Just the Two (four…) of Us

22 03 2017

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I got a lot of questioning looks when I told people that for our, so-called, ‘Babymoon’, we were going to take a road trip from Seattle to Yellowstone National Park, Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons.  They said, ‘Really? A Road trip??  Why not Hawaii?  Or what about Europe?? You should do something now without the babies (yes babies…twins!) that you wouldn’t do when they arrive.’

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Well you know what….I can see going to Europe with the babies (at least this is what I thought before we had them), and I can definitely see us going to Hawaii with the girls.  But what I can’t see us doing with two children in tow is a Road Trip – ‘Nathan & Traci Style’.  That means 12 – 16 hour days in the car, tracking herds of bison on the backroads, taking photo upon photo upon photo of scenery and at least seriously considering to get up in the early wee hours of the morning so that we could catch photos of the colours of the sunrise streaking across the sky, or waiting out at the edge of a river to see if the cinnamon mama bear and her cubs would be stopping by for a drink.

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In a way this road trip was a farewell to our life as off the beaten path travelers who take every opportunity to pack in as much as we possibly can, experience everything we can experience and travel without any thought as to the necessary feeding/potty breaks that will inevitably rule our lives for the next….ever.

Plus, we had to have one last trip in our Subaru XV.  We had to say goodbye in true style and get as much dirt and as many bugs as we possibly could on this car, before we gave it a good wash and turned it over to a new home.  Because, when we had to put down the backseats just to get the stroller in the back, we realized that we would not be able to keep our beloved Subaru if the seats had to be set up for two car seats…which we kind of need…

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And so, we embarked on our road trip.  We racked up over 2000 miles in a 5 day period.

It was an incredible trip.

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A trip that gave Nathan and I a chance to ‘hang out’, tell stories, share experiences and cherish a little bit of time together, real time together, before it was not just the two of us anymore.  Because you have to admit, when you’re going on a road trip you have to be pretty selective on who you choose to travel with because it could be the most amazing and intimate bonding experience, or it could be just a little too much time together and you end up needing to have separate quarters for a while after the trip.

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To be honest, I may have pushed the boundaries a little bit, as I didn’t see any other pregnant people sitting along the rim waiting for Ol’ Faithful to put on its show…

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or strolling along the steam of the hot springs at the Grand Prismatic Spring…

 

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…or hanging out the sunroof, as far as I could before my belly got in the way, to take photos of bison and longhorns.

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So glad that we made the choice to do this trip.  Can’t wait til the girls get old enough to be able to enjoy the sights and scenery instead of wonder why we are at yet another scenic overlook taking photos.  And even though we couldn’t do everything we would have done, had I not been 6 months pregnant (I did offer to get out of the car so Nathan could do a little off-roading on terrain that was a little too aggressive for me) I love all of the photos we were able to capture of our adventures on the road.

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What’s a Detour or Two?

31 12 2016

With 40 hours left in New Zealand and over 230 miles left to drive to catch our flight home, somehow it just made sense that we should add an extra 7o miles to our trip and a couple of unexpected detours.  Because….when are we going to be back in New Zealand, on this type of a road trip…besides we can sleep on the plane, right?

So we were on the road early, still feeling the high from our glacier hike and feeling relaxed from our soak at the glacier hot pools the day before.

The forecast said rain, but we seemed to have gotten on the road before the clouds rolled in, and although they chased us and eventually caught up to us, we had a great (although long) drive for our last full day in New Zealand, zipping along the West Coast of the South Island, and winding through the Southern Alps as we headed to Christchurch.

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Views from the Road

I can’t remember who told us to make a side trip to Hokitika Gorge – but it was one of those places that is so far off the beaten path as you drive towards it, you start to question whether or not you are still going in the right direction….did you go too far….did you make the right turn….should you turn back…and then you find the parking lot, and realize that a lot of people have made the same pilgrimage that you have, only somehow you found yourself driving on an empty road for the last hour…

Hokitika Gorge is also one of those places that you can’t believe it actually looks like that, and when you look at your photos afterwards, you can’t quite believe that you were there, and the water was truly that colour.

