Anna Hartley

A blog about travel, books and navigating your twenties in one piece

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Sunday, 20 January 2019

New Zealand 2019 Travel Diary // Christchurch, Tai Tapu, Sumner Beach, Akaroa, Arthur's Pass & Hanmer Springs

So this is going to be the first of probably quite a long series of New Zealand travel diaries - if you ever go hopefully these will be helpful and if not maybe it will just be a bit interesting (I hope!) to see what I've been up to. I haven't written a travel diary on here in ages so I'm super excited to share this first instalment today.

As mentioned in my last post, during the few weeks I was staying with my sister in Darfield we did quite a few day trips to nearby places and they were my favourite days I spent there. Today I thought I'd share my experiences from those day trips and my favourite parts of them. We always had a five and three year old in tow so all of these examples are child-friendly and hence not too crazy but nonetheless lovely places to visit if you're in New Zealand.

CHRISTCHURCH :: Christchurch was the airport I flew into and is the closest city to my sister so we had quite a few days in and out of Christchurch. As I'm sure you'll have read if you've looked up Christchurch in any travel guide, it's changed massively since the hugely destructive earthquakes of 2011. In fact, it's still being rebuilt after the earthquakes and lots of New Zealanders have moved out of the city centre as a result. Because of that, I would really recommend going to the museum Quake City, if you have a chance. It's about £10 entry but it's a really great museum and worth seeing if you're at all interested in the earthquakes and how they affected this area. We also went to the Air Force Museum which is amazingly free entry and quite interesting (not quite my thing but worth a visit if it's at all of interest to you, especially since it's free!). Apart from that, we mainly did kiddie things in the city like taking my nieces to the incredible Margaret Mahy playground (seriously if you have kids, go, it's amazing and I wish I'd had a park like it near me when I was growing up). I would have loved to have had a walk around the botanic gardens as well as I've heard they're great but maybe I'll have time if we stay at my sister's for a few days before we leave New Zealand.

TAI TAPU :: There are some lovely little towns surrounding Darfield where my sister lives and so we often took their dogs for walks and saw a little bit of them. My favourite of these outings is (shockingly) food-related. If you're anywhere in the nearby area you *have* to stop in Tai Tapu and go to The Raspberry Cafe. Firstly it's just a lovely place for lunch - they have tables in their beautiful gardens so if you get a sunny day it's just perfect. It's also dog-friendly, has fresh berries you can buy from their shop and a playground area for children. But most importantly, their cakes are incredible. I'm honestly salivating just thinking about them. My sister took me there within my first week of staying at hers and when Liam arrived I had to take him too and honestly two visits still doesn't feel like enough. Their cakes are so delicious that I can't even begin to describe them but on my first visit I had a chocolate and raspberry cake and on my second I had raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake and I'm still thinking about them now. The staff are lovely, it's a great location, just go if you can.

SUMNER BEACH :: Ok so moving away from cake before I write 1,000 words on it (which believe me I could do), there are lots of lovely beaches around Christchurch. The first one I went to was Sumner, on my sister's recommendation. The weather was beautiful and Sumner is a really stunning beach with great rock pools and coves to look in as well as swimming in the sea. There is also a real fruit ice cream stand which was delicious and Sumner pretty much has everything to offer that you'd want for a great beach day. We had a lovely day there.

AKAROA :: Akaroa completely stole my heart. So much so that again I went twice because I really wanted Liam to see it too. It's such a lovely little beach town and completely beautiful. The drive there from Darfield itself was stunning, especially going through a place called Duvauchelle, which gave us the most amazing views of mountains and lakes and if you go you should definitely stop along the way at Barry's Bay for incredible cheese and wine (and they do free samples which is always a win). In Akaroa itself you can do boat trips, swimming with dolphins and wildlife activities but we didn't really have a chance when we went there. We both times just had a great time on the beach and had amazing weather so nothing to complain about at all! If you're there for lunch I really recommend a little van which you can find towards the end of the pier which sells freshly grilled fish and chips called Murphy's Seafoods. Liam was disappointed because it wasn't your classic battered fish and chips but I personally love grilled fish and so it really hit the spot for me and was nice and inexpensive!

 ARTHUR'S PASS & CASTLE HILL :: As you do on Boxing Day, we were desperately wanting a walk to counteract the amount of food we had eaten on Christmas Day. This year, however, I did more of a Boxing Day climb rather than a walk. First we went to Castle Hill which is a 700m hill with loads of limestone rocks decorating it. It was a bit grey but the weather soon turned itself around and we had a great time climbing it with my nieces. We'd packed a picnic, ate it at the top and admired the really great view. It was just what the doctor ordered and not too difficult, but definitely not a walk in the park either. Afterwards we headed to Arthur's Pass National Park where there are quite a few walks varying in length. Because we had the two girls in tow (at least that's my excuse) we just did the Devil's Punchbowl track up to the waterfall which is a very manageable, lovely walk. It's a really nice area and definitely worth a visit if you ask me.

