Archive for January, 2011

Used: 2009

There are two routes from Dunedin to Invercargill, the largest, farthest southern town in New Zealand. The inland route and the coastal route. I have driven both of them.

One of the big reasons I drove the inland route is because of two towns, Clinton and Gore. Funny enough, Gore is the larger of the two and also known as the Country Music Capital of New Zealand and has a “big” guiter to prove it. There is also a sign on the way from driving from one town to the other that says “Presidental Highway” which I think is extremely funny and wanted to nerd it up and take a picture of.

Presidential Highway, New Zealand

Big Things, NOT in Australia

I am glad I had the opportunity to drive both ways because if I had to one pick one route, I would pick the coastal route, also called The Catlins, hands down. It was a long fantastic, day drive. You drive along the coast, and inland into forest, stopping every so often to hike or see some animals. A great place to stop and go for a quick hike and hopefully see some animals is Kaka Point. I saw a bunch of seals sunning on rocks and then took a walk to a penguin sighting box, a place where you “hide” in a box and hopefully view some. I saw a yellow eyed penguin, during the day! It was awesome. The coastal drive was great. I got “lost” a bunch of times, but it didn’t matter, because, hey, it’s New Zealand. This is a country you can only get so lost in. If you have a good sense of direction, you’ll hit where you need to get to eventually. The weather was kind of iffy the day I did this drive and after a while of stopping and hiking and animal watching, all in off and on rain, I just wanted to get to Dunedin and probably skipped a bunch of stuff, as it is a coastal drive and not an easy one at that. But highly reccomended!

Catlins, New Zealand

Catlins, New Zealand

Catlins, New Zealand

Catlins, New Zealand

Catlins, New Zealand

Catlins, New Zealand

Hiking in Catlins, New Zealand

Penguin sighting box, Catlins, New Zealand

Moral: If you are only driving one way, drive the coastal route!! Or take one of the many shuttles that drive it and find one that makes some stops a long the way. Ohh, someone else driving! That actually sounds pretty fun as the roads are pretty windy and while I don’t mind getting a little lost, having someone else do the driving, will cut that out completely! This is one of the things I wouldn’t mind returning too at some point.

Used: 2009

I wasn’t expecting to like this town as much as I did! It’s generally known in New Zealand as a college town as the oldest university in the country is located there and while I was in town over the summer holidays and the place was kind of empty, I still loved it. It was like any typical indie college town you would find in America and I think that is what I liked about it.

I stayed at The Chalet and loved it! It’s a bit of a walk out of town and up a huge hill and unfortunatly, I don’t think they have a shuttle from the bus or train station and it would suck without a car to get your stuff up the hill. There is plenty of street parking and never had an issue with finding a space while I walked almost everywhere in town. I got a single room on the top floor, right next to the bathroom, room 14, I think and I loved it! Plenty of light, cute window, huge closet and desk. There was also a small tv room at the top with just FTA, but it was a great place for me to chill out at the end of the day. The place was pretty empty when I was there and I had full control of the remote. SCORE! The bathroom is a full bath, plus there is another seperate water closet. On the second floor there were a few lounges and the bottom floor has a HUGE kitchen, HUGE dining room and pool table! The biggest downside of this place is it is cash only, which I was not prepared for as in all my travels I had not seen a place that didn’t take EFTOPS. Whatevs, I just left my passport till I got the cash together to pay, no worries! The place is cutely decorated, claims to have a ghost and little Harry Potter-isms everywhere. Loved it!

View from The Chalet

My first stop in town was the I-Centre where I got a map that had a self guided walking town of the town in it and loved it! Two museums it takes you past are the Otago Settlers Museum which like the City and Sea Museum in Wellington, I was surprised I loved! Yay for simple free museums that are very focused on their aim, especially regarding a part of the country that I was generally unfamiler with. Dunedin is a little different then the rest of the country, as a lot of their first settles were from Scotland and their accents are a little different as well. The other museum was Otago Museum which was also free but just a huge museum that covered so much. I arrived so late that I didn’t get to see everything, which was a little dissapointing. I still had half the walk to go after this museum, but it was late in the day and started to rain, so I just waited for the rain to clear before heading back for the day. All this took half a day, because I drove from Oamaru in the morning.

