San Gimignano – Dolly Travels

Author: , March 12th, 2018

San Gimignano - Dolly Travels

Good morning, everyone,

Today I am thinking of San Gimignano. This is one of the hill towns of Tuscany. True to its designation, there are hardly any flat places in this town.

To get there, one would take a bus from Florence, change buses in Poggibonsi. You might have to wait about a half hour for the next bus, but you will have time for a cappuccino at the little cafe in the bus/train station. That is about an hour and a half trip, and a pleasant one. San Gimignano is probably the most accessible of all the hill towns, so it is a busy place. I have never taken the train to Poggibonsi, as I would still have to take the bus up the hill to San Gimignano. My bus ticket gets me all the way to San Gimignano.

Once you get to San Gimignano and get off the bus, you walk through a stone archway, up an old stone street, until you come to the main piazza.

As you walk through town, don’t expect any flat ground, for there isn’t any…well, in front of the restaurants where the tables are set up, that is pretty flat. But most of the time, you will be either walking uphill or downhill. The picture above is deceiving, for it really is going uphill.

This is a city of towers. There are 14 towers still standing, surviving from the 13th century. Tourists can now climb one of the towers. I tried it once, and had to turn back, as the staircase was built of see-through steel grating, and as the stairs spiraled up and up and up, it scared the heck out of me to look down the way I had traveled, and I could see the stone floor so far below me.

You can see the people on the tower on the right. If you don’t have a fear of heights, like I do, this is a marvelous experience, to be able to look over the countryside, and if the weather is absolutely clear, you can see all the way to Florence, for that city is only 25 miles away, as the crow flies, I do believe.

San Gimignano is busy, as I said, for many tourists are there in the daytime. I would love to stay overnight there one of these trips, and see how it feels in the evening and I would enjoy the quiet of the nighttime up there.

When I am in San Gimignano, I find places like this. I don’t feel the need to shop, unless it is at a shop where I can buy the salami that is made from the cinghiale, the wild boars that roam in the countryside nearby. That is one cold cut that I really enjoy.

However, for the most part, I wander through the cobblestone streets, through the tunnels, up the hills, and find neat little staircases.

At the main piazza, appropriately named Piazza dell Cisterna, there is the old well. This used to be the gathering spot for the locals, for most people had to come there to draw their water. It still seems to be the gathering spot for tourists, as it makes a perfect Meeting Point. Everyone should know where the well is.

There are many good restaurants and cafes in San Gimignano. There are gelato shops as well, and as I mentioned before, shops that sell the salami and cheeses. This town is also noted for its very good white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano. The red wine from this area is not so tasty; if you are a red wine drinker, order a Chianti from the other side of Tuscany, the area between Florence and Siena.

San Gimignano - Dolly Travels

Some of the salami with different cheeses and grissini, the little thin bread sticks. So yummy.

I hope I have given you a glimpse of San Gimignano; enough of a glimpse that you will want to go see this town for yourself. Despite this being such a touristy town, it still retains the old world feel, and if you venture through town, go up to the Rocco, a view point that has you looking south over the countryside, then go down away from the center, you will probably feel as I do, that this is a perfect hill town.

I will leave you now with this little slice of Italy. Arrivederci, until next time, when I will tell you about some other place that I love and will visit again in June.

Ciao for now,
Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Tuscany Gay Travel Resources

Dolly’s Last Day in Washington State – Dolly Travels

Author: , September 18th, 2016

Washington State

Saturday I was ready to go. A friend of Patrick’s, Mike, joined us for this ride.

We headed north to Mt. St. Helens area. Although it was cloudy here, the further we went north, the more clear the sky became.

However, on reaching the highest point of the Mt. St. Helens road, the mountain still had clouds in her hair, denying us the picture of her summit.

Washington State - Mount Saint HelensIt was interesting, though, to see how much destruction the eruption of that volcano had caused. Most of the forest has been replanted. Although the hardwood trees came back on their own, all of the evergreen forests have had to be planted again by hand.

On Sunday, we took a car trip out into the farmland northeast of La Center, and visited Cedar Creek Grist Mill. This mill has been in operation since 1929, I believe. The mill is powered by a waterwheel, using water from the creek.

This was such a peaceful sight.

