>Our Trip Back to Auckland, NZ

>The first thing I have to say was, it was an awesome, great, lovely trip back to NZ, about time we took a break away from the hussle and bussle of Dubai. Unfortunately we came back to a “Dubai Crash” which we have no idea about so I will end it there. Suffice to say that my husband still has his job and we’re doing ok. I am unfortunately still suffering from a cold, stuffy nose and feeling weak. I think the freshness and naturalness of NZ was abit too much for us, I suffered from very bad hayfever and then a cold and my husband also suffered from a cold after the ceremony, thank God. We were pumping ourselves with manuka honey and lemon, vit C, multivits, omega 3s, panadols, the whole lot until we were literally walking zombies. However, being in Auckland gave us that burst of energy every morning to get up and head out to enjoy the country and the day.

Well, you are going to experience our trip through visual stimulation through food! I respect privacy and therefore people who read this blog will know who I’m referring to via initials only. No names will be mentioned. So begin, our journey…

We arrived in Auckland International Airport at 4am, where we were greeted by weary and bloodshot eyed Aucklanders, but with a big smile on their faces, mom and bro (thanks for picking us up)! It was fairly busy in the airport, chilly too but it was so nice to see a familiar place. The Auckland International Airport is so nice compared to Dubai (T1), clean, white, clear, crisp… it’s just so nice and fresh. It is an amazing country and I think I took it for granted but I do cherish and appreciate it more now than ever since being here.

We book our hire car to be picked up at 9am and by the time we arrived in the city, it was 5am. We thought it would be less of a hassle to just stay in the city until that time and we found Esquire Coffee House which opens 24hrs on Custom Street East! It was such a buzz to be awake so early, drinking coffee as we ourselves were zombie-fied as well. I had an Americano and my husband had a mocha latte. We sat and chat for 1hr, thinking we could stay until 9am but we couldn’t so we went out for a slow walk, seeking our car rental place on Beach Road, we hung around hoping to get our car for 8am and we did! YAY!

We arrived at around 9am-10am, where a number of visitors were already awake, so we were greeted with a table full of food – strawberries were the highlight of the trip, they were big, sweet and juicy – unlike the ones here. I ate to my heart’s content because I won’t be eating anymore after the trip.Mom made some delicious date scones, she always makes the best I’ve ever tasted, and of course I had my share! I’ve made date scones, but somehow it’s not the same as mom makes it! She’s got a special touch/talent, I reckon. MOM: You can make me scones forever! They’re lovely… oh and don’t forget to enjoy your breakfasts with special Cornish Marmalade all the way from Cornwall! Tell me how they taste like, if you like them?

The other of my favourite snack was brought from Malaysia, it’s called Tau Sa Piah, which means Green Bean Pastry. I craved for these everyday and so it was such a nice surprise to be able to have them! Thanks to a.TT (I think)? Suffice to say I probably had 50% of the entire box! So people, when you do come visit, you know what to bring for me! 😉

We stayed at home for the rest of the first day, checking into our motel about noon, unloaded, unpacked, cleaned, showered and we crashed on the bed until 5pm! We were zonked! But we kinda jumped out of bed at 5pm knowing full well that we had a family dinner to go to at Grand Harbour so we cleaned and dressed and rushed home to have been told that dinner was at 7pm, *phew! We had a lovely dinner, 2 tables of 8, enjoyed 8 lovely dishes of chinese food! YUM!

The next day, we decided to head out to Westfield Albany, where we had breakfast at our favourite little Gloria Jeans cafe in Borders. This one is special because it has a balcony that overlooks the entire foodcourt. So we had black coffee, I had a blueberry scone and my husband had a cheese croissant. It was just lovely.

We then walked around Westfield Albany, did a spot of shopping and we both came out with smiles on our faces, knowing full well that we are suppose to be home helping out with the decorations and the ribbon assembling, etc but we didn’t… whoopsie, sorry a.TT! I did say I would.

This is a snapshot of the start of a magical event that was going to happen in 2days time. Everything started coming together perfectly and all on time and organised. This was a positive sign that the weather was going to hold as we had lovely weather since we landed.

These beautiful flowers, the bride and bridemaids bouquets, bride’s hairpieces and bridal table top bouquet was made with love by mom, a.TT and a.SH. They all went back and stayed up till the wee morning hours of 3am icing, assembling and decorating the wedding cake. Alot of love and hardwork to make the day a perfect one.

“The Day”
A teaser image of the beautiful, elegant wedding gown. Absolutely breathtaking, but looked even better on the bride.
The morning started very early, 4am for the bride, 6,7am for the rest of us, excited and eager to get started and ready. The makeup lady was after all coming at 8am to doll us all up. Our breakfasts comprised of fried eggs and avocado on toasts with copious amounts of 3in1 Nescafe coffee from Malaysia, seasoned with salt, pepper and a dash of oregano, made by little ms.HL, thanks, it was delish! There were toasts, peanut butter, honey, banana, oatmeal thrown in there too, again with lots of coffee.

