Category: New Zealand

Couple Of The Week: Yours Truly

By , May 11, 2011 4:52 pm

I hope we don’t need any introductions. The couple of the week is Boris and MuiMui. While we were interviewing couples for our weekly couple section, we actually got asked to answer a few questions for Holly, who will be starting her travels in a few months. You can read the original interview on her blog.

MeAndFrenchie

Boris And MuiMui

Relationship Status: | Attached to the hip.
How long have you been together? | Over 3 years.
How long have you been traveling? | 13 months.
How long is your total planned trip? | 12 to 18 months.

What attracted you to traveling in the first place and how did it become a reality?
Boris: I grew up in France and have always been attracted to the US. I finally went there for an internship and loved it. Once I graduated, I immediately found a job in San Francisco. I loved the city so much that I was disappointed to have ended up there before seeing more of the world. One year before our world tour, I told MuiMui that I wanted to move abroad and experience life in a different country. She replied that if she had to leave everything, she wanted to see more of the world. We agreed to go on a world tour together.

MuiMui: My desire for travel grew from loving parents who worked all the time and basically from their lack of travel. In college, I snatched every chance I had to travel outside of the US. Then when I joined the corporate world, travel became my yearly escape. When I met my Boris, he would challenge me whenever I would say, “I wish I could …” so here we are, circling the globe.

How is traveling different from taking a two week holiday?
Boris: Traveling has nothing to with going on holiday. First, you always have to look at your budget to make you can make it to the end of your travel and that you don’t have a bad impact on the populations. Second, traveling is, for us, more oriented towards meeting people and learning cultures than just sightseeing. Last, I would say that when you travel you have to give yourself time to rest and reenergize.

MuiMui: The two do not have to be so different but as a typical American, my short and infrequent holidays seem to dictate how I traveled initially, so I would automatically try to maximize my experience by seeing as much as I can and within the western comforts I am use to. It was when I went to Vietnam for the first time on holiday and explored the small villages and did away with my usual comforts that made me realize how much I was missing out on.

How do you organize world travel among the both of you?
Boris: Before entering a new country we will both do 1 or 2 hours of research and then compare our results. Then with the information, we will try to make an itinerary that would allow us to see most of it within our allocated time frame. Once we arrive in a city, we will start looking together for a place to stay and I usually get tired and let MuiMui find the best deal in town.

MuiMui: A world trip is a lot to take in so with some planning, it makes things a little easier for us and more efficient. We split up the work by who wants to do what. Two things we learned not to do is over plan, leave out some of the small details to be explored together, and for each country, it is good if the both of you read up a little about it as you enjoy a place more if you know more about it.

What did you learn about each other?
Boris: She is extremely good at bargaining and finding deals. She can be very cheap and will get extremely upset if she finds out somebody else got a better deal. No matter how hard it is, if she has decided to go somewhere, she will find a way to get there (and without getting ripped off).

MuiMui: I did not necessarily learn something new about Boris, but the small details I looked passed before the trip were more apparent during the trip. For example, I know he is a nice guy, but I found at times he was being too nice and polite to a stranger in a situation that I did not feel comfortable being in.

Would you do it again? What would you change?
Boris: Yes but after a little break. I would do more research beforehand and visit fewer countries. I would also try to dedicate more time for personal activities like photography walks with locals, cooking lessons, or Spanish classes.

MuiMui: Yes! I feel like this past year was just a taste of more to come. I have more ideas for future trips such as becoming fluent in another language and staying longer in one place.

Any scary stories or low points?!
Boris: Nothing really scary as we never got robbed but if I have to choose a low point, it would be our experience in Indonesia on the road to Mount Bromo: A driver tried to rip us off and then a group of youngsters on motorbikes “saved” us, which was all an organized scam. We were in the middle on nowhere with no other tourists or public transportation around. It took us 3 hours to get out of there.

MuiMui: When we arrived in Arequipa and was looking around for a hotel, we met a female traveler who just experienced an attempted taxi kidnapping the evening before. She was still trembling and emotional and that woke me up how we always have to be careful in any country and as much as we are, shit still happens when there are bad people.

What was your most recurrent disagreement?
Boris: First money, second transportation.

MuiMui: We had one big recurring disagreement which was about when/how to book transportation. We both liked different styles and in the beginning, I would throw tantrums, not knowing I was, when I couldn’t get him to agree with me.

What are your top three tips for anyone thinking about traveling?
Both:
1: Go.
2: Meet as many people as you can.
3: Be open-minded and never reject something because it is different from what you are used to.
4: Always be aware of your surroundings.

Do you have any tips for traveling with your partner?
Boris: One laptop each or no laptop at all. Find some activities that you can do alone (photography, diving, etc). Even if it is easier to stay in your room, try to go out and engage with other people as much as you can; the experience you share is invaluable and not written in any guidebook.

