Category: New Zealand

Happy Birthday To Me…And My Blog #3

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St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Passau

So it’s my birthday…again! This time of the year seems to come around faster and faster every year. (It’s freaking me out, but more on that later.) It’s also the third anniversary of this blog, which means it’s time for the annual let’s-stop-and-see-where-my-life-is-at post.

The Big Move. I left my heart behind in my beloved Passau at the start of this year and made the big move back to New Zealand, after being overseas for more than two years. It was a devastating and triumphant homecoming in equal measure. Devastating because I was leaving my other half behind on the other side of the world, and triumphant because I was coming back to do something that I loved, something that I felt was in my very bones.

My bones turned out to be dead on: coming back to study was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I took to it like a duck to water. The only side effect was that I missed my Passau life so much, much more than I’d ever let on. Passau was where I lived in a place where I didn’t know the language or people and I built up my life there from scratch. I grieved that life for months after coming back, it took a while until I wasn’t crying every other week. But it did get better.

This time last year I was celebrating my birthday in Innsbruck, Austria. What a trip that was! I miss travelling around Europe too, the ease of it, the different countries at your fingertips. But I’m determined to go back very soon! Japan, Taiwan and Australia are on the cards for me this year and I’m especially excited about exploring Taiwan – a new realm for me.

Thank you as always to you, for reading this, for taking an interest and thanks to my family, friends and darling Schnucki for the constant love and support! I am truly blessed to the moon and back to have everyone that I know in my life. Let’s keep striving to be the best that we can be and keep chasing bigger dreams!

 

Love,

Amy ♥

 

 


Thank you again to everyone that has been following and supporting me so far!

Here’s to another epic year of travels, art and happiness!


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Hobbiton: The Movie Set Tour Of The Shire

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Bilbo’s hobbit hole in Bag End

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to tag along with my Schnucki and his parents to the Hobbiton Movie Set whilst on our road trip around New Zealand – and what fun it was! This was somewhere that I’d wanted to visit since its completion and I was so excited to finally go there. So let me take you on the grand tour of Hobbiton!

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The Shire’s Rest Café

The Hobbiton Movie Set is located on farmland nestled between the rolling hills of Matamata in the North Island. Driving into the tiny township of Matamata, you would never guess a world famous movie location was nearby until you’ve followed the signs and turned a corner on a hilly country road and then BAM! You’re suddenly faced with a noisy explosion of tourists, buses and cars out of the middle of nowhere.

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What many people don’t realise about Hobbiton is that you can’t just waltz in there on your own terms – you have to book a tour time in advance. The tickets are surprisingly expensive at $79 NZD per adult and $39.50 NZD per child/youth, but well worth it if you’re a big Lord Of The Rings or The Hobbit fan.

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The Hobbiton village is built on private farmland which you can’t enter unless you’re on the movie set buses, so you’re expected to wait for your bus at The Shire’s Rest Café, which is a café/restaurant in a converted wool shed. The souvenir shop was also located there, which was packed full of official LOTR and The Hobbit merchandise.

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Once it was time for our tour, we hopped on our big green bus which took us across the road onto the Alexander family’s 500 hectare property, which they have owned since 1978. Peter Jackson and his crew found the farm during their location search for Lord Of The Rings and after getting permission, built a temporary film set there in 1999.

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The fishmonger’s outdoor work table

The original film set was made out of plywood, scaffolding and polystyrene and was taken down after filming was finished. In 2011, Peter Jackson and his crew were back to start filming for The Hobbit trilogy and this time the set was rebuilt using permanent materials. It is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Zealand.

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The beekeeper’s honey

Our bus drove through farmland and gates for 20 minutes while the driver told us facts about the set and then we were finally dropped off in Hobbiton. A tour guide was waiting for us as we got off and took us and about fifteen others on a walking tour through The Shire, telling us behind-the-scene facts and stories along the way.

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Matching front door and letterbox (cute!)

