Category Archives: South Pacific

Do you know who MONA is?

This BLOG post originally appeared 11/12/11 on our old site with the title “what the heck is MONA”.  MONA is still a great place to visit so we thought we would re-post.  Hopefully we will get to Tasmania again some day soon!

Just a short flight from Melbourne takes you to the island of Tasmania known for the Tasmanian Devil and convicts.

On our first night in the Australian state of Tasmania we stayed at the lovely, modern and somewhat funky Mona Pavillion. Here there are 8 stand alone villa units with either one or two bedrooms as well as a presidential suite facing the River Derwent. From the outside they look somewhat like a space ship.

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From the inside they are right out of a James Bond movie. Each unit is named after Australian artists or architects. We stayed in Walter.

DSC_0393Walter from the outside

DSC_0376Living space in Walter

Each villa faces the harbor providing wonderful views throughout the day. And how could you not have a wonderful view, 3 of the walls are windows. Now i’m not saying they have windows….i’m saying they ARE windows. Full windows with shades that are operated by remote controls on the walls. How cool is that!

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These modernly appointed villas have everything your heart desires including a stocked wine bar, chilling each bottle to its exact prefect drinking temperature! The fridge is stocked with local beers, juices, soft drinks and milk.

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DSC_0392Yes, we had to pull them out to take a photo!

Our unit was a two bedroom, each with it’s own bathroom. And speaking of bathroom! Yeah this is my kind of set up! Oversized Jacuzzi tub with TV on the wall and a remote that if dropped into the water neither electrocutes you and still works!

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The beds, extremely comfortable….you’ll just have to take my word on that and in the morning wake to the wonderful sounds of nature chirping outside. Our bedrooms were tastefully decorated, some had a bit more of the shock factor going on.

DSC_0382Bedroom #1 in Walter

DSC_0435Bedroom #2 in Walter

DSC_0422One of the bedroom’s in the Roy (the largest pavilion)

Each unit is priced differently based upon it’s size but run between $390 – $990 per night based upon 2-4 guests. Plus tax of course. There are full cooking and laundry facilities in each unit.

DSC_0379Kitchen

These pavilions have everything a traveler could want.  As a matter of fact on a placard in the villas it says “we can arrange almost anything legal, just ask”. I’d call that customer service!

So what the heck is MONA?

Well it stands for Museum of Old and New Art. Mona is located just a short 10 minutes outside Hobart, Tasmania and is home to a somewhat shocking if not weird museum, a vineyard, cellar door and wine bar, a brewery, a restaurant, the Pavilion’s and of course a shop.

DSC_0396 Main building

DSC_0447The restaurant

DSC_0448The cellar door

At the cellar door you get a 1 hr. tasting and the admission fee is refunded if you purchase. Wine tours are available for $15.

DSC_0451Of course we tasted…and purchased!

DSC_0475The wine bar and brewery

On Friday and Saturday evenings you can get a 1 hr. beer tour and tasting for $15. They make 4 types of beer and all have no preservatives and are not pasteurized. You got to love the catchy “Moo Beer” name! Wine and beer master classes can be arranged upon request.

DSC_0478Believe it or not, we did not try them all!

As for the museum, lets just say it might not be for everyone as many exhibits are downright shocking and for some would be repulsive.

DSC_0483Museum entry

As the statement goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” this pretty much sums the gallery up. The owner, David Walsh aka Glenn Walsh. Tourists not from Tasmania pay $20 for admission, those under 18 are free. Some of the exhibits are sexually explicit, others personally confronting thus the gallery may not be for children.

DSC_0493Plaster molds of a woman’s privates

DSC_0494The white room

DSC_0497The woodpecker (sorry just trying to give you a feel for the museum)

DSC_0517The human digestive system recreated, this woman is actually feeding the machine lunch at 1130am (sandwich, salad, fruit and a drink).  At 200pm it has a bowel movement! We did not hang around for that!!

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Coolest thing in the museum, mummy on the left, xray tomography of it on the right!

