New Zealand 2016: week 4

I’m posting daily photo collages on Instagram, which I’m linking here.

I’m writing this at home, after a wonderful family Christmas at my brother’s. It’s a bit strange to have gone from enjoying summer in New Zealand to Christmas trees and presents in Switzerland – I almost got whiplash… πŸ™‚ Also, jetlag, but I managed to sleep until 6:30 this morning, so hopefully I’ll be fine to go back to work tomorrow. But first, a quick look back a the last days in my second home…

As planned, on Sunday, we went to Christmas at the Bowl in New Plymouth. It was a big celebration with different musicians, carol singing and big fireworks at the end. People were holding candles, which was lovely to see as it got dark.
New Plymouth

Sadly, the weather wasn’t so great on Monday, so I just went into town for breakfast (eggs Benedict, which I wish I could get here) and walked a bit along the Coastal Walkway. I still was quite sore from climbing Paritutu on Saturday, too. πŸ™‚
New Plymouth

Tuesday I already said goodbye to my wonderful kiwi whanau (family). They left early in the morning to pick up a Christmas surprise for the kids – their new puppy, Raro. So it was only Ellie who saw me off, and I felt quite sad when the bus pulled away. It’s always so wonderful to spend time with them and see how the kids have grown. I hope I get to see them again in the not-too-distant future! <3 The bus ride was lovely, despite the winding turns that were a bit hard on my tummy, and in the evening I reunited with my mom in our great room on the 6th floor of the hostel, which had an awesome view of Auckland's Sky Tower. On Wednesday, our last full day, we went to a French creperie for breakfast, walked around downtown a bit, and then joined a Bush and Beach tour to the nearby Waitakere Ranges. I just wanted my mother to have one last opportunity to enjoy gorgeous New Zealand forest with its tree ferns, Nikau palms, Manuka, Rata and Kauri trees, and see a proper black sand beach, which we did near the Karekare falls and at Pahia. Overall, it was a wonderful day, and we rounded it off by enjoying the evening sun with dinner at Princes Wharf.
Auckland Auckland Auckland Auckland Auckland Auckland

The trip back home on Thursday took about almost 30 hours, with the 6 hours in Singapore airport feeling almost as long as the 10 and 13 hours on the plane. But everything went well, and we arrived back in Switzerland on Friday morning. Unsurprisingly I was really tired but managed to stay awake until 7pm that night. That was really the only time I had to properly arrive before Christmas yanked back into everyday life, and I’m still reeling a bit. Hopefully work will be quiet this week, so I can acclimatise a bit more… But for now, I wish you all a happy Christmas, Hanukah or whatever holiday you celebrate!

Happy holidays 2016!

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New Zealand 2016: week 3

I’m posting daily photo collages on Instagram, which I’m linking here.

Another week over, and we only have a few days left, which I’m intending to enjoy to the fullest.

The time in Wellington was simply wonderful. We had enough leisure to just take in the atmosphere of what I consider to be my second home town. On Monday and Tuesday morning I showed my mom around some more, but the rest of the time we actually split up and wander around at our own pace.

In gorgeous sunshine we took a nice walk along Oriental Parade on Monday, leaving both of us just a bit sunburned before clouds moved in and brought a rainy afternoon. After getting quite wet, I actually renewed my Netflix subscription and watched the new Gilmore Girls episodes! πŸ™‚
Wellington

But that’s windy Wellington for you – on Tuesday it was once again beautiful, so we took the bus to nearby Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, which nowadays has the much “cooler” name Zealandia but is still a simply wonderful bit of wilderness right in the city. There really is no other place where big city living is surrounded by nature in this way, with the Botanic Gardens, Mt. Victoria, Karori etc. making up a real “green belt”. We saw so many birds as we wandered through the bush – everything from hihi to kaka parrots, and even a young tuatara lizard! Afterwards we had lunch at my favourite spot on the waterfront, before mom headed off to explore the St. Gerard’s monastery. I hung out at the water some more and then walked through town to buy some fabric for my sister in law. A wonderful day was rounded off by a takeout dinner of fish and kumara chips. πŸ™‚
Wellington Wellington

