2012, the year that was.

So we have come to the end of yet another year. Now wasn’t that fast? It seemed like only yesterday we were ushering in the new year and now, we’re farewelling it in readiness for another one. How was your year? Was it good? Did you get up to plenty of mischief?

Even though I saw family in Melbourne around Easter, I had a largely forgettable first quarter. By the time April rolled around, I was more than itching to up the ante on my social life. One of my good pals who you’ve heard heaps about, Tania,  had gone abroad the previous August, and I was bemoaning the lack of a regular Thursday date. We get on like a house on fire when we’re together but since her move I had not heard from her. Then suddenly on the April 1st, she called saying she’d returned!

It would be another 3 weeks before we actually saw each other again, during which time I had a whole spate of other reunions. Friends I’d not heard from in years called, texted or wrote to me, and in every instance we were able to take up where we left off, as though we’d never been apart.

At the end of May, after much nail-biting, His Royal Highness found he had passed his specialist exams, a culmination of ten years of hard slog as he balanced work with studies and family life. The truth, as any surgeon’s wife knows, is that we had not had much family life in the YEARS leading up to the exams, so I had to learn to stomach his company anew, one of the challenges being to cater to his food preferences, since up until then, Amanda and I often dined by ourselves.

To celebrate His Royal Highness’ passing, all three of us flew to New Zealand for a ski holiday at the end of June. Being virgin skiers, Amanda and I were both thrilled to see the snow. New Zealand in winter is simply stunning and I was glad that our stay there coincided with my birthday, at the beginning of July.

We took a few more celebratory trips in August and September, but they were mostly to nearby Gold Coast where we often stayed just the one night, leaving on a Saturday and returning on a Sunday. His Royal Highess found it odd at first not to lug around his books, whilst we found it hard to believe him not to buried in them.

In October, after yet more nail-biting, it was confirmed we were moving to Perth in 2013. Being a city-chick, I was relieved to know we’d be swapping one capital city for another, although sad to be leaving our home of 3 years, Brisbane. We’d made many friends here, lived through the floods of January 2011, savoured the cities many delights, all in all had a mostly rollicking good time.

That month my family of 3 also made our first trip to Hervey Bay, home of whale watching on Australia’s East Coast, to spend three days with Tania and her family. Days later, I flew up to Cairns to visit Frances, my astrology guru and great mate, with whom I had and continue to have many conversations about the unknown in our special language.

At the end of the same month, Amanda and I followed His Royal Highness to Sydney for a work conference, where I had the chance to meet up with a former classmate, Yuens, who owns a lovely cafe there. Like a kid from the backwaters of civilisation, I was shocked to see the number people in Sydney, all dressed like they were attending some gala function.

In November, my preparations for our move to Perth kicked into high gear. I arranged to have our place here in West End rented out and after much shopping around, booked a storage unit in Macgregor, in the Brisbane’s Southeast. His Royal Highness and I devised a definite route to travel to Perth by car, which would allow us to do get there in good time, comfortably. It is a 4800km journey across some of the loneliest stretches of road in Australia, so we’ll be sure to carry enough water and fuel to get there.

In December, Amanda’s school, like most schools in the Southern Hemisphere, finished for the year. We flew back to Malaysia to see family and friends, for the the first time in 5 years! Because of time-constraints, we were not able to meet up with everyone. At the top of my must-see list were Sheau Jing and Keng Yew, who I went through university with, with whom I have remained the staunchest of friends. They were welcoming their first child and as such, unable to travel to my parent’s home in Ipoh to see me. Hence, my rendezvousing with them in Kuala Lumpur instead.

I paid visits to many aunts, uncles, a couple of cousins and in-laws; I ate the foods of my childhood, heard the singsong voices I know so well, and reminisced, as Cancerians do, of yesterday. Oh yesterday, all my troubles seem so far away, now they look as though they’re here to stay…

Which brings me to the end of 2012. Catch me in 2013 for MORE parenting, lifestyle and relationship stories with a cultural, nostalgic bent to them. I wish you a happy new year and  a blessed and safe holiday season.

