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Category: New Zealand

Christchurch Coming Out From The Rubble

In 2011, Christchurch was hit by a massive earthquake which followed with seemingly endless aftershocks. According to news reports, about 80 percent of the city’s CBD was destroyed including old…

In 2011, Christchurch was hit by a massive earthquake which followed with seemingly endless aftershocks. According to news reports, about 80 percent of the city’s CBD was destroyed including old heritage buildings such as the 19th century neo-Gothic Anglican Christ Church, the city’s landmark in Cathedral Square. The flattened church is a reminder of Christchurch’s rich history as it is New Zealand’s oldest city. The quake was one of the biggest disasters to hit this relatively quiet and peaceful city.

Since the quake, Christchurch have bolstered up strength and started the rebuilding process. When I visited the city in January 2014, I witnessed the slow, gruelling restoration process. Cranes, barricades, scaffoldings, trucks, sound of drills and steel pounding and the dust that lingered in the air was a sure sign that work was in progress. After talking to some locals, I learned that the rebuilding process is further slowed down by the sluggish processing of insurance claims and indecision on whether to restore or build completely new structures in place of the ruined ones including the Anglican Church.

Christchurch After QuakeChristchurch Restoring (1)

But even with many storefronts shuttered and abandoned homes lying desolate amid overgrown gardens, Christchurch, once one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations, has retained much of its charm – and it has a great deal to do with her people.

Right next the flattened Cathedral Square is a cordoned-off area dubbed the Red Zone. Instead of making it a no-entry zone, the Red Zone is now a commercial area fashioned out of shipping containers, called Re:Start Mall. The artists’ painted containers are stacked two-storeys high and houses chic cafes, boutiques, souvenir shops, clothing stores and food joints. A popular hangout within the city, the area brims with tourists and locals and street buskers keep shoppers entertained throughout the day.

Restart Mall 1ReStart-Mall

The city has much to offer despite the shaking in 2011. Much of her character is retained by the friendliness, resilience and hospitality of her people.

More: Amazing Places To Stay in Christchurch and Why

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Eat Local In New Zealand

There is an abundance of fine food being grown, harvested, made, prepared and served in New Zealand. Although the country doesn’t quite shout a distinctive local dish, the secret to…

There is an abundance of fine food being grown, harvested, made, prepared and served in New Zealand. Although the country doesn’t quite shout a distinctive local dish, the secret to good food in New Zealand is in the quality of its produce. The country is awash with the freshest ingredients; grass fed beef, succulent lamb, fresh-off-the-sea oysters and paua, organic veggies from local farmers markets and rich dairy products like cheese.

With ingredients like this, how could the restaurants not be good? The best places to eat in New Zealand are casual and unpretentious. They are often nestled within small towns. Service is friendly rather than formal. Most importantly, they know where the ingredients come from and they treat them well – and that makes a winning combination.

Here are my selections of great eats and I’m sure there are joints that I haven’t pounced on yet. Maybe on my next visit there. Unfortunately I don’t have photos to go with all of them. Admittedly, I was too hungry and wolfed down my meal before my Iphone camera had a go at it.

In Auckland – Occidental Belgian Bar
Not the perfect location to dine with a baby, but I couldn’t resist the rave on the steamed green-lipped mussels at this place! We (hubs and I) were served a massive bowl of fleshy, succulent mussels steamed in a white wine sauce. It felt like a never ending attempt to reach the bottom of the bowl, but we eventually did and nearly passed out on a mussel-coma!
If you like history and dated architecture, you’d love the interior décor at Occidental. It was once the finest hotel in Auckland. Its vintage interior decor of wooden floors, wooden walls, leather-clad booths with warm lighting is a reminder of its rich history. Located on the character-rich pedestrian Vulcan Lane, between Queen Street and High Street, the bar is easy to get to and makes for a great stroll around after a meal.

Auckland_Occidental

In Christchurch – Dimitris Greek Food
What’s good here? The souvlaki. Packed with just chicken or lamb or both, the thick pita bread wraps like a cone and is stuffed with juicy, well-spiced meat along with tomatoes, lettuce, tomato and chilli sauce and awesome Greek yoghurt. Eating the souvlaki is a messy affair if you choose to wallop it whole. That’s why they give you a fork to pick out the filling.

Christchurch_Souvlaki

In Queenstown – Johnny Barr’s Sandwich Place
Healthy, filling and very tasty! Johnny Barr serves gourmet sandwiches, wraps, salads and soups and a great selection of smoothies. In busy and thriving Queenstown, finding affordable and healthy food is quite a challenge. We ordered the Thai Beef Salad, a hearty salad packed with greens and a good portion of thinly sliced beef drizzled with spicy sweet Thai dressing and the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich came loaded with grilled beef, onions, mushroom and capsicum and sealed with a layer of cheese at the top. The casual setting at the restaurant is great for catch ups and I also saw customers ordering take away – obviously not a bad idea to sit by the waterfront just round the corner while enjoying delicious sandwiches. We ended up sitting in since there was free wifi!

JOhnny Barr

In Dunedin – Rob Roy Ice Cream
A happy place not just for children! We first spotted people walking pass us with scoops of ice cream heaped on tiny cone. It was a cold and blustery summer evening, but we just had to have it. The old-fashioned dairy shares a shoplot with convenience store and it’s a local favourite serving rich, creamy and delicious ice cream, milk shakes and frozen yoghurt. Its walls are plastered with ‘flower power’ wallpaper from the 60s and the floors are covered with black and white checkered vinyl. The dairy also seemed to have kept its prices as is. We paid $2.80 for a single serve and it came heaping with two massive scoops of ice cream in two flavours.