The Shire was spread out and took up a lot more land than I expected, but the real stars of the show were of course the hobbit holes. Every hobbit’s home was designed and painted differently with everything aged and faded to look like it had been there a long time. The whole village was overgrown and bursting with flowers and vegetable gardens (the proud work of the Hobbiton full-time gardeners), with props abandoned as though the hobbits had abruptly left to hide from us Big Folk.

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Everything was small, cute and so homey. It was all set up for practical and  comfortable living – nothing was overdone – exactly the sort of humble life hobbits would live. The landscape was beautiful and so peaceful that I could imagine myself happily living in a cosy hobbit hole in The Shire (I’d be small enough for one too!).

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My favourite hobbit hole

The attention to detail and design really blew me away. You could tell the occupation of hobbits by the props outside their doors like fish of the fishmonger, cheese of the cheesemaker, honey of the beekeeper and sculptures outside the clay maker’s place. Every letterbox, garden and gate was of a different design – I really envied the set designers that got to make this world come to life. It would be so much fun!

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My favourite letter box

We started off at the bottom of the hill where the ‘poor’ hobbits were said to live and their hobbit holes were plain with not much decoration. The further up the hill we went, the hobbit holes had more detail and more luxuries, with the biggest and most luxurious hobbit hole at the top of the hill of course belonging to Bilbo Baggins.

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Samwise Gamgee’s hobbit hole

We also got to see Sam’s hobbit hole – the one that is in the last scene of the last LOTR (although this one is a reconstruction). Some of the hobbit doors can be opened but even if they do, there’s nothing inside (sorry to shatter your hopes).

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We went on a lovely Summer’s day in January, which was in their peak season that attracts a lot of tourists – I could hardly believe we were in rural New Zealand with the amount of people around when we went. Autumn or winter would probably be better times to go, in terms of crowds and people walking into your photos. It took real effort and timing to take photos with no one in them!

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The famous ‘no admittance’ sign

After getting photos taken in the human sized hobbit hole which we could pose in, we were finally at Bilbo’s hobbit hole. I bought a replica of the classic ‘no admittance’ sign ($20 NZD) at the souvenir shop, which is hanging up in my room right now.

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Bilbo Baggins’ home

Unfortunately, the front gate was as far as we could go in front of Bilbo’s hobbit hole and our group took turns getting photos taken in front of it. The oak tree above Bilbo’s home was man-made (which you would never have guessed by looking at it) and the leaves were shipped in from Taiwan and put on the tree one by one.

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The lake and the water mill

After Bilbo’s, it was time to go down the hill and across the lake and water mill to The Green Dragon Inn. This was a fully functioning pub with food and drinks, which sold South Farthing beer – an original Hobbiton brand. This was also where our tour ended and we got a free ginger beer on arrival and a place to sit down and relax.

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The Green Dragon Inn

The Green Dragon is a replica of the one used in the films and behind the building was a huge marquee tent that was based on the one at Bilbo’s birthday party. The tent seats over 200 people, and can be used for events, functions and even weddings.

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The party marquee

Just imagine having a wedding in The Shire! (I’m sure it would cost megabucks to hire the place, but still, how magical would that be.)

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The Hobbiton tour lasted about two hours and after resting at The Green Dragon, we were free to meander back to our bus in the car park.

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All in all, the home of the halflings was a picturesque, magical work of art and I’m so glad I got to see it! I think one visit is probably enough (especially with that price tag) but I’m happy to wait for the day where there will be a human-sized Hobbiton village where I can live in my comfy and warm little underground home with a round door.

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Map of Hobbiton

So, did you enjoy my Hobbiton tour?

Is this somewhere that you would like to visit?


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New Zealand: The Famous Beaches Of The Coromandel Peninsula

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The Coromandel Peninsula in the North Island of New Zealand is known for its beautiful beaches and stunning scenery and it is naturally a destination where Kiwis and tourists flock to during the summer. So here are just a few of the most famous beaches  of the Coromandel we got to visit during our great NZ road trip!

