Hobbiton, New Zealand

Hobbiton was the film set for The Lord of the Rings in 1999. It is a beautiful sheep and cattle ranch on the North Island of New Zealand. Director Peter Jackson thought it had the perfect green rural valley look for the homes of those delightful hobbits . They put in 37 hobbit holes and decorated them with gardens and hedges. It is an interesting site for any Rings fans.

But it was not built to last and after filming it was partially torn down after filming. In 2010 , it was rebuilt in a more permanent fashion for the filming of the movie The Hobbit. Now, it has been converted into a tourist destination. The tour we took was about 2 hours long. We had a very nice tour guide. who filled us in on stories about filming the movies and other funny tidbits about the set.

Our handsome tour guide
View of the lake and the main buildings at Hobbiton

It was an interesting tour and well worth the time and money. We thought it was the best tour that we took in New Zealand. Here are some photos from the tour.

You can see how each house was dressed to suggest a individual who lived there
At Bilbo ‘s house, his pipe and journal
Hobbit laundry drying is the sun
The water mill on the lake in Hobbiton.

We would highly recommend this for any visitor to New Zealand, it is a must see. The tour ends in the Green Dragon Inn, with an (included) cup of beer, wine, or ginger beer.

Hobbiton is only a couple of hours from Auckland, and Rotorua, our next stop, is only an hour more, so it was convenient to visit on the way.

Auckland ,the Sky Tower, Howick Historical Village

We landed in Auckland. This trip was a sightseeing trip and it did not include any pet sits. The three of us took an uber to our hotel which was in the center of the city right by the Sky Tower. David got us rooms on the 22nd floor and we could see all of downtown Auckland from our room. Here is the the view of the Sky Tower from our bedroom.

We walked over to it the next day. There is an observation deck that is 360 degrees round. You can look down on the city, and the harbor from there.

Under the top deck there is a restaurant and a snack bar. We got a gelato and sat in the Sky Cafe until the sun set.

Linda and Dave in the Sky Cafe
Sandi, David and Linda

It was good that we went up the tower that day because the day after we left they had a fire on the roof of the convention center that was being built right behind the tower. The smoke was so heavy that we would have had to stay in our hotel for the day. It was a sad day for Auckland.

The next day in Auckland we went to Howick Historical Village. I love to visit this type of historical museum that has houses and exhibits that explain country’s historical time. “Howick Historical village  is a re-creation of a New Zealand colonial village using houses and cottages saved from the surrounding Auckland suburb of Howick. ” ( Wikipedia) The English government offered retired soldiers and their families (called Fencible soldiers ) free passage to New Zealand, a house and an acre of land for 7 years of service in 1847. Their main service was to attend military parades every Sunday.

In 1962 the local historical society decided to put this village together with cottages and buildings that were still around the area.

It was a bright and sunny day; perfect to see the village and the reenactors that were bringing this history to life.

Musicians playing historical instruments in front of a house
A local Maori house that some settlers lived in until their cottages could be built
Period oven where a lady was baking bread
A man using an original printing press from the 1850s
Morris dancers
School house where we sat for a school lesson
It was Spring in New Zealand the the chicks were just born
The village court house

We spent an enjoyable afternoon exploring this historical village. The next day we were off to Hobbiton, the set for the Hobbit movies and The Ring trilogy.

Off to New Zealand by way of a cruise from San Francisco

We were so excited to start our cruise to New Zealand from San Francisco. We spent three days touring the city before we got on the Golden Princess to start our 20-day cruise to Auckland. We were travelling with my sister, Sandi for the trip. Our cabin was an aft cabin that had a wonderful balcony on the back of the ship.

Our cabin was on the back of the ship

It was exciting to see our ship go under the Golden Gate Bridge. I took this photo of it.

We were at sea for several days and finally arrived in Hilo on the big island of Hawaii. We got off the ship and rented a car and drove down to the Kilauea volcano. It was almost completely closed because of the volcano’s eruptions last year. So we drove down the coast to see the black sand beach where the sea turtles rest on the sand.

The pond by the black sand beach

Linda and Sandi at the black sand beach
One of the turtles resting in the sand

Next day we called at Honolulu where we visited the summer palace and walked around Waikiki. We had lunch at Duke’s, which we do whenever we find ourselves near one of their locations.

After six more days at sea, we arrived at the island of Bora Bora. The color of the sea was extraordinary. The variations of blues were stunning. We took a boat out to the lagoon to snorkel in the crystal blue waters.

A local man anchoring a snorkel boat in a lagoon

The next day we landed in Tahiti. It is another beautiful island . We took a bus tour around the island to see their historical sites and beautiful beaches.

These local musicians greeted us as we left the ship
One of the local ducks
A view of one of the many beautiful beaches on Tahiti

After a few more days we landed in American Samoa. There was not much to do on this island. We went off and walked around the city. It was very hot and muggy and it rained. We, and about 60 other passengers, visited McDonald’s to try to use their WiFi. It was a little, umm, slow. I did get a good photo of a beach as we left.

We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary on the ship on Oct. 13. We had a special dinner in one of the specialty restaurants on board.

After a total of twenty days on the Golden Princess (and crossing the international date line), we arrived in the modern city of Auckland, New Zealand. We spend two nights in a hotel on the 22nd floor in downtown Auckland. Here is a photograph from our hotel room of the Auckland skyline. That’s the Sky Tower, which we visited on Sunday evening. You might have read about the big fire that erupted at the adjacent convention center the day after we left.

