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 6 MY BIRTHDAY

By Estella

Having slept like the cliched baby all new parents dream about, I awoke to a quiet room on the morning of my birthday. That’s not because my husband had stolen away during the night to frequent the Queenstown Casino yet again, but because I’ve been consistently the first to rise during our holiday, as it is my job to pack and His Royal Highness’ to drive.

A picture of me and Amanda at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Happy birthday to me! A picture of me wearing my new Merinomink sweater, holding Amanda at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Perhaps, like most women, I need a good twenty minutes to make myself presentable before greeting the day. This, being the start of my 34th year on earth, proved to be no different. I washed, brushed and painted the relevant parts of my body, before donning the Merinomink sweater I had bought the night before. His Royal Highness, now awake but still more or less ignoring me, wisely kept his contempt for my new sweater to himself. If he so much as said one word in objection to it, I would have brought up the $60 000 his father lost on dud shares two weeks out from our wedding – money he had sent home for his sister’s tertiary education – and I’d have added up the cost of her education, his own continued education, his father’s annual allowance these past 11 years, as all that money, which takes no accountant to see totals to hundreds of thousands of dollars, is considered to belong to the marriage and by default, belong to me.

The thought must have crossed his mind for he was much more amiable as the day wore on, even going so far as to ask what I’d like to do for the rest of the day. The night before, we had a written argument after dinner; Amanda was our intermediary, shuttling her father’s jotted replies to me and mine to him. This back and forth continued until His Royal Highness had nothing to say in response to my complaints about his behaviour.

He felt that I was stopping him from doing whatever he wanted, as much as he wanted. I wrote, “You’ve already been to the casino. You snuck out the first night we were here. On some level, you must have known it was wrong because you had to sneak out. Don’t say it was unplanned because your actions clearly show a degree of pre-meditation. Don’t call this a family holiday if all you want to do are things you want to do. Call it a personal holiday. And please don’t say we’re celebrating my birthday, because it sure doesn’t feel like a celebration to me. You can’t buy someone a gift if they have to pay for it themselves.”

The last was a sticking point since he kept saying he’d get me whatever I was buying as a birthday present, then go into sulk mode upon seeing the bill. I can’t help that I am into quality. The first and last bag His Royal Highness bought me, of his own volition, was some brown woven thing for $20 from Geelong. He thought that like his late mother, I’d use it for the rest of my life. I donated it to the Salvos once we moved to Brisbane. When it comes to gift-giving, I wish I were a lesbian for I’m sure most women have far better taste than men. Straight men just have to learn to ask for help when shopping for someone else.

After checking out of St Moritz, we walked down to the wharf and from there, made our way to one of Queenstown’s most famous dining establishments: Ferg Burger. I’d have preferred a champagne breakfast on my birthday but was willing to take one step back by allowing His Royal Highness to fulfil his curiosity about this well-known burger joint.

A picture of the Ferg Burger menu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of the Ferg Burger menu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

It was only slightly past eleven in the morning when we arrived, but already there was a queue stretching from the counter all the way to the road. Other diners assured us the wait was well worth it and half an hour later, our number was called out and our burgers were served. Roughly five inches in diameter, these were humongous burgers by anyone’s standards. I reckon Amanda and myself could just share the one. The buns were soft and fluffy and the meat was absolutely tender, unlike the charred, dried, bits of something you find at most burger places. The closest we have to a burger this good in Australia is one from the chain Grill’d.

A picture of a Ferg Burger in Queenstown, New Zealand.

That was one whopper of a burger. A picture of a Ferg Burger in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda tucking into her Ferg Burger.

A picture of Amanda tucking into her Ferg Burger.

 A picture of HRH feasting on his Ferg Burger in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH feasting on his Ferg Burger in Queenstown, New Zealand.

