Saturday, 26 April 2014

South Island Adventures: Christchurch, Kaikoura, and Blenheim

By now most people know Kiwis get a lot of holiday time. In case anyone needs a refresher it's 4 weeks of vacation on top of 11 public holidays. And since we are throwing out facts it's also one year maternity leave. US start taking cues. Like now. Anyway, one of those holidays is Anniversary Day and every city has it's own anniversary. For this year's Auckland Anniversary, which was at the end of January, Adam, Hazel, and I took a trip to the South Island.

People often comment on how much we travel with Hazel, and yes we do, but people do you understand what a breeze it is to travel domestically here? I know I've talked about it before, but imagine just rolling up to the airport, printing your boarding pass a few minutes before the flight, and walking on board. Seriously it's that easy. Not even two hours later and voila you are South Island adventuring.

We flew into Christchurch and really just spent the morning walking around the city and hitting the highlights. We fueled up at C1 Espresso, a local favorite. Christchurch is New Zealand's second largest city and in February 2011 it suffered a terrible earthquake destroying large parts of the city and killing 185 people and injuring many more. One cathedral that was struck has now been rebuilt from cardboard, local wood, and steel making it the only cathedral in the world made substantially of cardboard. It was pretty inspiring to be there.

Next stop, Kaikoura. WOW, this place was so beautiful.

Because it's so pretty Kaikoura naturally means, "meal of crayfish." According to Maori lore, some dude named Tamaki-te-rangi would stop here to eat while chasing his runaway wives and always get the crayfish. So when in Rome...I mean Kaikoura.

Adam apparently was irritated he couldn't find his other wives, but he enjoyed his lunch none the less. So this place Nin's Bin where this picture was taken has been on the side of the road for years. Crayfish is basically like a lobster in that it is expensive, delicious, and best dipped in butter. A stop well worth it.

Other highlights include hiking the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway:

It's no wonder this town's tag line is, "Where the Mountains Meet the Sea"

Drinks at the Pier Hotel (don't miss the trampoline out back), seal colony, and ice cream at Poppy's.

Kaikoura is actually the whale watching capital of the world, yes the world! But due to choppy seas we didn't make the trip. FYI, for those travelling with a baby that want to do the whale watch there is a local babysitter who will take your kid to the park and around town while you go on the boat. For those that actually went, what it might have been like:

We stayed at a funky spot called the Artist Retreat that had farm animals and incredible views.

From Kaikoura we drove up the coast to Blenheim. Blenheim is in the heart of Malborough and Malborough means wine!! Malborough is one of the world's largest sauvignon blanc producers. That's one of the white ones for you non wine drinkers. Oh my goodness, so much good wine and in such a beautiful setting. Over the course of the weekend we managed to hit up many tasting rooms including Hunters, Fromm, Spy Valley, Nautilus, and Cloudy Bay.

Lunch at Hans Herzog:

And Allan Scott:

We stayed in a lovely little cottage amongst the vines. It was perfection.

I mean seriously.

Also not to be missed, the view from Brancott Estate: 

Friday, 18 April 2014

Islands in the Stream

To all of you that don't live in New Zealand. Here's what you're missing:

I know it's been a while so just wanted to make sure everyone could still envision our little island life on the other side of the world. Glad we got that sorted. Ahh sorted, just one of the many words I've picked up in the past couple years. It's funny because although NZ is an English speaking country there are times it really feels like a different language. I'm use to it now and so much of it has integrated naturally into my own vocab, but I was thinking back to initially how strange it all was. To help you understand, here's the same conversation two ways:

Hazel, take the underwear off your head and finish your snack so we can go to the beach and meet the Royals*. I'll need to change your diaper and put on your bathing suit. Now where did I put my flip flops? Mommy has to go to the bathroom and put the clothes in the dryer first and then we'll be ready to go. Do you think Kate and Will drink Bud or Bud light? Please pass me my phone so I can find out, thank you Hazel.

Hazel, take the underwear off your head and finish your morning tea so we can go to the beach and meet the Royals.* I'll need to change your nappy and put your togs on. Now where did I put my jandals? Mummy has to go the toilet and hang the clothes first and then I'll be ready to go. Do you think Will and Kate drink Speights or Steinlager? Please pass me my phone so I can get it organised. Ta Hazel.

*Will and Kate were unable to meet us at the beach that day. Apparently they had a better offer.

While we didn't host the royals while they were here we did host some other international travelers. CISV, Children's International Summer Village, is an organization that I was involved with when I was younger. I think I mentioned on an earlier post that as a part of this, I went to live in Finland for a month with kids from all over the world. Part of that experience involved staying with a host family for a weekend to experience typical Finnish life. Fast forward many years later and now I'm playing hostess with the mostess to two 11-year-old boys, because nothing says classic Kiwi experience like living with an American couple that has been in the country for two years.

Kenneth was from the Philippines and Liam hailed from an exotic country across the ditch called Australia. We played tour guide part of the time, but honestly they just loved playing basketball with Adam at our local park so we spent a lot of time there. They were very cute with Hazel and when we dropped them off at camp they pointed at Hazel and told their friends, "That's the baby I helped take care of."

Another memorable quote happened while watching American Ninja Warrior. They saw one of the contestants doing the obstacle course and called to me in the kitchen that I had to come watch, "because there is a guy that is like 36 and he has big muscles and he even has a kid." A 36-year-old guy in good physical shape and a father was apparently about as shocking to them as a freak at the circus. Awesome.

After all that international-ness I decided it was time to go back to my roots and kick it Tennessee style, which is why I went to see Dolly Parton in February. That and the fact that I love me some Dolly.

Life is short, so spur of the moment I found a 2nd row solo seat on Trade Me and Adam got it for me for my birthday. It was so good. She freaking played Rocky Top! Me listening to Rocky Top in Auckland, New Zealand. I can say with 99.9%  certainty that I was the only person in Vector Arena that knew the words. For those not familiar with said song I realize this will mean nothing, but for those that are of course it means everything. It was a great show and despite crying through most of the first set, I had a great time. I mean Jolene live is just too much to handle for this girl.

In other news, Hazel just finished her first term at "school." Something amazing they offer here is a community crèche, which is a non-profit community early childhood centre, basically a little day care. It's fabulous because the sessions are just twice a week for a few hours, and ready for the most amazing part - It cost $12!! Not per hour, which would still be a steal, but for the whole session!

I thought surely for this price they must stick them in a dark room and slide their food under the door, but no it's totally legit. They have all sorts of great activities for them and its mixed ages so Hazel gets socialized with lots of different kids. The teachers are great and she loves it. They even make a book for each child highlighting their time there.

With my new found freedom I've started playing tennis once a week and it's been so fun. I clearly need the outlet seeing as on the way to the courts last week, "Eye of the Tiger" came on the radio and I immediately envisioned myself as a warrior/athlete/powerhouse destroying the ball and anyone in it's path. So yes, I'd say it's a good thing.

Otherwise it's business as usual. That means lots of trips to the beach:

WARNING: Obscene number of  photos of the same child follow, please turn back now if this is not the path for you.

Birthday parties:

Sunny days on the back patio:

A trip to the zoo:

Fun at coffee group:

Bike rides:

Swinging at the playground:

Walks in the park:


Afternoon errands:

Elevator (kiwspeak - lift) rides at the library:

Outings to kid friendly cafes:

And as we move closer to Winter I'll cherish days like this one at Bethells Beach.

 When New Zealand is good, it's so good.