December 22, 2006


And so the day I had been looking forward to for so long finally arrived. December 22nd. I was giddy when I woke up that morning and it was horrible having to get dressed and head into work, not knowing if I would even be able to get off in time to pick up Mam and Dad from the airport. The morning DRAGGED past at work but we had some champagne and chocolates and swopped presents and got into the Christmas atmosphere. My boss kindly told me I could head away at 12 and I raced off to the airport with Kie and Brian. The arrivals hall at Auckland airport was jam-packed with families all waiting to meet loved ones. We stood staring at the double doors for what seemed like an eternity until they finally appeared looking tired and a bit dazed.
It was so good to see them and I couldnt believe they'd really made such a huge journey just to see me. The first hour or so was crazy with us all talking at once, bursting with news and stories. We took them to One Tree Hill first because it was such a beautiful sunny day. The Pohutkawa Trees were blazing red in the park and it really felt like summer, which must have been strange for my family having come from freezing wet conditions in Ireland.
Anyway, it would take forever to describe the whole three weeks they were here, but we packed in a LOT! We spent Christmas Day with my boyfriend Jonathan's family. They were fantastic and really welcoming. Mam and Dad really enjoyed the day and it was pretty cool to experience Christmas with a Kiwi family instead of spending it in a hotel or something. On 28th Kie and Brian left and we three flew to Christchurch in the SOuth Island. After spending three days there, we hired a car and headed to Queenstown, the adventure capital of NZ, for New Year's Eve. That was great! and the town was mobbed with people. We had four nights there but as luck would have it, Mam and I were smote down with a particularly vicious strain of the flu which hindered our activities a bit. HOwever, we had fabulous hot, sunny weather, and being surrounded by such dramatic wild scenery it was hard to be too down in the mouth. Dad looked after us, administering hot lemsips and hankies and slowly we recovered. The highlight of these four days for me was the trip to Milford Sound. The long car journey from Q'town was worth it. I havent seen scenery to equal it except in Patagonia maybe. Stunning! The weather was spectacular too and it made the actual cruise on the sound reallly enjoyable. We saw seals, dolphins racing along beside the boat, beautiful waterfalls and gorgeous flora. W brought some packed lunches and a bottle of wine with us and really lived it up.
Four days later we hit the road again, this time off to Franz Josef to do a helicopter ride over the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. We stopped in Wanaka which was a nice little town and a little less crowded than nearby Q'town. The weather we left there was mediterranean. However, by the time we got to Fran Josef hours later a thick mist had descended and the mountains were obscured by grey clouds. It sdidnt look good, but we were keeping our fingers crossed for the next day. Unfortunately, next morning it was cancelled to my disappointment. I think Dad had really been looking fwd to it.
Anyway, nothing to do but hit the road YET AGAIN. We had another long journey in front of us to the wine country of Marlborough. We stayed in a little lodge on a vineyard called Straw Lodge and we had two very relaxing days being pampered. One of those days we spent on a wine tour of the region which was really enjoyable. We met some very nice people on that trip.
The 7th saw us on our way back to Christchurch with Mam and I making a two hour stop in Hanmer Springs for some facials! On the 8th we flew to Wellington (my fav city in NZ by far) and we struck lucky! UPon check-in at our hotel, the reception staff put us into an executive suite which was absolute comfort! That night I took Mam and Dad to the Malaysian restaurant myself and Steff were in months ago and we had a really great meal there. Wellington was grey and of course WINDY when we there, and I wished we had had more time there as I dont think Mam and Dad saw much of the city.
Off to Napier on 9th and they loved this! We stayed in a fancy little apartment down on the docks which was a bit lifeless but we were happy to crash out and sleep early that night. Was really feeling under the weather with the flu at this stage and wasnt looking forward to the long trip back to Auckland the next day. Next morning, though, the weather was good and after breakfast and a wander around the shops in Napier we took off for the 2 hr drvive to Taupo. We were back in Auckland that night by 9 oclock and it was good to get home again :)
Mam and Dad stayed with me and Jonathan for a couple of nights and it was lovely to have them there.
The mornign they left I decided not to go to the airport. They were leaving very early, but I knew it was going to be easier to say goodbye to them at my place.
The holiday wasnt over for them though. They were stopping in Hong Kong for two days on the way back home and from what I hear they had a great time there.
So, we parted ways again. I'm not sure for how long this time, but I promised that wherever I am I will make the journey home to Ireland for CHristmas again next year.

December 15, 2006

Countdown to Christmas

I can't believe it's now 2007 and I've been away from home a whole year! A lot has happened in these last few months. I've become really lazy and domesticated again and have totally neglected my blog.
The last month has been absolutely jam-packed. Work got incredibly busy in the lead-up to the summer (i.e. Christmas) holidays but it was worth it to have a full 3 weeks off to do whatever i wanted. I was so excited about Christmas because Mam and Dad decided around late October that they were going to make the long long trip over to spend the holidays with me. I spent the month before they arrived planning a trip of the country and the weeks turned into days, it felt like Christmases of old with the level of anticipation that built up. I was slightly disappointed that my two brothers had decided not to come (for various reasons) but figured that it was a hell of a journey and would put a pretty big dent in their pockets. I had NO idea of what was coming.......
One Monday morning in mid-December, I made my way to work as usual, sleepy and not really relishing the day ahead. As I was walking up to the main entrance of the hospital I heard a male voice behind me calling me. I turned around and saw a young guy with blonde hair and, not being fully awake, thought to myself "He's the head off Brian..." Next thing, my older brother Kieran stepped out from behind him and I nearly keeled over with the shock!!! It took me at least an hour to take in the fact that they were here. I had NO CLUE of what they were plotting, but it was the best CHristmas present I could have asked for!
Unfortunately, while they were here, I had to work - right up until 22nd but we did manage to pack in some fun stuff at the wknds. I'd been meaning to do a skydive since I arrived in NZ, and when Brian got here it seemed like the perfect time to do it. So, we headed off to Taupo one weekend to do the 15,000ft jump - the highest you can do! We had an absolutely perfect day for it, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and there wasnt really any wind to speak of. We had to spend an hour before the jump getting ready, watching a DVD and getting kitted out. We were introduced to our instructors and had to saying stupid things into their camera before hopping on the plane.
As we climbed higher and higher and the ground became a distant blur of colour, the adrenaline started pumping. Peter, my instructor, was really helping by saying things like "Hmm...Im not really sure where this strap goes, but we should be okay!!" LOL! I was first out of the plane. The door opened and the air rushed into the plane deafening me. Peter gently eased us towards the edge and before I knew it we were off! The next minute is indescribable - we dropped through the air at a ridiculous speed. The force of the wind whipped my cheeks back to my ears. In my DVD it looks like I'm enjoying every minute of it, but I was really TERRIFIED!!
Once the chute was pulled, we wheeled slowly in circles back down towards the jump centre. Lake Taupo looks so beautiful below us, glinting in the sun. I was on a complete natural high after! It was one of the best things Ive ever experienced! It was a really bonding thing to do with Brian also. He loved every minute of it as much as I did. The rest of the weekend was a come down from those 3 minutes. I took Kie and Brian to Roturua to the geothermal park that myself and Andy visited back in August, and they loved that! It is a pretty spectacular place when you first see it. We also visited Huka Falls. The next morning was spent in the Polynesian Spa - I love this place!
We spent the week before Christmas just catching up and swopping stories, hanging out with my friends here, me still not fully believing taht they were here. As the 22nd approached, the feeling of excitement started to build again as I got ready for Mam and Dad's arrival!!!!!!