A slight contrast in weather โ„๏ธ

I know, I know, it’s taken me absolutely ages to write this. We’ve now been back in London for five weeks but it’s just been so busy. So here it is, my final post of the trip – I hope you enjoy and definitely consider a trip to Canada (after all it’s only 7 hours away).
Toronto is such a lovely city, albeit super cold (it hit -7 degrees on our first day). We really were not prepared for the weather so had to buy hats, scarves and gloves on our trip. We treated Toronto as a city break right at the end of our trip so spent our four days eating, roaming museums and trying to stay warm. Below are a few things which we did and may be helpful for anyone wanting to visit the city. I didn’t take as many pictures as normal mainly because I didn’t want to remove my mittens ๐Ÿ˜‚ but hopefully you get a feel of the city from the pictures below.


St Lawrence Market – located in the Old Town, St Lawrence is the destination for everything produce related. There are so many stalls spread over two floors selling anything from ginger to Toronto hats. Obviously I headed straight to the bakery stall and ordered a chocolate mousse cake. It was delicious and pretty reasonable price wise. Did I need it? No, but it was good. 

Kensington Market – Personally I wouldn’t call this a market. It’s more of a collection of small independent shops selling souvenirs, vintage clothes and lots more. The area is pretty trendy with lots of young people and quirky eateries. We needed up at Big Fat Burrito for lunch where the food was epic. It’s nice when you can get a veggie meal which still tastes epic – and it did. The tacos had two layers of tortilla sandwiched together with cheese – yum. Jack couldn’t finish his burrito ๐Ÿ˜‚.

Gooderham building – Again, in the Old Town, this red brick building is similar to the flat iron building in NYC and has roads running both sides. It’s a really pretty building and deserves a view whilst in the old town. 


Union Station – nothing on Grand Central, but a grand old building with a sign outside which is prefect for pics. 


City Hall – In front of the main building is the “Toronto” sign which lights up at night and is the place for a perfect souvenir picture. If you catch it at the right time, when there is water in the pool in front, then the reflection looks beaut (although the traffic cone ruined my pic ๐Ÿ˜‚).


Royal Ontario Museum – as it was so cold we thought we would try some indoor activities (quite a contrast to the rest of our trip) so hit up the main museum in the city. Entrance was about $15 each, but there is so much to see that you could easily spend a day there. The dinosaur exhibition was the standout part and reminded me of The Natural History Museum in London. We spent most of the time debating whether the animals in the other exhibitions were stuffed or replicas- I’m still not 100% sure. There were some great bits to see but try and avoid school trip times – you’ll know before you enter as there are 10s of the classic yellow school busses lined up outside.


Bats Shoe Museum – not something that was on my radar before we went to Toronto, but it was pretty interesting. There were loads of historic shoes, current shoes and everything in between: although mainly women’s shoes so Jack was a bit upset. We were one of the only groups in the museum so it’s not massively popular but worth it if you have a spare hour or so. 


Eaton Centre – Toronto definitely makes it easy to stay inside. This mall was absolutely huge and had every shop you could ask for along with a very large food hall – that was lunch sorted one day. I picked up some gym gear for really cheap in a sale and were then drawn into Abercombie by the smell (Abercrombie is super cheap in Canada ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ).

Obviously whilst we were in Toronto, we had to experience Niagara Falls. After doing loads of research, we chose the cheapest option of getting to the falls – Megabus. The busses were at funny times, we didn’t really want to spend the whole day there and we wanted to see the falls lit up at night. So, we decided to get the 4.30pm coach and then the 10pm coach home. The coach took about two hours each way, so although it didn’t give us loads of time there, we were able to see the falls before dark, at night and have time for dinner in between. BTW – the bus garage is a little way out of the town and cost us about $20 in a taxi. 

The falls were spectacular, but don’t expect the classic picture which circulates on Instagram. The water vapour coming off the falls creates a cloud in the middle which isn’t great for visibility, but it’s still amazing. As we were there in their winter, none of the boat trips run but I bet that would be amazing (especially after dark). The town itself is trying to be Vegas with flashy hotels and casinos. We didn’t see much, but I can’t imagine I wouldn’t want to stay there much longer especially as Toronto is such a lovely city. As already mentioned, it was bitterly cold whilst we were in Toronto. The locals were used to it (our airbnb host walking around in just a suit) but for us it was freezing, especially with added rain at the falls. We made an art of taking a pic and then running back inside to warm up ๐Ÿ˜‚.


Some places we tried for food/ drinks (bear in mind we were on a budget at this point, so nothing fancy for us – hence why I now weigh so much more ๐Ÿ™ˆ).

  • The pint house – a cute little pub which showed all the sports so Jack was super happy. 
  • Hero certified burger – a DIY burger joint where they have loads of different toppings that you can add. I tried the veggie patty. I wasn’t sure about having a salmon burger but apparently it’s really good. It’s a chain so I’m sure you would be able to spot one somewhere in the city.
  • Olympic 76 pizza cafe – a hidden gem. The service wasn’t brilliant but it was clearly a family affair. The food was great and super cheap. It was round a backstreet and seemed to be a hit with the locals. 

Love as always xx

P.s. I don’t think I’ll be posting for a while as my life in London isn’t half as interesting as traveling the world, but I’ll keep you updated as a when I have something to say. Thank you so much for being loyal throughout. 

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California, here we comeeeee ๐ŸŽถ (part 2)ย 

So after LA, San Diego, Joshua Tree, Vegas, Death Valley, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, it was time to head to San Francisco. The drive from Yosemite wasn’t bad and we were pleased to get back to an Airbnb. Our room was just south of the city and a quick drive or train ride. I had a nap in our comfy bed as I was tired after the drive, but once I was refreshed we headed into the city and over to Pier 39, a shopping and dining complex on the water. On the way we managed to get a chip on the windscreen of the rental car (which got worse throughout our trip – luckily we just handed the car back and didn’t have to pay anything). We had a wander and had a look in some of the most random shops like the left handed shop, the sock market and magnetron. We both fancied pizza so headed to Luigi’s. We were about to order a large pizza to share when the waiter advised us a small or medium would be fine. He was right, we didn’t finish the medium pizza. The weather was lovely, with blue skies, but drops to a stupid temperature after dark – we were not dressed for the weather. 


We had to do the touristy thing and have a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. Obviously we chose the foggiest day of our stay, so the main viewpoints we wanted to visit had absolutely no visibility. It’s a strange sensation when you can’t see more than 20 metres ahead. On our drive back over the bridge, the fog started to clear so we stopped off at Chrissy fields and managed to snap a couple of pics. We were lucky to have our car, but lots of people seemed happy cycling around the city or whizzing around on go kart tours (funny little yellow cars with audio commentary – such a novelty idea but I bet it’s pretty good). We followed google maps and Jack’s improving navigation skills to hunt down Doubtfire house. I wouldn’t have been able to spot the house in a line up as my memory of all things films is awful, but Jack spotted it and we both had flash backs to the film – definitely want to see it again. We were getting a bit peckish so drove towards home for a milkshake. I had been my organised self and found the best milkshake bars in SF. The one we visited was Tonys cable car restaurant. The restaurant is designed as a cable car which is cute and it only seats about 20. The milkshakes were so thick and cheap – deffo what we needed. Tired from darting all over town, we chilled pre dinner and then went for a curry.


As we were making our way around a variety of sports whilst travelling, Jack had booked for us to watch an ice hockey game in the evening, so we had a chilled day which started with brunch at Mama’s. This cute little restaurant is only open till 3pm each day and is a SF favourite with queues all the time. We waited about 45 mins for a table, but boy was it worth it. Just check out the picture below. Jack had a whopping omelette and I fancied something sweet so ordered French toast – that’s my allowance for the year used up. We both loved the food and at only $35 it was reasonable for how much food we had. We left SF to drive to San Jose for the Sharks game late afternoon. The drive was only meant to be 50 mins but took slightly longer with traffic so it was good we allowed more time than needed – as per. Dinner was fast food at Five Guys, then we had a drink pre game mainly to warm us up before entering the ice stadium. I actually really enjoyed the game and definitely would see another one. The funny thing with ice hockey is that they just fight each other and get put in the sin bin ๐Ÿ˜‚- makes good entertainment. It did get a bit chilly towards the end, which wasn’t helped by the fact the sharks lost! 


Another day of sightseeing was on the cards for our last day in San Fran. We got the train into central to board the famous cable car. We had great weather which was good as the queues were pretty long. I doubt this is something that changes whether it is rainy or sunny. We took the cable car to the end of the line at Fishermans Wharf. By that time we were pretty hungry so stopped at Boudin (famous for its sourdough) for lunch. Jack tried the sourdough soup bowl which we are told is a SF staple and I was boring with a tuna sandwich – both were yum. There was a little arcade museum on the square so we tried our luck on some old fashioned games – we had a great time and spent $2. Some of the games dated back to the Victorian times. The cable car queue back was long again so we tried give it some time to reduce at Buena Vista, a bar/restaurant famous for its Irish coffee. I tried an Irish coffee and Jack had a Guinness out of respect as it happened to be St Patrick’s day. Union square is also really nice and is surrounded by shops. As we were heading to Toronto next, I was looking for a coat which I found in H&M for $30 – result! Dinner was another google find called La Taqueria which had amazing burritos for about ยฃ5 each. Everyone had the same idea as the queue was out the door.


The next day we had 6 hr drive to Santa Monica where we were spending our last couple of days. We were actually only meant to spend an afternoon there prior to our early flight out of LAX, but this plan changed as part of route 1 was closed. The drive didn’t seem that long as we stopped for petrol a couple of times and then at Subway for lunch – the veggie patty here is actually so good. We didn’t arrive till late afternoon so had a break from driving and then went out to experience In N Out burger for dinner. As a SoCal staple, it was packed, but the food wasn’t as good as we had expected so were a tiny but disappointed but glad we had tried it. 


