Monday, 22 April 2019

Lolita haul from Tokyo!

You have to have known this was coming - how could I not go to Tokyo and not visit the lolita shops?

In the end, as well as visiting the stores in Shinjuku's Marui Annex and the Laforet building in Harajuku, we went to the Shinjuku Closet Child once and the Harajuku branch twice. I'd have loved to have visited the Ikebukuro branch as well, and dropped by the Shinjuku Closet Child a second time, but in the end we had exactly zero baggage space left on the way home so I'm glad we didn't!

That intro may make it sound like I bought hardly anything, but that is very much not true! For the purposes of this post I've photographed things together on an aesthetic level, but when I blog about the whole trip that'll have the details of what I bought where an when, just in case any of my readers care about knowing that much. This is also just the lolita items I bought - I got as much general fashion stuff as well, which I'm also insanely happy with.

So, with no further ado, allow me to introduce my newest wardrobe additions!

First up, the edible themed items! I was surprised to find this Innocent World JSK in both pink and blue at the Harajuku Closet Child, both new with tags. It took me a while to pick which colour I wanted, but I figured the pink was the safer bet. I'm not 100% sure how much I love the cut on me, but we'll see how I go wearing it. The Angelic Pretty cutsew was super cheap, so I had to have it, and the Peace Now bolero is a bit frivolous, but also cute and cheap so again, I just grabbed it ^__^

The Icing Cookie print is never one I really paid attention to, but like so many lolita prints, after seeing it in person I'm in love. It's really adorable, but a little more subdued than say an Angelic Pretty print on the same theme. Very excited to start putting together some coordinates with it!

The other main piece I bought was Enchantlic Enchantilly's Queen Cat skirt in black! It's missing the sash ribbon, but I do not care at all. I also grabbed this super cute BTSSB capelet because how utterly Little Red Riding Hood is it? I mean, except for the fact it doesn't actually have a hood...

But in all seriousness I'm so over the moon with Queen Cat! I tend not to talk too much about things I like but don't see myself buying, and Queen Cat one of those things. I thought it was an amazing print when it came out, and have admired it every time I've seen it since in all cuts and colours. So when James turned around from browsing the skirts at Closet Child while I was looking at dresses and held this up I just had to get it! It was a bit pricey for a secondhand skirt missing a piece, but hey, I had the husband's seal of approval so I didn't think twice!

Speaking of James finding me great things he also discovered these two Axes Femme coats on different days in Closet Child Harajuku. They're both a bit small for me now, but they were both around ten dollars. How could I not at that price? The green one in particular I really adore, even though it doesn't match anything I own.

I did also buy a few items new! I really wanted to get some direct from the brand socks, so I visited AP and Baby. Silly me didn't check the length on the lavender socks though, but oh well. Forced versatility in my sock collection! The floral canotier is from Dangerous Nude and to be honest, it was more expensive than I like, and I kind of bought it because the owner was so utterly lovely that I wanted to buy something! All that aside, it's really gorgeous and I like having an opulent classic piece so I'm still happy.

Following the trend of headwear, on our first visit to Shinjuku Closet Child I went a little bit nuts on accessories. All but the top headbow are from that night! And though the top one has tags, it was also from Closet Child, just later on ^__^ I'm particularly happy with the dusty pink and the lavender x gold bows, as they were on my wishlist.

I also bought all of these accessories at the same time, except for the Angelic Pretty necklace. I even already wore the pink necklace in one of my Tokyo coords, and I'm just really happy to have bulked up my jewellery collection with some more loltia specific pieces.

Throughout our trip we went into a couple of Claire's and also Paris Kids and I picked up so cute little things that will be good for lolita as well as being generally cute ^__^

James also found me three Axes Femme skirts for about five dollars each in Closet Child but my photos of them really don't do them justice. They are all varying levels of brown and floral and all a tiny bit small for me at the moment, but I couldn't pass them up. Two will be great for casual classic lolita - one is a damask-y type fabric in a beige/tan and the other is a brown and mustard floral - while the other will be lovely for mori kei or fairy kind of looks.

