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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

I can’t believe it’s been 9 – 10 months since I’ve posted in this blog.  One thing that I’ve learned about myself over the past year is that I’m not a very disciplined blog writer.

Despite not much happening on the blog, I have been doing a fair bit of travelling for work since my post in January.  I’ll give you the abbreviated run-down.

Ukraine

This was my second trip to Ukraine within the past couple of years.  The difference between my 1st and 2nd trip was  – actually, there wasn’t much of a difference.  Lots of snow, lots of vodka, and lots of fur (one day I counted 97 people wearing full-on fur coats).   Despite the not-so-great food, Ukraine is still home to one of my all time favorite restaurants appropriately titled ‘The Ukrainian Restaurant’.  It’s like Christmas threw up in a hunting lodge.

Inside the Ukrainian Restaurant

Cold Day in Kiev

I still need to write about my visit to Chernobyl, but that deserves a post of it’s own.

 Turkey

I had not been to Turkey since Kelly and I were there backpacking in 2010 and the second time just reinforced how much I love this country, particularly Istanbul.  Much like my work trip to Thailand, I got to see a different side to the city – the 5-star hotel and fine dining side.  The food, people, and sights were incredible and my coworker and I were seriously considering just not coming home.

Not only did I make several new friends this trip, I got to meet up with an old one as well. Kelly and I met Rahim during our first week in Turkey and ate several fine meals and had many drinks at his fabulous restaurant, Adonin, near the Blue Mosque.  Due to the power of Facebook, I managed to stay in touch with him over the past couple of years and my coworker and I were able to pay Rahim a visit and again have a late night of dinner, drinks, and ‘dancing’.

Brazil

I’ve been fortunate enough to go to Brazil twice in the last few months for work.  I had never been before and was thrilled to be able to go (and to not have to foot the bill for the $180 visa).

I visited several cities while I was there – Sao Paulo, Curitiba, and Porto Allegre – but my favorite was Rio de Janiero.  Despite the fact that it was winter there and the weather didn’t cooperate as often as I would have liked, I did manage to have a couple of sunny warm days and was able to hit up Sugarloaf and the Christo statue and walk along the amazing beaches.  I must say that Rio is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.  It’s this enormous metropolis with millions of people right smack in the middle of the jungle…and on a beach.  This place is going to be absolutely NUTS during the World Cup and the Olympics.

Impanema Beach

View from Sugarloaf Mountain

Christ the Redeemer Statue

View from the Christo statue

Other than the incredibly friendly (and beautiful) people that I met, my other favorite thing about Brazil was the food.  By far my favorite South American cuisine that I’ve experienced thus far and I packed on 10 pounds between the 2 trips to prove it.  Here’s why:

Pao de Queijo – balls of fried cheese bread that is sold on practically every street corner.  Enough said.

Acai – A tasty berry blended with banana and ice , served with granola and more fruit on top.  A light, and ‘healthy’ treat that turns your lips and tongue purple as if you’ve just downed a bottle of red wine.  WORTH IT.

Acai!!!

Feijouda – A traditional Brazilian meal that consists of sausage and other pig parts cooked in black beans, served with rice, collard greens, more black beans, yucca fries, grainy stuff, and orange slices.  A nap is necessary.

Traditional Brazilian Dish

Italian Food – People always rave about the Italian food in Argentina, but I have to tell you that they are WRONG and Brazil puts Argentina TO SHAME in the Italian food department.  Also, I don’t get good Italian in Austin so I went a little OVERBOARD on it here.

Churrascaria – A mind-blowing amount of different meat on sticks served with salad, rice, fries, yucca, beans, fried cheese, onion rings, and sushi, YOU FUCKING NAME IT THEY HAVE IT.  Food Coma City.

Coxina – basically a fried chicken donut.  Yuuuuuuuuum.

Caipiroska – My cocktail of choice.  Vodka, Ice, Sugar, and muddled lime (or whatever fruit your heart desires).

My New Favorite Cocktail

I didn’t even mention the sushi.

