Wellington to Nelson

The 5-hour drive along SH1 from Waikite Valley to Wellington was reasonably uneventful, mostly passing through a series of open plains and dairy farms.

We did manage to find another amazing NZ playground for the kids at Levin, which made a good pit-stop towards the end of the journey when the kids were starting to flag.

Wellington Waterfront

Round the world with my family in Wellington

Stretching all the way around Wellington, it’s hard to miss the waterfront. We walked or cycled along the waterfront most days, stopping at playgrounds and coffee shops along the way.

Round the world with my family in Wellington

The kids managed to uncover an indoor climbing centre at Fergs Kayaks, where I somehow managed to get roped into belaying.

Round the world with my family at Fergs Kayaks, Wellington

 

Te Papa 

I don’t need much excuse to drag the kids around a museum, but in the case of Te Papa we’d already had so many recommendations to visit that we simply had to go.

In the heart Wellington harbour, Te Papa is open 364 days of the year and is free to enter. Because it was free to come and go, we decided to spread our visit over two days to avoid burn out.

Te Papa is currently hosting a Gallipoli exhibition, which absorbed most of our first visit. It was so good that the kids wanted to go around again on our second day.

The Gallipoli exhibition tells the story of New Zealand’s contribution to this first world war battle. The aim was to push back Turkish troops from the Dardanelles strait, to secure allied control of this important link to the Russian Empire.

After landing on 25th April 1915 (ANZAC day), a series of battles proved hugely costly in terms of human life, but little ground was ultimately gained and troops were eventually withdrawn in December 1915.

The Te Papa exhibition tells the story of Gallipoli through a series of rooms, with some excellent interactive maps of the battlefield. But what makes the story so compelling is the individual examples of heroism, told through readings of letters sent home.

Round the world with my family at Te Papa

The fact that any acts of insubordination would likely have resulted in being shot by your own side, probably helped with motivation. But it is still hard to comprehend the bravery involved in charging up a Turkish hill, miles from home, to almost certain death or injury.

Knowing little of NZ history before our visit, Te Papa was also a good chance to brush up on our local knowledge. We learned about the initial settlement of New Zealand around 800 years ago, by people from the Polynesian Islands, followed by stories of European settlement from the 1840’s onward.

Te Papa also turned out to be a good place to grab some lunch, which was a nice benefit. I would highly recommend trying one of the meat pies.

Wellington Saturday Night Market

Having been slightly over-awed by the night markets in Kuala Lumpur, we decided to give the Wellington version a try. Centered around Cuba Street, a short stroll from the waterfront, was a delicious array of food stalls.

An eclectic, but tasty option for Saturday night dinner. We managed to eat from all corners of the world. Malaysian noodles, Spanish paella, Indian curry, all topped off with some Kiwi made waffles.

Scorching Bay

We managed to time our arrival into the windy city perfectly. There was no real wind and some late autumn sunshine.

Scorching Bay was only a 30-minute drive from our base in Lower Hutt, so we headed there to test out the water. It was freezing.

The beach was very lovely, and not particularly busy given it was a gorgeous sunny weekend.

At home, I’d expect hour-long queues just to get into the car park on a sunny Sunday at the seaside. But one of the benefits of being in a country larger than the UK but with only 4.5 million people living here, is that you don’t often need to queue because there’s not often many other people around.

One of the things I’m liking most about NZ is this glorious combination of amazing places to visit, without the usual crowds that you tend to get whenever there are nice things to do. Call me anti-social, but it’s just nice to turn up somewhere and know you can park the car and walk around without needing to pre-book anything.

Kiwi Playgrounds

Another thing that we’re all enjoying about being in NZ, is the quality of the playgrounds for kids. These may not be top of every traveller’s itinerary, but when you’re dotting around places with a 6 and 9-year old, then it’s very helpful to have a sprinkling of free amusements to smooth the day.

Wellington managed to have a good little playground in the middle of the waterfront, at Frank Kitts Park, plus another mega-complex of climbing nets and slides at Avalon Park, which was near our house in Lower Hutt.

Round the world with my family in Wellington

Nelson

Given our lack of seafaring capabilities, we opted to catch the 45-minute plane ride to Nelson rather than the more scenic ferry route.

The kids thought it was amazing to sail through an airport without any security checks whatsoever, and they were even more amazed when we arrived into Nelson airport and were through the other side in around thirty seconds, waiting for our luggage to be deposited in the car park.

