Saturday, September 30, 2006

Come out with us for a bike ride

For the second time this week, and since Don put the bikes together, we headed off today on a bike ride with our mountain bikes. The road bikes still need some work and we have to scout out suitable road cycling terrain too, given the debris and rough roads here. But the mountain bikes are giving us a great chance to get out and explore new parts of Nelson and parts we've seen but not up close yet.

We headed out midday, about noon, and darnit if the sun didn't get blown away by clouds. We had a beautiful morning, not a cloud as we walked to market and did our fruit and veg shopping, but it wasn't to last as the clouds came in. Luckily no rain. We headed out northward toward the water on the bike path and this is our first roundabout--you can see the bay just beyond the road. Here we turned toward the west.

Heading west takes us back over the Maitai River, the same river we live near, and over this bridge. Then you turn around on it and go back under it. From this viewpoint, the river heads out to the left and into the bay.

WHOA, Don!! Watch your head there, mate! Low overpass, or should I say, not the best underpass for cyclists. They claim to love alternate modes of transport here, but this is a pretty tricky one!

Once we got through the underpass, we turn north again and went out onto a road along the Port of Nelson, New Zealand's third largest and busiest port. We decided to take a pretty picture of all the boats, but there's lots of work going on here too. That is, off to the west.

To the east, the open bay between shore and the man-made spit are calm waters that many kayakers and new sailors use to practice their skills. Don and I are very interested in learning to kayak--after our amazing trip on Doubtful Sound when we holidayed here--and we'll probably rent a kayak, take a practice round in the pool, and head out into these calmer waters.

This is looking off in the same direction, but a close-in shot of a new housing area that is being developed just as one arrives in Nelson from the east. We looked at a section there (piece of land) and it had incredible views out toward the bay and looking across to Abel Tasman National Park.

Looking basically the same direction, but farther to the east, this is a community about 4k and 5 mins outside Nelson city centre called Atawhai--pronounced ata-f-eye, all the "wh" here are "f" in Maori. We've looked here and think we'd like to buy our house in this area, gorgeous views and not terribly populated.

Off the Port of Nelson drive, we headed back and continued westward down one of two main roads connecting Nelson with the next town and major country roadways: Wakefield Quay. Wakefield is the water route, Waimea road is the inland route that goes behind this hill you see in the picture. They both start and end at the same place. They are developing Wakefield Quay big-time, building condos like you see here on the land side. You think they would have done this already, given the views, but I was told by a local that this part of the city was heavily industrial until recent years and is now undergoing a renaissance, understanding that the views are big $$. We are sitting taking the picture from a restaurant and fresh fish shop on the water side. Lots of restaurants overlook the bay. The townhouses on the top floors run nearly NZ $1.0m and up. Lower levels are less, but the noise levels are DREADFUL as this road is constant traffic day and night.

Same spot, taking the photo out toward the water instead. Our timing was impeccable . . .

There just happened to be a baby seal swimming and diving and swishing over and over right in the little harbour beneath us. He was adorable and there was a boat watching him, protecting him since he was so close to shore. Not sure who it was, dept. of conservation perhaps?

Farther out the same way, must have been a sailboat class as the water suddenly became full of sails. Our friends Stefan and Ina, recent immigrants from Berlin, purchased an older sailboat and are refurbishing it. Soon they'll be out on the water too and we hope to join them for a ride. (I'll be sure to take all the motion sickness pills I can find.)

Back to our journey, we headed out onto Wakefield Quay again, they have bike lanes on both sides. Crossing the road is hairy because, as I said, it is nonstop cars all the time. But here is the main highway along the top of the south that connects Picton (and the ferry from the north island) to Nelson to Richmond and then off to Golden Bay and Abel Tasman. Two lanes. One each way. Full of cars. Now imagine what it looks like in summer -- we've gleefully forgotten but we'll be reminded soon enough.

Another view of our ride along the main road as we keep heading west.

After several kilos we finally arrive in Tahunanui, or Tahuna for short. Pronounced just like it's spelled. It's a neighborhood in Nelson and the main beach in town . . . beautiful sand and shallow water for hundreds of metres out onto the spit. There was even a parasailer or something far in the distance today, not sure he got into the shot. Because this is the beach in town, in summer the kids will spend lots of time here. For us, it's wonderful to go swimming after dinner when it's nearly empty, the threat of sun and UV rays are gone for the day, and the water is still warm from a full day's sunshine. You'll see us here most weekday evenings come summer! We discovered this the easy way when we were on holiday here.

