A family trip to New Plymouth – Part 1.

Any good road trip should start with road trip snacks so we make our way to a local bakery, Fix Federation. The Lower Hutt Sweet As Challange is on and I want to try their Biscoff Smash Hot Chocolate.

Yes, it’s as good as it looks! This trip is off to a good start.

We are heading to New Plymouth for a family holiday. We will be joined by my Mum, Dad, brother, sister in law, nephew and niece. Last Christmas we decided not to do gifts, and instead put that money towards a family trip. Finally, we have made it happen.

It’s a bright, sunny, winter’s day. I like days like this, it’s crisp and cool. Trees are bare silhouettes, having dropped all their leaves, it feels kind of magical.

We stop for lunch in Wanganui to spend some time with my aunt and uncle. They have a cute little dog named Millie and a reptile friend. I say “Look at the lizard Lachie” he replies with “It’s a bearded Lizard Auntie Lani” Noted, thanks Lachie!

As we get closer to Taranaki, we can see the mountain, there are clouds on the peak, but we can see the snow line. We were hoping we might be able to get the kids to the snow, but it looks way too high for that. We will have to save that for another trip.

We arrive at the house and it is beautiful, it’s very large, which will be perfect for all the family and it has an indoor pool and spa pool. What more could you need? Of course it doesn’t take long before the kids are into their togs and enjoying the warm water of the spa pool. It’s a nice way to end a long day of travel.

I wake in the morning to little whispers coming from the end of the bed. Lachie and Lily have snuck into our room and are whispering at the end of the bed, trying to decide if we are awake. I lift up the covers and they both get in for some morning snuggles. I love this part of family holidays. It’s so special to spend some quality time with them.

Today is Miss Lily’s 3rd birthday and my brother is cooking up a birthday breakfast, crepes, fruit salad and scrambled eggs. James is a pretty good cook and I always like going away on holiday with him!

It’s Lily’s day today, so she gets to choose what we do. She wants to go to the park, so we head out to Pukekura Park. We came here last year with Daniel’s family, but it was at night for the Lights Festival. It’s nice to experience the park in the daylight.

The park is tranquil. Mature trees, a lake and an abundance of bird life. I like being in the forest away from home, it’s noticeably different. We are north of home and the foliage feels more tropical with lots of palms dotted amongst more familiar trees.

It’s another lovely winter day. Out in the open, the sun is glorious, I can feel its warmth on my skin. In the bush, it’s pretty cold, but the forest has a gorgeous, damp, earthy smell. We amble along, it’s a large park, and make our way to the Bowl of Brooklands – a large grassy hill that looks down towards a stage. This would be such a great place to see an outdoor concert.

The reason we have wandered up here is to go to the Brooklands Zoo. It turns out to be a pretty cool little zoo. They have a great range of animals, farmyard animals like pigs and llamas, a reptile house (no bearded lizards this time) birds, primates and other creatures. The capybaras were great, I know they are the world’s largest rodent, I just hadn’t realised quite how big they get! Another favourite were the monkeys. They had several species. I find them fascinating to watch, their swinging and climbing ability is outstanding.

I think my favourite though, was the Burmese pheasant. A very colourful bird, (obviously the male) was running around all over the aviary, feathers puffed out, trying to impress the ladies, none of whom seemed the least bit interested. He was very persistent, animated and entertaining to watch.

After our little outing to the zoo, Daniel and I head off into the city center for some lunch. We choose an Indian restaurant, purely because we liked the name, Arranged Marriage. They serve South Indian cuisine and I loved that they served lunch sized portions. It was the perfect amount and really delicious. Especially their naan, that was yum!

In the afternoon, I spend some time decorating a birthday cake for Lily while everyone else makes their way to the pool. It doesn’t take long before they all start migrating towards the spa pool though. Apparently the pool isn’t very warm. When I join them, the music is playing and the drinks are flowing.