Inside, one of the volunteers showed us how the mill worked by grinding some corn into flour, then some soft wheat. He packaged the flours into paper bags that we could take if we wanted them. We each put a donation into the box and went home with freshly ground flours.

Yesterday, Monday, Randy and I took a motorcycle ride east. We left La Center going south, turned onto Washington State Highway 14 and followed that road until we reached Maryhill, Washington.

We drove along with the Columbia River on our right, forests on our left. The further east we went, the more dry the area became.

Looking across the Columbia to the town of Hood, Oregon. There were many wind surfers on the river. The wind constantly blows down that gorge.

Washington State - Stonehenge MemorialWe eventually reached our destination, Stonehenge Memorial, near Maryhill. This was built by a Quaker pacifist named Samuel Hill to honor soldiers from that region of the country who had died in World War I. Mr. Hill started the memorial in 1918 and completed it in 1929. There are 13 plaques in the stone, with the name and years of birth and death of these young men. Most of the men were 18 or 19 years old.

The memorial is an exact replica of Stonehenge in England, in size and form. Very impressive.

By the time we had visited this, we needed to start for home, as the afternoon was growing late. We returned home by the same route.

Washington StateWe got home in time for dinner that Cindy had prepared for us. I was pretty tired, so I turned in early. I don’t know why I was tired. All I have to do when we ride is sit comfortably on the back of that big bike and enjoy the scenery.

Today, Randy added up the mileage we had put on the bikes. I am proud to say, I have ridden exactly 600 miles this week. What a blast! I am ready to do more.

I am eternally grateful that my son was willing to take me on these rides. Thanks, also, to Patrick for carting his grandmother around. Many thanks, also, to Cindy, for loaning me her riding gear, giving me tips on how to be a good passenger. This is a week I will always remember.

Until next adventure, goodbye for now,

Dolly

Eating in Italy – Dolly Travels

Author: , June 4th, 2016

pasta

pastaPasta is the queen.

As we were walking through our neighborhood the other night, we came upon this display in a kitchen store. I love it! Obviously, her hair is spaghetti, her skirt is made of penne pasta, the belt is coils of angel hair pasta, and her bracelet is red chili peppers.

In Italy, every region has their own pasta specialty. I found the one constant spice is red chili flakes or red chili pepper pods. Garlic, of course, is a frequent ingredient in pasta dishes, but it is not in every dish. Some pasta sauces are so delicate that garlic would overwhelm the flavor. Other bolder dishes demand many cloves of this pungent ingredient.

I started asking different local people about a particular pasta dish that is ubiquitous in Rome, a simple pasta sauce called Amatriciana. Sometimes that is spelled with 2 m’s. The spelling of the word was only the beginning of the controversy surrounding this sauce.

The first controversy I encountered was the origin of the dish. While Roman restaurants say that this is a Roman specialty, the dish actually originated in the town of Amatrici, in northern Lazio area, Lazio is the region that includes Rome, but Amatrici is a small city in central Italy in the Appenines mountain range. People of Amatrici do not take kindly to Romans referring to this as a “Roman specialty.

Then I found more controversies. Really, now, would we fight over whether to use garlic, onion, or leave them out or will we become angry If the chef tops the pasta with Parmigiano cheese versus Pecorino? Apparently, Amatricians would.

I became very careful, after that, about asking questions concerning specialties. I did find, however, that almost every Italian will be willing to beat me about the head and shoulders if I mentioned Alfredo sauce. “Non Italiano”, was the universal reply, usually accompanied by a sneer and a glare. Alfredo sauce was apparently a culinary creation of a Roman chef, named Alfredo, naturally, created by him to impress some Hollywood movie stars many years ago, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. These two enjoyed the dish so much that they presented Chef Alfredo with a golden fork and spoon.

The closest one can get to having Alfredo sauce in Italy is pasta carbonara, spaghetti mixed with diced pancetta, raw egg beaten into the sauce , then lots of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese mixed into the pasta.

When we were in Sorrento, seafood ruled the menu, and rightfully so.

At Ristorante Delfino, I had a pasta called calamarata, as it looks like calamari rings, with shrimp, clams, zucchini, cherry tomatoes in a slightly spicy clear sauce. Frank was enjoying spaghetti alla vongole, spaghetti with clams. All sorts of seafood abound on the menus on the coast. They are so delicious, so fresh, right from the sea, and prepared by a talented chef. Antonio, at Delfino’s, is one of the best chefs in this area.