After we biked past Tahuna, we headed west a few more kilos into the main exchange between Nelson and Richmond and beyond. Within the past couple of years the Nelson City Council (my employer, putting in a plug) completed a cycleway to connect all these cities by creating this overpass and a link toward the airport and beyond to Richmond. This picture is of the roundabout to head to Nelson--off to the right out of view, to Stoke--off to the far left, a part of Nelson but its own neighborhood, and toward the airport in Nelson and off beyond to Richmond--straight ahead. Heading back toward us is the "back way" to get to Nelson that we took on the way home--Waimea Road--but didn't get photos of because we were starving and bonking and just wanted to get home to eat some food!! Never leave for a bike ride at noon without having lunch, you think we'd know this!

To get over that major roundabout, you take this handy bridge, which you can see in the photo above off to the upper right.

We decided to head first to the airport, rather than to Richmond (mostly cuz we were starving) and take a photo of Nelson's International Gateway-to-the-world Airport. This is where you will land if you come visit us by air. Yep, that's the terminal from beginning to end. Runway behind--yes runway, there's one. It's so secure from all the worldly threats, they even let random cyclists like Don and me bike all around the place on the main road taking photos, scouting out the lay of the place. From here we headed home, as I said, without taking photos, sorry! Another time.

Photo of Livvy thrown in cuz she's so darn cute. She doesn't say hi to Porter. Do you like our comforter of purple and tan and gold with the matching pink curtains?? :)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


So we happily headed out of Christchurch and on to the small fishing village of Akaroa (population just over 600). Akaroa was founded by the French and maintains some of the culture – street names starting with rue and the only grocery sells baguettes). It’s located on the Banks Peninsula (named after the botanist that sailed on James Cook’s first voyage – for a good read about this, try Blue Latitude by Tony Horwitz). Leaving Christchurch we headed east and up until the last 20kms we drove on flat roads, then we went up and over the hills we’d been skirting for the previous 30kms. We arrived on a cloudy day but the views were still outstanding. From the top we looked down on the bay and the speckle of small towns that surrounded it.

We had a nice hotel room, much much better than CC - second story with an actual view of the water and enough space for a couple beds, sofa, chair, plus room to walk. We quickly settled in then headed out to check out the town. We ended up at a small shop run by a 7th Day Adventist (no idea what this is but, then again, you know my policy on religion – maybe you don’t but it is so controversial, I’ll keep it out of this blog). The only thing they had going for them was that they sold merino wool products – we love this stuff. We bought a few things then strolled to the boat dock and along the beach. Nothing like a small little town to get some piece and quiet. We did see one boy racer car but never heard it racing – I guess with only one, they have to go out of town to race someone. That night we had take away fish & chips – greasy but excellent.

The next day we decided to take a hike up into the hills. This would take us through open pasture and should offer great views of the bay and town. I’ve included a few pictures. This ended up being about a 2.5 hour hike and we made it back right before the rain began. We headed to a small deli for lunch – I had an awesome fish dish and Angela had an omelet. Nothing like a meal with fresh vegetables and fish. I then hit up the fresh fudge store for dessert – mocha and baileys Irish crème. More walking about town before the weather turned really cold and we headed indoors.

I’ll leave the rest of the story to the pictures.

view as we dropped down into Akaroa

One of 2 churches in town.

example of a house in town - most places are like this colorful little cottage.

Fire & Ice - not even sure what they sell here, i just liked the look of the building.

Path heading up to our hike - this was a hike in itself. It may not look it but this must have been about a 15% grade.

Views of Akaroa from our hike

mum and baby.

More steeps, we turned to the right about 1/2 way up.

Don's lunch - fresh fish fillets on a salad - yum.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

On the air...

Well I've only been living in Nelson just over 2 months and have already made it on to local radio two times. The first time was about a month back when the office I'm temping at won some sort of contest. The receptionist had submitted the office for something and we ended up with morning tea (pastry, pies, etc). So a couple of the radio crew came in and did a quick interview. Of course the two of us in the office at the time were both from the States. They picked up on this rather quickly and announced to all their listeners. The guy interviewing us was live and ended up conversing with his colleagues back at the station after all of our statements. His part of the conversation was littered with short responses like “yeah” or “That’s right” or “I bet” followed by laughing. Great. Since our radio was turned down, I can only guess at what they were saying.

