First piece published in the Huffington Post!

I am delighted to announce I have been accepted to write for the Huffington Post in their travel section. I will be writing about my travel experiences all over the world, with a focus on off-the-beaten-track adventures in New Zealand (the speciality of my travel company, Blue Penguin Travel).

Check out my first post featured below that has been published on the Huffington Post. It is titled Great Barrier Island: New Zealand’s Timeless Paradise Close to The City. It is also currently being featured on the Huffington Post Travel homepage!

Please like and share if you want to. Thank you for your support! 🙂

GBI Huff Post Screenshot



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Happy one year Anniversary to my blog! :)

Us in New Zealand

Us in New Zealand

So it was one year ago today that I first registered with WordPress and started writing my blog shortly after – so I wanted to post to celebrate the occasion! It has been an incredible 9 and a half months over here in New Zealand so far, and we are also lucky enough to currently be enjoying a holiday in Australia and will be off to the Cook Islands shortly after we return (with a few short bursts of time in NZ in between). I have loved writing about all our amazing New Zealand adventures, and I also wanted to thank everyone who has read, liked or commented on my posts – I am grateful to every single one of you and have loved interacting with everyone! 🙂

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Halfway home

Us in Glenorchy - one of our favourite places

Us in Glenorchy – one of our favourite places

So today marks exactly half way through our New Zealand adventure. Up until quite recently we had left it open that we could decide whether to fly back to the UK at the end of August or not. We have now made our decision and have decided that we will be flying home then (we leave NZ on August 27th). It has taken much thought and deliberation and we have been thinking about it for some time and obviously New Zealand is an AMAZING place to visit and spend a year, but it is just too far from family and friends for us to consider living here for good. I just can’t imagine settling and having a family over here so far away from everyone and their support.

I have posted above one our favourite photos in one of our favourite places over here in NZ – Glenorchy – as we reflect on being halfway through our time here. We have done so many amazing things and still have loads of incredible things planned with the time we have left.

We will of course miss it loads and I know it will be really hard going home but we want to see going home as its own adventure with lots of exciting things still to look forward to in our lives. 🙂

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Very close to two big ‘100’ milestones!

After starting my blog back on June 30th 2012 I am now very close to reaching 100 blog posts and also very close to 100 followers! 🙂

This will be my 97th blog post, and with two other ‘blue penguin’ related posts planned for tomorrow (they are such an amazing animal!) I am also planning something a little special for my 100th post.

I am also incredibly lucky to have 94 amazing followers – and only 6 away from making a wonderful 100.

I am really enjoying writing this blog which is documenting mine and my husband’s amazing New Zealand adventure. I have also loved interacting with other fellow bloggers and I have learned so much and gained some very valuable tips about future adventures in this wonderful country.

Thanks so much to everyone who has read, liked or followed my blog over the last 7 and a half months. Each and every one of you has brightened my day with your contributions – so thank you! 🙂

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Inspired by Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary was the first man to climb Mount Everest – in 1953 – he lived until he was 88 and is a New Zealand icon. He is referred to as a “humanitarian, ambassador and one of the world’s greatest explorers”.

Sir Edmund Hillary

When visiting Mount Cook back in October last year we went to the Sir Edmund Hilary Alpine Centre – which is an amazing tribute to the great Sir Edmund Hillary. Whilst there one of his quotes really stood out to me and I was thinking about it today so thought I would share it.

“I have had the world lie beneath my clumsy boots and saw the red sun slip over the horizon after the dark Antarctic winter. I have been given more than my share of excitement, beauty, laughter and friendship. Each of us has to discover his own path – of that I am sure. Some paths will be spectacular and others peaceful and quiet – who is to say which is the most important? For me, the most rewarding moments have not always been the great moments, for what can surpass a tear on your departure, joy on your return, and a trusting hand in yours?'”

– Sir Edmund Hilary

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STA Travel’s ‘Global Travel Help’ = incredibly poor

I need to vent and what better place than my blog. I know this blog is telling stories of our adventures, but also a story of realities, and if I can provide any help to future travellers then that is something positive. Recently whilst trying to change the dates of our flights home to the UK from New Zealand in Sept (using STA’s special multiplex pass) I experienced more stress and difficulty with this than I thought possible – through communicating with their department called ‘Global Travel Help’ who deal with flight changes.

