Archive for the 'General' Category

West to Monticello

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Thomas Jefferson, third President of the US, built his home at Charlottesville in 1772, and called it Monticello. He thought it was paradise… and it is still today, in its forested, mountaintop (260 metres) setting from where we could get wonderful views west and south.
The trip west was once again along a highway which was edged with verdant green trees. How awesome this highway must be in the autumn.
The road continued on and on and on, nothing seemed to change, except that sometimes there was a lot of traffic passing us – and at other times, there were gaps. A few days ago we installed a GPS system in the car; when we type in the destination, the GPS unit tells us everything we want to know about getting there. When we deviate from the route we’ve planned, the machine recalculates the route and tells us how to get back on course.
So unchanging was the scenery, Mary and I were beginning to wonder what lay beyond those trees. So we exited the motorway, crossed it, and looked for a road in the same direction. We soon found a concrete (paved) road stretching off forever, but here we could see cattle
grazing, horses occasionally, crops, houses and best of all gardens.
In fact, we passed a sign saying Mary’s Garden Plants, so had to go in and meet Mary. A great discussion about plants and insects – particularly butterflies ensued. We bought several of her plants to give to Linda, our host for the night.
Our GPS got us to Monticello but there was not much time to spare. We gave up on plans to see inside the house, but explored the garden in the late afternoon heat – and what a beautiful garden it is too.
Earlier in the day we had come across the delightful settlement of Williamsburg, best known for its university or college (William and Mary) and also the historical village recreation which not only entertains but explains another part of US history.
We arrived at Linda Marchman‘s, just outside Charlottesville, and enjoyed a wonderful dinner with our hosts – we’re all geared up to spend some time with them tomorrow morning exploring Charlottesville and local wineries. If only there was more time!

Chincoteague and south

Friday, August 29th, 2008

There is a wide range of accommodation available in Chincoteague. I stayed at Cedar Gables Seaside Inn, which overlooked the water on the eastern side of the island. It was very up market, modern but designed in a classical manner. The bed was comfortable, and wonderful services.

Through a miscommunication, Mary stayed elsewhere – the Channel Bass Inn. Her hosts, David and Barbara, were delightful people, showing a great interest in Mary, where she had come from, what she was doing. Barbara was English and had added her touch to the garden and the afternoon teas that the inn served.

Both of us were fortunate in the range of foods offered at breakfast time. We couldn’t have been better catered for.

Then we were off to see the wonders of the Chincoteague Wildlife Reserve. The Eastern Shore of Virginia, and the islands such as Chincoteague and Assateague are on the Atlantic flyway for Monarch butterflies, shorebirds, waterfowl and others that nest in the north and migrate south for the winter.

There are different areas – salt marshes, pine forests, and the specially-developed freshwater impoundments on the refuge are nesting places for a huge variety of birds including various plovers, gulls, terns, geese, herons, and ducks. There is even an eagle’s nest which can be watched from the comfort of the well-designed visitors centre.

Chincoteague is a really charming little centre, lots of shops, everything you could want, but quaint little antique and second-hand book shops, curios etc – we could have spent hours there. Many of the houses are historic and all of the buildings have a charm of their own.

With Tracy Lovell, from the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission, we had a beautiful meal at Bill’s Seafood Restaurant that night – highly recommended. I wish I could have spent weeks here at Chincoteague. But we had to move on!

Leaving Chincoteague we continued our journey south, finally reaching the amazing tunnel/bridge complex which crosses the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel has been considered a modern engineering wonder for over 43 years. Crossing over and under open waters where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, it is a direct link between south-eastern Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula (DELaware plus the Eastern Shore counties in MARyland and VirginiA).

If we had ‘gone round’ it would have added another 95 miles to our journey – well worth the $12 toll.

Following its opening in 1964, the Bridge-Tunnel was selected “one of the seven engineering Wonders of the modern world. Construction of a parallel crossing opened to four-lane traffic in 1999.

It was amazing to drive over this and see the bridge snaking ahead of us over the sea.

On the other side we pulled into an ‘economy motel’ for the night, and we will get to Charlottesville via Monticello tomorrow. We’re still having fun!

Cape May to Chincoteague

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Sad to leave Cape May, we would have loved to have spent more time there exploring the delightful gardens and seeing all the Victorian houses. They have been well restored, it is a fascinating place. I love the way that American communities do not have fences on their boundaries – nothing say THIS is mine and THAT is yours – so that your plants can fall into their garden, and theirs yours too. Here in Cape May the butterfly or wilderness gardens spilled into the roadway, giving the area a delightfully natural look.

Cape May is a popular holiday destination for those who love Nature. There were plenty of families around – this was the last week of the long summer school holidays. We found a Dusk Market and bought our dinner, chicken in a bun with cole slaw and squeezed lemonade for me, very cooling. Talked to the locals, friendly people.

We were interested in the motel we stayed at – some of the motels advertised ‘efficiencies’ and we are not accustomed to what these are. Evidently, it is an open plan motel room, no side-rooms. But this motel had two beds, a bathroom, a TV, table and chairs, and a fridge. Nothing to cook with, boil water even. Strange! No cuppa for us that night. No breakfast the next morning.

We had a last look around at some more delightful gardens, and then boarded the ferry for the 1-1/2 hour cruise across the Delaware River, chatting to a charming couple from Virginia, a retired golf pro. They had been north to Atlantic City for a gambling weekend.

I decided to buy a GPS to make our navigation easier. It would be useful in finding schools when I get back to work, one doesn’t waste petrol these days by getting lost! Once we had it installed and working, it was very useful taking us to Chincoteague. It didn’t like it when we went off course to explore the northern end of Assateague Island though. I was determined to see some of the wild ponies and we got up real close.