 

 

 

My New Zealand Family Holiday: Day 7 KEA POINT on Mt COOK

As usual, we got our nightly rate’s stay worth of sleeping before checking out at 10am. With the exception of St Moritz in Queenstown, every hotel we’ve stayed in New Zealand had a 10am check-out. Unlike in Australia where you can ask for a late check-out, the hotel brochure advising an extra hourly charge of NZD20 for each hour over the check-out time, seems to indicate that almost none asks for this privilege.

A picture of the view from my hotel balcony at The Hermitage on Mt Cook, New Zealand.

How does anyone walk away from this view without taking a final picture? A A picture of the view from my hotel balcony on the morning of my check-out from The Hermitage on Mt Cook, New Zealand.

Once we had loaded our bags in the car and adjusted the laces on our shoes, we three musketeers set off  for Kea Point, a two-hour return trip on foot, to see the snout of the Mueller Glacier. With the path almost entirely flat, it was a fairly easy trek, but for the slabs of ice among the snow that made His Royal Highness slip and fall a couple of times.

A picture of me with The Hermitage on Mt Cook in New Zealand in the background.

Off we go! This is before stepping onto the Kea Point trek.

A picture of Mt Cook from the Kea Point track in New Zealand

This is just the start folks.

A picture of Mt Cook from the Kea Point track in New Zealand

In the shadow of nature’s awesomeness on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and Amanda on Mt Cook, trekking towards Kea Point.

A picture of HRH and Amanda on Mt Cook, trekking towards Kea Point.

A picture of HRH and Amanda on Mt Cook, trekking towards Kea Point.

Long, long, long way to go. I was beginning to wish we’d packed some crackers.

A picture of Amanda on Mt Cook from the Kea Point track in New Zealand

Still a long, long way to go. We’re only twenty minutes into the trek.

A picture of Mt Cook on our way towards Kea Point.

You might be able to see The Hermitage in the distance, now the size of an ant.

A picture of HRH nearing Kea Point on Mt Cook, New Zealand.

Wait, we’re almost there. I promise you it is so worth it.

A seat to admire the Mueller Glacier at Kea Point on Mt Cook.

About now, I was wishing for a mamak stall that sells Indian roti, curry and Milo. Or maybe just a toilet. All this snow around me made me want to pee.

A picture of the snout of Mueller Glacier from Kea Point on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

Oh GAWD! We are here! I’d have done a victory dance except that by now I was deliriously hungry and tired. A picture of the snout of Mueller Glacier from Kea Point on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of me at the snout of Mueller Glacier from Kea Point on Mt Cook in New Zealand

A picture of me at the snout of Mueller Glacier from Kea Point on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of the three of us at the snout of Mueller Glacier from Kea Point on Mt Cook in New Zealand

Yay! We got there! Don’t ask me why I suddenly look so fat.

By the time we reached Kea Point, we were so exhilarated that we forgot our tiredness and lack of breakfast that morning. We met Jeff and his family, cattle farmers from North Canterbury, visiting Mt Cook for a couple of days. They told us about 5am milking of cows, killing sick livestock and having neighbours who live kilometres away. As a city girl, I found it all very fascinating. It was a window into a world I have no association with and experience of. Certainly, it surprised me to hear of Jeff crying after the slaughter of a cow.

A picture of two cattle farmers we had a chat with at Kea Point on Mt Cook, New Zealand.

Jeff and his boy. Two friendly cattle farmers we had a chat with at Kea Point on Mt Cook, New Zealand.

Once our batteries were recharged, we attempted the hike back to our car outside The Hermitage. Like most journeys, going back seemed a lot faster than getting there.

A picture of HRH heading to The Hermitage, after our hour-long walk to Kea Point on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

HRH at the beginning of the trek back to The Hermitage.