Unfortunately this leads me to say to people out there DO NOT use STA Travel to travel with – certainly if you want some flexibility in your flights. This certainly applies to anyone who may need to change their flight dates and to everyone travelling for a year or more. This is because flights cannot be booked far enough in advance so will inevitably have to be changed at some point. When we booked our return flights they had to be booked in for May, and then we had to request to change it to Sept.

It seems like it isn’t just us that have had a very bad experience with Global Travel Help, as their UK Facebook page is completely full of complaints about the service they have received (just take a look). Many of them actually have real emergencies they are trying to get home to, or trying to arrange flights with short notice and have received even worse service than we have.

This is in some ways hard to write because prior to this STA Travel themselves have been quite good to us over the years. We booked our amazing 2006 flights with them at their Cardiff branch. And we have been helped and supported by a good travel advisor at the Bath branch this time around.

BUT, sadly that is not enough, because of their Global Travel Help (GTH) arm – who are the only people who can deal with flight changes (no you can’t just ask the travel advisor you booked with or email someone at STA at that branch – don’t be silly). They tell you if you try and do this or change your flight any other way they will charge you! Ok . . .  It is just a complete shame that the system they actually have in place to do this is completely and utterly ridiculous!

Back in October we altered our flights and through an incredibly lengthy email exchange it took over 11 days until we were finally able to sort our revised flights. Our circumstances have again changed and this time around it has taken even longer at just under 2 weeks. This time around I emailed the same email address I had emailed before only to be emailed back saying “this address is no longer monitored”!! When that is the email address they tell you to email on your itinerary!! I then went online and submitted my query and I experienced silence from them for a whole week!! They say on their email they will get back to you within 48 hours (and the website actually says they “guarantee responses to you within at least 24 hours”). And they only actually replied to me because I asked my contact at the Bath STA store to prompt them to get in touch. Once I had heard back and replied with a question I had silence again for quite some time. And again only when I complained to the STA branch and customer services did I finally get a reply. They information was very limiting and unhelpful, and the response time simply unacceptable! They either need a telephone number you can call to sort out your flights there and then, or an email system that actually works.

it is a shame really that this system operates so badly as it does completely dirty the STA name – certainly for us. Online STA Travel claim that “Here at STA Travel we offer incredible support even after you have left” – which is certainly not at all true for us and the exact opposite of what they have provided!

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My blog: 2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for my blog. I thought I would share it with my readers. Thanks to all those who have read/commented/contributed since I started my blog back on June 30th. I am hoping to continue to develop my blog into 2013 and beyond! 🙂

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Family Queenstown Christmas starts today!

Monday 24th of December – the family arrive!

Queenstown Christmas

I haven’t posted in a while as we have enjoyed an amazing pre-Christmas break in Glenorchy. We were lucky enough to do the Dart River Jet Safari in amazing weather – which was incredible! I will post retrospectively about that when I get better internet again.

My parents and sister are flying in today and we really can’t wait!! My parents are coming all the way from the UK and my sister from Sydney (where she is currently living). We are renting an amazing town house in the centre of Queenstown overlooking Lake Wakatipu – with the above stunning view from the living room. We arrived here yesterday after doing the final Christmas food shop.

Everyone arrives in just a few hours, so we have been decorating and getting the house ready. It’s been ages since we have seen everyone, so really can’t wait and are really looking forward to spending Christmas all together. It is supposed to be very hot here today in Queenstown – around 31 degrees celsius!! So it will certainly be a summery and traditional kiwi Christmas.

Roll on our Kiwi family Christmas! 🙂

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Christmas Lights in Auckland

Christmas Lights on Franklin Road in Auckland

Franklin Road Christmas Lights

On Tuesday night we took a walk through Auckland’s streets to Franklin road – which is famous for being lined with amazing Christmas lights. It certainly was a brilliant sight! The lights were absolutely amazing – almost all of the houses were completely covered in lights and decorations and it was stunning. The atmosphere was also really lovely, with loads of people wandering up and down to look at the lights and taking photos. I was also able to take a couple of pictures of the Sky Tower which was ‘festively’ lit up in red and green and looked amazing. I have included photos of some of my favourite houses below. It certainly got me in the Christmas mood so roll on Christmas!

