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Australia & NZ

    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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    Fridayish figments and photos: the New Zealand Edition

    First things first, I have an apology to make – the #holidayspam got a little intense on instagram whilst I was away in New Zealand. It was just so addicting, and easy whilst on the road! Now, for more spam muhahaha. *ahem*.

    Having been home for Christmas for the first time in over four years, returning so quickly was a little surreal to say the least. I still can’t understand how I won a return plane ticket to New Zealand with Air New Zealand’s 75th birthday celebrations of the London-LA-Auckland route.

    Titirangi and Manukau Heads, Auckland, New Zealand
    Titirangi and Manukau Heads, Auckland, New Zealand

    Nope, I actually still can’t believe it either – it cost me £75, yes, £75 to fly home and see my family. The only slight downside was a date restriction that we could fly on, so with a little sweet talking around annual leave we cancelled our planned May bank holiday trip to Switzerland, and began organising a lightening quick excursion to Aoteoroa. (I never, ever, ever win anything, so I’m planning a few several days of volunteering to top up my karma – it has to be empty right now, bone dry!)

    Lyttleton Harbour, Christchurch New Zealand
    Lyttleton Harbour, Christchurch
    Christchurch Botanic Gardens Silver Fern, New Zealand
    Christchurch Botanic Gardens Silver Fern

    We decided to stop over in Los Angeles for a swift 3 day break in jetlag, then continue onto the land of the long white cloud, my tiny islands on the other side of the globe. 15 days, 50 hours of longhaul airplane time and several packets of Kiwi treats later and we’re back, exhausted and thrilled. Our quickly roughed up itinerary featured a few days in Auckland, several days exploring the South Island and a couple of days visiting family in Tauranga.

    Christchurch Earthquake Repairs New Zealand
    Christchurch Earthquake Repairs New Zealand – we display our stereotypes with pride…
    Christchurch Earthquake Repairs New Zealand – the Anglican Cathedral

    My heart broke in Christchurch to see the devastation still evident 4 years after the earthquake, and then lifted to see the wonderful spirit – fantastic artwork on every corner, cranes everywhere and a can-do spirit evident in the shipping container shopping mall.

    Picton New Zealand
    Picton from the air, New Zealand
    Mount Ruapahu Crater Lakes, New Zealand
    Mount Ruapahu Crater Lakes, New Zealand

    We lucked in with glorious Autumn/Winter cusp weather, meandered along beaches, hugged family, ate childhood treats, sipped many a coffee, snuggled in with movies, were involved in a train crash, made the New Zealand national news, lucked out, drank more coffee, made a few new friends, caught up with old ones and generally marveled that somehow were were on the other side of the world.

    Mount Maunganui Beach New Zealand
    Mount Maunganui Beach New Zealand

    I adore showing my country to Mr Kiwi, and the trip was more than worth it when we reached the volcanic black sand beaches of Piha, then popped up One Tree Hill for 360° degree views of the Auckland skyline. We also stocked up on a proper backup of Kiwi treats and souvenirs just in time for the travel linkup

       
    Piha Beach, New Zealand

    Life has been superlatively good to this London Kiwi.

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    Ripe Coffee – an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    Speciality coffee in New Zealand is simply booming. And I LOVE it! Inde-Roasters are beginning to pop up everywhere, rocketing up the standards of flavour to be found in our mugs, on our kitchen benches and most importantly fuelling brunch sessions. I mean important work things.

    It’s not often that a caffeine junkie is invited, nay, driven to exploring the hallowed ground that is a coffee roastery. Ripe is a small owner-operator set up just on the harbourside of foodie boom-town Petone, Lower Hutt in Wellington. I do have to make a small confession here. I’m not the only coffee junkie in my family. My Dad mainlines his with as much sugar as he can get away with, my sister takes hers in soft-drink format, but my brother is the worst of us all. He works for Ripe, testing freshly roasted slurps of coffee hot off the roaster.

