Sunday, February 28, 2016

New Zealand Trip Recap : Part One

If you're new here, or haven't tuned in for a while, the BF and I just got back from a 10 day // 7 night trip to New Zealand. This is part one of my trip recap. Stay tuned as I'll be back with parts 2 & 3 soon. As well as some tips on how to not strangle your significant other while traveling together.

I'm linking up with Holly & Tricia today to share my Week (end) Highlights

It's probably worth noting that this was the first big trip together for the BF & I. We've camped, done a few long weekends away & a road trip or two, but nothing longer than 3 - 4 days. Luckily, we both operate under the premise that vacation is not for relaxing & sitting around. We would much rather cram as much as we can into each day & come home exhausted, but having seen everything we could.

This trip was booked through Groupon, though paid for with our own $$$, since I'm not nearly famous enough for Groupon to be comping my vacations. One day. Anyways, the trip included flight from LAX, hotel for 3 nights in Christchurch, 4 nights in Queenstown, rental car with unlimited mileage, + a few assorted tours which I'll talk about later.

So, first thing's first. New Zealand is FAR AWAY from Pittsburgh. I mean, duh. But, no, seriously. It took 4 flights. Pittsburgh to Charlotte to LA to Fiji to Christchurch. LA to Fiji was ~ 11 hours & Fiji to Christchurch was another 5 hours. Combine all that with crossing the dateline & we left Pittsburgh on a Thursday afternoon, to finally make it to Christchurch on Saturday afternoon. Phew.

The BF enjoying a nice nap in Fiji
{day one}
We got into Christchurch ~230PM local time, and were through customs & on a bus towards our hotel all within 30 minutes. Such a simple, pain free process. 

| side note | Since we "declared" hiking boots we were taken to the side to have them inspected. We cleaned them ahead of time knowing this was possible, so they were free of any large dirt clumps & visible dirt.

We stayed at the Rydges Latimer & were very impressed. It is located very near to City Centre which made walking to everything a breeze.

We showered before heading out to grab a bite to eat. It turns out the place that was recommended to us specialized in New Orleans cuisine. I ordered the chicken & waffles while the BF ordered a shrimp dish. While tasty, we both agreed their entrees were sized more like snacks. So much so that after an hour or two of exploring we headed out for dinner part 2.

dinner one : Stranges Lane
dinner two : Mexico

A walk around town included a trip to the grocery store. We picked up some essentials for lunches on the go. PB, jelly, bread, chips, apples & granola bars + some bottles of local beer & hard cider.

| side note | I was BEYOND impressed with the local selection of hard ciders. Every one I tried was delicious & all of their flavors unique. Everything I saw was NZ made, if not specifically local.



{day two}
We woke up "early" (7AM) to discover that the city did not seem to wake that early. At the recommendation of hotel staff we walked 5 - 10 minutes to breakfast at a place called Supreme Supreme. After two disappointing dining experiences on Day 1 it was nice to have a tasty breakfast.



Afterwards we spent some time walking around the city. We were having so much fun & enjoying the perfect weather, that we ended up walking almost 8 miles by the time we made it back to our hotel. We headed up a road known as Dyer's Pass which awarded some astonishing view of the nearby hillsides as well as a glimpse as to how far away our hotel was. Oops.



After we made it back to the hotel we rested for a few minutes, then walked the few blocks to Cathedral Junction. One of the included Groupon tours was a Christchurch Tram tour. Our tickets allowed us to hop on // off at any of the 17 stops along the tour. We chose to ride the full loop without stopping, to rest our legs & enjoy the commentary before hopping off & walking the loop on the second go-round.


Our first stop was the Re-Start Mall. In order to jump start the economy after the devastating 2011 earthquake, shipping containers were used as temporary buildings, with many still standing today. This mall was one of the first things to open after the earthquake & stands still today. It has a "food court" boasting may food trucks stationed semi-permanently there. The shops seemed to be a nice mix of local flavor & brands you know, like Lululemon.


The BF& I grabbed a coffee & a bite at Hummingbird Coffee before continuing on.

| side note | NZ seems to take their coffee very seriously. Cafe coffee options are short, flat white, long black & a few others are fairly standard. I did not come across ANYWHERE offering drip coffee or just a standard cup of black coffee like we can get here in the US.


Our next big stop was the Christchurch Botanical Gardens. Free to enter, and astoundingly large, like 52 acres in the middle of the city. We spent an hour or two enjoying the grounds & spent some time on a bench on the Avon River which runs through the gardens. The flowers & trees, many of which are found only in NZ, were impeccably maintained. We could have dedicated several more hours to exploring the gardens more thoroughly but we just ran out of time.


Botanic Gardens selfie, which managed to capture none of the plants
Along with the Botanic Gardens is the Canterbury Museum, located on the same grounds. The museum is free to enter as well, and offers a wide range of exhibits. NZ history, art, Christchurch history, Antarctic exploration history & MANY more. The BF& I were both impressed & would have stayed later, were it not for the pesky guard kicking us out at closing time.



