We’ve had a few people wonder why we opted to forfeit our summertime for a New Zealand winter, but if we’re already through the worst (as it seems)…it was a worthy trade.
Our winter has been quite pleasant, to say the least. A few days have forced us inside, hinting at the season, but generally we can do things we would otherwise enjoy at home in the summer or spring- hikes, fires outside, walks on the beach or having meals on a patio.
The grass and foliage has mostly remained green, but every so often bare tree branches will serve as a reminder of the chill in the air.
‘Tis the Season
At home, in fall and winter apples and oranges are more readily available (more desirable, too, I suppose) as they generally have a later harvest season. I’ve found it interesting to watch the crops and orchards near us change, even in the short time we’ve been here.
When we first arrived, kiwi trees were full and green and people (in our area especially) would ask if we’re here to pick kiwi fruit! Those trees have since lost their leaves, making way for apples, avocados (which were $5 NZD each when we got here) and citrus. It makes perfect sense, but for a Canadian, it’s been fun to feel the crispness in the air, see frost and leaves fall and yet watch limes, oranges and lemons thrive!
I’ve had a couple opportunities to pick fruit from the tree and use the lemons in water (or mint and lemon, which is more common at our house lately), or simply sharing a grapefruit with friends.
Although there are a lot of differences between our Kiwi winter and the Canadian one we’re used to, there are some similarities.
We still have to bundle, particularly if we’re outside for the day or part of the afternoon. Layering is our friend (as at home), and specifically to Alberta- the weather can change within minutes. I’ll often leave the house with just a cardigan on, but bring along my tuque, umbrella, rain jacket and sometimes an extra layer.
The houses here aren’t quite as equipped for the cold as the average Canadian house, and with the sad realization (brought on by our electric bill) that we’re not able to keep space heaters on at all times, it’s important to layer indoors, too. Blankets, wool socks, slippers, tuques and sweaters are all key items to pleasant downtime in the house.
I’ve recently made an investment in yarns and have started a tuque and slipper factory. Just like a winter at home, the days are shorter and having an activity that can be enjoyed inside after (such an early) sunset that doesn’t involve a computer or phone is a welcomed change.
Hardy, home cooked foods and warm beverages are key survival items, as well. We have had more pasta and potato dishes here than we have for some time at home and using the oven for anything is great- particularly leaving the door cracked as it cools post-bake.
Warm and Wonderful
Tea, coffee, hot chocolate and everything in between… We’ve often been motivated by the promise of warm drinks after an adventure (particularly in Rotorua), and I love wrapping my hands around a nice steamy mug after going for a walk or wander- we’ve become wood-burning fireplace seekers for the same reward.
Since I’ve been trying to invest in my unemployed status here, I was able to take a home barista course at a local roastery!
I signed up via email to attend a coffee course at Excelso Coffee in Tauranga; the day Sarah headed home, I boarded a bus to the cafe. I arrived early and sat with a newspaper and flat white while I waited for my instructor for the morning.
Brittany came over to introduce herself- she sported a wicked undercut, black lipstick and a leather vest; I liked her right away. It was soon obvious she was a wonderful teacher and passionate barista. It was about an hour of one-on-one instruction, and she was able to share lots of insight in a short time. In fact, I could have written pages of notes to remember all the tips she mentioned, as it were… all I had was a pastry bag, which I filled (both sides).
Brittany covered all the basics including a few coffee recipes, the proper coffee grind, what to watch for and the timing to make a great espresso shot, how to create some fabulous foam and the best way to clean and upkeep my home espresso machine. I particularly appreciated her sharing the reasons behind specific techniques- allowing me to feel ready to troubleshoot, which is quite empowering!
I might need a refresher before going home to practice, either that or make a friend here with an espresso machine to put some time in 😛
Turn Turn Turn
I’ve been thinking of writing a post about our time in a Southern Hemisphere winter for a while, as it’s a unique experience for a couple prairie kids. By the time I’ve gotten around to it, though, it seems spring has nearly sprung!
We went for a drive out to a new cafe and strolled around a bird garden this weekend and along our journey noticed vibrant blossoms, blooming trees and sprigs of daffodils breaking through soil in our area.
Having driven through KatiKati several times before, we decided it might be fun to head back to this ‘mural town’ and see what it had to offer apart from the awesome bakery with an impressive gluten free selection.