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    Out the back is where the magic happens. A mischievous team of roasters cast their spells over selected green coffee beans, in an alchemical recipe of flavour, texture and deliciousness. My bro explained to us in depth the processes they go through to retain complexity of flavour, uniformity of batches and experiments of seasonal roasts that they’re known for. Alas, I hadn’t remembered to pre-load with a cup of Joe so my note taking was scanty at best. Ok, I admit it, I only took photographs.

    Bad blogger.

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    So come with me, on a wee tour of their HQ; a scatter of retro design, passion, humour, delicious taste, mysterious brewing equipment, chocolate fish and last but definitely not least, Betsy their gorgeous mobile coffee van.

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana
    Their refurbished and modified 1923 Whitmee coffee roaster. Credit.

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana


    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana
    Ubiquitious, essential Chocolate fish – a kiwi staple

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    They supply to a growing number of North Island cafes, hotels, coffee bars and home roasters. Just listen to the mouthwatering description of their Ethiopia Yirgacheffe;

    “The coffee is spicy & fragrant, with a slightly chocolatey or nutty
    quality. This washed processed coffee produces a bright & clean
    acidity with subtle peppery notes with lemongrass & tangerine, with a
    medium to light body.

    • Roast Depth: Light

    • Aroma: Rosy, Cardamom, Apricot

    • Sweetness: Preserved Orange, Paw Paw

    • Acidity: Citrus, Clean & Bright

    • Body: Silky & Light

    • Flavour: Peppery, Palm Sugar, Tangerine

    • Finish: Toffee & Honeycomb”

    Yum.

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    Ironically I never managed to photograph any of the coffees we drank over the course of the week I was on the fair shores of Wellington; too busy enjoying that incredible taste, childhood treats and baby cuddles. I wonder how long it will take my nephew to realise what kind of a family he’s been born into…

    Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana
    Didja think I was kidding about Ripe’s dreamy location?

     Ripe Coffee, Petone - an insiders peek at Wellington inde-coffee nirvana

    There ends the tale of a fortnight in my home (New Zealand). It was with a heavy heart that I left her shores, but a paradoxically a happy one excited to be headed towards my hearth and home in the sprawling urban chaos that is the London I love. Seeing New Zealand’s shorelines disappear slowly from the corner of the
    plane was utterly bittersweet. Every single expat will know exactly I
    mean.

    My trip was short, sweet, wonderful and I was a very lucky girl to be able to spend so much time with my family; a relaxing Christmas, enjoy a day at the beach, enforce hairy-toed stereotypes visiting Hobbiton, realise a lifelong dream feeding a Lion, snuggle my beautiful Nephew and literally take a stroll down a foodie memory lane in Wellington.

    What a country, eh?

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    Where to eat brunch in Wellington or, Wellington cafes, a brunch fiend and flat whites – a delicious trip down memory lane

    You know that thing parents where are encouraged to introduce their children to studying foreign languages are youngsters – their minds are like sponges, they aren’t jaded by the pressures of the world and learning is fun. Well, brunch is the language I learnt as a young, fresh out of High School student skidding along the pavements of Wellington.

    Wellington cafes, a brunch fiend and flat whites - a delicious trip down memory lane

    Where to eat brunch in Wellington or, Wellington cafes, a brunch fiend and flat whites - a delicious trip down memory lane
    Brunch at Fidels with the lovely, just returned Jenna

    I was young, I was poor and boy, was I impressionable. Luckily, and much
    to my parents relief it wasn’t drink (even though I worked in a pub),
    drugs (the hardest thing us architecture students took was caffeine
    tablets to keep up all night to get the work done and attempt to get creative juices
    flowing) or the fire poi dancing I spasmodically did (on weekend
    evenings when I definitely should have been sleeping). 

