New Zealand – A Trip Down Memory Lane [Part 2]

Coming to New Zealand has been such a fun experience, and it’s been great to see so many things that I remember from when we were last here. I have enjoyed seeing all the similarities and differences from what I remember – so I decided to write them down into a blog post – enjoy Part 2 of the series!

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Sky Tower
My memory of going up this building, the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere, was fairly vivid – and it’s been a big ‘Want to do’ thing for me. I remember standing near the base of the building, giving the sense of the immense size of it, looking at a massive pillar of concrete in the foundation and realising it was one of 16, and then going up the lift, which took quite a while to ascend the first proper floor after the elevator shaft – I hadn’t remembered the glass floor in the lift, though! One of my favourite memories of the sky tower was probably standing on the glass flooring and looking down more than 150m to the city below, but I also enjoyed watching the sky jumpers flying off the tower on a rope and a harness – there was a countdown timer by one of the windows so we could be ready to watch.

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Waiwera
Waiwera, a place where there is a swimming pool for almost anything you can imagine – warm pools, hot pools, very hot pools, baby pools, slide pools, even a Movie pool – you probably wouldn’t be surprised if you found a back-filp  diving into free Wifi pool!!! -so wish that was a thing! I have fond memories of spending an afternoon relaxing and swimming, changing pools whenever it suited – it was a brilliant experience and I’d been looking forward to doing it again. One of the things I remembered best was the slide tower, which you had to climb up to do the big flumes, of course, I only remember the little slide as I was too small – but, this time I got to go on one of the massive, twisting slides. It was very exciting speeding down, slowly at first, then faster, then faster, then eerily fast, then, when you were wondering if it would ever stop – SPLASH!! -you were slowed down to a halt in what felt like less than 2 seconds. I had a lot of fun swimming there, though some of the pools were just too hot – the more than 48°C Lava Pool was definitely too hot by some way, at least for us – but on the whole it was an amazing experience!

Sugar Cane
Another memory, as well as something I’ve really been looking forward to is eating raw sugar cane, very tasty and unusual, it’s just a shame you can’t get them in Britain. When we had them on our 6 month visit, we had some large bought cane – this time when we had it we ate some relatively narrow sugar cane grown in Nan an Granddad’s garden. Sugar cane is certainly very sweet – but often the best things are hard to get at: it took quite some time to work out how to dissect it to eat it!

New Zealand: A Trip Down Memory Lane [Part 1]

Coming to New Zealand has been such a fun experience, and it’s been great to see so many things that I remember from when we were last here. I have enjoyed seeing all the similarities and differences from what I remember – so I decided to write them down into a blog post – enjoy Part 1 of the series!

Coloured Traffic Light Arrows

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One of the first interesting things I remembered I saw as we drove over to our wonderful cottage from the airport were the coloured traffic light arrows, unlike the boring green ones we have back home. The traffic lights at a relatively busy junction had red and orange arrows, as well as the usual green ones, which I thought was really exciting to see – though it must be quite mundane for people who see them daily. I remembered the lights from the reasonable amount of driving we did in Auckland when we stayed for the 6 months in 2009; however, despite the orange and red arrows being really cool – but couldn’t they stay green just a bit longer!?!

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‘Tunnel’ Between the Armchairs
This memory was a more family related one, being at Nan and Granddad’s house, reminding me of all the fun Megan and I had when we went to their house on a Thursday after I finished school. Between the two armchairs in the lounge in their house was a gap underneath the chair’s arms – about big enough for a P1 5-year-old, but maybe not a S1 12-year-old (see selfie above)!! When Megan or I weren’t hiding there in a game of hide and seek, Nan and Granddad’s cat Bobby used to sleep or rest in there.

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Dunkin’ Donuts
I remember Dunkin’ Donuts as being a small shop, just part of a small square building off one of the main roads, I remember that they sold delicious donuts (which you can probably already tell from the name), and also that we visited many times. From what we saw, it hasn’t changed much – but I don’t remember the violent downpours of rain trying to stop us from getting into the shop! We often used to stop there, usually on a Saturday to get some donuts to eat for morning tea.

My holiday

We went on a plane to Norway and we landed at Sandefjord Torp airport.  We went to an hotel which was near the airport.

