Archive for November, 2009

Lamby Goodness

November 29, 2009

Food is one of my favorite aspects of traveling to different regions, and since New Zealand is known for its lamb chops, I was excited to try some local specialties on my latest trip! For the educational portion of this blog post, you might not know that lamb chops are from sheep that are under 1 year old. Mutton chops are older sheep – not these.

But then we drove around the countryside and I kept seeing sheep everywhere…little lambs following their mothers and “baa-ing”….

I was having a few morality / food conscience issues after all that lamb-ey cuteness, so I let James be the one to actually order the lamb chops:

I did have a bite, and they were amazing…These lamb chops were from Ambrosia in Rotorua, a chic new eatery / bar on the main strip in town. Highly recommended!

Cool Spot Alert

November 20, 2009

If you ever find yourself (for some odd reason) driving from Auckland, New Zealand to Rotorua (and why wouldn’t you??) I have a recommended spot to stop for a bite and/or a beer. The little town of Hamilton is a great pit stop and is teeming with diverse / ethnic restaurants and pubs. It’s a super cute town that actually had way more options than we could handle at the time (being quite jet lagged from our 3-day journey to NZ).

We ended up strolling into C.B.D., a cute little pub that had a lively workday lunch crowd, for some grub and caffeine before continuing our journey to Rotorua. I was overwhelmed by the choices for our first official meal in New Zealand, and to be honest, quite surprised by the gourmet-sounding options at this apparent bar / casual hang-out. After making a pact that we would, in fact, drink the local water despite what happened to us in South America, we hydrated and caffeinated hard core, and ordered some delicious breads with dips (which became my go-to appetizer at every NZ restaurant we went to):

Fueling up on Diet Coke, cappucino, and yummy, crusty bread with artesan dips.

The waitstaff was super attentive and appropriately hipster (token piercings, tattoos, etc) and as soon as I tasted the roasted garlic and coriander hummus and red pepper pesto, I was in luuuurve with New Zealand! This only began our amazing culinary journey which was quite unexpected, and also responsible for me gaining at least 5lbs on this trip! Food was really the last thing we thought about when planning this trip, but it soon became one of our favorite parts of New Zealand. Well done, C.B.D.!

The Most Romantic Place on Earth…

November 18, 2009

…is definitely not Rotorua, New Zealand, BUT…the place has some amazing landscape and lots to do!  So for honeymooners like us who were just looking to get a feel for some of New Zealand’s unique offerings, it was a perfect first foray into all things “kiwi.”  After being asked by at least five different native New Zealanders why in the world did we choose to begin our honeymoon in Rotorua, we started to wonder if we picked a “dud” locale.  But we soon learned why this random, fairly unknown place is so special.

According to ancient lore, Rotorua in New Zealand has a strong tradition of welcoming visitors based on five pillars (or spirits): geothermal wonders, soothing thermal waters, a strong Maori cultural identity, beautiful lakes, a huge range of adventure activities, rivers and wilderness areas. Armed with our trusty Frommer’s guide, we headed first to Waimangu Volcanic Valley to check out some of the geothermic wonders of this area (there are many, and they are all very different!).

The world’s youngest geothermal system, Waimangu, was formed on June 10, 1886 as a result of the famous Tarawera volcano eruption, and it is the only geothermal system in the world that has a known exact creation date.  The hike and a self-guided map throughout the valley gives you some background on how the various features were formed.  These include Inferno Crater and Frying Pan Lake, the world’s largest Hot Water Spring in terms of surface area.  It was interesting to learn that this area was actually home to the world’s largest geyser from 1901 to 1904 (until it was destroyed by a landslide). In 1903, the Waimangu Geyser killed four tourists who got a little too close to the edge…a reminder that this type of landscape is just very unpredictable and ever evolving!

if it's over a century old and that's consider "new," it must be exciting!

 

View of Waimangu Valley from above.

Frying Pan Lake, the largest hot spring in the world.

 

Cathedral Rock. Something about steaming rocks is just unsettling...like it's about to blow any minute!

 

We didn't test the water temp, but I'm going to guess it was H.O.T.

 

Interesting and colorful desposits...such unique and beautiful landscape!

