Varela Studios: Blog http://varelastudios.net/blog en-us (C) Varela Studios varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) Mon, 17 Apr 2017 09:38:00 GMT Mon, 17 Apr 2017 09:38:00 GMT http://varelastudios.net/img/s/v-5/u615355335-o651438144-50.jpg Varela Studios: Blog http://varelastudios.net/blog 120 120 Australia Day 1: Travel Day from New Zealand to Sydney Australia http://varelastudios.net/blog/2017/4/australia-day-1-travel-from-nz-to-sydney May 10, 2016 - Tuesday

Today's agenda: Travel to Sydney

 

The alarm went off which made me growl. I went to turn off my alarm and I quickly felt the soreness of my body. I work out at the gym but nothing is compared to exercising outdoors. The hiking from yesterday's adventures really had all my muscles hurting this morning.

 

I got up very slowly. Made haste to put myself together which a good hot shower to wake up and cups of coffee to follow.

 

Packed up the last of items in my suitcases. (P.S. It helps to pack the night before so that you are not in a rush and can afford to spend extra time in bed.)

 

Then my brother and I headed out  to check out of the hotel.

 

Valet dudes had our rental car ready to go and we headed to pick up one of my brothers co-workers.

 

We made a quick stop at my brothers company to say our good-byes. Robyn a co-worker of my brothers who had taken us under her wing and shown us all of New Zealand's wonders was gracious enough to send us off with some tasty treats from New Zealand. The candies that were given to us were traditional New Zealand chocolate covered pineapples. They were pretty darn good I must admit.

 

And we are off to the airport to drop off the rental car.

 

I headed to go check my bags so that we could grab some breakfast before boarding our flight.

I had a little trouble with checking my bags because of a slight confusion. I had booked my flight through New Zealand Air but that was not the airline I was flying with. I was actually on United Airlines. New Zealand Airline flights would have been coded NZ7 but mine was NZ719. Something about the codes which throws a red flag and they know which airline to direct you to board.

Finally got my bags checked in with a total weight of 47 pounds. Underweight by 3 pounds so I did not have to pay any additional fees.

I found it funny that upon checking our flight status the words "Relax" is all that was next to them. So much different than the U.S.A as we are always in such a rush. Here on the other side of the globe they are so calm about everything.

1958 neat place we had breakfast at before boarding our flight to Sydney.

Place we stopped at to have breakfast.

The light fixtures reminded me of Tim Burton

I thought that these light fixtures were really awesome. They reminded me of Tim Burton.

Breakfast is served.

Tracking on the status of my flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia.

I have arrived down under! This is the view from my balcony at the hotel.

View of Coogee Beach from my hotel balcony.

 

       The stomach was starting to speak so for dinner we headed down to Bondi Beach for some fresh seafood at North Bondi Fish. It was a pretty fancy place that was right across Bondi Beach. The food was very good and so was the service. The locals picked up on my Texas accent really quick as I was talking to some folks during a smoke break outside. I think the black Texas hat could have also given them a hint of where I was visiting from. Of course they asked me if everyone in Texas has a gun. I told them that not everyone does but a lot of us do own guns. They found that very strange. They were nice nonetheless. It is always the little difference other countries wanna know about. 

Char grilled baby octopus $28

Charcoal roasted king prawns $38

Standing in front of the Sydney Opera House. What a sight!

View of Sydney Harbour Bridge behind me.

Downtown Sydney Australia

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) adventure airport australia beach flight food journey new over photography plane seas travel traveler wanderlust world zealand http://varelastudios.net/blog/2017/4/australia-day-1-travel-from-nz-to-sydney Mon, 17 Apr 2017 17:00:00 GMT
Day Trip: Piha Beach and Kite Kite Falls - New Zealand http://varelastudios.net/blog/2017/1/day-trip-piha-beach-and-kite-kite-falls---new-zealand May 9th, 2016 - Monday

I woke up tired from the night before from all of the walking or perhaps all the Jack and Cokes? I saw that I had a missed call from my mother in the States and suddenly felt ill. I then got a text message from her stating that my cousin Lionel had passed away. I was not sure how to process this because he was so young. My cousin was retired from the Navy, just recently married, and settled in Florida. He was fit and in good shape so I was not sure how this could have happened. I called my mother to see what happened. She informed me that my cousin passed away in his sleep after lying down to take a nap before having company over for a party. I told my mother that it was strange. I explained I had missed her call because I was over seas in New Zealand. She asked what I was doing there. I told her I was on vacation. Why is that so weird for people especially my mother that people go out to see the world. That annoyed me and I did not have anything else to say. There has been so many years lost between us that only silence was on the phone now. So I told her happy early birthday and Mother's Day and I hung up with her. I went back to my hotel room and told my brother the news. I then called my Grandmother to get the scoop. She said that My aunt Lucy who is my cousin's mother was doing okay given the circumstance. That aunt Lucy had always been the strong one. This put my brother and I in a weird mood. We got ready and headed out to explore Piha Beach and Kite Kite Falls. It was our last day in New Zealand.

We headed out to Piha Beach which is one of New Zealand's black beaches. A natural black beach not because of a chemical spill. The beach was simply majestic. The black sand on the beach sparkled and the water was such a rich blue. Piha beach is famous for its landmark Lions Rock. Many people come here to surf as I saw on this particular day. I took off my shoes to stick my toes in the black sand. I mean how many times in your life can you say you have done that. The sand felt so good between my toes. I walked along the beach enjoying the views and soothing sounds of the waves crashing.

My brother and I climbed Lion's Rock. I climbed it barefoot which I would not recommend because ouch it hurts. The climb is very steep but there are some small spots along the way where you can stop for a moment before continuing the journey up. I spotted a guy Jacob who was at the very top of the rock but It looked like a death trap to me so I did not go that far up. Also there is no path to walk up that far. I am extremely out of shape according to how out of breath I was once I reached the top. I will say that views that you see this high up was totally worth it and hey I climbed a landmark. How many people can say that? It did not matter how out of breath I was at that point or the stress that was in my life for those striking views took all of that away in this moment. Not to mention what an accomplishment for myself in doing something I had never done on a first try. One the climb down Jacob said that he was working in New Zealand on a Visa. He mentioned that he just bought a cheap car and lived out of it while exploring all of New Zealand. I thought that was a pretty cool.

The next stop was Kite Kite Falls. According to the Kite Kite Falls sign it was a 20 minute walk. I guess that was for people who are in shape because it took us around 45 minutes to get to the falls. Again another eye opener that what I do in the gym is nothing compared to outdoor activity. The high elevation, the humidity, and it was starting to get somewhat hot made me thirsty. Then I remembered I did not pack any water. The only day thus far on this vacation I forget to put water in my bag. FML I was gonna die. I did have a dry fit shirt on which helped from being sweaty on the upper half but I was wearing pants on this journey which was not very smart. I will say that hiking up to the falls was not planned. I thought it was gonna be a piece of cake. The hike along the way to the falls we kept getting passed up by other people. It was great that it was very jungle like to give shade to the sun and keep the hike somewhat cool along the way. The water sounds were getting louder so we were fast approaching them. I finally saw the falls in sight and wow!!! We spotted a few others who were in the bay of water in swim suits. (Note to self bring a swim suit next time I go to a waterfall duh!) I did however place my hands in the water and how cool it felt after being overheated on the trek to falls.

We headed back to car as it was time to go. On the way back we got a bit turned around but ended up seeing a huge tree stump that was way taller than I was. (note: there is a water line to fill an empty bottle if you like.) On the way back we stopped to get snacks, drinks, and meat pies as you can imagine all of these were needed for all the climbing and hiking we did.

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) adventure beach new over photography seas travel traveler wanderlust world zealand http://varelastudios.net/blog/2017/1/day-trip-piha-beach-and-kite-kite-falls---new-zealand Mon, 16 Jan 2017 03:02:33 GMT
Hobbitown - Lord of the Rings Movie Set Tour! http://varelastudios.net/blog/2017/1/hobbitown---lord-of-the-rings-movie-set-tour May 8th - Mother's Day - Sunday

From Auckland to Hobbiton Movie Set Tour - 2 1/2 hour drive

 

When one finds themselves in New Zealand you have to visit at least one of the Lord of the Rings filming locations. "Doing the thing you are supposed to do in the place you're supposed to do it".

