New Zealand Time

Friday, April 16, 2010

Final (I think) Post

I've loaded a number of pictures that are representative of my trip. It was interesting looking back at them. The posting and arranging of pictures on the blog leaves something to be desired. I would have expected something easier from Google.

As I was looking at my blog, I realize that I made some predictions. One was that some famous people would die. I looked at a long list of who died, but there was only one that jumped out at me - Robert Culp from I Spy. I also said that health care would still be an issue. Even though a bill was passed and signed, it still seems to be a topic. I also said that Democrats and Republicans would still be fighting. I've come to the conclusion that bipartisanship is dead. The arguments have merely moved from health care to financial reform to judicial nominees. I don't think they will ever work together unless they believe it is to there political advantage, and in today's environment, that isn't going to happen for a while.

I looked at real estate prices in New Zealand - out of curiosity and at the request of a friend who thinks it might be a diversification for his portfolio and a safe haven if things go "south" in the US. Prices were really pretty reasonable and for the most part, on a par with the US. Auckland and the cities more expensive than the remote rural areas.

New Zealand is looking for immigrants, although I heard that it depends on your age. I heard the story of one retired couple that wanted to move there and they were required to show that they had $10 million in assets. I guess they don't want to take on that health care liability (they have "socialized" medicine there) unless you have some money. If you are younger and have a number of years being a productive member of society, come on over!

Thanks for all of the comments. I had a good time on the trip and enjoyed writing comments. It will give me something to go back to when I'm old and just have my memories!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Back home

My first day back, Friday, I spent sorting through the 1,000+ e mails that I had. The next couple of days, I burned the parts of the property that my son had not been able to get to. Not wanting to overdo it, I took Monday off and went to the Cubs game (a tradition that has gone on for many, many years)! Tuesday and Wednesday were dealing with a computer that had viruses (this is my excuse for being late on the wrap up) and trying to get my tax return done (filed extension as there is one question that needs to be researched more to get the answer that is right for me!).

It was nice to find that my partners and other team members had done a great job at keeping everything going in my absence. Let's you know how easy it is to be replaced!

It was a great experience. I'm thinking that I'm going to go to S. America in 5 years for the next sabbatical. I'd like to do Machu Picchu and also maybe Brazil and Rio. Maybe I can go earlier and hit Carnival.

Top things and thoughts about New Zealand

I would highly recommend that everyone should go to NZ if they have the time and opportunity. It is a beautiful country. If you go, you should plan on doing some physical activities (hiking, whitewater rafting, etc.) as this is a great way to see some of the country.

My favorite activities were the hikes, the glacier and the time on the farm. The hikes were a great way to meet other people and see a beautiful area. The glacier hike was something I did not have planned, but did this after the whitewater rafting trip was cancelled. The time on the farm was relaxing and it gave me an opportunity to meet some very nice people and learn a bit more about the country.

Stayed in a couple of beds and breakfast places and those were all nice. Also stayed at Novotel Hotel and this was a very nice and reasonable hotel (Queenstown, Christchurch and Wellington). All of them were located in a great area near a number of other things.

Driving was a bit of an experience, and I'm not sure how necessary it is. There are a number of buses (particularly on the South Island) and also trains, shuttles, cabs, planes, etc.

In order to encourage someone to go to New Zealand, the first person to plan a trip can contact me and I will send them the $14NZ that I had left when I got home. This may not seem like much, but my last night in Auckland, I found a bar that had $4NZ gin and tonics (turns out it was student night, but I must have looked like an old student) and another one that had $5 bottle beer and free food for happy hour, which lasted until 9 PM.


I think I need to clarify some of my comments regarding the food. I think my expectations were high given that it was wine country and a big grower of various animals. I think it was more the style of food that made most of it unremarkable. I would say the food at a number of places was English "pub grub". This would be fish and chips, meat pies, sausage rolls, bangers and mash, etc.