Inferno Crater is one of Waimangu’s crown jewels.  The turquoise-blue crater has “geyser-like” abilities in that the water level changes dramatically on a regular schedule (overflows about every 6 weeks).  When we visited, the crater was overflowing and apparently, extremely hot because it was steaming so much we couldn’t even see it!!  So I’ll defer to the experts for their photos of the crater, which is pretty magnificent.

The sights in this valley were just phenomenal – about the exact opposite of home, which is exactly what we were looking for.  We couldn’t wait to see what else Rotorua had to offer!

Breakfast for Dinner? or Vice Versa?

November 17, 2009

Bacon and egg pizza, anyone?  You can find this delicacy (?) at the Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles. I guess it’s not as weird as it first sounds, but I did a double-take when I saw it!

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I'm confused...which meal should I be hungry for here??

Nope, Not Yet!

November 16, 2009

I’m still withholding all of my amazing, fun and awesome trip anecdotes and photos from you. Why? I figure you should have to wait for at least as long as it took us to actually GET to New Zealand. We left on Saturday afternoon and arrived on TUESDAY. Almost 3 days of traveling (with surprisingly just two airline flights) in order to get to our first stop – Rotorua. I have so much to say about this unique and beautiful area of the North Island, but first…the journey.

We left for JFK knowing already that our flight was delayed – Qantas had a mechanical issue with our plane which caused a backlog. However, they expected us to be able to make our connection in L.A., so we didn’t worry. Then New York experienced Noah’s Arc-type rain and we sat in the airport, and then on the tarmac for 2 hours, staring out the window at the torrential downpour. The pilot was honest and finally told everyone that it was unlikely we’d make our connection at this point, and that everyone was re-booked onto a later flight to Sydney, Australia, and would be re-routed to their final destinations from there…

Uh oh. Sydney? That was the last place I wanted to go – it wasn’t even in our itinerary since I had already been there, but the worst part was that we chose to fly to New Zealand first because it is much closer than Australia (3 hour time difference). Now we would have to take a longer flight to Sydney and then another flight to New Zealand. God knows when we would actually arrive! But, we accepted our fate and flew to L.A. to see what would happen next.

Definitely not what we expected!

Delayed, indeed...and that's 5:10AM ET to you time zone math geniuses!

When we landed, the story had changed, and it turned out there wasn’t enough room on that 2AM flight to Sydney, so we would all be booked into a local hotel and put on the next flight to Auckland, New Zealand (which is once a day at 11:45PM). So that would put us behind schedule by exactly one day. It wasn’t the end of the world, and actually we didn’t mind THAT much (we were hung over and exhausted from the wedding, so we just wanted to sleep). Qantas tried to shoo us on our way to the Holiday Inn, but I wanted my luggage (besides, what were they going to do to it, send it to Sydney?). I am not one of those people that packs a spare outfit in my carry-on, and it had already been a super long day. I wanted my comfy PJ’s and my travel-sized toiletries, dammit! After a bit of a brouhaha, we were allowed to “wait” for almost 2 hours to get our bags. So at 3:30AM, we headed off to get some zzz’s.

Lodging Rave! Holiday Inn Los Angeles Airport (HILAX) Ok, maybe I was just deliriously tired, but I loved this hotel. I haven’t stayed in a Holiday Inn in many years, but was surprised by how high-end the hotel felt (or maybe I’m just a sucker for dark wood furnishings). The bathroom was new, the bed was super comfortable, and it had a huge flat-screen TV (isn’t it sad when you stay in a hotel that has a 20-something inch old school TV?). We also received vouchers for their restaurant, Landings (Get it? We’re by the airport!), and the food was phenomenal (but free food always tastes better). Well done, HILAX.

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Unexpected honeymoon pit-stop! Holiday Inn LAX

After sleeping in for a bit, we decided we would try to take advantage of the full day in L.A. and do something / see some sights. James had never been to the city, so instead of renting a car or taking a taxi to just one location, we hopped on a 1/2 day bus tour with VIP Tours of California. In the span of a few hours, we visited Venice Beach, the Farmer’s Market, Hollywood and caught glimpses of Rodeo Drive, Santa Monica, and a bunch of other L.A. sights.

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This was definitely not on the itinerary...

At the end of the day, we headed back to the airport and remembered we were (still) headed to New Zealand, so the real trip could finally begin!