The day is finished with an Italian dinner at Belle Vita as Miss Lily loves antipasti platters, especially olives. I think she ate most of the olives that we got for the starter. I of course had a pizza. It’s got to be one of my favourite foods!

A Little Olde Country Town Called Geraldine

It’s perfect weather for flying and I am excited to be heading away on this trip with the extended family. My in-laws, sister in-laws, brother in-laws and nieces and nephews. All 13 of us on the same flight. We are heading to Geraldine in South Canterbury for a wedding.

We weren’t even sure if we were going to be able to attend the wedding, but fortunately the Covid restrictions were lifted to gathering of 100 people allowed only 3 days before the wedding.

Wellington and the South Island have put on a spectacular day, the views from the plane are outstanding. Snow on the distant ranges and not a cloud in sight.

We land in Timaru and after a few dramas with the rental car we are on our way. (our booking had mysteriously been canceled the day before, not by us and the car we booked was no longer available) The company was really good though and upgraded us to a beast of a car, a huge truck-like Ute that was so much bigger than we needed, but will be fun for the next couple of days.

Driving through Timaru, I fall in love with all the blossoms. It’s lovely to travel in the Springtime. We have a family lunch before making our way to Geraldine. I am keen to get a walk in, so Daniel and I head off to Peel Forest. It is such a clear day that Daniel is able to point out Small Mount Peel, Medium Mount Peel and Big Mount Peel as we head towards the park. Apparently the climb to the top of Small Mount Peel is a day walk, the walk to the summit of Medium and Big Mount Peel requires a much higher level of fitness and a good sense of direction (that rules me out) as a lot of that track is unmarked.

There are a lot of walks you can do in this park, I pick out one called Dennistoun Bush Track. It is meant to be a flat, easy walking loop track that takes about an hour. Flat – yes, easy – yes, an hour – not even. We did this walk in about 20 minutes and I was quite disappointed it was over so quickly. The track was a bit overgrown / branches over the track in places, perhaps from a recent storm. Despite the length of this walk, it was still great to be outdoors in the fresh air, amongst the trees. It’s a perfect, still day for a walk and I admire the large old trees with twisted branches, supporting so much life.

Located in Peel Forest is The Church of the Holy Innocents. It was built in 1869 and is a gorgeous little stone church. It was damaged a few yeas back in an earthquake, but has been restored and open once again. If you like old churches, it is well worth a look.

We make our way back into Geraldine town center, encountering a typical New Zealand country road along the way.

Even though I have never lived here, visiting this place I always feel a little bit like I am coming home. With Daniel having grown up here, several visits and family in the area, the place is familiar with great memories. So it does in a way, feel like home.

We check into our accommodation, a B&B called Hewling’s Manor. It’s such a delightful place in a beautiful garden setting and sun drenched porch. There are lots of interesting antiques and details around the place, and the host, Julie, is so attentive, friendly and accommodating. She even left us some afternoon tea for our arrival. Julie also has a gorgeous rescue greyhound who we get to give lots of pats and cuddles. I am only disappointed that we didn’t get to spend more time here. The rest of the day is spent with family.

My morning begins with the yummy breakfast Julie provided, enjoyed on the sun soaked porch. It’s wedding day, Daniel is busy setting up the sound system so I spend some time at the park with my nieces and nephews. It’s funny to think this is where Daniel would have played when he was a child. After making myself feel ill from spinning on some of the playground equipment (just can’t handle it like I used to when I was a kid) I trade in the playground for the local shops. It’s nice to spend some time wandering around and doing a bit of window shopping.

My mother-in-law and I head over to Verde Cafe. I really like this place, it has great food and a good selection of Vegetarian / Vegan / Gluten free options, but what I like most is the pretty outdoor garden setting. It’s even better in the Spring when all the blossoms are out.

Next door, a local band is paying in the park so we head over and watch them for a while. Then it’s time to get ready for the Wedding. I really like Geraldine and it’s small town country vibes and slower paced lifestyle. It speaks to my soul a lot more than living in the city. I think someday, I would love to live in a place where everybody knows your name.

