Skateboards and Hitch Hikers

There are two things in life, which I (being totally honest here) thought only existed in American movies. These two things are: Skateboarders and Hitch Hikers. Sure, I knew that both of these things were actually things (and not made up, like say – Unicorns) but growing up in the UK, you only ever get skateboarders in skate parks, and you only ever get hitch hikers – if they’re doing some charitable event across Europe.

In NZ (and Australia I noticed) though – people use skateboards as a legitimate mode of transport. They actually use it to get from Point A to Point B. Not just for fun, or for doing fancy tricks in the park, or even to fill some teenage angst stereotype – people skateboard here because it is a fast, and nifty way to travel. It’s a weird thing to get used to really – at first it used to scare the bejesus out of me every time one of them went past.

Why?

Because skateboards are loud! Not like Tony Hawk would have you believe on his video games. When people are using them to scoot at 40 miles an hour down the road – they sound like cracks of thunder, and you look and there is nothing there – just some barefoot hipster (yes, barefoot – those danger dabbling ruffians) making his way to work – zooming down the street 10 ft ahead of you.

The other thing, as the title suggests, is hitch hiking.

Now, I know that hitch hiking is a thing. That people do. But if I’m being honest – I thought it was something that people only do in two of the following situations:

1) Raising money for charity, so you can say you’ve hitch hiked across Europe or to Morocco. Or something like that.

2) In horror movies as a sure fire way to “get dead”.

These are the only two situations of hitch hiking I have ever come across. EVER. Oh, and that episode of Friends where Joey and Pheobe drive back from Vegas and pick up the random guy. But even in that occurance the first thing she asks him is “Are you a murderer?”

In New Zealand though, hitch hiking is pretty common, and it’s (apparently) perfectly acceptable and safe. Not that this would ever convince me to do it, but I’m always surprised by how common it is here. Pad and I walk to the gym most days in the town, and on numerous occasions now I’ve spotted people standing on the main road with their thumbs stuck out. It’s so cliched I want to laugh – but it’s real and they’re actually doing it.

When my family came to stay in November, they drove to Glenorchy, and on the way back told me they picked up a random girl who had been planning to walk back to Queenstown. First of all – this girl is mental, because that’s like a 5 hour walk – but also they didn’t really think it was a big deal. But if the same had happened in London – I’d be like “YOU PICKED SOMEONE UP OFF THE STREET!?”

But in Queenstown, I think it’s a bit different. Maybe it’s because of the travellers lifestyle here in NZ and the common goal that most people seem to have. Who knows.

Have you ever hitch hiked? 

 

A Queenstown Christmas

Just a note to say, Merry Christmas to everyone, have a fantastic day! We’re 12 hours ahead of you all – so we’ve already had our Christmas day – and are now slobbing out on the sofa, so very full of Christmas food and sweets and chocolate.

Here are some photos from our day – enjoy!

Christmas Carols in Queenstown town centre on Christmas Eve evening. Swiftly followed by drinks on the beach.

A very busy Queenstown beach. Such a great atmosphere!

Gorgeous, right!?

We did all the traditional things – like cooking a huge Christmas Dinner, with all the trimmings (even Yorkshire Puddings!!) and opening present, drinking and then falling asleep infront of a film. When we woke up from the film though – we headed down to the beach in 26 degree heat, to enjoy some sunshine and ice-cream. Pretty sweet, huh?

Here’s some photos of our amazing dinner:

And of course…. CAKESSSS!!

“IT’S CHRISTMAS!” (read that like Slade sings it)

CHRISTMAS IS HERE!

Which is awesome. And the world didn’t end like those Mayan people thought it would, which means…. We actually get to open our presents! Oh isn’t life good. Anyway, here are some photos of our Christmas in New Zealand, it’s been quite a strange experience so far if I’m being honest especially with the sunshine and summery weather going against anything any British person would be used to during December. I’m used to wearing 3/4 jumpers, 2 pairs of socks, sitting stupidly close to the fire and being snowed in. But, saying that, we have done our best to make it still seem festive and seem christmassy, even though the weather is telling us something completely to the contrary. These efforts have included:

– Me making an awesome Spotify playlist (which features mainly Michael Buble) and singing along to it at least 1 hour of each day. This time schedule is only rough – sometimes it is 3 hours. My favourite this year is “Christmas (Baby please come home)” I think I have played that song to it’s death the past few days and I’m sure Pad would agree. I’m still not tired of it though (Pad would likely disagree), and have to try my hardest not to dance around like Matilda on the table (skip about halfway through this clip and you’ll know what I mean) whenever it comes on.

– Our amazing Christmas tree is looking better now that it did when I put it up in November (Yes November. I really like Christmas) and I added some red baubles because the silver and white made it seem a bit “show-homey”. I know no one cares that I added red baubles – but I do and I think they look really pretty. Said she, the Christmas loser.

 

– PRESENTS!! I wasn’t too sure we’d have that many presents under the tree this year because you can hardly expect people to send them to you when you lives miles and miles across the other side of the world. But actually we have a nice little stack under there, and every time I see it it makes me feel like a kid again. We have some awesome family and friends who have sent us cards and presents and they’ve been arriving in a steady stream since the start of December. It’s really made us feel both loved and special. That’s super corny, but it’s also super true.

– My lovely Nanny actually brought some of her ‘hand-made’ christmas decorations over to NZ with her when she visited us, which was really special and made me feel like a proper grown-up. Which would sound weird and completely bizarre to anyone outside of the family… So let me explain. Basically, my Nanny has always knitted all the grandchildren in the family their own Christmas stocking, and it’s somewhat a tradition to open all the stockings together every year when all the family (which includes, aunties, uncles, cousins…) get together. But whilst each grandchild has their own stocking – the adults have their own decorations, so my Mum (come christmas) would always take out the decorations that Nanny had knitted for her. Anyway, this year, Nanny brought Paddy and I a stocking each and our own set of Christmas decorations too.

