In the spirit of St Valentines Day, here’s a poem –
beneath my lips
to my unruly breath.
That open collar
pouting a space
between shirt and skin
where I might be –
belong, long to be.
And onward with the photos from our time in New Zealand! Just looking through them makes me feel very lucky and loved. Don’t worry, they only feature family-friendly types of loving.
Just after Christmas, we were staying with Luuk’s family in the Waikato. We drove north from there, up to Auckland, along a very familiar route. My family took this road on the majority of our holidays, throughout my childhood.
First up, a little nostalgic, homesick kind of loving: a much-loved view on the road between Hamilton and Auckland. The Huntly power station chimneys.
In Auckland, we visited my grandparents. Grandma has recently moved into the retirement home, though Grandpa remains in their independent home within the same complex. I grew up living near them in Auckland, and it’s been two years since I’ve seen them, so I was eager to catch up, and also to introduce them to Elena, their first great grand daughter!
Elena wasn’t eager to get her photo taken with her great grandparents. But eventually, very briefly, she sat just so…
After lunch with Grandpa, we went to visit my old neighbours. Theirs is the sofa we usually crash on when in Auckland. The last time we visited was en route to Paris.
Train set and Disney castle, for the win.
In the midst of renovations, they weren’t up for overnight guests, but they rustled up some toys I remember loving as a kid, and Louis and Elena concurred. And the afternoon tea was pretty damn fine too. Berries and cake and many different cheeses. So good.
There we are, all together, except Luuk (behind the camera) and Kat (who had to go early).
We had dinner at a De Grand, a delicious! Thai place on Great South Road, with Evans, a school friend of mine. We stayed at his place that night, and the kids had a wonderful time with his guinea pigs and rabbits, one of whom is named Louis; a definite highlight. And the next morning Evans took us out to brunch in Parnell, Auckland’s oldest suburb.
Louis and Evans perusing the menu.
We visited my grandparents a second time and then made a quick stop for picnic supplies at The Warehouse – something of a NZ institution.
Louis does The Warehouse.
And then, for a supremely Auckland experience – to Mission Bay!
The weather was as good as it gets, and the view of Rangitoto makes me delirious with sweet memories.
Luuk and the kids, enjoying the sun & sand in their different ways.
Shell mosaic butterfly!
Louis wouldn’t go near the water, but then again, it’s Auckland Harbour. Perhaps a wise move…
Last stop in Auckland was Ollies, an iconic ice cream parlour in Royal Oak. There we met a friend of mine and had a quick catch up over scoops of pineapple lump ice cream (well, that was my order.)
Who are those hippie kids, hopped up on ice cream? Hm.
We returned to the Waikato to spend New Years with some friends who live just out of Hamilton. We were too busy playing board games, experimenting with frappuccino recipes, and watching old West Wing episodes to photograph much of anything.
Yep, that’s the best photo of new years.
But it gets better. On the 2nd of January we emerged and went to Raglan.
See? Isn’t it lovely. Flax in the foreground, muddiest mess I’ve ever seen in the background, and a gorgeous estuary between. Nice swim. Got most of the mud off.
Then we went back to Luuk’s parents for a spa. Stayed one night then drove over the Kaimais to Tauranga. My folks were staying at Papamoa, so first stop was lunch with them.
The kids, winding up uncle Ian, after lunch.
I flaked out after that and had a great big nap. Mum and Luuk took the kids for a walk to the estuary.
Elena and Gran and the ducks.
Elena, ready to go to dinner.
Mum making records of the grandkids, cause she’s about to say bye-bye.
We dined well and drank some more. My cousins are terrible influences and I love them dearly and I have only myself to blame. We left pretty late and the kids flaked out before we got to Luuk’s brother’s place, where we were staying the night.
Flake out, phrasal verb. to suddenly go to sleep or feel weak because you are extremely tired.
-Cambridge English Dictionary
The next day, after a leisurely morning with Luuk’s brother and his family, we went to lunch with another of my aunts and uncles and cousins. There are no photos, so we must have had a good time. It was a short catch-up (cousins had to go milk cows…) but sweet.
We returned to Luuk’s brothers place in the afternoon and hung out with them till some time the next day.
See? She knew what she was doing. Nom nom…
Nom. Hilarity at the kids table.
Elena and her youngest cousin, happily caged.
Returning to the Waikato, we crossed the Kaimai range, which turned out in its traditional garb: fog and trucks…
Made it back to Luuk’s parents’ place safely. It sounds like a lot of travel but the longest road trip is around two and a half hours. The last ten days of our time away was pretty full-on, staying only a couple of nights in any one place, but it was wonderful to catch up with so many of our dear friends and family. We don’t know where we’ll be this time next year, or when we’ll see them all again.
And that concludes my tale of our time in New Zealand.