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Hahei Beach

Hahei is a small town on the Eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula and it’s only two and a half hours away from Auckland by car. We stayed at the Hahei Holiday Resort, which was a campsite right beside the beautiful Hahei Beach.

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We rented bikes in Hahei and rode them up to the car park where the pathway to the world famous Cathedral Cove started.  It was a hot and hilly 50 minute walk through bush to get to Mare’s Leg Cove, which has the famous cave tunnel leading through to Cathedral Cove beach.

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Cathedral Cove and Te Hoho Rock

If this scenery looks familiar to you, it may be because you’ve seen it in the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (0:42) or in the music video for Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ft. Ray Dalton (3:38).

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Cathedral Cove Beach

This area is all part of the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve and it is a popular place for swimming, kayaking, boating, surfing and even snorkeling/diving. The latter can be done at the neighbouring Gemstone Bay and Stingray Bay.

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Cathedral Cove cave
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Watch out for falling rocks!
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Sphinx Rock in Mare’s Leg Cove

After getting back to the campsite, we decided it would be a good idea to bike to Cook’s Beach, which is the next bay over from Hahei and where we were meeting my relative at her bach (holiday house). This turned out to be NOT a good idea. The road there was much longer than we anticipated, with steep slopes and dips and we were biking dangerously close to the trucks and other traffic on the road.

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The friendly Hahei shuttle service

When we finally got there all in one piece, everyone was shocked to hear that we had biked all of that way (moral of the story – don’t do it, guys!). After resting and dining at the Eggsentric Restaurant, we decided to call a local shuttle to take us and our bikes back to Hahei (although my Schnucki was determined to bike back alone and did…until he got a puncture halfway home).

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View from the Cathedral Cove carpark

An amazing eatery I have to mention was in Hahei at a restaurant called The Church. The restaurant was in a pretty little church which also had accommodation out the back, and they specialised in Mediterranean style tapas. The old church, the candles, the whole atmosphere and the food was just so good. Plus, they played Ed Sheeran all night, which was perfectly fine by me.

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After leaving Hahei, we made a stop at the famous Hot Water Beach. The beach gets its name from the natural underground hot springs that filter up through the sand. At low tide, you can dig a hole in the sand which fills up with hot water to create your own hot pool or ‘spa’.

Be warned though, this attraction is very popular and bus loads of tourists get dropped off every low tide to be a part of the fun – so there’s a lot of digging in the same small area of the beach!

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Hot Water Beach
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Fish and chips at Waihi Beach Hotel

After Hot Water Beach, we headed south to Waihi, which is a small resort town at the foot of the Coromandel Peninsula. We had dinner at the Waihi Beach Hotel and the food there was so nice that we went back to eat there the very next night. (Get the classic Kiwi dish of fish and chips or the haloumi salad!)

Plus, they had The Store gelato next door (also located in Britomart, Auckland), which had the best ice cream flavour I have ever tasted. Lemon curd and yoghurt flavour – it was pure heaven in a cone. (I went back the next night for more, naturally).

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Strawberry and lavender soda

We went swimming at the nearby Waihi beach while we were there, but we were also determined to find the elusive Orokawa Bay, which rumour has it, has one of the best beaches in New Zealand.

We went on a mission to find this mysterious place and we found the start of the trail at the northern end of Waihi beach. It took an hour of trekking through bush to get there and when we finally did, white sand and blue water was waiting for us. We ran straight into the waves with glee…only to be forcefully spit back out again.

What we didn’t know until then was that the gradient of the beach was so steep that the waves crashed into the sand with a lot of force. Enough force to knock over fully grown men. The beach was indeed beautiful…but could be quite deadly if not careful.

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Waihi Beach

So, did you enjoy the famous beaches of The Coromandel?

Would you like to visit them for yourself?


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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.

Kimbra

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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


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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

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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

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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

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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
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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

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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


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

Do you have any favourites?


 

Amy’s Art: The Day 100 Show 2014

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On October 25th last year, I attended the opening night of The Day 100 Show, and what a night it was!