– We’ve majorly stocked up on sweets and chocolate too – because (let’s face it) it’s not christmas without copious amounts of sugar and unhealthy things. I’ve actually had to wrap my Christmas candy up and put it under the tree – because I lack so much self restraint. If it wasn’t wrapped up and under there, I definitely would’ve eaten it by now.

– New Zealand has been pretty good so far with Christmas movies, they’ve already aired Love Actually and Home Alone (so that was a very promising start) so we’re hoping that over Christmas we’ll still get the classic Christmas movies on TV just like we would in the UK. BUT – if all else fails, we went to the DVD rental store today and majorly stocked up on films and boxsets to keep us going. Because, you know, just in case. If you were thinking “they don’t look very festive” well we did go in with a festive list of movies, but they were all sold out. So we opted for “entertainment factor” instead.

– Last but not least, we have bought loads of food. I did take a picture of the fridge looking all full and amazing – but then Pad pointed out that actually, all the Christmas food was in the freezer. Fail on my part. I did take a photo of our dessert plans though, cupcakes with these fancy little Christmas tree decorations I found. I know my little sister will be overly impressed by the icing sugar for the cupcakes – seen as she basically lived off that when she was a kid.

If Carlsberg did boats…. Rock The Boat, NZ.

The second half of our trip to Bay of Islands was to be spent on the Rock Cruise. I’d been looking forward to this since we first booked our flight to New Zealand like 7 months ago. Pad went three years ago when he first visited the country and I’d already heard loads about it (all good) so the expectations were definitely high.

I can well and truly say, every expectation was met. This tour is absolutely one of the must-do things in New Zealand, without a doubt. Bay of Islands is about a 3.5 hours drive from Auckland, which can seem a bit heavy – but in all honesty – it’s worth every second of that drive to go on this tour.

Anyway, I took so many photos during the 2 days on board – I’ll let them do most of the talking.

We were booked into the double cabin on board – which was a super cute little wooden room with a little double bed. It had a gorgeous sliding door window which looked out onto the water (kind of obvious – because it’s a boat) but waterviews always make me swoon. This was a view that would take some beating, especially as it changed every time we set sail and cruised somewhere else in the area.

There’s plenty of room in the cabin, not that you spend much time in there – you’re too busy doing all the awesome activities they have planned for you! I think we had the only double cabin on board- and I’m pretty sure the other rooms are quads and dorm-style. Still – they all looked roomy and pretty similar to ours in design. You’re only on there for one night anyway – so whichever room you have would be fine.

The best bit?

One of the biggest selling points for this boat-tour (and probably what sets it miles apart from others in NZ) is the incredible staff and how informal they make the whole experience. In the past I’ve felt a bit like sheep being loaded onto a boat – being told to do this and look here, etc. The Rock Cruise is nothing like this though – there are scheduled activities and a clear itinerary – but actually, if you’re not feeling any of it, or you’d rather just chill out at the cute little bar on board, that’s fine. There’s no pressure.

The staff are awesome too – friendly and helpful and hilarious from the moment you step on board. They’re all young (which we loved, being a young couple, as they were all a similar age) but I’m guessing if you’re in an older crowd the staff inject a bit of youthfulness and excitement into the whole experience too.  Big kudos to Dan who was on his first cruise, and was made to drink some weird concoction of fish grossness (which you can see above). Also to Ryan and James who definitely deserve some kind of medal for continued enthusiasm and all-round lovelyness. And also Johnny, Steph, Chelsea, Ben and Jake! Keep up the good work guys, I think you’ve built the best team of staff this side of the hemisphere!

Evening activities?

As the evening rolled in, we’d cruised over to a gorgeous little bay, to set up anchor for the night. The bay we were in was pretty stunning (the amount of photos I took testaments to that). Within a few minutes of settling in the bay, the crew had the fishing rods out – and I was so eager. I’ve never fished properly before – and had a funny feeling I’d be awesome at it.

I wasn’t as good as I might have hoped (not a single fish was caught by myself) but it was still extremely fun! I had a few nibbles, and my bait kept going missing but alas I didn’t catch anything. Except some coral. Which was exciting for about 3 minutes whilst I reeled it in thinking it was a fish. Error!

Catch of the day. Obviously.

It’s hard to concentrate on fishing though, when this is the view. That’s my excuse.

After fishing, it was tea-time (yay!) and the crew got the BBQ going. Tea consisted of Steak and Sausage and a variety of salad, bread and other yummy stuff. I was pretty impressed by the food actually, there was a big choice of stuff and it filled us both up for the kayaking later on. Tea is a great time to get chatting to the other guests onboard too, as you all sit on a huge long table. We were lucky to sit near the guy who caught a big Snapper fish – so got a sneaky taste!

Night Kayaking anyone? 

This was my highlight of the entire trip. There are a few things that made this little part of the trip so good though; not only was it a first for me (I’ve never kayaked at night time before!) but the surroundings were just beautiful. The stars in the sky were so clear and stunning – probably the most clear sky I’ve ever seen in my life, only being topped by Abersoch in Wales. This night sky topped that 100% though, with so little light pollution, you really can see every tiny star. The other thing that makes this kind of magic is the plancton in the water (did I spell that right?) which glows whenever you move it. It means that whenever you move through the water it glows around you. It’s something incredibly beautiful and something I’ve never seen before – which made it that bit special.

Day 2

Next morning, we were up to the following views – which was definitely enough to wake us up! We slept pretty well actually – although there was a phantom snorer on board – who was never named and shamed. His (Well, I’m guessing it was a he) snoring was literally shaking the boat at one point!

Breakfast was at 8am, which surprisingly we made in time and consisted of porridge (yum) and fruits and cereal. The morning then consisted of some diving in the nearby reef, and a trip over to a little bay / beach which was just stunning.

The island we headed over to was probably the most lovely, remote beach I’ve yet to visit. Part of the trip over there though, did consist of a (very hardcore) walk up a hill, so you could really take in the views from up top. Whilst the views were definitely worth it…. I have never been one for hills (especially walking up them) – so I was a bit of a wimp here. OK a lot of a wimp, I swore several times while trying to keep my cool getting up the “mountain”.

