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Beaches

I am currently sat on Monkey Mia beach in Western Australia and it got me thinking about New Zealand. I would generally say that I prefer New Zealand to Australia but there are certain things New Zealand just doesn’t have that Australia does and vice Versa.

One of those things most definitely being beaches, when I was younger I was never a big fan of beaches or summer in general being very self conscious and not liking the lack of clothes available to me in summer to cover up the body parts I didn’t like (that’s a story for another day). As I’ve got older however I’ve really started to love summer and beaches and have learnt to put aside my insecurities or at least bury them so that I can start to enjoy all the wonderful things involved with Summer.

I think the moment I fell in love with beaches was in November 2011 when I saw Santa Monica beach for  the first time, it grabbed a hold of my heart and has never let go. I came to have much appreciation for beaches whilst I was travelling there, I had a much smaller budget than I’ve had the last couple of years, looking back now I’m not how I managed to travel consistently for 4 months on almost no money.

This is where beaches came in, they’re free! They were the places I could go when I didn’t want to spend any money, but also didn’t want to sit around the hostel all day or if I didn’t like my hostel or room or roommates or I just felt like having some alone time. My time in the States happened when I’d just been through a massive emotional upheaval so I was a little fragile. I remember Sandra Barbara beach being my sanctuary for the few days I was there as all of the above reasons applied whilst I was there.

Coming to Australia made me fall in love with beaches even more, again they were free and as a solo traveller they’re a place you can go by yourself with out feeling too much like Billy no mates. Each Australian coast how ever does happen to be beautiful beach after beautiful beach which definitely endears them to you.

Whilst I’m sat here looking out to sea watching a pelican and seagull diving for fish, I can’t think of any place else I’d rather be and how very grateful I am that I haven’t let my insecurities ruin my love for a place where Mother Nature has really out done herself and how I will miss such beautiful beaches when I head back to New Zealand at the end of the month.

P.s. I have written this on my iPad so please excuse any typos or spelling mistakes.

Mini South Island Adventure: Christchurch

Mini South Island Adventure: Christchurch

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Before I start this post, I want to say that this post tried to get away from the 2011 Earthquake and the impact it had on Christchurch, as much as possible as the city has a lot to offer still. However it was very difficult to get away with not mentioning it as the scars are still very very visible even 5 years on.  It is actually quite heartbreaking, you can see the pain the city has been through and is still going through, 185 people lost their lives in that earthquake.

One of my best friends from home Trudi aka the Lazy Green Girl, is on a round the world trip including a few days in Christchurch. We haven’t seen each other in about 20 months, so whilst we were both in the same country there was no way we couldn’t meet up.  It also provided me with the perfect opportunity to finally visit the South Island.

We had two and a half days together in Christchurch before Trudi headed off to the warmer climes of California.  Making the most of our limited time, we did the two main touristy things on the first day, the city tram ride.  Which is a hop on hop off tour the city, only instead of a bus you’re on a tram.  We got on at Cathedral Square, which is the heart of the city and home to the city’s name sake Christ Church Cathedral.

The Cathedral is currently in ruins and fenced off (picture above), it was the first significant earthquake damage I had seen so far.  We would see a lot more as we went around the city, but there is something particularly heart breaking about cathedral square. The majority of the tour was either new bits of the city, they have a very cool shopping area made up of shipping containers, building site which they were hoping would be finished in a few years and parts that survived the earthquake such as the Opera House and 1930s art deco inspired Regents street.

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After our tour we got on the shuttle bus from the city to the gondola, which serenely guide you up to the top of Port Hills, well that’s what the blurb says. However our experience wasn’t that serene our gondola was swaying a bit and then suddenly stopped for a couple of moments making us think we were stuck! Once we got to the top the views were so worth the ride up, you have an amazing views of snow capped mountains and lakes.  It’s what you picture when someone say the South Island to you.

On our tram tour, the art gallery was pointed our to us as it has this amazing sculpture n top of a sassy hand.  That was our first stop the next day, it actually had some really cool pieces of work in there, including a Tin Gnome not something you see everyday. The gallery itself had been affected by the earthquake and only reopened last year, it was good to see something refurbished, reopened and thriving post earthquake.  It probably helped that it was a rainy day but the gallery was pretty busy which was nice to see as Christchurch even by New Zealand standards is very very quiet.

