November 28: Otra Vez

Things to remember: It’s not a rubbish bin, it’s a trash can; it’s not a chemist, it’s a drug store; look left when crossing the road. Ok, it’s spelled Center – I’m definitely in America.

Yesterday was perfect, but today I must have woken up on the wrong side of the air bed. Perhaps it’s my alternate reality Monday, or just Monday. As I type this, the Giants are losing. Definitely not my day. Continue reading

28 November: Flying in Style

There is never a good time to leave New Zealand. It just becomes an inevitability. The ski season is lively and fun, the rugby in the Spring time brought the world together, and the summer provides warmth and daylight for tramping, camping and exploring the world-famous landscape of the islands. I was just getting used to extended daylight hours, the conveniences of the city, and most importantly, the company of good friends in Auckland.

I couldn’t have asked for a better last day, a relaxing Sunday afternoon watching hockey with Brian and laying in the sunshine reading my book and watching my clothes dry. Even knowing that I had a posh comfy seat and complimentary champagne could not entice me to leave.

When the time did come to head to the airport Monday afternoon I was surprised by the extra room I had in my suitcase. Warm weather travel certainly beats hauling around ski gear! In the Duty Free shop I purchased a 1L bottle of 42 Below Feijoa vodka to add to my New Zealand vodka collection back home and continued to the Koru Club Lounge upstairs.

Air New Zealand’s business class lounge has a complimentary buffet as well as wine, beer, spirits and non alcoholic beverages for self-serve. The friendly staff was also available to make espresso drinks and provide assistance. They clearly knew I was coming because they had hockey on TV and a spinach, corn and tomato salad on their dinner buffet.

I was struggling to stay clear of eating too much dessert, but the mini pavlovas were my weakness! I followed up with a mochaccino before heading to my gate.

I got settled into my seat in what I call anti-social class and the flight attendant showed me how the seat rest and table worked. The man in the seat across from me offered to take a photo so I suppose it’s not entirely anti social though you don’t have someone right next to you.

I read up on some Kiwi news, drank some champagne and sparkling wine (to tell the truth I enjoyed the NZ sparkling wine more than the champagne) and committed myself quite enthusiastically to watching four and a half hours of parts one and two of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. My stipulation for watching the films was that I intended to watch them both sequentially, and this was the perfect opportunity!

I enjoyed my second round of dinner, though I was a bit confused by the diabetic meal I had requested. The entree was a smoked salmon, and in my meal they served prawns; I’m not certain how much more sugar salmon contains, but the prawns were certainly tasty. I selected the lamb as my main dish, and was disappointed when the flight attendant brought my special meal out. As tempting as the spinach looked, I asked if the meat was chicken or pork, and as I don’t eat white meat, requested the lamb dish instead. I think she may have been a bit irritated by that, but it was my last chance to have a nicely prepared medium rare lamb steak and I wasn’t about to give that up!

Quite overfull from the variety of food and drink in my stomach I experimented with laying my bed down, and at first found it a bit confusing the way the seat folds forward, like I was sitting in the back of an SUV. They provide quite nice bedding, and the seat does lie fully flat, parallel to the floor, something I do prefer to the beds on the Qantas flights which sit at a bit of an angle.

I enjoyed the movies, taking an intermission to change my clothes and brush my teeth, and fell asleep over the Pacific Islands.

The Loft – Yoga Studio and Soul Food

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If you have a free evening, and love yoga and good healthy food, I recommend heading to The Loft at 103 Beach St in Auckland’s CBD. At 6pm Monday through Thursday they have a 75 minute yoga session, and the most wholesome, tasty vegetarian food all heaped together on one plate, that I’ve ever eaten. Both yoga and dinner for only $17. Tonight they served a veggie curry, cubed sweet potatoes, salad with olives and walnuts, cauliflower pakora, and cooked buckwheat with beetroot and pumpkin seeds. They also served a whey drink with lemon and ginger, and an apple crumble-type dessert afterwards. Oh, and the yoga was good too.

Damned, Hell Pizza is Still Favorite Pizza

I’m from New York. I should know a thing or two about pizza. Then again, in NY pizza is a thin white crust, doughy around the outside, a bit of tomato sauce, and as much cheese as you can physically fit on top of it, so much that if you’re not careful the hot cheese will dribble down to your shoes. That’s why we fold it in half to eat it, not to mention the fact that the slice is huge, and sometimes covered in pepperoni.

Carefully crafted Chicago style pizza is a delicacy for me. Gino’s East in downtown Chicago makes a fantastic pizza. It takes an hour to prepare, and the crust is crisp and flakey around the edges, and has a full flavor, a bit like a pastry. The dough is thick, which is why the long baking time, and the cheese and toppings are melted together throughout the top of the pie, almost like a bread-based quiche.

