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.



Tales of Travel: Fiji

Back in May, Pickle and I had the honour and pleasure of being at a dear friend’s wedding in Fiji. As Tiny had only just started school, we made the difficult decision that he and Tall would stay behind; travelling with just one of my boys was strange and sad, but we were lucky to be travelling with some very good friends who didn’t mind two tag-alongs.

The wedding was held on Plantation Island, which made for a stunning backdrop to our friends’ beautiful, moving ceremony. The bride was carried down the beach by Fijian warriors, and they sealed their 18-year relationship with the sun setting on their heartfelt vows. We sat at tables on the beach and sent lanterns floating off into the sky, and we danced in the sand until the DJ left us in silence. It was so much fun, and such a gorgeous day from start to finish, even though I missed my two biggest boys immensely.

Plantation Island, FijiPlantation Island, Fiji Plantation Island, Fiji Plantation Island, Fiji Plantation Island, Fiji Plantation Island, Fiji Plantation Island, FijiWe only spent two days on Plantation Island, which was enough for Pickle and I; even though our friends were awesome and would have looked after him if I’d asked, I didn’t feel I could go out paddle boarding or exploring by myself. It was also quite expensive to eat and drink, and as there are only a couple of options, the resort had a tendency to charge for everything, knowing we had no choice but to pay for that extra plastic cup to divide up a smoothie. Our accommodation was fine, but the whole resort looked like it needed new paint and a number of repairs (the builders amongst us were horrified at various points!), and their administrative systems were very archaic.

After Plantation Island, we spent four days on Denarau, back on the mainland. This is a man-made island about 20 minutes drive from Nadi Airport, full of resorts and shops aimed at tourists.

We stayed at the Radisson Blu, which was fantastic and well-equipped for children; their swimming pools were well-suited to our group of youngsters, and there were various activities they could get involved in if desired. The rooms were spacious and modern, and the various restaurants were great. Most days we walked to Port Denarau (you can get a bus or a taxi, but we preferred to walk) for breakfast (always at Lulu Bar, Restuarant & Café, who made us things that weren’t on the menu, and did the best smoothies), then spent our afternoons beside the pool. We ordered a few cocktails and enjoyed them poolside, and we had lunch delivered to us while lounging too – we were on holiday, it was cheap, and we were in Fiji! On my last evening, we all booked babysitters and went to Nuku Restaurant & Bar at The Hilton for dinner, which was delicious and a lot of fun.

Denarau, Fiji Denarau, Fiji Denarau, Fiji Denarau, Fiji Denarau, FijiDenarau, Fiji While I was sad to leave the heat and our friends, I was excited to get home and see Tall and Tiny; the holiday was amazing, but it wasn’t the same with half our family missing. Hopefully we’ll get an opportunity to go to Fiji together in the future, as there is so much more of that beautiful country to explore and experiences to be had.

A Spring Wedding

At the end of October, Tall’s little sister married her lovely fiancé in a wonderful ceremony at The Farm. The day we arrived was wet and windy, and Tall’s mother was a little bit stressed…but the wedding day dawned sunny and bright, and the weather held out for a beautiful day. Our biggest was a very proud, and very handsome, page boy, and our littlest looked pretty suave in his shirt and tie.

Waverley Wedding Waverley Wedding Pickle & Pops Waverley Wedding Pickle & Tiny Waverley Wedding Tall, Tiny & Pickle Tiny & Pickle Pickle Waverley Wedding Tiny page boy Tiny page boy Waverley Wedding

Tales of Travel: Sunshine Coast

The brief my husband gave me when we decided to book a family holiday: “somewhere sunny and warm, with a beach. That’s it.”

We tossed up between Fiji and the Sunshine Coast (both of which fit the brief), and in the end, it came down to a matter of (a) cost, and (b) flight times. The former is a pretty obvious consideration, but the latter is also important when travelling with little people; when we took Tiny to Rarotonga, we spent a lot of time in transit, and our flight times weren’t the best, and I couldn’t face doing that with two little ones this time around. When we realised we could fly direct to Brisbane and hire a car, the decision was easily made, and our timing couldn’t have been better: they were experiencing the hottest last-week-of-May for 120 years!

