Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas from New Zealand!

Hello Everyone,

Hope you all are staying warm in the frightful weather!  Colin and I would like to say to everyone at home Merry Christmas!  We are sorry to not be there (Though I have to say this amazing summer weather is pretty nice!) but can't wait to see everyone in a month and have a delayed Christmas.

It's Christmas Eve here today and traditionally people spend it doing last minute shopping and going to church/spending time with their families.  In New Zealand its quite popular to go down to the local pub for the evening with friends to celebrate!  - No we didn't do that, but we did spend the day in the sunshine in town for lunch and ice cream on the water front. (its OK to be jealous of our summer weather!)

Friday at work was afternoon Christmas Tea, I made plates of "American" cookies for everyone, they were a hit!
 Our boardroom turned Christmas table, so much fun!

Below are some photos from today down in the CBD, such wonderful weather!

From New Zealand to all our friends and family at home, Merry Christmas! We love and miss you all! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Update on Life in Wellington

I can not believe we are moving back to America in less than 50 days!  Where has the time gone, how has a year already gone by?!!   This experience living in New Zealand has been amazing, I have learned so much, met so many wonderful people, had a wonderful job, saw stunning natural wonders, traveled to multiple countries and got to spend it all with my lovely partner! 

The past few months have been very crazy, Sam and Martha came to visit us for a month and we got to visit the Coromandal in norther New Zealand and did a 10 day tour of the South Island.  We spent time in Wellington showing them the sights and taking them to good restaurants, soaking up as much as possible. And now that our time is counting down, we are making our lists of things to do before we leave (Scary!)  We still have lots to do and I hope we can fit it all in before we leave.  I love New Zealand and know someday I will be back to visit the amazing country.

Christmas in NZ
Work has been very busy since Christmas is almost here.  Funny though, you can call Christmas Christmas here!  no Holiday only crap.  We have Christmas carolers in the Centre, Father Christmas - kids send him Christmas letters which you can deliver to any NZ Post shop!  And the Christmas music throughout the Centre isn't regulated to the extreme.   Its even normal for friends to get together on Christmas Eve and go to the pub!

It is crazy to think that Christmas is only a week away, especially since it is now summer!  I don't know what I think about my first Kiwi Christmas, but it should be a nice day bbqing in the sun with Nelson's Family.  Though I have to say it doesn't really feel like it, yes we have a mini Christmas tree, and the Centre is blasting Christmas music but its just not the same! (a co-worker from Europe warned me about this!)

I am working on Boxing day (the day after xmas) which is one of New Zealands biggest shopping days of the year, so hopefully I can find some good deals!But in true New Zealand fashion the Centre is only open from 9am - 7pm (Kiwi's are winding down during this time of the year, most go on holidays and lots of businesses shut down for a few weeks.) 

Recently Wellington has had 2 earthquakes which as has kept things exciting.  The first one was while we were down on the South Island it was a 5.7 but 40K deep so not too strong.  Colin and I felt it, though others around us didn't.  The second one, less than a week later was a 4.0 but only 20k deep,  This time I was at work (and Colin at home).  One of the major factors into feeling the quake was the creaking of the buildings each time.  Even if you only felt a jolt or a sway of the building it was the creaking of the building after the movement that defined it. Luckily even after both quakes there was only limited damage.

During our time on the South Island we got to spend a day in Christchurch, it was fascinating to see but devistating knowing these quakes are still happening on a daily basis.  Its not news at home anymore but there are multiple 3.0 or 4.0 quakes a day.  The city has no longer has a CBD (downtown area), thousands have fled out of fear, and the place is deserted.  Walking around the 'red zone' was odd, it was a nice hot day, sun shining but no one was around, just fences blocking off the broken buildings, or areas where buildings used to stand but have already been demolished.

Below are some photos of the 'red zone' throughout Christchurch.  After seeing these, be extra thankful that you still have a job, home, city, etc.  

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Stunning Coromandel

The day finally came!  Martha and Sam arrived in New Zealand!!!  Work seemed to take forever, and even though I only got to the airport 30 minutes before my flight it seemed like hours!

Finally we made it up to Auckland and reunited with our friends!  We went and grabbed our car (the beast) and hit the road getting out of Auckland as soon as possible, only after Colin got us lost for the first time, and had good old Burger Fuel for dinner.
 (we basically did the long red loop you can see, and then over back towards the west is Auckland)

Once out of Auckland it was a quick two hour drive to Coromandel Town where we stayed for the night.  We woke up early the next morning and searched for a Cafe which was HIGHLY recommended and it didn't disappoint!  All vegetarian (didn't tell them! shhh) we had amazing food at a little hippie cafe and took some treats for the road!
we spent the day exploring small towns, visiting beaches, relaxing and finding our camping spot for the night.  (New Zealand has these things called Holiday Parks.. they're like pretend campgrounds where its $19 PER PERSON, not per tent or spot, per person!  You can't have fires but they have communal kitchens and bathrooms... not really camping if you ask me)

The one good part was our camp spot was being right next to the beach and we got to see the moon rise.. yah never seen that before! it was absolutely beautiful!

The next day we were up bright and early (from not sleeping well in our tents) and headed out to Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove.  Hot Water Beach we thought was just a tourist trap (well it kind of is) but when the tide gets low enough, its right above hot springs that come rushing up from the sand, it was so cool! But man oh man there were TONS of people trying to get their portion of hot water.  We spent the afternoon there relaxing on the beach (me getting eaten alive by sand flies that bite... over 50 bites for me...) and then headed out to lunch at another amazing and highly recommended cafe.

 (Nelson fell asleep in the sand... and got a HUGE sand mustache!)

After some lunch we got away from the craziness at Hot Water Beach and headed towards (Another tourist destination) Cathedral Cove. It was stunning!  It reminded me of places in Thailand from the rock and colours surrounding the area.  The walk through part of the cove is only open when the tide is down so you have to time it right. 

Sucked though because since a few rocks have fallen, it was closed.... with a really small wire fence saying do not enter.... so we did! oops!  (totally worth it!)

 (Martha and I in the mini cave we found)

well basically New Zealand is absolutely beautiful...(but whats new)

So we continued on in for our long weekend journey down to our last hostel for the trip, in a small, not even town on the water.  The YHA hostel was so cool!  We had an amazing dinner which of course, Colin cooked for us, and they even had free kayaks we could take out in the morning!  So the next morning Sunday, 13 November we got up early to hit the water. We spent around two hours out there exploring some great surf beaches and playing in the water.  Not to mention so amazing views!

Absolutely beautiful! don't see this view everyday;  Hills of lush green grass, white sand beaches and blue ocean water!

our lovely "Beast" - great car to get us around!

The rest of the day we spent driving back to Auckland, seeing an old mining town and say good bye (well only Nelson and I, we had to get back to work/school and then Colin, Sam and Martha came down by bus that week.)

If you had any doubts before that New Zealand was amazingly beautiful... you can now rest assured that it is!  

Below are photos of the old mining town and the Mt Eden Crater in Auckland (so cool!)

 favourite drink in NZ - L and P! so good!

 Mt. Eden Crater