We found some crazy, aggressive birds as well as a homey cafe and a boatload of hilarious memories, including the moment we caught sight of everyone’s favourite fluffy chicken, Rod Stewart:
We paid the humble admission fee, purchased a pack of bird feed and wandered around the KatiKati bird gardens. One duck had a soul as ugly as its face, as he pecked at your legs when he didn’t get all of your feed. We even had a chance to see the peacock strut his stuff, trying to impressive a handful of peahens who couldn’t have cared less- they were more interested in treats (typical).
It’s really cool seeing the mix of bare leaves along side green grass, colourful flowers and palm trees!
We are ever gaining more warm stretches and longer days, making us hopeful for spring and summer weather soon.
Our friends in town were driving by a house where the owners were JUST setting a barbecue to the curb in hopes of finding it a new home. They jumped out and chatted with the fellow wheeling the gem to the street to ensure it was in working order, and that they were indeed looking to be rid of it. Sure enough- it was workable and unwanted, proving the old adage ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’!
They threw it in the back of their truck and gave me a ring to be sure the guys were around to come see the new machine. I was able to keep it a surprise, and ran down to where the guys were on the beach and exclaiming, ‘Aaron has a surprise for you boys, you gotta get back to the house!!’
They were stoked!! Ha… I thought I’d got their reaction on video, but turns out, I just got a shot of my leg and a few fingers. Thankful to have that moment committed to memory- quite precious!
We’re hoping to spend more time outside soon with good friends and our fabulous new barbecue 🙂
We’ve now had a few Canadian visitors, and as I sit to write this little update Stacey’s mom is out enjoying the ocean breeze on our patio! We’ve been blessed to have some great voyagers come to share this kiwi winter with us.
My long time (and I mean long time… like nearly 3 decades) friend, Sarah was able to take advantage of her teacher schedule and come stay with us for 10 days. We tried to show her lots of the country in a short time, she seemed to have a fun time- I hope that’s true 🙂
Joel and I picked Sarah up on our way back from New Plymouth, and we gave her only one nights rest at our house before she and I ventured out!
Orchards, Vineyards and Art Deco
I had asked Sarah what she was after seeing while she visited, and she was gracious to research things that were in our area making it pretty easy to day-trip, while being flexible enough to plan some longer getaways.
Our first full day together was spent travelling South East to Hawke’s Bay, where most of our time was invested in the beautiful little town of Napier.
We caught one of the sunniest, most clear days to travel- made it tricky to leave Papamoa, but it was lovely to see so much and have good roads, too.
Since the sun was still cooperating so nicely, we got out to stop a couple times on our way. Our route took us through Rotorua, and Sarah got a whirlwind tour with promises to return. We were spoiled to be able to enjoy some solar warmth along the thermal highway!
We pulled into town just before sunset, and decided to get ourselves settled- booking a walking tour for the next morning and finding somewhere to eat. We were pleased to see our hotel had really gone the extra miles to make us feel at home.
We eventually landed at the Thirsty Whale which is a really cool like pub with great food, and stunning views of the harbour.
By the time we’d sustained ourselves, night had fallen which made me suggest a Pak n Save run (naturally). We couldn’t see the views and we weren’t too keen on spending much time or money out with an early morning. We wandered around, and got all the kiwi treats that one should try. Including the chocolate milk I’ve been eyeing since we moved.
I returned to the good ol’ days and slept soundly in my twin bed. Rebooting before our walk in the morning and wine tour to follow. Big day, good day!
Architecture and Murray
In 1931 Napier was mostly flattened by a massive, 7.8 earthquake that shook the town for two minutes. Since the quake took place in the late morning, most people were out and about- working, kids had just gone back to school and life was generally in full swing-which meant pharmacists were using their bunsen burners. After the shake these flames were one of the leading causes for enormous fires that engulfed the downtown. Because the quake had messed with the water mains, there was little to do, but to watch the town centre burn.
Once the chaos had settled, Napier was faced with a huge recovery project (only a couple original buildings remained)- which included dealing with massive amounts of new land that had been birthed from the sea as the seafloor elevated an average of 2.5 metres in the area! Crazy history.