The final exhibition of The 100 Days Project was held at four venues last year including Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne and IJsselstein in the Netherlands. Over 2,000 people from 17 different countries participated in the project and although I was at the biggest 100 Day Show which was in Auckland, the works exhibited there represented less than ten percent of all projects.

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Emma Rogan doing her opening speech

“The Project goes on for too long to be just fun. It really does become work.” – Emma Rogan, creator of The 100 Days Project

The Auckland show was held at the Thievery Studios on K’ Road and although it wasn’t such a big venue, 100 Day artwork covered every available wall space, nook and cranny. The opening night was PACKED with people – and I mean the I-can’t-even-move-or-breathe-because-there’s-so-many-people-in-here sort of packed.

There was free pizza, soft drinks and wine handed out by Emma’s team and it really was the perfect way to celebrate the end of 100 days of everyone’s art, creativity and pure determination. There were so many amazing and thoughtful works made out of all sorts of materials by people from all walks of life – just to look through them all was inspiring.

Here are some of my favourite projects from The 100 Day Show:

(I apologise for not knowing the artists’ names to credit their work!)

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One of my favourite projects to follow throughout the 100 Days was the one above, which was made by design graduates who showed their frustration at not being able to find full-time work. As I was also a recent grad last year, I could completely relate to their trails and tribulations.

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My favourite quote from their project

 

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I wasn’t able to complete my 100 drawings, but I got my project shown on the projector screen at the exhibition.

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The 100 Day Show poster

What I really love about the idea of The 100 Days Project is that anyone can participate. You don’t have to be a professional, you don’t even have to know much about art, all you have to do is create.


So, did you like the show? Will you also be giving The 100 Days Project a go this year?


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Christchurch Earthquakes Part 3: The Long Road to Recovery

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The ChristChurch Cathedral

Four years on, Christchurch city is still recovering. People say that it is going to take more than fifty years to get Christchurch back to the level it was before the earthquakes.

Immediately after the 2011 earthquake, the whole city’s infrastructure was down. Water and sewage pipes underground had been shifted and broken, roads and bridges were damaged and the central city or ‘red zone’ as it was called, was cordoned off from the public. There were landslides and falling cliffs in Sumner and Redcliffs and awful amounts of liquefaction in the east of the city.

A movement called ‘The Student Army’ was set up on Facebook by a Canterbury University student, who organised and sent out hundreds of students around the city to help with cleaning up liquefaction in the worst hit areas. My friends and I also volunteered to go and it was such a rewarding experience to help out the elderly by cleaning up their driveways and gardens. A lovely old lady even made us sausage rolls for lunch as a gesture of thanks.

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A house hanging off a cliff in Sumner

Houses and land all over Canterbury had to be checked and evaluated as either ‘red zone’ or ‘green zone’ and dealt to accordingly. Thousands of people lost their homes in the ‘red zones’ and were not able to build on that land again. Some have had new houses built and most houses in the ‘green zones’ had to have repair jobs, like ours.

There have been nightmare situations with cowboy builders and huge, never ending battles with insurance companies and the EQC (Earthquake Commission) which are still going on, four years later.

The city is just a ghost of what it once was and there is still a long, long way to go.

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The Christchurch Catholic Cathedral

But out of the wreckage and rubble, there has been a huge movement of colourful creativity throughout the city.

The Gap Filler Project has made sure that the empty lots left behind by buildings that have been knocked down and removed are filled once again with events, shops and people.

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Re:Start Container Mall

The Re:Start Container Mall was created in the central city made out of, you guessed it, shipping containers! They are filled with all sorts of cafes and shops that helps to bring back a sense of liveliness and normality.

Street artists from all over the world were commissioned to create beautiful murals on huge, blank walls throughout the city to bring back some colour. Some are them are just amazing.

The Cardboard Transitional Cathedral

The Cardboard Cathedral was built (yes, some of it is made of cardboard!) to replace our symbolic ChristChurch Cathedral for the time being, while it is still in discussion about what will happen to it. The Cardboard Cathedral really doesn’t look all that great from the outside, but the inside is truly magnificent.

