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.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

NZ 2018 Day 6: And onward to Matamata

Sunday was another day that very much did not go according to my itinerary! At first it did as we woke up and our hosts came downstairs with breakfast for us. Getting fed someone else's cooking is definitely a great way to start the day off in my books.

The only problem was that it was, once again, raining. Our initial plan had been hot springs in the morning, followed by a drive to Rotorua to visit the Rainbow Springs and then the Redwoods Treewalk after the sun set before heading to Matamata. But that all did not seem so appealing in the wet, and we weren't that keen on having another soak just yet, so we decided to just get a move on to Matamata. We'd take our time and do anything that seemed appealing along the way.

And that is exactly what we did! Fortunately, before we left James had a good look on Google Maps at things in Taupo so we decided to pop into a place called Mind Junction on our way out (we'd also seen a flyer for it at the hot springs the night before). We also took our time packing up and checking out, and didn't get moving until 11AM.

We stopped for fuel and then our first touristy stop was pretty close to Taupo itself – Huka Falls! It was so damn wet – we had to buy another umbrella and a poncho. But totally worth it, just look at that river! It was so loud and dramatic and just thoroughly amazing. I’d have loved to have seen it in good weather though, because we kind of rushed so as to not get too wet.

And of course, we took yet another selfie, because that’s what we do these days. All the selfies!

Then on we went to Mind Junction! Well, with one quick stop to take this photo for James ^__^


The GPS got us lost, but at least the drive was pretty, and then we were there. It's a family oriented place, so our group of four adults was a bit out of place but it was fun nonetheless. Due to the rain we couldn't do activities like the outdoor maze or mini golf, but I was happy, because there were model trains!

It never comes up because hey, this is my primarily lolita blog, but I really love trains and miniature trains. I like trains.

We grabbed some drinks and sat around in the cafe area. There were little puzzles on each table, and games you could play. While Nat and Luke played Blokus James and I tried and failed at the puzzles on out table. Well, James tried properly, I got frustrated and kept opening up news ones! We spent a lot of time with four pieces of wood that you could apparently use to make a capital T. We thought laterally, in three dimensions and in negative space, and when we finally gave up and asked one of the staff for help it was painfully obvious how you did it! Fortunately the staff knew how to reset all the puzzles, because we couldn’t!

Then we moved over to Nat and Luke’s table, where we played a game of Blokus with them. I enjoy that game! I also lost, but oh well.

After that we decided to play their shooting games, which were apparently like old PlayStation games or something? Anyway, we went into a dark room with a rifle and a big project screen and proceeded to take turns shooting things. Mostly we did this stupid game with dumb gophers, and Luke got a high score (and entered the name Duck, so if you’re there and his name’s still on the scoreboard well, you know who he is now). I’m bad at this kind of thing, but it was still really fun!

Luke and Nat then decided to try out the flight simulator, but James and I weren’t interested so we went out and sat in the van with our trusty thermos of tea. Soon enough the others came out and we continued on our way. There’s not much to say about the drive. It was only a couple of hours this day, and we stopped at a Subway for lunch, so it was a pretty easy day. Which is good, because we needed to take it easy, I think.

At some point (not sure if it was before or after lunch) we did stop little parking lot near this interesting landmark. We had a good stretch, took photos (of course) and were lucky enough to see yet another rainbow.

I love how terrible I look...

A snapshot of Nat, Luke, and our trusty van ^__^

We arrived at our Airbnb around four. It was a really pretty place, small but well done, and we just spent some time lolling about and admiring the views of the farmland and listening to the nearby cows. Also, just look at this!

How wanky is that bathroom sink? Honestly I loved it though, as far as interior styling goes that whole country-chic vibe really does it for me.

We wanted to order dinner from Menulog or something so we didn’t have to drive into Matamata central, but in the end we did go out to the Redoubt Bar. This turned out to be the best decision, and the one time I regretted a food choice – I got a different meal from James because I thought it’d be silly to double up, but his was so much better than mine! Wah! The Redoubt was a really funky place and it was fun to spend some time there.

Nat and Luke ducked out a convenience store while James and I ate desert, and then we headed back to the Airbnb. Everyone else played Magic (James won) but I had to go straight to bed; I just couldn’t stay awake and functional enough to even watch, let alone play! But the bed was comfy and I like sleep, so it was kind of fine by me.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

NZ 2018 Day 5: The drive to Taupo

Waking up on Saturday was exciting - our first married day! It was really fun to cuddle as a married couple, and call each other husband and wife. After our alarm went off we lazily got up and got dressed, then headed on down to breakfast in the Hippopotamus restaurant.