Caloundra is such a lovely town, and one we knew nothing about prior to arriving. I loved the esplanade, with its playgrounds, sculptures and boardwalks. Every day we strolled along the coastline, stopping for the boys to have a play in the parks before getting coffee from Coffee Cat (who also make the most amazing gluten-free limey citrus tarts), then hitting Kings Beach. We also spent a lot of time in the pool in our apartment complex, which gave Tiny a huge boost of water confidence.

Caloundra (6)Caloundra (18)Caloundra (37)From Caloundra, we took a day trip (as it’s less than 25 minutes drives) to Australia Zoo, which was wonderful. Both boys loved it, and I really liked that the focus is on Australian animals (although I did love seeing the giraffes, zebras and tigers); walking amongst kangaroos and being able to pat them is pretty special. Tiny thought the crocodiles were awesome, while Pickle was enamoured with the koalas.

Caloundra (74)Caloundra (66)

We’d heard great things about Noosa, and it didn’t disappoint. Our accomodation was just behind Hastings Street, the main shopping and dining area, and less than five minutes from Main Beach. The beach itself is lovely, with gentle surf and gorgeously-soft sand. We went for daily walks in Noosa National Park, which is just a five minute walk from Main Beach. We passed quiet little bays, headed uphill for beautiful views across the water and strolled through silent forests. We saw a koala bear having a sleep in a tree right beside the path, and watched paddleboarders and surfers enjoying the water. We ate delicious and cheap burgers, and drank mighty-fine coffees at Mali Burger, but the winner of best meal for the entire trip goes to iS Tapas Bar in Noosaville – the most amazing tapas, and a thirst-quenchingly-good sangria.

Noosa (26)Noosa (41)We visited the Eumundi Markets, where the sheer number of stalls is quite overwhelming – there are 550 of them! The food carts all looked amazing, and if I wasn’t limited by having braces, I think I could have eaten from every single one.

On our way back to Brisbane, we cruised down the coast roads, and stopped in Mooloolaba for a stroll along the coast, a play in the parks, and the second-best meal of our trip. I’m glad we chose not to stay there (it is much more built-up than the other towns along the Sunshine Coast, and lacks any real character or charm), but it was a nice place to stop and take a break.

The Sunshine Coast was the perfect spot for a family holiday, and gave us a much-needed dose of vitamin D to see us through the winter months.

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.

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.

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…

Tales of {NZ} Travel: South Canterbury & North Otago

Tales of NZ TravelI haven’t spent a lot of time in South Canterbury or North Otago; usually we have only passed through on our way to somewhere else. In saying that, I was born in Timaru, and did spend a weekend there with my family as a teenager once.

Caroline Bay is a great place for a coastal picnic, with a playground and a pretty rose garden to wander through. The museum has some cool fossils and Maori rock art, and Timaru’s green spaces are plentiful.

There are wallabies in Waimate. Wild ones, even. Crazy.

The historic Victorian quarter is really pretty and nice to explore on foot on a sunny day. Just north of the township is Riverstone Kitchen, a fantastic café/restaurant with quirky gift shops and a great space for kids to let off some steam. Whitestone Cheese is definitely worth stopping at – their Vintage Windsor Blue is divine.

The Waitaki Valley
Stop to see Maori rock art, take pictures of Lake Aviemore and Lake Benmore (the colour of the water is sublime), or stop at Pasquale to try their supreme pinot noir. There are places to fish and swim, and during the summer, this whole area is a popular camping spot.

Famous for two main things: boulders (featured above) and Fleurs Place. The former are a spectacular sight on the coast, massive stones that used to be part of the sea floor millions of years ago (although I like the Maori legend that the boulders are remains of baskets that washed ashore after the legendary canoe that bought the Ngai Tahu to the South Island was wrecked at nearby Shag Point.). The latter is a popular and highly-regarded café in the township, serving the freshest and most simply-cooked fish imaginable. Rick Stein and Gwyneth Paltrow are counted amongst Fleur’s famous fans.

Moeraki New ZealandMoeraki New Zealand Moeraki New ZealandMoeraki New ZealandFleurs Place Moeraki

Tales of {NZ} Travel: Christchurch

Tales of NZ TravelI’m torn. Torn between writing about the Christchurch I knew before, and writing about the Christchurch I know after. Torn between focusing on what was, or focusing on what is and could be in this broken, but slowly, slowly healing, city – our Garden City.