A picture of HRH and Amanda heading back to The Hermitage, after our hour-long walk to Kea Point on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and Amanda heading back to The Hermitage, after our hour-long walk to Kea Point on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of our path heading back to The Hermitage, after our hour-long walk to Kea Point on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of our path heading back to The Hermitage, after our hour-long walk to Kea Point on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda with the sign board on the way back to our car at The Hermitage after our trek to Kea Point on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda with the sign board on the way back to our car at The Hermitage after our trek to Kea Point on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and Amanda on the way back to our car at The Hermitage after our trek to Kea Point on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

It was such a humbling experience to be so small in nature, surrounded by all that snow.

A picture of Amanda on the way back to our car at The Hermitage after our trek to Kea Point on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

I was so proud of Amanda to walk all that way without complaining. She was such a trooper!

A picture of Mt Cook on New Zealand.

How lucky am I? Beauty, every which way you look.

A picture of HRH and Amanda on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

At the half-way point. I recognised where we were by the pile of rocks there. There is another, not pictured.

A picture of HRH and Amanda on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of me on Mt Cook, New Zealand

A rare snap of the photographer. Grimace on face says, “I’m so bloody hungry and tired.”

A picture of Amanda resting on her way back to The Hermitage on Mt Cook, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda resting on her way back to The Hermitage on Mt Cook, New Zealand.

 

 

 

My New Zealand Family Holiday: Day 7 WANAKA TO Mt COOK

By Estella

After spending 3 hours at Puzzling World, His Royal Highness, Amanda and I hit the road once again. This time we were headed for the tallest mountain in New Zealand, Mt Cook, where His Royal Highness had us booked into the swankiest hotel there, The Hermitage. On special at NZD169  through www.wotif.com , it was only NZD4 more than The Brookvale Motel in Wanaka but was a million times more comfortable to live in.

We went down route 8a, after which past Tarras, a small blink and you’ll miss it town, we turned into route 8. We passed the famous Lindis Pass, a road in the shadow of high mountain ranges before arriving at Omarama, then going on to Twizel.

A picture of traveling on route 8a in New Zealand.

Travelling along route 8a in New Zealand.

A picture of traveling on route 8a in New Zealand.

A beautiful winter’s day on the road.

A picture of traveling on route 8a in New Zealand.

Southern Alps at the horizon. It looks near but it was actually several hours away by car.

Pictures just don’t do justice to the jaw-dropping beauty of New Zealand in winter. The way the land is shrouded in mist, with light seeping through around the edges, is something you have to see at least once in your life. It’s pure poetry for the eyes and fodder for the imagination.

A picture of winter in New Zealand's South Island.

Notice the poor visibility? This picture was taken about two in the afternoon. We were between Omarama and Twizel.

A picture of winter in New Zealand's South Island.

Still on the road towards Twizel. See how beautiful the midday sun looks, high above the windswept moors, through the fog?

A picture of winter in New Zealand's South Island.

We were now past Twizel, nearing Lake Pukaki. The trees reminded me of a storybook Christmas.

A picture of winter in New Zealand's South Island.

I don’t care what the bona fide photographers say about the lighting. I love it. It’s so ethereal, so otherworldly.

A picture of Lake Pukaki on the road towards Mt Cook in New Zealand.

We’re almost there. A picture of Lake Pukaki on the road towards Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of Lake Pukaki on the road towards Mt Cook in New Zealand.

Those are clouds floating above Lake Pukaki, half an hour away from Mt Cook.

A picture of the Southern Alps in New Zealand.

Our car was climbing towards Mt Cook. The white things at the back are the Southern Alps.

A picture of the Southern Alps in New Zealand.

Have you seen anything more amazing? That’s the Southern Alps in the distance.

A picture of the area around Lake Pukaki, in New Zealand, in winter.

That’s a dry creek bed but beautiful all the same.

A picture of the Southern Alps in New Zealand.

We’re almost there.  A picture of the Southern Alps in New Zealand.

A picture of the Southern Alps in New Zealand.

We’re on the home stretch. The Hermitage is less than half a kilometre away.

Accommodation on Mt Cook ranges from backpackers’ hostel to cabins to motel and hotel rooms. We had a reservation at The Hermitage for a room with a view of the Southern Alps.

