Family Fun: Monarch Cruise

If you ever visit Dunedin, you should book a cruise on the Monarch.

We were lucky enough to win a one-hour family voucher at a quiz night, and we had an amazing afternoon cruising the Otago Harbour, looking out for seals and albatross.

As you can see, those big, beautiful sea birds are great flirts.

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There and Back Again: road tripping in New Zealand

14 days, 2400 kilometres, two calm ferry rides, one horrible virus, one broken contact lens, and countless family memories.

Dunedin to Waverley and back again by car, with various side trips along the way.

What a way to spend the school holidays.

Dunedin – Kurow – Lake Tekapo – Christchurch – Blenheim – Waverley – Wellington – Hanmer Springs – Methven – Dunedin

Hakataramea Valley Hakataramea Valley Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo Lake Tekapo Lake Tekapo Kaikoura Fur seal, Kaikoura Moa Brewery, Blenheim Moa Brewery, Blenheim Virginia Lake, Wanganui Virginia Lake, Wanganui Virginia Lake, Wanganui Wellington Hanmer Springs Hanmer Springs Hanmer Springs Hanmer Springs Terrace Downs Terrace Downs

Tales of {NZ} Travel: Dunedin {part two}

Tales of NZ TravelFor a small city, there is a lot to do in Dunedin, depending on your interests, travelling companions and budget. Since having children, I’m more inclined to seek out interesting places and things to do, and it’s been wonderful seeing my home town through renewed eyes. I love it here, and even though we probably won’t stay here forever, it’s a good place to be right now.Cargills Castle Dunedin New ZealandPlaygrounds
If you’re travelling with children, and the day is fine, you’ll be spoiled for choice with playgrounds. Playgrounds we love are Marlow Park in St Kilda (locally known as “The Dinosaur Park”, after its giant dinosaur slide), and Arthur Street in City Rise (the flying fox is great fun). Dunedin Botanic Garden is great for children – you can feed ducks, clamber all over Peter Pan and assorted other sculptures, enjoy a coffee in the café, chat to the birds in the aviary, and wander through the Rose Garden. Woodhaugh Gardens is often very sheltered when the rest of the city isn’t; during the summer, there’s a wading pool for the kids, and the recently-upgraded playground is loads of fun. There are walking tracks to explore too.

Woodhaugh Gardens Dunedin New ZealandDunedin Botanic Garden New ZealandMuseums
Otago Museum is a great place to explore, for kids and adults alike. There’s the Animal Attic (a collection of wild and exotic animals), Discovery World (lots of fun hands-on scientific experiments), and the Tropical Rainforest (ideal for a cold day; full of beautiful butterflies). Toitu Otago Settlers Museum has a focus on early Otago, with a photograph hall full of the earliest settlers (including ancestors of mine), and a wonderful transport hall with vehicles you can “ride” on. Toitu is also the home of Josephine, a fabulous train that every kid seems to love.

Beaches
Being a coastal city, Dunedin is spoiled for beautiful beaches – but be prepared for chilly waters, even on the hottest of days! Most popular are St Clair and St Kilda, which are great for swimmers, sunbathers and surfers alike, but if you are a beach-lover, it’s worth investigating smaller beaches such as Smaills, Tomahawk and Brighton. Long Beach is perfect for rock-climbing, and the walk down to Tunnel Beach is dramatic and beautiful.

St Clair Beach Dunedin New ZealandThe Peninsula
Quite possibly one of Dunedin’s most explored areas, The Peninsula can be explored in one day if you have a car. There’s the Albatross Colony (expensive, and only worth the time and money when the birds are in flight, coming and going from their nests), the currently-closed-for-earthquake-repairs  aquarium, Broad Bay China (a vintage crockery lover’s heaven) and assorted places to spy penguins (try Sandfly Bay for guaranteed sightings, but be prepared for the size of the sand dunes!).

Port Chalmers
On the other side of the harbour to The Peninsula lies sleepy, quaint Port Chalmers. This is where cruise ships dock during the summer, and it is home to a number of fabulous galleries and second-hand shops. There is a seafood festival held every two years, which is definitely one for the calendar.

Views
Dunedin is a city of hills, and the great thing about hills is that they offer amazing views. Put on your walking shoes and clamber up Mt Cargill, or Flagstaff, or to the Organ Pipes. Take a drive up to Signal Hill, and meet The Buddhas.

