Travelling to the home of the ‘All Blacks’ New Zealand
You would certainly forgive me if I thought the All Black Flag was the national flag of NZ. There were All Blacks flags (black flag with the native silver fern) in front of most shops and home residences. Is this country mad about Rugby or what?? They sure are… Every morning before skiing all staff were huddled in front of the big screens watching the Rugby as the game was broadcast over the load speakers. When the announcement of the winner came on over the load speaker before even the morning welcome, I knew this country was mad about their Rugby. Thank goodness there were a lot of Aussies around as it was our holiday season. Safety in numbers is always a good thing!
Let us start Monday September 21.
So which wise guy booked me a 9am international flight to New Zealand? We needed to arrive at the airport 3hrs before flight departure and therefore leave home 1 hr before that, with 3 kids in tow. Have I told you how amazing all my patients are! Thank you Kerry, one of my most amazing patients who offered to transport my family to the airport. We really appreciated both his and his beautiful wife’s assistance in getting us to the airport. Kerry certainly got our abdominal muscles activated the whole trip. Thank you for the laughs Kerry and special thanks for carting back Connor’s camera to the airport that he left in your car back to us. Just in the nick of time as we were moving through the departure lounge. Typical of a 14-year old boy! What does one eat when leaving at 5am in the morning to get to the airport in time? An Up and Go cereal drink, of course. I decided to trial the lower sugar versions for each of us, complimented with a piece of fruit. Reducing the sugar is always a good thing.
I see now why the airport requests our arrival at the airport 3 hours prior to departure. We were the first in line to check in our bags, but the last to actually get checked in. Yep if anything is going to happen, it is going to happen to my family. Have any of you flown on an international flight lately? Of course you have…. I just cannot believe how quickly technology changes. We flew Air New Zealand and the check in process (including labeling of suitcases) is all basically self-service. We had to do everything! I started to scan our passports in the self check in kiosk. Zoe’s passport is not recognised so I needed to check her in separately. I then started to scan Peter’s passport and the whole system stopped and we were not going anywhere! Help! Any humans around to help please? This extremely efficient young gentleman presented himself to assist us. Very impressive coding, decoding, phone calls…we were done but the last to check in. If you didn’t feel like crying, you could laugh….My husband ‘Peter Carlos’ was wanted by the Australian federal police. Thankfully it was another Peter Carlos with a different date of birth. Wow all of a sudden, I looked up in anticipation that we might be featured in the next screening of the show Border Protection. Smile!
We changed over some Australian dollars to New Zealand cash (our Aussie dollar just slightly ahead of the NZ dollar) then we headed on down through departure/customs lounge. Finally! We are out through the other end. Hunger overwhelms all of us (that was a lot of work getting through that ordeal), in fact if it wasn’t 7am… I probably would have headed to the bar ☺. Settled for a short macchiato coffee and a toasted Bagel (opted for jam instead of the possible butter or cream cheese options).
Air New Zealand only offers vegetarian or gluten free special meal options when flying across the Tasman Sea. I settled with vegetarian. I eat very little meat/chicken, so was happy to explore this option. My breakfast meal on board was lovely. As I opened my hot meal I was pleasantly presented with spinach, scrambled eggs, and vegetarian sausage. I was happy with my choice, it did not make me feel heavy and it was calorically a better option. It is a tricky option when the lower cholesterol/low fat option is not available. Opting for gluten free will not help with reducing calories, nor is it the healthier option. Gluten Free food choices should be reserved for those with Gluten Intolerance and Coeliac Disease.
I had not flown with Air New Zealand for over 15 years. The service was amazing and it was the beginning of getting used to the NZ accent. I had a go at perfecting my best NZ accent… while saying ‘fesh n cheps’. Doesn’t every Aussie do this, how cliché.
How cool is this airline! Have you seen their safety video? I could not get my eyes off the video that explained the safety features of the aircraft. The theme was a music rendition of Men in Black and it was incredible! What sort of a country put this much effort into the coolest video and most entertaining version of an otherwise boring safety video? It certainly makes you think… New Zealand… you are going to be a fantastic experience. Bring it on!
Queenstown is the most beautiful and picturesque ski town I have ever seen. It is located at the base of many ski fields such as Coronet Peak, Remarkables, Mt Hutt and Kadrona. We stayed on the lake with breathtaking views of snowcapped mountains. Opting for an apartment was a great idea to allow home cooking, which helped keep food costs down and allow for some healthier meal choices.
