Monthly Archives: November 2012

South Island Highlights – Top 5 road trips on South Island, New Zealand

Having driven around the whole of New Zealand’s South island I felt like a Top 5 road trips list was inevitable. As I am sure you know the scenery is absolutely incredible on the South island, so pretty much everywhere you look is a gorgeous sight! Therefore narrowing it down to only 5 road trips was difficult but I have given it a go. So here we are:

Top 5 road trips:

1. The road to Mount Cook

Truly an amazing drive! The road to Mount Cook takes you alongside (in my opinion) New Zealand’s most beautiful lake which is the most gorgeous turquoise colour – Lake Pukaki. Driving up to Mount Cook you constantly feel the desire to stop, jump out of your car, take loads of pictures and just take a breath to soak in the beauty around you. The scenery is just really breathtaking! Make sure to stop at Peter’s Lookout on the way up for an excellent vantage point over the lake with Mount Cook beautifully framing it. As you get closer and pass the lake the incredible Mount Cook dominates the skyline providing awesome 360 degree views. A drive not to be missed!

2. Queenstown to Glenorchy

The road from Queenstown up to Glenorchy was a real highlight of our whole trip for me. The weather was a little moody and mysterious but this added to our journey as we headed into Lord of the Rings Country. The road winds alongside Lake Wakatipu creating a stunning setting of the lake with snowcapped mountains as the backdrop. The scenery constantly changes along this drive as the road twists and turns and has plenty of ups and downs as well. There are a few lookout points to stop along the way which are an absolute must. Many say this is the most beautiful drive in the whole of New Zealand and based on our experience it is hard to argue with that!

3. Wanaka to Queenstown – the Crown Range road

There are two diferent routes to drive from Wanaka to Queenstown and I would highly recommend going via the Crown Range road – which takes you along the highest main road in New Zealand! This is a shorter route than going through Cromwell (although not quicker) but also much more scenic. From Wanaka make sure you take the Crown range road, where you will pass through the historic Cardrona. The road then steeply ascends up to the summit to a view of Frankton, some of Lake Wakatipu and as far as Queenstown itself. From here the road zigzags steeply downhill and from there you have a magnificent vantage point to look down to Arrowtown, and across to the Remarkables – and you then join up with Highway 6 on into Queenstown.

4. Queen Charlotte Drive – Marlborough Sounds

Queen Charlotte Drive is a real highlight of the Marlborough Sounds area. It is the access road for vehicles heading into/out of Picton. Its reputation certainly precedes it and it is an incredible winding road – taking you past lots of hidden bays (our favourite being the isolated Governor’s Bay) and through native forest. The views along the road are some of the best you will see on the road in New Zealand. There are many lookout points along the way – Cullen’s point being the best signposted, as well as one close to Picton with a small car park.  The road really does twist and turn uphill and downhill, but you don’t meet many vehicles and have lots of time to take in the  wonderful views.

5. The West Coast drive

The West Coast is another incredible drive. During most of our journey along it the weather was wet and wild but that just added to the atmospehere! It does remind me in parts of driving along Highway 1 in America – as you drive right along by the coast at various times. There are lots of places to stop, little hidden bays and places to take in the scenery. Leaving inland just past Westport you head down the coast passing Punakaiki (at which we stopped overnight and took in the stunning Pancake Rocks and Blowholes). Keep heading south for more stunning views along the way, take in the wildlife and stop at windswept beaches. We headed for Fox Glacier, passing through Franz Josef, and eventually on to Wanaka through Haast pass (with many great walks including the Blue Pools walk – a personal favourite of ours).

