Monday, November 28, 2011

New Zealand: Days 6-7

On our sixth day in New Zealand we left Rotorua and began the drive to Ohakune. We took our time driving through Tongariro National Park, and after the millionth windy road, reached the ski resort at Mount Ruapehu. It was so cold up there!

For any Lord of the Rings fans out there, did you recognize this range as Mount Doom?

This was one of our longest days of driving, so we made sure to take a few pit stops along the way, including a walk to this pretty waterfall.
Here's what Little m thought about it:

Another pit stop was to see the stream pictured below which is apparently where Gollum catches a fish in one of the movies. I stayed in the car for that one, hehe.

Once in Ohakune we ate dinner at The Powder Horn Hotel, which is where the LOTR cast stayed when they were in town. See a pattern here? Someone is a bit obsessed, me thinks!

After staying overnight in a sketchy motel that smelled like green peppers, we drove to Wellington. What a nice city! The peanut and I spent the afternoon exploring the Harbourfront while M went on a LOTR tour that brought him to a bunch of filming locations. More on Wellington next time!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Zealand: Day 5-6

Catching up? Read about our trip to New Zealand here and here.

On the fourth day of our vacation we left Waitomo and drove to Rotorua, which is a city known for its geothermal activity. While we were there we explored the thermal reserves, including Te Puia, a Maori cultural centre. It's home of the Pohutu Geyser, the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere. It reaches heights of 25-30 metres and is quite the impressive sight.

After taking a guided tour, we spent a while walking around on our own, looking at the boiling mud pools and thermal springs that reach temperatures higher than 100 degrees celcius.

We also went to Wai-O-Tapu, another thermal reserve, where we walked through trails at our own pace. Here is the Lady Knox geyser in all her glory.

Here's M&m in front of the Champagne Pool.

While in Rotorua we also took a Skyline gondola ride up Mount Ngongotaha. This is one of the few sights that Little m's been awake to see!

While I stayed with the babe, Mike took a luge ride down the side of the mountain and then a chair lift back up.
Then he proceeded to eat a very long hotdog. That’s what she said.

Rotorura was a lovely place to visit and not nearly as smelly as I had heard it would be! Good times.

Friday, November 18, 2011

New Zealand: Days 3-4

Catching up? Read about days one and two of our trip to New Zealand here!

On the morning of Day 3, we picked up our rental car and began the drive from Auckland to Matamata to see Hobbiton. I think this was M’s dream come true. Mine too actually (it was way cooler than I imagined) and we picked a perfect time to go. Filming for The Hobbit in this location wrapped up a week earlier so the set looked perfect. And unfortunately that’s all I can say about that because they made us sign paperwork saying we wouldn’t disclose any information or share pictures.

After the tour of the set we watched a sheep get sheared. It was nuts! The farmer said the key to a good shearing is to keep the sheep relaxed. He just sat the sheep down like you see in the picture below, cut away, and the sheep barely moved at all!

I also got to feed a lamb some milk! It sure had a powerful suck.

From there we drove to Waitomo and stayed at a cute B&B. Bright and early the next morning we took a tour of the glowworm cave. First we walked through the cave and learned how it was formed but the best part came next when we boarded a little boat.
It took us through the darkness with the only light coming from the million glowworms surrounding us. It was really beautiful. Everyone was silent, just enjoying the magic of what looked like hundreds of tiny stars lighting our way. Thank goodness Little m didn’t make a peep the whole time.

We also took a two hour tour through the Ruakuri Cave which was also very cool. It had lots of crazy formations.

That pretty much sums up the highlights of days three and four! To end, here are some (interesting to me) things I’ve noticed about New Zealand so far:

-It’s windy here all the time.

-It’s very hard to dress properly. It’s cold in the mornings, boiling hot in the sun, and cool when there’s cloud coverage. The sweater goes on off all day long. One tour guide says this happens because the sun’s heat goes directly through a hole in the ozone.