Today, we are in Florence, encountering an unsuspected rainy day, so Chef Dolly decided it was a good day to make soup. I have made many meals in this kitchen over the years, and I am in heaven having the opportunity to cook here once again.

One of the things I love about shopping for food here is that I can go to the supermarket, go to the produce department, pick up a packet of soup mix. This container will have 2 carrots, 3 or 4 stalks of celery, one or 2 small onions and some parsley, for a cost of about [euro]1. That is the starter for my soup. I then add some chicken, fennel, zucchini. At the end, I add tortellini. Now I have a marvelous soup, a perfect lunch dish for a rainy afternoon.

While we waited for the soup to finish cooking, we had a little appetizer. Frank had gone to the store, brought home a fresh baquette, still warm from the oven, and a bottle of Chianti. We had cheese, prosciutto and olives to round out the aperitivo. (An aside here: the Chianti was on sale for [euro]6. The bread cost less than [euro]1. Good wine and bread are so inexpensive here. Right now, the currency exchange rate is $1 = [euro]. 90. [euro]6 was about $6.60 )

In a future blog post, I will continue with foods of the different regions, as well as the many controversies over food preparation. Italians are very food oriented and proud of their regional specialties, so I must be sure to get my facts straight. I will try to do that as I eat my way through Italy.

Ciao for now,
Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Italy Gay Travel Resources

Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast – Dolly Travels

Author: , May 29th, 2016

Sorrento

Sorrento is a lovely coastal town, nestled in the southern shore of the Bay of Naples. The city itself is narrow and long, with many hills, narrow, winding streets, walled pathways leading to Marina Piccola on the eastern side and to Marina Grande, the old Fisherman’s Village, on the western side.

Hotels in the center of town are on fairly level ground, with most of them having lush gardens and some with swimming pools. Other hotels are up on the cliffs, high above the city, but the view of the bay from those cliff side hotels are incredibly breathtaking.

Sorrento is the birthplace of limoncello, that delicious lemon liqueur. Lemon and orange groves are abundant throughout this region of Southern Italy, with lemon groves outnumbering the oranges. The trees bloom and produce fruit year round. Limoncello is made from the peel of a knobby yellow fruit, which has such an intense flavor. The seductive, addictive lemon flavor surfaces in many foods, many specialties of the region.

One of my favorite desserts: lemon sorbet with limoncello poured over, plus ice cold limoncello to sip. In the background you can see Frank’s dessert: light, airy sponge cake with lemon cream filling, topped with whipped cream and wild strawberries. It doesn’t get any better than this. These desserts were the finale for a delicious seafood dinner at our favorite restaurant in Sorrento, Ristorante Delfino in Marina Grande.

Other food specialties are cheeses made from the milk of water buffalo that are raised in the countryside south of Amalfi. These animals were originally imported from India. Now raising them iin Campania is a huge enterprise. We went to our second favorite restaurant in Sorrento, called Inn Bufalita, that specializes in all things buffalo. We had a salad made with cherry tomatoes, small balls of Bufalo mozzarella, fresh basil and arugula. That was fantastic, Frank had a buffalo steak, which did not impress him.

When we went to Paestum, I asked Raffaele, our driver, if he knew where the “buffalo roamed”. Laughing, Raffaele told me that many people have images in their minds about the milk coming from the American Bison.

“I always explain that this milk and the milk products come from the water buffalo, but somehow many people cannot connect water buffalo with this southern region of Italy”, he told me. Then he asked if I would like to see the animals.

“Of course!”, I replied. Raffaele drove us out to one of the farms. There the buffalo are kept in large enclosures, but that ensures that they only eat the food provided by the farm. Raffaele then told us that, just like clockwork, when it is milking time, the animals start heading for the milking shed.

“The buffalo are very organized and time conscious”, he said.

There you have it; my love of the food of this Amalfi-Sorrento region is one of the many reasons that I will keep returning. Most of my readers are well aware that I am an incorrigible “foodie”, so you will probably read more about food while I am on this trip.

Until next time,
Arriverderci, tutti.

