We realised the importance of occasional breaks last year when things got unusually busy for us, even challenging our health. As a consequence, we took two holidays in the year a first for us, sort of us.
In October 2016, we went to New Plymouth, a quaint sea-side town in New Zealand’s west coast that also has a famous volcanic mountain. New Plymouth is in the Taranaki district that is known for its dairy farming and is also home to the nations’ oil and natural gas production. I think the town has a population of around 50,000 people. Although, like many other towns in New Zealand, Aucklenders see New Plymouth as just another town in New Zealand that comes up while driving to Wellington from Auckland, we decided to explore it.
While in New Zealand, one can take the natural beauty for granted, so no point saying that New Plymouth is beautiful. However, there were some uniqueness to New Plymouth.
First, there were the “black-sand” beaches and the surf. In Auckland, we are used to unusually quiet city beaches. In New Plymouth though, the beaches were tailor made for surfing and were not easy to swim on. We have never seen black-sand before and it looked like “soot” but still it was very different.
The town also has a 10 km, coastal walkaway/bike-track. It was indeed a great feeling walking and biking on such a beautiful well laid out track by the sea-shore.
Then there was Mount Taranaki. Mount Taranaki is a dormant volcano and is spectacular. On a clear day (which is not always the case here!), you can see the mountain from almost anywhere in the town. The day we visited the mountain, we were lucky that it was indeed a clear day. We did not try and hike the mountain but a lot of people do that all the time.
Finally, there were the beautiful gardens, art gallery and library that comes with any New Zealand town.
The year-end Melbourne trip was on a bigger scale.
Occasionally, due to my work I visit Australia and Melbourne is one Australian city, which I liked. Hence, I thought it will be good to visit Melbourne with the family.
While in Melbourne, we watched thousands of Penguins walking the shore, spotted Koalas and Kangaroos in the wild, drove the Great Ocean Road and 12 Apostles, went to Yarra Valley to for the vineyards and tastings and even road the worlds’ oldest running steam train. In fact, we for the first time saw New Year ’s Eve fireworks in a big city. These were all places / things which we knew will be good to do. However, there were some of aspects of the Melbourne city itself, I liked and wished if Calcutta was like that!
Melbourne has trams and that is the primary mode of public transport within the city (other than trains to go to the suburbs). We rode the trams quite a few times and they were fast and despite a busy tourist schedules did not seem to create traffic problems. In fact, parking in the city seems costly so it appeared even on work-days people rely on public transport quite a bit. I know we shunned the trams in Calcutta but it appeared people in Melbourne love their trams.
The next best thing in the city to me were its alleys. The city is full off laneways and alley ways. Some of them have become popular for either restaurants or some for the art work on their walls. I know I come from a city of alleyways and how we dodged dog/cow/at times human excreta to reach my grandparents place. There were none to be found in Melbourne. There were no political messages as well.
I liked the old-fashioned European buildings as well. While perhaps not the best looking from outside, the city library was something to savour. I wished a few people I know who still worship knowledge could visit such places. I can just talk about them. We visited the Art Gallery and some of the gardens as well.
Melbourne city offered a huge variety of eateries catering to all tastes and budget. It indeed helped us. Although I will forever regret not having time to taste the Australian meat delicacies but perhaps that is for next time. We did however visit one Asian style street market known as Victorian market!
I don’t want to draw parallels between Calcutta and Melbourne but somehow for various reasons, I feel we could not retain the best of Calcutta. Cities like Melbourne and its people have not only retained them but enhanced them as well.
By the way, there were shopping malls too but we did not really have time for them.