It’s all about the running…

The last few weeks seem to have been all about the running. Adam and I took part in a our club’s trail running championships recently which was great fun. We ran up and down a famous local track known as Rapaki Track which had the usual gorgeous views but as it was a race I didn’t have time to stop and take photos! Adam did really well, coming 4th overall and 3rd in his category and I was pleased with my 13th place position and 2nd place in the female category – although I should point out that there were only 3 females taking part!

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Last weekend was the incredible Crater Rim Ultra race which is organised by our club. We volunteered as marshals and spent the day handing out wrist bands to incredible runners as the made their way around the 30km and 52km courses. We had a lovely spot on out on the hills (although chilly!) and the locals looked after us well by coming out with coffee and cookies. Adam is now looking forward to challenging himself with this run next year.

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Yesterday we had our usual club training session in beautiful Hagley Park and I decided to take a few photos of my journey along the way.

As you can see, Hagley Park is really pretty and I’ve only captured the few bits that I see as I jog to the club meeting point. The park is really large (over 160+ hectares) and includes the botanic gardens, various trails to walk or bike, a cafe, huge greenhouses full of tropical plants, ancient trees, ponds, wide open spaces for sports, a golf course, the River Avon and various arty pieces.

Much of the flora is labelled and named making it easy to identify the different species of plants and flowers as you wander around. I feel so lucky to train here every week. It’s a gorgeous place to run around and the birds are amazing!

The parks is filled with gorgeous birds and I managed to photograph a kingfisher there in early spring. People all over New Zealand have been voting recently for their favourite bird of the year and the lovely Kererū won:

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I’ve not actually managed to spot one of these hefty birds yet but have been told that there are a breeding pair just outside our offices so I’ll be trying to spot them for the rest of the year.

It’s now bank holiday weekend here so we’re about to enjoy a lovely three days off. Wherever you are in the world, have a great weekend!

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Climbing at Cattlestop Crag

We recently joined the New Zealand Alpine Club and signed up for a local outdoor top-roping course. It’s been over a year since we were last out climbing in Italy so we both felt pretty rusty and were looking forwards to refreshing our knowledge and skills. NZAC chose Cattlestop Crag as their course location and it was the perfect spot. Located just above Heathcote Valley in Christchurch, it has over 100+ climbing routes and is easy to access. There’s parking along the road above the crags and the views, as always, were brilliant.

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The entire city was laid out on display in front of us. In the distance we could see the snow-capped alps and over to the East we had views of New Brighton Beach and the ocean beyond – stunning.

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The ratio of instructors to students was really good at 1:3 and we started our day with a safety talk and a reminder of the basics; tying in safely, belaying and partner checks. As a girl with fairly long locks, keeping it tied up and out the way is important when I climb so I invested in a set of Dutch braids (from Hip Hop Trends) the day before. I’m glad I did – getting scalped as your hair gets caught in the belay device is no joke as one of our group unfortunately discovered. Ouch! Seriously girls – tie it up.

We spent the morning climbing and after lunch we learned the basics of abseiling; tying in safely and using a prusik and biner correctly to descend.

Our instructors were great and happy to adapt the course to cater to people’s specific interests and needs. A few of us were keen to learn how to set up the anchors for an abseiling spot so one of the instructors took us aside to teach this. Others in our group wanted to learn more about specific climbing techniques so another instructor spent time working on that. So, if you’re interested in rock climbing and happen to be in the Canterbury region, I can definitely recommend joining one of the NZAC climbing sessions or courses. We’re really looking forward to our next session where we can brush up on our lead-rope climbing skills!

Wherever you are in the world, have a super week.

Food & Fun

A look through some of my recent foodie photos has prompted me to write this rather random blog. Sunday started really well for me. I dragged myself out of bed after a lovely, long lie-in to discover this:

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My awesome man had been out, grabbed me a Sunday paper and prepped breakfast for me – nice! Later that day, we headed into town and ate an impromptu lunch at The Craft Embassy which is located in the Terrace area of the city. It was Adam’s birthday weekend so we splashed out and ordered some gorgeous sharing platters and puddings!

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The crème brûlée there is to die for and the chocolate desert was pretty amazing too! In other food news, my salad growing is going really well. So much so that I completed my first salad harvest and took it with my lunch on Monday. It was very satisfying to be munching on my home-grown produce and I enjoyed forcing my colleagues to taste it too!

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I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned the Mitre 10 store in previous blogs but if not I should have. It’s a brilliant store and we seem to spend a small fortune (on items we didn’t realise we needed) every time we visit. The UK equivalent to this store would be something like a B&Q or Wickes I guess. Anyway, a friend told me that one of the city Mega Mitre 10 stores was hosting a ladies’ night event and we decided to go along and see what we could learn. IMG_9049

I wasn’t really sure to expect when we arrived but the evening exceeded my expectations and we had a great time. We got to chat with various members of the emergency services and let’s face it, no matter how old you are, everyone loves to sit in a fire engine!

Inside the store, there were a variety of silly games to take part in, various spot prizes, a local dance group doing performances, free nibbles and drinks, and even some massage tables (my personal highlight of the evening).