Dolly

By Dolly Gollsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Campania Gay Travel Resources

Bella Roma – Dolly Travels

Author: , May 22nd, 2016

Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II, Rome

Early Tuesday morning, under leaden gray skies that seemed to hover over the nearby fields and the tarmac of Roma Fiumincino airport, our plane landed. The pilots had done a fine job, getting us to Rome 45 minutes ahead of schedule. After gathering our luggage, we took a a cab to our hotel. We were too early to check in, so we put our luggage in the hotel storeroom and set off to see the city.

We walked to Piazza Venezia, found a table at an outdoor cafe and sat down to enjoy the never-ending show of traffic, pedestrians dodging the vehicles, a policeman blowing his whistle that no one heeded. We had a good view of the Vittorio Emmanuel Monument as well. Many Italians say that the monument is too ornate for this area, right by the Roman Forum and the Capitoline Hill. I like it, though.

One can go inside, pay to go to the roof (Roma dal Cielo, Translated as Rome from the Sky). This is one of the best places to get a view of the entire city of Rome. There are plaques around the walls of this rooftop, to tell one what you are seeing, and remind you that you are right in the center of Ancient Rome. All those piles of rocks inside the fenced-off areas below are the remains of the buildings of the greatest empire of all time.

When we tired of people watching, we walked back to our hotel. We stopped for lunch along the way, had a pizza and a salad, and a large bottle of water. When we arrived at our hotel and got checked in, it was almost 4:00 p.m. We had been up for about 30 hours by then; therefore, my rule to not take a nap on the first day went right out the window. We showered, got into our jammies and never left the hotel again that day.

The next day, we were up early, had breakfast and kept our touring to the neighborhood. I needed to buy train tickets for the rest of our trip, so we spent a couple hours in the train station. Then we went to the National Museum, walked around neighborhoods that were familiar, and found some new places.

In the evening, in one of the newly discovered (by us), we walked down to the Monti district. This area had some trendy boutiques and many restaurants. Eventually, we decided to have dinner at a restaurant in the Piazza dei Monti. We enjoyed pasta alla Vongole, a delicious salad of beet, strawberries, ricotta cheese on a bed of watercress, plus a glass of red house wine.

DollyI was delighted that the house red wine was Rosso di Montepulciano. So many good memories of the month I stayed in that town, attending Italian language school. However, when I saw the bartender pour my glass of wine from a huge 2-liter jug, I was a bit concerned. No worries, though. The wine was delicious and inexpensive. We had enjoyed a good meal and a memorable evening and almost stayed within our budget.

After dinner, we walked the 2 miles, more or less, back to our hotel, stopping once for a gelato.

We did not attempt to see any of the major Roman attractions in these 2 days. We simply rested, got ourselves acclimated to the time change. Next, we will go onto Sorrento for three days, then return to Rome for a longer stay. Life is good in Bella Roma.

Ciao for now,
Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels

Rome Gay Travel Resources

Dolly Travels – Wellington, New Zealand’s Capital City

Author: , October 12th, 2015

Wellington - Dolly GoolsbyI have to apologize. We were so busy during our last few days in New Zealand, that I simply did not have time to write without feeling rushed; therefore, I am writing about Wellington after I am back on United States soil. Nevertheless, Wellington is still very much in my mind. What a lovely city.

We were fortunate that the weather continued to be in our favor. We had arrived in Wellington at night, so we were very happy to wake up to a beautiful sunny day for our tour of the city. Aaron had arranged a tiny little minibus with a driver, to take us on our tour. As Wellington is a very hilly town, we soon saw the wisdom in that choice.

First, we drove up to the top of a hill that can also be accessed by a cable car. From this vantage point, one can walk down through the lovely Botanical Gardens. We did not have time for that leisurely stroll, so our little bus took us down to the glass buildings of the gardens.

Next, our driver took us up another very winding road to an overlook, where we could see the city and the Harbour.

We visited Old St. Paul’s Church. This church was built in the 1860’s, by shipbuilders. It was the Diocese of the Anglican Church for over 100 years. When a new cathedral was built, this church was in danger of being torn down. Thank goodness the Historical Society prevailed, as this church is beautiful.

Looking down the aisle of the church. You can see the ceiling looks like an upside down ship’s hull. There is so much lovely wood in the church…engraved beams, the pews, the altars.

