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Archive for the 'Taste of Kiwi' Category

Hobbiton, Part Two

This is a continuation of my post about my visit to Hobbiton in Matamata. Part one is here.

Pheasant in the Vegetable Garden

I was busy taking photos of Hobbit holes and my surroundings and saw something moving. It took me a moment to realize the pheasant was real and it was busy feasting on the vegetables.

The Frog Pond

This is the frog pond. During filming the frogs made it challenging to hear the actors. Sir Peter Jackson paid someone to catch all the frogs and relocate them elsewhere so filming could continue without issue. The frogs found their way back…

The fake tree

This tree, which grows above Bilbo Baggin’s home in Bagshot Row is the only fake tree. All the rest are real. A few days before filming Peter Jackson visited the site and decided the tree’s leaves had faded to the wrong color. A man spent two days spraypainting each leaf. The trees are resprayed every few years.

Bilbo Baggin's Home

Bilbo Baggins is one of the more prosperous hobbits. We know this because his home has lots of windows, and Hobbits are taxed by the number of windows in a dwelling.

Shelley and the Hobbit Hole

There are two different sizes of Hobbit holes. I think the guide said they were 60 and 90 respectively. The Hobbit characters were filmed in front of the large doors, and the tall characters such as Gandalf were filmed in front of the small doors. I’m standing in front of a small door.

Each of the Hobbit holes is empty inside since the interior shots were all filmed at studios in Wellington.

Green Dragon Inn

This is the view of the Mill and the Green Dragon Inn. We walked across the bridge to the Green Dragon and finished our tour with a drink.

Drinks at the Green Dragon Inn

The drinks are all brewed especially for Hobbiton. I tried the apple cider, which was delicious.

If you’re ever near Matamata, I recommend a visit to Hobbiton. It’s pure fun and whimsey, and I loved every moment of my visit.

A Visit to Hobbiton, Matamata, New Zealand

I’ve wanted to visit Hobbiton in Matamata for ages, and yesterday, I finally got to explore the home of the Hobbits. In order to visit it’s necessary to plan and book ahead. My tour was for 10:30 and Hobbiton central was very busy with tours going out every half an hour.

Map of Hobbiton

This is the map of Hobbiton, given to each visitor. Hobbiton itself is situated on the Anderson farm, which is an operating beef and sheep farm of 1250 acres. The land in the Matamata area is gorgeous full of green rolling hills and perfect for Hobbiton. Sir Peter Jackson discovered his home for Hobbiton after flying over in a helicopter. After the Lord of the Rings movies were completed, Hobbiton was dismantled. When it was decided to film the Hobbit movies, Hobbiton was rebuilt in permanent materials and kept as a tourist attraction once filming was completed.

Welcome to Hobbiton

There are 44 Hobbit holes and seven maintenance men and women keep the 12-acre site in pristine condition. What I loved about the place was the attention to detail. Each hobbit hole has a theme or a clue as to the occupant’s occupation. There is a beekeeper, a fisherman, a painter and so forth.

A Hobbit Hole

Smoking Chimney

This one even had a smoking chimney. There were lines full of washing, and I loved the vegetable gardens.

The Fisherman's Home

Hobbit Hole

Shelley and the Hobbit Hole

I enjoyed my visit so much and took heaps of photos. There are too many for one post. Come back tomorrow for part two.

The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, New Zealand

Whenever we have friends visiting from overseas, we take them to the Waitakere Regional Park. A short drive from the inner city and you’re in the middle of nature. The views from the visitor center are gorgeous, and it’s an interesting place for kids of all ages!

Waitakere View from Lookout

This is the view from the lookout at the rear of the visitor center. On a clear day, you can see for miles.

View of Auckland

It was a little hazy on the day I took this photo, but you can make out the Sky Tower and the other highrise buildings in the central city.

Native NZ trees

These are some of the native trees. The punga ferns were striking and pretty this day.

About the kauri tree

A Young Kauri Tree

A young kauri tree. This native tree is in danger from kauri dieback. It’s incurable, and currently, many of our tracks in the park are closed in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease.

The bush and river

Another view of the bush and the river.

Maori carving

Maori carving

Maori carving

These are some of the Maori carvings at the visitor center.

Shelley at Waitakere

And finally, this is me hamming it up with a view of the bush and sea behind me.

I’ve used the Waitakere area in my book Black Moon Dragon, and the heroine lives on the coast at Piha, which is not far away.

I highly recommend a visit to the Waitakere Ranges if you’re a visitor to Auckland. You won’t be disappointed!

Exploring Ponsonby, Auckland

This week, I decided to do my writing session in a different place. I ended up in Ponsonby.

Ponsonby Road

Ponsonby is an inner-city suburb, around 2 kilometers from the city center of Auckland. The origins of the name Ponsonby are a bit murky, and my search didn’t produce a definitive answer on how the place got its name.

Ponsonby is one of the original suburbs of Auckland. In the 1950s and 1960s, the area was a low-cost housing area, but these days, things are very different. It’s a thriving suburb with expensive property and lots of cafes and restaurants.

