Costal view over Waiheke island

I am a slow traveller, it’s my ultimate guilty pleasure. I love being able to take my time and admire a view, and if there is a glass of wine in hand while I’m admiring then all to the better. My penchant for slow travel is particularly true since the invention of the smart phone; recently it seems like most people rush through a city seeing all the views through the camera on their iPhone. We are so focussed on creating Instagram worthy shots that we miss out on seeing the view with our own eyes. I mean, you may as well just search Google images and save yourself the cost of the trip if you want to travel that way. So I like to take my time, see less but experience more. And thus my last New Zealand post, a visit to the perfect vineyard that is Man O’ War on Waiheke Island.

A couple of days before Christmas and we really should have been prepping for our insane Christmas Lunch (15 courses…what were we thinking?). But since list making, shopping and cooking sounds like a lot of hard work, we played hooky and escaped to the sunny Waiheke Island for the day to go vineyard hopping.

Farms and a beautiful view over Waiheke island

Waiheke is super easy to get to, the ferry is only 30 minutes from the city centre (the ferry leaves from the wharf at the bottom of Queen Street) and once there you can either hire a car from the ferry terminal or just taxi. But as soon as you arrive there is a huge problem…which vineyard to choose? I am a fantasy freak from way back, so picked the amazingly named Man O’ War. This also happened to be the furthest vineyard on the island which gave the unexpected side effect of some knock out views on the drive over.

 

First tick in the box is that the wine tastings were free, the second tick is the wines being drop dead gorgeous. Man O’ War is named after the battleships that Captain Cook sailed on, and all the varieties have frankly kickass names like Valhalla, Ironclad or Dreadnought. I went for the Pinot Gris named Exiled (hopefully not a sign of things to come) which I was warned was very sweet – thankfully sweet wines are a dream for me.

Man O War Exiled Pinot Gris

We each took a glass and then … did nothing. If I was there with my blogging hat on we would have rushed all over the island getting those perfect shots and trying as many vineyards as possible. But instead we were on go slow: we sat, we ate cheese, and we tried more wine. At one point we were visited by a dog.

Without the time, without those seconds stretching out into hours I never would have heard my feminist father loudly proclaim to the aforementioned dog “us bitches fight the world”. I also would never have heard my mother’s controversial opinion on current events “as much as I love caramel I am irritated by the popularity of it”. These little moments of silly matter. These little moments and the sunshine making condensation on your wine glass are the ones you carry with you. The ones that will get me through the freezing dark London winter, the homesickness and dropping a bowl of cornflakes on my foot as I made them for dinner.

Slow travel is the answer. No it won’t help you tick off another country on your list, it won’t be content fuel and you can’t Instagram the feeling of a gentle Waiheke breeze. But it will sustain you. And if you forget that feeling all you need to do is take a sip of Man O’ War and you will be there again.

Sheep on Waiheke island

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Rangitoto from Takapuna beach

Going home for a holiday is a terrifying experience for any expat. Of course you want to hug your family and stock up on all the treats of your dark London dreams, but there is always that thought at the back of your mind wondering if you will like it. You will always get moments of home sickness, but you know there are reasons you are living on the other side of the world, that you are happy on the other side of the world. But what if, what if when you go home you like it more? What if its easy? What if you enjoy it too much? What if you want to move home?

It’s a scary prospect. There are not many times a holiday can change your life (excluding of course éclairs in Paris which are a religious experience), but as an expat there is a chance that going home could change everything. If you go home and discover that the grass is really greener you may end up altering the course of your life entirely and moving home. It’s a scary unknown mixed in with all that joy of seeing your family again and relief that everyone understands your accent.

Thankfully (I don’t think thankfully is the right word, but I can’t think of a better one) I didn’t feel the desire to move home. For me it was like stepping back into an old slipper, yes comfortable, warm and familiar but just not quite how you remember. I just didn’t quite fit.

This is such a hard post to write because it is such an undefinable feeling. Its not that New Zealand sucks and London is awesome. London is a really hard city to live in, and it is a place where you have to consciously forge your life because if you passively sit back you will just get carried away and feel alone. Its just that for right now New Zealand isn’t right for me.

I know that if I moved home and lived with my parents for a while my huge life dream of buying a house might be possible (its never going to happen in London). But living with my parents would be comfortable but not what I need. I need that challenge and to have to fend for myself (although right now I am close to actually hiring a hooker just for someone to make me a cup of tea after a hard days work).