After the gallery, we took little detour on our to get the bus out to  Lyttleton via the Cardboard Cathedral which is where the congregation of the original Cathedral now worships. It is actually an incredible site, you can see it from a long way off it almost looks like a space ship, once you get closer though and go inside, you realise what a feat of architecture it really is. The inside is light, airy and – I think most importantly for a church – warm.  It’s made from cardboard tubes, which draw your eyes upwards, it really difficult to describe see the picture below. It really made me think about what Christchurch might be like in another 5 years…

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Lyttleton, is a small town about half an hour from Christchurch and had been recommended to Trudi by a friend and is in one of the valleys you can see at the top of the gondola, from up there it looked beautiful.  Close up it didn’t disappoint, it’s such a cute little area of the city, and was the epicenter for the 2011 earthquake so had sustained damage as well.  We had a glass of wine in an quaint little bar overlooking the lake, if it hadn’t been such a miserable day the view would have been stunning (this being NZ it wasn’t too shabby even on a grey rainy day).

I said goodbye to Trudi the next day, and picked up a car to head off to Lake Tekapo to try and see the Southern Lights which will be the next blog.  Before I left Chirstchurch, I really wanted to see the empty chairs memorial to the 185 people who died in the February 2011 earthquake.  It was actually heartbreakingly sad, to see all those empty chairs and brought to mind a lyric from one of the songs in Les Mis that Marius sings after the barricades.

“Empty chairs at empty tables, Where my friends will sing no more”

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Pacific Coast Highway Stop 5: Santa Monica

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Pacific Coast Highway Stop 5: Santa Monica

Leaving Santa Barbara heading down the PCH to beautiful Santa Monica my favourite place in the states and the last stop our trip was bittersweet.

Our first stop in L.A. was the Hollywood sign, as the last time my Mum went it was missing an O so it seemed only fitting that we make a trip up through the hills to check out the sign.

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We arrived fairly late in Santa Monica so we headed out to Third Street for some food and a wonder, it was so nice to be back in Santa Monica.  I love the promenade it’s always so buzzy, I especially love the street performers the ones third always seem to have a unique angle to others around the world.

The next day I convince my Mum that we should hire some bikes and cycle down to Venice.  I wanted to see if it had changed in the three years since I’d last been and also to see how it changed since my mum last went.

It had changed a lot even in three years, there were a lot more homeless there and a lot less street vendors than usual.  It still had a good vibe though and I got a few cool souvenirs.  There wasn’t anyone at Muscle Beach this time, which was a shame, I love watching the guys working out there makes me feel like I’m properly in L.A.

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Our second full day was spent on third street, literally shopping until we dropped.  With a few stops at the many Coffee shops on third street to reenergise before we headed back out and spent some more money.  My best purchase was a pair of personalised Converse from the Converse shop, not sure where else you can get them so I always make sure to stop off there.

I also made a stop at my favourite shop on Third Brandy Melville another only on third street store that is a must for anyone who love their clothes a little bit quirky and original.

Our last day we went down to Malibu and had dinner in this amazing restaurant where the pacific was literally outside the window, I could see the waves crashing as I ate my dinner.

This was the night of Brexit so we got taxis down and back from Malibu and surprisingly for American’s they knew what was going on and how the vote was going.  Mum and I were sat in the restaurant looking at the results coming through in a little bit of shock.  It suddenly got more expensive in to be in the States.

All in all we had an amazing time, it was so good to spend some quality time with my Mum in my favourite place and get some Summer, New Zealandswinter is fairly harsh especially in Wellington when you add in the wind chill.

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Working Holiday Visas: What I’ve learnt about life, love and literature

I will be heading back to the UK for a visit in about a months time, the visit coincides with my 30th Birthday, which has got me thinking about everything I’ve learnt about myself and doing a working holiday these past 19 months, closing the door on my 20s.

When people talk about travelling they talk about the way it changes you and yes it does change you, but for me at least it’s given me the freedom to explore and become the person I want to be.  As you’re constantly meeting new people and they don’t know who you were before so you can be whatever version of yourself around them you want to be.

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Some of the lovely people I’ve met in Wellington

I think for most us doing the WHVs for most of the time, we’re static in one place living and working in a new city or town. I’ve lived and worked in 2 different cities Sydney and Wellington.  I’ve been different in both.

Sydney Harbour the side you don’t normally see

In Sydney I was pretending it seems to me now, I was acting and behaving in ways that I thought I should be whilst living ‘the dream’ in Sydney.  My reality was very different to the ‘dream’ life I thought I’d have.  Looking back now I feel like Sydney was just a big old learning curve for me, I felt overwhelmed in it. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great city and I had some great times there, it just wasn’t the right fit for me.

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Wellington harbour at sunset

Wellington on the other hand, feels like home.  I feel like here I’ve become a person I like and a person I’d like to stay.  I’ve become a gym bunny, a party girl, hostel long termer, HR Coordinator and friend to a lot of awesome people. I am content here, and yeah life isn’t perfect a lot of things could be better but I have good friends, I like my gym, I don’t hate my job life could and has been a hell of a lot worse.