The morning soon turned to the afternoon, everyone buzzy and dolled up, all dressed ready for the photographer to arrive to take bridal shots for the wedding album. We heated up last night’s dinner which was baked carrots, capsicums, butternut, garlic and kumara (and salmon) but we had roasted chicken legs for lunch. Fast and easy!

The ceremony went beautifully, the pre-ceremony photoshoot, the organisation, everything went just smoothly without a single hitch, all thanks to the wedding planner which was the bride herself and she was calm as ever! Bravo to her! The guests were provided drinks and nibbles, just look at the beautifully laid out plate of strawberries, what wonderful work they did, to those involved.

The centrepiece was something different, normally receptions would have flowers, candles, waterfeatures for centrepieces, but this bride had a different idea, home made maple syrup pecan and lemon cupcakes with vanilla frosting. It was lovely, puts a sweet touch to the table setting. The meal and dessert was amazing, as I recall, we had salad, beef bourguinon, feta and spinach filo pastry, chicken with mango salsa, roasted baby potatoes, steamed vegetables, couscous salad, battered fish with tartare sauce. For dessert we had an array of cakes, mousse, souffles, fresh fruits, cupcakes and of course the wedding cake which was Coffee and Walnut cake with vanilla icing. It was lovely a.SH, our tastebuds have been fulfilled! We went through the night with lots of noise, dancing, chatter and laughter.

The day flew past so quickly and a new day dawned. We had lots on our agenda, old haunts to visit, restaurants and cafes to visit. Our first was on Elliot St, a korean restaurant where we had beef boulgogi, steamed and fried korean dumplings with 6 different side dishes. It was lovely! We then spent the rest of the day strolling around in the city, made several purchases, took multitudes of pictures. It is very interesting to see things I’ve never noticed through eyes that haven’t been in the country for 1year after being there for 14years! Shame on me! We visited shops on Queen Street, made a few purchases and went home feeling satisfied.

On Tuesday it decided to bucket down with rain. So we stayed at home, enjoyed a late morning. The rest of the gang have already left the house on their way up to Bay of Islands leaving us to fend for ourselves! But we manage to sneak out of the house to Browns Bay where they sold the best pies. It was my husband’s first time so he wanted to try it all, steak and kidney, chicken, veal and blueberry and butterchicken pies. All I wanted was their specialty chicken curry pie but they didn’t have any! After a belly full of pies, we headed off to Flax for a refreshing drink to wash it all down. It was still raining so we decided to head home.

The next place we had to go to was the Stonehouse Oven at Devonport, which we headed to for brunch one late morning and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. It was still raining but we didn’t let that bring us down. My husband had the big breakfast and I had a big bowl of oats with fruit compote and greek yoghurt! Super Yumness!

We took a walk after breakfast and 2 cups of black coffee, around Devonport, to Brumby’s looking for delicious mince pies and Christmas cake but they ran out, then to the music store, in and out, round and round till we ended up at Devonport Chocolates, where we purchased 2 packs of chocolates for a crazy amount of money! But having tasted a tester piece, my husband insisted that they were well worth it! I took his word for it and agreed after my 3rd bite!

We soon headed off to Pak n Save because we were due to make dinner that night as the gang was returning from their trip up north. We made a 3 course Italian dinner for them which included vegetable bean soup with focaccia for starters, beef lasagne with red and white sauce and aubergine basil bake for mains and Devonport Chocolates and After Eight mints for dessert. All in all, everyone was happy and stuffed and we received alot of compliments which was appreciated.

Friday brunch was at North Harbour Yum Char, where we got treated by a.SH. Still bucketing down with rain we managed to enjoy a lovely yum char, most importantly our roast pork and duck dish and bbq pork. It was so nice to have pork freely in restaurants! It was just lovely. We then enjoyed the rest of the day at Westfield Albany, the closest mall to the restaurant as nobody wanted to head home yet. The gang spent the afternoon at the mall as well, then to Pak n Save for some groceries for that night’s dinner which was Steamboat!

It was just beautiful, there were so many dishes, maybe even 15-20 if I recall, it was a great fellowship, thanks to the hard work of mom, a.TT, a.SH and I even chipped in too! Some of the food included oysters, muscles, prawns, cuttlefish, scallops, tofu, mushrooms, chicken, beef, pork, meat and fish balls, vegetables and a whole lot more. It was divine!

