Thursday, December 25, 2008
During our brief stay in Christchurch, we realized that we'd caught up with the travelling Leonardo DaVinci exhibit we missed while it was in Seattle. So we packed our bags and stored them with the concierge before heading out to hit some museums. The DaVinci exhibit was interesting and we're glad we went. The same museum also had fashion through the ages (which Melissa insisted on seeing and Travis put up with). We took a brief tour through the Maori cultural section and headed back out to the city.
Christchurch has been accused of being "more English than England," and it tried its best to prove it. We passed the town crier and the option to go punting on a river on our way back to Cathedral Square. When we arrived the evening before, the square was dark and fairly calm but by mid-morning, it was alive with street vendors and carts scattered about. There was a baked potato cart (with the option of kūmara or sweet potato as well) for Melissa and a sausage sandwich for Travis.
Just off Cathedral Square was another museum/aquarium that boasts a "real, live kiwi" (the bird, not the people). Since we'd come all this way and hadn't seen the famous bird yet, we thought we should do that before heading back to the other side of the world. The aquarium exhibits freaked Melissa out a bit (as might be expected if you've ever been to an aquarium or near water with her). She doesn't like the squirmy, swimmy creatures surrounding her, and they did have tanks in every direction. There was a salmon spawning display (weird to travel around the world to see that) as well as octopus, squid, eel, and snails. It's not that Melissa's actually frightened of any of these things - she just prefers them fried with garlic.
Finally, we got to the kiwi portion of the exhibits. We read a bit about them: there are five sub-species, all of which are now endangered. Although there's not a lot of kiwi hunting, these flightless birds had no predators (at all) until Europeans brought dogs & cats to New Zealand. It's interesting that these islands had such a specialized ecosystem that there was nothing large enough to hunt the kiwi until people brought their pets. Since they're nocturnal and skittish, we had to promise silence & no photographs whatsoever. Just 3 of us, plus the museum staff member went into the kiwi viewing area, which was dark and surrounded by faux woodland. After a bit, our eyes adjusted and we could watch two birds running about. They were ridiculously CUTE! They chased each other and looked for food and the whole time and were just adorable, with their crazy-long beaks and their waddling run and their feathers disguised as fur. Finally, a bird that Melissa likes (perhaps because it's the least bird-like of all the avians she's met?). She in fact liked them so much that she decided to purchase a souvenir stuffed-animal kiwi that sounds just like the real bird when you squeeze it. It's cute, too.
After museums and with a bit of time before heading back to the airport, we bought some roasted nuts from a vendor in the square and people-watched for a bit. There was some sort of bible recitation going on, and a singer with a karaoke machine, and several booths of knock-off designer sunglasses and purses. There was also a busload of children that were apparently on some sort of school trip. Their antics alone were enough for a show. It was eventually time to head back to the luggage and the car for the drive to the airport.
We returned the rental car, went through our traditional re-adjustment of luggage so it all fits within airline limits, and got in line for our boarding passes. The woman at the counter told us our luggage couldn't go on without fees for being overweight until she realized that we fit in the special exemption for domestic flights connecting with international flights. Before she realized that, there were a few moments of worry & discomfort as we thought we might have a replay of our trip to Colorado, where Travis re-packed our suitcases as a line formed behind us. We were fine though and got our passes and headed for the gate.
The flight to Aukland was uneventful (as you hope all flights will be) and kind of boring as a low cloud cover left nothing to look at. Then we took the long walk back to the international terminal and checked our luggage again. The flight back was interesting since we left at dusk on wednesday, watched the sunrise from the plane on wednesday (since we had crossed the international date line), and landed in San Francisco on wednesday at the same time that we were in Christchurch people watching. We decided that any "day" with two sunrises and two sunsets is just a bit overwhelming. After doing the math we realized that we were victims of a 43 hour day.
On our arrival in Seattle we went to our second dinner of the day with Melissa's parents who had picked us up from the airport. The airlines had left some of our luggage in San Fancisco (better on the return trip then the outbound trip) but brought it to our house the next day. When we finally got to thursday Travis got up and went to go get coffee, and promptly climbed into the car, someone had moved the steeringwheel to the wrong side of the car. Our final words of wisdom are if driving from the left side of the car keep right, if on the right, keep left.