If you have really enjoyed any stunning road trips on South Island I would love to hear from you and thanks for reading! 🙂

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South Island Highlights – Top 5 things to do on South Island, New Zealand

So next in my Top 5 series reflecting on our amazing 5 week holiday around the South island of New Zealand is ‘Top 5 trips/activities’. As with my Top 5 places post I found this incredibly difficult to choose only 5 as we did such great things. I have cheated a little and included those that just missed out at the bottom 🙂

Top 5 things to do:

1. Mount Cook: Glacier Explorers boat trip

A must-do activity for anyone visiting the Mount Cook area is the Glacier Explorers lagoon boat trip. Having also been to Iceland’s famous and striking Jokulsarlon lagoon we weren’t sure how this would measure up but it was a really fantastic experience! The surrounding landscape of the Tasman Glacier is striking, with amazing views of Mount Cook itself whilst out on the lagoon. The photo opportunities are endless and we really loved our trip we took back in October. We were also very lucky with having such perfect weather for the trip. The weather at Mount Cook is very temperamental and changeable, and so we had to postone our trip from the day before but it was certainly worth it! The whole package provided by Glacier Explorers involves a short coach ride of about 15 minutes along a windy gravel road, followed by a brisk walk along a flat path through beautiful terrain. This brings you to the Tasman Glacier Lake. The really great thing about this trip is the size of boats (ours held about 10 people) and that you can get really close to the icebergs. We spent about 45 mins to an hour out on the lake and travelled around the lake exploring, as well as getting as close to the Tasman glacier as was safe to. We were also able to hold parts of the icebergs as well as having time to take in the stunning scenery.

Details:

Cost: NZD $145 pp.

Times: Up to 7 trips daily (seasonal)

Total activity time: 2 hours 30 (1 hour on the lake)

2. Marlborough Sounds boat trip

This was a truly memorable experience for us, as we had booked this trip to coincide with my husband’s celebration of his 30th birthday and it certainly was a birthday never to forget! Certainly not a cheap activity, but for a special occasion it is really worth its value. There are lots of boat trip options leaving from the Picton area around the sounds, but on this special day we didn’t want to be on board a big board full of tourists, we wanted to chose where we went and what we experienced on board our own privately chartered boat  – the Stormdancer. After much research we chose Queen Charlotte Boat Cruises and was in email contact with Sybil (who along with her husband Ian, own the company). Communication was very easy and we set up the arrangements for the trip. As the day arrived we were greeted by Sybil and welcomed into their home while Ian fuelled the boat ready for our trip. We boarded the boat and were briefed on safety procedures and soon set off on our half day cruise. The trip was really fantastic and we enjoyed travelling all around the sounds. Ian and Sybil had the perfect balance of chatting to us at times and giving us info about the area, but also leaving us to enjoy the time together, just us. We explored the sounds, stopping at little private coves and stopped at one for tea and delicious birthday cake (baked by Sybil!). We also saw different wildlife along the journey including a seal and the real highlight came when a pod of dolphins appeared and started following the boat. They jumped out of the waves behind the boat as we drove around and it really was an amazing sight to see them. All in all, it was a truly perfect trip and comes highly recommended.

Details:

Cost: NZD $450 for half day private charter of boat and you can choose your departure time.

Total activity time: Approx 3 hours.

3. Hanmer Springs thermal pools

Visiting the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools was the first main place we visited upon arrival in New Zealand back in September. We really enjoyed the time we spent relaxing here and the facilities are fantastic! There are so many different pools – twelve! – to choose from including adult only aqua therapy ones (with lovely relaxing massage jets), rock pools (with minerals) and super hot (and smelly!) sulphur ones. The thermal pools are set amongst the beautiful backdrop of the mountains and are a wonderful place to relax.

Details: Price: NZD$18 for single entry or $30 for 2 day pass, plus locker and towel hire.

Times: The pools are open from 10am to 9pm and you can spend as long as you like there!

4. Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony

Read more about our incredible expereince visiting the Oamaru Blue Pengiun Colony. Whether you feel you are a lover of penguins or not you will be by the end of this – believe me! This visit allows you to see the world’s smallest penguins, the blue penguins – only 40 cms high in their natural environment, coming in on shore and heading to nest. When we visited we were incredibly lucky to see a total of about 200 penguins come ashore. We also took a short walk just outside of the main area and saw some penguins crossing the road that had just come ashore. It doesn’t matter that you aren’t able to take photos (the above is copyright of the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony) and just seeing them is amazing! Set up with a strong conservation focus this company are helping to save and breed these lovely little creatures and it is a must-do trip if you find yourselves in the Dunedin/Oamaru area.

