06 July 2015

Settling in......

It was a very surreal experience driving out of Wellington for the last time. I realised that unlike every other trip away, we would no longer have that feeling that we were 'coming home' heading down the gorge and seeing the city spread out before us after a weekend or break away.

So on this last morning, we snuck one last Bohemein chocolate for the road after filling up with petrol, grabbing a coffee and then it was time to head on out.

We travelled in tandem for the long 7 hour journey north - it felt like much longer than 7 hours - I think in part due to being alone in the car with no one to talk to during that whole time - even with music on it dragged a bit so it was nice to stop for breaks along the way to feel sane again!

I especially wished I had someone to exclaim over how beautifully still Lake Taupo was on the way through - and having Murphy in the car with me just didn't cut it!

It was a great relief to finally arrive at Nana and Poppa's at 5pm just as the sun had set on a glorious afternoon to welcome us to the Waikato.

That night Poppa had a surprise in store for the boys - tickets to the Harlem Globe Trotters which they didn't know about until we sat down for dinner. By all accounts they thoroughly enjoyed themselves even if they were pretty tired when they finally arrived home at 10pm.

The next morning (Saturday) we drove over to Cambridge to our rental to show the boys - even though our furniture wasn't due to arrive until the Monday.

The boys fell in love with the great big backyard complete with a swing, while I fell in love with all those lemons on the lemon tree!

As well as three bedrooms inside, the rental has an outside fourth bedroom and bathroom for any guests coming to stay which is very handy - as the space inside the house for guests is rather limited!

It didn't take the boys too long to make a new friend in the cul-de-sac - our Murphy ended up hanging out at home with Nana and Poppa for a few extra days until the house was all unpacked and we could then happily keep the doors closed until he got used to his new patch.

He seemed pretty OK with the extra time there as it turned out - totally ruling the roost at Nana's and bossing her two cats around!

While waiting for our furniture to arrive we spent a quiet weekend with Nana and Poppa (it was like the calm before the storm), enjoying games of card cricket and Cluedo, bike rides, trumpet playing and boys pretending to be worms on the verandah - as you do.

Monday rolled around soon enough though - and we arrived at the rental at 8.30am on a frosty morning. I dropped Mark off and headed back into town to their new school to meet the principal and get their classes and new school uniforms sorted. It was a whirlwind two hours and I could hardly believe that when we got home again at 10.30am the container was completely unpacked, everything was in the house and the guys had already gone again - talk about efficient!

And then the "fun" began for us. Sorting through box after box after box. It became apparent fairly quickly that downsizing from our house to this one was going to provide a few challenges.

Most notably in the kitchen - the difficulty of trying to fit everything into a much smaller space meant we ended up repacking anything we figured we can do without for the next six months. We also decided to leave our red couch in its packaging and not put any artwork up on the walls around the house either. It is temporary after all and leaving some things packed will make it much easier when we come to move again!

After the busy morning, we took a break and headed into town - treating the boys with Maccas for lunch while we grabbed some yummy healthy eats from Paddock cafe.

And at the end of Day 1, we rewarded ourselves with a sit-down to watch an episode of Game of Thrones with some dessert wine and chocolate. It was much needed!

For the life of me I can't remember exactly what we did on Tuesday apart from more unpacking. But on Wednesday, two smart boys headed off to their new school. I think we were at least as nervous as them if not more. We were so happy to hear that they had been allocated buddies and Noah came home buzzing with the news he'd met another Noah in his class who also collects the Match Attax football trading cards that he loves - what are the chances of that!

Amidst all the unpacking during that week, we had two lovely visitors bring us 'welcome to the Waikato' gifts. Lynmaree (@kiwibloms on Instagram) who moved to Cambridge almost exactly a year ago from up north popped in with some lovely home baking on Thursday. We'd never actually met in real life before so it was lovely to chat and find out more about their family and their experiences in the local area.

Then on Friday Leonie (@leoniekiwi on Instgram) also popped over from Hamilton with more yummy goodies and a lovely plant to brighten up the windowsill - let's just hope I don't kill it! It was so awesome to have been thought of by these lovely ladies and it really made us feel welcome here!

One final treat to round out the week on Friday (and if nothing else but to get a break from all the unpacking!) was a hubby-and-me lunch at what could easily become our new local cafe - The Lilypad Cafe. The meals were gorgeous and being a week day it wasn't too busy despite Fieldays being on with tens of thousands of people just a bit further down the road.

And there ended our first week living in the Waikato - a bit of a whirlwind but a productive and positive one nonetheless! I can't believe we've been here a month already and I'm only just writing this now - but hey better late than never I say!

03 July 2015

5 reasons you will fall in love with Rarotonga

Before our holiday to Rarotonga for my brother's wedding, we'd never been to any of the Pacific islands. Sure we'd seen the glossy brochures and travel agent deals online and on TV showing azure waters, palm trees and endless sunshine over the years so I guess we knew a little of what to expect.

But in my ignorance, I thought that one Pacific island was pretty much the same as the next - and that a trip to Rarotonga would be pretty much just the same as a trip to Samoa, Fiji or Tonga. I was wrong. There is a lot to love about the uniqueness of Rarotonga (or Raro as it gets called for short) that you can't replicate on any of the other islands. Here are the top 5 reasons you'l fall in love with Rarotonga:

1. The currency is exactly the same as NZ

One of the most annoying things about going on holiday can be having to do mental currency conversions in your head every time you are buying something to decide how cheap or expensive it is. This hassle is taken away - in Raro you just buy with NZ dollars - easy peasy. If you're lucky, you might even get given one of the local coins as change which is a bit of a novelty.