Originally I was looking at doing the tour that the hotel shows you in their brochures. Those tours however are so crazy expensive. Not to mention it would involve being stuck on a bus with people (I do not like people). So my brother and I decided to drive to the location instead considering we already had a car with GPS. Plus this way you are able to stop anywhere you like along the way to take photographs if you wish. I am not on anyone's time in this manner as well and I can enjoy jamming out to my own music. (side note: Load your phone with music or take an Ipod as most of the rental cars have bluetooth or take a axillary male to male cable.)

The drive was good with lots of country side views, greenery, sheep, and cattle for the most part. We took off early as our tour was at 11:30AM and got to enjoy the early morning fog on the country lands for some of the drive. It was cloudy which was great for photography and also no sunburn.

(side note: pack some snacks and water in your travel bag. Make sure that your camera is charged with a large memory card. I recommend wearing comfortable shoes as you will be doing a lot of walking. Depending on the weather pack a light windbreaker, hoodie, hat, sunscreen, lip balm, and sunglasses.)

We gassed up the car and stopped for a quick fast food breakfast at the McDonalds. We got two massive McMuffins and coffee. I do not do anything before having my black coffee.

We arrived in Matamata to get some photographs in front of the Welcome to Hobbiton sign. (they do not have sign like this on the movie set tour). There is a gift shop which is designed as one of the Hobbit homes which makes for great photo ops. The movie set is actually 20 minutes from this location.

We arrived at the movie set tour just in time as you are to be there 15 minutes before your tour begins. The tour cost $79 (NZ) for an Adult and the tour lasts about 2 hours.


There is a motor coach bus that takes you up to the hill to begin your walking tour. It is up and down the entire time on your walking tour. Lucky to have a fun tour guide Jordan which I listen to from the back of everyone else so that I was able to capture lots of photographs. I was blown away on how gorgeous the grounds were. Lushes greens throughout the lands. I would take a zoom lens and a standard lens if using a DSLR camera as you might want to capture the sheep which are far away and some other sights during the tour. You do not get to go into all of the Hobbit homes which you pass along the tour. They only allow you to go into one of them to check it out and for photograph of yourself in front of it while you are inside. Your last stop on the tour is at the Hobbit Pub where you can relax for a while and a free beer is included. (many photo ops are available inside the pub). A gift shop is available on site but it is quite pricey as you would imagine. I got a magnet as it was reasonable priced.

We drove back into Matamata to get t some lunch before heading back to Auckland. We had just placed our order at Subway when our luck would have it the Subway credit card machine was down. So we walked down to the ATM to attempt to pull cash out and that was down as well. We ended up having to drive down to the McDonalds and they had no issue with their machines. I know McDonalds in the same day twice but we were starving so did not feel like driving around to look for another place to eat. 

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) adventure explore hobbiton lord matamata movies of over photography rings seas the tours travel world zealand http://varelastudios.net/blog/2017/1/hobbitown---lord-of-the-rings-movie-set-tour Sun, 15 Jan 2017 18:00:00 GMT
Saturday - Day 5: Adventure day trip to Coromandel New Zealand http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/10/saturday---day-5-adventure-day-trip-to-coromandel-new-zealand Saturday - Day 5

Up early to head out to hang out with Robyn and Ian from New Zealand. They are going to drive my brother and I up the coastal highway for some views to Coromandel and drink some brews along the way.

The drive from Auckland to Coromandel is about 3 hours. Once you hit the highway and get out of the city is when you really get to see the beauty that New Zealand is known for. What you see posted on the internet, Instagram, and from the Lords of the Rings movies. The lands are filled with such breathtaking views of the ocean, trees, plants, and amazing country side.

We stopped at an old town along the way which is at the Southwestern end of the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand's North Island.

Grabbed some coffee which was so delicious and much needed considering it was so freaking early and I am not an early riser by any means. If you happen to stop here to order a cup of joe know that if your preference is black like my soul than order "Black coffee" but if you do not like it that way. You should order you coffee as "White Coffee". After we had coffee we went to a food truck that sells pancakes with oysters. I know that it sounds weird but this is what you eat when you come to New Zealand. I have to say that these Oyster pancakes were really quite tasty considering the contents. They also have a sauce that goes on them and me being a fan of condiments was all over that. I recommend getting the spicy chili sauce with the oyster pancakes. Trust me that you will thank me for this later. This little town is really quite small but it does have enough to entertain you with the various shops, antique places, museums, and eateries. 

We then left to have some real lunch at a local joint for the first beer on the tour. I ordered the local brew of Monteith's which I found very satisfying to my taste buds alongside with a pulled pork burger.

Then we were off on the road again headed to Driving Creek Railway and Potteries for a train ride. This is New Zealand's only narrow gauge mountain railway. The train ride is about 1 hour in duration and it takes you through a lot of brush and rain forest parts. If you have ever ridden the mini mine train at Six Flags in Dallas Texas then think that of mixed with views like Jurassic Park minus all the dinosaurs. I chose to sit in the very front so that I had the better chance of getting some good photographs and having the best views without peoples heads being in my way. Throughout the train ride I saw some pretty cool art in the pottery aspect. The main attraction on this ride is the "Eyefull Tower". A play on words obviously but it is New Zealand's way of taking an eyeful in of all the gorgeous landscape views from high up 360 degrees around. (More photo ops) You see the brush views I told you about from up here and also the ocean. You can also see Auckland in a distance from up top.

Note:

- Book in Advance

- Tickets: $35 NZ for Adults

- Arrive at least 20 minutes early as the train fills up fast

 

The next stop was to watch the sunset over the ocean at Luke's Kitchen (www.lukeskitchen.co.nz). We had some more brews here and this time I tried another one of New Zealand's local beers Lion Red. Not a bad brew either.

Our final stop was at the Coroglen Tavern (www.coroglentavern.co.nz)  which is an iconic pub known to many of the Kiwi's in this rural town. I decided to go with fish and chips ($15NZ). We had more beers here and good conversation. The place is small and quaint. There are some interesting images and things on the walls but please know this is not a fancy place by any means. The place has good service and very easy on the wallet but it is very rustic.

Now that the belly was full it was time to make the trek back to my home away from home at the Hilton Auckland. I took in the amazing night sky on the drive back which very relaxing considering I did not have to drive.

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) adventure auckland beach beers city coroglen coromandel countryside creek driving food fun hilton hotels kitchen landscape lion lukes new over photography pottery railway red roads roadtrip scenery seas tavern train travel traveler wanderlust world zealand http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/10/saturday---day-5-adventure-day-trip-to-coromandel-new-zealand Thu, 06 Oct 2016 18:00:00 GMT
Friday Day 4: New Zealand...Treat myself and get lost in Auckland http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/5/day-4-new-zealand-treat-myself May 6, 2016 - Friday

I got up very late around 8ish. I was still pretty worn out from the day/night before and was not in the mood to jump up and do anything.

I decided to save money on not eating breakfast down at the hotel and just ate the free fruit that was provided in the room along with some granola bars I had brought with me on the trip. There was also free coffee in the room.

Total cost savings: $30-$40

I sat in my PJs in the hotel room drinking coffee with Boyhood playing on the TV as I looked to see what tours I wanted to do for the day. Looking outside from my amazing view on the balcony I could see that it was cloudy and rainy out which really did not put me in the mood to do much of anything.

 

12:00PM -

I decided that I needed to go get my nails done giving the fact that I had taken my acrylics off the night before after breaking a couple of them. I cannot have ugly fingernails on vacation. (geez I really am turning into a girl)

I put myself together and headed down to the bar for a cocktail.

 

1:00PM - BAR Bellini

Bloody Mary

 

I ordered a strong Bloody Mary to get my mood right and set the day. Snacked on some mixed nuts provided, caught up on emails, my Facebook notifications, and uploaded images on my Instagram.

Then came a little bird from the wharf. I gave it some food being the animal lover I am and then I watched the bartender chase it away. I was laughing the whole time as I saw this fiasco which reminded me of an I Love Lucy episode. The bartender informed me that this happens all the time.