 

All in all, a good year of travelling – can’t wait to see what adventures (and obviously meals) I’ll get up to in 2013!

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With another overnight bus ride under our belts, we arrived in Fethiye, a town located in the south of Turkey along the Mediterranean coast.  We would stay here a full day and night before catching our boat for a 4 night Blue Cruise along the coast over to Olympos. V-Go’s, our hostel in Fethiye, was super nice; they had a great swimming pool, wonderful staff, fantastic view of the bay, and hosted BBQ’s just about every night. 

View from the deck of our hostel

The first day we arrived we  checked out the neighboring resort town of Oludeniz.  We heard the beaches there were absolutey stunning (despite being full of European tourists) so we hopped on the local mini-bus and took a 20 minute ride to catch some rays.  We spent the day lounging at a bean-bag beach bar, sipping beers and admiring the gorgeous water and surrounding cliffs.  It’s also a hot spot for paragliding and “luckily” the landing strip was right behind us.  Fortunatley, most landings were pretty good and no one ate it.

Beach at Oludeniz

That evening for dinner, we visited the fish market in the center of Fethiye where you choose and pay for your fish, shrimp, etc. and then bring it over to one of the surrounding restaruants that will cook it up for you as desired and provide salad and bread for only $5!   Talk about fresh!  We all agreed that it had to be one of the best seafood meals we’d all had in our lives.  I think Seth still dreams about that fish market!  After dinner, Kim headed back to the hotel and Seth and I had some beers at the pier and caught up on what each of us had been up to over the last 7 or 8 months.  We ended the evening having beers at V-Go with the staff and headed to bed.

Seth and his delicious salmon

The next morning we were up and at em’ quite early to catch our bus to the bay where we would be shuttled out to the boat for our gullet cruise along the Mediterranean coast.  We picked up a handful of people that would be joining us on the cruise and spent the short ride getting aquainted.  Once on the boat, we and met the other passengers and our captian, Ahmet, and headed out.  Even though the ocean and landscape were incredibly beautiful, I had a little trouble that first day.  I’m not sure if it was the quality of the Turkish motionsickness medicine or what, but I was seasick for the first 4 or 5 hours on the boat.  Luckily, I found my sea legs later that afternoon and could relax and enjoy myself. 

Our gullet

For the next few days,  all we did was lounge around, work on our tan, eat, drink, swim in the coldest water EVER and check out the scenery.  I also learned how to play backgammon!  We had perfect weather the whole time.  Our first stop was the small town of Kas (pronounced “cash”) for a short walk around and some souvenier shopping.  In the days that followed, we cruised by the former town of Dolikisthe, also known as the ‘Sunken City’, as it was ruined by an earthquake in the 2nd century.  We were able to see one of the Greek Islands from the boat one day as well! 

 

Part of the Sunken City

Kim jumping in!

Swimmin'

Chillin' on the deck

The food that Ahmet and his mate prepared for us was delicious.  Normally they have a cook that is on board but they were a little short staffed.  I even helped out with dinner one night!  Another evening, we docked the boat and the guys BBQed for everyone on a small island. 

Seth, Kim and I spent every night sleeping on deck under the stars.  It was awesome. We had such a great time and couldn’t have asked for a better cruise.  Great people, food, sights, Efes beer….it’s all you need!  Our last night, we hung out in the bay near a town called Demre.  Our whole group would be shuttled to the dock the next afternoon to catch a mini-bus to Olympos.  We all planned to stay Seth’s last night there in ‘tree houses’ next to more beach and old ruins.  Can’t wait!

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As Kim mentioned before, I had a rough time the first few days of the trek.  However, once I had my ‘Nepali magic shoes’ and my phenomenal 75 song, jammin’ playlist I created on my ipod, things got much better physically and reaching the base camp was one of the best feelings mentally I have ever felt.  Its indescribable.  I am so glad I decided to push through and keep going.  As Powan said, ‘its like a little slice of heaven’ and he wasn’t lying.