2. The swimming is the best

Even though other parts of the island also have lovely beaches, we found being based at the Pacific Resort at Muri Beach was fantastic because of the sheltered and shallow lagoon which made it super safe for family activities including snorkelling, crab racing, getting out on a glass bottomed boat and general swimming. We found the sea water was actually warmer than the resort pool most of the time but later in the week when the wind got up a bit, having the option of both the pool and the sea was still great with the kids.

3. Take whatever food you need and find some little local gems

We checked before we went,  and you can pretty much take anything into Raro except fresh fruit and veges - so even cheese and vacuumed packed meats are OK. When we arrived at customs with a suitcase full of biscuits, crackers, muesli bars, tinned fish, a loaf of bread, jam, margarine, chocolate and cheese, they didn't bat an eyelid (or for that matter even look in the suitcase). It sure made it much cheaper for us to have reasonable lunches and snacks than ordering off the resort menu!

For dinner, we also found some great local eateries at Muri Beach. Like La Casita the little Mexican just down the road. OK so it's not actually run by Mexicans but the food was cheap and cheerful, no more than $15 for a main like enchiladas or nachos.

But the pick of the bunch for us Vili's Burgers - we ate here twice and we all swore that we had never eaten a better burger in our lives. Truly. Their Anzac burger at $12 was something special indeed.

4. The leisurely pace of life 

Kia Orana is a word you will hear a lot in Raro - all the locals will say it the minute they see you. It doesn't sound unlike the Maori word Kia Ora. Here, the pace of life is super leisurely - which is perfect when you want a very relaxing holiday. You do however have to be willing to accept a bit of 'manyana' - easy come, easy go, and not be in too much of a hurry to do anything. Things happen on Raro time so you have to leave any type-A, anal retentive, hurried personalities behind if you're going to enjoy yourself here!

5. The island might tiny but the sunrises are epic in proportion

The island is only 32km in diameter - which makes it easy to get around. Most people hire a scooter if they want to explore the island. Whilst we had too many of us in our family group (and young kids to boot) to contemplate scooters, we enjoyed seeing everyone else zip around the island two by two - even helmets seem to be optional.

If you're going to stay here, you really must must get up early enough to see at least one sunrise. There is just something about watching the sun rising over a tropical island - I believe every person should see it at least once in their lifetime.

So if you find yourself in need of some winter sun, I cannot recommend enough this magical spot. I could share so many more reasons to fall in love with this place but I guess you'll just have to go and discover some of your own!

01 July 2015

Night at the Museum Hotel: the most unique and decadent experience in Wellington

When I started working alongside a friendly Englishman at the Museum Hotel back in February 1998, I could never have imagined that the sliding doors of fate would open and entwine our stories together and that some 17 years later we would be staying our final night in the city we loved at the very same place that brought us together in the beginning.

What a fitting end to a most incredible journey. One that led us right to the other side of the world and then brought us back again to live in the wonderful city we called home for the past 13 years.

Having been a part of the early days of the hotel as we were working in front office reception, we had caught glimpses of the vision Chris Parkin (the owner) had for the hotel, and over the past 17 years, the hotel has been transformed into a world-class unique dining and accommodation experience. It's hard to believe the hotel started life on the other side of the road where Te Papa now is before the grand plan to move the whole hotel on wheels across the road gave it a new life in a new location.

Only a few weeks before  our night here, we had treated ourselves to the most divine dinner at Hippopotamus which was in itself worth raving about and I did just that right here! This time though, a night in the Museum Hotel apartments awaited us - a luxurious treat after a day spent cleaning the house from top to bottom.

The first thing that greeted us as we walked in the room was this funky coffee machine - hello green goddess! And whilst we didn't end up making a coffee in the end, just having it on tap was a big tick!

And that bath. Oh my word.

I can confirm that this is most definitely a 2-person bath - and that's something we have not done in years - if ever!

Oh super comfy king bed - where have you been all my life?!

The apartment was so well appointed and roomy with it's own kitchen and living room separate to the bedroom.

And just when we thought our night couldn't get any better - this then arrived to our room compliments of the hotel, so we toasted our thirteen years of love and life in this city in style.

And have you ever seen a pillow menu before? Um....hello most decadent luxury!

After walking through town to enjoy one last meal out at the Matterhorn (another favourite spot of ours in Welly) we slept the deep sleep of the completely exhausted in the world's most comfortable bed.

The next morning we had a very long journey ahead of us - seven hours relocating the rest of our belongings that hadn't made it into the removal truck as well as our precious Murphster. So indulging in the breakfast at Hippopotamus watching the sun rise over the city one last time was really the only way to start the day.

There was time for one last selfie with the Museum hotel VW and then we were reluctantly on the road.

Whether you're celebrating a special moment in your life or you just need a night of pampering, you really can't look past the Museum Hotel for an incredible and unique experience, I'd go so far as to say you couldn't find a lovelier night in Wellington.

A big thank you to the Museum Hotel for the complimentary room night and the bottle of bubbly - we couldn't have asked for a more amazing farewell to our glorious city.


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