I then saw an elderly man behind me who was setting up his camera to take a photo of his wife and himself. I offered to that photo for them as I saw that he was struggling a bit. Heather and Steve who were in from Australia. YAY more Ozzies! Heather told me that she was an office manager and Steve was in security but not a bouncer. We chatted for quite a while and I informed them that I was heading to Sydney in a few days. I asked them for some suggestions on places I should see as you should always get the locals opinion.

Heather asked where I was from and I said "Texas". Steve then said "Texas...Ribs and Oil!!!". I laughed out loud that I think a few heads of the other bar patrons turned to see what was so funny. I said, "Yes, we do love our meat!"

Heather told me that they had been to Los Angeles and Las Vegas but never to Texas. I told them that my brother says it is like Australia in a way being that it is very large and there is desert areas. Heather said, "I saw a lot of desert out in Vegas." Being that I have been to Vegas and know what it is like I was able to tell her that Texas can be like that in some ways.

I said my goodbyes to them both and headed to find a nail place that Heather had told me about in the shops at the Auckland mall. Well I got a bit lost in downtown Auckland instead which was fine. It was a rare day in which I was not on a set schedule and could just roam the streets. I went through China Town, Irish Town, and little Mexico. There are many types of people who live in New Zealand. It must have been graduation day to many of the students as I saw them walking around in their cap and gowns of all colors on the various streets I walked.

 

3PM - STARVING it is Lunch time

I stopped in at Burger King of all places. I find it odd that this is becoming a habit. I stopped to eat at Burger King while I was in Amsterdam last year as well.

Anyway, I just needed a quick bit to eat and also time to rest my legs. Those inclines really took a toll on my bad knee. I will say that there fast food does not taste like ours back in the States. It is much better because of the real beef from them grazing farmland cows.

 

4PM - Nails done! Black shellac living large people ($40NZ)

5PM - Massage ($70NZ)

I got a head to toe full body massage and foot reflexology massage by a a small Asian women.

Totally worth the price. Almost 2 hours and my body felt better after it.

 

close to 6PM the brother is texting. He is ready to head out to go eat dinner.

 

7PM - Dinner at The Culpepper on the Wharf

 

Starter: Bluff Oysters half dozen

Bluff Oysters

 

Main: Catch of the Day, New Zealand Gurnard fish grilled in banana leaves and glazed in an olive oil chili sauce (the chili sauce made that dish! It was just enough spice.)

Sides: Salad, Cauliflower in Romesco and Monte Vedico

 

 

We did not get any dessert this time as we were really stuffed. I did remember that we had cheesecake in the hotel fridge from the dinner the night before. #winning!!!

 

8PM - Bar Bellini for some cocktails

I see my favorite bartenders as soon as I walk in and man is this place packed tonight being a Friday in all.

I ordered two Jack and Cokes and my bartender makes them strong as I like them. Tonight he flirts and hell I flirt back. In a different country and single. Live a little.

I looked around an I see the Australian couple Heather and Steve from earlier this afternoon. I took the drinks to sit with my new friends as my brother went to take a call. So glad they had a spot to sit at because this place had no where to sit otherwise. My brother and I chatted with them until about 9:30PM. Gosh those two are so funny. They had us rolling the whole time.

We called it an early night given that we had to be up early the next day. And those Jack and Cokes did me in just right for a night cap.

 

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) adventure auckland food new over seas travel traveler wanderlust world zealand http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/5/day-4-new-zealand-treat-myself Fri, 06 May 2016 18:00:00 GMT
Thursday Day 3: New Zealand - Cinco De Mayo Overseas...Where's the Tacos? http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/5/day-3-new-zealand---cinco-de-mayo-overseas-wheres-the-tacos CINCO DE MAYO

7:00AM -

Awake to my brother being loud. I am still tired from the night before but it is time to eat. There is no time to waste as I need to figure out what I would like to do today. I look outside on the balcony which is overlooking the wharf with all the ships coming in. The sky is wonderfully cloudy and it is a breezy 70 degrees with no rain.

I came back to the room to look through all the tour and attractions flyers I had picked up at the concierge desk. Trying to see what my options were and if anything jumped out at me.

 

10:00AM -

I decide that today would be a great day to get on a ferry and venture off to another one of the many islands. I recalled the KIWI's told me about Waiheke Island which was about a 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland where I was.

Tour of Waikeke Island

$57 NZ Dollars - Includes a ferry ride to and from Auckland, 1 1/2 hour scenic tour of the island with some stops, and an unlimited bus pass for the day.

Great buy!!!

Note: Bring windbreaker, hair tie, camera, charger for phone, sunglasses, cigarettes, Water, snacks, umbrella, Ipod, book, hat, wear sunscreen, towel, and swim suit.

 

11:00AM - Depart Auckland to Waikeke Island

The ferry is a very large. I chose to ride on a seat outside to enjoy the views of the ocean and other land masses in the distance. You could however sit inside if you wished to do so. They have plenty of seating inside with chairs and tables. The ferry also has massive windows so that you do not miss out on the views. It is like you are on a small cruise ship in a way.

 

11:45AM Arrive at Waiheke Island

I had to go to the restroom before boarding the bus to do my tour of the island and those lines were freaking long. I almost missed my tour bus.

 

12:00PM - Boarding the Adventure Tour


Our guide was an elderly local with a funny accent. He was being upbeat and funny to make the tour more enjoyable but the people that were on the bus just were dull and boring. I took up the whole back of the bus to myself away from the boring passengers. Also, this was a great way for me to be able to go left or right to take photographs of the sights from the windows easily. We saw lots of land, sheep, horses, passer bys that were walking the island, lots of country side, million & billion dollar homes, beaches, wine vineyards, places to shop, restaurants, and bars. The tour guide was basically setting us up for us to have our own adventure on the Island after the tour was over. Since we have that all day free bus pass to use on the island. The scenery just took my breathe away. The photos that I took here really do not do it justice. You really have to come here and see it with your own eyes. It did remind me a lot of Hawaii in so many ways because of how relaxed of a vibe it had. The locals were very open, talkative, and friendly. The were chill to the max just going with the flow and enjoying life. I did not see them in much of a hurry and they did not seem stressed at all. I mean how could you be when you lived on an island with amazing views everyday. That is just island life for you though.

I was hungry and thirsty for some real food by this time so the tour guide dropped me off at  a place with shops, restaurants, and galleries. I got off the bus and walked down to see what all shops were around. Taking various photographs along the way most of which were scenery and flowers. I saw a cute guy who was busy landscaping a huge home in front. He was smoking a cigarette and so I stopped to talk to him. His name was Joey. I asked for his recommendation on where was a good place to eat was around the area. I said that my tour guide had mentioned that the Cove was good. Joey said that it was good but it was very expensive but that they had beer. haha. We chatted a bit and he asked where I was from. I said of course that I was from Texas. Joey asked how long I was in town for. And I told him that I was only on the island for today. He laughed and told me that it was not enough time. Joey asked me what I was doing on the island. I told him that I was just there to take in the sights and photographs. He said, "Photographs of what?" I said of the beach of course. He laughed so hard and said that I did not need to take the bus to do that. That the beach was right behind us. He said look let me show you. We then headed to the backyard of the house he was landscaping. This place was posh! Decked out to the max hands down. So he walked me over to an unfinished lookout point where you could see the ocean. Joey and I chatted there just staring at the ocean for a good while before I told him I should let him get back to work. We parted ways and I went back to search for food and drink.

 

 

2:00PM -

I found this place called The Local. The place was small but had a great view of the ocean on the patio. The menu was not too pricey and the staff was friendly. This place had good vibes all around from the cook and waitress upon my arrival into the joint with AC/DC playing. I ordered some local New Zealand White Fish HOKI, fries (chips), and local beer Tiger. I took my beer out on the patio to look at the ocean and rest for a bit. That first taste of beer was glorious along with this amazing view in front of me. This is my life right now. And it was just fabulous. The waitress brought out my fish and chips which I was blown away by the size of my fish. It was freaking huge! But totally delicious with huge steak cut fries. I finished off my lunch and beer then headed out.