A picture of some of the cabins in the village on Mt Cook, New Zealand.

A picture of some of the cabins in the village on Mt Cook, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH outside The Hermitage Hotel on Mt Cook, New Zealand.

We’re here! A picture of HRH outside The Hermitage Hotel on Mt Cook, New Zealand.

A picture of me on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

It was FREEZING. A picture of me outside The Hermitage on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and Amanda on our hotel balcony at The Hermitage on Mt Cook in New Zealand

A picture of HRH and Amanda on our hotel balcony at The Hermitage on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda looking out on the Southern Alps from our hotel balcony on Mt Cook, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda looking out on the Southern Alps from our hotel balcony on Mt Cook, New Zealand.

A picture of our room at The Hermitage on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of our room at The Hermitage on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of me on the balcony of our hotel room at The Hermitage on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A souvenir shot of my time on Mt Cook. It’s not every day that you wake up with the Southern Alps at your window.

A picture of Amanda watching telly in our hotel room on Mt Cook, New Zeala

As usual, Amanda found the remote control to the TV. She’s on the floor having a pre-dinner snack of cookies.

Since The Hermitage is reputed to have one of the most awarded restaurants in New Zealand, with fresh produce coming from the surrounding areas, we opted to dine in-house that night. Our other alternative was to find an eatery in the Mt Cook village.

A picture of us in the restaurant at The Hermitage on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of the three of us in the restaurant at The Hermitage on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of the restaurant at The Hermitage on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

A picture of the restaurant at The Hermitage on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

For a much-lauded eatery in a tourist destination, the prices were reasonable, although I should mention, far from cheap. It only cost a couple of dollars more to order a main there than it would have at somewhere like Lake Tekapo. Our dinner that night came to NZD94, but for that, we had two serves of pan fried, locally-farmed salmon on citrus-infused risotto and Amanda had pasta with loads of finely grated well-aged Parmesan. I’m not usually a fan of rice in any form, but the risotto was very delicious.

A picture of our dinner at The Hermitage on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

Locally-farmed pan fried salmon on a bed of citrus-infused risotto.

A picture of Amanda and her pasta at the restaurant in The Hermitage on Mt Cook in New Zealand.

Amanda was very pleased with her pasta. The waitress brought her MORE CHEESE upon request. She was chuffed.

 

 

 

My New Zealand Family Holiday: Day 3 QUEENSTOWN

By Estella

After very many hours on the road from Christchurch, we arrived in Queenstown just after 9pm. There, we opted to save NZD10 by parking our hire car on the road across from where we were staying – the Millennium Hotel. According to the hotel’s brochure, the hotel, part of Millennium Hotels and Resorts, was so named because it was the last place on earth in the new millennium to witness the Venus transit of 1874 and the site it sits on has a plate that commemorates the occasion. Being an astrology buff, a body of knowledge once married to astronomy, the study of the night skies, I was absolutely chuffed at the tidbit but forgot it once I looked outside my window the next morning and saw snow-capped mountains.

View of the Southern Alps from one of the windows in the Millennium Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealan

View of the Southern Alps from one of the windows in the Millennium Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Internal courtyard of the Millennium Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Internal courtyard of the Millennium Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Being utterly gluttonous, I soon forgot that too when I reached the breakfast buffet a couple of floors down. The Millennium Hotel’s buffet breakfast was everything you’d expect from an establishment of its calibre; there was a good selection of warm savoury dishes, cereals and beverages to satisfy even the fussiest of palates. With crazy hair from the night before, His Royal Highness, Amanda and I  were soon fuelling up for the day’s activities ahead.

Me at breakfast, Millennium Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Notice my crazy hair? We failed to locate the hairbrush tucked away in our suitcase. Me at breakfast, Millennium Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Amanda at breakfast, Millennium Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Amanda at breakfast, Millennium Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealand.

A close up of my breakfast at the Millennium Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealand.

That breakfast would easily cost you NZD15 at a cafe outside. It is dollar-for-dollar what it is in Australia. Here’s a close up of my breakfast at the Millennium Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Warming my hands by the fire at the Millennium Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealand.