We had unintentionally timed our stay in Santa Monica to coincide with the LA marathon (Santa Monica being the finish line) so everywhere was packed. I found a cute brunch place called M Street Kitchen where the food was great and the mimosas even better. After stuffing ourselves silly, we had a wander along the promenade and tried not to get run over by cyclists and roller skaters. I love Santa Monica as it is such a diverse place with everyone using the space how they want. We saw a lot of people in foil blankets after finishing the marathon which made us think about the London Marathon in a months time which my amazing mumma is running. We continued our walk along to Venice Beach which is a completely different scene of tattoo artists and people selling street art – such a fascinating place. We were yet to try Taco Bell so did so for our last dinner in the states. Again we were so underwhelmed. The veggie option was poor and although the food is super cheap, you would have to order two meals to be full which kind of defeats the object. Again, glad we tried it. 


An early start followed for our flight to Toronto which I will write about separately. 

I’m finishing this post whilst on a coach on the way back from Niagara Falls (sorry for the delay) on our last evening – can you believe it!!! 

Love as always xx

Cali to Vegas and back again๏ปฟ

After just over a week in California, today was one of the days I had been most looking forward to – Vegas. Prior to the drive, we headed to a diner for breakfast (John’s Place) by our motel in Twentynine Palms. By now we have learnt not to judge a book by its cover and that the places that look the worst are the best. Breakfast was served by large, brash women and was super cheap – definitely two reasons to go ๐Ÿ˜‚. The drive to Vegas was so scenic – mainly because we took the non-motorway route and were constantly worried about running out of petrol, but it was the best idea as we would’ve missed the amazing landscapes otherwise. Arriving at our hotel, M resort, was like being in a different world. We had complimentary valet parking and a beautiful room with floor to ceiling windows and a bath with a view. We were offered an upgrade to a suite, but at this point in our trip the extra $100 a night wasn’t cash we had. I’m glad we didn’t as we hardly spent any time in our room. After a quick refresh, we headed to the strip around 4pm. We were about a 20 minute drive from the strip, but with most hotels offering free parking and our hotel offering shuttle, it really wasn’t an issue. We were amazed by the sheer size of the hotels on the strip (with some having over 1000 rooms). After parking in Caesars Palace, we wandered around trying to get our bearings. Being a massive fan of Cake Boss (American tv show), I dragged Jack to the restaurant by the chef in the show, Buddy V’s in the Venetian. On our wander, we saw the Bellagio fountain show at dusk, which was pretty. It’s crazy how quick time flies as when we next checked our phones it was 9pm. We headed back to the car via the sports bar in Caesars for a drink and for Jack to spend time in his new favourite place. 


Day 2 in Vegas was an early start as we were heading to the Grand Canyon. We really didn’t have the $500 each needed to fly to the canyon, so opted to drive. It is a 9 hour round trip, but so worth it. We took a packed lunch and plenty of drinks and made a day of it. We spent a couple of hours in the national park viewing some spectacular scenery and ate our lunch with a view and great weather. By 5pm we were both bored of being in the car, so were happy to make it back to our hotel for a quick change. Heading out to the strip at 7pm was a completely different vibe from the day before. People drink all day, but the evenings is where it all happens. There were people everywhere and everyone seemed to be up for a good time. In an attempt to see a different part of the strip, we started at the Stratosphere for a drink at 107 bar – yes it is on floor 107. We then walked to Circus Circus. We had been told mixed things about this hotel, but thought it was pretty nice. The casino was massive (as in all of the hotels on the strip) and was Circus themed obvs. We missed the shows that run throughout the day, but this gives us a reason to go back ๐Ÿ˜‰. We decided to have dinner in Chipotle as it was 10pm by the time we were ready to eat – great cheap food. After feeling exhausted, it was time to get a taxi home. Uber had a crazy surcharge on, so we opted for a normal cab. The cab ended up being more expensive than uber at almost $50! We were both so annoyed at how much it had cost, but really didn’t want to hang around for the surcharge to drop or for the shuttle. When I’m tired, I just have to get home otherwise I’m sooo grumpy – just ask Jack. 


We were going to spend the day at the pool on our third day in Vegas, but decided we had too much more to explore. We drove in and visited the biggest souvenir shop in the world (so they claim). Most of it was toot, but I found a shot glass to add to my collection. We then headed to Linq for brunch at Hash House a Go Go. This restaurant is a man vs food favourite and is known for massive portions. They really are big. Jack had the famous hash and I had a mushroom burger. The burger was great, but a mistake for my stomach as I felt awful for the next couple of hours. I powered through regardless (with some sympathy from Jack) and we wandered through the shops at the Venetian. The shops are all inside with a canal running through and a fake ceiling which gives the idea that the shops are actually outside – pretty cool. We made our way back to our hotel after to relax and refresh before our night out at Omnia to see Calvin Harris. Before we went out, we had a few drinks at our hotel and won some money on our new favourite machine, the big six. Before heading into the nightclub, we had a go on the Blackjack tables in Caesars Palace. The odds were pretty crap, but I managed a 21 with my first hand, then lost the money that I had won the next hand. All part of the fun! Omnia is a super club, similar to those in Ibiza, and was absolutely rammed. Even though it was rammed, we were only like 10m away from Calvin Harris and could see his head ๐Ÿ˜‚. When we rolled out of the club, we thought it was a good idea to have another go on the big six game whilst we were waiting for our uber. Again, we were up on our bets. It was a great night and we loved every minute.


The next day, we were sad to leave and agreed we could’ve stayed an extra day. There was so much we didn’t manage to see, so we will definitely be going back at some point. We were both a little bit groggy after our late night, but hit the road through Death Valley. The drive took about 5 hours, with a number of stops for photos and to enjoy the scenery. It really was spectacular. Dante’s view was 13 miles out of our way, but had the most spectacular view – I don’t know how you could miss it. The whole drive was pretty special, especially as the sun started to set whilst we were making our way through the twists and turns of the never ending road. Our motel that night was in Lone Pine called the Dow Hotel. Our room was a bit suspect, with a connecting room which looked like a storage room, but it was fine for a night on the road. There are a number of places to eat in Lone Pine, but we picked Mt Whitney which had a good selection and was reasonable. A glass of wine was $4.50 – crazy right. Jack struggled to sleep and it probably didn’t help that there was a power cut at 3am which sent the whole street into darkness. I woke up around this time and made Jack check the bathroom for me so I could go to the loo – never thought I would still be doing that at 22 ๐Ÿ˜‚. 


After Death Valley, we made our way up to Lake Tahoe. The day started with the thermostat on the car being at freezing – after a bit of research, we realised it was just a bit chilly and nothing sinister. We took the opportunity whilst the engine was warming up to get a McDonald’s breakfast – I’m pretty sure the McMuffins are like half the size over here which really isn’t in like with the rest of the portion sizes. About an hour into our 4 hour drive, the scenery completely changed and we entered winter. Mountains were covered in snow and ponds were iced over. As we drove over the mountains, the temperature dropped significantly and we were forced to use the heather in the car for the first time. We thought the scenery on the drive was pretty special, but this was nothing compared to Lake Tahoe. The lake was crystal blue and surrounded by crisp white snow (I sound like I’m writing a novel right ๐Ÿ˜‚) and so beautiful. South Lake Tahoe is a ski resort in the winter and a beach resort in the summer – so amazing. March is still ski season so we joined in the aprรฉs with a drink in the sun and then grabbed an authentic Mexican dinner in the town. The sunset over the lake was pretty magical, but it was pretty chilly so didn’t hang around for long. We really weren’t prepared for the cold weather so hiked the heater temperature when we got back to our room. I have no clue how we are going to deal with the freezing temperatures in Toronto without any appropriate clothes. 


We got up early the next day as we faced a long drive to Yosemite. The drive really didn’t seem as long as we thought and was broken up by a couple of petrol stops and lunch at Denny’s. Arriving in Yosemite was such a contrast to the snow we had experienced that morning. There was still snow on the mountain tops and trees, but it was so much warmer and everything was green instead of white. Yosemite is an extremely pretty national park and completely different to the views we had experienced in Joshua Tree and Death Valley. It was also a different experience as it was much smaller which meant much less driving and more tourists. The park itself is huge, but being there pre May meant that a number of roads are still closed. The closures didn’t massively effect us once we realised that we had to enter from the west side of the park, rather than driving through from Death Valley, as we still managed to see the main points (and the things we wanted to see). It would definitely be good to spend longer in the park and be able to go on some cool hikes, but hey, we’ve got a lot of years left to tick that off the bucket list. Our accommodation that night was a bit funky, I had booked us into a glamping tent (as it was the cheapest accommodation I could find) in the Yosemite Bug resort. It was actually a nice tent – not your standard pop up tent as it had a wooden structure – but it had no heating and was ages away from the toilets. Jack woke up thinking that we were going to be attacked by a bear or mountain lion, but other than that we both actually slept fine. For dinner, we made the short drive into neighbouring town Mariposa and went to a local diner called Happy Burger. The food was so good that we went back the next morning for breakfast. 


Stay tuned for the next post of our final few days in the States. I hope you are all still enjoying the stories from our travels. 
Love as always xx
 

California, here we comeeeee ๐ŸŽถ (part 1)ย 

We felt pretty groggy after a 10 hour flight which involved losing 23 hours of the day, but picked ourselves up and met our little hire car. The check in process at Alamo was super easy, however I was a little a nervous about driving on the wrong side of the road. Yes, I’d done this before (both times nearly dying in the hands of one of my besties Jordan, lol I joke) but freeways etc seemed a little daunting. We got to our Airbnb in one peace (I was very happy that the car was automatic) and after a quick google of the main driving rules in the US – who knew you could turn right on a red light- we were all good for the rest of the trip, even though no one signals and everyone undertakes. 
LA was everything we had hoped. Prior to an early night to sleep off the jet lag, we ventured out for dinner to a place called Home in Los Feliz. It was a bit chilly so we opted to sit inside, but the courtyard was candle lit and very pretty. I had salmon and Jack had mac n cheese – both dishes were yum. 