Train Station in Dunedin. One of the most photographed buildings in the country.

The next day I drove out to the Otago Peninsula. I stopped at New Zealand Marine Studies Centre & Aquarium which was interesting for sea life in the area. I liked the fact that it was run by the university and I think run by the students and therefore always changing. Birds and Albatross in particular are a huge deal out there and while I don’t care about birds all that much (give me something warm and fuzzy, like seals or sea lions any day!) I went on a cruise out on the water for an hour or so and it was pretty cool! On the way to catch the ferry, I drove along the water and there, for anyone to stop and approach, seal lions were lounging on the beach! It’s pretty amazing how close you can get to the animals in New Zealand. I also stayed out on the peninsuela as late as I could to watch the little blue penguins come ashore, but unlike the “show” in Oamaru it was very hard to see once it got dark. And having the guide yell at everyone to stop flashing pictures got very annoying very quickly (but then, so did the flashes). It was only slightly worth it, even for free. It makes Oamaru worth it, even for the cost.

This picture has not been edited in anyway! Me and New Zealand Sea Lion in Otago

Otago Peninsula

The road out on the Otago Peninsula

The next, I was headed out, but I had two stops first. The first one was at the Speight’s Brewery because there is a tap of spring water outside that anyone can walk or drive up and fill their bottle with as the water runs 24/7 for free. I had to go and fill my bottles up before I left and it was yummy! Highly recommended. The second stop was at Baldwin Street, which is known as the steepest street in the world. I don’t know, I feel like I have seen steeper streets in Los Angeles and San Francisco. But nowhere else, but New Zealand would advertise something like this. It is kind of dangerous! People revving their cars to get to the top, imagine how many accidents something like this would have in the US! I parked at the bottom and walked it and I was pretty pooped by the time I got to the top. There is a nice bench and water fountain to take a break with and watch people try to run it and drive their cars up. I don’t know how I would feel to actually live on or near the street, with tourists on it all the time!

Baldwin Street, Dunedin, New Zealand

Steepest Street in the World, Baldwin Street

I came back through town a few days later on my way back from Invercargill to Akaroa and stayed at The Chalet, in the same room, I didn’t even have to request it! I arrived late and left early, and since I had already done most of the town, I didn’t go out and see anything except to fill up my bottles again and get coffee for the road at this super delicious place called The Strictly Coffee Company near the octagon and it was so good!! Highly recommend seeking this place out if in town.

Moral: In thinking about my time and travels in New Zealand, I think if I went back, I would try to settle in Dunedin. It’s not as big as Auckland and while I lovelovelove Akaroa, it’s just too small and Dunedin seems to be the perfect size. But then, ask me again when school is in session and kids are everywhere! But for one of the “bigger” New Zealand towns, I enjoyed myself a lot there and have only good things to say about it! It seems to be a mix of small town triditional New Zealand, but in one of their larger towns.

And I leave you with an artsy fartsy shot from somewhere in the Dunedin area

New Zealand – Oamaru

Used: 2008

Such a cute little town! I stayed at Empire Backpackers in a double room right on the main drag of town. The hostel was super cute and clean. Loads of bathroom space, which is always appreciated and even though I was there during the height of tourist season (right after New Years) the place still seemed empty. The TV room was super comfy and had a great selection of videos. The kitchens was well equipt and cleaned daily. Upstairs was another kitchen and computer room with 2 computers with free internet access, which was great for me, because I was in the middle of a few weeks were I had no plans on checking my mail, so this was a nice treat.

