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.

Castle Hill

It was fairly dismal weather last weekend but we decided to jump in the car and drive out west to see the famous Castle Hill rock formations. It’s roughly an hour’s drive from Christchurch but it took us a little longer as we kept stopping to take in the beautiful scenery.

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Castle Hill is a large collection of huge limestone boulders scattered across the hillsides. It attracts climbers and hikers from all over the world and it’s not hard to see why.

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Even on a cloudy, winter’s day, it’s a stunning place to visit and as soon as our rock shoes arrive we’ll be grabbing a crash mat and heading back out there to enjoy it properly.

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If the scenery looks a little familiar it’s probably because this area was used to film parts of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe movie.

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This is a really lovely place to visit and I’m looking forward to bouldering there in the warmer months.

In other news, we finally managed to ditch the rental cars and buy a car of our own this week. We’re now the proud owners of this lovely lady who we’ve named ‘Mr Kaplan’ – and if this makes no sense to you then I can thoroughly recommend watching The Blacklist!

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I also noticed this week that there is a new cafe opening in Christchurch – a cat cafe!

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We had one of these in Den Haag and I loved it so I can’t wait to go try this one out soon.

Wherever you are in the world, have a lovely week ahead!

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Farewell Den Haag!

Living in The Hague (Den Haag) has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience and we will definitely miss it when we leave. Here’s my list of the top ten things I have loved about life in this city.

1. The incredible amount of quality cafés and restaurants available. From cheap and cheerful to Michelin starred dining, there’s something for everyone. In the summer it is very easy to lose entire Saturdays just wandering from café to café sipping cappuccinos and munching snacks!

There are far too many excellent cafés and restaurants to name here so I’ll just mention our two favourites. Brasserie ‘t Ogenblik in the city centre is our go to café for weekend lunches. The staff are wonderful, the food is tasty and the price is good. My other favourite is The Cat Cafe on Piet Heinstraat because who wouldn’t want a load of cats wandering round as you eat?

2. The amount of outdoor spaces, parks and woodlands. Considering we’re living in a city, it’s incredibly easy to ‘get away from it all’ and go for a walk around the many parks and woodlands. If you’re an animal lover you can admire the deer grazing on the Malieveld park near the train station or visit one of the many petting zoos which are dotted around the city. My favourite outdoor space is the Japanese garden which is found within Clingendael Park and is open a handful of weeks each year.

3. The good range of sporting activities and venues. We particularly enjoy climbing and running and have been able to access both very easily. There are quite a few climbing walls in The Hague and we took out membership with De Kilmmuur which gave us access to a few locations around The Netherlands, plus the ice climbing wall which is fun. There are also lots of local races taking place throughout the year, the biggest local one being The CPC (City-Pier-City) which we’ve taken part in a few times now. These happen to be our interests but there’s also biking, skating, sailing, surfing, football and hockey clubs readily available too.

4. The wide range of art galleries and museums. I wasn’t really a fan of museums before I came to The Netherlands but they have definitely won me over and if you purchase a museum card you can access hundreds of museums and galleries for €45 per year. Since being here, we’ve enjoyed Mondrian, Banksy, Escher, Dali and Picasso amongst others.

5. The beach. Scheveningen beach is the largest and most popular beach in The Hague but there are many miles of coastline (and beach bars) to explore. We particularly like Wassenaar beach which is only a 10km bike ride away and tends to be a bit quieter in the busy summer months. The beaches here in The Netherlands are sandy, spacious, clean and safe and always go down well with family visitors!

 6. It’s so pretty in winter! We’ve found the winters here to be mild and fairly short – but have also met other ex-pats who find them long and terrible! The Hague is exceptionally pretty in the snow and as soon as it gets cold enough the Dutch dust off their skates and jump onto the canals and lakes – not something I’ve tried whilst here!

7. There’s always something happening here. Being the seat of Dutch parliament and home to the royal family and the International Court of Justice means that it’s a pretty busy spot so there’s always something taking place. The local government have an English website which lists most of the upcoming events in The Hague and it’s always changing. We’ve enjoyed a number of free festivals and sporting events since being here and would definitely recommend checking the website regularly.

8. The city skyline is really cool. You can take a trip to the penthouse sky bar near HS station and walk out on the deck there to take in the view. It always looks great but I really like it at night.

  9. It’s so easy to get to everywhere else. From The Hague you can easily access Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Kinderdijk (famous windmills) and many other places. This makes it really easy to see music, dance and comedy shows whenever they visit or to have the odd day trip out. We are lucky enough to own a car here but in all honesty we often travel via train or tram because it’s quicker and easier.

10. Easy access to and from the UK. The Hague is less than an hour’s flight from the UK which makes it really easy to get back and forth. Our family love it and have often visited us here.

The Hague is a brilliant city and we feel very lucky to have lived here. We will no doubt be back in the future!

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