Friday, 12 February 2016

Mum's visit!

My Mum and her partner John have come to visit Will and me!! We've been planning and looking forward to their visit for such long time but then all of a sudden it was upon us. They arrived on Monday 8th Feb after getting 3 flights - Manchester to Dubai, Dubai to Sydney then finally Sydney to Auckland. It took us 3 buses to find their hotel in Bayswater, on the North Shore of the city and we had a look around the harbour whilst we waited for them to arrive. Their suite was beautiful and very comfortable and as they were so tired we decided to eat at the hotel restaurant and save us all another journey. The view from the sunset lounge was amazing; we got to see the sun setting and the lights come on from across the water.

Practising with panorama mode, think I need a little more practice with night mode too!
The next morning Will left for his last day of work and I caught the ferry over to meet Mum and John. It was rather early and I was a little too eager as the crew told me they weren't ready to board for  at least another 5 minutes. I text Will to see if he could see me from his office window which he did but I couldn't see him! It's really handy that you can use the ATHop card on ferries as well as buses and trains and a bit cheaper too.

Had the whole top deck to myself

We had a leisurely morning catching up and then caught the bus to Takapuna so Mum and John could see where me and Will often go to the beach on our days off. I'll have to wait for Mum to transfer her photos of the day as I've already taken so many of Takapuna (see other posts!)We had lunch at a lovely little cafe, Leaf and Loaf and all enjoyed our meals - bacon nutty, omelette and scrambled egg on toast. My eggs were silky smooth :) The hot drinks came with a mini brownie on the side and as Mum and John shared a slice of carrot cake, I collected all 3 brownies and put them together to make myself a free desert! John and the owner had a cracking chat about rugby (Wales vs NZ) and the rest of the staff were very smiley and polite.

We caught the bus into Auckland CBD and met Will at the Ferry Building once he has finished work and wandered around the Wynyard Quarter to find somewhere to eat. We settled on Jack Tar, a gastro-pub with a good menu, great service and lots of tables outside with a water side view. Again, think Mum took more photos of that night but the food came in huge portions and the brownie was particularly good, warm and gooey and 2 scoops of ice-cream!

We went our separate ways to sleep and pack then met up bright and early to collect the rental car from Hertz. The guy was very friendly and even told us about a toll road on the way up north (and how to avoid it!)

We hadn't travelled too far but had to stop off at Hibiscus Bay near Orewa for a paddle as it was so beautiful and sunny.

Applied bucket loads of suncream!

The beach was littered with lots of these open shells, which had already been scavenged by hungry seagulls

We stopped off in the next town at a typical cafe so Mum and John could experience a good old fashion NZ pie!

There are usually a few hot counters that you can help ourself to full of warm baked goodies

I went for a mince and potato topped pie, delicious :)

We got stuck behind one of these lorries for a little while back on the road
We finally arrived at Paihia, Bay of Islands late afternoon and took a peek at our Sea Spray Suite, which was very swish indeed!

We walked about 10 minutes to the small town centre and found a restaurant, one of those recommended to us from the accommodation staff; Ruffino's. Everyone was impressed with their dishes; ravioli, cannelloni, mexican pizza and carbonara. The waitress kept her cool even though the tables were filling up quickly (we thought we were too early at 5:35pm when it only opened 5 minutes before but there was already a family waiting at the table and another group behind us) and her greeting of 'hey miss beautiful' went down a treat.

Beef ravioli with a lovely rich tomato sauce

The cheesy garlic bread started was gooood
This was the view of our walk back to the rooms but the photos just don't do the beauty of the place justice. The sea looked a brilliant turquoise and the small islands looked like something out of a smugglers' novel.

In the morning Will and I got up early and ventured out on to the water in a double kayak! Will had mentioned before our trip that he really wanted to have a go on one and I was quietly nervous but wanted to challenge myself. It was absolutely brilliant and I'm so pleased I can say I've done it now. We came so close to the islands we could hear the cicadas buzzing and see the birds waddling in the shallow waters. The water seemed very close to me as I'm more used to seeing it from the deck of a ferry and at certain points seemed glassy and really smooth. I was a bit alarmed when a small boat bobbed past and created some waves but I felt very safe and grateful that Will was in the same boat. That was until he mentioned a hole in the boat. He said it was purpose-built but that didn't make me feel much better. The best thing about it was that we were pretty much alone on the bay; we passed another couple in a kayak near the end of our time but we didn't have to compete for space with a huge group of tourists, like you might on a tour. I'll have to update this post once Will has edited his go-pro footage of our outing but here are a couple of his photos...