Nepali Magic Shoes

Day 8-Bamboo to Jhinu

After our night in Bamboo, we headed out early for another up and downhill trek to Jhinu where the natural hot springs are located.  We were really looking forward to relaxing and giving our sore muscles a little treat.  The walk that day was a little rough, especially with the millions of gigantic steps leading up to Chhomrong.  But with the base camp behind us and the natural high we had from reaching it, the days seemed to get easier and easier. 

Guesthouse in Chomrong

When we made it to Jhinu, we had a deliciously ice cold Fanta ( a rare treat when you are up in the mountains- literally, they chill the drinks by sticking them in a bucket of water outside) and decided that instead of hiking to Ghandruk, another small village 7 hours away, we would take a rest day the following day.  Normally this is the day most people rest, but the option of continuing to Ghandruk is available for those who don’t want to stop.  Kim asked Powan if we would be missing anything by skipping Ghandruk, and he assured us that we wouldn’t, it was ‘just another village’.  Plus, we think he really wanted a rest day as well:) 

Since we knew we didn’t have a tough day ahead, Kim and I relaxed with some cold beers and a few games of Dumbal with Powan and Sabin.  There was also a large group of student volunteers partying it up to celebrate their last day on the trek, so I had a few glasses of whiskey with them and called it a night.

Day 9- Rest day in Jhinu

We woke up bright and early to take advantage of the cooler weather for our short hike down to the hot springs.  We spent the next hour and a half relaxing in the small pools right next to the river surrounded by gorgeous mountains, chatting with the local Tibetan women enjoying a dip before a days work.  It was so nice to just sit and relax and take in everything we had accomplished in the past week.   We headed back to the guesthouse for one of the best breakfasts we’d had the whole trek- homemade french toast and apple pie!  We spent the day reading, napping and playing cards with the guys. 

Relaxin' at the hot springs

Day 10- Jhinu to Landruk

The next morning, we awoke feeling nice and rested and ready for our short 3 hour, mostly downhill hike over to Landruk, one of the larger villages on the trek.  One thing we noticed along the way, is that everyone still does everything manually up in the mountains.  Tilling, planting, watering and harvesting crops, laundry, etc.  The villagers even cut bricks by hand! It’s like you’ve stepped back in time a couple hundred years.  It was crazy.

When we reached the village, I did some yoga in the yard to give my muscles a good stretch while Kim took a little nap.  Again, we had a nice long afternoon to read, play cards and have a few beers with the guides, porters and newcomers to the trail. 

Day 11- Landruk to Dhampus

This was our last long day of the trek.  It was about a 6.5 hour hike with surprisingly a few flat areas.  We hadn’t seen flat ground the entire trek up to this point.  Kim and I took our time and really soaked in the scenery and sense of accomplishment we felt.  It was crazy to stop, turn around and look back at Annapurna South to see how far we’d come.  Again, one of the best highs ever.   As we approached Dhampus, the largest village on the trek, we started to see cars, a local school, and more signs that we were getting back to current civilization.  We hung out that afternoon out on the lawn with beers and our books, while a few others played soccer with the kids from the guesthouse. 

Guides playing games with the local kiddos

We had also heard that the guides wanted chicken for dinner that night and were surprised when one of them literally went and grabbed a chicken wandering around the yard, gave it a few swift blows with a stick and started to prepare to de-feather and clean it on the lawn!    One of guides came around the corner with one of those crazy hook knives and upon seeing the bewildered look on our faces, decided to finish the process behind the building.  It was pretty funny.

To commemorate our final evening on the trek, we planned to have dahl baht one last time, but that we would eat it with Powan and Sabin the traditional Nepali way, with our hands.  The guys were really excited to see us get down and dirty as they do every meal of their lives.  They actually never sat with us at dinner because they said the Nepali way of eating was too ‘rough’ for tourists.  Ha!  Kim chickened out, but we had dinner in the small dinning hall with about 25 people taking pictures of Powan and Sabin and me stuffing our faces with fists full of the local favorite.  It was so much fun!   With a few tips from Powan, I pretty much got it down. 