Huge mature trees grow on the grass verges, casting shade while the pedestrians get glimpses of the harbor and the Sky Tower. I particularly loved the wooden bungalows and villas that lined some of the streets—a reminder of an earlier time with their white picket fences.

Row of Bungalows

Wooden Bungalow

Bungalow

Mature Trees

The mature trees that grow in the area are beautiful and the shade is welcome during the hot summer.

Old wooden church

This old wooden church is a Samoan church these days.

View of Sky Tower from Ponsonby

The Sky Tower is visible from many parts of Auckland. This is the view from Ponsonby.

I had a fun morning exploring Ponsonby, and I managed to get lots of work done too. Win-win!

Old St Pauls, Wellington, New Zealand #travel

Nestled in the heart of the commercial center of Wellington, not far from New Zealand’s parliament buildings, is an old church with a lot of history.

St Paul's, Wellington

Old St Paul’s is plain from the outside, a white building and dark spire, set in a large section and surrounded by giant pohutukawa trees. I wasn’t expecting much but the interior stole my breath. During my first visit, I stood inside the entrance, breathed in the rich, fragrant scent of the old wood from which the church is constructed, and fell in love with the place. It’s both peaceful and beautiful with the glowing colors of the aged timber. The ceiling curves above, looking like a timber rib cage and the light coming through the stained glass windows throws jewel-like patterns on the interior. Everyone speaks in hushed tones and the place feels special.

Old St Pauls, Wellington

 

Old St Paul's Wellington

Frederick Thatcher designed the church. He was also the first vicar and remained from 1861 – 1864. The style is gothic, and according to experts, it’s one of the finest examples of timber Gothic architecture in the world. The timbers used in the construction include rimu, totara, matai and kauri, some of New Zealand’s finest native wood. The pews are also made from timber and perfect to take a seat and soak in the atmosphere.

Old St Paul's, Wellington

Wander around on your own or listen to one of the guides who will point out all the highlights. The stained glass windows are famous and were added as memorials to several prominent members of the Wellington community. Originally most of the windows were plain frosted glass. The current bells and organ are also new additions, but the baptismal font is an original, made in England from white stone with a carved oak canopy.

Old St Pauls, Wellington

Funerals of former Prime Ministers were held here. The Maori land wars, which took place during the 1860s are remembered in memorials, as is the First World war. The relationship between American marines and the locals during the Second World war is also recognized.

A new church, also named St. Pauls, was built in 1964 to cater to larger numbers. Thankfully, locals fought to keep the old church, because it truly is beautiful and unique now that public buildings are no longer made from timber.

Old St Paul’s may not be a parish church now, but it’s still consecrated and a venue for weddings, funerals, christenings and other cultural events such as concerts. The building is maintained by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

The Facts

Opening hours:
Daily 9.30 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.
Closed Christmas Day, Good Friday, and for short periods during private functions.

Admission fee:
Entry is free. Hourly guided tours of Old St Paul’s: $5 per person.
Private group bookings (8 or more) $3 per person.
School groups: tours $3 per student.
Experience Old St Paul’s education programme: $8 per student.

Location:
34 Mulgrave Street
Wellington 6011
tel: + 64 4 473 6722
email: oldstpauls@historic.org.nz

Dinosaur of the Insect World #travel #NewZealand

The weta – it’s a large and primitive insect, native to New Zealand. The reason I chose to write about wetas today is so more people know what they are. When I used a weta reference in my book Janaya, my editor didn’t know what I was talking about and I had to rewrite slightly to describe a weta as a prehistoric cricket-like insect.

Tree Weta, New Zealand

There are five broad groups of weta:

1. Tree weta
2. Ground weta
3. Cave weta
4. Giant weta
5. Tusked weta

Wetas are nocturnal and live in a variety of habitats including grassland, scrub land, forests and caves. They live under stones and in rotten logs or in pre-formed burrows in trees.

They are mainly herbivores in the wild but are known to eat other insects. They can bite but are not poisonous. Species of weta are still being discovered and several are endangered. In the wild, they were traditionally eaten by the tuatara (a prehistoric reptile native to NZ) but these days many are destroyed by rats, cats and dogs and of course, humans encroaching on their habitat.

The weta sheds its exoskeleton when moulting.

At 18 months the male weta selects a female and they spend time together in the male’s territory. (Romance in the insect world!)

At around two years old, the female will lay 100 – 300 eggs. The parents die before the weta eggs hatch 3 – 5 months later.

The Department of Conservation in New Zealand is currently involved in weta breeding programs and translocation to safe sites such as protected islands like Tiritiri Matangi and Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf. The weta respond well to a captive breeding program.

The following video is of a giant weta.

I’ve never seen a giant weta but have personal experience with both tree and cave wetas. We often find tree wetas in our garden and will return them to live in peace. They can nip and look creepy but I don’t mind them.

