Wellington’s City to Sea Walkway takes you from Parliament, in the central city, to Island Bay, on the coast 12 kilometres away.
Once again, the City to Sea walk offers all the things that we love about Wellington – the rugged hills, the bracing wind, the sweeping views of the city, bush and sea, with glimpses of historic places and famous local landmarks.
The first stage of the City to Sea Walkway takes you through the Botanic Gardens. Slow down and smell the roses, especially in the famous Lady Norwood Rose Garden. You’ll pass by two historic graveyards where many Wellington founding fathers lie at rest. High on the hill you’ll find the Carter Observatory, one of several on the route. You can watch the legendary Wellington Cable Cable arrive and depart. From here, you can see Wellington University tucked into the fold of the hills and far below, the city wrapped around the harbour.
Now it’s all downhill to the Aro Valley with its hundred year old wooden cottages strung along the steep, narrow streets. Take a break in Aro Park, where, during the Cold War era, historian Bill Sutch was sprung passing national secrets to a Russian spy. If pass through this park in early March, you’ll catch one of the most spectacular festivals on the Wellington Calendar.
Leaving the Aro Valley in your wake, you’ll head up into the bushy Town Belt through stands of pines and native bush onto wind swept ridge tops. The views from here are spectacular. Behind you there’s central Wellington spreading around the harbour. Turn your gaze to the south and you’ll see Newtown, where stately Government house stands in its lush gardens, an oasis among the crowded streets. Beyond Newtown, Berhampore sprawls across the hill. Further on the Gothic towers of Erskine college mark the beginning of Island Bay. Look up and you’ll see the Brooklyn wind turbine turning against the sky. On one side there’s , Mount Victoria, on the other Mount Kaukau. Ahead, in the v of the hills, there’s Cook Strait and on a clear day, you can see the peaks of the South Island’s Kaikoura Ranges standing white against the blue.
The walk down over the hills of Brooklyn, through the last glades of bush is beautiful, especially when the broom and the gorse are blooming on the hills of happy valley. From here, the coast, with surging waves dashing against the rocks, is magnificent
Like the Southern Walkway, this is a walk that can be done in stages. Again, it is well sign-posted, so it is easy to leave or join the track at any time.
The experts recommend a good level of fitness to complete the City to Sea walk in a single day.
Vertiginous hills, narrow tortuous roads, zigzagging vertical steps, stands of native bush in impossible places, lush patches of parkland in unexpected places, rickety old wooden houses, quirky quake-defying modern buildings, scenes from Lord of the Rings, ferocious winds and million dollar sea views – that’s Wellington. If you want to experience all this in a day, take a walk, or rather a hike, along Wellington’s Southern Walkway.
The Southern Walkway (Te Ranga a Hiwi) begins at the eastern end of Oriental Parade, with a steep climb up a series of paths and steps (vertical naturally!) to the Mount Victoria lookout. The view from here is sensational and it’s worth pausing for a while to drink it all in – the city buildings, the harbour and the hills on the other side, the Interislander ferry gliding slowly out to sea. This is also a great spot to feel the force of a good Wellington wind – bracing!
Halfway along Mount Victoria there’s spot where a scene from Lord of the Rings was set. You’ll understand why when you see it!
The hour-long walk down the rolling grassy slopes on the other side of Mount Victoria, through stands of trees and past suburban back gardens is a leisurely and lovely one. Beyond Mount Victoria you cross the road near the tunnel and head through Kilbirnie and Newtown then past Truby King Park (named for the man who instituted NZ’s wonderful infant welfare system) Now you’ll find yourself at the back of Wellington Zoo. This is a good place to stop, especially if you’re walking with kids. Sush them to silence and stillness, to hear the monkeys chattering, the lions roaring and maybe to spot exotic animals lurking behind the trees (you never know!)
Leaving the Zoo behind the track leads through Melrose Park and up to the top of Mount Albert. Now you’re looking ahead, out to Cook Strait and back over streets of little wooden houses to the city. Amazing views, more tearing winds and worth a pause for both!
The end is in sight. Once you’ve crossed Houghton Bay road, you drop down through Sinclair Park and onto The Esplanade. Follow the road left along the coast past Taputeranga marine reserve to Island Bay and the end of the great Southern Walkway.
