Upcoming travels, stories, news
MY NEW EBOOK:
A Love Letter to Malaysian Borneo. Or, can this travel writer be green? ($us4.99 from all ebook sellers.) Entrant in the 2015 Malaysian tourism Awards.
RECENT TRAVELS for upcoming blogs
Fiji - boutique cruise (May 2015)
Melbourne (February 2015)
Tasmania (February 2015)
Florida (June/ July 2015
Georgia (July 2015)
California (July 2015)
FUTURE TRAVELS and blogs
Sarawak, Malaysia (August 2015) Rainforest World Music Festival
Dubai (October 2015)
Oman (October 2015)
Northland, New Zealand (Jan 2016)
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The Columbia Restaurant has been a Sarasota, Florida tradition since 1905 with Columbia Restaurant – Ybor City leading the way as the oldest restaurant in Sarasota and it serves fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, using some century-old family recipes.
Their St. Armand’s Circle site, in Lido Key opened in 1959 and after a short wait; we choose an outdoor, footpath table.
Its menu features Spanish fare: paella packed with fresh clams, shrimp, and mussels caught my eye, but the Spanish Bean Soup with chorizo became my starter while their signature, and award-winning 1905 Salad became my main.
The warm, crusty, homemade, Cuban bread served with the soup was excellent and the soup was well-flavoured with a tasty chorizo – seems this soup is Columbia’s signature lunch and they’ve served dished it up since the restaurant started.
Columbia’s legendary “1905” Salad is tossed tableside. Crisp iceberg lettuce with baked ham, natural Swiss cheese, tomato, olives, grated Romano cheese and the famous garlic dressing – most tasty.
Sarasota has stunning beaches, acres of recreation, superb shops and galleries and St. Armands Circle is conveniently located near the beaches of Lido and Longboat Key: after our delicious meal, we strolled around the circle – which is home to more than 130 shops – and down to Lido Key to watch the sunset.
However, what really interested us on the beach were the birds nesting there and we spent time watching the parents delivering food for their young. They flew very low to the sand as they came back with food, and we also watched others skimming the sea – maybe drinking as swallows do!?
Like our New Zealand birds that nest on the ground, these birds too are at risk and sadly their numbers are plummeting.
With alligators galore, and many fabulous birds, for me this park is a must-visit on your Florida travels. I’m told, ‘where there is a lake or pond in Florida, assume a ‘gator lives there‘. Seems they can, and do, travel big distances overnight too!
One of Florida’s natural attractions is the Myakka River State Park and recently I enjoyed a day there with Sarasota friends: it’s one of Florida’s largest and, evidently, most diverse parks. Developed in 1934 it has a scenic drive, many hiking trails, a board walk, horse and bike trails, plus a canopy walk. It also claims to have two of the world’s largest airboats.
While cruising on board the Myakka Maiden I was surprised to hear alligators making a sound – for some bizarre reason that was something I’d not expected. It was an aspirated hissing noise and, according to the captain of the air-powered boat, is used as a warning to other ‘gators to ‘get out of my space.’
The hour-long boat tour was accompanied by interesting facts, figures and fun by the driver-captain as we gently explored the shallow grassy areas of the Upper Myakka Lake. The flowers bloom according to the clock – well the sun really – and we are told “at 2pm the lake will covered with yellow blooms’. And bloom at two they did!
I’m well-recommending this boat tour!
Nature being watched, and photographed, by the Kiwitravelwriter
Despite not one French beret or baguette maker in my ancestry I love attending the annual (October) French Festival in Akaroa, the oldest colonial town in the South Island, and famed as New Zealand’s sole French Settlement just over the hill from Christchurch.
Akaroa, sited on a peninsula on the east coast of the South Island, is usually advertised as a place to unwind, to wander and soak up times past among the historic buildings.
Banks Peninsula, and its two large harbours, was formed by volcanic eruptions. The sea then breached both cones with the craters forming the Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbours – Māori tell great legends of those times.
Whalers played an important role in the early European history of Banks Peninsula and used Akaroa as a safe harbour.
A French whaling ship commander purchased land from some of the local Māori, Kai Tahu chiefs, thinking the Peninsula was a suitable place to begin French colonisation. The French Government backed the Nanto-Bordelaise Company which was set up to found the proposed settlement. But the British already had stronger trading interests in New Zealand.
In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi, which paved the way for British sovereignty, was signed only days after the French colonists left the port of La Rochelle. When they arrived at Akaroa, the French found the Union Jack flying. However the 57 French (and a few German) settlers set up camp at Akaroa. Evidence of the walnuts, willows, grapevines and roses that they brought with them still remain and French street names are further evidence of the unique origins of the town.
It’s against this background, and over the past 11 years, that the French Festival Akaroa has blossomed into a real celebration of their French heritage.
So, join Akaroa people (in October) as they paint the town red, white and blue for a town-wide market day with French food and wine stalls, market stalls, entertainment, fun and frivolous competitions and a re-enactment of the first French landing in Akaroa. Special features includes roving French entertainment, food and wine stalls with a French flavour and a French cooking master-class
See the website: www.frenchfest.co.nz
Buddhism is usually thought of as a peaceful religion, although it’s not really a religion. Last year I revisited Wat Muang, home of Thailand’s biggest buddha to see the Thai version of a buddhist hell – not so gentle or peaceful! Misbehave and there is a particular punishment awaiting you: examples are – adultery means you will have to climb the cactus-like tree while birds attack from above and men with spears attack from below. Tell lies or gossip and you tongue will be cut out. You have been warned!