FiNZ 21 – LS Hen Fiesta!

By the time Friday came around I had managed to get enough sleep throughout the week, Keith hadn’t caught the flu, and all my travel colleagues were healthy for our trip to Melbourne! My coworker is getting married to our friend, Lourdes, next month so a few of us got together and asked where she wanted to go to have a proper Australasian hen party. She had never been to Melbourne, so to Aussie we went! Fun background story–back when I was in New Zealand in 2012 the groom was introduced to the bride as “another young person to hang out with.” The groom thought the bride was a dude (I guess that happens when your name is Lourdes?…), they emailed back and forth, and didn’t realize she was an attractive female until she showed up at a group dinner we were all attending. Here we are, two years later, celebrating their upcoming marriage!

Our Friday morning flight was at 6am. Lucky for us, when you travel back and forth to New Zealand as much as my colleagues you get access to the lounge. Despite the 3am wake up time, fresh smoothies, a hot breakfast, and make-your-own-mimosas made it bearable!

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Our first day was dedicated to the Great Ocean Road. We rented a car and immediately outfit it with one of our Hen Party finds — a car flag. We had to make ourselves known driving around the country all day.

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We drove straight to the 12 Apostles (the pinnacle of the Great Ocean Road drive) and then meandered back to Melbourne. Several of you readers know I was in Melbourne during junior year of college. It was a lot of fun experiencing the State of Victoria 6 years later. I got to see a lot of the same things again and many new things. It surprisingly how much things change in a few years–myself included! I put a comparison photo in front of the 12 Apostles then (with roommate Lindsey) and now. Got to love the classic American Eagle sweatshirt…

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On the drive back there are some little-known spots to see Aussie wildlife…well…in the wild. First we found quite a few koalas hanging out in eucalyptus trees. Then in Angelsea, we stopped by the local golf course to find a herd(?) of kangaroos taking advantage of the manicured green space. Some golf courses have deer, some have alligators, Aussie has kangaroos…

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We checked into our fabulous Airbnb in the Docklands area. For a fairly cheap price point and beautiful views, I’d definitely recommend staying here if you ever visit Melbourne. Tori flew in from Sydney that night and we all hung out in the flat gearing up for our long day Saturday.

I was the wine tour planner for Saturday, and I must say–it was fabulous! We booked a private tour for the 5 of us through Luxury Yarra Valley Wine Tours (here) and they were awesome. Our driver, Ashley, put up with our antics all with a perfectly shuffled iPod mix. Our itinerary included:

  1. Dominique Portet for tastings, breakfast, & a lawn bowling competition!
  2. Maddens Rise for a fabulous little winery tasting
  3. Oakridge Estate for tastings and lunch
  4. Coldstream Hills for tastings
  5. Yarra Valley Chocolaterie – who doesn’t like ending things with Chocolate!?

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After a long day of wining and dining we decided small tapas were the best idea for dinner. We made a booking at Anada and followed up with drinks at Everleigh, both in Fitzroy, both fabulous!

Sunday was city day! We took the free city tram to a very tasty breakfast at Cumulus. We ended up at Flinders Station in the middle of a Mexican festival and waited for our Melbourne By Foot walking tour. The tour was a great 3-hr overview of the city–the more popular parts and some hidden alleyways. I never knew how big street art/graffiti was in Melbourne. There were entire alleys dedicated to artists and graffiti. We hung out here for a bit taking photos and exploring the art. I was pretty excited to see a genuine Banksy rat! Other than the sights we learned all about the history of Melbourne (did you know it was founded by Batman!?) and ended with some suggestions on where to go next.

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We were starving after the tour. Unfortunately the first restaurant we were aiming for was closed on Sundays. Fortunately, Melbourne has a lot of food options. We ended up in Chinatown/Theater District at Locanda. Locanda was associated with the Rydges hotel and definitely had that hotel restaurant feel. However, the food was great and they had a fairly good 2 and 3-course menu deal.

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We then sadly said goodbye to Tori who flew back to Sydney and eventually we headed to the airport to take our “red-eye” back to Christchurch (I don’t think you can call it a red-eye when the flight is only 3.5 hrs!). The adventure made for a tiring Monday, but the wonderful ladies weekend was worth it!

Keith and I are on to planning our warmer trips over the next couple months now that spring and summer are on their way! Stay tuned…

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Flanders in NZ 7 – Hen & Stag

Rain rain go away. It’s been a week full of cloudy skies and drizzle which just means winter is here in the Southern Hemisphere.

The past week was full of a lot of work and even a day full of overtime on Saturday, but I did manage to get out during lunch one day and splurge on this alpaca throw blanket from Knitworks (read about the last time I was there here). Last time I splurged on a sheep skin rug which has been a big hit in Keith & my former Stateside apartment. Ever since then I’ve always kept the alpaca blanket in the back on my mind…

“If only I bought that alpaca blanket when I had the chance…”

My theory is that if you think about a purchase long enough you really should just get it. So therefore, with 2 years passed, it was time to add to my collection of New Zealand knitworks–

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Perfect addition to the Flanders Flat

On to our main weekend event! Saturday nigh we through a hen and stag party for our engaged colleagues. They are unfortunately leaving this Friday to fortunately go get married! The ladies, per usual, had everything planned out far in advance whereas the guys managed to pull together a great night last-minute. Ladies night kicked off enjoying teppanyaki at one of my favorite Japanese restaurants — Ace Wasabi. Here we gave the bride a guessing game where she answered questions about herself to try to match them with the grooms’ answers. Then we started a scavenger hunt that basically lasted the entire night. Dancing occurred at Christchurch’s latest club Mashina (seriously SO many exciting places have opened since I was last here), and then we eventually merged with the guys at the Christchurch Casino. A fun ladies night out for sure!

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Lovely Ladies

Any weekend hike plans were rained out. Instead, I will leave you with Keith’s  sunrise photo of the week from Takapuna, Auckland. Last week Keith got the opportunity to travel up to Auckland with his boss in Christchurch to meet with his Auckland colleagues and go to a training. He had a great time and drank a whole lot of coffee. Coffee is truly a cultural phenominon in Australasia!

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Takapuna Sunrise

Now we are off to pack for our big trip to Dunedin this weekend! Go ALL BLACKS!!!