California style pizza makes use of the state’s abundance of fruits and vegetables. The pizza has a very thin crust, and the focus is on the toppings. Tomato sauce isn’t necessarily the base. It could be BBQ sauce, a white alfredo sauce, or any kind of creamy sauce that will hold the toppings together. Like Westernized sushi rolls, the creativity is in mixing different ingredients to create a unique taste. Of course there are the classics; the margarita, the hawaiian, meat- and veggie-lovers, but there are also tasty combinations involving seaweed, Thai chicken, or anything else you can throw on there!

Hell’s Pizza in New Zealand is similar to the California style, mixing up combinations of at least 5-6 ingredients per pizza. The Damned is my favorite selection, with fresh avocado, pineapple, mushrooms, big chunks of cashews, toasty camembert cheese, and I generally substitute the onions for crushed garlic. The seafood pizza, The Underworld, with mussels, calamari and prawns is another favorite of mine. I haven’t been disappointed with any of the pizzas I’ve gotten at the Queenstown location. They use a wholemeal crust, baked to a crispy perfection and the ingredients are fresh and tasty.

Unfortunately I didn’t have as good of an experience at the Auckland Quay St location. The pizza itself was barely edible, highly greasy and the ingredients had no flavor whatsoever. Apparently the quality of the pizza varies widely amongst Hell’s locations all over New Zealand. If you’re in Queenstown, I highly recommend trying a snack sized pizza; $10 for 6 small slices is the perfect size for lunch, a late night snack, or a light eater. They also have a tasty selection of sides, like kumara chips – yum!

Hell PIzza in Queenstown is located next to Joe’s Garage, in the same laneway as Cowboy Bar and Barmuda, and just around the corner from Night ‘N Day.

Survey of Indian Food in Queenstown

Today I cheated on my favorite restaurant and went to try out Freiya’s Indian Restaurant on Camp St. They do a $10 curry and rice lunch deal and I decided to check it out today. I returned to town from swimming just around 2:10pm, went across the street, and popped inside, lucky I made it before their 2:30pm closing time.

I wanted to order a vegetarian dish and scanned the menu for something unique. The Navrattan Korma and Malai Kofta caught my attention Continue reading

Retro Day at Alpine Health and Fitness

Today is Retro Day at Alpine Health and Fitness, inside of the Queenstown Events Centre in Frankton. The gym featured free entry to all facilities and a range of fitness classes from spin class at 9pm to retro aerobics, stretching and Zumba at 1pm. Free passes were awarded for best-dressed.

I made it to the gym after the fitness classes had ended, so I didn’t see many retro outfits unfortunately! I normally swim laps every day and spend time in their hot pool and today I decided to check out the gym. The facilities are clean and spacious and they have a variety of equipment. Continue reading

Arrow River Trail

Today I took the bus to Arrowtown, also included in the 7-day Connectabus pass. I hiked the Arrow River Trail, a short dirt trail with a small elevation gain, along the pipe line and above the creek. I finished my visit to the famous Arrowtown Bakery and enjoyed a venison pie with camomile and cinnamon tea.

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Kelvin Heights Track

In my five months living in Queenstown last year I didn’t make it to Kelvin Heights. Thanks to the 7-day Connectabus pass I bought this week the trip out and back was included. I took a walk around the peninsula and enjoyed an afternoon in the sun before heading off to the Aquatic Centre to swim.

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Therapeutic Pure Mountain Water

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New therapy for my leg: a huge cold bath graciously provided by Lake Wakatipu. This morning I went for a walk to the physio to make an appointment for tomorrow afternoon, then had a brisk walk down to the beach and submerged myself up to my belly button. The morning sunshine was a blanket of warmth, the town was quiet, and there was very little breeze. My tail bone area was feeling a bit sore from being cramped in the car. The cold water felt fantastic against my leg and lower back. I love when cool, fresh water has a numbing feeling on the skin without actually making the core of the body feel cold. This past winter I was advised by my massage therapist to try a cold bath for my leg muscles and trust me, it is far more pleasant to stand in cold water than to sit in it!

Btw, with ACC coverage, my physio appointment will only be $15 NZD. “Or five of your American dollars…”

Return from Dunedin

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Reason #87 why I love New Zealand:
Racing along the country roads towards Queenstown at 2am listening to dub step in a car with four new couch surfing friends and a small dog.

Just minutes after midnight I stepped out into the Dunedin night air, walked down the hill and stood on the corner of South Rd. A moment later a car sped around the corner, headlights headed straight for me, and stopped just before where I was standing. Alex opened the boot and I squished my backpack in. Off we went into the night.
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