Friday, January 17, 2014

Travelog: New Zealand

What a year it has been.  Full of adventure, travel, and quality time with loved ones.  We set a record for guests coming to visit us and traveling to more countries than we could have ever imagined in a year!  So, you can understand why it has been quite some time since my last post.  Picking up where I left off, it wouldn't be right not to share our anniversary trip to New Zealand.  
Before we headed off to the sister island, we celebrated our three years of marriage at home starting with surprise breakfast in bed and a morning coffee run and ended the day on our balcony over a bottle of champagne and sentimental gifts.
I tried my luck at embroidery once again and made Ronnie this "always and forever" framed piece.  I still have some of my mother's work from when she was my age, so it's something that makes me feel closer to her.  This anniversary was bittersweet knowing that it was our last in Australia.  

Since we will be moving back in the middle of this year, the "last time's" have already started (tear, tear).  Until then, we will continue to see the world as much as possible and cherish this special time that R and I have been able to share.
Looking out the plane's window on our descent into Queenstown, NZ (the south island), I knew that we were about to be embark on one of the most picturesque journeys of our life.  Disclaimer: the pictures you are about to see do not do this place justice…you must GO and SEE for yourself.  
To spare you a heartbreaking airport security story...long story short is that you should take quarantine regulations very seriously and throw away that $1 mandarin orange that you forgot was hiding in your purse in order to avoid a heavy (like really $$$) fine.  And no, simply saying "I promise it was a mistake" and shedding a few (or a lot of) tears will not gain NZ government's sympathy (not even a tiny ounce of it).  Not speaking from experience or anything…
Luckily, we were greeted with a warm fire and afternoon tea at our fab accommodation to ease the pain. By mid afternoon, our airport disaster became a thing of the past as our day was transformed by the breathtaking lake and mountain views everywhere you turned.  Queenstown is an upscale resort town with plenty of quaint shops, hip bars and restaurants, and action sports to dive into.  
Lots of good food and drink, from gourmet breakfast prepared at our boutique hotel to "famous" Fergburgers to fresh seafood platters to many "cheers!" over our stay.
We were seriously in awe over these breathtaking views after a steep gondola ride up the mountain.  If that wasn't enough, we got to zip our way down the mountain riding a luge!  I had a hard time staying focused on the winding track in front of me while the turquoise blue water kept catching my eye.  
In order to feel like real thrill seekers of New Zealand, though, we had to check out the world's first commercial bungee site at Kawarau Bridge.  It was the perfectly cliche way to celebrate three years of marriage…by taking the plunge strapped together by the ankles and holding onto one another for dear life!  Sounds about right.  Standing 140+ feet above a rushing stream of water and committing together on the count of "3..2..1" to JUMP face first was an exhilarating experience that we will never forget!  (But not soon to be repeated). 
After making the most of the "Adventure Capital of the World" (which included an intense whitewater rafting experience as well), we hit the wide open road.  
We fell in love.  The miles of lush greenery, snowy mountaintops, sparking blue water, and open pastures populated by sheep and cattle were never ending.  It was as if we had the south island all to ourselves and the world's problems had disappeared.  
'Pure' is the word I would use to describe the feeling of this place…the air, the beauty, the people.  As we made our way up north to Wanaka and then to Te Anau, we made frequent stops just to take it all in.  
On the road:
A winery cave tour and cheese platter for lunch.
A walk across the historic suspension bridge in Fiordland National Park and a trail plentiful of flora and fauna.  Being the intense nature gal that I am, I came prepared with my ballet flats and all (ha!). 
A camera opp was not to be missed, neither was the cowboys game!  It's all about compromise.  
A walk through Arrowtown, a historic gold mining town.
A stand alone shelter (in the middle of nowhere land) selling organic eggs and fresh lavender based on an honor system seemed too good to be true.  
…and my favorite obsession of them all, all of the little lambs and cows happily grazing!!  I didn't realize I was so infatuated with these creatures until we starting driving and every 5 seconds I would yell to R, "Look! Baby sheep!  Awweeee…Pretty cow!  Stooopp I want to take a picture of them!!".  R must have secretly loved them as much as I did, because he was very patient as we went off the beaten path to get the perfect shot of them looking through the camera lens.  
Our trip had a memorable ending as we boarded an overnight boat cruise through the peaceful Doubtful Sound on the Fiordland Navigator.  Our cozy bunk bed quarters for the night and matching tartan carpet were all part of the experience.  
Although it rained for some of our trip, we benefited from the abundance of waterfalls falling from the tall fiords in this serene setting.  Cruising through this World Hertiage Area of Fiordland National Park was a truly unique experience, and the fact that we were on the only boat who had access to the area made it that much more special.
Our favorite part of the cruise (besides the dolphins swimming alongside us) was kayaking in a cove where the boat docked overnight.  After some uhhh "technical difficulties", I learned how to paddle properly and showed that this city girl can hang with the best.  The best treat of it all, though, was the many wonderful people we met onboard.  We all originated from different countries, spoke a variety of languages (luckily for us everyone also knew English…dummies we are for being the only ones knowing one language), and were of all ages, but we could come together in peace and agree on the beauty of this place.
New Zealand taught us openness.  To travel off the beaten path, dare ourselves to jump (literally!) beyond our comfort zones, and see beauty among the purest things of the Earth like never before.  Another anniversary trip for the books and I still can't believe I have the most incredible partner to share life with!  

