouldn’t dream of buying in New Zealand because of their expense. The quality of Citrus fruit in Germany is top-shelf and most of the chicken is organic and has a far better taste. The strawberries are sublime and the tomatoes take me right back to my childhood – tasty and juicy.

Hanau market

Speaking of strawberries, the German bakeries make the most beautiful fruit tortes, gateaux and pastries anywhere in the world. It’s an afternoon treat I look forward to and my waistline is expanding.

German Pastries

Hard to choose…

german cakes3

It’s been a privilege to meet the small specialised shop-owners, who never sell their businesses but merely pass it on through generations, protecting and expanding the knowledge along the way. A shining example of this is Ossy Kreis and his wife who own a boutique fashion shop. They only need to take one look to assess your waist and leg measurements and then choose a style of clothing to suit. They’re never wrong!


For me, travel is not just about coffee, food or even scenery. It has a lot to do with the people – those dear ones you reconnect with across the globe.

Nees Family

Happy travelling.

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May 29th, 2015

Meeting service standards – New Zealand accommodation

New Zealand hotel service standards 

For the past 6 months, we’ve stayed in a variety of accommodation and have discovered that price is no indicator of housekeeping standards.  One of the dirtiest we stayed in was a 5-star hotel in central Auckland. It was a beautiful junior suite, marred by dusty surfaces and a carpet desperate for a vacuum. But what astounded me was the disgusting state of the toilet! Yes, I have a photo and no, in the interests of good taste, I won’t publish it.


Should we always blame the housekeeping staff for such neglect? Maybe not. The cleanest hotel we stayed in was the Hilton in Taupo where staff were expected to clean a one-bedroomed suite in 45 mins. I take my hat off to them for their superb efforts.


Here’s a few housekeeping issues that we’ve experienced along our travels:


Hotel service failings we came across

Light switches and door handles:

It only takes a few seconds to run a cloth over the light switch panels, yet time and time again, I’ve observed finger prints. The same goes for the area around the handles of doors.  It’s so easy to get this right!


Basin Taps and toilet fittings:

Is it really sufficient to merely wipe around these fixtures? Every now and then a soft bristled brush should be used to brush around these fittings. Soap and other unmentionables take very little time to build up over time.



Why have a beautiful décor feature like an ornate mirror, covered in fly-spots and fingerprints? Once again, it’s so easy to get this right.



It is a great pleasure for me to arrive at an accommodation after a day’s travelling and relax on a comfortable bed or sofa with a glossy magazine. I have no interest in reading about the latest décor for the summer of 2001.



For the love of all things sacred, why do some people still insist on painting the interiors of their accommodation in boring shades of grey? Show a bit of imagination guys!


Window Cleaning:

If you’re going to provide beautiful views through large floor to ceiling windows, keep them clean.


Thickness of interior walls:

Thought I’d save the best for last! It’s horrible to hear the guest next-door peeing, coughing or having an animated Skype conversation. Why do hotels skimp on the thickness of their interior walls? Does it really hit the budget that much to provide quality building materials?


(To be fair, most of the above mentioned ‘negatives’ have been experienced in the more corporately owned accommodations. Our best experiences (and we’ve written about these) have been in owner/managed boutique accommodations. This is where the care and attention to detail seems to be ever present.)


How to get a service problem sorted!

It’s quite simple really. If we travellers have a complaint, all we need to do is to have an open and honest chat with management at location. Don’t wait until you can anonymously vent your spleen on tripadvisor. Give them a chance to put the problem right and to revise their systems. Happy guests = happy management.

Happy travelling

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May 20th, 2015

A Kiwi perspective of home New Zealand

Life here is so very good and I can’t wait to return home to the Tasman Region we love. But first, there’s a wedding to attend and we’re busy packing for this momentous event. Twelve years it’s taken Michael to replace his old suitcase. Twelve years! He’s driven shop assistants mad with his exacting specifications. Yet here he stands, as proud as ‘punch’.

Michael's new suitcase

Before we continue our travels for another couple of months, we’ve been resting up in an apartment located behind the City’s Cathedral in central Nelson. Each morning we’ve been treated to a beautiful view of trees, reluctantly dropping their Autumn leaves…

Nelson Apartment view

Every now and then the Cathedral bells call to the faithful (and the not-so-faithful). This always seems to happen when I’m about to watch the news. When I was a child, church bells were commonplace and no one would dare complain about something so trivial.


