New Zealand summer spritzer.
new zealand, travel

All about New Zealand food, sort of.

Being back from our New Zealand trip for a week, there have been two recurring questions from friends, family, colleagues and strangers — just kidding, I haven’t gone around pushing my NZ travel stories on strangers, yet! — which have been:

  1. What was your favorite thing about the country? (Or, a similar question like “What did you like most about the trip?”)
  2. What is the food like?

Both good questions and what I’d ask a friend coming back from another country.

And, I’m going to start with food, because it’s obviously the most important thing about a vacation!

IMG_3127

So, what “New Zealand food” did I eat? Well, not to disappoint you but “New Zealand food” is pretty much just like Western food you’d find in like, uh, the U.S.

I actually just did a Google search on “New Zealand food” and the top results don’t apply to me because I am a pescatarian. (Yeah, I guess I miss out on a lot of new food opportunities from not eating meat … oh, well!) The internet says roasted lamb, Maori hangi (this contains meat), crayfish and fish & chips are foods visitors must have while visiting the Kiwis.

New Zealand Fish Market

Bryce and I did share a good plate of fish and chips from the Fish Market in Auckland on our first full day in New Zealand. So, I guess I didn’t totally miss the mark on “eating right in New Zealand.” We did come across crayfish in the beach towns we stopped through but crayfish is kind of like lobster and I’m not a huge lobster fan so we skipped it.

One thing none of those “top eats in New Zealand” will include is the truth about what you will actually eat while road tripping through New Zealand. 

Any guesses out there?

Kiwi fruit?

No.

Fast food?

Maybe for some people, but not us.

It’s Indian food!

Indian food in New Zealand.

Our entire trip was 18.5 days so we did a lot of driving to explore as much of the North Island and South Island as possible. Often we found ourselves driving through very small to medium-sized towns looking for lunch or dinner. We never expected or wanted anything fancy but all the cafes closed between 3 to 4:30 pm, which was unusual for us since the cafes back home in Seattle are usually open until 6 pm.

But, we could always find and count on an Indian restaurant to be open and serving food until  9 pm — or, sometimes their signs just said “closes late.”

We ate Indian food four times in the 2.5 weeks we were there and it was tasty and accompanied but good service every time! Another cuisine we had often was Thai. If there wasn’t an Indian restaurant available in the town we were in, there was sure to be a Thai restaurant!

Coming from Seattle where we have a lot of fantastic Asian cuisine, including lots of great Indian and Thai restaurants, I definitely didn’t think we would be eating this type of food in New Zealand.

Funny how we traveled 7,000 miles to eat food that made me feel like I was at home!

Whitebait sammie in New Zealand.

In addition to the Indian and Thai food, we consumed a lot of good New Zealand cheese and wine. (Our hotels and Airbnb hosts were so nice in gifting us a bottle of local sparkling wine or champagne since we were on our honeymoon). We were also able to enjoy some very tasty no-frill “whitebait sammies” and Maori fry-bread sandwiches!

Don’t get me wrong, we also ate tasty salads, quiches, meat pies for Bryce, and other cuisines such as Japanese and Turkish when we were in the big cities.

I am also very impressed with New Zealand’s ice cream — so much that I am devoting another post just for that!

What interesting or surprising foods have you had while traveling?

new zealand, travel

Sorry for not writing. Having too much fun in New Zealand!

I know, I know, it’s been weeks since my last post!

I have a good excuse though!

I have been traveling around New Zealand with my husband on our honeymoon!

New Zealand is wonderful. The weather has been great everywhere we have been. It is summer down here after all!

The people are friendly. There is so much to see and do. We’ve seen so much wildlife — it’s magical.

The landscape is beautiful. At times this country feels like parts of the West Coast of the U.S. (even sometimes like my hometown of Seattle!) or like Hawaii. But then there are times when I am in awe and think “I have never been anywhere like this before!”

I have been jotting down notes. I have been snapping photos. You bet I will have the blog posts cranking out on the regular when I am back home.

For now, sending you love from a pretty spectacular part of the world, New Zealand! ❤️

travel

TSA and the burritos

My parents encouraged Bryce and I to arrive at the airport three hours before our flight to Hawaii (en route to New Zealand).

“With the government shutdown, you just never know!” my mom said. “Sea-Tac seems to be operating normally from what I’ve heard but who knows, maybe the TSA workers will decide on your day of travel to just not show up!”

We arrived about 2.5 hours early — and thankfully there was no line at PreCheck. I guess the sweet spot to fly is 5 pm. Everyone else wants to get a move on in the morning or late at night.

My backpack got searched at security and at first I was a little annoyed that none of the TSA workers bothered to notify me that they were searching it. Isn’t the norm that they ask whose bag it is and then they go through it in front of you?

When I asked why they weren’t searching it in front of me so I could see, one worker replied that “there’s not enough room back here.”

OK, isn’t that why normally you bring the bag closer to where the traveler is awkwardly waiting or standing?