I love hotel breakfasts, I really do, and this one was in a gorgeous restaurant with a stunning view.

We ordered a mocha and a hot chocolate, determined to use up our drink vouchers, then helped ourselves at the buffet.

It turned out that for me, the food was a bit too fancy! The potatoes were too peppery, the eggs were too moist, and I was just reminded of how simple and white my taste buds are, lol. So I got some Weet-Bix as a second helping. James on the other hand loved it, so that was good. Though we got a surprise when leaving...we apparently couldn't use our drink vouchers here either! Oh well, we tried.

And then it was time to say goodbye to the QT Museum. We checked out a few more of the art pieces on our way back to our room, including this mind-boggling look made completely from tea bags!

Then we packed up the last of our things (and forgot about the Red Bull in the fridge, oops), went down to fix up our bill, and caught a taxi back to the Airbnb. Once there, we packed up the things we had left (and I forgot about the ginger-lemon syrup Nat had kindly brewed up for sick little me that was in the fridge, really regretted that), loaded up the van, took a couple of final photos and went on our way.

We briefly stopped at a nearby quirky mini golf place so James could grab a photo riding one of the statues (I get photos with food, he gets photos on top of giant animals), then continued onwards. It was a long day of driving and in the end James did most of it, though Luke and I did some as well.

I didn't take notes of where we stopped or who drove which leg, so this post will be a bit vague. Our first stop on the drive was at a supermarket once we'd fully cleared the Wellington area so we could get snacks and drinks for the road. There was a sausage sizzle out the front, and of course I had to have one.

Our next stop was when we saw a windmill and were all very interested and a little baffled. Turned out it was a new-ish construction and was actually used for milling flour.

I have to say, stopping places like this is one of my favourite parts of driving on holidays. You see something and just decide to go there on a whim. I'm a big pre-planner but I love these surprises too.

Then we drove on and marvelled at the changing scenery, with relatively frequent stops to take photos and many moments we lamented being unable to pull over safely to check out other views.

We were all a little run down, so we just stopped at a McDonald's for lunch rather than trying anything new. There's a comforting universality to eating Maccas mid-way through a long drive.

Then finally we were reached Lake Taupo and were on the home stretch for the day. We stopped by the lake as soon as we could to take in the view and get greeted by the birds.

There was pumice by the water, which was really fun to throw in and watch it bobbing away. Pumice always amazes me, and this was the first time I'd ever encountered it in the wild. I also loved that New Zealand has black swans like we do!

After only a little more driving (half an hour maybe? Again, no record keeping lol) we arrived at our next Airbnb. Rather than being an independent house that we let ourselves into, this was the bottom level of a couple's home, David and Mary. They were super lovely and we got to meet them and ask a few questions about the area, mainly about hot springs!

Since this day on our itinerary was just "get to Taupo" we found ourselves with evening to spare. If the wifi at the Airbnb had been stronger I think we all would have just chilled with Netflix, but it wasn't so we ended up going to Taupo DeBretts Spa Resort instead. This place had a range of outdoor pools and slides, but we just asked for one of the private indoor pools and soaked ourselves in 41 degree mineral-rich water for three quarters of an hour. It was delightful, if very hot, and each couple fell to taking it turn and turn about to massaging each other, which was lovely. Despite the fact that we didn't use any of the communal outdoor pools it was still really cool to see all the steam rising, lit by coloured outdoor lights, and to gawk at the processing pool of geothermal water that was way, way hotter than what we were in!

This whole experience was a first for me, and I think I'm now in love with hot springs. It was a perfect conclusions to a day stuck in a car, and if I hadn't still been sick and tired I'd have loved to have soaked for longer. But instead we dried off, headed back to the Airbnb, and took a brief walk to Ploughmans, a pub our hosts recommended. We got a little lost on the way and walked into someone's backyard, due to it being pitch black, but then we were there.

And wow, yeah, I think this wins the honour of being my favourite pub ever. It had a suit of armour for goodness sake!

Like everything we'd eaten so far, the food was lovely (venison pie followed by waffles for me) and it was a nice relaxed meal. James, Nat and I tried to take a nice photo of our wedding nails together. Luke joined in too ^__^

Unfortunately, Nat developed a migraine while we were out and then they had trouble sorting out our bill which had somehow become merged with another table. So it was a bit of a downer ending but we got ourselves back to the Airbnb, showered, and crashed out for some well deserved sleep.