Yesterday we walked the Grampian trail from Collingwood Street. It was steep and it made me realise that yes, I am getter older. I’m greatly inspired by the woman in the apartment opposite. She’s my age group and has the physique of a ballerina. Every day she sprints up this track! Michael patiently waits for me until he catches sight of the top…..

Grampian Track michael2

…and then it’s every man for himself. The reward is the panoramic views from the resting platform.

Grampian viewing deck

We managed to fit in a short part of the Mt Arthur walk a couple of weeks ago. Beautiful area where the bush is mossy and the mountain air is crisp in the shade. Glad I dressed warmly.

Mt Arthur walk moss

This tree sure made a statement:

Mt Arthur Tree

When we made our first stop at the Flora Hut, just in from the Carpark, we met interesting people and chatted for a while.

Flora Hut2

That’s the great thing about the outdoors in New Zealand – the people you meet on the way. They’re loving the experience just as much as you.

Flora Hut3

People are so right when they refer to travelling as a ‘bug’. It gets under your skin and while I’m still challenged by living out suitcases, I’m discovering this amazing country in a way that many of my fellow Kiwis will never experience. The biggest reward is sharing it with Michael who loves this country so much. Quiet moments like these are priceless so I’ll retreat for a while and just let him enjoy.

Kina beach long view

Happy travelling.

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May 14th, 2015

Leisure cycling in New Zealand

Over the past 8 months we’ve travelled many regions in the New Zealand South & North Island. And we’ve taken our ‘Trusty Rusties’ with us. New Zealand is a perfect country for leisure biking and as an alternative form of transport. In the past 5 years, New Zealand has established wonderful new cycle trails. These are mainly packed gravel tracks through scenic spots in the countryside.

New Zealand Bike Trails2

For international visitors, New Zealand cycling is a popular way of staying active while travelling and using all senses to explore our beautiful countryside. No engine noise, just a symphony of birds, smelling the sea and a sense of joy at the freedom of it all.

Riverton Coastline

Most international travellers won’t arrive with their own bikes, but this can be a great advantage. Firstly, many hotels, lodges & B&B’s now have complimentary bikes available or for a minimal rental. They also provide helmets which are compulsory under New Zealand law. All you need is a good rain jacket, comfortable cycle pants and cycle shoes.

Cycle clothing

A second alternative is to rent a bike from a local bike shop or a dedicated cycle trail operator specialising in self-guide or fully guided biking. So what’s included? You’ll get your rental bikes, equipment, a location map, plus local advice. Wait, there’s more! You’ll also get a drop-off and pick-up service, either at the beginning or the end of your cycle day tour. How cool is that? There are a number of regions perfect for cycling in New Zealand (with not too many hills, unless you’re into serious mountain biking) Here’s five cycle region with a superb network of cycle trails:



Great Taste Cycle Trails. Travel from Nelson to the Abel Tasman National Park. There are some hills in between, as well as a short boat transfer. It all depends which area along the coast you wish to cycle. If you’re keen to cycle, staying in the Mapua region would work out best.

Kaiteriteri cycle2,jpg

West Coast Wilderness Trail

Some parts in the Lake Kaniere area are simply stunning and an absolute joy to explore with a bike. Imagine cycling along historical water races and thru lush rainforest.

Lake Kaniere Cycle Trail Pam2

Our friends Jan & Stephen at “The Breakers B&B” know all the trails in the region, so if you stay with them, you’re “sorted”!

Breakers with Jan

Central Otago

Lake Wanaka, Queenstown and Central Otago – this area has LOTS of outstanding cycle trail options to offer… in the Wanaka region 750 km alone!

Lake Wanaka Michael2

Most people know about the Central Otago Rail Trail, plus in the Arrowtown + Gibbston Valley, superb trails have now been build.

Otago Central Rail Trail 2

Taranaki/New Plymouth

In and around New Plymouth there is a superb cycle and walking network along the coastline. Be sure to spend more time to include this beautiful, yet less travelled part of New Zealand.

New Plymouth Coastal Walkway

Hawkes Bay

We recently stayed in the Cape Kidnappers region and were totally impressed by how well built and maintained the trails around Hastings and Havelock North were. Combined with some outstanding vineyards, it’s the perfect combo!

Hawkes Bay Cycle Trail

Hopefully this brief overview will provide you with some idea on how you can leisurely cycle New Zealand during your vacation and travel New Zealand by immersing yourself in it’s environment.

Happy Travelling.


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