A Weekend at the Beach

Where ever you are in New Zealand, you are never far from the coast. Having holidays on the beach is part of the great Kiwi lifestyle. So this weekend, I headed away to Waitarere Beach with my family.

Waitarere is a small beach town located on the West Coast of the North Island, about an hours drive north of the Kapiti Coast. There are parks, reserves, a small shop and a wide, sandy beach. Perfect for a weekend escape.

We call in to see my Grandmother for lunch before heading on, making a stop at the RJ’s Licorice Factory to pick some essential supplies for our beach break.

I haven’t been to Waitarere before, well not that I can remember anyway. While I am looking forward to exploring the area, I think I am most looking forward to some R&R time, great food (my brother is an excellent cook) but mostly, just having chill time with my family. I am with my mum, dad, brother, sister in law, 4 year old nephew and 1 year old niece. Daniel has stayed home. He works Saturdays and holidays aren’t really his thing. (He is one of those fortunate people that love their job so much, they would rather be at work than on holiday!)

I have booked us a bach through Book a Bach. Its my first time using this service but everything goes smoothly. We arrive, decide on rooms, unpack and then before long we are down at the beach enjoying sun, sand and sea.

I can’t remember the last time I took my shoes off and walked barefoot on the beach. I am at the beach most weekends with my dogs, but our local spot is pretty stoney. As I sink my toes into the sand and feel the cold chill (yes, it’s Spring, but it’s by no means tropical) of the ocean swirl around my ankles, city life drains out of me as I connect with nature and the environment around me.

Lachie, my 4 year old nephew, is having the time of his life, jumping over waves, running away from them, getting buried in sand and squealing with delight. It takes me back to carefree childhood days and I feel so young again. My life has become so serious and responsible, I need to make time for childlike fun.

I turn around to find that Master 4 decided my shoes were to far away. He brought them closer and next minute the waves pick them up and they start floating away.

Back at the house, bubbles, chippies and cheese come out as we sit around the outside table chatting and soaking in the setting sun. Then a water pistol appears out of no where and I am the favorite target.

Dinner is a simple BBQ and salad, but shared among family in the outdoor setting, it is perfect.

The next morning, I start my day in the outdoor shower which is incredible. The water is hot and I slowly wake up while listening to the birds. It is then followed by a gourmet cooked breakfast courtesy of my brother.

After a leisurely start to the day, we wander down to the nearby forest. A wander through some tall pine trees brings us to the fairy forest. Its easy to miss the magic of a place like this, but I am given the opportunity to view it through the eyes of a child. They see beauty in the simple things and awe in the mysterious.

Continuing with our walk we come across an outdoor obstacle course of various difficulties. We all pick and choose the parts we want to tackle, I am no where near as agile as I used to be but manage a few of them.

We make our way back to the house along the beach, foraging for shells (now hanging on my Christmas tree) and other treasures. Shoes of course come off again and we spend a good hour playing in the waves and sand. We have also grabbed the petanque set and have a few games on the beach.

After lunch I take an afternoon nap on the deck, enjoying the warmth of the sun, until I am rudely awakened by the water pistol again. No, it’s not my 4 year old nephew, but my 35 year old brother. He still knows how to have childlike fun!

Dinner is another wonderful affair, simple, but isn’t it often the way that the simple things offer the most pleasure in life? I make one last trip down to the beach in the evening to watch the sun set. I am accompanied by my sister in law and her rabbit!

The morning is greeted by another outdoor shower. Today, I am on breakfast so I whip up some buttermilk pancakes with berry compote.

Our time here has come to an end but it has been wonderful. Knowing that places like this exist, so close to where I live, makes me again so thankful that I live where I do.

The family all agree that we should make this an seasonal event, so watch this space. I hope to be bringing you a summer edition in the next 3 months!