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.
When we first thought through our trip here, to New Zealand, we knew Joel would be able to continue his work, and I had done some research and brought along all I would need to apply for certification to teach in the country- or so I thought.
I think Joel and I also were prepared for the fact that it might not be as easy for me to find work, and ultimately if I didn’t- we would be ok.
We moved, we journeyed and eventually Joel adjusted to what was once normal for us- work, structured schedules and deadlines. It’s weird to be in another country, though. While trying to find the mental capacity and structure to upkeep the normal aspects of life- the things that make it possible for you to be adventuring- you still need to watch your bank account knowing there is a price to pay to cross items off your bucket list.
You work hard in order to travel and live days spattered with dreams come true, but you don’t expect that to be much of an adjustment. That’s been our experience anyway.
Part of the adjustment has been me not being able to be the financial contributor I like to be and want to be. I am a perpetual little sister- I want to keep up with everyone else, I strive to be independent, I’m just a little too stubborn for my own good- and that means I have a tendency to get a bit squirrelly when I’m out of my element.
A few days after we’d gotten ourselves sorted in Papamoa, I sat down to revisit the necessary documentation and process required for me to get my teaching qualifications in New Zealand, and discovered a few unexpected elements I was missing for my application.
The more I thought through logistics and timelines, I realized I would just rather put my efforts into different pursuits. SO that’s what I did…or am doing.
The Day to Day
In our house, I am the resident with the most free time.
Brandon and Stacey are able to do a lot of really amazing design work and their office is generally set up and buzzing around the kitchen table. Joel has a little corner office in the back of our house where he’s able to type away with few distractions and a decent enough wifi connection (as long as no one is using the microwave) to take calls and whatever he needs, really is back there.
I generally strive for a positive attitude as I try to busy myself with tasks that seem useful (this is just a me thing- I’m sure most of the Klettke-Nickerson crew would be totally fine if I just sat around eating ice cream on the couch as a full time job).
I have kept our part of the house (bathroom and bedroom) as consistently clean as I ever have kept things. At first I made sure things were off the floor and our bed was made so we weren’t surprised by cockroaches or something finding a safe haven in and amongst all those cozy nooks of cloth, but it’s evolved from there. It seems to help my mental health to have a clean space knowing I have so much extra time.
This ‘see the clean, feel the happy’ thing extends to other everyday tasks, too. There was mice week (or weeks, really) that kept us all busy, and I was happy to run errands to find different pest control options. A week of weed-control, too- doing a little upkeep on the rock garden around the property as well as a little trash pick up around the yard (Stacey was great with this, too).
One of my favourite ordinary things to do here is hanging our clothes to dry on the line. I love hearing the oceans rhythm and knowing we’ll soon have sun-warmed, wind-ironed, happy clothes.
I have really enjoyed cooking lots-meals, cookies, muffins, desserts, big breakfasts… This is something I’d like to continue and expand on. I’m eager to learn new and different recipes, and it’s been fun experimenting with new meals as a group.
To Do Lists
With so much extra time I’ve tried being productive with the things that kinda tend to creep up on me.
I’ve tried writing a blog post once a week or once every other week. My favourite way of completing blog posts is to pack up my laptop bag and walk to Henry & Ted to grab a cappuccino before opening up the ol’ Macbook and typing until my eyes, brain and fingers have had enough.
The whole house has now gotten into hitting the gym a few times a week. This is new and necessary because we all love Hokey Pokey ice cream…maybe a little too much.
Stacey and I have pulled up YouTube yoga videos a few times as well, just to try and keep ourselves active and stretched out- it’s especially great doing this after road trips and things where our backs are all outta whack. We roll out our matching yoga mats and giggle as we heckle our virtual instructors (usually after they want us to do something we don’t wanna do).
Another time-consuming task I’ve been able to tackle while being here and unemployed are photos! I was able to take advantage of a Shutterfly deal and get our wedding photos set in a big book that’ll be waiting when we get home.
I was even able to organize photos for the books our amazing wedding photographer will put together for us and I’ve sorted through our photos and FINALLY posted a good selection to my Facebook page 🙂
Having time off has given me a chance to invest in things I love- but often push aside with the everyday.
I am a slow reader, but have read more books since being in New Zealand than I have probably in the last year or more. I feel a difference in my memory, my grammar (which is usually terrible) and my vocabulary when I read- so I’ve appreciated this time to stretch my brain a bit.
I’ve been challenging myself to journal-often journalling through my thoughts on sermons I’ve been listening, things I’ve been reading and some of my thoughts as I process through my massive amounts of quiet time.
I love to research. I like to make sure if I need a jacket, I buy the one that’ll last me a while and that most purchaser seem to like. I also really like to support local products when I can and I think it’s cool how local shops and products often reflect the values of an area.
SO since being here I’ve spent some time researching different local shops, cafes and products. This has been really fun- I have learned lots already, and know that will only grow.
I’ve had a great time finding companies that make kids clothes just 20 mins away, or toys that are made in Tauranga and products that have been based in New Zealand for nearly 100 years. That stuff is just cool & I’ve been having fun discovering these spots.
My research has even reached into entertainment- we’ve had fun watching kiwi movies, and reading books written by New Zealand authors. It’s also lead to further entertainment as we practice our kiwi accents and as we butcher the Maori language and laugh at our attempts to properly pronounce things.
Finally, researching has brought me lots of joys as I’ve had time to book flights, day trips, hikes, Airbnbs, treks and different activities to be sure we take advantage of our time here. It’s been great to have time to plan trips for our visitors, too- trying to find new things for us to see and do while customizing activities (or at least attempting to) for specific friends/family members.
The Bucket List
I have a physical bucket list written out a home- things I don’t want to forget about. Things I want to try while I have time. I have a satisfying box to place a check in when I’ve completed a task, along with space for a brief description of how the task was completed.
The list is mostly made of silly, little things that are easily accomplished peppered amongst bigger tickets items.
I’ve thought of my list a few times since being here, and have tried to work towards some checks when we get back home.
Things like: read a certain number of books in a month, sketch every day for a month, snowboard somewhere outside North America, plant an edible garden and make latte art while learning to make some great coffee are all on the list and easily accomplishable here. SO that’s my goal.
I’ve contacted some different places that offer adult art classes to expand my skills, I’ve signed up for a barista class, I use my sketchbook more than I have since University, we are going to the South Island to board Mt. Hutt at the end of August and I’m in process of volunteering at a primary school not far from our house.
Loads of things to chip away at during this season of life.
Just Being Here
Even though I’ve had a chance to do a lot of activities since arriving, some days my job becomes keeping positive and reminding myself I’m here.
One of my bucket list items was to live abroad. I’m living the life I’ve dreamt of living, and doing something I’ve always wanted to do.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that we live by the Ocean, and it’s time to unplug and see this place. Live the life I’ve been blessed to lead.
Little things like teaching Stacey how to crochet and making a 100% New Zealand wool tuque in the process, or sketching (even though portraits aren’t my strength- now’s the time to practice), or just enjoying the rainbows we seem to get daily and our beach.
I always want to see and be thankful for this life, and our life lived abundantly.
In my unemployment, I’ve taken up a bit of travel agentry. I’ve been doing research and customizing travels for friends who are coming through. I, obviously, want people to have a great time with us, but I’ve also been planning things that will allow us to see new things in the country, too.
I had read that there was some winter fishing up in Northland (the region that lays North of Auckland and consists of a large peninsula), as well as a few cute towns- which were supposed to hold a couple yarn treasures. These things along with other reasons drove me to plan that exploration with Jamie and Michelle.
Ironically, we didn’t get up to much fishing or yarning while we travelled, but the Kotlewski’s have been kind in their comments about the trip- so I’m still gonna call it a win! We also got to see a lot of the country as our intended route reveals:
The Big City
Our first day of driving was the longest. We packed Crumpy up on a frosty Sunday morning and organized ourselves to head toward Auckland for a lunchtime stop before heading further North and into new territory.