With two-thirds of a Ferg Burger in each of our stomachs, we walked back to St Moritz to collect our car before heading off to Wanaka, three hours away by car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My New Zealand Family Holiday: Day 5 ST MORITZ

By Estella

Upon our return from Glenorchy, His Royal Highness, Amanda and I checked into St Moritz, a boutique hotel with a 5 star rating overlooking Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown. Rooms usually go for close to NZD500 a night but thanks to savvy buying on His Royal Highness’ part, we paid only NZD195.

Exuding European charm, St Moritz had an open fire place in the foyer, furnishings that spoke of affluence and refinement and well-dressed, extremely courteous front desk staff. As a matter of fact, the front desk staff were so exceptionally well-trained, they enquired interestedly in how my day was, even as I took swigs from a full-sized bottle of Lindauer.

A picture of me by the fireplace at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Soaking up the ambience. A picture of me by the fireplace at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

When we were in the room, His Royal Highness said, “You do know you look like a drunk, drinking straight from the bottle at the counter, don’t you?”

Pardon moi but there were no glasses. Front desk staff at lesser establishments, although saving their judgements for themselves, would surely have given me withering looks as they handed us our room key. The staff at St Moritz batted not an eyelid and even offered to have someone deliver our luggage to our room and park our car in the basement for us. With lush carpet underfoot, an oversized flat-screen TV built into the wall display unit and top-notch custom-made furniture at every turn, our room was as delightful an experience for the eyes as it was for our bodies.

A picture of HRH at St Moritz, a boutique hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Checking out the NZD400 robes. A picture of HRH at St Moritz, a boutique hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Aigner toiletries at St Moritz, a boutique hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand

A picture of Aigner toiletries at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of me in the bathroom at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Simple and stylish, just how I like it. A picture of me in the bathroom at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of our room at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of our room at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of our room at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Nothing but the best. A beautifully upholstered chair in our room at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Later, once I’d finished oohing and aahing over the Aigner toiletries in the bathroom – the last time I’d heard the name was when I was dating my first boyfriend – we went for a dip in the outdoor hot-tub. His Royal Highness and I had soaked in mud-pools in New Zealand’s North Island eight years ago and these were just outdoor spas at St Moritz, but aside from the cold getting into and out of the tub, it was pleasurable all the same.

A picture of HRH and Amanda in the hot tub at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand

Father and daughter having a good soak outdoors. A picture of HRH and Amanda in the hot tub at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of me in the hot tub at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Sorry, it was too cold to be wearing a bikini. A picture of me in the hot tub at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Since it was dark, we couldn’t make out Lake Wakatipu from the hot tub, which the hotel brochure says you normally can see during the day, but boy did our aching bones love the warmth of that water. The standout aspect about sitting in warm water with the surrounding temperature below zero is that you feel like you are back in your mother’s womb, cocooned from the outside world, and by extension, the harshness of day-to-day life.

After our time in the hot-tub, we returned to our room for a shower before going down to the wharf for dinner. As it was the eve of my birthday, His Royal Highness treated us to a seafood restaurant by the name of Finz. The bill came to NZD84 but none of us were particularly impressed by what we were served.

Amanda had a spaghetti bolognaise with no cheese. “Spaghetti bolognaise should always have cheese,” announced Amanda, perhaps aping one of the judges on Masterchef. “I’ll be deducting points for lack of cheese.”

A picture of Amanda eating Spaghetti at FINZ Restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda eating Spaghetti at FINZ Restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

At the end of dinner, she deducted yet more points as they had forgotten to bring her coke and sundae as part of the kids meal set. I had the second Seafood Chowder of my entire New Zealand trip and apart from having the right consistency, had little in the way of gastronomic marvellousness going for it. For one it was too salty. For another, for what I’d paid, you’d expect to see more than a handful of marinara mix on the plate.

A picture of my seafood chowder at FINZ restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of my seafood chowder at FINZ restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

This being New Zealand, His Royal Highness had lamb cutlets served with broad-beans. The lamb was decently cooked although inadequately rested since you could see blood close to the bone. The bowl of mussels cooked in white wine and finished off with cream which we ordered to share was very fresh and cooked perfectly although the sauce erred on the side of being unbearably salty.