Dinner was had late, at the Bootleg BBQ Company. The food was good, I ordered the beef brisket, while he ordered the smoked venison. A few minutes of terrible TV later & it was time for bed.

breakfast :  Supreme Supreme +
lunch : PBJ
dinner : Bootleg BBQ +

Day 3 held our drive to Mt. Cook & then on to Queenstown. Spoiler Alert, the drive was stunning. Check back later this week for more NZ trip recaps! And in the meantime...a little teaser...


23 comments:

  1. That is so awesome you went to NZ. It looks so beautiful! Definitely on my bucket list. I've traveled to Singapore and Thailand and Australia before for work - and those are some LONG flights and crazy jetlag. Welcome back and thanks for the great writeup!

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    1. Haven't quite caught up from the jetlag yet. So much easier on the way there knowing you have exciting things to see. Harder on the way back to be excited for things like work. Haha

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  2. Oh my gosh the gardens sound beautiful! And that Re-Start Mall sounds so cool - like an artsy little shopping mall. So jealous of your trip! Would you recommend Groupon trips like this?

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    1. I would definitely recommend Groupon trips like this. This was my first, but it was a very positive experience!

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  3. Wow, what a wonderful adventure. NZ is on our bucket list and we would like to hike the Milford Track. I do find the flights to be daunting to such faraway destinations. I remember our 14 hour flight back from Beiing and not with fondness!

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    1. Oh, Milford Track would be incredible. We spent a day at Milford Sound & were so in awe. There just wasn't enough time to see it all.

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  4. Wow. Just wow. I've always wanted to go to New Zealand. I've never gone on a flight that long (HI from the east coast probably being the longest one).

    Love the mall with the shipping containers (hate why they needed to do that). So clever.

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    1. I agree with you, love the mall, hate the reason. It was such a bright color that it really stood out against the rest of the surrounding buildings which I loved.

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  5. looks amazing! i have never been to NZ (next year, woo!) but i know in australia we take our coffee super seriously as well, the only place you can get coffee like in america is mcdonalds, i think. i don't drink it so i wouldn't know. so cool that you booked through groupon! did you have any issues?

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    1. I didn't even see plain ol' coffee at McDonalds, maybe I didn't look hard enough.

      No issues at all with the Groupon, which actually sort of amazed me. I expected at least one thing to go wrong. But all the hotels had our names, and all we needed for our excursions was a copy of our itinerary with our confirmation code. SO simple.

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    2. hmm, that's so weird! i have never been to NZ, so maybe their maccas don't have drip coffee, but the ones in Oz definitely do :)

      that is awesome! i will definitely be looking into groupon now.

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  6. Wow, it looks like a beautiful trip! I see those Groupon travel packages and always wonder whether they work out well or not. I may need to look at them more seriously. I'm lucky that my husband and I share a similar travel style, that always helps make vacations less stressful!

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    1. Sharing travel styles is HUGE & makes things run so much smoother. After this experience, I would DEFINITELY recommend Groupon travel packages. Definitely read them thoroughly as they are not all built the same. But I even priced this trip out myself wondering if we were getting screwed somehow, but it truly was a great bargain.

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  7. Looks like a great trip!! I love a place that takes their coffee seriously:) Glad you and your bf are both into exploring- its tough when one person wants to relax and the other wants to sightsee!

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    1. Agreed! my only gripe with the coffee is their cups were about 6 oz, maybe less. I can usually down half a POT of coffee in a day. Haha.

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  8. our friends from australia agree with your coffee comment, they say that ours is burnt and not good. im not a coffee drinker myself so i dont know but they say the coffee in australia is much better. i cannot wait to see the rest of your adventures, new zealand is on my bucket list (thank you lord of the rings :D )

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    1. I will say, the coffee was DELICIOUS. I just needed about 6x as much!

      I am a LOTR fan too & got to see the Two Towers, from REALLLLLY far away, but it was neat to know they were up there.

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  9. New Zealand sounds and looks amazing. I would definitely enjoy the botanical gardens. The container mall is also very cool. I can't wait to hear your tips on surviving long vacations with a significant other. After all the years, it's still hard! LOL. Thanks for linking with us Jessie.

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    1. Is booze a tip? Haha, but seriously. I'm excited to put that post together. I kind of expected the two of us to strangle each other after 10 days. We're both big on having time to ourselves. But surprisingly we did great!

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  10. I'm looking forward to reading about Queenstown since we're going there :-)

    We only have two flights, but it will take us a total of 28 hours to get to New Zealand!

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    1. I'm not sure if I was glad we had more flights but they weren't quite as long, or if I would prefer two LOOONG flights. Either way, it feels good to get out & stretch the legs afterwards.

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  11. So many good tips!!!!!! How did you handle the jetlag? We have a stupid flight over there too - leave on Tuesday arrive sometime on a Thursday. So weird crossing that date line.

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    1. Honestly, we were pleasantly surprised at our lack of jet lag on the way over. The big thing the BF & I did was we ate whatever time the plane was serving food. Since our flight crew was Fiji based they were serving meals based on their time zone & I feel like that helped. We arrived tired, but not anything we couldn't work with. So we stayed up until 10PM our first night & fell straight to sleep. The way back, however, way different story!

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