So I’m going to do both. I’m going to tell you about things I loved when I first visited (as an adult; you don’t really want to hear about my experiences as a 10-year-old, swimming at the then-new QEII aquatic centre and eating McDonald’s for the first time…I got a Birdy toothbrush in my Happy Meal!!!), and things that I loved when I last visited, after the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.


I used to love walking through Cathedral Square, shopping for fudge at the Arts Centre and looking through market stalls in the centre of the city. ChristChurch Cathedral was a beautiful building, iconic and striking, and it broke many hearts when it was badly damaged in February 2011. However (and I don’t wish to offend or upset anyone here, so please, please forgive me if I inadvertently do), the Transitional Cardboard Cathedral is also a beautiful striking building, in a completely different way, and I think it reflects the changes the city has been forced to embrace. And perhaps the next building will be better in more ways than we can possibly imagine.


Tall, Tiny and I spent time wandering around Re:START Mall, the container mall in January 2012, and it was fantastic. Bustling, colourful and full of hope, each container was unique and made for a special shopping experience. Many of the main shopping areas in the central city were still closed off at this stage, but being able to shop at the same time as see many of the damaged buildings was a sobering experience.

My first experience of a zoo couldn’t have been better than open-range Orana Park. I have fond memories of feeding and patting a giraffe, and being surprised at how they felt like a short-haired dog – I’d expected them to be velvety-soft.

A great place for a walk or a run, Hagley Park always reminds me of a mini (very mini!) Central or Hyde Park. It’s green and pretty, and always busy. There’s nothing nicer than strolling along the banks of the Avon River, too.


Good coffee is to be found at the Addington Coffee Co-op, while C1 Espresso does a pretty mean eggs Benedict, and has some of the coolest, quirkiest stuff to be found in a café. Special mention must go to The Make Café, a crafter’s paradise serving good food and coffee to satisfy the stomach, and beautiful fabrics and crafty goodies to satisfy the soul. I got to spend lots of time at the two latter cafés last year when I attended Around the Table and met some of my favourite and bestest blogging friends.

AngeMeghanMelissa MeghanAnge      For a long time, Christchurch will continue to be a work in progress, and I admire everyone who is endeavouring to make it better, brighter and more beautiful than ever before xoxo

Tales of {NZ} Travel: Akaroa

Tales of NZ TravelI was fast asleep as we wound our way down the hill to Akaroa; Tall poked me in the arm and told me I had to see the view. Under normal circumstances, I probably would have poked him back, but the sight of yachts bobbing gently on the harbour stopped me in my tracks. It was beautiful, with a cloudless blue sky and the late morning sun glinting off the clear waters, and I was quickly shaken out of my (2012)pregnancy-induced sleep.

Akaroa New Zealand

Akaroa is a popular French and British settlement about an hour out of Christchurch; it has a sleepy feel but was still busy on a mid-January weekend. We drove in behind trucks towing boats, and saw the doors and windows of holiday homes being flung open by newly-arrived guests.

Akaroa New Zealand

There are a surprising number of things to do in Akaroa; surprising given the size of the place, mainly. There are various walks of varying degrees, mostly taking you through the town and past numerous historic buildings. Taking a stroll past the little boutiques and galleries is a must, as is stopping to eat ice creams on the beach. A little further past the main shopping area is a café selling pretty decent pastries; near the tour booking offices there’s a bakery-slash-café that sells the best, chewiest baguettes I’ve had since leaving the Northern Hemisphere. We ate a lovely meal at a French bistro on the waterfront, close to the playground which meant we could eat and watch Tiny playing to his heart’s content when he’d finished his meal.

Tiny - Akaroa

We went on a dolphin-spotting cruise on the harbour, which was excellent. They provided a refreshing drink onboard, and kept Tiny entertained so Tall and I could spend some time together, leaning perilously over the side of the boat to look for the speedy little Hector’s dolphins (the world’s smallest and rarest). We learned a lot about the area in general; it was interesting to hear how the tour operators across the region had to change their tour routes following the Christchurch earthquake (for example, they used to take boats into the caves looming along the mouth of the harbour, but for obvious safety reasons, they were no longer doing so). There are a variety of providers, and options for swimming with dolphins, fishing etc.

Akaroa New Zealand IMG_8584 Akaroa New Zealand Tiny - Akaroa
Our only “issue” during our stay was the presence of ants in our motel room. We spoke to the manager who feigned concern, but didn’t do anything about it. As unintentional payback…Tiny hid a teaspoon in our bags.