View from the top of Mt Eden

The old slipper feeling became more evident the longer I was there. Friends back home are at a different pace, a different part of their lives. In London a casual conversation will cover everything from your next travel destination, the situation in Syria to matcha lattes. I found back home it was mostly about babies and houses. Not that there is anything wrong with that, its just that for where I am right  now it feels like a small world view.

See hard post right? Its hard to say you don’t want to live somewhere without offending someone. When you first become an expat you are leaving for adventure and new horisons, but the longer you stay the more it is an active decision based on your previous home not being right for you.

As much as I feel some relief that I know my heart is in London, in a way it makes everything so much harder. I miss my parents and sister so much its like I’m missing a limb. And I know its going to be even harder than normal this year as my sister is getting married, such an important thing that I am going to miss all the fun planning and family times.

But the old slipper can’t be changed. Yes I could take the seriously easy decision to move back home and get my family back, but I know that it is not the way to happiness. London is.

Mt Eden

Orphans Kitchen Brunch

Because what is a trip to Auckland without a serious amount of brunch? Two highlights for me were Orphans Kitchen in Ponsonby and Dear Jervois on Jervois Road, both suggested by my big sister. As mentioned before in New Zealand it’s not about just getting the poached eggs right, its all about brunch innovation. I genuinely can’t think of a café in London that even comes close to matching these two in the innovation stakes. I think you could say that Duck and Waffle et al are comparable food wise, but they are high concept restaurants, these Auckland beauties are just humble cafes. Humble cafes that kick the London offering to the curb.

Orphans Kitchen

My visit to Orphans Kitchen got off to a sunny and entertaining start. The table next to us was obviously a group of old friends, but when the waiter went over to take their order there was a shriek and hugs all around. Turns out one of the group had just come back from overseas, but instead of a normal off the plane welcome had decided to pose as a waiter in Orphans Kitchen to surprise them, super cute.

Brunch at Orphans Kitchen Auckland

The food here was tricky, I honestly couldn’t find anything I wanted on the menu. Talk about innovation, there was no easy ‘poached eggs with bacon’ offering here, and I just couldn’t picture the end product from what was on the menu. But getting hangry I let my sister choose for me, and by gods it was good. Mum went for the breakfast panna cotta with kiwifruit and buffalo milk (why had no one thought of a breakfast panna cotta before?!?!), my sister for the black rice pudding with tamarillo, blood orange, and banana (above) and chosen for me was the  roasted avocado with bacon, feijoa and vine tomatoes…heaven.

Dear Jervois

Dear Jervois brunch

Dear Jervois was an interesting one, I LOVED it and my parents had the opposite view. It was all down to how busy it was. In London I am 100% used to battling the crowds to get to food, and while I refuse to wait for brunch I find sitting cheek by jowl totally normal. My parents however are used to the kiwi luxury of a more peaceful spaced out brunch, which is not what you get at the very popular Dear Jervois.

Dear Jervois sage fried eggs

But as always the food is most important. Well maybe not the coffee is important to and we had to send back the first round because they were cold. Eh. Anyway the food was yum, the highlight for me was the sage fried eggs that just did something stratospheric to my taste buds. I would have married those eggs if I could. And the interior was beautiful, for those who did have to wait they wrote their names in a chalk pen on the tiled wall. Love.

Oh and the second round of coffee was AMAZING.

Dear Jervois coffee

Waimarino River Kayak

Two words that don’t describe me in any way are extreme and sports. I was congratulated by a guy on Tinder the other day because New Zealand had smashed the Aussies…I had to ask what sport*. This does present a slight problem in New Zealand however, because seemingly the common way for tourists to enjoy the scenery is by something loud, dangerous and energetic. Never fear dear readers there is a New Zealand hack that allows you to enjoy the scenery and snack at the same time: kayaking the Wairoa River.

Ten years ago my Dad unwittingly started a tradition; we were staying in Mt Maunganui and it was meant to be a family holiday at the beach. I came down to breakfast one morning and asked where Mum was… turns out my sister had drunkenly walked through a window at a dress up party and was in hospital. Not the type of people to let an almost severed leg ruin a holiday, Mum went back up to Auckland to hang out in hospital with my sister, and Dad and I stayed at the beach. This would have been all well and good if it hadn’t been for the weather, that week was stupidly rainy. We went to every single movie on offer (averaging two a day), joined the local Blockbuster, and played endless card games. But then on the day we were meant to drive back there was finally the sunshine we were looking for, and Dad told me to quickly pack because he had booked something.