Anyway- since the town was rocked during the great depression, there were loads of manpower available to rebuild- including amazingly skilled craftsmen. SO within 6 weeks the town had gained significant ground in it’s restoration and it was decided that the town would be built in the modern style (for New Zealand at the time) which is now known as Art Deco.
On Wednesday morning we met our tour guide, Murray. He is likely pushing 80 and still does walking tours all around Napier sharing his obvious passion for architecture and Art Deco.
In the 80s there was a big push to restore much of the original Art Deco style that was lost over the previous 50 years. The Art Deco Trust was established to both monitor and incentivize the reclamation of Napier’s CBD.
Building owners were encouraged to try to recover some of the facades that had been covered, painted over and generally altered and things kinda of just took off! Landlords (generally) believed in the preservation of the city and would sometimes do their own alterations to match original photographs from the 1930s.
I’m sure it’s obvious… but I loved Napier. It was undoubtedly a gorgeous city, but the history was something else. Murray shared all sorts of meaning behind the Art Deco shapes and design and they all seemed so intentional and powerful in light of their story and struggle to recover.
Once our tour around the city had ended, we had a bit of time to waste before exploring wine country. We made our time count at Mr. D. where fresh, housemade wonders awaited- including hot, fresh, fill-yourself donuts.
Hawke’s Bay is one of a handful of wine regions in New Zealand, and a spot we had yet to discover.
I’ve written on my love for winemakers and folks who host cellar doors. This time was no different- lots of passionate, interesting wealths of knowledge shared with us as we vanned from one vineyard to the next.
What stood out for me on this tour were the people we got to travel with. We had a family (parents originally from Ireland and their 2 daughters- all who now live in central England) and a lovely 30-something who is originally from the same English town, but now lives in Hong Kong with her husband.
We loved them.
We shared lots of laughs (more near the 2nd or 3rd tasting) and bonded over all being part of the commonwealth (including our kiwi driver, Robbie Darby). Few things bind strangers together in such fun than a wine tour (in my limited experience).
The evening of our tours was spent enjoying fish and chips from the Frying Dutchman and a chance to walk along the coast drinking in the last moments of daylight.
The next morning we left early with a heart full of joy, head full of memories and a bag full of freshly picked oranges from a local orange grove.
Onward to our second of three stops in Rotorua!
Egg Farts and Fancy Tea
We decided we had seen a great variety of what Napier had to offer, so headed to Rotorua to catch an economy version of high tea before returning our rental car.
For $12.50 each, we were certainly satisfied with our pitstop. It was nice to unwind with some hot tea and tasty treats.
Squeezing as much as we could out of our rental car, we rolled into the rental lot with just a few minutes to spare.
We had dropped our bags off at home on our way by, freeing us to take the bus home and just wandering around the Mount a bit before retiring for the day.
When we got back to the house Joel spoiled us with the best taco supper!
**INTERMISSION NOTE: This is when I seriously considered breaking this giant post in 2, and then decided to power through. You might need a bathroom, snack or coffee break here**
We were reunited with our NZ family here by the end of Sarah’s first week.
Joel and I took Sarah to a new spot for us- James St. Burger which is right in Papamoa. We were all spoiled by the hospitality (as the guys working played some Celine to make us feel at home, while asking us about our poutine preferences so they have the authentic experience on their menu) and the massive burgers- the best we’ve had in New Zealand.
I carted Sarah around with me a little while- sharing with her my favourite little nook at Henry & Ted. She brought her book, I brought my blog.
Friday we were all able to catch a movie with a few of our kiwi pals and enjoyed time together at Astrolabe that evening.
We had a few options to hang out on the weekend, but Sarah and my busy schedule ended up being the deciding factor to slow down a bit. Saturday spoiled us with a morning of sun, so everyone rotated in and out until the clouds took over.
We booked some activities for Sunday, the ladies took in yet another high tea (at Halo in Tauranga again) while the guys hit a pub nearby.
We headed for the Mount in the evening- attempting to walk around the base, but succumbing to the rain and wind instead.
Third Time’s the Charm
Sunday morning we just missed the early service, so made a couple pots of coffee to enjoy with a hot breakfast before bundling up and journeying to Rotorua as a group of six.
I found an online deal that saved us a bit of cash as we gained access to the gondola, Te Puia thermal and cultural site and the Polynesian Spa. Sarah had wanted to see Rotorua, so with 2 short stops and one full day I think her goal was accomplished!
