The lovely Irish lads and lasses over at Guinness Storehouse in Dublin invited me over to review their Guinness themed tourist attraction that is the Guinnesse factory tour at St James’ Gate Brewery, Dublin.
I was excited by this for several reasons. Firstly, I’ve never been to Ireland, and secondly, I love alcohol. The old tale goes that Guinness tastes better in Dublin, but how true is that?
During a visit to Denmark, I had the opportunity to stay at the prestigious Andersen Boutique Hotel in the uber-trendy Vesterbro “Meatpacking” area of Copenhagen. Before I blog my full post on our trip, here is the Andersen Boutique Hotel review.
My parents and I travelled up to the beach resort of Paihia, Bay of Islands for the last weekend in January. They had just flown in from Christchurch after spending 4 nights at Arrowsmith Lodge, which is a totally isolated private lodging, complete with its very own private lake. How posh.
I was great to reunite with my parents after our joint trip to the South Island. I met them at Auckland airport around 2pm and we headed straight up the highway towards the Northlands. It took us under 3 hours, which is pretty good for a Friday afternoon. The drive up is lovely too, just like the majority of drives in New Zealand.
What to do on a day in Queenstown? It is the adventure capital of the world, but when you’re on a budget that means nothing! My parents and I opted for the luge. The luge is a go kart type contraption that is powered by gravity. The long race track is fun with humps and corners galore, and a great view over Queenstown to boot. The first time you race down the track you are given a quick intro (brake by pulling the handlebars, don’t kill yourself etc) and you have to race on the slow track, recommended for kids and families.
Milford Sound and Te Anau are not only beautiful in their own right, but the journey to and from them is breathtaking too.
I set off with my parents relatively early as we had to be at Milford by a certain time for our eagerly anticipated overnight cruise on ‘the beautiful sound’. We made it there around 1pm and had plenty of time to grab a a bite to eat (at the overpriced cafe that holds a monopoly over the area) before boarding our vessel. As we boarded the ship I thought that it looked like it would struggle to accommodate 35 guests plus a crew.
It was the beginning of January, and we rose early to start a few hours drive down the coast to Invercargill. It is here that I would be swimming with great white sharks, along with my parents.
The journey was broken up by a standard sight in New Zealand, cattle crossing the road. You don’t get that in London. We had planned a halfway point stop for lunch at The Whistling Frog, near the Tautuku River. We eventually found the Frog and enjoyed a decent meal. We saw an abundance of signs for ‘McLean Falls’ nearby, so thought we would take the opportunity to check it out.
I was lucky enough to break up for my New Year holiday on the 23rd December and not have to return to work until January 19th.
I had been invited by my lovely neighbours to an Xmas BBQ and drinks at the harbour (they all work on superyachts). It was a hot day, and what I can remember of it was great. Some pretty embarrassing photos though, and I have a vague memory of jumping into the sea in my underwear. I will spare everyone those photos.
Anyway, my parents, who have always fancied New Zealand, agreed to fly half way around the world to have a break and see their travelling son.
I arrived at Hotel Chantel amidst a huge downpour (it’s rainy season) and that made the drive pretty slow. The hotel is located off the main road, up a steep winding path, so as to reach it’s mountain side location.
I hit the road around 7am, driving north towards the border with Nicaragua. At 10am I had to stop for coffee. I sat by the road but I think I was at the start of a bicycle race, because everybody else had full lycra and helmets on, as if about to start the Tour De Costa Rica.
Another stupidly early morning, another taxi, another plane. The descent in to San Jose airport was beautiful and I landed safely among the lush rainforest.
There was a man waiting for me outside the airport, he had a sign with my name on it, nice touch. He rang another chap who was to come and collect me. That was his only job, hold a sign then make a 5 second phone call. As we got into the minivan that came to collect me, he said ‘tip for me?’ I thought you cheeky bugger you’ve not earned one! I gave him some Colombian leftover coins and told him to be happy. He didn’t look impressed, but I wasn’t fussed.