Category: Places

Day 1 – San Francisco

We arrived in San Francisco yesterday lunchtime, all completely exhausted after getting only 3 hours sleep on a very noisy 777. I’m not complaining – it’s part and parcel of getting halfway around the world for a holiday. But we were knackered.

The apartment is great. We were met at the door by a heavily tattooed cleaning lady who turned out not to be the owner. We wasted no time beginning our exploration of the Mission neighbourhood.

First stop was the highly recommended Philz Coffee, literally one block away. We’re spoilt for choice in Wellington so when we walked in to find three people making coffee from around 30 different flavoured and roasted beans then we thought we were in heaven. Looks can be deceiving. Weak, insipid, watery…sorry, just not good enough. All filtered too, not an espresso machine in sight.

We wandered as far as 16th Street and Dolores Park. A gentle slope on the western hills overlooking the city was completely crammed with young-ish hipsters playing frisbee, throwing balls for their assorted dogs, drinking wine, and, by the smell of things smoking the occasional herbed cigarette.

We stopped for groceries at the famous Bi-Rite grocery store on 18th Street, battling with the locals for the most amazing produce. Funny thing was Sugar couldn’t find acodophulus yoghurt. We did manage to find some wonderful eggs from chickens fed on sea kelp, and some fabulous smoked bacon.

By the time we got back to the apartment we were completely busted. Finding a restaurant to eat in can be stressful, and in our family often causes the most arguments. This time we all agreed – the closest thing to an American Diner we could find in our neighbourhood – St Francis’ Fountain – an original 1940’s diner that sold the best burgers and BLT’s in the neighbourhood.

We wandered through the dark streets around 7pm, past the Latinos playing cards across the street from our house. They looked threatening but the Guest Book in the apartment says they’ve been doing if for decades.

Bring on Day 2!

Mexican wrestling masks - The Mission

Mexican wrestling masks – The Mission

Near Dolores Park, San Francisco

Near Dolores Park, San Francisc

Dolores Park

Dolores Park

Shops on 24th Street, Mission

Shops on 24th Street, Mission


McDonalds in Kaikoura?

McDonalds not wanted in Kaikoura

McDonalds not wanted in Kaikoura

The locals in Kaikoura probably won’t win this battle – more’s the pity.

McDonalds has revealed it bought a large block of land on the outskirts of this seaside town with the ultimate aim of erecting the Golden Arches.

Locals are upset about it, but the district plan will allow for the restaurant.

While I’d hate to see the culinary delights of Kaikoura blighted by the presence of a McDonalds restaurant the people petitioning against the development could be seen as a little hypocritical. SUBWAY have a restaurant in Kaikoura. While their footprint is smaller they are still a global brand selling anything but local produce.

According to the Marlborough Express “feedback from a forum held in 2002, A Kaikoura Celebration, indicated that the community did not want to see any large fast food chains in town and a similar scenario is being played out in Mosgiel, where residents have approached the council to try to stop the move.”

Seems it might be too late.

Wellington on a good day…

Saturday just gone I was out in the Hutt Valley dropping off a bike to a TradeMe purchaser. It had been snowing that morning in the central Wellington streets so the air had not only a chill but a bite as well.

As I came off the Petone off-ramp heading back towards the city the sun was low over the western hills. The sky to the south was black. It would be a great day to sit in the car on the south coast and wait for the storm to hit.

I raced home, grabbed a camera, bundled Sugar and the boys in the car and headed to Owhiro Bay to await the onslaught. Ten minutes before we got there the sun disappeared behind the approaching front. Nevermind, it still promised to be a dramatic show.Storm in Wellington

We sat and waited. Number one son was fast asleep and snoring. Number two was excited to be offered a digital camera to take pictures. The sea was dead calm. The Bluebridge ferry chased the Interislander through the Wellington heads, trying to keep ahead of the impending storm.

Well, after that build up you’d expect that we were lashed by gales, and thunder and lightening. Sadly, no such luck. The front approached gradually, without fanfare. In fact after 40 minutes we gave up waiting and headed back up Happy Valley. The rain started ten minutes later, big ponderous drips on the windscreen.