Signal Hill, Dunedin, New ZealandTourist Attractions
As with any city or town, there are always places deemed “tourist attractions”. In Dunedin, that means Baldwin Street (the world’s steepest), the gorgeous Railway Station, and the clocktower of the University of Otago. There’s also Cadbury World (I recently took Tiny on the 75-minute tour, and he loved it), First Church, Larnach Castle, historic Olveston and Speight’s Brewery.

Larnach Castle Dunedin New ZealandShopping
If shopping is your thing, there are the usual stores and malls on the main street, with good op shops and fabulous designer stores dotted around the surrounding streets. On a Saturday morning, The Otago Farmers Market (widely regarded as one of the best in the country) is a great place to buy local produce, or grab a bite to eat.

Eating Out
There are too many cafés and restaurants worth visiting to list them all here, but personal favourites are Plato, Scotia, Two Chefs and Table Seven, with Modaks, Nova and Mazagram as my picks for the best coffee.

I could go on and on about what there is to do here, but I won’t, because I’m hoping the little I’ve shared will be enough to entice you to come and see how beautiful and fun this little city truly is!

Tales of {NZ} Travel: Dunedin {part one}

Tales of NZ TravelIt seems only right to end my New Zealand travel series here in Dunedin, my hometown. The lovely little city that I left in 2007, and returned to in 2010; the little city that sometimes drives me insane with its size, but is the only place I wanted to raise our children.

During the university year, the population of Dunedin is approximately 170,000. Around 50,000 of those people are students, so come summer holiday time, the streets are quieter and much less colourful. When we first arrived back, I would get quite frustrated at the lack of people, the lack of change, the lack of pace – coming from London, then the bustling cities of South America, Dunedin just felt sleepy and tiny. I remember overhearing two men discussing how “busy” town was one particular day, as I giggled about being able to weave and swerve without upsetting the pedestrian “flow”.

Signal Hill, Dunedin, New ZealandDunedin is a beautiful city, surrounded by hills, the harbour and beaches. Green spaces abound, with many walking tracks in close proximity to the town centre. In saying that, nothing is much further than 15 minutes from town; the airport is the exception, but even this is only 20-30 minutes away.

There is something in Dunedin for every kind of tourist. Beaches for surfy types, museums and galleries for arty types, op shops and design stores for fashionable types. There are so many things to do with children of all ages, meaning we are not often at a loss as to what to do or where to go. We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to exceptional cafés, restaurants and bars, and there’s a great coffee culture which has emerged in recent years.

To be continued…

A Casual Sunday Morning Stroll

Over the (pathetic-excuse-for) summer, a group of friends and I have been walking at least once a week while our biggest ones are at kindy. We bundle our not-so-little littlest ones into their buggies, load up with drink bottles, snack boxes and sun- and rain-shades, and go for an 8km power walk.

As the summer has gone on, those hills have gotten easier, and we’ve been getting faster. During the holidays, we even took double-buggies, each pushing more than 30kg of children and buggy up those hills. Okay, so we only did that once, but we did it, which is the point here.

Stadium to Surf Dunedin 2014
On Sunday, we participated in the Dunedin Stadium to Surf 10km fun run/walk, sans children. We crossed the finish line at 1hour, 40minutes, a time we were all more than happy with, given that it was 2km more than we were used to.

Stadium to Surf Dunedin 2014
Along the way, we saw Ms D’s partner and kiddies having their morning tea – Mr W had cut up orange quarters to offer us. We also had Mrs C’s husband, sister and kiddies drive past a few times, horn tooting, hands waving, car covered in signs saying “GO MUM!” and “Yummy Mummy Support Crew”. They made our day….and the day of many people walking near us.

Stadium to Surf Dunedin 2014Stadium to Surf Dunedin 2014

It was great fun, and a small personal achievement. I’ve often thought about doing a fun walk, but never actually did anything about it until this year. And who knows? Maybe I’ll run it next year.

Things I’m Loving

~ more Elvish fun with Fernando; hard to believe there are only 3 mornings left of Tiny rushing off to find him.

Elf7 Elf8~ this dribbly little fella; the gums are swollen and the dribble is continuous, so we’re expecting a tooth any day now….but fully aware that it might be a long way off.

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~ taking the boys to Toitu, the re-vamped Otago Early Settlers Museum; seeing the Tiger Tea bus once more, but no longer in a dusty, musty, fusty old museum = fantastic.