Monday, September 8, 2008
After Puzzling World, we went to the Transportation and Toy Museum,. It's probably the creepiest place we've ever seen. These photos are for Chris Harris (but anyone can enjoy them) - we thought of you when we saw these robots. It looks like the kind of place Travis would open if he had 80 lifetimes of junk collected. Melissa swears she's throwing out everything we own as soon as we get home. There are all kinds of collections - cars, barbies, legos, smurfs, star wars, snoopy, model cars and planes, tonka, erector sets, (all of which you might classify as "toy"), about 3 warehouses of vehicles of all sorts: old fords, austins, morris, fire trucks, rolls, motorcyles of all sorts, airplanes, and one solar car (all of which you can definitely classify as "transport"), as well as a collection of meat grinders, a collection of heat lamps, several mannequins, and a triple a gun (all of which start to get creepy when you look at them in collection). Of course, there's also just the creepy factor of tons of dolls in one place, or of so many snoopys looking at you. All in all, there was just so much STUFF! Including this Honda - anyone know what that is?
After Toy & Transport, we went to the New Zealand Fighter Pilots' Museum. This one was pretty interesting - it chronicled the exploits of all known New Zealand Fighter Pilots in every war they've participated in. Travis checked out the airplanes & guns and whatnot while Melissa read the soldiers' accounts of the wars. All of their airplanes are in flying condition and they prove it every two years with their "Warbirds Over Wanaka" Airshow. In 2004, they had special guest Buzz Aldrin (who happened to have stayed at Wanaka Springs Lodge while he was in the area).
For dinner, we went to Wanaka's only Mexican restaurant, AmiGos (yes, that's how they spell it - I don't know why the "g" gets capitalized). We were cautioned by Lyn & Murray that it was "Europeanized Mexican," which made Melissa wary & Travis curious. Apparently when you Europeanize Mexian food, you get rice pilaf instead of Spanish Rice and everything gets the same spices. On the way back to Wanaka Springs, we discussed that the spices they used would have been good in a fish dish, but just didn't jibe with Trav's beef burrito or Melissa's chicken fajitas. The margaritas also left a lot to be desired, although we know we're a bit picky when it comes to those!
Tuesday morning dawned and we reluctantly left Lyn & Murray's hospitality and set out for our longest road trip in New Zealand. Travis was a little nervous about driving on the left for so long, but it turned out fine. Not too far outside of Wanaka, we got snow going over the pass (that's this photo). The road conditions didn't really get bad, but it was nice to see actual snow falling since we'd only had clouds both our mountain days and sun/rain down in the lowlands.
Further down the road, the ug-fest continued, with more lakes and mountains to spoil our views. They have some interesting foliage in New Zealand - check out the orange in this tree:
We stopped for lunch in one of the towns on the way - Turkish Kebabs, but we ended up getting wraps instead. The food was great and plentiful and probably the cheapest we've had the whole trip. We apparently made it just in time for lunch, since the owner locked up after we were finished.
We took a somewhat longer route (about 1/2 hour longer) than google suggested to get between Wanaka and Christchurch. Our goal in doing so was to get on the coast earlier in our trip. We did see the Pacific, but only briefly. Now we're on a coastal town, but we're not exactly sure how to get to the water! Ah well, we have the rest of tonight and most of tomorrow to explore so we'll see how it goes!
Finally, we made our way into Christchurch for the last of our nights in NZ. We're staying at yet another Heritage Hotel, this one is in Cathedral Square and we have a view from our room of said Cathedral. This hotel is pretty swank and we have tons of room to re-pack our bags and get ready for the airplane tomorrow. A bit funny that we've got more room tonight than we've had at any point in the trip but at 7:30 tomorrow, we'll once again be squeezing ourselves into the airplane seats that will bring us home... Of course, the rain this morning brought out some home-sickness in Melissa but that always happens when it rains and she's far from the Pacific Northwest (although the Pacific Southeast has been nice as well).
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Next, we made our way down the road. This is just an example of how driving on the left changes everything. If you can't zoom enough, it does read, "Keep Left Unless Passing." They also paint arrows on the roadway near photo ops & turn-outs to remind us tourists which side of the road goes which way. We've heard that they don't do this so much on the North Island (population 3 million), because there's always someone wherever you drive, to remind you. But here on the South Island (population 1 million), it's a lot easier to forget.