We drove past the Parliament houses. But my favorite place of all was the National Museum, Te Papa. It is situated on the waterfront and is a fabulous collection of Maori culture, memories and exhibits of both World Wars, science exhibits, showing, and letting one feel, earthquakes. Dioramas of how volcanoes erupt, how the mountains are pushed up by sliding tectonic plates. We entered the realm of the deepest seas, and saw a giant squid, who was under glass and dead, I am happy to say.

There was so much to see. Nearby our hotel, the waterfront area was so entertaining. Many shops, restaurants, outdoor art works, places to sit and relax. It is hard to believe this area was a thriving United States Marine Corps base during World War II. When the Marines left, they gave this land back to New Zealand, and this waterfront area was developed. What a great gift.

The day we left, I just had to go back to the museum. It had made such an impression on me, and there were areas I hadn’t seen, some I wanted to see again. One very nice feature of the museum is that is open to everyone, free of charge. There is a donation box so that contributions can be made to keep it free.

All in all, Wellington is a lovely city. There were so many little nooks and crannies…small parks with children playing, people sitting on the grass eating lunch, enjoying the sunshine. I could have spent more time there. However, all good things come to an end, so Wednesday afternoon we had to trek off to the airport, fly to Aukland and from Auckland fly back home to the United States.

This was a marvelous trip. Everyday was a new and exciting adventure. I enjoyed every minute of the trip.

There are still some stories and pictures I would like to share, in future posts. Particularly some of the foods that are considered ?delicacies? So, as I continue to re-live my fabulous New Zealand adventure, I will write more about the country.

Can you believe I have hardly mentioned the fantastic wines from this country? Oh, my. Definitely more posts coming your way.

But I must say, goodby for now,

Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels | Wellingson Gay Travel Resources

Dolly Travels – Our Last Day in the South Island

Author: , October 1st, 2015

Dolly - Canterbury ChurchKia Ora,

It is now late at night. I am in my very comfortable hotel room in the heart of Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city. We had such a long day, I was certain I would sleep well. But, no. That was not to be. I was jolted out of a deep sleep by the sound of an emergency vehicle siren going past on the street below. I realized then, that we had not been in a big city since we left Auckland, which was nine days ago. How quickly my mind and body had adjusted to the quieter atmosphere of the smaller towns and the peacefulness of the great outdoors.

Early this morning, right after breakfast, we boarded our bus and left the west coast town of Greymouth. We had been blessed all week with sunny, pleasant weather. This morning, though, there were some clouds in the sky, and the air was quite chilly. With our excellent driver, Paul, we started going inland traveling a bit south and east, traversing the Southern Alps. We went over Arthur’s Pass, one of the highest mountain passes, driving on a steep, winding highway. Paul stopped the bus at a turnout, so that we could take pictures. The temperature outside was 34 degrees Fahrenheit, and a sharp, cold breeze blowing.

We each took a couple photos, and we’re more than ready to hop back on the bus. We went just a bit further up the road, and stopped again at a cafe, so we could all get a cup of coffee. Then Aaron, our tour guide, led us on a short walk to a small chapel, then to the Visitor’s Center The little church was very pretty, as the window behind the pulpit looked out at a grand waterfall. Unfortunately, my picture did not turn out well, as the sun was shining brightly on the waterfall.

This area has many different kinds of outdoor activities: hiking, mountain biking, white water sports (don’t think that tiny river below the highway is the only river here). There is river fishing, lake fishing, just about any kind of outdoor activity is available. This is very rugged country, so one has to be knowledgable and prepared for dealing with the elements. One poster in the Visitors’ Center was entitled, “How to Kill Yourself in Arthur’s Pass”.

Back on the bus again, we started our descent into the valley, leaving the Alps behind us.

This is prime country for Merino sheep, as they thrive best when they can graze on the mountains. We were told, later, when we visited the sheep station, that Merino sheep need a very different diet from the sheep that are raised in the valleys.

We visited a working sheep station, where the owner and his dog, Pete, gave us a demonstration of the herding qualities of the Border Collie. The shepherd actually use another dog, called a Huntawey (I don’t know how to spell that). The Huntawey barks, causing the sheep to group together in a herd. Then the Border Collie keeps them in a herd, and directs them towards the shepherd. We also got to see sheep shearing.