Me and Powan eating dahl baht the Nepali way

Day 12- Dhampus to Pokhara

Our last day was a short 1.5 hour, super steep, downhill hike into Phedi where we would catch a ride back into Pokhara, the town we left from to start the trek.   This part was a little bittersweet for the both of us.  I was so happy that I finished the trek, but at the same time we were sad that it was over.  Especially Kim.  Our entire trip had been planned around this trek, getting there at the right time for weather and all.  It was one of the things Kim had looked forward to the most.  But again,  we were so proud that we had done such an amazing thing and seen some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.  A place that not too many people get to experience.    This was definitely one of the most physically and mentally challenging things I had ever done and I will never forget it.  I’m so glad Kim exposed me to such a wonderful part of the world.  Thanks Kim:)

Me, Sabin, Kim, and Powan

 

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Located in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is known as the cultural city of the country and amongst other activities, is a popular destination to undertake a trek to hill-tribe villages.   After all of the island hopping, Kelly and I settled down for a whole week here and really fell in love with the place. Despite the noise, traffic and smoggy air (due to all of the ‘slash and burning’ that goes on to cultivate the mountain slopes), the city has an extremely laid back atmosphere. The ‘Old City’ is surrounded by a moat and a brick wall (crumbling in some areas) that once served as a defense against attackers and is full of narrow cobblestone alleyways lined with cafes and restaurants.

The wall around the city center

Our first day in town, Kelly and I immediately signed up for a Thai cooking course.   There are dozens to choose from, but we settled on Thai Farm Cooking School, a class taught outside of the city on an organic farm.   They picked us up from our guesthouse early the following morning and stopped off at a local outdoor market where we were given the rundown of the key ingredients for Thai cooking and allowed some time to wander amongst the endless food stalls.

Upon arrival, we were given a tour of the farm, including an explanation of the produce that is grown there, before being shown to our cooking stations. In no time we were pounding mortars and pestles to make our own chili paste from scratch…it’s actually quite a workout! Every person chose five dishes to make…Kelly and I decided on green and red chicken curry, tom yam and tom ka soups, pad thai, chicken with basil, chicken with cashew nuts, and sticky rice with mango.

 

Mmmmmm

It was a great day and the food was fantastic…we went home with our bellies full (yes, you eat the food that you make) and doggy-bags in tow, along with a recipe book of all the yummy dishes we had made.   Kelly and I are super excited to cook authentic Thai food for our friends and family when we get back home!

Look what we made!

The next afternoon and evening was dedicated to the Sunday Walking Street Market, a market that blows all the other markets we‘ve seen away. Rachadamnoen Road, one of the main streets in the Old City, is closed off to traffic and the entire street is lined with row after row of vendor booths that sell clothing, jewelry, home décor, paintings, and other local crafts.   Singers, dancers, and other musicians perform in the middle of the road and tucked inside the temple yards are food stalls packed with diners feasting on pork dumplings, fried noodles and rice, meat skewers, and fresh fruit smoothies.   Kelly and I had another fine, cheap street food meal as we tried to navigate the shops that sprawled in every direction, but finally had to give up around 9 p.m.   After four hours, we probably only saw half the market…it is that huge.

Stalls at the Sunday market

The following day, Jeff K. from Canada arrived and the three of us took a taxi up to the Doi Suthep, one of the local Buddhist temples.   The temple was pretty, but unfortunately, was under construction…the big stupa was covered with tarps and scaffolding!

Wat Doi Suthep

 That evening, we all ticked another Thailand ‘must-see’ off of our list and attended a Muy Thai Boxing Fight.   Picturing a boxing match from the States, we thought we would be sitting in a crowded arena with hundreds of other fans, but were surprised when we arrived at a courtyard full of bars and were escorted to a small ring surrounded by benches and tables…much more up close and personal than we expected!

Muy Thai!