Today was time #2. We won another contest – workplace of the week - through another station and received Subway sandwiches and cookies. The mentioned we would get called throughout the day to be interviewed and make requests. First time they call I’m the only one there. Lady asks me some general questions about what I do and what I’d like to hear. We weren’t live at the time and I figured she’d just play the request. Come to find out we were being taped and 30 minutes or so later our edited conversation was played on the air. Probably about 20 seconds of our chat. She took out all the parts about my musical tastes (I think it was the mention of alternative and punk that helped get that cut) and the station that I usually listen to (not hers but ironically owned by the same parent company).

My initial request of Angels & Airwaves was turned down (not sure if she’d even heard of them) and I figured Nelly Furtado would fit in nicely with their play list (see previous blogs about music). Amazing how difficult it is to think of a song to request when you are under that type of pressure – I’m going to carry a list of requests for when this happens again. They ended up playing an older Nelly song since this stations format doesn’t really cover her new stuff (either that or they had just played it).

Next time the lady calls back and I’m still the only one in the office. Was pretty clear she wanted to talk to someone else – made even more clear when she said, “can I talk to someone else” and I informed her I was it. She said she would play the Bee Gees per our request and call back later – she hung up before I said not to do me any favors playing that 70’s trash. I changed the station so I wouldn’t have to listen that the high pitched crap. Final call and the head recruiter requested Pink – even though they had just played her 5 minutes earlier.

So there it is, I’m now the voice of Nelson. I’m thinking of making it a career, I’ve already added the spots to my resume. I’ll end by quoting a famous radio philosopher: “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” Or maybe that was a yoga instructor?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Post email capability

Just a quick note to share with you that we've joined up with a new version of Blogger and one of the features allows you to email any of our posts to anyone you'd like. If you scroll to the bottom of each message where it lists the comments, you'll see an envelope icon. Click that to email a single post onto anyone you wish. We'd enjoy your help in growing the blog this way, if you want to. Except you Abacus folks, don't be putting us on any of those junk mail lists, we left enough of that behind in Colorado!!

Low ozone air forecast over New Zealand

Press Release: NIWA Media Release 22 September 2006

New Zealand is expected to experience a ‘low ozone event’ on Sunday (24 September). The Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute and the European Space Agency are forecasting that a filament (a "rogue patch") of low ozone air currently circulating in the stratosphere around Antarctica will spin off and pass over much of New Zealand.

The agencies are forecasting about 23% less ozone over New Zealand than the average for this time of year. ‘Ozone values of about 275 Dobson Units are possible, whereas the September average at Lauder, Central Otago [lower part of South Island], is 358 Dobson Units,’ says Dr Greg Bodeker of the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA). ‘The forecast suggests that the ozone values around noon on Sunday are likely to be a record low for this time of the year,’ says Dr Bodeker.

The forecast low ozone will push UV levels higher than usual for this time of year. According to NIWA, if the skies are clear, the forecast low ozone means that UV levels in the south of New Zealand are likely to increase from a typical September noon-time UV index of 4 to 5.5. In the north of the country, the noon UV index could be as high as 8 compared to the usual September value of around 6.5. A UV index of 8 is not extreme by standards of New Zealand’s mid-summer but it still represents very high UV levels. ‘If the sun is hidden by cloud, the risks are not as high, but when the weather is partly cloudy but people can still see the sun, the UV levels may go even higher than for clear skies,’ says Dr Bodeker.

The UV Index
Levels 1 & 2: The UV level is low. Low protection is needed and people can stay safely outside. Low – Low protection required. You can safely stay outside.
Levels 3 to 5: This indicates moderate UV levels. Moderate – Protection required when spending long periods in the sun.
Levels 6 & 7: Protection is essential. High – Protection essential. ‘Slip, slop, slap, and wrap.’
Levels 8 to 10: People should take great precaution. Very high – Seek shade between 11am and 4pm. ‘Slip, slop, slap, and wrap.’ Reapply sunscreen regularly.
Level 11+: This is regarded as extreme and full protection is essential. Extreme – Reschedule outdoor activities for early morning/evening. Shade is essential between 11am and 4pm. Reapply sunscreen regularly.

