Five outdoor family loves in Wellington from the past fortnight…

We’ve been back in Wellington, New Zealand, a fortnight and are quickly reacquainting ourselves with favourite haunts. The weather has mostly been conducive to outdoor activities and our children are loving playing with their friends.

Here’s five outdoor favourites from the last fortnight…

1. Rock pooling, climbing and beach play at Scorching Bay beach.

This gorgeous gem of a place, on the Miramar Peninsula, with the delightful ‘Scorch-o-rama Cafe’ overlooking the beach, is stunning. My four and eight year old daughters spent a lovely time climbing up and over the rocks, exploring a little cave, examining shells and life in the rock pools (spotting two crabs and some little fish). The soft, yellow sand of the beach then attracted them to build castles (and destroy them just as quickly!), whilst I dipped my toes in the icy spring water and admired the incredible scenery.

Scorching Bay, Wellington2. Bush walks in the lush, green Town Belt of Wellington.

Wellington’s Town Belt is public land, extending for 425ha, and accessible from a number of points around the city. The land offers the feeling of being miles from city life, without having to leave town.

We are fortunate to have a part of the town-belt close to where we live. It’s magic to step into the bush and be at one with nature and the native bird life. On this visit I returned with my pockets stuffed with ‘nature treasures’, bestowed upon me by my four year old, from skeleton leaves and wild flowers, to sticks and ‘special’ stones.

Houghton Valley town belt, Wellington3. Running around at Lyall Bay beach

We are fortunate to live near some gorgeous bays and beaches. Lyall Bay is a real community hub and there’s always something going on. When the tide is out the sand begs to be drawn and ran on. We popped down one sunshine evening and I joined the children in doing cartwheels, handstands and spinning my four year old around until we both collapsed in a dizzy pile.

Lyall Bay Beach

The wide promenade near the beach is great for children to practice their wheel skills and a small playground makes for fun, whilst the grown-ups enjoy a really decent coffee from the local Maranui Cafe!

Lyall Bay, Wellington4. Visiting Wellington Zoo

We have always loved visiting this wonderful zoo, set on a hilly landscape overlooking the city, just a short drive from our home (or a walk of just over half an hour). Its tag line is ‘the best little zoo in the world’ and over the past decade we’ve seen it transformed from a zoo of the past to a zoo of the future, with its focus on conservation, education and ecological enclosures that are naturally landscaped to make the animals feel comfortable.

Wellington Zoo

We loved the new ‘Neighbours’ walk through exhibition – where we found the kangaroos hanging out watching the children ‘jumping like kangaroos’ on the trampoline!

We also loved seeing the Caracals, a recent addition to the zoo. We all had fun being small cats with big ears for a moment – and hiding in the ‘grass’… boo!

Kangaroos and wild cats

5. Playing at one of Wellington’s many playgrounds

There’s well over 100 playgrounds in the Wellington region, all of top notch quality. This past fortnight we’ve visited the playgrounds in Houghton Valley, Lyall Bay, Island Bay and Central Park (Brooklyn). One of our favourite, especially on a summery evening, is the playground at Island Bay, with its giant slide, wooden boat and lookout, swings, see-saws, climbing frames and a play area for younger children too.

Shoreline Park & Playground, Island Bay, WellingtonIt’s so wonderful to be back home. Our oldest daughter is delighted to be back at school with her friends and has slotted straight back into her routines, whilst our younger two are learning from home and enjoying playing with our neighbours. The garden is keeping them busy too, with plenty of spring planting to do!

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Linking up with…

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Autumn | The Photo Gallery

Fall Santa Barbara 2014

Our last month in Santa Barbara, California, coincided with the start of the ‘Fall’ season (though the temperatures and local foliage were hardly indicators of autumnal weather!).

