Saturday, 29 December 2012

Week 33 - A New Zealand Christmas week! - The kindness of strangers

Christmas Eve Sunset
Hello Everybody & Merry Christmas! I hope everyone is ready for the new year celebrations, and it'll be interesting that here will be one of the first places in the world to experience new years! The Christmas week here in New Zealand has certainly been a new experience for me, with lots of very different kinds of Christmas activities. Naturally, it has also reminded me of the things I miss about England, at this time of year!
CHRISTMAS EVE: After working until 5pm, I headed home for a 'cuppa' (cup of tea) thinking of my Gran, because it's her birthday on Xmas eve. I headed off to meet my friend Tibo, and we headed off for a walk up towards the botanical gardens, which overlooks the harbour. As we headed for the gardens, Tibo suddenly stopped, looked around, and then said "follow me" - I've only known Tibo a short time, but I trusted him despite this odd behaviour, as he suddenly disappeared up a tree! As I followed him up the tree, I could see a flatted section of branches which pretty much allowed for quite a few people to go and sit up on the tree top... it was quite scenic, and it was obviously well used with a couple of beer bottles evident! The views of the hillside were pretty nice and the first two pictures on the blog come from this view point. We eventually walked down the hill to the harbour, where we met a couple of guys we met at the jazz band, and sat in shorts and t-shirts having a beer by the harbor, until 10pm with a clam and still ocean in front of us.

CHRISTMAS DAY: I was picked up by my colleague (Helen), who had invited me around to spend Christmas with her family. The day was so beautiful, with bright blue skies and not a cloud in sight. We took a short drive to her nieces place in a town called Tawa, and waited for the arrival of two other nieces with partners and kids in toe! From the moment of arriving a drink was placed in my hand and I was told to sit and relax. The home was lovely, with a nice garden (see below) and creek out the back, with a little blow-up swimming pool too! - Just perfect! Rachel and Nige (hosts) soon had the BBQ going with the first round of food being a buffet style cooked breakfast with toast, eggs, bacon and tomatoes! The kids were keen to get in the swimming pol, but not before opening presents! Helen had somehow managed to get me a stick of 'Blackpool rock' - (a type of sweet/candy from a seaside town in England), which was especially nice!  
Xmas day venue - sunny days! 
After the kids were having fun in the pool, myself, Helen and her sister took off for a 20 minute drive up the coast to Plimmerton Beach.. see below... the perfect way to cool down on the HOTTEST CHRISTMAS DAY IN WELLINGTON FOR 80+ YEARS.... The sea was cool, not too cold, and soon enough I had covered myself in enough suncream to block the sun for a week! I am still not sure what pose i was trying to pull off on the picture below! 
Plimmerton beach - Xmas day
Me @ beach on Xmas day!
After a good 30-40 swim in the sea and quick lie in the sun, we headed back to Helen's niece's home, and I quickly found myself being exposed to more wonderful hospitality, as I was encouraged to get in the pool with a beer with my hosts, and relax as round two of food was prepared on the BBQ - this time it was 'White bait fritters' -which were gorgeous! We still hadn't even got close to dessert yet! r the meat still piled in the fridge! You can imagine the rest of the day, spent relaxing, eating, drinking and eventually I got home almost a full 10 hours later! I can't thank everyone enough for a lovely family Christmas day! The day /night was finished off with a great skype call with all my family, which made for the perfect first Xmas here!
Relaxing with my hosts.
BOXING DAY (Part 1): This was an early start, as I had signed myself up for a 0930 bicycle ride around the bays (30k +) with the 'Adventure Wellington' group! I  met my other riders at the Fryberg Swimming pool. Three of us then spent the next 2.5 hours, cycling around the bays, with just one serious drink stop, at Schorcing Bay Cafe . I've done this cycle before but not with others, so it was nice to learn about the Adventure wellington group - which do almost every kind of activity you can imagine possible here, and have a good conversation about the joys of Wellington. My other riders included the local host form the group and a Scottish guy who has been in Wellington just over a year! See the pictures below...
Happy riders - Boxing day. 
Views over Seatoun - Boxing Day
Oriental Parade - Boxing Day
Boxing Day @ Oriental Parade
After the bike ride I bumped into my newest colleague, Brad by the beach and we had a quick catch-up over an ice-cream at Oriental Parade where you can see the funny life guard sigh in the picture above. The clouds had started to appear by this point (lunchtime) and I wondered if the rain might appear later!
BOXING DAY (PART 2): ....The rain appeared later! A planned boxing day trip to the cricket with Derek & Steph was almost rained off, despite the spectacular start to the day! Having been cycling in hot sun, I now found myself sat in a windy stand, in the famous 'Basin' cricket ground, which is completely circled by a roundabout. The Wellington Firebirds easily won the match (reduced to just 15 overs each), but the most interesting part of the game was watching how close the ball came to hitting cars traveling on the roundabout, every time the ball was hit out of the ground! it happened 9-10 times! The game would even stop for a few minutes whilst they retrieved the ball! Can't wait for England to play a test at this ground in March.... have a look at the pictures I took from the main stand. 

To top the week off on Thursday 27th, I went to the final Wellington Phoenix (football) match of the year, at the now familiar 'Westpac Stadium'. The Phoenix were expected to beat the visiting team (the Melbourne Heart) easily. I thought the Phoenix may have been inspired by mine and Jess' visit to their after game drinks last week! It turns out they were anything but inspired, falling 0-2 behind after 20 minutes. Unbelievably, they managed to come back and win the game 3-2, meaning that at 80 minutes we all had to take our shirts off for the final 10 minutes as tradition suggests! Maybe we should have gone to post game drinks again! 
Regards from New Zealand! 

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