My experience with cave wetas is a bit more spooky. When I was a kid, my girlfriend lived on a farm with limestone caves. It was a favorite pastime to visit the caves and wander through them with a candle and maybe a torch to search for stalactites, stalagmites and glow worms. When I think about our cave visits now, I can see how dangerous it was, but for us it was an adventure – an hour or two of wandering through pristine caves. One day we discovered a new tunnel and were all set to charge into it to explore. I happened to shine the torch over the ceiling and it was covered with huge cave wetas! I let out a screech and dropped the torch, and we all decided to explore another part of the cave. I also took to checking my gumboots carefully and shaking vigorously before I put my feet in them. This lasted for a few weeks until the initial horror passed. I’ve never been bitten by a weta, but I’m always careful not to get too close either. I can appreciate them from a distance.

How are you with insects? Do you like them or hate them with a passion? Do you have any insect stories to tell? What do you think of New Zealand’s weta?

Tirau: Corrugated Captial #newzealand #travel

Tirau is a small New Zealand town. It’s pronounced Tee-rau

1. Tirau, originally referred to a hill three miles southwest of the village, is covered with cabbage trees where Maori trapped the keruru (wood pigeon). It was first settled by the Ngati Raukawa, although various tribes won the area in battle before Europeans purchased the surrounding district in 1868.

2. Tirau has always been a rest stop for travellers with the Oxford Royal Hotel operating as a staging post between Rotorua, Cambridge, Lichfield and later Taupo.

3. The benefits of its central location continue today. In fact Kate and Lane from PLAYING TO WIN stopped here for a break during their drive to Taupo. These days the town is unique for its corrugated iron sculptures.

4. A shop disguised as a sheep.

Iron Sheep

5. A dog.

Dog

6. Poppies

Poppies

7. A book shop.

Books

8. The toy shop.

Toy Shop

9. Me standing outside the tourist center.

Tourist Center

10. Gourmet Food shop.

Fine Swine Cafe

11. A garage.

Service Station and Garage
12. A dairy.

Dairy

13. A gift shop with a pukeko (bird).

Pukeko

Antique Shop

Tirau is a fun place to visit. It’s great for the keen photographer and is the perfect place to take a break from driving. If you’re interested in antique shops, this will be your happy place. I highly recommend a visit.

Middlemarch Shifters: Sutton Salt Lake #travel #newzealand

Several of the books in my Middlemarch Shifters series mention Sutton Salt Lake. In My Feline Protector, a villain terrorizes the heroine during a visit to the lake.

Our visit was a peaceful one.

Sutton Salt Lake is an inland lake. It is an unusual lake because, as the name suggests, the water is  salty rather than fresh. During the summer the water evaporates and salt forms on the surface. These photos were taken in late November and the lake was almost completely dry, despite it not being the height of our New Zealand summer. (that’s around late Jan, early Feb). It was also very smelly!

Middlemarch Sutton Salt Lake

Sutton Salt Lake 2

Sutton Salt Lake

My Feline Protector – One of the books in the Middlemarch Shifters that mentions Sutton Salt Lake.

ShelleyMunro_MyFelineProtector_200pxA glimpse across a crowded room…

Feline shapeshifter Gerard Drummond catches sight of a human woman with innocent eyes and lush curves and he’s toast. He desperately wants to meet her, and with his best friend Henry as his wingman, he’s soon chatting with the gorgeous London Allbright and her sister Jenny.

Despite swearing off men, the sexy Middlemarch local charms London, and she agrees to take part in a zombie run, even though she isn’t athletic in the least. The longer she spends with Gerard, the more she’s tempted, but no…she’s heading back to England and has no time for romance.

The obstacles aren’t only on the zombie run course. Gerard can’t let London leave, and now it seems Henry is hitting it off with London’s sister. There must be a way…

A shocking murder changes everything and throws their lives into turmoil. Gerard and London, Henry and Jenny. Nothing will ever be the same as danger stalks London, and Gerard struggles to keep his English beauty safe.

Warning: Contains a sexy feline male who knows exactly who he wants and isn’t afraid to chase her, to woo her, to protect and love her until she decides to stop running.

Read an excerpt here

The Giant’s House, Akaroa, New Zealand #travel

Some more photos from the Giant’s house, a photographers’ dream.

Giants House

Giant's House Piano

Hubby playing the piano out in the garden. It was French cafe music!

A view of the Gian'ts House Garden

Giant's House Topiary

Vegetables and flowers combine with sculpture to create a fun vista.

Isola Bella

Flowers at Giant's House

If you’re ever in this part of the world, I highly recommend a visit to the Giant’s House.

The Giant’s House, Akaroa, New Zealand #travel

The Giant’s House was build in 1880 and is made of native totara and kauri timber. The house was originally owned by a bank manager. Artist and sculptor Josie Martin purchased the house and has used the gardens as her artist canvas and created a wonderland—a fun place for both children and adults to explore. It is also a bed and breakfast.

Here are a few photos of the gardens and sculptors.

GiantsHouse

GiantsHouse2

GiantsHouseFlowers

The sculptures are whimsical and colorful and highlighted by the different plantings.  I’ll be back later in the week to post more photos of the Giant’s house. It’s a photographer’s dream!