Wednesday I wanted to simply wander and revisit all my favourite places one more time, while mom went back to Zealandia (you can come back for free on the next day). Luckily we were blessed with another day of sunshine, so I spent my time mostly in the Botanic Gardens and at the waterfront, enjoying the scenery, watching people and reading. A dream of a day!
Wellington Wellington Wellington

When we left Wellington on Thursday, it was grey and raining, which suited my mood over leaving just fine. However, when it didn’t let up pouring for most of the day, a long bus ride turned a bit boring and monotonous – and I got dripped on through a leaky roof… πŸ™‚
However, by the time we finally reached New Plymouth, it had stopped, and I was really happy and excited to see my friends Denise and Ross and their four kids (Ellie, Jack, Ben and Maddie) again. I’ve known them for 16 years, and it’s amazing to see how grown everyone is! This was brought home by our being able to attend Jack’s graduation from primary school, where he was head boy. The ceremony was pretty cool, with a great kapa haka group performing and a lot of awards being given out.

Friday was my mom’s only day here in Taranaki, so in the morning we walked down to the Costal Walkway. At first we got rained on for a bit, but then the clouds disappeared and the rest of the day was wonderful. At my request Denise took us and Maddie up Mt. Taranaki to the enchanted Goblin Forest, which has to be one of the most beautiful forests I’ve ever seen. After a short tramp we enjoyed some Dutch specialties in a cafe that offered amazing views of the volcano. In the evening we all went out for dinner in town, giving my mom the chance to see the walkway there, and then fell into bed pretty exhausted after a full but beautiful day.
New Plymouth New Plymouth New Plymouth New Plymouth New Plymouth

Very early on Saturday mom left to spend 3 days in Rotorua, giving her the chance to see a bit more of the North Island while I get to spend more time with my kiwi whanau (Maori for family). In the morning Denise took me and Maddie up Paritutu, a steep climb first up some stairs then scrambling up the rock along a chain. Maddie was very afraid but persisted, and we all were rewarded with an amazing view of New Plymouth, Taranaki and a bunch of seals playing in the waves far below. Afterwards we went to the Gipsy Extravaganza, a fair where we met Ellie and spent some time enjoying the sun and relaxed the bohemian atmosphere. And in the evening Ross, Jack, Ellie, her friend Michaela and I went to see the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One, which was great! πŸ™‚
New Plymouth New Plymouth New Plymouth

Today there are plans for a Christmas thing in the park, but overall I’m just enjoying being back here, with these wonderful people, thanks to whose hospitality I got the chance to fall in love with New Zealand in 2003…

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New Zealand 2016: week 2

I’m posting daily photo collages on Instagram, which I’m linking here.

Already we’re more than halfway through our trip, but that’s something I’m carefully not thinking about. It’s been absolutely wonderful so far – I loved showing my mom around the South Island, and now we’re in “my” Wellington for a week, which makes my soul just smile. πŸ™‚

After a lovely morning in beautiful Punakaiki, topped off with pancakes at the Pancake Rocks, we stayed for 3 nights in Nelson in the cutest little hostel, Honey Suckle House, which has only 10 beds and lovely hosts in Rob, Lyn and their fluffy cat Poppy.

On the first day, we walked into town, along the river Maitai, and then up to the Centre of New Zealand and then took the long way down, which offered us some lovely views. (It also aggravated my Achilles tendon, with which I’ve been struggling for some weeks now, so our first stop back in town was a pharmacy, for an ankle bandage and some advice.) It was a lovely sunny day, and we ended it in an Italian restaurant at Church Hill.
Nelson Nelson Nelson

Our second day was spent at the nearby Tahunanui beach. It was perfect timing – the morning was gorgeous, and we got to just walk in the relatively warm water, lie in the sand and mom even went for a swim while I read. Later it became more windy, but we walked for quite a bit before finally heading back.
Nelson