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185 Empty Chairs

The most poignant of all however, was the art installation of 185 empty chairs in memory of the people that died in the earthquake. Each chair is different to symbolise every unique person that we lost and it really drives home the gravity of losing so many people. The baby carrier one breaks my heart a little every time I see it.

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All of these things I have mentioned are only temporary though, even the Cardboard Cathedral, which is said to last about 20 years. I guess there is something fitting in being only temporary; maybe we appreciate things more when they are.

Every year on the 22nd of February there is a memorial service held for those lost in the earthquake. There is also an ongoing ritual on that day of flowers being put in the many traffic cones that are still all around the city. I think it is a beautiful gesture (so long as people are buying the flowers and not pulling them out of strangers’ gardens!).

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Although recovery is slow and things are still taking a lot of time, I think we can be proud of how far Christchurch has come and really start looking forward to the future. There have already been design proposals of what the central city should look like when it is rebuilt and some of the ideas are really, really exciting. Christchurch has been battered and bruised but its heart is still beating as strong as ever.

The Garden City will flourish once more and it shall be glorious.

 

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Christchurch Earthquakes Part 2: Our City Has Fallen

It all happened today, 4 years ago.

The 22nd of February 2011 is a day that Christchurch will never forget.

It started off as a normal Tuesday lunch time for me. I’d eaten with a friend at lunch and then I went off to study in the university library before my next class, which was at 1pm. The library was always full of people at lunch times and I sat down at a small coffee table that was in between two book shelves.

I remember my textbooks were spread out on the table, and I was texting my friend in Dunedin who was studying at Otago University at the time. I was just thinking about packing up my things to go to class, when the clock struck 12:51 pm.

BOOM. The earthquake came out of nowhere, with absolutely no warning. It was the most violent shake – more like an explosion – as if a freight train had just crashed into the side of the building. The roaring sound it made was all consuming, and a midst that I could hear screams – some that were probably my own. Books flew in all directions, all of the lights went out and a light shade fell from above, hitting me on the head. And then it stopped.

Since we were children, we were always told to get under a table or doorway in an earthquake, but the table I was at was about knee-height…and made of glass. The earthquake was less than 10 seconds long and it was so much like a scene in a movie that all I could do was sit there in shock and watch it all happening around me.

Immediately after the quake, loud sirens went off throughout the building. People were getting to their feet and holding each other as they made their way towards the exit in the darkness. I gathered up my books that had scattered across the floor and followed the other people out of the emergency exit into the main car park.

A big crowd of students and staff were already out there, and I found my classmates and teachers. We all asked where each other had been and agreed that the earthquake itself must have been around magnitude 8; it had felt so strong. Someone asked my teacher if classes were still on and he replied, “Of course not! Go home!”

That was when we started to realise that the concept of normality was over. People were frantically calling their families, only to find the phone lines jammed because of so many other people doing the same thing. I texted my friend in Dunedin, telling her what had happened and she told me that they’d felt it down there too.

Soon after that my Mum found me in the crowd (she worked at my university) and told me that my Dad and my brother were fine, which was a huge relief. The university was near the city centre and our house was a 30 minute drive away, but my brother had our family car. We presumed that the buses weren’t running anymore, so we started the long walk home.

That walk home was the most surreal experience of my life. The city was in a post-apocalyptic state and sirens were still ringing from every building we passed. People were walking in crowds and traffic on the road was heavy. We found my Dad when we were about half way; he was also walking home. Roads were flooded and we had to walk through dirty water at one point.

The whole time we were walking, I was terrified at what state our house would be in. Our house is over 90 years old and I imagined it being flattened in the earthquake. When we finally got home 2 and a half hours later, we found the house still standing, but the inside was an absolute mess.

The entire contents of the fridge was spilled out all over the kitchen floor, smashed glass was everywhere, framed pictures and our television screen had fallen down. The plaster of the ceiling had come down in some rooms and there was white dust everywhere. Two huge suitcases had flown across the room and landed onto the pillows of my parents’ bed – right where their heads would have been if they’d been sleeping there.

