Monday, 14 March 2016

48 Hours in Copenhagen

Known as having the most unsettled weather - in almost anywhere, Copenhagen, Denmark isn't the obvious choice for a city break in February but we went for it anyway. 3 girlfriends, 2 nights, a ryanair flight and an Air bnb...

Arrived, only half hour late- not bad Ryanair, at around 1pm on the Friday. Nice short 20 minute train journey into central station and we were 20 minute walk from our apartment. One straight road and we found the pretty hip cafe we were picking the apartment key up from. First time using airbnb and so far so good. The perfect English spoken by the nice girl who helped us, encouraged us to forget we weren't in an English speaking country. We found the apartment (building) easily then fell at the first hurdle of finding the actual flat. No numbers or names or the identical front doors. After 10 minutes of trying front door's to see if the key fitted, a stranger pointed us to the right door. Lovely, bright, homely apartment. By homely i mean, bread and milk, the biggest jar of mustard i have ever seen, meat and cheese in the fridge- for our consumption i don't think but it was nice anyway- toys and a cot in the living room. Clearly lived in a lot of the time. It was clean however and we had plenty of space. One bedroom with a double bed and a second bed on the living room floor ( i took this and was very comfortable), a nice little kitchen and a contemporary dining room.

Hungry, we headed back to the hip cafe for some fuel for the rest of the day. I had a ' Danish Hen Salad' which was shredded roast chicken in a creme fraiche sort of dressing and almonds and some gorgeous rye bread (you cannot get this nice stuff at home) After lunch and a beer and some map reading, we set off in search of the Tivoli Gardens. They were closed. Not open until April- nooooo!! Bear this in mind folks if visiting! We were all looking forward to the focal point of the city. Moving on.

Instead we did some wandering, got our bearings. We passed the National Archive building, parliament buildings and ended up in the shopping area. All the usual suspects- H&M, Topshop, Zara, Vera Moda. This area wasn't too over powering though and felt like a side street rather than a mammoth street of shoppers taking over the city. A few independent boutiques and quite a few naff souvenir shops also lined the streets. Lots of candle lights and fairly style lighting all around, wherever you go. This is a thing - its called 'Hygge'- which refers to the cosy atmosphere they create in the winter months with candles, lights and blankets. I like that they transform the dull rainy days into something lovely and welcoming. Even the cafes still had chairs and tables outside- just with blankets at the ready.

Next we walked up to the top of the Round Tower, a 17th century building that was built as an astronomical observatory. When it was built Denmark was known for its achievements in astrology through Tycho Brahe - a scientist who put a lot if time and effort into the research. When he died the King wanted to continue his legacy and the Round Tower became what it is today- near enough. Great 360 views of the city up one big spiral walkway, no steps. Until the very top and then there are only a few.

We then indulged in coffee & cake in the oldest and probably the best patisserie in Copenhagen, founded in 1870. Traditional inside and out, stunning cakes and coffee, friendly staff who are clearly proud of the popularity even if a little knackered. We were quite late in the day so they were shutting up as we left but the cakes- oh my, delicious. At a price though- the coffee alone was about 5 pounds. Lovely however and worth a visit!

That evening we took a recommendation and ate at a burger joint, yes a burger joint but not what you're thinking white table cloths, lovely wine, super tasty burgers. This place had Hygge down to a T and we really enjoyed the ambiance here, the fair stroll back to the apartment was welcomed to help it all go down!

The following morning we went for breakfast at Granola, this came personally recommended and also guide book recommended. Again a popular spot that has clearly been doing its thing for a number of years and hugely liked by tourists and locals alike. Tiny inside and heaving. We ordered, coffee, eggs cocotte with sausage mushrooms and a tomato sauce with Tabasco on the side, the girls also had pancakes and i had a pink grapefruit which came with a sprinkling of sugar and fresh mint- so delicious. We soaked up the atmosphere for as long as we could- it was also chucking it down and we were putting off leaving.

We ventured back towards the Old city for our bike tour we had booked with Mike the Bike, this is a must if you go. We did it in the worst possible conditions so no excuses! It was cold, very wet and windy. Mike even warned us it wasn't going to be pleasant and off we went! There 10 of us including Mike. We did the city tour which covered the following; University, Cathedral, Kierkegaard, Foodmarket, Naval Village, Design Museum, Citadel, Little Mermaid, Royal Palace, Nyhavn, central Harbour, Castle Island, Christiansborg (Danish Parliament), Royal Reception Rooms, Medieval Town.