The next day was rainy, but that was okay, because we spent it traveling to Wellington. I’d been dreading the ferry from Picton a bit, but they had a gigantic window that offered a clear view of the horizon with some nice seats at the back, which we immediately claimed. Once we arrived in our lovely flat (with two separate bedrooms! *g*), only 5 minutes from the city centre, right below Mt. Victoria, I headed out again and met up with my old flatmate Rathy and friend Michelle. It was only for a short bit, but felt like the perfect “welcome home”… πŸ™‚

Thursday, the weather was simply miserable, so we decided to spent most of it inside: first brunch at Fidel’s, then a quick walk down to the waterfront (with a stop at Roger’s Tattoo Art, where I made an appointment for the next day) and to Te Papa, probably my favourite museum ever. We took a short guided tour, which was really informative, and checked out the impressive Gallipoli exhibition (with exhibits made by Wet Workshop).

On Friday I headed to Cuba Street to get my tattoo while mom ran some errands. After getting two little cartoon birds (for my nephews Elias and Till) on my back and a semicolon on my wrist, I met up with her at the waterfront to head up to the Botanic Garden, another one of my favourite places. We spent the rest of the day around there and down at the water, just enjoying the glorious sunshine.
Wellington Wellington Wellington Wellington

Yesterday we used the blustery but nice morning to walk up Mt. Victoria and enjoy the view over Wellington from the lookout. For lunch I met up with my friend Meredith, who now works for Weta Digital. Thanks to her I got a 50% discount on the Weta Workshop tour, which we did after getting soaked through after our lunch at Scorching Bay (in was was previously the Chocolate Fish Cafe, now Scorch-o-rama).
Wellington Wellington Wellington

This morning I took my mom to CRC, the church I went to while studying at Vic. It was so good to see several familiar faces, and after a service with a lively Christmas presentation by the children we enjoyed a pizza lunch with my friends Rachel, Nate and their family. Afterwards the joyful meetings continued, as I met up with my dear friend Celia. We spent a wonderful afternoon just catching up while wandering through rainy Wellington. On Lambton Quay there were some stalls and acrobats for the “Very Welly Christmas” celebration and I picked up some cookies from Mrs. Higgins, a long-time favourite. πŸ™‚
Wellington

Now we’ve got 3 more days here with nothing much planned. I’m hoping for some nice weather, so I can show my mom some of beautiful natural scenery close to Wellington, but no matter what, we’re just enjoying our time here immensely.

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New Zealand 2016: week 1

I’m posting daily photo collages on Instagram, which I’m linking here.

It’s been a week since my mother and I landed in Christchurch, and we’ve been traveling the South Island ever since. As always my heart lifted the moment the plane set down after the long trip, especially because we got to spend a day in Singapore. (Which was great. I got to catch up with Amy and Jo as we explored the beautiful Gardens by the Bay and ate a feast of dim sum.)
Singapore - Christchurch

Christchurch was a bit of a shock. Last time I was here it was still a pretty, very English town with a busy city centre. All that’s gone now. Lots of construction sites, but what’s most unsettling is the emptiness. There’s the container mall (which I liked but which is smaller than expected), but other than that there’s hardly anyone about. So instead of hanging about, we took the gondola (which was made in Switzerland, much to our amusement) to a very scenic look-out point. The weather was gorgeous and we had great views all around.
Christchurch

Still, we didn’t mind that we’d only booked one night there – the next day we already took our first long bus journey, all the way to Queenstown.
Lake Tekapo

There we stayed 3 nights, which gave us one day to explore (we went up Bob’s Peak with another gondola, walked down and then visited the Kiwi Birdlife Park, where we learned a lot of interesting things about the many endangered bird species of New Zealand) and one day for an amazing trip to Doubtful Sound.
Queenstown Queenstown