There was a pathway nearby which allowed you to walk down to the beach. I headed down to the beach taking in the fresh sea breeze and sounds of the waves crashing. I walked along the coast just enjoying the views and photographing here and there. I was out for a long while seeing lots of the sea shells and waving hello to the people walking along the beach as we passed each other. I then decided to head up back the pathway to go wash my feet off and head up the rest of the way to catch the bus back to the ferry to go back to Auckland as it was getting late.

 

5:00PM - Ferry back to Auckland, New Zealand

I decided this time to sit inside for my ride back which was a good choice on my part as it had begun to rain and get a bit chilly outside. The ferry had a concession stand for drinks and snacks if you wished to purchase them. There were also TV's to watch to pass the time of the ride back. I sat on a seat with a table next to a huge window to look outside while reading my book.

*** Note: Take a flash with your fav liquor and just buy a coke from the concession stand to save money.

 

6:00PM - Returned back to The hotel

Relaxed for a bit before dinner that evening. I had a long day with a lot of walking and sight seeing. On the go for hours without stopping. Just needed some chill time.

 

9:00PM - Dinner at Botswana Butchery in Auckland

 

Starter: Seared King Prawn & Goat Cheese Tortellini $26.95 NZ

carrot puree, pine nuts, raisins, burnt butter, and crispy sage

(This was so freaking good!!!!)

Main: HAPUKA white fish w/ Bernaise sauce $33.95 NZ

(So good!)

Side: Broccali with cheese

Dessert: Dark Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla ice cream $16.95 NZ

Almond sponge, white chocolate lemon whip ganache, confit orange

(finger licking good)

 

This place had good vibes all around, low lighting, very cool looking furniture. The kitchen doors had windows that were made to look like a meat cleaver, and the door handles to the restaurant in the front were meat cleaver handles. The staff here was just totally amazing and friendly.

11:00PM - Home sweet home (hotel)

Went back to the hotel, this was a full day, I passed out!!!!!

 

 

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) adventure beach decor eating food island new over photography seafood seas sights travel traveler world zealand http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/5/day-3-new-zealand---cinco-de-mayo-overseas-wheres-the-tacos Fri, 06 May 2016 04:45:00 GMT
Wednesday Day 2: New Zealand - Waitomo Glowworm Cave http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/5/wednesday-day-2-new-zealand---waitomo-glowworm Adventure Roadtrip to the famous: Waitomo Glowworm Caves 

Time on road: 2 1/2 hrs from Hotel in Auckland

Price: $49, 45min tour with a boat ride

So this sounded great for my brother and I to do today considering we had a very limited to do something together because my brother had to be back later in evening to do some work. 

We started with a breakfast buffet from down in the hotel. 

10:30 AM -

We had the car pulled around. GPS is being set and good music is on the radio for our 2 1/2 hour journey. 

I have the camera out so I can take photographs of the sights while the brother drove. 

Gorgeous views of the lush greenery all around. 

Round abouts, speed limits, and driving on the wrong side of the road have my brother frustrated. 

The GPS lady continues to make a "bing" noise whenever my brother speeds is very annoying. No sign of police on the drive however. 

1:20 PM - Arrive at Waitomo Glowworm Caves 

There was a large group of people waiting for the same tour. Our tour guide was trying to be funny but failed. He must have also been new because he kept asking the other tour guide where the light switches were on our walk through the caves. We saw a very small amount of the caves, heard about how the caves were discovered, by who, and when. There were certain parts of the cave that had been named because of what they looked like i.e. "Elephant", "E.T.", Etc.

No photography was allowed on this tour which was upsetting. 

I have been on several other cave tours in Texas and none of them objected to photography. I did see that the other tours which had higher fees allowed photography. (very curious)

Cave tour was very which seemed to last about 5 minutes. The boat ride that I was so excited to do so I could see the actual Glowworms in the dark cave was also short. They packed the boat so much that our original tour boat was full and we had to wait for another boat.  They keep you in a certain part of the cave and you cannot really relax and enjoy it because of the other tours in the cave are there and you can hear them speaking. They just spun you around in the same spot for several minutes. 

In my opinion it was not worth the $49 plus the 2 1/2 hrs drive there and back from the hotel. 

For something that comes highly recommended and over advertised I thought it would be totally amazing. 

- NOT-

 

8:00 PM - DINNER at Portofino Viaduct 

The brother and I still wanted seafood and so we popped into several of the local restaurants around the hotel but nothing on their menus was really catching our eye. We finally settled on an Italian Seafood place that was practically empty. 

Started:  Gamberi Romani $26.99

Prawn cutlets pan fried in olive oil & garlic, flamed with brandy, parsley, and cream sauce,  arborio rice & rocket. 

Main Course: Piatto Di Mare $48.99

Seafood platter with garlic & e.v.o.o. sauteed prawn cutlet, scampi squid rings, scallops and steamed mussels served with spaghetti pomodaro e basilico

This was so freaking good and we could not even finish the whole plate. The mussels needed seasoning so we added lemon, pepper, & tabasco. 

 

Desert: Cheesecake $14.99 

 

We went back to the hotel to exhausted to pop into a pub. We did however go down to the bar and drink some of the free diamond status cocktails and met some cool "Ozzies" Australians. 

A large man John and a red head named Robin. Good fun people. We chatted with them for some time. John is a retired police officer and Robin is an accountant and a teacher. It just happened to be National Teachers Appriciation Day which I told her and we clinked glasses and took a long drink. We talked about American politics being that the news of Ted Cruz dropped out and Donald Trump was the only Republican in the race. Robin talked about the Australian government and their no guns policy and that she disagrees. Robin and John gave us some great spots to visit when we get to Sydney in a few days. We swapped travel stories. They talked about their twenty day trip coming to Scotland and Ireland for Robin's birthday. She told us of their daughter and how John and her have been married for 30 years. Great people. 

 

We finally said our goodbyes and left to our rooms. 

FB status updates, T.V., PJ's, and bed. 

I fell asleep very quick after a long day of driving and cocktails that evening.   

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) adventure new over photography seas travel traveler wanderlust world zealand http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/5/wednesday-day-2-new-zealand---waitomo-glowworm Wed, 04 May 2016 23:39:00 GMT
Tuesday Day 1: Welcome to New Zealand! http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/5/may-3rd-2016---tuesday-welcome-to-new-zealand This is one of the many statues you will see in the Auckland Airport in New Zealand as it is the Gateway to Middle-Earth from the Lord of the Rings movie. 

 

   Landed safe in New Zealand at about 5ish AM on a Tuesday. Some of you might be thinking how can that be when I left on a Sunday. There is a huge time difference so the time I left from San Fran to New Zealand was about 14hrs so that puts me a day ahead.

So going through customs & security was not so bad. They do not have you take out your laptop or camera when they run your carry on bags/items with you from the plane shoes or take off your shoes as they have an X-Ray machine. This saves so much time and hassle. 

 

I grabbed my bag that I checked and headed outside to look for a shuttle to take me to the Hilton Auckland Hotel where I will be staying for my duration in New Zealand. 

Tip: 

I called the hotel prior to see if they had a free shuttle for customers. They did not offer that but said there were shuttles available to take that you shared with other people and the fee who be $35 NZ dollars an additional $8 for each extra passenger (which is not bad). I researched other options and they would cost $60 with a taxi. 

 So hotels do however offer free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel. Make sure to look into that prior to your travels. 

Tip: 

Your flight will be long so take dried snacks and water with you in your carry on bag. 

Tip:

I got to the hotel before my room was ready they will hold your bags for you there. So you can go out to explore or eat. Whatever you like but will not have to worry about lugging around your bags around. 

,

Oh, I saw this place called MexiCali on my way to the ferry way and hell it is Taco Tuesday! $3 fresh tacos with good salsa at a laid back and friendly staff place.

These are some images by the Ferry way where I had to catch the bus!

 

9:00AM - 

It is about this time once I have gotten to the hotel and dropped off my bags. Now what to do this early in morning? Where do I begin? 

I go to see the concierge at the desk and gives me a bunch of choices. Information on tours and must sees around New Zealand. 