I will continue the story of the two weeks we spent touring New Zealand before flying home to Los Angeles.

Denali National Park, Alaska

We managed to get away for a twelve day vacation to Alaska before I have to have a medical problem taken care of. We flew up from Los Angeles and stayed one night in Anchorage and rented a car. The next day we drove up to Denali National Park. Of course, it took all day to get there because I had to stop to take photographs of the incredible scenery. We stopped in an old town; Talkeetna that maintained an historic main street. Many of the original log cabins were still standing.

But the best part of the trip north was a turn out to see Denali in almost clear skies. Just one cloud covered the middle of the mountain.

We spent the night at the Denali Princess Wilderness Resort where the mosquitoes were already roaming the area looking for fresh blood.

Today we went into the Park and met some very helpful and cute park rangers.

We drove down the one 15 mile road looking for critter and were very lucky to find a few. We saw a grizzly bear but he was too far away from us to take a photograph. But we did see an Arctic ground squirrel , and two caribou.

We leave tomorrow to return to Anchorage. It has been an exciting adventure.

We drove back to Anchorage from Denali Park. There were some stunning snow covered mountains. Thought I would add these photos to this blog.

Enjoy the beauty of this part of the world.

Cat sitting in San Diego

We are cat sitting in Hillcrest in San Diego. We love this city. It is a pleasure to take care of these two kitties in this fun part of San Diego. The sunset view of the downtown from Shelter Island is a beautiful photograph.

We got to spend some time walking around Balboa Park and saw some of the baby ducklings in the pond before the botanical gardens.

corridor in Balboa Park

Old Globe theater in Balboa Park

Today, we drove up to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. My great, great grandfather, Christopher McAleer was the assistant light house keeper around 1865. The lighthouse is on the end of the Point Loma peninsula. In 1865 when he was working there, it was about a five mile ride over empty land to Old Town, San Diego. It must have been worth the ride because he went to a party in Old Town and met my great , great grandmother. After being the assistant light house keeper for only 8 months he married the pretty ,young senorita and the rest is history, as they say. Thank God for this meeting as I would not been here today.

Old Point Loma Lighthouse
Casa de Estudillo in Old Town , San Diego where they married

Needless to say, San Diego is an important part of my family heritage. So staying here is always a pleasure.

Pet and house sitting in the United States

When we are home from Europe during the winter we sometimes pet and house sit domestically. ( If you want to know more about how to pet and house sit please look at this blog post;
https://seniorgapyear.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/house-and-pet-sitting-on-the-road/ ).

This last January we pet sat in Santa Cruz for a wonderful cat named, Baxter.  He warmed up right away and spent a lot of time sitting next to us purring when he did not command a good spot on our bed, grin.  We also met his humans, Susan and Rick and enjoyed having dinner and getting to know them.

sunset santa cruz pier net
redwoods
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Santa Cruz is a beautiful beach town in Northern California and we had a great time there.  Here is a photo of the sunset from the pier where we are dinner. There are many redwood forests in the mountains that are very close so we took 3 drives up to see them.Here is a deer that we saw from the road out of the Big Basin Redwood national park. The highlight for me was the trip down to Monterey to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Taking photographs there was thrilling.

moon jellyfish 5 net
moon jellyfish dancing
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shark eating larger net
Shark being hand fed by diver
windsurfer net
windsurfer air 2

One of the most spectacular sites was at the beach watching the kite surfers.  It is amazing how high they fly above the ocean.It was a wonderful pet sit and it was good to be able to go somewhere different in our home state of California.

We tacked on a visit to relatives in Sacramento on our way home.  I love pet sitting.

Zurich, Switzerland is beautiful, clean, and expensive

We pet- and house-sat in Zurich, Switzerland as our last sit this summer.  We took care of a very sweet dog named Lilly.  Lilly loved to chase balls in the backyard.Switzerland lilly the dog netWe were about 12 miles outside of Zurich, out in the countryside.  We would take Lilly for walks through beautiful green farm lands. There were lakes and rivers everywhere in the country.  This is Lake Zurich.Lake Zurich trees net

There were parks and small houses built on the shores of this large lake.Lake zurich house netLake Zurich bench netAnd there were still flowers in October.orange spike flower closer netsweet pea pastel netThe public transportation was good and easy but really expensive.  To go into Zurich on the train, (12 miles) and return was $22.00 each.  This was like 3 times more expensive than in the other places we have visited.   The expensiveness of everything was kind of off putting.  A coke at a cafe was $6, a hamburger was $13, a box of cereal was $7 and gas was $8 a gallon.  We purchased two small pieces of chocolate and it came to $4.50.Switzerland handmade chocolates net

Even postcards were $2.50.  Needless to say, we ate at home and did not buy much.

But the city of Zurich was beautiful.  It is cut in half by the Limmet River, and there are many bridges to cross from one side to the other.Zurich Limmet river netThere are fountains everywhere and they all run cold, clean water all the time.  You can always fill your water bottles for free.Zurich fish fountain net 

I came across done fountain that someone had filled with fresh roses.Zurich rose fountain 2 netIt was a lovely city to visit for a week.