We spent our first day at Citadel, after our first breakfast at IHOP (our fave breakfast place so far as it’s super cheap and the food is spot on – a must in the states) to do some much needed shopping. Yes, we did spend quite a bit of money, but on things that were massive bargains. Adidas trainers for $60, yes please. After loading the car up, we headed home for a quick change and then made our way to Silverlake (a 6 minute drive) to Salazar. This was an outdoors candle lit Mexican, so right up our street. They also had patio heaters to keep us happy. Food was great, apart from some suspect corn tortillas and was pretty reasonable too. 


We were up early the next morning to have a good breakfast at Modern Eats, a classic diner, before we made our way over to Universal studios. It’s not cheap, at $105 each for pre booked tickets, but worth every penny. There are a mixture of rides and shows, but our favourite part was the studios tour. So much goes on in the 50 minute tour, effects, a look at the studios, sets and loads of cool info. Jack particularly loved seeing the set from his fave movie The Grinch. Harry Potter world was slightly smaller than we had imagined, but the ride was so good. We have go to the studios in London to compare now. Another cool part was the special effects show, which involved stunt men settling themselves alight. We knew it was going to be a long day, so took a change of clothes to go for dinner on the way back. I’m obsessed with rooftop bars and really wanted to got to Sixty Beverly Hills for drinks. We made it there for sunset and it was so worth it. The sky turns such a cute shade of pink over the city at sunset. After sunset, we headed to Sugarfish, a sushi restaurant in Beverly Hills, and ate the most incredible sushi. Feeling full and pretty fancy wandering around Beverly Hills, we picked our car up from the valet parking (there’s a first for everything) and drove back to our Airbnb. LA is renowned for its constant traffic, but I didn’t actually think this would be at every hour of the day. We learnt to add half an hour on to each journey time by the end of our 3 days in the city. 


Day 4 was tourist time. After another fatty breakfast at Rick’s drive in and out, we made our first stop at Griffith Observatory for the all important Hollywood sign viewpoint. It didn’t disappoint and I was a little overwhelmed to see such an iconic monument for myself. We also had such beautiful weather, which made it the perfect day. We then drove over to Hollywood and parked up ready to wander around. It’s mad that a few days earlier and we would’ve been celebrity spotting at the Dolby theatre for the Oscars. The outside of the theatre also has the best picture for each year handing outside. Yes, Moonlight was up there for 2016, not La La Land ๐Ÿ˜‚. The Chinese theatre was also pretty and super iconic. We had a walk down the walk of fame and came across a star for Jack Bailey. After a quick google, we realised he was an actor back in the 50/60’s, Jack couldn’t quite believe his name was on a star. After quite a bit of walking, we drove up the famous Sunset Strip and Rodeo Drive before making our way home to get ready for our evening at the Lakers. Staples centre is huge and surrounded by other venues, so the area was super busy when we got there. We parked really close and although it cost us $30, it meant we didn’t have an issue getting out after the game. The basketball game was great to watch, even with the Lakers losing. We also had a touch when buying caps, as the cashier only scanned one. Overall it was a great night, and I would definitively watch another game of basketball. 


The next day, it was time to leave the bright lights of LA and start our road trip. Today we headed to San Diego, but made a couple of stops on the way to visit some of the beaches which were central to my teenage years from appearing in my fave American tv shows. Newport Beach and Laguna Beach were really pretty, even in the clouds. They were packed as it was the weekend, even though it was only 17 degrees, so we didn’t stay long. We did get breakfast at Urban Cup in Newport Beach. The food was good, although it did take a while and ended up with my veggie omelette including meat. After our stops we drove straight to our hostel in San Diego. It was funny going back to hostels after 3 weeks, but this one was new and actually really nice. It also saved us like ยฃ100. The hostel was slightly out of the city in Ocean Beach, but right on a strip of restaurants/ bars which kept us occupied on Saturday night. We had dinner at Pizza Port. The restaurant had big long tables where you grab where you can and then order at the till – nice and easy. 


Our first full day in San Diego was spent exploring Mission Beach and the Old Town. The drive to both was only about 10 mins, but we managed to take wrong turnings on both trips due to technology being useless. Mission Beach was lovely and pretty and had a really nice promenade – blue skies definitely helped. Belmont Park, an old school amusement park, is also on Mission Beach so obviously we had to have a wander through there. The first thing you see (and what Belmont Park is known for) is the Giant Dipper. This 1920’s rollercoaster definitely gives you a thrill by the way it throws riders around the rickety wooden frame – it’s all safe though, don’t worry ๐Ÿ˜‚ – and something we both loved, along with the arcade. We somehow managed to get 14 free goes on the basketball game so ended up playing for ages. Sadly, Jack couldn’t win me a cuddly toy from the claw, machine but as we won enough tokens, we did end up with a little toy walrus. We also bought ice cream (obvs) but it was a waste of money as they gave us enough to feed an army and it really wasn’t great. Overall, lots of fun had by both of us and definitely worth the trip. We ventured to Old Town San Diego after, just as the weather was turning. Luckily we missed a downpour, but the cloud cover made the temperature drop quite a bit. Being right near the Mexican border, the Old Town is like an old Spanish settlement with white washed houses or something from a western film. All of the market products also had a Mexican flavour. Jack was pleased with his cigar and I was happy just to have a look in the little stores. It was great to see a completely different side of the city and something we are glad we didn’t miss. That evening, we went to Lucha Libre Taco Shop on recommendation from a work friend. After a short wait (which it is notorious for), we were served and found a seat. My shrimp burrito went down a treat, as did Jack’s chicken burrito. 


We started our second day with a trip to Balboa Park. It was lovely to have a stroll (felt like I hadn’t walked for ages) and see some of the old buildings which now house museums etc. We followed a trail and saw some of the hidden gems of the park such as the carrousel (which sadly wasn’t open) and a couple of pretty fountains. Although the sun was out, it was a but cold so the hoodies were on. We then drove all of five minutes into the city and had lunch at Crab Shack. We actually had lobster which was รผber messy as they don’t cut prep it for you like they do in London, but was so yummy. I don’t know why, but we then went to The Cheesecake Factory and made ourselves feel sick sharing a slice of overly chocolatey cheesecake (it was worth it though) after a walk through Seaport Village. Seaport Village was listed as one of the top sights in San Diego but I wasn’t all that impressed. It just felt like a shopping mall along the sea. It was nice to take in some sea air though. That evening we got a taxi into the Gaslamp District of the city. We were still so full so went straight to our first bar, Tipsy Crow. The cocktails were great and not super expensive, but as we wanted to see a few bars, moved on to Hopping Pig. This is a cute gastropub with great craft beers, so Jack was happy. A couple of older women were sitting next to us and gave us the rest of their pizza as they couldn’t eat it – so sweet. The pizza was really good! We then moved to our last bar, Florent, which was more of a late bar, but had sports on. All three bars were great. There are so many bars in area to explore, but as some are shut on Mondays, we managed to get a taste of the area. 

We left San Diego around 9am on Tuesday with our bagels packed for lunch. The plan for today was to drive to Joshua Tree and spend some time in the national park. We arrived around lunchtime after a few hours driving (plus a stop at Starbucks obvs). We are definitely covering some miles in our little hire car, so it’s a good job that the petrol is cheap! Joshua Tree was completely different to anything we had seen before and was pretty much desert for most of it, apart from lots of rocks and joshua trees. There were so many vista points and photo opportunities that we made the most of and drove the loop to Twentynine Palms where we were spending the night. We have been so lucky with the weather in California so far. apparently it’s very good for this time of year! Our motel was pretty nice and exactly what we needed for one night. It was also near a number of restaurants, so we headed over to The Rib Co for dinner. It looked like a bit of a dive outside, but was such good food. The highlight was the outside BBQ which smoked the meat like nothing else – we both loved it.


Next up was our trip to the bright lights of Vegas, but I’ll save that for another day. Thank you for following our travels you beautiful people. 

Love as always xx

Fiji time actually is a thingย 

After a short (and very comfortable) flight from Auckland with Fiji Airways, we arrived in Nadi to ridiculous humidity. I had a sweaty upper lip by the time we made it to the taxi (with AC luckily). We couldn’t complain though as we were super excited for some guaranteed heat after 5 weeks of mediocre weather in NZ (not that we didn’t end up having our share of rain and clouds). 

Nadi 

Actually pronounced “Nandi”, yes we have no clue where that came from either, is known as the transport area of Fiji. 95% of the international flights arrive into Nadi airport and it is also the gateway to the islands. We stayed at Aquarius on the beach, a reasonably sized hotel on Nadi Bay with both private rooms and dorms. Our private room was nice and had its own bathroom. My only niggle is the fact that they pushed two singles together to make a double – never as comfy as a double. It’s funny how our priorities have changed whilst travelling. We would’ve never stayed in a 2* hotel before we came away, but it really isn’t bad (and saves a fortune)! Our hotel was surrounded by other budget hotels around a 15 minute drive out of Nadi town. If you are looking for luxury accommodation, I hear Denerau is the place to stay. It’s more of a resort town, with hotels like the Hilton, and doesn’t seem to have the same Fiji flavour that our hotel had. Dinner options were pretty limited as we were further out than expected, however we found Awesome Grill a five minute walk away and ate there for Valentine’s Day. A three course meal cost FJD55 (about ยฃ20) and the best bit was that it was BYO (with a liquor store opposite). The food was lovely (albeit slightly greasy) and the staff were very welcoming. A must if staying in the area. We also ate at our hotel on our last night and had a couple of drinks. The food was actually so good and as good as the rest of the restaurants we had tried. 