MuiMui: Traveling to new places is both fun and stressful. Doing it with someone else can be even more challenging so work together instead of trying to be right all the time. There is no right or wrong when it comes to saving $0.50. Be more open minded while being safe and meet fellow travelers.

Any do’s and don’ts?
Both:
DO follow your instincts and change your plans.
DO NOT leave your stuff unattended even for a second. When riding on trains or buses, make sure your things are attached to you at all times. It just takes one second of snoozing for your things to be stolen.
DO learn the local language or at least use basic phrases or words.
DO NOT dress up like you would at home when visiting India. Not only will you shock the people, you may encounter constant harassment.
DO try local cuisine away from tourist areas if possible.

Is your traveling experience any different to how you imagined it would be?
Both: Traveling is more tiring than what we thought. It felt like a full time job at times. People are very different from one country to the other. Usually, the less money they have, the more giving they are and the more interested they are to meet you.

What was your favorite country you visited? Why?
Boris: Hard to say but I have 3 places that stand out:
Thailand because we had a marvelous time there. We met extremely nice people and no matter what kind of experience you are looking for (beach, history, culture, food, city, trekking, mountains, villages, etc), Thailand has it all!
Colombia because we went there with some apprehensions and no positive expectations, but the kindness of the people blew us away. Trust me, Colombia is one of the safest countries we’ve been to and you will love both the landscapes and the people.
Galapagos because it is 100% unique. Everyday we would wake up seeing something that you can only see on TV: Giant Turtles, Endemic birds, penguins, iguanas, and etc. Plus walking on islands made of fresh lava (only a few hundred years old) is quite something.

MuiMui: It’s so difficult to pick a favorite as there is something great (and bad) about each country we went to. I think the country that wins for overall ease of travel, variety of things to see and eat, pleasantness of the people and culture, something for everyone, is Thailand. But I will never forget about how wonderful the people in Colombia were, or how out of this world the animals were in the Galapagos, or the penguins hopping onto the beaches of New Zealand, or the colors and sites of India, and … the gastronomy culture and way of life in the south of France.

Finally what’s the best thing about traveling?
Both: We always think that the best thing is to see beautiful and famous places. After coming back, I don’t think that is true anymore. Learning is the best thing that happens when you travel. Meeting people from different cultures will open your eyes on the world and your own life. This is, in our opinion, an invaluable experience.

New Zealand North: Discovering The City Of Auckland

By , February 1, 2011 5:00 am
Children Playing In Buckleton Beach

Children Playing In Buckleton Beach

Our stay in Auckland is easy, as public transportation is plentiful and for the most part, the city is clean with various neighborhoods to discover. Right away, I am impressed with how culturally diverse the city is, something I had not seen so far in New Zealand. Like many other large cities, there are lots of trendy restaurants and shops; western luxuries I feel very comfortable being around.

Ferry Building Now Full Of Restaurants

Ferry Building Now Full Of Restaurants

Holiday Cheer While Shopping

Holiday Cheer While Shopping

The city is nicknamed “City of Sails” because of all the yachts in the harbor. As we make our way to the Fish Market on foot, my attention alternates between the design details on the urban dwellings and the yachts that are bigger than my last apartment building. While I don’t fancy boats so much, I do wish some of that attention to design was shared in the waterfront homes in San Francisco.

Auckland Harbor

Auckland Harbor

Your Very Own Parking Spot

Your Very Own Parking Spot

Enjoying Coffee At The Harbor

Enjoying Coffee At The Harbor

My second favorite stop in the North Island is Buckleton Beach (with Wai-O-Tapu being the first). It’s a short drive outside the city of Auckland and not much of a tourist attraction, but it is here that I come to understand why people love New Zealand so much. As I lay on the tree branch that afternoon looking at the kids jumping off the wooden platform and giggling amongst each other with their parents nearby, but not glued to their sides, I imagine what a safe, outdoor wonderland it is to grow up in New Zealand. There are so many different hikes to go on and get lost for hours or days. There are so many beaches where there is no one else. This is a place where you choose your pace of life. This is a place where you eat free oysters right on the beach rocks. This is a place where you go through the tolls and pay later. This is truly the great outdoors where you can be by yourself or with others. This is a lifestyle.

Buckleton Beach

Buckleton Beach

Me & Frenchie

Me & Frenchie

Higher Please

Higher Please

Rocky Side Of The Beach

Rocky Side Of The Beach

Free Oysters On The Beach (Up To 50 Per Person Daily)

Free Oysters On The Beach (Up To 50 Per Person Daily)

So if you come to NZ looking to be wowed by everything, like myself, this may not be the place for you. However if you want to enjoy the outdoors and be able to hear yourself think, this is the perfect place.