When we left this place, we continued on to Christchurch, on the east coast. Christchurch had been devastated by two earthquakes: the first, in September, 2010, but the second one, in February, 2011, caused the greatest destruction. For me, it was very sad to see the city as it is now. Rebuilding has been very difficult. So many buildings have been torn down; others waiting to be restored or demolished. We had stayed in Christchurch in 2005, and the vision I saw today made me very sad – a ruined cathedral.

We left the city, went towards the airport, and visited the Antarctic Center, which is right near the airport. I loved seeing the little blue penguins. That cheered me up. They are the tiniest penguins in the world. The ones we saw today have been rescued, having suffered injuries to their tiny feet or flippers, rehabilitated, but they would not survive in the wild again, so their permanent home is at the Antarctic Center.

After our visit there, we were taken to the airport; there we had to say goodbye to Paul, who had been our driver and companion for the past several days. We flew from Christchurch to Wellington, arriving a little after 8:00 p.m. As I said earlier, it had been a very long day, but with so many interesting stops and sights.

We will be here for the next few days, and then our fantastic New Zealand adventure will come to a close. I will fly back to the United States late Wednesday afternoon.

I will try to get another blog post written, after we have had the chance to visit Wellington.

I do trust you have enjoyed visiting this amazing country with me, and that you are planning your own OAT trip to New Zealand.

There is so much that I haven’t written about. I haven’t told you about the food, the cultural differences between our countries…I will try to write about those things, and more, after I get home.

So I shall say goodnight for now, and try to get some sleep. I can only hope another siren doesn’t go by and wake me again. I shall try to adjust to city life again,

Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels | Canterbury Gay Travel Resources

Dolly Travels – Franz Josef Glacier, Reefton and Greymouth

Author: , September 28th, 2015

New Zealand - Dolly Goolsby

Kia Ora,

We had stayed overnight in the little town of Fox, very close to Franz Josef. Today, on a beautiful sunny day,me drove to Franz Josef. We were met at the beginning of the nature walk path by Paul, a local guide and expert on the geology and history of this glacier. Paul walked with us for about an hour, telling us about this fast-moving glacier. I had seen this ten years ago, and could not believe how far the glacier had retreated in that time.

Franz Josef Glacier, Dolly GoolsbyAfter visiting the glacier, we boarded our bus again and headed toward Greymouth, where we would stay for the next two nights. Being the pragmatic person that I am, I had thought I would compose my blog posts as we drove along the roads to each destination. Not going to happen! The scenery was so astounding, and so lovely, I just had to look out the window and see the cattle in the fields, the sheep on the hillsides, the deer farms, where they raise this very tasty venison as a market crop. In the background were the icy, snow topped Southern Alps. Wherever we went, the scenery was lovely, relaxing and I simply could not do anything but enjoy the view.

When we got closer to the sea, where the rivers meet the sea, fishermen were netting “whitebait”. This is such a cultural delicacy that I shall not go into it now..this merits its own post.

We arrived at Greymouth in the early evening, got settled into our rooms, then enjoyed a cocktail and dinner with our group at the hotel.

Today we headed further north, still following the Tasman seacoast, until we came to Pancake Rocks, a geological but unique and beautiful natural phenomenon along the coast.
If you can see the layers of rocks, resembling pancakes: layers upon layers of fossilized sea life and minerals. Amazing. These do not exist anywhere else in the world.

New Zealand - Dolly GoolsbyBack on the bus again, we traveled inland to Reeftown, an old gold mining town, but still alive and vibrant. We had a special guide, again, another Paul. (We have learned that most of our guides and/or drivers are named either Paul or Mike). We had lunch at the visitor center, where we were joined by several kids from the schools around Reefton, as well as a few adults, who joined us for lunch and told us about life In their hometown.

After lunch we went to the re-created Bearded Miners’ Camp, where the old guys told us about the miners’ life in early Reeftown.

We finished our day trip with a visit to a dairy farm. There, Nancy, one of our travelers, got to check an item off her bucket list. She got to milk a cow.

We visited with the delightful family that own the farm, and we’re very captivated by Laughlin, the 9 year old grandson, who took over the tour guiding, leading us into the gardens.

Laughlin is either going to be an OAT tour leader in about ten years, or a politician. He was very charismatic, explaining how his artistic aunt had built the garden over the past thirty years.

Eventually, we made our way back to Greymouth. We had the best intentions of going down to the beach for a sunset picnic, but we had some wine and snacks in Margaret and Maureen’s room here in the hotel, and we never got to the beach.

