Tuesday, 22 December 2015

My Garden is dressed for Christmas

I love my garden especially at this time of year when everyone is frantically rushing around, the malls are packed, the roads are clogged and the social calendar is fit to burst.  A quiet half hour in my courtyard at the end of the day is the perfect antidote.  It is time for peace and quiet reflection on all the good things in life and for counting blessings.

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone and, if at all possible, take some time for quiet reflection.

For some reason this video won"t play.  You can see it on my Facebook page A Wandering Widow Solo Travel

Monday, 14 December 2015

Alone at Christmas? Worried? Don't be, here are some handy hints to help you enjoy the day

  Christmas is a day for families and friends to be together so being alone on the day can be crushing. It doesn't matter why you are alone, it could be that you are traveling, or your children all live overseas, or you have recently lost your partner. Whatever the reason the key to enjoying the day is to plan ahead to make it fun and less lonely.  Here are a few ideas I have gathered together.  I hope they help.

My Christmas Wreath
1. Book yourself on a bus tour, a train trip or a cruise, depending on your finances.  Ensure it includes Christmas Day.  There will be a real spirit of camaraderie amongst your fellow travelers and you may even find it is one of your best Christmases ever.

2. Check into a hotel or even a back packers which is offering a Christmas dinner and enjoy the company of fellow dinners.

3. Volunteer to assist at one of the many charity Christmas dinners which you will find in most towns and cities.  Christmas is a time of giving so giving your time will be satisfying and fitting.

4. Invite your neighbours, even those you don't know and especially those alone, in for a drink before they head off to their celebrations.  One of them might even invite you to theirs. If having people in is not your thing perhaps you could call on them with small gifts and your Christmas wishes.

5. Visit a loved one's grave.   In New Zealand cemeteries are cheerful, happy places on Christmas day with groups of family and friends visiting and all willing to chat.  It sounds morbid but it isn't.  I do this every year and the spirit of happiness and goodwill there is quite uplifting.

6. Even if you are not religious, go to church.  Enjoy the Christmas carols, the joy of Christmas and the feeling of community.

7. Go for a walk and wish every one you meet "Happy Christmas".  You are bound to get merry greetings back and may even enjoy some conversations.

8. Relish being alone.  Eat what you want, listen to music you like, become absorbed in a TV movie, light candles, decorate the house. If this sounds lonely just visualise how fraught a big and noisy Christmas can be, especially when that difficult uncle turns up!

9. Spend the day planning something really special to look forward to.  It is  easy to become so lost in planning something on the internet that suddenly the day has slipped by.

10. Remember Christmas is just one day and tomorrow is another day.  The key is to plan ahead and to get out there.  Don't sit at home by yourself feeling miserable.

Please feel free to add your ideas in the Comments section.  

 And have the best, happiest, most wonderful Christmas!
St Heliers Bay, my local beach,  Because they always bloom at Christmas time
Pohutukawa are known as the New Zealand Christmas tree

Monday, 7 December 2015

Auckland's Winter Gardens - Victorian Charm

The Winter Gardens, Auckland Domain

I never have to go far from home if I want to have a wander. Auckland is blessed with lots of parks and beaches in every direction. In fact right opposite my home is a 50 hectare farm park where I enjoy a walk amongst the cows, it's a slice of country in the city.  Sometimes, though, when I feel the need for a change of scenery I head to the Auckland Domain. Yes, New York may have its Central Park, London, its Hyde Park, but Auckland has it's Domain. At 75 hectares  not quite on the same scale as the other two, I grant you, but  like them it is a lush, rolling green oasis in the heart of the city and a popular place to hang out and relax. The impressive, classically designed, Auckland Museum stands proudly overlooking the park
where pathways wind between massive trees, through flower beds and sculpture gardens. It's a perfect place to people watch and there's always something to see. Last time I visited an Indian family was holding a gathering in the picturesque Victorian band rotunda, the women dressed in saris so beautiful that I sat for some time admiring them as they fluttered about like a flock of exotic birds. For generations children have swarmed to the duck pond to feed the ducks although this practice is now frowned on. Apparently the over generosity of the children was making the ducks ill. If people watching is not your thing you will often find a cricket or football match or a free music concert and once a year the Domain hosts a Teddy Bears Picnic for children, big and small. When you feel the need for refreshment you can have coffee or tea or buy a luscious ice cream from the quaint Kiosk, built in 1913 for an exhibition as "the ideal New Zealand home".  For tourists, strolling the Domain is a refreshing break from sightseeing.

One of my favourite spots is the Winter Gardens.  I love them.  Opened in 1913 the two Victorian style glass houses face each other across a fishpond and this old world charm is part of the attraction for me. It is like stepping back to a simpler, less hurried time, a chance to just stop and smell the roses. One glass house is heated and contains permanent  tropical plants, palms and exotic species, the other is temperate and provides an ever changing kaleidoscope of glorious flowers which change with the seasons. It is a tranquil place and you would be hard pressed to find anyone there without a smile on their face.   Pausing to admire the foliage or sitting on a park bench to marvel at nature's artistry is pure balm for the soul.  It is a photographers delight, where even an amateur like me can get some pretty shots. Here are a few I took on my last visit.