Well, we are back from our month-long journey and departure from Seattle and I will say that it is good to be home. I think you know that your vacation was just the right length when you are ready to get back home but feel like you didn’t have that many days that were wasted or were in excess. I will go into far greater depth about the itinerary and the things that we did while away but I thought I would start with a very brief overview of the two countries that we visited.
Tahiti is a part of the French Polynesian islands, Polynesian is a Greek word meaning “many islands”. The important thing to note is that these islands are French. Everyone speaks French, very little English is spoken by anyone, and many of the tourists are from France. This influences a lot of the food that you find in Tahiti, many things served with “frites”, omelets, classical cooking, au jus served with everything, but secondly the prices of things. Tahiti was quite expensive, especially when it comes to dining. Though I’m guessing this is attributed even more so being that it is an island country and everything is very expensive to import and they have limited land resources to grow your own food. The cheapest food we found was indeed seafood. The best meal of the entire trip (without a doubt) was the ceviche platter for two that we had on one of the beaches on New Years Day. We were also able to buy a great piece of mahi mahi from a fisherman stall for essentially $5.
The water in Tahiti is beautiful and warm. There are waves and a lot of surfers but those waves break on the reefs, quite a ways from shore, so the actual coastline is very calm. The weather is essentially mid 80s every single day and a little bit humid, though we learned that this is their “off-season” right now because of the higher humidity. The Polynesian people still really seem to be enjoying life. Tourism does not seem to have drastically changed their lifestyle, they still party until the morning and they spend most of their free time at the beach with family and friends. Motorcycles, or more like scooters, are the main source of transportation for people. The women were elaborate floral dresses while they are employed and they do wear flowers in their hair.
The New Zealand land is beautiful everywhere. There was not one single drive we went on that was not beautiful. The country is the size of Colorado but split into two islands and is long and narrow, so it takes about a day to get from the north point to the south point. The North Island is grazed pasture land. New Zealands two big industries, aside from tourism, are sheep farms and dairy farms, and these are everywhere in the rolling hills of the North Island. The North Island is also known more for its beaches, the West Coast being black sand beaches with surf and the East Coast being calmer waters with white sand. And we found their beaches to be better than any we say in Tahiti. New Zealand is all about its land and very little about its culture. It is a newer country with a shorter history so it revels in its waters, mountains, and land. Mammals are not native to New Zealand, the only animals that are native to New Zealand (besides fish) are birds. They call themselves Kiwis after the Kiwi bird. The land was also first discovered by the Polynesians, particularly the Mauri people, and are still well populated by those people (about 15%).
The South Island is rugged and, to most people, more beautiful. There are some huge mountain ranges, and these mountain ranges hug the coasts, leading to great contrasts in scenery. The middle area, latitudely speaking, is really well-known for its wines, most notably Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs. There are very few people on the South Island, actually Auckland has more people in the city than the entire South Island. Food and toiletry prices are again higher due to it being an island nation. You can find many of the big US brands in their stores but you can expect to pay at least twice as much as their own knockoff brands that are made on the islands. Their beer is weak, most are 4% or less which is a drastic change to a lot of the Northwest microbrews. But people still drink a lot.
New Zealand is highly influenced by the British. Their accent is somewhere between a British accent and an Australian accent. They are part of the British Commonwealth, drive on the lefthand side of the road, and all of their breakfasts are British Breakfasts (eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, black pudding, baked beans, roasted mushrooms and tomatoes). Several Brits moved there after the most recent recession in Britain came 5 years ago that caused 1 in 3 Brits to lose their jobs. Driving on the left side of the road and in the right side of the car was unusual at first but pretty easy to get used to. However, it was not easy to get used to the blinkers to be on the lefthand side of the steering wheel and there were many times that we had the windshield wipers going accidentally.
People are totally laid back and overall extremely friendly. People are also quite healthy looking and we saw nearly no overweight individuals while travelling. This might also be helped by the fact that soda pop is one of the most expensive things to buy in any of their stores and their large size would be about the size of kids cup in the States. Most people on New Zealand have not been to the States. Auckland is about to have a big housing crisis, with their homes nearing issues with affordability with most of the people who live there. We saw two black people while in New Zealand. There is definitely a lack of diversity, though there are many, many Asians and many Asian restaurants. Pedestrians never have the right away unless there is a cross walk, you better be looking both ways at all intersections. New Zealand really prides themselves over their coffee and rumor has it that Starbucks is soon going to add their drinks to all of their menus. People generally order a short black (espresso), long black (Americano), or flat white (latte) and they do not have drip coffee anywhere. Which means that they do not also refill your cup of coffee while you are dining in for breakfast (very similar to Spain in that regard). You do not tip, anywhere. Dining choices are more expensive than in the States, but that price already has factored in tax and tip so if something says it is $21, it will only be $21. Very convenient but that also means service is not top-notch.
Auckland is called the City of Sails because it has more boats (yachts and sailboats) per capita than anywhere else in the world. The sun is very strong throughout the entire country due to the location of the ozone hole. They do get American television in New Zealand but all shows are about a season behind the States. They are still up to date with pop music. You still cannot get Hulu or Netflix but rumor has it will be coming within the next year. New Zealands temperatures and humidity was about perfect.
I hope you enjoyed my brief synopsis of the two countries. Look out for my detailed recount of our full trip soon!