People should remember that you can get sun burnt even on cool days. Temperature is caused by the sun's infrared radiation, while sunburn is caused by UV radiation that cannot be felt.

[As an aside, Don looked into those Dobson units just to see how it compared to Colorado and Westminster/Denver/Boulder and he said it was pretty darn similar between the two. So all of you need to slip, slop, slap and wrap in summer yourselves! That's the national slogan because the UV rays from the sun are very intense here and the damage to the ozone layer directly affects much of this country]

Friday, September 22, 2006

An updated tour of our home

First off, we're not THIS dirty and sloppy--keep in mind we are still in the unpacking phase and we're damn slow at it. But the major pieces are in place and we're just fine-tuning and picking up the garbage and miscellaneous stuff.
This is our kitchen, all stocked with dishes and pots and pans, but little food right now. I'm soaking pintos in the corner--we're having burritos tonight baby! You can't see any difference I know, it still looks like a hallway. But the cabinets are full and those of you clever enough see the big "A" on the fridge know us well.

Looking out from the kitchen doorway, this is the lounge, or the living room. The glass door is off to the right--you can see where the light comes from--and the rest of the house is off to the left. Our TV is just in the picture on the right and Livvy dines just beyond.

Turning around to the opposite corner, I'm taking this picture from between the brown and red couches in the last picture. You see into the kitchen, etc. We went through our book boxes--about 15 of them--and took out about 100 books to read over the next year, and stocked them under the TV. The rest were packed back up for the next move.

As we look from the glass windows/doors to the back of the room, you see the rest of the brown couch (remember how long it was :) ) and the big green chair that we can now enjoy. We counted spaces in our lounge and we can seat 10 people on 3 pieces of furniture! We bought this coffee table/chest at the used furniture place for $200 NZ, or $130 US. It looks brand new and allows us a great place for all my yarn, basically. It is also our dining room table.

Here is our bedroom. I'm as far against the wall as I can get. Yes, the bedroom is basically one big bed. I left the closet open so you can see how crammed our stuff is, but half our clothing is still in bags in the garage for the next move or put away for the season. We have plastic containers under the bed too.

Now I'm at another wall against the window--we bought a fabric armoire for coats and suits to free up closet space. That first dresser is ours from Colorado, but there is a smaller dresser next to it that we just bought at the second-hand store. We came away with 3 dressers from that trip to the second-hand store for storage, we felt that was the best way to keep everything in the house. As you can see, the bed dominates the room.

This is our bedroom furniture for the next year, both of our side tables are boxes! Full boxes from the garage so we free up garage space.

This is the hallway and I am taking the photo from the garage door looking left into the lounge and right into the office. Off to the left is the bedroom, off to the right are the 2 bathrooms. This is the second dresser we bought at the used place to keep more stuff in and it's our "toss your keys on" furniture item.

Here is the office/computer room. File cabinet made it through the trip with a couple of dents and lots of dirt, we bought another little drawer thing and the hutch you see and they have helped make a lot of room so we can organize our papers. We still recycle, see the 3 boxes on the left side of the floor--3 different recycle boxes. We've not attacked this room to organize or clean much yet, it's next on the list.

Turning around in this room, taking the photo standing next to the file cabinet, we have Don's 2 dressers, one we bought when we first got here, the other on the left is the 3rd one we just got used. Plus Livvy's private space in between. This is a multi-purpose room.

This is not to illustrate what slobs we are . . . this tub has been our laundry bin. When we unloaded everything it was piled high with clothes, sheets, towels, everything. Now it's down to a manageable level, although I am queen of laundry, doing it near daily for the past 3 weeks!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Our cool neighbor Lilly

Don has already mentioned our neighbor Lilly who is a pretty cool lady. She’s been doing her darndest to take good care of us. We’ve been to her place for dinner three times and met her daughter and her family, who live down the road. During that dinner her daughter’s family offered to help us unpack our shipping container—and we’d just met them!

I couldn’t make it to one of her dinners, so she sent over two full plates of food: full dinner and homemade sushi for the next day. As you might imagine, it lasted longer than one meal, the plate was so full. Every time I return her plates, she sends me away with something new.