With only weeks left, before our return to Wellington, New Zealand, (just in time for spring) I definitely felt the need to indulge in some autumnal fair before bidding farewell to California. Thankfully, I had a very good friend (along with her delightful sister) who were more than happy to lead me astray…

and so, I found myself one lovely autumnal evening, in sunny California, enjoying the culinary delights on offer at the ‘Santa Barbara Public Market‘.

It was an evening of red wine to linger over, sweet treats and seasonal bouquets of flowers to delight over – combined with the most wonderful conversation and lots of laughter (sigh, now I’m feeling slightly nostalgic and missing my dear friend).

Now, back to reality and life in New Zealand – planting my spring vegetables in the garden (it’s going to take my mind and body a little while to adjust – all in good time x).

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Linking up with lovely bloggers on the theme of ‘Autumn’ over at ‘Sticky Fingers blog‘ for the weekly ‘Photo Gallery’.

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We are home in Wellington, New Zealand!

Where do I start?! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of saying goodbye to our life in Santa Barbara, enjoying a last few days in Disneyland California, and then finally boarding an Air New Zealand flight for that final flight home!

It’s been weeks since I have written anything on this blog. I’ve contemplated letting it go altogether, but then I look back on some event or milestone in one of the children’s lives and am so grateful for writing down all the memories.

We have been back home for five days and everything feels ‘right’. There’s nothing better than returning from over a year of living overseas to feel that home really is home. I went for my first run along the south coast of Wellington today and felt so alive and invigorated by the dramatic scenery.

First run back in Welly!

The community, neighbours and friends we have returned to are as friendly and welcoming as they were when we left; from greeting us at the airport, to putting up a welcome sign on our front door and balloons on the mail box.

As we slowly return to our favourite ‘haunts’ we’ve been greeted with ‘You’re back! It’s so good to see you!’.

This is why we love Wellington.

The air is fresh and the colours bright. The sound of bird call is loud and plentiful. The land and vegetation, surrounding the beautiful coastal bays that we live near, comprise of rich hues of green. Our back garden is so alive and inviting – I can’t wait to get ‘stuck in’ and busy with planting seasonal herbs, fruits and vegetables.

The weather is ‘real’ (a real that only those who have spent any length of time in Wellington can truly comprehend!). We’ve already had a couple of ‘four seasons in a day’; where one hour the children are basking in sunshine in the hot tub and running barefoot on the grass, whilst the next they are donning rain coats and catching buckets of hail – as a southerly cold front sweeps in from Antarctica.

Catching hail

We’ve enjoyed opening up our home to friends on Sunday and not knowing if any would drop by, or when – so typically laid back and casually ‘Kiwi’. In the end we were delighted with lots of lovely surprise visits, starting with a friend returning the coffee machine we’d lent her in our absence (along with fresh coffee beans and lots of goodies from the wonderful Diamond Deli in Lyall Bay) and finishing with our neighbour, and her wonderful parents, coming around for dinner (they brought round an amazing home made curry and pots of mushy peas!).

Throughout the day, friends visited with home baked goodies, flowers and cards, one making an amazing effort by pushing a buggy, with child weighing it down, up a very steep hill! Meanwhile, the children all delighted in being reunited with friends and the sound of laughter and children playing has filled every corner of the house and garden.

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From the moment we touched down in New Zealand, before we’d even left Auckland International airport, to walk over to the domestic terminal, we knew we were home. At customs we were greeted home with a smile. The airport was welcoming with its Maori carvings and written greetings on the carpet as we cleared customs.

Welcome carpet at Customs, Auckland International Airport

And then there was our first New Zealand coffee.. oh yes, the coffee!

Coffee in New Zealand!

Walking between the terminals, to the domestic airport, for our flight to Wellington, we rejoiced in seeing a Pohutukawa tree in bloom (a sign of a good summer to come!), cabbage trees and other native plants that we have missed so much. Two of our daughters rejoiced at seeing a ‘Wishbone’ cafe at the domestic terminal – they had missed the soup from there immensely and, despite the time being not far after breakfast, they tucked into a bowl with great satisfaction.