I went to the All Blacks Springboks test match that night. Free tickets mind. I refuse to pay $150 to watch a game. We all rugged up: polyprops (top and bottom); down filled jacket; raincoat; leggings; gore-tex boots and gloves; woolly hat…I took the train in from Ngaio – a $3 return Stadium ticket. I was there in 20 minutes.

Walking along Fran Wilde Walk the rain bucketed down. I waited for ten minutes for my ticket bearer, warm and dry underneath my drenched outer shell.

We sat in Row Z, Aisle 2. That’s as far North as you can get in the Cake Tin, and as high as you can get in the stand without the advantage of a corporate box. We were so far from the action the big screen at the southern end showed the players at exactly life size. I had taken 10x binoculars. I provided my own closeups and commentary.

The All Blacks win. Graham Henry maintains his 5 year winning streak at home – we never win the games we need to.

I hop back on the train with other freezing spectators. The few South African supporters are forced to listen to the de-brief from the patriotic New Zealanders. One old man tells the carriage “The ref was blind in one eye and couldn’t see out the other”. But we won, I thought.

A woman demonstrated to the strangers around her the joy of her pocket warmer. She’d gone looking for one that day, eventually tracking one down in Upper Hutt for $12. We all had a feel. It was warm.

And so ended another winter night in Wellington. The announcer at the game earlier told the crowd that the Rimutaka Hill was closed due to snow. Anyone from Wairarapa would need to stay in Wellington.

“Enjoy your stay” he said.

How could you not?

Pollution in Beijing

The Chinese are now into the home straight heading for the first day of the Olympics on 080808.

The question remains whether the pollution will have been cleaned up by that time. I read a fascinating feature on the New York Times today addressing this very problem.

Having visited Beijing last November for seven days I know how bad the problem is. The day we went to the Summer Palace the pollution scale read 253. The World Health Organisation suggests anything over 20 is bad for your health. What was more shocking is that in the depths of winter the scale has exceeded 500.

Olympic Stadium, Beijing

The image of the Olympic Stadium was taken from the taxi on that ‘253’ day. While I had trouble actually seeing the stadium through the smog the taxi driver was so proud of it he pulled over to the side of a busy three lane highway to let me take the picture.

The government in China has promoted the concept of Blue Sky Days – they reached 165 such days in 2007 – trouble is their ‘blue sky’ only needs to be below 100 – which is still 8 times the WHO recommendation. And the majority of the ‘blue sky days’ fall between 95 and 100.

Still, if any country can clean up their act for the Olympics then China is that country. They’ll probably do it by legislation, although they deny that they will have to resort to this.

My honest opinion – honestly!

M Hansen’s honest opinionI lived in Christchurch for six years as a university student in the late 70’s early 80’s. What a great place to be a student – cheap to live, great public transport system, flat enough to bike everywhere…

But, I have always said (and my friends can back me up on this one) that “If there was ever a place that you would be more likely to be randomly stabbed, then Christchurch would win hands down”.

Now, I don’t mean that you’d have to be moving through a ‘bad’ suburb, or down a dark city alleyway at night. I’m talking about sitting in the square, or wandering along Colombo Street on your lunch break. BAM! for no reason whatsoever some maniac would come up and stab you…and leave you for dead.

It hasn’t stopped me from returning there – Sugar’s mum still lives there; I have lots of friends I met at university still living there – I’m just aware that there are some strange people wandering the streets. Some of you might say that this wierdness was a result of the day the government decided to return Templeton and Sunnyside residents back into the community – but my theory predates that by ten or twelve years.

And so, this brings me to M Hansen. I found this press ad in the Christchurch Press on July 26, 2007. I have since done a ‘google’ on this gentleman to see what comes up. Nothing!

But I would like to hear more of his reasoning. Have any of you been to a public meeting where M Hansen has spoken in support of his pitch to be a member of the Hospital Board? Perhaps I can be enlightened by your experience.

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