Ten favourite photos

I could have agonised over this selection for much longer, but I’ve given myself the length of the train journey from Newcastle to Grantham to choose my ten favourite photos from our year away.

There were a few points where I wondered whether we should have bought a fancy camera but our pocket Kodak served us pretty well.

Our stops in China and the (rainy, rainy) Cook islands did not make the cut, but NZ, USA and Oz are represented.

So, in no particular order (but with some logic applied)…

1. The Robs by the Lake

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A couple of our friends came over from the UK to tour around the south island with us. Halfway through our time away it was lovely to see some familiar faces and we had a fantastic time together.

This was taken at one of many scenic photo stops, I think around the lakes in Otago. It’s one of the most stunning parts of NZ, with its combination of mountains and light blue water. Right after this we were attacked by vicious sand flies.

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Readjusting to Reality – back in the UK

This post has been delayed, as has my return to reality following our trip. The best way to avoid post-trip blues is with another holiday, surely?

We landed back in London in early September, eleven months after leaving the departure gates. Three days later I went away with my family for a week. Slightly ridiculous after spending so long away, but it was a wonderful way to catch up and relax in each others company without distractions. I also relished spending time in mainland Europe. For the first couple of days, being without Rob did feel like travelling like without my right arm! I think some time on our own was healthy after almost a year in each others pockets.

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Soller, Majorca

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Wellington: Our Neat Places

Sorry Auckland, you are pretty fabulous but it’s Wellington that’s captured our imaginations and felt like a better fit during our year in NZ.

In our final week in this cracking little capital, and taking inspiration from Neat Places, here are a few of our fave spots…

For weekend brunch:

Fidel’s – it’s worth the wait at this cafe on Cuba Street, for their original breakfast menu, including baked spanish eggs, grilled halloumi and burritos. We stumbled across this local institution on our first weekend in Welly and have made many visits since.

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What to expect… when you’re heading home?

1 month today we’ll leave NZ. After almost a year away, I absolutely can’t wait to see family & friends and I’m looking forward to home comforts and the end of living out of a bag! This milestone has also prompted thoughts about what it’ll be like to return home.

How much will have changed?

When you’ve been out of everything for a while, you feel like you’ve missed a lot and wonder how much will be different to what you remember. The big things like births, deaths, birthdays, weddings and engagements, but also just a year’s worth of the everyday.

However most people have said that, beyond the surface, very little really changes when you’ve been away. A friend of mine recently returned home after 5 years living abroad, and even then, most things felt the same as when she’d left. Hopefully it won’t take too long to catch up and get back into the swing of things.

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Getting to know the Wairarapa

An hour north of Wellington you’ll find the good life of the Wairarapa. Farm and wine country punctuated by small towns with big character. We’ve just spent a whistle-stop weekend in the region celebrating our birthdays.

Greytown

Our first stop was Greytown, which we’d stopped in briefly before and was worth a revisit. Its refined main street is lined with antiques and boutiques and beautiful Victorian buildings. We enjoyed brunch in Cahoots Cafe, who were proudly displaying their Dominion Post review from last week. For a pit stop, the cafe is a great place where the owners know all their locals.

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Melbourne #3 – St Kilda, exhibitions and the city from above

On Saturday we took a walk from our accommodation in South Yarra to the suburb of St Kilda. It was a pretty long walk that took us through Albert Park as we dodged the droves of weekend joggers.

Once in St Kilda we rested our feet and enjoyed cake on Acland Street, which was once lined with cake shops but now only a handful remain. Those that are still there have huge display windows full of an array of tasty cakes.

We also visited Luna Park, an amusement park opened in 1912. Wandering around the traditional carousel, rollercoaster and arcades felt like being in a time warp. There were some great family photos on display from locals’ parents and grandparents that had come to the park as children.

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Melbourne #2 – tramcar dining, rooftop drinking and Aussie wildlife

One of our trip highlights was dining on the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. I’d booked for their ‘early dinner’ sitting well in advance as I read it was pretty popular.

We approached the stop behind a young couple dressed to the nines, the woman in sky-high stilettos. We were seated in a carriage with them and three other couples but our booth felt quite private. The experience was everything I’d hoped; we had a delicious 3 courses with fillet of beef, a double dessert and unlimited booze! The soft burgundy surroundings felt authentic and it was a novel way to see the city at night.

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Melbourne #1 – visa, jail and a pizzeria fail

We almost didn’t make it to Melbourne. As I attempted to check on my newly-installed Air NZ app a message told me to check that my passport/visa was valid for my journey. Oh f*ck.

When we were booking our flights we’d thought to check that our NZ working holiday visa would also grant us access to Aussie and then completely forgotten about it. All non Australians/Kiwis need a visitor visa even for a short stay. Luckily, I frantically filled in a form online for our eVisitor visa that afternoon and the approvals came through the next day – Rob’s only arrived at Wellington airport!

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Planning our final 3 months in NZ

As expected, our trip has flown by in many ways and we only have approx 3 months to go. I should probably add a disclaimer to the name of this blog, as it’ll actually only be 10 months we spend in New Zealand, book-ended by other travel.

We’ve got some decisions to make about what we want to do before we leave and how to stretch the budget!

These are a few things we have in mind…

Return to Queenstown

We packed in as much as we could to our 2 day stop in Queenstown during our south island tour, but it just wasn’t long enough. If money was no object we’d love to spend a fortnight on the slopes, as the region’s ski season starts in June. Unfortunately as beginners the cost just seems to rack up too quickly.

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The Road to New Plymouth

After a 3 day working week, we were lucky enough to have another long weekend to commemorate ANZAC day.

Our weekend was a bit of a Plan B thrown together at the last minute and we traveled North East up the country from Wellington, with New Plymouth as our final destination.

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