A picture of His Royal Highness' lamb and beans at FINZ restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of His Royal Highness’ lamb and beans at FINZ restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of New Zealand mussels cooked in wine and cream at FINZ Restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand

A picture of New Zealand mussels cooked in wine and cream at FINZ Restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Towards the end of dinner, His Royal Highness  offered me NZD100 in exchange for some time at the gaming tables of the Queenstown casino next door. He’d already snuck out while Amanda and I were asleep, the first night we came to town, to play poker at the Queenstown casino, claiming an inability to fall asleep straight after a shower, so I was none too chuffed by his proposition. However, since he was waving money in my face…

“For you, there is no holiday without gambling, is there?” I asked, realising the question was rhetorical since most of His Royal Highness’ school holidays were spent with parents who took turns minding him and his siblings while one sat at the gaming tables of Genting, in Malaysia’s highlands.

In all of our marriage, the only time His Royal Highness has been able to withstand the lure of the gaming tables is when they have been too far away from him. That is when we lived in Wanganui, a small town two and half hour’s drive north of the nation’s capital, Wellington. After that, all that kept him from losing up to $10k pa on this inherited habit, these many years, was my making him swear abstinence on his father’s life.

He swore he would never frequent a casino, buy numbers or indulge in any activity that may be construed as taking a bet against chance, so long as there is a mortgage on our first home or he has yet to complete his FRACS. He violated our agreement after having an argument with me one night, walking himself all the way to Brisbane’s casino in the dead of night to make a point, and months later, his father was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

“This is God you have made an agreement with, ” I reminded him. “Think carefully before you act next time.” I didn’t get him to swear on either my life or Amanda’s because I knew that both our lives, even combined, lack the incentive for him to give up gambling. In the hierarchy of His Royal Highness’ great loves, my father-in-law takes pole position, while Amanda and I, after an inordinately huge gap, come in at second and third respectively. That’s excluding other family members who, at times, I suspect precede us in ranking.

“That’s ok,” he said, when he asked to go to the casino, shortly before his FRACS exams. “My father’s having a polyps removed this weekend. It looks like it might have spread.”

All the more reason not to tempt fate, don’t you think?

“An hour, just an hour,” he said, that night after dinner in Queenstown. “I can walk you back to the hotel and come out again if you want. You know I make money on the tables.”

I don’t know why people have this ridiculous idea you can get rich by betting on cards, horses, chimpanzees, iguanas… For every one professional poker player out there, there are thousands of wannabes who’ll gamble their lives away without ever making the cut. The same can be said for artists and writers such a myself, but our pursuits involve years of hard work and not just blind luck, although it can hardly be disputed that in many cases, luck plays a very huge role. This being the eve of my birthday, I was even more disinclined to allow him to gamble. However, I could either give him my blessings or, being the son of two hardened gamblers, he’d steal away during the night to play again.

“Pick us up here in forty minutes time,” I said, begrudging the words even as they exited my mouth.

By the time he came back, having won a measly NZD40, I’d parted with NZD404 on a Merinomink sweater for myself and NZD88 on a toy sheep for Amanda, who she now calls Mr Lamb. I was in the mood to splurge since it isn’t everyday that we can buy “Made in New Zealand” in New Zealand. Perhaps, we were supposedly celebrating my birthday.

That’s not to say His Royal Highness was pleased with my purchases. Even though he all but shoved us into the OK Gift Shop at 88 Beach Road, he opined, rather bitterly as I proudly wore my new sweater, I had bought the sweater and the sheep to punish him.

“Oh, you’ll know when I’ve punished you.” I said. “This here – this is nothing.”

Why, if I had wanted to punish him, I would have bought all the merchandise in store instead of just those two items. He spent the rest of the night sulking like a big baby, only to reluctantly wish me a happy birthday once the clock struck midnight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My New Zealand Family Holiday: Day 5 GLENORCHY

By Estella

After our day on the slopes of The Remarkables, His Royal Highness, Amanda and I were too fatigued to partake in any activity more strenuous than walking. In fact, even walking called for super-human strength as I sported more black spots on my legs from skiing than does a Dalmatian over its entire body, so we decided to take it nice and easy by going to Glenorchy, forty minutes away by car, on the other side of Lake Wakatipu.

