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Postcards from NZ

Here is a collection of our emails and photos from our NZ “ticky tour” in 2008/2009

Hello Sydney

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Landed safely in Sydney in the aftermath of a terrific thunder storm. We had seen the lightning in the distance as we start our descent into Sydney airport, and Tamworth (a coastal suburb) had severe flooding.

But the next day was bright and breezy with clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-twenties. We had booked a cheap and cheerful hotel next to Hyde Park and so started our holiday with breakfast on the quayside in Darling Harbour.

The rest of the day was frittered away strolling from DH to Observation Hill, through the flea markets, watching the street performers and ending up at The Opera House for lunch. Sadly, Joern Utzell - the architect of the Sydney Opera House died on Saturday night (from a heart attack aged 90). After booking some tickets for a comedy show for later in the week we wandered through the beautiful botanic gardens with majestic trees and palms full of fox-size bats hanging upside down. Which is probably down-side up down-under.

Later while sunning ourselves in Hyde Park, next to our hotel a couple of guitarists started playing a selection Django Rheinhart jazz arrangements - just like the Gypsy Guitar Festival at Slimbridge in August.

So, all in all a very good start to the holiday, and neither of us seem to be suffering any jet-lag - apart from waking up a couple of hours earlier than normal.

So off to visit some friends and relations out of town and back to Sydney at the end of the week.

Hope you are all well - will send another postcard from NZ.

Lizzie and Stephen

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Goodbye Sydney ... Hello Auckland

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We spent a couple of days up the coast from Sydney at Newcastle with Lizzie’s uncle - Geoff - and godfather and his friend Rosemary. They gave us a quick guided tour of the beaches and of Australia’s largest inland salt-water lake - Macquarie.

The weather hit 30c mid week - phew (I can feel the waves of sympathy - even as I press the keys) but a much more comfortable mid 20s on Friday and Saturday.

On the way back to Sydney stopped of at Gosford to visit an old friend from NZ with his new lady. They have about 30 acres of land with great views into the hills. In addition to their horses they have wild kangaroos, man-size lizards and I dread to think what else in the undergrowth ...

Back to spend the last few days of our Oz stay in Sydney with its extraordinary mix of people. I estimate :

It makes you wonder where they find 15 blokes to make up a rugby team - probably a few kiwis, a few pacific islanders and the rest from the outback - where men are men (and sheep are nervous).

Did all the sights in Sydney, The CityHopper gives you a day pass on all the city trains and the DayTripper lets you travel on all the buses, trains and ferries for a day. So finished our sight-seeing with a great seafood lunch at Doyles in Watsons Bay.

So off to Auckland - city of sails - on our QANTAS (queers and nymphomaniacs trained as stewards) flight ...

... Hello Auckland

Welcomed at Auckland airport by clear blue skies (see bottom photo), the obligatory long white cloud and our mate Dave. Lazy lunch at the Yacht Club, a swim in Dave's new pool and a great tuna BBQ all washed down with a few glasses of NZ sauvignon blanc ...

Good on yer

Lizzie and Stephen

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The journey from Auckland to Wellington

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It didn’t take long to slip into the Auckland lifestyle. And what a lifestyle! Swimming in Dave’s pool, BBQs on the deck, drinks at Dida’s bar and evening meals at the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron (with the haves and have yachts). We are not sure where the time disappeared, but we were much too busy to send any postcards.

Our other activity was looking for a car to take us on our journey around NZ. We looked at a few VW Polos, but ended up buying a little blue Ford Ka - nicknamed ‘BlueBird’. Almost as fast as Donald’s (Campbell not Duck) but much more frugal - we have driven 940 km on $80 (about £30) of fuel. Other Ford Ka’s toot as we go by, so we are now members of the NZ Ka Club - or have left the lights on.

On Friday 19th we headed away from Auckland and drove around the Coromandel Peninsula (stopping off at Coromandel Town for green-lipped mussels and chips!) on to Whitianga with its fantastic endless beaches and red pohutakawas (known as the NZ Christmas Tree as it blossoms in late December).