So, that is MONA.  Who wants to go?  It really is quite a cool place, definitely 2 or 3 nights are needed.

Groups!

Are you looking for a girls getaway to the Caribbean?  How about a wine club tour of France, Italy or New Zealand?  Would your church group like to experience the footsteps of St. Paul in Turkey and Greece?  What about taking a group of your friends to Napa to celebrate a milestone birthday?  How about a family reunion on an Alaskan cruise?  Ski club trip to Vail?  Scrapbooking club River Cruise in Austria?  Choral group trip to Christmas markets in Germany? Foodies group at Walt Disney World food and wine festival?  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

The possibilities are endless.  We can help with generating ideas, the detailed planning, the marketing and of course getting everyone in your group to where they need to go.  While we work with the group leaders to help craft the whole experience, we also make sure that we meet the needs of individual travellers within the group as well.

Have an idea for a group GetAway?  We need to talk – (262) 538-2140

#9 groups

Thinking about a destination wedding?

Destination weddings are very popular and for very good reasons:  They can cost considerably less than a traditional wedding, and often include more.  You can choose from many amazingly beautiful locations.  You and your select family and friends get a wonderful vacation experience you will always remember.

We have helped many clients just like you have amazing destination weddings.  We are such experts that in fact, our own wedding was a destination wedding!

#10 Destination Wedding

La Isla Bonita (The Beautiful Island)

We bet you never heard this version of Madonna’s La Isla Bonita.  There is only one place that we know of where you can go see and hear Madonna’s entire greatest hits album “The Immaculate Collection”, performed by a bunch of people singing Karaoke in their individual sound booths.

Can you guess where?

Wineglass to Wine Glass

When we were last in Tasmania we had the wonderful opportunity to take a Wineglass to Wine glass trek.

From the Freycinet Lodge we walk up the Hazard Mountains to the Wineglass bay lookout.  Here we took in spectacular views of the Freycinet Peninsula and the Tasman Sea.  Then we descended down into the bay, tracked across the isthmus to Hazards Beach and then partook in a rather sumptuous meal of local cheeses, fresh seafood , Tasmanian beef and quail, and just a few glasses of Tasmanian wine and beer.

Our trek begins

Our trek begins

The trekkers are ready!  Including our “celebrity” pal (no longer) bachelor Jason Mesnick

Tasman foliage

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Wineglass Bay

Here is a view of Wineglass bay from the lookout

The gang at Wineglass bay Bird 07-Wineglass to wine glass tour 11-2-2011 6-40-43 PM 08-Wineglass to wine glass tour 11-2-2011 6-46-41 PM 09-Wineglass to wine glass tour 11-2-2011 7-27-39 PM

Beautiful view from the beach at Wineglass bay

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Artistic sand shot!

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After we leave the bay to cross the isthmus, we meet a Jill Wallaby with a Joey in the pouch – awesome!

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We’ve been spotted!

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Hazard beach now in sight on the other side of the isthmus.

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Now leaving Hazards Beach and heading towards our feast.

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“the facilities”

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Our personal chef hard at work, also a nice selection of local beer to help us recover from the walk.

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Our dining room!

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What more appropriate start than a bottle of Hazards Ale from Wineglass Bay Brewing!

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Fresh seafood starter

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Working on the Tasmanian beef

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Yum

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View from our dining room

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Cheeses to finish with

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Go find the boat to go home.

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Just a bit rough so we need to use the dinghy

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Feathered friends bidding us adieu.

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We made it – Freycinet Lodge back in sight.

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We are one planet, one people and the ocean is our bathtub, so let’s get out our rubber duckies and play!

We had just stopped into an Auckland ice bar and had our obligatory cocktail out of our ice glass, while sitting on our ice stool, looking at ice sculptures.  Maybe it was the chill our brains received, but the 15 meter tall duck that sat in the harbor around the corner from us, did make us stop and take a bit of pause.