Details: Price: NZD$12/$18 day tour (unguided/guided); $25/$35 for evening tour (general/premium seating).

Times: 17.30-21.00 (depending on season).

5. Whale Watching in Kaikoura

We took a boat trip with Whale Watch back in September and had a great time out on the boat. We were lucky to see two sperm whales on our trip and had perfect weather conditions. Seeing these beautiful creatures in the water and spending time alongside them in the boat is a truly unforgettable experience  Some reviews of the trip refer to sea sickness being a problem but we took our tablets and had no issues, so it isn’t something to be worried about.

Details: Price: NZD$145 pp.

Times: Up to 7 trips a day (seasonal)

Total activity time: 3 hours 30 (2 hours 30 out on the boat)

Trips that nearly made the list were:

  • Glenorchy Journeys Half Day LOTR 4WD tour – an amazing guide and great fun! You explore Glenorchy’s stunning scenery and set the film locations from LOTR and The Hobbit. Read about our experience here. Cost = NZD$145 per person for 2+ people.
  • The Kiwi birdlife park in Queenstown – your entrance fee helps towards conservation here and it is a fantastic place to visit, with well-cared-for kiwis, many other native birds and plants, and an excellently run live conservation show. Cost = NZD$38 per person.
  • Heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier – this was only left off the list because we did this back in 2006 and it was so memorable (and a little pricey!) we did not replicate it on our 2012. Involving an amazing helicopter ride up on the glacier and short hike, this is a real all-time highlight of our various trips to NZ. Cost = NZD$395 per person.
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South Island Highlights – Top 5 places to visit on South Island, New Zealand

Reflecting on our incredible New Zealand 2012 Holiday on the South island back in Sept/Oct (as part of our year long stay in New Zealand) I have decided to start a series of blog posts with a ‘Top 5’ theme – highlighting our favourite places, drives, activities etc. from our trip around South Island.

I am starting with the biggest one of all – top 5 places to visit on the South island. This was extremely difficult to actually narrow down to only 5 as we travelled round the whole of the South island (driving over 3,700 kilometeres in just over 3 weeks!) visting some truly stunning and amazing places. They aren’t in any order as it was difficult enough choosing just 5 let alone putting them in an order of priority!

So here we go. . .

Top 5 places we visited:

1. Queenstown

Queenstown has always been a place we love to visit. Having been here once before in 2006 if we are honest it stole our hearts. Coming back to Queenstown and spending longer on this trip was just brilliant. It does have a reputaion as being the ‘adventure capital’ of NZ but there is so much more to it! We love its breathtaking beauty and the stunning Lake Wakatipu and views of the Remarkables. Taking a walk along the Frankton Arm Walkway is so peaceful and idyllic, with amazing views of the lake and mountains all the way along. You can take a boat ride out on the lake, see kiwis and other native birds at the Kiwi Park, take a stroll in the beautiful gardens, take a ride up the Skyline Gondola to Bob’s Peak and complete the Skyline walkway. It does have so much to do, lots of shops and choices of places to eat, along with every adventure activity you could think of – but it has so much more than that. Its striking beauty and gorgeous neverending views make it a really special place and has to be a must-see on any tour of South Island.

2. Glenorchy

Sitting just 48 kilometres north of Queenstown it could be described as Queenstown’s quieter less well-known relative. In reality Glenorchy is an absolute hidden gem of a place to visit. We primarily went there for our LOTR 4WD tour, but ended up falling in love with the place! It is known primarily for its associations with the LOTR/The Hobbit films as many of the surrounding locations were used as sets in the films – the Misty Mountains, Isengard, Hobbiton (from The Hobbit), and the scene of Boromir’s death among many others  Glenorchy is a really peaceful little town, but still with lots to offer. We spent a lovely morning walking the Glenorchy Lagoon walkway which offers brilliant panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Glenorchy houses a quant information shed with a long history and short pier out into Lake Wakatipu again with a stunning views. It is also home to a small place aptly named ‘Paradise’ – which feels like just that! Should you wish to you can also do more adventure seeking activities such as a jet boat on the Dart River or Skydive through the clouds. The icing on the cake for Glenorchy has to be the drive up from Queenstown which is a strong contender for best drive in NZ! The famous Glenorchy to Queenstown road closely follows Lake Wakatipu and with lookout points along the way offering an excellent way of seeing the beauty all around.