Then it was time for our final flight to Wellington. We flew into sunshine and a warm welcome from friends.

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It really feels good to be home, even a Skype call to my dear folks in the UK felt easier on a 12 hour time difference; than the ‘in-between’ 8 hours that we experienced living in California.

Thanks New Zealand and Wellington for making us feel so welcome x

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Frying in Anaheim, California. A Scorchio Weekend!

We are family x

We were practically frying in southern California last weekend, as the temperature rose over 100 °F (close to 40 ºC).

Our main reason for being down in Anaheim was for our 8 year old daughter to see a live game of baseball with her Daddy (she’s really enjoyed going to the ‘batting cages’ and slogging a few balls – so much so that she ended up getting her own glove and bat). So on Saturday evening she headed off to watch her favourite team – the LA Angels – play ‘at home’.

LA Angels, Anaheim

She came back with a big smile, having found a genuine baseball under a seat and proudly sporting an LA Angels cap on her head.

Sophie at the game

She admitted it was a long game and she got bored at times – but she knew her Daddy wanted to see the whole game, so she stayed for him. All up they loved the experience and it’s great that she is such a young sport lover and shares such a passion with her Daddy.

Angels Stadium

The atmosphere sounded amazing, with so much entertainment aside from the game itself, finishing with fireworks – that are fabulously captured by this fan here:

Whilst they enjoyed the game I spent the evening with my wonderful 11 year old and 4 year old daughter. After a lovely meal together we played in a fabulous water playground, at the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel.

Evening fun at the Howard Johnson Hotel Anaheim water playground

Our hotel was close enough to Disneyland that we enjoyed a spectacular view of the ever brilliant fireworks display too!

Disneyland fireworks

The next day we made use of our annual Disneyland passes and popped into Disney California Adventure Park.

With the scorching temperatures we were glad of not feeling the pressure to fit in too much and planned to just enjoy a few hours, before taking our time driving back to Santa Barbara.

The park was exceptionally quiet and the older girls went on their favourite ride, California Screamin’, around six times!

California Screamin'

We all enjoyed the beautiful ‘Symphony Swings’ and rode on them a few times, as a family (so great that our 4 year old is now just over the 40″ minimum height requirement!).

I enjoyed the ‘Toy Story’ ride with my 4 year old too, surviving the half hour wait in the scorching temperatures by purchasing a much needed fan and water spray bottle! Best investment of the day!

We spent the rest of our time in the park taking it in turns to soak one another – the water was practically evaporating off our bodies as soon as it touched us!

Water spray

The ‘Grizzly River Run‘ was an absolute ‘must do’ in the heat (unfortunately our youngest isn’t at the 42″ minimum height requirement for that). Hubby took the older two and got absolutely soaked through (few complaints though!). Thankfully they had some ‘Fast passes‘ to make good use of – so no long wait for that ride.

We strolled through Cars Land and the older two went on the fabulous ‘Radiator Springs Racers‘ as ‘single riders‘ (which is available on some of the most popular rides) to avoid the long line of people waiting to go in groups. Meanwhile, hubby, our youngest daughter, and I chilled in the air-conditioned comfort of Flo’s V8 Cafe in Cars Land.

Cars Land

Luigi’s Flying Tires ride and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree ride were both ‘walk on’, so we had a blast on the those rides, before the heat finally got too much for us and we started our journey back to Santa Barbara.

Paradise Pier

A wonderful end to a really magic weekend. Only two more weekends left before we fly home to New Zealand, after an amazing year living in California!

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Sunshine weekend | Santa Barbara to Santa Monica

We’ve driven south from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles several times in the past year. One of our favourite routes is along the Southbound California State Route 1, on the Pacific Coast Highway.

We always make a pit-stop at the giant sand dunes to admire the scenery and burn off some pent up energy with the children!

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This five minute video, by FreewayBrent, from Point Mugu State Park, to the Malibu city limits, captures the drive.