We had a quick lunch with Mum and John then walked around the coast towards the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. I had researched the place long before we arrived and really wanted to make sure I left time to visit it properly, which we did. As Waitangi Day had just come and gone on 6th Feb I thought it would be a good idea to learn more about the treaty and see where all the action had taken place.

The views just get better and better!

This carving was from a waka that Princess Diana had a sail in once

The three flags of New Zealand - the one we are used to at the top, the British on the right and the original flag which is all wrapped up around the pole, see below! 

This is the original flag of New Zealand decided upon. The 4 stars represent the four corners of the Earth, North, South, East and West to show that people have come from all over and are now united. Each star has 8 points - 7 to represent the Maori waka and one for Captain James Cook's ship.

This Marae (meeting house) was built close to the Busby's house to represent both communities living side by side. The different foundations depict different parts of the body - the head at the top, the arms sloping down the sides and the fingertips at the end.

We got to look inside before the performance. The rafters represent the ribs of the body.

These were carved with a male and female version from carvers around New Zealand. I believe this is the male one from Auckland.

This was from inside Busby's house. He was a British Resident who was asked to protect the traders and more 'orderly' Europeans and prevent any 'outrages' against Maori. Some called him 'Man-o-War without guns' as he didn't have any real power. 

This was part of the performance near the end of the day. There were action songs...

games with sticks to improve agility...

and songs to keep stories of the waka and traditions alive. Can you see the woman's face on the far right?!

The museum had only just been opened a few days ago, to coincide with Waitangi Day and it was very good. Lots to see and read and watch and all set out nicely so it was easy enough to take in. I would thoroughly recommend it! 

That evening we ventured over to the Waterfront Restaurant. I tried the salmon special and it was zingy and very fresh and the fish was so tender. For desert I went for the sticky toffee pudding which I was disappointed to note had fruit in, raisins I suspect! I did enjoy the actual sponge and butterscotch sauce though. 

The drive back to Auckland was a subdued affair; we were all tired from the activities the previous day. Tomorrow me and Will fly to Christchurch for the next past of our adventure!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

I'm 27 now - say what?!

The relaxed Christmas turned to the New Year quickly and January just whizzed right past. On 22nd January I turned the grand old age of 27 and it felt rather odd. 27 to me sounds like a woman’s age and I certainly don't feel like a woman yet. Maybe because I hang out with a bunch of 4 year olds at work nearly everyday but it’s been the first birthday where I’ve actually felt a little old! In the morning I opened the cards and presents that had arrived through the post and which had travelled so very far. Miss Doyle’s, like her Christmas package, did not disappoint! 

Don't think I mentioned the Christmas story in the previous post but we had a knock late one night, probably on 23rd December and it was the caretaker asking if we knew anyone called Goose or Gary? Will said he didn't but obviously my ears pricked up at the words Goose and I realised that Anna had meant to write Goose and Gander and Will had just misheard Gary! Then just before my birthday I got a phone call from the office saying there was a package there for The One and Only Goose - she said it was great that some people round here have a sense of humour! 

Will bought me a little furry kiwi whom I named Kevin, for alliteration purposes of course. 

I took him to the beach the day after

It reminded me of a message from one of the children at the primary school I worked at back in the UK who wrote, ‘Hope you find a kiwi!’ Well now I have. And he even plays a tweeting tune when you squeeze him!

I Skyped some friends and family in the morning and it was lovely to see their faces. I was still seeking employment and Will had to work during the day but I took a few hours break from the computer to have a walk in the brilliant sunshine (so unusual to have such a hot birthday!) and treated myself to an ice cream from Movenpick – such a great find in Newmarket! The picture is a little dark as I simply had to sit in the shade for fear of being severely burnt! Obviously Kevin came too :)

Will brought Dominos back with him for dinner and then we set off for my birthday gift – a show at the Stardome Planetarium! I was really excited and wasn’t disappointed. The chairs inside were tilted back towards the ceiling and so comfy and we watched 2 short films about the space race and the stars. My favourite part was going outside and looking through the telescope into the night sky. The stars looked amazing, so many more and much clearer than you would ever see in London because of all the light pollution. The men who worked there knew lots about the constellations, a lot of which can't be seen from the UK and how long it took the light to travel to us from space. They showed us the Southern Cross formation that we see on the New Zealand flag and a nebula where new stars are made. One man commented that the lens was out of focus and the guy insisted that it's supposed to look like that, like a cloud of dust. It was a very special evening and already I can’t wait to go back!

So this post has been short and sweet (and pretty tame!) but looking forward to more exciting adventures ahead soon!