Nadi town is buzzing in the day, with the daily fresh produce market and lots of shops. We had a bizarre experience in town which started with bumping into a Fijian guy who wanted to show us the arts and crafts market. As we wanted to go there, we let him show us and ended up in a shop on the Main Street. The Fijians welcomed us with a Kava ceremony (a drink made from plants which tastes like bad coffee) which is very famous in Fiji, obviously a ploy to get us to look around. At first our heads were fighting us with “this is what you are always told not to do”, but being in the middle of a shop with other people looking around we silently agreed that it was fine. Not being the type of people who enjoy sitting still for long, we were itching to get up and look around the store, but were told “Fiji time, Fiji time” a number of times. They made us feel very welcome and ended up buying a few things which were ridiculously cheap for what they were (things we were actually looking for might I add). The town is a good place to spend a few hours looking around, especially at the temple at the end of the road which is so pretty. Entry was FJD5 each (ยฃ2 ish) and you had to cover up, but they lend sarongs etc. Jack was quite taken by his new orange skirt, but wouldn’t let me get a pic ๐Ÿ˜‚. Nadi town at night is a completely different story. On our first night we tried to walk into town but were deterred by hotel staff and got the FJD10 taxi (it wouldve taken like 2hrs to walk). When we got there, the only places open were two Chinese restaurants. I was so confused by the hotel choice and thinking what the hell have I done seeing as we were so far out and the local town was so dead (this improved after a good meal and finding other things around us with wifi) – we were only there for 3 nights though, I can’t imagine staying in Nadi for two weeks (I guess that’s why they built all the resorts in Denerau). We ended up eating in Sentai (one of the restaurants) and the food was sooo good! Again, we spent about ยฃ20 on so much food and two alcoholic drinks – not bad at all. If visiting the town, its definitely best to go during the day!



Island hopping 

The next part of our trip was Island hoping around the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands. Our first stop was Beachcomber Island which was 45 minutes out from the mainland (renowned for being the party Island). It was pretty quiet on our first day, but was very busy on the second day due to the day trippers arriving. This didn’t really make for the party Island that it was meant to be though, probably because we weren’t there in high season (also explains the rain). The Island was absolutely beautiful, even when the heavens opened (which was a lot), and took about 8 minutes to walk around. The sand really was as yellow as the pictures and the sea warm and clear. We were pre-warned that drinks on the islands are very expensive so stocked up on Fiji water (I know it sounds so silly, but I didn’t realise that Fiji water was actually sold in Fiji, I just thought it was a con back at home) and beers. The mark up on the drinks was ridiculous: a beer was three times the price we paid at the convenience store in Nadi. We had pre paid for accommodation and an island hopping boat pass before leaving the UK (through STA). This also included food at some resorts but we had to pay extra at Beachcomber (FJD82 per person per night), it was worth it though. Food was served pretty much all day, with dinner being a la carte. I thought it might be tough not eating meat, but there was a fish option for every meal, so all good! The rain definitely didn’t stop us enjoying our time here. We ate lots, relaxed and spent time in the pool (which was the perfect temperature). The people were also lovely and happy to help with anything you needed. 

After an hour of seasickness for both of us, we arrived at Waya Lailai resort. A much bigger, greener island. We were welcomed by the locals with a guitar and song (they love it over there) and then settled into our accommodation for the next two days. We had a hut with outside area and own bathroom, however if you want modern rooms and aircon (we spent the first night trying not to accidentally touch each other in order to stay cool), then this is not the island for you. It was perfectly fine for 2 days, but a week would be pushing it – I know I’m a bit of a snob, but I do like a bathroom with a door that shuts, electricity which runs all day (something a lot of islands have in common) and a daily maid service. The island was very pretty and looked onto another green island with a resort. Included in the accommodation price was breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. The food was ok, but the only place so far where I have struggled with not eating meat (although I was offered an omelette to accompany my rice both nights) and ended up loading up on carbs. By the end of our stay, I was looking forward to a change in diet. We drank the beers and water which we bought with us, so managed to spend only FJD17 (ยฃ9 approx.) in 2 days! The people were lovely and this island definitely had more of a family feel, due to the fact there were three villages on the island in which the staff all lived. We were lucky enough to have the chance of visiting one of the villages on Sunday morning for church. We all had to cover up, so I ended up in full Fijian dress (made me look tiny) and Jack back with his sarong. The service was in Fijian, but it was great to appreciate the singing and how passionate the speakers were. It was one of those experiences which made us think this is really what travelling is about. I loved the island mainly due to the culture they shared with us. Along with the church service, we were taught the Bula dance (kinda like the Macarena) and then had a display of cultural items and a kava ceremony. It felt like we were part of the culture and we appreciated that. We had great weather and were able to top up our tans nicely (along with a bit of pink). This made the two days fly past. 


Another hour on the boat transferred us to our next destination – Korovou on Naviti Island. We were excited to get to the island as we knew that it had a pool, but it was obviously our luck that the pool looked like the diving pool at the Olympics as it turned green. Our room was pretty similar to the other resorts, however it was 5 steps from the beach. Waking up to the sound of waves every morning was just beautiful and the sunsets were mesmerising. The only issues with the room were the electricity which was only on until midnight, which made a trip to the loo pretty eerie and also meant that the fan turned off in the middle of the night. The shower was also more of a dribble – not that we came away to experience good showers. Again, the resort was pretty quiet and there were only 15 guests for dinner one night. We were also with a few of the same people from previous islands – there really couldn’t have been that many people in Fiji, but I guess we were at the end of Cyclone season. I was also itching to get back online after four days of having no clue what is going on in the world, or with family/friends. We spent more on drinks here as we didn’t have a fridge and refused to drink warm water or beer. The people running the accommodation were lovely, but the food really wasn’t the best – I looked forward to not having to eat just vegetables and potatoes for a while. We had a weaving workshop ran for us on our second day. This was so interesting as it was so cool to see what could be done with coconut leaves. Jack didn’t want to partake, but I weaved a tiny handbag. Sadly, it couldn’t make it home though. Apart from my moans, the Island was really pretty with lush green hills, the sunsets were ridiculous, and the Fijian people fantastic, but had a pretty similar vibe to Waya Lailai so probably wouldn’t recommend doing both.

Arriving on Nacula Island at Blue Lagoon Beach Resort for three days to celebrate our anniversary was something else. We were met with a welcome drink and shown to our room within 5 minutes, then whisked off to lunch. Our luggage met us there in our rooms of course. It’s amazing what white walls and a ceiling fan can do as the room was beautiful. We didn’t pay for the upgrade to a beachfront villa, but really didn’t need to as the room was perfect and the shared facilities only a few doors down. Food was extra in this resort (cยฃ40pp per day) but it was so worth it. Breakfast included eggs or pancakes to order, lunch was a la carte with 8 choices plus specials and dinner was 5 courses. It was a shock to the system (quiet literally) to be able to eat something other than carbs and we finally had some fresh fish and seafood – yum. Drinks were pricey in comparison to the other resorts but they did offer free drinking water. The resort itself was beautiful and modern but stuck to the traditional Fijian architecture. I’m a sucker for outdoor furniture, so it had me with day beds around the pool and bean bags in the bar. The location really was something special and the name blue lagoon is pretty accurate. The sea is so blue and so clear. We went snorkelling (FJD 25 compared to 45 on the other islands which was good) on our anniversary and saw so much. We also took a trip to the caves and experienced the fresh water and underground world which was fun. The evening entertainment was pretty good too. On our last night, we had a performance from the local village and crab racing. Jack picked out our hermit crab which ended up crossing the line first, and helped us out financially with 30 dollars off of our hefty bar tab. We didn’t even know we had won until it was announced. We did end up spending quite a bit of money in three days but didn’t mind as it was our anniversary, plus we hadn’t spent much at all over the past 10 days. We really didn’t want to leave Blue Lagoon but were excited to get back on mainland and start the countdown to LA. 
It was really hard to pick our favourite island. I think Blue Lagoon was my overall favourite, mainly due to the pure luxury that it offers which was something that our trip was lacking in. Waya Lailai was a very close second due to the traditional Fijian experience which we had. I think you would miss out massively if you went island hopping and only stayed at the larger, more expensive resorts. 



Sigatoka
 

The boat ride back to mainland took about 5 hours, but was surprising easy and went pretty quick. We chose a different seat and managed to avoid sea sickness. Sigatoka is about an hour south of Nadi, so our taxi cost about ยฃ35 but better than trying to negotiate busses after dark. We strategically decided to stay at Gecko’s resort (about 10 mins out of town) as it was meant to allow us to use the facilities at the Shangri-La without having to pay over double the price of our room, however we seemed to be the only people who were turned away by the Shangri-La and not actually allowed to use the pool or beach. We quickly got over that though, and used the rest of the time to relax in our pool and enjoy the traditional show and fire dance. The three days there went really quickly, as the hotel restaurant was really nice and we had some good sun so improved our tans. We made the trip into Sigatoka town to pick up some souvenirs and to visit the local shops. It was a bit like Nadi, but kept us busy for an hour or so. We took the bus back to the airport which was super easy and only cost $6 each (so much cheaper than a $90 taxi). We had a lovely time here, but were so ready to go to LA. 


Fiji was such a great stop, with some of the most beautiful scenery. The islands were definitely the best part of the two weeks and it really would be a shame to go all the way to Fiji and not see the islands. 

We’ve just landed in LA, trying to get over the 20 hour time difference from Fiji, so are spending the evening in bed at our Airbnb planning our schedule for the next action packed three weeks. Can’t believe we are home in 24 days now!!

Hope you are all still enjoying the blog and pictures. Love as always xx

The final hoorah in New Zealandย 

Tekapo
The drive from Queenstown to Tekapo was a good few hours (as is everything), but we stopped for lunch at Lake Pukaki. The lake was so blue, as it holds glacial water, with Mt Cook dominating the far edge of the lake. Definitely the prettiest lake that we had been to so far (and there had been a fair few). Tekapo is a sleepy town, again with a lovely lake. We arrived when it was sunny, so we took our towels and sun cream for an afternoon of sunbathing. The water was so cold, so we opted out of swimming. Being a Sunday, loads of families were out on the lake in their boats waterskiing, kayaking or having picnics. It was pretty busy and had a great vibe. We headed back and cooked risotto for dinner, then went back to the lake for sunset. Sunset was a bit cloudy, but still pretty and a good opportunity to use up the last of our beers. 

