I realized while boarding this flight last week that it was the first time since we moved to New Zealand 2 and a half years ago that Kevin and I had been on a plane together. We have definitely boarded a lot of flights between then and now, booking thousands of miles each, just not together!
We knew that before leaving New Zealand (2016 is our last year here) we had to get up to the North Island to see what she has to offer. The South Island has been our home, and since 2013 we have gone pretty much everywhere there is to go. We have travelled all of the major routes connecting north to south and east to west. We've seen the cities, the small towns, and the vast stretches of absolutely nothing and no one.
For our North Island trip we embarked a few days before the new year and flew into New Zealand's capital city of Wellington. It was about a 40 minute flight from take off to landing. I probably can't state enough how much Kevin and I loved this city. We inadvertently but very conveniently picked a great hotel in the middle of the CBD. The first 2 days of our trip we simply walked everywhere we could get to. We went to 3 museums, 3 book shops, multiple thrift/vintage stores, a few more coffee shops and the botanic gardens (blisters galore!). There was a market area just down the street from our hotel that had food vendors from all over the world. The first night we had Italian pizza and the second night we had Indian curry. We rang in 2016 on the harbour in Wellington with a few thousand other people taking in an awesome fireworks show.
We didn't really want to leave Wellington, to be honest, but had plans to drive north through the center of the island. And, man, did we drive. We drove around Tongariro National Park and saw the active volcanos. We drove through Taupo and saw the 238 square mile lake. We drove through small town after small town and eventually stayed the night at our first Airbnb. It was an interesting night, and we came away with a few stories too long and bizarre to share on a blog!
The next day was our ridiculously touristy day, where we went to Matamata to see the set of Hobbiton, which was used for filming The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. I grew up watching Lord of the Rings, so it was very cool to see where scenes of the movies were filmed. They have everything preserved just as the director, Peter Jackson, had left it. It's open for tourists to come from all over the world to see the world he has created. It was a rainy day when we toured, so our favorite part was going to the Green Dragon (the pub in the movies) to have a drink and sit by the fire.
From Matamata we drove east to Napier, a coastal town with a very art-deco style. I wish we had more time to spend here, but unfortunately only stayed one night. There was great Turkish food, and we loved being so close to the water.
The next day we drove through New Zealand wine country on our way back to Wellington. We stopped briefly at a winery for a tasting and a bottle to bring home before hurrying back to the airport.
When I've mentioned to people about not going on 'vacation' with Kevin over the past few years, they always respond with, "But you live in New Zealand! That IS a vacation!" And yes, while we live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, it's still important to have time away. And even though we didn't go far, we loved exploring a new place, just the two of us. Nothing fancy, no six course dinners, just me and him in a rental car (or on foot!), seeing what we could find.
And it was a success.