Archive for May, 2014

Queenstown & FoxGlacier|NZ travel journal

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

I have heard from a few friends that read my blog that while they enjoy following along, they are also insanely jealous of our trip and also that we got to skip out on a horrible CNY winter. To those friends–this is my last New Zealand post, but it might make you a little jealous because it was probably the best one week trip ever. I’m sorry.

We left Christchurch on Easter Sunday and arrived in Queenstown at about 5pm.

It was easy to find a good picnic spot our drive. I can’t remember the name of this lake, but the mountain in the back is Mt. Cook.



a little mini session.





Rain and sun driving through Cornwall–the home of some really tasty pinot noir.


Love the fall colors.


The road up to Mt. Difficulty winery.


Queenstown is a tourist town that has it all. We started off the day taking the gondola up to check out the view of the city.



Sadie was having a bit of a sulk because we didn’t let her luge down. We also decided not to bungie jump. 😉




After an overpriced lunch and a wander around the lake we boarded the Earnslaw Steamboat to do a farm tour.




The farm tour must be a top tourist tour because it was packed. There was one amazing tour guide for about 200 of us. We were introduced early to the head sheep dog–perhaps he was herding all 200 of us along.



puppy love. I guess we ignored the sign.


This is the view from a huge patio where they served some tea and goodies. As we were all sitting and enjoying the moment the head sheep dog from above came by with a kitten in his mouth. He then dropped the almost dead kitten in front of everyone. I guess he was trained to get rid of feral cats too?


Then the killer dog showed some more scary skills herding the sheep. Then our multi-talented guide after taking us around the farm and hosting tea sheared a sheep in front of us all.


Back on the steam boat a piano player lead folks singing old turn of the century US folk songs. It was a little weird.


Our big splurge was to do a tour of Doubtful Sound. In order to get there you have to take a bus, then a boat, then another bus ride to a power station down a deep tunnel to a power station, then a bus over a crazy gravel road until you finally get on another boat for a 3 hour trip through the sound out to the rough Tasman Sea.

From the first boat.


This was just crazy–you are in a bus going about 600 ft underground in the exposed rock. Sadie decided she never wanted to do that again and I’m pretty sure I don’t blame her.


Ahhh–back in the sunshine on the boat.



Lots of pretty views, plus some dolphins and penguins.





We left Queenstown  onto yet another fantastic drive. It think it took us twice as long to get anywhere because I kept asking to stop the car.

Can you tell why?



Who knows?




another rainbow!!





Jason thought it was the best drive we have done yet in New Zealand. We stayed the night at a home stay right near Fox Glacier.

The next day we suited up and went on a guided tour onto Fox Glacier–you are only allowed onto the glacier with a guide.





A week before we arrived part of the glacier collapsed making the old route up to the glacier on the left side unsafe. I did ask–umm, were there any tours out when this happened? Our friendly guide said that she lead the last tour before it collapsed, but no one was hurt. The new route had the us needing to cross the river and they had a clever pulley system worked out.



The water looked pretty cold.


The view when you are not looking at the glacier.



I was ready to grab her at any minute if she slipped down that hole.


I think Sadie will go on any guided hike. She loved being right next to our guide (in red).



See that little ice cave behind us? You were allowed to go into it for a look around. We were told it was really cool and it won’t be around too long. Sadie and I decided that we were not convinced that they knew when the ice cave was going to collapse, so we opted out.


Brave Echo and Jason had a look inside.


It was awesome being out there, but I keep thinking that this would never be a tour in the US. There were rock slides. A fairly small one happened while we were there and the guides were like–awesome, sweet–check it out. I was like–keep moving!!!

I was scared, but it was so awesome and probably the highlight for me of the week–even though I skipped out on the “sweet” cave. Our guide said sweet about 300 times.


As I was grabbing more photos I noticed that the guides really seemed to be pushing us along and were pulling folks over the river much faster than on our ride out. Apparently there was another collapse and big chunks of ice were going to be coming down in the river soon and they wanted us off before they came. Someone actually has the job of sitting up high on the glacier and watching it for collapses to warm the folks below–apparently you have about 5-10 minutes to prepare.


We  only saw some larger chucks of ice.


We were back from the glacier in time for an awesome outdoor lunch. Now tell me–if there was a restaurant with a an outdoor patio like this and this view, would it ever be empty?



And right from the restaurant a beautiful hike.










Our day ended with another rainbow. We drove a short distance to Franz Joseph glacier and did a short hike in the rain. I thought a rainbow hitting a glacier would be the perfect photo to end my New Zealand travel journal.


