Tag Archives: New Zealand

A very foodie Christmas

Christmas and the extended holidays – a time for catching up with family and friends, and enjoying humongous amounts of food and drink. In New Zealand, we are so fortunate to have summer in December, and Christmas to us means bright sunny days, chilled G&Ts or white wine, and barbecues with lots of fresh salads.

We don’t always dispense with the roasts and the hams though, as tradition is a powerful thing, and more food is always welcome. 

Image
Dad does the honours
Image
BBQ all fired up
Image
Drinks while we wait

Image

Image

 

Image
Fresh!
Image
Come and get it
Image
Last but certainly not least

Hmm, I think I might have just indulged in Gluttony and Sloth as well as Peace and Joy.. oops!

Travelling to Oxford – New Zealand, not England

For the last three years, we have traveled to my In-laws little life-style block for Boxing Day (the day after Christmas). Almost everyone in the extended family comes and spends the day there, and having the clan there is a fantastic excuse to spend the days grazing on delicious leftovers, drinking copious quantities of whatever comes to hand, and catching up on gossip.

Image
Panorama of Oxford farmlet

The Senior Goulds had been eyeing up rural plots all over the NZ South Island for a few years, and they finally chanced upon this chunk of land that was perfect for them. The picture above has been taken from the house, which is at the top end of the property, and their land extends until the treeline in the distance. It is large enough to accommodate their dreams and ambitions for a self-sustained rural lifestyle, but not so large as to feel unmanageable. 

Image
Farmer Dad enjoying the sheep

In the last three years, they have built a little house with a large deck, installed lots of fencing and driveways, planted trees, gardens and flowers and built a little separate studio. Most recently, Dad built a shed so he could get some sheep and lambs.

Image
Clouds rolling in at the foothills of the Southern Alps

Oxford has it’s own micro-climate being at the foothills of the Southern Alps, and it can have quite different weather to the nearby city of Christchurch. And with a location as lovely as this, even a couple of days feels like a complete disconnect from normal life. When we’re out there, the kids are outside playing, and we stay away from the wifi. Days are about enjoying the countryside, views, and a good glass of wine with some fabulous company no matter what the weather or the time of the day.

 

Image
Streams around the Waimakariri

There is a stream not far away that the dogs and kids love, a little Farmer’s market on Sundays and a surprising variety of great shops in the main town. There are also a couple of very good cafes for those who need their regular caffeine fixes (Mr. Rock Star!).

Image
Sunset on a summer’s evening

We consider ourselves non-outdoorsy city people, but spending time at Oxford has made us realise that there is a good chance we could be semi-rural in the future ourselves. The sense of wide open space, unending skies and green everywhere is incredibly calming and therapeutic, and might be worth battling an hour of traffic for. But for now, we consider ourselves very lucky to be able to tap into this mini-break whenever we can – thanks to our always welcoming family.

Auckland for the solo traveller

Over the years, I’ve done a fair bit of travel to Auckland, NZ for both business and pleasure, and we have been lucky enough to see many parts of the city over the years.

Tip: Auckland is such a spread out city, that I find a rental car very handy. A day’s rental is almost always cheaper than the cab fare to the airport from town, and you can get some good deals, so it can be a very cost-effective and convenient option for visitors.

I was in Auckland last week for a few days for work, and managed to fit a little sight-seeing in between meetings – that’s what occasional travel is all about. It is fun to travel with companions, but there is equally a distinct pleasure in travelling alone. You set your own schedule and pace, and don’t need to consider anyone else’s needs or interests: you can do whatever your own heart desires (although you do still feel guilty!).

These are some of the things I’ve enjoyed doing in Auckland when travelling on my own, and hopefully you’ll consider doing these if you ever visit too. Most of these are free to do too – Bonus!

1. View the City from a vantage point

Image

Because of the number of hills around Auckland, there will usually be a vantage point not far from your current location. I like Mount Eden and Bastion Point at twilight, when you can see the city lights coming on. The transition from day to night makes for some amazing pictures too. Mount Victoria behind Devonport is another great vantage point, especially during the day when the green hills frame the blue Pacific Ocean, with the iconic volcano Rangitoto and the Auckland cityscape in the background.

These visits can be a quick 15 minutes, but if you have a couple of hours in hand, take a drink and find yourself one of the walking tracks nearby. You will be rewarded with some lovely vistas, birdsong, the murmur of the wind and the peace of solitude.

2. Spend some time by the water

Image

Auckland has a water view for every weather, mood and budget.

On a sunny day nothing beats a stroll through the long beach at St Heliers, with kids frolicking in the water, seagulls chasing morsels of food and the windsurfers and boats sailing past Rangitoto set against a glorious blue sky. Grab an ice-cream for twice the fun, and offer to take pictures of families enjoying themselves for an extra-warm glow on the inside. Warm evenings are made for people watching at Wynard Quarter or the Viaduct with a glass of local wine in hand.

On a wet windy day, drive out to wild Piha or Karikari beaches on the west coast and feel the rain on your face and wind whipping your hair. Or if you’d prefer to stay warm and dry, get a coffee in the ferry terminal at Devonport and enjoy the storm through the glass.

  • 3. A stroll through Parnell Village

Image

I have spent a few pleasant hours strolling through Parnell, looking through stores with gorgeous clothes, lovely products, and splendid antiques and enjoying the atmosphere. Some of Auckland’s best restaurants are at the top of the street, and if you stop for a libation, do get a table on the deck out back. Each café or restaurant has a deck and they are all connected and look out over a little green oasis of calm – a perfect spot for some liquid refreshment. At the very top is the road through the green domain to the Auckland museum. Be sure to stroll through the winter gardens which are small but perfectly formed, and watch the ducks fussing in the pond outside.

You may not find these recommendations in the must-dos in the guide-books, but when you don’t have much time or just need a quick break, they can be great. Strolling the streets and hanging out where the locals do can often give you a wonderfully different perspective to the stuff you’d generally do as a tourist. And this way, I can save the ‘must-do’ items for the trip with the family.

What about you – do you get the chance to break away from work even when you travel on work? What do you look forward when you travel without family or friends?