We covered a lot, and Mike was very knowledgeable. Here are a few facts we learned on the tour;

Denmark's monarchy is one of oldest there was and they love it like we love ours in England.
Copenhagen University is a member of the International Alliance of Research Universities (along with Cambridge and Yale)
You have to have a bell on your bike by law but never use it and it annoys the locals too much.
The Little Mermaid iconic statue based on the fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Anderson is actually only famous because it was mentioned in a pop song. Would be like Justin Beiber now.
Copenhagen is the childhood home of author Hans Christian Anderson.
Nyhavn is postcard Copenhagen and is where a lot of the film The Danish Girl was filmed.

We were soaked through but was well worth it, for 30 pounds you get the 3 hour tour and the chance to master the streets of Copenhagen on a bike! We headed to the nearest bar for a beer and to soak up the 'Hygge' and get the feeling back in our toes.

The Little Mermaid Statue

Naval Houses 

Naval Village 

That evening we dined at Pony- a contemporary small restaurant which again was personally recommended. We had a 4 course set menu of fish eggs and smoked cream cheese, pickled Pollock, pork neck with parsnips and to finish off it was poached pear with pear sorbet. All absolutely deliciously light and flavorsome and didn't feel hideously full after it. We ended the evening with a cocktail or two at a bar called NOHO in the Meatpacking district which was a stones throw from the apartment- very handy. I was wearing a mustard coloured dress- i stood out like a sore thumb. They definitley like their black, grey, black oh and grey. Stylish but no colour to be seen, complete opposite to the city itself. I did ask Mike the Bike if there is a significance of the couloured buildings, there isn't really its just that they like their homes to look nice apparently and painting them is a way of getting the community together.

Day 3 and we were heading back to the airport at 2pm. We decided to grab a coffee and head to Christiana for a little look. Christiana is the self proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood which is regarded as a sort of commune and has its own special law, You can't take photographs here and you feel a bit like you're being watched. It is somewhat controversial, cannabis trading was tolerated until 2004.

We sadly didnt have time for a smørrebrød a danish open sandwich but that and the Tivoli Gardens is a good enough reason to go back. I would, lovely people, great food, plenty of culture and awesome architecture. Perhaps in the summer though. 

Tuesday, 7 April 2015


Wellington is the capital of New Zealand but it is the most chilled out capital i have been to! It  is  quirky and friendly with lots to offer. It feels more like a cool surburb of a city than a city itself. In this post i thought i would share some of the things i have been up to and what i think are the top ten things to do!

1. Te Papa Museum 
It is free and amazing! A huge space full of interesting facts and unique exhibitions. Along with the colossal  squid in the middle of the first floor there was also an Air New Zealand Celebrating 75 years exhibition. I really enjoyed this and found it really interesting as they went through the years of the airline. With New Zealand being one of the most remote countries they have the longest flight times and so have always prided themselves on their long haul services. It even displays all the different uniforms through the decades and there was a 737 cockpit outside the museum that you could have a go in! 

2. Night Market
Small but full of life! When i asked my (well traveled) host mother whether is was worth going to she sort of paused and said' by global standards it is basically non existent'! This made me laugh but i could see what she meant. It was in the smallest alleyway but had so much crammed in! Mainly food stalls, from churros to burritos, live music in the form of buskers and the odd craft stall selling homemade jewelry. I had a Spicy Moroccan chicken flat-bread and the best crepe ever with Belgian Chocolate and Caramel to finish off with! 
3. Mount Victoria Look out 
A great and sceneic walk up the hillside brings out at the Mt Vic look out. Fantastic views of the harbour and city. 

4. Cable Car and Botanic Gardens
The cable car is famous, an icon of Wellington. If you have not been but have seen a photograph of Wellington it probably featured the Cable Car! Enjoyed by locals and visitors, it is a short and speedy ride up the hillside from the CBD to the suburb of Kelburn with three intermediate stops and conveniently terminates just by the Botanic Gardens and the Cable Car museum.  In 2012 in celebrated 110 years of service. 
5.Shopping on Lambton Quay and Cuba Street 
For the best shopping in the city head this way. High streets brands or individual boutiques, theres so many! 
6. Sailing trip
With being so close the water it would be rude not to! I did a 90 minute sailing trip on the cruising catamaran Megisti. Lovely chap that owns it and provides a relaxing informal sail. Docked outside the Crabshack i saw the poster advertising the next sail. I couldn't go that afternoon so i just emailed them and asked when the next one was and it was the following weekend for a 'High Tea' sail. A 90 minute cruise with food and drink included was well worth it (even though windy Welly didn't live up to its name that day and we had to motor most of the way!). We saw a huge pod of Dolphins who swam alongside the boat for a while, i have never seen so many in one go. 
7.Oriental Bay 
An early morning or early evening stroll along Oriental Parade is just lovely! We had a walk along here on my last evening and it was beautiful. So close to the city it is one of Wellingtons gems. 