She’s also baking for us . . . I am sure Deanna we’ll be relieved, we have a new supplier of banana bread. She did this after we bought her bananas from the Saturday market. We didn’t ask her to do this, we just brought her bananas because we got them cheap. Another week: biscotti. Yet another week, these amazing wonderful coconut treats. We are being well taken care of indeed!!

A few weeks ago for dinner we ate a bowl full of pumpkin soup she made for us out of the blue. This was in response to our obtaining 2 months free membership at the pool for her (she goes there anyway, but on a punch card), one each for our new memberships. We lied and said she referred us, and because they have a referral program, she got 2 free months.

Lilly is a native Kiwi of Chinese descent, but says she is often mistaken for Maori. She is very active, working out most mornings and hosting weekly dinner parties. We've spotted her at the pool several times when we've been there. On weekends she works at the fish factory doing work she finds social and rewarding. She drives a spiffy new car and spends more time out of than in her house. Her Wednesday dinner parties are a hopping affair, maybe you can join us when you come out to visit.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Shopping excursion

You may not believe me, but I haven’t purchased an item of clothing or shoes or a purse or anything since April. APRIL. Been buckling down, not spending frivolously, sticking to budgets, etc. But it’s getting old, fast. I need a shopping fix. So, I made a date a few Saturdays ago with a new friend, Sarah, to show me what Nelson has to offer for shopping.

It ain’t much. For those of you who come to visit, you’ll find the local “mall” to be an amusing description of what’s available. The local department store is nearly useless as it carries lesser quality items particularly in the clothing area. That leaves me to individual stores and boutiques, which we are fortunate to have in New Zealand since not everything is a conglomerate chain store (except for you, Banana Republic, I still love you).

In the city centre, a dangerously close 5 minute walk, there are a handful of boutiques and small stores that have quality clothing. Some are even based in New Zealand’s fashion scene, directly designer made and very cool. Then there are the everything-is-polyester and the everything-made-crappily-in-China stores, those are to be avoided.

[As an aside, I don’t intend to diss everything China makes as my point in this post and in a previous post. I don’t think the Chinese export crap all the time. What bothers me, and what I am railing against, are the low wages and the deplorable circumstances many Chinese workers are in mass producing crappy stuff for the Walmarts and the Warehouses of the world, both in the US and NZ. Of course, the problem is not just China either, as people in all countries want cheaply priced items and create the market for the stuff. I do think that I have found poorer quality items here in NZ than I did even in the US though. So I am jointly dissing the Walmarts/Warehouses AND the Chinese slave drivers. I won't shop there and support that type of industry. Just want to be clear about my remarks!!]

I discovered two very good shoe stores, and they have sales. Except my foot size has gone from a 10 to a 41, so I’m not sure what that’s about, but I hope it doesn’t translate to pants or dress sizes in the same way, I don’t think I could handle that . . . oh great, I’ve just learned that women’s dress sizes here are different, I do have to go up a number. DAMN.

All in all, if you visit, I’ll show you my favorite little boutique shops, but if you really want to go for it, join Don and me on our planned semi-annual trek to Christchurch or Wellington where the malls are more like malls (but still not really malls) and there are actual department stores and higher end items. That’ll be like two extra vacations per year for me!! In the meantime, I’ll have to find another outlet for my shopping energy, ie. you all get handknit scarves this year for Christmas!! :)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Quiz night

For those of you fellow fans of the original and only “The Office” you will appreciate our adventure last Friday night when we attended our first Quiz Night. Working at the Nelson City Council has its advantages (and disadvantages, I’ve found, as apparently all the elected servants on the Council are despised in the city—great dinner party talk I discovered on Saturday). Last week at work an advantage presented itself to me via an email from the Social Club.

Yes, my office has a Social Club. For only $1 per week you can catch up with fellow work mates outside the office, do fun things, get discounted movie tickets and bar nights at local pubs. Being a temp, well, to put it correctly, that’s temppc2, I have no official name or presence and still don’t attend staff meetings. As such, I cannot belong to Social club and I’m not really considered one of the 218 staffers at the NCC (learned that at Quiz night, yep). So, I thought I’d just invite my damn-self to this function, first to see what a real quiz night was like because my only knowledge of it was from The Office, but also to meet people and socialize. How out of my body was I that day??!! And I asked if Don could come along, seeing as how we were new in town—of cooourrrse, they said. Partners are always invited. Partner is used here almost exclusively, the PC term. Did I mention that? I’m getting déjà vu.