Those views I was telling you about.

I could’ve happily just stayed on this beach all week.

So yeah. That’s about it! After we headed back to the boat, we had some lovely lunch (beef sandwiches) and then cruised back over to Paihia in the sunshine. I don’t know what else I can do to convince you to do the Rock Cruise, if you’re not convinced by now there is no hope. For you. Ever. Because you’ll be really missing out.

Oh, here is the blog post from the first half of our Bay of Islands trip. In case you want more reading!

Bay of Rain. I mean, Islands.

So, Pad and I were feeling pretty smug after Wellington. We managed to plan our 4 day trip to coinside with the most gorgeous spell of weather, like ever.

This week we headed to Bay of Islands. And had no such luck.

This is the weather that greeted us when we arrived.

Just so you know, The Bay of Islands is known in New Zealand for basically being heaven on earth. It’s got all these amazing little beaches, dolphins and whales in the bay, lots of islands for cruising around and glorious sunshine. How then, was it even possible that we timed our trip for (what can only be described as) a tropical storm. We’re on day 3/6 now (as I’m writing this) and the weather has managed to brighten up a tiny bit finally, but by that I mean we’ve seen the sun today. For maybe 15 minutes? Was pretty sweet though.

Days 1 and 2 were a different story though – I’m talking RAIN. WIND. And surprisingly… HUMIDITY. It did not feel like much of a beach holiday (except for the humidity bit – that was incredibly similar to Thailand). But I guess you don’t win every time. We still had ice-cream, paddled in the sea and saw Dolphins. So it’s not all bad. Tomorrow we’re doing the awesome Rock Cruise, which is an overnight boat tour – and (having checked several websites) it looks like we might, finally, get lucky with weather that isn’t wet.

Paihia is a pretty small (OK, tiny) town. It’s basically made up of one shopping street, a waterside street, and big car park and lots of palm trees and beaches. Which, I should imagine, when the weather is nice – is pretty awesome. It meant that Pad and I had to get inventive about things to do though. Which wasn’t so much a bad thing – if anything it stopped us lounging around on the beach, and forced us to go and explore a little bit more.

Here’s what we found: 

The Marina

The marina area is super small, it consists of a gift shop, a little information centre a restaurant (called 35’ where we had breakfast and were very impressed) and then a little jetty where all the boat tours park and load from.

In the summer I bet it’s gorgeous to sit and relax near the waterside  but because of the weather it was a bit wet and windy so we didn’t stick around for long.

Dolphin tours

This has probably been the highlight of the first half of the trip. There are two companies that do these Dolphin discovery tours in the bay and we decided on the Eco friendly one (I know, we’re so good) and headed off to board the boat. When we arrived though, we were surrounded by school kids, and it didn’t take long to realise – that these kids were going to be joining us on the tour. It then occurred to us that the school trip (about 25 kids!?) were the ONLY people on the boat except us. And suddenly the boat seemed a lot smaller.

Now, I’ve helped out on school trips before (my Mum’s a head teacher) and it’s super fun for about 5 minutes and then you just what to escape from all the noise and screaming. I don’t think a 5 hour dolphin tour with 25+ kids was going to be the relaxing experience we’d hoped for. They weren’t even the “good age” of like 4-8 where they’re still relatively well behaved. These kids were like 11 – 13 years old. PRIME ANNOYING AGE.

We hadn’t even boarded the boat and there was this kid doing dolphin noises. SO HELP ME GOD I WILL PUSH YOU OFF THIS JETTY CHILD. SO BE QUIET.

It was at this point when I realised I had to do something. Anything. So I put on a sad face and looked really disappointed, and the nice man transferred us over to his competitor who was leaving at the same time. I think he felt our pain (after all, he was going to be driving them round for 5 hours).

The new boat only had two kids on (yes!) and the rest of the people (only 9 of them) were couples like us. Which meant we were back on track for a nice afternoon again. Minus the 25+ school children.

It took us about 2 hours to finally track the dolphins down, it was pretty rough at sea, so I think the must have been harder to trace. Anyway, we finally tracked them down and it was gorgeous. We all got out onto the front of the boat and the dolphins (who were completely wild) were just swimming right along side us, about an arms length away. It was so beautiful, definitely something we’ll try and do again when we’re in Australia.

After they’d found us and shown us the dolphins (we spent about an hour or so watching them) we headed off the this tiny remote island for tea and pie. New Zealand makes the best pie – so there definitely weren’t any complain here!

Haruru Falls

We kind of stumbled upon this place by accident, but it was pretty gorgeous so I’m glad we found it. I think we actually drove the long way round, through this little dirt track  and farm land (much to Pad’s pleasure – who was driving). But we realised the next day we could have actually got there on a mina road, much quicker. Oops.

It’s just a waterfall so you wouldn’t really spend more than 10 minutes here – but still gorgeous all the same. Glad we stumbled upon it.

Gorgeous view we found on the way to Haruru falls.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The treaty grounds are where the English original signed a peace treaty with the New Zealand tribes, the Maori. The Maori culture is really treasured in New Zealand – it’s a big part of the country’s heritage and it was really nice to go and see some more of that side of things, and also walk around the protected area too. It’s situated on a little island just off the main town of Paihia – actually the same island our hotel was on.

Whilst I really enjoyed seeing all the cultural and historical things they had on display – I was super impressed with the little jungle trail they had – which was this elevated pathway through the jungle area.

 

Places to Fill Your Belly in Welly.

We ate in some pretty super fantastic places in Wellington (New Zealand) so here are our two big recommendations. The first was a southern style restaurant called Sweet Mothers Kitchen – based on southern american cuisine. It was a local style place, and was busy from the moment we arrived to the moment we left – which was a pretty sure sign that this place is a big favourite amongst the locals.

The food was really home-made and lovely – with loads of fun options I’ve never tried or even heard of before. My favourite thing by far that we had here was the Swamp Dip – a cheesy dip mixed with Spinach  (you can see it above left in the image). It was seriously yummy – and I’m kind of sad I didn’t get the recipe from them because I’d love to try and make it myself. I would fail of course – but I could try! The Swamp Dip came with some toasted baguette pieces too for dipping. Oh man I am getting hungry just thinking about it.

