A Weekend in Wellington

We’ve had a very busy January at work (and by “we” I mean “me,” as Greg’s been enjoying all of the public holidays). I’m used to having two weeks off over Christmas and New Years, and then spending the next few weeks of work struggling to get out of bed and motivate myself to get back into the routine, after having to dig my car of out of the snow in the dark, minus 40 weather. This year, of course, with an industry and country change, brought a big life change, and a significant change to my January! I’ve not had more than two days off in a row in a long while, (maybe at all since I started my job), but with that, comes no dread of returning to work, and no broken routine. It’s a good thing I love what I’m doing! January is one of the busiest months in the Cellar Door, and we’ve been working hard, for long hours, in the heat! We’ve had many days in a row of higher than 30 degree weather, and heaps of sunshine. I’ve been spending my mornings going for jogs along the ocean instead of digging my car out of the snow, and getting sun burnt instead of frost bitten!

With all of that work, I’ve been very tired, but when Greg and I realized I had a weekend off, we decided we needed to take advantage of it and go see some more of this beautiful country we’re calling “home.” As we did a “rustic” trip last time (slept in the car, next to a stream on a mountain and hiked 20kms), we decided to do a city trip this time. We chose Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, a four hour drive for us; on route, there is the Wairarapa wine region, with Martinborough in it, famous for its Pinot Noir, something Hawke’s Bay is too warm to do much of.

We left early Saturday morning and headed through many cute little towns on the way to Martinborough. We wanted to fit in a few wineries before our 1:00pm appointment at Ata Rangi.

We visited Poppies, Vynfields, and Schubert during the lunch hour. They were all very small production, beautiful places, and featured the Pinot Noir we were after.

We ran into a family at Poppies that lives in Wellington, that I had done a tasting with at Church Road recently; we all recognized each other, and stopped to chat! They told Greg how great of a time they had with me, and that they could tell how passionate I am about wine and the process of making it. That’s definitely true, and I’m glad it comes through to people who visit me in the Cellar Door!

We had a beautiful, seated tasting, with only 10 people at Ata Rangi, and got to hear a bit of their history, as well as the history of Martinborough.

After Martinborough, we headed into Welly! The first stop was the mall, where I bought some necessities that are harder to find in Hawke’s Bay, and looked for some clothes. Greg and I are noticing that the styles here are very different than in Europe or North America. I didn’t find much, but got a few things. We checked into our Airbnb in Island Bay, and then headed into downtown.

We had a walk around the waterfront, checked out Cuba Street and the candy store, Nicnacs, before having a pint at Hashigo Zake, a craft beer bar.

We had dinner at Chow, an Asian inspired place, that surprisingly was able to accommodate me very well. We loved their food, and atmosphere.

We finished the evening at Noble Rot, a famous wine bar in Wellington, where we got a Napa Chardonnay, just to remember what they taste like, and did a blind flight of three reds from around the world. We did decently well on our guesses, and enjoyed having some red wine from the old world again.

Sunday morning, we slept in a tiny bit, but had too much on the agenda to laze around! We started with a trip to the top of Mount Victoria for 360 degree views of the city. It was beautiful up there, and definitely worth a see!

We checked out the Te Papa Museum, where we learned about some of New Zealand’s history in the First World War, and saw their amazing, more than double life size models of soldiers; they have been crafted in incredible detail!

Next, we headed to the waterfront to walk more of it, and grabbed a coffee. This was a relaxing part of the day, and was a peaceful stroll.

The wind was intense! I had been warned of the Wellington wind, but didn’t quite comprehend how fast it actually is! I literally had to hold my sunglasses on my head because they were blowing off. The wind actually pushed us along if it was behind, and we had to lean into it if it was in front. I had to tuck my shirt into the front of my pants to prevent it from whipping up!

We eventually found the cute huts at Oriental Bay, and then headed to do some breweries for Greg!

Wellington has a really big craft beer scene. We went to Husk first, that features Choice Bros brewing, and great food, and then to Whistling Sisters. Greg found most of the beer very good; his favourites still lie in other parts of the world, but he really liked lots of the Welly ones.

We did some wine shopping at Moore Wilson’s and Glengarry, and were excited to find some wine from other parts of the world. We’ve got a craving for a good Napa or Sonoma red, but we haven’t found that yet. (Do we want it just because we can’t find it?)