Espresso workshop was our first stop for our coffee-loving Canadian pals who enjoyed their first pour-over here- which isn’t too common in the land of kiwis. New Zealand coffee is good and well-crafted, but outside urban centres coffee is mainly made using an espresso machine. Drip coffee and pour overs are tough to find in our area. While we were at Espresso workshop, we also grabbed a bag of beans to enjoy with a ‘plunger’ (or french press) while we travelled.
Our lunch choice was a little spot that reminded me a bit of Five Guys at home, a burger joint with a minimalist menu called Better Burger. We were pleasantly surprised by the food quality as well as the price tag for grilled patties, homemade shakes and hand-cut fries.
After a little walk through the CBD we landed at Giapo to indulge for the second time since starting our New Zealand adventure. It’s yet to disappoint! I ordered Hokey Pokey ice cream this time which came with hokey pokey (sponge toffee) spears and dipped in rich chocolate. Yum! Our smiles say it all:
Soon after that little selfie was taken, we had an interesting encounter with a homeless fella who seemed quite taken with Brandon and we decided that was our cue to move on.
We piled into Crumpy and headed off towards Ngunguru (Nung-ga-roo) for our first Airbnb.
Our first Airbnb experience was just a great introduction to a lot of fabulous accommodations. Our host was extremely attentive and thoughtful- being sure to provide us with all we could need on the stay and more, starting the wood-burning fireplace and setting out nibbles (snacks) for us so the house was as cozy as could be when we arrived. A welcomed treat after 5.5 hours of travel!
We arrived in the evening, explored the games room after we’d unloaded the car and decided who would have what bedroom. Then we settled in for a dinner of homemade pizzas (thank-you boys for kicking the ladies out of the kitchen at spoiling us with that act of service) and a couple episodes of Idiot Abroad (which has been a custom for us, as well as a friendly reminder to not be ignorant as we travel, haha).
A few rounds of Trivial Pursuit and warming by the fire rounded off our evening and we were all eager to turn in a bit early for further trekking the next morning.
In the light of day, we were again treated with the unexpected pleasantries of our Airbnb. We hadn’t realized in the evening that the property stretched far beyond our original understanding. There was a huge stretch of land out back that hosted edible gardens, fruit trees, and loads of animals: turkeys, peacocks, ducks, pigs and a bunch of other random creatures.
While Joel and I were checking out the back yard, we met our host who was out checking on the animals and were able to thank here in person for her special touches and thoughtfulness. We also had a chance to ask her how to pronounce the town nearby as we are still learning lots of Maori names.
Another Airbnb win!
As we continued up the peninsula, we were hoping to take in all we could. From Ngunguru to Ahipara we decided to take a bit of a detour to Abbey Caves. The caves were described as a great attraction to take in the glowworms (only found in NZ as far as I know, these worms live in caves and their poop glows in the dark- which is pretty cool) in an undeveloped atmosphere. You’re able to see the caves a few places in the country, but most popularly is at Waitomo caves which are far more tourist-friendly.
We parked along a secondary highway in the ‘car park’-which consisted of a roadside pullout with room for 3-4 cars, and headed down the muddy steps to a hiking trail that resembled a farmers field more than an established path. The trail loop was just over a kilometre long and had 3 large caves which you’re free to explore (at your own risk).
I am a bit claustrophobic and have a vivid, visual imagination that allows me to worry or analyse myself out of things sometimes. It’s a bit of a shame that the dark of the cave, “127 Hours” and the slippery rocks leading into the deep made me shy away from the first cave, but being a compulsive little-sister really challenged me to venture into the next 2 caves. I’m so. glad. I did!
The caves were mostly dark and wet with underground rivers/creeks running through, but when you venture far enough in to escape the daylight you’re rewarded with the view of the warms that (when your headlamp is off) resembles the Milky Way. Lots of glowing specks clustered together on the cave ceiling. Breathtaking.
After getting completely covered in mud and using up all the energy our breakfasts could give, we headed into Whangarei (Fung-gar-ray) for a highly satisfying Vietnamese feast.
We were able to take in one more attraction before finding our house for the next couple nights. I had visited years ago, and was surprised to discover a couple year back while working at the arts studio, that the same artist had designed an apartment building I saw in Germany when I was travelling after Capernwray.
Friedensreich Hundertwasser is a Austrian artist who experimented lots with collage and mosaic techniques in his work. He did some work in Europe before falling in love with New Zealand and being a citizen in his later years. He resided in the Bay of Islands region and designed a public bathroom here. Now known as the Hundertwasser toilets in a tiny town in Northland, it’s a fun little spot that was just off our route, so it worked well for a pitstop.
Ahipara was our next stop and the first place we were staying for two nights. Our neighbour at this Airbnb said we shouldn’t tell other Kiwis about their little slice of heaven and boasted about Ahipara being New Zealand’s hidden gem. We’d have to agree. This place had a lot to offer from shipwrecks to the most splendid sunsets.
We arrived as the sun was setting and drank in the beauty as we drove. The property manager was a wealth of information and too kind to us as she toured us through the house.
Our first full day was used up travelling to the furthest North you can drive yourself in New Zealand. Cape Reinga is essentially the end of the road, and it took us to a beautiful lookout and lighthouse. That day we were as close to home as we will be on this trip!
We had lots of fun taking all the pictures and soaking up the sun and view. In Maori history, the cape marks the place where souls would go into the afterlife. What a beautiful launching point!
Oh the things we would see if we had all the time in the world! Just behind us in the next picture you can see part of some massive dunes that are enjoyed in the area. You’re able to sand board and do all kinds of cool activities there. We’ll have to do that another time- or discover some of the dunes closer to us.
We had hoped to enjoy a picnic at the cape, but read that traditionally you’re discouraged to eat or drink on the land. We respected the request and found an alternative picnic spot for lunch.
It ended up being a great idea to move on, as it gave Jamie the chance to swim in the ocean. The rest of us were still happy to watch as the weather wasn’t quite warm enough to enjoy fully, but Jamie picked a great day- our warmest so far. Sunny and probably close to 20 degrees!
Sunsets and Shipwrecks
After our Northernmost excursion we headed back to the house to catch the sunset. I had read that at lowtide you’re able to see some leftover bits of ships that have crashed on the rocky coast near our Airbnb, which is true… just wasn’t quite what we had all envisioned.
There were a couple big pieces of rusty metal we checked out at Shipwreck beach, but the coolest part of our visit ended up being able to drive out onto the sand!
We drove the couple minutes back to our house on the beach and headed across the road to rock-jump and catch the sunset. The tide was way out which allowed us to explore some tide-pools on the black, volcanic rocks along the coast.
It had been another fun and very full day, we were all happy to retire for the evening. I was able to open the sliding doors wide and plopped myself on a beanbag chair to catch the last moments of light before the sun sunk beyond the horizonline.
The guys gifted us with another amazing meal that night. We were happy to have a BBQ and they guys made a delicious meal of grilled lamb, veggies and potatoes. Delicious!
After our time in the far North, we started to head back down the coast. We were hoping to take advantage of the daylight and decided to head pretty much straight for our third Airbnb just 10 minutes outside Dargaville.
This last house I was pretty excited about it, it’s a riverside getaway that’s both rustic and homey. We all really thought this house was special.
The house was made over several years, lovingly crafted by one builder. The house is almost completely wooden and the inside highlighted the skill and passion of the woodworker along with his wife’s beautiful stained glass work. The house is heated solely by wood-burning stoves- even the water heater depends on a little stove to warm.
I don’t know how we could have planned our time any better, as we were settling into this cozy spot the grey set in and gave us a couple days of rain. The first day there, most members of our crew went to explore and ended up doing a little peak hike and checked out a local beach.