Giant Rubber Ducky

Giant Rubber Ducky

At no point during our trip planning for New Zealand did we think of seeking out a giant rubber ducky.  In fact, searching out giant rubber ducks has never made onto any itinerary that we’ve prepared for ourselves or our clients.

Rubber ducky, your'e the one, you help make bath time fun...

“Rubber ducky you’re the one, you help make bath time fun…I’m awfully fond of you…”

For any travel, it’s the unexpected moments like this that really make great vacations awesome.

We will leave you with one final thought on rubber duckies.  It’s the meme that really started it all for these fun creatures.  Careful though if you click play, the song may be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.  “He’s cute and yellow and chubby….rub a dub dubby..”

Life is Uncertain; Take the Trip First.

At the travel agency we receive lots of brochures from suppliers.  Many times I’ll open a packet, store the brochures and toss everything else including the packing material into recycling.  Sometimes I’ll even put the brochures right into recycling bin if it is from a supplier that we don’t really feels works best for our customers.  Oftentimes the brochures include some sort of cover letter which is usually related to telling us what we should know about any new products the supplier has or what highlights we should read in the brochures.  Recently one cover letter caught my attention and I thought I would share.

Kirk Demeter is the president of Down Under Answers (DUA).  As you’d expect with the name Down Under Answers, they specialize in Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific destinations.  Kirk wrote what I feel is an inspiring cover letter to include with their 2013-2014 travel planners.

” As I cast about for positive resolutions for 2013, a bumper sticker came to mind – ‘Life is uncertain; eat dessert first’.  I decided to amend that to – Life is uncertain; take the trip first.

In our business we hear constantly from customers how their trip was ‘life enhancing’, how it fulfilled a long-held dream, how it was so much more than expected.  That it led to new friends, fueled their desire to travel even more and inspired others to travel.

There are always several items on our wish lists, and we all love new toys, but a trip is something that never loses its novelty, no matter how many times we look at the photos, or turn to each other and say ‘remember the day we…’.  Trips don’t sit in the garage or attic gathering dust; they live within us, making us feel good each time we think back.”

Trips certainly do live within us.  Our travel experiences help shape our thoughts, desires and values.  Sometimes on trips we learn grace, sometimes we learn humility, sometimes we even learn that we eat too many desserts when we are not at home!

Which would you remember more fondly 10 years from now, your new 60″ super duper plasma monster TV, or diving off the deck of your over-water bungalow in Fiji?   The TV probably won’t even last 10 years, but the memories of the island will stay with you forever.  I agree –  Life is uncertain; take the trip first.

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Cape Palliser, New Zealand

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Cape Palliser is located on the southernmost point of the North Island of New Zealand and was sort of on our way to Wellington after leaving Martinborough. The Cape is actually further south on the North Island than the city of Nelson which is on the South Island.  The Cape Palliser Lighthouse is located here along with a permanent fur seal colony.

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The fur seal colony at the cape is the North Island’s largest. New Zealand fur seals have pointy noses, long whiskers, visible external ears and bodies covered with two layers of fur.  These guys were an absolute joy to observe.  It was so wonderful to just spend time watching them in their natural habitat.  While most seemed a bit indifferent to our visit and you could get fairly close, I didn’t think it too wise to impose so greatly on them.  Best to use a telephoto lens instead.

12-Cape Palliser New Zealand 2-9-2011 12-44-04 PMAnd a video to enjoy!

Wine, Devils & Luxury

Despite the stuffy head and congestion (yep, that time of year), we’ve spent a little bit of time this weekend freshening up the website.  It may only be the cold medication talking but we do think we’ve come up with some interesting stuff.

This is it!  You can barely see the "open" signA whole new section is under development detailing some of the many wineries we’ve traveled to around the globe.  While only a small handful are listed now, stay tuned, there is much more to come.  You can browse all of them here.  Of course you also don’t want to miss our recent blog on “The Greatest Winery You Never Heard Of”.