For mains, I had southern fried chicken – which was really nice – but didn’t quite live up to my expectation after the amazing Swamp dip starters! Pad had BBQ chicken which looked equally as good. Pictures below!

The best bit about Sweet Mother’s Kitchen in Wellington, was actually probably (besides the amazing swamp dip) the decor. The place was done out like a little busy bustling neighbourhood restaurant and had all those little tidbits and toys and memo’s – you might find in a real kitchen. If you’re the kind of person who loves having things to look at whilst they eat (you know who I mean – the kind of person who reads the cereal box as they eat breakfast) then this place wouldn’t disappoint. You could spend hours looking through all the stuff they’ve collected here.

 The other place we visited which really blew us away was The Flying Burrito Brothers on Cuba Street. We are massive Mexican fans, so would never pass up the chance of trying out a new mexican place. I’d read a few reviews for The Flying Burrito Brothers online before we flew out to Wellington, so I knew it was somewhere we had to find! It completely blew us away! Here is was we tried whilst there:

– Cheesy Breaded Jalepenos (These were AMAZING)

– Pork Scratchings with Salsa Dip

– Cheesy Fondue with Nachos for dipping (again – the fondue was beyond amazing)

– Beef Fajitas (full of awesome)

– Chicken Burrito (full of awesome also)

Pad was also a big fan of the range of chilli sauce offered. Brave boy. 

Also. Can anyone help us with this?? I thought it was a mexican frying an egg – but I don’t think that’s right. HELP. It’s been frustrating me all week. 

Wellington: More Hipster than Shoreditch

This week I turned 23.

Not that I act it.

23 whole years. That’s old. Not as old as 27 (Pad) but still pretty old.

To offset my age (and take my mind off the incoming side-effects of old age) we headed over to Wellington for the week. Neither of us had ever been to Wellington before – and had no idea what to expect – so it was all very exciting. I was expecting the city to be a little like Auckland to be honest, so thought I might be a bit under-whelmed (as I was with Auckland) but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

My main concern with Auckland was it’s lack of identity. Whilst it’s a great city and I enjoyed spending time there – I didn’t feel the city had much character and usually, when I visit somewhere it’s the character and the personality of a place that makes me fall head over heels for it. I love the history of London, I love the variety of Brighton, I love the beauty of Queenstown and I love (more than any other city) the charm, festivity and epicness of New York. Auckland felt like, to me anyway – that it lacked any one defining quality.

Wellington though – was full of character and were we not living in the beautiful Queenstown – I felt I could have more than happily lived there.

Wellington Skyline at Night

And Again.

Aside from the fact that the city has a gorgeous waterfront and marina area (always top of my list for ‘whether I’m going to like a place or not’) it also has a great vibe to it. I found that the sheer variety of people in Wellington, and the variety of neighbourhoods and places – was really appealing. It actually reminded me a little of an american city – Pad likened it to Seattle several times. I’ve never been to Seattle so can’t vouch for this – but Wellington did give off a very american vibe – in a really endearing way.

The city centre is packed full of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars – we read somewhere that Wellington actually has more eateries per-capita than NYC. I found that ridiculous at first and made a “ho ho tour book – you are so wrong” face – but actually I think it might be right. There are more cafes and restaurants and bars you can shake a stick at here. Speaking of which – we sampled a few – but more about that later.

Gorgeous waterside cafe (with bean bags!!)

Anyway, going back to what I was saying about defining features – Wellington’s character is definitely it’s quirkiness and ‘hipsterness’. Any of our friends from London will know what I mean by Hipster, if you don’t – it’s the kind of of person who is so damn trendy that fashion and quirkiness just poors out of their ears. This is not me. But – saying that – I really really loved Wellington. Because even though it is super Hipster – it is Hipster in a “come join us in our hipsterness” kind of way. Not in a “you’re not cool enough to be here” kind of way. Does that make sense?

Probably not. Never mind.

The jist of my point is – Wellington is super nice. You should go there. 

From the really quirky Cuba Street, with all the lovely independent restaurants and bars, to the night-time markets and live music – to the bean bags near the water front and random art installations on bridges this city is just gorgeous and so full of loveliness.

I think (besides Cuba Street) one of my favourite places we visited in Wellington was the Botanical Gardens. To get up to the Botanical Gardens (just above the city) you can either walk – it’s a long walk all uphill – or you can get the Wellington Cable Car. We did the latter. The cable car is $6 return (oh hello, bargain) and it whizzes you up to the top of the hill and drops you off. From there you can either have a stroll around and then get the cable car back down, or you can walk down to the city back through the gardens.

The view from the Botanical Gardens are amazing…. I think one of my favourite sights I’ve seen since coming to New Zealand. Aside from our balcony view back home in Queenstown of course. You can see the whole city from up here and it’s just beautiful – we couldn’t have got luckier with weather either, it was blue skies all the way.

Stunning view from the top of the Botanical Gardens

The incredible view!

My next favourite thing we did in Wellington was the zoo. It’s a little bus ride out of the city (number 23 – good memory points for me) and it’s just lovely! Kinda small (especially if you’re comparing it to zoo’s like Singapore or Australia) but it’s very cute and it has baby monkeys and also baby ducks. So if you like baby animals – you will love it here.

Oh, they also have real animals too. Like Giraffes and Lions and Tigers. And Bears. 

Oh – and on one last note, we stayed in a cute little double room in the YHA in the city centre. As far as hostels go – it was awesome. Great staff, great atmosphere and awesome facilities too. I even got a birthday poster….

Birthday Poster!

Also. I have tried to align these photos for the past hour. But Crazy Stupid Love is on Sky Movies and quite frankly I’m distrasted. I call it the Gosling effect. They will never be aligned. Sorry for this. Never mind.

Another Also: Here are some photos from the Wellington plane flight – some of the most gorgeous views I ever saw.

