Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Retirement - some observations

Today I turned 66 which at one time was the day I planned to retire. I actually retired on January 11 2010 which is 1403 days ago and some of you might remember my first blog entry about my retirement. This is now the 418th entry which means that every 3.36 days there was something interesting that made me want to share it. Mind you, I really enjoy rolling over in bed in the morning after a poor night's sleep knowing that I can sleep in as long as I like because there probably won't be anything too interesting happening that day.

The big surprise for me since I retired has been the success of house exchanges. Years ago I thought the ideal life for me would be 4 months in Oz, 4 months in Europe and 4 months in the USA. We don't have quite those proportions but we are close enough. The exchanges have lessened the need to move to Oz immediately and we can be more patient. The exchange rate and the housing price bubble in the Sydney area has made such a move foolish right now.  Robin might disagree.

Some of the best advice I received prior to my retirement came from a friend called George. He advised me to get plenty of exercise and the walks across the Grand Canyon and England really worked for getting me out on my walking loop on the rotten days. I'm still pondering what major walk I should plan for next year. 

However I am pondering a mammoth journey where I fly to Oslo and take a train and bus to Narvik above the Artic Circle in Norway. I will then take trains through Sweden, Helsinki in Finland, St Petersberg & Moscow, Mongolia, Beijing, Hanoi, Saigon, Cambodia (by bus), Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. Essentially from the most north west station in Europe to the most south east station on mainland Asia. It should take 45 days. I am open to advice on the subject, particularly the Russian and Asian sections.

One of the other pieces of advice from George was to help me decide if I should retire early. He said that it was very doubtful that if I kept working and retired at 66 that I would say 'Wow, am I glad that I worked those extra years'. How very true. Four hundred and seventeen blogs prove it.

Click here for my theme song this coming year.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Easton, Maryland

While I was in Australia I rang one of my former school mates who helps organize the reunions. The fifty year reunion will be held next year and since I have to come from the USA to attend I try to let them know when it suits me to attend. I got no answer but after we got home I received an email from him saying that he had been in Easton Maryland while I was away in Oz and NZ. He had stayed with another classmate of mine who was visiting his daughter and son in law who have been living there for the past two years. I exchanged emails with Jim and we drove down to have lunch.

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Autumn (Fall) seemed to be late this year so we did not miss too much by being away in October. For me the best colours are usually in early November after we have had a good cold snap.

The above photos were taken on the way up to North East. This is the only road we can take so if helps that it is a nice drive.

We arrived in Easton and met Jim and Andrea. After a cup of coffee we walked to downtown Easton to have some lunch.

On the way we stopped to take a look at the Old Third Haven Meeting House which is part of a group of Quaker buildings dating from 1684. This is the old wooden building.

The Quakers built this extra brick building in 1880 for use in the colder months.

Inside the old wooden building.

It is all very plain. If you don't know much about Quakers you can read about them here. I really like the idea of the 'waiting worship' which is predominately silent. It smells very woody inside.

You can sit in silence and contemplate the leaves outside.

There is something really attractive about old shutters.

Jim said that this is some sort of snake pit behind the old building.

Old grave stones. All very simple with no ostentation.

The back of the old building.

It was all very peaceful and beautiful. Until that day I had not known it was there.

We walked down a lane to continue into the town.

Easton appears to have quite a few magnificent old houses.

It's like going to Cape May NJ except there is no ocean and it is all much quieter.

We eventually reached the shops but the memory card on the camera filled up so we will stop the blog here. It was great to see Jim and Andrea and discuss old times and many other things (including house exchanges).

We have lived over 25 years in Maryland and have seen quite a lot of Maryland but somehow we had missed Easton. We will return one day because this place is well worth coming back to.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NZ - Akaroa

For out last night in New Zealand we stayed at  farm house B and B just outside Akaroa. It was the Monday night at the end of a long weekend. Since this area is a less than two hour drive from Christchurch, accommodation on the Saturday and Sunday nights was impossible.

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The drive to Akaroa is your normal impossibly scenic journey through hills that were once part of a volcano on the Banks Peninsula.

Eventually you round a bend and there is the Akaroa Harbour off in the distance.

We stopped at Duvauchelle for lunch and I had a feed of fish and chips that was excellent except there was too much salt. It also was quite cheap by NZ and Oz standards.

Boat sheds.

With the aid of the GPS on my Android phone we passed through Akaroa and went up a steep windy road to the B and B. By the way, I use Sygic which operates very much like a Tom Tom and is superior to the regular Google Navigation app. Its voice commands and warning signals are much better. If you have a micro SD card in your phone you can store the maps on the card so that you don't need to be connected to the internet to use it out in the middle of nowhere.

The accommodation at the B and B turned out to be some huts that were powered by batteries fed by a solar panel. The owner said that it would cost a fortune to have his farm be connected to the grid even though the distance was not that far.

The owner was Swiss and had settled in NZ twenty years before and bought a small land holding to farm. He had built the huts himself and during the summer months operates the B and B. 

The view from the front gate.

While I had my usual afternoon nap, Marianne visited the animals on the farm.

After my nap, we drove down to the town and walked around.

It's a very pretty harbour and I could understand why it was popular.

I suspect you would need a wet suit to keep warm enough in the cold water.

A vendor on the jetty was cooking and selling fish sandwiches. If we ever get back there I would like to sample his wares.

Housing in the area is expensive because of the proximity to Christchurch.

After exploring the jetty we walked around the harbour to the main part of the village.

I suspect this B and B was not only very good but very expensive.

There must have been some earthquake damage.

I was amused by this poster. Along similar lines, a couple of weeks ago I received this joke that you might enjoy.

In a dark and hazy room, peering into a crystal ball, the mystic delivers grave news: ''There's no easy way to tell you this, so I'll just be blunt. Prepare yourself to be a widow. Your husband will die a violent and horrible death this year.''

Visibly shaken, Laura stares at the woman's lined face, then at the single flickering candle, then down at her hands. She takes a few deep breaths to compose herself and to stop her mind racing. She simply has to know.

She meets the fortune teller's gaze, steadies her voice and asks: ''Will I be acquitted?''

I liked the red.

With all the green grass and trees I wondered if the fire danger signs ever get to the 'extreme' level. Obviously some hoon had messed with hte arrow.

We haad some very undistinguished mussels at the fish and chip shop in Akaroa so decided to redeem the situation by buying some wine, cheese and pate and eating it up on the deck at our hut. We had never heard of 'Airedale' cheese before but it tasted very good.

Sun set.

The next morning it was pretty chilly in the B and B so the fumes from the hot coffee really stand out.

We fired up the gas heater in the morning. It had been warm enough in the bed but it was chilly if you stuck your nose out from under the covers.

The owner made us scrambled eggs for breakfast in this kitchen and the colour of the eggs from his hens was incredibly yellow.

We headed off down the hill back to Christchurch.

Eventually we left the hills and mountains on the Banks Peninsula and reached Lake Forsyth down on the flat plain. Finally the sky was clear of clouds and we could see the Alps. One of those peaks is Mount Cook.

So that ends the photos of our trip. Our flights back to LAX via Auckland on Air New Zealand were fine and the seat between us was free so we had some extra room.

When we handed back our Jucy car, a young couple were handing back their green Jucy Camper. They had very much enjoyed it and had often just camped by the side of the road. We had thought about renting one but decided not to because we thought it would be too cold but they said that they were never cold because the heat from their bodies warmed up the air in the van. Next time we would rent the camper.

Driving round the South Island has to be one of the great trips you can do and possibly the most scenic. I hope you all enjoyed the blogs.