HANMER SPRINGS :: Finally, the weekend before Liam arrived we went away for a night to Hanmer. It's a really lovely little town which apparently only has a population of 900 people who live there year-round which I couldn't believe coming from London and all. We went for a walk in the lovely forest to stay cool (it was 30 degrees all weekend which was amazing but a bit of a killer trying to stop my nieces getting sunburnt) and stopped at Si Gelato which did amazing ice cream. The highlight of the weekend though was of course going to the thermal hot pools. I didn't really get any pictures in there because we were surrounded by pools and, knowing me, I'd have dropped my phone or camera in one of them but it's well worth a visit if you're anything like me and love sitting in hot pools. Most of the pools are natural thermal ones with minerals which is pretty cool and it was great to spend the day sunbathing and going from pool to pool as we felt like it. I'd quite like to take Liam there before we leave New Zealand so hopefully I'll be back at some point to try them again. We stayed in a motel called Forest Peak which was perfect for the four of us, had a great DVD selection and was pretty reasonable on price!

So those were the highlights from my first few weeks in New Zealand. Once Liam and I set off in the van we did a lot more walking than I managed with my sister and nieces and covered a lot more ground in a short space of time. I'll be back to write about my favourite places we've been to so far in a few days. I hope you enjoyed reading through my first travel diary entry from this trip!

Friday, 18 January 2019

Happy 2019! || Thoughts on My First Month in New Zealand

Lake Tekapo at sunset
Happy New Year everyone! Slightly belated, I know, but the past month since I came to New Zealand has been pretty non-stop and this is the first chance I've had to sit down and write about it. I hope you all had a great New Year's Eve though and that 2019 will be good to you.

First things first, how are we already over midway through January of 2019?! (It wouldn't be one of my new year posts if I didn't comment on how quickly time is going.) That's sped by far too quickly for my liking but perhaps that's because nearly every day has been full to the brim for me.

My first month in New Zealand has been amazing. I spent four weeks at my sister's in Darfield (about forty minutes outside of Christchurch city centre) and had the most wonderful time. As I've mentioned before, my sister has lived in New Zealand for nearly ten years and I've been desperate to get out here since she moved. And I'm finally here!! Since she's been here she's been busy marrying my brother-in-law who's a Kiwi and having my adorable two nieces who are five and three years old.

Finally having the chance to spend some proper time with them was honestly a dream from start to finish. I did a load of babysitting which was great fun and on my sister's days off from work we did day trips (which I'm going to write about hopefully over the next few days) to some really amazing places. It was just a perfect way to start my trip because I can't tell you how comforting it was to get off of my flight, which all in all had taken around thirty hours, and have my sister and a bed in her lovely house waiting for me so that I could fully recharge my batteries and not head straight to a hostel. It was a definite luxury and something that I'm super grateful for.

Also I have to quickly talk about Christmas here. Like everyone said it would it felt a little wrong. We had such a lovely Christmas, especially with the girls being so young and being desperately excited when Father Christmas paid them a visit, but sitting around the table in a vest on Christmas day is just not right when you're used to wearing approximately ten layers to keep warm typically. We had a lovely roast ham and some whitebait fish that my brother-in-law's aunty had made for lunch (apparently it's a big deal out here and I did like it) - an odd combination but it worked. So I've now had my first hot Christmas, something I think everyone should experience at least once in their life!

Anyway, towards the end of my stay at my sister's Liam came to meet me with the campervan that we've been using since we left for our travels (and that he'd been using beforehand when travelling around with one of his friends). It has been so unbelievably lovely to be reunited with him and my nieces absolutely adored him. Since Liam and I left we've had four nights travelling around in the van (post to come on what we've done also in a few days) and are now staying just outside of Dunedin doing a housesitting job for a week. To be honest, it's absolute bliss to have a week to chill out in a lovely house when all we have to do is feed the family's animals while they're away. And with fresh eggs every day from their chickens, there's really nothing to complain about while we have this time to plan the next few months and gear up to hit the road again on the 25th.

So all in all my first month away has been incredible. I haven't really felt homesick - it probably helps that I was with family straight away once I got here - apart from the first morning when I was jet lagged and woke up thinking about just how far away I am from my home. But actually since I've got over the jet lag and my brain has been working properly again, I've not felt far away from home at all. I've been in touch with friends and family at home almost every day and I'm so lucky to have spent the past month with some of the best people I know. Travelling (so far) is amazing and I'm so excited for the next few months to come.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Today's the Day! || I'm Off to New Zealand

LA, 2017
Happy Monday everyone! It's an especially exciting one for me because this evening I'm flying to New Zealand!!! Despite it feeling like it was years away at the start of my recent job, this day seems to have come around so quickly and I can't believe that in a few hours I'm getting on that first flight to get there.