Sky High Views Are The Best Kind.

When we first flew into Queenstown (when we first moved here) I didn’t have a window seat. Which is always rubbish. Especially when you are flying over New Zealand.

When we flew out to Wellington this week though (more on that here)… I DID HAVE A WINDOW SEAT! Which means I spent the entire flight blocking the window with my big head and my camera.

I also played Temple Run for several minutes (the official Disney version incase you’re curious) and beat my high score TWICE. 

So all in all, it was a good flight.

Mainly because of all the high-score ass-kicking I did. But also because of these beautiful photos I took:

Milford Sound Part 2

Here are the next set of photos from Milford Sound, these photos were taken actually inside the Milford Sound – not just inside the National Park. I can’t stress how beautiful it was and how lucky we were to get such amazing weather too.

We went on the Jucy Cruise – which was really lovely – quite a small boat but that actually works better because you’re not fighting for the best space on the boat. There was one point actually where a penguin was spotted and literally everyone flocked (haha bird joke) to the back of the boat – and I thought we might actually flip over. We didn’t though. Phew. The penguin was very small though (it was not a king-penguin) more like a toy penguin. Polly-pocket’s pet penguin – I might even go as far to claim. My zoom wasn’t good enough to capture it so I’ll just have to have memories in my mind to keep forever, instead of photos. How annoying. Stupid small penguin. 

Anyway – here are the photos:

Milford Sound

Another Photo of Milford Sound. Expect lots more.

Looking out to the ocean.

Another one of my favourites.

Gorgeous waterfall – We got drenched getting this photo.

Literally – So drenched. Like taking an actual shower.

Told you.

SEALS!!

Gorgeous cliff face.

Yep.

If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, just click here.

Milford Sound Part 1

Today was a pretty awesome day. 

We decided yesterday (on a whim) to book a day trip over to Milford Sound, apparently the chance of getting good weather in Milford Sound is VERY rare and they forecast good weather for today – so we just booked it and hoped for the best.

Milford Sound (in case you didn’t know) is where they filmed all the really gorgeous bits from Lord Of The Rings. All the really really pretty bits – that’s exactly where we were sailing around today. It’s mainly where they filmed the scene with Rivendell (and the journey to Rivendell – WOW I need to get a life) and even though there are no elves there in real life (they do have seals and penguins though) it’s still absolutely breathtaking and by far the both amazing day we’ve had so far.

The day-trip is a long one – you start off at 7am from Queenstown and ahead of you there is about 5 hours in a coach. To be honest – I thought Id have my headphones on for most of the coach ride – but actually the views from the window were incredible all the way – and the driver was very entertaining. I don’t think I’ve ever known for one man to have so many facts and trivia stored in his head. We were with Jucy Tours, on their Eco Coach (which has a glass roof – good for seeing mountains) and we’d definitely recommend it 100%.

Once we were inside the Fiordland National Park we got to get out and explore a little too at various spots along the way – we broke the journey up too – so full of win. Here are some photos of the national park, before we actually arrived at Milford Sound. It kept getting more and more extreme and beautiful as we went along, so I’ll lay the photos out in the same order we saw them…

First glimpse of the National Park across the lake

About a 10 minute drive into the park… This was the view

Standard Tourist Photo… For The Win

“Mirror Lake” Very Pretty.

Mirror Lake again, this is one of my favourite photos from the day

All Smiles.

Big valley thing. There’s a river out of shot, which was sooo loud.

Enjoying the view

Another Tourist Photo

The driver did tell me the name of this river. But I forgot. Oops.

Waterfall

Entering the ‘avalanche risk zone’.

You can see the marks of past avalanches.

Yay for nature.

For part 2 of the Milford Sound photos… click here! 🙂

The Best Places to Eat in Queenstown

Whilst we’ve only been here a just under a month – I feel as though I am completely in the right now to write a post about the best places to eat in Queenstown. Granted, there are still lots of places we still need to visit (there is a Japanese restaurant outside our gym, which always smells amazing) but I can always do a Part 2 – once we’ve been to the Japanese place. And also the Burrio place up the road from the gym too.

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY FOOD PLACES NEAR THE GYM? 

Anyway – Here are our favourite places so far:

Flame: http://flamegrill.co.nz/

Apart from Hawksmoor in London (which also serves up super awesome ribs) – this places is now home to the best ribs I have ever had. I don’t care if you don’t like ribs. If you go to Flame you should get them. Try them. And then eat your words as well as your meat. They also do amazing cocktails – because obviously you need something to wash down all the ribs and steak you’ve ordered. The portion sizes here are huge – but the quality isn’t compromised by the size, which make it all the more enjoyable. The only downside is the size as it’s quite a small restaurant – but this wont affect you if you’re clever enough to ring ahead and book a table (which you definitely should).

FergBurger: http://www.fergburger.com/

Fergburger is like a little hub in the middle of Queenstown. We’ve been there a few times now – and it’s always either bustling or completely full – one a few occasions there have actually been people queuing round the block for one. It’s basically a take-out burger place (if you do manage to grab a seat – you’re very lucky, as there aren’t many) so it’s perfect for a sunny day, when you can grab a  burger and go sit by the lake. The portions are also huge here – so unless you haven’t eaten in weeks all you need to order is the burger… no chips necessary!

Palace on the Lake: http://www.lakesidepalaceatqueenstown.com/

Chinese food is one of my favourite kinds – so I really wanted to track down a decent Chinese place in the first couple of weeks. A week in we mistook a Korean place for a Chinese place and had a kind of bizarre meal (I guess it was OK though….) but then we finally found a normal Chinese place, that was soo good. I keep trying to find excuses to go back. Is it Chinese New Year anytime soon? No? Damn.

Hell Pizza: http://hellpizza.com/

I’m pretty sure one of the first things you do when you move to a new place is order pizza take-out? You know, when you haven’t been shopping yet and you haven’t got anything in the cupboards! Hell Pizza is amazing – So much good pizza yummyness. They also do this thing (which is beyond awesome) where you can play ‘Pizza Roulette’ and in one slice of pizza (but they don’t tell you which) they pile in loads of hot chilli’s into the sauce. Oh an the pizza box makes scary faces too. Which is cool.

