First Saturday in Nelson

:: Breakfast in the sunshine ::

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:: Trial class at the Gym for Preschoolers ::
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:: Almond-Date Tart at the Farmer’s Market downtown ::
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:: Poppies on our walk home ::
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:: Did I mention that it can be really long walk at times? ::

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:: Spying our house from a distance ::
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:: Our street ::
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:: Home ::

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:: The moon coming up over the mountain behind the house ::

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In Which We Arrive and Settle In

Things started out well in Sydney, waiting to get to New Zealand. We had one flight to Auckland, then one final short one to Nelson. We waited happily, and then, continued to wait as our flight got delayed 3 times. That was about 2 times too many, but we were hopeful that we would still make the flight to Nelson.

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Oh my, was this girlie tired. Not with jet lag, but simply lack of sleep, lack of food, lack of…being in a house? She was beginning to reach the breaking point of traveling. Nothing was going right and to make matters worse, her ears began bothering her at every landing.

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So we arrived in Auckland, but not soon enough. We rushed through customs and hurried as fast as we could all the way across parking lots following the green line to the domestic terminal, but alas. We missed our flight. But my ever persevering husband did not give up and burst into tears like Natasha was doing, or like his wife felt like doing. He determined taking a bus or renting a car was still not not as sensible as buying new tickets, so after doing just that, he rallied his troops with some takeaway (not “to-go” as we say) and off we went.

I think we had the last 3 seats available on this flight, and it placed Daniel with Natasha in the very back against the wall, and me a couple rows in front. While I was able to spend the 2ish hours getting to know more about New Zealand from my row companion (a gentleman who told me he works out of Auckland and has a boring job: An international pilot), Daniel struggled almost the entire flight with an very unruly and sleep-deprived, screaming and kicking 4 year old.

But we finally arrived in Nelson, New Zealand, our new home for the next three months. It was just like the movies, stepping off the plane and down the open stairs on the tarmac and meeting Nelson in the windy, dark night. I’m sure we looked a little ragged, but the pilot who I sat beside on the plane was all too kind and still offered us a ride to our new home.

(By the way, neither he, nor our landlady who greeted us, could believe what we carried was all our luggage. Can you tell I’m still a wee bit pleased about not over-packing?)

The next morning, things were looking much, much brighter.

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We spent the day doing absolutely nothing but finding food for our fridge (huge matter of importance), e-mailing home, trying out the trampoline, watching the goats watch us, and enjoying the view from our deck.

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The house is ideal, with little amenities that I am thrilled to have. Like, Natasha can reach the bathroom sink to wash her hands without a stool. The kitchen is well stocked, even with a muffin tin and a french press. It’s a bright sunny house, with windows everywhere, so it’s not dark at all. We have our very own washing machine and clothesline, which is *really* wonderful. (Those of you who know the story of me washing cloth diapers in Panama will understand my genuine happiness about that.) Natasha has her own room, and our landlord was kind enough to add some children’s books and stuffed animals for her to play with. There’s a “BBQ” on the deck for us to use, and of course, the previously seen trampoline. And, there’s even a full length mirror. That might seem very trivial, but it’s nice to know what you look like before dashing out the door.

I think we’re going to like it here. :)

 

 

A Day in Sydney

{August 5th, 2014} We {gratefully} interrupted our flight schedule to spend a day and night in Sydney. Our flight from Jakarta arrived early August 5th, we were able to shower and regroup before doing a bit of sight-seeing. That night, we slept in real beds in a quaint little one-room guest house in an Sydney family’s back yard, before starting out the next morning to New Zealand. Here’s a tip on using the trains in Sydney: Don’t buy tickets at the airport.

They’re about 4 times more expensive because of airport specific taxes! We did the slightly odd thing, and walked out of the airport over roads that had traffic streaming in and drivers looking at us funny, before finding a nice walking/biking path that took us to a regular train station. The ~1 mile walk to another station (Tempe) saved us about $36 AUD.

This was just one of the many times I was happy we weren’t lugging a ton of luggage around. After a lovely lunch at the Sideways Cafe, we headed off to see some wild animals of Australia. This particular “Light Rail” train\track section is very new, only about 100 days old. You pay once you’re on the train by handing money (which we didn’t have yet) to the kind ticket-master. We hadn’t changed any money yet, and they don’t take credit card like some of the other trains, but he was very friendly and kept saying we could have this ride on Sydney, and winked at us. 09-056

The Australian Animal Adventure Park is at Darling Harbour, with a terrific view of the water and the city.

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These frogs made us laugh. Can you see them, just perched on a leave like a big fat lump? 10-062

Zoo Keeper Janel with a baby Tasmanian Devil.

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Sitting on a wombat.

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Posing with a wallaby.

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The kangaroos weren’t being very photogenic but this fella stood very still and stately for us. 15-081

See the koala?

