Category: Favourites

New Zealand Music Artists You Need To Listen To Right Now

May is known as New Zealand Music Month and there has been a lot of amazing talent coming out of the NZ music scene in recent years. Here are some awesome Kiwi music artists, besides Lorde, that you need to know about, stat.



One word to describe Kimbra: majestic. You may remember her from Gotye’s hit song Somebody That You Used To Know, but she is so much more than that. Kimbra is one of those rare artists who touches your soul and takes you away into another realm whenever she performs. I am spellbound by her every time.

Kimbra is from Hamilton and is now based in Los Angeles. She’s won a lot of awards, including two joint Grammys with Gotye for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group performance. She has released two albums to date – the first called Vows (2011) and the second called The Golden Echo (2014).

This is my favourite version of her song As You Are, by far. I don’t know how she does it, but this video tore me down and built me back up again in the space of seven minutes.

Favourite songs: As You Are, WithdrawSettle Down and Two Way Street

The Official Website of Kimbra

Hayley Westenra

Hayley Westenra singing at the 2015 Cricket World Cup opening ceremony in Christchurch

Hayley Westenra is from Christchurch (yay!) and she is a classical crossover artist who has sung songs all over the world in over ten languages. She released her first album at age 16 called Pure (2003), which reached number one on the UK classical charts and has sold more than two million copies worldwide.

Hayley has released more than ten studio albums to date and she is also a UNICEF Ambassador who has helped various charities worldwide. Do you need any more reason to fall in love with her? I don’t think so.

I’ve always loved the way she sings this Māori love song called Pokarekare Ana. She has the voice of an absolute angel.

The Official Website of Hayley Westenra


Caleb and Georgia Nott from Broods

Broods, the sibling act consisting of Georgia and Caleb Nott from Nelson are making electropop waves in the music industry at the moment. They won the Smokefree Rock Quest music competition in 2011 as part of a band called The Peasants. It was there that they met and started collaborating with music producer Joel Little, who also produced Lorde’s 2013 hit single Royals. They released their first album called Evergreen in 2014.

Favourite songs: Bridges, Mother and Father and Never Gonna Change

The Official Website of Broods

Benny Tipene


Benny Tipene is from Palmerston North and got famous from the first season of New Zealand’s The X Factor, where he finished third. He released his debut album in 2014 called Bricks and it is one of those albums where every song is good – there’s not one song that I don’t like on it and that’s pretty rare.

I admit I’m a bit of a Benny fan so I may be biased, but you should definitely check out some of his songs. His latest single is called Lanterns.

Favourite songs: Lonely, Step on UpOpen Ending and Make You Mine

Benny Tipene Facebook Page

Brooke Fraser

Brooke Fraser is from Wellington and is one of the most popular recording artists of all time in New Zealand. Her first album was released in 2003 called What to Do with Daylight and debuted at number one on the charts. I’ve always loved her music since her first album and I’m still really fond of her older songs, although her new stuff is good too.

Brooke has also helped a lot of people through World Vision as an Artist Associate since 2001. Her second album called Albertine (2006) was based on her experiences in Rwanda. Her latest single is called Kings and Queens.

Favourite soungs: Lifeline, Saving the World, Deciphering Me and Albertine

The Official Website of Brooke Fraser



Six60 is a five piece band who formed in Dunedin while studying at the University of Otago together. They named the band after the street address of their house they lived in together. Their self-titled first album was released in 2011 and debuted at number one on the New Zealand charts and was certified gold within the first week of release.

Favourite songs: Only to Be, Don’t Forget Your Roots and Forever

The Official Website of Six60

Gin Wigmore


Gin Wigmore is from Auckland and her claim to fame came when she wrote a song tribute to her father called Hallelujah, which won an international song writing competition in 2004. She went on to release two studio albums called Holy Smoke (2009) and Gravel and Wine (2011) with her third album Blood to Bone due to be released in June. Gin’s voice may be a bit of an acquired taste for some, but I’ve always been a fan!

Favourite songs: These roses, Hallelujah, Too Late for Lovers and I Do

Official Website of Gin Wigmore

Beau Monga

Beau Monga is from Manurewa and was the winner of the second season of The X Factor New Zealand. His parents are part of a music group called Ardijah and Beau himself can sing, beatbox and breakdance. His winner’s single is called King and Queen.

In Beau’s first audition he did a version of Hit the Road Jack using a loop pedal and it was just awesome.

Beau Monga Facebook Page

Ginny Blackmore


Ginny Blackmore is from Auckland and is most well-known for her 2013 hit single called Bones. She has previously written songs for Christina Aguilera and Adam Lambert and was the opening act for One Republic’s New Zealand concerts. She has an upcoming album called Over the Moon due to be released this year.