8. Wellington City and Sea Museum 
Popped in here after my sailing trip! Wellington's social, cultural and maritime history all i one place. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 
9. Weta Cave
A girl in my dorm asked me to join her so i went along. I have seen the films (LOTR and The Hobbit) but i had heard it was expensive so i had sort of written it off the to do list. It was only $24 which i thought was reasonable. I am glad it wasn't any more as i don't think it would have been worth it. They have made Weta Cave up the road from the actual Weta workshops (understandably) but i felt a bit duped with a short tour around a tiny workspace which they claim to be a 'working' workspace and you couldn't take photographs for that reason. They guy that showed us around was a technician and he did have some interesting things to say, about the films too. You do get to know some secrets behind the costumes, make up and props. Maybe a proper budding fan would enjoy it more. 

10. Kapiti Coast 
One Sunday myself and fellow Au Pair Valerie took a drive to the far end of Kapiti Coast and drove back towards Wellington stopping off at various points along the coast! It is an awesome coastline, very NZ! It was a glorious day and like many New Zealand coastlines, not very busy and very relaxing! Huge stretches of white sand, you cant beat it.  

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Martinborough Wine Region, Wairarapa, NZ

A great benefit of working as an Au Pair is you get the weekends to do whatever you want! The weekend just gone myself and two friends took a short road trip out to the Wairarapa to the lesser known New Zealand wine region of Martinborough. No not Marlborough! It features boutique wineries made up of Artisan wine makers and are typically family owned. Pioneered in 1980 by four guys who planted the first vines on the outskirts of the dying rural village.  The wine from here makes up only 1% of all New Zealand wine produced, that tells you how tiny it is! None the less, I always love to taste wines especially right where the grapes are grown and the wine is made. The region produces Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. It has a warm climate with low rainfall and long, dry autumns. Needless to say they do not have that hot weather that is also great for pinot noir but they are always thinking of new ways to enhance the wine for example using chunks of glass underneath the vines to boost heat and light. (Ata Rangi)

We were lucky enough to have the sun shine on us, it was about an hour and a half drive so we arrived at around 1pm. (Tried for an early start but certain team members didn't get up in time!!) I had booked an apartment which was a struggle to find as Martinborough is small and popular and to find something within a moderate budget was tricky. I eventually found on, a kiwi site. It was in such a gorgeous location with stunning vineyard views. I was very pleased
(and lucky) with my choice! We hired bikes from a lovely lady opposite and set off for an afternoon of wine tasting. Thankfully it was very flat which made for easy cycling and also awesome views!

We started off with one of the first vineyards in Martinborough, Ata Rangi which was beautiful. The staff were very friendly and informative and hugely passionate about what they were doing. Here we tried two different Pinot Noirs, Chardonnay, a nice but quite dry rose and a Sauvignon Blanc. All very tasty although the pinot noir was a bit too dry for me. Other vineyards we visited were Margrain, where we actually tried a Chenin Blanc which is unusual for New Zealand but delicious, Te Kairanga, Colombo and Gladstone (a sub region of Martinborough).  All in all Pinot Noir definitely stood out but there were some lovely, fruity and very easy drinking Pinot Gris and also Reisling, and I would say I liked them over the Sauvignon Blanc which New Zealand is most known for. Martinborough is a beautiful place to visit whether you are into wine or not. It is a tranquil, picturesque, quaint and idyllic small town surrounded by gorgeous vineyards and scenery.

Pinot Noir Grapes


The people here are so down to earth, hands on and passionate about their wines and are clearly working very hard to get them out there and on the map. In fact the owners of Gladstone Vineyard were in the UK when we visited on a mission to make their wines more available across the world. It is not just wine either, there are I think around 5 olive groves too which between them produce a wide variety of oils and other products.  Only a few on the vineyards get their wines overseas but you will find Martinborough wines in the UK albeit not very many. They have a long way to go but they are definitely on the right track! I will be looking out for Martinborough wines when I get home!