That night we chanced upon a beautiful B&B called ‘Seagulls’ at Waihii Beach. We had a wing of the house, with our own living area and deck with views out across the sands to the Pacific Ocean. In the evening we found a local bar / restaurant and walked home along the beach.

On our 5th wedding anniversary we were greeted by the sun rising above the sea into a clear blue sky. But later, as we headed into the mountains towards Rotorua the skies clouded over and the rain started, so we didn’t get the benefit of the scenery - but at least it was cooler for traveling.

We stopped at Huka Falls - which never ceases to impress - and on to Lake Taupo for lunch. We made Napier by late afternoon on the anniversary of the devastating earthquake that raised the city to the ground in 1931. The city is now a mecca for art deco enthusiasts, and even the brand new hotel we stayed in had a ‘nod’ towards the art deco style. The sun had come out again so we had a stroll along the promenade (as one does) and celebrated our wedding anniversary with a bottle of Hawkes Bay chardonnay.

The journey down to Wellington (stopping at Woodville for lunch and a couple of stops along the Kapiti coast for refreshments) was cloudy and wet again - but the sun came out as soon as we drove into Wellington ...

We are staying with our friends whose wedding we came over for two years ago. They have a great house just 10 minutes drive from the city centre, so we will be here for Christmas and wishing it wasn’t quite so hot and sunny. We are really missing those cold crispy days. Yeah - right!

So wishing you all a very merry Christmas!

Will send the next postcard from the South Island ...

Lizzie and Stephen

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Christmas and New Year

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We are sorry for the long silence. Tempus fugit when you are having fun.

We had a wonderful Christmas dinner with Fernanda & Nalaka (plus family and friends) in the traditional Brazilian style - on Christmas Eve with present-opening at midnight. Christmas Day was spent quietly recovering - followed by a walk around Wellington botanic gardens.

There was a scary moment on Boxing Day when the Country Road (clothes shop) sale started, but the bank balance survived with just a small dent. After lunch we caught ‘The Interislander’ ferry to cross from Wellington to Picton. The weather conditions were typically idyllic and the views of the Sounds - stunning.

copyright Shed22 We spent a few days in the Marlborough wine region - and ran into a few problems: firstly we couldn’t decide whether we preferred the sauvignon blanc or the pinot gris. Then we had to choose between the Hunters, Wither Bay, Cloudy Bay, Lake Chalice and Montana. But finally decided on the Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc. We hope your Christmas and New Year hasn’t been as problematic.

We then drove across to the Abel Tasman to stay with our English friends (3 bubbly-blonde sisters and their families) at their amazing house over-looking split-apple rock at the start of the Abel Tasman walking track. During our stay here we had a fantastic boat trip all along the coast, up river estuaries, watching the seals and around the sandy beaches at Golden Bay. What a day.

We headed south to join friends from Oxford (NZ) at their bach (beach house) in Motenau Beach (just north of Christchurch) for New Year’s eve. A typical kiwi party with great BBQ food (freshly caught blue cod and crayfish), beers, wine, laughter and fireworks ... (see photo)

Having told our friends in Abel Tasman about Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula they arranged to fly down to Christchurch on the 2nd January. So we picked them up at the airport and spent a fun weekend tasting wine, cheese and olives and also managed to book the accommodation for the rest of our stay. More about this next time.

We are now back in Oxford, Canterbury (where Stephen lived 1990-1995) catching up with old friends before we return to Akaroa.

Wishing you all a very happy 2009

Lizzie and Stephen

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Kia Ora, Akaroa

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We have now been at our Akaroa house overlooking the bay for nearly two weeks - and have seamlessly slipped into the village lifestyle. There is already a weekly pattern emerging of walking, exploring, swimming, wine-tasting, golfing, sailing, eating and drinking ... and at the weekends we just enjoy ourselves.

We managed to find a fabulous house with a great location (as you can see from the photos) which we have rented until the beginning of March. We have a 5 minute stroll along the beach front to get to the local shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. And what restaurants! Everything has a French flavour and the restaurant “C’Est La Vie” has an international reputation. Even the local chippie has been voted The Best Fish and Chip Shop in the World!