    On one hand I am tired from my flight and then on the other hand I am pumped to be in a new city, hell in a new country. So I looked through all the material that was provided and finally settled on the Hop on/ Hop off Bus that one of co-workers suggested. The cost for this was pretty cheap $45 NZ dollars.  The ticket was good from the time you made the purchase of the ticket and ended at 5pm (9-5pm).  The buses took you around to several spots around Downtown Auckland that were some of the must see popular attractions.

 

 

 

    So I got my ticket and got on the next bus by the Wharf. It look like one of the red double decker London buses you see in the movies labeled Hop ON/ Hop Off bus. There was commentary that ran about the spots that the bus went to bus did not stop the bus for the passengers to get a quick photo op. They would leave you there at whichever designation you choose to get off at but the next bus would not show up to grab you for another hour. And some of the location pick ups were very early like 3:45pm. After falling asleep and going around again to catch what I had missed I made a stop at the Auckland Skytower.

 

 

 

The Skytower is a smaller version of the Empire State Building that is 61 floors and it revolves (which I did not notice)  with big windows to look out to see the whole city and off to the ocean. You can bungee jump off it if you like for about $225 NZ dollars. Less than a minute of adrenaline rush no thanks. I would rather jump out of a plane for that price. I did got up however to check out the views of the city for a whopping $25 NZ bucks. The views were good from up there and good place to take photos at especially since I was there early on a weekday it was not crowded at all. It happens to be their winter which makes it less crowded since it is not peak season. Once I was done looking around up on the Skytower I left to go walk about the city. Then I went to have  smoke and wait for my bus to arrive at 3:45pm and he was on time. I got see a few people jump off Skytower while I waited. The bus driver picked us up and said that the ferry stop on the wharf was the last stop.  WTH?! There is still an hour left on my ticket to use and he calls it quits. Well I am tired anyhow so I get off at my stop and walk back to the hotel when I spot some shops around. It was a small mini mall so I decided to go take a look to waste some time. See if I could possibly find some gifts for my friends and co-workers back home and some coke for that Jack Daniels my brother texted me he bought along with snacks. Found what I needed and now I was finally headed back to the hotel when my brother sent me a text that he was heading to the hotel as well. We arrived at about the same time back and then went to go get something to grub on.

 

 

 

Some sights from the Hop on and Hop off bus

Me below the Skytower and images from above the Skytower

Some sights while walking around downtown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We agreed that seafood was all that we wanted. There are so many places around the wharf to choose from but how do you know if they are good? Ask the door man at the hotel and also consult with Yelp reviews. What the locals tell you is usually right. So we went to check out a nearby restaurant that was within walking distance from the Hilton hotel that is very expensive but comes highly recommended.

 

 

Harborside Seafood Bar & Grill - 99 Quay St. Auckland New Zealand

The place is located in the old ferry building which has character and as we know I am all about that. This lighting was good for these Vampire eyes who do not like bright lights and this is a very upscale joint.

Appetizers:

1. Seared New Zealand Scallops and Scampi $27.95 NZ

2. West Coast Whitebait Fritter $35.95NZ

Main Course:

1. Kingfish (no sides) $38.95 NZ

Side:

1. Prawn Mac N' Cheese Crayfish Bechamel $12.95 NZ

Dessert:

1. Lemon Pie $16.95 NZ

The Lemon Pie was more like a tart and totally small (see images)

After dinner we walked back along the harbor to the hotel. We were both beat from our all day flights and no rest. So hot shower. PJ's, and lights out!

 

So I told the waiter where is my free birthday treat and so he brings out the dessert with the words "Happy Birthday" written on the plate. Funny guy. But still had to pay for that dessert. WTH? nothing is free people oversees. ugh. I tried.

 

 

 

Late night view of the Harbor lit up.

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) adventure auckland bus city flights food harbor hilton new over photography seas skytower trabel traveler world zealand http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/5/may-3rd-2016---tuesday-welcome-to-new-zealand Tue, 03 May 2016 05:29:00 GMT
Flight Day: Texas is off to conquer New Zealand! http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/5/flight-day-texas-is-off-to-conquer-new-zealand    Sunday rise and shine today I fly off to New Zealand! 

    My flight is at 5pm but I was up way late the night before to make sure I had everything I needed and packed. I missed Texas Frightmare Weekend here in Dallas because I had to prepare for the trip. No rubbing shoulders with the actors and actresses of all the horror flicks I enjoy. Sometimes ya have to sacrifice a little to get a little. It is not everyday I fly to New Zealand so I will get over it. 

   I made sure to weigh my luggage before leaving my house. My plane ticket included 1 free checked bag of up to 50lbs and 2 carry ons. My checked bag weighed 47lbs. Hey it is still under 50lbs. 

Tips on luggage:

1. Most international flights will allow at least 1 free checked bag. 

2. If you are flying with multiple airlines make sure that you have the free checked bag with them as well throughout all your flights. 

3. Make sure you know if you have to pick up your bag(s) when changing planes. When you check your bag they usually tell you if you have to or not and also the pilot as well. 

4. Your plane ticket has your luggage tag info on it. So no need for those extra bar codes they usually give you when you check your bag. 

5. Make sure to pack any items which are liquid and larger than the allowed amount of 6 ounces in your Checked luggage. If it is in your carry on it will be thrown out. 

6. There is no weight limit on carry on bags (except some places like Singapore). So stuff the heck outta that bag with your heavy items to keep the weight off of your checked bag. 

7. When I travel I take my camera, lenses, IPAD, and computer. I place them in my carry on luggage so that I am not charged for extra bags when flying. 

8. I keep snacks and protein bars in my carry on bag to get me through so I do not have to buy expensive airport food. 

9. Make sure you have something to differentiate your luggage from others. I have Jack Skellington luggage tags. 

10. Leave room in your checked bag so you can add stuff to it in case you buy things while traveling. 

    First Leg: I made it safely from Dallas to San Fran despite having a crying kid on the plane for most of the flight. I am thankful for earphones. I did not have to pick up my checked bag in this airport as it was flying straight through to New Zealand. One less thing to worry about. San Fran is a very nice airport with great artwork around. I went to go find some food and drink while I had a 3 hour layover here. Good thing I have a book, IPod, and a smart phone to entertain me. 

    While I was eating in one of the restaurants in the airport near my gate I hear my last name being paged correctly (people pronounce it wrong all the time).  I was only halfway through my sandwich and had not finished my water. I wrapped all that up and went to speak to the airline customer service desk person. They said they just needed to verify me for flight. I then asked while I was there if they saw my Australian Visa on my passport. They did not and I almost had a heart attack. After everything I have gone through I really did not need this at this moment. The guy was very nice and got it on my passport without charging me. He was friendly, kind, pronounced my name right, handsome, and yeah he was gay. Hello I am in San Fran people. At least that was taken care of for real this time as I would not like to be held up in Australia without it. That would be such a Lucy moment ( I Love Lucy when she is in Nice, France episode). 

    I went back to finish my food at one of the airports charging desk stations to read and charge my phone before boarding. 

 

That is my plane Air New Zealand. First time flying on this airlines. The staff is super nice and they have a cool uniform that they wear. 

That NZ 7 my flight number indicates that I will be flying Air New Zealand. Important information in this ticket which I erased because of security reasons. Bag Tag numbers, Airline points number, and Passport number. 

If you went through a third party person to book your flight you usually will not get all of your airline points. Especially if the changing planes is with another airline service. But call ahead and check. Those points and miles do add up! 

I flew coach to save on airfare costs as you can see. This time I booked with Fare boom as Priceline could not give me a price I was willing to pay even with their name your own price tool. I have never used Fare Boom before now and they have great customer service. I was pretty impressed. 

EEKKKK I am super excited! 

How welcoming is this? Kia Ora is Maori language greeting which is in New Zealand English. It means "Be well/healthy" and is translated as an informal "hi". It can also be used as a farewell and thanking someone as well. Like the Ahola of Hawai'i I suppose. 

Flight from San Fran, California to Auckland, New Zealand is 13hrs 30mins. Good lord! 

Of course they had all the Lord of the Rings movies for you to watch. I Had not yet seen the Hobbit yet so I played catch up. I also saw Deadpool which was cool. 

