Sunday, October 28, 2007

Arrowtown & Wanaka

Arrowtown is a short trip from Queenstown but mucg quiter. In fact it's an idyllic little picture postcard village which reminds me of Stars Hollow from the Gilmore Girls. It was built in times of the goldrush in the 1850's or so although not much is left to show of it except an old Chinese settlement detailing how the lived and how they were treated by the locals (badly).

It was another sunny afternoon and Lou and I took a 4km walk along the river which looked perfect for kayaking. Then back into town for an ice-cream before heading back to our campsite which from today's perspective, was a bad move to sleep in the tent as the temperature was freezing or below last night and my toes went numb and neither of us slept well so today we're in a double room in Wanaka overlooking the lake and mountains in the comfort of a heated room.

Lou's birthday was excellent. We went white water rafting down Shotover River which was an amazing experience and I'd be keen to do it again - there's some photos up on the net so I'll try and link to them asap.

Afterwards, we had a lakeside view restaurant booked overlooking the harbour and the food was amazing besides sampling some local Gribbston Valley wine including a tasty Pinot Noir.

We're heading to Fox Glacier tomorrow where we'll be spending 3 days and hopefully getting on a helicopter to look at the glacier from above and with any luck I'll be able to get to a computer where I can finally upload some photos because the scenery in NZ that we've seen is breathtaking.

See you soon for another update.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dunedin, Catlain Coast and Queenstown

After Christchurch, Lou and I headed south and spent two days in Dunedin which is a nice place and Lou and I prefer it to Christchurch in some ways. It's a very student orientated town but there is still a fair amount to do in and around such as surfing - although the weather wasn't the best and our trip to St Kilda's beach was a quick jaunt before hopping back into the car!

We headed south for the Catlins Coast and spent two nights near Owaka where we were hit by 140kph winds - luckily we were staying in cabins so no tent disasters! It's a pretty place with lots of waterfalls and worth checking out.

We are in Queenstown at the moment on our third day and it's a very tourist fuelled hub but it is surrounded by mountains with snow capped peaks and there are lots of activities to do from it. Yesterday we went to Milford Sound and went on a two hour boat cruise after a fantastic journey through the mountain passes where avalances hit - it was a beautiful place.

Today is Lou's birthday and we're heading white water rafting - the weather is sunny and warm but we will be getting wet so I suppose it's swings and roundabouts. We have a restaurant booked for later and are staying in a nice apartment overlooking Queenstown.

We're having a great time and tomorrow we're heading for the village of Arrowstown where there is a ghost town nearby, Macetown before heading further north to Wanaka and then after that further north again to Mount Cook and Fox's Glacier.

Unfortunately still no photos as no internet machines have actual access to the tower and photos would take way to long and cost an arm and a leg to upload but I'm staying in my cousins hotwl soon at Fox Glacier so perhaps I will have a chance then.

See you soon for another update!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Christchurch & Akaroa

We flew into Christchurch on 11 October and it was raining so we must have brought the weather with us. However, later that day and the next few days, after a grey start, the weather was glorious in the afternoon - around 21c and blue skies.

Lou and I have been staying at my cousins house in West Eryeton in Rangiora for the last 4 nights and him and his family have been tremendous help to us in putting us up and also providing vital information in where to go for cars, camping equipment and places to eat and visit in and around the city.

After securing a '93 Nissan Bluebird which we have nicknamed 'Black Beauty', we set off this morning to the picturesque coastal town of Akaroa. It is around 1 1/2 hours drive from Christchurch through winding mountainous terrain and the views of them and the valleys between are fantastic but nothing prepares you for the view overlooking the bay surrounding Akaroa with its clear cyan blue waters due to melting snow from the mountains.

Akaroa has a French style theme to it from its colonial past although this is really superficial and it's really just a quaint town in a bay although it's friendly and welcoming and we are staying one or two nights in a hostel.

Photographs will appear as and when I can get near a PC that isn't hidden behind a desk where I can't access my camera USB port so you'll have to be patient.

See you soon for the next update!

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Last Supper

A group of us decided to eat out on a high yesterday and booked a table for eight at Deanes on Howard Street. We had talked about treating ourselves to something like this for years and it only took us leaving the country to finally coax everybody, including ourselves, to make the effort and let the wallet take a little pounding.

The restaurant was recently renovated and the only fault, which strangely seems to be the norm in a lot of classy restauarants, is that the only expense spared is on the toilet facilities and whose visitations to detract from the overall pleasant interior decorations of the building.

We were seated at the front of the restaurant near the serving counter which gave us a glimpse at the preparation or "plating up" of the dishes and Michael Deane was there himself checking each meal before it was sent to the table and it was like being a fly on the wall in an episode of Master Chef.

The menu is smaller than a lot of other restaurants but the choices available are certainly not lacking and decision time came to crunch time as we ordered our starters and main dishes. I opted for the carpaccio of Óisin with panfried sweetbreads, summer mushrooms and bay leaves served with a almond butter vinaigrette. It was quite delicious although just a tad too oily in places and set me up nicely for the main course.

The wine list was quite extensive and runs from the £17 Chilean Merlot that we ordered a couple of bottles of to a £700 bottle of 1983 Chateau Petrus (which we didn't order).

For my main course I had saddle of rabbit with tart fine of cépes and salsify, summer truffle and verjus reduction. It was another fine meal and those sitting around me were very happy with their dishes.