All good hotels have an open fire in either the lobby or like here, the restaurant, to add to the alpine atmosphere. Here am I warming my hands by the fire at the Millennium Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Shivering on the Millennium Hotel's balcony.

As I was inadequately dressed for a romp outside, I was shivering on the Millennium Hotel’s balcony when we took this photo.

After checking out from the hotel, we set off to explore Queenstown on foot. Turning down a steep side street from our hotel, we came to the banks of Lake Wakatipu, where we happened upon a 3-hour walking track. Since we were still recovering from the long drive down the day before, we went 20 minutes of the way before turning back towards town.

HRH and Amanda outside the Millennium Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Before setting off for Lake Wakatipu: HRH and Amanda outside the Millennium Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of the steep street we came down in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Adelaide street from the bottom in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of beautiful Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of beautiful Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand. Southern Alps in the distance.

A picture of beautiful Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

The water was crystal clear and the sun was shining. What more could I ask for? A picture of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of me with my back to a ice-covered park in Queenstown, New Zealand.

HRH took this picture of me with my back to a ice-covered park in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda doing her current favourite pose by Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

“What?” said Amanda, doing her current favourite pose by Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Another picture of beautiful Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Another picture of beautiful Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of a house by Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of a house by Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand. Perhaps feeling a tad melancholic with my 34th birthday upon me, I was captivated by the dead vines clinging to the building. It spoke to me about the changing seasons of life and how fleeting everything we experience really is.

A picture of HRH and Amanda at the start of a walk around Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and Amanda at the start of a walk around Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand. We completed 20 minutes of it before backtracking.

A picture of me at the beginning of the Frankton walkway, a walk which runs the rim of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand

A picture of me at the beginning of the Frankton walkway, a walk which runs the rim of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and Amanda throwing rocks into Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and Amanda throwing rocks into Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of the gorgeous Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of the gorgeous Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of TS Earnslaw banked on the other side of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

My good friend Tania said I had to go for a cruise around Lake Wakatipu in the TS Earnslaw while in Queenstown. Unfortunately the ship was undergoing major refurbishment while we were there.

A picture of a table and chair overlooking Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand

See that table and chair there? How I wish this was my writing desk!

A picture of HRH on the plot of land he plans to buy in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH on the plot of land he plans to buy in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and Amanda walking towards town in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and Amanda walking towards town in Queenstown, New Zealand. As the official photographer of the trip, I was trailing behind them.

A picture of Amanda and I with the "Adelaide St" sign on our way to town in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda and I with the “Adelaide St” sign on our way to town in Queenstown, New Zealand.

I noticed that most of the side streets running off the main arterial road, Frankton Road, were named after capital cities around Australia. In the spirit of reciprocity, I reckon that they should rename one of the major streets in either Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth or Adelaide after Queenstown. After all, borrowing from Australian soap Home and Away, “everyone needs good neighbours”, or don’t they?

A picture of HRH pointing to the Adelaide Street sign outside our next hotel, Copthorne in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH pointing to the “Adelaide Street” sign outside our next hotel, Copthorne in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and Amanda outside a Korean Church in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and Amanda outside a Korean Church in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of the Queenstown Wharf taken from Frankton Road.

A picture of the Queenstown Wharf taken from Frankton Road.

A picture of Amanda in Queenstown town centre during midday.

Here’s Amanda with another of her poses in Queenstown town centre during midday.

Because we needed money to spend, our first stop in town was the ASB Bank. As part of the Commonwealth Bank, which I bank with in Australia, ASB Bank charged me only NZD1 to make a withdrawal from their ATM. His Royal Highness went into the bank to sort out trailing fees on an account he opened while we were living in Wanganui, in New Zealand’s North Island 8 years ago.

A picture of HRH in ASB BAnk, Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH in ASB BAnk, Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda and I cam-whoring in the ASB Bank while waiting for HRH.

A picture of Amanda and I cam-whoring in the ASB Bank while waiting for HRH. We had to find a way to while away the time.