Michelle and I were feeling a bit tired out and done with the car (particularly after a spell of carsickness for Michelle), so we ended up organizing ourselves at the house. We checked out the local attraction- which, according to Google maps, was a church up the road and walked the property a bit before reading for me a yarn-crafting for Michelle by the fire.
The next day was especially rainy, so we all decided we would enjoy the downtime instead of pushing ourselves outside. That suited us quite well. The guys got some work done while the girls enjoyed a movie in the afternoon and some quite time by the fire (again- which I was more than happy with).
Another fabulous meal and dessert enjoyed while watching “Red” finished up our visit at the river house. With several chores the next day to be sure to leave the house safe and secure, we headed back towards the big city!
Auckland, Round 2
On our second trip into Auckland on this trip, we decided to sneak a few more things into the schedule, starting with coffee.
We stopped at Coffee General Origin and we all enjoyed some more locally roasted coffee. This cafe serves a handful of roasteries coffees, which is pretty neat. We all chose our desired caffeine boost from pour overs to Jamie’s first siphon coffee and some milk-based espresso drinks. Good stop.
We arrived at our Victorian-style home for the night and gave ourselves a bit of a break before hopping on the train to take in the Blues vs. Brumbies Rugby game.
It was really fun watching the game- the stands in the picture look very bare, but this is a pre-game junior game we caught part of. The stands filled a bit more, but nowhere near our All Blacks experience. It was great to hear more of the rules from our in-house Rugby expert, Jamie. Brandon and Joel both clustered around their pal to ask questions and learn more about the game.
Blues won and we had a great time- Joel loved being reunited with Fritz’s Weiners, a german sausage stand that we’ve seen at stadiums and markets throughout the country.
We were thoroughly frozen by the end of the game and happily scooted on home for some hot chocolate and to watch a documentary before bed. Auckland had shown up some more fun and we were grateful. We had an early departure, though, in order to connect with our pal, Jason for some luging in Rotorua.
(That subtitle is for all your kids who grew up in the 90s)
We woke up and got ourselves going early Saturday morning because we had a three hour drive ahead of us. Our friend, Jason, from church had invited us to go luging together in Rotorua. We all thought it would be a good time, but few expected it to be as fun as it was.
Luging is now available at COP at home, I believe. You ride these little plastic carts down a hill- which isn’t as exciting as it ended up being. Jamie and Jason became fast friends and quickly formed ‘The Chaos Club” whose main goal was to whip past as many lugers as possible while causing a whirlwind of trouble!
I loved watching our friends laugh like kids as they zoomed past one another and shared stories of crashing into crazy tourist who didn’t seem to understand the categories of track- scenic, intermediate and advanced. We had lots of fun, and would definitely trek back to Rotorua for some more fun luging… although, if it’s sooner rather than later we need all the warm clothes including tuques and gloves!
Us six popsicles walked ourselves into a great Thai restaurant for dinner and headed back to Papamoa to start the unpacking (and re-packing for the K’s) process.
We were gone so long the snails feasted on our mail!
Sunday was full of lunch, last minute souvenir shopping and some recovery before taking Jamie and Michelle to the bus that evening.
We had the best time all together, and are so grateful to our friends for travelling so far for a visit. Thanks for coming, Kotlewski’s!! You’re now part way home, and we hope you have the best summer 🙂
A couple Mondays ago we were preparing to depart our coastal abode to venture Auckland-way to pick up our first wave of Canadian visitors. Then we realized… they actually arrive on the Tuesday. We laughed it off and enjoyed our day free from visitor-preparation!
When the day actually arrived, Joel and I took Crumpy for a drive just shy of 3 hours- armed with the (now traditional greeting) gift of L&P and pineapple lumps.
It was really great to see Jamie and Michelle at the arrival gate and we were grateful for the drive time home to catch up and share news. Good friends are such a rich blessing, aren’t they?!
We dropped off bags and picked up Brandon and Stacey before heading to The Mount for the burger deal at Astrolabe (which was a hit for $10- burger, fries and a drink).
Relax and Recover?
We hadn’t planned much for our first few days as a group of six, as we’d expected our friends would need some time to recover a bit after their flight. It had also been a busy few weeks leading up to their departure- with weddings, school ending and out-of-town work filling Jamie and Michelle’s days.
To everyone’s surprise the new Canadian additions fell right into kiwi time, and it didn’t take much to start our planning. We had expected to stay close to home for a good few days, but all it took was a lazy day in Papamoa and one exceedingly rainy one to get us all motivated to be on the move.
Plenty of BOP
We were eager to show the Kotlewski’s the Bay of Plenty area, starting with a clear morning on our beach.
As we walked, the clouds cleared and opened to allow the sun to warm us.
We’ve learned New Zealand winters are about half and half rainy days to warm ones, often raining for a few days and then a swapping for a few of sun. Jamie and Michelle really got some fantastic weather on their trip, though- more sun than rain, and we took advantage of that!
After one day of a full-on downpour, we were ready to wander once more. Our wandering took us to the imagination of Peter Jackson…but more on that shortly.
Our adventures close to home included a trip to Pak n Save for all the kiwi favourites (resulting in Jamie purchasing and consumption of a frightening amount of heavy, full-fat dairy products), an introduction to Henry & Ted as well as a stop at the Bayfair mall.
Tauranga Thursday was a chance for Stacey and I to show Jamie and Michelle the ‘big city’ nearby while Joel and Brandon had a quiet afternoon to catchup on some work. We sought out some fishing and camping stores for Jamie and a (unimpressive) yarn shop for Michelle.
Michelle, Stacey and I had high tea at a hotel that overlooks the water, while Jamie walked around the strand in Tauranga’s CBD. He was able to get a coffee and chat with some fisherman for the down-low in the area. We really enjoyed our quiet visit with delightful treats (thanks, Stace for the photos :).
Once Brandon and Joel had finished some of their work, they hopped on the bus and met us for some fun. With the weather still a bit irritable, we decided indoor activities were our friends. We hit the bowling alley for a bumpin’ evening. We also ran into our pastor friend who let us know we had arrived just too early to get the evening bowling deals- bummer! We will be sure to catch the deal another night soon, though (never fear, bargain-hunters).
After two games and an awkward encounter with a group of kiwi bowlers, we were off for an Indian feast for dinner. Despite our underwhelmed waiter, we thoroughly enjoyed the meal, sharing some old favourites as well as a few new-to-us menu items.
Friday was our Hobbiton adventure! We live just an hour from the start-point of the Hobbit hole tour, we hadn’t yet been and had saved it for visitors (knowing we’ll likely end up visiting a couple times in our eight months stretch).
Admittedly, I’ve seen all the Lord of the Rings movies as well as the Hobbit films, but it just didn’t really stick with me. Fantasy stuff, for some reason just doesn’t really make sense to me. The Hobbit movies I was into a bit more…but anyways. I didn’t know how I would feel about visiting this grand New Zealand attraction, but figured a day outside in the sun with friends, learning about movie magic would be pretty fun. I wasn’t disappointed!
We were toured through the New Zealand countryside along with hundreds of other Hobbit-fans. Our tour-guide was knowledgable and fun. Our guide shared lots of interesting facts about production and kept us all tied to what she had to say.
I loved hearing little movie tidbits like: the one fake tree on set was put up above Bilbo’s house because it was set so many years before LOTR and needed to be smaller than the tree seen in those movies. Its leaves were also re-coloured to suit Peter Jackson’s vision for the film.
I also would have been after the job that required the employee to walk from one hobbit clothesline to the next during the two weeks of filming to make believably trodden trails on the hillside. Also, this movie set is just plain impressive.
I especially enjoyed seeing all my travel-mates come alive with child-like joy as we wandered through this fairytale land come-to-life.
We even found Bilbo’s truck!! It was out of service during filming, but it was nice to know it’s functional once more 😛 (picture 2 also shows the fake tree- the sun is shining through it’s branches).
