That theme park feeling

Day two in Brisbane was Movie World day!

We were blessed to be able to borrow a car from a friend of Dani. Otherwise what is a 40 minute car ride would have taken two and a half hours by public transport, and a five hour round trip is pretty much the whole day.20150902_104138 (1)The car, however, was manual so John had to drive since I don’t even have a manual licence. This was one of those occassions where getting a manual licence ‘just in case’ definitely paid off.

John hadn’t driven a manual in four years since his driving test but he did fabulously. Didn’t stall a single time the whole way there and I managed to contribute by being navigator.

I’d been to Movie World once before when I was ten with my family and the main thing I remember was that I loved the Scooby Doo ride the best so I couldn’t wait to try it again and see if it was at all how I remembered it. For John, this was his first theme park and first time going on a ride ever. I was hoping he’d enjoy it and not get sick otherwise that could make for an awkward day.20150902_105821When we arrived a sign said there were three rides not operating that day; bumper cars, the Green Lantern roller coaster and the Scooby Doo ride. Nooooo. We were pretty devastated at that.

They were closed for maintenance during the off peak season. So despite it being sad that we couldn’t ride them the advantage was probably greater, as we were able to ride all the rides in the park without wasting lots of time in long queues as you would during peak season.20150902_154134I was planning to ease John into roller coasters with the Scooby Doo ride because I imagined that’s as tame as it gets at Movie World.

Instead we opted to start with the Wild West water ride.

We got soaked! We came off it dripping and laughing so hard it was awesome.
The best bit was definitely the start of the ride where you’re suddenly dropped down a slope backwards unwittingly.

We came back at the end of the day and rode this ride again and agreed it was our favourite.

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At lunchtime there were plenty of places to choose from for food. We both opted for nachos from this little wild west-looking pub.

When the meals came we soon realised we would have been better off sharing one, they were huge! Piled high with salsa, meat and sour cream, even the bowls they were in were a plain edible tortilla. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I almost finished the entire thing, bowl and all, because it was so delicious. 20150902_125322We had planned to try out the roller coasters in the afternoon, but needless to say we thought it safe to let lunch digest a little first, so we watched a high-speed car show instead.

After that we hit up everything that we could. Since there were large roller coasters to be tackeled I suggested we start off on the kiddies roller coaster to ease into it.

For John’s first roller coaster it was pretty speedy and could definitely give you bit of whiplash, though I was soon to discover it was nothing like the force of Arkham Asylum or Superman.20150902_165832Despite intial fears we both rode every ride, and although we might not have braved some of those coasters again in a hurry we had a great time.

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Brisbane is for brunch, bagels and long bus rides

There was only one way to start our first day in Brisbane, and that was with a good brunch.

After making the hour long trek by bus, from where John and I were staying with my close friend Dani at Nazarene Theological College, we arrived in Brisbane’s beautiful CBD.

Immediately we started on the hunt for a good brunch spot, having begun the search on Instagram during the bus ride but failing to turn up anything within close walking distance.

We stumbled upon Toby’s Estate and I enjoyed smashed avo, feta and lemon on a very healthy but delicious slice of rye sourdough (I didn’t even know that was a thing, but consider me a fan).20150901_11444820150901_113133After our bellies were prepared for the day ahead we took a stroll through Brisbane’s botanic gardens.

These are lovely, peaceful gardens right in the middle of the city and the perfect place to have a picnic, take a nap or enjoy a little walk.

We had fun exploring around the trees with the giant roots. You could walk in between all the branches right to the centre of the tree and through little gaps, it felt a bit like a jungle.20150901_12280920150901_12240320150901_123314

We headed back towards the centre of Brisbane and King George Square. Here sits Brisbane City Hall, an impressive looking building with a tall clock tower.20150901_143614Dani knew of a tour that ran inside City Hall, so we went in to take a look and found they operate small group tours of the clock tower every 15 minutes, and best of all they’re free!

We got there with about three minutes to go until the next tour and somehow nabbed the last three tickets – talk about providence.

