The Red Rocks: Where The Seals Chill Out

Tuesday 31 May 2016

We came across the Red Rocks a few months ago when we were driving round the bays. We reached the very end of Owhiro Bay and thought that was the end of it. But I could see the coast from the carpark and realised that although it may have been the end of the road (literally), it certainly wasn't the end of an adventure. So I checked and found out that there is apparently a beautiful coastal walk from there towards the Red Rocks. Unfortunately, we were not prepared for a walk on that day so we went back in early May, which was good timing because we were able to see some seals.   

The walk was roughly two and a half hours back and forth. But this all depends on how fit you are and how many stops you make along the way to take photos. But one thing is for sure, you have to be prepared to walk. A good pair of walking shoes is required in my opinion as you will be walking on a rugged path. A layered clothing will certainly help as it is an open area and it can get really windy and cold over there (regardless of the weather). Also, don't forget to bring a camera to capture the scenic views.

We walked through a flat but rocky surface. This is why you need a good pair of (waterproof) walking shoes or trainers as the rocks can be really sharp. Also, there is a stream of water that you have to cross along the way.  

It was a Saturday when we went over there so there were quite a few 4WDs, quad-bikers and motorcyclists. Some of them were very fast (and noisy) so you have to make sure that you're out of the way, otherwise you'll end up covered with dust. They are not allowed there on Sundays though so it's an option if you want a rather quiet walk.

Half-way through the walk (on black sand) are amazing views including very artistic rock formations. I really wanted to climb on top of one of the rocks but as soon as I got close, I was instantly surrounded by hundreds of flies (cringe).

We didn't actually see the seals on the red rocks, but the rocks are pretty. According to history (naks- like I know), the rocks are lava formed from undersea volcanic eruptions 200 million years ago. There is also a folk tale on why the rocks are red, you can read it here.

We walked towards the Sinclair Head and then through the Devil's Gate. From here, we got a very good view of the coast.

Past the Devil's Gate is where we found the fur seals. They were just chilling out on the rocks. They were fascinating to watch. 

It was meant to be an easy walk but I felt more tired afterwards than when I climbed up Mount Kaukau. I can't think of any reason for my tiredness apart from  walking on the rocks/pebbles/boulder. Otherwise, the walk was pleasant.

I would definitely recommend this as one of the things that you must do in Wellington.

tintin x

15 Things I Miss About London

Tuesday 24 May 2016

"Do you miss London?" is the question I often get asked by the people I meet in Wellington. Believe it or not but I always find it difficult to find the right answer to that question. I know it's just a matter of yes or no but the truth is, I miss it and I don't. Perhaps it depends what aspect of London we're talking about. 

Of course I miss my friends and there's no doubt about that. But I don't actually miss living in London. As much as I love the city, I feel safer and more at peace with myself in Wellington. This is the reason why London doesn't even cross my mind unless I am reminded of it. Just like the other day when I was cleaning my computer files. I saw some of my old London photos which made me suddenly miss a  few things about London. 

1. Plain Scones
- If there is one thing that I definitely miss about London, it's the plain scones. Unfortunately I haven't found it here. They only have savoury scones which I am not very keen on. They don't seem to have clotted cream either because when I tried the date and orange scones once, they served it with butter instead. So, there is no imminent afternoon tea for me I'm afraid.  

2. The Little Ones
- I absolutely love children and I would like to believe that they love me too. In London, I was fortunate enough to have at least three kids that I regularly spent time with whenever I got the chance. I miss hanging out with them honestly.

3. Burger & Lobster
- I've been craving for lobster since I got here but I still yet to find a restaurant that serves lobster or any good crustacean meal for that matter. How I wish they have Burger and Lobster, I would be willing to queue up for an hour. 

4. Lutong Pinoy
- I have confirmed that there is no Filipino Restaurant here. All they have is a Carinderia in Capital Market. To be fair, the chicken and pork barbecue there are  undeniably good but still, it's not like Lutong Pinoy where I can have my favourite longanisa, chicharon bulaklak and lechon kawali in one meal. 

5. Wapping
- Wapping is the only place in London that J and I talk about constantly because that's where we shared most of our London life together. Every now and again, I reminisce about walking amidst the tranquility of the cobblestone streets, the hushed conversation of the people passing by the canal walkway beside J's apartment building and that distinct wooden smell in J's apartment when I opened the door. Ah, I'm suddenly feeling nostalgic.

6. Cinnamon Coffee Shop in Wapping
- Our local coffee shop where I would normally pick up some pastry for breakfast on Sundays. This is also where we had our last morning coffee in London before we flew to New Zealand. A quiet, friendly and homey little cafe that brings colour to a gloomy day.

