Friday, September 18, 2015

New Zealand - North Island Day 4 (Part 2 - To do/see, to stay, to eat)

To Do:

Wairere Falls
Old Te Aroha Road, Te Aroha, New Zealand
Wairere Falls from roadside

The beginning of the walk is relatively easy and gives a false impression that this walk is so much easier than Cathedral Cove. I was so wrong!

This walk is really a trek and its gets more difficult as you progress. I was pretty much gasping for breath when i was 30 mins into the walk. There are very steep stairs to climb and some boulders to climb over every now and then.
  
               
First lookout - Wairere falls overlooking a valley

It felt like a huge achievement upon reaching the first lookout with the waterfall in full view. There is another 2nd lookout that heads to the summit of the waterfall but we are uncertain of the route and abandon the walk to 2nd lookout 30 mins after leaving the 1st lookout.

Nearly had a huge fright when SO slipped on the way down and did a little tumble. He was fortunate to break his fall but he ended up with a bruised butt.

View of the falls is quite worth the climb, it will be a walk in the park for the physically fit. 

The Hobbiton
501 Buckland Rd, Hinuera, Matamata 3400, New Zealand
View of the party tree from a hilltop

They say first impression makes the most impact and the owners know this really well. All visitors are ushered up the bus that drives through the picturesque working sheep farm.

As the bus meanders through the hilly road against the ponds and blue skies, its like a travelling to the set of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbits with rolling hills and sheep grazing on the hills.
Hobbiton

The tour itself is quite leisurely and allows for ample time for obligatory shoots at respective points of interest.

The movie set is pretty and quaint.

Knock knock who's there?


A hobbit for a day
           
Bilbo Baggins House
I can't tell from the real and the man-made. Like the fake tree on Bilbo Baggins house. Looks very real but its actually made of concrete and artificial leaves.

The entrance to Bilbo Baggins house is just a facade. Everything that we saw on the movie is taken on a movie studio.
Party tree and surrounds


I look forward most to the chill out time at the dragon's inn for the FOC mug of ale/cider. But it really too rush (10-15mins) for me to complete my drink and its back to the bus and heading back to Shire's rest.
Green dragon's inn
The cute green dragon inn to enjoy a cuppa of hobbit's ale.

One last look at the Hobbiton
Though the entrance fee of $75/ pax may seem steep but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on the tour of Hobbiton. If you are a Lord of the Rings or The hobbit fan just go for it!


To Eat:

The Shire Rest - 3.5 stars, budget
501 Buckland Road, Hinuera, Matamata 3472, New Zealand

The wait for food is impossibly long. Though we ordered our food at 1 pm and was informed that they need at least 15 mins to prepare our food. The food was only served at 1.30 pm, leaving us with only 15 mins to gobble down the food and rushing for my 1.45 pm tour.

I saw people abandoning their food ordered as it is served only minutes before the tour is due to start. You've been warned!

We order a full breakfast set and a hamburger with fries.
Full breakfast

The bread served with the full breakfast is too dry and hard. Though the bacon is good and the fresh eggs even better.
Hamburger with fries


The hamburger beef patty is well cooked and the fresh lettuces, tomatoes, cheese and sauce worked and blended well together. I particularly love the seasoning and sauce on the fries.

Abracadabra cafe & bar - 4.0 stars, mid-range
1263 Amohia Street, Rotorua 3010, New Zealand
Tunisian spiced lamb shank

Tunisian spiced lamb shank - the meat slides easily off the bone but it still has a gamy(骚味) taste. It is served with lots of potato.

Crispy garlic tortillas

Crispy garlic tortillas with 2 seasonal dips. I personally preferred the green coloured dip.

Spicy prawns

Spicy prawns - this is nice and note too hot/spicy. The description states garlic and chilli infused butterflied prawns. I love this dish the most due to its flavours and freshness.  

I loved all the dishes from this restaurant so will definitely recommend a visit to this place. 