So Young And In Love

So Young And In Love

Baby Starfish

Baby Starfish

Neat Rock Formation

Neat Rock Formation

With 3 other Frenchies, what better way to end our trip than to eat at The French Cafe in Auckland. We are here to celebrate Marie Hélène’s birthday and our meals are amazing.

Goat Cheese With Beets

Goat Cheese With Beets

Got To Have Fish

Got To Have Fish

Delicious Meat

Delicious Meat

One Of the Best Dinners We Had

One Of the Best Dinners We Had

No Complaints About Auckland

No Complaints About Auckland

Thank you Marie Hélène and Gérard for joining us on our world trip and always spoiling us with your love.

Fish Burger

Fish Burger

Pay Your Toll Online Or Here

Pay Your Toll Online Or Here

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

New Zealand North: Dramatic Whitecliffs of Taranaki

By , January 30, 2011 1:12 am
Whitecliffs

Whitecliffs

I head back to suburbia with our arrival in New Plymouth. In the middle of the city is Pukekura Park. I wish every city had something like this. We spend over three hours enjoying everything about this marvelous park. The botanical garden includes a collection of Japanese plants. I find a new beautiful flower, which I still don’t know the name of. The ponds are filled with ducks waiting for thoughtful visitors to bring bread. There is even an amphitheater where we spot a wild Takahē bird speeding by us. At the free zoo, I watch the cutest monkey entertain himself. I later find the funkiest white bird.

Pukekura Park in New Plymouth

Pukekura Park in New Plymouth

Interesting White Flowers

Interesting White Flowers

Boris Sitting In The Amphitheatre

Boris Sitting In The Amphitheatre

Funky White Baby Bird

Funky White Baby Bird

Cute Monkey

Cute Monkey

Cotton-Top Tamarin

Cotton-Top Tamarin

Takahē Bird

Takahē Bird

In the morning we hike in Egmont National Park through an interesting young rainforest. With all the fog, we don’t see much of Mt Taranaki. Later in the afternoon, Boris is able to finally get a decent shot of the mountain for afar.

Hiking To Taranaki

Hiking To Taranaki

Leaves In The Sunlight

Leaves In The Sunlight

Young Forest

Young Forest

Can't See The Top!

Can't See The Top!

Mount Taranaki

Mount Taranaki

A short drive later brings us to the whitecliffs of Taranaki. Here we do a hike along the farmlands. Unfortunately because of the high tides, we are not able to do the shortcut along the beach. Alone with the dramatic views, it is a great spot to just chill out.

Whitecliffs Walkway

Whitecliffs Walkway

Whitecliffs Beach

Whitecliffs Beach

MuiMui

MuiMui

Enjoying The Afternoon Views

Enjoying The Afternoon Views

Along our road trip, a French custom I am acquainted to right away with is the mandatory coffee break every 2-4 hours, regardless how we travel, by foot or car.

Enjoying A Good Ol' Cup Of Joe

Enjoying A Good Ol' Cup Of Joe

I do not regret any pounds I gained here in NZ. My favorite meats here are lamb and fish. It is so fresh and with every bite, I can taste how natural it is (without all that chemical they have in US meat). Snapper and Trevally are really good too. Some local recommendations that I did not get to try are Tarakihi and Red Gurnard. A great fishery to try all this would be at Thames Wholesale Fisheries.

Lamb With Blue Cheese And Goat Cheese Salad

Lamb With Blue Cheese And Goat Cheese Salad

As for wine, I usually drink red but here in NZ, I stick to the whites. Some of our favorite NZ Sauvignon Blancs are: Babich, Villa Maria, Tohu (on the floral side), Cloudy Bay, and Oyster Bay.

2009 Tohu Sauvignon Blanc Reserve

2009 Tohu Sauvignon Blanc Reserve

Read about beautiful Auckland in our next post.

Ice Cream Shop In The Middle Of Pukekura Park

Ice Cream Shop In The Middle Of Pukekura Park

Parrot Face

Parrot Face

Lemur

Lemur

Pretty Flower

Pretty Flower

Shaved Lamas

Shaved Lamas

Little Pig

Little Pig

Farm Door

Farm Door

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

New Zealand North: The Champagne Pool Of Wai-O-Tapu

By , January 26, 2011 5:00 am
View From Wai-O-Tapu

View From Wai-O-Tapu

One of the things I am most looking forward to in the North Island is an active volcanic area, called Wai-O-Tapu. As we enter the park, it starts to smell like rotten eggs. This can only mean we are approaching the Champagne Pool. While the name sounds quite nice, you probably don’t want to actually sip this water. The carbon dioxide in the water creates the bubbles like in Champagne. The bright palette of colors in the pool is due to the sulfur mineral deposits. I just want to stare at the pool for hours, but the smell is so strong I have to move on.