Patagonia: http://www.patagoniachocolates.co.nz/

This place is great for those with a sweet tooth or a coffee habit – because you’d be beyond satisfied here. The do this amazing ice-cream (every flavour ever in the world) and also incredible sorbet too, the have the biggest range of home-made chocolate I’ve ever seen, and they also do good coffee. Oh, and there is free-wifi and it’s right by the lake so the views are great.

Places we still need to visit: 

– The Japanese place near the gym

– The Queenstown Grill @ The Hilton

– Winnies Pizza (Update: We just went here, it’s veryyyy good! Awesome bar area too). 

– The Burrito place near the gym

– Breakfast @ Vudu

 

A Photo Post

Thought I’d do a post full of photos – I haven’t uploaded all our photos so far (for obvious reasons…) so loads of really nice ones have been missed out. But they’re so pretty – so I thought I’d dedicate a post to some visual loveliness. Enjoy!

Cute Couple having Wedding Photos near the Lake

Cute Couple having Wedding Photos near the Lake

Queenstown Gardens - New Zealand

Queenstown Gardens – New Zealand

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Queenstown Gardens

Queenstown Gardens

Our Balcony View

Our Balcony View

The Remarkables

The Remarkables

Queenstown Gardens

Queenstown Gardens

The Remarkables

The Remarkables

The little lake in Queenstown Gardens

The little lake in Queenstown Gardens

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TSS Earnslaw

TSS Earnslaw

The Remarkables

The Remarkables

Lake Wanaka, Queenstown

Lake Wanaka, Queenstown

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Gorgeous Yellow Tree Thing

Gorgeous Yellow Tree Thing

Pretty Plant that makes pretty photo.

Pretty Plant that makes pretty photo.

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This Is What We Moved Here For

When we were planning our move to New Zealand, the sheer amazingness of the views on offer in Queenstown, were what swung the decision for us. When you Google Image Search: Queenstown, the most common image that pops up is taken from the Gondola thing at the very top of the town. Ever since I saw that view (and ever since we arrived here) we’ve both been dying to go up and see the view for ourselves.

Amazing right?

We finally went up there today and it was amazing! We decided to hold off for a sunny day (we’ve had two in a row now…wooo!) so the views would be clear, and it was definitely worth the wait. We got up there in the mini cable cars, which were steep and scary, and then had lunch at the gorgeous restaurant at the top – which looks over all the amazing lake and mountain views. It was buffet-style, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone visiting here, we both had Salmon Steak with Caesar Salad for mains and it was so yum. I am hungry again just talking about it. Damn it.

We planned to have a walk around outside afterwards (which we did) but only for around 10 minutes as the wind really picked up and neither of us took a proper coat. Serious mistake. We managed to take a few photos before both us were basically freezing alive – so we ran back to the cafe and had a drink instead. They actually closed the chair lifts today too because of the wind, which made us feel less wimpy.

We’ve also been chatting a lot about where we want to be going next – and it looks like Thailand has been on both of our minds a lot. For me, it’s because I’ve been there before and know how beautiful it is. For Pad, I think he’s eager to get out and see that part of the world, because he’s yet to see it all. The sunshine is quite appealing too – both of us are craving a beach I think! And maybe some sea and sunshine!

Yesterday we went on a bit of a booking spree though, and booked a few extra days in Sydney for NYE (we were originally staying for a week – we’re now staying for 2) so that’ll be awesome. We’ve got a swish hotel for the first week in the city centre, and then we’re staying in the YHA on Bondi Beach (recommended by Lauren) for the second week – which will be a nice change of pace. We also booked a trip up to Wellington for the beginning of November. And I really want to book Milford Sound soon too – but it’s probably best to wait until summertime for that – seen as they recently closed the entire place because of snow.

10 Things I’ve Learnt About New Zealand

We’ve been here 10 days now… so I thought I’d write about 10 things we’ve learnt since arriving. I think New Zealand is the kind of place you don’t fully understand until you’ve visited. You can’t really describe it or explain it until the person is stood right next to you, looking at the same incredible views or experiencing the same ever-changing weather.

This is kind of the situation I put Pad in before we left. Sure, he told me it was beautiful. And big. And epic. But his words could never do it justice (and neither could mine)…. So it wasn’t until I arrived that I understood. 

But also, as you’d expect – there are things we needed to learn during the first few days here. After all – WE MOVED ABOUT AS FAR AWAY FROM HOME AS WE POSSIBLY COULD. It’s not like I expected it to be the same as the UK, but we’ve definitely had to adjust. Because our London habits weren’t doing us much good in the mountains. Figures. It’s just the little things really – things I never would’ve thought of. But here are some things we’ve learnt in the last 10 days:

1. The water is blue here. All the time. Not just on sunny days. 

You know The Thames? You know how on sunny days it is glistening and blue and beautiful? But then on a rainy day or a dull day – all that glistening blue gorgeousness just gets forgotten (and instead you have a brown river)? Well New Zealand isn’t like that. At all. The water is always blue. ALWAYS. And it’s not just blue, it’s like blow-your-mind turquoise.

2. Pumps (and heels) don’t cut it. 

I am a pumps girl. And a heels girl. In New Zealand (in particular Queenstown) pumps and heels just don’t work. This breaks my heart a little bit – but I have worn trainers more in the last 10 days than I have in the last 10 years of my life. But actually, what with all the walking, hills, rain, snow and steps – nothing other than trainers / mountain boots is worth wearing at the moment. Sure, it’s still winter here and once Spring and Summer arrives (which should be soon) I think I’ll have the go-ahead for normal girl shoes once more.