On Saturday there is a small farmers market selling locally grown produce - olives, wine, cheese, oils, vegetables, bread, walnuts, herbs, fruit, jams and chutneys ... all delicious. Most days the local fisherman sells his daily catch from the quayside. Everybody, as typically Kiwi, is really friendly and we have met some great people.

Hope all is well in the frozen (and wet?) northern hemisphere.

Best wishes

Lizzie and Stephen

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History of Akaroa

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On the basis that “no news is good news” here is some good news: we have no news.

We have been exploring some of the bays of the Banks Peninsula, having a swim to cool down (you know how it is) and thinking of you enjoying the start of the British Spring. Oh, and enjoying the sea food at the harbour side restaurants. Oh, and the odd glass of New Zealand wine - we are acquiring a taste for the pinot gris.

With quite a few of you telling us how hot it is over there, and asking about where we are staying - here is a quick history of the Banks Peninsula.

The rugged contours of the Banks Peninsula were created by two massive volcanos - the first - the Lyttleton volcano - erupted 15 million years ago, and the Akaroa volcano about six million years ago. At that time the volcanoes were separated from the mainland but the forces of glacial erosion from the still evolving Southern Alps created the Canterbury Plain and eventually joined the volcanoes to the mainland over several ice ages. The sea level rose, the volcanoes eroded and the Pacific Ocean flooded into the craters, forming the harbours of Lyttelton and Akaroa, the principal settlements on the Peninsula.

Akaroa has a colourful history - first as a whaling outpost in the early 1800’s, which inspired the French whalers to negotiate a land purchase from the local Maori tribe in the late 1830’s. This led to a planned French settlement in Akaroa, which had the formal backing of the French government, then very active in the South Pacific.

Fifty eight French settlers arrived in Akaroa in 1840, along with a French naval frigate, only to be met by the British who had arrived 10 days earlier to protect British sovereignty established in the Treaty of Waitangi just a few months earlier.

The French settlers were assured that their land purchases would be honoured, but under the British flag, and undeterred, they settled in today’s Akaroa, and farmed the surrounding hills and valleys. Evidence of the walnuts, grapevines and roses that they brought with them still remain and many of the streets are named after the French families who first settled here - Rue Lavaud, Rue Benoit and the steep Rue Matics.

Akaroa has retained its French flavour over the years and has an amazing number of excellent restaurants and cafes, most of which enjoy fantastic views across the harbour. There are lots of options for water activities, from swimming with Dolphins (the Hectors dolphin is the world’s smallest dolphin and found only in this area), to wildlife cruises (blue and yellow eyed penguins, seals, albatross, etc), sailing, kayaking and, of course, safe swimming.

Best wishes

Lizzie and Stephen

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Coming Home

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Three months sounded a long time when we left a gloomy English winter for the New Zealand summer. But how could it have gone so quickly? Perhaps spending the last two months in the paradise of Akaroa had something to do with it.

We managed to find a fabulous house with a perfect location. The house was next to the sea - so we could swim when it was hot, or enjoy a glass of wine on the deck watching the sun go down, with the occasional bonus of spotting Hector dolphin mothers and calves swimming just in front of us.

It didn’t take long to fall into the groove of BBQ-ing fresh fish from the wharf or steaks from the butcher with fresh locally grown salads, interspersed with an excellent meal at one of the great restaurants - or delicious fish and chips.

On Saturdays the small farmers market sold locally grown produce - olives, wine, cheese, oils, vegetables, bread, walnuts, herbs, fruit, jams and chutneys ... all delicious. Our excursions to the ’French Farm’ winery and local bays provided stunning scenery, wonderful swimming and helpful friendly people. How we will miss it all...

Our last day in Akaroa was spent at the local music festival - and what a great event. There are a lot of very talented people living on the Peninsula and the local bands were superb, the organisation spot-on and a good time was had by all.

So a few days back in Oxford (NZ) saying farewell to friends before climbing aboard the ’big bird’ to return to the English spring.

Best wishes

Lizzie and Stephen

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