Cyclone Cook was supposedly heading in our direction and the weather forecast for much of NZ was covered in apocalyptic warnings of flooding and tsunamis.

It was lucky that I’d booked us into a beach house, in the sunshine capital of Nelson.

After a couple of wet days, where we managed to explore most of Nelson’s indoor attractions and swimming pools, we finally got a glimpse of the beach at Tuahanui.

Nelson’s Saturday morning market was a fun-filled collection of local food and craft stalls. We managed to emerge with full bellies and a couple of takeaway items, including a delicious local chocolate spread called Chocoyo.

Nelson is also well placed for day trips to the Abel Tasman national park, around an hour’s drive away. We made a visit to Kaiteri, on the southern tip of the park, which contained a brilliant turquoise sea and was just about warm enough to enjoy a swim.

Round the world with my family at Kaiteri Beach

Kaiteri is the launch point for multiple cruises up the Abel Tasman coast, but we were happy enough to enjoy a day splashing in the shallows.

Next Time

A pit stop in Hanmer Springs (“NZ’s Alpine Retreat”), followed by a few days in Christchurch.

Flying Visit to Kuala Lumpur

It didn’t feel quite right to be heading back to the airport after just 36 hours in Dubai, but we’d booked our flight to Kuala Lumpur several months ago, and were keen to get our trip back on track.

Qatar airways offered the cheapest option out of Dubai, but required a short hop back to Doha.

Doha is the most expensive looking airport I’ve ever seen. It makes Heathrow look like something from the 19th century. Everywhere was polished marble or gleaming metal, and the kids were satisfied to find a playground to burn off some steam.

It was an overnight flight to Kuala Lumpur, but fortunately the novelty of seat back screens had worn off enough to allow the kids to get a couple of hours’ sleep.

We’re using Airbnb for most of our accommodation on this trip, and our place in Kuala Lumpur was perfect. It was in a great location on Jalan Ceylon, with views across to both the KL and Petronas Towers. It gave us more space than we’d find in a hotel room and there was a shared pool.

What’s more, the kids think it’s great fun when we arrive at new places and need to play treasure hunt to locate apartment keys.

Round the world with my family in Kuala Lumpur

Meal Times On The Road

Having now jumped forward 8 hours from London time in the space of a few days, it was still feeling slightly unusual to be having dinner at breakfast time.

On our first foray down Jalan Ceylon’s main street, the kids were desperate for something familiar to eat. This usually means they want Indian curry, roast chicken, or pizza / pasta.

One of the beauties of travelling with kids, I think, is that the occasional compromise is necessary to preserve harmony. Sometimes this may come at the expense of experiencing new things. Sometimes, perhaps we could push the kids harder to move out of their comfort zone. I suspect it’s a question of choosing your moments though.

For example, the kids were initially reluctant to leave school and all their friends to come travelling. After much discussion and lots of encouragement, they appear to be settling very well into their new way of life.

But it’s not always possible to put so much effort into every decision, and not all decisions are so important in the grand scheme of things.

So on our first night in Asia, we had dinner at a place called ‘The Italian Market’. The kids were happy and the food was very nice.

Round the world with my family in Kuala Lumpur

KLCC Park

On our first full day in town, we ventured across to KLCC. The kids got to spend some time in the huge playground and paddling pools, while I got to take a trip up the Petronas Towers.

Round the world with my family in KLCC park

Kiera is happiest in water and least happy in a lift going up tall buildings. Lexi is extremely happy nearly anywhere, apart from when we’re asking her to eat vegetables. So Lexi and I ventured up the towers to take in the views and walk across the sky bridge, while Kiera kept her feet planted firmly to the ground floor.

Round the world with my family at Petronas Towers

Bandage Opening Ceremony

It was now one week since Lexi’s operation and so time for her bandage to come off.

Anja deals with all medical related matters as part of our neat division of labour. My contribution was to take some photos of the big moment.

Family-Travel-Blog-Hand Surgery Aftermath

Lexi was surprised that her hand wasn’t instantly back to normal, and she seemed a bit scared by the sight of her stitches.

More worrying was the fact that her injured finger seemed to be stuck in a bent position, much as it had been before the operation. We told ourselves that this was just because her hand had been stuck in the same position for a week and needed some time to straighten out.

