Japan: Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture

The same with Sendai, we spent most of our time in Nagoya doing more shopping. Most of us have been to Nagoya before so we’ve done the touristy things, with my brother inlaw living there for the last 4 months. We did go to the Nagoya castle though as it has new sections recently opened.

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On one of the days, we had boys and girls day, with us girls spending the whole time shopping 😉 specifically, shopping at Uniqlo lol while the boys went to see some cars. So stereotypical really.

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My favourite building in Nagoya

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Random park where people sat eating their lunch

Nagoya was also the place where I got to meet a new side of my inlaws that I’ve yet to meet before. My bother inlaw has a friend who works at a very good restaurant, so he kindly organised a dinner there for us. The 6-course disgustation dinner came with a 2-hour unlimited drinks. Unlimited. To say that we made the most of the offer would be a severe understatement. The night didn’t finish until 2am for some of us, with recuperation time lasted a lot longer than expected. I have so many hilarious stories and photos that I’m sure will make me grin stupidly for a long time! It was so fun.

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The bar where we ended the night

Mr E also had one of his rare shopping urges during our Nagoya trip, so I made sure I took advantage of it. In one shop, he got almost a whole new wardrobe. I am so happy! We both love Japanese fashion, preferring the uniquely shaped/patterned items. Another example how compatible we are 🙂 I am blessed with someone who accepts my weird dress sense.

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That calligraphy brush holders on the top left corner were ¥120,000!

On one of the mornings we have in the city, we went to an antique market held on a temple grounds. I love antique markets, this one especially, since they have things that my grandma had at her home 🙂 I found a stack of mini photos that I was so tempted to buy to frame, but Mr E said that they’re of wartime entertainment. It didn’t seem right to buy them as some of my relatives suffered under the Japanese occupation of Indo. The smell at the antique market reminded me of my childhood; spending time with my grandma while she prayed at the temple, a mix of incense, rain and mosquito repellant 🙂 I enjoyed the market.

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We found a vending machine selling what we thought were bottles of tea. On close inspections, we saw a fish in each of the bottles…. this would have trumped all the gross drinks we’ve had so far!

Japan: Daisetsuzan National Park, Sounkyo, Hokkaido

We had such a weird experience in Daisetsuzan National Park. Arriving at around 2.30pm, our hotel was empty and looking almost abandoned. Walking around the main town strip, the atmosphere felt just as empty, with only a few other people there. It was almost like being in a ghost town….

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Some wild animals apparently present in the Park. See the bears…..?

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After an equally weird lunch, served by someone who sighed and acted like he didn’t want to be there, we set off for the “Husband and Wife” waterfalls.

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I have been craving salad, so these weeds looked so much like rocket to me. I had to fight the urge to start munching on these…

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We saw some wild deers!!!! So lucky! This guy happily ate his lunch while we took numerous photos of him.

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My brother inlaw bought this bell to scare off wild bears. Apparently that’s how you do it here 😉 One of the shops nearby also blasted off some old songs in an attempt to keep the bears away.

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An old rusted bear warning sign we saw while we were hiking… I took comfort listening to the chime from the bell my brother inlaw bought. We think we saw a bear paw print during our walk…. so scary!

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We hiked for around 1hr, through muddy narrow trails. A step sideways meant you’d be on your way down the cliff……

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However, at the end of that path, you’re rewarded by this view. So beautiful and calming. In fact, during this walk, I had another epiphany, but I’ll write more on that in another post.

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When we got back to the hotel, around 6pm or so, we saw a lot more people. It was almost like the movie Spirited Away, at night, when the sun sets, the ghost of the past came back to life………….

Our weekend – the highlights

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Saturday – day 38 of 100: Spending the day with his godfather and auntie, a drive to Goulburn to see the little man’s favourite author, Dame Lynley Dodd, and getting his much loved books signed; then churros and hot chocolate for dinner.

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The Lynley Dodd exhibition at the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery – these are my favs! With a Schnitzel Von Krumm wall decal!!! I wish they sell these decals.

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Sunday – day 39 of 100: having a great boys-only car racing playtime; bonding with his godfather; then frolicking in the sun at the park by the lake.

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Today – day 40 of 100: donuts with DIY filling injection. Little E sucked the syringe clean of mixed berry jam!

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His support group members – thank you for visiting and spending the weekend with us. The long weekend was definitely not long enough but loads of fun was had by all ♡

Holiday: Queenstown in Detail

The drive to Queenstown were relatively easy. Little E slept most of the way and when he was awake, he was happy looking around. The only “exciting” thing that happened was a hawk flew at us, hitting the windscreen then scratched the whole of the roof. We found out later that a group of our friends had similar encounter too. Silly hawks.

We made a lunch stop at Cromwell, as Mr E wanted to check out the motorcar park. Owned by a man from the Gold Coast, QLD, the place reeked of fancy schmancy cars and revheads. Interesting indeed, but Mr E liked it and the food were delicious (though pricey).

Another quick drive through was to Arrowtown. We went just as some sort of cycling event was finishing so the whole place was hectic and crazy. Definitely not something I wanted to deal with after a long drive. Arrowtown was beautiful though, a quaint little town with little shops. It is an option for something to do while in Queenstown 🙂

Queenstown

Now, onto Queenstown. I won’t go into details of each day we were there, just to keep this post unrambly.

Activities we did and liked:

  • A walk through the botanical garden and its playground – Little E absolutely loved the playground, so did we, as it is right by the water with the beautiful Queenstown backdrop. We visited it each day we were in town. The garden makes a nice stroll, one experience we enjoyed was watching a group of children having a race of what looked like boats made of recyclable materials (ie. Old milk bottles etc). You can’t help feel as excited when watching little people being excited 🙂
  • Eat chocolatey dessert at Patagonia – a must do! Their churros were really delicious.
  • A walk around the Queenstown main shops – lots of pretty and fancy shops. There’s a children’s clothes shop that I really had to leave very quickly as I wanted too many things and we really couldn’t spend that much money in one shop. I wish I did purchase something though.
  • Appreciate the beauty of Queenstown by the water. It reminded me of the equally scenic Switzerland but less cold 😛
Milford Sound Flight

A view from up above – Milford Sound Flight

  • Milford Sound – we did the flight/cruise/flight as I couldn’t do 9hrs+ in the bus with Little E. It is so much cheaper doing the bus but I just couldn’t do it. I cannot say that the trip was worth the money though. I enjoyed parts of the flights, when it wasn’t bumpy, and I liked the cruise, but only when I was outside (I get motion sickness). We saw a lonely penguin having a snooze and a few seals, though after our tour in Dunedin, it wasn’t as special 🙂 Both my boys enjoyed their time so I guess it was worth it for me to go.
A view from the gondola ride at Queenstown Skyline

A view from the gondola ride at Queenstown Skyline

  • The reason we were in NZ was for our friends’ wedding as Little E was the ring bearer. I loved the wedding and had heaps of fun at the reception. Held at the Queenstown Skyline, we went on the gondola ride, marvel at the beauty of Queenstown view from up high and had a fab buffet meal. The food was absolutely delicious, so I would assume that the food served at the restaurant would be of the same quality. Yum! The Skyline is definitely a must do while in Queenstown 🙂
  • Cookietime – delicious but expensive warm cookies, so make sure you keep an eye out on their Happy Hour times 🙂
  • Fergburger – a must eat place. Deliciously awesome burger place but not exactly child friendly. Limited seats, definitely no high chairs, long queues but worth it.

Tips:
Make sure you organise the Milford Sound flight on the first day you’re there as it will get cancelled if the weather isn’t right.

Suggested activities that I would have liked to do given the opportunity and/or other activities available:

  • The luge rides at the Skyline
  • Putt Putt golf – a great rainy day activity as it’s indoor
  • Kiwi Encounter for the bigger kids
  • Gold panning in Arrowtown
  • The many variety of water activities, such as jet boating, whitewater rafting, parasailing etc.

Accommodation

The Whistler Apartments
15 -17 Gorge Rd
Queenstown
ph: +64 3 409 0394

Loved this one bedroom apartment that our family friend suggested. It had a full kitchen, which we made use of as Queenstown is expensive! Close to the main part of town but still away from the noise. You can walk to the other supermarketnot in town for cheaper grocery 🙂 The apartment also comes with a washing machine and a dryer. The perfect family accommodation 🙂

Of all the cities/towns we went to in our trip, Queenstown has got to be my favourite! A definite must-go city when you’re in the country 🙂 Though probably the most expensive, everyone we met was happy and friendly, the atmosphere welcoming and fun. We were there for 4 nights, 3 days and I felt like it gave us enough time to explore the place and do the things we want to (and can) do at a leisurely pace 🙂

On a separate note, here’s my photo for day 12 of 100.
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Little E loved the chicken dish I made that he hardly made a mess even though it came with rice and he fed himself! He ate all the chicken pieces I gave him. All.of.them! An absolute success in my books! In this photo, he was being impatient for seconds 🙂

Holiday: Dunedin in Detail

We flew to Dunedin, via Wellington (“Middle of Middle Earth”). We allocated the whole day for travelling, lucky, because both flights were delayed. Fortunately, the Rotorua airport has a pretty good playground so it kept Little E occupied the entire time. As soon as we arrived to Wellington airport, we picked our lunch choice and sat down. I have to say that Wellington airport is officially one of my favourite airports! Not only because of its decoration 😉

Gollum!

Gollum!

Our flight to Dunedin was delayed due to bad weather, so I was a little nervous going on the plane as the rain was still pelting down. Thank God that we made it safely to Dunedin because the turbulence was bad! I had to fight the urge to vomit the entire 1.5 painful hours 😦

Anyway, as soon as we got our hire car, we made our way to the CBD and looked for a place to eat. Mr E had chosen an apparently-popular fish and chips shop. After what seemed like an eternity, we found Fish Hook. Honestly, I don’t know why it’s popular other than because it’s cheap.

We had a little squabble while we were there as I found out Mr E had mistakenly ordered three pieces of fish on top of his order. I hate the thought of wasting food, most especially when the food wasn’t all that special. Luckily for him, Little E must have had one of his hungry days because he polished off two giant brill fish all by himself! It was amazing to watch him eat like that.

After dinner, we drove to our accommodation and settled ourselves in, getting ready for the Cadbury Factory and Dunedin CBD the next day.

Cadbury Factory

He had great fun playing with those chocolate bars – taking them out then putting them back in.

We enjoyed the Factory tour, though it could ended a lot differently. The tour was very strict. You cannot wear any jewellery, including earrings, and you have to leave your valuables in a locker. If you opt to still wear your wedding rings, you have to wear gloves. At all times, you must wear your hair net (including babies and kids). You cannot carry your baby in your arms, instead, you’re given a backpack. Little E has never been in a backpack, so he really chucked a spack-attack being carried like that on Mr E. So much so that we were given a stern-talking to to basically shut him up and “keep his hair net on, or leave”. The tour guide certainly did not have the best interpersonal skill. We were with another group of people and they all gave their apologetic looks to us, most especially the parents of the other toddler there.

The interesting thing is, the whole time we were on the tour, we were always behind a glass window, standing nowhere near any machinery or touch anything. I think the whole no jewellery business is definitely going a little too far. Anyway, we did sample a few things and as the time went on, Little E calmed down and was quite engaged (he was on me by this time).

World's Steepest Road

After the tour, and a quick look-around of Dunedin hills, Mr E and us parted our ways. Mr E went and did the Speight Brewery tour, while Little E and I had lunch and window-shop in Dunedin CBD. In the late afternoon, we made our way to the world’s steepest street, Baldwin Street, and trekked the whole way up. It was definitely a work-out! That night, we had a picnic in the park for dinner and a run-around afterwards 🙂

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He didn’t like his first taste of Mie Goreng

The next day, we drove to the Otago Peninsula to do the Nature’s Wonder tour. We chose that particular tour, instead of the others, as you can see seals and penguins during the day! All other penguin tours leave at dusk, which is ultra unsuitable for parents with young kids. As Little E is a morning person, we left the motel super early and made a pit-stop at a playground on the way to Nature’s Wonder, as it doesn’t open until 10.15am.

A penguin! We could've just reached in and touch him - he was that close!

