Monday, March 7, 2011

Yes, It is a new year... and finally, here is a new post!

I know, I know... I am behind on my blog, and there is s much to tell since the Turkey festivities and Christmas Markets in November! Usually it is my mother who reminds me my blog hasn't been updated... but recently my sister emailed saying, "what's up with your blog?" That is when I know I need to get it updated! So, finally I commit to a series of new posts this week. 
The first picking up on my December Travels to beautiful NEW ZEALAND! 

Enjoy - Nikki 

After a 35 hour journey from Prague, including a 9 hour lay-over in Dubai- I made it to Aucklan, New Zealand where my Grandma Hume was anxiously awaiting me! 
After a shower, a yummy fish dinner, and a solid 8 hours of sleep- all stretched out in a double sized bed and NOT in an airline seat, I was ready to explore Auckland for the day. 

 YAH! I am finally here in NZ!

Granny and I took the ferry to Devonport- a quaint but lively little town at the bottom the North Shore across from downtown Auckland. It was a beautiful, sunny but also very humid day! 

While there I saw the funniest thing- a giant snow globe producing fake snow... I suppose even in the sunny summer season of New Zealand snow is a Christmas treasure...?

I also had my first lesson in Maori words (big strange words)... Grandma kept quizzing me on the name of this beautiful summer flowering tree. The Pohutukawa Tree
And I had my first taste of HOKEY POKEY ice cream!
Highly recommended by Kiwi colleagues at ISP- and now by me!

And even though it was summer and I was walking around in sunscreen and summer clothes... There was no lack of giant holiday decorations. This giant Santa was decorating a large department store on a corner of Queens street in downtown Auckland.
 After a day in Auckland, Granny and I drove to Hamilton where my Uncle Wynne and Aunt Susan live. I had the pleasure of an evening spent with them over good wine, dinner and a visit to see their church. I hadn't seen my Aunt or Uncle in many years... it was very special to be in their hometown and seeing places I have only heard or seen photos of for so many years.
After a brief morning tour of Hamilton, Granny and I continued driving on to Taupo! The table above became my favorite place to relax book in hand or Granny beside me for a great chat- both with a glass of good red in our hands! Below are a few photos of Lake Taupo...

I heart Taupo... and my Granny!
I love taking beautiful photos...
Granny's basil was green, fresh, and smelled heavenly...
... and her tomato plants were VERY healthy!

There were many day trips I took with my family- the first was to Rotorua. 
I spent an hour or so walking through the Te Puia Maori cultural center and the Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve.

Rotorua is home to the world famous Pohutu geyser... this was an amazing natural expereince. 

Also well known to this area are the natural hot mud pools... it is so funny to stand near this pool and watch the mud bubble and make the pop, pop sound! 
Near the Thermal Reserve is a local Maori Village. Below the bridge near the entrance to the village is this swimming hole where the children can be found during hot summer days. Grandma brought me here because the swimming children have made a game out of collecting money from tourists and visitors. "Throw it in," they say, "throw it in!" and so you find a small coin in your change purse, toss it over the bridge and the children all dive in and search for the shiny coin in the murky waters. Many of them splash up out of the water with the coin in their teeth... very cute! 

After a morning of touring the thermal activity and Maori culture, Granny and I had refreshing picnic lunch of tuna sandwiches, mandarins and a coke zero on the deck beside Lake Rotorua. 

Further down the lake shore is Ohinemutu- a Maori-meets-European village. We stopped here to see  St. Faith's Anglican Church- a well-kept, intricately decorated and very historic church.

On our way back to Taupo, we drove to the Agrodome where I had the benefit of experiencing the Sheep Show! I learned there are 15 breeds of sheep that are sheared for their wool... They even shear a sheep in front of the audience... The sheep show is quite an experience.
Then Christmas morning came and it was clear from the bluging stockings...
... and over flow of gifts under the tree that SANTA had been to Taupo! 

I guess it is true that Santa does his job- snow or sun! I wonder if he was sweating in his big red costume when he and the reindeer landed in sunny, summer weather in New Zealand?

