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.