There were five rounds of boxing, the first couple between young Thai boys and teenagers, followed by a match between two Thai women boxers (awesome!), and then two international fighters against a local Thai.  These fighters don’t mess around and the sport looks absolutely exhausting.   After our fill of punches and kicks, syrupy-sweet cocktails and shirtless dancing lady-boys, we called it a night.

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Oh… the food.  When Kim and I were planning this trip, one of the main reasons we picked Hong Kong as a destination was because of the food.  And boy were we glad we did. 
Generally speaking, Hong Kong is known for having a huge eating culture.  Meal time is when locals gather to not only enjoy a delicious meal, but to gab about their day, gossip, discuss politics or current events.  Most restaruants are jam packed, loud as can be, and I have to say, wonderful to experience.  All of the table manners your parents taught you as a kid, throw them out the window!!  Eat with your hands, slurp your soup as obnoxiously as possible, lean in and shovel as much food in your mouth as you can, even let out a nice belch after a chug of beer.  It’s all part of it and acceptable and often expected or an insult if you don’t.
 
One has to know that you can spend as little $2 on a good hardy meal in Hong Kong.  However, with all the variety and prestige at some local hot spots, you can easily spend a week to two week’s salary in one sitting.  Because we had such great hosts, Kim and I were lucky enough to get a wide spectrum of all Hong Kong has to offer.  Here are some of the highlights…
 
-Breakfast at the local “hole-in-the wall”
 
Traditionally, most Cantonese breakfasts consist of noodle soup with some sort of shrimp, pork or chicken dumpling or a rice porridge called congee.  Since we both love noodles and any dumpling you offer, this would cause us to start most days with a smile.  These meals would run us around $2-$3 US.  Luckily, if we felt like a good ol’ egg mcmuffin, there were McDonalds on just about every corner.  In Hong Kong, McDonalds a beloved treat and reminds most people of their childhood. You will most likely see more locals than foreigners in line with you.
 
-Street-side eateries at the Temple Street Night Market
 
After wandering around for hours at this must-see market, allow yourself to get shown to a table at one of these tiny, outdoor restaruants.  Kim and I grubbed on some delicious flat noodles and bok choy in oyster sauce.  We washed it down with Tsing Tsao beers all for under $7 US.  The group of guys next to us had the chili crabs and they looked phenomenal as well.  I knew we should have went for the crab!

Scarfing noodles at the night market

 
-Dim Sum at Luk Yu, one of the oldest joints in Hong Kong
 
This was one of the places Doug used to go with his parents as a kid almost every Sunday.  With it’s traditional dishes and atmosphere, this place is always packed so expect to wait or be told a time to come back.  We sat and had beers around the corner for an hour and a half until it was our time to indulge.  Since Doug knew the ropes (and the language) we let him order.  For the next hour, the dishes kept coming.  We must have had 10 piping hot bamboo steamers on the table at one time.  It was so good! From pork and shrimp dumplings, to spring rolls, fried rice in banana leaves, Kim’s favorite-BBQ pork donuts, Shanghai noodles, and the sweet delectible egg tart, we were stuffed and happy.  The perfect first Dim Sum experience for me.
 
-Freshest Seafood at Tung Po
 
This place was the REAL Hong Kong.  A huge, super loud, packed room filled with plastic tables and chairs, water tanks galore with endless amounts of live creatures, and bowls of beer on every table.  That’s right, bowls, not glasses.  It was so great to see tons of locals gathered around gigantic tables playing dice or drinking games and laughing up a storm. Since this was one of June and Alex’s favorite places in the world for seafood, we let them order.  Soon our table was filled with black bean and chili clams, garlic shrimp and crab, eggplant casserole, and the best chicken that Kim and I have ever had, complete with crispy skin.  And we never eat the skin….but oh lord, was it good!  Because we enjoyed ourselves so much, we convinced Doug that we had to take him there for our last meal together in town.  And as Kim said before, Joseph (Doug’s friend) just happened to be old drinking buddies with one of the chef’s.  So of course, our second round at Tung Po was just as fabulous, if not more so.  Red curry crab, pigs knuckle, grilled squid, razor clams in black bean chili sauce and my favorite, some huge crazy ass shrimp that was as big as a lobster!!  The name escapes me now…Joseph, help me out here buddy…and we washed it all down with numerous bowls of beer that the chef gladly came and chugged with us.  As we were walking out, he even stopped us, stole some poor table’s beer and bowls, pounded one back with us and politely thanked the table and promised them more beer in a matter of seconds. It was freakin’ awesome. 