This has been a most awesome trip. The country of New Zealand is so unspoiled..towns are small and separated by miles and miles of open fields, mountains, or just treacherous terrain. The people living here are resilient, able to fix anything with Number 8 wire…they are very friendly and receptive to us, as tourists.

Also, our group of twelve are probably the most compatible group of travelers I have ever had the pleasure of traveling with. All of us have traveled extensively. In fact, Aaron told us, that between the twelve of us, we have done 65 OAT or Grand Circle tours, and we don’t even know how many trips we have each taken independently. This makes a wonderful group experience, when we talk about our travels, as we did tonight, over wine and snacks.

Aaron, our tour leader, is a native New Zealander; he is a real Kiwi. Aaron is so passionate about his country, and he is so knowledgeable. Here is a picture of Aaron, taken in the Redwood Forest in Rotorua, showing us the silver fern, which is the national symbol of New Zealand.

It is hard to believe that tomorrow we will fly to Wellington, and in three days we will have to fly home.

I will try to write more later, but, as I said, I am so busy soaking up the scenery, the culture, the history of this country, I have been remiss in my writing, I know you will forgive me.

After I get home, I plan to write about differences in New Zealand culture from ours, as well as cuisine of this country, other aspects of New Zealand that I just haven’t had the time to write about.

I know, if you come here, once you see those snowy peaks of the Southern Alps, you will understand why I am writing when everyone else is sleeping . This is the only time I am not being distracted by the beauty of New Zealand.

Goodnight for now. Are you booking your Overseas Adventure Travel tour yet? A visit to this country should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels | West Coast New Zealand Gay Travel Resources

Dolly Travels: Queenstown and Milford Sound

Author: , September 27th, 2015

Dolly GoolsbyKia Ora,

Time is just flying by. I thought I would write about Queenstown and Milford Sound before now; however, there is so much to tell you, I had to revise again and again, to give you the highlights. This is such a beautiful, unique, majestic area that finding the words to describe it was a task.

First, we flew into Queenstown by way of Christchurch when we left Rotorua. After leaving Christchurch, flying south, these magnificent Southern Alps came into view. The day was brilliantly sunny, and I was constantly looking out the window. I finally had to take a short break, as I felt that I might go snow blind!

It was so interesting. All that vast expanse of land, mountains, lakes and streams, and no sign of human activity. As we neared Queenstown, I did see one isolated farm. One long lonely road leading up to it. The rivers were so interesting. They looked like giant silver braids. The small streams running down the mountainside were children’s scribbling lines. The mountains, with the snow on them, seemed to me that I was looking down and across a meringue pie.

After we collected our bags and started for the town of Queenstown, we stopped on the way to visit Arrowtown, an old gold rush town that has been maintained to still have the 1860’s charm. There is one section that was the Chinese miners camp. Some of those old, tiny buildings have been kept as they were 150 years ago.

After visiting Arrowtown, we made our way through Queenstown, to our hotel, which was situated on a hill overlooking Lake Wakatipu, just about a mile from the city center.
We all walked downtown that evening, had a great dinner in a pub in the city center, then Aaron arranged taxis to take us back up the hill, to the hotel and a good night’s sleep.

Early the next morning, we set off for Milford Sound. This involved a long bus ride through some of the prettiest country I have ever seen. For the first hour, we followed the lake side. Then we went inland, seeing different terrain, fields of sheep, fields of cattle grazing, pastures of farmed deer. We had to stop at one point, and let the farmer herd his cattle down the only road in the area.

It was rather fun, seeing the cattle being herded with a pick-up truck.

We stopped several times. Each time we were looking at another wonderful sight. Here we were, at a clear, pristine creek. We were able to fill our water bottles from the stream. The mountains in the background were so magnificent.

Eventually, we reached Milford Sound. By now we had traveled for over 5 hours, and the scenery had been so astounding. We were ready for a different kind of visual beauty: the lovely Milford Sound.

I hope you will know now why it has taken me so long to write this blog post. It is impossible to try to convey all the beauty, the magnificence of that area in this tiny blog post. (I have this one request: if you have not been to New Zealand, put it on your bucket list.). I think New Zealand is the most pristine, green and beautiful country in the world. I also think I will have to get a new Thesaurus, as I need more words to describe what I am seeing here.