Day 1. Checked in at 4pm. Unloaded our suitcases and drove in to Queenstown. By the time we got to Queenstown it was dark and quite cold. Shivering is a great way to expend calories. We had a basic map of the city, which had proven to be good enough to work our way around the South Island.
Before I begin any holiday (excluding all the arrangements I make with our travel agent) I research restaurants I would like to visit. I look at how many days I am in that town, outline how many days I wish to eat out, look at the restaurant menus on line to see if the food is suitable, if there are adequate choices and if the price is suitable for my family of 5.
So this trip I identified 2 quick and popular restaurants/cafes for dinner based on trip advisor and the locals recommendations (this is easy to do, ask reception at the hotel you are staying. Ask people where they like to eat and what is popular). Botswana Butchery has a classy menu with a variety of game meats).
Fergburger boasts having the best hamburgers in the world according to the New York Times. The Cow Pizza and Pasta restaurant was to be another venture (the name says it all). On our first night in Queenstown we found the The Cow Pizza and Pasta restaurant in the most unlikely lane in Queenstown. 1 hr wait! We realized this was standard for the popular restaurants. Tis quite unfortunate for my family that I will make them wait for a good restaurant rather than settle for an average feed.
Thought we would wait outside in a slightly colder part of the restaurant, while we waited for our table inside. There was standing room only inside. We ordered a garlic bread for the kids to stop any revolt. On a cutting board, a large loaf of warm sourdough bread arrived topped with crush garlic and herbs. Very nice! This restaurant, not only turned out to have beautiful pizza (pasta was a little average) but great value for money for a family. Internally the venue was rustic and looked like a cattle ranch lodge with a roaring fire. Very home like. Great service.
As I discovered, the meals in New Zealand were very carbohydrate based. This was fine if you were hiking or skiing. Thank goodness we were doing both! We also had our own kitchen to cook a variety of foods from the rest of the food groups. The value for money meals in town was burgers and pizza. Most large Pizza sat between $NZ 20-26. Burgers ranged from $NZ 15-20. Asian and Indian restaurants were also available and vegetable dishes were featured on these menus.
Fergburger was a 1 hr wait also. Was it worth the wait? My husband and family thought Grill’d were just as good. I am a little more analytical. It was quite nice for fast food. Better than average. We later had some amazing burgers at Akaroa (but everything was amazing at Akaroa!) I must say I was impressed with Fergburger. Even though they were ridiculously busy they were able to make modifications on their burgers. My choice was the Bull’s eye burger… fillet steak with salad. I opted for no aioli and it was a nice lean, healthy choice.
Botswana Butchery was a lovely restaurant (booking made from Australia online). Venison was on the menu and I do love game meat (always cooked medium rare as there is little fat, very different and incredible flavor). I ordered this with a side of Asian greens. I have 2 teenagers and one 5 year old. The teenagers had Duck. They have great taste (eating out is getting expensive!). Most of the restaurants we frequented did not have a separate children’s menu but were very accommodating with discussing the best options on the menu for children or suggesting what they could do for them. Most good restaurants were
$NZ 30-36 per main meal and $NZ 15-18 for entrée. Similar prices to Brisbane.
Patagonia Chocolates was an incredible ice creamery, and yes, there were divine handmade chocolates there. The homemade chocolates and ice-cream were NZ gold award winning. Worth a try…. I was very impressed with the dairy industry in New Zealand. Beautiful cheeses, amazing ice-cream, Whittakers chocolate…. Very nice indeed!
Supermarkets… there are plenty of corner stores but Fresh Choice is the best value supermarket. Worth locating.
Fruit and vegetables are very expensive in the South Island. Apples and Pears are grown on the south island, around $NZ 7 per kilogram. I even spotted some peach trees on my journey but they were only just blooming.
Wine – lots of it available and it is great! You can buy great local wine in the
supermarket for $NZ 15-20 per bottle. Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir varieties were very nice!