Friday, 22 February 2019

NZ 2018 Day 4: Our wedding day

Waking up on Friday, the last day of August and the last day of Winter (yes, we chose that date for a reason), felt a little surreal. We were still sick, still tired, but excited. All the time though, it just felt natural. We’ve lived together for over seven years now and we’d mutually decided to take the next step, but it wasn’t going to change how we lived or who we were or what we meant to each other. We were so casual about it the whole day, it was a really pleasant experience.

The relaxed attitude definitely came in handy because this was another rainy morning, which dashed our plans of taking photos by the water. Spoiler alert; it did clear up enough for us to get other photos later, so don’t feel bad for us!

Anyhow, we woke up, cuddled a bit like usual, then got up to get ready. I made sure to have some toast, otherwise I knew I’d be hangry later since we probably weren’t going to be finished up until around three in the afternoon. And I really do get grumpy if I’m not fed on time! Then we got dressed into our beautiful outfits by Lyris Design. I’ll be posting a full review about our experience with her eventually but the short of it is she’s fabulous and does really beautiful work. We were dressed up, but still us! I did my make-up, Nat helped me affix my veil to my hair (also, sidenote, veils are super annoying!) and then, since our photographer hadn’t arrived yet, we took some selfies and I tried getting artsy with our rings.

Dave the photographer arrived soon afterwards, congratulated us, and took a few photos of all of us indoors. We made sure to tell him to get some nice couple photos of Nat and Luke together as well throughout the day since they both looked really nice as well!

Then, trying not to get too wet, we got into the van. Luke drove, with Nat up front, Dave was in the middle set of seats, and James and I were at the very back. Dave took some photos of us in the car, and also handed the camera over to us for a while so we could take some more selfies.

We had some trouble when we got into Wellington, because the car parking station we had found on google maps was tiny, full, and almost impossible to turn our van around in. Sorry Luke! But we got out of there with a lot of swearing, and found some street parking. Nat ducked out to pre-pay at the meter, and we all scrambled out of the van and under the shop awning at the side of the road. It was still raining. But we had umbrellas and the wet weather actually allowed for some nice photos as we walked a hundred metres or so to the Archive building where the registry office was located.

Once inside, we shook off our dampness and I looked around to see where in the massive building we were meant to go, which was up the stairs and to the left. Obviously, with my veil and flowers and all I was recognisably a bride, so the man at the desk just said my name and I confirm that it was me. He directed us across to the room where wedding ceremonies were performed and said the celebrant would be with us shortly, so we all went into the plain but neat and nice room.

It was a bit empty, with just the four of us and Dave, but that’s exactly how we wanted it. In a minute our celebrant Daniel arrived and introduced himself. His nails were painted pink, which James complimented him on and he said his daughter had done it! So cute, especially because he was a big Maori man ^__^

We joked around for a bit, and then we got in position, Daniel told us how the ceremony would go, and we were ready for our vows. James was first, and repeated after Daniel “I do not know” – and I started crying. And didn’t stop till we were married (James knew it was going to happen and brought tissues in his pocket, but I was surprised at myself lol). The ceremony was very short, and very sweet. I was just so overjoyed to be marrying James! He was also really sweet, and kept touching my face and smiling all the time. It was adorable.

James took this version of the artsy ring photo ^__^

We signed the papers, exchanged rings, and then it was done! We were married! And, being all romantic like I am, my first words as a wife were "does anyone have any tissues?" because I needed more, promptly followed by an exclamation about how those were my first married words! Cue the laughter. James also had the smart idea to take the GoPro with us for the ceremony, so we have that on film for ever ^__^

It was great, it really was, and we took a few more photos around the room after Daniel left, since we had the space for a hour. Then James asked "who's up for some tea?" so we all went back out to the cafe near the entrance.

Nat and Luke grabbed some breakfast as well as beverages, and James and I both got juice alongside our tea. The waitstaff were super sweet, and while we were sitting and chatting in our booth they even came over with some slices cut into cute little squares as a congratulations for James and I. Unfortunately he couldn't eat them, but I happily devoured them for both of us.

As we were wrapping up we noticed that the rain had stopped outside, so we decided to still go ahead with our original plan to go to the Botanic Gardens for further photos. Back to the van we went, then we got a bit lost on the way because GPS can do strange, strange things, and then we arrived at the Gardens.

We took a range of photos in the Gardens, but in the end we weren't actually happy with our photos. Dave was kind enough to let us edit them ourselves, which was something we really wanted, but a lot were poorly lit, in bad focus, or only one of us looked good! So it sucks that we don't really have any proper photos that we like. Even the ones int he post are only okay, in our eyes, but I still wanted to show a bit.