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Hokitika Gorge

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It also made me wish that this wasn’t a drive through type stop for us because the water looked soooo inviting, but alas, the road trip must go on!

We stopped in at Hokitika for lunch, and also to take the obligatory tourist photo of their driftwood sign at the beach.

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The day was half over….but we still had one more photo detour and 230 miles of driving before we could rest our heads (and feet) for the night.

Because you can’t leave the South Island in New Zealand without seeing the Pancake Rocks…right?  Right? Well, that’s the idea I had in my head, so on we went to see the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks.

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Limestone formations that look surprisingly like huge stacks of pancakes.  Weird.  But also a nice place to take a stroll and stretch our legs, grab a flat white and check it off the list before we started the last leg of our journey for the day and for our trip.

Only another 4ish hours (more like 6) to go and the width of the South Island to go before we could check into our last hotel, pack up for the last time, and enjoy our last true flat white.

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We drove through the Southern Alps and had an opportunity to enjoy the views with just the perfect lighting as the sun started to set behind us.

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We found a cute little honey stand which had a sign that made me laugh.  Seriously the cheapest honey that we came across.  I think the souvenir shops were selling them for $20 – $30+ per small jar.

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As we wound through the Alps, the rain finally caught up with us and the clouds turned the sky dark well before its time, and as grey clouds turned into black night, we found ourselves rolling into Christchurch.

We knew that Christchurch was known for its English heritage but also that it had experienced some devastating earthquakes in the last 5-6 years that had destroyed a lot of its historical stone buildings and had effected much of its landscape.

Knowing that Christchurch had earthquake damage was way different than seeing it with our own eyes.

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We spent our last morning in New Zealand wandering the streets of Christchurch, taking in both the sights of earthquake wreckage and public art installations and murals that created a landscape of contrast.

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And so with a last glimpse at destruction and art, we headed to the airport to complete our 10 day road trip in New Zealand.  Still buzzing from the adrenaline rush of our sea kayaking tour, black water rafting, bungy jumping, glacier trekking adventures and feeling amazed at the beauty of the natural landscape, we settled in for our very very long flight home.

But New Zealand had one more surprise in store for us.  Air New Zealand gave out Hokey Pokey ice cream as their dessert!!  What?  Ice cream on the plane.  Kind of in love.

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Until next time New Zealand. Stay beautiful.





NZ – West Coast Style

10 06 2016

We left the sunshine in Queenstown to start our 4.5 hour trek on NZ’s West Coast towards Franz Josef Glacier.

We wound our way up through the surrounding mountains to take in the views up top.

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Before we came across this unusual sight on the flat lands at Cardrona…an opportunity to support the New Zealand Breast Cancer Association.  It definitely added a pop of colour to the landscape.

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We took a break in Wanaka.  Unfortunately it was pretty grey and overcast, because otherwise it would have been a beautiful stop on this town perched on the coast of Lake Wanaka.  But it did give us a chance to indulge in a Flat White stop.  These baristas are artists!

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As we drove along the water we could see the clouds rolling in, starting to steal our pockets of sunshine.  It was definitely still beautiful but we knew that our road trip was in for some rain.

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We drove through misty farmland, and just when I was telling Nathan that I was disappointed that we hadn’t seen more sheep, and that it seemed like cows were the most prevalent herd (and not sheep like people had said), we came across my NZ wish.

A Sheep Herd Road Block!

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I was half in and half out of the car, snapping photos like crazy.  I loved it and it was exactly what I had hoped for when we decided to go to New Zealand.

The excitement of this moment kept me on a high for the next few hours of our trip.

Finally we eased out of the dense green landscape and found ourselves driving along the coast.

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And we came across Bruce Bay – a top rated NZ Beach.  It could have been the day, but we weren’t quite sure how it was top rated, especially when we were attacked by sand fleas and biting flies and found ourselves dousing each other with bug spray and kind of suffocating ourselves in the car.