A picture of a bruise on my leg, the result of spending a day skiing in Queenstown, New Zealand.

The hazards of being a virgin skier. A picture of a bruise on my leg, the result of spending a day skiing in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of welts on HRH's leg, the result of skiing in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Even HRH, an experienced skier, was not spared from the curse of ill-fitting ski-boots. A picture of blisters on HRH’s leg, the result of skiing in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH on our drive to Glenorchy, Queenstown, New Zealand.

100% pure New Zealand. A picture of HRH on our drive to Glenorchy, Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Queenstown from around Lake Wakatipu.

Terraced houses on the highlands overlooking Lake Wakatipu. A picture of Queenstown from around Lake Wakatipu.

A picture of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand, from around the bay.

A picture of Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand, from around the bay.

A picture of me at Lake Wakatipu, on the way to Glenorchy in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of me at Lake Wakatipu, on the way to Glenorchy in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of two ducks frolicking in Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, New Zealand.

See how clear the water is? A picture of two ducks frolicking in Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, New Zealand.

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

Wuthering Heights, anyone? A picture of a house overlooking Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda showing off river stones from Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

On the way to Glenorchy. A picture of Amanda showing off river stones from Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of an iconic shed in Glenorchy, Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of an iconic shed in Glenorchy, Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Lake Wakatipu from Glenorchy, Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Lake Wakatipu from Glenorchy, Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and Amanda at Glenorchy in QUeenstown, New Zealand.

HRH and Amanda had Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps to their back.

A picture of Amanda outside Foxy's Cafe in Glenorchy, Queenstown, New Zealand.

See the mountains in the background? A picture of Amanda outside Foxy’s Cafe in Glenorchy, Queenstown, New Zealand.

It would seem that Kiwis love quirky, for most cafes and pubs we’ve patronised have had something kitsch about their decor. Foxy’s cafe at Glenorchy, where we stopped for lunch, had a bunch of barnyard animal figurines throughout, ranging from salt and pepper shakers to wall hangings.

A picture of Amanda with Mr Pig at Foxy's Cafe in Glenorchy, Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda with Mr Pig at Foxy’s Cafe in Glenorchy, Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda with the kitsch salt and pepper shakers at Foxy's Cafe in Glenorchy, Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda with the kitsch salt and pepper shakers at Foxy’s Cafe in Glenorchy, Queenstown, New Zealand.

A wall hanging at Foxy's Cafe in Glenorchy, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Is it a frog or is it a fly? A wall hanging at Foxy’s Cafe in Glenorchy, Queenstown, New Zealand.

After lunch, His Royal Highness and Amanda went to check out the Glenorchy surrounds of Lake Wakatipu whilst I had a sticky beak at the possum fur factory across the road from Foxy’s Cafe. If you’ve never felt possum, it’s way softer than sheep skin or even rabbit fur. Before you call PETA, do know that in New Zealand, possums are a threat to the ecosystem as they damage forests and prey on various species of birds and snails. In addition, they are a nuisance to farmers as they spread disease among livestock. So if you want to go green and support the initiative to control possum numbers, buy their fur.

A picture taken inside Glenorchy Furs in Queenstown, New Zealand.

There were hats of every sort, scarfs, neck ties, bed spreads and cushion covers. Even “willy warmers” to warm men’s er, willies. A picture taken inside Glenorchy Furs in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of me with a possum fur bedspread at Glenorchy's Furs in Queenstown New Zealand.

My dream – a possum bedspread. Unfortunately, we had no budget for it this trip. A picture of me with a possum fur bedspread at Glenorchy’s Furs in Queenstown New Zealand.

A picture of HRH with a "Land For Sale" sign in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Who knows? We might move there to live one day. A picture of HRH with a “Land For Sale” sign in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and me on our drive back from Glenorchy to Quuenstown town centre.