There were no queues, no tellers, no lines of any sort to speak of. Just free coffee or tea from a state of the art beverage dispensing machine for customers in one corner and kiosks to check one’s accounts from. I wished my bank in Brisbane was like that.

A picture of HRH using a Fast Net kiosk to check his account at ASB Bank in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH using a Fast Net kiosk to check his account at ASB Bank in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda waiting for her FREE hot chocolate from a machine in ASB Bank, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Now this is what I call “taking care of the customer.” A picture of Amanda waiting for her FREE hot chocolate from a machine in ASB Bank, Queenstown, New Zealand.

 A picture of a wooden shop in Queenstown city centre.

The stone and wooden buildings made me feel like I was Heidi in that childhood tale about a girl who goes to live with her grandfather up in the Swiss Alps. Here’s a picture of a typical shop in Queenstown city centre.

A picture of me with a gigantic emu sculpture in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of me with a gigantic emu sculpture in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda with a giant Kiwi outside a gift shop in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Shops say “duty free” but still charge GST. Go figure. A picture of Amanda with a giant Kiwi outside a gift shop in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of me with sheep skin booties for my next child in Queenstown, New Zealand.

I was on the lookout for Jade earrings. Instead here I am with sheep skin booties for my next child in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda wearing the new "sheep" necklace HRH bought her in Queenstown, New Zealand.

So, so vain. A picture of Amanda wearing the new “sheep” necklace HRH bought her in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of me wearing the new earring HRH bought me in Queenstown, New Zealand.

You can see where Amanda gets her vanity from. A picture of me wearing the new earrings HRH bought me in Queenstown, New Zealand. I was studying the menu at a Korean restaurant we were at.

Next I paid NZD26 for the three of us to have lunch at a Korean Restaurant in the middle of town. By far, it was the worst Korean meal I have ever had. My “stew” was little more than the water the offal floating inside was boiled in with some spring onions thrown on top for good measure. I had to add plenty of salt and pepper to give the dish some taste.

A picture of HRH at lunch in a Korean restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH at lunch in a Korean restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

After lunch we wandered down the street where we came across a self-serve wine bar. The whole idea is that you put money into a card and use that to buy drinks from any of the machines in store. You can even have your drinks served at any of the partner restaurants in the area.

A picture of a board outside the wine-bar we entered in Queenstown, explaining how the system works.

A picture of a board outside the wine-bar we entered in Queenstown, explaining how the system works.

A picture of Amanda and I in SELF-SERVE wine bar in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda and I at a SELF-SERVE wine bar in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of a selection of wines at a SELF-SERVE wine-bar in Queenstown, New Zealand.

They even had GRANGE at NZD850 a bottle. A picture of a selection of wines at a SELF-SERVE wine-bar in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda and I in the Queenstown mall.

A picture of Amanda and I in the Queenstown mall. It was beginning to get very cold.

A picture of Amanda in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Don’t ask me who Joe is as I have no idea. A picture of Amanda outside his garage in Queenstown, New Zealand.

If you are prepared to pay NZD20 for an adult and NZD10 for a child, you can experience what it’s like to be totally surrounded by ice in one of the few ice bars around Queenstown. With everything from furniture to the glasses drinks are served from made out of ice, it is a one of a kind experience. The cover charge includes the use of a thick parka while inside.

A picture of HRH and Amanda outside one of a couple of ICE BARS in Queenstown, New Zealand.

You could go in to experience the ambience for NZD20 an adult or NZD10 a child. A picture of HRH and Amanda outside one of a couple of ICE BARS in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda outside the St James Apartments in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda outside St James Apartments in Queenstown, New Zealand. As you can see, even the DRAINS are beautiful in Queenstown.

Tired from a day of roaming the town, we returned to our new hotel, Copthorne, situated on the Lake front. His Royal Highness paid NZD219 for two nights through www.wotif.com With only 4 stars, it was half a star less than the Millennium we had stayed in the night before. To my dismay, I discovered that this meant it was twice as cold inside the building. We did however, have a gorgeous view of Lake Wakatipu.