We hit the gondola first and after some time sorting confusion about our voucher we made it to the top!
There’s a Jelly Belly store at the Skyline. I got a bag of weird shaped beans called ‘Belly Flops’ (lol), and I took the ‘Bean Boozled’ challenge where you spin a wheel to get a jelly bean. The person working will hand you a bean that could be tasty (like lime) or really not tasty (like lawn clippings-which is what I got). I lucked out the second time, because my bean could have been juicy pear or booger… I got a sweet surprise rather than a salty one- score!
Te Puia and Whakarewarewa Living Village share the same geyser and thermal field, we had already been to the living village and enjoyed it. So it was cool to see Te Puia to compare the experiences.
The day was quite clear, but really cold. We all had many layers trying to warm us, but even still… it took a while to coax some members of our crew off the thermal seats that are carved into stone right near the geyser. We needed the heated seats to warm ourselves enough to keep our smiles on 🙂
This trip was to a far more tourist-established park and there were added elements- including carving and weaving schools and a kiwi bird (2, I guess to be specific)- which were cool additions.
We really loved our guide at the living village, the price was cheaper and there seemed to be some more authenticity over there, but we had a great time on both sides.
Our time in Rotorua was capped off with attempts to warm up- delicious, spicy Indian food and a soak in the Polynesian Spa. What a fun day 🙂 grateful to have an easy-going crew happy to spend time together.
Monday came and so did the bus that took Sarah and me to the big city. We had packed up (Sarah much more than I did) and we headed North to take in a bit of Auckland before Sarah’s flight on Wednesday evening.
We didn’t have too much in mind for our time, but I had a few food stops planned (as usual). We arrived earlier than expected, and had some time to wander while the sun was still mostly out.
We dropped our bags then checked out a few shops and Albert Park before snagging a Monday night deal at a Mexican restaurant- taco salad and margaritas for a $16 total!
Tuesday morning we started off early with a busy schedule ahead. We stopped at Espresso workshop for a suitable start to the day- bagels and coffee, before hopping a bus to see Mount Eden.
Eden was really cool, not only is Mount Eden a massive, impressive crater (what’s left of one of many volcanoes that, years ago, helped develop the land Auckland is built on), but it’s also a neighbourhood in the city full of lovely character homes and quaint shops. We hiked up the slope and thoroughly enjoyed the expansive views.
The sun was shining despite the questionable forecast for the day, so we took advantage by walking quite a bit. We loved the old neighbourhood and neat sights along the way.
We eventually grabbed another bus to take us near a fairly well-known bakery, the head baker and founder has written a few books and has videos featured on the food network here.
Bluebells was a lovely stop. We decided to give in to our indulgent location and each got a cupcake, macaron and coffee.
After our pitstop, we walked on. From the edge of Mount Eden (where the bakery is) to the CBD, we were surprised by a couple things. The first being Canada St. and Canada Lane (we had to snap a couple photos).
The second was this really neat little store that carries all New Zealand made treats. There were all kinds of treasures- jewelry, candles, leather goods, stationary, handmade cards, art prints… I had trouble not buying all the things, definitely worth a return trip.
With a few Auckland musts crossed off, we decided to go to the Sky Tower. We had read that for a small fee you can upgrade your ticket to see the view twice in a 24 hour period- seeing the night lights as well as the view in daylight. AND that’s what we did.
From the Sky Tower, we wound up back at the hotel for a bit of a break. Tea and some quiet time. Sarah’s been working on a book and I had some bible study homework to chip away at. Nice to have a rest after lots of walking and sightseeing. Once we were recharged, we ventured back to the Sky tower for sunset.
The rain returned, so we were happy to grab a quick supper- avoiding the heaviness of more carbs and opting for a crisp lettuce wrap at Better Burger before organizing for the next days departures.
Wednesday was our last half day together. My bus back to Tauranga left in the early afternoon, and Sarah had some time after that to kill before heading to the airport for the first leg of her journey home.
The weather that turned Tuesday evening seemed to have settle in, so we tried to make the best of the chilly day.
We jumped on yet another bus to take us across the harbour to Takapuna. We had stayed in that area in May when we all first arrived, but didn’t explore much of the neighbourhood. There’s a beach-side cafe that’s one of the best in Auckland (based on TripAdvisor reviews).
