The island of romance

The island of romance

Oh Catalina! A respite from the glitz and noise of the mainland, this little island is a joyful discovery.

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“Twenty-six miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a waitin’ for me, Santa Catalina, the island of romance” . . . and so starts the old song that turned a holiday island, off the coast of Long Beach in California, into a vacation-spot superstar. The song was recorded in 1958 by the Four Preps. Two of the college friends’ group were surfing off the coast in Southern California and they saw Santa Catalina island in the distance and wondered how far from the mainland it was . . hence the origin of a pop song of its time that shot up the charts, and made the holiday island a new sensation – again!

The island is one of many in the Channel Islands group. And from the get-go, the island was a popular playground for early inhabitants in 5000BC, Spanish mariners, hunters, smugglers and the military.

It became a tourist destination around 1887 with the focal point of the island a little settlement called Avalon – which has since been designated a city.

The Wrigley family purchased the island sight unseen in 1919 for $3 million. Mr Wrigley made his fortune in chewing gum!

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Take the Catalina Express for a gentle hour’s sail from Long Beach.

The island was developed within a small space as much of the terrain is rocky and wild. And the only beach is at Avalon.

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The beautiful chandelier above the ballroom floor in the Casino.

The massive construction of the island’s most recognisable landmark, the startling art deco structure, is the Casino. The building houses a beautiful theatre (movies are still shown here); a massive ballroom and a museum.

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The Casino. 

The ballroom still has the ghosts of thousands of young dancers who would come across the sea (a three-hour trip then) to dance the night away during the 30s and 40s.

The museum has wonderful images of the crowd that crushed the dance floor. There was never alcohol served in the building, and the casino has never had any form of gambling on the premises.

Ornate walls inside the casino and (right) the amazing construction of the circular building.

Lovely hotels and quaint guesthouses provide plenty of rooms for holidaymakers and a day trip isn’t a bad idea either. Funky restaurants, live music venues, ice cream parlours par excellence, and fun souvenir shopping have the red carpet out for visitors.

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This is a retro destination that exudes the vibrant ambience of a laid back part of California like no other.

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  • GETTING AROUND

Catch the Catalina Express from San Pedro, Long Island (a one- hour boat ride and up to 30 departures daily).

Around Avalon, it’s for walking or you can hire a golf buggy to get around. Not many cars here.

  • WHEN TO VISIT

Anytime! But in autumn the prices are down, the crowds less frantic and the island slows to a gentle pace. Enjoy the Halloween Parade at the end of October.

CATALINA ACTIVITIES

All out adventure or slow and steady? The island offers Zip Line Tours starting at 182m above Descanso Beach; off-road exploring in a jeep to visit the local bisons (true), foxes, eagles and deer. Parasail over the Pacific Ocean or hike the rugged hills.

Or . . . visit the fabulous Catalina Museum with special exhibitions and the history of the island from the beginning displayed.

At Descanso Beach, snorkel and swim the crystal clear waters – and head to the Beach Club for a Catalina Burger.

At night head to the Casino for a first run movie. Get there and hour early on the weekend nights to hear a stirring performance on the original pipe organ.

Writer Bev Malzard, did not zip line, but she did have a nap on the beach, eat ice-cream and spent an afternoon in the museum/art gallery. The history in black and white photographs is rich and new world ‘American dream’. That Wrigley fella was on to something when he got the world chewing gum! (Juicy Fruit is the chew du jour for Ms Malzard.) Look below, this little Aussie was on offer on Catalina Island. 

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Hello Kitty makes a comeback

Hello Kitty makes a comeback

That heading was to get your attention – ‘comeback’ ? – she hasn’t gone away, in fact she’s more popular than ever. I felt like revisiting this posting from another blog I wrote a few years ago.

Please enjoy a re-read and discover my curiosity about this damn cat.

 

 

Miss itty bitty Kitty rules the rooms!

I don’t get Hello Kitty. I do get Hello Kitty. I get the merchandising, the appeal to pre-adolescent females and the cutesy factor that seems to adorn all young Asian girls and indeed little girls all over the shopping world. I get that it’s a character of fiction – I don’t get the look (Kitty is portrayed as a female white Japanese bobtail cat with a red bow), I don’t get why Kitty doesn’t have a mouth.

Researching the erstwhile feline, I found out she was created by Yuko Shimizu in 1974, and first appeared on a vinyl coin purse, introduced to the Japanese public and then Kitty went on to conquer the US in 1976.

The Hello Kitty character is a staple of the kawaii segment of Japanese popular culture. She is a Sanrio character (there are many Kitty family members – now I’m creeping myself out as I’d like to meet them), and Sanrio has groomed Hello Kitty into a global, marketing phenomenon worth $5 billion a year.