    Fidel's Cafe - Where to eat brunch in Wellington or, Wellington cafes, a brunch fiend and flat whites - a delicious trip down memory lane

    It was however a growing appreciation for creamy Hollandaise neatly
    ladled over golden muffins, oozy beautiful poached eggs and prefectly
    crisped slivers of bacon. The Art Of Eggs Benedict.What is it about eggs
    Benedict, Sweetcorn Fritters and Bacon & Egg Pie that so captures the heart of antipodeans?

    Where to eat brunch in Wellington or, Wellington cafes, a brunch fiend and flat whites - a delicious trip down memory lane
    Soho Brown’s – a new to me cafe.

    Is it the ability to rise a little later after a full evening out, and
    eat a luxurious meal with good friends? Is it the perfectly legitimate
    ability to drink pints of ice cold vitamin drinks or champagne? Could it
    be the sheer possibility of eadible joy – muesli? sure! pancakes with
    maple syrup? sure! hamburger? go for it! Or could it just be the
    enjoyment of lingering over a leisurely meal with loads of laughter at
    the previous evening’s antics? I reckon it could also be the divine flat
    whites promising energy and flavour. I’m no expert, but I’ve certainly tried to work out the answer. Practise makes perfect after all!

    Where to eat brunch in Wellington or, Wellington cafes, a brunch fiend and flat whites - a delicious trip down memory lane
    To the left, the kiwi classic Neenish Tart, to the right Ginger Crunch.

    All I do know, is that walking through the streets of Wellington was literally walking a foodie road of memories. The infamous Fidels where we argued the finer points of architectural theory, insane art psychology and where to buy the best paint over Eggs Bene. Midnight Espresso where we spent many a late night, hunched over the best milkshakes trying to work out why our lives were just so random. Espressoholic who had hands down the best Ginger Slice in Wellington.

    Where to eat brunch in Wellington or, Wellington cafes, a brunch fiend and flat whites - a delicious trip down memory lane

    Wellington is blessed with a plethora of delicious eateries – especially when you head up Cuba Street – just go hungry.

    Where to eat brunch in Wellington or, Wellington cafes, a brunch fiend and flat whites - a delicious trip down memory lane
    Espressoholic
    Where to eat brunch in Wellington or, Wellington cafes, a brunch fiend and flat whites - a delicious trip down memory lane
    Midnight Espresso

    And the best hangover/fire poi dancing cure? Satay Kingdom. Tucked down a tiny alley, it’s a place where you think might give you 3 strains of salmonella but native Wellingtonians simply swear by it. It is impossible to get a weekday lunch there if you don’t rock up super early or super late and weekend brunch hours can be even worse. Their Roti Chanai is simply out of this world.

    Where to eat brunch in Wellington or, Wellington cafes, a brunch fiend and flat whites - a delicious trip down memory lane

    And a new, rather interesting addition – the Homies cosy teahouse. I’m only disappointed I didn’t get to properly pop in…

    Where to eat brunch in Wellington or, Wellington cafes, a brunch fiend and flat whites - a delicious trip down memory lane

    And when all else fails? Bake your own & take them down to the waterfront on the glorious days of sunshine (where the wind mysteriously dies down) and enjoy the view. My favourites?

    ANZAC Biscuits
    Bacon & Egg Pie
    Fudge Slice
    Ginger Crunch Slice
    Sweetcorn Fritters 

    Lolly Cake 

    Melting Moments (Gluten Free, with Pumpkin Spice Icing)

    Where to eat brunch in Wellington or, Wellington cafes, a brunch fiend and flat whites - a delicious trip down memory lane

    How could you ever say no?

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    Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo – an experience I’ll never forget

    A week or so ago I posted about a Eureka moment I had about becoming a tourist in your own hometown. Basically, it occurred to me that once leaving my home country all I could think
    about was travelling to see the world, explore new cultures &
    experience the unique and infamous *activities* of the exotic,
    unfamiliar
    cities we come across. It’s taken a few years to occur to me, but how
    often do we travel-lusting lot sit back and explore our
    own hometown backyard?

    Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A faux Kiwi egg!

    With this in mind, a 101 in 1001 goal list swiftly nearing to completion
    date and an afternoon pootling around Wellington, I utilized my mate
    Google Search and stumbled upon something amazing. 

    Something incredible –
    Wellington Zoo offers animal experiences where you can find yourself up
    close and personal with a selection of their zoo pals.

    Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi
    Zoos are a marmite institution. Some people hate the caging of animals,
    some love being able to educate themselves of the many wonderful species
    Mother Nature offers, and some like me can’t help but see zoos from an
    ecological need perspective. Like it or not, humans are awful; poaching,
    eroding natural habitats and changing the strata of long-established
    animal kingdoms.

     

    Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi
    Tiger, where?

     Good Zoos, to my mind and to my very limited experience, play an
    integral role in helping these animals. Breeding programmes helping to
    keep species from dying out, drumming up fundraising and PR awareness
    for wild animals, and provide carefully thought out sanctuaries that
    earnestly care about the welfare and happiness of their animals. Not all
    institutions are created equal, and not all do as much as they can for
    the happiness of their inhabitants.

    Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London KiwiWellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi
    A Tuatara – a New Zealand native and one of the last dinosaurs in the world

     Wellington Zoo, and for that matter London Zoo where I acted as a zookeeper for the day,
    try to look after their animals the best they can. They also allow for
    humans to interact with incredible animals through experience days (ps.
    this isn’t a comped post, just something I’m incredibly passionate
    about) in ways that just wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

    Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi

    At London Zoo
    I’ve had
    Ringtailed Lemurs scamper across my lap, been eye to beady eye with
    penguins and experienced mucking out & saw-dusting the Zebra &
    Okapi pens. I was also warned that my handbag would be checked on exit
    for Penguins, but that’s a story for another day.

    Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi

    My love for animals has always however been of the feline kind.
    Ranging from a childhood dream of working with big Cats, but having to
    settle with volunteering at the RSPCA, owning a wee tabby
    beastie cat and hanging out with office monkeys – sorry, I mean
    colleagues – I set a goal of patting a big cat on my 101 in 1001 goal
    list, never thinking that it would happen in the hilly surrounds of
    Wellington.
    Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi
    Zulu and I having a moment

    Oh yes, it really happened, and what’s
    more, we got to feed treats during behaviour training with two enormous,
    utterly beautiful male Lions; Malik
    and Zulu. Hanging out in the medical pens at the back of the Lion
    enclosures, we assisted – read: stared at the magnificent cats – the
    keeper with behavoural training, that is getting the Lions to move into
    certain areas of the pen for weighing, check-ups and for their daily
    health checks.

    Feeding a Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi

    In
    case you were wondering, a Lion’s licking your hand just feels like a
    drier cat’s tongue on a much larger scale. Stick that with the rest of
    the useless facts from this blog! 

    We openhandedly fed them meat, stared into their big eyes and eventually
    got to pat their beautiful hides through a gap in the cage walls
    (mostly so they didn’t accidentally turn and crush our fingers). I don’t
    think I’ve ever been more awed at raw power and feline beauty.

    Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi

    They really are like enormous, very dangerous housecats; they rumble and roar, have hairy slightly oily coats and get up to all sorts of mischeif; Malik likes to wee on unsuspected keepers in between highly essential naps.

    Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi
    This isn’t my hand… she was harrumphing at us as she’d missed out on meaty treats

    Once we tottered of the back area, not before we said hey to one of the upset Lionesses, we explored the rest of Wellington Zoo, dodging kids and ploughing up the steep hill. But hey, just check out the incredible views not to mention the Momma and baby Campuchin monkeys…

    Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Feeding a Lion at Wellington Zoo, New Zealand - Adventures of a London Kiwi

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