08-Mona Tasmania 11-1-2011 5-41-48 PMOne of the most fascinating wineries we’ve seen anywhere in the world is actually a museum.  If you enjoy world-class museums and world-class wine, then MONA needs to be on your list of places to go.  Located in Tasmania, MONA is a worthwhile destination even if you have to spend all day/night on a coach fare plane seat to get there.  Bring us back a bottle of any of the Moorilla series if you do go.  Oh and don’t forget the Moo Brew.

Coles Bay Tasmania

Well as long as you’ve made the trip to Tasmania, why not treat yourself to a stay at the Saffire Freycinet Resort overlooking pristine Coles Bay.  It’s a long journey and you deserve just a bit of pampering.  With architecture that fully connects the resort to its surroundings and  so much to see, do and experience you may never want to leave.

 

Of course no trip to Tasmania would be complete without seeing some devils.  Endangered in the wild, one of the best places to see them is at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.  It is not a zoo, but a rehabilitation center for wild animals.

Oh and lest we forget, we do know just the perfect boutique travel agency that can help you put the whole amazing journey together.

The greatest winery you never heard of

Situated on the eastern coast of the north island, Hawkes’ Bay, New Zealand is the oldest and second largest wine region in the country.  It was one of the original colonial provinces when New Zealand was colonized by British settlers in the mid-nineteenth century.  This flat fertile land is perfect for farming:  dairy, sheep, beef, orchards and of course one of our favorite crops – grapes!  It has an ideal warm, sunny and dry climate for vineyards.  This is the largest premium red wine-producing region in the country with over 80% of the national vintage for Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah.  Within Hawke’s Bay, the vintage is divided evenly between red and white.

Te Awa winery Hawke's Bay 2-7-2011 3-46-19 PMPerhaps the best known region within Hawkes’ Bay is Gimblett Gravels, named after the gravelly soil type laid down by the old Ngaruroro River, which was exposed after a huge flood in the 1860’s.   Gimblett Gravels is home to some fantastic wineries including a couple that we visited during our trip: Te Awa and Craggy Range.  We had a tasting and lunch nestled within the vineyards during our visit at Te Awa.  Te Awa makes a range of outstanding wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and a Cab/Merlot.

DSC_0390-1Craggy Range has one of the most amazing views from a winery tasting room that we’d ever seen.  It’s pretty easy to see where the winery got its’ name from.  Here’s what Anthony Rose of The Independent Newspaper, UK had to say about Craggy Range. “If you don’t know Craggy Range, get acquainted, because I can’t think of another wine company that’s managed to roll Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire and Rhône styles into one harmonious group of wines so successfully.”

But this is not a post about either of those wineries..

This post is about a winery that we were not even looking for, Eskdale Winegrowers.

Lady Knox

During our New Zealand trip, we had just spent the previous day exploring the “thermal zone” between Rotorua and Taupo.  We had even visited the spectacularly underwhelming Lady Knox geyser!  From the guidebooks, we knew that Lady Knox erupted on a daily basis at 10:15 am.  What we did not know is that the Lady is “induced” to erupt by dropping a surfactant (aka soap) into the opening of the vent.  At the appointed time the head geyser inducer person grabs a microphone to talk to the crowd and then strolls over to the geyser vent and tosses some soap down the hole and voila within minutes an eruption occurs!  Wai-o-tapu thermal wonderland 2-6-2011 11-07-44 AMThe story goes that this “secret” was first discovered when a gang of prisoners used the hot water at this location to wash their clothes.  After adding soap to the mix they had one incredible surprise!  OK, maybe it is not fair to call this underwhelming, but after you’ve visited Yellowstone and seen Old Faithful, this seems to be cheating … just a bit.