We were able to approach various different stands and learn how to use a range of different power tools (and it turns out, I am not a natural in this area). The people hosting this were knowledgable and supportive without being patronising, and I can honestly say that I came away with a ton of new knowledge and had a good giggle along the way. Well done Mitre 10!

Greta Valley

It’s been a beautiful week here in Christchurch and I can see exactly why the city is known as the Garden City. The spring blossoms are everywhere and it takes me forever to walk from one place to another as I can’t help but stop and admire.

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(Photo curtesy of Kiwi Explorer on TrekEarth)

Yesterday was the Greta Valley Relay Marathon. Adam joined as one of our team’s runners and I went along to enjoy the views and support with the driving.

Greta Valley is about an hour’s drive north of Christchurch and the scenery is just amazing. Rolling hills, steep cliff faces, deep gorges and sparkling lakes surrounded the runners throughout their different sections. Part of the run is along the coast so you also get gorgeous glimpses of the ocean along the way too.

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Our team ran their sections really well (a few of them running additional legs just for fun) and finished with a very respectable time of 3 hours and 11 minutes. We then enjoyed drinks and some food at a local bar (which also doubles as the finish line!) afterwards. The atmosphere was really good and we ended the day with plenty of clapping and celebration during the prize giving session.

This relay was a great day out with an excellent atmosphere and is something we’ll definitely be keen to take part in again.

Wherever you are in the world, have a wonderful week ahead.

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Spring has Arrived!

Spring has well and truly arrived in Christchurch now and I seem to be forever stopping to admire a flower or blossom tree.

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The temperature has been 22-23 degrees all weekend and my lovely little veggies are growing really well as a result!

We started this weekend with one of our regular trail runs around the gorgeous Godley Head hills. I tested my new trail running shoes and although they were very comfortable and caused no blisters, my ankles and calves were in agony. Apparently this is normal when you switch from road shoes to trail shoes but I wasn’t expecting it and have spent today hobbling around as a result.

After the run, we headed over into Sumner Bay and ate a wonderful breakfast at Ocean Cafe which is right on the sea front.

I actually meant to take photos of the food (which was amazing) but we were hungry and wolfed it down without thinking! The views out to sea were beautiful but unfortunately a little obscured by railings due to some building work taking place.

After eating breakfast we headed to a local ice cream shop called Utopia Ice which was recently recommended to us. Their ice cream is totally awesome and gluten free options are available which suited me.

Sumner really is an exquisite place and a must-visit for anyone who travels out this way.

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Today we went back to the Airforce Museum to see the Anne Frank exhibition which is on loan from Amsterdam. The exhibition was excellent, and the content managed sensitively.

There was another area of the museum open that had previously been closed off so Adam enjoyed having a look around there too.

This afternoon we headed into the city centre to enjoy the sunshine and explore The Terrace area of Christchurch city which is a fairly new collection of stylish bars and restaurants set to overlook the River Avon.

Today we tried a restaurant called Original Sin and were very pleased with it. The live music was chilled and enjoyable, the waitresses were friendly, the sun was shining and the food good. We sat there for about an hour just watching people and trams pass by; a very nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Wherever you are in the world, I wish you a lovely week ahead.

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Lyttelton Farmers’ Market

Spring has finally arrived here in New Zealand! The first day of spring was wonderfully warm and bright so Adam and I headed out for our third trail run together at Godley Head.

The views were as gorgeous as ever and we’ve now signed up to complete the Boulder Bay Classic trail run which takes place around the headland on 28th October. This meant it was finally time for me to invest in a pair of trail runners and I bought this rather fab pair earlier today.

We found out recently that our shipping container is finally on its way and we’re now merrily tracking its progress as it sails steadily onwards to us. It should arrive in Lyttelton Harbour on 16th October so fingers crossed everything makes it over safely! To apologise for the delays in shipping, the freight company very kindly offered us a meal out so we headed to Amaterrace Teppanyaki, a Japanese restaurant based in Christchurch CBD. The food was amazing and all cooked in front of us on a teppanyaki griddle.

We enjoyed the performance and cuisine so much that we’ve booked to go back again soon to celebrate Adam’s birthday.

To help keep myself warm I took advantage of the recent Ballantynes‘ winter sale and purchased a few of the famous New Zealand merino wool jumpers. They’re super warm and a great investment but are all, unfortunately, hand wash, dry flat items. I thought I’d found the perfect sunny spot to dry them recently but the kitty-cat felt they made super beds and scuppered my drying plans – the joys of having cats!

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My other recent purchase is a fairly new product called Nutrient Rescue which is a serving of dehydrated, powdered fruit and vegetables. You mix it up with water to create a ‘shot’ and it provides you with all the nutrients you need for the day and ensures you’re getting your ‘5 a day’ fruit and veggie portions.

We ordered the sample box after hearing positive reviews and felt a very noticeable energy boost just a couple of days later. Instead of heading to bed and collapsing around 8:30 – 9pm, we’re now feeling energised until past 10pm which is unheard of for us. The veggies aren’t tampered with in any way before being dried and powdered so we’ve now signed up to try it out for a month. Hopefully the rather grim tasting green shots will help keep our energy levels high and at least we have the tasty red shots to look forward to every other day!