(In 1962, Shintaro Tsuji, founder of Sanrio, sold rubber sandals with flowers painted on them. He noted profits soared with the addition of cute designs on sandals and hired cartoonists to design cuties for his merchandise. )

Anyway, chubby kitty cat is all over the world now – and every little girl knows her. And surprisingly (not) many adults have embraced her too . . . I don’t get it. But I’m starting to . . .

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The target market for Hello Kitty broadened to include teens and grown-ups as a retro brand – for those who could not own her when they were young. In 1999, 12,000 different products had Kitty appearing on them worldwide.  And now it gets silly – in 2009, the Bank of America began offering Hello Kitty-themed cheque accounts, where the account holder can get cheques and a Visa debit card with Kitty’s mouthless face on it – MasterCard debit cards have featured Kitty as a design since 2004.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for some of this info – hope it’s correct.)

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And now to the Grand Hai-Lai hotel in Kaohsiung, Taiwan where I stayed a few years back. A wonderful hotel with elegant rooms and friendly staff AND a Hello Kitty Suite. It features a living room, dining room and a master bedroom, and it offers 50sq.m of space.

In the delightfully pink suite, decorated with sweet Hello Kitty miniature vases and paintings, residents will find a Hello Kitty mini-studio and a complete Hello Kitty tea set. The large bathroom has a jumbo sanded Kitty mirror – take your time and enjoy a Kitty bubble bath!
Grand Hai-Lai and Sanrio Corporation of Japan present the “Hai-Lai Kitty House” situated in the hotel lobby, where Hello Kitty limited editions and gifts are exclusively sold. Enjoy shopping in pink-decorated romance! All Hello Kitty amenities provided in the rooms are available in store.

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The Hello Kitty breakfast features a Kitty face stamped in the toast and a Kitty moulded sweet. There’s even a Hello Kitty face drizzled in tomato sauce on the fried egg.

Themed wedding are held here and there’s a Hello Kitty carriage and for the runaway bride there’s a Hello Kitty bicycle. (Fact: famous blogger theglobalgoddess.com was seen scooting around the parking lot on one of these bikes.)

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It was a Hello Kitty overload looking at the HK scene but one can’t be cynical or churlish while the young woman showing us with giggles and glee all the hotel has to show of Kitty – they softened all the kitsch blows and were delighted with my Hello Kitty slipper purchase – I would go so far to say they were impressed with me – and I got a discount.

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Writer, Bev Malzard has unintentionally gained a reputation for being a Hello Kitty fan, and friends and relatives send her Hello Kitty paraphernalia for her collection (which doesn’t exist). And she gets a kick out of it! So far she has bright pink HK toothpaste; HK pens and notebooks; a HK PEZ dispenser (remember PEZ); a HK mug and the classic is a pair of pillowcases of HK patterned material that her sister made for her. 

Bev Malzard is still bewildered by all things Hello Kitty but has dyed parts of her hair pink to stay in the game,

 

AUSTRIA: I’m a Sacher for a good cake!

AUSTRIA: I’m a Sacher for a good cake!

Haven’t heard of Sacher Torte? Have you been living on Mars or are completely oblivious to a good slice of cake? The history of the torte (cake) is a sweet one. It was created in Vienna (not Salzburg), by a young apprentice chef Franz Sacher in 1832. The delicious cake is traditionally served with a portion of unsweetened whipped cream and is complimented with a cup of tea or coffee. The cake has a mysterious air – covered in a shining, silky chocolate coat with a small round motif decorating the side, once bitten into, life takes on a grander meaning. The cake is chocolaty and has a robust texture divided by a sting of apricots glaze. (SEE recipe below)

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There are specialty shops all over Austria selling this indulgence, but you’ll find the sweetest prize at the Sacher Hotels. And adding to the pleasure of the Sacher Torte experience is the fact that is it always sitting on the breakfast table/buffet daring you to take a slice to begin the day . . .of course we did. At the elegant, traditional Sacher Hotel in Salzburg (below) , the Sacher Torte disappeared quickly and there appeared to be a rotating delivery of said sweetie at the breakfast table. Visit: www.sacher.com/hotel-sacher-salzburg

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Sacher Torte

Recipe courtesy of Wolfgang Puck

Total Time: 1 hr 42 min
Prep: 20 min
Inactive: 2 min
Cook: 1 hr 20 min
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Level: Intermediate

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • 3 ounces butter
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 ounce sugar, plus 3 ounces
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup flour, sifted

Apricot Filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon apricot brandy

Glaze:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • 1 ounce butter
  • 2 ounces heavy cream
  • Whipped cream
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 by 2-inch cake pan.In a bowl, combine the chocolate and butter and melt over a double boiler. Set aside to cool. In a mixer, using a wire whisk, whip the egg yolks with 1 ounce sugar until light and ribbony. Beat in the chocolate mixture.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 3 ounces of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks. Fold in the flour and then fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining egg whites, gently but thoroughly. Pour into prepared cake pan.