Mt Coronet Skiing
Day 1… it had been 3 years since I last skied. The anxiety was building from the time I started packing. It always does with skiing. My husband is a proficient skier and the kids are great also. I try to view skiing as just an alternative exercise for me and for me activity means calories burnt to enjoy more energy intake. All my holidays are designed to incorporate activity. I enjoy trying amazing food and hence to keep my weight stable, exercise or activity is a must. 5 days of skiing… 43 years old and ‘mentally’ I don’t think I am a great skier, but the ski instructors say I am fine. I think it comes down to not wanting to fall and break something. On day 5 there were plenty of bruises, but all in tact. My skiing style is fine and I can ski, it is all in my head! Green runs suit me…. We skied for 3 hrs in the morning and then 3 hrs in the afternoon. You can get quite hungry and fatigued, so refueling is important. Breakfast consisted of 1-2 slices of multigrain bread and protein – smoked salmon or egg with tomato and baby spinach or muesli and tinned fruit and low fat milk. To keep expense down and to make sure that I had healthy snacks – I would pack unsalted mixed nuts, dried fruit or apples, low sugar muesli bars. Lunch on the slopes … my favourite economical choices where the vegetarian soups served with a multigrain bread roll or vegetarian Panini with haloumi and once we shared a wood fired pizza which was pretty good. The coffee was an unexpected bonus. A standard coffee had 2 shots (super charged for us oldies hitting the slopes). The choice of milk was either Full Cream or Trim. NZ trim was the lowest fat content in their range and was 99.8% fat free. The Slim varieties were 1.5-2% fat. Although alcohol was readily available on the slopes and in Queenstown, I did not see it abused. It was important to have a healthy muesli bar in the car for the 30-minute drive home to stop the excessive overeating on arrival. This allowed the family to wait for dinner. Dinner comprised of 1-2 serves of carbohydrates to refuel for the next day of activity. Usually pasta, rice based curry or potato based dish cooked in the apartment.
Our next destination was Milford Sound for a Cruise. It was a four-hour drive to get to this destination. While driving in the car with the family it is important that you factor in a snack for everyone every 2 hrs. Nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, squeeze yoghurts, cheese and crackers and perhaps 1 treat (chips, chocolate, sweet biscuits). Always drink plenty of water.
The cruises and most site-seeing activities were 2hrs in duration. Remember to pack snacks and water wherever you go. This will reduce your expense and save on calorie rich consumption of foods. On observation of what most locals ate, I saw many workers enjoy pies and ice-cream (both of which were inexpensive). Eating like this occasionally is fine but regularly will affect weight and health. As we drove through New Zealand it was evident that sheep/lamb, beef and venison were the main exports for New Zealand. Beef is now the main export for New Zealand. The new trade with China has ensured Beef as the main trade with lamb close behind. With every breathtaking moment of our trip I could not help but envisage segments from the famous ‘Footrot Flats’ Comic series. Hilariously accurate! Night stop over at Te Anau to break up the 7 hour driving trip to Lake Tekapo. Venison on the menu again. Yes please! Lean and served with a blueberry jus with greens and horseradish mash. Divine!
After a relaxing 1 day stop over at Lake Tekapo and the hot springs… to relax the body….we headed off to Akoroa, a hidden French colonized bayside village. Here we went on Pohatu Penguin Tour, experiencing farm life, walks through rainforest and seeing the Pahatu penguin in its natural habitat. This was by far my favourite destination for food. I could not get enough fresh fish. The wild salmon was amazing. The hoki, orange roughy and tremendous local fish were all prepared beautifully in a French inspired manor. Surprisingly the fish was cooked delicately and the strong flavours were added with chickpea, potato, chorizo, scallops, olives, beans, cherry tomatoes and fresh pesto. Divine! Light! Healthy!
Bagels for breakfast with smoked salmon and eggs. Lunch – tomato based fennel soup or fish again. I certainly received plenty of omega 3’s.
Our last day at Akoroa and the drive to Christchurch airport. Although we didn’t stay in Christchurch, I wanted to drive through the city post the earthquake devastation. The city looks completely different. A lot of their historic pubs and buildings have disappeared. There is still quite a lot of reconstruction going on. Our well wishes are with the city.
In conclusion… New Zealand… home of the All Blacks, Footrot Flats, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, the coolest aircraft safety video and the most amazing snow capped mountains I have ever seen…what a beautiful country, beautiful hospitable people, amazing food, great culture and most of all proud ‘all black’ supporters!
… your wine and cheeses will bring me back! And of course, the Milford Sound walking track to balance the energy ☺.
Yours in good health Desi Carlos Dietitian Tree of Life Nutrition