This kind of food is quite deceptive in that although it doesn't look like a £20 plate of food, it is more than enough to satisfy because of the composition and content.

I was quite happy to forgo a dessert as I was quite filled but the fantastic service tailed off somewhat towards the end of our meal and by the time a few of us recieved their puddings and the cheese cart came around to serve those who opted for the board selection, I was reading for the same and Lou and I split a selection of cheeses. This was accompanied by a 12 year old Cragganmore whisky for me and a glass of port for Lou.

In short, the food at Deane's is exceptionally good and it is quite obviously a step above the normal cost of dining out but for a rise above the norm in regards of the food itself and for a treat, I would certainly recommend it.


Menu *****

Value ****

Service *****

Decor ****

Disabled ***

Parking *

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Grindhouse is a double feature consisting of two feature-length segments, each film produced and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Rodriguez directed Planet Terror and Tarantino directed Death Proof. The term "grindhouse" refers to movie theaters that specialised in B movies, often exploitation films, shown in a multiple-feature format. Both films, although shot using modern equipment, are made to look like they were shot on low-budgets with techniques such as scratches and cigarette burns employed to make the viewer feel they are watching something shot in the 1970's or early 80's.

First up is Rodriguez and before the main feature we are shown a trailer for the non-existant film of 'Machete' which is hilariously good and one might actually want to see such a film after the main feature of Planet Terror. There are several more of these trailers throughout the double feature and more information can be found here.

In a deal gone sour with a rebel unit and the military, an experimental bio-weapon is released, turning the entire town, in which a military base is situated, into zombie-like creatures which must be stopped by a rag-tag group of survivors at first oblivious to the carnage going on around them.

Planet Terror is a firmly tongue embedded in cheek, gore-infested ride of a film with a plot so ridiculous that you have to just sit back and enjoy the ride. There are as many laughs as there are gallons of blood used and more oohs and aahs than a skateboarding film of accidents.

Next up is Tarantino's Death Proof where a series of girls are lured into or killed by Stuntman Mike's seemingly 'death proof' stunt car.

In a complete change of pace and in fitting with previous Tarantino films, Death Proof is more conversation centred and one has to wait more than half an hour for any "action" to happen and when it does, it's over before you can blink.

Unfortunately this is probably his worst film to date and I would rather re-watch the unesscesary double flick of Kill Bill than have to sit through his latest which can only be described as boring as f**k.

My only problem with both films is that they feature modern devices such as mobile phones yet the backdrop and scenes are very much set in the age of the films they are emulating and you feel that the scratches and editing are unesscessary additions to the feel of the films.

Since both movies released under the guise of Grindhouse did not open to success in the box office in the US, the films have been released elsewhere separately. My advice is to ignore Death Proof and grab your big box of popcorn and go and see Planet Terror.

I would give Planet Terror 8.3 zombie holocausts out of 10 and Death Proof 2.1 hours of pointless dialogue out of 10.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Saturday Night Fever

With my combination of a slight hangover and the Wales vs Fiji Rugby World Cup game on TV it was a great opportunity to lie on the couch all afternoon and recover from the night before as well as renewing my energy for the night ahead as it was the Big Leaving Party at the Apartment.

The match would be one of the best so far in the World Cup and the party was certainly one of the best ever as Lou and I were surrounded by friends intent on having a great time. A special shout-out goes to a few people who travelled a distance to get there. I was thrilled that Chris and Eva made it over from Cardiff and I will certainly miss our trips back and forth during the year and look forward with great anticipation when they make it over to New Zealand. I was also chuffed that Peter flew over from London and we had a second brilliant night in two months as he also shared a table with Lou and I at Chris and Eva's wedding in August. Both nights were unforgettable.

Thanks to everyone for coming along and the photos (including more of the above survivors who made it through until the wee hours) can be found on my Facebook page.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Mr P45

One good thing about touring New Zealand will be the chance to lose some weight that I must have put on over the past week as I can't remember eating out with such frequency in my entire life.

It started with lunch in Molly's Yard last Monday with dinner at Legends on Wednesday, Beatrice Kennedy's on Thursday and my leaving lunch at Zen on Friday.

A last day in work is, as you will probably know, an unusual juxtaposition between work and non-work. That is to say being in work but not actually doing anything. Many of you may be grinning and asking yourself what the difference is between this and my usual time spent sitting at my desk working hard or, indeed, hardly working but jealousy will get you nowhere!

As is standard in our leaving scenarios, morning break is reserved for gift-giving and saying farewell to those who you wont be seeing through beer goggles later in the day and I was not let down by those who came to say goodbye nor by the generosity of the presents including the new official Ireland rugby shirt and a couple of books on New Zealand [besides a great set of gifts from Fiona including chocolate, wine and a crossword puzzle which I will dub "The Afternoon Fun Kit"]. The best present, however, was the leaving card which will provide many more warm and pleasant memories than anything else and which I will be taking with me as a memento of the near three years I spent with some fantastic people and indeed, great friends.

After a fantastic lunch of sushi, maki rolls and sushimi besides other delicious dishes, it was off to the Cloth Ear for cocktails and merriment. Post-lunch tiredness gave way to early evening alcoholic stimuli and a fair bit of crack/craic [in-joke]. I had no idea how drunk I was until I was offered a lift home from Sinead's husband Tony and Marguerite and I were blithering away in the back seat making little to no sense, at least to sober ears.

I had a fantastic last day in work and I will certainly miss a lot of people and I can only hope they decide to come and visit.

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