For a free activity to do in Brisbane you can’t go past this. They take you up the clock tower in the original hand-operated elevator and you have a few minutes to enjoy the view of the city at the top. On the way down you stop inside the clock face while the bells chime above you.20150901_13293720150901_13265320150901_13202620150901_132124 (1)After all that exploring it was definitely time to refuel and Dani took us to the perfect places to do just that.

At the Noosa Chocolate factory, Dani picked up, what she laid claim to be, ‘the world’s best rocky road’ for sampling later. The verdict by all three of us was that she was, in fact, correct! The Rocky Road doesn’t contain any nuts but is filled with large marshmallow and real jelly layers. So yum!

I also picked up a couple of things for us to try after lunch including, freeze-dried strawberries, blueberries and mango white chocolate. The freeze-dried strawberries were John’s favourite. I enjoyed them also. The strawberry on the inside made your mouth tingle and fizz.20150901_134816The next pit stop was The Bagel Boys for our lunch. I’d actually never had a bagel before so I was excited to try one. I ordered the beet and feta on a rye bagel (yes, rye again).

It wasn’t until a long walk later, when we arrived at a nice shady spot in Southbank, that we actually ate our bagels. 20150901_150108After lunch Dani had to leave us to make her class that afternoon. John and I decided we would try and brave the bus system back ourselves so we could spend more time exploring in Brisbane, we weren’t quite done yet.

It was our search for toilets that led us to accidentally find Brisbane’s museum. We took a little look around at the dinosaur bones and the terrifying, preserved giant squid.

Our final activity for the day was a ride on the Brisbane wheel. The wheel gave great views of the city as a whole and was a lot of fun.20150901_160625 20150901_160549 (1)

When we came off we stumbled upon a very cool looking, friendly lizard. He followed me to the drinking fountain, and I will admit I did freak out when he came right up close.20150901_161734When it was time to go home, thankfully we found our way back out of the city on the bus ok.

It was crazy to reflect on everything we had done that day and think about how normally that would have just been one work day. But I am definitely grateful that I have a job that means I can enjoy things like this.20150901_144201

Frost and food in Arrowtown

Well, I”m back home safe and sound now in what feels like much, much warmer weather despite it still being the middle of winter.

There are definitely no frosty mornings to wake up to like we were experiencing this time last week.

DSCF2786DSCF2788Every morning the car froze over with ice that looked just like delicate snowflakes.

Before we could go anywhere though, we had to use credit cards to scrap the front windscreen in order to clear the ice enough to see. While this seemed like a novelty for the week we were away, I doubt it would feel like much fun if it was something I had to do every morning in the dark before driving to work!

There was one day in New Zealand where we ventured further out of Queenstown — a mere 15 to 20 minutes to the neighbouring town of Arrowtown.

Locations around this old gold mining town were used in the filming of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

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Arrowtown is just a tiny town with really only two main streets for visitors that are lined with stores, museums, cafes and restaurants. Crossing the road on the main street yields an impressive view of a mountain peaking out from the centre of the street, as if strategically placed.

DSCF2811 DSCF2813The weather was a chilly -2 degrees for our visit so our first stop was straight from the car to the nearby crêperie.

I highly recommend a visit to the Bonjour cafe and restaurant. The staff are all French and incredibly friendly and made delicious authentic French crêpes.

DSCF2792Afterwards we took a walk around town, exploring the shops and some of the outer residential streets, where we stumble upon two beautiful little churches.

Many photos of Arrowtown show this place in autumn when the trees are in stunning red and orange and the leaves fill the streets. For our visit the trees were bare in the middle of winter but still striking.DSCF2796 DSCF2808DSCF2805We ate lunch at the Arrowtown Bakery. This place was small but popular.

There was far more food choices than I expected from a bakery. In addition to doing the typical meat pies, this place offered more cafe style meals. I enjoyed a hearty homemade vegetable soup with garlic bread, which was perfect given the weather and Britt ate an impressively large chicken burrito, which (had we gone back) I would have definitely ordered next time.