This didn’t come as much comfort to Lexi, who now hand a hand covered in scars and sore fingers.

This moment did at least provide us with the best quote of the trip so far, courtesy of our walking wounded six-year-old, who decided that her hand “would at least be useful for Halloween”.

Next Time

New Zealand here we come. Plan is to start off from Auckland and travel down and around both islands. Really looking forward to exploring Auckland, but also getting out into the heart of New Zealand.

More importantly, looking forward to Lexi hopefully regaining full use of her hand.

36 Hours in Dubai

With Lexi’s hand firmly encased in a man-sized bandage, we decided to re-start our round the world trip.

Our plan is to start with six weeks in New Zealand, travelling via Dubai and Kuala Lumpur.

This may not seem an entirely logical starting point coming from the UK, but I have wanted to go to New Zealand for ever and now is hopefully a good time of year to visit. Warm enough for the kids to enjoy some beach time, but with fewer crowds than during the peak summer season.

Leaving Heathrow on a grey Saturday evening, we had a very smooth flight with Royal Brunei to Dubai. This was the kids first ever long-haul flight. It was also their first trip on a plane that wasn’t either bright orange or operated by a Dublin based airline that likes charging additional fees for breathing.

The novelty factor of in-board entertainment was a great help for this first leg. The kids had sussed the touch screen movie and game menu before Anja and I had finished unpacking the sweets from hand luggage. On the downside, there wasn’t much sleeping going on and we arrived into Dubai at 4am, a little tired.

Sleeping and Shopping in Dubai

With 36 hours in Dubai, we spent the first 8 hours catching up on some sleep.

Getting enough sleep is of paramount importance to this trip. Any lack of sleep can create potential problems, including general grumpiness, sporadic acts of aggression and occasional bouts of hysteria. This is all to be avoided wherever possible. It could be a long year otherwise, or possibly a very short one.

Refreshed after a few hours’ sleep, we decided to focus our limited time in one area of town. The temperature outside was scorching, for us at least, but there was a rather more comfortable feel in the Dubai Mall. So, that is where we decided to head for the day, to avoid heatstroke and to take a peek around the world’s largest shopping mall.

Round the world with my family - 36 hours in Dubai

As you might expect, Dubai Mall contains a lot of shops. Luckily there are other things to do.

Dubai Aquarium

Not quite sure what an aquarium is doing instead a shopping centre, but Lexi is fascinated with all things under water and so we headed here first as a treat for being so brave with her hand. As an extra special treat, I even spent the money required to gain entry.

Round the world with my family at Dubai aquarium

There is a very impressive glass tunnel that you can walk through and gaze up at sharks and stingrays, but the real treat for us was seeing the largest crocodile in the world (probably). It’s hard to convey just how big this thing was, but at first I assumed it was a display model because it looked too big to be a real thing. When it started moving it must have been at least 4 metres long and could comfortably have eaten all of us for lunch and still had plenty of room left for pudding.

Family-Travel-Blog-Dubai-Crocodile

After several hours in the aquarium we had to endure a few tense moments walking past the giant indoor Ice Rink. It didn’t really seem sensible to mix bandaged hands with hard ice and sharp blades. An ice-cream was called upon to provide temporary distraction, while we re-grouped and decided where to head next.

Burj Khalifa Fountain Show

Luckily for us, Kiera decided we should look around a few shops just to check out what was on offer, and then we headed to the nightly Burj Khalifa fountain show.

Round the world with my family in Dubai

Being Dubai, the Burj Khalifa also happens to be the tallest building in the world. At 830 metres and containing 160 floors, this behemoth is more than twice the height of the Empire State Building.

This is hard to picture when you live in rural Gloucestershire and the tallest thing around is next door’s cowshed.

The fountain show was spectacular and entirely free, which was a double bonus. It is a similar set-up to the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas, and designed by the same team, with an array of water fountains set in time to music.

Round the world with my family at a fountain show in Dubai

It would have been nice to spend more time in Dubai, to explore some of the old town and look for other world record breaking feats of engineering. But after walking several miles around Dubai Mall, we were now all ready for some more sleep, in preparation for our return journey to the airport.

Next Time

Onward to Kuala Lumpur for a few days, and then Auckland.