3. Catlins Region

The real highlight of the Catlins region for us was seeing yellow-eyed penguins in the wild (see our video we made above, of our wonderful memories)! We had read a lot about the Catlins region before we came, and often people said they felt it was a somewhat well-kept secret of NZ and that many people wanted to visit but just didn’t get down this far south. It is a little out of the way, but for us, fitted perfectly into our complete loop of the island. I would highly recommend a visit into this remote part of the South island, and it is definitely worth the trip. It just has such variety to offer, with wonderful wildlife! The roads are much less travelled on and some are still gravel but do not let that put you off, our little Holden Barina Spark managed just fine and it added to the experience of getting there! You should set aside at least 3 days to explore the whole Catlins regions, as it lends itself to a ‘roadtrip’ type journey. We based ourselves in Curio Bay for 2 nights and Kaka Point for 1 night. It is definitely prone to pretty wild weather but it suits the landscape and creates a pretty special atmosphere. Just a few of the highlights for us were Waipapa Lighthouse, seeing penguins in the wild at the petrified forest at Curio Bay, the very photogenic Purakaunui Falls, and Nugget Point lighthouse. At other times of year you might also see blue penguins and dolphins playing in the surf along some of the beaches. We weren’t able to visit the more well-known Cathedral Caves as they were closed, but we hope to go back in future and see them, as we would love to go back to this beautiful area. Catlins, despite often being missed off many a South Itinerary, offer such a vast and varied range of wonderful landscapes – wild beaches, amazing wildlife, quaint lighthouses and stunning waterfalls – that they simply have to be visited!

4. Marlborough Sounds

Marlborough Sounds was a bit of a mystery to us before coming, as despite reading and researching a fair amount about it we still did not really know what to expect. Many people said it was absolutely fantastically beautiful and it really did not disappoint! We spent a really special time here as we celebrated my husband’s 30th birthday on board a privately chartered boat – where we saw gorgeous dolphins and wonderful views. The Queen Charlotte Drive – again which we had read much about – was a beautiful drive with views at every corner. It is quite a challenging drive, but definitely worthwhile. There were lots of little stops and bays along this road – with Governor’s Bay being our favourite – and this area offer such beauty. Picton forms the entry point for those getting the ferry from Wellington, and it and its surrounding area are really pretty. Marlborough Sounds offers tranquility, wildlife and beauty quite unrivalled!

5. Mount Cook

Mount Cook was a place we had longed to visit – it seemed so dominant and striking on the New Zealand landscape. So when we got the chance to spend 2 nights at Mount Cook village we made the most of every second. As my top 5 drives post (coming soon) will note the drive up to Mount Cook alongside the stunning Lake Pukaki is absolutely amazing! The view alongside the lake of Mount Cook are breathtaking. As you arrive in Mount Cook you do feel a little cut off, but it is a nice feeling. With only a small population and a focus very much on tourism and hospitality the village has a lovely warm and welcoming feel to it. As any local resident will tell you the weather is quite temperamental in this part of NZ. Being quite high above sea level the vlllage is prone to unpredictable weather, and I think the stats are 2 days out of 3 Mount Cook is covered with cloud. But do not be put off by these stats as when you do finally get to see it, it is such a wonderful sight! They also get snow and we had a nice sprinkling whilst we were staying there back in October. There are many lovely walks around the Mount Cook area – some shorter ones for those not keen on proper ‘hiking’ but also some longer half-day and day hikes for those more serious. Activities are also varied include 4WDing and a boat trip out on the glacier lagoon (which we did – and loved). Mount Cook provided us with some iconic images and iconic memories and will not soon be forgotten.