So there you have it! All my new lolita items direct from Japan! I'm really happy with everything I bough and am so excited to start incorporating everything into my coords ^__^

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Lolita Blogpost Roundup: March 2019

Where did March go? Serisouly, it was February, and now it's a month later and I'ms tanding ehre wondering what happened. It was a very busy month for me - my Love Live group had our first two public performances and I got really sick for a bit over a week. But throughout it all, I still had time to read a lot of lovely blog posts ^__^

In which she shares a cozy crafty meetup… from Make Lovely
This is the cutest casual lolita coordinate I've seen in ages - I want to steal her sweater! Always #goals for casual lolita ^__^

Coords: I Need More Gobelin from Cynical Neo-Princessism
Yes, yes, and more yes. Gobelin is seriously one of my favourite fabrics so this cute coord with the edgy old-school photos is totally my jam.

White Linen Tea House Meet-up! from Aries Kitsune
Is there anything better than reading simple posts about meetups with great food? That's right, I didn't think so ^__^

The garden of live flowers – Ciudad de Victoria, Bulacan from Sanakanin
I honestly have sever garden envy right now. And hat envy. I want to swam around a lovely series of gardens in an opulent rococo coordinate and take beautiful photos!

The Art Of Taking Tea & Frolicking In Flowers from The Bloody Tea Party
If you were looking for the quintessential lifestyle lolita post...that was it.

LBC: Winter to Spring Transition Coordinates from Teeny Travels
I love the Lolita Blog Carnival not just for the fun and varied prompt, but because it brings new blogs into my world. I may not have participated in this topic, but I found a new blog to follow!

So that's a bit of a snapshot into what I read in March! As always, if you have a lolita blog yourself or know of one that I don't seem to follow please drop me a link int he comments because I am always keen to discover new content creators!

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Guess who's going to Tokyo!

That's right! In a bit over a week James and I will be packing our bags again, this time for a week in Tokyo. We are planning to do so. much. shopping. And some sightseeing. And a bunch of photoshoots. I'm so excited!

Stock photo from Pixabay ^__^

For someone who tends to over plan I actually haven't worked everything out quite yet, so if you have any must-do suggestions or want to give me any tips I'm all ears! We're staying in Shinjuku and in particular would appreciate any suggestions for gluten free dining.

So things will be a bit quiet on the blogging front for the next few weeks, possibly the next month, but never fear because of course, I will be blogging all about it once I get back! In the meantime if you want to see me being excited about everything in real time please follow me on Instagram ^__^

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

AYWI30C #13: Inspired by a historical era

This prompt called for a bit of research! I won't bore you with the details, but in the end I put together a look (very loosely) inspired by Western 1780s fashion. The dress I chose, Innocent World's Classical Bustle, is highly reminiscent of a dress style known as the robe a l’anglaise, which was popular at that well as years prior and after.

The only thing I do not love about this coord is that the colour scheme of primarily brown and ivory does not capture the luxury of the fabrics you see in pictures of the royal and rich of the time. But I wanted to stick with this colour scheme so I could use this Innocent World bolero because of the lush lace at the neckline.

I did still manage to work in a little colour in the hair accessories and the socks. Socks were a bit of a hard choice to make, since obviously the legs were not part of the outfit in the 1780s, but I decided to use them to bring in just a little colour.

Then I ran with that colour to the max with hair accessories! Admittedly, a big fancy hat would have been the absolute best for this outfit, but alas I do not own one.

In terms of other jewellery and accessories I kept it simple, and very much not period appropriate! but it was nice to use my Peppermint Fox brooch and I thought the choker necklace was a good touch in both colour and style.

All in all I liked this outfit! Unlike some of the other coords I've pulled together for this challenge there's nothing really new here for me, but it's still a nice coordinate and it was fun to deliberately try and pull historical influences together into an outfit.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Lolita Blog Carnival: Why Do You Think Photoshoots Have Been So Big in Lolita

Oh man, this is my kind of topic. I really enjoy thinking about the "why" of things and it just so happens that this one is right up my alley. Overall I think there are five main factors that have contributed to photoshoots being such a big thing in this subculture.

By the way, this is written by someone who was modelling and doing photography for years before getting into lolita. Photoshoots came before frills for me, so I am maybe a little biased in my massive love for photoshoots ^__^

It's a visual hobby
First of all, being a fashion-based subculture lolita is a visual thing. Therefore pictures are inevitable, and the more you take, the better you get and the more interested in photoshoots you get, and before you know it you're posing for photographers and creating amazing art together.

