Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Chilling in Christchurch

Tuesday 1/15: Walking Tour + Buskers + Art Gallery
I got up for a run along the Avon River and all around Hagley Park. Still a bit chilly and cloudy but no rain. For breakfast, we went next door to Foundation Cafe at the beautiful new central Turanga Library and had very generous portion sizes -- actually too much bacon for Mr. E and a wee bit too much avo for me, so I shared it. Yummy and pulpy orange juice and Americanos to go so that we could join up with the 10am Walk Christchurch tour, which leaves from the red kiosk just outside the Canterbury Museum.

Our guide, Anne, led us around the CBD and other surrounding areas for 3+ hours, providing thorough commentary about the history and development of both New Zealand and Christchurch. Obviously, quite a bit of the narrative concerned the earthquakes and ongoing recovery efforts. Anne also generously shared her own personal experiences of the earthquakes. During the tour, we passed or made stops at the Canterbury Museum, Christ's College, Cathedral Square, New Regent Street, Cathedral Junction, Latimer Square, Transitional (aka Cardboard) Cathedral, 185 Chairs, Arts Centre, Public Art Gallery, The Terraces, Canterbury Earthquake Memorial, and a couple of shopping & entertainment areas. Such a great way to learn more about this fascinating and ever-changing city!

The tour finished up back at the starting point, and our timing was perfect to catch the performance of one of the many buskers currently in Christchurch as part of the 2019 World Buskers Festival. This particular performer, Hero-San, does amazing handstands, and Mr. E remembered that we'd seen him already in Wellington on Cuba Street about a week ago. This time, we watched his entire show and enjoyed both the physical skill and comic patter.

We then headed just a couple of blocks away to the Public Art Gallery, where we stopped first at the Universo restaurant for a light lunch, since it was already past 2pm by this point. We then had just under two hours to explore and enjoy the (free) Art Gallery, which wasn't nearly enough time to see everything!

Off to Cashel Street to the Unichem pharmacy to find a new clear travel cosmetic bag for me, since the Target one I'd bought just before the trip had worn out. Then back to the library to enjoy the views from the North and South roof gardens. The sun had come out to stay for the late afternoon, so we got to see the city in a very different light, both literally and figuratively.

We returned to the hotel to try to check in for our flights tomorrow but had some challenges with Mr. E's booking, so we'll have to finish the process at the airport. Dinner back on Cashel St. at the quick Japanese spot Hachi Hachi followed by drinks at Mr. E's new favorite spot The Last Word on New Regent St.

Back at the hotel, Mr. E attempted to procure a final cocktail at the restaurant bar but was unsuccessful due to a gin "crisis," so he actually went back to The Last Word while I relaxed in the room and finished up the wine we had bought yesterday. I also enjoyed the beautiful sunset and view from our hotel room.

We both went to bed at a reasonable time to prepare for our 6:30am departure from the hotel tomorrow, the start of a long travel day from Christchurch > Auckland > San Fransisco > Sacto.

See you later, New Zealand!!!



Southern Traverse Tour Day 8: End of Tour in Christchurch

Monday 1/14: Dunedin > Christchurch
Our final coach trip today, leaving delightful Dunedin at 7:20am from our hotel for the Inter City double-decker bus at 7:45am. Again, minimal commentary and stops and only a 20-minute refreshment break in Timaru around 10:50am. Good thing we were prepared with fruit and snacks! But such hard seats on this coach -- ouch! We were both quite relieved to arrive in Christchurch just before 2pm and take the short walk from the bus depot to the Novotel on Cathedral Square. We have a great vista over the Cathedral from our 8th floor room, despite the rather cloudy and cool weather.

After checking in, we set off to find a snack along New Regent Street and then headed to the Quake City exhibition to learn more about the Christchurch earthquakes. From there, we strolled along the Avon River in the now-sunny but still cool afternoon to see the Canterbury Earthquake Memorial, which was opened in 2017, the same year that the container mall Re:Start was closed. So glad we got to see that during our previous visit!