Tung Po

Garlic Crab, Eggplant Casserole, and Black Bean Chili Clams

Crispy chicken with garlic...the skin was the best!

Curry crab

 
-Shanghainese in Central
 
Again, thanks to our lovely host Doug, we were taken to another dining gem,  a great place in the Soho district of Central on Hong Kong Island.  We went to meet up with another one of Doug’s friends from highshcool, Kathy and nesteled into our quaint little booth and started off with glass noodles and sliced pork.  We then had some steamy spring rolls and pork dumplings with liquified pork fat.  You have to bite off the top of the dumpling, let it cool, and then suck out the fat and then toss the dumpling in your mouth.  It sounds gross, but it was heaven.  I promise.  We then cried our eyes out as we inhaled a fantastic tofu dish in red sauce.  So painful, but so worth it. 

Pork fat dumplings

 
-Peking Duck at the “American Restarant”
 
Yes. The American Restaruant.  The owner named his restaruant this during WWII to attract American soldiers.  I guess it worked because business is still booming.  Peking duck is roasted duck dish with a very thin crispy skin.  The showpiece is more the skin than the actual meat.  They bring the duck out on a cart and carve it into small pieces and decoratively place them on a large plate.  Typically, you wrap the duck and skin in small, thin crepes with cucumber and a dark hoisin-like sauce and enjoy.  I preferred just the duck dipped in the sauce.  It was amazing.  This dish is quite popular all over China and definitely should be on everyone’s list of foods to try, especially if you are in China:)

Peking duck spread

 
-The Most Amazing Sushi Dinner of Our Lives
 
Seriously.  No Joke.  After our wine tasting with Doug and his parents, Joseph suggested a sushi place, where once again, the chef was one of his drinking buddies.  We sat down at the small, 8-table restarant and allowed Joseph to do all the talking.  We started out with one of the best cold sakes.  Then Joseph informs us that we are going to do “chef’s choice” and closes the menu.  For the next 2 hours, beautiful displays of sashimi, soup, foie gras wrapped in wagyu beef that literally melted in your mouth, tempura, sushi rolls and sashimi just kept coming. So did the Sapporro and sake.  The tuna was so amazing, we almost cried.  Great company and great conversation topped everything off.  Then the bill came.  The guys wouldn’t let us see and told us it was their treat.  Thanks guys!!   Both of you have to come to Austin so we can show you a great time and do our best to return the favor!!
 

Amazing sashimi

So as you can see, Hong Kong totally lived up to our expectations.  We are so glad we stopped of here and were taken such good care of.  Thanks again June, Doug and Joseph!!
 

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Ok, so I know this Christmas post is almost a month late, but what can I say?Living the life of a backpacker is extremely hectic with so many sights to see and people to meet…

One of the things I was looking most forward to while visiting New Zealand was the chance to reconnect with my old flatmates who I lived with here back in 2001.  When Becky and her husband Gavin offered to host us for the holidays while we were in Christchurch, Kelly and I happily accepted.  Our first night after getting settled and meeting Caitlen, their adorable daughter, Gavin cooked us up a fantastic meal while we reminisced about old times.  We felt at home already!

Christmas Eve we were invited to dinner with Gavin’s family who live literally just across the road.  Not surprisingly, families in New Zealand celebrate the holidays just as we do in the States…with a crapload of food. Ham, turkey and dressing, New Zealand crayfish, salads galore, chocolate mousse and some amazing raspberry sorbet were only some of the goodies we consumed that night.  

