Travel with Mona to New Zealand

While some parts of the world are at war, and many countries face political upheaval, let me take you to a region where we can find peace and serenity.

We cruised around New Zealand in January, supposedly the warmest summer month of the Southern hemisphere, but it was way cooler than I expected—62o F—and I used my free day in Auckland, the capital of New Zealand, looking for a warm jacket to buy. Here are two pictures taken from the penthouse restaurant of the hotel.

The harbor and high-rises of downtown Auckland.
The Sky Tower is a telecommunication and observation tower in Auckland.

We started our New Zealand cruise on January 16 from Auckland. Here are two pictures of Auckland taken from the ship as we departed the harbor under cloudy skies.

From the ship logbook that I saved, here is a description of our departure in marine terms: “We swung the bow to port and started to make headway at 19:02, setting various courses through Waitemata Harbor, then through the Rangitoto Channel towards the pilot station. At 19:43 the local pilot disembarked. The captain rang “Full Away on Passage” and the ship entered the Hauraki Gulf en-route to our fist port of call, Tauranga. We sailed all night and arrived in the morning to Tauranga, our first stop, where we met with strong winds.”

A view from the Tamaki Maori Village
We visited the temple and discovered the history and culture of the Maori people. They sent a warrior to meet us and make sure we have come in peace.
They welcomed us with a traditional greeting, the touching of noses and foreheads. Then they gave us a colorful performance, singing and dancing on the sound of ancient Maori instruments.

After two days at sea, we arrived at Port Chalmers, located on the South Island on the Otago Peninsula. It was settled by Scottish pioneers, and the temperature was only 57o F.

We visited the train station and the Cadbury factory, where we tasted our favorite chocolate.

Our guided tour led us to the Larnack Castle. Set on 35 acres, this neo-Gothic castle was built in 1870 by a prominent banker. It is now owned by the Barker family who restored it to its initial splendor. The ballroom can be rented for weddings, balls, conference dinners, and other functions.

Larnach Castle
The magnificent gardens with a view over Otago Peninsula
The back of the castle
The local Scottish band.

The ship headed south to Fjordland National Park, dominated by the Southern Alps, and started a scenic cruise through many fjords. Most of the passengers were on deck admiring the scenery.

We continued the cruise through the Tasman Sea, the large body of water between New Zealand and Australia. The British explorer Captain Cook extensively navigated the Tasman Sea. We visited his house in Melbourne, Australia.

Calm, serene and awe-inspiring, New Zealand seems to be the perfect place to relax. But the trip is so long!!!

KISSING PLANS, book 6 of the Love Plans Series is on Preorder.

Available at Amazon

Susan Chen returns to Cincinnati to work as university professor. Her best friend, Royce Winston who’s been secretly in love with her for years, is determined to change their relationship for the best. Little did he expect Susan to arrive with her mother and a Thai fiancé imposed on her by her family. When Susan asks him to accommodate the unwelcome fiancé until he finds a job, and then help her get rid of him, Royce eagerly obliges.

The best way to succeed is to push the fiancé into another woman’s arms—even if she’s Royce’s former girlfriend and the fiancé has become his houseguest and good buddy. The complicated situation threatens to explode at any minute…and finally does, ripping apart their best laid plans.

IRRESISTIBLE – I’ve Got A Secret

Everyone has secrets…
But when you find that special someone, it’s those secrets that can make or break a relationship.
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Can they hang on to their happy-ever-after once those secrets are revealed?

TWO HEARTS’ SUBVERSION by Tamara Ferguson, USA Today bestselling author: Marc Theroux and Desiree Broussard shared tragedy when they were kids. As friendship grows into something more, they’re forced to keep secrets when both are recruited by separate agencies responsible for investigating domestic terrorism. Will their love survive separation as Broussard Industries is targeted by one of the largest terrorist organizations in the middle east?

NO MORE HIDING by Natalie Ann, USA Today bestselling author:Brent and Vivian both have secrets that they are keeping from the other. When trust becomes a factor, can they find their way past their lies to love again?

MESSY PLANS by Mona Risk,New York Times and USA Today bestselling author:Dr. Matt Lopez is perfectly happy with his medical career until the new nurse practitioner, with her lovely smile and crazy ideas, turns his life upside down.

EVAN by Stacy Eaton, USA Today bestselling author: Can Laney and Evan find a way to build a relationship while keeping others from getting involved, or will the revealed secrets be enough to end any chance of a future before it begins?

DEAR DIARY HOTTIE by Mimi Barbour, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author: During their last months of high school, Eva and Jason hook up in a way that neither of them forgets. When they finally meet by chance, can he forget his animosity toward the girl who never acknowledged him after their passionate encounter, and can she put aside her unending grief that he never called.