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Wonderful Waiheke

Saturday December 1st – Spending the official start of summer on Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island

Arriving at Waiheke IslandWhat a wonderful way to spend the first official day of summer over here in New Zealand – on the wonderful Waiheke Island! I am posting this retrospectively about the time we spent on Waiheke a few weeks ago. We took the ferry from Auckland ferry terminal (costing $35 each – but well worth the cost!) and taking about 40 minutes. It was a lovely ferry ride, with gorgeous views all around of Auckland’s CBD, Devonport and other scenery. There were loads of lovely little boats out fishing and the time flew by. On arrival we decided we wanted to do our own thing on Waiheke and explore. The alternative was getting on a bus with a whole group of others and being driven round on a ‘tour’. Those who know us know we try and avoid tours where possible and really prefer to explore as much as we can and have our own adventures! So we decided on a loop walk to see some of Waiheke’s highlights and off the beaten track parts.

Owhanake Bay 3

So we took a walk from Matiatia bay, where the ferry comes in and headed to Owhanake bay. We climbed up high to begin (as the path round by the coast was only accessible at high tide) and soon experienced wonderful views. We could see Rangitoto and Auckland’s CBD. What was lovely is that straight away as people hired cars and got on the bus, we walked a short distance and were immediately in the middle of beauty with peace and quiet – it was great! We further explored and really enjoyed the beauty of Owhanake bay. We then headed to Fossil bay which was deserted and very quiet. Climbing higher again we had yet more sweeping views of the surrounding area. This walk took us along the coast and through vineyards, as we arrived at Oneroa beach. Here we took a nice walk along the beach – again really quiet despite being a Saturday! There was some kind of Christmas event going on in Oneroa so it was pretty busy but we found a lovely fish and chip shop and had some food here overlooking the beach. We then headed back to the ferry terminal to take the 3pm ferry home.

Oneroa Beach 2It really is an incredibly beautiful island and I would recommend anyone visiting Auckland should definitely take a trip here – for as long as you can fit into your itinerary! It is also quite a popular place for commuters who work in Auckland to live, as they get the gorgeous beaches and relaxed lifestyle on Waiheke but can work and earn money in the city. Apparently houses are pretty reasonable on the island too! Who knows, it may even become a future option me and John, depending on where we end up 🙂 Verdict on Waiheke – one of Auckland’s real highlights, and a real chance to explore!

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Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

Tolkien QuoteThought this was pretty appropriate to our current situation, as we are living and travelling around New Zealand. Not knowing how our future will plan out over here is scary but also really exciting! We are having amazing adventures ‘wandering’ and despite not having a stable ‘home’ as such, we have been made to feel at home here by the welcoming kiwis and their amazing country. 🙂

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3743 kilometres (2326 miles) completed!

Saturday 20th October and Sunday 21st October: Lake Tekapo to Auckland

3 weeks and 5 days ago we arrived in Christchurch in New Zealand and 3,743 kilometres later we were back in Christchurch dropping off our little car – nicked ‘Barry’ the Barina Spark. He (Barry) had done so well to get us around the whole off the South island, and to have coped with some of the roads and situations he was put in! We were really sad to leave South Island and watched the beautiful mountains disappear behind us on Saturday as we drove from Lake Tekapo to Christchurch airport to catch our flight. It was with a heavy heart that we dropped Barry off back at Hertz and boarded our flight to Auckland. From the airport we got the Airport Express bus, which dropped us off at Auckland Uni and we then walked to our accommodation at Quest at Carlaw park. Sunday was spent exploring Auckland. There was an international triathlon on which we saw different bits of as the cyclists and runners passed us – but this also meant many of the roads closed and a lot of the walkways were restricted so this did mean exploring was a little more difficult! We still managed to explore the harbour and wharfs and Queen’s street and visited Auckland i-site. Having visited Auckland back in 2010 we did a lot of the more touristy things then, and knowing we have at least a week in Auckland when we return from Great Barrier Island we decided to take it easy today. Enjoying a nice pizza from Pizza Fresco and a trip to Countdown for supplies for the Barrier we completed a good day in Auckland, looking forward to the adventure ahead.