3. The weather changes every minute. 

Don’t even bother Googling the weather in New Zealand – because chances are it’ll be wrong. The weather here is like some unpredictable toddler with a toy box. It doesn’t know what it wants to do and changes it’s mind every couple of minutes. One morning we woke up with blue skies and sunshine – within an hour it was snowing and I couldn’t see out of the window for cloud. Whilst this can be annoying (“What should I wear Pad?! Is it going to Snow do you think or will the sun come out and roast us alive?!) it’s also very exciting. I kinda like it.

All of these photos were taken within 24 hours

4. New Zealand TV is awesome. 

I know it’s New Zeleand and I shouldn’t even be watching TV (I should be watching the mountains) but it’s so hard when the TV is so good. For years I have watched the brand new How I Met Your Mother , Dexter and Simpsons episodes illegally, due to the UK’s inability to broadcast them at the same time as the US. But New Zealand have it sorted. Boom. Also they show Futurama every day. This is wonderful. Oh and most importantly… Ellen Degeneres!!

5. Hills are everywhere

You cannot escape them. Our walk into town is all downhill (oh, nice and relaxing – I hear you say). Yes. Not on the way home though. On the way home we kick the hills with anger. Why can’t you be equally distributed and not steep? Why?!

6. They sell guns here

We’re going to buy one and shoot the hill. Just kidding. This doesn’t really impact us. It was super weird going into a shop and seeing real guns on the shelves though.

7. Everyone is super nice

We have not met one unfriendly or stressful person since arriving here, everyone is so nice and everyone smiles and everyone just takes it easy. Which seems like a huge departure from London. I hate to say it – but when you go from London rush-hour scowls to super-friendly people everywhere – you really notice it. It’s infectious too.

Here is us. All infected with happiness.

8. There are no Pigeons 

I can’t remember whether we saw pigeons in Auckland (I wasn’t exactly looking for them, you know?) but since being in Queenstown, we haven’t seen a single Pigeon. Instead of Pigeons, there are these lovely fat, happy ducks (from all the fergburgers they get fed) and chirpy little seagulls. Which seems like a pretty decent trade.

9. The sun is turning my hair red

Who knows why but this is happening and it’s a reality. Pad has taken to called me by two new nicknames: Ginger and Ginge. It’s not at Ron Weasley stage yet but the sun here is so powerful it is literally bleaching my hair. We were in the sunshine for a couple of hours today – and not only is my hair looking a few shades lighter, but we’ve both burnt a little too.

Definite red-tint

10. It’s awesome

We knew it would be. But it’s nice to be right about stuff like this. Couldn’t be happier.

 

sunset in queenstown

Last night we went for an amazing meal at this restaurant called Flame in Queenstown. I know I dedicated a whole post to Fergburger – but ohmygosh this restaurant also deserves a whole post too. I’m not going to give it one (short of time here) – but it does deserve one (just so we’re clear). If anyone is planning a trip to Queenstown in the near future – visit Flame (on the main street by the lake-side) and order a full rack of BBQ ribs. Trust me, you’ll be so thankful.

What do these ribs come from… Unicorns?!

It’s also the first clear night we’ve had whilst we’ve been here. In the past few nights, by the time evening comes the sky is clouding over slightly, or it’s raining, or it’s snowing. It was really nice walking into the town because the sun was still shining and last night the sky was just kind of dusty cloud so you could still see the sunset.

We like.

Those who know me, will know that sunsets are my most favourite thing to photograph. I get a bit camera crazy when sunset happens. It’s like tourettes but with a camera. I can’t control the shutter button. It’s a problem. A problem that makes pretty pictures though.

My favourite place so far in Queenstown is the Queenstown Gardens – just outside the centre of town. We can actually walk through the gardens when we walk into town, it takes a little longer – but it’s so pretty and the views and incredible. We both biked through there yesterday (on our new bikes!!) and it’s really gorgeous and a decent ride too. The only down-side being, on the way back home there is the world’s BIGGEST hill. Needless to say – we didn’t bike up the hill. We crawled. Whilst crying into the pavement. 

Sometime soon I will photograph the afore mentioned hill so you can understand the steepness. But just so you can picture it properly (and don’t think we’re just being hill-wimps) it kind of looks like this:

BUT WORSE.

Anyway. Here are some pictures of the sunset:

Pretty nice, huh? 🙂

We Were Born to Eat This Burger – Fergburger

If you’ve ever been to Fergburger you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t – it’s a pretty solid reason and pretty strong justification for booking a trip to New Zealand.

No, really.

I’ve never had a burger like this before.

I don’t think my photographs do it justice either. Which is actually probably a good thing – what with the risk of you drooling over your keyboards right now. What makes it so damn good?

– The bread. Not crumbly and not to squishy. Just good bread. Also it is the perfect huggable size for the burger – so you don’t end up a slipping sticky mess come the final bites when the bread to burger ratio is all ruined.

– It’s cooked right in front of you. And you get it within 10 minutes of ordering. That’s fast food. Except it isn’t “fast food” it’s yummy hearty proper food, just fast.

– It comes with the best mayo I ever had. I’ll go back just for the mayonaise. Seriously.

– You don’t need to order chips. Which is money saving. The burger is so MASSIVE you would be a fool to order chips. Unless you are some hugely experienced burger genius who is trained in burger and chip consumption.

– It’s very fresh.

– It tastes so good.

– It’s also VERY reasonably priced. Which in a tourist hot-spot is quite rare. Also considering the burger now has “cult” status – trust me – they could be charging double.

I am actually really proud of us for only going once so far. We’ve been here 4 days – and only had one Fergburger. That’s quite an achievement. We are here for 6 months though – so I’m guessing that by the time we leave – we’ll have sampled every single burger they have to offer.

Challenge ACCEPTED. 

Here is us all excited from burgerness:

Also – this was on the wall near our seat. It is funny. It also explains in better words than I ever could, how huge the burgers actually are:

 

An hour in Queenstown

We woke up this morning to heavy snow over the mountains – which was gorgeous! I was hoping we’d get to see some snowfall whilst over here – but it seemed unlikely because NZ is approaching summer rather than winter – so I’m considering myself very lucky to have seen some!