So we arrived in Wanaka. It's also a town on a lake, surrounded by mountains. The ug-fest continues. This first shot is from the top of the hill behind our B&B ( Wanaka Springs Lodge - highly recommended to anyone that plans to be in the region). It's run by Lyn and Murray Finn, a wonderful, warm couple that has created a beautiful B&B that's both welcoming and luxurious. It's a perfect place to include on a honeymoon! Although we definitely enjoyed our time in Queenstown, it seems that Wanaka is a bit more our speed. And Travis definitely loves the cocktail hour that includes chatting with other lodgers!
Here are some more views from near our B&B:
Thursday, September 4, 2008
There's a little trail that leads up the hill, and we hadn't tried it yet. Turns out to be a super-steep mountain bike trail. There are hiking trails as well, but those don't lead back to the hotel. So we hiked almost vertically for part of the trip. We did get a few good photos though.
So for dinner we went to “The Bunker”. Melissa found it online when looking for good places to eat in Queenstown. It also appealed to Travis in that if you don’t know where it is you aren’t going to find it or even stumble into it. This place is great but you have to walk down an alley and go into the wood door, the first time we heard about it we were told that there is no sign, or anything else to give it away, it’s just a wood door on the alley. They have added 1 inch letters above the door now. The food was excellent. Travis had the local cheese and salad to start, Melissa had a pumpkin, truffle soup. For the main course Melissa had the lamb (that was also Travis’ first pick) and Travis had the Duck, we also had a bottle of pinot noir with dinner from a vineyard not far from here. Both the duck and lamb were exceptional. The restaurant is just the sort of place that Barry would love; actually it’s just the sort of place that Barry would open. Also the music that they played was amazing, it was rock, punk, and reggae tunes that had been re-recorded as lounge jazz (Roxanne by the Police, The “can’t find a better man” by Pearl Jam, a Sex Pistols song that I can’t remember the title of).
Then back to the hotel and call it a night.
So on Thursday we had thought we would see what the weather was going to do. Travis got up got dressed and then looked out the window to see it had snowed during the night, not quite where we were but the snow line was only about 300 feet above us. Only one thing to do, change clothes, pick the resort to go to, and go snowboarding. So we changed clothes, jumped in the car, drove to Starbucks to get coffee and breakfast, and we were off to Coronet peak. So the map said it was about a 35 minute trip, and as Travis is driving, following the prompts from Melissa the navigator, he begins to think that this is a long 35 minutes. So Travis says to Melissa “This sure seems longer than 35 minutes” and Melissa says “yeah it does” and begins checking her maps. The problem was that the navigator expertly guided us to Cardrona, not Coronet. So at the turn off to go up the mountain we discussed our options and decided to go back to Coronet since we would be closer to Cardrona when we were staying in Wanaka. the road this trek took us on is known as the Crown Road, and connects Queenstown & Wanaka, across the tops of the mountains instead of by going around. Here is a picture of the winding path up the hillside, as well as one of us near the top!
Monday, September 1, 2008
When we landed at Auckland, we had to go through customs, retrieve our luggage and then go to the domestic flights terminal. Seems easy enough, right? We’ve already been through security so many times, this is just once more… Except what Aunt Judy quoted from their NZ pilot: “Welcome to Auckland; set your clocks back 20 years,” is true. Everyone at the baggage claim was getting their luggage carts (although they’re known as “trolleys” here). Travis decided we didn’t need one (these Kiwis just must be lame); we had our rolling suitcase that we can strap both the carry on & Melissa’s purse to, and he’d just carry the snowboard bags. So we went through customs (they’re really concerned that you’ll bring foreign dirt into the country – we had to declare our snowboarding boots and then when our luggage went through the “biosecurity” x-ray, they asked us if we used our sneakers to go hiking) and we went out to the main lobby area of the airport. We followed the first set of signs to the domestic terminal – the signs that said it would be 12 mins (no, that’s not some weird, metric distance measurement – that’s minutes). We followed the blue & white line outside, across streets, through parking areas, and finally into the domestic terminal. We took this picture so you could all see what the Auckland airport international to domestic trek looks like:
We got some Burger Rings (full on burger flavor) out of the vending machine. They taste nothing like burgers. They mostly taste like fake cheese and a beef bullion cube (especially the salty part). The bag says “no artificial flavours or colours,” and on their list of ingredients they list corn, vegetable oil, and then “burger rings flavour”: obviously from the native New Zealand “burger ring flavour plant.”