One day we cycled to Ula which was about 3 miles away.  There is blue granite on the beach.

On another day we went to Oslo and saw a Viking ship.  I really enjoyed Norway!

During the second week of the holidays I went to skiing lessons at Polmont Ski Centre.

Aviemore

We all went up to Aviemore for a week in June, to stay at Doug and Pat’s timeshare at Coylumbridge as we do most years. This year was a bit special, though – we hadn’t gone last year, and this year may be our last since Aidan will be at school this time next year.

On Monday morning all six of us went for walk to an unnamed lochan about 45min stroll from the lodge. It was a good gentle introduction. The kids both mostly enjoyed their first walk through the bush for quite a while, and looked quite smart in their hiking gear. In the afternoon Aidan enjoyed the play park, and we enjoyed remembering how little he was last time we were here. In the evening (after bedtime)
Megan got up and went on her first bunny-hunt with Grandma.

The four of us went to the Landmark Centre on Tuesday. The kids weren’t that excited by the play equipment, so we did stuff instead. The best was the Red Squirrel Trail, a raised treewalk through the forest, explaining all about the history, flora, fauna, and future of the forest. We didn’t see any squirrels, but the kids were fascinated and we did learn the difference between cowberry and blaeberry.

Later we went on the water slides: the Otter is twisty and dark, the Wildcat has a bump in the middle, and the Falcon is pretty much straight down – weightless and fast. We took both kids up, two or three to a boat. Both kids loved it – Aidan was excited about being weightless on the Falcon like the astronauts and Megan was just generally excited. Neither of them was scared at all, and they both wanted to go again and again.

Then we went to the Inshriach Nursery. They still had some yummy cake left even though it was quite late in the day, and the birds were out in force behind the tearooms – as were the red squirrels! Megan loved stroking the resident cat.

After all that we decided to have a quiet day on Wednesday.

On Thursday the kids went on their first ever hillwalk – a two mile long, 225m descent (NN998074 to NN981095) through the arctic tundra of Cairngorm National Park. Both kids were fantastic – especially Megan, who was a complete trooper and stormed through everything. Aidan did well too, but when he got hungry he kept falling over. Remarkably, the kids were harder to keep moving on the formed path than they were pushing through the swampy heather.

At the beginning of the walk we were all having second thoughts – neither Aidan nor Megan seemed very keen, and Megan seemed very little to be embarking on such an expedition. But the whinging stopped very rapidly once we got moving (just like it used to for me when I was little!), and they both did so well! We appreciated our new poles too.

In the evening Carolyn and I had dinner on our own, and then went for a drive. We found ourselves at Loch Garten. I never will get used to the evening light at such a high latitude – it’s lovely.

Friday was our chance to get away on our own. We originally intended to bag our first Munro together, but it snowed the night before and we weren’t prepared for walking above the snowline. Instead, the ranger recommended an excellent route through the Corries and part of the Lairig Ghru. We had a lovely day, with amazing scenery and lots of variation – at least until we got to the formed paths in the Rothiemurchus estate. And we had it to ourselves: we only passed four other groups all day. I was impressed by how “alive” the mountains are – at first glance it looks pretty desert-like, with not much beyond heather. But in fact there’s a wider range of flora than that, and we also saw a few tiny tiny birds flitting around – so there must be a good range of insects to support such an energetic bird! We finished up in a great little Greek Cypriot cafe opposite the visitor’s centre with a well-deserved cup of tea and pastry.

The kids had a great time with Grandma and Grandpa at the Highland Wildlife Centre and Highland Folk Museum.

 

Saturday was our last full day. The boys went on a distillery tour, and showed Aidan how whiskey is made. Glenfiddich welcomed him (unlike Macallan, with a minimum age of 8), and he was as fascinated by the process as we’d guessed he would be. He was particularly struck by the fact that they make a beer first, and then distill that into whiskey. The girls went to a garden centre.

On Sunday we headed back south, tired but happy. On the way we stopped off at The Hermitage, Dunkeld, and walked to Ossian’s Hall (stunningly, right above a waterfall) and Ossian’s Cave (lovely echoes of “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt!”). The kids had a good time – lots of Megan dawdling, and Aidan going back to hold her hand and encourage her on – cute! Then lunch at Palmerston’s, Dunkeld; then home and picnic pizza dinner on the lawn.