Anyway, so we were matchmade to a team of others on floor 2B like myself and we had a grand time. Two Americans and two Kiwis plus partners. It was a lot of fun and exactly what The Office told me it would be. You CAN learn a lot from TV!! And quite competitive. Our team was in first place for 4 of the 10 rounds after a stellar—and I do mean sterling—performance by Jen and myself (the two American gals) on the category of Sit-Coms. Due to the Americans' admitted expertise in the subject of television, the group chose the Sit-Com category to be our bonus category. This meant we got double points.

The round came up and we got a page of photos for which we had to identify the name of the sit-com pictured. PIECE of cake. Jen lead us and wrote down all the answers. Hellooo perfect score. But wait, bonus points!!! If you can write at least one actor from the sit-com, you get a second point. My expertise took over and I grabbed the pen and paper and cranked them out. WOO HOO, we rocked.

Alas at the end, the smart teams won the day and we came in 4th out of 8 or 9 teams, stalling on the end on the categories of Quotes and General Knowledge. I shouldn’t even tell you what we scored on the category of Nelson City Council, where you are tested on how much you know about your peers and the Council. All four employees at the table had been in their jobs less than 3 months. It was a miracle we got 3 out of 10 right. [Angela forgot to mention that I almost singlehandly carried the Agent 007 category]

This Monday morning there was a small rehash of the Quiz night activities in my area, as my colleague Jungle, who was on the winning team last year, gave his apologies to a teammate for calling in sick. The teammate seriously stood there and said, Well, mate, we came in second and that’s okay, I guess. I think you have to let others win some of the time, you can’t hog it, you need to spread it around to others. RRRrriight.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Christchurch - Part Deux

The drive from Kaikoura to CC was rather uneventful beyond the fantastic scenery. After crossing a few hills you drop down onto the Canterbury Plains. It started with rolling hills covered with sheep then turned pan flat. Wineries were scattered throughout as well and unbelievable as it may sound, we didn’t stop at any. Entering CC is like that of any large city – traffic increases, houses, industry, etc. We encountered the only other motorway outside of Auckland – about a 5km stretch of separate highway, 2 lanes each. Sweet as. We proceeded directly to our luxury accommodation – turned out to be a very small room in which the queen bed took up almost all the free space. Eh, what can you do, reasonable and close to city centre. Nice to know you still have the boy racers here – we were on a main road and they started up around 9:30pm.

So, Christchurch, what can I say? It is the 2nd largest city in NZ. Granted we were only in town for 2 days, and our first day was gray and cool, but Angela and I both agree that the city isn’t overly appealing. It has its nice parts – Arts Centre, Cathedral Square, and Hagley Park to name them. I was amazed at the flatness of the area - a few hills out east but nothing that dominates the city. We’ve been told that the pollution is horrible here during the winter because of where the city is situated. I assumed this meant in a valley but that’s not it. Maybe those little hills hold it all in – who knows, I won’t hang around to find out. We’ve spoken with many here who share our sentiment – several Americans looking to find a place to settle down agreed that they were not impressed with CC at all. Driving down Blenheim road, for instance, you’d think you were in Denver headed down Wadsworth or Federal. Large furniture stores, food processing plants, car dealerships, strip malls, etc. The streets were congested and it was stop and go between lights. [Angela here: yeah, couldn't agree more. But astonishingly before we came out here we communicated via email and listserv with many Americans who wanted to make ChCh their home. I mean, why even bother leaving the states, really??? It was sprawl and congestion and cars without any highways a la Littleton and Highlands ranch.]

Well we started our day with a Starbucks in the square then headed to the Arts Centre. CC also has an old tram that chauffeurs tourist around a city central loop. It’s funny, but the parts of the route that we encountered seemed to be a bit staged for the tourists. The Arts Centre was nice; it’s housed in several buildings that were originally built for the University of Canterbury. It’s got the historical Euro feel to it. Lunch at the Dux de Lux where I had some great fish patties and Angela went for the quesadilla (not quite what she was expecting). [Angela here: I gambled, I lost. SEE Mom and Dad, THIS is why I hate Las Vegas and gambling.]