Our house had no power and no running water, so all we could do right then was to start cleaning up the mess. My brother got home with the car a while later – it had taken him 4 hours to get home, for what normally would have been a 30 minute drive.

We listened to what was happening on the radio and we ate leftovers in the dark for dinner. The death toll was 65 so far, with more than 200 people trapped or missing. We all slept in the same room for comfort that night while strong aftershocks rocked the house.We lived near some high cliffs and we could hear big rocks falling after each aftershock.

All I could think about were the people still trapped in buildings and I prayed that they would be safe. It was a long and sleepless night filled with fear and anxiety.

The next morning we decided it would be best to leave the city and go to my Grandma’s house in Geraldine, which was a 2 hour drive away. It took a long time to get out of the city because there were so many detours, but we finally managed it and had a smooth run to my Grandma’s house from there.

The first thing we did when we got there was to turn the television on. Although we had experienced the earthquake disaster first hand, we actually knew nothing about what had happened in other parts of the city because we only knew what we’d seen for ourselves. When we turned that T.V on and saw the footage, we finally understood the sheer magnitude of the situation.

The aerial footage showed a city that was unrecognisable. It looked like a war zone. When we saw that the Christchurch Cathedral, the symbol of our city, had been destroyed, we gave out cries of shock. The Christchurch we all knew and loved had crumbled to the ground and was lost forever. Our city had fallen.

The earthquake itself was first released as 6.5 magnitude, but was later downgraded to 6.3. What made this earthquake so much more destructive than the September 2010 quake was that the epicentre was just 10 kilometres away from the city centre and had a depth of 5 kilometres (The 2010 one was 40 kilometres away with a depth of 10 kilometres).

We all collapsed into bed early that night; we were still shaky and in shock over what had happened. It was a relief to be away from the strong aftershocks because they were really beginning to take a toll on our nerves – there was the ever constant fear that the next aftershock would turn into another huge earthquake.

The next day (24 February) we kept the T.V on all day; just watching for any news of more survivors. The death toll was up to 98 and 226 people were still missing. Dad was called into work to help at the Christchurch Art Gallery which was being used as the Rescue Headquarters. He left us and went back to Christchurch.

It was such a strange feeling during that time; we were all hanging in limbo. The immediate future was dark – we had no idea what was going to happen next and we had no idea how Christchurch could ever come back from this much destruction. The central city was cordoned off and all buildings had to be checked for damage; no businesses or schools were running until they were given the all clear.

We ended up staying at my Grandma’s house in Geraldine for three weeks. Dad camped in our house with no power and running water during that time. The final death toll was 185 and more than half of the deaths occurred in the Canterbury Television Building (CTV) which collapsed and caught fire in the quake. Our family friend also passed away in that building. The whole city mourned for every precious life lost.

But out of the loss and heartbreak of every person in Christchurch, something else began to rise from the rubble.

We started hearing stories of people that were helping neighbours, people that were helping strangers, everyone was helping everyone. An outpouring of love, support and help came from all corners of the country and even from around the globe. Human strength and compassion was in full strength. People and their lives were more important than houses or possessions, and that was how it always should be.

The disaster showed us the fragility of life and what was really of value within it. We Cantabrians are resilient and through this devastation, we were all certain about one thing.

Christchurch would rise again, and we would rise with it.

Our thoughts and prayers will always be with the seriously injured and the family and friends of the deceased.

This video was shot just seconds after the earthquake hit Cathedral Square in the city centre. You can see how much dust was in the air and how the Christchurch Cathedral was destroyed.

This video was also taken just after the earthquake hit. You can see the state of the cameraman’s house and what the situation was like in the city centre as people were evacuating. Whole streets of buildings were destroyed. It felt so surreal watching this video – I even spotted some people that I knew in it.

A documentary called When a City Falls was made about the earthquakes with Christchurch people’s stories. The video above is the trailer.