Places that could have made the list (but didn’t for quite specific reasons) are:

  • Abel Tasman National Park – we only took a flying visit here, and spent a half day exploring the coast via boat, but think if we spent longer here, this could make the list. The beaches are gorgeous (especially the starting point of Kaiteriteri) and walking the Abel Tasman Track seemed like it would be one of NZ’s easiest but most beautiful walks. It is very accessible and has lots of little hidden coves and stunning views. So definitely a place to come back to should we have time!
  • Doubtful Sound – one place we visited on this holiday that was a huge disappointment – but only because of the awful weather! See my blog posting of the time for more detail, but had the weather not consisted of almost complete lack of visibility and torrential rain we think this could also have made the list.
  • Milford Sound – we visited Milford Sound back in 2006 so haven’t included it on this 2012 list – but it was absolutely amazing and would make a top 5 of that trip. The drive down is scary but really worth it with stunning scenery and the boat trip out (we went with the smaller Mitre Peak cruises) was incredibly memorable.
  • Franz Josef Glacier – again a place we visited on our 2006 trip, but the heli hike we took up on the glacier is probably still our favourite all time thing we have done in NZ. We took our trip with Helicopter Line who were fantastic and loved every second of the helicopter ride and 2 hour hike on the glacier – with views out of this world!

I hope you have found this interesting – and those of you hoping to travel around NZ possibly even helpful! Please feel free to comment, ask questions and add any of your favourite places you visit in NZ. I will be following this post next with Top 5 drives, walks, and activities, so watch this space!

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A Kiwi Family Christmas Adventure

New Zealand Christmas

I am very excited to announce that my parents will be flying over from the UK to New Zealand for Christmas – which is AMAZING news!! With my sister (Kat) currently based in Sydney and me and John over here in NZ they decided they would love to spend Christmas in this part of the world. Kat will fly over from Sydney and we will all be together for a lovely family (Kinnie/Barnard) Christmas in the beautiful Queenstown. We will be staying in a lovely holiday house overlooking Lake Wakatipu. With it being a really popular time of year to visit New Zealand (and deciding relatively late due to waiting for certainty of mine and Kat’s plans) they were really lucky to secure flights over here. I also helped them plan an itinerary for the week following their stay in Queenstown to help them make the best of their time on the South Island. I am sure they will have a wonderful trip and it will be so amazing to see them – as it will be just over 3 months when they arrive on the 24th of Dec since we last saw them.

Roll on a lovely Kiwi family Christmas! 🙂

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Coldplay come to Auckland!

Saturday 10th November: Coldplay gig in Auckland

And what an incredible show they put on! Being a massive Coldplay fan I was really excited to hear they would be playing in Auckland – especially as they hadn’t been here in years. Having already seen them 4 times before in the UK I wasn’t sure what to expect and whether the show could top the most recent time I saw them at Wembley Stadium – but it certainly did! More about that to follow . . .

My sister, Kat – currently living in Sydney – came over to Auckland to spend the weekend with us and we had a great time. She arrived on Friday afternoon and we, along with John, enjoyed a lovely meal at Jar Tar. There was a British guy there playing his guitar and singing who was pretty good! This was followed by a nice walk along to the harbour front by ‘The Cloud’. On Saturday we checked out of the apartment we were staying in to check in at our posh hotel – Stamford Plaza. Finding accommodation for this busy night in Auckland was tough but we had lucked out in booking into the Stamford Plaza – under their “Celebration Plus’ package! The hotel was really impressive with great customer service and the extras as part of the package were great (including robes to take home, slippers, luxury toiletries and headbands!). The high tea provided free was the best part of all and (after going out for a nice breakfast in the morning) we really enjoyed this in the afternoon – we were presented with a lovely selection of sweets, cakes and sandwiches, free hot drinks and bubbly. It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon! We headed to the Britomart station to catch the train to Mount Smart Stadium. We got free travel included with our tickets which was good and getting the train there was pretty smooth. The train took about half an hour and it took about 20 minutes to walk to the stadium from the station. Kat and myself decided to buy souvenir Coldplay tshirts to remember the occasion. We had arrived early and enjoyed watching the support acts – The Pierces and Temper Trap.