This weekend, on our drive to Santa Monica, we went via The Lost Hills Road and Malibu Canyon Road, and onto the CA 1 South, Pacific Coast Highway.

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It’s a beautiful road, through dramatic scenery.

Driving the Malibu Canyon road

As we approached the coast, we drove past the Pepperdine University and a very moving tribute to all those that lost their lives in the Twin Towers tragedy of September 11th: ‘Waves of Flags‘.

Flag memorial at Pepperdine University
The flags, nearly 3,000 of them, represented all the nationalities of those that tragically lost their lives.

We pulled in to walk amongst the flags flying in the gentle breeze, before getting back in the car for the final leg of our journey, on to Santa Monica.

September 11th Flag memorial

The final drive is filmed in this video by FreewayBrent -
CA 1 South, Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu East to Santa Monica:

We arrived in Santa Monica, at the gorgeous Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, late afternoon with plenty of time to enjoy the evening on the beach and in the swimming pool. The girls love the ‘beach gym’, with the monkey rings, bars, swings and climbing ropes. Being there brought back happy memories of my 40th Birthday weekend celebrations.

Santa Monica Beach
As the sun set we played in the pool, spotting the stars as they appeared in the night sky.

At the Loews Hotel pool.
Tiredness began to catch up on our youngest, so I took her off to bed, whilst hubby took our older daughters off to the fairground on the pier.

Santa Monica pier fun fair

They had a really fun time and put their winning tickets from the arcade together, to get a toy for their youngest sister.

Beautiful sunset
Such a beautiful start to the weekend. The next morning we woke and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, before heading to the California Science Center to see the ‘Endeavour’ space shuttle, which was really quite something to see with our own eyes!

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A Magic Moment – seeing Endeavour

His eyes welled up as we walked into the large hanger, the Samuel Oschin Pavilion, holding Endeavour, at the California Science Center. My breath paused. The children stopped moving, momentarily. We stood in the presence of a real space shuttle!

Dan and EndeavourThis shuttle had been into space on 25 successful missions. It blew my mind to see this feat of engineering and to think of all the people that have worked with this shuttle over the 19 years it was in operation.

In numbers…

1992: The year Endeavour lifted off on its first flight. The orbiter carried seven astronauts to space on the STS-49 mission to rescue and repair a broken communications satellite.

4,671: The number of orbits Endeavour made of Earth during all of its missions.

299: The total number of days Endeavour has spent in space.

12: The number of times Endeavour visited the International Space Station. The shuttle’s trips to the orbiting laboratory include the very first U.S. space station mission, the STS-88 flight in December 1998 that launched the first American space station module, Unity.

3.5: The number of years it took NASA to build Endeavour. Construction on the orbiter began in September 1987, and completed in April 1991.

1: The number of times Endeavour has visited the Hubble Telescope in orbit. The shuttle was used to launch the first Hubble servicing mission, STS-61 in December 1993, which famously corrected the observatory’s faulty optics.

~ Space Shuttle Endeavour By The Numbers, Clara Moskowitz, SPACE.com Senior Writer   |   June 01, 2011

AMAZING!

Jets

It was incredible and we all felt quite awe struck!

Space shuttle Endeavour’s final journey was a 12-mile ride from LAX, through Inglewood, to the California Science Center in Exposition Park. Here it is in timelapse.

As an aside, it was free to see too!

There were so many great hands on exhibitions and areas of learning at the California Science Center.

California Science Center

 

If ever stopping in LA I’d recommend a visit.

A wonderful family experience.

My favourite photo of the visit was actually not of the space shuttle, but this one (of my three daughters ‘reading’ the news). Our eight year old is in the centre (as the newsreader), our four year old is to the right (being interviewed for her scientific expertise) and our eldest, on the left, is ‘interference’ / aka ‘mad scientist! They were hilarious.

Broadcasting the news

Linking up with…

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