Despite the Covid-19 lockdown, I refuse to stop travelling!

Despite coronavirus in cities and countries being locked down, I refuse to be locked in – just as all my ancestors did in the mid-1800s – fleeing Scottish clearances, Cornish tin mine closures and the Irish potato famine.

And despite my trip to China – a river cruise on the Yangtze River  -being cancelled, and the fabulous Rainforest World Music Festival  -in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, being postponed until further notice, I refuse to be locked in despite the virus and, despite being compromised by age, nothing will stop me, travelling.  I remember a song from my parent’s era “don’t fence me in.”

Coffee in XIam, China

Travel writers have an affliction which, means they, I, we, are doomed to travel and as I said despite COVID-19 and the lockdowns all around the world  I am going to keep on travelling.







Yesterday I was in Oman, today I’m in Dubai with my parasol and a few days ago I was back in my home city Christchurch,

Solitude, Wellington, NZ
Peacock Fountain, Christchurch Botanic Gardens








I’ve also been down on the Wellington waterfront I’ve seen some birds that I saw in India yet again and I’ve even been upright on a paddleboard in Fiji.

So, take that coronavirus you’re not going to stop me – my memories are too well embedded for me to be isolated in my lockdown bubble, I can, and will travel the world with my wonderful memories.

What a privilege, it’s been to have travelled so extensively and I’m grateful for the example my parents set of not wasting money, saving, and living frugally as required.  they also left me a small inheritance which, after a lot of earlier travel, enabled me to do even more.

I recall being on a plane -in 1995 – petrified that at age 50 I still wasn’t old enough to travel the world by myself (with no bookings).

If I run out of memories, I could be jogged by just some of my clippings or books.

So where are you travelling to while in lockdown? I’ve been to Alaska in bwZimbabwe I’ve been to London, Wales, and Borneo. I’ve been to the USA, Mongolia, Zimbabwe and had a river cruise in Europe – to name but a few.

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Godmothers, goddesses and longships!

At Viking, they are proud of their Norse heritage and like their other Longships their ten new Viking Longships too are named after celebrated Viking gods and goddesses.

Their Longships that are named after women are:


Though not strictly a goddess, the legendary mortal, Embla was the first woman to be created, the mother of the human race. Along with Ask, the first man, Embla was created by Odin from tree trunks found on the seashore.


Freya is the goddess of love, beauty and fertility. She was the sister of Frey, the god of harvest and together they ensured good crops and large families. ( Interestingly Freya’s father, Njord, is the god of wind and was known to be able to calm the waters and it was on the Njord I sailed last year – and loved it.)


Idun is the goddess of spring, rejuvenation and eternal youth. She is the custodian of the golden apples of immortality, which the gods ate to preserve their youth.


Rinda, or Rind as she is sometimes called, is a goddess of the earth. She was the lover of Odin, and mother of Vali.


Skadi is the goddess of winter and of the hunt. A formidable warrior and hunter, she was married to Njord. Scandinavia, ‘the land of Skadi’, is named after her.

VIKING VAR Goddess of marriage oaths, Var listens to agreements between men and women and punishes those who break them. Couples invoke the name of Var when they wed.

Playing an integral role at the launch (which created a world record for the most longships launched on one day) were 10 distinguished women who represent key Viking brand pillars of history, art, education, exploration and discovery, to serve as ceremonial godmothers for the new ships.

With cultural enrichment and privileged access at the heart of every experience Viking offers its guests, these 10 women were selected to honour that focus and serve as ceremonial godmothers for the new ships. They included:

Lady Fiona Carnarvon, Godmother of Viking Skadi, is the wife of George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon. A former auditor at Coopers & Lybrand, Lady Carnarvon ran her own fashion label, Azur, and now successfully manages affairs at the Castle, including many special events such as the Egyptian Exhibition. Fascinated by Highclere’s rich history, Lady Carnarvon recently authored the New York Times Bestseller “Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere.”

Agapi Stassinopoulos, Godmother of Viking Rinda, was born and raised in Athens, Greece. While collaborating with her sister, Arianna Huffington, on research for her book about the Greek gods, Stassinopoulos’ love for the gods and goddesses was ignited and led to two books of her own – “Conversations with the Goddesses” and “Gods and Goddesses in Love” – as well as a one-woman show and a PBS special. She also co-produced and co-hosted a documentary called “Quest for the Gods,” shot on location in Greece. Stassinopoulos speaks and conducts seminars around the world, and her latest book is the bestseller “Unbinding the Heart.” She is also a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post.

Alexandra Lobkowicz, Godmother of Viking Forseti, is the chairman of the nonprofit that oversees the preservation of the vast Lobkowicz collections including thousands of works of art, a significant library and family archive spanning eight centuries. In addition, she oversees dozens of international loans, festivals, restoration projects and ongoing educational programs relevant to the collections. A former teacher, Lobkowicz also established educational programs at the Lobkowicz museums to help raise funding for Czech schools. With personal input from Alexandra and William Lobkowicz, Viking has introduced a privileged access tour to Lobkowicz Palace in Prague.

