All posts by jcad61

Letter from NZ and Merry Christmas!

I thought it high time that we updated the blog especially as Christmas is just around the corner which means I have been in New Zealand for 11 weeks and Jo for 7, how the time flies!

Some of you will no doubt have seen the odd Facebook post, twitter comment and indeed some have been in touch since I arrived so feel free to skip/ignore the relevant sections! All started well with a great flight, if you ever get the chance I can highly recommend the business class experience on Emirates pick up by limo, express check-in, priority security, lounges, food and drink all the way! That said I had a pretty tight transfer in Auckland when I had to run with a full trolly of luggage and a winter coat on a very warm spring afternoon between the international and domestic terminals making it with a minute to spare – not an experience I would want to repeat! So much so that I advised Jo to change her flight to a later one but that’s another story.

On arrival in Wellington my temporary landlady, Lorraine, had offered to pick me up which I gratefully accepted and once we had met up we made our way to the house in Berhampore which is a suburb in the south of Wellington not too far from the airport or the CBD. The house was lovely, the area slightly less so but it is slowly being ‘gentrified’ and is perfectly safe. It’s next to the suburb of Newtown which is quite up and coming in terms of restaurants, coffee shops, bars, etc. My room was essentially what I would describe as the lounge in a typical 30′s UK bay fronted house and was very comfortable if lacking in wardrobe space for someone who had arrived with 46kg of luggage! I found it through Airbnb and it was considerably cheaper than a hotel or renting furnished apartments or the like, I’ve used Airbnb a few times now and can recommend the experience for both short and longer stays. As well as the room I was invited to have full run of the kitchen, laundry, etc which was great given that I was booked in for 3 weeks. They even offered me their spare car should I need it and had cooked an evening meal so that I didn’t have to worry about sorting food on my first night, I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I was all ‘fooded’ out having done nothing else for 30+ hours!

I had the Friday to sort a few essential things like bank accounts, tax codes, snapper card (Wellington equivalent to the Oyster card) and route to work before I started on the Monday. The weekend I spent mainly relaxing, adjusting to the time zone and mooching around the area and attuning to the Kiwi accent once again.

Monday saw me walking to work via the Basin Reserve Cricket Ground which is in the middle of roundabout and open to the public at all times except when a major match is on. Work was a bit of a culture shock but in a good way, the attitude is very relaxed with respect to dress code ‘anything from cycling gear upwards but no ties!’ and language, swearing whilst not encouraged is certainly not discouraged and the women join in as much/more than the men! In terms of the product it is an interesting time as they are in the final development phase before going for a commercial launch early next year, so the pressure is on to move from the pilot/beta product that has some major holes to something farmers, not known for parting with their cash, are willing to pay for. Work also sees me working with Fronde again and indeed even some of the same people. The first week passed in a bit of a blur and it was like when I started in my last job at ML, lots of new terminology , systems, processes, etc to learn. The major difference was when I joined ML the average age was probably 25, here I’m not quite the youngest but certainly a whole lot closer to the average!

On my walks to work I have experienced all of the varieties of Wellington weather from the famous winds, regularly in excess of 150km per hour, thunderstorms and flash floods to what Wellingtonians consider to be extreme cold, about 6/7C but also some really sunny lovely days. As the saying goes ‘you can’t beat Wellington on a good day!’

Outside of work evenings and weekends saw me searching for somewhere more permanent to live (although I did manage to fit in a couple of rugby games at the ‘cake tin’, half a day of cricket at the basin and a trip to the zoo on my birthday) traveling to all corners of Wellington for somewhere suitable to rent. I’ve no idea how easy it is to become a real estate agent here but they are not like the UK, they work when they feel like it, you have to go out of your way to make their schedules and they may not bother turning up if they don’t feel like it! There is such a demand for rental stock that the prices are high compared to wages and the quality of some of the housing stock is pretty low. It’s fair to say I looked at a number of horrible/disgusting places before I found one in Khandallah that was pretty good although it is up the top of Mount Kaukau and the walk from the station is 1km with a 100m change in altitude, in a straight line a 1 in 10 change but the way the road goes its 1 in 3 in places, put it this way it takes about 10 minutes to walk down in the morning and more like 20 to walk up in the evening!

Having found somewhere to live I then needed to find the bare essentials in terms of furniture, cookware, bedding, etc to tide us over until the container arrived. Over here there is a website called Trademe which is the Kiwi equivalent of Ebay so I managed to buy 2 chairs, washing machine and tumble drier and a fridge freezer for about £200. I ordered a new bedroom suite, moving from a 2 bedroom house to a 4 I knew we would need more bedroom furniture anyway so it wouldn’t go to waste. Bedding, cookware, plates, cutlery, food, etc found me raiding the Warehouse and Countdown (think The Range and Tesco). So by the time Jo arrived I had the essentials in place.