We enjoyed some beverages offered on the tour at the Green Dragon, and only available in Hobbiton (special, secret recipes and all that).
We had a lovely time in the land of lovely little people and ended up rounding off our day with lunch in Rotorua and Jamie’s first fly fishing experience on Lake Rotorua.
The day before our road trip up and around Northland was spent highlighting Mount Maunganui. We had another beautiful sunny day to enjoy together. First step to enjoying the day is fighting hanger! Breakfast of champions: streaky bacon (kiwi for the bacon we have in Canada), apple pancakes and an egg scramble. Delicious!
Joel was working on a deadline, so we left him to finish up while the rest of us headed to Little Big Market at The Mount. Our one free Saturday was the one Saturday this month when the Market is on, so that was a treat.
We wandered the stalls, had some coffee and the Kotlewski’s had their first taste of Johney’s Dumpling House (a favourite of ours). Stacey has caught some great moments for us, and I’m so glad for all the photos I’ve been able to share of hers on this post!
Once we were done at the market we headed to the Mount itself for a little hike. We tried a new route to the summit and spent the extra time walking around the base as well. We were able to help Michelle get her 15000 fitbit steps 🙂 What a perfectly beautiful day, too.
It’s been fun having the Mount so close by. We’ve hike up and around it in a few ways already, and have more yet to explore. Hiking with friends on that Saturday even allowed us to see a helicopter running some sort of drills from one side of the slops to the other. Kind of a cool thing to take in!
After our hike, Joel joined us via bus and we all had a nice pub supper before resting up for our Sunday road trip departure…that adventure is another post, though.
Despite having been to New Zealand on previous trips, neither Joel nor I have ventured too far South. Joel spent most of his time with his cousin who lived in Mount Maunganui at the time. While my travel buddy, Allison and I were able to do a short 5 day road trip around the North Island, only venturing as far South as Turangi (about half way down the Northern chunk of the country).
I had only ever heard fabulous things about Wellington. We had read that Wellington has more pubs, restaurants and cafes per capita then New York City, it’s also the capital city of New Zealand and has a reputation of being an arts and culture hub.
Food, coffee, craft beer, art and more… yeah, we were looking forward to our trek down South! In fact, there’s far more to see then could be completed in one weekend- so we plan on seeing it again. Maybe not too soon, though…
Hittin’ the Road
Early Friday morning, we loaded up Crumpy and grabbed coffee for our 6.5 hour drive South. Brandon was a trooper and drove the entire trip there (which was greatly appreciated).
We have all been doing research on this tiny country we’re temporarily calling home, but nothing really prepared us for the beauty of New Zealand.
We drove just over six hours, but in that stretch we drove along lush, prehistoric-looking forests, expansive lakes, open plain that hosted desert-like plant life, snow-covered mountains, trout fishing towns and more. It was as if North America had been shrink-rayed to a space roughly the size of the United Kingdom. Wild!
We arrived in Wellington just before dusk and were immediately drawn in. I would describe the initial appearance of the city to be a mix of San Fransisco and Seattle. There was a very urban-ocean vibe to it, and I was surprised to see how built up the city is.
We wound our way up steep, switch-back city streets to reach our AirBnB. We really found a hidden treasure in the city in terms of accommodations. We were hosted by a lovely, animal-loving family who recently bought their victorian-style garden home after living in Australia for more than 20 years, having run a cafe among other things there.
Wayne, the home owner, was a warm, generous and hospitable guy who made us the best coffees of the trip. We loved going up to visit with him 2 of the 3 mornings we were in the city.
After checking in with Wayne and dropping our bags off, my attitude told me it was definitely time for food. I tried toning down my hanger long enough to go grab some dinner in the CBD.
It was the quintessential Friday night in Wellington- along Courtenay Place and Cuba street, the pubs and restaurants were humming with activity. We had looked into a couple restaurant options, but tried our hand at getting a table at Chow- which, divinely had had a cancellation just before we arrived. Rather than the usual 40+min wait, we were ushered right in!
Joel and I ordered a few small plates- which included peking duck lettuce wraps and mushroom and leek dumplings among others- while Brandon and Stacey each enjoyed their own dishes- lamb curry and a spicy pho.
Surprised by how close things were downtown, we happily walked a couple blocks to reach our next destination, The Fringe. The Fringe is a cozy bar with friendly bartenders that hosts all sorts of live events each week. The Friday we went, it was standup.
Joel and I are fairly new to seeing live comedy, but have really enjoyed it (although, we’re both careful to be inconspicuous to ensure the minimum amount of audience-participation pointed at us).
The evening had a slower first half, with only 2 of the comedians being able to properly engage with the (tough) crowd. The second half, however, held much more success for the comics who performed. Jerome Chandrahasen was the headliner that evening, and he did not disappoint- he had everyone in stitches.
We walked the main strip a bit before deciding parts of the CBD were best toured in daylight, and called it a night.
Saturday was a day of city exploration. After coffee and some suggestions from Wayne, we headed toward Te Papa on the wharf. We parked and started our walking tour.
The wharf had been set up for a noodle festival, so there were these cool paper lanterns dancing in the sea breeze as we walked. Lots of really lovely mixes of architecture were all around as we drank in the city views along on the water.
In a parkade just off the water’s edge, there was an art and design market. We wandered the stalls there and found lots of fun treasures including jewelry, bean-to-bar chocolate, and handmade soy candles.
Our time at the market wrapped up with a hunger for brunch, so off we went. While still in Papamoa, I had researched a few food and coffee spots to check out in Wellington, and I had read that Ti Kouka could do most of their menu items gluten free. We discovered it was within walking distance, and were impressed by our experience there.
Indeed, most things were able to be made gluten free, and the waiter was happy to accommodate Stacey’s sensitivities- being careful to share her needs with the chef. Stacey said her potato rosti with wilted greens, poached egg, bacon and hollandaise was the best breakfast she’s had! Awesome.
Wellington is another one of those cities with this incredible mix of history and reclaimed buildings right along with modern architecture and amenities. We had a lot of fun wandering the city streets checking out churches, shops, and more.
Here’s Joel at the Wellington Chocolate Factory, where we sampled a few tasty truffles.
From or brunch stop we headed toward Cuba street, which is a street with a pedestrian mall part way through it. Cuba street is a hipster-area along the lines of Whyte ave. in Edmonton or 17th in Calgary. Lots of neat secondhand book stores, op shops (thrift stores), cafes and boutiques lined both sides of the street.
After wandering about, we decided it was time to head back to our first parking spot to move our car to a better location for the All Blacks game.
The All Blacks are the national rugby team, so they don’t have one set location, instead their games are played all over the country and are always wildly popular. We were sure parking and traffic would be tricky, so we decided to be proactive with our parking choices. Using Wayne’s recommendation, we found a parkade just on the other side of the train tracks from Westpac Stadium and hunkered down there for the evening.
One cool thing was, with time to burn, we ended up seeing a new side to the CBD. From our All Blacks parking spot, we were able to see the parliament buildings nearby.
We had tried to visit The Thistle Inn Tavern, which is one of the oldest public houses in New Zealand, but we were met by All Blacks crowds- even three hours before the game was due to start. It was cool to see inside the tavern, just the same. Many of the pubs around the stadium were set up with private events or game-specific menus, so we ended up at good ol’ Maccas (along with several other groups of game-goers we noticed). After a quick break to rest our feet and feed our stomachs… we were on our way to Westpac Stadium!
All Blacks vs Wales
Two hours before kick-off we lined up with the other rugby fans to get into the stadium as soon as the doors opened. We had tried to study up a bit on the rugby ways, but still didn’t know what to expect from the experience. We were greeted by a bank promotion and were happy to label ourselves as All Blacks fans (Stacey’s also practicing her Haka face as she displays our bank swag):
As we waited in line, we listened to the Stadium announcements which included reminders of how to be gracious and considerate fans as well as a brief note on what to do in case of an earthquake. These announcements were nestled amongst visual projections and amp-up videos played on the stadium itself, dragon sound-effects and the chatter of more and more people readying themselves for the game.