To Stay:

Regent of Rotorua
1191 Pukaki St, Rotorua 3010, New Zealand

View of the pool from one of the rooms

Reception from the outside


Home to where we are staying for the next few days. The check-in/out is a breeze and the lady who check us in also shown us around the premises and our room.
Reception area for check in/out


Proximity to the food street though the hotel itself is suppose to have a very good restaurant that i yet to not try.
The restaurant

This is one of my more indulgent stays on this trip. I totally love the decor - Victorian Chic. To tell the truth the decor of the place was the deal breaker for me. Very comfortable big rooms. Pleasant service. Free parking and wifi.

The room is adequately equipped for you to brew the best coffee or chocolate drink. It comes with very thick plushy robes that is too warm to be worn in the room but still nice to touch.
The black fluffy robe

The toilet floors are heated so its comfortable to walk on even on a chilly day.
Toilets with heated flooring


I let the photos do the talking and i took plenty both inside and outside of my room.

Hallway leading to our room

The bedroom


The room from another angle

Its quite a good experience staying at Regent of Rotorua.

Another type of room offered online:
cutie room

Saturday, September 12, 2015

New Zealand - North Island Day 3 (Part 2 - To do/see, to stay, to eat)

To do:
Cathedral Cove
Coromandel, New Zealand



This is pretty physically exhausting though not as challenging as Wairere Falls. I will rate the walk as moderate with 2/3 easy sections and 1/3 difficult.

There's a few sights to see on the way to Cathedral Cove - Gemstone Bay, Stingray Bay, Mares Leg Cove and Cathedral Cove.
cathedral cove


The best view is most definitely from Cathedral Cove. We skipped Gemstone Bay at my request though neither did i also didn't venture out far at Stingray Bay. Stingray bay is secluded with warning signs that states the area is prone to rockfall. There are also huge boulders to climb over to reach the small beach. Hence, I simply stopped at the end of the stairs and refuse to budge despite my SO prodding.
 Stingray bay


We spent quite a bit of time excluding the walk (an hour) to Cathedral cove but if you wish to cover 2 places on the same day namely Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove. Precise timing is essential as their low tides is similar. Though it seem to me that the low tide ends earlier at Hot water beach.


* We tried our luck at Hot water beach to no avail. the tide has turned against us (High Tide).

To Eat:

The White Rabbit - 4 stars, mid-range
69 Customs Street East Auckland Central New Zealand

The White Rabbit


Breakfast - Hashbrown, poached eggs, smoked bacon slab, green tomato, hollandaise

Hashbrown, poached eggs, smoked bacon slab, green tomato, hollandaise - I particularly love my hashbrown as its freshly made from fresh potatoes. Not the usual run of mill kind you can get off-the-shelf.  Crispy on the outside though i think the potato is still a little too wet on the inside. Most delicious from my set is the thick juicy fat slice of bacon. Also unique is the way they poach the eggs almost like a ramen egg semi-boiled with a very soft runny centre. Totally yummy with the hollandaise sauce.


My SO's breakfast set  - Broiche Toast, whipped goat's curd, blackbride honeycomb

Broiche Toast, whipped goat's curd, blackbride honeycomb - Well-toasted broiche toast that is very crunchy and the goat curd and honeycomb made a good combination. Though i tried tasting them individually, the honeycomb is super sweet and the goat curd is super sour. Blend them together, quite a match!
Coffee - no artwork but still nice looking with sprinkle of choc dust
The cappucino was good with a generous sprinkle of chocolate. It has a slight better taste at the first sip but it quick dissipate to a aromatic coffee taste.


Hot Water Brewing Co - 3.2 stars, mid-range
1043 Tairua Whitianga Road, Whitianga 3591, New Zealand

Its a good place to go after Cathedral Cove as its 10 minutes away and one of the few eateries with good reviews that are open for lunch.
The tasting paddle
The tasting paddle comprise of the following beers: Golden Steamer Ale, Kauri Falls Pale Ale, Walker's Porter, About Time IPA, Head Water IPA.