The big tourist thing to do in town is the Oamaru Penguin Parade where you can watch the little blue penguins come back to shore after a long day in the ocean. The best time of day and year is in the summer and right after sunset, which unfortunatly is close to 9:30 or 10pm since you are so far south, but totally worth it! Little Blue Penguins are the smallest penguins in the world and are so cute! The parade is kind of expensive, but I had a great time and found the whole thing totally worth it. So much fun watching the penguins fall onto the shore. The parade also has a guide talking about the penguins, so it’s informative as well. The whole thing is super touristy, so be prepared. There is another place, a little out of town to view penguins in the wild, but you are really far back and there are no tourist lights so you can’t really see much. Ask at the visitor centre about this.

View of town from South Hill

Bushy Beach, Oamaru, New Zealand

On your way out of town on the way down to Dunedin are the Moeraki Boulders, which are these huge boulders in the ocean. They are perfect circles, which is nuts. My reccomendation would be to enter via the beach and NOT the visitor centre as the visitor centre asks for a donation of $2 to use their stairs to get to the boulders faster instead of the long walk on the beach. I didn’t know and went to the visitor centre, which has a gift shop and cafe, if you are in the mood. But a walk on the beach is probably nicer. And while they don’t have anyone manning the stairs and you don’t have to donate, it’s New Zealand and they are just so nice, you feel bad if you don’t:-).

Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand

Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand

Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand

Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand

View from Visitors Centre, Moeraki Boulders Beach, New Zealand

View from Visitors Centre, Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand

Moral: Typical cute little New Zealand town. One main street, surrounded by farmland and one major tourist attraction where all the buses stop. There are some hikes and festivals throught the year to keep people interested, but most likely nothing you are going to work your schedule around. A good place to stop if you have the time to break up the drive between Christchurch and Dunedin.

New Zealand – Akaroa

Used: 2008/2009

Everyone has a favorite spot in the world. Some are big cities, some are homes to good memories, some are hidden gems. I like to think that Akaroa is the latter of the 3. It’s a small town a little more then an hour outside of Christchurch on the Banks Pennisula. The drive out, when sunny, is stunningly beautiful. You crest over the hill, stopping at the Hilltop Cafe for a snack, drink and picture taking of the view surrounded by classic New Zealand sheep before driving into the harbor.

Akaroa Harbour

The town has French roots, displayed on every street and sign. Hostels and hotels have names like Rue de la Blah but that is as far as the French goes in the town today. Everyone speaks English with New Zealand accents and no one speaks a lick of French. Very strange. But every town in New Zealand needs a gimick to get tourists and if being “French” is it, power to them. The harbour is georgous. Green and blue intermixing, dots on the water and on the hills, there is just no way to describe it until you see it for yourself.

There are various festivals during the year but I came over Easter weekend, 2008 to go swimming with the Hector’s Dolphins, who are endangered and the smallest dolphins in the world. They suit you up in a wet suit since it’s so cold and off we go for a trip around the harbour out to the ocean. I went out on the early morning tour and even though we saw plenty of dolphins and actually jumped in the water once, even though they were far away, the company gave us a partial refund, which I thought was very generous and since I had such a good time on the tour anyway and felt like I got my money’s worth, I then donated my refund back to “adopt” a Hector’s dolphin for one year. I got the cutest little stuffed dolphin!

Out on the water in Akaroa, New Zealand

Edge of Akaroa Harbour, New Zealand

Akaroa Harbour, New Zealand

Hector's Dolphins, Akaroa, New Zealand

Akaroa Town, New Zealand

I hung around town for lunch and ate at this little cafe that had excellent coffee at the corner of Beach Road and Rue Jolie which I can’t find any info on about online. I hope it’s still there! A lot of the places to eat in town are kind of expensive and this was one of the cheaper places.

When I was booking my return trip to New Zealand later that year, I knew I had to return to Akaroa for a few days. I had read good things about the Onuku Farm Hostel and as soon as I could, booked a bed in the girls room. I really enjoyed the simplicity of this place and if I had to return, I would reccomend one of the stargazer tents in the summer as they seem really fun, but I didn’t have a sleeping bag. Next time! I didn’t really do much in town for the 2 days I was there, I just wondered and enjoyed the beauty of the pennisula.