Echoes

…a weekend’s holiday in Gullane, North Berwick. East Lothian is stunning, and I had no idea it was even there.

Friday morning, McArthur Glen: Aidan delights in the echoes his shouting makes in the empty carpark, while Carolyn and Megan wait for us in the lift lobby. For me, our holiday was full of happy echoes.

As I buy some HiTech trainers to rest my tired feet, I remember wearing HiTech shoes, and even a HiTech sweatshirt, at school. Uncool – weren’t they were associated mainly with netball? But I recall the sweatshirt at least was because they sponsored my IMO team.

The sun rising red over misty fields beyond our farmhouse B&B reminds me of an early-morning Shin-kan-sen ride in 2001 with Peter, heading back to Tokyo after a Sendai conference past Ukiyo-e valleys of mist and temples, and the reddest sun I’d ever seen. Truly the land of the rising sun – yet an echo here in East Lothian.

Gullane has a konditorei!! Flashbacks to Form 4 German class with Herr Glenny. For the last class of each term Herr Glenny would order proper German cakes from the Konditorei Telle in Mount Eden, and we’d practice our German ordering skills and eat delicious cake – of course my main memory is of the famous Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte, but I’m sure we had others as well. My spoken German has mostly left me, sadly, so in Gullane I ordered in English. No Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte(!) – instead some very interesting alternatives. I had a Linzertorte, apparently one of the very first cake recipes ever, a delicious jammy crumble of a cake. As well they had bread – real bread, served to you by the baker himself! I bought a few loaves, and was impressed by his passion and knowledge: this one is about 10% rye, it’s a sourdough but we use yeast as well so it’s not a sharp sourdough, this one is good for toast, this is my favourite. And when we got them home and ate them they were as delicious as he’d promised. Recommended.

The town shows the definite influence of Edinburgh. Delis and stylish cafés, the artisan baker, genteel inhabitants and occupations. The countryside of rolling green hills and mist, haystacks and ruined castles could be many parts of Britain.

Walking along the white-sand ocean beach beneath the towering dunes recalls Castlecliff and walks with Uncle David, and a family picnic in the scrub behind with my cousins.

North Berwick has a remarkable and surprisingly tall conical hill behind it (North Berwick Law, 187m). I have no idea of the geology – I’d love to find out – but in my mind it resembled “the Mount” – Mount Maunganui in one of the surfing centres of New Zealand, Tauranga.

A drive past the marina at North Berwick after dark – like Half Moon Bay in summer on those evening drives with my dad, after our picnic dinners with soup and bacon and egg pie and carrots and juice.

From the farmhouse, Orion: the first constellation I ever knew, and one that’s visible in both southern and northern hemispheres. It’s also Carolyn and my special constellation – we’re always happy when we see it. It was lovely and dark without the fires of Grangemouth, and the moment we stepped out of the door it was there hanging in front of us. Beautiful.

At breakfast downstairs, the kids run circuits around and around and around the table, giggling and chasing each other (and not eating). Playing under the table reminds me of an embarrassing visit to one of my Dad’s friends in Australia when I was a kid. I got bored of the grown-ups conversation and crawled around under the table in intentionally juvenile fashion, saying “I’m Karen, I’m Karen” (name changed to protect the innocent), pretending to be the friend’s baby daughter. Only problem was, I got the name muddled – and used my Dad’s friend’s name instead! Oops. These kids have nothing to be embarrassed about – they’re enjoying the space and freedom.

Aidan is sometimes scared to try things. Thoughts of St Johns Cadets Camp at Peter Snell holiday camp on Whangaparaoa Peninsula. The flying fox which I was terrified even to go up to, but the others forced me to go on and I did and it was wonderful! Aidan will learn this too – I hope I can help him.

We end the adventure with a trip to Ratho Park adventure centre (EICA) – an adventure itself, although at this visit just for the eyes (we’ll return another day to climb, but the kids played in the soft play). Last time I climbed was at The Castle in North London, with David, Gavin, and the rest of my DC team at the time.

Then home, refreshed, to the familiar.