Rocky Beaches, Seals, and Overcast Skies in Kaikoura

I recently read an article about the benefits of spending money on travel, rather than say, material things.

The research shows that even if you have a less than perfect time, we tend to remember it in a more positive light as time goes on, making us feel that our money was well-spent. Our brains look back on that experience fondly unlike a material thing we bought, which quickly bores or disillusions us.

This certainly rings true when I think about the tiny resort town of Kaikoura (or Kai-crappa, as my husband liked to call it at the time). We stopped there on our way from Christchurch to Nelson on the south island.

For the record, I don’t think Kaikoura was crappy at all. It was just a low point during our travels.

In the warmer months, Kaikoura is packed with visitors who come for the dolphin excursions and water activities. But we arrived at the beginning of winter, so it was gray and dreary.

But the funny thing is that although the weather felt really dismal at the time, now when I look back over the photos, Kaikoura looks rather pretty to me with its muted hues of blue and gray.

We stayed at a nice bed and breakfast overlooking a walk that runs several miles along the ocean. This was the lovely view from our balcony window.

We knew the rain was coming in soon on that day, but we decided to walk along the ocean to find the seal colonies. It was cold and misty, but the terrain was nice in a stark severe sort of way. 

The best thing was that finding the seals was so easy, and because there were few people around, we got the chance to get up close and personal.

Okay, not that close- (Have you seen their teeth?), but nice to observe them without people everywhere.

Some of the seals are rather bold too, and wobble out into the road, which makes driving around them pretty exciting.

Eventually, it started sprinkling on us, but we made it back to our room without too much damage. That night, we found a strange pizza place (that’s a whole other story about how they didn’t seem to have anything on their menu) and turned in early for bed.

As mentioned, reflecting on our stay, I’m glad we stopped over in Kaikoura. In the moment, we felt disappointed with the melancholy weather, but when I look over the pictures now, I see we were actually really fortunate to be in such remote and oddly pretty place.

Dolphins and Waterfalls at Milford Sound

If I’m honest, I’m not a boat person at all.

I have too many bad memories of motion sickness from my past. But I do make an exception for dolphins, waterfalls, and fjords, all of which are in New Zealand’s Milford Sound.

Milford Sound’s landscape is  one of the most serene places I’ve ever been to. You can explore it by hiking for several days, or by boat. There are even overnight boat tours.

From Queenstown, we hopped on the BBQ Bus which led us through winding mountain passes. There were lots of scenic stops along the way and lots of information from our tour guide (er, everything you could want to know about the kiwi bird and also some stuff about his marriage we didn’t want to know). Once we were on the boat, the guide prepared us a barbecued lunch.  

One of the nicest stops was at the Mirror Lakes above. You really could see everything reflected in that water! The other picture on the right was taken right before a hundred Chinese tourists stormed the view.

Because the weather was so overcast, I was a bit worried about rain and how the boat trip would prevail… Rocky and uncomfortable? Bad visibility?  Humid and crowded inside?

But all that anxiety was for nothing, because it was really nice.

In addition to fun talk (I’m something of a magnet for college girls) and a great lunch of lamb kebabs, we enjoyed dolphins playing RIGHT NEXT to the boat.

I was pretty excited to capture these two little guys and now I sort of wish I were a National Geographic wildlife photographer.

IMG_2789

milfordsound-4

Milford Sound is located on the southwest side of the New Zealand’s South Island. It was a bit of a journey to get there by bus from Queenstown, but it was so worth it.

Exploring Otago Region, NZ

Queenstown is a perfect location to spend a few days as your home base on the South Island.

From there, you can explore the Otago region for its lakes, glacier mountain pools, historic Gold Rush towns, and wineries. We thought about doing a few organized tours, but in the end, opted for the flexibility of a rental car.

Our first order of business was a visit to the stunning Blue Pools.

It was a little out of the way north of Wanaka, but it was worth it.

IMG_0314

You drive into Mount Aspiring National Park (isn’t that a great name?), then walk through a small wild mossy green forest across a wobbly suspension bridge, and then you reach these jewel colored pools that are absolutely clear to the bottom.

pool-collage

IMG_0330
This particular day was so dismal and overcast and I really didn’t think the water would be so vibrant. I thought there needed to be sun to get that gorgeous glittering blue, but I was so wrong.

The pools were the most beautiful color! They get their distinctive hue from light refraction of particles in the icy mountain water.

It’s sort of crazy to think about this beautiful place in nature just hiding in middle of a dense forest. I wonder how many more undiscovered places lie waiting around the world? And I wonder what the first people to come upon these pools thought about their discovery. 

Don’t you want to jump in?

After the blue pools, we did some more driving through Wanaka region, stopping to take pictures at every turn and seeing lots of sheep dotted across the countryside.

This photo sort of looks like a folk art painting to me. I love how there’s a layer of mist hanging low over the small village.

Remember our wine-tasting day at Waiheke Island where we befriended several New Zealand ladies? Well, one of the places they highly recommend to us was the Cardona Hotel.

This historic spot was built in the 1860s for gold miners. Today it’s a cozy little stop between Queenstown and Wanaka, and the food was fantastic! In addition to the tiniest retro sink in the bathroom (you could only fit one hand in at a time!) I’ll always remember this place for serving one of the best coffees I’ve ever had. (Eventually, I’m planning to write a post about New Zealanders and their obsession with coffee!)

Driving back to Queenstown, we took advantage of our rental car to visit the Gibbston Valley winery and cheesy. (Yes, cheesery is a word, I learned on this trip.)

This charming winery with its red barn buildings, birds, and rose garden (still hanging on even in early winter) was so picturesque.

We spent a little relaxing while here sampling a few of their sheep and goat cheeses along with some glasses of Otago wine. There is a nice restaurant there too, where I would have loved to eat dinner, but we had plans in Queenstown for a meal instead.

Overall, our plan to rent a car and plot our own itinerary from Queenstown was the right decision. In fact, I highly recommend you do that if you’re planning a trip here too. There’s just so much interesting scenery and stops and you’ll want the flexibility to pull off the road when you want to.

 

 

 

 

Busy Weeks and Fur Collar Coats

img_1871

Last week was a doozy of a week… long busy days and no time for anything. (I wasn’t even able to read any of your amazing blogs- I promise I’ll be getting to them soon!)

In fact, one night I dreamed I was on a train with my stuff spread out everywhere and I had to anxiously shove it all in my luggage before missing my stop. Can you relate?

My solution for these hectic times is to take a little time out with FOOD, of course.

On Friday, my husband and I  met up for a nice lunch in the city. We went to Central Michel Richard, one of my favorite restaurants in DC. (I’ll be showing pictures of this beautiful meal very soon).

Here’s my winter lunching in the city look.
img_1873

This Karen Millen wool coat has a detachable fur collar, which is great for mixing up different looks. In fact, if you buy a coat with a fur collar, make sure you can take it off to wear with different things.

The pants are from Theory, and they are great for just about everything from work to dressy occasions.  img_1862

Last week was COLD here in DC, but the weather has turned warm and we had an unseasonably warm weekend. I’m not complaining!

Actually, I’m so looking forward to showcasing more mild temperature clothing looks soon!

How do you deal with busy weeks?

Happy Valentine’s Day

img_2016

Happy Valentine’s Day!

These faux leather pants have been a great basic piece in my closet. In fact, they’ve been one of the best purchases I’ve made in the last few years. I bought mine at Nordstrom in 2015, but they are available at Bloomingdales here.

Black leather never seems to go out of style and it’s been fun browsing Pinterest for updated ideas about how to wear them. img_2020

This outfit was worn for my recent 24 course tasting menu dinner at Minibar DC.

Because the dinner was a rather avant-garde experience, the edginess of the pants just seemed right for the occasion. Apparently, my sense was right because another woman at the dinner wore an almost identical outfit. (Oops… but funny)

This red wool coat and Japanese purse completed my whole lady-like-meets-rocker-Valentine’s look. img_2013

How do you wear your leather or faux leather pants?

Cozy Winter Outfit

img_1973

Happy Monday! This chunky long scarf has been one of my favorite go-to winter accessories this year. Macy’s had it on major sale last summer (Yes, I’m one of those crazy people who buys way out of season) and I waited in anticipation for months to wear it. It’s not available anymore, but I did find some similar other chunky knit scarves here and here.

What favorite accessory have you been wearing lately?img_1994 img_1983