The Southern Walkway takes about five hours. It is fairly easy walking for adults and kids of reasonable fitness. It is well signposted and it is easy to pick up the track or leave it at any point. I did the trek with five 8 and 9 year old boys a few years ago. lt was a great adventure!
Singapore’s Little India is a flourishing centre, alive with colour, noise and constant activity, where ancient traditions fit harmoniously into ultra-modern life, where diverse cultures blend and different religions sit comfortably side by side. It is unmistakably India but uniquely Singapore.
In 1925, the British brought a contingent of Indian convicts to Singapore to work as construction labourers on the rapidly expanding settlement. For the duration of their sentences they were confined in coolie lines between Stamford and Bras Basah Roads. Once freed, they were given buffalos and land, in the city’s North West, and dispatched to begin new lives in their own India away from India. Thus, Singapore’s Little India was born.
There are parts of Little India which are all India – bright, bold, extravagant and exotic. In the Arts Belt on Buffalo Road, the walkways are hung with Hindu emblems and paved with painted tiles of Indian design. Sensational souvenirs abound – statues, brassware, homewares, jewellery and silks, not to mention very special photos for those who wish to don a sari or a turban. There are demonstrations of traditional performing arts – Gamelan, Silat and Angklung. Across Serangoon Road, the Little India Arcade offers more; beautiful saris and sari fabric, stunning hand embroidered vests and slippers, shawls, trinkets, incense, ayurvedic herbs, wonderful authentic henna hand tattoos of ancient, mysterious design and the strange, mouth-numbing potions of the paan wallah or betel nut seller.
Nearby Campbell Road is the home of age-old businesses; the medicine shop, traditional provisions stores and furniture stores with elaborately carved wooden wares. Here, too, are the Flower Garland shops, where men and women ply the oldest surviving traditional Indian trade, threading jothi, or garlands of marigolds, jasmine and roses, (symbols of peace, purity and love) as temple offerings or tributes to dignitaries. Further down Serangoon Road are the gold stores, selling dazzling and much-coveted yellow gold jewellery in a thousand and one elaborate designs. Deeper into Little India, in Cuff Road, is Singapore’s last traditional spice grinder, the only survivor from the days when spices were ground on the day they were used.
Absolutely everywhere, in Little India, there are eateries; restaurants, diners, cafes, stalls and carts in every street and on every block, offering every imaginable dish and drink from every region of India. The air is alive with seductive smells, they permeate every corner, every nook and cranny; curries of every kind and strength, chapati, thosai, puri and naan breads with lassi of every flavour to wash them down and of course, teh tarik.
Nowhere is timeless and traditional India more evident than in Little India’s houses of worship. The Angullia Mosque was built in 1898 on land donated by the wealthy Gujerati Angullia family, who are still its custodians. The Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman Temple in Petain Road is dedicated to Kaliamman, the protective mother-spirit. The Sri Srinivasa Temple in Serangoon Road which began life as a shrine in 1855 is dedicated to Lord Perumal, preserver of the Universe and God of mercy and goodness. The most famous and the oldest is the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple. Built in 1855, it is dedicated to Kali, the many armed Goddess of power. Fittingly, during Japanese bombing raids World War II, the people of Little India sought refuge beneath the richly adorned turrets of Sri Veeramakaliamman.
Then, there are areas of little India which strongly reflect multi-cultural Singapore, like the houses of worship of other denominations which sit alongside its temples and mosques. The architecturally plain Anglican Church of True Light in Perak Road, built in 1952 for a congregation of Chinese tri-shaw operators now holds services in Tamil, Mandarin and English. The Art Deco Kampong Kapor Methodist Church was built in 1929 to serve the local Peranakan Chinese Community. The Leong San Buddhist Temple, in Race Course Road is known as the Dragon Mountain Temple because of the sculpted clay dragons on its roof. The Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple houses a 15 metre tall statue of Buddha surrounded by hundreds of lanterns. A blend of Moorish-Islamic and Southern Indian architecture, the Masjid Abdul Gafoor Mosque, completed in 1907, is famed for the spectacular sundial, decorated with 25 rays depicting the names of the 25 prophets, at its entrance.
