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Australia & NZ

    Christmas & New Year, Kiwi-style

    Forget that it’s already a month after Christmas. Ignore the fact that New Years Eve has been and gone. Overlook the fact that blogs are meant to be on-topic reflections of all that is trendy (which probably isn’t my dowdy forte at the best of times). Consider it a suspension of disbelief that I’m such a tardy blogger.

    Let me take you back a few weeks, to a time far sunnier and entirely upside down in a completely different hemisphere. It was Christmas Eve in New Zealand: the sun was shining, we had our drinks fridge all chilled and the ham was in the oven slowly being honey-glazed. One by one car loads of family were pulling into the drive before unloading copious amounts of kids and presents under the Christmas tree.
     

    Expat holiday celebrations Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Expat holiday celebrations Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Over the course of the next few days we gathered around the kitchen table for feasts (Mr Kiwi turned to me at one meal and goes “this will be your favorite moments of the holiday won’t they?” I gulped my drink in answer…), played some seriously competitive games (some unnamed adults elbowing other adults off the slip and slide), snuck a wedding in, spend the maximum time running about on the lawn, dragged the clan to the beach (Mount Maunganui, the same that I spend last Christmas Eve on) and just revelled in the family time.

    Mount Maunganui beach New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Mount Maunganui beach New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    It was so much fun I caught a few moments on film… (don’t worry, this is as close to vlogging as I’m EVER going to come…)



    We eventually made our way back up to Auckland for New Year celebrations. After two days of drizzly rain and movies (by that point actually
    a rather welcome reprieve from a busy Christmas and the sun for our almost
    translucent London complexions) we wandered out of our hotel towards the busy
    waterfront area of Auckland harbour. Our New Year plans were
    simple; watch the fireworks then retire for a celebratory drink back at the
    hotel.

    Well, if the wind and rain played ball.

    Luckily, for my first home New Years evening for nearly a
    decade, around 6pm the miserly grey seemed to lift (not always a guaranteed
    thing in Auckland, our city of sails) so we watched the sunset play out from our
    17th Floor Balcony.

    #Sunset in Auckland business-land. Magnificent. I think that means cocktail time… #visitauckland #QueenStreet #instaaddict #sunset #architecture #design #cocktails #nzmustdo #nz #kiwi #prettypursuit #home #Viewfrommytable #latergram #aucklandcbd #purenewzealand #realmiddleearth #kiwiland #newzealandnatural #kiwi_photos #newzealandfinds #foodbloggers #foodpic #yum #potd #moodofmytable

    A photo posted by Emma (@londonkiwiemma) on


    The last New Years Eve we actually planned to celebrate
    the clocks chiming was under Big Ben in 2013/2014, literally half a world away. We
    had to wear thick duvet-esque coats, knee-high boots under our jeans and pack a
    flask of hot chocolate liberally spiked with whiskey.

    This year, we wandered
    around in T-Shirts and popped into a pub here and there for a beer or two
    before meandering our way along the marina pier. Families milled about, couples armed with selfie sticks
    puckered their pouts and yaughties lounged on their moored vessels, full
    vessels in hand. We had been recommended the Wynyard Quarter (or the Parnell
    Rose Gardens) for the atmosphere and views – they didn’t disappoint.


    Mount Maunganui beach New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi

    < Insert gratuitous pavement photograph >

     

    Sure, it’s no London extravaganza with 2 million people gathered
    and a gazillion more watching it live on TV, but we do pretty well for such a
    small country. *cough* Rugby world cup *cough* 

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    Travel Contrasts – The East and West Coasts of New Zealand – #travellinkup

    We stood, transfixed as the waves tumbled from glass rumbles to lace froth. A lone seagull dipped and wove through eddies of unseen air currents. The sunshine shimmered through breathtaking blue skies. Winter seemed like a distant thought, rather than close on the heels of our New Zealand Autumn.

    A day (or 30 hours later to be precise) we landed back in amongst the silver skyscrapers of London.