Our second day in Tekapo was more relaxed. Everyone else on our bus left in the morning as the scheduled stop was only one day, however we opted for a second. We had to move out of our 4 bed dorm to a glamping tent, although we actually found this better and were surrounded by wild rabbits. We went to the hot pools for some relaxation around lunchtime and spent a couple of hours in and out of the baths, sauna and steam room. After feeling a little too warm, we dried off and went for a walk into the village. The village was about three shops, but allowed us to have a look around. We also walked over to the church of the Good Shepherd. Apparently, the church is booked up for years in advance, and you can see why from my photo below. We had another chilled evening, but as it was raining, we spent most of the time playing cards in our tent. 


Christchurch 

Again, the drive took what felt like ages. We stopped in a place called Geraldine (where the oldies live) for a coffee and then carried on to Christchurch. Getting off the bus was funny as we waved goodbye to those staying in hostels (and felt very smug) whilst we jumped in the car with Lauren. Lauren and David (friends of my parents) had offered to let us stay with them, and keep us in check for the next 6 days. We were given a tour of the city and then headed to Sumner beach to give Marley (the dog) a run. We had fish tacos for dinner and then chilled by the TV. It’s so funny how much you take TV and a sofa for granted at home!

The rest of our stay was spent out and about seeing the city, but also spending time relaxing. We had a day doing odd bits and bobs (getting Jack’s glasses fixed as some girl in one of the hostels trod on them) and then saw Split at the cinema – the new James McAvoy film. The film was actually very good, one that got you so engrossed. The cinemas in Oz and NZ are so much nicer than those a home with proper leather seats and no popcorn on the floor. 

I was determined to see a Kiwi, so on another of our days we visited Willowbank wildlife reserve. We fed eels (eew!), sheep, deer, and all the other farm animals, and had a general wander to see all the native NZ animals (there aren’t many ๐Ÿ˜‚). The kiwi’s are kept in an enclosure which is dark during the day, when they are awake, and light at night. They are so cute, but it’s so sad that they are pretty much extinct in the wild. We had a wander around one of the other malls and then walked home. The sun was to warm up which was great! 


Being the tourists that we are, we spent a day in what is left of the city. Obviously, a lot of the buildings were destroyed during the earthquake, so the city is currently being rebuilt, which makes for some interesting sights. We visited the cardboard cathedral, a temporary cathedral as only half the other one is still standing, and the RE:start mall, a shopping area made of shipping containers. Both were so interesting. We also passed the memorial for those who sadly died in the earthquake. This was such a good memorial with a white chair laid out representing everyone who had died. We then had a wander into the Canterbury museum. There were some really good exhibitions and it was free, even better. We planned to go to the earthquake museum, but it was $20 each so we decided against it seeing as we had already heard stories from the Browns. As it was a nice day, we hired a rowing boat and hit the river Avon. Jack went first and managed to get us up the river. I was on edge the whole time and didn’t think he was very good until I had a go. It was one of the hardest things to do. I nearly took out a number of ducks and a boat full of Asian tourists ๐Ÿ˜ฌ. We then took a walk back through the botanic gardens to Hagley park, then met Lauren and Imogen for noodles at the pop up Noodle market in the park. It was really cute with loads of stalls, lanterns and some lovely smells. The prawn and shrimp dumplings were so yummy, the Hakka noodles not so much. We headed to New Regent Street for gelato and then rolled home. 


Saturday was spent roadtripping to Hamner Springs, a cute alpine town with hot pools and loungers to relax on. It was a couple of hours out of Christchurch, but the drive didn’t seem as long. We got there early and secured an area of loungers and a picnic bench for lunch. The hot pools were lovely and warm, and had a selection of different nutrients which are meant to be really good for your skin. Luckily, it was the hottest day so far with no clouds in the sky. This made for great suntanning weather and we topped up our tans nicely. The locals were burnt and us tourists a shade darker – result! It was a great day and lovely to see more of the country. Trying to whatsapp video call my dad in the evening was hilarious. It kept cutting in and out, but we managed a conversation and everyone was reconnected. 


We had a chilled Sunday morning and facetimed my mum. She was freezing whilst we were sitting in the garden with the sun out, bless her. It was great to see her and the progress on the building work in our kitchen. Being our last day, we did our washing and went out to stock up on sun cream etc. As we had some spare time, we made the most of the cheap and luxurious cinemas in NZ and went to watch Patriots Day. We both loved the film as it was so gripping. Packing was a bit sad, it was also great to get the swimwear and coverups ready for Fiji. 

The South Island has been one of our favourite places so far and it is even prettier than Oz. We are both big fans and it was great to see old friends. I really can’t believe that we will be back in the UK in less than 6 weeks (our bank balances can though), although the perfect time away. I really don’t think that I would want to be away for much longer in one go. 

I probably won’t be posting again for another two weeks, but watch out for Fiji pics on my insta (if we get wifi on the remote islands)! 

Love as always xx

Summer has arrived in NZ

Day 15 – Franz Josef to Wanaka 

I woke up to my 6.30am alarm absolutely freezing as somebody opened up the sliding door to the outside during the night (after I shut it at 1am). Waking up with the hump, I slammed the door shut and practically ran to the shower, which was underwhelming and didn’t heat up fully. After making sandwiches for lunch, we loaded our stuff onto the bus and left Franz at 7.30am. We had a long bus journey ahead of us, but this was broken up by a number of breathtaking stops. The first stop was at 8.30am at Lake Matheson. Firstly, we stopped at the memorial for the kiwi experience passengers who lost their lives in a plane accident during a skydive. We then took the 20 min walk to the first viewpoint. The lake mirrors the scenery and is so beautiful (you can see from the pics). After leaving so early (and not eating), we took in the views by eating breakfast in the cafe. You pay for the views, but the cream cheese bagel was such a luxury – so much so that we bought bagels for breakfast the next day. After the walk, we stopped at Haast beach for a couple of pics. It was pretty and made even better by the beautiful weather, however the sand flies make the stop very quick. We were all bitten all over so ran back to the bus. The bus was also full of them, so the poor bugs were swatted by cardigans, bottles and knuckles. We stopped for lunch in Hasst (a town of about 10 people) and then carried on to Mount Apiring National Park to visit a very pretty waterfall. Carrying on our long journey (I slept through a lot of it after a rubbish nights sleep) to the Lake Hawea view point. The lake was huge and so blue. Luckily we were almost at Lake Wanaka and checked into our hostel for the night, Base. The weather was still beaut so we went to visit the lake. We actually managed a swim and a dive off the pontoon. It was cold, but well worth it, especially as it was a freshwater lake (so I didn’t mind getting my hair wet). After a quick food shop, we showered and headed out to Red Star burgers for dinner. Another challenge on my vegetarian mission was not eating a massive beef burger. I chose the virgin veggie burger (a falafel and salad mix) and absolutely loved it. We were all so stuffed, but managed a drink in the pub after as it was a Saturday night and they had free wifi – winning. A long driving day, but the scenery more than made up for it. 


Day 16 – Wanaka to Queenstown
We were sad to leave Wanaka as it was such a nice little town with loads of bars/ restaurants, but as the weather wasn’t brilliant, we wouldn’t have been able to do much with an extra day. After a fancy breakfast of bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon, we got on the coach and headed towards queenstown. Just outside Wanaka, we stopped at puzzling world. This place is full of illusions and things to make you question life in general. We also attempted the maze. Sadly it was raining, so after reaching each of the 4 towers, we decided to call it a day and use the emergency exit – don’t judge, we were already soaked! Our next stop was at Jones’ fruit stall for fresh fruit and ice cream. The ice cream was amazing. They mixed fresh fruit with icecream right in front of you to create your own flavour. I had mixed berries and frozen yoghurt- it was a dream. Jack opted for cookies and cream (minus the fruit obvs). We had good weather when we arrived in Queenstown, so were able to stop at the Kawarau bridge. This was the first commercial bunny bridge in the world. We had previously booked onto the Nevis swing, so paid for that whilst we were there. Jack was debating whether or not to do a bungy, but soon decided he wanted to after seeing other people being fully dunked in the water! More on our jumps later. The afternoon in Queenstown was pretty chilled as we were preparing for a big night out with the rest of the people on our bus. $10 paid for our BBQ and bar crawl (with cheap drinks) with kiwi experience and also got us a snazzy wristband. I opted out of the chicken wings and ribs and opted for halloumi and pepper skewers with couscous. It was so nice and made a lot of the meat eaters jealous. The veggie option obviously came out a while after the meat though ๐Ÿ™„. We started the bar crawl in Red Rock where we had our BBQ and then headed to Loco Cantina followed by The World Bar – that was my fave bar mainly due to the fact that they sold cocktails in tea pots, so cute. We made our way home around midnight to make sure we got some sleep before the big swing tomorrow. Our hostel (YHA Lakefront) was so nice and very comfortable. The kitchen was such a contrast to those that I have bitched about in previous posts so we can actually cook a decent meal. 


Day 17 – Queenstown
We both slept well and felt refreshed (luckily). After lunch/late breakfast, we headed over to the bungy shop for check in. After some admin and a short drive, we arrived at the Nevis swing. At 120m high, the suspended pod looked pretty scary but we powered through and walked over the metal walk way to the platform. We were both pretty chilled in comparison to our mates and managed to go first out of our group. We chose to swing together facing forwards (the standard way). This way we got to see everything too. After being strapped up, we were wrenched out and left hanging in our harnesses. When the countdown began, my heart started to thud. The 70m free fall at the beginning was the scariest bit as it felt like we weren’t strapped into anything. Once we started to swing through the 300m, I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. I screamed the whole time but absolutely loved it. The photos and video footage is hilarious. We had a celebratory beer in the sun after and then did a food shop (fun right). After a home cooked pesto pasta, we headed into town for an icecream. Mrs Ferg’s gelato was something else (and we have eaten our weight in gelato since coming away). Definitely worth a try.