On the way back to the hotel, we picked up some items at the grocery store, including dinner for me. Then Mr. E went out for a jog along the Avon while I ate and did some computer work. Mr. E brought back a program for the World Buskers Festival, which is currently happening at various sites throughout the city. Perhaps something to put on the agenda for tomorrow??? We still have one whole day here on our own before heading back to Sac on Wednesday for our mid-sabbatical transition.

Southern Traverse Tour Day 7: Enjoying Dunedin

Sunday 1/13: Nova, Public Art Gallery, Otago Peninsula
A sunny morning but rain in the forecast for the afternoon. Back to Nova for breakfast -- wow! Some of the best food we've had during our trip! Eggs benedict with a smoked salmon fillet for Mr. E, and the Budda bowl (quinoa, beets, bean sprouts, spinach, avocado) topped with poached egg for me. And of course Americanos to accompany the delicious food.

As Mr. E finished his second coffee, I headed into the (free) adjacent Public Art Gallery and began with the New Networks exhibition of contemporary Chinese art. Some very striking and moving works, including an entire section of pieces from the White Rabbit collection, and it was fascinating to see this linkage and have a connection to our recent time in Sydney. The permanent collection of the Gallery is also most impressive, and we spent nearly two hours exploring the various exhibitions. Incredible that all of this is free!!!

Mr. E returned to Nova for another coffee and a sweet treat, and we then headed back to the hotel for our 1:15pm pick-up for the Otago Peninsula excursion. A light rain started to fall, but the weather cleared as we drove out across the top of the peninsula to the Albatross Center and also for our tour of the Penguin Place conservation area. This spot focuses on efforts to conserve the rare and elusive yellow-eyed penguin. We got to see some chicks and adolescents in the rehab area, and then our guide Ainsley took us on a short ride out to the coast where we first got a glimpse of the fur seals.

Ainsley then led us through the ingenious trench system to a camouflaged viewing area, where we were able to observe one of the yellow-eyed penguins near a penguin "apartment."

After our tour finished, Ainsley drove our group back to the small dock to board our Monarch Wildlife Tours boat for a one-hour wildlife cruise out around the headlands. More seals, water birds, and the big albatross.

The choppy waves out in the open water were a bit much for me, especially given that the cold rainy weather had returned. I went into the inner warm cabin to lie down for a bit and was fine once we re-entered the calm waters of the harbour.

The boat docked briefly to disembark a number of passengers, and then the rest of our smaller group continued the water voyage to return to Dunedin, enjoying free hot drinks and meat pies (not for me, of course) along the way. We arrived back at the harobour around 6:50pm and were transported back to our respective hotels. A bit of organizing and packing before doing down to the Ports o' Call bar for cocktails and food. The final full day of our tour!!!

Southern Traverse Tour Day 6: Free Time in Dunedin

Saturday 1/12: Te Anau > Dunedin + Walking Tour
I fit in a run along the lovely Lake Te Anau (bunnies near the trail!) before our 8am departure on an Inter City coach. Not much commentary this time or as many stops, and our one and only refreshment break wasn't until 11:30am at the Dunedin Airport. So odd to have a break at an airport, but the toilets were plentiful and the food options were pretty good.

We arrived in Dunedin around 12:45pm and got our taxi transfer to the Scenic Southern Cross. Our room was ready, so we unpacked a bit before heading out along Princes Street to the Octagon, the main area of the central city, to find the iSite for a 2pm City Heritage walking tour. We were the only two participants and were rewarded with a comprehensive and intriguing tour by Athol, who covered the history, current affairs, and some of the potential future of this beautiful little city. The tour ended at the impressive train station.

When we parted from Athol, we browsed the art gallery on the second floor of the station before retracing our steps to the Octagon to find an afternoon snack. Athol had recommended Nova, a spot right next to the Public Art Gallery. What a great find! Coffee and "toasts" with pb&j for me, tea and the amazing "injectable donut" for Mr. E.

After our refreshment, we parted ways to do some shopping and errands on the way back to our hotel. Then it was time for me to do finances and journal/blog updates while Mr. E started laundry and went out for a job, picking up some Pegasus Bay wine on his way back. I enjoyed my takeaway sushi for dinner, and Mr. E had a bao down in the hotel bar in between loads of laundry. Yoga and a slightly later bedtime since tomorrow morning is more free time on our own.