    PIHA BEACH Auckland New Zealand

    Living in New Zealand, no one is more than 3 hours drive from a beach, and it is one of the things I miss most about living in London. (And having to take wind breaks will always make me giggle, sorry British friends!) We managed to sneak in two beachy visits during our New Zealand whirlwind.

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    5 Day trips from Christchurch, New Zealand

    Once you have had your fill of exploring Christchurch (and drinking the cracking coffee) there are 5 places you have to make a day trip of whilst at the tip of the South Island.

    Tranzalpine journey from Christchurch to Greymouth.

    Crowning the list is one of the top railway journeys in the world – the Tranzalpine journey from Christchurch to Greymouth.


    Cross the fertile farmlands of the Canterbury Plains, and enjoy
    thrilling vistas over deep gorges as you travel alongside the ice-fed
    Waimakariri River. Traverse the mighty Southern Alps, where spectacular
    views of the chiselled alpine landscape will take your breath away at
    every turn.

    Descend through thick stands of native beech forest to your
    destination, Greymouth – a great base for exploring this unspoiled
    region with its mighty glaciers, wild rivers and famous Punakaiki
    pancake rocks.

    I couldn’t put it better myself!

     

    Tranzalpine journey from Christchurch to Greymouth.

    We unluckily ran into a few problems insofar as a hour into the comfortable 4 hour train ride (we breakfasted on Afghan biscuits and sipped Flat Whites – oh how I adore being home) an elderly gentleman drove over the train tracks ahead of our train but sorely misjudged the timing.

    Tranzalpine journey from Christchurch to Greymouth.

     

    Tranzalpine journey from Christchurch to Greymouth.

    The train couldn’t slow quickly enough, hitting the car and damaging the locomotive engine. Luckily he was absolutely fine, walking away just with shock, but it
    meant we were transferred to a coach for the remainder of our trip to
    Greymouth. Ironically enough my Uncle had recommended getting the
    Transalpine train one way, then catching a coach to see a slightly
    different view of the incredible scenery.

    Tranzalpine journey from Christchurch to Greymouth.

    The view no matter what transport you take is breathtaking. With winding
    roads hugging the side of sheer moutain sides and running over shingle
    river beds we were entranced.

    Tranzalpine journey from Christchurch to Greymouth.

    Due to the short turn around time, once we arrived in Greymouth we just grabbed a sandwich and hopped back onto the coach, but had considered staying the night to pop into the Monteith Brewery and explore the Punakaiki “Pancake” rocks. Next time, next time.
     

    Tranzalpine journey from Christchurch to Greymouth.
    I wanted to stay in that Campervan. Imagine waking up to that view! i

    Swim with dolphins or whale watch in Kaikoura
    I have always dreamt of doing this – and sadly foiled at Christmas in Tauranga due to stormy seas, we booked in with much excitement to travel up to Kaikoura (all my kiwi friends will be grimacing with the tourist-yness of this statement) but alas also owing to stormy conditions, our trip was cancelled whilst we were in Christchurch. It will be third time lucky, right?

    Relax in the Hamner Hot springs
    A 90-minute drive from Christchurch is one we weren’t able to fit in (no thanks to our dolphin cruise being cancelled and the operator pretending to have notified our hotel, but hadn’t) but remains on the must-do list. Leyla from Cutlery Chronicles has though…  

    Cable car overlooking Lyttleton Harbour
    This is more of a half day trip, but beautiful nonetheless. We relaxed in the cliff top restaurant with a coffee and a beating heart (I do not love cable cars) but the view was more than worth the journey.

    Cable car overlooking Lyttleton Harbour

    Cable car overlooking Lyttleton Harbour

    Enjoy a beer in Akaroa
    Who doesn’t love a relaxing sunset beer before returning to their hotel for pies a lovely meal?

    Cable car overlooking Lyttleton Harbour

    Have you been to Christchurch? (ps this is in no way a sponsored post, just sharing a little travel joy we found in New Zealand).

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    10 things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand

    Christchurch broke our hearts. 4 years after the 2011 6.3 magnitude earthquake, there are still families affected by the violent tectonic shaking and insurance companies running out of budget to get them back on their feet. Everywhere you walk through the quiet city there are reminders of the devastation – a half standing Cathedral surrounded by fallen masonry, orange construction cones barring entry and staircases leading to nowhere.