Plane food! You get fed snacks within an hour and dinner about 2 hrs into flight. They give you a blanket, a pillow, and headphones. I brought my own plane pillow. It helps but I just have not found one that is like amazing. Nothing compares to a full size pillow. This flight was not full so I got to have a whole section to myself. That is until someone wanted to join me for whatever reason. No matter I still had lots of leg room. 

You have USB charger for electronics while in flight. You can order snacks or drinks off your touchscreen personal monitor from the attendants. I was in capri sweats, comfy gym tank, hoodie, and tennis shoes. Long flights mean I need to be comfortable. 

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) adventure airlines dallas fareboom fran global new over photographer san seas tips travel traveler world zealand http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/5/flight-day-texas-is-off-to-conquer-new-zealand Mon, 02 May 2016 02:15:00 GMT
Prepare for New Zealand and Australia: Part 1 (bumps in the road) http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/4/prepare-for-flight-adventure-time-to-new-zealand-and-australia

 

 

April 30th, 2016 - Saturday

      This was the last day I had to get the last of the items I was going to need for my trip to the Southern Hemisphere to visit New Zealand and Australia. Naturally being that I have bad luck on the occasions when I really do not need it. I had some bumps in the road that might have blocked me from this trip I have been saving for, had the days approved from my job, and had been looking forward to for almost a year. So here is a bit of what I had to go through and it may help you in the future in case this happens (I hope it doesn't though).

April 13th, 2016 -  Wednesday

I was a victim of theft. So dealing with my horrible insurance company State Farm to get the ball rolling, talking with the investigator, and going to work. I could only do so much in a day.

Previous to this trip I had everything pretty much in place but my bad luck kicked in with my home being robbed. I had all my camera equipment stolen and of course my passport among many other items. (Jewelry, TV's, DVDs, Ipods, X-Box 360, External drives with all my photo images, and important documentation. P.S. Get a safe to keep things like this in and an alarm system that you will turn on{and you need a permit for it as well $50 a year from the city}.)

Mission #1: Get new passport:

Jack Skellington is gaurding my new passport

    Anyway I had to get a new passport which thankfully since I live in the city of Dallas, TX they were able to process this very quickly with a fee of course. The Earle Cabell Federal Building in downtown Dallas has the Passport Agency inside the building. Look for parking in a lot and make to read to amount of time it is to avoid being towed. I got the 2-4hour parking time just as a safety. You never know how long these things can take. Which was about $8. In order to avoid taking forever at the security entry of the building take what you need - paper documents, proof of identity, proof of travel, credit card, and cell phone - you cannot make calls but if you need to look up a phone number you will have it.

Just so you know you should call and make an appointment ahead of time before you go in. Also make sure to download the forms you need for a lost/stolen passport online. There are two forms to fill out prior before anyone will see you at the passport office. You can fill them out there but if you do not have the time to do so before your appointment then they will make you have a seat to do so. Then you will have to get back in line to wait all over again. A real hassle I tell you. They will also need identification i.e Social Security, Drivers License, Birth Certificate, or old Passport.  My social security was stolen and my birth certificate. I only had my drivers license and thankfully an old expired passport that was somehow left behind during the robbery. Also, make sure that you have new passport photos done to give to them. I had a second copy of the one from my old passport and they would not let me use it because it was on my stolen passport. So to save yourself time go to the Walgreens or wherever to get a new passport photo. You will also need proof of travel. So take a printed copy of your travel itinerary confirmation that your received from your airlines or third party i.e - Air New Zealand, Price Line or Fare Boom. Remember your wallet to pay for the fee of a expedite passport. I paid $195.00 and it was ready in 2 days. They will give you a paper detailing when your passport will be ready make sure to have that when you pick up your passport. Make sure to get to the passport office before they close to pick it up. It took me about 20 minutes to get mine. They start calling out your name while you wait in a seat.

Mission #2: Get Visa for Australia:

   Before the robbery I had already got a visa for Australia which was attached to my the stolen passport. $45 is what it costs to have one by the way and they are good for a year.

So I called the number that was on the contact info from my email confirmation of my Visa after I sent them an email about my situation. Well I finally got through to someone but they were in Canada. They explained that Houston's office was closed due to the flooding they just had which caused power outages and people unable to drive on the roads. Just my luck.

So I called again the following day and I finally got through to someone. I explained that my passport that was associated with the Visa for Australia was stolen and I needed it to be transferred to the replacement passport I had just received. They told me that they could not do this. I had the lady on the phone ask her manager and she then transferred the Visa to my new passport.

Fast Forward to me waiting for my plane in San Francisco California Airport when I hear my name being paged overhead to report to the desk at my terminal. I was in the middle of having a delicious chicken sandwich because I was so hungry. I had to wrap what I had not finished eating to go see what the problem was. The airline agent just needed to confirm my flight. But while I was there I asked them to see if my Australian Visa showed up on my passport. The Visa is electronic so I could not see it. They checked and informed me that it was not. They told me that once a Visa is attached to a passport it cannot be transferred. You must get a new one no matter the circumstance. So they were very understanding of my situation and waived the fee to take care of it right there for me.

Mission #3: Get a New Social Security card -

I called the social security number to report that my card had been stolen so they could flag it. I went to get a replacement card at the social security office very early in morning so that I would avoid a large line and having to wait there forever. I got there and the place was already packed. I took filled out my information on the Kiosk system them have at the front indicating why you are there. I had a huge number and was freaking out about the wait. I had not had enough coffee to get me through and had to take my mug to the car because they do not allow drinks inside. So I was thankful that they have different booths and numbers assigned depending on what you are there for. I was in and out of there within 20 minutes. I received my new social security card in the mail in about a week even though they told me it would take two.

Also if you do ever have your social security card stolen they do not give you a new number. So everything you are tied to is with that number. Banking, your identity, IRS, and pretty much everything. ugh!

 

Mission #4: Deal with Homeowners Insurance/ Finish items list of property stolen:

  So I had been dealing with trying to get a hold of information about my claim from my insurance company State Farm. I called to report that I had property stolen the day of and gave them the police report number. The person that takes your call can only take down that you had property loss and the police report number. They give you your claim number an that is all. They tell you that an agent will contact you.

So I wait for an agent to contact me and of course the call comes in a couple days after while I am at work. I miss the call. I call them back once I am able and they ask what Items were taken. I give them the bulk of it but there was a lot of small things like the individual jewelry, DVDs, and camera equipment stuff. Which I did not have listed on items that had been taken. The lady told me she would send me an email of a form to list everything on. That to make sure I list everything. And under the cost to look up on the internet what it is worth. Said for me to get serial numbers and receipts.  I never got the email. Oh, She says well we have been  trying to get a hold of you. Excuse me but one voicemail is not an indication of trying to get a hold of me. The fact that you took days to call me back and had not sent out an agent to look at the damage. That afternoon I came home to a letter in the mail from State Farm saying they have been trying to get in contact with me. That's rich! I do not pick up when they had finally gotten to calling me about my claim and they send a letter out that day. Did I mention that I have been a customer of theirs for over seven damn years. Zero claims on my policy.

I call back again speaking to a different agent and telling him that I never received an email. He resent it to me to two different email addresses. I also asked him to tell me what needs to be listed and how because the police officer had told me that they are bundle in categories. So he says list the quantity, item description/model, serial number, year (age), and cost. But do not worry about cost because they have their own system that will determine how much something is worth. Are you freaking kidding me! Of course I did not get the email yet again even after checking my junk mail folder. So I make a spreadsheet listing all these items according to what he tells me needs to be listed.

I called my personal agent that I deal with about all the confusion and me not receiving the emails. How the claims department is rude. How on the internet when I try upload something it is not working. How the people on the claims side are not on the same page. I tell her that I do not have all these serial numbers for items and receipts. She suggested that I get an images of me with the items or of them to prove that they were mine. So I looked through hours of Facebook photos, images on my phone, and Instagram to try to come up with proof that I owned the items listed.