My 2018 Christmas photoshoot was in lolita!
Photo by The Enthusiast <3

We love the Internet
Similarity, the other half of the visual coin is that since lolita has a global community, we share our coordinates online. Which again means photos and I still hold that the progression continues from taking snapshots of outfits to participating in full-blown photoshoots. We also can get inspired by seeing what other people are doing with their outfits and photos, and that leads to the cycle. Basically, photoshoots are like Pringles - once you pop, you can't stop.

Like attracts like
Furthermore, like with any alternative subculture, many of the people involved in lolita aren't only into lolita. Creative types tend to flock together, so you're likely to get to know various photographers, amateur and professional, as you participate in this fashion. Doing photoshoots is not difficult so it's more likely than not that you'll end up doing some in your time in lolita.

I mean, sure, you can levitate wearing anything but lolita is the best!
Photo by The Enthusiast <3

Lolitas are pretty
As we are very well aware, lolita is a gorgeous and varied fashion. And a lot of photographers, especially those who focus on more creative and artistic work, love having that in their portfolio. This again feeds into the fact that it's easy to do a photoshoot - if there are some Amaterasu photographers looking to build a creative portfolio in your area, you can likely get free photos in exchange for the photographer using them too. We're a natural creative photographers dream, whether we're in regular coordinates or if we've done something flashy and themed just for the shoot.

Photoshoots are fun
Last of all, photoshoots are a heap of fun! You get to create something cool and get fun photos of yourself. You may get to know new like-minded people in the process too. Sure, sometimes there is a lot of effort involved and sometimes the photographer's vision may not match yours but overall they are enjoyable, and that's why we keep doing them!

I mean, you could boil this down to three points. Photoshoots are big in this fashion due to the subculture's inherent interest in documenting and sharing our looks, the fact that they're enjoyable, and the fact that it's a look that lends itself well to photography.

Read more from other bloggers:

Saturday, 9 March 2019

AYWI30C #12: Inspired by another lolita

This prompt, while fun, took me a lot longer to figure out than I thought it would. I admire a lot of lolitas that I see online, but when it came to mimicking their style I either found I didn't have the right items to even come close or it would just come out looking much like what I normally do.

In the end, I decided to make a look inspired by Megan aka Make Lovely. I've always really enjoyed her style, especially her take on casual lolita and I figured I could do a good job of taking inspiration from her style.

The first thing I did was trawl through her blog and take some notes of recurring features in her outfits. I discovered she tends to use plainer legwear (frequently textured tights or stripy socks), outfits with contrasting colours and unexpected pops of colour, lots of offbrand or handmade items, simple accessories, and not too many border prints. Armed with that information I got to work and came up with a very interesting coordinate!

This outfit is so very not what I normally do, and I completely love it! I'd love it more if my beret and shoes were the same shade of lavender, but you can't have everything ^__^

I'm just so happy to bust out my lavender bibs and bobs and that I managed to work them into an outfit that otherwise doesn't feature the colour. It's not something I'd ever thought of doing, but now that I have, I love the idea and it opens up a lot of coordination possibilities for me.

I also got to pull out some things I don't normally use since I don't normally do lavender! This necklace for example, as well as one of my Angelic Pretty rings. It was fun to try and be pretty monochromatic with accessories rather than running with my normal pastelly assortment that I use with sweet looks.

However, I will say that working in a new colour to a coordinate in this way is not something I'm sure I could make work if the base colours of the outfit were not black and white.  In a sense, black and white are almost invisible in terms of colour, so you can make just about anything work with them.

But the end result is that I came up with a coordinate that I really, really love and that is totally outside of my usual style. I can, with complete honesty, say there is no way I would have had this idea if I wasn't deliberately looking at Megan's style and trying to take inspiration from it. So I'm completely over the moon, and cannot wait to wear something like this soon!

Monday, 4 March 2019

Coordinates from January - February 2019

Are we two months done with 2019 already? Time really does fly! Here's a retrospective of the couple of lolita coordinates I wore over the last two months.

First of all, I wore lolita in January when James and I went with a friend to was the Aquaman movie, which I thought was actually pretty decent and rather better than I expected. I decided to wear lolita, and ran with a simple coord with one of my handmade skirts of comfort.