Zhang Ling, Godmother of Viking Embla, is a dedicated educator at Cen He elementary school in the city of Jinzhou, Hubei Province, China – a school sponsored by Viking River Cruises. As one of many dedicated teachers she feels fortunate to have won recognition as an “excellent educator,” “excellent educator of ethics” and “excellent mentor for young pioneers.” She also coaches the children’s orchestra, which has proudly performed for the thousands of Viking’s Yangtze River cruise guests who have visited during the past seven years.

Marit Barstad, Godmother of Viking Tor, is the sister of Viking’s chairman Torstein Hagen. Marit started her working life as a personal assistant to the chairman of Øivind Lorentzen AS, a company that in the late 1960’s built two of the ships that subsequently became Princess Cruises. She is now a manager in the health services sector in Ski, a town outside Oslo where she has lived with Odd Barstad, her husband for over 40 years.

Dertje Meijer, Godmother of Viking Bragi, is President and CEO of the Port of Amsterdam, which is the fourth largest port in Europe, hosting more than 100 sea cruise ships and 1,300 river cruises ships, and handling more than 75 million tons of cargo every year. Prior to Meijer’s career at the port, she worked for 15 years in business development projects at one of the world’s great transportation hubs, Schiphol Airport.

Geraldine Norman, Godmother of Viking Var, is founder of the Times-Sotheby index of art prices and best-known for her discovery of the art forger Tom Keating. An expert in the history of The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, Norman also authored “The Hermitage: The Biography of a Great Museum.” Since, Norman has been working on international outreach for the Hermitage, starting The Hermitage Magazine and assisting in the set up the Hermitage Rooms exhibition space in London.

Sabine Rhabek, Godmother of Viking Jarl, is a founding member of the emergency room team at the General Hospital (AKH) in Vienna and a former nurse at the United Nations Mission Hospital in Iran, where she provided medical care to thousands of Kurdish refugees during the first Gulf War. Following her time at the Mission Hospital, Rhabek transitioned into medical technology, providing tech support for users of implanted defibrillators and pacemakers.

Birgit Brandner-Wallner, Godmother of Viking Atla, is the co-owner of a Brandner Gmbh subsidiary that operates 38 piers in Austria and Hungary as well as two passenger ships, MS Austria and MS Austria Princess. In 1997, Brandner-Wallner was the first woman in Austria to acquire her ship’s captain certification.

Eszter Völner, Godmother of Viking Aegir, is a Budapest native, and lives on the Danube’s shore. Daughter of Dr. Pál Völner, secretary of the Hungarian State Ministry of National Development, she studies tourism and catering as well as her first love, music, including voice and violin, and looks forward to a future in the classical singing field.

Thanks to Viking for this information about their godmothers and the names of the female longships.

The saga of me, a cruise, a notebook, and a plastic card

This is not a blog I expected to write: a saga about me, a cruise, a journal, and a plastic card.

When I’m planning a trip, one of the first things I do is buy a new notebook for keeping notes  – and when I need a new one while on long travels it becomes a souvenir and I always take ages in a foreign city to buy the exact right one.

For a recent trip to Europe I bought a notebook with a Maori motif on it. I had no sooner put in my suitcase than I went to Christchurch, NZ and went to the Art Gallery. 

Although the fabulous galley is still closed  for repairs after the quakes, the shop is still open. (See their website for information about all the exciting Outer Spaces exhibitions).

Browsing the shelves I saw a notebook I JUST HAD TO HAVE! I knew it was perfect for my trip: it was elegant, it was classy and I coveted it: I bought it.

As I began my travels I recorded notes in my much-loved and elegant paperblanks journal – in tidier writing than I would normally use. This is just as I did at the beginning of each school year and, just like those early days, within a couple of days, my writing reverted to its ‘a-spider-that-fell-into-an-inkwell-staggering-across-the-page‘ look.

Every day, often early in the morning as I photographed birds, and other natural sights,  along the Rhine, Danube and Mien rivers, I wrote in my classy leather-bound journal, and nearly every day I couldn’t get back into my cabin!

I felt foolish as returned day after day to the front desk to have my plastic card  restored – to have the room number re keyed in. Whats wrong with me I wondered (and I think the staff did too).

One day as I sat in the lounge after yet another delicious lunch on the river boat Njord  a speech bubble appeared above my head. Inside it I read:

IDEA! I wonder if the magnetic closing flap on my journal is affecting my plastic card door key?”

Duh! Of course it did!

So, my lovely journal remained in my cabin, out came my Maori-motif one for recording my thoughts about the trip – the colours, smells and tastes that add to my photographic journal, adds to my memory, when I’m blogging or writing articles about my travels.