-The names of places makes me think we’re in Hawaii.

-There are way more Asian people here than I imagined and they run a lot of the shops in the bigger cities.

-The people are just as friendly as I guessed!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

New Zealand: Days 1-2

We're in New Zealand!

Here is where I'll document our trip and seeing as we have an infant who goes to bed by 9pm, I should have a bit of time at night to keep up with my blogging!
Auckland is a beautiful city! If it weren't so far away from family I could totally see myself living there! We allotted ourselves two full days in Auckland and I think that was exactly enough time for our liking. It's a very hilly city, which is something I was unaware of. Over the two days we walked a lot, which to me is the very best way to get to know a new place.

Some of the highlights of our two days include taking an hour and a half harbour cruise that stopped at Rangitoto, which is an island created from volcanic eruptions.

With our harbour cruise ticket also came a return ferry trip to Devonport, a suburb of Auckland. I loved Devonport! It was a really cute place with beautiful tree lined streets, lots of park space, a gorgeous waterfront, and a main drag with plenty of shops and restaurants. M and I decided to climb Mount Victoria, and I’m sure we were quite the sight walking up the steep hill, M pushing the empty stroller and me feeding the baby. The climb was well worth it and we were rewarded with breathtaking views.

Once back in Auckland, we took advantage of the free city bus (with free wifi!) and rode out to Wyndham Quarter, right along the water, where there’s a ton of restaurants that serve fresh seafood. We ordered fish and chips from one of the markets and it was so delicious! We also checked out the super yachts, one of which is rumoured to belong to Tom Cruise.
Our first two days in New Zealand were great ones. Great weather, great food, great sights - a really lovely place to visit! Next up, M's dream come true - Hobbiton!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bloomingdale Trail

I learned about the Bloomingdale Trail one day while searching for "hidden gems" in Chicago. From the yelp reviews, it sounded like a cool place to explore. It's an abandoned, elevated rail road track that provides a getaway from the busyness of the city. One lovely afternoon a few weeks ago, M and I decided to go explore it while my parents watched the babe. It was really interesting to walk in line with people's rooftops and look down at street level. Chicago is full of rooftop patios that I wouldn't have know existed otherwise!
Here's a view of the trail from street level - it's the overpass with the big sign on it.

Entering the trail can be a bit difficult in some areas and we had to climb a fence to get in. You have to dodge broken glass, empty beer bottles, and lots of garbage, but it's totally worth it!
In the near future, the city is supposed to be pumping a lot of money into making this trail an elevated park, which will be really nice when finished. But, for the more adventuresome, right now it's a pretty cool place to explore, as is!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Month Two With Little m

Month two with our little peanut was a good one. Baby girl learned how to smile and already knows when to break out the big ones; for example, during 4am diaper changes or when she's stayed up way past her bedtime. She seems to know that one smile can erases her parents' frustrations in a second.
At her two month appointment, little M weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces. Although she seems to constantly be eating, she only gained half a pound this month, so we're giving her an extra bottle of pumped milk each night at bedtime to help beef her up. The doctor said she gained an appropriate amount, but if it was any less, it would become worrisome.
After the six week point, Little m began sleeping SO MUCH BETTER, thank goodness. For a couple of weeks she would sleep at night in 4 to 5 hour chunks, which was amazing. That hasn't seemed to last though and now she's back to waking every 3 hours, 4 if we're lucky. Perhaps the best thing that's happened this month is that the little peanut started sleeping in her crib. It's so nice to have our bed back!
Baby's new favourite thing is being bounced on the exercise ball. She likes this so much that I may never leave home again without one! She also still really enjoys the sound of the vacuum cleaner and it calms her instantly.
This month was a busy one! Little m experienced her first Cubs baseball game, met numerous friends and family members, went to an Apple Festival, crossed the border to Canada, survived the long drive home to my parents', and was babysat by her Grandma and Grandpa so that M and I could enjoy a few date nights!

Time sure flies when you're havin' fun!