Needless to say I was straight out onto the balcony taking photos (I now have numb feet from the cold) and the photos were stunning. Funny thing was, as soon as I got back inside and got warmed up – the view outside had completely changed again. Meaning I had to go back out to take more photos.

It carried on this way for a good hour. The weather changes so fast here – I’ve never known anything like it. One minute you’ll have blue skies and the next (literally – maybe 60 seconds later) it’s chucking it down and the sky is black.

This is how much the sky changed within 60 minutes:

 

So this is where we live now!

So, let’s start off by saying… Queenstown is amazing. We were so lucky, when we landed we were surrounded by clear blue skies – and the place was completely in it’s element. We went straight to our apartment to pick up our keys, and couldn’t have been more happy with it. It was a little nervewracking signing a contract on an apartment without ever having viewed it – but actually the apartment is gorgeous and the views are better than any photo could ever show you.

I’ll try though: 

There is a huge living area and open plan kitchen – which opens out onto a huge balcony, all with amazing views over the lake and The Remarkables. We’ve been super lucky actually, because our flat is at the very end of the street, so we don’t overlook anyone else directly – and we don’t have anything obstructing the views. And with views like this – it’d be a total bummer if you had something obstructing it!

I can’t quite get my head around the fact we’re actually here yet. Driving from the airport to the apartment felt incredibly surreal – after months of Googling photographs and Street View – it was so bizarre actually seeing the place for real. It surpassed all expectations too. The water is bluer, the mountains were bigger, the air is fresher than I ever could have imagined. I think Pad was sat there in a bubble of relief – because it was completely his call moving here!

I can see now why Pad was so dead-set on moving here. For a while I was thinking, maybe we’d be happier in Auckland because I’m more of a city girl than a country girl (even though I grew up in the countryside) – but actually (having now been to both places in the last couple of days) Auckland has nothing on Queenstown.

Queenstown feels like somewhere that someone has painted. You know that scene in Mary Poppins where they jump into the paintings and everything is a little brighter and a little better? That’s kind of what it’s like driving through Queenstown on a sunny day. It just exceeds all your expectations 100%.

Like I said, photos don’t do this place justice. I tried – but they just don’t. Here are some more though from our balcony. Because they’re still really pretty….!

Here are some photos of the interior of our gorgeous apartment too… (nearly) as beautiful as the exterior! We have 2 awesome double bedrooms, both with ensuite bathrooms (so guests will be more than catered for – come visit us!). The showers are INCREDIBLE too- literally amazing, ooh and there is underfloor heating too – which we won’t be using (because it’s summer time here) But still. That’s when you know you’re living somewhere awesome. Paddy once said to me when we first started dating, that he’d know he’d made it when he had a toaster with room for four slices. I might buy one just to confirm it for him. But I’d hope the underfloor heating has him convinced.

a few more photos from Auckland

We’re finally heading down to Queenstown tomorrow morning, after spending 2/3 amazing days in Auckland. So excited to pick up our keys for our new apartment! And to have a Ferg Burger too of course…!

Today we had a pretty easy going day in Auckland – we did a harbour boat cruise which was really nice – but I’m pretty sure it would’ve been nicer in the sunshine. Open roof boat tours aren’t much fun when it’s chucking it down. Luckily they had a nice cozy indoor bit too – but the rain on the windows made it pretty impossible to see much. I kept popping out onto the deck to take photos and then coming back in drenched from head to toe. I think Pad was extremely amused by this – I was just extremely wet and cold. But the photos are worth it!

Ever the optimist.

They gave us free tea too. Winning.

The jetlag has well and truly set in by the way  – but we’re hoping to shake it off soon. I’m suffering extreme exhaustion and taking every opportunity to sleep – whereas Pad is not sleeping but seems to be relatively fine (annoying).

the first day :)

After 3 full days of travelling, 2 long haul flights, two swollen feet (twice over), many duty free shops, 4 seriously questionable in-flight meals… we’ve finally arrived in Auckland. Actually, after yet another seriously disappointing in-flight food offering (I don’t even want to show you photos… for fear of putting you off any meal you may currently be eating) the first thing we did when we arrived in Auckland was get McDonalds.

But you have to cut us some slack here – it had been 10 hours+ with no food (unless we had chosen to eat the cold omelette with chicken sausage) and that big yellow M might have well have been a big yellow H for Heaven. We practically ran over. Funny thing was, the cabin crew from our flight were in the queue behind us…. so clearly they didn’t rate the food either.

The taxi from the airport took about 25 minutes and we could not be happier with out choice of hotel. We’re in the Sky City Hotel (It’s also a big Casino and resort in the city centre – the big tower which weird people jump off)  so we knew there would be a King Size bed, and the hotel woud be good quality. In reality though the hotel has blown us away – it’s so nice to be able to relax here for a few days before flying down to Queenstown – where we’ll finally have finished the journey.

The bed is HUGE. The kind of bed that makes you sad, because you know you have to go back to a normal sized bed at some point in the future, and you’ll have to eventually leave this bed shaped piece of perfection behind.

Here is how excited we were:

Today we were pretty much concentrating on jetlag recovery and ‘set-up-life-stuff’. The plan for this was as follows:

– Massive breakfast. Including; Fruit, Full English, Waffles with Maple Syrup, Toast with Peanut butter and Streaky bacon. It was so good we are pretty sure we’re going to need it again tomorrow. “Need” haha.

– Lots of Juice

– Set up bank account

– Buy SIM cards

Turns out Paddy’s iPhone won’t work in NZ with the network because it’s locked – so needless to say we bought a new high-tech replacement asap. It’s pretty snazzy. I think he’s really pleased.

We then spent a few hours walking around the city harbour, had a drink in a very pretty waterside bar and then headed back to the hotel. We’re both struggling a bit keeping our eyes open so decided it’d probably be smart to go back, nap and then head back out in a few hours (to the casino… exciting!)

The thing is, we know we’re going to come back to Auckland and see it properly – Paddy won’t feel complete until he’s jumped off the big tower – so there’s no pressure to cram it all into these two days. Which is kind of nice – because it means I feel no guilt wanting to nap!