I had intended to buy a motorbike when I arrived, I even carried my helmet and leathers over but given that I walked to work most days in the first 3 weeks and the public transport is pretty good in Wellington I didn’t bother and when I found out it was cheaper to tax a car than a bike I decided to look for a car instead. I ended up buying a Mazda Veriza which is a bit like a mini and made for the Japanese market. There are a lot of second hand Japanese cars here because when they get to 5 years old they ship them over to NZ to sell.

Jo arrived at the end of October having had various hassles with Npower, BT and Sky which were still ongoing for a few weeks after we were both in NZ, I think/hope they are finally sorted now. Skype has been a godsend allowing us to call for free or for UK local prices, the only downside being that somehow my Skype account has become associated with a provider in Taiwan (PC Home) and I can’t add any more credit to it unless I pay in Taiwanese Yen! Skype have been about as helpful as BT saying there is nothing they can do and I will have to create a new account, so I’m still fighting that battle!

We spent the first few weekends after Jo’s arrival traveling around Wellington and up both the east and west coasts trying to determine where we might want to live. If we want to build we will have to get the process kicked off sooner rather than later but if we want to buy then we can afford to wait, at the moment the jury is still out! Indeed we have probably confused ourselves about location, style and buy versus build! We have also become ‘regulars’ at the local pub, no surprise there then, and have met quite a few other like minded folks, indeed we’ve been told we’re not allowed to leave! Everyone has been extremely friendly and have gone out of their way to introduce us around.

The 6th December saw a little seismic wobble, nothing like the aftershocks we had experienced in Christchurch, but a 4.7 which reminded us that we live in a quake zone.

Our furniture arrived on the 11th December without any drama from MAF or Customs (we’d been warned that it could take as long as 2 weeks to get clearance and that we might have to pay additional duty or cleaning/quarantine fees),the following day I was scheduled to be in Dunedin to visit a sheep and beef processing plant as well as other meetings so I managed to get out of the unpacking duties! The unpacking done and our stuff in place we no longer feel like we are camping in two rooms and it does seem more like home.

Last week saw Jo’s 50th so we went out for a lovely meal at Logan Browns and we fly to Australia on Boxing Day to cruise the Barrier Reef for a few days before spending New Years in Sydney.

Anyway before I bore you completely rigid I’ll stop there and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Healthy and Prosperous New Years and remember if you’re ever over this way we’d love to see you and we even have the room for you to stay!

Take Care,

John & Jo

Jan 21st

So it snowed and at 0600 it looked like it might be an issue, by 0800 it was slush!

After packing and checking out we went to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian which whilst documenting Native Indian culture skirts around the issue of what was done to them.

We then headed up to Harlem but there wasn’t much going on so we headed back towards the hotel/Grand Central to get some lunch and a couple of beers before heading to the airport.

So that’s it the adventure is nearly over and work beckons, see you soon!

Jo & John

Jan 21st

So it snowed and at 0600 it looked like it might be an issue, by 0800 it was slush!

After packing and checking out we went to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian which whilst documenting Native Indian culture skirts around the issue of what was done to them.

We then headed up to Harlem but there wasn’t much going on so we headed back towards the hotel/Grand Central to get some lunch and a couple of beers before heading to the airport.

So that’s it the adventure is nearly over and work beckons, see you soon!

Jo & John

Jan 20th

The holiday is almost over, or is it? They are predicting a big snow storm to hit Manhattan in the early hours of tomorrow morning and travel disruption so you never know.

Anyway today we went to the Museum of Modern Art where we spent a pleasant, if baffling, few hours wandering around the gallery, I’m just not sure how some of this stuff qualifies as art!

Then with feet aching from all the walking of the past few days we returned to the hotel for a rest before heading back to Little Italy to visit Eddie and go to the restaurant he recommended, La Mela. When we arrive at the bar in Mulberry St, Eddie is sat at the end of the bar holding court with three young ladies but he pushes them aside to give Jo a cuddle. He introduces them as being from the UK and one chips in with Birmingham as Jo turns round she realizes that we know one of them, she is Chelsea Wilson the granddaughter of a friend, Old Tommy Wilson a showman, and we have known her on and off for over 20 years! She is here on her honeymoon, it’s a small world.

After a few drinks with their party we head over to La Mela and have the family style menu, an absolute avalanche of food follows appetizer, antipasti, 3 types of pasta and 3 main plates with as much red wine as you can drink! We had to skip the 5 desserts! Then we head over to the Broome St tavern to give Adam the NO guide before heading back to the hotel, very full!