Bake for 40 minutes or until done. To check for doneness, insert a paring knife in centre of cake. It should come out dry. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

To make the apricot filling: puree the apricot preserves. Stir in brandy.

Slice the cake into 3 equal layers. Spread half of the apricot filling on the bottom layer. Top with a second layer of cake. Spread the remaining apricot filling and top with the last layer of cake. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

To make the glaze: in a bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. Melt over a double-boiler. Bring the cream to a boil. Stir into the melted chocolate. Cool until it reaches glazing consistency. Spread over and around the cake. Chill for another 30 minutes before serving. Serve a slice with whipped cream.

Writer, Bev Malzard, has eaten many slices of Sacher Torte and intends to eat more. 
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Art Deco capital of New Zealand (and possibly the planet)

Art Deco capital of New Zealand (and possibly the planet)

Not often you get to thank a natural disaster and community tragedy for a splendid architectural creation. In February 1931 a bastard of an earthquake rocked Napier, a town on Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of the north island of New Zealand. The ‘quake measured 7.9 on the Richter scale and rocked the Hawke’s Bay area for more than three long minutes. There were 260 lives lost and the vast majority of Napier’s town centre structures were destroyed, either by the earthquake of the following fires.

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It wasn’t long after the earthquake that the Kiwis rallied and do what they do best – got on with it! Rebuilding began and much of it was completed in two years. Architects were on the spectrum of quirky and ambitious and the new buildings reflected the architectural styles of the times – stripped classical, Spanish Mission and Art Deco.

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Local architect Louis Hay, an admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright, had his moment to shine! Maori motifs emerged to give the city an identifiable New Zealand character – just check out the ASB bank on the corner of Hastings and Emerson Streets that features Maori koru and zigzags.

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I recently visited Napier for the first time and driving into the city centre on a bright sunny day I was thrilled to be immersed in this stylish time capsule. And driving further afield around Hawke’s Bay (just out-of-town to find the cultish ice cream parlour Rush Munro’s, which has been here since 1926. And yes, I had a double scoop for research purposes, hokey pokey and vanilla, and yes, it was divine), you drive along a tree-lined boulevard waterfront. Marine Parade is where you drive slowly and capture the extent of the bay.

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Napier’s city centre displays a seamless line of 1930s architecture is quite extraordinary. Enjoy the streetscape via a self-guided walk – ask for a map at the information centre or at the Art Deco Trust. Guided walks around the city are also available every day rain or shine (except Christmas Day!).

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Every February, Napier celebrates its heritage with the Art Deco weekend – a stylish celebration of all things 1930’s, including vintage cars, fashion and music. So get your flapper on, tilt your boater at a rackish angle and do the Charleston, drink pink cocktails and throw caution to the wind.

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Napier’s other special attractions include the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers and the many vineyards that make good use of the region’s alluvial soils. Pinot Gris and Syrah are the region’s signature drops. On Saturday mornings, the Napier farmers’ market is a chance to shop for artisan foods and fresh produce.

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Writer, Bev Malzard ate ice cream, had dinner at the Thirsty Whale Restaurant and Bar and stayed just outside of town at the Albatross Motel, Westshore Napier. She will learn to dance and hold a long cigarette holder before her next visit.

Visit: http://www.artdeconapier.com ; http://www.napiernz.com and get your art deco vibe happening n 2018!

 

It’s a Shire thing – real estate for Hobbits

It’s a Shire thing – real estate for Hobbits

Many decades after I first read J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit I was walking among the Hobbit homes (holes). And proving to myself that they were more than fictional little hairy-toed creatures.

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After immersing myself in the grand trilogy of New Zealander Peter Jackson’s stupendous movies effort of the Lord Of The Rings – yes – all three mighty movies (seen several times over), I had been intrigued by the art direction and the glorious locations throughout New Zealand (with a healthy LOTR geeky obsession). I had visited a few (outside Christchurch and near Wellington) and while strolling around the area acting quite ladylike – I was happily squealing on the inside.

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When I heard that Hobbiton was real real estate I was ecstatic.

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When location scouts found the Alexanders’ spectacular 1250-acre sheep and beef farm in 1998, just outside of the town of Matamata (90 minutes drive south of Auckland), it was clear this would be the perfect setting for Sir (he is now) Peter Jackson’s adaptation of these classic works by Tolkien.

This bucolic setting for The Shire, home of the Hobbits, including Bag End, was right there, and just waiting for the magical director’s touch – and the work of hundreds in building, creating, painting, designing and bringing to life the wondrous place.