The last stop was at Starbucks, for the New Zealand souvenir mug, and an Americano. To be honest, I’m starting to get used to New Zealand’s amazing coffee, and how rich and velvety it is, with a nice foam to it, that I found the Americano a bit lacking; however, it was a weird sized cup and had too much water for the amount of espresso, and it also didn’t have the same flavour as in Canada. I don’t blame anyone, but they’re competing with so many other amazing coffee shops; if Starbucks wants to become more popular here, they need to up their game. (Disclaimer: I will always love Starbucks.) We can’t use our app or gold cards here, and they don’t have the oatmeal, but I did get my Americano free with my mug. The mug was $30 here (yikes) but Switzerland still takes the prize for “most expensive we’ve seen” at somewhere around $32 – $34 Canadian. The Starbucks people probably think I died, seeing as how my gold card, that used to get several purchases a week, went from full on, to absolutely nothing the day I left Canada. If anyone from Starbucks is reading this, I am alive, and I still love you.

We enjoyed the ride home, as it is a really beautiful drive through mountains, with lush greenery, and several cute towns, one of which won New Zealand’s most scenic town recently.

I said to Greg before the trip that I wanted to have a relaxing weekend in Wellington, as I have been so tired from work and not sleeping well due to our almost 30 degree nights (poor me, right?). If you know me though, I always try and fit as much in as possible on a trip, because I like to take advantage of being in the place. I have to go back more than once to be able to fully relax in any place! This weekend, no matter how much I thought we’d relax, was not relaxing, but it was full of sight seeing, and we felt like we were on holiday! I said to Greg at one point, “doesn’t it feel like we just flew here and we have to fly back to Canada soon? But we don’t. We will just drive back home and go to work tomorrow.”

I’ve also noticed there’s nothing that makes me feel more at home in Napier than leaving it, and then getting that comfortable feeling of coming home when we return to Hawke’s Bay. We’ve definitely ended up living in the right place for us, and it’s feeling more like home every day.

Our weekend in Wellington was short and sweet, and we’re happy to have seen the city; we’re also happy to be home… until the next time!

The Last Starbucks

I have been picturing this moment for years now… picturing, dreaming, envisioning, hoping for, praying for, questioning at times, even fearing it if the anxiety got too tight a hold, but grasping onto it in my mind as clear as day. Greg and I talked about “that dream moment,” many times, when we would be HERE, sitting in the secure area, at our gate, with our last Canadian Starbucks. 

There were many times it seemed like it would never come. I even started typing this post a long time ago so I could read it over when I needed a reminder to have faith and hold tight to the dream. Every time we travel I take a secure area Starbucks photo before we get on the plane; if you’ve followed me in the past, you know the ones.

This is “the last Starbucks” on this side of the ocean for a while. This is the last Starbucks on this side of a one way ticket to New Zealand (I left a blank when I typed this months ago because I used to be sure it was Rome but somehow knew it might be somewhere else).  

This is the last Starbucks on this side of the life we know, the last Starbucks on this side of a life we can almost predict. This is the last Starbucks on this side of safety in our people, comfort in our communities, stability in the familiarity of home. This is the last Starbucks in the same building as family members and close friends, who we’ve just hugged and cried with downstairs. This is the last Starbucks on this side of the biggest adventure we’ve ever known, this side of the contradicting panic and fear, and also complete peace that we have in knowing we’re supposed to do this. This is the last Starbucks as people who have only ever lived in one city, before changing everything we know, and trusting God more than we’ve had to in a while to provide everything we need. This is the last Starbucks on this side of the hugest leap of faith we’ve ever taken. 

This moment is here

This moment is real

This moment is now

Woah.

We’ll catch up with you on the other side of the world! Cheers. 

Why You Should Try Walmart and Truck Stop Camping

I love Walmart Camping for several reasons. Years ago I saw the campers parked at our city’s Walmart, and it looked like such a fun thing to do. I’m really not sure what drew me to the idea, other than maybe how carefree and spontaneous it looked. At that time, the camper we had didn’t have a bathroom in it, which for me, is pretty important on my needs list.