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Ringo, the crocodile, was incredibly huge. I had no idea they got this big. 17-086

Darling Harbour:

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After this picture, Natasha proceeded to go around to each statue and imitate its position. 20-093

We will have about 2 more days in Sydney when we return to the States, so we’ll be able to do more sightseeing then. But this was a fine little outing to welcome us Down Under. 21-096

Flying Business Class

It most definitely has its perks. Let’s start with the lounge. When waiting for our flight in Chicago, we were granted access to one of those lounges that I’ve only seen people disappear into like a secret club. Well, it did seem like a secret was being shared, because I had no idea they were so nice. Not only do they have comfortable seating, but free food, beverages of all kinds and wi-fi. So we enjoyed a few hours of one of those lounges while waiting for our 15 hour flight to Hong Kong to begin boarding.

Let me say before we go any further, that we did not purchase business class tickets. Mainly because, we can’t afford business class tickets. We do however, work the system and use airline points (explained here by my wonderful husband) and that is the only way we were able to do this. This also was the reason we had such a funny routing:

  1. Chicago to Hong Kong: 15 hours
  2. Hong Kong to Kulala Lumpur, Mayalasia: 3.75 hours
  3. Kulala Lumpur to Jakarta, Indonesia: 2 hours
  4. Jakarta to Sydney, Australia: 6+ hours. We stayed the night in Sydney, then finished up the journey with
  5. Sydney to Auckland, New Zealand: 3 hours
  6. Auckland to Nelson, New Zealand: 1.25 hours.

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So basically we chose to fly business class to New Zealand for the number one reason that it will probably be the longest distance we’ll ever fly and we wanted to be comfortable for the 30 hours of flight time it takes to get there.

And comfortable, we were. (These seats not only reclined, but laid completely flat.)
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We were also quite well fed and hydrated. I have never used the bathroom so much when flying, and I think it’s because they’re constantly offering you something to drink. (Or maybe because I’ve never been on an airplane for 15 hours at a time before. Not sure which it was.) As soon as you’re in your seat, a smiling stewardess would appear asking if you wanted juice, water or champagne. I mean, you might not even be sitting down yet, and there she’d be asking for your order.

This first flight was the long one: Chicago to Hong Kong, and when we reached the gate for boarding they handed cookies out to commemorate this new overnight flight with Cathay Pacific. Daniel isn’t sure why they were saying it was new, because this isn’t a new route for them. Perhaps a new crew? Either way, the cookies were tasty.

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Shortly after the before-take-off beverages arrived, we were handed a menu. A menu, indeed! A list of appetizer types of dishes, then three options for a main meal. Supper was served soon after take-off, but Natasha was sleeping. So when she woke up sometime during the night, probably around 3 or 4 a.m. she had the fruit that we had earlier. It was amazing fruit…big raspberries, fresh blueberries and strawberries sweeter than the ones I picked myself this past spring!
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Later then, for breakfast, we all had omelettes with sausage and potatoes. Natasha ate like a lady of luxury, doing something she’s never been allowed to do before: watch a movie at the same time. I have to add that nothing was in a plastic container. Except the butter, which was in a teeny little white dish, all of its own. (Still classy to me for some reason. See bottom picture for an illustration.)

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So after that long, long, flight, we arrived safe and sound and a wee bit sleepy, in Hong Kong. But I must say, I was more tired going to Portugal than ANY of these flights. I think that was due to the fact that I was hungry, and didn’t get any sleep. Flying economy with seats that “recline” about 1/2 an inch, are not conducive to any type of restful sleep. So even thought we woke up every hour for 15 hours to take melatonin, we still felt rested at the end of the this first flight.

Ah yes. About the luggage now. You know how I mentioned that we were only taking 3 carry-ons and 3 personal bags? Here they are. For the flight from Sydney to Auckland and Auckland to Nelson, they limit the carry-on weight to 7 kilos. (That’s 15 lbs.) Any checked bags cost $125 each. So, we went the cheap route and packed light. Very, very light.

Daniel did send a box to our house in New Zealand before we left, because by not checking any luggage, that meant we couldn’t take any of those questionably pointy objects like his safety razor which uses straight blades, or my sewing kit with its small scissors. So he shipped his laptop and a few of those items to have waiting for us.

 

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Mostly happy travelers, in Hong Kong. 4 year olds who are hungry and sleep deprived can be rather fickle creatures.
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Here’s an example of the dining experience. A fork and knife for each course, and so on. A white table cloth on the table, then a tray with another linen cloth, and the silverware are wrapped up tightly in a real linen napkin. I didn’t get a picture of the strawberries and fruit I mentioned earlier, but that dish even had a sprig of peppermint as garnish. It’s all just so lovely.
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The service too, was very nice. The stewardesses and stewards have all been so very friendly, accommodating and helpful. They thank me, for handing them a cup, as often as I thank them for refilling my cup! And, no little plastic cups in sight here…they’ve all been glass. Even miniature goblet style for the beverages before take-off.

Now, on our last two flights, we didn’t fly business. Those were shorter flights so we survived economy just fine. But still. Flying business makes the entire journey so much more enjoyable, and I never thought I’d feel so at ease with flying. I actually look forward to our return trip home when we once again have many hours in the air.