Another worker — different guy from the one who responded to my question — did bring my bag in front of me after the initial rummaging out of my sight and asked if I had food in the bag.

“I’m going to have to look at it,” he said nicely.

When I lifted the brown Chipotle bag out of my backpack to show that there were two burritos inside, he asked for us to peel back the foil.

I obliged.

“Those look like some good burritos!” he said as he told us we were free to go.

I laughed and put the food back in my backpack.

“Well, at least that was quick,” I told Bryce.

He agreed and reminded me that these workers weren’t getting paid at the moment, too.

“Oh, no! I should have been nicer at the beginning when I was giving them a hard time about looking through my bag without me being able to see what was going on!”

I felt a little bad.

Oh, well, at least they didn’t ask to take a bite out of our burritos.

travel

The thing about layovers

On our way to and from Calí, Colombia, one of our layovers was in Panama City. They call themselves the gateway to the Americas, as the airport is a major hub.

I always get a tinge of sadness whenever I have a mere layover in a new city, especially when it it’s in country I’ve never been to.

You don’t have time to leave the airport because you only have a few hours. You get to know that city’s airport’s bathrooms and gate waiting areas. You learn where to find the cheapest meal in said airport. You learn if the airport has good or spotty WiFi.

What cities have I wanted to visit after having a quick airport layover?

When going to New York City during spring break with two of my girlfriends our junior year of college, we had a layover at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. It wasn’t until five years later that I got to visit the windy city. It was to run the Chicago Marathon, so naturally the whole thing was a blur. I really should properly visit Chicago again so I can actually enjoy the city — and remember what I saw!

When I was in elementary school, my mom and younger brother and I had an overnight layover in Seoul, Korea on our way to Japan. We pretty much always fly directly from Seattle to Japan when visiting relatives so this was a new experience. We spent just one night in a nearby hotel and all I remember was that my brother was probably 4 or 5 and fell asleep on the bus ride to the hotel and forgot his backpack on the bus. My mom didn’t realize until the bus had left and she frantically somehow tracked it down. I love Korean food. I think I would like Korea and would love to make more memories of it other than my brother almost losing a backpack.

I have also been to the Amsterdam airport a handful of times to and from various destinations in Europe. I’d like to actually visit Amsterdam and explore it one day. (I mean, their airport is great so I bet the outside is even better!)

It was the same thing with Panama City. Panama would be a neat place to visit, right?

Are layover cities layovers for that reason? They could be fun or interesting to visit but you are always going to visit somewhere else that is just a little bit more fun or interesting?

I’ll keep you posted.

colombia, travel

Like a scene from Narcos

We arrived in Panama City, our first layover (out of three) on our way home to Seattle from Colombia.

It was a Sunday morning and I was hungry.

Why was it taking us “so long” to get off of the plane?

Bryce and I were seated in the middle of the plane and finally the passengers in front of us started moving. We stepped off the plane and started walking through the ramp-way, you know, the one in between the plane and the gate at the airport.

But there was a backup.

Why are we having to wait to get into the airport? 

I’m a pretty patient person but sometimes seeing people struggle with their rolling suitcase, which holds up the line, really irritates me. (I have nothing against rolling suitcases, I own one, too!)

This wasn’t the case this time though.

Up ahead, I could see two men checking passengers’ ID and ticket.

Why are we doing this now? We’ve already arrived at our destination!

Bryce and I got out our passports out and waited for the line to move. Finally it was our turn and one of the men checked Bryce’s passport and in really stern Spanish asked where he was going. Bryce responded and the man motioned that he could proceed.

I next showed the man my passport but he didn’t even glance at it. He waved his hand and was more interested in the person behind me.

That was weird, right?

No, it was intentional. We quickly realized that the men were only checking passports of the male passengers. These undercover cops were clearly looking for someone specific. (They were dressed in regular street clothes so we just assumed they were undercover cops).

As we walked away — to look for breakfast -— we turned back around towards the gate we just left and noticed that a handful of passengers were pulled to the side. We guessed for more questioning.

This is like a scene straight out of Narcos!

Well, maybe. I’ve never actually seen the show but whenever I told people I was going to Calí, Colombia before the trip, they would respond with “Ohhhh, like from Narcos — the Calí Cartel!”

So, it was like an alleged scene straight out of Narcos.

colombia, travel

What 26+ hours of travel looks like

It took us more than 26 hours of travel to get from Seattle, Washington, USA to Calí, Colombia.

From house to house, it took about 30 hours of travel!

We left our place in Seattle around 5:30 am the Saturday morning before Christmas. We arrived at Bryce’s grandma’s house in Calí around 11:30 am Sunday morning.

Our route: Seattle > San Francisco > Los Angeles > Panama City > Cali

Dolores Mission Park
Dolores Mission Park

The first stop in San Francisco was the longest layover. We made the most out of it by actually leaving the airport and enjoying a good, real meal.

For so many flights, everything actually went smoothly. We didn’t miss any flights. Our longest wait in the TSA line was at Sea-Tac, our home airport. And even this wait was maybe 10-15 minutes at most, not bad at all!