Te Kairanga



Thursday, 26 February 2015

An Au Pair in Wellington

Three months have been and gone, non stop exploring, non stop excitement but also non stop spending! I decided to look for some temporary work and as Wellington is still on the to do list i thought it would be a nice place to be and explore for a short while and also a good place to perhaps find some work. 
I spoke to a girl in my room in the hostel and she was telling me she had applied to over 30 jobs and hadn't got anywhere.  This did not fill me with confidence!  I found that a lot of temporary jobs were listed on the Backpackers Board NZ which is a free noticeboard for jobs, cars, notices from people looking for travel buddies, that sort of thing. Anyway to cut a long story short, i found an advert for a job that was for an Au Pair for 6 weeks. It is an interim period before the child went to daycare and after the last Au Pair had left. 
So here i am. I look after a little boy named Archer who has just turned one.  I work Monday to Friday 7.30- 5. I live with a great family in a lovely house overlooking the harbour in a suburb of Wellington called Kandallah. I don't have to pay for food or board or anything for that matter except of course things i want to do in my own time. I help with the cooking and the clearing up and i look after my own room but that is all. Au Pairs are typically people looking for immersion in a different country/culture, usually to learn the language and they help out with the housework and childcare. For me, this was a perfect solution as i could save and earn as i am also getting paid (quite a good going rate for an Au Pair which is also great!). It is also very close to the city and within easy reach of many surrounding places to visit. I spend my days during the week with little Archer who is a delight to be around and i also get my evenings and weekends to do as i wish.  I have had to dig out my repertoire of nursery rhymes and get used to singing them over and over again, along with various first word books over and over again but so far i think i am doing OK! I have introduced Archer to Spot the dog books and eggybread! I am pretty lucky to have such a gorgeous boy to look after, he has accepted me quite well and greets me with a huge smile each morning (or maybe that's just because I'm making him breakfast!) He is also in the process of taking his first steps, learning to point and standing up to reach things he shouldn't! I am here until the end of March so look out for more posts about my time in a pretty cool city! 
This is a view from my bedroom, that's the airport runway in the middle there! 

Friday, 6 February 2015


Queenstown is an awesome town, named adventure captial of New Zealand. I have been in the winter and it is equally inviting in fact i would say maybe more so. It had a chaotic overrun with tourists feel about it whereas in the winter it is a lot quieter and you can still get the sunshine just without the mad busyness! However we weren't going to let that worry us. We Arrived mid afternoon and by 5pm a bungy jump was booked! Nevis Bungy is the biggest in New Zealand and the ... in the world. With it being peak season the accommodation can get expensive. We were able to find a campground just ten minutes out of the town centre for $10 each a night, it was basic with only toilets but hey who needs a shower! I wasn't doing the bungy but i went out to the suspended platform to watch and that was bad enough! Doing a bungy jump was always something i said i wasnt interested in doing and that it was the having to throw yourself off rather than being attached to someone like a skydive for example that i couldnt fathom. However after witnessing the Nevis i decided i wanted to to the Kawarau Bridge bungy which is only 43m high (Nevis is 134m high). I am not sure what came over me but i booked it and that was it, i was jumping within the hour!! It was terrifying. It took me a good 3 or 4 minutes to actually jump- i was squeezing the poor guy's hand so tight i think he was ready to push me off the edge! At the bridge bungy anyone can watch so i had an audience and ended up being encouraged and cheered on to jump! My error was i kept looking down, why i don't know that is the worst thing you can do! And then i heard 'smile for the camera' and i just went... head first into the river! A feeling like no other i think it should be on everyone's bucket list! So glad i did it. The video is funny and you get several photo's too, oh and a free t shirt! Would i do it again? Maybe!!

Whilst there we also took a trip up the Gondola and took in the epic view of the town and mountains, there is a Luge at the top too. We did partake in a little shopping- it is hard to resist and there are so many and great mix of shops! Fergburger was always a must- queues out the door and up the street! Another good reason to visit in winter!! Fergburger is a Queenstown thing and offers very very tasty and huge burgers! 
View from the top of the Gondola

Monday, 2 February 2015

A day kayaking at Abel Tasman, South Island

At the top of the South Island you have the coastal National Park, Abel Tasman. This is another place i have visited in the winter  and it is just as stunning especially if you are lucky and get the sun! Don't get me wrong though in the summer months it is absolutely awesome and you can see why it is renowned for its golden beaches and stunning coastal tracks.  
We booked a kayak trip for the day after arriving in Nelson, a town about 60 km's away which is a good base for the National Park. We stayed in a campsite in a little place called Ruby Bay which actually reminded me of Cornwall as many places have in New Zealand but this little place particularly!
The day started at 7.30am as we had a 40 minute drive to the kayak base on Kaiteriteri Beach. Beautiful sunny day and was looking forward to getting on the water. My first time kayaking since i was 11 years old and went on a school trip to France! 