We made our way through the ticket scanners and bag check to trek around the stadium to our seats. We were pleasantly surprised to see we were quite close to the field, and that- with the evening chill setting in- we were near the coffee kiosk, too!
Selfie-city, population: me.
I loved having this new experience. From the national anthems (sung mainly in Maori for NZ and Wales being entirely in Welsh) to the exceptionally polite crowd (reminded after the first try again, via loud-speaker announcement, to be cordial and respectful fans) and throughout play- I was quite taken with rugby. As good little Canadians, we only really had professional hockey games to compare our sporting event attendance to, so that was eye-opening.
(I really like when they lift each other up to catch a throw)
We enjoyed the quick-pace of rugby, and I was interested to note the way injuries were dealt with. I don’t think there are any other sports out there where several medics are on the sidelines, at the ready to run on field to help- often before the player himself is aware of his own need of medical attention.
Furthermore, teammates aren’t able to involve themselves with on-field injuries. They are more concerned with staying warm and in game-mode. At one point during play, a tackle resulted in one player having to be removed via stretcher and golf cart due to a neck injury. Although, I’m sure the other players cared about their teammate, they waited for him to be removed from the field by running passing drills and being sure their own fitness was maintained for the game to continue. Crazy.
By the end of the game, we were fully involved. It was really cool to have the All Blacks going for trys in our end of the stadium during the second half, too. We had lots of fun cheering the All Blacks to victory!
To Market to Market
After a good rest, Sunday was a day of unexpected treats.
We first decided to venture back to Te Papa for the weekly farmer’s market held there. It was cool to see the car park brimming with all sorts of produce and wares. It was a bustling spot and even as we walked up Oriental Parade afterward, we could see folks with their market shopping bags as evidence of its popularity.
(Me shadow in the greens)
After a food-truck breakfast and a quick wander up and down market stalls, we strolled up the walkway by the water toward Oriental Bay.
This area again reminded me lots of San Fransisco, now complete with row-houses among the rolling hills and clear water.
A picture’s worth a thousand words, which is great- because I’m almost at 2000 of those…
As we left the market, we headed for a cafe which was highly rated and had a cool, retro vibe, but ended up being amongst the most disappointing coffees we’ve had in NZ.
The bright side of that stop was me noticing a family friend living in Wellington had touched base on Facebook in hopes of meeting up with us. Perfect timing!
A Wellington Tour Guide
My oldest brother’s best friend, Karl has been living in Wellington with his family for the last couple years and had made a couple suggestions for us on our trip. To our surprise, our schedules ended up overlapping well with his and we were able to meet up.
At the Weta Workshop we ran into Karl and his two, fabulously joyful kids! It was a lovely meet up. We were hoping to see the workshop (where all sorts of movie magic is birthed through costumes, props and digital design), but had a couple hours to burn while we waited for our tour to start.
Karl was gracious enough to be our tour guide for our in-between time, and this ended up being the highlight of our trip! He drove us around Mirmar and pointed out lots of interesting things we wouldn’t have seen on our own. We even got to see Peter Jackson’s house and I’m 90% sure I saw his forehead through his kitchen window as we drove by- haha!
We did a quick, windy hike up to check out a bunker originally used to watch for Japanese invaders in WWII. It now boasts a wicked view which includes sights of the airport and an interesting vantage point of the city.
We took in some great sights together and were able to share a nice fish and chip lunch (gluten free, even!) before heading back to Weta for our tour.
Wonders of the Weta Workshop
I didn’t realize how influential the Weta team is on the big screen. We were toured inside the workshop where artists are constantly working to make movies a believable escape from reality.
We were shown all sorts of things- from alien weaponry used in District 9, to fully-functional all terrain vehicles used in the Halo promo movies, animatronics used in Lord of the Rings and full models used in the Narnia films. It was amazing to see the massive amounts of work, time, money and creativity that’s poured into the movies we’re entertained by for a couple hours and kinda just forgotten about in some cases.
We were thoroughly impressed with our time at Weta, and left with a greater appreciation for all that goes into the films we see and have seen!
Rounding off the Weekend
As we left the workshop, we realized how drained we were starting to feel. The busyness of the day and now grey skies were all weighing on us. We decided to drive up to one more lookout atop Mount Victoria in the city centre before heading back for a rest and pizza supper.
What a beautiful city! We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend away. It was full and worth the trek, for sure.
Monday morning brought our final coffee with Wayne and his wife before their dog feasted on my shoe 🙂 and we started our long drive home.
We ended up somehow missing a turn off part way back home and took a slight detour. The detour ended up treating us to some really cool views we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. We stopped in Wanganui for lunch, and then followed the river until we worked our way through the hills, beside the lonely mountain and up towards Lake Taupo.
With a couple of stops- one to stretch our legs at the lake, and another at Pak n Save to set ourselves up for meals and such, we were back home and ready to start the week leading up to our first set of visitors!!
Jamie and Michelle will arrive in about 5 days, and we couldn’t be more excited! Many more massive posts to share, I’m sure.
Friday was the start of some couple time in Adelaide. It was really fun to show Joel a few spots I’d stopped at while he was in the conference, but even more fun to stop at a few places for the first time together.
We had already booked a food and wine tour for the day to start our adventures out right. In my reading I had heard some about the Adelaide Hills (just inland from the city- about a 20 min drive), but it was really fun to be along with some locals to hear more about the area.
Eat Drink and be Merry
Just after 9am we were greeted by our friendly, Aussie guide for the day, Danny. He arrived with a full-sized van, a warm welcome and sturdy handshake. I liked him right away.
We eventually found out Danny was once a teacher at a tech school in the area, but found it wasn’t his deal. We were grateful to have his gift of teaching to share stories of the past as we drew closer to koala country.
He shared all sort of pearls as we travelled through downtown. All about the history of the city, the things that had changed and saved over the years of Adelaide evolution. We were 2 of 5 passengers on the tour that day, 2 locals celebrating a 50th birthday and one American on her way through a whirlwind tour of Australia.
The crew was cordial, but by the third cellar door… we were friends.
I was really hoping to see a koala bear or kangaroo, as ordinarily we would be thick in their part of South Australia, but we’ll have to save that for another trip. The cute critters were hiding while we headed for the lookout at the top of the hills. We were able to gain a survey of the coastline from our vantage point. Beautiful. Blustery.
Our day was structured around food, drink and culture. Our first stop encompassed two of those elements (and culture in more than one way). Cheese.
We got our first glimpse of the oldest German town in Australia. The locals on our tour were eager to inform us (several times) that in South Australia, the people immigrated as traders, explorers and settlers… not criminals. But more on that later.
Udder Delights is a quaint cheese shop set in a sunny yellow character home on the main street of Hahndorf. We were greeted at the front counter by a cheery young lady who passionately offered us a handful of cheeses to taste (but she wore gloves and proper utensils).
We were impressed with most of the flavours, but really wished we were able to pack some of the dutch gouda back with us. Yum.
Chocolate was up next. Named after Nellie Melba, a famous Australian opera singer who frequented the area to sit for a portraitist years ago, Melba Chocolates features every chocolate-covered concoction one could imagine. We saw chocolate covered coffee beans, every dried fruit under the sun was doused in the sweet stuff, liquorice, you name it… it was there.
We sampled a few tasty treats, and headed home with the most sprinkle-covered chocolate bar I’ve ever seen and white chocolate coated Swedish berries. Delicious!
Neither Joel or I are big wine drinkers. It’s just kinda of an occasional situation, generally with friends who are more seasoned in flavour profiles and the like, but the Adelaide Hills are known for their vineyards and wine.