Day 18 – Queenstown
The most miserable day so far, it rained all day! We had a chilled morning and headed into town around lunchtime to get our bearings and do some shopping. Queenstown isn’t very big, so we quickly got to know where everything was and identify the best places to shop. Jack bought a ridiculously cheap top in the Huffer shop (was on sale, with an extra 10% off) and I went on the hunt for souvenirs. We were meant to meet up with some friends for an all important Ferg Burger, but decided that the weather would ruin the experience (there’s not really an eat in option) and opted for a hot chocolate followed by my first veggie Mexican. Coyote grill was really cute and offered a $20 fajita special before 7pm. Everyone went for chicken and beef fajitas, whereas I had the veggie option – I really wasn’t disappointed. The fajita mix had the right amount of spice and was full of shredded veg, yum! We found a quirky bar called Cowboys for an after dinner drink and then headed home. As it was still raining, we got soaked on the way home, so were grateful for our nice dry bunks. 
Day 19 – Queenstown 
Today was blue skies and no rain in sight – it’s made what can happen overnight. It was also the day of Jack’s bungee, but as we had the morning free, we decided to go up the gondola and experience the luge. We were stuck behind two Chinese tour busses in the ticket line, but that soon moved and we paid for our tickets (kiwi experience had an offer of $49 for the gondola and 4 luge rides). The Gondola is so high and offers fantastic views, but the luge is what we really came for. If you’ve never been on a luge, it’s kind of like downhill go karting in a sledge which you can steer (and break). They have a little ski lift which takes you higher than the gondola and to the start of the track (again, amazing views). On our first go, we were shown how to use the luge and had to go on the smaller track. It was so much fun but the fun really started on our next go. The fast track was full of sharp bends and steep downhill sections. I nearly fell out a couple of times. We were probably going a little too fast as ended taking out a few children (not badly, they were going way too slow for the fast track) and overtaking everyone else. It was so much fun and so worth the money. We left the top of the mountain to head back to the bungee shop, however it was bad news for Jack. Due to the heavy rain the day before, he wasn’t able to be dunked in the water (what he really wanted to do), so we rescheduled to a few days time. This left us with a free afternoon – nothing that another icecream and a Ferg Burger couldn’t fix. Patagonia is another ice cream parlour loved by locals and tourists. The cones are giant and for an extra dollar (not two Sanne), you could have melted chocolate poured on top. Obvs I was greedy and had the chocolate. After letting the food baby disappear, we headed to Ferg. The queue is notorious, but we only ended up waiting 40 mins in total, which wasn’t bad. The burgers are mad! I stuck to my guns and picked the Bun Laden, full of falafel, yoghurt, avo and salad. Definitely one of the best burgers ever!!! All the meat eaters also demolished theirs and said the same. A day full of food and fun activity!


Day 20 – Milford Sound
An 8.30 start wasn’t too bad, until we got on the bus and had the grumpiest bus driver ever (he later apologised). The drive was about 6 hours, with numerous stops for loos and viewpoints. The viewpoints on the way to Milford were actually better than Milford Sound itself (it’s a Fjord not a Sound appaz) which was probably due to the cloudy skies. Once we arrived at Milford Sound, we jumped on an hour and half boat trip. Although the weather was cloudy, it wasn’t too cold, until we got on the top deck of the boat. It was crazy windy and sooo cold. I was feeling it through my rain jacket and hoody. Luckily the boat had free tea and coffee to warm us up. The commentary was good, although we couldn’t really hear it from the middle deck. I mean, Milford Sound was pretty, but I can imagine that it is pretty fine on a day with blue sky. The journey back was long and boring as it was back the on the same road. I managed to get a few hours sleep which was good, but we were majorly craving McDonald’s. We practically ran to get food when we got off the coach and made it to McD’s, however were slightly disappointed that they didn’t serve loaded fries, or triple cheeseburgers (for Jack). We are gonna have such a shock when we go to McDonald’s back home ๐Ÿ˜‚. I’m glad we did the day trip, but would only go back if the weather was perfect. 


Day 21 – Back in Queenstown 
Jack’s bungee was booked in for 12pm so we arrived at the shop at 11.30am ready for check in. Luckily, the water touch was going ahead, so we boarded the bus for the Kawarau bridge. The K bridge was the first commercial bungee in the world, so definitely a memorable one to do. The weather was lovely and the river so pretty, so a great day to do it. Jack was so calm, as was I until I saw him on the platform. For some reason my heart was racing, but it looked so cool and Jack loved it. He was so soaked from being dunked into the river, but changed into the souvenir t-shirt for the way home. We ate and then relaxed before heading into town for another Ferg burger. The Cod Father was yummy (like a giant fish finger sandwich with all the trimmings). After, we picked up some drinks and headed to the campsite our friends were staying at. There’s definitely something about sleeping amongst trees. The temperature really dropped each evening so we were ready to head back to our warm (but busy) from room before midnight. 

Day 22 – our last day in Queenstown
We had exhausted all the activities which we wanted to do, and so much money, so we had a day of organising and washing. It was pretty productive, as we booked the rest of our trips accommodation and sorted out our road trip route for USA. There were a couple of tops that I hadn’t been able to wear for a week or so, so it was also nice to have clean clothes. It was a really nice day, so we went into town at late afternoon to chill in a beer garden and for an early dinner – we had both been craving a curry, so that’s what we ate. Pub on the wharf did what it said on the tin. We spent an hour or so here people watching and enjoying the views (plus great weather). I had my very first veggie curry and enjoyed it so much that I over ate and felt grim for the rest of the evening. After our curry, Jack had an icecream, and I stupidly bought a donut even though I was so stuffed, but I really wanted to try one from Balls and Bagels. Turns out the donut was nasty and had no flavour. What a waste of $8! We met some friends after for a trip to below zero (one of two ice bars in QT). We managed to get a deal which meant just buying a drink rather than paying the usual $20 entry fee which was great. We got kitted out in furry coast and gloves then went into the bar to try one of their cocktails. Yes, it actually is freezing! The sculptures and ice hockey table was pretty cool, but after half an hour we were all so cold, so threw our tumblers made out of ice into the ice bin and headed outside. Definitely worth the $13, although probably wasn’t the best idea to cure the cold which had been brewing for a few days, so added to the overeating, I didn’t feel too great and headed to bed at 9pm! 


We had such a great time in Queenstown and probably some of the best weather during our time in NZ (so far). If we were working over here, this would definitely be the place that I would be able to live and work. I can imagine the ski season is so cool too. 

Only a couple of stops left in NZ which will be in my next post. Really can’t believe we have less than 2 months left now ๐Ÿ˜ช. We are both already starting to plans for when we are back to get over the “holiday” blues.

Love as always xx

The full Kiwi Experience ๐Ÿ‘

It’s been a week since we started our journey down to Christchurch. As it’s summer, there are two busses running everyday so we are travelling with over 100 people – it’s crazy! There’s no way that we would ever be able to get to know everyone, but people keep popping up so you start to feel like a family. It’s mad that everyone is from a different background and different ages (most people younger than us), but everyone gets on as we all have one thing in common – TRAVEL!!! The way of life is also so different from home, and I don’t think I’ve mentioned it much in previous blog posts. I basically feel like I’m at uni (not that I went), but based on what I’ve seen when visiting my bestie in Sussex. I do love the relaxing and having no worries (apart from what I’m going to eat and money), but coming from the fast paced city ways, sometimes just sitting in a hostel isn’t enough. I also really don’t understand how people end up working in hostels for a couple of hours a day, then sitting around for the rest. That’s just not me! I’m so happy the way that Jack and I have decided to do our trip, no work and a completely different lifestyle. Anyway, enough of my thoughts and back to what we’ve been up to. There’s been so much driving between places that we are both struggling with travel sickness, but luckily found some ginger tablets which work a treat. The drives have been so scenic and through the middle of nowhere at times (and past the southern alps) which makes a change from Oz which was all highways. It’s so nice as we are actually seeing the sights (and the masses of sheep).

Day 7 – River Valley to Wellington 

The alarm went off early this morning so we could go rafting! It was absolutely chucking it down with rain when we woke up, and going to the loo nearly turned me into an ice cube (not sure if I mentioned before, but these were outdoor loos – eek). We powered through (and didn’t want to waste the money we had already paid – every trip in NZ is over $100) and pulled on our wetsuits and ridiculous amount of layers (which actually did keep us warm). We looked stupid, but it was so worth it. We started the trip with a short drive and then slid down the hill in the dingy. All the training was done in the river so we ended up with a full 3 hours in the water. It’s definitely one of the best things I’ve done so far, but it was so much more work than I thought. Our team of four were definitely pushed the hardest by our guide. So many of the other teams were just chilling. After navigating through a few small drops and rapids, we hit the big time and went down the grade 5 parts. I thought Jack was going to fall out so many times, especially when we had to jump over to the sides of the dingy to get round rocks. We also got very stuck at one point, but nowhere near as bad as the team who flipped their raft and had to be rescued by another. The chocolate bars were also pretty good when the energy/ morale was low – great idea to the tour guides. Rafting isn’t as scary as I thought it would be, it that meant we could enjoy it and actually learn a bit too. A must do for anyone visiting river valley! We got back to the hostel just in time for food! We shared a humongous sausage roll and slice of pizza, which was exactly what we needed. The rest of the day was pretty dull and was just a long drive to Wellington. We were knackered in the evening so didn’t fancy a night out, but ventured 5 mins to a street food market. We both had a burrito – $10 and it was amazing! The hostel was nice (Nomads) but the beds were awful. Whoever invented plastic coating for mattresses should be shot. Whenever someone turned over, it would make the loudest noise and wake other people up. Luckily I’m a heavy sleeper so missed most of it, but trying to get to sleep was a slight struggle, especially as our room was practically over the bar. There was also a couple of strange people in our room: the sixty-odd year old guy who kept eyeing me up and getting in Jack’s way, and the guy who told us about sleeping rough to save money – very weird.