MuiMui Walking Across Platform

MuiMui Walking Across Platform

The Champagne Pool

The Champagne Pool

Me & Frenchie

Me & Frenchie

Great Palette Of Colors

Great Palette Of Colors

The park is pretty large. As we continue walking, the various geothermal landscapes vary from each other significantly. For a moment, I think I see the Incredible Hulk coming out of the neon green pool.

Neon Green Pool

Neon Green Pool

Different Landscapes Within The Park

Different Landscapes Within The Park

Hot Blue Pools

Hot Blue Pools

Pretty But Scorching Hot

Pretty But Scorching Hot

Don't Fall In

Don't Fall In

Yellow Bubbles

Yellow Bubbles

Then I hear something start to bubble out of the mud pool and it’s interesting how the mud splatters. With Boris’ new zoom lens, we can accurately capture it.

Mud Splatter Looks Like A Head Of A Dog

Mud Splatter Looks Like A Head Of A Dog

Love The Zoom Lens

Love The Zoom Lens

Throughout the park, there are various geysers that spew out at different times. The largest of them all is Lady Knox Geyser. As she blows, this fascinates the crowd. I found out later, this is the first geyser Boris has ever seen.

Geyser About To Go Off

Geyser About To Go Off

Lady Knox Geyser

Lady Knox Geyser

There She Blows

There She Blows

Being here just confirms how bad I need to visit Yellowstone National Park when I return to the states.

In our hot blue rental car, we drive to city of Taupo where we randomly come upon this luxury waterfront rental at Sacred Waters. For the next couple of days, Boris and I do not depart from the compound. We leave the sightseeing to Marie Hélène and Gérard while we enjoy the amenities, which include our own personal spa made out of stainless steel. It’s pretty cool as the hot water comes in from the natural springs. For our meals, Boris and I are the head chefs where I am the lamb expert and he is the side-dish-made-with-cheese expert. What a dynamic duo we are.

Boris Feeling Back At Home

Boris Feeling Back At Home

Bon Appetit

Bon Appetit

Our Sweet Backyard

Our Sweet Backyard

Personal Spa With Stainless Steel Seats

Personal Spa With Stainless Steel Seats

Our next post will highlight the white cliffs of Taranaki.

Hot Spring In Taupo

Hot Spring In Taupo

Pied Stilt

Pied Stilt

Wild Feathered Bird

Wild Feathered Bird

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

New Zealand North: Visiting Coromandel

By , January 24, 2011 5:00 am
The Beach @ Cathedral Cove

The Beach @ Cathedral Cove

Joining us for the North Island is Boris’ mother and her boyfriend. They greet us French style, with lots of kisses and Champagne! We make a compromise with them. From this point on, we travel their style and in return, we cook for them when feasible. Thank you Marie Hélène and Gérard for giving us the better end of the deal. :)

Beautiful Natural Christmas Tree

Beautiful Natural Christmas Tree

We go for a road trip around the North Island and it reminds me a little of Maine because there is always some place to stop for delicious seafood. We stop at Coromandel Oyster Company for lunch. It is a small shack right off the road and they have a darn good seafood chowder.

Coromandel Oyster Company

Coromandel Oyster Company

Our lodging at The Church, in Coromandel, is one of the cutest accommodations. There are a handful of designer cottages all equipped for a relaxing night stay. With the four of us, we decide to go with “The House #12”, which gives us more space and amenities than we actually need.

The House

The House

More Champagne Please

More Champagne Please

We dine at the hotel restaurant the first night and the food and wine is excellent. The next night, we grill it up on our very own porch. Every French meal includes, at least, Champagne, wine, and delicious meat. With Gerard and me around, we also like to have the American delight called chips.

Fish In NZ Is Fabulous

Fish In NZ Is Fabulous

Salmon Cooked At Perfection

Salmon Cooked At Perfection

Nearby are two popular attractions. At the Cathedral Cove, the hike in is an easy 30 minutes with wonderful views. At the end, we arrive at a great beach spot for pure relaxation. Don’t forget to bring your snorkel gear.

Magnificent Views

Magnificent Views

Not Permitted To Enter

Not Permitted To Enter

Rock Island

Rock Island

The other attraction is called Hot Water Beach. During low tide, we enjoy this underground hot spring by creating a hot water pool, which we share with the other hundred folks that are here. We borrow a shovel and dig into the sand for some time to allow the hot water to escape to the surface. While enjoying the warmth, the cold tides come in and collapse all that hard work we put in to have us rebuild all over again.

Group Hot Water Pool

Group Hot Water Pool

Stay tuned for our next post on our North Island favorites.

Me & Frenchie

Me & Frenchie

Marie Hélène and Gérard

Marie Hélène and Gérard

Flickr Photoset | Slideshow

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