All posts by Patricia Moore

Kia Ora Koutou Katoa My name is Patricia Moore. I have worked all my life as a writer and educator in Australia and New Zealand and have had the good fortune to travel to many parts of the world. This has given me the opportunity to move from writing fiction and educational resources, to the travel stories, anecdotes and observations which appear on Travelstripe.

Back to Milan

Milan’s Via Taormina is part of the city sprawl that has swallowed a small village. In spite of the roads  crammed with roaring traffic that surround it and the modern shops and dwellings that hover at its edges, much of village life continues here.

Via Taormina
Via Taormina

The church, San Marco, opens onto Piazza Caserta at the crossroads of Via Taormina and Via Veglia. While 21st century secular life and work dictate the rhythm of the days for most of the people who live here, still the bells of San Marco mark out traditions of prayer and spiritual observance. Every morning, they call the faithful to Mass. They chime out the Ave Maria at 12 o’clock to announce the Angelus. They ring again at three for Benediction. They peel at length on Sundays and feast days, for Baptisms and weddings. They toll at times of mourning.

Inside, San Marco has all the timeless and universal symbols of  Catholicism. There is the familiar scent of incense and candle wax, the dim light, the wooden pews, the pillars, the confessional boxes, the Stations of the Cross, the altar and its white cloths, the gilded tabernacle, the small red lamp glowing beside it, the stone angels, the paintings of Our Lady, the infant Jesus and the saints.

All this was the backdrop to my girlhood, the culture in which I grew up. I am not surprised to find it, here in San Marco, Via Taormina. Italy, is after all “the source” and the “Mecca” of the Catholic faith. The nuns, our teachers, too, always confident that we would make our way out into the wide world, had promised that in any Catholic church, anywhere,  we would find all the same symbols and rituals.  What does surprise me, is my sense of belonging and how much “at home” I feel here.

Time Unlimited Tours wins National Geographic World Legacy Award

The Auckland based tour company TIME Unlimited has just won the prestigious National Geographic World Legacy Award  in the “Sense of place Category”.  http://www.newzealandtours.travel

Time Unlimited's guided walks on Auckland's wild west coast
Time Unlimited’s guided walks on Auckland’s wild west coast

It’s no surprise to those who know Time Unlimited. For 11 years now they’ve been welcoming visitors to “their place” showing them its unbelievably beautiful landscapes and sharing its unique experiences with them.

Time Unlimited was established in 2005 by bicultural couple Ceillhe and Neill Sperath. Ceillhe is Maori, a direct descendant of the Ngapuhi chief, Patuone. Neill is tauiwi, of Irish and German origin, and a New Zealander by choice. Both are passionate about their country. Both are equally passionate about how its unique culture and environment should be shared. TIME Unlimited reflects this.

TIME Unlimited says Ceillhe Sperath, is founded on three essential pou, or pillars, of Maoritanga, or Maori culture; manaakitanga or hospitality, whanaungatanga, or relationships and kaitiakitanga, or guardianship. On their tours, the Speraths explain, manaakitanga translates into welcoming, respectful, caring, reliable and punctual service; whanaungatanga means sharing experiences, finding common ground, forging links, making friends and becoming like family; kaitiakitanga means responsibility, respect, care and protection for the environment – the streets, parks and institutions, the land, sea and bush that they pass through.

This highly contested, coveted National Geographic World Legacy Award is a fitting tribute to a company that has a true sense of place, that cherishes Aotearoa New Zealand and is dedicated to safeguarding it for future generations.

He mihi nui ki a koutou katoa!

Valentine’s Day in France

As French is the language of love and France is the land of lovers, le Jour de Saint Valentin or Valentine’s Day is an important ‘Fête’ or feast day in France.

Flowers in Le Jardin des Tuileries
Flowers in Le Jardin des Tuileries

Three Saint Valentin are listed in the calendar of saints’ days and one, of course, is February 14.

The day has been celebrated in one way or another, in France since Roman times, first as the feast of Juno, then as the day (in the middle of February) when animals coupled for spring births. By the Middle Ages, the day had become a day for couples (human, and strictly male and female) In an age where to be single was to be in a precarious, if not dangerous situation, especially for women, le Jour De Saint Valentin became a day for match-making. The tradition of the “loterie d’amour” was born. This involved single people of all ages descending on the houses across the street and calling through windows until they eventually found a match. The man was supposed to become the woman’s champion and protector for the following year and then, hopefully, her husband. But all too often the woman was rejected out of hand. No mention is made of rejected men, so presumably that never happened. The spurned women took their revenge that night by burning the rejecters’ effigies at a public bonfire and hurling abuse at them. The practice got so out of hand (or the men felt so threatened) that before too long, it was banned.

A kinder tradition is the one attributed to the Duc D’Orleans. Imprisoned in the Tower of London after the battle of Agincourt in 1514, he wrote love letters, cards and poems for the love of his life, his wife in France. The tradition lives on today as “la Carte D’Amitié” or as we Anglophones call it, the Valentine’s card.

The place to be in France, if not the world for Le Jour De Saint Valentin is the little village of St. Valentin in Indre, the central Val de Loire region, which has in 1960s dubbed itself the ‘Village of Love’. Then in the 1980s the Mayor created a Lovers Garden (Jardin des Amoureux) and inaugurated the annual festival of Saint Valentin.

During the three day festival, the village is decorated with red roses and lovers from all around the globe flock to Le Jardin des Amoureux. Couples can get married in the gazebo, plant a tree to commemorate their love and pin hearts or love tokens to the Tree of Vows or Tree of Eternal Hearts. Out in the village, they can letters stamped at the St. Valentin post office, buy chocolate hearts from the local chocolatiers, dance at the Bal de St Valentin and eat a wonderful St Valentin repas

Life begins in Milan

It was about this time of the year, perhaps just a little later, that we arrived in Milan. Nobody I knew had nothing positive to say about the place. It was cold, it was old, it was dirty, it was shabby, it was industrial, it was ugly.

Via Taormina from our balcony
Via Taormina from our balcony

Nothing, however, could dampen my enthusiasm. It was Italy! Cold! Who cared, with all those museums, art galleries, cafes, bars, restaurants and shops offering warmth and shelter? Old? That meant history and heritage – Roman ruins and streets where Leonardo Da Vinci had walked. Dirty and shabby equalled character. Industrial? – Ferari factories and fashion fiera! Fabulous! Ugly? Well beauty, in my book, was confined to the eye of the beholder. I was determined to see it!

Old, beautiful, characterful and sunny! I thought, as we broke through the clouds and circled a city lit by watery winter sunlight.

Our taxi careened along the freeway, steering its own path, or so it seemed, while the driver talked incessantly with both his mouth and his hands, turning, and even leaning, from time to time, over the front seat to look us in the eye. My grasp of Italian, at that stage, was hazy, but it was clear that he was expounding, with great enthusiasm, on the marvels of Milan. I responded with appreciative nods, smiles and with little gestures that I hoped would encourage him to keep his eyes on the road and his hands on the wheel. They were lost in translation.

“Ecco! Via Taormina!” he exclaimed, throwing both arms out in triumph, as we zoomed round a corner, past a church, into a street flanked by cars parked nose to tail and overlooked by a mix of buildings representing every age of construction from middle to modern. Via Taormina was part of the city sprawl that had swallowed whole and left undigested, a small village, with its church, walled gardens, stone houses and stables.

“Ecco! – La Casa!” our driver announced, beaming over the back seat and screeching to halt simultaneously.

Our Via Taormina apartment building was a chunky, stone edifice, of indeterminate age and undeniable ugliness. But ugliness, like beauty, is only skin deep and, inside, our apartment was beautiful. The rooms were large, with wooden floors, tall windows and furniture that spoke of household set up in a vintage somewhere around the mid 1900s . At the front, French doors opened from the lounge and onto a wide, sunny balcony that looked out over the neighbourhood. Potted bamboo and trees, covered in tiny buds, promised shade, flowers and fresh green leaves in a few months’ time. The kitchen was equipped with every conceivable 20th century culinary invention and utensil. Platters, plates, dishes, glassware and cutlery to cater for any occasion and any number of guests spoke of large family feasts and gargantuan cook-ups. In bedrooms there were beds with ornate headboards and dressing tables with doilies and ornaments. This was not just an apartment. It was a home and the presence of the life lived here was strong, close and welcoming. It wrapped around me like a shawl borrowed from a dear friend. I knew that I would be happy and that I would also be at home here.

This was the beginning of life in Milan.

Devonport

Devonport, on Auckland’s north shore is a quiet,  picturesque marine village.

An after school swim in Devonport
An after school swim in Devonport

Despite a shopping strip with upmarket boutiques and trendy restaurants, cafes and bars offering cuisine from all around the world, Devonport is a haven of a timeless, relaxed, New Zealand lifestyle.

Kids drop in for a swim after school at the wharf at Stanley Point, the ferry chugs in and out as it has for over a century, taking commuters over to the city to work, houses, grand and modest look out over the same million dollar harbour views and watch the cruise ships sail up Auckland Harbour.

Devonport’s Mount Victoria, another of Auckland’s extinct volcanoes, is the resting place of the great Ngapuhi chief Patuone. Known as the peacemaker because of the role he played in persuading the Tangata Whenua to accept a partnership with the British Crown rather than to attempt to resist it (against overwhelming odds, it must be said) he laid the foundations for modern bi-cultural Aotearoa New Zealand.

Devonport is also home to Auckland’s Naval Base.

Two good reasons to drop into Moeraki

Moeraki is a tiny seaside village with a huddle of beach houses, a pub, a community centre, a small sheltered harbour where a dozen weather beaten boats bob at anchor, a couple of beautiful sheltered bays with golden sand and rippling blue waves. It’s set right at the ocean’s edge, well off the track beaten by State Highway through the last quarter of Aotearoa New Zealand’s South Island.

Fleur's Place
Fleur’s Place

Moeraki is not the kind of place that you might blink and miss. It’s the kind of place you might miss completely because you wouldn’t know that it was there, across the paddocks, hidden in the lee of the cliffs. There are, however two compelling reasons to slow at the Moeraki turn-off, leave State Highway 1 and cruise slowly towards the sea.

The first reason is the mysterious Moeraki boulders. Round and perfect, they sit like giant cannon balls on the sand. Maori legend has it that the boulders are the remains of calabashes, eel baskets and kumara, washed up after the wreck of the waka, or canoe Arai-te-uru. The nearby rocky arms that reach out into the sea are said to be the waka’s hull and the promontory nearby is the body of the captain. Science explains them as rocks pulled from their mudstone bed by the sea, caked with thousands of layers of mud and sand and slat by the wind and water, then worn smooth and round by the constant wash of the waves.

The second reason to take that detour off State Highway One and meander down to Moeraki, is Fleur’s Place, one of the region’s if not the South Island’s, if not even Aotearoa NZ’s most popular seafood restaurants. Set at the edge of the little harbour, overlooking the boats on one side and the vast Pacific horizon on the other, Fleur’s Place is housed in a weather worn corrugated iron and stone building. Inside its walls are busy with memorabilia of Moeraki’s seafaring history. On the day we dropped into Fleur’s, without a booking, all the tables were taken and only the last three seats at the bar remained. We took them and then watched a stream of disappointed, also unbooked punters turned away. The seafood with thick slices of rustic bread and the fish of the day with salad and chips explained why it is always absolutely imperative to book at Fleurs. Everything was fresh, perfectly cooked and exquisitely presented. Furthermore, Fleur’s is a place with a wonderful atmosphere, a superb outlook and interesting, helpful and cheerful staff.

Don’t miss Moeraki, make the turn, ponder the mysterious boulders, enjoy a fresh from the ocean seafood lunch at Fleurs, but to guarantee your place even at the bar, book.

Courage, Paris!

The streets of Paris in another time
The streets of Paris in another time

It’s been almost three weeks since Paris was torn apart by the terror attacks in which 127 people were killed and 200 more injured, 99 critically.

The Parisians were quick to rally, refusing to be driven off the streets but returning to them the next day to light candles, lay flowers and keep vigil in the places where their fellows had been mown down, standing in solidarity to sing the Marseillaise and declare “Je suis Paris”.

The images that ran in endless rotation on my TV screen, far away in peaceful mid-Canterbury in Aotearoa New Zealand, over the next week, reminded me of a photo I had once seen. It said the same thing as those people from every walk of life and from the many races that comprise Paris, holding candles, laying flowers and with linked arms, marching singing through the streets. It spoke of resilience, courage and an indomitable spirit. It said “La vie continue!”

It was a photo, taken during World War II. It shows a French matron, impeccably dressed in a coat, hat and gloves with her handbag on her arm. With her head held high, her shoulders back and a look of determination on her face, she makes her way through rubble strewn streets, past a bombed out building.

“Courage, Paris et continue!”

Ferrymead Heritage Park

Located at the foot of Christchurch’s Port Hills, on the site, initially, of an ancient Maori hunting ground and later, of Zealand’s first public railway, Ferrymead Heritage Park includes the model town of Moorhouse (old Christchurch from colonial times to the 1920s) as well as a transport and technology museum.

The Grocer's store at Ferrymead
The Grocer’s store at Ferrymead

On weekends and during holidays, a team of dedicated volunteers mans the businesses and transport of Moorhouse and visitors stream into the little town to ride the tram and the old steam train.

On the Thursday afternoon that we visited Ferrymead all its attractions were ‘static’, which meant that neither the transport, nor the businesses in the town were manned and operating. Still everything was open and the whole of Moorhouse was ours.

We could visit one another in “our” cottages and shops. We could linger in the dimly-lit church and in the spooky gaol, where a criminal dummy lay stretched on a bed, staring with glassy eyes at a small barred window. We could tinker with the pumps in the street and potter with the gadgets in the sheds. We could sit in the single classroom in the little school. We could push buttons and follow tiny trains around miniature landscapes, through tunnels, points, signals and crossings in the model railway shed. We could hide in the thunderbox outhouse and scuff along dusty roads.

There were huge garages lined with motors from every era. There were hangars full of aeroplanes, including an old NAC Friendship like the one on which I took my first flight in the 1960s.

It was a great afternoon for all of us – a lovely walk down Memory Lane for the baby boomers and a fabulous flight of imagination for the 21st century kids.

A last word on Wellington

When you’ve explored Te Papa, tramped out the walkways, south, east and city to sea, descended into Middle Earth, soaked up the uber cool atmosphere of Cuba Street and the Aro Valley, studied the seals at Red Rocks and taken in the view of the Kaikouras from the south coast, ridden the cable car, shopped the fabulous NZ fashion houses down on Customhouse Quay, taken a taste adventure at Fusion Virtuoso in Manners Mall, strolled along Oriental Bay, eating a Kapiti ice-cream – in short, when you’ve worn yourself out trying to do everything there is to do in Wellington, head down to the waterfront.

Taking a dive down on the Wellington Waterfront
Taking a dive down on the Wellington Waterfront

Collapse into a bean-bag on the lawn outside the bar behind the old St John’s Ambulance HQ. It’s name? I can’t say and haven’t time right now to google it – but you can’t miss it. Order up a beer and people watch.

No spare bean bags. Don’t worry! Head around the corner to the big brick building – there’s an even bigger bar here, with indoor and outdoor spaces. If there’s no room at this inn, then pinch a chair and with that and your tipple of choice in hand, park yourself at the land’s edge. Start your own party and or just enjoy the view.

The view down here is fascinating. There are tugboats at anchor, birds wheeling, people walking and, despite all the signs prohibiting it, youths doing death-defying dives from the wharf.

This cavalier of behaviour, which flies in the face of rules, weather and convention yet emerges, wet, shivering but grinning in the teeth of discomfort, is a fitting last word on Wellington for me. Against impossible climatic and geographical odds, it not only survives but thrives, with a flourish!

Te Papa

Creative, quirky and vibrant, Wellington has the feel of a place where things happen and where anything is possible. Hippy, arty, Bohemian and discerning, with a taste for the good things of life and an overlay of NZ’s distinctive Maori Polynesian traditions, it has a culture all of its own.

Te Papa
Te Papa

Te Papa, Wellington’s Museum is the perfect cultural storehouse for a city like this. As a building it is strikingly different. It crouches boldly, almost defiantly at the water’s edge, its bold  stone and glass  glinting in the sun, glistening in the rain.

When it opened in 1997, Te Papa was a forerunner in the hands on, inter-active whizz-bang fleet of world Museums, with their attention-grabbing displays. Nor has it shied away from the controversial or contentious and one of its early exhibitions which included the infamous virgin in a condom, had banner waving protesters lined up outside its doors for days.

Yet, alongside all this, Te Papa has provided a fitting place for the ancient treasures of the nation, those things which need no shouts of acclamation but make their own discreet statement. So it is with many Te Papa exhibitions too, which plainly and quietly, tell the stories of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Te Papa is a must for any Wellington visit.