The weather has been rather hit and miss lately but we’ve still managed to get out and explore a few new spots. Last weekend we went to the Waimakariri Gorge which is where the river (Waimakariri) gets forced through a narrow canyon as it approaches Christchurch.

The water here is crystal clear and blue which unfortunately isn’t properly reflected in these photos. The banks are shingle and rocky. You can scramble along them and enjoy watching the local fishermen and the speed boats racing past.

Our favourite new find though is Lyttelton Famers’ Market which is held in Lyttelton each Saturday.

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Lyttelton is one of the port towns on the Banks Peninsula which is accessed from Christchurch via a tunnel. Although still suffering from the after effects and damage of the earthquakes, the town has a vibrant, friendly feel to it on market day and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

There were many wonderful stalls to explore, most of them offering free samples and all of them eager to chat about their produce. There was live music playing, the smell of coffee wafting through the streets and a great atmosphere to soak up.

We went to the market with a colleague of mine who is teaching me to be a ‘proper kiwi’ by growing my own herbs. My intention today was to buy just one ‘tester’ herb but we all found ourselves purchasing a great many items we hadn’t realised we needed such as cured meats, cheese, amazing gluten-free treats and fresh, locally caught fish. We left with our wallets feeling somewhat lighter but I am now the proud owner of a coriander plant!

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After a quick trip to the garden centre to purchase a vast amount of other items (pots, potting mix, trowel, gloves and dust mask) which are apparently all required to grow things, I am now set to enter the new world of growing my own herbs. Having never attempted to grow anything before I am a little nervous and we’ll have to watch this space…

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Wherever you are in the world, have a wonderful week and wish me luck with the planting!

Birdlings Flat & Ōnawe Peninsula

The last couple of weeks have been really busy and seem to have flown by. Adam got a job with a local detailing company and has been hard at work learning the ropes and putting in the hours. Recently we seem to have spent our weeks working and our weekends recovering and attempting to keep the house clean so there hasn’t been a great deal to blog about.

The morning sunrises have been absolutely amazing though and although this photo doesn’t really do them justice they are definitely worth a mention!

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Last weekend there was a light festival at the Botanic Gardens in the city centre. We headed down there on Friday evening to see the show and were amazed by the crowds. For somewhere that always seems so peaceful, the city was crammed to bursting.

We enjoyed the food stalls and watched some music and dance performances but decided we couldn’t be bothered with the 2 hours queues to see the lights and headed home early. Over 136,000 people visited the event during the weekend and there’s now talk of the lights being displayed year round so maybe we’ll get to see them after all.

I took a lovely day off on Friday and spent time chilling out with my kitties (one of whom is definitely getting fat!) treating myself to a manicure and eating Japanese food.

This weekend we decided to get out exploring again and set our sights on Akaroa which is a little town on the Banks Peninsula, south of Christchurch.

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We headed out this morning but unfortunately didn’t quite make it as there were so many other interesting places to see along the way. We saw a sign for a place called Birdlings Flat which I’d recently read about in the local paper so we detoured off and went to visit.

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The beach at Birdlings is beautiful and has a sort of lonely, romantic, standing-on-the-edge-of-the-world feeling about it. This is probably to be expected considering there’s nothing ahead of you apart from a huge expanse of Pacific, and eventually, Antarctica. The sea here is considered too dangerous for swimming but the area is definitely worth a visit.

As usual, there was plenty of room and very few other people around save a few fishermen and the odd beachcomber. The beach is made of stones and is said to be a good place to hunt for gem stones. In fact, there’s a local fossil and gemstone museum nearby but we didn’t visit today.

After half an hour of poking around amongst the stones and breathing in the fresh, salty air we decided to continue on our way to Akaroa. We headed in on highway 75 but got distracted along the way by the site of the ‘Hilltop Tavern’ which promised wood-fired pizzas. We pulled over and after discovering they made gluten-free pizzas (I’m allergic) we ordered and spent some time soaking in the spectacular views below us.

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The hilltop is definitely worth a visit if you’re travelling this way. The food is hearty and reasonably priced. The views are awesome, the staff friendly and they do indeed have a wood-fired pizza oven.

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After our meal we headed to the car and were distracted by the rather interesting spit of land jutting out to sea. We saw that it was called the Ōnawe Peninsula and decided to investigate.

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We travelled down through Barry’s Bay and then along a gravel road until we reached the start of the Ōnawe Peninsula. The scenery along the way was stunning…

At the start of the peninsula you have the option to walk along the pebble beach to the right (if the tide is out) or to hike up this path:

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We opted to hike up this highly accessible looking path but wouldn’t recommend it as the path along the top is narrow and the recent rain we’ve had made it incredibly slippy today. We had a few hairy moments where we nearly tumbled into the sea and I fell over more than once. Still, the views were good!

After the initially difficult path, the next stage is really easy to access with a short stretch of rocky beach followed by wide open, grassy paths. The rock walls here are an amazing orange colour and there were many different birds and butterflies to admire along the way.

After reaching the final outcrop of stones we headed back and decided to save our Akaroa visit for another day.