Kids Around Town – London & Cardiff Highlights

We’d always planned to launch our round the world trip from London. Partly because the kids enjoy spending time there, saying hello to the Queen’s house and riding the tube like grown-ups. And partly because I could find cheap flights out of Gatwick.

After spending a few days with my parents in Devon at the start of our trip, we’d penciled in three days in London to see the sights. Our visit didn’t go entirely to plan, as we had to spend almost an entire day in St Thomas’ hospital.

We’re now diverting for an unscheduled visit to Cardiff, while we wait for an operation to fix Lexi’s finger. We had planned to be in Rome this week, but who wants to see the Colosseum and gorge on soft ice-cream, when instead you could visit the capital city of Wales.

Missing out on our visit to Mt Etna may not have been such a bad move though…Mt Etna eruption.

A Few Days In London With Kids

You are free to go absolutely anywhere you fancy in London. It’s a big place. But in our few days with the kids, here are our highlights:

  • Natural History Museum – we’ve been here a few times now and I’m sure we still haven’t scratched the surface. Good if you like old dinosaur bones and stuffed animals. Not so good if you usually get lost in Ikea, as you may never found your way out.
  • Science Museum – right next door to the Natural History Museum, but you’d need a lot of stamina or a very short attention span to manage both in one day. I dare say it’s been done, but we spent nearly all day here. This was top of our kid’s wish list for London, even above M&M world, because there is so much to do and the displays are nearly all interactive in some way, which the kids just love.
  • Buckingham Palace – we got lucky and stumbled into changing of the guards, which none of us had seen before. But even without any gold carriages and cavalry guards, the kids have always enjoyed waving up at the windows in Buckingham Palace, just in case the Queen manages to see them. Kiera says that she wants to live in Buckingham Palace. She did concede that the Queen could stay too, but only in half of the rooms as she’d need the other half.

Family Travel Blog Buckingham Palace

  • Covent Garden – we often seem to end up in or around Covent Garden in the evening, as the last time we stayed there were street performers putting on shows for the kids. This meant that Anja and I could enjoy a beer outside. There are also plenty of dinner options nearby, and probably a few nice shops if you know what you’re looking for.

Followed By A Week In Cardiff

Cardiff is Anja’s home town. We’ve visited as a family plenty of times, on day trips from our home in Bristol. Even though our week in Cardiff was unplanned, and in some ways forced upon us by medical issues, it has been good to spend some time here in tourist mode.

  • Cardiff Bay – previously we’ve only sampled tiny portions of Cardiff’s old dockside, but this week we’ve been able to do the full tour. A historically important area of Cardiff, which was both the launching off point for Captain Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic in 1910, plus the route by which South Wales coal was exported to the world. In the 1880’s, Cardiff docks was handling more coal than any other port in the world, but this came to end after the Second World War and Cardiff Bay suffered from years of neglect and destruction. Now re-developed, we spent a lovely afternoon wandering along the quay, and the kids even managed to drag us into a museum in the Pierhead building, which is what enabled me to write so knowledgeably about the area!

Family-Travel-Blog-Cardiff-Bay

  • Techniquest – a slightly scaled back equivalent of the Science Museum in London, but practically on our doorstep in Cardiff Bay, and filled with interactive exhibits to keep the kids entertained while Dad tries to understand and explain the complex scientific concepts that each new “fun zone” is trying to convey. I emerge having remembered some GCSE level physics, while the kids usually emerge drenched in water having had too much fun trying to disprove Archimedes’ physical law of buoyancy.
  • National Museum Cardiff –  a useful rest from water play and a potential escape when it might happen to rain in Cardiff. On our last visit there was a temporary installation of some of Quentin Blake’s original illustrations, which the kids were pleased to see because they were able to recognise most of the drawings from Roald Dahl books.

Family Travel Blog Cardiff

  • St Fagans National History Museum – an open air village, formed from lots of old houses from different periods of Welsh history. I wasn’t too thrilled by this prospect either, at least not when my wife first suggested we visit. Then I heard it was “free” to enter, so there wasn’t too much to lose, albeit I’m sure they appreciate donations and quite like it if you could at least buy a cup of coffee while you’re inside. As it turns out, while I probably won’t get a new career in advertising any time soon, St Fagans was actually quite interesting. For some reason it was curious to poke around in old farmhouses just to see how lucky we are today to have comfortable pillows and running water. It is also mind-boggling for the kids that people, even quite recently and not just in pre-historic cave dwelling times, used to live without all of the creature comforts that they are so used to.