Wairoa River Kayak

Now remember earlier when I told you about the lack of extreme and sports genes in me? You can imagine my face when Dad drove to Waimarino Adventure Park and the very first ‘activity’ I saw was a kayak waterslide off the top of a hill. Thankfully Dad had more sense then that, he had booked us into the Wairoa River kayak trip.

In true kiwi spirit the Waimarino team put you in a van and drive you for half an hour until they stop at a farm on the side of the road. Then they put you in a kayak, and put the kayak in the river. All of a sudden you are on your own, its peaceful and idyllic.

The river itself is slightly (very slightly) tidal, which means that even if you don’t paddle you will get back to base camp eventually. And if you travel with the Runawaykiwi whanau you get the added bonus of snacks. Yes, about ten minutes into the river trip – a reasonable time to take your first break, I said “man I wish we brought some food”. At which point my Dad set up a full cheese board on top of his kayak. Now this is the type of sport I can really get in to.

Waimarino River Kayak Wairoa River

Every year or two years Dad and I have been back to kayak the Wairoa river. We take whoever is on holiday with us, the biggest group being a mixed friends and family bag of 12 (you can imagine the snacks needed for that group). We alternate paddling and snacking down the river. Seeing farms, curious cows, investigating tributaries (small rivers leading off the Wairoa); never knowing exactly where we are or how long it will take.

So going home over Christmas of course the Waimarino kayak trip was on my to do list. Mum, Dad and I took a special trip to Mt Maunganui just to do it. We got in that van, drove to the farm and then in a heartbeat were on our own on the Wairoa river. We again managed about ten minutes of paddling before taking a break, we snacked and talked about life in London, my sisters upcoming wedding and figured out exactly over what distance you could throw a pineapple lump and have it accurately land in a kayak.

Xx

*I think it was cricket? But maybe rugby?

1. Having our traditional Christmas morning breakfast before attempting the 15 courses may not have been the smartest thing we have ever done. Although when offered home made panettone with roasted nectarines, mascarpone and a side of champagne you can’t really say no.

Runawaykiwi home made panettone with roasted nectarines, mascarpone and a side of champagne

 

2. Getting drunk-spired (drunk + inspired = drunk-spired) on Christmas Eve is ideal because it results in 3D hexagonal menus that double as flower holders. And I got a gold star for managing to use a craft knife when drunk and still having 10 fingers to open presents on Christmas morning.

Runawaykiwi 3D menu

3. When you get totes emosh on Christmas morning because its the first family Christmas with all the kids at home in three years and spill your aforementioned champagne over a cat your family will give you a hug and top up your glass.

 

4. Table styling is all important. If you don’t know what you are doing just keep putting things on until you see the Pinterest logo appear in the top right hand corner.

Runawaykiwi table setting

5. Apparently I live in a family where if you wish out loud that you had mini-blackboards as place mats, your father will appear round the corner holding some and asking ‘will these do’. Oh and having a graphic designer in the family makes for some AMAZING lettering. Double oh, you are apparently from a family with ready access to mini-tankards, ER and pirate glasses and of course crystal shot glasses.

Runawaykiwi ham and new potato

6. Your father will never quite forgive you for pretending to give him an iPad and then actually giving him a Bazinga t-shirt… sorry Dad.

7. When you plan to have all four members of the family in the kitchen cooking this will actually turn out to be two members of the family in the kitchen cooking, one taking selfies and the last using a power saw.

8. After course 4 you will start singing power ballads. And after course 10 you will need a nap. Don’t fight it.

Runawaykiwi Christmas Sister Singalong

9. Your family will catch the blogging bug and every course will start with a mini photo shoot.

10. Runawaykiwi will get grumpy when no-one wakes up from their naps on time.

11. You will have forgotten about three things (in our case cooking the sweet potato, putting avocado on the Pirate salad and to take the sorbet out of the freezer) THIS IS OK. Your guests will be already overwhelmed with champagne, food and selfies and will not notice.

12. Cats and fine dining do not mix.

DSC04722

13. It is harder to keep your bright red lipstick perfect during the meal then it is to cook the 15 courses in the first place.

14. 15 courses is too many. Trust me when I say to stop at 14.

15. There is nothing in the world that could be a better Christmas than hanging out with my family, cooking and laughing the day away.

xx