None-the-less, we were all very happy with our gifts... 

And to be together- as family- on Christmas day. 
And then came the Christmas/summer food! My Uncle Wynne sure knows how to do a Christmas ham... I felt pretty blessed to be around in the days following the holiday-ham sandwiches, need I say more! 

To add some flavor and crunch, I whipped up this perfect summer food- Shrimp Coleslaw... oh, alright, I only participated by cutting up the cabbage! The rest was all my Aunt Susan's doing- and it was so tasty!
Granny was in charge of the scrumptious, but never-ending pasta salad. No matter how much we all ate it really did expand and last for days! 
The day after Christmas, my cousin and I drove to Mt. Ruapehu- one of the area's most active volcanoes. It's most recent eruption was in 2007 but when this volcano/ski mountain has its violent hiccups- the ski season can often be effected! Wow! 
Active volcano or not, Lousie and I took the chair lift up the mountain. It was a clear, sunny day which made the view from the chair lift truly spectacular! 
(Not to mention we ladies looks pretty good...)

The above photo shares, in only a small way, the beauty of the water that pours from Huka Falls near Taupo.
 At Huka Falls
Where the Waikato River flows near Taupo you will find Taupo Bungy! 
And, no, that is not me! If I was brave enough to have taken the plunge, so to speak, you would have had a blog update much sooner! But, Louise and I did spend an hour watching various people bungy jump of the platform and over the stunning blue-green water. 
Around Taupo, there is more than just beautiful outdoor areas to explore. 
Welcome to L'Arte Cafe- a magical, garden and art cafe. 

My amazing and beautiful Granny on the mosaic-tile garden couch.
L'Arte Cafe was so tasty we enjoyed it together twice- once on a rainy day with a GREAT cappuccino and another for lunch and an afternoon photo shoot in the sunny garden!
A few days before the New Year, Lousie and I headed to The Mount... or Mt Maunganui as the Lonely Planet and most maps refer to it. 

The Mount at sunset... 
For two days, we walked, shopped, ate ice cream, collected shell-rings and spent time together- just us two girl cousins. 
View from other side of the mount...

Yes- I was on THE MOUNT!
Such stunning scenery...
After walking around the mount, we opted for a big breakfast instead of taking it to the summit!
After our 2 day journey at the mount, Louise and I came home to Granny's- and freshly grilled lamb chops! So yummy! I enjoyed all of my time in New Zealand, but I loved the days when we just relaxed together: reading a book, crocheting and knitting, sitting in the sun, running errands and/or meeting a few of my Grandma's friends for a coffee... eventually, the new year found us! On New Year's eve, Grandma and I made fresh sushi, indulged in it's tastiness- watched a movie, and then watched the fireworks over the lake before turning in for a good night's sleep. The most quiet- and one of the best new year's celebrations I have had in a few years.

And then there was Napier...

 and more importantly... there was Cape Kidnappers...

... and the GANNET SAFARI!

This Gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers is the largest mainland nesting place in the world! 
It was a beautiful mess of squawking, nesting, and wonder we had ever seen!
Gannets are part of the Booby family with beautiful bog bodies, golden coloring on the crown of their head and funny dances and sounds used to recognize and/or attract mates!

It was truly one of the best parts of my trip... a safari! 

Similar to the eagle who soars, the Gannets are kind of majestic- well, sort of!

You would think on a trip to New Zealand one would take a zillion photos of sheep or Kiwi birds,

but my photo count in the upper hundreds includes many photos of the Gannets... 
(Sue I am laughing out loud as I write this... thinking of you and Granny on the Gannet Safari Bus!)

After many great days and evenings with the family whom I love so much, we saw this last Taupo sunset together after a fun dinner at the Hilton. All in all- NZ was a great journey especially the quality time with my extended family. Many laughs, good New Zealand wine (and lamb), Anut Sue's Christmas Cake, and, well of course the Gannets- will all be lasting memories... until next year's of course!