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But perhaps, it was the unique stones that could be found on this beach and lasting momentos that everyone left behind.

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The rocks looked like drift wood!

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7 – 8 hours after we began our road trip along the coast we finally rolled into our destination.  Franz Josef Glacier.

It was overcast with passing rain clouds and we crossed our fingers that we would be able to take our helicopter ride and ice trek tour up to the glacier the next day.

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Life’s a Beach

2 02 2016

Throughout the entire drive along the Coromandel Peninsula I felt torn. I didn’t know if I should be looking straight ahead out the windshield, to the side through my passenger side window, or if I should actually be hanging out the window and looking back at where we had just come. 360 degrees of absolute, stunning scenery.

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It was this indecisiveness about where to look that probably contributed to that woozy feeling I battled as well.

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You may have been one of the few who has seen my four page trip itinerary. Well, today’s trip was supposed to take the morning and the afternoon, but really, probably 4 – 5 hours. An hour and a half to Thames, another 160 km drive around the coast and low and behold, we’re rolling into our hotel in late afternoon for check in.

Well, as all of you who have been to New Zealand know, the drives are beautiful and they are so windy, that everything takes longer.

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Plus, I did not account for a 5 minute conversation with Phil (from The Langham Hotel Auckland). And when he heard that we were heading to the Coromandel Peninsula, he said, ‘You have to go to New Chums Beach. It is paradise. It is like treasure island. But you’ve got to work for it – to the end of the beach, over the rocks, through the trail – and then you will be rewarded with paradise’.

I mean, who can pass up an endorsement like that??!!

And so, we left Auckland around 10AM, cruised through Thames, marveled at the coastal water views directly on our left and wondered what type of fish everyone was catching out on the rocks.

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Phil pretty much said, ‘don’t even think about stopping at a beach on the West side – a waste of time’.  Hard not to stop for sights like these….

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NZ Christmas Tree!

We were tempted by the 25 green lipped mussel limit posted on the beach, and figured that would have stopped my dad right there – he would be out there on the beach trying to figure out who he needed to recruit to increase his shell fish limit.

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And after a quick lunch with NZ specialties L & P and ‘chocolate fish’ at Coromandel Town…

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We found ourselves walking past a beautiful white sand beach to find an even more beautiful white sand beach.  Maybe Phil was right…

We walked towards the end of Whangapoua Beach, to scale over rocks, to use rope handrails to climb up tree root-studded embankments and descend down into paradise.

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Whangapoua Beach

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I have to say it….New Chums Beach may have wrecked me for all other beaches.

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New Chums Beach

Sparkling, smooth white sand (with no rocky bits or drying seaweed). Clear blue and turquoise water. Cliffs filled with greenery surrounding a protected bay. Pointed, greenery covered islands in the distance.  And enough empty beach that it felt like you had it almost all to yourself.

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And so, with the help of Phil, breathtaking NZ scenery, a need to stop and take photos, and twisting roads, we rolled up to our hotel just after 7PM. 9 Hours Later.

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38 Hours Later

2 02 2016

Twenty-two hours after we arrived at SeaTac airport, we landed in Auckland, New Zealand. During that time, we visited 2 Centurion Airport Lounges, spent 14 hours in the air, watched 1 documentary, ¾ of a movie and had 4 meals. I slept for a cumulative 3 hours, and Nathan, maybe an hour all together. For as much as he praised the Air New Zealand Sky Couch – he also cursed it – because as I could curl up and have a pretty nice sleeping nest, a 6+ foot man, cannot curl himself up and create a comfy nest. Even the allure of a ‘cuddle belt’ did not provide a comfortable sleeping position for Nathan. And so, sleep deprived, and with a crick in his neck, we began our adventures in New Zealand!

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Driving on the opposite side of the road and on the opposite side of the car…it took a little while to get used to. We may have hit a temporary construction sign. Maybe. Armed with some paper maps, some printed directions and a little assistance from my phone, we adventured our way through Auckland for the next 12 hours.

