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Distant Lands

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Weihnachtsmarkt, Munich

I think the optimal ages for visiting a big European Christmas Market are Baby (0-18m) and Child (7+).  I cannot imagine staying sane in the crush of humanity, lights, and sounds if I had to keep track of a toddler.
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A baby in a backpack is a wonderful companion for a cold night in Marienplatz, Munich, though.  He happily spent all day staring at the people and ornaments, napping when he needed to, and sharing bratwurst and warm cider with us (OK, we might have tended towards the Gluhwine).  After night fell, he goggled at the billions of beautiful Christmas lights and was enraptured by the carolers, before passing out on a bench [...]More

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Coromandel, New Zealand

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There are mornings like this: waking up and looking out over a pristine beach and a slightly roiled ocean.  Slathering on suntan lotion, hopping out of the camper, piling the critter in the backpack and just starting to walk down the beach.

The entrance to the Cathedral Cove hike (about 2 hours, moderate walk) begins at the Hahei campground beach.  Along the path, there are deep shady places watched over by giant ferns.  There are spots where the trail crests above the tree line and you can see the ocean and the islands that track the shore. There are dolphins out there somewhere.  The trail is well maintained, though we keep expecting to get "there" and we don't, not just yet.

We trade off with the baby backpack and the other backpack that carries all of the baby gear.  We put on more [...]More

Monday, 26 November 2007

North Island by Camper

In Maori, New Zealand's North Island is called Te Ika a Maui, or Maui's fish. The coastline that forms this "fish," especially in the Bay of Islands and Coromandel (Pacific Coast) regions, presents beach after inlet after cove to the explorer. Some are very popular, others less well known.  In my former life, I'd hopped a backpacker's bus from Auckland to the Coromandel and found some of my favorite beaches.  As we were planning the trip, I knew I wanted to take my family back to see them.

The trouble was, I wanted to cover a lot of ground in a week - both on foot, hiking, and on the road.  It would take a lifetime to explore the North Island properly.  Giving my family a taste of the beaches, rolling green hills, and wide blue skies was one goal.  Visiting some of the thermal regions south of [...]More

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Bay of Islands by Car

Part of the fun of renting a car and driving from Auckland to Bay of Islands (aside from occasionally checking to make sure you're on the right side of the road) is the drive itself.  The small towns along the way, like Waipu, contain hidden treasures. In Waipu's case, that's a wealth of Scottish heritage information (Waipu hosts a Highland Games festival January 1 of each year, and can become quite crowded in the high season).  You can take the detour to Kawakawa, for a pit stop - an artist named Hudertwasser designed public toilets there that have become quite an attraction.  Or you can simply take in the green rolling hills and surprise vistas.  With a stop, the drive is doable on a youngster's three-hour in-car tolerance level.  And the beaches are phenomenal.

We based in Paihia, on the east coast. Paihia features a number of places to stay (including a family-friendly hostel), and several great places to eat.  Our favorite was 35 ° [...]More

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Piha

Piha, New Zealand is what happens when the world's surfers get together and dream about a place.  It is 200% water - from the ocean that fronts it, to the mist-laden rainforest at its back.  In November, it is a clammy-damp.  Nothing a little fleece can't handle.

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There are tidal pools to be explored.  Waves to watch.  Hills to climb.

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And a great nature/Maori culture visitors center at the entrance to the area.

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It's a 45 minute drive from Auckland, on fairly twisty roads.   There was a tasty cafe at the base of the hill. A nice daytrip when still recovering from [...]More
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