Day 8/9 – Wellington

We made the most of the days without early starts and relaxed. Wellington is known for being windy and the people aren’t wrong! I was nearly blown over a number of times. It was also pretty rainy so we couldn’t really get to many outdoor activities. The weather is as bad as England as this is meant to be mid summer. We did make it to a football game which was so much fun, although Jack wasn’t impressed with the standard (doesn’t compare to Chelsea appaz). Wellington did lose 1-0 to Brisbane, so I agree with him on the standard. We went to the street food market again. Jack had another burrito and I tried the BBQ pork steamed buns, so yummy and 2 for $6. We also went to the national museum called Te Papa. We spent hours looking at all the exhibitions, and enjoyed the war exhibition most as the statues were so life like, just 4 times the size of a normal person. We ate lunch out and had the best burger and milkshake ๐Ÿ˜. To keep to the budget we cooked in the hostel that evening and found our new fave dish, chicken pesto risotto! Wellington was a nice city, but would be better in the sun. 


Day 10 – Wellington to Kaiteriteri

It seems that every day we move there is an early start! We met up with the rest of our bus (mainly new faces as we stayed extra nights in Wellington) and drove to the ferry terminal. The weather was so drab, which made for a crap first half of the ferry crossing to the South Island . We braved the sea sickness and played cards. Jack and I are both attempting to learn new card games in advance of our stop in Vegas. The second part of the ferry crossing was so beautiful and the blue skies helped our snaps. At the other end, we grabbed our bags off the conveyor belt and set off for the next part of our travels. We drove to Nelson (a smallish town) for a loo stop and supermarket. After reading an article about how Parma ham is made the night before (poorly treated pigs), I decided to try to be pescatarian. Sorry fish. So we bought some chicken for Jack and some prawns for me to add to the remaining pesto risotto. The hostel was nice enough, but the kitchen was a joke, so cooking our risotto was a challenge. That’s when the pushing and shoving started – I joke, it wasn’t that bad, but there were a lot of hungry people in a very close proximity. I definitely deserved the large glass of wine after. Staying in hostels does make for some tactical cooking. NEVER attempt something with more than one pan. The rest of the evening was chilled and we headed for the beach trying to get the last of the days sun. It really wasn’t hot enough to lay out, but the beach was pretty and made us feel like we saw a bit of the town even though we didn’t have long enough to explore the Abel Tasman national park. 


Day 11 – Kaiteriteri to Westport

Finally, a later start on the bus and the sun came out! We left around 11.30am and made the long drive to Westport. En route, we had a picnic stop at the Nelson Lakes which are pretty spectacular, and even managed to get that famous kiwi experience picture. During the drive to Westport, we had a mishap with the luggage lockers on the bus and very nearly lost all the bags to the motorway ๐Ÿ˜‚- luckily none fell out and we narrowly missed a passing lorry. Westport is a ghost town, but is known for its surf. We opted out due to the weather and the fact that it was so rushed, but had a great evening nonetheless. After cooking up a storm (packet mac n cheese), we bought some beers and walked to the beach. Some of the others were already there, so we made our attempt at starting a fire (with a lighter). I’m happy to say that I started the fire with the chorizo wrapper, but the others kept it going. It wasn’t too chilly but we were glad to get back to the hostel. The hostel was really lovely, especially as we had our own self contained house (for our little crew of five).

โ€‹
Day 12 – Westport to Lake Mahinapua

It was chucking it down when we left Westport, but improved by the timer got to our first walk of the day, Cape Fowlwind. It lived up to its name and was so windy, my freshly washed hair ended up nice and tangled. The walk was nice and not too strenuous, but the highlight was the seals at the end of the walk. The rocks were covered with seals of all shapes and sizes – so cute. After another drive, we stopped at the Pancake Rocks. I did the walk to see the rock formations and blow holes, although blow holes aren’t what I expected and are just different rock formations. We also stopped off to get some lunch (my first challenge of not getting a triple cheeseburger in mcds) and fancy dress costumes – the brief was bin liners. I decided to go as an angel and Jack was an all black rugby player. Turns out there were a few other angels so I wasn’t as original as I thought. We had so much fun making the outfits and managed to spend less than $10 each. When we got to our accommodation for the night – Lake Mahinapua hotel (Poo pub), we assembled our costumes and had dinner. Everyone had the roast pork, but being the good veggie that I am, I opted for the warm salad. It was actually so nice when it finally arrived 20 mins after everyone else – apparently there had been a mix up with numbers with people asking for the salad when they pre ordered the roast ๐Ÿ˜ฌ. The after dinner fun was the best bit, as we took over the hotel bar and had a par-tay. The happy hours were great (pretty much $5 for everything), so the drinks kept flowing! 


Day 13 – Lake Mahinapua to Franz Josef

It’s safe to say there were a few sore heads in the morning, but the pancakes at breakfast sorted most people out. The drive to Franz Josef was only short, but it was such a miserable day. When we arrived, Jack and I headed out to get food for the following day. We didn’t need dinner as we had paid $20 for all you can eat pizza and a drink. After the supermarket trip, we went and checked in for our helipcopter flight (for the next day) and bought some cringey NZ tshirts – $10, amazing. The pizza buffet was good, but being a veggie makes it hard. I definitely hadn’t appreciated how much meat I actually eat. 

Day 14 -Franz Josef

Not having to get on the bus today was luxury and called for a lie in. We had a leisurely breakfast and then headed over to the helicopter tour shop. The sky was pretty cloudy and flights weren’t going when we got there so we pushed the flight back till 5.30pm and headed for the walking track towards the glacier. The walk was stunning and only took about 40 minutes to the viewpoint (from the car park). We are so happy we went, as our flight was cancelled due to the cloud cover. At least we got to see the glacier and saved about ยฃ400. We spent the evening in the hostels sauna and hot tub (fits 20!) and had a relaxed drink in a nearby pub. It was a great day, even though we didn’t make it onto the tour. Franz Josef is definitely worth a visit, especially as I hear the skydiving is amazing. 


It’s been a busy week! 

Love as always xx

NZ love ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฟ

Day 1 heading south from Auckland was an early start (8am) but we kicked it off the right way with a Macca’s breakfast. There were about 100 people waiting for the coach, so Jack and I were trying to suss everyone out and make a mental note of the people to avoid – many of these we actually ended up getting along with ๐Ÿ˜‚. Everyone was really friendly and wanted to chat which was great. The bus drive wasn’t that far and we arrived in Hot water beach around lunchtime with a stop at the supermarket on the way. This was our first introduction to pak n save – the ultimate supermarket with super low prices. Jack bought a six pack of beers for about ยฃ7. The accommodation was at a holiday park and we were given the option of either dorms or glamping. We obviously chose glamping and were allocated a teepee type tent which was so comfy. Hot water beach is known for its natural hot springs at the beach. Around low tide, everyone flocks to the beach to dig holes which create personal hot tubs. The water was sooooo hot so we didn’t actually end up sitting for long and ran into the freezing sea. After drying off, we headed to Cathedral Cove (a really pretty beach setting with a cove perfect for pics) on an hour walk with our new roommates. The walk is so up and down, with some really steep bits, and was pretty tough in the heat but some great exercise. After cooking up some pasta (a backpackers fave), we had a few beers and watched the live band on the lawn. It was such a cute evening and a great way to start the trip. 


Day 2 – Hot water beach to Waitomo 

The good thing about the kiwi bus is that most days involve a morning walk to stretch our legs and also do something free. Today’s walk was at Karangahake Gorge (an old, disused gold mine) which involved wobbly rope bridges and caves. After the walk, we headed to Waitomo. Waitomo is famous for its caving system and gloworms so we signed up for black water rafting. Our driver guide, Kyle, did explain the tour but we weren’t entirely sure what we had signed up to until we were there pulling on wetsuits, wellies and jackets. The tour was amazing and well worth the money. It mainly involved floating through the caves on inflated tyre tubes, jumping off small waterfalls into the rings and looking up for gloworms. We had a great group which helped forget how cold the water actually was (I was grateful for the hot shower after). I’m still yet to get the photos so you’ll have to trust me on this one and have a go. We didn’t get back till around 7pm so a microwave meal was perfect. We then headed to the bar to catch up with the rest of the tour – as you can probably tell by now, there is quite a bit of boozing involved. I’ve given myself an alcohol ban every 5th day (although this week it was day 6 ๐Ÿ˜‚). Our accommodation was so nice and had 4 beds and 2 floors (2 beds on each floor so it was practically a private room). 


Day 3 – Waitomo to Roturua

Again, we started the day with a walk called the Ruakuri walk, involving waterfalls and caves. It was a pretty walk which took about 45 mins, but we were too excited for Hobbiton to get majorly enthusiastic. Hobbiton (the film set of the Hobbit village from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit with my babe Martin Freeman) is such a funny place as it’s actually set in the middle of a working farm. On the hills surround the set are cows and sheep which is quite weird to see. We were given a tour of all the hobbit holes including a visit to Bag-end (Bilbo’s house), took loads of photos and even had a drink in the Green Dragon. It was expensive but was definitely worth it if you are, like me, a fan of the films. Day 3 was such a busy day as Hobbiton wasn’t our only tour of the day. We had a couple of hours of downtime and were then picked up to head to the Tamaki Maori village tour. We were shown traditional games, learnt about the culture and watched some of the guys learn the Hakka. Part of the tour included a pre dinner show. This was so good and amazing to see all the traditional songs (and how the Hakka should actually be done). Dinner was also a highlight of the evening and probably the first time we had had a proper balanced meal in ages. The all you can eat buffet was full of chicken, lamb, fish, potatoes, sweet potatoes, veg, stuffing and most importantly gravy! Pudding almost topped it with pavlova, peaches, steamed pudding, cream and custard. What more could a girl want! My dad would definitely be proud of how I utilised the buffet. Some people stayed over night, but as we are on a budget and weren’t bothered, we stayed at base. It was only to sleep anyway. The first three days were pretty full on so we were looking forward to downtime in Taupo where we were spending two nights. 