Eskdale Winegrowers Hawkes Bay NewZealand 2-6-2011 3-58-31 PMUpon leaving Taupo, you take the Thermal Explorer highway (route 5) to Napier and the Hawke’s Bay region.  You’re now arriving in another of New Zealand’s world class wine growing regions.  Before turning off of route 5 and onto the main road which heads into Napier, we stopped at Eskdale Winegrowers.  As mentioned above, we were not looking for this particular winery.  We we’re actually looking for another winery that starts with “Esk” as part of their name, but once we saw the beat up old sign for Eskdale we thought maybe this was the place we were looking for.  It wasn’t, but it was so much more.

This is it!  You can barely see the "open" signOnce you turn off the main road, if you’ve never been there before, it’s hard to tell exactly where to go.  It’s not a large commercial operation with a paved parking lot and a designer tasting room.  There is a gravel road that winds around some overgrown apple trees just a bit until you reach what looks to be a barn.  But it is not just any barn, it is the unique, boutique and amazing Eskdale Winegrowers winery.

Looking at the picture above, we were not quite certain that we made it to the right place, but the stainless steel tanks do speak to the fact that someone is fermenting something here.  And really that is what we typically are looking for during our travels.

'06 Chardonnay - awesome!

So we parked the car and headed inside.  Now we knew we were in a winery because there was a sign leaning against an old barrel with some bottle prices listed, some wine bottles looking like they were ready to be packaged, some wine barrels and some fantastic brick cellaring bins.  This is definitely a winery,and a rather charming one at that, but at the moment the only thing missing was the people.  We had the place to ourselves. The old sign did say open from 9-5 and we were there between those times, but there was nobody to be found.

Eskdale Winegrowers Hawkes Bay NewZealand 2-6-2011 4-01-06 PMNot thinking it right to just start helping ourselves to the wine we called out loudly a couple of times to see if anyone was around.  After a few minutes we heard a response that indicated there were people here and they’d be present in a moment.  To our delight a women appeared along with a frollicking naked little girl.  She explained that she was babysitting her (i think I recall correctly) granddaughter and they had been taking a nap in the yard under the trees.  The little girl went to play outside and the woman asked if we would like to taste some wine.  Of course we would.

7-Eskdale Winegrowers Hawkes Bay NewZealand 2-6-2011 4-03-11 PMHere’s is what we learned that day.  The woman, whose name is Trish Salonius and her husband Kim started planting grapes here in 1973 – long before all of the other wineries in this area started.  They find that the area has gotten too commercial, but will keep making wine as long as they can.  All of their wines are estate grown, and they do not have always have a particular vintage every year – they just have what they have.  Kim was not there that day, but Trish told us he says will make wine forever and that he will need to be buried in a wine barrel before he stops.

They did not have a frig for the whites so everything was sampled at room temperature.  One thing about wine tasting is that while whites are normally best served with a chill on them, but when you taste them warm, the wine cannot “hide” any of the flavors.  So a rule-of-thumb is if a white wine tastes really good warm, then it will taste quite fantastic when it is chilled. To grab a wine to taste, Trish grabbed an unlabeled bottle from the brick cellar, declaring that she thinks this is the Chardonnay, glued a label on it and opened it for us to taste.  Cool – you don’t always see that everywhere!

This amazing Chardonnay was from 2006.  It had spent a year in new French oak, and about 4 years in the bottle before we grabbed one.  It poured with lots of deep yellow color and tasted big yet refined.  Despite all the other world-class wineries we visited during our trip to New Zealand we felt that this was our greatest find.  Now one might argue that the wine scorers of the world may not have given 90 or more points to this bottle, but they would be missing the point.  Combine our accidental stumbling upon Eskdale Winegrowers, with the ramshackle charm of the Cellar Door, the genuine warm hospitality of the owner, grandma and granddaughter sleeping outside in the shade on a hot day when we arrived, along with the bottle labeling just prior to sampling and we’d say this baby was a 100 pointer!  In fact this may be the greatest winery you’ve never heard of.  During our trip, we told everyone else we talked to in the area to stop by.  Even folks who lived and worked there did not typically know of Eskdale Winegrowers.  We told them to hurry and go snatch up the Chardonnay before others find out.