Coldplay came on stage about 9pm and we were in for a real treat. The roar of the crowd greeted them and they were on brilliant form. Chris was as charming as ever and they played the gig of their lives! The fireworks that accompanied a couple of the songs were outstanding. They had clearly put so much effort into the show itself, and the addition of giving every person a different coloured wristband on arrival which then lit up at various arranged times during the show was genius! The sight of watching all the flickering colours all around the stadium was unforgettable. Other extras such as multi-coloured and multi-shaped confetti being sprayed over the crowd during certain songs also just looked stunning. Overall we sang our hearts our throughout and had a really memorable time.

The only part of the day that could have been improved was the exit from the stadium, and having been to loads of football matches back in the UK I have seen this done well! Everyone was ushered out one tiny corner and everyone then joined an incredibly long queue that spread basically all the way back to the station!! The organisation of this part of the day just seemed very poor, and that they could just not deal with this many people. However, we did not let it dampen our spirits and reminisced about the concert all the way back to the station. We also received a very happy text message from my parents which gave us a much needed boost after queuing for hours (more about that on another post!).

After arriving back at the hotel we fell asleep dreaming of Chris and the band. Our Sunday was a lovely relaxing day which included a lovely breakfast at the hotel (again included free as part our package!), enjoying a nice meal at Burger Fuel, ice cream at Movenpick and watching The Hunger Games together after checking back in to our apartment at Celestion Waldorf (which had become ‘home’) earlier in the day. As John headed off to work on Monday Kat and myself enjoyed a nice breakfast and a good chat, while she also helped me with my business start up idea (again, more to come on another post!) which was great. We then sadly said goodbye to each other as she hopped onboard the bus to the airport. I was sad to see her go but the weekend was incredible and a really memorable one!

 

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A day at Auckland zoo (and more amazing little blue penguins!)

Sunday 4th November: Auckland Zoo

Just a quick post this one as I am behind with my blogging, but wanted to post retrospectively with some pictures of our trip to Auckland Zoo. It was easy to get to without a car as we just hopped on the bus and hopped off the other side – with a short walk to the Zoo entrance. $25 each later we were inside the zoo and we had a really great day! Our favourite animals we saw were the amazing little blue penguins, the spider monkeys (who we saw being fed), the orangutans, the kiwis, the meerkats and the keas (of which John took some great ‘in flight’ photos). We were also lucky enough to come across an elephant being taken for a walk just around the park where all the people were – it was funny to see! The zoo was really big and there were loads of different animals to see. We felt that, unlike some zoos, the animals had loads of space and wherever possible they were in big open spaces without bars or glass, but instead separated by water etc. We got to meet a lovely cockatoo called Captain, who answered ‘Hello’ when you said hello to him, but being an Aussie himself only seemed to answer Aussies back – which was hilarious! A macaw that was there did take a liking to John though and answered a rather British ‘Ello!’ back to John 🙂 The food options were also good too with the Darwin cafe offering delicious pizza by the slice. Our highlight had to be seeing the little blue penguins (who we had only seen at night in Oamaru coming in off the water). They were happily swimming and waddling around their area in the zoo and I was lucky enough to get some good pictures of them. Overall we had a really great day out at the zoo!

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Mumford and Sons put on a show in Auckland!