We enjoyed the trip down here, through more verdant tree-line roads. We still have not seen any “real” farms yet – mostly horticulture and orchards. Over here “farmers” means (to a Kiwi) market gardeners, orchardists or horticulturalists. We did see a few corrals/fields with horses in them, but I doubt these were real horse farms.

Last night we met with Tracey from the local tourism commission, and had a delightful dinner with her. The fresh fish to die for – if you come to Chincoteague make sure you eat at Bill’s restaurant, the food and service was fantastic.

During the day we saw some fascinating birds and also a large (Monarch-size) lemon butterfly – but know nothing about them. Today, in Chincoteague, we’re going to learn more about the wilderness of the area. That will be fun!

Don’t forget to check out the photographs.

Nooooooo Jersey

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Where have the last three days gone? The people have been so hospitable to us… We have:

– Gone out for dinner at a ‘Clam Bar’, tasted the local beer, clam chowder and various seafood delights.

– Been taken on a tour of Philadelphia, seen the Liberty Bell and where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed. Learned a lot about the history of the USA. Philadelphia is the capital of Pennsylvania, on the Delaware River and northern edge of NJ. Many NJ people commute in to Phily for work.

– Met an Australian and Julia Roberts’ younger sister, who didn’t know that Richard Pearse – a Kiwi – was ACTUALLY the first man to fly in the world.

– Seen the beautiful city centre.

– Visited the Reading Terminal Market, where we savoured various foods. My choice was a turkey “and two sides” – roast turkey with mashed potato, roasted peppers, gravy and cranberry jelly. And of course the local beer. Mary had a roast beef sandwich.

– Eaten many more local foods that night at dinner, with the guests from Peru and an exchange of international good humour, all at Paula and Brian’s home.

– R&R with Joyce and then Kris and Eric

– Visited the home and garden in the woods of a 90+ WWII vet, and learned so much about nature from him… he has probably forgotten more than I know. A wonderful hour or so in his garden. (See the photos)

– Dinner at Blue Carolina, where we had firstly a salad, and then tasted the mix of smoked meats – turkey, ribs and wings. And another beer for me!

Thank you Joyce, Paula and Brian, Kris and Eric, Bob and Carol for your wonderful hospitality, and all the other fantastic, generous and kind people we have met. We have so enjoyed our visit. It’s been fun, we have had a lot of laughs.

And now today we’re off in our Hertz rental car to drive south to Cape May.

Please take a look at our photographs,


Monday, August 25th, 2008

Some of you are asking for photographs – so I have uploaded a selection to My login is NZMBT – it used to stand for the MB New Zealand Trust, but now it’s “NZ Mesdames Butterflies Travelling” I guess! But to make it easy, you can just click here to get there!

Monarch Teacher Network Day 2

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

This has been full on, but a fantastic learning experience. I don’t have time to write up my blog, but fortunately the local newspaper published a story and some photographs on line.

You can see that here:

Courier Post

Photographs from Otumoetai Primary School

Friday, May 25th, 2007

Last week I was in Tauranga and presented to the children at Otumoetai Primary School. As it was ‘Book Week’ my presentation took a slightly different tack and I also covered my work as a writer, editor and author.

Jenny Chapman, who organised the visit, said: “It was great to have you. I thought you aimed your talk well for the level of the children. It was definitely fun seeing you dress Mr Smith up.”



In the photographs Mr Smith kindly volunteered (?) to model for me, as I illustrated some of the differences between butterflies/insects and other animals.


Madam Butterfly at Waihi East School

Thursday, May 24th, 2007


Feedback from Waihi East School

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

The Bubbly Butterfly Lady

On Thursday 17th March, Jacqui Knight (the butterfly lady), paid a visit to Waihi East School and gave an interactive talk all about heaps of different types of butterflies, but mostly the Kohuku (colourful coat/monarch butterfly).
Jacqui is also a very enthusiastic environmentalist and talks about litter, different animals, saving our plant life, and looking after our planet. But mostly butterflies.
“I absolutely love doing this type of work,” says the Russell resident.
Madam Butterfly has been in this ‘Butterfly Business’ of teaching kids all about butterflies for over 35 years, and travelled to over 45 schools. She says her main aim is to protect the butterflies that used to swarm over NZ. Although there are over 20,000 different species of butterflies throughout the world, the numbers have speedily dropped to less than 75 around NZ.
She taught the pupils of East School about how the chrysalis is actually clear, how they group together to survive winter (they mostly go to Butterfly Bay), how moths are different from butterflies and much, much more.
Unfortunately, she had to leave after only one hour in order to get to other schools but in that hour, the Waihi East School students including myself, learned a lot about butterflies and enjoyed her presentation of the magical creatures.

By Joseph Walmsley, Age 11 Year 6

Feedback from Waihi East School

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

Magnificent Madam Butterfly (Jacqui Knight)

On Thursday the 17th of May Madam Butterfly came to Waihi East School to talk about different types of butterflies, such as the Red Admiral and the Monarch. She has been teaching students around NZ for over 40 years now and loves her job. There are about 20 thousand different species of butterflies in the world but there is less than 100 species in NZ.
Did you know that a caterpillar’s first meal is its egg which it is born from, and within 4 minutes a caterpillar can eat a whole swan plant leaf. It takes 10-14 days before a caterpillar is ready to become a chrysalis
Once a butterfly has hatched it has a lot of caterpillar blood in it and has to pump it into its wings before it can fly.
I really enjoyed Madam Butterfly’s presentation. It was really interesting.

By Ruby Twyford
Year 6 Age:10