 

This is what I’ve learnt these past 19 months:

  • I needed to grow up a lot.
  • Life is what you make of it.
  • Nothing can live up to big expectations.
  • Reality is when it’s payday and you’re moneys already gone.
  • The cheaper hostels have the best people in.
  • Be that annoying person who talks to everyone that walks in their dorm room.
  • A bit of distance makes things clearer.
  • I can sit at home watching Netflix feeling sorry for myself or go out there and do something about life.
  • People can make a place, but a place can make people.
  • Being content is a great thing to be.
  • Being a heavy sleeper is a god send in Hostels.
  • Hostels are the best way to meet people while travelling. Embrace it.
  • Each new place you move to you’ll figure things out a bit more and get a step closer to what you want.
  • Wellington is the coolest little capital in the world I love it with all my heart.

 

 

Pacific Coast Highway Stop 4: Santa Barbara

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Pacific Coast Highway Stop 4: Santa Barbara

Both my mum and I had been to Santa Barbara before, she had loved it me not so much so we were both curious to see how we felt about it second time around.

On the way down from Pismo along another beautiful stretch of the PCH we stopped off at Solvang a random Danish village right in the heart of California, that had been originally created by some Danish pioneers in the 1700s,  It was pretty touristy, but had some cutesy souvenir shops and we had a nice traditional Danish lunch in one of the restaurants. Definitely worth stopping at in you’re in the area.

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We arrived in Santa Barbara to beautiful Southern California sunshine,late afternoon on what happened to be the Summer Solstice.  We decided to have dinner at our hotel as the restaurant overlooked the water so we could see the sunset over the pacific on the longest day of the year.  It was so worth it (see picture above) mother nature put on an amazing display.

The next day we decided to have a wonder along the pier and the waterfront, it had changed a lot in the 4 years since I’d been there and in the 20 years since my mum had been it was a lot different. There was a Sunday market which had some cool artsy nick nacs which is how my mum remember Santa Barbara being like very arsty (think all those artsy types are now in Venice) it’s pretty up market these days.

Our second day we decided it was time to hit the shops and see if State street had changed much, it hadn’t apart from a few different shops, it was still as Spanishy and beautiful as we both remembered.  It’s not very often these days that you get reminded that California was once a Spanish colony but parts of Santa Barbara and State Street especially make you feel like you could be in Spain.

Day three was a beach day to make sure we perfectly tanned ready for the last stop on our road trip Santa Monica.

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Pacific Coast Highway Stop 3: Pismo Beach

On our way down from Monterey we stopped off briefly at Mckensie Falls part of the Big Sur national park.  It was stunning and so cool, this being California in the aftermath of an earthquake the debris were pushed into to sea eventually creating a beach.  Meaning the falls stopped falling into the sea and onto a beach, Mother Nature is pretty damn impressive!

This was the view from our hotel room… Walked into the room after another stunning drive along the PCH and I decided that I was never leaving a place with views like this.

Our only full day in Pismo we walked along the beach from our hotel to little Pismo town, it was fairly similar to Monterey but on a smaller scale, lots of cute little shops. 

We had dinner that night at the Ventana Grill which had the most incredible view, we got a table by the window which over looked the water and it was like a shelf of water that went on for mile and miles. Beautiful we were lucky enough to arrive just as the sun was setting which made the view even more incredible. The food was pretty god as well.

All in all Pismo was a lovely chilled middle point to our trip.  Next stop Santa Barbara.

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Pacific Coast Highway Stop 2: Monterey

We left San Francisco early and got our first real glimpse of the PCH in all it’s glory!!  It was a stunning drive, we drove past so many beaches on the way out of San Fran not something I’d ever associated with NoCal before.

We got to Monterey early evening after a few stops along the way to take photos of the glorious scenery, after checking in to our hotel we went for a wonder down to Old Fisherman’s wharf to find some food and see what Monterey was all about.

This was both of our first times in Monterey and after San Fran felt much more like we were on holiday.  We had dinner in a restaurant with amazing views out over the marina where the cutest little otter was swimming around.  All in all a great start to our couple of days in Monterey.

Next morning we headed to aquarium – because when in Monterey go to the aquarium – it was fascinating there was a massive exhibit(?) on jelly fish I had no idea there were so many different types!! Although the highlights had to be finding Dory, the Otters (so cute) and watching the penguins swim under water it was so cool!!

We wandered back into town via the Cannery row, Monterey was famous for sardines once upon a time.  There were some cool shops and monuments dedicated to all the factory workers.

That afternoon we went into Carmel which is the next city over, it’s beautiful like stepping back in time it’s a complete time warp so quaint with some lovely vintage shops and a stunning beach.  Just a shame it wasn’t quite warm enough to go for a swim.

The famous 17 mile Pebble Beach connects Carmel to Monterey so we drove back that way and saw some amazing beaches and massive houses was an insight into how the other half live.

The next day we left Monterey and head down to Pismo Beach stop 3 on our trip.