Well, it had been a while since my last actual holiday – almost 3 years. I’ve had the odd long weekend off here and there and time off to attend family matters but not an extended time of leave, which I think the body and mind craves. It’s nice having a day off here and there but to actually have 3 weeks off and a fairly relaxed schedule gives your body and mind the time it needs to wind down and reconnect again.
So, in those 3 weeks, my partner and I spent a week in Melbourne, a week in New Zealand and a week at home to kick back and try and get back into some form of routine before heading back to work (didn’t happen).
This was our first holiday away together and we had always intended on going to Melbourne as we had booked tickets to see The Book of Mormon. We’re both huge South Park (Trey Parker/Matt Stone) fans and as soon as we caught wind of the show coming to Australia, we booked tickets immediately and due to it not being shown in Brisbane, Melbourne became our first destination. New Zealand was more or less a later piece of the puzzle when work was becoming overwhelming and I know I needed more time away than the originally booked 1 week off.
So, we left Brisbane stupidly early on the 28/03 and arrived mid morning into Tullamarine. From there we were picked up and greeted by my father and headed back to the family property in Broadford. The house is actually up for sale at the moment, so the house is probably in the nicest condition it’s ever been in. From a small old brick house built in the 1950’s to what it has become now, its phenomenal to see the progression. We spent the rest of the first day catching up with family for lunch and dinner and tried our best to keep warm. Becoming acclimatised to Brisbane weather is dangerous.
The following day, Dad leant us the car and we drove further north again to Benalla which is where my brother Joel lives. My brother is 4 years older than me and has down syndrome, so in a way I’ve always been the older brother looking after him. Going up and visiting him gives me so much joy though because I know he really looks forward to it. The carers in his workplace said he never shuts up when he knows I’m on the way. We took him out for lunch to a small cafe in Benalla and took him back to his workplace. From there we made our way back to Broadford and relaxed with some more food and wine.
In terms of photos, I didn’t take any of anything interesting whilst in Broadford. I took some for Dad and Marj as they weren’t happy with the photos taken by the real estate but that’s as far as it really went.
The following day we caught the train down to Melbourne and made our way to our Air BNB just near Southern Cross station. Our time in Melbourne more or less involved a lot of eating (plenty of vegan eats down there for Krystle), a lot of walking and very little else. It’s nice having the freedom of being able to wander around the city. We did happen to catch up with more family whilst in Melbourne.
But the reason we came to Melbourne was for The Book of Mormon and it did not disappoint. It was one of the greatest things I have had the pleasure of seeing. It completely surpassed all expectations and made my fondness for the intelligence of Trey Parker and Matt Stone grow stronger. As well as being super catchy musically, the acting was world class and the script was hilarious. It’s not often I’m speechless but after the performance, I was at a loss for words. Krystle was actually worried I didn’t enjoy it.
Leaving Melbourne was actually quite convenient as we were only a hundred metres more or less from Southern Cross Station to get the Sky Bus to the airport. The only inconvenience of that was having to get up at 2:30AM to do so.
The airport situation was a little stressful for us as Krystle has a British passport. We weren’t aware that she had to carry both her British and Australia passport so it made the whole checking in situation and customs quite difficult. We got through eventually and fortunately for us we hate being late to anything so even with the difficulties, we still had plenty of time up our sleeves.
We flew with Emirates (cannot rate highly enough) to Auckland and proceeded through customs to the baggage pickup area. Krystle’s bag came around pretty quickly but mine was no where to be seen. In the corner of my eye, I saw someone in the distance wheeling away a case that looked like mine but I thought surely they wouldn’t be stupid enough to grab someone else’s case? Boy, was I wrong.
After realising what had happened, I went to baggage services and put in a file of missing baggage. Quite a stressful process. Not the filing of missing baggage, just that I had no luggage which meant no clothes, no underwear, no toiletries and some camera gear in there too. The people there were incredibly chill and assured me as soon as the person who took my case realised they had it, they’d bring it back and have it sent on a courier to the hotel. True to their word, my baggage was dropped to my hotel and put inside my room that evening.
During our first day in Auckland, we picked up our hire car and made our way to the hotel. We then for a bit of a wander around the city and found a grocery store and a couple of cafes to suss out for when we were back in Auckland. We were amazed by the produce and organic ranges in the store so picked up a heap of stuff for the car trip.
