Two days to Christmas and I've been reveling in the warmth - balmy 70-75 every day, perfect temperatures. It's so funny, people are complaining it's too warm and I can't get enough of it, not just because I've been living in Washington too long, but it just feels right for me, anyway! It rained like crazy last night (the veges won't need watering today) and it's overcast this morning, but not cold. We all hope it clears up for Christmas day so we can have dinner around the pool. We've been doing lots of little day trips around the area and being local tourists. There's a lot to see and do in the Bay of Plenty and we've been taking advantage of it, like picking fresh strawberries, which we did again yesterday. I have never had such delicious berries, especially the ones that have been sun-warmed and burst with flavor as you bite into them. And they are huge! One of the biggest I picked took five bites to finish! It was a whole meal in itself!
There is a Gourmet Night Market down at The Mount which was really fun. Laid back, music on the green, lots of food stalls, both cooked to eat there and to take away. Plus locally made things like local olive oil and avocado oil and there were a couple of butchers with real English sausages which we had to buy! The place was jam-packed - kid running around, all barefoot of course; old-timers perusing the wares and every age in between. We sat on the grass ( should have brought a blanket: next time) and enjoyed the atmosphere.
Zoze had a stall at the local flea market for her Sunny Tees - color changing t-shirts - and she did really well. What an assortment of people there! Wild outfits and odd people! But I had one of the best cups of coffee I have had since I got here. Nescafe is popular here but I have found some good beans but they are very expensive.
New Zealand is expensive! Housing is more than my Washington area and that was getting up there. Rents are high and gas is through the roof! But minimum wage here is $15 so there is that to figure in.
A big day trip took us to Rotorua, thermal capital of New Zealand. On the way we stopped in at Mamaku Blue, a blueberry farm and winery. A bit early for wine, but we had coffee and shopped in the little store for everything blueberry!
Our main objective was to go on a rail cruising ride. The little hybrid electric cars cruise on an unused portion of track, taking us through farmlands, through the Dansey Scenic Reserve, over streams and close, but not too close, to a few houses. The cars are fully automated, except for an emergency brake, so cruising is a breeze. They slow down in all the right places, speed up in others and provide narration and a bit of history passing various spots along the track. The only manual part of the trip was at the mid-point where it was spun on the turntable to send us back to the starting point.
Then we went on to Rotorua and wandered around the thermal pools, trying not to breathe too deeply as the misty, sulphurous air wafted around us and the mud pools bubbled and burped! Down on the lakefront, I made contact with a floatplane operator there. They have a beautiful old de Havilland Otter with quite a history that will make a nice article!
Talking about old things, there are so many old and classic cars here. We saw an Alvis recently, that is in pristine condition and then a cute little Riley Elf, which the owner calls Elfina!
Back to doing stuff, I got my 20-year fill of religion when we went to "The Night Before Christmas" at a local shopping center. It was put on by the local Baptist Church and the turnout was huge. Had to have been a couple of thousand people there who brought their
own chairs, blankets and picnics. A huge sound stage was set up with an even bigger screen so everyone had a view. It was a full-on musical extravaganza with kids choirs, singers, performers and rock and roll karaoke carols - words on the big screen and everyone singing along. Fortunately no sermon or pulpit pounding. One of Shawn's friends sang, Reuben Simpson, who has an amazing voice and I swear he is the next Michael Bublé!
It's a month til I leave here and as yet, don't have a landing spot. I do have options, though so am not worried. Things generally work out.