I drove out of Le Bons Bay and Okains Bay which are located on the other side of the pennisula and both were so peaceful and quiet, even more so then the “busy” town of Akaroa. The whole pennisula is just so fantastic, I can’t even write how much I love it all.

Le Bons Bay, New Zealand

Okains Bay, New Zealand

Check out the library in Oakins Bay! Sign says Est. 1865!

Moral: When I am board or sad at work, I look at houses in the area. It would so be a dream of mine to own a bach there, but living in LA, how often would and could I even get there? There isn’t much to do, but it’s just so beautiful. And while Christchurch isn’t one of my favorite towns, I would leave immediatly and head here. This place is always on my list of places to return too. My favorite town in New Zealand.

Had to leave you with a few last beautiful pictures of Akaroa Harbour

One last one!

I go to San Francisco pretty often because my sister lives there. It’s a cheap and easy escape from Los Angeles and every time I find a good deal on flights, I am there, even if it’s just for 2 days. I go often enough that 2 days is all I really need.

San Francisco is a city of many many bars. These three just happen to be my favorites. Hell, I don’t even have 3 favorite bars in Los Angeles!

The View: Located in the Marriott Marquee Hotel near Union Square. A bit expensive for drink and food, but the view, totally worth it! There are loads of tables next to the full floor to ceiling windows that make the views over the Bay Bridge to die for. Even when it’s overcast and/or foggy (most days) I still love it. The atmosphere of being up that high, is so lovely, to be up in the clouds. For some reason lately, loads of hotels in the city have been shutting down their rooftop bars in favor of more cash flowing meeting rooms. The View is still there and lovely! Plus, not as stodgy as some of the other fancy rooftop bars in the city. Even if you are in jeans and t-shirts and you aren’t staying at the hotel, you don’t feel self-concious at all treking through the lobby and up to the 39th floor.

Thirsty Bear: Not too far from the Marriott is this local restaurant and bar. I don’t remember what I had to eat here, but the beer here is excellent as so is the service and atmostphere! The last time I was here, was St. Patricks day week/end last year and the place was crawling with firemen from all over Northern California. HELL-LO! It’s a typical city packed restaurant and bar and can get crowded and loud, but it’s far off the normal tourist trail so that it’s nearly always filled with locals. But still close to most of the central hotels and a worth while easy walk.

Public House: Another townie favorite. This place is attached to AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play, so that you can buy awesomely good, awesomely priced beer and they serve it in plastic cups so you can take them to go into the park on game days. I was so spoiled after this place! After we had a few and took some into the park, I wanted more, but our seats were about as far from the bar as possible, so we just bought some twice as expensive piss in the park and I took one sip and couldn’t drink anymore. It was so gross, I could only drink what I had at Public House and after the game we went back for more. This place is open all the time and the general public can go, but it gets extra crowded on game days, just FYI. I always forget what I order, but I think it’s Marin Brewing Company Tibouron Blonde, which is on the lighter side. I love this place.

Moral: When it comes to great bars in general, there is nothing spectacular about any of these places, these are just places I always somehow end up for one reason or another and always have a good time at for various reasons. So next time you are in town and you can’t decide where to go, check out one of these three!

One of my artsy-fartsy shots of the Golden Gate Bridge

Used: 2007/2008/2009

Christchurch is the biggest “city” on the South Island of New Zealand. I didn’t get there until 10 months into my living in New Zealand, when my family came to visit over the holidays. They landed in Auckland and for that first day, I booked us on flights using Virgin Blue down to Christchurch. Back in 2007 when they first started flying in New Zealand, there were two flights a day in and out of AKL, WLG and CHC so I booked us on the later flight from AKL to CHC, which was delayed by hours, but there was nothing I could have done. Back in 2007, they only had like 2 planes that just shutted back and forth between these cities, so if one plane was delayed, the rest of the day was shot. And since we took a later flight, we were about 4 hours delayed. For barely a 90 minute flight, this sucked. But at least it killed my families first day in NZ and got over their jetlag by the 2nd day. I got a shutted to our hotel (we stayed at the Crowne Plaza for a good price, I figured we should stay at a proper hotel for their first night, because it was going to be all down hill from there) and then another shutted picked us up the following day to get the car from Explore More, so we hardly saw any of the city. And the parts that I saw, I was so turned around in! The city is so flat and at that point, I was so not used to that at all, as Auckland has lots of hills. After picking up the car, we went to the Antarctic Centre by the airport to see the animals before heading out of town on the long drive to Queenstown.