And I called back again before I uploaded the final Excel spreadsheet of the items stolen to make sure I did it right. The lady is very rude to me on phone. Saying that I have already spoken to two other agents about my claim and I should get it by now. I was trying to make sure I had it right. And then she says to make to to have the cost of the items as well of what I paid for them. That they need serial numbers and receipts. I do not have all that information for my items. What I did have was with items that were stolen in the box I kept them in or for bigger items I threw that away to keep low on clutter. So I ask the agent to explain items that are covered and what amount because the previous agent told me that they have their own system for determining what items are worth. She gets rude again and says to just send the items list like I was told and that this will get taken of sooner. Then they can answer my questions better. Well just so you know there is no rush as I have two years to take care of this. Are you freaking kidding me. She also told me that they were just not going to hand over a check for me to replace the items. That they would do a reimbursement things on what I needed replaced. Items that were not totally covered as to the amount I had originally be paid they would give me a separate check for. That jewelry was only covered up to a certain amount and then they would take off from my deductible a $100 for each $100 that was not covered. They also said that because I have a photography business they would only cover up to $1,500 for the any and all camera related items. ugh!!!!! So I finished the stupid list just to try to get it done and over with to move on. I submitted the list online.

I did not receive any notice of them receiving it or if they were reviewing it. It says in my policy that it should take about 10-15 days from when claim is received. Well I went on my vacation and I got a voicemail while I was in Australia from a different agent that was assigned to my case to give him a call. I called before the time he said he would be gone for the day from across the world and no answer. Left a message on his voicemail indicating that I was overseas. But to give me a call back. I have not got a call back.

Mission #5: Get X-BOX Live cancelled -

The police officer told me to call X-Box Live that they might be able to trace my X-Box. I called and they are unable to. They can however work with the police only to try and help in recovering it. They looked to see if anyone had accessed my account because all my passwords are saved on there. Thankfully no one had. I also had to get a copy of my receipts from my X-Box Live account to show proof that I owned it to send to the insurance company. What a freaking headache.

Mission #6: Cancel bank cards and Credit cards -

Identity theft is really big right now. So the fact that I had all this out in the open plus the thieves have documents that could prove they are me is a real bummer. Birth certificate, Social Security, and banking information.

So I had to cancel all my credit cards and order replacements. Then waiting for them to come in and replace the new account number for my online banking was a piece of work.

I opened a new bank account and new IRA account to transfer my funds into in fear of my funds being drained because my personal information was out there. And sure enough the day I was doing all this I saw some purchases made in Houston, TX which I was clearly not there. So the bank made a stop of that and refunded me the money. Did I tell you how much USAA rocks! They also upped my security on all my accounts and have special passwords so they know it is really me. I had to of course get new bank cards and new checks for the new account. What a nightmare.

I had to also sign up online to Trans Union that I have been a victim of identity theft to protect anything further from happening without me doing so. Like opening credit cards or buying property under my name. They freeze my accounts in that matter. All for free by the way.

 

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) adventure australia life new travel zealand http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/4/prepare-for-flight-adventure-time-to-new-zealand-and-australia Sat, 30 Apr 2016 13:51:00 GMT
Prepare for New Zealand and Australia: Part 2 (bumps in the road) http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/4/prepare-for-new-zealand-and-australia-part-2-bumps-in-the-road  

Chill. Don't worry. Everything will work out. You are going on that trip! This is what I kept hearing from those who love me and know how much I love to travel as well looking forward to this trip.

 

Mission #7: Make sure brother gets his Visa -

So my brother calls me with a dilemma. There is a hold on his Visa and he does not know why. We are coming down to the days before we are supposed to leave for our trip. Not this. Not now. Not the Varela luck striking yet again. My brother finally got word that there is a hold on his Visa due to the fact that he has a felony on his record. My brother has been to Australia twice before and has not had an issue. The Australian government has tightened up their laws in who they let into their country. Not like they were not tough before but they have made it more so. Totally understandable with what has been going on in other countries just in these last six months. But why does this have to happen right now. We are coming down to the wire with everything that needs to be in order to make this trip happen. Well they made him go to get fingerprinted at the jail to send off for a background check. He had to expedite the darn thing there so that it could be read and done in time to clear him for his Visa. The next week he got word that he was good to go. YAY!!!!

The low down from my brother...

The process after applying for a visa to Australia... The visa application on the website you use asks "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?"It does not matter how serious or how long ago. You have to answer yes if you have ever been convicted of anything. Upon the rejection an "Immi account" has to be created with the Australian border control and a 20 page visa application completed where it asked you in the application "If you have ever been convicted of a crime?" and then you must give the details of the crime. If you are going on business, you have to submit a letter from the company stating why you are going, Why an Australian cannot do the work, who is going to fund the stay while in Australia on business and how. Along with the application a copy of your passport must be submitted, proof of employment, and an FBI background check. Application for short stay visa is $130 USD. Must get fingerprinted and submit two sets of fingerprint cards ($5 each) with FBI background check. Background check is $50 if you want to wait up to 13 weeks for results or an additional $50. So spending a total of $100 for the FBI background check to get it expedited in time for this trip. The results of the FBI background check can be expedited within 24hours (on a business day). To overnight the FBI background application and fingerprint cards to the FBI processing center in Ohio (was the closest) cost $37 from the UPS Store. Once the results are returned you have to submit them to your visa application on Immi Account and wait for the Australian border control officer to grant or deny the Visa. If there is a Y criminal history on the FBI report the border control officer may request to interview you in person at the Australian embassy in Washington D.C.

Moral of the story is do not commit a crime. Do not commit a crime if you plan on traveling to Australia. They are very strict!

 

Mission #8: Get what I need for the trip -

After reading many tips from Pinterest, talking to friends who have gone to these countries, and reading up on it. I came down to the items listed below that I brought on my trip. Mind you this is for a 15 day trip. Many people go for longer but I think you can be smart enough to know what you might need to adjust according to your own needs.

Remember to check the weather before you leave. These places are both Islands so the weather is unpredictable depending where you are.

Clothing:

If you are on a clothing budget I suggest looking through all your clothes before making any purchases. I am a girl and know I have lots of clothes that I do not wear all the time so I might forget about some articles of clothing that I own in my collection. If you still need clothes try asking your friends for some to borrow or heck they might even give them to you. But ask before the trip so they have time to look through their clothes. If you are still in need of clothes after that then I suggest going to Ross, Thrift stores, Salvation Army (they have half price on clothes once a week), and Goodwill (they have different colored tags to indicate extra savings). I am a frugal person in general and I would much rather save money for my adventures at my destinations. 

- Pants (X3)

- Capri Pants

- Sweat pants (X2) for working out, lounging, sleep in, and great to travel in on the plane (16 flight people)

- Shorts (X3)

- Swim shorts (x1)

- Bathing suit (x2) Full cover and a two piece

- Underwear (X15)

- Bras (X3) Nude, Black, and a fun print - try to pack the least

- Sport Bra (X2) for working out, hiking, or sleeping in

- Dress (x1) - for a fancy night out or dinner

- Casual dress (x2) - summer time you want something that is easy to put on and go

- T-Shirts (x4) Comfy style for those sightseeing days and just kicking back on the patio with a cold one

- Blouse (X4) So you look better than what you wore on the beach earlier

- Tank Tops (x8) Black (goes with everything) You can wear these whenever and try to get some that can be layered

- Wind breaker / Rain coat (x1) - It does rain sometimes being that you are on an Island

- Flip Flops (x2) casual and beach ones that do not soak up the water

- Converse

- Tennis Shoes

- Socks (x10)

Electronics:

- IPAD, IPAD Charger

- IPOD (make them playlists and stock up on your favs), IPOD charger

- Camera, lenses, battery, cleaning wipes, camera bag, camera charger

- Card reader

- Large Memory cards

- Headphones

- Car USB plugin ( I have a double one helps if more than one person is traveling with or for multiple devices to be charged)

- Phone

- Phone Charger

- Battery Banks (help when not around to charge anything and you need some juice for your devices)

Reading Material:

- For this trip I took "What I was doing while your were breeding" by Kristin Newman

Toiletries:

- Toothbrush

- Toothpaste

- Floss

- Shampoo

- Conditioner

- Bar of Soap or Body Wash

TIP: Do not pack shampoo, conditioner, and body soap if staying in a hotel they provide it for you.

- Bath Sponge

- Hair Spray

- Mousse

- Hair Frizz oil

- Hand Sanitizer

- Mouth Wash

- Facial Scrub

Other:

- Nail Clippers

- Nail file

- Shavers (x4)

- Eye Drops

- Tweezers

- Umbrella (it is a beach and it does rain)

- Sun Screen

- Sun Tan oil or lotion

- Lip Balm (x2)

Drugs/ Medical/ First-Aids:

- Tylenol/Aspirin/ Ibuprofen (Just a small bottle)

- Emergent C (one for each day you are traveling)

- Energy Pills (you may an extra boost for a drive or to get through the night/ day)

- Band - Aids (x5)

- Bug Spray (They have bug spray there but ours works better from what I hear)

Girl stuff:

- Perfume

- Tampons (expect the unexpected)

- Condoms (be safe)

- Lube (in case)

- Make up (try to take as less as possible)

- Facial makeup remover wipes (so much easier than facial wash I think and especially after a long night of partying)

- Regular wipes

- Vaginal Wash (stay fresh)

- Moisturizing Face Cream (prevent them wrinkles ladies)

Mission #9: Get the Itinerary ready -

     Only a few days left before it is time to leave the country but what am I going to do?

     I have been pinning so many things on Pinterest before the trip so that I could go back to review and make a list. I also contacted friends that have been to one of these countries before to get their input. Also, many friends knew I was going and would send me things to do before I left and while I was visiting.

     Now I put a lot of things on my itinerary but I have a new thing about doing 3 of those things in any place I visit. The rest of the time I just go with the flow. I usually end of meeting new people and then I go hang out with them. Hanging with locals in a city is part of the experience but also doing the thing you are supposed to do in the place you are supposed to do it should be on the list as well. It is called BALANCE! I am go, go, go kinda gal and want to do it all but when I do that I tend to miss some of the good stuff. So I have to cut back on all the running around in the countries and cities to enjoy it as well. Being a photographer is hard because I want to capture it all on camera. I also never know when I will be back in the same place so I try to fit in as much as possible. I have to chill out and just be. Live in the moment!

New Zealand -

- Black Sand Beaches

- Waterfalls

- Other Islands

- Lord of the Rings tour

- City Bus Tour

- Cathedral Cove

- Waitomo Glowworm Cave

Australia -

- Surfing

- Sydney Opera House

- Manly Beach (Steyne Hotel for drinks at Famous Old Pub)

- Watson's Bay (Lunch at Doyle's great for views)

- Newtown (gay town)

- Rotorua

- Luna Park

- Cemeteries

- Taronga Zoo

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) adventure australia details how over pack seas to travel what http://varelastudios.net/blog/2016/4/prepare-for-new-zealand-and-australia-part-2-bumps-in-the-road Sat, 30 Apr 2016 06:40:00 GMT
Let's talk Dessert! http://varelastudios.net/blog/2015/7/lets-talk-dessert One of my photos was published in an article for a Vegan Bakeshop in Richardson, Texas. I was lucky to have my photographed featured for the article. Their desserts are so delicious and they are expanding into having lunch items as well. 

http://www.purewow.com/entry_detail/dallas/7666/A-vegan-bakerys-must-try-item.htm

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) http://varelastudios.net/blog/2015/7/lets-talk-dessert Mon, 13 Jul 2015 00:15:14 GMT
Basic photography class: "How to take photos worthy for Facebook and Grandma's fridge" http://varelastudios.net/blog/2013/5/basic-photography-class-how-to-take-photos-worthy-for-facebook-and-grandmas-fridge Tired of your photos looking like this?

Tired of your photos looking like this?

 

I often get asked very basic questions about taking photographs everyday. Why do my photos come out blurry? Why is my photo so dark? How do I change my camera settings? This July I will be giving a very basic Photography class to show you how to make your photos better. This will be an on location shoot in the DFW area for a 2 hour class. You do not have to own a DSLR professional camera in order to join in on this course. A point~N~shoot camera or camera phone will do just fine. Please make sure to bring your manuals for your camera just in case. =) Please let me know some of the questions you may have about your camera before the class so that I may address them to the others. Do not think that any question is silly as there may be others that have the same question as you do and will help them as well as yourself in understanding how to use their camera in a better way to improve those photo taking skills!

The Very Basic Photography Class

Where: Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

When: Saturday - July 13th

Time: 9AM-11AM (45mins-1hr instruction, 45mins -1hr practice shooting)

Cost: $20 (plus entrance fee and parking)

Turn a simple shot into a great one!  

Turn a simple shot into a great one!

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) http://varelastudios.net/blog/2013/5/basic-photography-class-how-to-take-photos-worthy-for-facebook-and-grandmas-fridge Thu, 30 May 2013 06:10:00 GMT
What is Macro? http://varelastudios.net/blog/2013/5/what-is-macro Many of you have asked me what Macro is in photography terms. You hear Macro and see it on your camera setting perhaps but do not know exactly what it is or what it means.

When you think of the word Macro what words come to mind? For me I think of small, tiny, or little. If this is what you think of then you are on the right track of what Macro photography is.

Macro Photography is just that. It is the photography of small objects. But it is not just photographing small objects or subjects. Macro Photography is your lens acting as a magnifying glass to that subject and capturing it in a photograph so that it becomes life size. What does that mean? Life size is producing an image that is a close up of your object or subject in which you are photographing.

When you see professional photographs on the web of Ants, lady bugs, or fish. The photographs of these subjects are not tiny to your eye when your are viewing them. They are shown to you as if they were that of the size of perhaps a dog or and elephant. That is what I mean by life size.

 

As you can see in this normal photograph of Wildflowers you cannot see the detail of them.

 

As you can see in this photograph of the same Wildflower which the details would normally be missed to the eye. Using Macro Photography the Wildflower appears to be that of a larger scale and you can see the detail of it.

 

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) http://varelastudios.net/blog/2013/5/what-is-macro Tue, 14 May 2013 06:46:06 GMT
Quick Photo Tip: Lighting http://varelastudios.net/blog/2013/4/quick-photo-tip

     When shooting indoors, try to use only ONE light source (window light, table lamps, chandelier, etc.) This will keep your light Temperture consistent and make post-processing so much easier!

     The Photograph above was shot without an off camera flash. I only used the light source that was coming from the one window in the room that the bride is looking out at.

 

ATTENTION CANON USERS:

Learn how Exposure settings can change a photograph by clicking the link below

http://www.canonoutsideofauto.ca/

 

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) bride how to lighting lighting photography wedding details wedding photography http://varelastudios.net/blog/2013/4/quick-photo-tip Wed, 01 May 2013 03:33:56 GMT
Fiesta Oyster Bake at St. Mary's University http://varelastudios.net/blog/2013/4/fiesta-oyster-bake-at-st-marys-university

For many years I had missed the famous Oyster Bake at St. Mary's University each year. The Oyster Bake is basically the inauguration of Fiesta! For two days out of the year you get to enjoy food, rides, and live music for only $20 a ticket. That is not a bad price for all the great bands that you get to see plus all the free swag.

Candlebox

Some of the bands I saw were:

- Candlebox (So many memories from the past. So they have been around for over 20years. I still enjoyed them)

- Trapt ( put on a great set)

- Drowning Mona (great band and the singer was awesome!)

- Aaron Watson (he was just amazing and gave a lot of love to the crowd)

Fresh schucked broiled Oyster

Broiled Oysters!

 

There was the famous Chicken on a stick that you have to try. It was very tasty but I have to say my favorite was the Sausage on a stick and the mini funnel cakes.

Some notes: take sunscreen(if you forget it don't worry there is some at the first aid station), drink lots of water, there are no ins and outs(you have to pay a re-entry fee if you walk outside of the gates), and wear comfortable clothing & shoes.

Fresh Oyster shot

Oyster Shot!!!

 

 

 

 

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varela.studios@yahoo.com (Varela Studios) St. Mary's University fiesta oyster bake san antonio texas http://varelastudios.net/blog/2013/4/fiesta-oyster-bake-at-st-marys-university Sat, 27 Apr 2013 03:02:09 GMT