Now Milford Sound. This is a body of water that flows out to Tasman Sea. We boarded a boat for a two-hour cruise of the Sound. We had a most lovely, sunny day to see all the surrounding hills and inlets, and the waterfalls cascading down the mountains.

We had such an adventure. Sadly, the cruise ended, and we had to go back to our hotel in Queenstown. We did travel back the way we came, so once again we were treated to the visual cornicopia. Aaron put on a movie for the last two hours of our trip; a film about a New Zealander and his desire to see how fast his motorcycle would go. If you haven’t seen it already, rent the movie , “World’s Fastest Indian”, starring Anthony Hopkins. It is based on a true story, of a real, genuine New Zealander.

We got back to the hotel late in the evening, a bus load of tired, but happy travelers.

Today was another day of visual, sensory overload. I will try to get today’s adventure onto the blog soon, as tomorrow we will have another adventure.

I am so happy that I have had the opportunity to see New Zealand again, and that I can share it with you. At least a bit of it. You must come see it for yourself.

Until next time,

Good night,

Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels | Otago Gay Travel Resources

Dolly Travels: From Auckland to Rotorua

Author: , September 24th, 2015

Calves in New Zealand - Dolly GoolsbyHello, or Kia Ora,

Oh, there is so much to tell you about this wonderful country of New Zealand, I find that I must write something before I go to sleep tonight.

We had a beautiful drive down from Auckland yesterday. The weather was sunny; just a few puffy white clouds up high, and we had miles and miles to travel. We traveled by way of the motorway, which in the United States we would call a freeway. We drove past field after field of green rolling hills. I had expected to see many flocks of sheep with new baby lambs; however, it has been ten years since my last visit to New Zealand, and the North Island, where we are now, has become more of a dairy country. In fact, dairy products presently are the largest industry in the North Island. Therefore, I did get to see many herds of cattle in the green fields.

Our tour company. Overseas Adventure Travel, had arranged a home-hosted lunch for our group. We were welcomed by Ray and Dorothy to their home on an organic dairy farm. We were told this is the third generation now that has owned this farm. What a delightful few hours we got to spend with these two people. After we had eaten, Ray explained how they originally were certified as an organic farm and what they, as farmers, need to do to keep that certification. Then they took us on a tour of Dorothy’s garden, and we got to see the new farm babies… the calves.

Now here are some of the babies. I just wanted to squeeze these cute little creatures. Ray told me to let one suck on my fingers, but I knew better than to do that, if I wanted my fingers back.

I really enjoyed having the opportunity to visit with both of these friendly people, and I was so happy to get to gently hug one of the babies.

Since the day was still very pleasant and sunny, our guide, Aaron, had the bus driver take us to an area where we could go on a short hike, only about a mile or so, to the headwaters of the Blue Spring, the source of most of the bottled spring water in the North Island. The water is so clear and so blue. The green water grasses were just such a contrast to the blue water.

We followed the stream for another hundred meters or so, then we had to retrace our steps back to the waiting bus. There were some other tourists at the spring. One young man decided he would jump into the water. He did that, we heard a scream, and he jumped right out of the water. The water is freezing cold! Silly boy.

That little trek was such a nice surprise side trip that Aaron had planned for us. As we are finding out, Aaron has such a love for his native New Zealand, and such a passion for these unique experiences, that we know the rest of this two week trip is going to be quite an adventure, with delightful surprises when Aaron can work them into our itinerary.

Finally, in the late afternoon, we arrived in Rotoruta. We checked into this very lovely Waiora Resort, right on the shores of the lake. After a delicious gourmet dinner, we all retired early; a group of some very tired but happy travelers. We knew we had another busy day ahead of us, so I, for one, was not the least bit reluctant to do this. This resort has the nicest amenities. I was not expecting to find a hot water bottle in my bathroom cabinet, but I filled it with hot water, put it into my bed, and went to sleep very happy. I hadn’t even seen a hot water bottle since I was a kid, so this new treat brought back happy childhood memories, and I slept, dreaming only happy dreams.

So I will say goodnight to each of you now, and will continue telling you more about New Zealand tomorrow.

Good night, all.

Dolly

By Dolly Goolsby – Full Story at Dolly Travels | New Zealand Gay Travel Resources