Sunday, December 31, 2000

Wellington, Day 1

On Sunday we spent a lot of the morning at Laura and John's home, eating a yummy breakfast, chatting, and visiting Laura's art studio. We finally got organized to go into Wellington, where we went directly to the "i site" office. It has taken us several days to catch on to the fact that every town of any size has one of these tourist information offices. They are fantastic, with well-trained advisors, tons of free maps and guide books, suggestions about what to see, and great resources to solve any problems or answer any questions. We usually go in with a long list of them! They also nearly always offer free wifi, souvenir shopping, and some even have caf├ęs. How we wish we had been smart enough to find these in the first couple of days here when we seem to have specialized in being lost!

They sent us first to ride a cable car up to the top of a mountain for a sparkling view of this gorgeous city spread out below. W'ton nestles between mountains and a magnificent harbor where the water is truly turquoise. Socks knocked off officially in that moment. The other fabulous part is that this is a small, walkable city. At the top of the cable car you get out in the Botanical Gardens, where a long, winding walk downhill takes you through all the sections of the garden, then deposits you right in downtown Wellington. This particular Sunday afternoon was warm and sunny, and people were out enjoying the gardens and the bright displays of poppies and tulips, all in full spring bloom.

We wandered through the city and ended up on Cuba Street, a favorite hangout area for the young and hip (I know, I know, a bit ironic). We ate dinner at a lively place named Fidel, where we ordered lots of small dishes to share. Finally back to our land yacht for a good sleep.

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Location:Wellington, NZ

A few random Buddhas

Just a few beauties, some showing the gold leaf fragments people buy to stick on.

This huge Buddha had strings attached to it that made a web all throughout the temple. We were told that this was to carry the energy of the main Buddha to all the parts of the temple, lesser and greater. It was magical.

Iced coffee break!

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Location:Ayutthya, Thailand

Ayutthya Part 3

Since some photos are on iPhone and some on iPad these posts are a bit jumbled and out of sequence. Bear with me! The second half of the Ayutthya World Heritage tour was to a stunning temple complex all in ruins. Here we saw remnants of a once great monument brought down by wars and deliberate destruction of the temple, presumably to get all the gold. Things never change!

We visited a small local one-room "factory" where they make cotton candy. When it's done' they sell it in bags. They make a small crepe and roll up the cotton candy in the crepe, like a little burrito. We all had one!

Later we went to an elephant camp and hung out with some jumbos.

As if the day wasn't packed already, we opted for hour-long Thai massages ($10) in the evening. Very athletic and intense. The masseuse uses her body weight and knees, forearms, feet and palms of hands. No oils. We are wearing big, loose pajamas. Every joint and muscle pulled and yanked and pressed. Not for the faint of heart! So glad we tried it!

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Location:Ayutthya, Thailand

Arrevederci Italia

Reluctantly we said our goodbyes to Marina and Lello, the delightful couple who have cared for us and cooked for us while the class has been going on. We had a total love-fest with them, and are scheming on ways to keep them in our lives and see them more often. They have huge hearts, beautiful souls, and can cook meals fit for angels!

We drove through many back roads looking for our next place. Here is a lovely pink home we saw as we meandered along the tiny lanes.

We spent our last night in Italy at another stunning Masseria, one that has been recently renovated to be a world-class hotel. This one was situated up on a long hillside, with a distant view of the turquoise Adriatic and the beach town of Monopoli. We found this place on the Internet and got a last-minute deal of €68 for the night, which included a lavish breakfast. They had an enormous "infinity pool" that appeared from some angles to be spilling into the sea.

As in the previous Masseria, there was heavy hunting activity, with volleys of shots ringing out on the forests hillside behind us. This happens early in the mornings, don't know what they are shooting, but it is a little unnerving!

We drove back to the seaside town of Polignano al Mare and took a long walk around the old town, where there were many charming sights, people hanging laundry, shouting from their balconies, and going our for morning shopping excursions, a true Italian operetta happening all around us.

Here was a horse meat specialty shop.

At about noon we dropped the rental car in Bari and headed to the train station to begin our journey north.

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Location:Masseria Santa Teresa, Puglia