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Jan 20th

The holiday is almost over, or is it? They are predicting a big snow storm to hit Manhattan in the early hours of tomorrow morning and travel disruption so you never know.

Anyway today we went to the Museum of Modern Art where we spent a pleasant, if baffling, few hours wandering around the gallery, I’m just not sure how some of this stuff qualifies as art!

Then with feet aching from all the walking of the past few days we returned to the hotel for a rest before heading back to Little Italy to visit Eddie and go to the restaurant he recommended, La Mela. When we arrive at the bar in Mulberry St, Eddie is sat at the end of the bar holding court with three young ladies but he pushes them aside to give Jo a cuddle. He introduces them as being from the UK and one chips in with Birmingham as Jo turns round she realizes that we know one of them, she is Chelsea Wilson the granddaughter of a friend, Old Tommy Wilson a showman, and we have known her on and off for over 20 years! She is here on her honeymoon, it’s a small world.

After a few drinks with their party we head over to La Mela and have the family style menu, an absolute avalanche of food follows appetizer, antipasti, 3 types of pasta and 3 main plates with as much red wine as you can drink! We had to skip the 5 desserts! Then we head over to the Broome St tavern to give Adam the NO guide before heading back to the hotel, very full!

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Jan 19th

Another full on tourist day, firstly the World Trade Centre or Ground Zero or 9/11 Memorial or whatever you want to call it.

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Then the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour, well worth doing!
Once we get back from Ellis we walk up to my old AT&T office on 33 Thomas St and from the outside it looks the same! We then walked up through Chinatown and Little Italy and called in at a bar on Mulberry where we meet the owner Eddie, good times!

Jan 19th

Another full on tourist day, firstly the World Trade Centre or Ground Zero or 9/11 Memorial or whatever you want to call it.

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Then the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour, well worth doing!
Once we get back from Ellis we walk up to my old AT&T office on 33 Thomas St and from the outside it looks the same! We then walked up through Chinatown and Little Italy and called in at a bar on Mulberry where we meet the owner Eddie, good times!

Jan 18th

Full on tourist day today! First the Guggenheim, the current special display is by Maurizio Cattelan, an Italian artist based in NY known for his satirical sculptures. His work is suspended in the rotunda of the Guggenheim and makes for an interesting display as you wind your way up the ramp around the outside.

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After the Guggenheim it’s a quick trip through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art ‘The Met’, the museum is huge and we spend the next few hours here wending our way through Egyptian temples, country houses of the world and objets d’art. It’s around 4 when we leave and we want to get up the Empire State before sunset, so hoping for no queues we set off. Our pass gets us past the first queue and in 10 minutes we are on the 86th floor observation deck, the views are amazing.

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Jan 18th

Full on tourist day today! First the Guggenheim, the current special display is by Maurizio Cattelan, an Italian artist based in NY known for his satirical sculptures. His work is suspended in the rotunda of the Guggenheim and makes for an interesting display as you wind your way up the ramp around the outside.

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After the Guggenheim it’s a quick trip through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art ‘The Met’, the museum is huge and we spend the next few hours here wending our way through Egyptian temples, country houses of the world and objets d’art. It’s around 4 when we leave and we want to get up the Empire State before sunset, so hoping for no queues we set off. Our pass gets us past the first queue and in 10 minutes we are on the 86th floor observation deck, the views are amazing.

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Jan 17th

The weather is pretty wet and miserable when we wake up so not sure we are going to do much walking today. As the ML office is just 5 blocks over from the hotel we are going to pop in and say hello, print off the coupon for our city pass and then go collect the tickets. We have to pick the tickets up from one of the attractions so as the weather is pretty horrible we decide we’ll go to the Museum of Modern Art or MoMA.
We call into the office and say hello to the gang and print off the voucher once I manage to log into my gmail account (its weird in the UK I have to use @googlemail.com as the domain it won’t allow @gmail.com even though it delivers the mail to that address but in the US it will only accept @gmail.com!).
Then we head off to the bright lights off Times Square, call into a restaurant for lunch and then onto MoMA. We get there, it’s Tuesday and they’re shut, doh! Anyway we can still exchange our voucher for the pass which we do and decide to get some religion instead and visit St Thomas Church and St Patrick’s Cathedral.

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When we come out of St Patrick’s it is still pouring with rain so we decide to head back to the hotel. In the evening we head across the road for dinner to an Italian restaurant called Rossini’s, we felt somewhat underdressed but we were accepted without any hesitation and had a great meal.