The hills are more recently being recognized as a hub for cellar doors and wine tours, and because of it’s cooler temperatures the region is gaining buzz with their white wines, specifically- sauvignon blancs.
I was a good sport with trying several wines, but the highlights of the vineyards for me were the passionate employees, the views and the history.
I love hearing people speak on their passions, and there is no shortage of such people in wine country. People have beautiful stories of when they drank the perfect wine in the most scenic atmosphere. Peoples bodies seem to breathe air in differently when they’re talking about the things they love. They come alive-this is such a cool thing to witness.
One vineyard we visited had this incredible barn with barrels and barrels of wine waiting to come of age. They host weddings and functions amongst the barrels, and this was the first of many times Joel and I noticed how awesome it would be to have your wedding in Adelaide. There are perfectly picturesque spaces all over the city!
Then there were the stories of how wines from the area began to gain interest, and that one of the biggest pests to wine makers there are kangaroos. Very cool.
Lunch in the Motherland
In 1839 Hahndorf was settled by German immigrants who arrived by boat, and hiked up the hill for their piece of paradise. They were able to establish themselves as a self-sustaining community. Most of what they needed was readily available and crafted for use by the population (clothes, food, building material, etc.).
Women from the village would pack up produce and other items for sale, they would leave at midnight and hike all the way down into the city to sell their goods at the central market- which, in spite of being in a new location, is still operational today (I went there and wrote about it in my previous blog post, JFYI).
They hiked through an area that was well-known to be dangerous as robbers frequented it, but there’s no record of the robbers ever bothering the ladies of Hahndorf. My guess is because they were big, tough ladies with arms and legs strong enough to snap their necks like twigs if provoked… but that’s speculative.
The women made the trek to the city several times a week. A 12 hour round-trip hike, where they brought goods down and brought any supplies they needed back home- including 2 large stone each that were used for the construction of the town church.
Anyways… we had fun exploring Hahndorf. Our time in town started with lunch at a german pub. Both Joel and I had the platter of 3 different German sausages with warm potato salad and sauerkraut and a wonderful homemade apple strudel with ice cream was dessert. It was so decadent, we felt we should follow in the Hahndorf maiden’s footsteps to work it all off.
Instead we wandered around town.
With such a fun, full day, there’s no need to explain this next picture:
Saturday arrived with the promise of some sun, so we headed out to discover more of the city.
We started off towards the zoo. The walk there was lovely. We took a slight detour in order to go through the botanical garden again on our way to see the animals. Joel was really impressed with the beauty within the wrought iron gates. We made a plan to circle back Sunday to take our time in the gardens.
Joel really enjoyed coming across the free mason hall on our walk towards the zoo as well. It was a massive building on a main road by the university. Pretty eerie!
The zoo wasn’t very big, but had a lot of really interested animals to watch. One of our favourite sights was an elusive little orangutan that we walked by twice; the first we didn’t see him, but read he likes to hide under blankets. The next time we walked by his enclosure, we caught a glimpse of him pop up from under his fleece, adjust himself- being sure to cover his head and then hunker down again like a moody teenager. He held us captive for several minutes as we hoped he would come out again. No luck- but it made us rich with joy and memories.
Joel, of course- loved the giraffes, and I enjoyed making it look like he was in a cage. This tiger was looking rather majestic, too:
With some rain threatening to dump on us, and my hangry-tendencies looming we headed back towards the city centre for a snack and indoor activities.
We found ourselves at the museum, which was another free stop. I was impressed with the number of activities that are made available for the public in Adelaide: botanic gardens, art gallery, museum… and more. Very much appreciated.
For something a bit different Saturday evening, we ventured out to see if we could get a seat at a top 5 restaurant in Adelaide, Peel St. We were told all their reserved spots were taken, but it might be possible to catch a table if we stopped in.
We walked over, taking our chances in the first few minutes they opened. Our gamble paid off, and we were able to snag a tiny bar-table that was set up around a brick pillar in the middle of the restaurant.
The place was tiny, but packed. We were happy to have any table at all for this unusual experience. The interior was very simple- exposed brick and ceiling beams completed the raw vibe throughout the space. It was both industrial and inviting- a great mix.
The only paper menus available were the wine lists, the food menu is all seasonal and ever-changing, so it’s described on two massive chalkboards.
We were told to order 1-2 ‘small’ items and 1 large to share. So we did. Each plate that passed us to it’s intended group looked similar- white, oval platters mounded with greens and veggies. We quickly learned, that the dished may look alike, but each have this fabulous individuality.
Our first course was pork belly and prawns with Asian greens, peanuts, pineapple, chilli and lime. This was our favourite of the three options. The meat was tender and flavourful and the mix of tastes were expertly crafted, balanced and inventive.
Dish two was a parmesan and thyme crusted roast pumpkin with whipped feta, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, capers and tomato salad with walnut and green olive dressing. This was another winner, very interesting and full of flavour.
Lastly we had our main dish, Vietnamese grill beef with onions and curried lime dressing. This was probably the tastiest beef we’ve had since being away from Alberta.
It was fun to be a part of the Peel St. experience. The place bustling the while time we were there, and it had this really cool community-vibe as friends shared family style gourmet gastro explorations.
Sunday Funday (as they say)
There wasn’t much on the schedule for Sunday, so we decided to hit up a breakfast place Joel had been interested in. It was outside the CBD, so we tracked our route on city transit, and went to find Long Lost Friend.
It was a beautiful day to adventure, lots of sunshine and a simple trek to land us at our destination.
We enjoyed a lovely breakfast and coffees before walking a ways and ending up at the botanical garden for a proper tramp around the grounds. Throughout the gardens, it seems like every turn leads to a kodak moment. There are greenhouse with exotic plant species:
Emergency exits that look like they’re straight out of Jurassic Park:
Manicured water-features and different structures throughout help to accentuate the grounds:
Joel and I loved the hilariously over-sized doorknobs leading to the waterlily pavilion (Joel maybe a bit more than me):
It was the perfect place to explore on a sunny Sunday. We took in as many building and exhibits there as we could before heading back for a rest at our hotel.
With our early morning departure, we allowed ourselves lots of downtime on our last full day. Our hotel was the Majestic Roof Garden Hotel, so we thought it only right to enjoy it’s *majestic roof garden*. We order ourselves a cheese board and headed for the roof with our hot tea and laptops (actually, Joel’s laptop kept overheating and shutting off inadvertently… so he had a hot laptop, too). It was a good lazy day.
With many burger joints around Adelaide’s CBD, we thought our last meal there should be burger spot. We ended up at Grill’d, which was about a 3 mins walk from our hotel. It advertised itself as a ‘healthy burger’ place, but I don’t know how true that is. Their burgers were good, and the decor was cute (looking like you’re in a backyard more than a restaurant).
I thought the best part of Grill’d was their initiative to support local charity groups. With every order you get a bottle cap to vote to support 1 of 3 local charities. There are different charities every month, and three jars with their names on them. The jar that’s most full of bottle cap votes by the end of the month get a $500 (I believe) donation and the other 2 get a smaller donation, too. What a cool idea!
We had heaps of fun in Adelaide. It was a blessing to have be able to bundle our adventuring with a work trip this time around. I would definitely make a trip back to South Australia. Joel and I both commented that we needed more time in the city just to experience all the great food options! The city was just cool, though. Easy to navigate and lots to see and do.
On to the next kiwi adventure, I suppose! Tomorrow we head south. Joel and I have both been to New Zealand before, but have yet to see Wellington- this weekend is our opportunity! We are really looking forward to our time in this city of coffee, food and art. Oh- and the All Blacks, we’ve got tickets for their game again Wales on Saturday. Lots to see an do again 🙂
For some time I’ve had this strange and inexplicable fear of Australia. Even before I was warned by one of my 4-year-old art students with, “Courtney, don’t go to Australia- there are like 6 or 10 things that can kill you there.” I’ve been nervous of the 6-10 (but in reality- like WAY more) creepy crawlies that are harmful/just gross in the land downunda.