A picture of HRH and me on our drive back from Glenorchy to Quuenstown town centre.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My New Zealand Family Holiday: Day 2 CHRISTCHURCH TO QUEENSTOWN

This should actually be Day 1 and Night 2, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll count the day  His Royal Highness, Amanda and I took off for New Zealand as Day 1 instead. So this will be Day 2.

Due to the two-hour time-difference between Brisbane, Australia, and Christchurch, New Zealand, we had difficulty falling asleep on our first night there. To send us off to beddy-bye-land, we opted, perhaps unwisely, to watch a movie based on the true story of an Irishman who brings the Italian mafia to its knees. It was compelling TV, so we hardly noticed the time when we finally nodded off. I suspect when we did it was close to 3am.

Notwithstanding the few hours of rest we had, His Royal Highness brought back the hire car at 10am the next morning and we hit the road half an hour later. ACE Car Rentals wanted to saddle him with a Subaru Impreza that had done180 000km but he told them that if he’d wanted a bomb, he’d have paid for one instead. Upon hearing this, they tried to fob him off with $10 discount on each day’s rent, but he stuck to his guns and they gave him a newer Nissan Primeria. If you’ve never driven one, it’s very similar to a Honda Civic. Thanks to cheap Japanese imports, New Zealand drivers have access to cars in makes and models unavailable in Australia.

To break the seven and a half hour drive from Christchurch to Queenstown, the three of us stopped at Rakaia’s Salmon World for lunch. His Royal Highness had pan-fried Salmon with vegetables, Amanda had a kid’s platter containing cured meats and cheese and I had the first of many bowls of seafood chowder. In fact, I had so much seafood chowder this trip, I probably should have a post entitled, “The Hunt for the Best Seafood Chowder.”

Standing in front of the big salmon statue at Salmon World in Rakaia, New Zealand

Standing in front of the big salmon statue at Salmon World in Rakaia, New Zealand.

Giant Salmon Statue at Rakaia, New Zealand.

Giant Salmon Statue at Rakaia, New Zealand.

Salmon World Cafe, Rakaia, New Zealand.

HRH and Amanda walking towards Salmon World Cafe, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Entry to Salmon World Cafe, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Entry to Salmon World Cafe, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Outdoor seating to Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Outdoor seating to Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

HRH at Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

HRH dining on pan-fried Salmon at Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Amanda at Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Amanda making a face at me over her kid’s platter at Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Me at Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Me and my seafood chowder at Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Our meal came to NZD58. Fed up with all the processed food we’d been consuming since our arrival in New Zealand, we visited the New World Supermarket in Ashburton on our way south, for some fresh fruit to punctuate our coming meals. There, I came across a box of bright orangey roots, which I’ve since been told by my good friend Tania, a Maori of New Zealand, are yams. Tania claims they are delicious roasted, especially with a sprinkle of sugar. Unfortunately, the only time you will find them in stores is during winter.

Yams at New World Supermarket in Ashburton, New Zealand.

Yams at New World Supermarket in Ashburton, New Zealand.

HRH picking up fruit at New World Supermarket, Ashburton, New Zealand.

HRH picking up fruit at New World Supermarket, Ashburton, New Zealand.

As we headed south, we came across our first one-lane bridge. It’s the kind of bridge where cars on both sides have to take turns in order to cross.

One-lane bridge, South Island, New Zealand.

One-lane bridge, South Island, New Zealand.

A lonely homestead along the way in South Island, New Zealand.

A lonely homestead along the way in South Island, New Zealand.

The road south, past Ashburton, New Zealand.

The road south, past Ashburton, New Zealand.

Going inland along Highway 8, South Island, New Zealand.

Going inland along Highway 8, South Island, New Zealand.

Going FURTHER inland along Highway 8, South Island, New Zealand.

Going FURTHER inland along Highway 8, South Island, New Zealand.

Shops at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Shops at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

On our marathon journey southwards, we stopped mid-afternoon at the picturesque Lake Tekapo. There, because of the blistering cold, the three of us were forced to buy beanies and gloves.