ROYAL FLUSH by Susanne Matthews, International bestselling author: Pearl refuses to be part of another of her father’s mergers and runs away to be herself. When she meets Kyle, she falls for him, but what will happen when he learns who she really is?

A Cruise to the British Isles

An affable cruise representative met us at Heathrow Airport, London, and accompanied us to the bus that drove a whole group of passengers to the ship terminal in Southampton, where we boarded the ship, our home away-from-home for the next twelve days. We didn’t visit London where we have previously spent time.

The next morning we docked in Guernsey Island (St. Peter Port), 30 miles west of Normandy,  where the French author Victor Hugo lived in exile for 25 years at Hautevile House and wrote both Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. We were welcomed with a gorgeous sunny weather and 70 oF temperature for our visit of the island, an idyllic paradise with cobbled streets and picturesque seafront marina.

Guernsey is not part of the United Kingdom but it is part of the British Islands. Residents speak English and French, and their money is similar to the English pound. Many of the houses in Guernsey’s west have an unusual strange piece of granite sticking out of them – these are “witches’ seats”. Back when they supposedly ran wild in the western parishes, residents built them onto their houses so that the witches could stop and rest, rather than causing havoc. The world-renowned Guernsey cow produces some of the most rich and delicious dairy products in the world.

St. Peter Port is the main town on the island of Guernsey. It’s full of hills, colors, and super cute shops! The top speed limit in Guernsey is 35 miles/hour. If you drive along the coastline of Guernsey you will hit military fortifications almost every 2 minutes or so. These were built during the Napoleonic wars to protect Guernsey from France.

The Little Chapel is actually the smallest chapel in the world! But the astonishing thing is that the entire chapel, interior and exterior, is covered with broken bits of pottery, glass, and china. 

We sailed to Ireland and stopped in Cork where we visited the romantic ruins of Blarney Castle. In the Blarney garden, the trees were dressed in knitted wool. Many visitors climbed the one-person narrow stairs to the Stone of Eloquence, all the way to the top of the castle (NOT me) and admired the amazing view.

In the Blarney village, we shopped for wool and Waterford crystal, and didn’t buy any, but we enjoyed watching young girls performing an Irish dance for us.

Dublin, capital of the Republic of Ireland is an old city boasting imposing castles and estates. The Druids believe the shamrock could ward off evil and the Christians believe it represent the Holy Trinity. In Dublin, we visited Trinity College and St. Patrick Cathedral.

Trinity College is huge, with several buildings. We were impressed by the crowd of young people and students. A Ford ancestor was autistic, and bullied by his friends. He was shot and fell from the window and died. They say that his ghost roams the University ground. His sibling left and went to the US. His grandson is Henry Ford.

TRINITY COLLEGE founded in 1592

At St. Patrick Cathedral we saw  the tile of Dean Jonathan Swift, who had been the dean of the Cathedral. When someone dozed during his homily, he had a chaplain drag his sermon chair to the culprit and hit him with his cane. My son-in-law’s grandmother had the same name and claimed him as an ancestor.

Our next stop was Liverpool, England, where we visited a very modern and circular church, the Catholic Metropolitan church of Christ the King and the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral that is humongous, of Gothic style in red brick, with gorgeous painted glass.

We strolled along Penny Lane and took pictures of the street where the Beatles lived.

In Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, we visited the yard of City Hall with Queen Victoria statue and a moratorium for the people who died in the Titanic. The “unsinkable” Titanic was built in Belfast over two years and sailed from Liverpool. After it was built, the engineer said: “Not even God can sink the Titanic.”

In Scotland, we docked in Greenock and drove through Glasgow. Our guide wore a lovely yellow kilt. We passed by George Place, in front of the spectacular City Hall, big square with several statues, among which that of Walter Scott.

After a day at sea, we were still in Scotland. Our next stop was in Inverness and Loch Ness. We woke up at 5:30 am for the long ride by bus. It was rainy and cold but worth it. I stoically waited under the rain with my umbrella while my husband climbed up the old castle.

During my visit to Guernsey, I was greatly impressed by the peaceful island that boasted a tumultuous history. As our guide described the special autonomy and numerous privileges the residents enjoy under the leadership of a Lieutenant Governor, I decided that this Channel Island would become the Principality of Rensy Island, the setting of a new series of romance novels. So far, I have five books relating the stories of the princes/princesses from Rensy Island. I hope you will enjoy reading this series.

A Bride For Prince Paul: She can’t abandon her patients for his crown! A Bodyguard For The Princess: A murder at Harvard in Princess Chloe’s student building. Jingle With My Princess: The doc and the princess… He saves lives but Princess Charlene may save his heart. Prince Philip’s Cinderella: A charming jogger saves her from danger. But he’s a prince… and she comes from nothing. Should she run or risk her heart? A Dance for Prince Eric: A ballerina with a promising career on the run for her brother’s sake. A charismatic prince who saved them both. Do fairytales exist?