A penguin! We could’ve just reached in and touch him – he was that close!

thoroughly enjoyed the tour – we saw plenty of seals and penguins. They were a mere step away from us, totally uncaring that we were so close. Perry was an awesome tour-guide and was very informative. Little E loved the fourwheel drive experience through the rough terrain, though he was so tired at the end, that he fell asleep while on the drive! How, I just couldn’t understand lol

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Seals!!! They’re soooo cute and cuddley-looking. I want one 😦

We made our way to the Larnagh Castle, NZ’s only castle, for our stay overnight. This was our night of luxury, and we made the most of it by checking in early. I loved loved loved our room – I requested to stay in the Goldrush room and the bed was fantastic! 😉 I love themed rooms! We did the tour of the castle and its ground, Little E loving the lush thick grass, running around barefoot. Mr E and I had a great time watching him play 🙂 We also opted to do the dinner in the Castle, which worked out perfectly with Little E’s bedtime routine. We gave him his dinner, bathed him, then had a leisurely walk around the grounds before making our way to the Library, where we had pre-dinner drinks. When dinner was served, we left him in his pram in the hallway, which let us enjoy ourselves in the Music room.

Enjoying the thick lush grass on the Castle grounds

Enjoying the thick lush grass on the Castle grounds

Before we left Dunedin in the morning, we made a quick pit-stop to the Farmers Market, held at the Central Train Station. This was where we had the best rasberries we’ve ever had in our entire lives! They were sweet and succulent and were just heaven. Little E loved them so much that we had to buy another punnet for later 🙂 If you’re in the area on a Saturday, make sure you visit the market 🙂

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I loved Dunedin, it was definitely as beautiful and scenic as everyone told me. Reminding me of countryside England, Dunedin is just so green! A change from our scenery in Canberra 🙂

The beautiful Otago Peninsula

The beautiful Otago Peninsula

Activities in summary:

  • Cadbury factory – too strict but good
  • Speight Brewery
  • Dunedin CBD and surrounding hills
  • Otago Peninsula
  • The Larnagh Castle –  an overnight stay and dinner
  • Nature’s Wonder Tour
  • Baldwin Street – the World’s Steepest Street
  • Farmers market on Saturdays: for best raspberries in the world!

If we had free time, I reckon we would have gone to see the Albatross colony, as expensive as it is 🙂

Accommodation:

Cable Court Motel
833 Cumberland St N, North Dunedin
I was pretty happy with our choice! The apartment had a kitchenette, big lounge area (where Little E slept at night) and a bath. The room itself has a TV, so we could lock ourselves in while Little E sleeps 🙂 It also offers free washing machine and washing powder (unlike the last place). On top of all that, they have a coffee machine and they’re free too! wooo! 🙂 They’re not the greatest coffee in the world, but they’re definitely better that the instant press coffee NZ accommodation seem to prefer 🙂 The place is close to a park and is within walking distance from the CBD (and Cadbury Factory)! I definitely recommend this motel 🙂

Larnagh Castle
Otago Peninsula

Our bed lol

Our bed lol

I loved our stay at the Larnagh Castle. Though expensive, it was definitely worth the price! If you don’t want to spend as much on the room, you can stay at the lodge. This would have been our choice if we didn’t have Little E with us, as you do have to share toilets and bathrooms with the other guests there. The Larnagh castle has an exceptionally good customer service, nothing was impossible. We brought Little E’s dinner and needed a microwave to heat it up, which they promptly got us one to use. The castle also offers babysitting, where your child(ren) stay in the room the whole time you’re away, while you have dinner in the castle. Our time at the castle was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me 🙂

Christmas

I hope you all had a very good Christmas. I did. It was such a wonderful relaxed occasion, filled with laughter, presents and lots and lots of food.

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Little E was super duper spoilt, getting all sorts of goodies from everyone. He also had loads of cuddles and playtime with members of our extended family. I am always worried that I fail at ensuring he has a full family of his own. However, after this Christmas, I realised that I haven’t. He is loved by many and those family members that he has, make up for more than the ones he doesn’t have.

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My mum inlaw made sure that I had lots of “breaks” and took care of Little E for most of the day. I am so very thankful. I was able to eat and enjoy my meals at a leisurely pace as well as being able to chat with the rest of the family. My inlaws must also be reading my posts carefully as I received a year subscription to Gourmet Travellers magazines. Wooooee! 😉

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On Christmas eve, we started the day by going to the beach. Little E was still unsure of the sand, however, he was very pleased being held while splashing in the waves. We then went back home for some pancakes for a late breakfast. At dusk, we went to a local park to listen to some carols. It was so much fun!

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I hope the Christmas excitements lasts and lasts for a very long time for you too! 🙂