Favourite songs: Bones, Holding You and Sing for Me

Ginny Blackmore Facebook Page


So, did you enjoy these awesome acts from the New Zealand music scene?

Do you have any favourites?



Kyoto: My All Time Favourite Shrine is Fushimi Inari Taisha

The Main Gate of Fushimi Inari Shrine

If you told me you only had time to go to one out of the hundreds of shrines in Kyoto, I would immediately try to convince you to go to Fushimi Inari Shrine. Fushimi Inari Shrine is located on Inari Mountain in the Fushimi Ward of Kyoto, which is a five minute train ride away on the JR Line from Kyoto Station.

Inari’s fox messengers guarding the gate, one with a key in its mouth

Fushimi Inari is the head shrine of the popular Inari kami/god, who is the patron of rice, business, agriculture, sake and fertility. More than a third of all Shinto shrines across Japan are dedicated to Inari and white foxes are said to act as Inari’s messengers. The fox can often be seen with a key in its mouth, which symbolises it guarding the key to the granery where the rice is stored.

The start of the path lined by huge torii gates

But the really spectacular thing that makes Fushimi Inari Shrine my favourite is the torii gates – the hundreds and thousands of gates that wind their way up the mountain, one after another. Every torii has been donated by a Japanese company as a wish for prosperity and good business and the name of the company is inscribed on each gate.

The gates make an illusion of a tunnel all the way up the mountain

It’s about a two hour walk to the summit through the gates, beautiful forest landscape and past the smaller shrines that dot the mountain. Although it looks like there’s not another soul to be seen – don’t be fooled by my photos.

Fushimi Inari is very popular and if you go there, you will be elbowing a lot of tourists and schoolkids on field trips out of the way. If you want total peace and quiet while you meander, I would suggest going earlier in the morning but if not, the further you go up the mountain, the less people you will encounter anyway.

Omokaru ishi, the heavy-light rocks

At Fushimi Inari, you will also come across the omokaru ishi or the heavy-light rocks. You’re supposed to think of what you wish/pray for and then hold up one of the rocks. If the rock feels light to you, it means that your endeavour will go well and if it feels heavy, then it may be a sign that it won’t.

Fushimi Inari’s fox fountain

I’ve always been a fan of foxes, so all of the fox imagery was right up my alley!

Fox statue with a red bib

Foxes or kitsune have always been a common subject in Japanese folklore and they were usually portrayed as cunning, manipulative and with shape shifting abilities. Sometimes they were depicted with more than one tail, even up to nine (think of Nine Tails from Pokemon) and the more they had, the more powerful they were said to be.

Fushimi Inari’s fox-shaped ema

At most shrines in Japan, you can buy a wooden plaque called an ema to write your wishes or prayers on and then hang it up at the shrine for the kami/god(s) to receive it. The ema usually has a design on it that matches the symbols of the shrine and Fushimi Inari had ones shaped as a fox face, where people took that as a free license to draw their own funny facial expressions on.

Fushimi Inari’s torii-shaped ema

Understandably, they also sold ones shaped like torii gates.

Natural cooling system

We went up Fushimi Inari mid-afternoon of a midsummer’s day, which was probably the worst possible time we could have gone in terms of crowds and unbearable heat. Halfway up the mountain we came across a little shop selling drinks that they’d kept chilled in a stone fountain – it was a very welcoming sight.

Beware of monkeys sign…that last line though

Watch out for wild monkeys!


  • Do not take pictures
  • Do not feed the monkeys
  • Do not make eye contact
  • Do not show food

If they approach, pick up rocks and pretend to throw at them.

Kyoto City / Fushimi Inari Shrine

I didn’t see any wild monkeys that I had to pretend to throw rocks at, but I did spot this cute creature nestled in the leaves.

Fox souvenirs

All of the little gift shops leading up to the shrine had fox-themed gifts and these three were my favourite.

Oh Kyoto, how I miss you so!


So, did you like Fushimi Inari Shrine?

Did you learn something new about Japan?



Auckland: My Favourite Places

Living in Auckland for a year allowed me to explore the city and find cosy little niches that I came to call my own – so here are just a few of my favourite places!

Hector’s Dolphin mural, Wynyard Quarter

Chawlas Indian Restaurant 

My Schnucki and I love eating Indian cuisine (especially Butter Chicken with Cheese Naan!) and we traveled far and wide to dine at various Indian restaurants around Auckland, but Chawlas on Wellesley Street West was the only one we kept going back to. Their $12 NZD lunch combo which included a curry, rice, naan and drink was the best deal you could ever hope to come across, and it tasted damn good too. You know you go to a place often when the staff recognises you and asks if you’d like ‘the usual’!