Skirt: Handmade
Cutsew: The Black Ribbon
Shoes: Metamorphose temps de fille
Bag: Innocent World
Brooch: Peppermint Fox
Everything else: Offbrand

Then my second coordinate of January was also to see another movie - this time James and I went to see Glass. I'm still not sure what my opinion of that film is! But one thing I know is that is really love the slightly OTT sweet outfit I wore for it ^__^

JSK & Shoes: Metamorphose temps de fille (Teddy Chocolatier)
Blouse: Bodyline
Bag (not pictured): Baby, the Stars Shine Bright
Everything else: Taobao/offbrand

Aaand that's it. February was a bit of a crazy month for a number of reasons, and I felt off balance most of the time. But oh well. More month and more coordinates to come!

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Lolita Blogpost Roundup: February 2019

The short month is over and once again I wanted to share some good reads. Perhaps it's wardrobe post fatigue, but there seemed to be less lolita content coming across my radar this month. But, as always when I say something like that...there were still quite a lot of posts to read! Here are some of my favourites ^__^

A Very Frilly Valentines Day from Alyssiumbaby
Wooo! An old blog has updated for the first time in years with a cute meetup post!

If you read nothing else from this roundup, read this (and the following posts as well). Such an informative series of posts, I've very much enjoyed reading them.

LBC: Create A Coord Based On A Portrait from The Bloody Tea Party
I really enjoy when topics like this come up in the Lolita Blog Carnival (even if I didn't do this one myself) so don't just admire this phenomenal coordinate, click through to the other participants as well!

Lulu Hashimoto: The REAL living doll from The Sensitive Petal Princess
This post sent me tumbling down a glorious internet rabbit hole. I love the human-doll aesthetic so much!

Cotton ONLY Lolita Meetup! Ft. kayz0rbeam! from ABC Lolita
Can I just say that I utterly love the idea of a meetup with a fabric-based theme?

2018-12 Christmas lolita meetup in Brno from RuffleCloud's Adventures
Is there anything more fun for a light and fluffy read than a meet-up spot with pretty pictures? I think not!

As I say, not the busiest month on the lolita blogging side of things (and hey, I was part of that by posting my New Zealand travel blogs rather than lolita content for a bit) but I enjoyed reading a whole lot of posts and I hope you did too!

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

NZ 2018 Day 9: Coming home

Waking up on our last day in New Zealand was a bit sad, and also a bit of a relief. It had been so much fun, but also kind of hard given that James and I were both still quite sick the whole time. So we got up, went down for our last tasty hotel breakfast, then finished up our packing.

We had just enough time for James to get a quick head massage, so he did, then we checked out, had the van brought around, and did a final clean and pack of it. It's amazing how much junk can accumulate in a vehicle in only nine days!

Then we were off to Auckland airport. I was driving, but the GPS made some directions quite confusing, so I took a wrong exist off the highway...then did it again! We were all getting pretty frustrated as it was making us run late and we were already towing the line on time (not really, but in terms of how early we wanted to get to the airport). James, the more experienced traveller, tried to tell us it would all be fine even if we weren't checked in at the airport two hours before the flight, but that didn't help the mood much. He also took over driving, which I appreciated because I was a bit of a mess after my mistakes.

We followed the road signs to the airport after that point, rather than the GPS, ad made good time. We did have to stop to refuel the van, which was stressful with the time concerns. We made it to the airport and the car return parking...and had no idea what to do. There were booths for other companies, but not ours! I ran up to one of the booths, and was told the relevant attendant was wandering the lot inspecting cars. So I tracked him down, handed off the keys and that was it. Then we scurried into the airport and, to our collective relief, checked in and sent of our luggage with no problems.

Auckland is a much smaller airport than Sydney, so after a tiny bit of wandering we settled down for some drinks and chips. After a little while Nat and Luke wanted to head to the gate, but James and I didn't so we parted ways again. You learn things about people when travelling together - as a couple James and I like to be on time, but not too early, whereas (at least with planes) the others like being their well before time. We just didn't want to sit at a gate for half an hour if we could sit with food and tea instead!

James took this shot as we wandered the airport.

But after a bit James and I headed to the gate as well, and it turns out our plane was delayed. Imagine a hundred people in a waiting area, just waiting while the automated announcements are telling you your plane is leaving, but nothing is happening! It was a bit freaky!