7. Bubbleology
- Whenever I was stressed and feeling meh, I would treat myself to my favourite  taro or honeydew bubble tea at Bubbleology in Soho. Sure they have bubble teas in Wellington, too. In fact, I have seen a couple of cafes that serve them but neither of them looks appealing to me so I haven't tried any really.

8. Boris Bike
- One of the many activities that we did together back in London was cycling on the weekend. Even if it was just a short distance cycle to Waitrose, I actually really enjoyed every ride. Unfortunately, cycling in Wellington has been ruled out because of the ridiculous hills.

9. Cafe Brood's Paella
- The paella that's way better than the ones I had in Spain. Always a weekend treat. I heard that Osteria del Toro in Tory Street serves a good paella so I might just check on that one very soon. 

10. Richard Haward's Oysters
- My favourite oyster place is Richard Haward's in Borough market. It's actually just a tiny stall but their oysters are really fresh (no need to serve on ice), big (for medium size), meaty and really cheap. Not to mention their mignonette sauce which takes the ocean taste away. As far as I can remember you can get 6 medium oysters for £8. I don't think I can find a treat like this in Wellington. The ones being served in the restaurants are rather expensive.     

11. Little Snogs
I mean FROYO from SNOG. It's called "Froghurt" here.  I wanted to try it but I was immediately put off by photos I saw online. Their frozen yoghurts don't seem to look as healthy as the ones they have in Snog. Besides, it's self-service which I am not very keen on. But maybe I'd give it a try anyway. 

12. Lakwatsa's Pandesal
- Pandesal is the only meal in Lakwatsa that never fails. It's the best pandesal I have ever tasted. It's always worth the 45 minute tube journey to Notting Hill.

13. Cutter and Squidge
- My poor sense of direction took me on a pleasant detour one day to this little gem in Soho. Cutter and Squidge with its dreamy cakes and dainty playroom-like interior, is a cake heaven. Their black and red velvet is amazing. 

14. Lentil Curls
- And then there was Lentil curls. I got addicted to this guilt-free snack from Mark and Spencer's at some point and had it very regularly at work. That subtle chilli kick and the ear-popping crunchiness always got me. Ah, I miss munching on them little poppers.

15. Rinkoff's Crodough
- I discovered Rinkoff's Crodoughs not long before I left London. While the crodoughs look tough, they are actually really tender and very tasty. Most importantly, they are not messy to eat. How I wish I visited this place more often when I was in London. 

Ah, it doesn't really take that much for me to finally miss London, huh?! I think about food and my mind automatically travels a thousand miles away. 

tintin x

20 Things I Learned About Wellington So Far

Saturday 7 May 2016

I have not been feeling motivated lately due to my disheartening journey in finding employment in Wellington. But as much as it has been absolutely demoralising, I am not going to let this unfavourable situation dominate my otherwise positive life in the city. I still believe that every negative thing that happens in our life is a lesson learned. Besides, I knew so little (if not nothing at all) about Wellington before I came here, so I thought that this is another opportunity for me to learn more about this wonderful, wonderful place.

Then came the realisation that indeed, it is now four months since I first set foot in Wellington. I had no expectations then and I still don't have any now. But in those months, the city has slowly revealed itself to me and the more I learn even the littlest thing about the "coolest little capital in the world", the more I enjoy living here.

I can only speak for my personal experience in Wellington and my observations may not be as profound as others might expect but there are things that actually make me think that although this city is not perfect, that I could actually live here for good if I wanted to.

So what exactly have I learned so far?

1. The people in Wellington are friendly
- This is one of the reasons why I never felt homesick. Although I didn't know anyone here when we arrived, the friendliness of the strangers (that were the Wellingtonians) was enough for me to feel comfortable and settle in no time. Most of the people that I have come across have been very helpful and kind. Of course, there will always be those odd ones (especially when they're driving) but they can easily be ignored.

2. And they're good citizens too
- When we were still jet-lagged and disorientated, we went to a cafe and I saw this small folded paper on the pavement. I picked it up thinking it was ours, but when I realised it wasn't, I put it back where I found it. Then a guy saw me and said, "let me get it for you", gave me a sarcastic look, walked away and threw the paper in the bin a few steps away. No wonder why Wellington is such a clean city.

Then one night, we went out to dinner without realising that we had food delivery that night. We were out for more than two hours. When we came home, the shopping bags were left on our doorstep. Actually, the same thing happened to our neighbour. I mean, if people in Wellington are not trustworthy enough, I don't think the delivery guy will even think about doing this.

Also, we have accidentally left some valuables in our car  multiple times already and so far, we haven't had anything stolen.

This is why I have always felt safe here.

Not to mention that Wellingtonians love to give back to their community, which is really admirable.

3. They're big on Brunches
- I was not so into brunches back in London but I completely fell in love with it in Wellington.  Brunch is served in most cafes and restaurants and in some places, there is almost always a queue. 