Fast forward a few years to when we had a camper with a functioning bathroom, and a generator, and planned a last minute trip to BC – Walmart Camping became something I crossed off my bucket list! We had just been in the British Aisles that summer and it was so cold there, so we literally decided in the airport on our way home to head to Kelowna with our trailer for a week of hot, sunny weather before summer ended. We arrived home at midnight and left town by 8am the next morning! We had our camper on the back, and nowhere booked to stay.

We spent the first night at a truck stop, and the next three between two Walmarts in Kelowna, and it was great. Since then, our family members have started Walmart Camping a bit, and we’ve done it several more times. Here are the pros and cons to staying at Walmart and truck stops:

Pro’s:

1. It’s Free. This is a major plus, especially if you’re just driving through a place, and you don’t need to spend much time there. It feels like a waste of money to book an RV park just to sleep.

2. It’s Last Minute. This could be seen as a con for some people, but the benefit of sleeping at Walmart is that you don’t have to book ahead. We like to drive until we feel like we’re done for the day, and then find the next Walmart or truck stop, and pack it in for the night. We don’t always know how far we want to make it, so booking ahead is a problem for travel days. Last minute stops allow us freedom in our traveling and make it much more relaxing than, “we’re so tired but we have to make it to that city where our booking is tonight,” or “it’s so early, and we could have kept driving for hours if we didn’t have this booking here.”

3. You can shop! We often need either a couple small grocery items, or something for the truck or trailer, and Walmart has it all. Most have a tire shop too, which is great for being on the road.

4. Starbucks. So far, at every Walmart we’ve stayed at, there has been a Starbucks within walking distance for me to go pick up my mobile order in the morning. It’s awesome. Not to mention, there are usually lots of other stores and restaurants nearby as well.

There are a few downsides too.

Cons:

1. You’re not level, or set up. Since you’re not unhooking your vehicle for any length of time or at all, or putting your jacks down (or shouldn’t be) you can’t level out, so we sometimes sleep with our heads or feet higher than we’d like. Just do your best to find a flat spot when you park in their designated area. You can’t set up full camp either, so you’re living in limbo a bit.

2. It can be bright and loud. As it’s meant to be an overnight thing, don’t plan to sleep in. Walmarts are always in high traffic areas, so there’s going to be noise from that. They also have bright lights that illuminate the lot overnight. Patrons start showing up early to shop as well. We’ve had some Walmart mornings where people park right by us and are walking past on either side to get into and out of the store. Truck stops will be loud as the semi’s are coming and going all through the night, and most drivers leave their trucks running while they sleep to control the temperature inside.

3. You can’t leave your trailer there unattended and you shouldn’t unhook. (I know, in the picture just above we’re unhooked! On that day we did this to block the spot next to us because a super huge and loud motorhome bus had squeezed in beside us the night before and ruined our sleep and space. This is potentially another con – you have to deal with other RVers who may or may not be cool, but you do this at RV parks too). You’re really only supposed to spent one night, or maybe two, but they don’t want you actually camping in their lot. It’s meant to be an overnight rest stop.

That means that when we Walmart camp, we take the trailer behind us everywhere we go during the day. This gets to be a bit of a pain after a while. Walmart Camping is great for a few days, or for when you’re driving to and from your destination, but it’s not ideal for long term stays.

4. No hook-ups or dumps. This isn’t really that big of a con, but it needs to be mentioned. Make sure the appropriate tanks are full and empty before you go, and that you have a generator if you want power. There should be a dump at a service station in town somewhere. If you google it, you can find it, but it’s not likely to be at Walmart or close by.

Despite the short con list, the pros way over-deliver for us and we still camp at Walmart or truck stops on nearly every road trip.

We usually do steaks, or a nice meal for supper, and a pancake breakfast too, because who says you have to eat bad food just because you’re staying at Walmart?

One more brief, yet important point! Make sure you call ahead to ask for permission, because not all Walmarts allow camping! Many have terminated the offer due to people being idiots and leaving dog poop or trash behind, or even emptying their tanks in the lot! Who does that? Don’t be an idiot. Super-centres are a good bet to stay at, but we’ve gotten a courtesy ticket for staying at a Walmart in a mall before. Run inside to buy something or fuel up as a thank you if you’re sleeping at a truck stop.

Happy Walmart Camping!