    10 things to do in Christchurch New Zealand

    On the flip side, the ‘number-8’ wire sensibility – the particularity Kiwi knack for making do and succeeding with whatever
    is to hand (and if you’re a farmer it’s usually 8-gauge fencing wire) – is everywhere. Take the surprisingly beautiful Cardboard Cathedral, the stunning murals painted on the exposed walls of buildings, wire fences set with colourful patterning and the ReStart mall made from shipping containers.

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    New Zealand, Lord of the Rings and confessions of a guilty expat

    The most I had ever seen of New Zealand’s South Island was in Lord of the Rings movies. There, I said it, my guilty secret.

    For all the world that I’ve been lucky enough to travel, I’ve carried a skeleton in my travel wishlist with me that made me ashamed to call myself a New Zealander. Most Brits that I’ve met remark on how Kiwis and Aussies on their OE have explored more of the UK in their (usually) 2 years, than the Brits have in their entire lives. It’s the hometown tourist enigma – why would you want to travel there when it will always be there, right?

    Christchurch New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi
    Pastoral farmland…
    Christchurch New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi
    …to alpine mountain ranges…

    Well, New Zealand has two main islands (not to mention a few smaller,
    isolated ones). I grew up in the North Island – as an ex-navy kid we lived in a
    few towns – I guess you could say I was raised with travel in the blood. But,
    despite living for a stint in Wellington, our capital city at the end of the
    North Island and only a short ferry to the South, I had never bridged the gap between the two.

    Yes. Despite hopping to Paris for lunch, exploring a
    continent on the other side of the world, cruising around America and a few
    short trips to Singapore and Australia, I had never managed to explore one half
    of our island nation. Luckily, my passport hasn’t been seized despite this and the Kiwi border agents kept letting me in…

    Nelson New Zealand Adventures of a London Kiwi
    …tropical islands to…
    New Zealand Volcanoes Adventures of a London Kiwi
    …to snow capped volcanic lakes, all in one 2 hour flight.

     Most tourists are told to fly into Auckland before hopping
    to the South Island for the truly gorgeous scenery Aoteoroa is famous for. Compared to the picture postcard magnificence south of the Bombay Hills, Auckland
    gets a rap that it doesn’t deserve, but when we flew home recently, having
    caught up with family at Christmas with a return trip planned in 12 months, our
    surprise short trip on the cusp of Autumn and Winter provided us with an
    unexpected opportunity to discover some of the other half of my home.

    Cardboard Cathedral New Zealand
    Christchurch’s now infamous cardboard Cathedral

    Public transport is a little skeletal in the North Island,
    and whilst it is possible to navigate without a private set of four wheels, it
    makes for much less of an experience in the South Island, where like Skye,
    Scotland, I’m told you want to stop every 5 minutes to admire the ever changing
    view. As an unexperienced car driver and a Mr who doesn’t drive, it did present
    a few problems in a country where car is king. As such we decided to condense
    our trip a little (fitting in more room for family hugs) to puttering around
    the top half of the Island, leaving a few surprises for another time.

    Christchurch cafes New Zealand

    We decided to make Christchurch our base for the whirlwind
    trip (literally 2 days in Auckland, 3.5 days in Christchurch, 3 days in
    Tauranga and another 1.5 days in Auckland before flying back to London – the joys
    of an annual leave entitlement restriction – hey, can’t complain at
    circumnavigating the globe 3 times in 12 months though!).

    Christchurch cafes New Zealand

    Still very much recovering from the devastating Earthquake 4
    years ago, Christchurch broke my hear twice – once with the rubble strewn building sites and a second time with the wonderful can-do spirit of city-dwellers, some who still don’t have their homes back.

    Christchurch Earthquake damage New Zealand


    We witnessed a couple of wizards enjoying a coffee, experienced a train crash, had our breath taken away, discovered kindness, ate way too many pies and experienced a touch of disappointment. More to follow soon…

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