Shivering in the cold at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Shivering in the cold at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Me at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

HRH said, “So how do you want me to take this picture?” I said, through gritted teeth, “Just take it NOW!” Freezing my buns off at Lake Tekapo in New Zealand.

Ice on the ground at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Ice on the ground at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

HRH and Amanda at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

HRH and Amanda at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.
Can you see the hand of God? This is Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

 

A cafe in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

A cafe in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

On the road near Lake Pukaki, New Zealand.

On the road near Lake Pukaki, New Zealand.

On the road between Twizel and Cromwell, New Zealand.

On the road between Twizel and Cromwell, New Zealand.

After yet more hours on the road, we took a break at Cromwell and had dinner at a local pub there. We were now less than an hour from our final destination, Queenstown.

HRH at dinner in Cromwell, New Zealand.

HRH at dinner in Cromwell, New Zealand.

Me and Amanda at Cromwell, New Zealand.

Me and Amanda at Cromwell, New Zealand. You can see we are worn out from the journey.

My liver fry with mash, peas and gravy.

I fancied something truly Kiwi so I ordered this liver fry with mash, peas and gravy.

HRH and his ribs in Cromwell, New Zealand.

HRH and his ribs in Cromwell, New Zealand.

Most standard pub meals come with chips. We found them hearty and filling. This whole meal came to NZD45. Amanda shared with us, as per normal.

In Queenstown, we were greeted by this wonderfully warm room at the Millennium Hotel. His Royal Highness likened it to sleeping in an oven, but I absolutely loved it. Through  www.wotif.com it was NZD154 but the deal came with three full buffet breakfasts.

Our Room at the Millenium Hotel, Queenstown.

Our Room at the Millenium Hotel, Queenstown.

 

My night time snack of oysters and wine.

You can tell someone was hoping to get lucky. My night time snack of oysters and wine.

 

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.

 

The cost of holidaying in Australia.

With His Royal Highness’ FRACS exams finally over and Amanda’s school holidays less than two weeks away, we decided to negotiate the maze of options that is finding somewhere to holiday. We could stay home like we have for the past four years, but since we’re still in a celebratory mood…

Anyhow, last night, having downed our dinner of kimchee-flavoured instant noodles and microwave-steamed egg, we spent four hours toggling screens to find where we could go. His Royal Highness stumbled upon last weekend’s post by the Sydney Morning Herald about the best of Australian travel and for a moment, all we wanted to do was see the Mars-like surface of Mungo Lake in Southwestern New South Wales. That was until we caught sight of the pristine tranquility and escape for everyday-ness that is Lord Howe Island.

With so very many awesome places to choose from, our search came down to deciding on somewhere comfortable for this time of the year – hey, it’s winter – child-friendly and affordable; probably not the sexiest of holidays but one the whole family can enjoy.

We narrowed down our choice to skiing and went from reading up about places to searching for flights and accommodation. We were determined to introduce Amanda to the marvellous ski-fields in our own backyard. Well, the nearest one is over 1000 kilometres away, but no matter.

To our dismay, we found that since we’d left it so last minute, it’d cost at least $3k to get to and spend 3 nights at Falls Creeks and just a tad less, to holiday for the same duration in Mount Buller. To cut cost, we’d have to spend two days driving to our destination instead of flying then taking a coach, and stay in one of those loud, rowdy, youth hostels. I’m sorry folks, but we’re a bit too old for that. Plus, my only experience of staying in one gave me panda rings from the midnight street party and bottle-smashing competition other guests were having outside while I was trying to sleep. So no thanks.

High Royal Highness and I went back to the drawing board. Where could we go that was fun, safe, for families and affordable? The beaches are no good when it’s cold. Perhaps, we’re off to Goldie this weekend. How about New Zealand?

My, my, for two-thirds the price, we could have three times the holiday at Queenstown in New Zealand. Available accommodation is new, has picturesque views and is cheap. And there are other things to do besides skiing. Fantastic ! Now all we need to do is wait for His Royal Highness to get his leave approved.