Antiques, Collectables and a Giant Bottle of Lemonade

L&P Bottle

Paeroa: a small town famous for being the home of New Zealand’s favourite lemon-based soft drink, L&P or Lemon & Paeroa. Indeed, its main tourist attraction is a seven-metre high L&P bottle, which used to be closer to the road, but was moved further back due to the number of tourists endangering themselves by backing across State Highway 2 in an attempt to get a better photograph.

Why anyone would risk their life for a photo of a giant lemonade bottle is beyond me, but L&P is very nice as far as soft drinks go. If you’re ever in New Zealand and faced with a choice between L&P or some other brand of lemonade, definitely go for L&P.

But Paeroa isn’t just about L&P. It’s also known as the Antique Town of New Zealand. Up until last Saturday, I’d been through Paeroa countless times, but never actually explored it. Each time I stared longingly out of the window at what looked to be a collection of rather charming antique shops and told myself that, one day, I’d visit. I love old things, you see, and who could resist a shop front like this?

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You might have noticed that the name of that particular antique shop is Granvilles. Now notice the name of another one of Paeroa’s antique shops:

Arkwrights Antiques

Yes, Arkwrights. This shop claims to be ‘OPEN ALL HOURS’ despite opening at ten and closing at five. I wonder how many people get it. There are a few references to the classic BBC sitcom Open All Hours in Paeroa – see if you can spot them all!

Other shops on Paeroa’s antique and second-hand trail include Yesterday and Today, Pandora’s Closet and Junk and Disorderly, which is situated in an old picture theatre. Despite finding nothing particularly inspiring, I quite enjoyed poking around. My sister found a decent second-hand table for her flat, at least.

Lemon & Paeroa BottlePaeroa has a couple of museums and quite a few cafes – including the big L&P Café that all the coaches stop at – and we noticed a lot of people coming through with their bikes on the Hauraki Rail Trail. There’s not an awful lot to do in the town itself, (unless you love antiquing,) but as paeroa.org.nz says, ‘Positive Paeroa’ is ‘The Little Town in the Middle of Everywhere’. It’s right next to Karangahake Gorge, for example, and Karangahake Gorge is wonderful.

You can read what I wrote about Karangahake Gorge here.

Why You Should Visit the Arataki Visitor Centre

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First time in New Zealand? Time to spare around Auckland? Head west to the Arataki Visitor Centre in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. It provides a fantastic introduction to life in New Zealand. You can learn about Auckland’s history, environment and wildlife in a wonderful setting with magnificent views, before embarking upon one of the many laid-back bushwalks in the area.

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The Arataki Visitor Centre is one of the first places I remember visiting in New Zealand. I was ten years old; the centre was great for kids and still is. In fact it’s got even better in the last decade. You could spend hours in the kids’ corner. I discovered so much and it was fun. I learned, for example, what all the different native birds were and what a weta looked like. (Answer: scary as fuck.)

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Recently, I went back for the first time in years. It still had the giant picture frame at the edge of the car park, overlooking the ‘natural masterpiece’-of-a-view. It still had the towering Maori totem pole that my little sister had climbed on, unaware that she was using the bottom figure’s penis as a handhold. But there was one important addition to the car park: a charming Danish ice-cream hut.

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The ice-cream was very nice, as were the freshly made waffle cones.

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I also found this rather pretty place for chaining up your bike.

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As you ascend the wooden ramp into the centre there are a series of balconies taking advantage of the views. In summer they’d make good picnic spots, but the wind was too cold to stay out long this time. Thankfully there’s a place to eat inside the centre too, not a proper café, but nice tables with snacks and hot drinks available. There’s also this rather lovely window seat.

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The inside of the centre has changed a lot. It looks all fancy now. The gift shop’s still the same, but there are lots of new displays. As well as informational displays about the natural and human history of the area, and about local conservation efforts, there are beautiful examples of Kiwi artwork and even live lizards! This is definitely somewhere international visitors should come.

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If you plan on doing any bushwalking during your New Zealand trip – and New Zealand is pretty much impossible to escape without doing at least one little bushwalk – then the Arataki Visitor Centre is a great place prepare yourself. There are people there who can advise you on where to go and how to stay safe in the bush, and there are heaps of free leaflets available.

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In fact the whole centre is free – did I mention that?

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The Arataki Visitor Centre is known as the gateway to the Waitakere Ranges. I think it’s also a great gateway to New Zealand in general. Make it the beginning of your New Zealand holiday. I know a few people who say it’s the first place the place they take friends and relatives when they arrive.  Other places nearby include: Rose Hellaby House, the Waitakere Dam, Fairy Falls and Bethells Beach.

Don’t Be a ‘Whinging Pom’

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‘Whinging pom’ is an expression often used by New Zealanders. It refers, of course, to a complaining English person. If someone is annoying someone else with their moaning, they’ll be told to stop acting like a pom.