Singapore’s blend of cultures and styles is stamped on Little India’s secular architecture, especially on its beautiful old houses and shops. The House of Tan Ten Niah, on Kerbau Road, with its carved swing doors, or pintu paagar, is one of the area’s last surviving stately Chinese villas. Little India is rich in Singapore shop houses, from the early style in Dunlop Street to the transitional in Madras Street, to the blend of Peranakan-Chinese and Malay in Upper Dickson Road to the stunning Art Deco examples along Race Course Road, in the Arts Belt.
There are glimpses in little India, too, of modern, cosmopolitan, commercial Singapore, in places like the gleaming multi-storey Mustafa Centre, in Alwi Road. Crammed with floor after floor of merchandise from around the globe it is packed 24/7 with shoppers from every corner of Singapore as well as tourists from all over the world. The Tekka Wet Market, edged by Buffalo Road, where once long ago, snake-charmers, astrologers, palm-readers and numerologists held sway, has long been a Singapore institution. Rebuilt now, with Housing and Development Board flats above, it is a shiny, clean, up-to-the- minute Singapore place. With its fresh vegetables and meat, the sumptuous fare at its hawker centre and the lively, colourful atmosphere it is always crowded with people – locals shopping for their daily provisions or grazing at the food stalls, tourists browsing and snapping pictures and hopefuls queuing to have their fortunes told by the one last Chinese Fortune Teller.
The full splendour of Little India is revealed at Festival time; Thaipusam, in January or February when men process through the streets with decorated arches attached to their bodies with spikes; Navarathiri, where after nine nights and ten days of fasting, a chariot carrying a statue of the mother Goddess processes through the streets attended by song and dance; Deepavali, the Festival of light, marked by gaily coloured street ligh s and festive bazaars. At these times, ancient rituals and traditions are played out against the backdrop of the 21st century city and modern Singapore comes out to watch.
Thanks to; Uniquely Singapore, Little India Walking Guide.
Just 40 minutes from frenetic St Pancras Station, lies peaceful, picturesque Harpenden.
It is a sizable town, with all the trappings of modern urban life – supermarkets, chain stores, phone shops and consumers to go with all of that. Yet, on my visit to Harpenden I discovered places and people that make me think of the kind village life I had found in novels a long time ago on the other side of the world.
When we arrived at mid-morning on a drizzly late autumn day, Harpenden Station was completely deserted. We set off down a sloping, curved and empty street towards the town, coming to rest in the first lit and populated shop – the Oxfam Store. Racks of damp-smelling tweed and stout shoes, glass cases crammed with one-short sets of sherry glasses and shelves stacked with travel books suggested that the good folk of Harpenden are fond of winter walks and arm chair journeys with a fortified wine. They are also painters, or at least collectors of paintings and it was near a pile of gloomy oils that I met my first Harpenden character. Carelessly groomed and shabbily chic in shades of peat and moss, with a voice like the Queen, she was commanding a bemused young lass to authenticate a dark, foreboding landscape. When the girl shook her head helplessly, she left the shop with an exasperated snort and slammed the door behind her.
We ambled on down to the corner, past the post office, past rows of small, old world buildings, where modern businesses had taken a tenuous hold – Thai, Indian and Italian restaurants, dress shops full of shiny stuff, a gelati parlour and a boulangerie/pattisserie – and from which idle personal stared vacantly at the street.
Round the corner in the High Street, we found the church and in the church, a cafe, offering morning teas Monday to Thursday and lunch as well on Friday. It sounded cosy, almost “villagey”. Inside a matron in a floral apron served us piping hot tea and buttery scones. At table near the counter, a tiny old lady, with a booming voice that belied her frail, stooped frame, shared a postcard with the vicar.
A few doors down from church we came across a piece of old Harpenden, a piece, in fact, of a lost world – the tobacconist. Dark, small and with a deliciously exotic mixture of smells, its corners were crammed with stands of canes, shelves of cigarettes, cases of cigars and packets of sweets.
Further along, Sainsbury’s holds half the block. Here, we came across the Oxfam art connoisseur again. She was shouting at a shelf-stacker. Across the road a Café Nero had the corner. We headed into the back streets where there were quiet cottages, greens, graceful manors.