We spent a little while, just half an hour or so, taking photos in a small area of the Gardens. They were really beautiful and I'd have loved to have spent more time there, and not just for photos, but we were just so sick and tired that half an hour was all we could manage!

So we wandered back out and to the van. Since we'd wrapped up earlier than anticipated, Nat and Luke were planning to spend the afternoon at Zealandia while Dave flew back to Australia and James and I went to our wedding night hotel, the QT Museum. We were in luck, and a taxi driver was taking a break just a few parking spaces behind where we had parked the van, so Dave, James and I went one way while Nat and Luke went another. The taxi driver dropped us off at our hotel first and we piled out. We were a bit damp and dishevelled, dragging small suitcases, and I'd changed from my heels into my teal blue sneakers because my feet hurt. But we were happy and married and everyone was so nice!

A porter took our bags, we checked in, and made our way up to our room. And what a lovely room it was! It was technically one of their studio apartment style rooms, so there was a small kitchenette but more importantly there was a massive bath and epic rain shower, and a bed strewn with dried rose petals.

Isn't that just the sweetest thing? I'd mentioned when booking that it would be our wedding night, but we hadn't booked a romance package or anything like that. But not only did we get the rose petals, we got a complimentary bottle of champagne when the porter came up with our bags. We also got some free drink vouchers since there was construction scaffolding outside our room, which was a nice touch even though it didn't bother us at all.

We're neither of us into champagne, but we still popped the bottle and had a little toast to ourselves as we changed into our pyjamas and slothed around the room. It was really nice to get comfortable and lazy and just play some mobile games together. We also attacked the minibar with a vengeance - it was our wedding day after all! And we ordered room service for the same reason!

Our initial plan for the day was to not leave the hotel at all, but we were sore and wanted a massage (which I eventually managed to book at a nearby Thai place after difficulties with the place associated with the hotel), and also thought we'd head down to the lobby bar to claim our complimentary drinks. So after a good time of lazing about, eating and drinking, watching part of The Last Jedi on TV, enjoying the enormous bath, and you know, typical wedding night things, we got dressed into proper pants and headed out into the evening.

We got a little lost, but then re-oriented ourselves and swung by a local supermarket to grab some energy drinks for the next day, which was going to be a driving day. Then we made our way to the massage place, passing this (and more!) interesting bars and restaurants on the way.

The massage place was located up a slim flight of stairs, and we had to ring the intercom to get let up. In our town there are a number of "massage parlours" upstairs so we were a tiny bit doubtful for a moment, but once we got up it was all legitimate. The massage was very good and relaxing - though a live rock band starting playing somewhere nearby part way through! I also still had my cough which was uncomfortable at times, trying not to cough all over the masseuse or myself.

Actually, I'm not sure if I mentioned the cough yet, but that was the worst part of my sickness because whenever I lay down it was worse. I did not sleep anywhere near enough this whole trip because of it, which in turn probably didn't help me get better. Now you know, lol.

But anyway, back on topic. After our massage we went back into the street and back to the hotel. We went up to our room briefly to drop off the energy drinks and use the bathroom, then went on down to the bar. Our bartender was a lovely young Canadian woman, who made James his typical grasshopper and me something with St Germain after I told her about the yummy cocktail from Charley Noble the night before. It wasn't the same, but it was still tasty. We got to talking a lot and we gushed about getting married, of course, and showed her some of our Instagram snaps from the day. Turns out she loved my socks so I pointed her in the direction of Innocent World and Angelic Pretty.

After a while we got up to leave...and discovered that we hadn't read the fine print on the drink vouchers which only covered beer and wine. Oh well. We were told we could use it at the main restaurant though, which was good because we were going there for breakfast the next morning.

We took our time going back up to our room, taking a good look at the thing that made the QT Museum unique - its art collection.

We did have one funny moment while looking at the art. One piece was a lushly padded, oversized door, which James was looking at...until the concierge walked out and asked if we needed anything! Turns out it was just a door, but with all the eclectic art around we thought it was an art piece! A little embarrassing at the time, but hilarious afterwards, and really makes you think about what constitutes as art.

Also, an interesting thing we learned from the bar staff (not sure if it was our bartender or the other one on staff) the building the hotel was in was the first building to be picked up and moved - it used to be located where the Te Papa Museum is! That's just fascinating and bordering on magic in my eyes.

So up we went to our room, where we enjoyed a luxurious rain shower and ordered another round of room service for dinner. Then it was off to bed for the first time as husband and wife ^__^

PS At some time on our wedding day James let it slip that he was collecting mementos from wherever we went to put into a memory box when we got home. He's so romantic and sweet and I just died a little of happiness when I found this out ^__^