Month: April 2011

No surcharge means I will support you …

No surcharge means I will support you …

No sneaky surchargeExpressoholic - Cuba StEspressoholic - Cuba St
Willis St, Wellington

No public holiday surcharge in New Zealand cafe’s and restaurants means I will support you

Two to mention in Wellington today are Cafe Nero on Willis Street and Espressoholic on Cuba Street.

They’re not ripping us off so I urge you to support them: I ate at Expressoholic today and will go to Nero on the next public holiday.

Want to help post-quake Christchurch?

Botanic gardens – Christchurch, New Zealand

People who want to help rebuilding of Christchurch should consider booking a stay in the region, says Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism boss Tim Hunter. He said it’s important for the city’s economy that the region continues to attract out-of-town visitors and that people should feel welcome to spend time exploring the area.

“Every day another business re-opens and we take another small step towards recovery. It is certainly not business as usual, by any stretch of the imagination, but there are still plenty of places available for people to stay, to eat out, and to enjoy themselves.

“There’s an area within the central business district that is still off-limits to the public because of quake damage, but outside of that area most of our visitor attractions are open and certainly in the wider Canterbury region everything is operating as normal.

“One of the most tangible ways people can help Christchurch as its move into the recovery phase is by supporting local businesses and tourist operators. They’re the life blood of our community and our economy and we need them to survive if we are to get back on our feet. That’s why we’re making no bones about the fact that we want visitors to come here. We can’t offer as broad a selection of places to dine or to stay as we could prior to February 22 but there are still some fabulous places to eat out and great accommodation options available in the
city and beyond.’’

For more ideas about
what to see and do in Canterbury go to

Relaxing Spa: beach, alps or Wellington, New Zealand!


Once used to describe a healthy environment in the European Alps where sickly people were bought for clean mountain air, the word spa now has wider use.

Whether it’s a relaxing massage on a beach to mediation, fasting, facials, scrubs, body wraps or a colonic irrigation – whatever you want, or need, there will be a place to suit you.

Sometimes, in a busy life, indulgence at a spa seems hard to justify. However it’s a rejuvenating pleasure and your mind can drop its concerns as you sink into an awareness of only the touch of the masseuse and the sounds of silence or meditative music.

Recently I indulged in an hour at an inner-city, Wellington, spa for such a relaxing, and reviving, time.

Bodyhaven, inside the James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor provided me, and a friend, a great start to an enjoyable weekend here in our city – after all, you don’t need to leave town to have a holiday: we stayed at the James Cook for our holiday.

We chose different treats at Bodyhaven. By candle-light, I soaked in a copper tub, full of milky tropical smells, before an hour of massage. Wonderful! My companion had a facial and hand massage which she said was really relaxing. ‘The hand massage cream was really thick, like beautiful body butter.’

So if you want a holiday in Wellington,( New Zealand’s ‘capital of cool’) whether you live here or not, or want a spa treat, I can recommend Ana Marie’s Bodyhaven. (147 The Terrace, Wellington. Open from 10am daily)

Marinique Truter, Executive Manager, World Luxury Spa Awards said: “The World Luxury Spa Awards is the highest accolade a spa can ever hope to receive. For participants the World Luxury Spa Awards challenge service excellence and highlight the importance of constant improvement. The World Luxury Spa Awards truly puts a winner/finalist spa ahead of its peers from a marketing perspective.”

Ana Marie said “we are very honoured with the awards it’s a great recognition to our constant delivery standards and the up market quality of what a boutique spa experience is some times consumers become confused in evaluating a luxurious infrastructure does not make a spa great.”

Happy New Year Thailand

My weapon of choice was a bright green, double-barrelled, pump-action, water pistol. Never has New Year been so much fun!

Everyone is armed. Old and young, all have buckets, bottles, hose’s, urns, water guns and even the fire tender is on hand to add to the total sum of water. Much of the liquid is gold coloured and yellow flowers float in it. The crowd is sprayed, monks and police officers are as wet as everyone else is. The smiling Thais love to see Farangs (foreigners) joining in the celebrations and fun.

What is all this festivity about? It’s a festival called Songkhran in Thailand and each April Buddhists observe the Buddhist New Year.

Buddha images are doused with water and carried in processions around the temple and streets to the accompaniment of music, laughter, and water water water! The water blesses and purifies everything. Homes are cleaned with ready for family and friends visiting to celebrate new beginnings.

