Playing Catch Up

My first month in New Zealand

I’ve officially reached the one-month mark of living in New Zealand. In that time, I’ve done a good bit of traveling, a lot of eating (and spending money) and gone quite a while without Internet, so now it’s time to play catch up. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting about some of our adventures and the “must-do” activities we’ve experienced around the North Island.

Last Day of 2013

On the last day of 2013, we set out for adventures close to home. Joe had arrived the night before with French macaroons on hand (my favorite),  just in time for New Year’s Eve, as he’d promised. Gabrielle and I had already spent the previous day exploring the town and the beach, as far as we could get on foot. Now that we had a car, we were ready to hit to road.

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First we set out for Cape Kidnappers, only a few miles from Napier. We drove through vineyards and swerved around winding roads in the mountains. Each turn was breathtaking. Upon reaching Cape Kidnappers, we realized we’d actually have to do a 4-hour hike in order to really experience it, so we opted to do that another day and instead continued to tool around. As we climbed higher into the mountains, we could see the blue coastline dancing in the distance. I have a weakness for the blue ocean. It reminds me of family vacations in the Caribbean, and I go to my happy place. So we decided to head toward the water to enjoy the view. We landed at Waimarama Beach. It was gorgeous – golden sand (unlike our pebble beaches in Napier) and surrounded by mountains. We stood in the sun and admired the view before heading to our next destination: Te Mata Peak.

Once again we were driving up and down winding mountain roads, across fields and through vineyards and orchards. Gabrielle, Joe and I were in awe of the beauty, comparing it to places we’d been or seen – Scottish highlands, gardens of Versailles, vineyards of Napa Valley, the blue oceans of the Caribbean. After our little rental car climbed up a very narrow road, which reminded me of the drives I’d made with both Gabrielle and Joe through the Hollywood Hills to the Hollywood sign, we reached the top of Te Mata – 399 meters above sea level. From the top, we could see all of Hawke’s Bay – the ocean, the valleys, the vineyards and the mountains in the distance. Everything was so green. We climbed to the top of a cliff and looked over the edge. It was scary! I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I get to live in this magnificent place for the next year.” I felt so very thankful to be sharing this moment and this day with two very special people. We headed home to get ready to ring in the New Year together.

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That evening we indulged in champagne and a gourmet meal before heading to the outdoor auditorium on the beach for a concert and fireworks. Locals had come out of the wood-works for the event, and I was surprised to see how many people actually lived here. As the clock struck twelve, we all hugged and kissed each other. The fireworks erupted overhead as New Zealand native, Lorde’s, Royals blasted through the speakers. I felt a moment of fear and excitement at the thought of the new year and all it would bring. It felt like vacation, but I wouldn’t be going home to Louisiana any time soon because this is my home, at least for 2014.

 

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As the fireworks ended and the crowds dispersed, Gabrielle, Joe and I started heading back to the apartment, when I heard bagpipes playing in the distance. With out hesitation, we followed the sound to the sidewalk outside the old art deco Masonic Hotel. A group of 20 or so men gathered in the streets wearing their kilts and with bagpipes thrown over their shoulders. They played Auld Lang Syne and Amazing Grace while the crowd around them hummed and sang along. It brought a tear to my eye and put my arms around Joe and Gabrielle. This place is truly magical.

Although Gabrielle, my 21-year-old sister, didn’t have her typical crazy college New Year’s Eve, I think she enjoyed her New Zealand New Year. Read about it on her blog: Global Gabs. She’s an incredibly talented writer. ;)