Bus from Christchurch Centre to Antarctic Centre

I made it back to Christchurch the following Easter weekend and this time, smartly flew Air New Zealand, where they have flights like every hour. So no delay there. I got another shuttle into town and this time stayed at Stonehurst where they had really nice private rooms. Not very cheap, but had everything I wanted (tv! yay!). Plus I was staying 2 nights. That night, I walked around Cathedral Square and met up with Testpatern who also entered NZ on a Working Holiday. It was a pretty square, but like Auckland it self, I couldn’t figure out why people like the town so much. It seemed pretty boring. And unlike Auckland, so freakin’ flat! I was so turned around. Luckily, the next day, I went on a rafting trip all day and transportation was provided, so I didn’t have to think about where I was going. Also like Auckland, Christchurch seems like a good town to be a base as there is stuff around it that is of interest, but within town, meh?

Cathedral Square, Christchurch, New Zealand

The rafting trip was awesome! They throw you on the river as soon as possible and do all the prep and safety demos while already on the water, which I loved. No time was wasted. The rafting wasn’t too rough (not like the North Island) and base jumping included, which is as far as I’ll get to jumping off things. It was a great day, plus all meals and for an extra $10, transport, which is like 2 hours each way from Christchurch, is availble, which I took, cheaper then renting a car!

The following day, I hired a car from my favorite rental place, Explore More and went to Kaikoura to swim with the dolphins for a day. I then returned to Christchurch, but instead of staying in the city, I stayed in the suburb of Sumner, as recommended to me. I stayed at Marine Backpackers in a private room and unfortunatly, the only one they had for me was windowless, which I hate, but I hardly spent any time there, so it was okay. I went out an explored the town immediately and it was super cute! It totally reminded me beach towns in south Orange county, which of course, reminded me of home. So cute! I spent the next day in Akaroa (post coming soon), hitting up the Riccarton Mall on my way out to visit a friend who was living on a farm about an hour outside of Christchurch. The next day, I headed back into Christchurch to fly back to Auckland.

Could totally be Orange County but it's Sumner, New Zealand

Sumner, New Zealand

An empty "Orange County" aka Sumner, New Zealand

As always, I ended up back in Christchurch later in 2008, after I took the Tranzalpine from Graymouth to Christchurch. Since I had been in New Zealand for so long, off and on, at this point, I didn’t bother to book any form of transportation from the train station back into town to stay at Stonehurst again. I figured I could just deal with it when I arrived. I knew from previous expriences that there were “off-license” transport drivers offering rides from the airport and train station into town for $5. I tried to arrange one with a shady driver before my luggage was unloaded off the train, but my bag was lagging it and by the time I came out of the station again, the driver was gone and I had to figure something else out. Oddly, there were a lot of people on the train that day and it took some walking around to various drivers and companies to find an empty seat in a van. Luckily, since I was proactive and by myself (yay for single parties!) I got one of the last seats on a Canterbury Shuttle. I was the last person to be dropped off, but I didn’t care. The ride still only cost me $5 and I gossed with the driver about some of the complaints that some fellow Americans were whing’ing about regarding the train ride. So lame! And as always, the following day, I immediatly picked up my rental car from Roadtrip Rentals and left town. I was back to drop the car off 2 weeks later and had a day to kill in town and didn’t do much. Lots of places for shopping near Cathedral Square to wonder and lots of internet places in the square where after 2 weeks of no internet, I spent most of my time. Since I had a super easy flight the next morning and I read okay things about the Christchurch airport, I took the last bus from the city centre to the airport for about NZ$2.30 and spent the night there. I wasn’t the only one. The arrivals hall was filled with fellow backpackers and the employees of the airport just stepped over us as this is probably a nightly thing. I was fine for the most part, but stay away from the front door and bring your sleeping bag! And the next day, I was finally away from my least favorite New Zealand city.