On hindsight, I shouldn't have ordered this paddle as i'm never a fan of beer and SO has a 2 hours drive ahead of him. But as the drinks are more value for money as a paddle than individually. Heck it!

Though the first one (Golden Steamer Ale) is by far the most popular by patrons. Personally, i prefer #2 (Kauri Falls Pale Ale) its very aromatic and fruity though with a light bitter aftertaste. The 3rd is the worst. Its dark lager and very very bitter. Totally not my cup of tea.

50% of the beer is wasted from this tasting session. :(
 
Burger


Soup of the day
The soup of the day is quite tasty and it does the job of filling up the empty stomach at 4 pm.

The Redoubt Bar and Eatery - 3.4 stars, mid range
48 Broadway, Matamata 3400, New Zealand

This is a very popular place andvery packed when we arrive. We were relieved that we were able to get a seat. Due to its dinner crowd, my expectation of the food is raised higher.
Me - goofing around

Pork spring roll

Housemade pork spring rolls with apple, coriander and mirin - this is a surprise as it is very asian. Almost like having our own homemade spring rolls. I like this very much! The skin is fried to crispy and the filling is still moist and juicy. Purrrfect!

Pan-seared snapper

Fresh fish of the day is pan-seared snapper with beetroot, potato and fraiche. Snapper is well cooked with the right amount of consistency and texture. Sides that accompanied the fish is not very complementary but still acceptable.


Seafood Chowder

Seafood chowder with fish, shrimps, scallops and garlic bread is very thick and creamy with a lot less flavour than the soup at Hot Water Brewing Co. Its so creamy that i get pretty sick of it soon enough. 

Be careful when having the fish of the day as well as seafood chowder as it has scales in them. What if i swallowed it? Not cool.
 

To Stay:

Tower Road Motel
108 Tower Road, Matamata 3471, New Zealand

This place is a gem. So glad we got to stay here. The owner is very thoughtful and had turned on the heater to our room as she want to us to have a warm room when we arrive.

Its really nice of her as we are pretty cold tired from our long drive.

The room fits 3 person comfortably
 

The room is very huge and roomy with plenty of space. It very new and decently furnished. There's also free Wifi (my lifeline) and very comfortable beds.

The heater and a table and the entrance to the pantry
The room is very neat and clean. That's is also very important aspect for me. Cleanliness.
The pantry and the bathroom

The owner is also very nice to keep our luggage while we went conquering Wairere Falls the next morning. Very much appreciated as the parking area at Wairere Falls had several thefts reported. Overall, its a very pleasant stay with a huge personal touch from the owner.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

New Zealand - North Island Day 2 (Part 2 - To do/see, to stay, to eat)

To do:

Sky Tower
Victoria St W & Federal St, Auckland 1010, New Zealand
                
Sky Tower

For the adventurous, you can choose to do the bungy jump off the tower or the tower walk. For me, the walk within the building will suffice. This place is extremely small. It took me just a few minutes to complete the walk.

I was quite surprised and i asked SO if i really did complete a full circle round the tower. This is by far the smallest tower i've been to and for its entry price i really don't think its worth the trip up.
View from Sky tower


See-through glass walkway - not for the jelly legs

Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari
Booking Office: Voyager Maritime Museum, Quay Street, Viaduct Harbour, Auckland City


The waiting game - wondering if we get to see the whales/ dolphins

We had a full 4 hours on the boat to chase dolphins and whales. My primary objective for this boat trip is to see some whales as i've seen plenty of dolphins from my Australia trips. As it turns out, we had no such luck that day. SO gotten some close-up shots of the dolphins and these pictures turns out better.

Yay!! - dolphin sighting


Surfing dolphins

This is a pretty nice experience but pricing is a little on the steep side. For a better price in Australia, we get to see towering cliffs and dolphins at Bruny Island and penguins, dolphins and seals at Rottnest Island for half the listed price. Fortunately, we got 50% off as they are running a promotion before our trip.

