2005-02 (FEBRUARY, 2005)

Rugby Sevens 2005 - Wellington, New Zealand

This weekend (well, Friday/Saturday) Wellington played host to the latest round in the International Rugby Sevens Tournament.

Bex & Pete joined us on Thursday evening and Mum & Dad on Friday morning (on their way north for a couple of weeks in the Coromandel). I was working on Friday, so Dad attended the Rugby in my stead. The gang returned home on Friday evening with such fascinating tales that I couldn't wait until day two of the event, which I was able to attend.

Saturday dawned clear and hot. We all went for breakfast at our local café and the Rugby-goers formulated plans for costumes to wear to the stadium (it is compulsory to turn up dressed in such a way as to guarantee you get on television). As it turned out we should have put a hell of a lot more effort into this aspect - 50% of the entertainment on the day was the extreme quality of the spectator costuming! We each had matching purple tinsel wigs capped with an army helmet, if that's any consolation. I'd like to tell you more about the Rugby, but it was very much a backdrop to crowd antics and beer drinking - like all good sporting events should be. All I can tell you is that there were 16 teams playing, New Zealand won the event, and our nearest rivals, England and Australia, both got their butts kicked - yay! It all finished up around 22:00 and we had time to dash down to the harbour to see the best fireworks display I'd ever seen by way of celebrations for the Chinese New Year. We got home just after midnight.

Sunday was my birthday, but everyone was so knackered it was a very subdued day. I got some great pressies, but!

A Weekend In The Coromandel - Waikato, New Zealand

Andy & Bobby abandoned me in Wellington on Thursday morning and drove north to spend the weekend on the Coromandel Peninsula in a villa-by-the-sea that my parents had jacked up. I had to wait until Friday afternoon before I could jump in a plane and go and join them. Bex's husband, Pete, collected me from Auckland airport and together we went to collect Bex from work. The three of us then drove over to Opoutere on the Coromandel Peninsula (via a few false-starts and back-tracks). We arrived about 20:30 and were treated to a fine repast as soon as we walked through the door. The night was not a long one, as we were tired from all our travelling.

I bounded out of bed on Saturday morning and pegged it down to the beach for an early(ish) morning swim. The water was divine and I had the 8-kilometre long, white sand beach to myself. After breakfast came more swimming, body surfing, sunbathing, eating, chatting, walking, and general relaxing. Bex & Pete cooked up a BBQ storm in the evening and we rounded out the day with a couple of games of Cranium.

Sunday was a virtual mirror of Saturday in all respects. Bliss. Bex, Pete & myself drove back to Auckland first thing on Monday morning and I was back in my virtual office by 10:30. Tired, but happy.

Virginia Comes Out To Play - Wellington, New Zealand

One of our bestest friends from Sydney was in Wellington for a few days with work (Virginia is the Financial Times correspondent for Australasia).

On Thursday evening we met up for posh nosh at Logan Brown. Delicious!

On Saturday we spent the afternoon in the glorious Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is a secret valley only 2km from the city centre, 252 ha of native forest ringing with the songs of New Zealand's rarest native birds. It is surrounded by a unique predator-proof fence and is the only place on mainland New Zealand where you'll find beasties like a Stitch Bird or a Little Spotted Kiwi. We whiled away the whole afternoon wandering around this delightful park and on our way out Andrea & I joined up as members/supporters of the sanctuary. We'll definitely be back! That evening we had fish and chips for dinner before we bade farewell to Virginia who was moving on to Auckland early the next morning. No sooner had she departed than my Ma & Pa turned up - they were on there way south after their fortnight in the Coromandel and broke their journey by staying with us for the night.

On Sunday we farewell my Ma & Pa and then Bob and I headed off around to Eastbourne, on the opposite side of Wellington harbour from Seatoun (a mere 3km as the seagull flies, but a 45-minute journey by car). We parked up the car at the end of the harbour road and then walked the 18km there-and-back track out to the Pencarrow lighthouse, New Zealand's first permanent lighthouse (first lit on 1st January, 1859). The track was easy, but long and we were a bit tired once we'd knocked it off. We slept well that night, I can tell you!

Anniversary Weekend - Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, New Zealand

Last weekend was the first anniversary of myself & Andy's wedding. We flew down to Christchurch on Friday evening and were collected by my Mum. After dropping Ma off, we continued on out to Wainui on Banks Peninsula for a weekend of supreme luxury at The Gables. Guests at our wedding might remember the food, and it is the two chefs responsible for that fine feast, Lyn & Chris, that run The Gables.

Needless to say The Gables is a guesthouse with a difference - it's pretty rare to have two restaurant chefs cooking for two guests, and, boy, did we take advantage of it! The evening meal on Friday commenced with a mozzarella, tomato and basil salad. This was followed by twirls of Bream on a pumpkin risotto cake with oven roasted veg fresh from the garden. To finish we were treated to a bucket of the finest Crème Brûlée each and I got to sample a glass of Lyn's home-made Lemoncello. Delish!

Saturday was spent in pursuit of total relaxation. The sum total of our day's activities consisted of my reading The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, to Andy - a very poorly written, but none-the-less enjoyable, round-up of all that is Holy Grail / Templar Knights / Priory of Sion. Foucault's Pendulum, by Umberto Eco, (one of my favourite books of all time) it ain't. Dinner on Saturday evening began with Bruschetta and continued with fresh home-made pasta served with a baked red pepper sauce. To follow we were treated to the most divine fillet of lamb I have ever eaten. It was served with a baked mushroom reduction and more oven roasted veg. And to finish a huge serving of home-made red current sorbet. This feast was squarely placed in the top ten meals I have ever eaten.

On Sunday we breakfasted and then returned to Christchurch via the beach at Birdling's Flat (a beach where you can collect as much red garnet as you can carry from amongst the pebbles on the shoreline). We spent the afternoon relaxing at my Parent's house before boarding a late flight back to Wellington. A truly blissful weekend!