Wynyard Quarter

Wynyard Quarter is a new area out by the waterfront filled with trendy bars, cafes and restaurants and it was a favourite place of mine to go on lazy Sundays and warm summer evenings. I loved the atmosphere overlooking the harbour and the modern designs of the shops and buildings. It is the perfect spot to just wander around and soak up the salt air and good vibes. Wynyard Quarter was also where I discovered the best pizza I have eaten in Auckland at The Conservatory – yes, it was even better than the famous Sal’s Pizza!

Margarita Pizza, The Conservatory


My favourite suburb in Auckland by far was the quirky but quaint Parnell. Just a few minutes bus ride from the city and you can get away from the cold concrete jungle to Parnell Road which was bursting with colours and character. I adored it’s cobblestone back alleys and all of the art galleries – oh, the art galleries! Every third shop was a gallery featuring local or international artwork and they were all chock full of inspiration and awesomeness.


Until I came to Auckland, I was not aware of the phenomenon that was self serve frozen yoghurt, but now, I consider myself somewhat of an expert. KiwiYo was the first frozen yoghurt I tried and I have never looked back since. What, in life, could be better than serving your own frozen yoghurt flavours and toppings to your heart’s content? NOTHING. This is as good as life gets!

KiwiYo Self Serve Frozen Yoghurt

The Shelf

If any of my friends or relatives were in town, The Shelf on High Street was my ‘go to’ cafe to take them to – it would just never disappoint! The brunch menu was amazing (try the Eggs Benedict!) but what I loved most was the drinks; especially The Shelf Iced Chocolate which came with milk, chocolate sauce and ice separately so you could mix up the drink yourself. Their range of specialty summer drinks in mason jars were super good too. I am so thirsty for The Shelf right now.


If The Shelf was my favourite cafe, Moustache Milk and Cookie Bar on Wellesley Street West came at a close second. I loved places that dared to be a little bit different and Moustache was definitely that. It was the tiniest shop you could imagine but the cookies that were made there were to die for. It was the perfect place for an afternoon sweet treat and my favourites were the cookie and ice cream sandwich (yes, that exists) and the cookies and cream milkshake. Yum!

Moustache Milk and Cookie Bar

Mentatz Ramen

If you have not tried Japanese ramen before, man, you are missing out! Any ramen lover knows that it is vital to have a local ramen joint where you can get your noodle fix, and for us that was Mentatz on Lorne Street. Specialising in Tonkotsu Ramen, this was the closest you could get to the flavour of Japan whilst still being in Auckland. Other special mentions of favourite Japanese restaurants goes to Tanto and Renkon who both did ama-zing katsu chicken on rice. Seriously, just go there already.


When we wanted to get away from the big city life, Devonport was the place to go. Just a 12 minute ferry ride from the city and we could be transported worlds away to this quiet and beautiful seaside village. Everything went at a slower pace there and it was the perfect place for a summer stroll or a movie at The Vic. A Devonport must-do is to climb (or drive) up Mt Victoria during the day or night to get a picture perfect 360 degree view of Auckland, Rangitoto Island and the Gulf. This was probably my favourite view point in all of Auckland!

Looking out over Rangitoto Island from Mt Victoria, Devonport

The Mexican Cafe

Whenever we would crave Mexican food, The Mexican Cafe on Victoria Street West was where we would go. Their $10 NZD lunch menu was as delicious as the price they sold them at. If you ever go there, go with the burrito – SO GOOD. Did I also mention that every meal comes with free corn chips and salsa? They can do no wrong.

The Cloud

The Cloud on Queen’s Wharf is a temporary event centre shaped like, you guessed it, a cloud! It was my absolute favourite place to unwind and relax within the city with a Valentino’s gelato in my hand. The best spot to sit was at the front of The Cloud under the colourful umbrellas overlooking the harbour, where I could watch people fishing and quietly contemplate about life. When that got tiresome, we would go into The Cloud where they had all sorts of games set up like a big chess board, table tennis, badminton and big jenga. Hours of fun!

The Cloud, Queen’s Wharf

Auckland Art Gallery

I judge a city based on how good their art gallery is, and the Auckland Art Gallery does not disappoint! The modern entrance of the building is spectacular and I just adore the art collections they have inside; the historical New Zealand art in particular. My favourite room would have to be the chamber filled with international historical art, which are all mounted in ornate golden frames on walls of the prettiest raspberry-smoothie sort of colour. This place is a must-see for all art lovers – it is just simply divine!


Last but not least, I loved going to the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the surrounding Auckland Domain. The museum is on a hill surrounded by huge playing fields, gardens and bush and it has lovely walking tracks and a great view. The museum building itself is beautiful and the contents are IMMENSE. Prepare to spend most of your afternoon there because there are so many amazing sections and things to look at! I would definitely recommend going here if you have limited time in Auckland but want to see something good. (Plus, New Zealanders get in for free!)

Auckland War Memorial Museum


Did you enjoy my favourite places in Auckland?

Are there any you’ve been to or want to go and see for yourself?