We both enjoyed our large coffees, the view, exceptional service (including the offer of warm blankets for our legs) and our deluxe brunch.
As we strolled back toward the bus stop, we took our bit of extra time to walk into a few precious stores along the way. Takapuna is a place I’d like to go back to, seems like there are lots of cute stops and lovely things to entertain.
To squeeze in all we could, yet again, Sarah had to have Giapo. We were hoping the weather would cooperate, but neither it nor my stomach felt quite ready for ice cream. We waited as long as we could before going for it anyway.
Milk didn’t sound great to me, neither did the richness of the typically decadent toppings… but the young lady who helped us at Giapo ended up being a bit of a dessert temptress and won me over with a mandarin gelato- no dairy, no toppings, fresh and tart, yep- sold. Sarah was able to have the full experience and delighted in her creation while kicking away pestering pigeons.
10 days may not have been much time to see a lot of such a richly stunning country, but I’d say we did alright! It was fun to have travelled a bit with a dear friend and hope we were able to share some special memories while she was here.
SO- come and visit! We’d love to have ya 🙂
AND congratulations on making it to the end! 3000+ words is a commitments, I commend you.
Last weekend we were able to head toward Taranaki to have a visit with friends from home who we’ve yet to see, and to have a little down time. It was bliss… rainy, stormy bliss.
We rented a car for just over a week, and planned to use it for a getaway before Sarah arrived and then she and I would use it for a few days after. We organized ourselves so Sarah would meet us in Hamilton as we would be passing through en route to home and saving us about 3 hours by avoiding Auckland on our way back to Papamoa.
Friday morning came and we loaded up our new little Nissan with all we’d need for a few days and drove west.
The beginning of weekend bliss was donuts from Mamas Donuts in Hamilton. I’d read about their donuts and how their shop is only open from Thursday- Saturday, so we were excited to hit the window just right **drool**.
The options made it necessary for us to pick a few, and we just made our way through them across the weekend. Both Joel and I loved their cookies and cream (top right corner), but the custard in the chocolate dipped one was pretty bang on as well (bottom right). Overall we considered that pitstop a success.
We have been constantly wowed by New Zealand’s vast topography as we continue to see new land. Our trek to New Plymouth was no different. Despite the weather, we were impressed with the changing scenary over and over again. Including an unexpected detour through a Hamilton suburb that seemed centred around the mormon temple set high on a hilltop.
One of the highlights Joel noted about our drive was the sudden view of the ocean after having wound our way up and down the highway for several hours. From one curve to the next the land changed drastically! The wind picked up to toss our little car around a bit and brought with it a clearing where we could see the very angry ocean. Churning up silt and foam and crashing against a magnificent black sand beach.
We got out to take in the sight and almost immediately Joel’s hat was tossed off causing us to scramble after it. We walked long enough to snap a couple pictures before having to run back to shelter as heavy raindrops started to fall.
New Plymouth, New Love
Joel and I both really loved this area, but Joel especially felt quite quickly connected to this West coast region.
We had planned to spend a good amount of time outside- there’s lots to see outdoors, loads of hikes and walks to do in the surrounding area as well as a lovely 10km coastal walkway that allows you to bike, jog or stroll alongside black sand beaches, over iconic bridges, past the CBD and through green pastures- pretty cool… but, we got a Taranaki winter weekend.
All three days we were in the area it stormed. There were strong winds, buckets of rain and thunder that made us wonder if we were experiencing our first NZ earthquake. Thankfully with the storm came opportunity to visit, cozy by the fire, take bubble baths and just slow down- which was awesome.
On Friday, we made a PaknSave run to make some great meals at our Airbnb. As we left the store, to be sure we were still able to be sweet to one another, we regulated our blood sugar at a diner near by. They had giant burgers, curly fries, wild milkshakes and an unexpected touch of home!
That evening we got to go hang out with Ashley and met their new (cutest ever) puppy, Fitzroy. It was great to see a familiar face way over here on the other side of home, and we thoroughly enjoyed a catch-up along with time to talk through the growing pains of moving so far away.
Both Joel and I were truly impressed and happy to see Ashley and Jonathan’s connectedness to their new community. Lovely, lovely.
The theme of our weekend was relaxation.