Much love,

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Friendships Sail

Not to get all sappy on you, but you know those friends that really get you…like deep down to the soul kind of connection?  My friend, Danielle, is one of those people.  Even though we grew up just miles from each other (but attended different schools), we weren't introduced to one another until freshman year at TCU.  Little did we know at the time, but we were going to play a crucial role in each others' lives over the next four years supporting each other through nursing school. 

Whether that be sitting next to each other in EVERY nursing class, studying side by side in the quiet section of the library basement at all hours, sharing notes and organizing 30 page study guides, or carpooling to 6am clinicals at the hospital, she got me.  I can't tell you how many times I broke down in tears as D was dropping me off after a stressful clinical day or how many looks and giggles we exchanged during lecture.  As I tried to keep my social life separate from nursing school, we would often go off and do our sorority thing with other friends.  At the end of the day, though, we knew we could always count on each other….and have fun together too! I am so thankful for her friendship, guidance, and honesty she has and continues to give me.
Since college, we have put the textbook talk aside and grown our friendship independently of what initially bonded us.  When D started talking about coming to visit, I knew it was going to be an unforgettable experience for us both.
I was so thrilled that her best friend Katy wanted to join the fun, too.  While we knew each other as acquaintances, we had never taken the time to develop a friendship.  I mean, how could we not get along if we both loved D?!  Sure enough, it was a great success and all four of us really hit it off from the start.  Another example of how Sydney has brought us closer to people (and ironic that we lived in Dallas together but it took the 8,000 mile distance to become friends).
Fresh off the flight and after a maxi dress incident getting off the escalator, we explored the Royal Botanical Gardens, devoured meat pies from Harry's, and toasted with bubbly at the Opera Bar. 
Fun night out in Newtown!  A bottle of "red hooch" wine solves all problems.  I think this spontaneous night out had to be my favorite.
Total tourists doing the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk on a beautiful day.
  You had to be there to understand the scarf pose…lets just say we were only repeating what we had seen from a group of eager tourists a day earlier.
Watsons Bay day!
Instagram hits.  
Lunch in Paddington, sunny day on the Manly Ferry, and goodbyes to Katy and R as they made their way back to Dallas (total coincidence).
After we were down two members, D and I took time to relax and catch up.  It's pretty obvious who else loved her company.  Cuddle buds!  I loved walking around a new part of town with her and cooking a fresh meal at home with the fish we picked out at the market.  We were pretty proud of ourselves!  
Since spontaneous is my last name (errr), we booked it outta town to wine country for our last weekend together. 
 After a whirlwind day of tasting, we treated ourselves to a fancy vineyard dinner…but not before scarfing down an entire cheese platter while chasing kangaroos from our hotel porch.  Ya, we got a little goofy by the fourth glass.  I couldn't have asked for a better time with these perfect house guests! 
Right when I thought things would get lonely after D left and with R still in Dallas, a bunch of ships sailed into town.  Over 40 warships and 17 tall ships from around the world to be exact.  To kick off the International Fleet Review celebrations, Anne and I headed to Garden Island where we were able to go onboard the HMAS Sydney and HMAS Perth.
The weekend long celebration was to commemorate the first Royal Australian Navy fleet entering Sydney Harbour 100 years ago in 1913.  It was quite a spectacle, and with a front row seat, I stayed glued to the balcony with camera in hand.  Flyovers, salutes, flags, uniforms, music, and naval demonstrations were all captured as the crowds of people cheered and buzzed about the eventful day.  
The star of the show, though, had to be the arrival of Prince Harry as the guest of honor.  When I heard chatter that he would be attending a dinner at Kirribilli house (just three doors down from us), I went into full stalk mode.  Sure enough, as the police force on water and land began to intensify, he emerged on the dock in plain sight with the prime minister and a mob of media waiting to greet him.  The highlight for me was when his boat cruised just a few feet in front of us and he gave that cheeky smile and wave as if we were the only ones.  I swear he looked right at me! Well played, Harry.

Insta snapshots throughout the day.  A spectacular fireworks and lights display over the harbour bridge topped of the festivities for the evening.  What an exciting day to be a part of!
I hated that R had to miss the monumental celebration that won't come around again until 2113.  Better luck next time?! You never know with modern medicine…
Teddy was on camera duty all day, patiently guarding my tripod.  He sure didn't know what to think of all the commotion, but was smart enough to let out a few barks when Harry passed.  We were happy to welcome R home the next day, and it didn't hurt that a bunch of American goods were coming back with.  Hello anthro candles and summer sale wear!
Night noodle markets in Hyde Park with friends before our early morning flight to Queenstown.  I can't wait to share with you the beauty that is New Zealand.  In other exciting news, my best friend since sixth grade will be here in five days!!  We already have some exciting things planned for her birthday and I can't wait for it to be "just like old times".