Surprisingly enough I didn’t get sea sick (although the bit at the entrance to the Tasman Sea was choppy and had me white-knuckling the handrail) and so could enjoy the stunning beauty of this remote fjord (one has to drive to Lake Manapouri, cross it in a boat, then take another bus over a pass until reaching it). I’d been to Milford Sound before, but Doubtful is much bigger and wider – and unlike the 60-80 coach loads of tourists cruising there, our boat had the entire place for ourselves. We even got visited by dolphins! Another highlight was the time they turned off the engines and had everyone stand quietly outside – it was breathtaking to suddenly hear the sound of water lapping at the boat, waterfalls cascading and the song of birds in the rainforest all around…
Doubtful Sound Doubtful Sound

The next day was another long bus trip, all the way to Franz Josef, where we did a nice short hike to the foot of the glacier in what felt like the first proper summer’s day of our trip. We ended the day in the hot pools, enjoying the water and a massage. πŸ™‚
Franz Josef

The trip up the West Coast is one of my favourite things to do in New Zealand – I think I’ve done it four or five times by now. This is only the second time I’ve interrupted it to spend the night in Punakaiki, where the hostel lies nestled into the forest, only a short walk from the beach. I knew this place would suit my mom perfectly – we’re only here for one night, but there are trees all around us, birds are singing, and the internet is fast. πŸ™‚
(For some reason it won’t embed the nice panorama shot I did of the pancake rocks, so here’s a link.)
Punakaiki Punakaiki

Today we’re off to Nelson, and after that Wellington. As much as I’m enjoying the opportunity to show my mom this beautiful corner of the world (and she’s been a trooper, despite having big problems understanding kiwi accents), I’m very much looking forward to seeing “my” city again…

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A week in London

After almost a year I finally had time to go back to London, always a great pleasure. I stayed with my oldest friend Cindy and her boo, which allowed me perfect access to the city. Met up with several friends, took in the culture (most notably Greenwich and a Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London), went shopping (not too much, though, because I only had carry-on luggage) – and even spent a day in Oxford (the Bodeleian! Tolkien! cream tea!), which was just as beautiful as I remembered. Altogether I had a blast!

> Check out all photos on Flickr.

The Eagle & Child in Oxford The Cutty Sark in Greenwich Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London

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Happy holidays!

Yesterday I returned home from an amazing four weeks in what still feels like my second home. The complete photo set is now up on Flickr (including some photos from the journey home), but today I just wanted to say “hi!” and wish all of you a wonderful holiday, in whatever form you celebrate – or not…

Happy holidays! Happy holidays!
This year’s “greeting card” comes to you from Wellington, to be exact from Scorching Bay. πŸ™‚

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Tweets from 2013-12-23

  • Arrived in Singapore. Tired (unsurprising, it's midnight in NZ) but looking forward to meeting Amy before flying on to Zurich in 7 hours… 00:22:49, 2013-12-23
  • My Top 3 #lastfm Artists: J.R.R. Tolkien (14), Florence + the Machine (4) & Tamora Pierce (3) #music http://t.co/Hlu0WPFnrd 02:53:38, 2013-12-23
  • Feeling mostly human again after a lovely shower which cost barely more than a bottle of coke… Thanks for the tip – and the company, Amy! 04:52:30, 2013-12-23
  • Sunrise at the horizon… Just landed in Zurich – hello, Switzerland! But oh, staying up until tonight is not going to be fun… 19:44:33, 2013-12-23
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Tweets from 2013-12-22

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Goodbye, New Zealand…

Wow, those 4 weeks seriously flew by! Yesterday around noon I arrived in Auckland, and I’ll be leaving for the airport soonish. It’s almost an hour on the airport shuttle, and I’d rather be early than late (also, I need to check out from the YHA at 10am anyway).

[…]

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Tweets from 2013-12-21

  • Just arrived in Auckland & met up with Kirstine (from National Park) to kill time until we can check into our respective hostels at 2pm. 12:40:02, 2013-12-21
  • So I had the great idea to ship some summer stuff home – but on Saturdays even in big Auckland post offices are closed completely or early! 15:49:29, 2013-12-21
  • Hee – the hostel messed up my booking, so instead of sharing a 5-bed dorm I seem to have a 2-bed room for myself. Lovely! 18:40:50, 2013-12-21
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