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Beautiful Lake Tekapo

Friday 19th October: PM Lake Tekapo

We then drove to Lake Tekapo and checked in to the Lake Tekapo Scenic resort (where we stayed on our visit back in 2006) to enjoy our gorgeous view of the lake. Lake Tekapo is a really beautiful lake and such a lovely blue colour – it is probably my second favourite lake after Lake Pukaki – and definitely worth a visit (usually on route between Christchurch and Queenstown). We headed straight up to the Mount John Observatory (as the road up here closed at 5pm) and took in the stunning panoramic views of the lake. Heading back down we then ate pizza at the Lake Tekapo Tavern (quite a strange place, which burnt our pizza and ended up cooking another one and giving it to us for free!) and enjoyed a lovely walk along by the lake. We also took a longer walk to the Church of the Good Shepherd and enjoyed the views from there. We are driving to Christchurch tomorrow and will be really sad to leave South island but hesding to Auckland and then on Monday our Great Barrier Island adventure begins!

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Our Amazing NZ Adventure has 100 likes!

Just a quick posting today to say that my blog has now received 100 likes!! I really appreciate each and every one of these. Our New Zealand adventure is only just beginning and I will continue to update when I can. I am hoping to post tomorrow with an update from Kaikoura. Thanks to all those who have read and liked! x 🙂

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All checked in and ready for destination New Zealand!


We are now at Heathrow airport and due to board our flight to Christchurch (via Singapore!). My parents were kind enough to give us a lift to the airport and it was hard saying goodbye to them. A year is a long time! But we will stay in touch loads and be able to stay in contact with our family and friends via Facebook, Skype and this blog!

For anyone interested in our plans for the trip we have a complete Itinerary so you can see where we are headed. We fly into Christchurch and are heading to Hanmer Springs first.

We really can’t wait for our adventure to begin and will write more when we can! 🙂

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Less than 48 hours to go!

So, there are now less than 48 hours until we leave for our New Zealand adventure – starting with a month’s holiday and then settling in New Zealand for a year to work and travel. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown since we booked our flights at the end of June. We just have tomorrow left – when we plan to do our packing. We already have everything together and a brilliant list – as I am ultra organised, so all should go to plan. We will probably also take one last walk into town together and, without getting sentimental, say goodbye to Frome (the place we live) – for a year at least! We also plan to spend our last evening with my parents who I will miss loads – having a meal and watching my football team on TV. I won’t have time now to blog again before we leave so the next time I write will be once our adventure has started.

Online check in complete (no thanks to Singapore Airlines’ appalling bad online check-in system!), boarding passes printed, suitcases at the ready, next stop Christchurch! 🙂

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Busy busy busy . . .

As the date of departure for our upcoming NewZealand adventure draws ever nearer I am finding there aren’t enough hours in the day for preparation! There is still loads to be done, but I am an extremely organised person and with the help of my husband I know that when the 22nd arrives we will be ready to go! It is also easy for everything that you have to do to somewhat cloud the reasons we are going in the first place – and I am trying to strive hard to make sure this doesn’t happen. Looking back at some wonderful images (see below) that we took on previous holidays to our favourite country does help to remind me that we are going to an incredible country to have the adventure of a lifetime. So with 11 full days left until we leave I say bring the adventure on!

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Life and Travel

Just wanted to share this picture I came across online as thought it said it all. Having absolutely loved the great many travel adventure I have been incredibly lucky to have been on I feel this is so true.

Here is to many more future travel adventures! 

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A long distance friendship

I was lucky enough to have my lovely friend Ruth visit yesterday from Pencoed in Wales. We spent a great day together during which time she gave me this amazing card (see my picture) which I thought was just lovely and had to share! We also had to say goodbye to each other as won’t be seeing each other now before I leave for my New Zealand adventure. Ruth has been a brilliant friend and always there for me (times that spring to mind include my wedding dress fitting, a lovely birthday at St Fagans, a fab hen do in London, and many a trip to Cardiff Bay!), and I will miss her but we will of course stay in touch. Ruth is also off on her delayed honeymoon to the amazing Japan soon and I wish her and her hubby well on their own Japanese adventure! 🙂

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The beauty of New Zealand

Whilst doing research for our up and coming New Zealand adventure I came across this brilliant timelapse video of the landscapes of New Zealand – many of which we have already visited or plan to visit. It’s awesome! 🙂

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