Dunedin_RobRoy Icecreamry

In Dunedin – Cadbury Factory
Every chocolate lover’s dream-come-true! The smell of sweet cocoa wharfs over you the minute you walk pass its sliding doors and linger in the fabric of your clothes. For $22, you get to immerse yourself in everything chocolate and see the labour of love that goes into making the world’s most consumed dessert. Plus, you get freebies along the way. The best part is watching 1-tonne of liquid chocolate gushing down five stories into a metal cauldron. The experience is jaw-dropping and better still, we were served a cup of rich glossy, thick liquid chocolate at the end of the tour. If only Cadbury sold the liquid gold on the shelves…

Dunedine_Cabdury Factory

All around New Zealand – Lone Star
American Red Indian inspired, Lone Star (LS) is a chain of restaurants across NZ. They are famed for their Redneck campfire stacked ribs and the dish is not for the faint hearted. The menu writes “Porky pigs’ ribs blanched in honey & spices, blasted in the Lone Star fire, piled high then smothered in our famous hoisin, orange & sesame seed sauce, served with buffalo chips & coleslaw”. Seriously… who can resist that? The waiters at LS are super attentive and friendly and the experience of dining at LS is like eating at a local diner, even though it’s a chain.
Freebie tip: Go to their website and Grab a Meal. Free stuff, mostly starters at selected outlets.

Lonestar_Ribs

In Oamaru – Whitestone Cheese
Oh my, I love cheese! Whitestone produces award winning artisan cheeses made with 100% natural ingredients. The factory at the back has a viewing platform where you can watch barrels of cheese doing its work – maturing. The café is known for its tasting platter that’s priced at $5 and $10 and they have a selection of deli favourites. We ordered the cheese scone served with Whitestone’s creamy butter and a tasting platter for lunch and was satisfied to the brim.
Whitestone derived its name from the natural ancient limestone in Oamaru and the same limestone is seen in the Victorian buildings around the town.

Oamaru_Whitestone Cheese SconeOamaru_Whitestone Cheese

In Hampden, onward to Moeraki Boulders from Oamaru– Lockies Fish and Chips
Apparently the best fish and chips in New Zealand, so said some locals… Lockies Fish and Chips is located just outside of Oamaru, towards the famous Moeraki Boulders. The purple fencing around the building is hard to miss. The fish is fresh and the batter is light and be sure to order the blue cod as it makes all the difference. The location makes for a perfect stopover for a picnic lunch takeaway and enjoy it on the beach.

lockies fish and chips

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If I Had Wings I Could fly!

The drive from Rotorua to Taupo was a buffer to calm our nerves for what’s to come. We had called to book us slots to dive from 12000ft from an…

The drive from Rotorua to Taupo was a buffer to calm our nerves for what’s to come. We had called to book us slots to dive from 12000ft from an airplane – yes! it’s sky diving. Given the fact that a professional will practically do most of the work whilst you are strapped onto to him doesn’t discount the fact that it’s pretty darn high to be plunging down.

We chose Taupo Tandem Sky Dive as our operator and paid NZ$219 each. They got us geared up in long red jumpers, harness, belts, sky beanies and eye shields. Wasting no time at all they walked us through some simple instructions and ushered us into the jet plane with our professional divers. Positioned steadily on the run way was a tiny little jet plane with a flimsy looking see through sliding door that opened up for our entry. About 10 of us piled into that plane and the door casually shut.

Skydiving at Taupo (5)Skydiving at Taupo (4)Skydiving at Taupo (9) Skydiving at Taupo (7)

At 8000ft my heart was already beating like crazy. I couldn’t hold onto Terence’s hands since he was way at the back. I later found out that he was also trying to psyche himself for the jump! At 11000ft, I was thinking to myself “I gotta be crazy, is there a chance for me to change my mind?” Too late, my diver (Patrik) whispered into my ear “This is it, are you ready?” He gave me some final instructions and signaled me to move towards the door. Within seconds my camera man (a hired diver) motioned a thumbs up and we were OUT! *Silence* Then it was screams all the way as I felt my heart leap out of my body and I was just falling. The camera man in front of me made me do silly gestures, made me smile at the camera and wiggle my fingers – all I could think of was, I need to fall in style, so this is my only chance!

Skydiving at Taupo (12)Skydiving at Taupo (11)

At 5000ft the parachute was released and instantly from a horizontal position we were flung back up into an instant vertical position. It was no longer flying because I felt we were flying. The parachute looked immense as it towered over us, Patrik glided us above the waters then onto the mountains, he made a 360 degree swoop around showing off Taupo’s stunning scenery. Everything looked so small from above, the cars looked like toys, even the jet plane looked puny. As we glided onto the runway, the parachute gently rested us back on land. Terence came gliding in a few seconds later with a pure surge of adrenaline written over his face. We were ecstatic and still in awe at the madness we put ourselves through just to see NZ at a different perspective.

Skydiving at Taupo (1)Skydiving at Taupo (10)

Worth every penny paid?! Absolutely! We’ve got photos and a DVD to refresh our memory of that moment where we allowed ourselves to fly!

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