This isn't going to be a very long post - just a quick one to check in as I want to go and soak up my last bit of time with my Mum before I go! But I wanted to mark this day on here in some way because this really feels like I'm starting a completely new chapter in my life and I think days like that are quite rare.

I thought I'd wake up this morning feeling really anxious about the long flight and the fact that I'm going to be away from home for a few months but I have to say the predominant thing I'm feeling is excitement. And it's so bloody lovely to feel this way.

Everyone always says that you learn so much about yourself by travelling and, while I think you learn a lot about yourself through everything you experience in life, I do think travelling teaches you things very fast and in an intense way. It's funny to imagine what kind of things I'll see and do and how they might change me by the time I'm back. (God I'm going to be that insufferable 'gap yah' person aren't I?)

It's just an amazing time in my life and if I don't completely lose my mind on the 30 hour journey there I can't wait to see what's on the other side of this world.

I'm going to leave it there and will hopefully check in again soon - I'm spending a few weeks at my sister's before I go off properly travelling around New Zealand so I'm hoping to have some time to blog but if not I'll be back here when I'm back here! I hope you all have a wonderful week and are enjoying the run up to Christmas!

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Thoughts on Finishing a Year and a Half of Therapy

I was listening to a podcast the other day (I know I know, how out of character of me) with the amazing Emma Gannon interviewing Katherine Ormerod. In the episode Katherine talked about how while she thinks that sharing things publicly can be great and really useful to both yourself and other people, it's important not to put things on the internet while you're going through them/things that you haven't fully processed.

I'm probably what you'd consider an oversharer. Not with everyone, but as soon as I'm comfortable around someone, I'm usually quite happy to tell them things ranging from my entire life story, my religious beliefs and even TMI things like my toilet habits (I have IBS so you could say that they can be interesting - my friends are super lucky). I've never worried about sharing things on this blog. But I don't think I've mentioned before that over the last eighteen months I've been having therapy.

I have written very briefly before about having therapy when I was younger but this time I think I felt like it was something I only wanted to write about when I had finished it. Like Katherine said, it was something I needed to fully process on my own before writing about it. And so here I am, having had my last session with my therapist after a year and a half on Wednesday evening.

I've been aware of the benefits of therapy from a very young age. After my parents divorced when I was six, my Mum retrained to become a psychotherapist and it was the best decision she ever made. She loves her job and because of that I've always seen therapy as a great thing when it's needed - just like going to the doctor when you're physically ill, in periods where you don't feel completely right mentally, therapy can be amazing.

Eighteen months ago I wasn't very happy at all. I wasn't clinically depressed nor did I have another mental illness but I did have spouts of anxiety and mostly I was just quite miserable. I felt very lost and confused by my feelings and my Mum suggested therapy might help. So, with nothing to lose and with some positive experiences of therapy in the past, I thought I'd give it a go. And I'm so glad that I did.

For the past eighteen months during which I have gone through so much change and felt so many feelings, I have had the constant support of my therapist to help me through it all. And I can't tell you what a comfort and help it's been. While I think of myself as a pretty emotionally-healthy person, I've been through a lot and definitely had some baggage that was causing me to find life pretty shitty when I first started seeing my therapist. And while we started off discussing/working through that, she later helped me through some really difficult times that came up during my last year of uni.

In fact, she was the one who made me realise back in August that I was so upset and having anxiety for the first time in months because I wasn't acknowledging to myself that I didn't have to do the masters I'd signed up for. She made me realise that my fear of what people would think was stopping me from admitting what I really wanted to do with this year and that is what gave me the courage to take this year out, and is why I'm getting on a plane to New Zealand on Monday evening.

Our last session was one of those rare opportunities in life to reflect on the past year and a half. It was lovely. I'm not the same girl I was when I walked through her door midway through 2017. I'm so much more confident, unafraid to ask for what I want (for the most part) and, most importantly, happy. Of course I'm not perfect and never will be and I still have days where I feel rubbish or have moments of anxiety. But I'm so much better equipped to deal with those now than I was then. And it was so lovely to mark the end of this chapter of my life before I go away in that way.

I am so incredibly lucky to have a Mum who made it a priority to pay for my therapy (and to have one who was in the logistical position to be able to make that a priority) and I'm very aware that many aren't as lucky and that NHS waiting times can be awful. But as my therapist said on Wednesday night to me, therapy is something that one can benefit from throughout life because life will always throw difficult things at you. And when those things knock you more than you can cope with, therapy can guide you through. So if you are in any way able to get that support, I'd really suggest trying it. It's truly one of the best things I've done over the last year and a half and I can't recommend it enough if you feel like you need that support.
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