After a while of waiting shuttle busses arrived to take us to the plane, which we boarded out on the tarmac. The boarding ramp was fun, and I took a cute photo of James!

Then it was into our seats for another three hour flight home. The plane was a bit on the empty side - we found out later it's normally used only for domestic flights, not international. Which caused some problems - the on-demand entertainment system didn't work! The poor staff copped so much shit over that; the cabin crew restarted the whole system several times but nothing worked, yet still passenger would harass the flight attendants over it. Ugh. It's not a long flight!

A food photo, because food.

In a way though, other passengers being unpleasant was good for us. James got up at one point to get me some water, and started chatting with a flight attendant called Natasha, who complimented him on his nail polish. He explained why he had spiffy nails, they got to talking, they came over so he could show off photos on my phone, and after a good long chat (she was super nice!) she excused herself. Then five minutes later she came back with business class Qantas pyjamas for all four of us! So nice!

James took this photo later on.

We thanked her profusely and spent more time chatting with her and a male flight attendant whose name I forget. Then after we landed and we were waiting for the front half of the plane to clear so we could get out we chatted some more. And then, later still after we disembarked and had paused to use a bathroom, we passed her in the terminal. Such a pleasant experience ^__^

However, things went a bit downhill from there. We'd organised a shuttle from the airport to home, which arrived a bit late. No big deal. But they were waiting for another passenger as well, whose flight had been delayed. So we sat, tired and sick, in a minibus going nowhere for over an hour, until the driver decided he'd take us back and the company would organise something else for the other passenger. We got five minutes down the road, and the company called. The other passenger was ready, and he had to go back for her. Ugh. Never using that company again.

But eventually, we were home. Around two hours alter than planned, but still. Home (still not unpacked from moving) sweet home.

All in all, New Zealand was amazing! Obviously, getting married was the purpose and the number one highlight, but I just loved being in that country so much. There were ups and downs ont he trip, and I would have loved to have felt better the whole time but still, it was a great first overseas travel experience. It was so beautiful and the people were lovely and I'm very excited to go back again sometime!

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

NZ 2018 Day 8: Shopping in Auckland and dining with a view

It was wonderful to wake up in our hotel and know that the travelling part of the holiday was over. No more big drives, and also no concrete plans until the evening. It was actually funny, no-one wanted to get up and make noise due to not knowing if the other couple was awake, but James had gotten us all hooked on playing a phone game called Empires and Puzzles. We were all in the same association there and can see when players were last active. So James and I lay in bed playing until we saw both Nat and Luke had logged in, and then we could all get up!

Get up we did, and wandered down to breakfast. Hotel breakfasts are totally my favourite thing, and as much as the previous day’s Airbnb misadventures had been stressful, it was really nice to end the trip with a more luxurious stay. And breakfast was really tasty! Lots of good food, and I fell in love with the raw apple juice and probably drank too much of it.

After breakfast we went to the concierge to see if they had any availability open up for that night. Unfortunately they didn’t, but after one of the staff members spent some time on the phone with central bookings we were booked for the night at the Heritage’s sister hotel City Life, again with valet parking, breakfast, and late checkout. Now I have to gush a bit about these hotels, because our experience at both was absolutely lovely. The rooms were nice and very well located, breakfast was yummy, valet parking is a boon and above all the staff were one and all very helpful and very nice. If we ever go back to Auckland (or hey, they have other hotels around the country) we will stay there again. They were also quite reasonably priced for the quality…though given that we had to last minute book rooms for four adults it was a bit pricier than we intended! But yes, the Heritage hotel brand gets my vote and I’d very much recommend staying there.

Since we didn’t have to check out until midday we packed up leisurely, then went downstairs to checkout and get the van back and drove a few block until we reach the City Life! We weren’t able to check in yet, but we were able to leave our bags with the concierge and have a valet take the van for us so we were free to go shopping! James and I had a total “fuck it, it’s our honeymoon” attitude this day and it was so much fun to go on a shopping spree in physical stores. Mostly I shop online so it was so fun to actually browse things.