We headed straight through the Waitakere Ranges to the West Coast full of its iron sand beaches, cliffs and big surf. I figured since we were strolling into town at 6AM (before the sun was even up), we had time to head to the West Coast and see what that was all about.

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Perhaps, I should have checked the weather before doing that, as we muddled our way through driving on the opposite side of the road, getting turned around and lost in the forest and driving deeper and deeper into descending fog and misty rain.

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But we made it! We scrambled into our rain jackets and ran along the black sand beaches, explored the rocky face of Lion Rock, tried to coax crabs out of rocks and tide pools and dipped our toes in the, surprising not as cold as I thought it would be, water.

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By 8AM we were tucked into the Piha Café for our first taste of NZ atmosphere: barefoot surfers, foul-mouthed rugged English guys on a motorbike trek across NZ and our first Flat Whites.

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By 10AM we were on the east side of Auckland, picking seashells off the beach at Mission Bay, as we looked beyond to Rangitoto Island.

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By 12:30PM we were tucking into a platter of steamed green lipped mussels. Huge mussels, very tasty, and Nathan even got an extra bite of protein (he realized later after looking at the photo……that he did indeed eat the crab that was in the mussel, and thought the crunch was normal – yuck!).

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By 2:00PM we were rolling up to the hotel.

By 4:00PM I was giggling like a school girl and oohing and aahing over the fantastic desserts at Milse. (Thank you Natalie for the recommendation!)

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The verdict:
Bombe Alaska: Passion Fruit and Vanilla Gelato, enrobed in white chocolate and covered in a torched meringue

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62% Satilia: Cherry & hazelnut (I can’t remember the rest but there was a chocolate cookie crumble and some other good stuff).

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36% Caramelia: Salted Almond and Caramel masterpiece (apparently I stopped listening after hearing about the Bombe Alaska!)

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And after strolling along the Viaduct Harbor, taking in drinks and snacks on a patio, we were getting ready for bed by 8:00PM. But after going strong for 38 hours, I don’t feel bad for being asleep by 9PM. Not even a little bit.





An Afternoon in Chamonix, France

10 02 2014

When I think about Europe, I think about how everything is so close to each other.  I grew up taking an hour and a half ferry ride from Vancouver Island to Vancouver, so I know that ferries can get you places, but they don’t usually get you that far.  My last trip to Europe I took an hour and a half ferry ride and I went from England to France – the close proximity just blows my mind!

One weekend we decided to take a quick afternoon trip.  From Geneva, Switzerland to Chamonix, France – just an hour and a half drive and you go from Lake Geneva to the French Alps.

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On the way I saw signs for Milan and Turin.  It’s a strange feeling to start an afternoon in one country, know that your destination is in a second country, but as soon as you cross the border there are already signs for cities in a third country!

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Chamonix, France felt very French to me – for obvious reasons I guess.  You can tell by the style of the buildings, the conversations around you and the number of restaurants that are trying to tempt you with crepes, fondue and tartiflette (a classic french dish made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions).  I will say this though, we walked into a couple different meat and cheese shops and as we walked through the door I was bombarded by the shops’ smell.  Stereotype or not – it smelled like feet.

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I definitely enjoyed wandering around the snowy village, dodging the skiers and snowboarders while taking photos of my sister and brother in law, who made it look like we should have been in Antarctica with all of their fur.

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I did add a little bit of North American spontaneity to the atmosphere though – a little bit of a snow ball fight, which was more of an ice crystal fight.  My sister said it looked like we were dogs burrowing in the snow drift.  I did manage to make 2 snowballs though – both carefully aimed.

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And lastly, I tried to fit myself into a gondola car.  My idea.  At first I thought no problem, but maybe it was meant for kids or skinny french women to fit into because it was a feat to get both my front and my back through that narrow door.  I made it – and that was after Soup a l’oignon gratinee, des frites and a taste of the tartiflette.  But…..before the Speculos and caramel beurre sale macarons.

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My last impression – the french sure do know how to display their pastries and confections.

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