My first day, of the three of the fun and games, was at the temple Wat Phochai in the little city of Nong Khai on the banks of the mighty Mekong River (bordering Laos) and off the tourist trail, I was one of only five or six visitors there so became a real target for being constantly blessed – by being doused.

“Farang, farang” the cry goes up.

“No! No!” I join in the fun, “Khon Thai. Khon Thai” I call. They laugh at this visitor thinking she is Thai.  By nine in the morning I’m soaking wet –  long before I’ve reached the temple steps.

The atmosphere is a mixture of reverence and fun, prayers and laughter, dancing and music.

‘Come with us – come’ a woman calls. Captured, or adopted, by a family as they dance out of the temple grounds, I too dance after the pied-piper-like man playing his khaen, a flute-like reed instrument.

At their home we dance in the yard and eat whole fish, soup and sticky rice.  The children play with my gun, spraying everyone as we dance, ensuring we stay dripping wet.

The men, particularly gentle and graceful dancers, teach me the moves. “Like this” says the father and I awkwardly copy him.

Early in the afternoon I join a truck with the staff from the First Global Community College, and become part of an endless procession through the streets. Armed with large, water-filled urns and my gun, we drive into town. It’s our turn to throw water over everyone we meet; other trucks, pedestrians, police on point duty.

‘No exceptions’ they tell me ‘everyone gets wet’.

Amid all this water the sky joins in – in the middle of the dry season an unexpected storm arrives. Squashed, sun-dried frogs and snakes re-hydrate.  Red orange, purple and yellow petals fall to the ground under the onslaught, and a few kind water throwers add warm water to their water containers. By now it’s getting chilly and we stop for coffee, sheltering under a garage roof along with a huge pig!

There is a serious side to all the jubilation too. I’m honoured to witness adult children pouring water over their parents cupped hands, asking for forgiveness for past wrongs and blessings for the future. They also gave gifts, a new shirt for Dad, a shawl for Mother along with gold candles, and money.

For three days the water, powder, tooting horns, music, laughter, prayers and blessings continue.  It was wonderful to be absorbed into the celebrations and see some authentic Thai life. Many, perhaps most, travellers hate being wet for so long: for me it was the best New Year I ever celebrated.

sad photo after earthquake

A shag dries its wings
Some may find it strange that this is one of my saddest photos after the Christchurch earthquake ( the February 22nd 2011  aftershock which did more damage than the original sept one – see more quake Shag Rock information here).
It’s sad for 2 reasons. 1) Shag Rock  has been a background to my life and it’s always sad to lose connections. 2)And,  while I’m also really sad to lose much-loved buildings, we can rebuild them (albeit differently) we can’t  reproduce nature.
I heard it called being called shag stump: although that sounds disparaging it’s at least a nod to its past, and part of the black humour that’s happening in my quake-shaken city – but there will be less shags landing there!
post-quake Shag Rock, Sumner, Christchurch
Pre quake Shag Rock

Buildings to be demolished along with historic & personal memories


A door in the Provincial Chambers - now destroyed

Many Christchurch buildings are to be demolished – along with historic & personal memories. I have just spent a few days in the city I was born in, educated in, and spent most of my life in, and although it was sad to see many buildings either down, damaged or already demolished because of the earthquakes, I was also reassured that much of the inner city will remain.


However, two days after I returned to my new city, NZ’s high quake-risk capital Wellington, the list of buildings that are to be demolished was announced! (see the list here) Now I’m sad again and although this is not the place, I realise I need to write about my reactions to the quakes from the first one in September 2010 – when I clutched my mattress to stop being thrown out of bed  while still vain enough to be worrying about being found naked in the rubble!

In the meantime, before I write that story, and before I put up some photos from last week (stupidly, carelessly, I left my camera in Christchurch – insha’alla or god-willing – and the efficiency of New Zealand post,  it will arrive home tomorrow.

In-the-meantime, here is a photo of St Paul’s Trinity Pacific Church – diagonally opposite the CTV building where so many died – and where I sang in the choir and was married there.  My father (Hector Campbell) learnt to work with stained glass and spent many hours and days repairing the old glass windows there. He was also part of the committee that decided to demolish the bell-tower because it was a quake risk: he later regretted that decision and wished that they had found the money to restore it.

This picture shows the scaffolding that surrounded the church at the time of the quake. It had been badly damaged by fire – in 2009.

The silver, pointed piece, is the top of the lowered bell tower