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~ reliving my childhood and taking Tiny to see Pixie Town at Toitu.

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~ discovering Santa sitting unassumingly and non-commercially in the corner of the museum, and being able to take my own photos.

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~ little boys asleep in sun shades outside.

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~ being able to celebrate Christmas early with my parents, so they could enjoy watching their grandsons* open their gifts.

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* obviously Pickle is too small to open presents, but don’t worry, Tiny helped him (and everyone else) out.

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Linking up with Meghan for my last Things I’m Loving of 2012 (I’ll be taking a bloggy break over Christmas and New Year)

Loving

Journey to 35: The End of the Last Month

This month, I set out to achieve some random goals, ones I’ve sneakily been working since I found out I was pregnant. I knew that regardless of when Pickle arrived, I would probably not have the same energy to devote to this, so figured you’d cut me a bit of slack 🙂

Goal One was to spend time exploring our city and country, to play at being tourist and see things through Tiny’s eyes.

~ I’ve made a concerted effort to find new playgrounds (with a bit of help from my friend’s website, New Zealand Playgrounds) for us to explore, and it’s been so much fun. There’s one with a cool fort just a 10-minute walk away, and I never even knew! We’ve been for loads of walks, and have enjoyed exploring the Botanic Garden – places we’ve been to before, but have always rushed through.

~ Over the summer, we went on a two-week road trip: Dunedin – Wanaka – Hokitika – Nelson – Blenheim – Hanmer Springs – Akaroa – Dunedin. It was awesome, and Tiny was such an easy traveller (he had a meltdown on the last day, on the drive from Akaroa home, but by then, we were all over it!). We had so much fun doing touristy things like visiting ShantyTown, and going on a harbour cruise to see dolphins, and it really made us appreciate even more this beautiful country we live in.

Goal Two was to stop saving things for “good”, to wear nice clothes, use the good cutlery, drink the nice wine and enjoy what we have.

~ When we’ve had people over for dinner – even if it’s just my parents – we’ve been using the nice cutlery set we were given as a wedding present. It’s so lovely and weighty, and I love the feel of it; it’s amazing how it made our simple home-cooked dinners seem all the more special.

~ Tall’s mum has been staying with us for a few days and we decided to open one of our “good” bottles of wine: a Chard Farm Finla Mor Pinot Noir. We bought it from the winery in 2010 and I’m not sure what we were saving it for, but knowing how much Nana enjoys it, we decided it was the right time to drink it.

~ Breastfeeding and wearing “good” clothes doesn’t really work, but I’ve recently purchased two lovely breastfeeding tops, and instead of saving them for days I’m heading out, I’ve been wearing them whenever I like. I might be wearing slippers and jeans that have been peed on by someone with very good aim, but they’ve made me feel pretty, and that’s been cool.

Goal Three was to keep our home clutter free, and to think about what we bring into it.

~ Our dining table was once a dumping ground for everything you could possibly imagine. Before Pickle arrived, I filed away all the papers we needed to keep, and found homes for all the random items that had been breeding there. Since then, I’ve been keeping the surfaces as clear as possible, and filing as things arrive. I need order and neatness in my life, and while I’m happy with toys spread all over the lounge while Tiny’s awake, they are all tucked away where they belong at the end of the night, before I can relax.

~ I’ve started an Op Shop box of clothes, books and toys that are in excellent condition that we don’t wear anymore, and this has made much more space in drawers and on shelves, plus it makes me feel good, knowing that someone else can use our unwanted items.

Goal Four was to stick to a budget.

~ We’ve never been very good at keeping track of our spending, but with the constant rising prices for groceries and petrol, I’ve started to think seriously about it. I’ve noticed that our weekly groceries are about $30 more than six months ago, and therefore have been trying to buy more wisely. I’ve been thinking about what’s in season, what we have in the freezer and pantry, and how far we can make things stretch. It’s been a fun little challenge (anything to do with food, I love), and I think I’ve done pretty well with sticking to our limit.

~ Being at home with a newborn and a toddler has curtailed my spending somewhat too! It isn’t so easy to pop into a store with two children, and this has helped with all the unnecessary spending I had fallen into.

So, there it is. The end of the last month. I think I’ve done okay; I’m happy with how this month has gone, and I’m happy with those goals I achieved through a little bit of forward planning.

Now I’m off to think about my year as a whole, and I’ll be back – there’s a lot of concluding to be done!