We did take a long walk after lunch and uncovered a casino and 2 burrito places – one that we went in looked just like Chipotle, too bad we had just eaten, maybe next time. [Speaking of gambling, I guess both my parents will want to visit ChCh now.]

City Tram.

Arts Centre

Ducks shopping


Angela's heaven

[One thing I'll add here that I really, really noticed. People jaywalk across all city streets all the time and run yellow and red lights in their cars here, just like any city. I wasn't cognizant until now that living in Nelson, people just don't do that. If the light is yellow, you stop the car. Period. Even if there are no cars coming, people will not, absolutely, jay walk across the smallest of streets. We all wait for the appropriate lights to go off and the hearing-impaired noises to tell us when to cross the streets. There are lots of crosswalks in the city centre built for people to have the right of way. And wouldn't you believe it, the cars actually stop, all the time. Small town life is definitely different.]

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Here is a map of our travels, click to enlarge

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Road to Christchurch

Since there is so much to tell and so many pictures, I’ll split this trip into several posts. Plus, I know you were all on the edge of your seats when Angela posted the 3 part mini-series on NZ history so I’ll follow suit (I’ll try to keep mine commercial free as well). I hope you can all handle the suspense from post to post. Anyway, Angela and I decided to take this vacation down to Christchurch and Akaroa (small French village about an hour out of Christchurch) to get away from the hectic days we’ve been putting in and to celebrate Angela’s 35th b-day.

Well, as you know, our shipping container had just arrived so the garage and house were both in disarray but we decided to leave it all for when we returned. We packed the car on Wednesday morning and headed off. We decided to take the coastal route through Kaikoura on our way down to Christchurch (CC from this point on) and take the mountain route back. I’ve attached a few of the pictures from the drive from Blenheim to Kaikoura. (Again, if the names of these towns don’t mean anything or you are unclear about our route, google a map of NZ to help you follow along.)

This route is along the coast and very sparsely populated. I’m sure we mentioned this to many of you when we returned from our vacation here back in January 2005. We still can’t believe the amount of oceanfront land that just sits, untouched by development. It’s nice. The first part of the route is open grassland with a few farms houses, sheep and cows grazing, clusters of trees here and there, and the high mountains in the distance. Then, almost suddenly, well, not really that suddenly, the scene changes and the road is bordered by a cliff down to the ocean on one side and steep hill covered in dense foliage on the other. No bays or inlets here, this is open ocean baby, rough seas thrashing about with waves crashing against the rocky shore and mist spraying shooting high into the air. Definitely much more active than were we live. We did stop at the same seal colony from our last trip and it looked pretty much the same – rocks with lazy seals sleeping the day away. Regardless, I took 30 more pictures of them to add to my collection.

We then proceeded into Kaikoura for a lunch of fish and chips. I’ve added pictures for your enjoyment and to help you understand the experience. Step one is to find a ‘takeaways’ sign which usually indicates a place to get F&C, burgers, pizza, sushi, etc. Check. Second step is to review the menu…errr…chalk board and decide on the type of fish to be deep fried in grease (still not sure type of fish matters, heck, they should let you choose the brand of grease). I believe we both ordered the lunch special for $5 (fish, chips, & sprite). We selected the white fish (all choices are some type of white fish). They end up making their $ on the extras; we had to purchase cans of tartar sauce and ketchup so that added another couple dollars. Well, once our meal was cooked it was served to us in some fancy grease absorbing paper. Good quantity of fish and chips for the price, overall a fantastic meal; hard to beat fish just caught that day. Notice I added a 5 pound salt container in this picture for scale - the meal was brought out to us in a wheel barrel. So there is a reason they are called takeaways, they actually expect you to leave even though they have tables. As you can also tell, these places aren’t high on atmosphere either. So we

proceeded to eat without any silverware – and you couldn’t get it if you wanted it. Anyway, we left happy and full.

Oddly enough, right after we walked out a man ran by us yelling, “A dead body was found in the old schoolyard.” Turns out it wasn’t any old body but the corpse of Professor Higgins. Additionally, this wasn’t an ordinary death, it was MURDER!!!! Coincidence? I think not…. On the edge of your seat yet? Tune in next time for another installment.