Note to self, travel tip #613. Don’t keep plastic cards near magnets!

Eat, cruise, photograph – and take the consequences!

Njord, Viking River Cruise

Food and travel go together like a spoon in a mouth.  For some it’s the problem of ‘where can I find my usual foods?’ or ‘what does this word mean’ on a menu:  for most of us travel-a-holics  food is how we get to know a place – through their food.  And, for me, how to restrain myself? But lets face it, when I eat and  cruise I have to take the consequences.

Despite all the walking I did during my European river cruise off-the-boat excursions I returned home with some extra baggage on my body. Evidently, my on-board-eating and the energy-in versus energy-out-ratio were out of sync!

Striding out in Wurzburg

Let me explain how it happened:  (these are not excuses!)

  • I’m an early riser, and photographer, so with the sun rising at around 530am I was often on deck at the same time – every morning at 6am the galley delivered fresh, still warm from the oven, delicious little pastries ­­ – and I had one or two to go with my mochachino.
  • Breakfast was available 7am to 9am. The young man making omelettes made about one hundred a day to order. Add fruit, yoghurt, cereals, porridge, eggs (anyway we wanted them) mushrooms, bacon, tomato, cheese, eggs, croissants, breads, rolls, meats and roll-mops – just to name some of the delights we were presented with.
  • Morning and afternoon tea times saw us with more freshly baked goodies appearing at the coffee station which is available 24 hrs.
  • Lunch was available in the restaurant or in the forward indoor/outdoor lounge. I mostly choose the upstairs area so I could continue photographing the scenery and birds. There we lined up to get our choices ( mains, soup, dessert, salads, etc.) while of course in the restaurant we had the very friendly, really efficient, wait-staff ( most who were from the Philippines)
  • Dinner, (for which our group always dressed for – not formal, merely changing our clothes to make the evening even more ‘special’) was always 3 courses plus cheese and coffee to finish. So, three courses each with three choices meant as from the first day, means 99% of us were being offered more temptation than we experienced at home. I failed the temptation test.

For those of us with special food requirements the Chef and his staff, and especially the Maître d’, were great.  When booking the trip we had a form to fill in which asked about our food needs.  I am allergic to alcohol and let the Maître d’ know that even if the chef said the “alcohol is burnt off” I didn’t want anything that had had alcohol near it. To make sure this happened, he bought me the evening menu at breakfast daily; I chose my meal and he not only ensured the kitchen prepared an alcohol-free version of the dish but delivered it to me himself.  I believe he delivered gluten-free and other ‘different’ meals to guests too.

For me, it was a relief to have Mr Zoran Gajanovic, Maître d’, Njord, Viking ensuring my meals were safe for me. Thank you Zoran!

The river cruise I led this year was through Fifty plus Travel in New Zealand so visit their website if you would like to experience river cruising (the fastest growing tourism activity in the world!)

NOTE: around the world, most dishes with alcohol in them are not usually mentioned on menus – especially in sauces and jus – and for those of us who cannot tolerate alcohol (or have religious prohibitions) means we have to be constantly be vigilant.  See this chart about the percentage of alcohol left after various cooking methods.  I have blogged about this topic a couple of years ago. Chef Liz, author of The Sober Kitchen has a helpful chart which tells how to substitute alcohol in recipes. See it here:  I have just ordered her book, which I have often borrowed from the library.

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More global food and travel issues (and recipes J) are in Lonely Planet’s new book Food Lover’s Guide to the World  which is due out in October 2012. So, take your taste buds on a tour around the world and cook up your next great culinary adventure. It hascontributions from celebrity food-lovers, including chef Fergus Henderson (co-founder of St John restaurant, London), chef, restaurateur and food writer Mark Hix, Dan Hunter (chef at the Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Victoria), Tessa Kiros (author of Limoncello and Linen Water), chef Atul Kochhar (Benares restaurant, London), Eric Ripert (head chef at Le Bernardin, New York) and Ruth Rogers (River Café, London) and,

* Best places to find local dishes in cities great & small.

* Cultural tips and how-to-eat etiquette.

* Introductions by Mark Bittman, lead food writer for The New York Times Magazine; and James Oseland, Editor-in-Chief of Saveur magazine.

* More than 50 authentic recipes to prepare at home.

A swan comes calling!

A first in my life: a swan come calling as I put my feet up after lunch on board Viking’s longboat Njord in Wurzburg, Germany.

We all had visited the wonderful Bishops’ Residenz  (a most amazing baroque palace and UNESCO World Heritage Site – blog to follow) and I was having some quiet time before heading out again on my own.

As I lay on my bed I heard knocking on my window – getting up to investigate, I saw a swans head biting the glass. Tiredness immediately over, I grabbed my camera and ran upstairs and off the boat to capture this photo. Seems he objected to his refection – another male in the area – when he was guarding his mate and their 3 cygnets.


swan IMG_3822

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