Our first (unplanned) stop was Peter Alexander. I haven’t had nice pyjamas since I was a kid but now I have some gorgeous pastel things and a fluffy new dressing gown, while James has the cutest Star Wars set. I can also see why people like Peter Alexander stuff so much, my new things are so comfy! And pretty, don’t forget pretty. See, this is what enticed me into the store:

We continued up the street, aiming for the JB HiFi I’d looked up because James wanted to get a DS for the plane flight home, but got distracted by donuts on the way.

When get to the JB, browsed for quite a while. In the end James walked out with a limited edition Pikachu one, some games, and some Attenborough and Buck Rodgers DVDs, while I bought two original Sailor Moon box sets. We also (way too late, but whatever) got me a new micro SD card for my phone (and I still haven’t installed it). We are such nerds.

We walked a bit further, going the main length of the street, and I got distracted by more food – Japanese style crepes! I had to get one! No polite “hey guys, can we stop for a bit?” just “I’m getting a crepe”.

In the end, my crepe wasn’t that good and some of the berries used in it were still frozen, but I enjoyed it regardless. And it made me so happy to randomly find a crepe shop while on holiday.

We had reached what appeared to be the end of the main shopping strip, so we crossed the road and headed back towards the hotel. But we didn’t get far before we detouring into Daiso, where we all picked up some little things. And after that, we didn’t get far until we ducked into Jay Jays and James and I bought lots of things! Jay Jays is my favourite regular fashion store, but lately they seem to be closing down a lot in Australia, so it was great to go in and buy lots of cute and nerdy stuff (I got the best grumpy cat shirt). Last of all, we stopped in at Cue to see if I could perhaps find a nice dress for dinner that night, but had no luck (and everything was really expensive!).

I'm a bit hazy about when exactly some things occurred, but I think we checked in next, and went upstairs to our gorgeous two bedroom suite. I loved the view!

We parted ways briefly then - James wanted to go to the concierge to find a massage place, while the rest of us went out to buy some sushi for lunch. We wandered the opposite way along the street, following Nat who had googled a place, where we bought sushi (the rolls were massive so I bought too much, oops!) and went back to the hotel to eat. James had found a massage place in the next hotel over and had booked himself and me in for the early evening, but it was still just afternoon.

So we went out for more shopping, this time on K Road. This was something that was on my itinerary, but not something I'd put too much thought into. Which I should have, because though according to the internet there are lots of cool places on K Road we didn't see all that many. Though it was immediately evident that though this is their quirky vintage area, it's also the red light district.

We took a taxi, and the first shop we went into was a secondhand store which had some great pieces, but everything was either overpriced or not my size. In the end, none of us bought anything there. Then we wandered down the road and ended up in an army disposal store, where James was totally in his element! It was a really cool place and I took some photos before I saw the "no pictures" sign.

I think the coolest thing James bought here was a pair of ex-Antarctic overalls, perfect for post-apoc costumes! Nat also got herself a used pair of combat boots which were pretty awesome.

When we'd finished up we wandered along the road a bit again before realising we were done, so we went to find a taxi to take us back. This took us a while, as none of the taxis we flagged stopped for us. We passed a bus station, but it was swarming with school kids and collectively we weren't up for that. Eventually Luke (I think) directed us to the nearby YMCA, assuming there'd be a taxi near there. And there was at a neighbouring fancy hotel! But it wasn't reserved or anything so we got back to the CityLife before too long.

James and I went off for our massage, which was quite good (though being horizontal was still making me cough), while the others relaxed. Then we were off to our last "thing" of the whole trip, dinner at the Orbit 360 restaurant at the top of Sky Tower and visiting the Sky City Casino while we were there. I was exhausted, so we walked slowly there, and I snapped some pretty photos of the tower.

We got a bit lost trying to figure out how to get to the restaurant, but after we asked directions we were fine. We went to the elevator that would take us to the top of the Sky Tower and up we went. The elevator travelled very fast and there was a glass panel where we could see down...little bit freaky! Once we got to the restaurant we were shown to our table and were able to enjoy the view of dusk falling over the city.

Unfortunately, due to the rotation of the table area I did feel a bit queasy at the start but it passed after a little while. Which was good, because as usual the food was delicious (I discovered Israeli couscous and loved it) and it would have been a shame to have had trouble eating.

I was also very proud that I tried to take a really artsy picture and succeeded. I am really, really blind without my glasses lol so this was a challenge!