My version of this included having bubble baths (which was fabulously luxurious as our house is bathtubless), eating candy, drinking coffee and watching as much Friday Night Lights on Netflix as my little eyeballs could handle.
Joel was able to get an awe-inspiring, peach-pop-driven amount of work done. I am continually impressed by his drive and am so proud of him for taking our downtime and finding such grand productivity.
This might not sound very relaxing to some, but Joel was so happy to have a quiet space to just get some things done and much of his work was just done for himself and his own businesses- which was great.
Note: that giant wooden crate just behind Joel was full of firewood when we arrived and we used it all. It was magical.
Our Airbnb was really cool. Renovated, but decorated to accentuate the original charm and character of the home. Even though we weren’t able to see the mountain from the garden as you can on clear days, we liked to look out and see the rooftops of houses in the neighbourhood, and felt comfortable there to hunker down, make hearty meals and just be still.
(this is one of Joel’s pictures from the weekend, he took several really amazing shots, so check out his Instagram if you haven’t already) This is Joel being a total all-star as he cleaned up the entire kitchen for us.
Makin’ the Best of the Weather
Saturday started with brunch out at the Federal Store with Ashley and Jonathan. They recommended the spot, and we loved it. Great coffee, scrumptious food and funky atmosphere.
Joel had a great hash with eggs over hard (hurray- this was a first since arriving in NZ) and I had pulled pork eggs benedict- both were delicious!
We took their thoughtful recommendations for the afternoon and ventured out to a couple (mostly indoor) activities.
Len Lye was this New Zealand artist who worked with some interesting media- known for kinetic sculpture and experimental film. We got to see some of his pieces at the Len Lye Museum and checked out their new cameraless photography exhibit (which my brother, Jordon would have appreciated).
We were happy to warm up a bit with an afternoon coffee break. We swung by the most hipster cafe we’ve been to- and loved it. Great drinks amongst a really cool interior- full of a modern-antique mix and maps (I love me some maps).
Len Lye is also the artist behind a massive wind wand structure that’s on the waterfront just off the CBD, there was enough of a break in the weather for us to check it out. We got our first taste of the coastal walkway, as well (even though we were nearly blown off the path by gail-force winds).
Sunday morning came and we were able to get out a little more- despite the massive overnight storm that shook the house and woke both Joel and I in the middle of the night. There was a flash of lighting was so bright Joel felt he should almost go check to be sure the house hadn’t been set ablaze and our friends had told us the thunder made them wonder if there was an earthquake!
An easy, quite morning with a glorious breakfast was the cure for our restless sleep, and we spent part of the afternoon with homemade cookies and tea visiting once more with Ashley and Jonathan. We were treated so sweetly and loved our time catching up with fellow Calgarians 🙂
Once we left our tea, we headed once again for the coastal walkway. Since the path is 10km long there’s lot of different places to start your trek, so we drove over to the Te Rewa Rewa bridge which looks like a whale skeleton with bright white ribs stretching into the sky from the bridge deck. On clear days the ribs curve around looking like a wave that perfectly frames Mount Taranaki with it’s picturesque snow cap and perfectly pointed peak. We just saw the bridge and a lot of clouds- still pretty impressive!
Home Again, Home Again
Monday we were ready to head back to Papamoa. On our way we had to time ourselves to get into Hamilton as Sarah’s bus arrived, and we had a little time to kill.
We left our Airbnb (exactly on time- the house keeper was coming in as we were heading out the door), and stopped for a coffee and macarons before hitting the road again.
We had a yogurt break and chanced our timing for New Zealand’s version of the Three Sisters- which are 3 oceanic rock formations just North of New Plymouth and can only be visited at low tide. We happened to be driving by at the perfect time, so we got to check ’em out.
(That’s me, but I fell on some slippery rocks and shut the autofocus off on our camera, haha… so it’s a bit blurry!) Here I am all muddy after my wipeout! Lots of sea caves and trash that’s washed up over time. We kinda liked it there… as you could have guessed by the number of photos shared! There are the 3 sisters on the left It looked like we could maybe go through the rock, so we tried it! And we made it all the way through to see the sisters from the other side.
Well, we had an extra rainy time, but it was fabulous. Lots to do and see in Taranaki, we’ll be back!
We picked Sarah up with exquisite timing and were on our way back to our area for plenty o’ adventure… but that’s for another post.