We were really taken with Dunedin, in a similar way to how we felt about Wellington the first time we visited six years ago. Dunedin is the 7th largest city in NZ, with a population hovering near 130,000. Our visit occurred during the university break or else we would have gotten a sense of what the city feels like with the 20,000 students and full 5,000ish faculty and staff at the University of Otago, which plays a large role in the life of the city. Dunedin has a large harbour that is largely still industrial and mostly cut off from the rest of the city, but plans are in the works to make changes to link the water back to the city and animate that area for residents and visitors alike.

The day we arrived was sunny and beautiful, but very windy, similar again to Wellington. And we also noticed quite a bit of public art, including murals, along with a lively coffee culture and a growing craft beer scene. We definitely want to return to see how the city evolves and enjoy some of the other offerings that we didn't have time for during this tour.


Southern Traverse Tour Day 5: Milford Sound

Friday 1/11: Queenstown > Milford Sound > Te Anau
Another early morning to catch our taxi transfer to the coach for our scenic tour to Milford Sound. We had several stops for other photo ops along the way, including the aptly-named Mirror Lakes.

Our 90-minute Milford Sound cruise into the fjord included lunch, and we again had beautiful weather to admire the awe-inspiring scenery. Rumour has it that the waterfalls are more impressive during rainy times, but we were quite pleased to have yet another sunny day to enjoy the stunning natural landscape, including the multiple waterfalls and seals sunning themselves on the rock.

Once our tour finished up, we all loaded back onto the coach. Mr. E and I were quite relieved that our drop-off was in Te Anau, a charming town just about two hours from Milford Sound, rather than needing to go all the way back to Queenstown as most of the other passengers were doing. Te Anau was lovely, right on the banks of a large lake. We checked into our hotel and strolled around the main street for a bit to check out potential dinner and drinks options. I ended up with a "sushi salad" from the grocery store, which I ate while we had drinks in the hotel lounge and played cards (congrats, Mr. E!). Then yoga in the room for me while Mr. E went to get takeaway from a local Chinese restaurant.

Oh - and Happy 16th Anniversary to us!!!


Southern Traverse Tour Day 4: Queenstown

Thursday 1/10: Zip Line + Farm Tour
I got up for a run along Frankton Road, which provided some great views of Lake Wakatipu but was also quite busy with traffic. We had ordered breakfast through room service (no delivery charge at this hotel!) and enjoyed our meal (salmon eggs benedict for me, full cooked brekkie for Mr. E) looking at at our lake view.

We left the hotel just past 9am to walk to the Skyline Gondola for our ride up the hill, getting some amazing panoramas of the lake and noticing some mountain goats foraging under the trees.

We looked around a bit for more views and were bemused to find a Jelly Belly store up at the Gondola base. Even more impressive were the various Jelly Belly artworks, including this portrait of Frodo from the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy:

Our EcoTrek "Kea" zipline tour was scheduled for 10:20am, so we checked in, met our guides Leah and Esther, and suited up with the rest of our group of 11 people. We were joined by a family of five from California, a couple from Australia, a young woman from Iowa, and a solo woman from Sydney who's originally also from California. We had a fun adventure on the six ziplines, including some challenges such as going upside down or falling backwards onto a line with eyes closed. The final line is the steepest in the world!

Once we finished up and shed our harnesses, we met our taxi transfer to take us down to the harbour, where we checked in for our afternoon cruise on the TSS Earnslaw steam boat, which took us across the lake to Walter Peak Farm Station.

At the farm, we watched an impressive sheep shearing demonstration by Aled and then sheep herding by dog Kip. Aled followed up with a brief tour of the other farm animals before we ended with afternoon tea.

Another beautiful day to enjoy the scenery! Our return boat ride got us back to the city around 5:30pm, and we did some browsing and shopping on our way back to the hotel to freshen up a bit. Then down the hill again to find dinner. We discovered the yummy Big Fig, which had some great fresh prepared salads and proteins that we both enjoyed. As we headed back to the hotel, we then found The Winery tasting room, which uses the card + dispenser system for patrons to taste up to 80 different wines. We managed not to do too much damage... Then back up the hill again to finish the evening and get ready for our morning departure.