I got to play Santa while everyone opened gifts and we also engaged in one of my favorite Christmas traditions here in New Zealand…the Christmas cracker.  A Christmas cracker is a cardboard tube where someone grabs one end and you pull the other…it pops really loudly when it comes apart and there is a paper crown and other goodies inside.  I just like the paper crown because it reminds me of the old school  Burger King crowns we’d wear around as kids. What ever happened to those anyway?

Pullin' the Christmas Cracker

 

Paper Crowns!

One of the many dinner courses

Christmas morning, Becky’s family came over and after some glasses of bubbly and a yummy breakfast, we opened more gifts. Kelly and I got a CD of New Zealand bands and a huge tube of New Zealand candy bars from Becky and Gavin, both which would come in super handy on our drive around the south island. 

Caitlen with a Christmas cookie...what a cutie!

 That afternoon, we drove out to Becky’s parents house for Christmas dinner. The seasons are reversed here, so it was a bit strange to be sitting outside on blankets in their garden with eighty degree weather, sipping champagne and eating hors d’oeuvres. I’ll take this over a white Christmas any day! We did a white elephant gift exchange, which is always fun and I ended up with a pair of nail clippers and Kelly scored a cute New Zealand ornament. I don’t think that anyone was too impressed with the sweet Chris Christoperson CD that I brought as my gift.

Summer Christmas

 

Kelly and Lucy showing off their gifts

Me with my nail clippers and Becky with her classy New Zealand license plate frame

We had another incredible meal of roast lamb and other delicious sides and salads before indulging ourselves with a New Zealand specialty – chocolate pavlova. Pavlova is a meringue topped with cream and berries and is very light and sugary and is absolutely wonderful! We had a few more drinks in the garden before calling it a night.

Christmas dinner spread

Even though Kelly and I were sad to be away from our own families over Christmas, Becky, Gavin, Caitlin and their families couldn’t have been better people to spend our holiday with. They made us feel completely at home and we were so thankful that they let us crash their family gatherings. Christmas with ‘The Brinch’s’ will be one that we will never forget!

Becky and Gavin Brinch, our amazing holiday hosts

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Welly!

Our train ride down the eastern coast of the North Island was so beautiful. The scenery is amazing here! Not to mention a great bar car fully equipped with the local beer, Monteith’s. Very yummy. We made it into Wellington, the country’s capital city, that afternoon and got settled into the hostel and quickly learned just how expensive internet in this country is. $2 per 20 minutes!  Pretty insane, hence the lack of posts the past few weeks.  We were only in Wellington for a couple of days so we tried to make the most of it.

We spent our first day exploring the national history museum, Te Papa, which had excellent exhibits of the New Zealand landscape, its flora and fauna and native Maori culture. Afterwards, we took a walk along the waterfront of Wellington Harbor and strolled down Courtney Place, a street filled with tons of shops and restaurants.

Wellington Harbor

I went for a run that afternoon on the waterfront after my nap and that evening we went next door to the hostel bar for the “free dinner”.  Nachos! Um…yeah right.  It was store-bought corn ships with a can of chili over them.  Pretty nasty.  But hell, it was “free”.  We closed out the night with a bottle of wine and a couple of games of pool; Kim put up a decent fight the second game, and then headed to bed.

The next day, I went for another run and then we walked over to the botanical gardens. We’ve never seen so many roses! I never knew there were so many different types. It was gorgeous. It also had an amazing view of the city. Afterwards, we had another delicious Indian feast and then went back to the hostel to rest. Life is tough these daysJ

Roses at the Botanical Garden

We also heard Wellington had really great seafood and we were both craving mussels again. We spent our last evening there having dinner and a few beers on the pier. I really loved Wellington and enjoyed myself.

Green lipped mussels. Yum!

The following day we took the 3 hour ferry down to the South Island to spend Christmas in Christchurch with Becky, one of Kim’s other flat mates from here, and her husband.  The views from the ferry were absolutely amazing.  Check out these photos!!!  Again, the bluest water ever!

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