 


 

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Christchurch Earthquakes Part 1: The First Shake

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Porritt Park, Wainoni

It all started on a Saturday morning. The 4th of September 2010, to be exact.

At 4:35am, Christchurch was shaken awake out of its slumber by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake.

I woke with a start as my bunk bed shook, and I saw my tall bookshelf opposite me rocking back and forth. I couldn’t quite believe what was happening and all I could do was sit bolt upright and shout for Mum and Dad.

The earthquake itself was long, noisy and had a rolling motion that lasted for about 40 seconds.

We had a family friend from Wellington staying in my brother’s room at the time, sleeping on a futon on the floor. My parents found him clutching the unsteady bookshelf next to him; he’d had to hold it during the quake to prevent it from toppling over and onto him.

Dad promptly switched on the radio for any news and the rest of us checked if the rest of the house was okay. Pictures on the walls were skewed, but there was no major damage as far as we could tell…until we went outside and discovered that our brick chimney had been twisted out of shape.

My Dad had to take down our chimney shortly afterwards

Later in the day we found out that the earthquake epicentre had been 40 kilometres away, near an inland town called Darfield. The earthquake hypocentre had been a shallow depth of 10 kilometres. There was widespread damage to buildings, roads and houses and some people had been injured, but luckily no one had been killed as a direct result of the earthquake. We all agreed that it was a miracle.

Crushed car on the street in Sydenham

Although we were told not to do it, we drove around the city to see the damage after lunch. This was referred to as ‘rubbernecking’. I don’t know what we were expecting as we drove into town, but we were flabbergasted at what we saw. Whole brick buildings had crumbled onto the streets, shops had shelves overturned and bottles and glass had smashed everywhere. It was a total mess.

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Collapsed brick building in Sydenham

The area around my high school had been badly affected; roads had been cracked open like scenes from an apocalyptic movie and a steel bridge had been warped out of shape. Some suburbs were flooded and some were without power and water.

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A huge fissure running down Avonside Drive

This was also our first introduction to the phenomenon known as ‘liquefaction’. Liquefaction is when saturated or partly saturated soil turns to liquid because of earthquake tremors and flows out of the ground in huge amounts. Once it’s out, it dries up as this awful grey sludge that is really hard to clean up. Some areas of Christchurch that were built on swamp land were more susceptible to this.

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Liquefaction rears its ugly head

Amazing stories started popping up after the earthquake too, like the teenager who fell out of his second storey room because the wall next to him had collapsed, and yet he walked away out of the rubble with only bruises. Here is a news bulletin about the earthquake below:

Although there was widespread damage and a lot of clean up to get things back up and running again, we were all just grateful that there had been no casualties. We even joked that Santa Claus wouldn’t be able to visit Christchurch that year because of all of the chimneys that had fallen down.

 


Little did we know that the very worst was yet to come…


 

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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!

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Margarita Pizza, The Conservatory

Parnell

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.

KiwiYo

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.

Moustache

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.

Devonport

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!

Museum

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?


 

Auckland: Why You Should NOT Live In The Central City

We have been living in central Auckland (New Zealand’s biggest city) for the past year now and looking back in hindsight, I don’t think I would do it again – here’s why.

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Auckland City from the Fuller’s ferry

Expensive Living

I already knew that Auckland was among the world’s most expensive cities, but I guess I didn’t realise the full extent of that statement until I was actually living here myself.

My Schnucki and I have been living in a one bedroom apartment (it is literally just one bedroom with a toilet and balcony attached) right in the city centre and it costs us $300 NZD per week to live here (try converting that into your own currency!). That price doesn’t even cover internet, electricity or water bills which we have to pay separately per month. I really want to cry at how much money has gone out of the window at renting this apartment the past year.

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I really feel ya, Dean.

And don’t even get me started on grocery shopping. I’m a New Zealander and yet the price of basic products at the supermarket never fail to astound me. I go in there to buy about one or two days worth of food and I always come out having spent at least $60 NZD, or more. I just don’t understand how milk, cheese and butter can be so expensive when we are the main producers of this stuff. Why, New Zealand, why?