We enjoyed both the view and the food, and got a very sweet surprise with James's desert ^__^ As usual when we were asked why we were there by the waitstaff we gushed about getting married and this was an adorable and unexpected addition to his desert!

With dinner done, we went back down the scary elevator and found ourselves in the gift shop. I had been meaning to buy a few tokens for certain people and got most of that done, which was handy. Then we went on to the Casino!

We spent some time on the pokies, which was really fun once James showed me what to do. I don't think any of us, except James, had been into a casino before. Not really my thing, but fun to try once. We briefly looking in at the blackjack tables, but I was tired so we headed back to the hotel.

Once we were back in our rooms is was bedtime for me. The other all watched Coco on the TV, but I just had to crash out, and I don't think I even woke up when James came to bed.

Monday, 25 February 2019

NZ 2018 Day 7: Hobbiton and the worst Airbnb ever

Prepare your eyes of a lot of photos.I had to uninstall apps on my phone to make room for all the pictures I took! But I’m getting ahead of myself…

It was a drizzly morning again when we woke up, but a patch of sunshine gifted us with a rainbow. We packed our things up, ate some breakfast, watched cows in the field chase after a person on a tractor who undoubtedly had their breakfast, and got in the van to make our way to Hobbiton! Hobbiton was the thing I was third most excited for on this trip – first was marriage, second was cheetahs! But I’m a massive Lord of the Rings fan (movies only, sorry, I just couldn’t do the books) and love behind the scenes movies stuff in general so I was really keen to see Hobbiton!

Pictures tell more about our tour of Hobbiton than words do. In one sense, we just walked around and looked at things. In another sense, we were there. I geeked out something hardcore the whole time. It rained for the first half of the tour then fined up by the end, which was nice. I took waaaaay more photos that I'm posting here, but didn't want to get too repetitive!

At one point, we all had the opportunity to pose in one hobbit hole door!

Then, as the final part of the tour, we were off the the Green Dragon for a complimentary exclusive beverage - as the next driver up I had the ginger beer rather than the cider or beers on offer. The Green Dragon was gorgeous!

In the green dragon they also had hobbit aprons and jackets to try on, so that's exactly what James and I did ^__^

Hobbiton was a great experience, and if we go again I totally want to go either in a Hobbit costume or in lolita! We did think about doing that this time, but decided against it because of the hectic lead-up to our trip and it was the right choice. But next time…oh yes, next time…

Once the tour was over, and we had browsed the gift shop, it was back into the van to head back into town. We browsed the visitor centre, which was built to look like a Hobbit-style house, in the hopes of perhaps finding something to do on our last leg of driving. In the end, we detoured to try and visit some cafe in a cave, but realised it wasn't worthwhile so out only stop on the way to Auckland was at a McDonald's.

Now, we need to backtrack a little before I tell you what happened when we got to Auckland. When we booked our Airbnbs for the trip, everything was fine. The Auckland booking was a bit odd, the host Sean asked to communicate through What’s App, which I don’t have so I declined to do so. Then when our trip started I received a text saying there was a maintenance issue at the apartment and if it wasn’t resolved they’d put us up in two rooms at a four star hotel instead. I was a little apprehensive, but couldn’t do anything, so put it out of my mind until we were in Matamata. Our Auckland host confirmed (the night before our booking!) that there still was an issue and that he’d organised alternate accommodation, and to please come to his office to get keys. I looked up the address of the office, which seemed to be a surf shop, so checked to get the company name. Yep, it was that surf shop. And we weren’t going to get the keys from Sean, but from someone called Yan.

Things were starting to seem pretty dodgy at this point, but we didn’t have much choice in the matter so when we got to Auckland we parked at the surf shop (both the shop and the parking lot did not inspire me with confidence) and went inside. Where we waited for a while until a man came out. He didn’t look like a Yan, so I asked if he was, and he said that Yan was in the office around the back. So he lead us to the back of the shop and into a large space filled with cubicles, with lots of people working on who knows what. A lady stood up to greet us, and I hesitantly asked “We’re here to see Yan?”

“Yan just left to show some people to an apartment,” was the reply! We were baffled. Was that meant to be us? What do we do now?