4. Customer Service is top-notch
- As soon as you enter any business establishment in Wellington, there is always someone ready to smile at you, greet you in a friendly manner, help you without being pushy and in retail, won't follow you around like you're going to steal something. They are good at turning "small talk" into a proper conversation, which I always find helpful as I learn more about the city each time.

5. Their coffee is the best
- I am not a coffee expert so I am not going to say anything more than the fact that I've had my best coffee (so far) in Wellington. I love the freshness and the authentic flavour of my trim latte (their version of skinny latte) when it's served.

Wellington is actually one of CNN's world's great coffee cities in 2014. 
Cup on the right is actually hot chocolate

6. Drinking water is always available
- In most (if not all) restaurants that I  have been to in London, I always had to ask for tap water. In Wellington, I haven't had to because the staff always offers a jug of water even before I start browsing the menu. Either that or you can help yourself from the bar or the water fountain. And oh, sparkling water is also an option sometimes.

And if you're out and about, they also have water fountains in public areas.

7. Paying your bill at a restaurant
- Yes, you have to get up and pay at the till. In my opinion, this works better as it saves a lot of time. I don't have to raise my hand anymore to get someone's attention only to wait for another 10-15 minutes for them to bring our bill, and then wait for few more minutes before we can finally pay. With the "get up and pay" method, we don't have to wait for anything. We just get up when we're ready, pay and leave. It's also convenient that their till is commonly located by the exit.

8.  They pay rent weekly
- I am so used to paying monthly rent back in London so when we were house-hunting, I got really confused. I thought we bagged a bargain when I saw a two-bedroom flat with an amazing view for $850 until J pointed out to me that it was actually the weekly rent and not monthly. Duh.

9. They round off your change
This actually applies if you are paying by cash. Basically, their smallest coin is 10 cents so your bill will be rounded up to the nearest 10.  So if your bill is $33.86, you won't get your 4c change back. This is ideal for those who hate coins.

10. They don't use cash
- Perhaps I am one of the only few people who still would rather pay cash than  use my card. I used to do this in England so I can keep track of my expenses because my transactions didn't appear on my account until a few days later. But no one pays cash in Wellington anymore apparently, so I have been using my EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at point of sale) instead and I find it really convenient. 

11. Absolutely Positively Wellington
- The city lives up to its brand "absolutely positively Wellington". This city is definitely oozing with positive energy. Apart from their rich culture and history,  beautiful sceneries, lovely people and peaceful environment, they also love sharing positive thoughts everywhere. The other day I passed by a coffee shop and on their menu list it said, "I hope you are feeling beautiful today". :)

12. People are inspiringly fit
- One of my first observations when I got here. If I don't see them running, they're either swimming, cycling, skateboarding or working out in the gym. I even saw an old lady in her 70s skateboarding in town one time. In my gym class, I am the youngest (at almost 40).  I'm sure some of the ladies must be in their 70s already and we do the same grueling exercise routine for an hour straight. Some of them even have better balance than I do. They're really inspiring.

13. Internet is unreliable
- I say this because so far we have changed our router twice and upgraded our internet package hoping that it will be better than what it was. The connection is faster, but it still cuts off sometimes. This just confirmed what I previously read on a blog.  

14. People walk around barefoot
- I just don't get it. I would understand it better if I see people walking barefoot around the bays and beaches, but inside shops, cafes and around the city? I'm not quite sure.

15. It's expensive to shop in Wellington
- I have stopped converting everything into British Pounds and now I am finding things really expensive here. I guess a weekly spend of more or less than $400 on basic household needs says it all.

16. They have good road signs
- Currently, I am learning how to drive. I guess this is a good place for me to learn because the road signs are good (but I am definitely not driving up the hills). Apart from the standard roads signs, their roads are also literally painted with speed limits and arrows. 

17. And cool personalised car plates
- "HEY 38", "FBI CAR", "YOU WOT", "KOL MD" and my favourite:
Love the car or the person who gave it? :)

18. Windy Welly is REAL
- This is the reason why Wellington is never going to be a perfect city for me. I feel colder here than in London. The wind is really crazy and it's not even winter yet. I've only experienced such strong winds in storm season and not on a regular basis. A strong gust of wind often feels like an earhquake as our flat moves with it. The only thing that reassures me it's not an earthquake is the accompanying whistling and whooshing sound of the wind.

19. And yes, there are earthquakes
- All the time. But most of them are weak, if not unnoticeable. So far, I have experienced at least three proper earthquakes since January. They actually have a live quake update here.

20. It's always cookie time
- Nothing really. I just really like the ad. It sends out positive vibes. To be fair, the cookie tastes really good.

I know there is more to discover about this beautiful city in the next few months and I can't wait.

For now, it's my pleasure to know you Wellington.

tintin x

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