It was a Saturday morning when we enjoyed breakfast at Mecca Stonehouse at Mission Bay. The stonehouse is a protected heritage building located on Mission Bay beach. This place was on our must-do list where we shared a Feijoa Smoothie, with an Americano and Mocha each. We then salivated over the breakfast/brunch menu, but settled for the big breakfast and muesli and fruit with yoghurt each. Talk about sticking to what you know!! I’m so embarassed! But we thoroughly enjoyed our morning, taking our time, absorbing the weekend atmosphere. Funny thing was we were in our jackets and jumpers but the locals were in singlets and shorts! How obvious was it that we were visitors???

After breakfast we walked around Mission Bay but soon started drizzling, so we decided to head off to Newmarket because it was nearby and we wanted to get some electronic equipment. We enjoyed a spot of shopping on Khyber Pass Road and Broadway Road, 277 and Nuffield Street. Think we broke our wallet abit that day. We then headed to a familiar bar, MAC’s Brewbar where my husband enjoyed a cold beer and I had a hot coffee. Still unable to bring myself to take anything cold! We spent the rest of the evening sat down next to the fireplace, the interior decor was lovely, not like a scrummy old bar but a designer up market bar as I would classify it. It was nice. We then headed home to wind down and reminisce with the family.

We had a lazy day on Sunday, already with visitors heading home, the remaining gang took a trip down south to Hamilton, Tauranga and Rotorua for the day. We stayed at home, I organised my boxes and looked through what I wanted to take back here with me. Sneezing and leaking from extremely bad hayfever, which would then lead to a cold I have yet to recover from, I went through most of the boxes with surprises from time to time. I realised that my whole life is in those few boxes.

We went out that evening, took a drive through Takapuna, Ponsonby and then ended up in the city. We went to another 24hr Esquire Coffee House on Victoria Street where we had a light dinner, cafe latte and vanilla mocha with a side of date bran muffin and chocolate fudge torte. We then headed down to Borders cafe looking for some books, I have a craving for beautifully designed cookbooks (with lots of pictures). I can never get enough of cookbooks. We then headed back home where we lied our cold heads to sleep.

Monday morning was the start of the working week for most Kiwis, but we were happy being visitors in such a beautiful country. We had a late wake up, enjoyed breakfast with loved ones, realising that this was going to be our last week in Auckland, we had to absorb everything we could that is Auckland. We headed to the Belgian Beer Cafe in Ponsonby for an early lunch. We enjoyed some Hoegaarden, fish and chips and Moroccan spiced lamb salad with kumara chips. It was such a lovely start to the day. The sun was out, it was a lovely day but dang-namit, it was cold! The wind was blowing and I was shivering!

We spent the rest of the day strolling through the shops in Ponsonby, which linked up to K Road where we both used to work. We headed into shops, tried on items, looked and browsed through unique little stores. We stopped by to have a coffee each in Starbucks on K Road for a while as my husband was down with the flu as well. We were both suffering from the cold. He had the Starbucks Christmas Special which as Dark Chocolate Cherry Latte and I had plain old cafe latte. He doused down 2 panadols and 1 anti hestamine which didn’t make him drowsy, thank God because he drove home not long after that. But we did have about 40min walk back to our car from K Road, stopping for photos and more window shopping.

We headed home with cold windswept heads/hair, to be welcomed by the beautiful lovely smell that is the beginnings of chicken rice. Mom asked what I would like her to cook and I straight up told her chicken rice. She had a pack of Hainanese Chicken Rice pack which was absolutely lovely, she made broiled chicken, chicken flavoured rice, pork liver chinese sausages (my favourite), chicken soup and I help make the fruit salad. My husband thorougly enjoyed this meal for the first time.

That night mom was still busy frying up ‘keropoks’ (prawn crackers) which we brought from Brunei, plain, vegetable and chilli prawn crackers and fish crackers that my brother brought from HK (I think?). They were all lovely. I stuffed my face with a side order of crispy prawn chilli sauce. YUMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!

On Tuesday morning, we said goodbye to my a.TT, another one bites the dust. It was so sad to see people leaving as we know all good things must come to an end. We took her to the airport with KK and mom, spent some coffee time with her. Poor thing was stressing about her luggage weight, her cheeses, asparagus and smoked salmon! But I can tell you right now, she’s probably enjoying her Gouda on crachers with HE and u.KW, we knew it was going to be alright a.TT. Aunty, if you’re reading this, tell me which one is your favourite? Harvati right???

The rest of the pack then headed to Newmarket, as I had to pick something up and return something at the same time. We headed to Pearl Garden Yum Char, recommended by my brother, where we enjoyed super quick dim sum as the session was about to end. We ordered our favourites, siew mai, siew bao, taro and bbq pork pastries, beef and pork balls and more! I cannot get enough of dim sum! Oh help me…

We booked a place at CinCin on the Quay for a special night out but we were both so down and out that we had to cancel. We were not up to looking our best because we were not feeling our best so we decided to stay at home and mom lovingly made a special dinner for all of us to share. We had a lovely bottle of bubbly from a.K and u.T that we opened and shared that night with dinner. Mom made pork stew, big bowl of broccoli, left over chicken and more pork kidney chinese sausages. Couldn’t believe how sick we were! KK, dad, mom and bro shared our special day with us. Thanks family!

Wednesday would be our last day in Auckland, and we had to return the car at 11am. We had a great morning at home with remaining family, then headed out to the city. We then went back to Esquire Coffee House on Custom Street East (where we first went to when we arrived) with mom for coffee and muffin. My husband ordered apple crumble, bran and maple? I can’t remember now, but they were delicious! We enjoyed several hours of chatting and reminiscing. The sun was out, the day was lovely and we spent the rest of the afternoon walking up and down Queen Street, absorbing what we could on our last day.

Dinner was made by the both of us that night, mom had to go to the airport, dad and KK were busy in the garage trying to be mechanics. Mom gave us instructions on what was on the menu, so we made stirfry asparagus, fried onion egg, baked stuffed portabello mushrooms, baked chicken legs, pork liver chinese sausages and a big pan of roasted vegetables. It was very satisfying to cook and eat the meal for 10. Am glad that everyone enjoyed it.

Crazy Brunei Air flight was at Thursday 4am, we checked in at 2am. They made us wait 1hr before check in, 2hrs rather than 3hrs. We were at the airport at midnight, hoping to check in at 1am, then mom would be able to go home and sleep but the poor thing wanted to stay till we checked in, u.JL was already sleeping on the chair. So after the both of them left, we headed upstairs along with our fellow travelers, where we found a number of people/backpackers upstairs sleeping on the chairs. We headed to the cafe area, made camp and enjoyed a cuppa each with an oat slice to keep us going.

Our breakfast on the plane, we were fully zombies with the several time changes… but we manage to get up for an omelette with french toast and baked beans with a very flat croissant and my husband had chicken sambal with white rice. He enjoyed it, his first ‘asian’ breakfast 🙂We arrived at Brunei Airport at 10am, so not looking forward to our 10hr transit! The 2 pictures below are what we had at the airport, we were able to be naughty, after all, we were on holiday. I had to have Twisties, my childhood junkfood, we had lots of chocolate, coffee, ice teas, nuts, and muesli bars! The 10hrs went by quite quickly, it was painless as we spent it chatting, resting, drinking, eating, walking about, people watching/commenting. At least we had each other’s company otherwise it would have been torture. The airport had it’s moments of quietness and busyness which was nice.To our surprise, we were upgraded to Business Class when we checked in at the gate, making the 10hr transit nothing to complain about! We were super excited about it, but of course not over doing it…acting as if we were seasoned business class travelers… *ahem

The seats were big and spacious, we had special curling personal lights, we had fancy pancy toiletries bag, bigger than normal, with moisturiser, the lot! We had so much attention, it was unsettling till the point where I don’t even know what I want to drink post take off. We had a 7 course meal and our glasses were always filled with some form of liquid of our choice. I tried a very delicious purple carrot and grape juice which did come purple in colour.

We started off with prawn siew mai and beef *something*, then we had to order our meal from an extensive menu. We could have anything and everything on the menu, as long as we put in the order 90min before landing.

For appetizer, we had beef with thai apple salad and smoked salmon salad;

For mains, we had baked chicken with tomato and olive sauce with sweet potatoes and steamed vegetables and stirfry beef and mushrooms, and steamed vegetables;
We also had a cheese platter each, I had Gouda and my husband had Blue Stilton with 5 water crackers, a walnut and 4 black grapes;
And for dessert, my husband had banana ice cream with coffee and I just had coffee. There were loads more on the menu to choose from but we just couldn’t eat that much. The experience in it’s entirety was so worth it, it was just because they overbooked the flight and we were lucky enough to be chosen to be upgraded.

We both had a good night’s sleep, our seats went right down almost horizontal with lots of leg room and room to toss and turn. I have never had such a great sleep on a flight as far as I can remember. Wonder if it is worth while flying/paying for business class on long haul flights? But only if they were direct which would be impossible as Dubai is too far away, there’s bound to be a transit somewhere – and only if we were sitting on the same seats – then would it be worth while!

I have to say though, that going through the holiday in this post brought back really good memories, I cannot wait to go back again and do everything we planned to do/visit/see/eat. We left out about 5 places that we wanted to go to but didn’t have enough time. There’s always next time and there’s always somewhere else in the world to see. But all in all, it was a great trip and yes, I am still blowing my nose and feeling weak, unfortunately. Back to reality now… *sigh* It was good to see all the family again and we thank you for your invites! We will take up your offers one of these days!

PS: u.PL has given me a challenge to make roast pork with the perfect crackling which I have accepted. Watch this blog… 😉