Moral: I don’t know what the appeal of this town is to live in. Throught the North Island, the rumor is that Christchurch is a raciest city and while there I heard my share of remarks. Maybe it’s the same as Auckland, but on the flip side of that, I only know people that live in Christchurch by choice and not because they got jobs there (the only reason I stayed in Auckland). The town is flat, but has some good beaches and suburbs. There are some huge universities near by so there are lots of kids around. Maybe sports? It is a very sporty town. It was a nice place to pass through, but I always got the hell out the moment I could. Compared to the rest of the county, I don’t know why anyone would pick this place to spend a lot of time.

Used: 2002

I am going to deviate for a moment here to share one of my favorite travel stories, when my friend Melina (said Hanson friend from NJ) and I went to London for spring break in 2002.

We had both been to Europe before with our families, but neither of us had made it to London and we both had been wanting to go for years. Right after 9/11 we made the executive decision to just bite the bullet and go. Neither of us were scared of flying, so that wasn’t an issue at all. Anyway, when we were discussing accomodation options, I think I threw out staying in a hostel. I had done it 2 years before when I traveled around Israel with a group and didn’t find it as scarey as I originally thought. So we booked a week in the largest (cheapest) room at Ashlee House, which is near Kings Cross. That seemed central for us.

As she came from the east coast and I was coming from LA, Melina arrived before me and we made plans to meet at the hostel at 3pm on our arrival day. Her plane landed at 6am and after wondering around town, we made perfect time and she arrived back at the hostel just as I was putting my bag into storage. She had returned to take a nap, but I was excited and wanted to get out there and walk around and wake up, so she obliged me and walked around for a while, even though she was dead tired. We ate dinner at Pizza Express (our most expensive meal of the week, for two money starved students) before heading back to check into our room for the night. We pull our bags from storage and headed to the assigned dorm room. We took one step in and stepped out. It was filled with dirty old men, clothes hanging from everywhere and there is no way we are staying there. We are so tired and I nearly started to cry at this point and ask if there is another room we could stay in. Luckily, we were in London the first week in March, so not high tourist season and there was space in a 4 bed female room so we went up there. I go to the bathroom to take a shower and while the showers had doors, they were just in a huge room and the doors were perfectly clear and that is when I broke down and just cried. There is no way I could stay in this place for 6 nights. I haphazardly threw on some clothes and returned to our room and talked to Melina and knew she wasn’t feeling it either. When I walked from the Tube station to the hostel earlier in the day, I noticed a Comfort Inn 2 blocks away. Comfort Inns are cheap in the US, so how expensive could this place possibly be? We piled on jackets to go outside and take a look. We arrive and the receptionist is on the phone, but they have a price list and back in 2002, the price for a twin is £90/room. No way can we afford that for 5 more nights, when the hostel was only costing us like £20/night/person. I groan and the women gets off the phone and asks if she can help us. We tell her our issue and end it with, but your prices are too much. She says, wait a moment, let me call my manager and see what we can do. I nearly faint. At first, I was like we can pay £60/night, before realizing that that is still over $100 and once she gets the manager on the phone and asks how much we can pay, I say £50/night. She hangs up and it’s all approved. I put the whole fee on my parents credit card to reserve the room for 5 nights starting tomorrow, since we have already paid for the hostel for one night and I breath out the biggest sigh of relife, I am so happy!! We rushed back to the hostel and canceled the rest of our reservation for the week, which luckily we hadn’t paid for yet.