Kaiteriteri Beach, 8am

We got to enjoy a half hour boat ride up through the National Park to our drop off point where we were to collect the kayaks.  
Once we'd had a brief lesson we were in the water. The bright green clear water was stunning and we headed to an island which fur seals inhabit. We saw so many and they came quite close! They actually have no predators in these waters so they are very relaxed and just swim around you. Our guide for the day was Paige and she was great. Chilled out and chatty but also informative and professional. I think we were lucky and had a good group of people and all kept together nicely and kept moving quite swiftly. We paddled around with the seals for about half an hour and even saw a few pups! We then carried on paddling down the park in the direction we had come from, after about another hour we stopped at Mosquito Bay which i can only describe as paradise! We were the only group there which we were told, was unusual so we lapped up the temporary luxury of being the only ones there and ate a tasty lunch of a baguette sandwich, caramel slice and coffee, tea or juice, which was provided. After lunch and a chat with our fellow kayakers we all went for a swim in the crystal clear waters. The final paddle was down to Anchorage Bay which took just under two hours, we ventured out slightly into the ocean but never too far away from park. We saw a few more seals and then reached the bay where we were to catch the boat back to Kaiteriteri. Fantastic day, thoroughly enjoyed every second. Definitely a must do and huge highlight of my trip!! More photos below but they were only taken with my phone. 

Mosquito Bay, lunch stop

Anchorage Bay 

Monday, 12 January 2015


 Loved Taranaki!! A region of New Zealand slightly off the tourist track- but it so shouldn't be. I guess it is out on its own and for that reason it gets missed off but it is also 'a place like no other' and should be on more lists to see and do.  Taranaki is steeped in history as we learnt at the Puke Ariki museum, gallery and information centre in New Plymouth. A huge dairy farming community brings you endless paddocks of cows and farmland nestled in between the rugged coast pounded by the Tasman Sea and the snow- topped mountain, the dormant volcano Mt Egmont/Taranaki. Great surf, walks, hikes,bike tracks and beaches make Taranki an awesome place to visit, or even stay long term as many people do including many Brits who have come back after discovering Taranaki while travelling around the country and settled here.
During our visit, we stayed with a family friend who lives in the small lovely village of Oakura just outside of New Plymouth in the heart of Taranaki. We were made so welcome and right at home. A short walk down to the end of the road and you get to Oakura the beach, an awesome huge expanse of volcanic black sand. We borrowed their mountain bikes on the second day and rode the Coastal Walkway which takes you from the Port in New Plymouth all the way to Bell Block Beach right along the coastline. It is 12.7 km one way and pretty flat so it makes for a nice meander rather than a hard hike! The coastline is beautiful. Later that afternoon we were lucky enough to try Paddle boarding- i have seen so many people doing it and wanted to try it. Heather, our friend we were staying with had a board and paddle so she took us down to one of the river mouths by the sea and we gave it a go! It was fairly easy, a lot easier than surfing! Great fun though and i will definitely be giving it another go! The river was the perfect place to try it as its so calm, maybe il try it in the sea one day and catch some surf... hmmm! That evening we had a cracking BBQ in true New Zealand style and later went for an evening stroll and took in the beautiful scenery.
Along the Coastal Walkway

Can just see the mountain in the background! 

Oakura Beach

Oakura Beach 

The following day consisted of a nice walk along the beach and trip up to the Mt Egmont/Taranaki visitor centre. It was a pleasant drive through native forest and taking you to an altitude of 946 meters. From here there were fantastic views to the west over New Plymouth and around. Lots of choices of walks up here from 4 minutes to 10 hours. (We did the short one this time!)
That evening we had a tasty dinner from the local Holy Guacamole caravan that sits on the sea front. the Pulled Pork Burrito was delicious!!
Our last day was spent exploring some of the other highlights of the area including the Egmont Lighthouse and a short hike up the very very steep Paritutu. Paritutu and the Sugar Loaf Islands are just off the coast of New Plymouth and are remnants of a large volcano that was active nearly two million years ago. It was so so steep but awesome views too!
That evening we took a stroll around Pukekura Park. It is a Garden of National Significance just near the heart of New Plymouth. Between 14th December and 24th January the park hosts the Festival of Lights transforming the park into a 'illuminated wonderland'. Very unique and a great evening.
Sorry to say goodbye to Taranaki but who knows we might be back!

View of the rugged West coast on a cloudy day!

 Egmont Lighthouse 
Steep climb up Paratutu
Sugar Loaf Islands