I like the fact that their website is always updated with the day's status. i.e whether the trip is cancelled etc. If you do not get to see any dolphins or whales that day, they also promise you to go return onboard for FREE!



To Eat:

Jamaica Blue - 3.2 stars, budget

Ibis Hotel, 2 Leonard Isitt Dr, Auckland Airport, Auckland 2022, New Zealand

This is the only cafe open at 8 am in the vicinity of the hotel. Another option we have is the hotel's cafe which serves breakfast at NZ18/ pax.

There is a variety of bread and pastries to choose from including breakfast sets.
Breakfast at Jamaica Blue

Had the flat white coffee with croissant savoury. The croissant though not very crisp is still nice especially with the cheese, ham and tomatoes. Not too bad for the first breakfast at New Zealand.

Ortolana - 3.6 stars, mid-range

31 Tyler St, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand

Ortolana

I love the ambiance of this place. Too bad, the weather's too cold for us to dine alfresco.
Ravioli

The sauce is minty with a tinge of sourness. This is a perfect match to the bland crayfish ravioli.

Market Fish
This is very well cooked and i love the crispy skin on one side and juicy on the other. Coupled with tinge of fresh lemon. Yummy. Fresh sprouts sprinkled on top is crunchy and add a tad of freshness to the dish. The barley that goes with it gives this dish extra texture.


Roasted potatoes

The skin is salted and crispy. Though it takes some time for me to come to terms with eating this with the skin intact.
Lamb
Lamb with sour cream. This is the dish that i dislike most. The meat is cooked pretty raw and pretty hard to chew. SO saves the day by finishing this up.
Stoke2Stoke

This is a very light ale which is light on the palate and very aromatic. It has a whiff of fruity flavour that reminds me of strawberries.

To sum up, i love the fish and the drinks served. The rest of the dishes are not bad but doesn't impress.


Milse - 3.8 stars, mid-range

31 Tyler St, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand

Initially, i have no intention of having dessert. But after passing by this restaurant while looking for Ortolana. I was incredibly tempted. Who wouldn't when there is such delicious array of yummy desserts displayed out-front. Apparently i succumbed to the temptation.
Milse - Dessert to end the day

While there is so many nice cakes displayed, i got intrigued by their dessert menu. The final choice: KALINGO 65%.
Kalingo 65%

This dessert has many layers and flavours all mixed together - Base is dark chocolate with sprinkle of salted caramel. There is orange, mint, browning, crunchy cookie and this is topped with chocolate sorbet. Its a little like what you get to see on Masterchef, every mouthful is an explosion of flavours and they do complement each other very well. My SO has another opinion though. He felt that though each ingredient taste well on its own but he didn't really like them together.

Another interesting concoction was the tea i ordered: Meyer lemon, ginger & honey. Individually, the ginger and lemon is very overpowering. Ginger - spicy, Lemon - sour and Honey sweet. But surprising when mixed thoroughly they have a very soothing effect.

Before we left the restaurant, we are in for another surprise. Ortolana and Milse is actually the same company! We can actually order the dessert at Ortolana. @_@ So if you like some desserts while dining at Ortolana, just ask them to pass you the menu.



To Stay:
Rendevous Hotel Auckland
71 Mayoral Dr, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand


Rendevous Hotel Auckland -Main Lobby

Rendevous Hotel Auckland like any business hotel does not disappoint. I love its city centre location where i can easily walk to the Sky Tower and thereafter the meet up point for Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari. Within the CBD, there is also countdown to purchase any groceries required.

Good and nice restaurants especially at Britomart is also within walking distance.

Rendevous Hotel Auckland- The bedroom

Rendevous Hotel Auckland- The room




The rooms are also pretty satisfying. I love the size. Big spacious bedroom and huge bath that comes with shower facilities and an attached bath tub.

The bed is also a good size bed and very comfortable to sleep on. Most importantly, the room charge comes with free wifi. Parking though is chargeable at $20/night but allows for multiple entries during the day of stay. This is in contrast with Skycity which charges parking on per entry basis.

I will definitely recommend this place to stay.