That was more than enough to keep us entertained for the week, alongside popping back to Bristol for Lexi’s finger operation just for a bit of variety.

Next Time

Lexi was very brave and is now walking around with one good hand and one hand wrapped up like a boxing glove. This doesn’t appear to be slowing her down too much, so we’re now planning to resume our round the world trip by heading to New Zealand for the end of March, as originally intended.

Round the World with My Family: We’re Off (sort of)

We’re Off

After many months of planning and lots of last minute packing, it feels strange to finally be on our way. We have decided to take a year away to travel round the world as a family, but at the moment the prospect of taking a whole year away hasn’t quite sunk in.

We kicked off our journey with a relatively short trip to see my parents in Devon. We managed to squeeze in a trip to the Donkey Sanctuary at Sidmouth, along with a couple of cakes from Nanny & Granddad’s bakery, before catching a train up to London.

Family Travel Blog - Donkey Sanctuary

This was the first real test of our packing, with all of our stuff needing to be squeezed into travel mode so that we could actually get onto the train without leaving a trail of clothes and soft toys.

A slightly stressful morning revealed that we had in fact packed marginally more than originally intended. This was a foreseen risk, but we’d planned a few gentle weeks at the beginning of our trip to iron out any teething issues. At least that’s how I’m seeing things, whereas I think the rest of my family think I’m simply being ludicrous in demanding that we fit everything for a year into a couple of medium suitcases.

London to Lanzarote

Due to finishing work slightly earlier than expected, we decided to spend a few days sight seeing in London followed by a week doing nothing on the beach in Lanzarote. We will then be making our way out to New Zealand during March, stopping off in Rome, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur on the way.

We are mainly using AirBnB accommodation for our trip, which is so far working out very well. We stayed in a perfectly located flat in central London, just a couple of tube stops from the Science Museum, and our place in Lanzarote was fine as soon as the kids spied the shared pool.

Family Travel Blog Lanzarote

Medical Storytime

However, as you know, life is never entirely straight forward. Our youngest daughter has developed a problem with one of her fingers, which has begun locking into place and not budging. She’s had “clicky fingers” in the past, but they’ve usually resolved themselves pretty quickly.

So, alongside having some fun, we’ve also been on a mini-tour of English hospitals, in a bid to find somebody who might be able to help. We started with a visit to our local hospital, who suggested doing nothing. Whilst beautifully simple, this option had a fairly major drawback, in that it didn’t actually help in any way whatsoever.

And so, with her finger still locked after six days, we decided to try the delights of Torbay hospital. The doctor we saw was very kind, but the only remedy he could offer was to straighten her finger using brute force, with some laughing gas to help numb the pain. The laughing gas was great and my daughter left with a straight finger.

Two days later and the finger locked again while we were in London. We decided to spend another few hours in St Thomas’ hospital to see if they had any more advanced solutions. We left after six hours, with input from several doctors, but all we really had to show for this was a temporarily straightened out finger and lots of sticking tape.

We are now following our daughter around with various bits of splint and extra sticking tape trying to avoid a repeat injury, while she tears around the swimming pool laughing. It’s good that she’s coping so well.

I am not coping quite so well, as all our well laid travel plans for the first couple of months on the road start to look a bit shaky before we’ve really got going. I was smugly confident a few weeks ago that all of my planning would help us ease into the travelling lifestyle, at which point we could become a bit more carefree on the advanced booking front. However, it now seems that we should have been more carefree from the start, and avoided the complication of having to consider how we fit medical treatment around our itinerary.

Before heading further afield, we decided to make a quick pit-stop back in Bristol to see a hand specialist, who I was hoping would tell us to stop worrying and that everything would sort itself out.

We’re Back Again…

This brings us fully up to date, as we arrived back into Bristol yesterday and saw our latest doctor today. He has recommended that Lexi will need surgery on her hands to properly fix the problem with her funny finger. This wasn’t what we necessarily wanted to hear, but at least we now have a clear diagnosis and course of treatment. Our next challenge is to see if we can get the surgery completed quickly while we’re back home, or organise for the procedure to take place when we reach New Zealand.

Next Time

I am hoping that our next update will be less medically focused and written while we are sat somewhere in either Dubai or Kuala Lumpur.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: