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The Place I call Home – A New Zealand Travel Blog – Northland in a Campervan Part 1

May 29, 2020

Northland, unsurprisingly, comprises the uppermost tip of the North Island of New Zealand. Northland is perfect for exploring in a campervan. It is long and narrow, and the drive takes you through ancient forests and along stunning coastlines. Northland is rich in history and culture, both Maori and Pakeha (European), and it has its own micro-climate.

This New Zealand campervan trip around Northland marked our first family adventure in a campervan. This trip gave us a taste of the freedom a campervan can offer us, and the beautiful spots we could discover only in a home with wheels. We were hooked.

The Kauri Coast Highway

We picked up our Maui campervan in Auckland and headed north. A helpful hint here, if you are spending your first day in a campervan, don’t plan to travel too far. Limit yourself to a few hours of driving, planning for stops, and schedule plenty of time to set up for your first night in the new campervan.

Our first break was at Kaiwaka. This charming little town is definitely worth the stop. To stock up on cheese from the Kaiwaka Cheese if nothing else! A creamy blue to accompany a cold glass of wine with a beautiful view at the end of a day’s travel?

We continued to follow the Kauri Coast Highway, a scenic detour from the main Twin Coast Discovery Highway. Heading off the main highway is our modus operandi. Throughout our Northland trip, we managed to spend only a few hours on the main four-lane highway. By staying off the main highway we could stop in the little Bays for lunch on the waterfront, explore ancient Kauri forests and stop at roadside stalls for fresh fruit and vegetables, artisan sausages, and cheese tasting of course!

We spent our first night at the Pine Beach campground at Kai Iwi Lakes, parked up on the waterfront. We could make dinner whilst watching the girls played on the sand. There are also fantastic walking tracks, including a walk around the lake (30 – 45 minutes) or a walk across the dunes to the surf beach. Unfortunately, we only planned to be here for a night, so we didn’t get a chance to explore the area. It is a common theme of this trip that we should have doubled the amount of time spent in every location.

Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest

The next day we followed the Kauri Coast Highway through the ancient and stunning Waipoua Forest, home to the famous Tane Mahuta. Tāne Mahuta (‘Lord of the Forest’) is New Zealand’s largest known living Kauri tree at over 51 meters high!

According to Maori mythology, Tāne is the son of Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatuanuku (the earth mother). Tāne was the child that tore apart his parents’ parental embrace. His growth broke apart the embrace of Ranginui and Papatūānuku, to allow space and light in between them for life to flourish. Tane Mahuta is regarded as the parent to all living creatures of the forest.

Logging of native trees drastically depleted Kauris from the 1820s until its ban in 2002. Kauri Dieback Disease now threatens the few giants that remain. For this reason, when you enter a DOC managed forest in New Zealand you will be asked to clean your shoes.

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Tane Mahuta
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

Hokianga Harbour and a history lesson

The Kauri Coast Highway then took us through to the Hokianga Harbour where we stopped at Opononi. Arriving at Opononi is like stepping back in time. A place where the pace is slow and the people are down to earth. There are amazing views, wharves to fish off, and stunning picnic spots.

Next, we headed to Rawene to catch the Rawene Ferry. My husband appears to love ferries and will schedule them in wherever he can. Its all part of staying off the main Highway I guess…

Rawene is one of the oldest European towns in New Zealand. Unfortunately, this charming and quaint historical village was not built for campervan parking…

Rawene is however home to excellent cafes, galleries like the Boatshed Gallery, and the historic Clendon House. Clendon House is a heritage house where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. The Treaty is the founding document for the New Zealand settlement by Europeans. The Treaty traveled throughout New Zealand and was signed in numerous locations. 

One surprising thing I learned on this trip is that one of my ancestors actually signed the Treaty of Waitangi (as a settler), and potentially acted as an interpreter. Maybe not something to be proud of given the interpretation issues with the Treaty, but still fascinating history.

Ninety Mile Beach, the beach that is not ninety miles long!

We spent our second night in Ahipara, staying at the Ahipara Holiday Park. This wasn’t our first choice, but it was a lovely, clean holiday park. And the girls had a surprise the next morning with an Easter Egg Hunt in and around the campervan (we were finding Easter Eggs for days… silly Easter Bunny didn’t count how many eggs she hid!).

The main attraction at Ahipara is Ninety Mile Beach. Which, incidentally, is not ninety miles long! Ninety Mile Beach is a renowned surf beach, and famous for its sunsets. The beach itself is actually an official highway. As novel as it is to take a drive down the beach (which we couldn’t do in a hired camper), I didn’t enjoy the vehicles roaring past whilst trying to explore the beach with two young children.

Although Ahipara is an adventurer’s paradise, it wasn’t somewhere I’d rave about for a family with young children. However, as a gateway to the Far North, it was worth the stay.

The Far North, lighthouses and spirits

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Cape Reinga
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Cape Reinga, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

The Far North is where it gets really fun! We headed to Cape Reinga, the (mostly) northernmost point of New Zealand. The Cape is home to the famous landmark, the Cape Reinga Lighthouse, and a lone Pohutukawa tree. It is also (arguably) the most significant spiritual area for the Maori people. The Cape itself marks the departure point for Maori spirits, the point from which Maori wairua (spirit) return to their traditional homeland after they die.

I cannot stress enough how sacred this area is. It is well marked. Yet when we were there a tourist was assisting her son to pee in the bushes. There are public toilets. Please don’t be that tourist.

We spent the night in the appropriately named Spirits Bay at the Kapowairua (Spirits Bay) DOC conservation campsite. To get to the campsite we had to detour down a long dirt road, but it was well worth the extra drive. This is one of those areas we would not have been able to explore without a camper/mobile home.

Spirits Bay had an eery (yet comforting?) feeling about it. Oddly, I’m not the only one to think so. When researching for this blog, I found an article that included Spirits Bay in a list of New Zealand’s eeriest spots. Legend has it that, at night, spirits can be seen moving down the beach toward that lone ancient Pohutukawa tree on the tip of the Cape, and then suddenly disappearing. I didn’t see any spirits, but I certainly didn’t like being out on that (beautiful) beach on my own!

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Spirits Bay
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Spirits Bay, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

Te Paki Sand-Duning Adventures

Time for a bit of fun? How about sandboarding down the GIANT Te Paki Sand Dunes? The sand formations, vegetation and continually moving sand really make you feel like you are heading into the desert. Hire the boards on-site. Don’t bother trying your bodyboards. Pay the $10 for a specially designed and waxed board… it is worth the money.

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Te Paki Sand Dunes
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Giant Te Paki Sand Dunes, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

Next, it is time to head south again. Where there are plenty of adventures to be had, wine to be tasted, wild Kiwi spotting, and stunning scenery to enjoy. In Part Two of this Northland blog we will be enjoying Matauri Bay and the Bay of Islands… more to come!

This article does not contain affiliate links. Any recommendations are my own honest accounts. I will not receive any commission from any of the recommendations I have made in this article. However, I will have helped support the New Zealand tourism industry post-Covid-19 lockdown.

#travellocal #supportNewZealand #tourismNewZealand #NewZealandCampervan

This blog is part of The Place I call Home Series, a #NewZealandTravelBlog.

Travel

The place I call home – a New Zealand Travel Blog

May 24, 2020

Covid-19 has been devastating across the world in so many ways. Here in New Zealand, we have been lucky enough that the virus is currently under control, and our lives have returned to a somewhat new normality. However, it hasn’t been without pain. The global pandemic has forced us to put our dreams on hold. Those dreams were to travel through Europe in a campervan with our children. Instead, we ended up stuck at home, in lockdown, unemployed.

But when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. So we have decided to follow the road where it takes us, in New Zealand. We have purchased a new caravan in the South Island, and are busy packing and planning for our “detour dream”.

In the meantime, I thought I’d write a series of New Zealand Travel Blogs on my favourite spots in New Zealand, from a Kiwi’s perspective. The inside word, the secret spots, the best sunsets, etc.

I’m starting this first post with a few highlights from my favourite travels. Each of these spots is a destination in its own right, and deserves its own blog which will follow in this series.

Northland

Our campervan trip around Northland marked our first family adventure in a campervan. It gave us a taste of the freedom it offered us, and the beautiful spots we could get to only in a home with wheels. And we were hooked.

www.accounting4chaos.com Northland
New Zealand Travel Blog

Northland is also the best place to experience Maori culture and to learn about the history of New Zealand, at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Having grown up around Maori culture and its traditions all of my life, I still found the visit to the Treaty Grounds and the Wharenui (Meeting House) moving.

East Cape

www.accounting4chaos.com East Cape New Zealand Travel Blog

A trip around the East Cape of the North Island of New Zealand is like taking a step back in time to when horses and bareback riders roamed the roads and the cars are straight out of the 80s. Along the way you can stop to collect cockles (clams) from the Ohiwa Harbormouth and cook them up on a seaside bbq. You can sample macadamia icecream (and marmite if you are brave enough), relax with live music in wineries, visit lighthouses and historic churches and watch the sunrise in the first spot to see the sun.

www.accounting4chaos.com East Cape
New Zealand Travel Blog
Noma, our first caravan.

Rotorua

OK, so Rotorua was originally in my list of “don’t bother”. The “culture” that overseas tourists flock to Rotorua for is deceptively fake. The landscape is forgettable, as is the lake. However, it has grown on me. Rotorua has fantastic forests and mountain biking. Which can be followed by mineral hotpools and a dinner out, equals a fantastic family day out.

Rotorua is also home to the Redwoods Treewalk. This swing bridged walk is 20 metres up in the canopy of 115-year-old Redwood trees, and at night is illuminated by huge David Truebridge lights, artwork in their own right. Taking the treetop walk under the stars is majestic.

Martinborough

If you know New Zealand, you may have picked up by this point that my “highlights” mostly mirror the best wine regions in New Zealand. Martinborough was no exception. In fact, Martinborough is an idyllic little town with fantastic cafes and wine bars. Our campsite was within walking distance of the township, and surprisingly, wineries! No driving required.

Martinborough was also a great base from which to take day trips – Wellington, Cape Palliser to see the lighthouses and seal colony, hike the pinnacles or spend the day sampling chocolates and antique hunting in the cute historic town of Greytown.

www.accounting4chaos.com Cape Palliser
New Zealand Travel Blog

Hawkes Bay

My love of the Hawkes Bay came later, and it crept up on me. The slogan says it all – Eat, Drink, Cycle and Art Deco. What is not to love? There is fantastic wine in unbelievable settings, tractor rides along the beach to see colonies of Gannets at Cape Kidnappers, fantastic parks and smooth cycle paths along the waterfront. And if that is not enough, the entire city was rebuilt in Art Deco style after the 1931 Earthquake and fires, making it a rare gem to explore in style.

www.accounting4chaos.com Cape Kidnappers
New Zealand Travel Blog
Craggy Range Winery www.accounting4chaos.com
New Zealand Travel Blog

West Coast, South Island

The rugged westcoast has also won my heart with its lush green bush, beautiful Nikau palms, stunning coastline and warm and welcoming locals. We will definitely be spending time in Hokitika again on our new detour dream trip.

www.accounting4chaos.com Hokitika
New Zealand Travel Blog

Missing…

There are some notable areas missing from my list of highlights. The areas you would likely see in a mainstream travel brochure – Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown. All beautiful spots. But i’m not a fan of visiting cities. And Queenstown has become overcrowded. Although i’m going to give it another chance, with overseas tourism shut down in New Zealand, it could suprise me.

I will be sure to include a post on where “not to visit” in this new series.

See you soon!

Ange

XX

#New Zealand #Detour #Dreams #Travel #NewZealandTravelBlog

www.accounting4chaos.com
New Zealand Travel Blog
lifestyle, Travel

What I love about what I do… and what’s next?

May 10, 2020
Accounting4chaos #travel #campervan #newzealand

In order to fly, you have to let go of the world you’ve been holding onto. Kurek Ashley.

I read a fellow blogger’s comments recently on what she loves about what she does. This got me thinking about what exactly “I do” now that I’ve resigned from my job as an Accountant. And as I resigned from my job to travel through Europe, what is my journey now that I can’t follow my dreams? What now?

A crossroads

I guess it is natural to question your journey when you come to a crossroads in life. We made the big life-changing decision to give up our jobs, sell property, enroll our children in homeschool, and buy a campervan in Europe. Then Covid-19 hit. And we were stuck in New Zealand.

In hindsight, it hasn’t been a bad thing to be stuck in New Zealand. I’m glad to be safe and that my family is safe. But the question needs to be answered – what now? Travel overseas seems to be off the cards for the next year or so.

So, to answer that question I come back to, well, what do I love? What makes me happy?

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you will know I’ve struggled with balancing my career as an Accountant with my need and desire to spend time with my children. I know that sometimes it is a case of be careful what you wish for. Now I’ve ended up without a job, essentially unemployed, and with nowhere to go, how do I feel about it? And what does this mean? What next???

Well, I can tell you I don’t regret resigning from my job! Sure, I’m $170k a year down, and I haven’t yet quite worked out how to fill that hole, but sometimes money can’t buy happiness.

What I love about what I do…

I’m loving being at home with my girls. I (mostly) love helping them with their homework and being involved with their education, with their planning and their dreams. I love learning what makes each of them tick. Miss T is cooking and architecture. Miss M loves plants and animals and creative tasks. Both of them have desires to follow their creative talents.

I’m loving the freedom to decide what I do with my day. I love that I don’t have to wake up to an alarm each day.

I’m loving the feeling of achievement when I do something simple, like doing the washing. Or sweeping the driveway. Weeding the garden. Things I would not have been able to do previously. Simple routines feel like a luxury.

And I love having my own new business. I love talking to my clients, developing real relationships with them. Having the autonomy to run my own business, the way I want to do it. And the freedom to NOT bill for every 6-minute unit I spend on clients (yes, Accountants do record every 6 minutes of their day and are expected to charge for these six-minute únits’….its not a myth).

But it’s not all roses. I don’t like that my husband has left for the South Island without us. A reality of the COVID-19 economic depression – he’s had to follow the work.

So what next?

Well, I think we should join my husband. Our house is almost rented out. He is picking up the caravan. I am finalising the girls’ homeschool enrolments. And we are about to head off on our (amended) adventure. Exploring New Zealand’s South Island with a caravan.

As for that $170K hole every year? I don’t think I’ll ever fill that particular hole again unless I join an established firm, which is certainly an option. But it’s an option I don’t think I want to take. At this stage, looking at my lifestyle and considering the ‘things that I love’, I just need enough to get by. So this means running my own business, on my own terms, and part-time. Based in a ‘mobile’ office.

Fewer clients that I can develop REAL relationships with. Helping real people. For less pay. More time with my children, and more happiness.

Watch this space, this blog is about to turn into a full time travel blog!

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lifestyle, Parenting, Travel

Life in lockdown – the end of a dream?

April 4, 2020
NZ in lockdown www.accounting4chaos.com

If you have been following this blog, you probably know that late last year my husband and I made a big brave life decision. We resigned from our jobs. Sold a rental property. And purchased a campervan that is sitting waiting for us in the Netherlands. Then there was the lockdown.

We were set to fly to Europe in April. The plan was to travel for the rest of the year and return in time for Miss T to start her High School exams next year. Really now or never on the timing.

Then the world started to fall apart. Just as I was finishing work, the kids were enrolled in the correspondence school, and our house was listed for rent, Coronavirus started to hit hard in Europe. The borders started closing.  

With a campervan in storage in the Netherlands, we started looking for a backup plan. We worked through our budget and started looking at caravans to travel around New Zealand. Although we have traveled much of the North Island, traveling around the South Island was definitely on our bucket list. We were grateful and excited to have such an amazing ‘backyard’ to explore in our own country.

Lockdown

Then, quite unexpectantly, and with only 100 coronavirus cases in New Zealand, we were all put into lockdown for at least a month. We must stay at home. Although my husband had work lined up (he is now self employed), with the lockdown in place he cannot go out to work, and cannot get paid. We can only leave the house for exercise, to get food, and for essentials.

When we dared to follow our dreams, when we decided to quit our jobs and travel the world with our kids, there is no way we could have ever guessed this could happen. A global pandemic. That we could end up both unemployed and stuck at home. A recession kicking in. Not even able to travel our own country. Living on our savings for our European dream.

The end of a dream?

So what now? We can only take this day by day. It is ultimately going to depend on how long this lockdown lasts, and how far our savings can take us.

I remind myself daily, it could be much worse. I am grateful we live in an Island nation, where we have managed to keep the virus out long enough to learn from other countries. Whereas other countries have suffered immense losses to human life, we have entered lockdown to regain control of the virus, hopefully before it is too late. My family is healthy and happy in our lockdown paradise.

Will we get out on the road? I doubt we will get to Europe anytime soon. But hopefully, we can get out of lockdown in New Zealand, buy a caravan and travel our own backyard.

As for Europe? Well, we own a campervan in the Netherlands. I hope one day we can get there. However, first, we will need to come up with a way of working while we are traveling. And we will need to find a way for our daughter to complete her High School exams from Europe.

One of my clients said to me when we first verbalized our European dream – when you get back, you will fall back into work and the chaos that is life, it won’t take long, but the thing that will change in you permanently is when you look at that horizon. You will look at the horizon and you will know you can pack up and reach for that dream, you will not be stuck in the everyday rat race. You will know you can walk away, you can achieve it. And that is what will stick.

That is what I want to learn, and for my children to learn. To be brave.

And in the meantime, I remind myself that when we traveled to Canada and the US for six weeks, people asked me what my favorite part was. My answer was ‘spending six weeks continuously with my children’. And I can do that right here at home.

Parenting, Travel, Uncategorized

A catch-up Update, our new direction is North

January 24, 2020

So I’ve been noticeably absent from this blog for quite a while. I recently published a post, that I wrote in March last year. A lot has happened, and we have made a couple of BIG decisions in the last 12 months. Once again, we are heading off in a NEW direction. So the purpose of this post is to fill you in on what has been happening and enlighten you as to our new direction!

If you have been following this blog, you have probably worked out I was a stressed-out mother and career woman. The classic ‘rushing women syndrome’ type.

With our girls growing up fast the chaos all got too much. My husband gave up his job in May last year so that he could help out more with our girls, and at home, and generally support me in my career. It has worked wonders with the girls, Miss T’s behaviour has improved remarkedly, and Miss M’s enthusiasm for school and learning has returned. My husband has loved the new lifestyle and has started his own part-time business. On most accounts, it has been a success.

However, I’ve remained stressed. I felt stuck. And my health has deteriorated. Being the breadwinner wasn’t working for me. With Hubby not wanting to go back to work, we started to seriously think about our dream of travelling with the children. A dream that we had put to one side as ‘unrealistic’, while we continued to focus on our careers, paying off our mortgage and saving for retirement … the safe, the normal.

We thought about our parents. My father who passed away at 52, and my mother ín law who died at 59. Neither of whom reached retirement. Sitting here, working hard and saving ‘life’ for retirement wasn’t sitting well with us.

So again we thought of taking some time out for travel.

If we were going to travel, it had to be now. Before Miss T’s High School exams next year.

We made a decision. We are doing it.

I have officially resigned from my job. We have sold an investment property to fund the trip. In two months’ time, we will both be unemployed! Our home will be rented out. And we will be on a plane heading for the adventure of a lifetime with our children in tow!

Parenting, Travel

The Beartooth Highway Photo Diary – An Amazing Journey Series

August 3, 2018
Beartooth Highway

The Beartooth Highway is a 68 mile All American Road that winds its way through Montana and Wyoming, leading its travellers to the iconic Yellowstone National Park.  At 3,337m high, there is some serious elevation – a bag of chip bursting elevation in fact!  Starting from around 1,600m in elevation, you start your climb starts in grassy meadows, travelling through switch-backs and steep zigzags, past banks of snow, and skiers blasting past your window.

The Itinerary

We flew into Billings Airport, as the closest airport we could find to Yellowstone National Park, that didn’t cost an extremely exorbitant amount (i.e. Jackson Hole).  Billings turned out to be a great place to pick up a rental, stock up the car, and find cheap accommodation.  I have to provide a recommendation here for the Hilltop Inn.  This was the cheapest hotel accommodation in our entire trip, and it provided free breakfast.  The room was huge, and to top it off there was a microwave and a fridge so we could self-cater a family dinner (with the help of a hot chicken from Walmart!).  Would love it if they didn’t use disposable plastic for EVERYTHING though, a little better for the environment if they used glasses, plates, knives, forks etc instead of the single-use plastic variety – wrapped in another layer of plastic for hygiene.

The Beartooth Highway

We had three amazing All American Roads on our bucket list for our US Trip – the Beartooth Highway, the Big Sur Coast Highway, and the Tioga Pass (technically a National Scenic Byway).  Unfortunately for us, a storm took out a key bridge on the Big Sur Coast Highway, and the snow didn’t clear from the Tioga Pass by the time we travelled through in early July – which left only the Beartooth Highway.

Even then, the Beartooth Highway was CLOSED the day before we left Billings.  Hubby was devastated, knowing the Big Sur was closed, watching the snow reports daily for the Tioga Pass, and refreshing the Beartooth Highway website hourly for updates to see if it was going to open.   In the morning when we were due to leave Billings the hotel staff gave us the good news – it was open.  For now.  Get moving… We knew we were still hours away from the start of the Highway, but we took the risk.  We were very lucky.  It was closed again the next day!

Beartooth Highway Accounting 4 Chaos

Continue Reading…

lifestyle, Parenting

Blogging failures – when a Technophobe tries to blog!

July 27, 2018

It’s Friday and it’s time to celebrate the weekend!!  Unfortunately, I’m still doing Dry July so I won’t be seeing in the weekend with the traditional Friday night glass of wine (OK, the reality is it’s probably more like a bottle!)

I’ve been back at work this week after our beautiful holiday in Taupo.  Here’s a little snapshot (proper blog to follow shortly):

Accounting 4 Chaos #travelblogging

Miss M and I exploring Taupo whilst Hubby and Miss T are off skiing without us…

I’ve also been a bit quiet on the blogging side.  But truth be told, there is a reason for that!

Continue Reading…

lifestyle, Parenting, Travel

11 unforgettable days in Canada!

July 4, 2018

Canada is an absolutely stunning country.  It has wide open spaces and turquoise blue lakes, surrounded by the snowy caps of the Rocky Mountains.  There are hot springs and local breweries, poutine and bear jams.  It is an ideal place to explore and grow as a family.

This itinerary covers the sights, history and culture of Vancouver, and gets you out into the Alps, exploring the lakes and away from the crowds.

#Canada Accounting4chaos

Spirit Island

Continue Reading…

lifestyle, Parenting, Travel

Nomadic life with teenagers – yes or no?

June 29, 2018

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

We have been reading blogs about life on the road, talking to travel bloggers with children, watching Netflix travel programmes made by full-time travel bloggers – and all the while wanting desperately to change our lives.

But there is something holding us back, so many reasons not to go.  A sense of security.  Two “amazing” jobs.  A pension plan.  School.  A community.  Family.

So the question is – do we buy an RV, take the kids out of school, and hit the road, or do we do the “sensible” thing and wait until they leave school – then hubby and I can travel to our hearts’ content?  BUT – so far none of our parents has managed to make it to retirement, so why plan for retirement?  Wouldn’t it be better to get out there and live NOW?

Continue Reading…

Parenting, Travel

A bad day travelling is better than a good day at the office – An Amazing Journey Series

June 11, 2018

4,000 miles, 39 days, two children … this trip is amazing.  It changes us and brings us together as a family.  But it’s not just the positive experiences that do that.  It is the journey.  And the journey comes with good days and bad.  We can plan to the nth degree – but with so many factors outside of our control, travelling cannot be “unicorns and rainbows” all the time.

Banff

By day nine on the road, we are exhausted.  We have been together for days on end (hint – no “alone time” = grumpy children + grumpy Daddy + grumpy Mummy!).  Hubby still hasn’t completely recovered from his flu, and to top it off it has started snowing.

We have no rest days scheduled in our itinerary- today is our day for Lake Louise, Lake Agnes, Moraine Lake and Banff – snowing or not.

Continue Reading…

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