Day 4 – Roturua to Taupo 

Today was the Redwood forest walk. The forest was so pretty with all the red wood trees. The coffee cart at the end also makes the walk worthwhile. After the walk we headed for a photo stop at Huka Falls. The name is a bit confusing as it isn’t actually a waterfall, but a fast flowing river. Apparently 220,000 litres pass though this stretch of the river every second. It was a lovely day when we made it to Taupo so I took a walk to the lake, not that it was far as our hostel was pretty much on the lakefront. From the edge of the lake we could see the mountain range which included Mt Doom, one of which had snow at the very top. Earlier in the day we had booked a sunset sailing cruise, mainly due to the fact that it was BYO and included pizza. We were picked up at 7.15 and boarded the boat (at the same time as the pizza). Jack played DJ as we ate pizza and sipped our drinks. The sea was pretty choppy, so we adopted very flattering ponchos to keep dry and warm. After an hour or so of cruising, we were told by the skipper that the battery on the boat had died. This meant that we sadly couldn’t get to the Maori rock carvings, but hey, we didn’t really sign up the the cruise to see that (more for the pizza). The broken battery made for some interesting sailing, including approaching the marina at high speed, but the skipper managed to negotiate the mooring perfectly and we were all very impressed. We carried on the party at the hostel bar that evening, which was good fun. 


Day 5 – Taupo

Being our lazy day, it didn’t really matter that we didn’t get up until 11am due to nursing a slight hangover. I’m not much of a fan of being in bed all day, so was starting to get a bit twitchy. No one in our dorm wanted to do much, but Jack and I dragged ourself to the hot pools (40 min walk) for some free jacuzzi action. The pools sit on the edge of the river which make some parts of the river freezing, and some pretty warm. The pools themselves were so hot that you couldn’t sit for long, but were so relaxing. On the way back to our hostel we were met by a really friendly dog with no collar who was darting in and out of traffic. After asking about, we (Jack) carried the pup to the local vet. Things like this always happen to us. We stopped another dog getting run over in a Melbourne and I found two runaways in my street a few years ago. Dogs just love me obvs. After boring everyone with the story, we went for dinner at the hostel bar, mainly to take advantage of the 50c wings. This obviously continued to drinks with the other people on our bus and learning new ring of fire rules. 


Day 6 – Taupo to River Valley

The McDonalds breakfast cured yet another morning feeling grim and got us to some half decent wifi. The weather was so miserable so we spent the majority of time on the bus whilst driving through to River Valley, we did however manage to watch Zoolander en route. The drive was long, but very scenic with rolling hills and lots of sheep (about 30 million in NZ alone). The main reason for visiting is the white water rafting, so we booked on for the following morning. Our accommodation was an adventure lodge which looked like a ski chalet and was in the middle of nowhere with no signal or wifi. This was actually quite nice for once. We opted for the cheapest accommodation, which was the funniest thing ever. Imagine a bunk bed which sleeps 16 people, then double it! Basically two massive mats in one room- hilarious and so funny! We didn’t really get much sleep but it was worth it for the story. We spent the afternoon chilling out and jumping off a suspended platform into the freezing cold river- the GoPro video was hilarious. We had a “summer” roast dinner (chicken, potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, peas, coleslaw and gravy) which was yummy and great as a change from pasta. It was also very funny to see non-brits try to work out what a Yorkshire pudding was. Jack and I had a night off from drinking, but joined in with all the games etc. 

I hope you guys are still enjoying the blog. 

Love as always xx

First impressions are everything

Our flight arrived into Auckland around lunchtime on Friday and the sun was already shining. We grabbed our bags and rekindled our love affair with uber (half the price of an airport transfer). After a half our drive and lots of chat from our driver, we arrived at our hostel – Verandahs. This was one of the nicest hostels we have stayed in so far, mainly due to it being a converted house and therefore high ceilings and large rooms. The rooms also had single beds rather than bunks which was unusual but meant we only had to share with 2 others. Our first after noon was relaxed as we were tired (due to a 3am wake up call) and we had 2 more days to explore the city. That evening we took a wander down Ponsonby Road, which is the hub for bars/restaurants, and came across a really cute Argentinian grill in a cluster of restaurants called Ponsonby Central. The portions were huge so we ordered a large plate meant for one person and shared it (it was more than enough for 2). Being a Friday night we had a chilled dinner with a glass of red and wandered home. 

We had agreed that our second day would be sightseeing, so we grabbed our trainers and mentally prepared ourselves for a day of walking. Turns out, a 2 hour walk was enough to walk the whole city in a loop and end up back at our hostel. The city is so tiny in comparison to London, which actually makes it really nice. We stopped to eat our lunch and have a beer by the harbour – a great place to yacht spot. We also walked over to Silo park which hosts summer festivals etc and is in a part of town which is being developed. Most people who go to Auckland end up spending a fortune on a trip up the sky tower – the city’s observation deck. We passed on this as it isn’t actually that high and, after going to the 360 bar in Sydney, Auckland doesn’t really have any iconic landmarks to spot – sorry Auckland. Even though two hours doesn’t seem that long, we were knackered after walking in the heat but managed to drag ourselves out of our fancy hostel to get dinner. Having tried burgers in most of the cities that we have visited, we thought it best to do the same here. This took us to Burger Burger (original right) which was very good. The curly fries were to die for! After a short break from eating, we hunted for gelato and found a place which makes your own flavours by taking a basic ice cream flavour and adding your choice of topping. I went for vanilla with brownie and flake – pretty much cookies and cream. The flavours were good and cheap so we were happy.  


On our third and last day, we took the ferry over to north Auckland to see the city from a different perspective. There are a number of islands just outside the harbour, but we didn’t really have time to explore hence the afternoon trip to Devonport. The small town had one off shops and was worth a visit, but the main attraction was Mt Victoria. The walk to the top was about 20 minutes and relatively easy – definitely worth it for the views over the city and other islands. Predictably, we ventured out for dinner again that evening with the addition of one of our roommates (a girl from Perth). We went to the international food court on Ponsonby Rd which was recommended by our hostel. It was more of a canteen but was great because you could pick which cuisine you fancied (from kebab to Indonesian food). I had a curry and Jack his pickings from a Chinese buffet – less than $30 for dinner, result! The food was also very good. 


Monday morning came as a shock when our alarm went off at 6am. Today was the day that we started on our tour of NZ – the Kiwi Experience. This is a hop on hop off bus which takes you to all the main spots in NZ and pretty much takes all the hassle out of planning. We were picked up at 7.10am, headed towards Paihia in the Bay of Islands and were handed clipboards throughout the journey to plan busses, activities and accommodation – easy and so worth it! We stopped at a small town en route for a food break and a waterfall for a photo op. As we were staying a few extra days than most people, I pre booked a hostel which was slightly cheaper than the one most others on the coach booked on the way. Another nice hostel, with a sea view from the balcony. We also managed an upgraded room because I booked the wrong dates a while back and added an extra night a few weeks before. The hostel was small, friendly and more chilled out which suited us. 

Paihia is a small town but has everything you need for a seaside vacay (including the weather ๐Ÿ˜‰). It is also where we realised that it was fine to spend a few hours apart. On our first day, Jack was tired and wanted to take a nap, but I, being my usual fidgety self, wanted to get out and explore. That made for a happy Christy (getting some beach time) and Jack (enjoying our fluke of a room). Fish and chips is a big thing in NZ (not sure if its bigger here or in the U.K.) so we had our first one by the sea (well sausage and chips). I can’t post the picture as the sausage looked far too rude, but kept us giggling all night. 

Over the next few days, we kept ourselves busy by enjoying some of the local activities but also allowed ourselves time to relax. This will probably be the last time we can fully relax because the next three weeks are going to be full on with the tour being in full swing. If ever over this way, you have to take a day tour and get out amongst the islands. We took the cliffs and caves tour ($77 each- one of the cheaper options) which took us on a high speed boat exploring tiny rock islands, caves and the white sand beaches that the islands are known for. This tour was sold to us as you could either hike or chill on the beach at the end, obviously when we got there we realised you had to hike to get to the beach as the boat pick up place differed from the drop off place. During the hike I wanted to kill the coach driver for not telling us, but it was actually so worth it! The views were amazing and there was a cute cafe/ bar by the beach. 
We also took the ferry to Russell which is the other town in the bay of islands. Home to the oldest church in NZ, cafes and the Duke of Marlborough hotel (an old hotel dating back to 1800’s). We had a late lunch (best loaded wedges ever) and then a drink in the hotel bar with a view of the sea.
There are a few small islands which can be explored from Paihia. We hired a kayak for $45 in attempt to visit these and have a beach to ourselves. Worst idea ever! The sea looked so calm but as soon as we were 5m from shore, we nearly capsized and that set the tone. Jack accusing me of not paddling and me constantly getting a face full of salt water – this was not the best moment of the trip so far! We managed to make it to an island and decided to stay there for the duration of our hire period (minus the time taken to get back of course). It was nice to have the island to ourselves but I’m definitely not kayaking in the sea ever again. 

We had a great time and it felt like a mini holiday which was lovely, but we are both excited to get back on the coach and start our journey down to Christchurch (and to see some old family friends). 

My first impressions of NZ: nice people, way more relaxed than Oz, more solo travellers (and slightly older), still lots of Germans! 

Hope you are still enjoying the blog. 

Love as always xx

P.s. apologies for the lack of photos, McD’s wifi was is giving me grief! Check out my instagram for more ๐Ÿ˜˜