Noisy Neighbourhood

Obviously any city centre has a lot of people and you can expect a lot of noise, but it really is noisy all the time here.

Sometimes it’s not even worth keeping the window open on a hot Summer’s night because the street noise from below will just keep me awake anyway. And it doesn’t help that we live next to the Worst Neighbours In The World. Seriously, we have a psychopath living next door. We had to call the police on him once and we’ve been more than  tempted to again many times since.

More Opportunities?

I moved up to Auckland from Christchurch with the naïve thought that ‘a bigger city = bigger opportunities’ and we would both be able to get jobs quickly and easily. It turns out that this was not the case for us. My Schnucki struggled to land a job for months with his working holiday visa and I had to provide for both of us during that time at the worst job I have ever worked at. It was not a fun time.

A big city means a lot of jobs…but also a lot of competition. I definitely found out the reality of this fact the hard way.

Air conditioners, anyone?

I don’t know what it is about Auckland, but it seems like air conditioners never made it here. We don’t have any sort of heating (or cooling) facility in our apartment, which makes it chilly in winter and stifling hot in summer. It’s not just us though – my friend living in the North Shore told me her HOUSE doesn’t have any air conditioner or heater either and that is just too weird. Step up your A.C act, Auckland!

Auckland Lantern Festival, Albert Park

Of course, living in Auckland central is not all boo and hoo – it definitely has had its perks too. (Now I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it!)


Walking Distance

The biggest perk of living in the centre of everything, is that everything is close to you.

Everywhere is in walking distance and when big events are on in the city, you can be there in the front row without ever having to worry about where to park or enduring any over crowded public transport to get there (SO good!). Work was in walking distance too, though I would opt for the 4 minute bus ride instead, because yes, I am that lazy and I would rather pay 90 cents to bus each way than walking 20 minutes.

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Winter is coming…or not

When the rest of the country was suffering through the mid-Winter blizzards, we were bracing ourselves for the blast too…which never came. Okay, well, there was one week where it really felt like Winter (the week my family came up to visit haha) but after that, nothing.

It was just one really long-and-balmy-sort-of-Autumn-like time and  then it was all over. I never had to put on more than two layers…which was GREAT! When Aucklanders would complain about how cold it was, I would scoff, “You know nothing, Jon Snow!”

No Bug Heaven

This one may be a small perk to some people, but it’s a big one to me. The whole time I’ve been in Auckland, I have not seen one spider, anywhere. Not just spiders, but no moths, flies, ants or any other sort of creepy crawly has ever set one foot or wing into our apartment, as far as I know.

We can leave the balcony door open all night, with the light on, and no unwelcome visitors will come in. This is a stark contrast with my house in Christchurch where we get all of the above even with the lights out and all of the doors and windows shut tight.

Good Transport

I have to say I’ve been pretty impressed with the Auckland transport, thus far. Buses and trains are frequent and come on time (pick up your act, Christchurch buses!), and the Airport Bus which runs 24/7 is particularly handy for those flights at godforsaken hours. When you sign up for the free transport card called the HOP Card, it allows you to travel on any Auckland transport (even ferries) at discounted prices.

The really nice thing about the city is that if you take a 12 minute ferry ride to Devonport, or a 10-15 minute bus ride to Mission Bay, St. Helier’s Bay or the North Shore, you can feel worlds away from the fast-paced and noisy city centre. It’s a great escape for when you’ve had enough of living in the central city, like me.

Mission Bay looking out towards Rangitoto Island

All in all, living in Auckland central has been an interesting experience and if you are planning to live here, I strongly recommend living in the suburbs outside the CBD, rather than the CBD itself. Places like Mt. Eden, Mt. Roskill, Parnell and the North Shore are all good recommendations. Also, avoid Queen Street at night (or in general) if you know what’s good for you!


Is anyone planning to live in Auckland/already is? Let me know how it’s going for you!