Before leaving we made a quick visit to the river where there’s a beautiful path to walk along and admire the scenery. However, we were pretty keen to head home so we just marvelled at the huge chunks of ice that had formed in the stream as a result of the freezing weather and hopped in the car once Britt decided on an ice fight.

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Steamboat Journey

20150709_100428(0)Our second day in Queenstown was much less white than the first. Sadly all the snow in town had melted the day before, but the weather was still beautiful.

In the morning we hopped on board the TSS Earnslaw, a lovely vintage steamship, and took the most picturesque journey across Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown to the Walter Peak High Country Farm.

It was freezing out on deck, so I kept alternating between inside and outside because I didn’t want to miss the view.

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We were all quite amused at the name on our tickets ‘Shauucross’… I guess ‘W’ can sometimes sound like ‘double U’?

When we reached the other port we enjoyed a little farm tour, watching some sheep sheering and feeding the red deer.

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We also enjoyed a pleasant little morning tea inside the farmhouse before boarding the boat to head back to town.

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In the evening we rode the gondola again up to the Stratosfare restaurant. Before dinner we watched a cultural Maori show, which included a Hakka performance.

It wasn’t until 8.30pm that we were seated for dinner and we were all starving! It was a good thing we had come to a buffet.

The Stratosfare is probably Queenstown’s most popular restaurant and it’s not hard to see why. The place is huge and the selection of food is phenomenal. There’s everything from cold meets and cheeses to vegetarian dishes and loads of roast meats. There dessert bar was also stacked impressively.

Riding the gondola at night was a little bit scary because there were no lights all the way up, but you do have a great view of Queenstown all lit up.

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Kia Ora from Queenstown

Arriving into Queenstown was like no plane landing i’ve ever been on. It was absolutely breathtaking flying over snow covered mountains, down onto a runway nestled in between towering mountains. We had to cross the tarmac to enter the airport, giving us our first feel of the freezing cold air outside.

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Within half an hour of arriving in Queenstown it started to gently snow, tiny bits at first and before we knew it it was a full snow shower as we drove from the airport to our little lodge.

The place we are staying is a cute little house that has a gorgeous view of Coronet Peak – the most popular skiing destination in Queenstown.

After being awake for more than 30 hours I slept like a baby for 12 hours, it was worth staying up so long just for the experience of such a great sleep.

I woke in the morning to mum getting us up to explore outside, as it had snowed all night. It looked beautiful outside, so picture perfect with everything covered in white. We had so much fun having snowball fights and making snow angels before we decided it was too cold.

On our first full day in Queenstown we ventured into town and enjoyed scones and coffees by the lake. The cafe was in a beautiful little spot in the park right by the lake and the views from the centre of town were just gorgeous. It’s crazy to think that some people see all of this as just normal.

DSCF2589DSCF2600 DSCF2597DSCF2594 DSCF2608After a little walk through town it was time to go luging.

The luge is a light toboggan that you ride down a road-like track. Generally one person rides in each luge, but you can partner up if you have small children. You use the handlebars at the front to control your speed and steer.

To get to the luge we had to ride the gondola up the side of the mountain. It was a very steep climb and i couldn’t believe how fast the gondola tackled it. All the way up you climb between pine trees and there are great views of the town as you go.

At the top the snow was deep in many places and heavy on the branches of the pine trees, making it feel like Canada at Christmas! (not that i’ve ever been).

We had to grab a helmet and queue to take a quick chairlift to the luge starting point. Once there they make sure you know how to turn and stop and then you’re let loose to race down the track.

The luge is speedy and there are a few sharp turns on the more intermediate course, which make it great fun but also slightly scary if you’re going full speed ahead! The cold whips at your face and even made my eyes water. I was freezing each time i hoped off at the end but it was definitely worth it. We had 3 luge rides, which i thought was just enough as there are two courses to experience and you do need to queue each time to go up the chairlifts again.

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All that adventuring during the day meant a nice quite night in. Perfect.