Friday 2nd November: Mumford and Sons at the Vector Arena

We went to see Mumford and Sons play – their first gig in New Zealand – last Friday at the Vector arena and had an amazing time! Despite being huge fans me and my husband had never managed to get to see them in the UK so felt really lucky their visit coincided with our stay in Auckland. Our accommodation was just down the road from the Vector Arena and it took a mere 8 minutes from leaving our sofa in our apartment to sitting in our seats in the arena! The arena is really nice with a nice grassy area around outside with quite a few places inside to buy food and drink if you wish. We bought some water and sat around for a bit before heading in to find our seats. We weren’t early enough to see Rodney Fisher the first support, but it was Sarah Blasko (an Aussie) who was on second we were really keen to see. Being a fan of her music I was really keen to see her live – again my first time. And she didn’t disappoint! Her voice sounded absolutely fantastic live – such a rich tone to it. She also seemed really sweet, constantly thanking the crowd for their support. We were treated to around 50 minutes of her music too which was pure delight. After a short break Mumford were on next and you could feel the excitement and anticipation building from the crowd. When the time finally came Mumford and Sons walked on stage to a huge roar and proceeded to play for around 1 hour 45 minutes. The gig was incredible and they were really outstanding live. Their voices sounded so impressive and they had brought their supporting band with them who really created a full and brilliant sound. They played all the old favourites and quite a few from their stunning new album ‘Babel’ as well. The crowd seemed to be full of real fans and most people were singing along to every word. Their encore was spectacular too – leaving the ever-popular ‘The Cave’ until last. The set looked great as well with artistic fairy lights draped around the arena. The gig was over all too soon, as I have could have listened for hours more, but it really was a night to remember!

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Living in Auckland – some observations

I haven’t written in a while as have been submerging myself in Auckland life! We have been living in an apartment in Auckland city centre for a week now and I thought I would jot down some quick observations of life here. Note – this are mostly generalisations because we only have a week to base things on!:

  • In our view the weather has a big impact on our relationship with Auckland. It is one of those cities that is much nicer and lovelier when the sun is shining!
  • The harbour front is pretty and it is nice to get an ice cream (on a hot day) and sit on one of the many benches situated along the long harbour front.
  • Auckland is big! It seems to be quite a sprawling city, with lots of different suburbs and you need public transport to get anywhere outside of the city centre. The buses and trains can seem quite baffling, as it is quite a complex system but we have used them a few times and you quickly adapt.
  • It is easy to get to lovely nearby beaches – we have only visited Mission Bay so far but it was very nice.
  • It is very multicultural – with a large and very present Asian population. Very varied food places cover a huge array of international foods too.
  • There is an apparent real mix of rich and poor – right next to each other. You see lots of ‘suits’ wandering the streets and having champagne in bars, but there are also tramps (we met one when we was eating out of the bin next to us).
  • The crossings all over the city are annoying!! I don’t know why – but they just take so long to go green and they are literally everywhere! There are lots of roads and very few car free areas – hence a lot of crossings. So despite currently living right in the city centre, we still cross about 5/6 crossings to get to some of the central streets!
  • It feels like a big ‘city’ in that you don’t always feel safe and do have to have your wits about you. You do see a few gangs wandering the streets and we also witnessed a woman stealing some things from a local supermarket and being chased by security. We did also see police stopping traffic on a main road (causing chaos!) to randomly test every car for drink drivers. Plus we have to walk past the very nicely named ‘Showgirls’ (you work it out) on our short walk in to town.
  • The Sky Tower is tall! I know it is the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere but you really can see it from pretty much anywhere in the city!
  • When events are on in the city it can be hard to find accommodation. And generally most of the cheaper accommodation is either backpackers or tends to be suited to longer term stays.
  • Takeaways are cheap (this is probably true of most of NZ!). You could probably feed a small family here with the cost of just a Dominos Takeaway pizza back home.
  • Everyday groceries (bread, milk etc.) are very expensive compared to the UK. This makes cooking for yourself probably as expensive as getting takeaway! Not as unhealthy though!
  • Pizza Hut restaurants don’t exist here – only takeaways!! This will be a shock to those of you who know me and you may well ask yourself how has Nicola survived for nearly 6 weeks in a country without proper Pizza Hut?! But yes I have 🙂 I have just eaten pizza elsewhere – my favourite in Auckland being at Jack Tar.
  • And finally, for all those of you in the UK who have been missing proper Woolworths (not the food chain they have over here and in Oz) – they have a very similar shop here called ‘The Warehouse’ – it is cheap and feels like Woolsworths, so I plan to spend time in the lead up to Christmas because I used to love doing this in good old Woolies 🙂
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