Earth moving equipment provided by the New Zealand army came in to do the heavy lifting in 1999. The army built a 1.km road into the site and undertook initial set development.

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There were 39 Hobbit Holes created with untreated timber, ply and polystyrene. The oak tree that overlooks Bag End was cut down and transported in from near Matamata.

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Artificial leaves were brought in from Taiwan and individually wired onto the tree. Thatch for the roofs of the Green Dragon Inn and The Mill were cut from rushes around Alexander farm.

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When they were rebuilt for The Hobbit Trilogy in 2009,these structures were built out of permanent materials including an artificial tree made out of steel and silicon. This entire reconstruction process took two years.Today the set is maintained to keep the magic of The Shire alive.

If you believe all that, you’ll believe anything. Hobbiton is a real place where real Hobbits live, bake bread, eat cakes and drink wine and mead and tell fantastical tales of a time gone by about elves, orcs, wizards and brave knights . . .and jewellery . . .  especially some ring.

Writer Bev Malzard met several Hobbits in New Zealand but has kept them out of this post to respect their privacy.

It cost NZ$79 for the tour of Hobbiton (worth every dollar).

Visit: http://www.hobbitontours.com

Venice . . . as the day begins

Venice . . . as the day begins
Ah Venice, La Serenissima, you temptress, you beauty, you moody city on the water. It never loses its attraction – Venice is a living city that is hounded and trampled on by thousands of tourists every year, her waters are cruised by mega-liners that dwarf and threaten the low-rise city silhouette and the Grand Canal has so many boats washing the waters to the foundations of the ancient buildings that you would think the whole place would crumble in a minute.
Flooded by ‘aqua alta, a natural phenomenon that has occurred for centuries when especially high tides force water from the Adriatic into the Venetian lagoon. This happens about four times a year and especially during winter. (Walking platforms are erected and the water normally drains off by midday. Take your wellies.)
St Mark’s Square under water – extra hands on deck needed to keep the tourists dry.
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But not so. ‘Venice is sinking’; has been the harbinger of doom for a couple of centuries but she still stands. Admittedly, she’s high maintenance and her upkeep is costly – but – still standing.
And Venice is expensive and complicated. But let’s look away from the seductive beauty for a minute and peek beneath the practicalities of this city:
* All the food consumed on the islands has to be brought in from the mainland. Deliveries continue all day long with boats carrying crates of fruit and veg – and remember – this is Italy, and fresh food every day is on the table! The fish – and what a mighty fine display for piscatorial indulgence is being snapped up at the Rialto markets and being delivered at dawn each day.

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Top: best from the local market; early morning window cleaning – all the shops are spic and span; above: picking up the trash.

* Much of the breads and pastries are made in-house – but all the ingredients have a high price as they are delivered by hand after a journey from all over the country.
* Those crisp linen towels, tablecloths and napkins that we enjoy in hotels and restaurants are all taken off the islands to laundries for cleaning – imagine the number of items that leave here and have to be delivered back again to the restaurants and hotels.
* And the garbage. Large bags have to be transported every day off the island – and there’s a lot of it. Interesting is the fact that the locals – and there are 60,000 residents here, who lower their bags down on little pulleys as there are rarely any lifts (elevators) in any of the buildings except the big hotels. Men, running through the tiny lanes with carts, pick the bags up and take them to the boats. And the empty bottles – not all mine either.

Bagsdropped down over night to be picked up by the garbos.

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When you leave the touristy areas of Venice – and discover the life of the city beyond a gondola ride and an aperitif on a balcony overlooking the Grand Canal – there’s the domestic hum and buzz like any other city,.
And the locals! Someone said that if anyone is seen running or jogging around Venice, they are tourists. Venetians and all who work here do not need to do this. Because all of Venice is walkways and canals – there is no transport at all – except for the feet. You don’t see any overweight Venetians, they are lean and wiry. The older folk here, with or without walking sticks, tread slowly, firmly and determinedly as they stick to the right sides of the walls of the lanes and alleys; younger people with high heels, or flat shoes, walk everywhere briskly, and anyone delivering or removing anything by cart – runs.

Morning delivery.

I had two days of blinding beauty under an unseasonal bright blue autumn sky in the city and was fortunate enough to head out early in the morning as Venice was waking up. Start your walk early in the morning and you’ll feel the rhythm of the streets and lanes start to crank up. The side of the city that we don’t see is working hard to give the visitors the true elegant, charming, Venetian experience.

So where do you think those pristine sheets came from, who ironed your pillow cases, who delivered the wine, and who is taking out the trash today?
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Writer Bev Malzard first visited Venice in a misty, cold February years ago and likes to go back in autumn or winter to avoid the crazy crowds and the stifling heat contained within the lanes. A journey across the lagoon through the moody blues of the winter day will take you to the pretty islands – yet again, without the crowds.
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