Fortunately, another lady came over to us with an envelope. “Sae left these for you,” she said. The envelope had the name of a hotel, the Quadrant Hotel, on it along with two rooms numbers and a mobile number. Inside were two room key cards and another parking station card. Nothing else, not instructions or directions or anything. Thank goodness for phone internet! We went back to the van and looked up the Quadrant so the GPS could guide us, and off we went.

Once we reached the Quadrant we were met with our next bit of confusion; where were we supposed to park? There was a public parking station next to the hotel, which our pass gave us access to, and inside was a mix of public paid parking and reserved spaces. There was also an adjacent car park right under the Quadrant, but that gate wouldn’t open. Where were we meant to go? We pulled into a parking space and I tried to call Sean, who didn’t answer, and the number on the envelope as well to the same result. We kept driving down the levels, hoping for some clarification that didn’t come. What did come was some traumatic driving experiences, because the van only barely fit. For what it’s worth we had informed Sean we were driving a minivan, so it was doubly frustrating. Eventually we just parked and got out, ready to check in to the Quadrant and figure it all out

Sean managed to call me back and informed me that we could park anywhere. Because apparently writing that on the envelope was too hard! Anyway, we went up to the Quadrant, hoping that it was all over. I received a call for Sae right as we got to the door, and ended up turning around to see her waiting for us outside the entrance, which was nice. It was good to deal with an actual human being. Unfortunately, English was not her first language and she was not the person we booked with, so things continued to be frustrating for us.

The first thing Sae did was take one of our key cards to the front desk – apparently it didn’t work so she got that sorted out for us. She said that our garage key should have gotten us into the second car park and we went with her to the car park through the hotel, to find out it opened some of the gates to that car park, but not all of them. Whatever. She then told us where to find our rooms so we split up, and each couple went to their room.

And they were so bad. So bad. James and I had a shelf missing in our bathroom, and everything was just cramped and dingy and ugly. Nat and Luke’s room smelled of animal urine (or meth by-products, either one) and had leftover wine and chips from a previous guest. Nat went down later to talk to the front desk, so we found out were hadn’t actually been put up at the hotel, but in privately owned rooms in the building. We all met up immediately and decided – we would not be staying here. It was an unacceptable replacement for the large waterfront apartment we had booked. So we grabbed out our laptops and connected to their wifi long enough to find some alternate accommodation. After some browsing and some calls, we ended up booking in to the Heritage Hotel for the night, though we couldn’t book for the Tuesday night as well. But regardless, we were out of there. We left the keys in the rooms as Sae had instructed, took some photos of how crap everything was, and went on our way.

Also, just in case this turns anyone off using Airbnb I do want to reassure you that the three other bookings we had were fine and all went smoothly. Dodgy people happen but overall I’m still happy with choosing to book accommodation through Airbnb and would happily do so again. Airbnb gave us a complete refund after Sean said he would and then didn’t – it was sorted out with no fuss and lots of helpfulness from the Airbnb staff.

We managed to get the van out of the car park and found the Heritage with some difficultly (it was in a bit of a weird location and had two entrances). We went into the wrong entrance, where told where to go right, pulled up and walked into heaven. The concierge was friendly and sympathetic, a porter helped get our luggage, and a valet came for the van. Compared to the last couple of hours of confusing, frustrating hell, the Heritage was a luxury. And right there on the ground floor was a massage place, where James was able to get their last appointment of the day. Having been the one to deal with all the horrible, stressful carpark driving he deserved it!

So we all rested for a while in our big hotel room while James got his massage. It was a “family room” so technically one queen bed was in the living room and the other was sectioned off by a sliding door, so not the most private, but it was still nice. The Heritage is the kind of hotel I really love, a bit old fashioned, perhaps a bit dated, but very warm and welcoming feeling. It also had a big bathtub, always a plus (and each couple took a bath that evening, so good). Once James joined us we took some time to write and send a firm demand for a refund for the Airbnb to Sean, and then decided to go to a nearby restaurant The Cut at the Rydges.

Dinner was amazing! Like, so ridiculously good. I mean, all the food in New Zealand was pretty spectacular, but this was certainly one of the best. The service and atmosphere were also really good. And when dinner was done, we wandered back to our hotel to chill, play games, and watch some Futurama on TV for a while before bed. After the Airbnb turmoil it was nice to curl up in a good cosy bed and go to sleep feeling comfortable and safe.