In my mind, you just get off the plane and a wall of really weird and disgusting creatures kinda of like… attack you.
Turns out… I was wrong.
Joel had the opportunity to speak and teach at a conference in Adelaide, South Australia, so we planned a trip!
We have the best friends here with us in New Zealand. There was no doubt before this trip, but you know you’ve got some great pals when they wake up at 4:30 to take you to the airport.
Thinking, like good little Canadian travellers, that you should arrive at the airport an hour before the boarding of your flight- we headed out.
We drove an hour to get to the Rotorua airport, and were surprised to see the airport not only quiet- but completely locked up. We met a kind security guard who unlocked the gate to the parking lot & cheerfully said- I’ll see you inside in about 5 minutes! That’s when we realized Rotorua is not only a small airport…but a tiny one.
The security guard who unlocked the parking lot gates, then went through the airport terminal turning on all the lights and unlocking the door for us. We had to wait for the gate agents to arrive for their early morning shifts. It was neat to be in a little airport where the waiting area shares space with the flight gates. We walked out onto the tarmac, and didn’t even need to go through a security checkpoint! Just like the good ol’ days…
Several hours and 3 flights later, we arrived in Adelaide. We boarded a city bus and sought out to settle at our hotel for a few hours.
The nature of conferences are that they tend to eat up a large portion of time. In Joel’s case, there was lots of really rewarding time spent meeting and greetings both before and after his speaking engagements.
He said there were some thoughtful questions, and found most participants to be genuinely eager to learn more about conversion and the digital field, in general. Both insights are a great reward for Joel as his speech lead to the most-attended full day workshop!
While Joel was rockin’ the speaker circuit… I was doing a lot of walking. It was really fun to walk around the CBD (Central Business District- which seems to be a common term for downtown in both NZ and Aus), and found that my week was almost too short to see all this beautiful city has to offer.
Adelaide’s city centre is built in a neat grid, which is fabulous for any pedestrian traveller. Most roads are fairly easy to navigate, and the only some-what confusing part is King William Street. King William had some-what-intimidatingly proclaimed “I am the King and no one shall cross me”, so all the avenues that run through King William street change names from the west side to the east and vice versa.
Adelaide’s four corners of downtown are intentionally green. Each corner has a beautiful expanse of space- whether a botanic garden, zoo, or city park. I love this. Not only for tourists, but I thought how lovely it is to have that open space for workers downtown. Having the option of a lunch-hour nature walk is lovely.
The city is full of surprising alley ways that were reclaimed into pedestrian walkways with rows of shops and cafes. There are also loads of antique buildings, fountains and cobblestone streets. It’s a wonderful mix of new ideas and architecture with the obvious history that built the city- fountains, hotels, the university. Really lovely.
Lone Traveller Day 1
I had three days of lonesome travelling. Often when I have too much time on my own I start to live inside my head and get… well, a bit weird. Thankfully! I didn’t experience this much on our trip, and mostly enjoyed my introvert time.
Day 1 started with a quick hotel breakfast with Joel, followed by a stop at a little (and I mean little- scarcely more than a bar and table fit in this shop) stop at Please Say Please, a cafe that boasts barista-crafted coffee and a daily macaron special.
I caught up on my book for a few minutes and enjoyed my coffee while saving my 2 macarons for an emergency- cherry pie and the daily special, baklava were my flavours of choice.
On to the Art Gallery of South Australia. A few of the exhibits were under construction, but I was surprised (for the first time of many on this trip) that there were no admission costs. I went up to the information counter expecting to pay my entrance fee, and was instead greeted with a very eager middle-aged woman who was thrilled to share all the open exhibits and make suggested routes through the gallery.
I was interested to see some art from Australia and the Adelaide area, as well as a vast array of other piece from Aboriginal artists, to photo exhibits, installations and even a handful of French Impressionists’ work. The gallery was only made more lovely by it’s book store that was full of amazing treasures. Their children’s book section made me wonder how I could fit them all in my carry-on… but I restrained myself, and instead left with some great options to watch out for over time.
After dipping into my macaron stash, I was re-fuelled enough to venture back into the city and wander a bit. I would up and down streets, on the prowl for a lunch spot. Following the crowds, I landed at a spot that made fresh lunch plates as well as coffees and handmade chocolates. With 60s soul music blaring, I soaked up the surroundings and feasted on a spicy chicken sandwich with a interesting (yet satisfyingly zesty) side salad. On my way out, I picked up some hazelnut ‘m&ms’ made in-store to share with Joel when he finished up for the day.
Back to the hotel for a rest and some painting- which I have neglected for all-together too long.
Joel arrived back from his day and we walked the 15 mins or so to Cooper’s Alehouse for dinner and some time with the conference crew. We weren’t aware at the time, but Cooper’s is known by the locals to offer some of the biggest schnitzel around. Little did Joel know as he order this behemoth:
He valiantly tackled what he could, and the rest of the evening was spent trying to digest that beast. Ha…
It was nice to visit with a handful of good people before walking back to our hotel to conclude our first full day on a new continent.
Day 2 Discoveries
Wednesday was a great day for just enjoying the indoors- there was quite a bit of rain throughout the day, so I didn’t venture out as quickly as the previous day. I had read about the Adelaide Central Market, and was informed it’s the oldest market in the Southern Hemisphere! I was interested to have a look.
I set out, and was happy to see the weather hold as I walked. The market is now surrounded with 2 ‘arcades’ on both sides- long hallways packed with shops and cafes. There’s even a food court of one side now. It’s held in this old stone building, and has about 5 long, double-sided rows to explore. It reminded me quite a bit of the market on Granville Island, although… going on a Wednesday morning meant it was far less crowded then Granville- I didn’t mind that at all.
There were lots of opportunities to sample the different foods, and each row was packed with all sorts of goodies- candy, coffee, cheeses, loads of produce- both rare and ordinary. It was a colourful place that was perfect for spending a couple hours. I saw chai cheese and all sorts of interesting meats- emu, crocodile, kangaroo, etc.
I was happy to grab a beautiful little cappuccino as I strolled and was even more pleased to have an awesome sausage roll for lunch. I kept seeing sausage rolls in New Zealand, and had been kinda waiting to be called to by the perfect roll, and well.. this one did not disappoint! Full of delicious meat- looks like bacon along with onion and other tasty bits, topped with poppy seeds and a smoky, tangy BBQ sauce. Yum!
I was hoping to get back to the market with Joel, but our timing didn’t line up before heading back to Papamoa.
I often forget that the seasons aren’t what I expect them to be, being a Northern Hemisphere kid, but Adelaide had a wonderful way of reminding me. The path that lead back to the hotel was littered with orange maple leaves the size of my head, and the golden tree boughs would frame some of the ancient churches in such a magical way. Adelaide is the city of churches, and it was cool to take some of them in on my walk.
Joel and I walked down Rundle Mall (a pedestrian street with side-to-side stores and food stops- the first outdoor pedestrian mall in Australia) that evening to grab some supper and ended up down another reclaimed alleyway featuring half a dozen well-rated restaurants.
We ate at Bread and Bone, which mainly features burgers in different styles, and you enter through a hobbit door. We were tempted by several menu items, but (with the waiter’s encouragement) landed some solid choices- a juicy steak sandwich for Joel, and I had the best fish burger I’ve ever tasted. This was accompanied with a dark and stormy, which again… was the best I’ve had.
After a little running around in Rundle Mall, Thursday was spent attempting to enjoy the outdoors. It had been raining on and off, and I wasn’t sure what all I could accomplish that day. So, once the clouds had parted enough, I ventured over to our second hotel to check-in while Joel headed to teach his 8 hour workshop.