It’s not an expression I thought about until I came across an English immigrant whinging about it a few weeks ago, (completely missing the irony of the fact.) It was in an Internet comments section – I know, I know, never read the comments! – so, naturally, the English immigrant’s response to a Kiwi’s comment about ‘whinging poms’ included an attack on the Kiwi’s spelling of the word ‘pom’.

“It should be spelt ‘POME’, as it is an acronym of ‘Prisoner of Mother England’,” they said. And, rather satisfyingly, they were wrong. pomegranate

The ‘Prisoner of Mother England’ thing is an etymological myth. It seems that the word ‘pom’ actually comes from ‘pomegranate’ – the red-skinned fruit – because that’s what the British people’s faces looked like when they encountered the Australian sunshine.

But, anyway, the point is that this English person was getting extremely worked up and offended over the Kiwi’s use of the expression ‘whinging pom’. Now, I am an English immigrant myself. I have no problem with the word ‘pom’ – I’ve used it in the title of this very blog, after all – and, thinking about it, I have no problem with the expression ‘whinging pom’ either. It’s a perfectly legitimate stereotype.

complaining-154204_640The English are world-class complainers. We freely admit this about ourselves. Complaining is a national pastime. Along with queuing. Which nicely provides us with something else to complain about. It’s no wonder the rest of world has noticed too!

It’s not exactly a recent stereotype. Back in the 1780’s, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – a very famous German literary figure – journeyed around Italy, writing a diary as he went. At some point, he met some English tourists, who, of course, were noteworthy for the amount of complaining they did.

When my Kiwi boyfriend and I were visiting England’s Lake District last year, we overheard an English couple complaining about their recent holiday to New Zealand: “Oh, it was lovely scenery and everything, but New Zealand’s supposed to have lots of sheep and we hardly saw any, did we? In fact, we’ve seen far more sheep here than we ever saw in New Zealand.”

sheep-151666_640Admittedly New Zealand doesn’t have as many sheep per person as it used to, but there’s still a lot!

Now, I’m not saying that New Zealanders don’t complain, because of course they do. But they definitely don’t complain as much as English people do. I mean one of the most popular Kiwi expressions is ‘she’ll be right’, which means ‘no worries’. Notice that it’s not a popular English expression.

Kiwis are descended from hardy frontier folk who didn’t have the luxury of complaining. They just had to get on with it. No wonder English people seem particularly whiny to New Zealanders.

excalibur-145647_640Also, it’s important for New Zealanders to feel superior to the English sometimes. England has often made New Zealanders feel inferior in a ‘you should be grateful to us for being descended from/civilised by us, but you’re only ignorant colonials’ kind of way. I once called someone an ‘ignorant colonial’ and ‘uncultured barbarian’ because they admitted to never having seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Needless to say I corrected this oversight and they were more than grateful for it.

So, if you’re English, don’t be get all offended by the term ‘whinging pom’. There’s no need. As stereotypes go, it’s pretty fair. Besides, getting offended by it only serves to perpetuate it. Chill out, mate. She’ll be right.

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Find out more about Kiwi attitudes in Kiwis, Kiwis and Kiwis: The People of New Zealand

Raglan on a Winter’s Day

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Raglan is one of the most famous holiday destinations in New Zealand and one of the best surfing spots in the world. It’s surprising, therefore, that I’d never been until last week weekend!

It was a wintery day – not raining, but with a cold light and a cold wind. On our way to Raglan, we stopped at the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls. We had a picnic with us, but waited to eat it until we’d got to Raglan.

Raglan turned out to be a charming town, full of nice, slightly different shops. There were crafts and antiques and souvenirs and clothes – and lots of places to get fush ’n’ chups! The air smelled so tantalising! Naturally, there were heaps of surfing-relating shops, but there was also a lovely little shop with this display in the window:

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And even the poles down the streets were decorated:

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We came to the conclusion that it would be a great place to spend a week if you were after a quieter sort of holiday, or looking for some artsy items with which to furnish your house. Or you if you were mad on surfing, of course.

And the surfing!

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Despite it being such a cold day, there were lots and lots of surfers. We ended up having our picnic at Whale Bay, a rocky beach with spectacular waves. I’d never seen waves like them! Watching the surfers go was fascinating.

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Journey Around New Zealand

Bridal Veil Falls

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Bridal Veil Falls has to be one of the most photogenic places in New Zealand. I went for the first time last weekend and I didn’t get a single bad picture. Choosing which photographs to use for this post was no mean feat!

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Bridal Veil Falls are located at the end of a very short bush walk near Raglan, just forty minute’s drive from Hamilton. The bush walk comes out at the top of the falls. If you want to see the view from the bottom, which you do, that means a lot of steps to conquer! But it’s not too strenuous.

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There are a lot of nice waterfalls in New Zealand. This is one of the best. If you’re going to be travelling anywhere around Waikato, Bridal Veil Falls is well worth the detour. It’s obviously popular with tourists – I heard a lot of English accents on our brief excursion!