A picture of our room at the Copthorne Hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of our room at the Copthorne Hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of the view from our room at Copthorne Hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of the view from our room at Copthorne Hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of the courtyard at the Copthorne Hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of the courtyard at the Copthorne Hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand.

We opted to dine in the hotel’s restaurant that evening. Feeling in need of a hearty warm meal, His Royal Highness and I had a plate of lamb stew stew with couscous each and a serve of stir-fried greens to share. The bill came to NZD68.

A picture of Amanda and and the welcome sign at the restaurant in the Copthorne Hotel in Queenstown

Reflecting the influx in Chinese tourists, the welcome sign has words in Mandarin.

A picture of a chandelier in the restaurant at the Copthorne Hotel, Queenstown, New Zeal

Old world charm of the Copthorne Hotel. A picture of a chandelier in the restaurant at the Copthorne Hotel, Queenstown, New Zeal

A picture of a single serve of lamb stew at the restaurant in the Copthorne Hotel,  Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of a single serve of lamb stew at the restaurant in the Copthorne Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of a single serve of stir-fried greens at the Copthorne Hotel, Queenstown, New Zea

A picture of a single serve of stir-fried greens at the Copthorne Hotel, Queenstown, New Zealand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Packing for New Zealand.

By Estella

Since you’ve been receiving a constant stream of stories from me this past week, you’re probably wondering when I’m going off to New Zealand. The answer, my friends, is soon. Amanda is already harassing me to pack for our trip, dragging out our big bag and all. She’s raring to go to the New Zealand snowfields and is anxious about me forgetting anything important.

First up, clothes. Do we have thermals, sweaters and a wind, water and cold-proof jacket each? Tick, tick and tick. My good friend Tania, upon hearing of our trip to New Zealand, loaned me a ski jacket belonging to her eldest daughter, Grace. Grace is only twelve but already a head and a half taller than her mother and I thanks to Paul, her father, who towers over the lot of us shorties. Tania also loaned me her second daughter’s jacket for Amanda, so we have that sorted.

His Royal Highness has his own jacket from skiing as a student so we didn’t have to borrow or buy him one. Posed with the option, we would have borrowed because Brisbane weather, being Californian, isn’t cold enough to warrant an investment in such thick winter gear.

I’ve bought us instant-heat packs from Kathmandu that warm to 55 degrees with the breaking of a metal-disc inside a pouch filled with some sort of chemicals, so that if we should get trapped in bad weather en-route to anywhere, we’ll still stay warm and toasty.

Being such a chilli-fiend, I’m tempted to bring my own chillies along but I’m afraid I might be stopped at customs. They are only chillies but if Australian customs is anything to go by, there may be some restrictions on bringing fresh foods into New Zealand. Oh, I do so love them ! I wonder how I’ll get through a week without chillies.

Amanda wants you to know that while I’m updating you, she’s already packed all our bags. I spied Rou-Rou her stuffed toy dog going in, as well as Sugar, the robotic dog I got her last month, in the bag, so I may have to stop right here. Thank you for all the bon voyages, happy holidays and safe journeys. I’ll be posting stories and pictures from the trip when I get back. Perhaps the odd one of two I’ve already drafted in between.

I won’t be gone long so stay tuned. When I return, I’ll have a cost break-down of our trip for families interested in holidaying there, various tips and tricks on how to take a family vacation overseas without breaking the bank and MORE exciting stuff than before.

To the would-be burglar: I live in a high-security apartment. There are cameras out the front, in the lift and on every floor, so you better ditch your plans to come visit me. In addition, I’ve informed the front desk, who knows me on sight as well as by name, of my plans so don’t think of pretending to be me. Plus, if you somehow managed to sneak in the building, pass the front desk, up the lift and down the corridor without being seen by staff, you’ll be sorely disappointed to find that after getting through my industry-standard deadbolts, that I have NO gold bars to speak of. I don’t even have a can of coke for you to drink, should you be feeling thirsty. TV? That’s bolted to the wall.