We also enjoyed our first New Zealand breakfast (thank you, Stephanie & Jamie!): Miso Ramen soup – Melissa had roasted chicken and Travis had steak. It was really good soup, with lots of flavor and definitely some serious garlic going on. Melissa’s chicken was huge chunks of chicken breast (more than she could finish).
We finally meandered through security which is really lax on the domestic flights, and ended up in the gate area, waiting for our flight. This whole time, we’d been hoping to run into someone chatty that new more about NZ than we do. But everyone that wanted to chat with us had either never been there themselves or was a tourist as well. This time, we were in luck. We were sitting, reading and waiting for our flight to be called when a grandmother and grandfather who live just outside of Auckland sat on the same bench as we were. She told us all about how she was flying to Queenstown because her daughter-in-law that lives in Sydney is turning 40 on Wednesday, so she’s bungy jumping for her birthday. But being a native Kiwi (not an Aussie), she was determined to do the original, A.J. Hackett Kawarua (harder to say than it looks) Bridge jump. So the “littlies” (grandchildren) and son & daughter-in-law had flown into Queenstown for a celebration & grandparents were going to meet them. She had a cooler bag full of the food her littlies had asked her to bring – baking and home-cooked treats they normally only get when going to Nana’s house. She chatted with us quite a bit, about the hurricane (“how can they possibly evacuate so many people – what town can take them?”), about what we’re doing on our honeymoon, about all the great things in New Zealand we’re missing out on, and we got an ear for the accent (finally!).
We can’t actually blame them: driving on the wrong side is definitely nerve-wracking for both of us. At least it is through town: the highway’s not bad, but in town with traffic (and traffic circles all going the wrong way) it’s a bit harrowing.
Monday, August 25, 2008
The wedding was really fabulous (at least from our point of view). I know that all of the bridesmaids went all-out, making sure that all we had was a wonderful time, and that worked out well. I thought everything was beautiful and I was terrifically happy with how our special day turned out.
Everyone I spoke with that had already been married offered me pretty much the same advice: make sure you take some time to be "in the moment" because this day is overwhelming and fleeting and if you don't watch out, you'll miss it. I took that to heart, and there are several very clear memories I already cherish from Wedding Day:
- Chris Fantz talking me down from my "ipod meltdown"
- Brandy coming through with a converter for us
- Hair and mimosas with Cat, Heather & Christine
- Being able to hand my laptop over to Lawrence because I hadn't made the ceremony music happen yet, and not having to worry after that moment
- Telling Carrie when Mendelssohn started about how it was Miss Jan's favorite piece
- Walking down the aisle with my father - we went really slowly, and I had time to look into the eyes of so many people that loved me. It was really overwhelming, but in a wonderful way. And I didn't get a chance to see everyone. I started tearing up at that point, but I was prepared for such things (false eyelashes are a lot harder to cry off than mascara).
- Kissing my mother on the cheek at the end of the aisle - I always feel that it's an issue when the mother of the bride isn't a part of the ceremony.
- Looking into Trav's eyes as Warren started the ceremony - holding hands with the man I was marrying
- The fact that we actually did The Princess Bride wedding scene
- Saying the actual vows we wrote for each other, and not compromising with what that was
- Photos after the ceremony: a totally urban wedding. People on the street congratulating us and honking thier horns, the guy across the street from the light rail that shouted that this was "the coolest thing I've ever seen!"
- Getting to the cocktail hour in time to sample the hors d'oevres and cocktails
- Witnessing Grandpa Red meeting my mother ("I'm a hugger,")
- Hearing from so many people that they loved the ceremony & the food
- Pictures with Kabby
- Each time someone walked up to the bar with cash and walked away with their money & a drink - even though they didn't realize it was a hosted bar, I got great joy from the fact that it was so
- Dancing with my father - cracking each other up just by making our own normal wise-cracks
- Dancing with Travis - forgetting everything I ever learned in our salsa classs but following him anyway
- Taking the kegs to the barbeque and to my cousin's housewarming in mom's "keg van"
And that's just the bits I can think of off the top of my head. It was a really wonderful time. The most interesting part to me was that I've never been a girl that dreamed about her wedding and needed it to be perfect. I think that is why our wedding did turn out perfectly - we were willing to roll with whatever happened and we had great support that could take care of things while we were busy being bride & groom.
We're going to take this week to get ready to fly around the world, and then you'll hear all about our adventures!