Instead of heading out for dinner that evening, we had dinner at the hotel and coincidentally they offered a full vegan dinner menu which Krystle was stoked about. I had a nice steak and a beautiful red wine to accompany it.
We left Auckland the following morning to head to our next destination which was Paihia, situated in the Bay of Islands. We took the scenic route instead of the main motorways and even though the weather was completely miserable along the way, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking.
The first couple of days in Paihia weren’t too thrilling due to the severe rain they were receiving (part of Cyclone Debby) but it was a good excuse to have a pretty relaxed pace. We did a fair bit of driving around the area just to explore what Paihia had to offer and we found a nice little cafe (The Orange Frog) in town that had some great options on the menu for both Krystle and I.
On our second day in Paihia, we were meant to go on a dolphin swim/tour but due to the weather it had been called off till the following day given the weather was suitable for it. We went to bed that night not knowing whether or not we’d be going out but upon waking, it turned out to be a beautiful day. We head down to the marina, jumped on the boat and within twenty minutes of leaving shore, we came across dolphins. I’ve seen dolphins before and actually have fed one but there’s nothing quite like seeing a pod of them out in open water doing what they do. It’s so mesmerising and such an incredible experience to witness. We were on the boat for 2-3 hours and whilst we didn’t get to swim with them, just witnessing them was enough.
Our remaining day in Paihia was spent with another trip to the grocery store, a small mountain climb and a lot of walking. Whilst there wasn’t a huge amount to do in Paihia, I’m really grateful we had a few days there to actually relax.
We head back to Auckland the following morning and whilst it was too early to check in to the hotel, the staff advised us to check out Takapuna and Devonport. We went across the Harbour Bridge and found and beautiful little cafe called Street Organics. Being somewhat limited to one cafe/restaurant in Paihia, it was nice having a huge choice of places to eat. We checked out Takapuna and loved what we saw. We also sussed out a place to have breakfast the following morning. From Takapuna, we drove up the road to Devonport and were gobsmacked by how pretty it was. It reminded me somewhat of Fremantle, WA. It has that nice seaside village feel with a lot of beautiful old buildings. The library in Devonport is one of the most incredibly designed buildings I’d come across. We’d only stopped there because we were curious as to what the building actually was.
Krystle thought I should find a burger place to eat at in Auckland because I’d been meat free for majority of the trip. I jumped on Google and came across Burger Burger and noticed it had been rated #1 burger on a few websites, so that night we head out to the nearest Burger Burger which happened to be in Ponsonby. Upon arriving in Ponsonby, we had immediately found our dream town to live in. It has the best elements of all the different suburbs of Australia that we like. It had a Fitzroy/Brunswick element to it but has all the nicer touches of somewhere like New Farm, Brisbane. Ponsonby Road has hundreds of shops with an old front but a completely renovated, architecturally designed interior. We fell in love. We also found that living that doesn’t come cheap (to no surprise). So, back to the Burger. We arrived and were sat at the bar. We ordered pretty quickly and even found a remarkably good vegan option for Krystle. I ordered two burgers – one beef (rated #1) and one chicken burger. The chicken burger was good but nothing special. The beef burger blew my mind. There was nothing overly extravagant about it but the flavour sensation was incredible. I’ve eaten my fair share of burgers throughout the years but this is #1 on my list now. I can’t wait to go back and eat it again. Sadly, I couldn’t get a decent photo because the lighting in the restaurant was crap but I enjoyed it and you’ll just have to take my word for it.
The next day was our last in NZ so we went back across the bridge to Takapuna and had breakfast at the place we chose the previous day. From there, we didn’t have much time to do anything else so we eventually made our way to the airport, checked in and painfully got through customs again. The flight back was quick and I got to sneak a movie in during it.
The Melbourne/NZ was one of the best holidays I’ve been on. I know we were only in each spot for a week but I got to wind down and relax, spend time and enjoy my first holiday with my partner (no arguments) and do things at a leisurely pace. We also got to eat some great food and experience and witness some pretty incredible things. Sure, I love to keep busy 99% of the time and do as much as I can but it’s nice having that break every now and again. I think my body needed it.
Part of me wishes I took more photos along the way but I think sometimes that takes away from the whole relaxing part of the trip.
I’ve tried to keep this blog post somewhat brief so please enjoy and feel free to leave any feedback. Also, feel free to leave any recommendations as to where to go in the South Island of NZ. I’m planning on making that my next NZ trip (after Scotland).