Sure, we ended totally blowing our budget and spending like 4 times what we had planned, but it made the week and trip so much better! We had our own bathroom and tv. We didn’t have to pack up our stuff every night as we were staying in the same place, our own room, for nearly a week. The complimentary breakfast was fantastic! We didn’t have any lock out hours, which Ashlee House had at the time, which worked well for us because what we ended up doing all week was going out in the morning, tour around, have lunch, coming back to the hotel for a nap and then going out again at night. We couldn’t have done that in the hostel!

When I came back through London for one night by myself later that year in October, I emailed the hotel and asked if I could book a single room for £50/night (still cheaper then list price) since I was arriving late and didn’t want to wonder the street and they approved it. In looking at the Ashlee House website for this story, it seems they have redone the hostel considerably since our expirence in 2002, so I wouldn’t even listen to our exprience there.

Moral: It doesn’t hurt to ask for a lower price then advertised, especially during the off season, because you never know what you may get. I am not a haggler by any means and it being London, this is one of my favorite travel stories.

Used: 2007/2008

Like Rotorua, I ended up here a lot because it’s a good gateway city (town) on the way to somewhere else. And like Rotorua, I came here for a week as a tourist by myself and then again with my family for 2 days. And then again because I wanted to go to the South Island and I felt like this would be a good place to hole up over Christmas when the country is pretty much closed.

The first time I came here was the last week in September, 2007. I brought my down jacket with me to NZ (one of my favorite travel items as it can double as a pillow too!) but it just hadn’t been cold enough it Auckland all winter to wear it. I stupidly forgot it when I came down to Wellington and if there was a reason to bring to NZ at all, this was it! Windy Welly made it self know, loud and clear! I took the Intercity bus on the 11 hour drive from Auckland to Wellington. This is also an overnight route, but since I had plenty of time to kill and I wanted to enjoy the view along the way, I opted for both ways during the day. Overnight isn’t cheaper, but if you are short on time, it can save time and a nights accomodaton! I just didn’t care. The previous week, Mt. Ruapehu had erruted and on the ride down, the bus stopped on the side of the road so us tourists could jump out and take pictures. Of course, the ski slopes were open the following day. After sitting all day on the bus, I didn’t mind the 30 min walk to my hostel at all. I stayed at Lodge in the City because they had cheap single rooms in town. Sold! The place was fine. If I remember correctly, I think the girls only bathroom was on a different floor, which was kind of annoying, but there was a unisex bathroom on my floor, I just chose not to use it. Other then that, I don’t remember it being a problem. Most of the people they had living here seemed to be long term people, but it was pretty quiet. I remember talking to this super hot french guy in the lounge who was in Wellington for a working holiday too and his visa was up so he was on his way out to Australia. Fuck, he was hot. He looked like Brandon Routh from Superman. Yum!

Stopping in the middle of the highway to take pictures of Mt. Ruapehu

Jeeze, what did I do in Wellington. I started my day with a stop at the I-Site Centre, as always and booked myself on the morning walking tour of Wellington, which gave me a great intro to the city, gave me some ideas on stuff to do as well as got my barrings straight. Funny enough, the guide was from California and lived in Santa Barbara for a while and when describing one of the department stores in town, she was like, oh, this place is like Nordie’s. It was kind of nice to have a little bit of that piece of home in New Zealand! It was only me and this other guy, who had just moved to Wellington for school or something on the tour, so it was a nice simi-personalized tour.

Te Papa which was packed with kids because I happened to be in town during the spring holidays. I came back a few more times over the week to just relax in a quiet corner and read. I sat in various coffee shops around town and just people watched. I took the cable car to Wellington Botanic Gardens where it was so cold and windy. And then took it down back to town. I went to the Museum of City and Sea and LOVED IT! Why are free museums so much better? And this one was not overwelming at all, unlike Te Papa, which is a little huge. City and Sea is just the right size and I took the time to look at everything! Loved it. I went on the free tour of Parliment in the Beehive and loved it. I am a nerd for a government tour and maybe especially if I don’t know much about it. My tour was small and everyone got to sit at the parliment table, which was all sorts of awesome. I went on the Dominion Post Ferry across to Days Bay which was a fun way to get out on the water. It actually stopped raining and being really windy the day I did this, so that was good. There isn’t much in the way of tourist ferries to get on the water and I found this to be the only way. Guess there really isn’t a demand for this activity as it’s too rainy and windy most of the year. But like everything, had a good time! And I think that was all for this trip. As usual, did everything I wanted to go, because who knows when I would be back…