I did eat in several places that I wanted to mention and recommend to anyone that is heading over there. The first place was the dinner at Treetop. Since this is a resort, you can't just go there for dinner, but it is included in the evening. Very nice!

The second dinner was at Botswana Butchery in Queenstown. This was recommended by the partner from our NZ office that I met at Treetop. It was a great meal with good wines, appetizers (sauteed whitebait), main and a good cheese course with a nice port!

The third dinner was at Pravda in Wellington. Great appetizer that had a bit of everything, and then had the pork belly. Too full for the cheese course. This was recommended by Linda (her favorite restaurant) from Auckland.

The other great meal I had was lunch at the Curator's House in Christchurch. It was a beautiful day and I had a nice meal (house specialty of their own homemade chorizo) and some good wine while sitting outside enjoying the gardens. I notice they had won a number of awards and it seemed to have a great dinner menu.

It seemed like one item that almost every nice restaurant had for dinner was pork belly. While you find this in the states, it is not common everywhere. Pork belly is made into bacon in the US. Since they don't serve much "streaky bacon", they must serve it for dinner at nice restaurants. I had it several times and it was very good.


I've mentioned that the advertising is a little different. Here are a couple examples.

Even McDonald's gets into free range eggs. Actually people are more concerned with the production of food (vs. just cost) than in the US. People will not eat eggs that aren't free range. There have been some big controversies over "industrial" food production. I saw almost no row crops, and dairy herds, beef cattle and pigs are kept on pasture. Dairy is very big with 4,000,000 dairy cows (that is one per person). They are big exporters to China and Japan.

This was a picture on the wall for beer. Sorry about the quality, but it was at night after I'd been sampling some (strictly research). I'm not quite sure why anyone would like a nice cold Virgin though.

This is from the sushi restaurant that I went into in Christchurch. A bit of false advertising as I didn't see anything on the menu like this.

I mentioned how the country is really crazy about rugby. That should be obvious about this clock doing a countdown to a tournament that is 74 weeks away. Actually I watched a fair amount of rugby while doing research on the drinking habits of Kiwis. I really like rugby and I would say it is more exciting to watch than American football. I think I heard that the length of the actual action (plays) in the Superbowl was less than 10 minutes. Rugby is pretty much two 40 minute halves with almost constant action and very little stopping in the game.

Trip home

It is a long flight! I really made a mistake of not taking several days layover in Tahiti. Not only would it have broken up the flight, but it would have been a nice finish to the trip. I flew on Air Tahiti Nui in Business Class. I think it was about the best food I've had on a plane (and better than most places in NZ). Everything was French (including language and wines).

I had a couple of hours in LA, so took a quick shower. Read the whole "The Last Symbol" by Dan Brown on the flights home.

Made it up until about 10:30. Went to bed and fell right to sleep, then woke up at 2 for 3 1/2 hours. Decided I would go with melatonin the next night and that seemed to do the trick!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Last post from NZ

I'm in Auckland now, and will be catching a shuttle to the airport in 2 hours. I looked at the forecast back home and it looks like the weekend will be beautiful and the forecast for the Cub's home opener on Monday might be the best ever!

I've spent the last couple of days taking two trains and a ferry to go from Christchurch to Auckland. Really wasn't a bad way to travel. I think I want to plan a train trip in the US. Probably from Chicago to Montana to the Belton Chalet.

I only spent one night in Wellington. Seems like it would have been a good place to spend another day or so. I went to a great restaurant there (Pravda). When I get home, I'm going to post some thoughts on foods and restaurants.

I'm also going to add my pictures to the blog, so people can see the places. I know I was going to do this as I went, but it didn't quite work out. One thing I was really surprised about is that there were almost no free wifi sites. I compare this to the states where you can find free spots in a number of places.

I need to go buy a book (I went through the 10 used paperbacks that I bought from the library) for the 24 hours of traveling from the time I leave the hotel until I get home.