And–for those of you still reading. Our trip has been amazing. It has been one of those once in a lifetime opportunities and I am so glad we took it. Did it cost a lot of money–yes–we will be paying it off for awhile. Was it complicated–yes! Our oldest daughter will have to re-take some classes and it will put her off of her old track. The kids had to un-enroll from school when we left and I have to re-register them again when we return. We have had to ask favors of all of our friends and neighbors which will be hard to ever repay. I had to put my business on hold and miss out on lots of great sessions, weddings, and births.

On a lesser note, we haven’t been able to watch Game of Thrones, or The Daily Show, or Call the Midwife (that is just me). There is no netflix or hulu here. no creamer for my coffee, no goldfish crackers (the girls mention), no cereal choices (just cornflakes, rice crispies or granola).

We have missed birthdays, and hanging out with friends, and dinner parties. We have had people over to our house one time since moving here (not including 11 and 14 year old friends).

All first world problems I know.

And if you are still feeling jealous–to get back home we will first take a 14 hour plane ride, then a 5 hour flight, and finally a three hour flight. On our way out our luggage was lost and we were three days late with flight cancellations, so I never expect an easy flight.

And, if any of you get or take a chance to do something like this–I am ready to follow along and help out with your pets or empty house back in Syracuse.

And our girls–now they are the ones I am jealous of. They are the ones that really got to get immersed in the culture here and they both made great friends. If they come back to New Zealand they will have a place to stay for free.

Thanks for following along and I will see you all soon back in Syracuse–probably at Target or Wegmans. 😉

Oh, and my June schedule is almost full. Email me if you are wanting a summer session.


Christchurch, New Zealand| travel photo journal

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Christchurch has been our home city while we are living in New Zealand. As you might have been able to tell from our many weekend trips to beautiful places it is a great base for exploring the south island. Before the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes that destroyed much of Christchurch the city was a tourist destination as well, with lots of good restaurants, beautiful parks and a thriving city. To be fair the city still has pretty parks, and some good restaurants, but now when tourists visit it is to see a damaged city. The 2010 earthquake was larger than the 2011 one, but in 2011 the earthquake was so violent in it’s shaking that it was one of the or the strongest earthquake ever recorded in an urban area.

It has now been three years since the earthquake and in many ways you could go into the city and think that the earthquake happened 6 months ago.

This was the famous cathedral that was destroyed. There are so many barriers around the city and many of them have been decorated, providing a little bit of positive in all the destruction.


The building behind this barrier is also off limits and empty. When you first arrive in the city you look around and see buildings that are still standing, but then when you get a closer look you see that they have been deemed unsafe and empty. I don’t know when or if these buildings will come down or be repaired. I have read that it will take Christchurch 50-100 years to completely recover at a cost of over 40 billion.



A creative little playground in front of an abandoned building. The play stuff is made from the trash from the city after the earthquakes.



I didn’t feel too safe letting my kids play under a building that was deemed unsafe, but….


Art in front of the empty buildings.


This little street is tucked in-between the buildings from the previous photos. It was restored and opened last year and is a little colorful oasis in the middle of grey empty buildings and rubble.


The city has small little spots of recovery. The Re-Start Mall is some pedestrian only streets that have shops created from shipping containers.




This is the site of the CTV building where almost half of the deaths from the earthquake occurred when it collapsed.



The cardboard cathedral that opened in August.






Jason just finished up writing his reflections on living here for a report, and he sums our Christchurch experience well.

Living in Christchurch has opened our eyes to community issues that we’ve never experienced. Natural disasters are not a part of life back home—Syracuse is not subject to any major natural disturbances.  So witnessing Christchurch’s attempts to reinvent itself after what in some cases seems comparable to reconstruction after the War has been fascinating and heartbreaking in equal measure.  When you meet people for the first time, you quickly get their ‘earthquake story’—what they were doing when the second more devastating quake hit, and what happened in the aftermath.  It is astonishing how many people had to leave their homes, and in some cases are still out of their homes even three years later.  Nearly everyone has had to move around to some extent, both their living circumstances and their place of business.  And yet people are still here, shops keep popping up everywhere, kids don’t appear unusually traumatized (I find this particularly remarkable), and the tourists still come to see a city centre that is mostly not there.  To be sure, people are frustrated with local government, and I’m sure we talk to a more affluent cross section of town than the average, but on the whole life here goes on.  We have never experienced something like this and it’s reassuring to see such resilience in a community.  

Christchurch will need loads of resilience. The earthquakes have changed many things underground as well as above ground which are contributing to lots of other problems in the city–pot holes, sewer issues, and recently floods. Twice in the 4 months we have been here our neighborhood has flooded. Here are some photos from near us.




I know I don’t paint a pretty picture of the city of Christchurch. It isn’t pretty right now with all of the abandoned buildings and construction work, and floods. It has been a very welcoming city to us and seeing what these people have had to live through I am continually amazed that there is humor and light to be found.