Random Kiwi thoughts

Posted: January 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

Some random things that make New Zealand unique: (and yes, I’m writing this while my wife goes into one art gallery after another. I prefer to be out in the fresh air.)

Grilled cheese is called “toasted bread,” and is pretty much all that Ava is eating here, though they do occasionally have chicken nuggets. But she has ventured forth a little bit in her culinary adventures, and now enjoys “toasted bread” with cheese and ham. She’s always liked bacon, but ham is a new addition. She also had her first session of actually eating carrot sticks.
Funny…Ava does love all kinds of foods, but veggies have not been on the top of her list. Since she eats loads of fruit, we never really worried about it much. But having her eat carrot sticks means we’ve doubled the amount of vegetables she now eats. (Previously, it was only corn.)

Whenever you check into a hotel room in New Zealand, plain or fancy, you get a small bottle of milk for the fridge. Your choices are “slim” or “blue,” which is the full-fat. Many hotels have small kitchen areas so that you can make your own coffee or tea, but the milk thing is really kinda funny. They hand it to you as you check in.

Just about every bottle of wine in this country comes with a twist top. The only time we’ve encountered corks is at Clos Henri, where in some cases they offer you a choice between the two. And of course, any of their wines that are exported to France will have corks. But waiters and waitresses here have it easy: one twist, and the bottle’s open.
The jury is still out on which is better. A twist top offers a hermetically sealed bottle that is impervious to contamination. But cork aficionados claim that the natural cork material allows for the tiniest bit of oxygen to enter the bottle, something that is desirable if you’re aging your wine. You can age the same wine in cork and in a twist top, and the result after a few years will be totally different. Most New Zealand wines are meant to be drunk immediately…and we don’t seem to have a problem with that!

Your typical Aussie phrases that you learned watching “Crocodile Dundee” apply here. “No worries” is big. They will say “thank you” when they ring up your tab, not after you’ve paid it. (“That will be thirty dollars, thank you.”) And “Sweet as” is a local phrase that I haven’t quite gotten the hang of yet, but it’s when someone makes an opinion you agree with, sort of….I think. Gotta still figure that one out.

With gas prices being what they are, it’s common to be asked how much gas you want to buy. Even if you’re pumping for yourself, the machine wants you to plug in a dollar amount. There is a fill-up button, too, however. But I get the feeling that gas is so expensive here, that many people don’t just automatically fill up…they’re very careful about the amount of gas they buy.

Coffee lingo is interesting. A double espresso is easy enough to order, despite the fact that portions here are ridiculously small. A double here is less than a single back home. A “long black” is a double espresso with a bit of hot water. Nobody understands the concept of iced coffee, which is a staple of Kelly’s and my existence. So we make our own every day using the French press in our room, and keep it in the fridge to have every morning. We use the “blue” milk with it. Full cream is available, but it’s too thick for coffee. And I haven’t seen half-and-half anywhere.
Speaking of that…ice. Impossible to get enough of. You can occasionally find a liquor store that will sell you a bag of “party ice,” but there are no ice machines in hotels and so you have to call room service to get some. They bring you this tiny little ice bucket that holds five half-melted cubes for your drink. I went through four of them last night alone!
And speaking of portions…forget about getting a good, stiff drink. I literally had to order what our waiter called “a double-double” to get any significant amount of vodka in my glass. The George Hotel, where we’re staying in Christchurch, has made me my best true martini so far: Belvedere vodka, shaken, nice and cold with little bits of ice floating in the glass. It’s no surprise so many of the locals and Aussie travelers stick to beer and wine. It’s cheap and it’s good.
My experience with New Zealand beer has been limited, but everything I’ve tried I’ve liked. But I’m not a big beer drinker, so to me, beer is beer. I’ve seen no American beers here, by the way. The only familiar brands are Heineken and Corona.

As we walked around Christchurch today, we hopped on an historic trolley, which circled the main part of town. Ava loved it. There was an option to add a gondola ride on the river that goes by the botanical gardens which we walked through today. Beautiful gardens…flowers, even veggies, and amazing trees that must be hundreds of years old. I found it funny that they call gondola rides “punting” here. (Would you like to go punting?)

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