Wellington on the water

Statue representation of New Zealand in Wellington

The Beehive, Wellington, New Zealand

And I was back like 3 months later with the family. We stayed in our first proper American-style hotel since Christchurch, The Ibis. The night we arrived, my sister and I bought round trip tickets for the cable car, because we wanted to go to the observatory, but in true New Zealand fashion, at the hight of tourist season, it was closed. Since it wasn’t that cold, we walked down the hill through the cematery and garden and it was a little scarey as it was pitch dark. We came out near the Beehive and walked back to the hotel. Since I had done everything I wanted to already and after 10 days, I was ready for a break from my family so I sent my parents and sister on the Parliment tour, sitting it out. They loved it. My parents love government stuff, so of course, they loved it and I was very happy to hear my sister liked it a lot too! It was more crowded this time and they didn’t get to sit around the parliment table, which was kind of a bust, in my opinion. We met up for lunch before pointing my parents in the direction of Te Papa and the Cable Car, so they could use the other half of our tickets we bought the day before. We told them to walk down too as they were going to do it during the day and I am sure it’s nicer during the day then night. My sister and I got the car out of the garage and drove over to hike to Owhiro Bay. So beautiful! We got to the end and there were seals lounging on the rocks everywhere! It’s nuts how close you can get to them without barriers. We were just going to drive back to town when I saw a sign for Mt Victoria, which I did not climb last time because it was freakin’ freezing and the bus never came. Yay for Wellington with a car! We drove to the top and took touristy pictures. We then drove past a shopping centre and I made us stop so I could share the joy of The Warehouse with my sister. I got a sun hat and some candies and we bought my mother a birthday card (her birthday is in February) that I signed and my sister mailed when she got back to the States. I loved sharing my day to day life with my family and the lameness of all the shopping too! (Only those who have been to NZ, know what I am talking about when I talk about the “joys” of The Warehouse.) We parked the car back at the hotel and went to dinner on Cuba Street before calling it a night and getting up the next day for the drive to Rotorua (aka: home #2 to me).

Next stop, South Island

I ended up in Wellington for a 3rd time a year later when I was doing my return trip to NZ and hitting all the places I had been wanting to go, but never quite made it. Of course, Wellington was NOT on that list, but I had to stop for a few days before heading to the South Island. Since the country shuts down for Christmas I figured Wellington was a good place to pack it in for a few days. Proper hotels would be dirt cheap and it would be an easy place to stock up before everything shut down. I got a dirt cheap deal at Mercure and stayed for a few nights. I had really nothing to do in Wellington. I had a friend whom I chatted with online and had met in Auckland when she first arrived in April and was now living in Wellington and met up with her and had Christmas Eve dinner with her and her roommates (who oddly, where all Americans in NZ in school and living and everything!) and just look forward to Christmas Day of doing nothing but taking a bath (in an actual tub!) and watching movies on Sky all day. The following day I was finally out of Wellington for the last time. (I would have left on Christmas, but as everything is closed, the inter-island ferries don’t run.)

Moral: Loved Wellington. My original plan was to be centered here, as it’s smack in the middle of the country, but my job had other plans for me. Most people love Wellington over Auckland as it’s more picturesque and feels more small town as well as my original reason, it’s easy to go anywhere in the country from here. I am really glad I got to spend a lot of time here and know the city as well as I could. I am glad my family decided to spend 2 days here instead of in Rotorua as there is loads to do here for 2 days and it’s very much a city, by New Zealand terms.