Guess the travel gods were on our side.

We even had to wait on the tarmac for about an hour at SFO on our way to LAX. The pilot told us that LAX was experiencing “too many planes” so we’d have to wait a while before we’d be cleared to take off.

Bryce and I just put our headphones on and started season 2 of one of our favorite shows, the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Panama City airport
I think leaving Panama City, your guess is as good as mine!

I like to think of myself as a having a lot of patience.

By flight #4, I really did not have much of it at all. I wanted to be done traveling.

When we boarded our final flight in Panama City, I was really ready to be done. The flight attendants only handed out immigration forms in Spanish and when I asked in my broken Spanish for a form in English, the flight attendant replied that they only had them in Spanish.

“OK, this should be interesting …” my sleep-deprived self thought to myself.

The woman seated in front of us asked us if we needed help translating. We kindly told her we were fine. After all, you just check “no” on all the little boxes, right??

When friends and family heard of this grand voyage to Colombia, everyone asked, “Isn’t there a faster way or direct way to get there?”

There is no direct from Seattle to Cali. Yes, there are options for three flights, or even two but we would have been paying at least a grand more — per ticket. No, thanks.

All the flying is just part of the travel experience.

And, I guess I shouldn’t complain because unlike some people, I can pretty much fall asleep anywhere. Funny how an airplane takeoff can just peacefully rock a grown adult to sleep.

 

travel

2018 travel year in review

Kayaking in Alaska.
Third trip to Alaska. First time kayaking!

Prior to the inception of this blog a month ago, a lot of traveling has occurred! Here is a little round-up of my 2018 adventures.

  • Japan (January) — I literally rung in the new year in Kamakura, Japan, where my grandma lives. Bryce, my mom and I walked to a nearby temple and rang a giant a bell while the temple monks chanted. The bell is rung a total of 108 times by temple visitors to signify getting rid of 108 human sins, according to Buddhist belief.
  • Portland, Oregon (February) — Spent a weekend in Seattle’s rival city, also known as the Rose City. Bryce and I ate lots of good food in Portland — I had Puerto Rican food for the first time! — and met baby Lincoln, a baby sea otter at the Oregon Zoo. It was a snowy weekend but that didn’t stop us!
  • Phoenix and Flagstaff, Arizona (May) — Finally saw the Grand Canyon in person! This is one of those national parks that you hear and see pictures of all the time as a kid, and I have always wanted to see it for myself. Bryce and I flew into Phoenix and drove north through Sedona first and stopped in Flagstaff. The second day was spent hiking at the Grand Canyon before driving in the evening to Las Vegas (where we flew out of back to Seattle). It was the busiest and best 50 hours.
  • Disneyland, Anaheim, California (June) — When my pretty annual jaunt to Disneyland coincided with my bachelorette party.
  • Richmond, Canada (June) — Spent a day-and-a-half in Richmond with my family to explore the Richmond Night Market for the first time. There are lots of food vendors but also lots of crowds. It was fun to go once, but I don’t think I’d go again.
  • Whidbey Island, Washington (July) — OK, this is near home but you didn’t think I would neglect my wedding day on my year recap, right?? I’ve been to Whidbey numerous times since I was a kid and have always enjoyed exploring the beaches and bluffs. The towns are quaint and the people nice. Also, now I know it’s a great place to get married!
  • North Cascades to Canada road trip (July) — The weekend after our wedding, we spent a long weekend road tripping up to the North Cascades where we did one of my most favorite hikes. (Well, I had never done it before, so now it is one of my most favorites!) Then drove up to Kelowna, Canada and spent some time there mountain biking and eating. Our final stop was to Vancouver, Canada, where we ate some more and went to the Vancouver Aquarium to visit the sea otters.
  • Olympic Peninsula, Washington (August) — Despite the rain and grey, we drove to the coast where we visited Rialto Beach and saw many sea otters in the wild! We camped outside of the Hoh Rain Forest and then did a hike in the rain forest. It’s about a four-hour drive from Seattle, but totally worth it. I’m a city girl, and always will be, but there’s something about being out in a forest away from people that’s really good for the soul.
  • Wasilla, Alaska (September) — Bryce and I visited his mom over Labor Day weekend. I kayaked for the first time! And, was introduced to the Alaska State Fair …
  • Calí, Colombia (December) — Visited Bryce’s grandma and aunt for Christmas. This was my first time in Colombia (and South America in general!) It was weird to have a “hot Christmas” but a wonderful time meeting and spending time with new family while exploring a vibrant city.
Grand Canyon National Park
First time at the Grand Canyon!

With getting married this year, I sort of forgot that I still took quite a few trips throughout the year. I honestly almost forgot about the Grand Canyon trip before I searched through my phone at old photos — even though this was one of my favorite trips from the year! Ah, I guess I can’t play favorites, Colombia is high on the list, too! Funny how time can be …

What are your highlights from 2018 travels?