Harpenden, as we had already half guessed from the racks in the Oxfam shop, is the departure point for some wonderful walks. One follows the Ver River, another skirts the Moors and another crosses the Common. They all follow routes marked with fascinating names, like Sopwell Nunnery, Smug Oak Lane, Frogmore Pits and Jack Williams’ Wood. Unfortunately we were unable to tramp out these paths. We discovered them at the Harpenden Library, under the sharp gaze of a stern-faced Librarian in brown tweed and brogues, just before our 5.30 train left for London.
If you can’t get out on the River Seine when you’re Paris, then take a promenade along its banks.
La promenade (the walk or stroll) has always been a favourite French leisure activity. La promenade was a feature of Louis XIV, the Sun King’s day. A retinue of courtiers, his gardener Andrea Le Notre and a full orchestra accompanied him as he promenaded the purpose built paths of his grand palace at Versailles. Old French novels, paintings and photographs are full of references and depictions of promenades. Still now, any lunchtime, evening, weekend or holiday, the streets, allees and riverbanks of Paris teem with promeneurs – families, couples, groups and singles.
There have been countless tourists guide books written about picturesque and interesting Paris promenades, guaranteed to keep the visitor safely to a tried and trusted path, with maximum monument, cafe, charm and vista value. But whether you follow a prescribed route or ramble at will, the promenade is the best way to explore this city and most importantly, to see it as it really is.
One of the best routes for a Paris promenade is along the River Seine. Life on the river is endlessly fascinating. Barges piled with containers make their way out to the coast. Barge people, lines of washing strung along their decks, wave as they pass on their way up river. Bateaux Mouches cruise slowly by, crowded with tourists, while a disembodied voice counts off the monuments for them. Houseboats bob gently along the banks. On their decks, screened by potted gardens, their occupants lounge in deckchairs.
Joggers pant past. A few fishermen doze over motionless lines. Painters dab away at their canvasses against the sunny stone walls.
Spanning the Seine are the famous Paris bridges, each quite individual, each with its own story and each definitely worth a detour for a different view of the river.
It’s also worth a detour to browse in the Bouquinistes or booksellers’ Seine-side stalls for old editions, comics, magazines and other unexpected treasures.
All along the Seine there are famous Paris monuments – the Conciergerie, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. There are also many beautiful but unknown Parisian buildings.
If you’re strolling the Seine in summer, you might find yourself on Paris Plage, surrounded by bikinis, sandcastles, ball games, the scent of sunscreen and all the trappings of the beach, save the surf and the salt.
Trapped in Melbourne, longing for the wilderness? Stuck in the burbs, dreaming of billabongs? Confined to your office, pining for the bush? Shackled to your laptop, grappling with your inner Clancy? Don’t despair; the outback is closer than you think.
Just ten kilometres from the CBD, lies Melbourne’s own slice of untamed Australia – Studley Park. It rambles through stands of ancient gums and scrubby bush, over hills of unruly grass, along steep, rocky bluffs, all the way down from Kew to Collingwood and across from Abbotsford to the Eastern Freeway. The Yarra River winds through it, slow and lazy for the most part, but breaking into rapids, tumbling down Dights Falls and spreading into a billabong. From the flat, grassy banks, there is no trace of the modern world. The view is from ancient times, when the Wurrundgeri people fished from the banks while their children swam in the shallows. The only sign of the nearby city is the hum of traffic on the freeway. It is punctuated by the calls of the native birds which refuge in the bush. Here, and in many other parts of the park, you are alone, in the remote and timeless bush.
But Studley Park isn’t just a wilderness – a retreat for the solitary refugee from the big smoke. For the sportsperson, a picturesque, if somewhat rugged golf course spills across the hills through the trees; there’s a cricket ground; bike and walking tracks snake along beside the river where kayakers and canoeists ride the currents. For the gourmet, the extremely popular Studley Park Boathouse restaurant and café offers fabulous food with wide-angled views of the river and the bush. At the historic Abbotsford Convent, a grand gothic building set in tranquil gardens, the Bakery Café, Lentil as Anything restaurant and the Boiler Room bar, please a range of palates and pockets. There are barbeques and picnic spots for those who like to do it themselves. For those with a bucolic bent and most particularly for the kids, there’s the Collingwood Children’s Farm, where you can fill your nostrils with the pungent smell of manure, watch pigs, chooks and peacocks potter and strut, feed the goats, see the cow being milked, cuddle some very accommodating cats, wander among the vege patches and fruit trees and even ride a pony. There is something here, in this beautiful bush setting, for everyone.
It’s another morning of sharp, contrasting blue, yellow and white but the snow has peeled back further on patches of bright grass and dark brown soil and there’s a fine, barely visible dust of palest green on the branches of the trees.
Today I take a tour bus from beside the huge red-brick Rathus or Town Hall, to see some of the parks and museums of outlying Oslo. Oslo has a plethora of magnificent museums and fascinating attractions. It’s big ask to see and absorb them all in just one visit, let alone just one day, but that’s all I have left of my stay in Oslo, so I set off armed with camera, notebook and a large dose of determination. The tour begins at Vigeland Sculpture Park.
Oslo is a city of sculptures – people, animals, ancient ship-parts, abstract plinths, obelisks and stone chunks – they’re everywhere. They hide behind bushes in Karl Johan’s central garden, stare out over the fjiord from Aker Brygge, crouch on the hillside in the park by the palace and guard every room of the National Art Gallery – it’s a sculpture-lover’s dream. But the park designed by Gustav Vigeland and peopled with over 200 of his statues, is sculpture paradise.
At the gate of Vigeland Sculpture Park our guide, a statuesque figure herself, with hair like iron filings, the stance of a solid stone block, a concrete-coloured military great-coat and a flinty expression, explains the rules
“When I am talking, you are silent”
Who could speak anyway? We follow her, dumb-struck and awe-struck, through rows of restlessly flexing, twisting, leaping, thrusting, crouching, clutching, clinging, embracing bronze, granite and cast iron humanity. There are old men and women with expressions of despair and hopelessness, ecstatic lovers, anguished parents, bereft-looking babies, rebellious youths, playful children, all individual and perfect in every detail. They’re knotted together in groups and bound together in pairs. They’re tossed on top of one another in bunches and clusters. They sit back to back and lie front to front. They stalk off alone. They stand in splendid isolation.
Here, at Vigeland park, art imitates life to perfection. The eloquence in the attitudes of these stone bodies and the expressions in these stone faces is both moving and unsettling. Most of all it’s unforgettable
Vigeland Park is Norway’s most famous and popular attraction. Over 1 million people visit it each year.
Hamburg is one of the world’s great river cities. As the Seine is to Paris, as the Thames is to London and as the Danube is to Budapest, so is the Elbe to Hamburg. It has shaped and defined the place. The Elbe is not just the life blood of the city, a superhighway to the Atlantic for its ships and the world’s greatest inland port, the Elbe is also a treasured leisure ground for the people of Hamburg.
In any season, hundreds of walkers stride along the Elbe’s paths, their alpenstocks always at the ready. Cyclists can follow tracks for miles, through suburbs like leafy Elbechaussée with its gorgeous 19th century villas, its restaurants and its cafes and on into the country. But, if they tire of the view from one side, the Old Elbe Tunnel will take them to different vista, from another bank.
In summer the people of Hamburg pack into beach clubs along the Elbe, to enjoy a Riviera style experience with bars, decks, deck chairs, waiters and bathrooms. There’s the ‘Strandperle’ or Pearl Beach, described in one tourist brochure as “:the mother of all beach clubs”, so presumably it’s the star of the fleet. Then there’s the sensibly named Hamburg City Beach Club, as well as the exotic Lago Baz, the fanciful Hamburg del Mar and the whimsical Strand Pauli.
The most popular beach on the river, though, is the fittingly labelled Elbe Beach. On the July summer evening that I dropped in on Elbe beach, its broad sands were alive with sizzling barbecues, sunbathers soaking up the last of the sun’s rays and swimmers were splashing in its waters. It could have been any bay, any lake, any riverside beach anywhere in the world. But with the giant ship, tall as an apartment block, tracking slowly seaward, just off shore and the port of Hamburg bristling with cranes and stacked with containers just beyond, it could only have been the Elbe.
I enjoyed my first two days in Hamburg, on the outskirts, at the edge of the Forest.
The Hotel Treudelberg Golf and Country Club is only 10 kilometers from the centre of Hamburg but it seems a world away. Its roofs and gabled windows look out across a tranquil garden, over a thick curtain of trees into a flawless sky. The “outside world” stays discreetly between the covers of brochures, maps and guides. Life, as it is known to tycoons and top end escapists, goes on undisturbed at the Hotel Treudelberg Golf and Country Club.
On one side of the building, behind the closed doors of conference rooms, the machinery of global business ticks and whirrs. On the other, the corridors echo with the muted beat of aerobics from the Fitness Centre and the soft splash of swimmers at the pool. A scent of crèmes and oils drifts under the doors of the Center Estetika and robed wraiths slip noiselessly from sauna to solarium. Outside, golfers trundle along a fairway lit vivid green by a bright summer sun and beside it a path leads away to a fairy tale forest.
The blue sky, the warm sun, the clear air and the beckoning path outside are irresistible. Feeling like Little Red Riding Hood, but without the basket of goodies for Grandma, I lift the latch on a dark green gate at the end of the hotel gardens and follow the path. It weaves along, through and around the golf course, under canopies of shady trees,past sunny fields of long grass. There’s a distant thuck of everyday clubs on ordinary golf balls, but it’s underscored with magical birdsong and the mysterious whisper of wind in leaves.
At a junction , a white arrow, on a mossy, brothers-Grimm rock, points me in two directions. Close by, there’s the sound of a barking dog, a splash, and the whirr of wings. Two big white birds rise with an outraged squawk above the trees. They hover, then turn and drop further down. Straight ahead, through the trees there’s a shaft of light. I follow a pattern of smudged footprints away from the path, across the damp earth to a clearing with a tiny lake set in steep banks. Sunshine freckles its dark surface, where a dog paddles, trailing a v of wake, towards a circle of disapproving ducks.
I pick up the path again and follow it round the lake, passing only a company of dogs on a dogs’ day out and some serious, stringy-legged hikers spiking their way, with alpen stocks, over humps and hollows, tree-roots and potholes. In distance, there are voices, the desperate whistles of lost dog owners and the faraway drone of an engine.
The path takes me back to the Treudelberg lawn where tall trees stir gently against the perfect sky and a fountain patters softly on a reed fringed pond. I sink into a deck chair and watch the play of light on the leaves. Just when I’m wondering whether life could be more perfect, a shadow falls across the lawn beside me and a waiter in a white coat and bow tie offers me champagne.
A good place to begin a promenade around Pest is down by the Danube, with the totally unmissable star of this side of the city, the immense, neo-gothic Hungarian Parliament, on Lajos Kossuth Ter. Measuring 268 by 116 metres, it has some 20km of staircases winding through its interior, 233 statues adorning its exterior and a giant 96 metre dome. The building was designed by Imre Steindl. Construction began in 1884 and was completed in 1904. Its frescos are the work of some of Hungary’s most notable artists, among them Karoly Lotz and Mihaly Munkacsy. To the north and south of the Parliament are statues of the poet Jozsef Attila and Count Mihaly Karoly who headed Hungary’s first Republic in 1919. In front of the Parliament building, are the statues Lajos Kossuth, leader of the 1848-49 revolution and Ferenc Rakoczi II who led the failed War of Independence 1703-1711.
On the other side of Kossuth Ter is the beautiful neo-baroque Ethnographic Museum. Constructed in 1896 as the seat of the Royal Court, it later became the Palace of Justice. Inside is a massive hall with pillars stretching over several stories, stained glass windows and a superb Karoly Lotz ceiling fresco. The museum’s collections give a fascinating insight into life, especially village life, in Hungary through the ages.
Further down the river, on Roosevelt Ter, sits the magnificent neo-renaissance, Hungarian Science Academy. Built between 1862 and 1865 it was the brainchild of Istvan Szechenyi, whose name and mark are on many of Budapest’s great 19th century ventures.
Also on Roosevelt Ter is the art nouveau Gresham Palace, now a Four Seasons Hotel but built originally in 1903 by Szigmund Quittner for the Gresham Life Insurance Company.
Further down again is Petoffi Ter, which was named in memory of the poet who inspired the 1848 revolution against the Austrians and which has been the scene of many memorable demonstrations and protests ever since.
All along the promenade chic restaurants and bars (some on jetties and moored boats) provide stunning views, especially at night, across the Danube to Buda Castle and the Statue of Liberty on Gellert Hill.