Thankfully, the hotel took me in early and I was able to wait until the next break in weather in a warm, dry locale!
For lunch I weaved in between buildings to find a little Afghani restaurant that had good reviews, and when I walked by I was happy to notice it was also the busiest spot on the block! I ordered a traditional lamb burger and completely revelled in the fresh flavours. Good find, for sure.
Continuing my wander… I found myself at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Again, pleased to have free admission and wonderful scenery. I was happy to wind through the pathways and overcome my fears of critters!
The rain ceased enough for me to get a handful of good pictures, and then I was forced back indoors. I ventured from the gardens to the mall for a handful of rainy-day materials- a face mask and bath balm!
The theme for the day was green.
Joel headed back to the hotel to share his workshop news and my dream dinner, room service!
So ends the journey of the lonesome traveller. Joel was able to join me for a few adventures, which was awesome. I’ll share our mutual experiences on another post, since this one is officially the longest of Kiwis and Klettkes’ history!
Tomorrow marks the one month anniversary of being New Zealanders (which is insane). It seems like only yesterday we were figuring out how to make our dream a reality. We have learned a lot about being in the country, and we have many more things yet to discover.
We’ve learned you can pay for your library DVD rentals anytime, not just when you check them out. The library kiosks are a bit fussy, too- but I am a proud Tauranga Library card holder!
We’ve discovered the importance of all present parties having their passports at Pak n’ Save if beer or wine is purchased. We have been grateful to know you can, in fact, buy ketchup here, but most often at restaurants you get ‘tomato sauce’.
We now know where to purchase firewood, and that our beach is one that can host fires (even if all the gross sand bugs are drawn to the flame). We’ve been educated in many critter-related prevention plans (robo cockroach repellant cans, sandfly oil, mouse traps, etc.)
We’ve learned that Kiwis are people, fruit and birds and that the people have several similarities to us Canadians, eh.
We’ve learned our coffee orders (Courtney- cappuccino, Joel- mochaccino (even though ordering one with a Canadian accent sometimes proves difficult), Stacey- flat white, Brandon- long black), and that 2:30pm most days is coffee break time.
As I’m thinking more on our lessons, I’m realizing recalling them all could easily be a full blog-post in itself! We are slowly finding our place here, but one big thing I learned this week is that the Bay of Plenty is already a suitable replacement for home.
Falling in Love with the Bay of Plenty (BOP)
The Bay of Plenty is a large segment of the NorthEastern part of the North Island of New Zealand, and includes a couple of good-sized cities. We have everything we might need within an hours drive, really- 2 airports are within that drive time as well.
Home Sweet Home
Papamoa is where our place is, and it seems to be a fairly sleepy community (in the cooler months anyway). There are two grocery stores that are open until 10pm, a couple of pubs who kind of decide when they’ll be open until each day and a McDonald’s drive thru open 24-7 (but only serves coffee until maybe 8pm). It’s a quiet spot that mainly consists of retirees and young families this time of year.
On a sunny day you’ll see loads of people out walking their dogs and/or babies. Two Sundays a month there’s a farmer’s market hosted just outside the recreation centre, and there are a handful of fairly-busy coffee shops close by. Our local favourite is ‘Henry & Ted’, which is about a 5 minutes walk from our house.
The population being as it is, there seems to be a good number of people to support fun things like garden centres and gift shops.
Stacey and I went to one such stop last week to enjoy the sunshine. We drove to the outskirts of town to Pacifica Home & Garden Store, and were greeted by a bustling cafe and well-cared for gift and greenery areas. Seniors gathered to swap stories, while tiny humans with the cutest knitted toques toddled in between cafe tables and sunbeams.
It was great to be reminded that people live in our town! We enjoyed coffee, a time to journal and sketch and ended up going home with a few starter plants for our yard.
The Big City
Not far from our little town are a couple busier municipalities. Tauranga is the ‘big city’, there’s a pretty big city centre here, lots of shops, restaurants, a big library and much more industry. too. We are beginning to reach out into the city more.
We’ve visited 2 churches now situated in that area. One Sunday, I mis-read a church website and showed up as everyone was leaving. SO, we made the best of our day and headed to the Waikareao Estuary down the street. This is a huge expanse of boardwalk and pathways that stretch across parks and marshland. Pretty cool!
We have also tried a few restaurants and cafes in the city. One such coffee shop roasts beans and supplies to several other shops in the Bay of Plenty. Downtown has a handful of quaint stops like Elizabeth Cafe and Larder where Joel and I trialled their fab little cupcakes!
Closer to the waterfront, there’s a trail of shops and restaurants known as ‘the strand’ where we happily indulged in a Mexican feast one evening.
Mount Maunganui is a regular stop for us. The main stretch has loads of places to eat, great short walks (along the mount or by the water), there are lots of places to explore and it’s only about a 20 minute drive away. This is where the closest movie theatre is as well as a mall with most things we need. A few times a week, we find ourselves there for a multitude of reasons.
Once a month there’s a lovely market that’s held along the main street. We had a lot of fun in the sun, cruising up and down the aisles with coffee in hand. Mt. Maunganui (or ‘The Mount’ as they call it) is also full of young families, and has resulted in a load of really cool local companies that make kids products (blankets, towels, toys, clothes… you name it). With our niece on the way this summer, it was tough to restrain myself from buying her all the cute kiwi things. I want to buy everything!!!
I found the same homemade dumpling vendor that was at the night market in Rotorua, which was really cool. We loved sitting on the warm grass and having a little food-truck picnic lunch!
The market is held just one block from the apartment complex Joel’s cousins lived in while they were in NZ for a year. He feels quite sentimental every time we drive by (which is often), and remembers all the good times he had while visiting all those years ago. Here’s a picture:
The weather was cooperating with us the other week, and we got loads of sunshine. It’s tough to believe we were in the first week of Winter!
It seems like all we do is eat out, but we do make the majority of our meals at home. One day the sun was irresistibly warming our living room and patio, so we figured it was a good time to have lunch in The Mount. We headed out to grab some fish and chips to enjoy by the ocean. Apart from being on-guard as seagulls threatened to dive-bomb our festivities, we had quite a fantastic afternoon!
An Eastern Introduction
Just before Joel and I headed to Australia for a week, the four of us started to reach out of our area of the BOP to another. I had researched some walks that are near by, and found a really cool hike in Whakatane, about an hour east of us.
We didn’t really know where we were going, but we had a handful of guidelines to follow. In kiwi-infested bush we trekked up and around some beautiful coast lines. We knew part of our journey had to be avoided at high tide, but didn’t really know why based on what we’d read. BUT away we went!
We were not disappointed! There were so many beautiful view-points as we climbed. There were lots of moments where the trail wound through deep greenery and jungle, and then we’d reach huge clearings where you could see 360 degree views from hills to town and off to the ocean.
In the photo above, you can see White Island on the horizon (off to the right). White Island is a big active marine volcano that we hope to visit sometime, but in the picture- you can see it letting off some steam. You can see White Island from our house on clear days, but not in the same way.
Our hiking trail took us on a 3 hour+ trip that went from pastures high about the sea to gravel roads and farm land, but about 2 hours in, we discovered the reason we weren’t advised to travel at high tide.
A staircase leads you to a rocky coastline that isn’t always accessible. This was really neat for a crew of Albertan hikers, we were delighted to travel across the expanse of sand and black lava shoreline and take in the beauty.
Whakatane is supposed to have a heap of walking and hiking trails all at varying lengths, so we’re sure to visit again.
It constantly amazes me that there is so much to discover in such a tiny country. We have been blessed to have this time away, and are grateful to be adventuring with the best folks.
WELL! Another un-intentionally massive update. So many words to say- we’re loving our new home. Joel and I are in Adelaide, Australia this week, so there’s bound to be another post coming just around the bend. Appreciate all who take the time to check in with us 🙂 so, thanks!