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It wasn’t crowded, though. I suppose this is due to the fact that New Zealand is currently in the grasp of winter. The fact that it was winter, however, did nothing to diminish the experience. In fact, I’m incredibly glad it was winter – all those steps in summer would have been torture!

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Though I’m sure the pool at the base of the falls would look very inviting come summer, you’re not allowed to swim there. The quality of the water is too unhealthy, having flowed through prime Waikato farmland to reach its destination.

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Bridal Veil Falls are 55m high. They’re known in Māori as Wairēinga, or Water of the Underworld. They were quite amazing to watch from the bottom. The force with which the water hit the basin below was surprising, creating a great, white mist and waves that rippled continuously towards us.

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Bridal Veil Falls isn’t a daytrip – it’s barely an hour, really. There are, however, other nice places to go nearby. Whale Bay, for example, is a rocky beach with incredible waves. One look was enough to see why Raglan is famous for surfing, and Raglan town itself is lovely.

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Why I Love New Zealand

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It’s easy for a young person to feel suffocated in New Zealand. I, like so many before me, couldn’t wait to get out and see the rest of the world. I spent three months travelling through eight different countries last year. Yes, it was exhausting and yes, we really needed more time in each place, but it was exactly the breath of fresh air I needed. By the end of it, I had a new appreciation for New Zealand; a new understanding of why I love it so much.

Here are just 10 reasons why I love New Zealand:

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1) It’s relatively safe.

New Zealand came in third on the latest Global Peace Index, after Iceland and Denmark. Also, you don’t have to worry about pickpockets, which was a relief after travelling through Europe.

2) It’s relatively uncorrupt.

New Zealand came in second on the latest Corruption Perceptions Index, after Denmark. Yes, some of our politicians might occasionally get involved in something ‘dirty’, but – face it – you’re not in danger of having your family shot if you speak out against them.

3) It’s relatively uncrowded.

New Zealand has a population density of just 17 per square kilometre – compare that with the UK’s 257, or Germany’s 235. It was actually a relief to get back here after being in Europe; relaxing not to have to queue for ages everywhere, or fight through traffic.

4) It’s got EFTPOS.

For me, Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale was something I never thought about until I missed it. Most people in New Zealand use it as a matter of course; we have become a population unused to carrying cash around, which, thinking about it, is probably why we don’t tip.

5) It’s got grass verges.

My family all come from the sort of working-class, Victorian-built areas of England that have narrow pavements crammed between brick houses and grey roads, with no sign of greenery to be had. That’s only romantically nostalgic up to a certain point.

6) It’s unpretentious.

You may remember – or not, seeing as it was over thirteen years ago – that New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Helen Clark, was treated rather rudely by the British media for daring to wear trousers to a state dinner in honour of Queen Elizabeth II.  This miffed me somewhat, even though I am British and don’t at all mind the royals. Seriously, anyone who thinks like that can f**k off. I love that New Zealanders aren’t snobs.

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7) It’s laidback.

New Zealanders live life at a peaceful pace. There are fewer “jobsworths” here.

8) It’s got a temperate climate.

New Zealand is neither too hot nor too cold. It’s got less of the miserable, chilling sort of rain than the UK, but still enough rain to keep it green. It’s a climate that smiles on the great outdoors.

9) It’s got bloody good food.

I still thought this after eating the best pizza of my life in a small family restaurant in Tivoli, near Rome. What’s so great about New Zealand’s food is it’s an absolute fusion of European, Maori and Asian cuisine, with the freshest of seafood and the finest of wine thrown in.

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10) It’s got an astonishing amount – not to mention an amazing range – of incredibly beautiful scenery for such a small country.

“Is it true that in New Zealand you can go skiing in the mountains and swimming at the beach in the same day?” a guy in Germany asked us. Why, I suppose it is.

The Middle Ages Come to Hamilton

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Hamilton may be the City of the Future, but that doesn’t stop it celebrating the past. The Waikato Waldorf School’s annual Medieval Carnival is set to become a destination event, attracting people from all over New Zealand. I went to this year’s carnival and, for a school fair, it was very impressive.

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The banners and painted stone walls at the entrance stood as testament to how much effort had gone into the event. There were so many people in costume – and not just the kids. I was surprised at how big it was.

MedievalCarnival2There was a craft market, wooden horse jousting, sword whittling, crystal panning, fishing, archery, a re-enactors encampment, a blacksmith’s, a combat ring and so much more – including a display of Roman soldiers (accidentally wandered in through a time portal, perhaps?) and proper jousting.

MedievalCarnival4The whole thing was great fun, and it’s supposed to be even bigger and better next year. So grab your cloak, dust off your gauntlets and head to Hamilton. The Medieval Carnival is free to attend, but it is a school fundraiser, so don’t be stingy.

MedievalCarnival3To see what events are on in Hamilton, go to visithamilton.co.nz