Dining News

I thought I should give you an update on our plans.  You may have noticed that we are heading towards the finish line of the 101 in Encinitas.  A couple of things going on:

1.) We made a last minute decision to skip Lofty Coffee East last weekend since I have already blogged Lofty Coffee West and it’s the same thing.

2.) When we started this endeavour, we started it on the west corner of Leucadia Blvd. and the 101.  That was WRONG!  We should have started it further north at La Costa Blvd.  In order to do a complete loop that encompasses all of the 101 in Encinitas, we will continue on from where we are going north, cross over to the west side at La Costa and then head back to Leucadia Blvd. where we started.

3.)  Then we’re done, right?  Not so fast.  Plenty of new places have opened up since we started so we will do a “101 Clean Up” to hit all of these restaurants, still in order, until we have looped back around again.  And if need be, we will do that again.  And again.  This may end up being the Golden Gate Bridge of Encinitas, where as soon as we finish, it’s time to get the new places again.  But once we really get a leg up on that, we will officially be done with Encinitas.

4.) The option now is to finish the blog Dining on the 101, Or, continue on!  This project has just been too much fun and we don’t want to stop.  So after Encinitas, we plan to head up the 101 to Carlsbad, then all the way to Oceanside.  There’s really no end in sight!

So that’s the news!  Please join us this Sunday March 31st at 6:30pm to try a new restaurant in town called Chiko– Chinese+ Korean = Chiko

Thanks for reading, sharing the blog and for all of your supportive comments.  I know not everyone agrees with my reviews, but I hope I’ve contributed to eating out more at our wonderful local establishments.  We have some great places, don’t we?

Leucadia Pizzeria Italian Restaurant

Leucadia Pizzeria

Review #76

I don’t think it’s possible to live in San Diego and not know about Leucadia Pizza.  They send coupons out in all the local mailers, support numerous local community events and have drivers everywhere at all times.  In fact, I bet these delivery cars are just driving around town doing marketing as much as they are delivering pies.

Leucadia P cars

Leucadia P car

A few small wonky details set us on our “off night”.  Their website under “About Us” says they have three locations, but under “Locations” it lists six.  None, ironically, are located in Leucadia.  When I called ahead of time to make a reservation for 13, I was asked if I wanted to sit inside or outside.  I have been there before.  There is no outside seating.  Weird.  We all arrived promptly at 6:00 and had a long table set up for us.  They brought out garlic bread right away.  Nice touch!

Leucadia P garlic bread

Unfortunately, the bread was drowning in butter and very sweet.  I didn’t care for it at all, but our group gobbled it up.  We were all hungry.

Bottomless Pit noticed that not all menus were the same.  Some had menu items listed on them that others didn’t.  Kind of weird to not have uniform menus, right?  We put in our order for drinks, some salads, a few pastas and some pizzas.

Our water and beers arrived promptly and as the sun was starting to set, we enjoyed this spacious, comfortable restaurant with beautiful ocean and sunset views.

After a while some of the food arrived.  Oldest and Girlfriend ordered the Santa Fe Chicken Pasta.  I took a bite and almost burned off my tongue. Spicy! Luckily those two didn’t have a problem with it.  I was surprised to taste something that hot without being advertised as spicy on the menu.  I would  have sent it back.

Leucadia P pasta

We ordered a full Greek Style Salad for the table to have with our pizzas.  The salad arrived, but no pizzas.  Here is the description of the Greek Salad:

Greek Style Salad

$8.49/Half
$13.19/Full
Mixed greens with sweet bell peppers, Greek olives, feta cheese, pepperoncinis, and sun-dried tomatoes. Served with a lemon-herb dressing
But what we got was a spinach salad, NO mixed greens and No feta.  This is nothing like a Greek salad.  And is this seriously a “full” size?  Wow.
Leucadia P greek
We happened to have a very distinguished food critic with us tonight with the most discerning palate.  Luckily the Mac-N-Cheese passed Lily’s scrutiny.
Leucadia P Mac

Dee ordered the salmon which is a nice choice if you are dairy-free or just don’t want pizza for some reason.  Which I can’t imagine.  She said it was very good.

Leucadia P salmon

So you might think that our pizzas were coming soon, but oh, you would be wrong.  As everyone finished their entrees and we ate our Not-At-All-Greek-Salad, our waitress came to clear plates.

“Anything else I can get you guys?” she asked as if we were finished.

“Just waiting on those three large pizzas” I reminded her.

“Yep, just clearing out some space for them.” But it sure did seem strange that half our group who ordered entrees were finished, and our salad that I thought we would have with the pizzas was gone too.  This would have been a good time for her to actually check on those pizzas, no?

Now it was 7:15, we had been here since 6:00.  Hubby got up to go and ask where our pizzas were.  It wasn’t that crowded, and no other wait staff had been over to check on us for a very long time.  Hubby came back red in the face.

“Well, there’s no good news and the bad news is that no one ever put in our pizza order.  Do we want to leave or wait?”

We were all really hungry and didn’t see the point in going somewhere else now so we had them start our pizzas.  But half our group couldn’t wait.  They were mostly the ones who ordered pastas and salad so they paid for these and left.  I sent my boys with Girlfriend home in an Uber.

“At least the dinner will be comped” someone said bitterly.

The manager came over to our table overflowing with apologies and excuses.

“I would like to offer you half off of your meal tonight to make up for your wait.  Is there anything else I can do for you?” She asked apologetically.

“Actually there is.  You can also comp the other half.” said Rich.

“We’ve been waiting for our dinner for almost two hours and half of our group left hungry.” I said less friendly than Rich.  The manager looked at our now half empty table.

“I see.  Let me comp your entire dinner except for the beers.  I can’t comp alcohol by law.” We accepted.

We waited hungrily but we had our beers and were all happy to be in good company.  And our time wasn’t wasted because I learned something very important that I never knew before.  Did you know that squeezing your sphincter muscles can calm you down?  I know, how did the conversation just go there, right?  I mean, I can’t even remember ever having a conversation about my sphincter.  And at the dinner table?  I will admit that this is an area that gets very little mental or verbal attention.  Here’s how it went down:

I was asked how my flights were to and from my recent trip to New Zealand.  I commented on how much turbulence there was.  Dee, a very knowledgeable yoga instructor, explained that clenching one’s sphincter helps combat the feeling of falling when there is turbulence.  Who knew?  Then Minnie piped in that awhile back when she was having episodes of heart palpitations, her doctor recommended sphincter clenching as well!  Dee said that every part of our body needs to be acknowledged and loved.  So although kegeling may be for women only, sphincter clenching is for everyone.  Admit it, you’re doing it right now!

I glanced over to the men’s side of the table and was fairly certain that they were not talking about sphincter clenching.  I was glad the boys and Girlfriend weren’t here for this conversation.  They would have been mortified.

It still took 35 minutes to get our pizzas, but when they arrived, they were piping hot and delicious!

Leucadia P bbq
BBQ Chicken
Leucadia P delux
The Delux
Leucadia P veg
The Vegetarian

My only complaint on the pizza is that the crust is really sweet.  The BBQ Chicken Pizza had very sweet BBQ sauce, and the sweet on sweet wasn’t for me.  But everything else about the pizzas were terrific.  They were cheesy and loaded with fresh toppings.

Bottom Line:

Leucadia Pizza does 60% of their business through delivery and this is where they shine.  They knock it out of the park by having tons of drivers and valuable coupons which makes pizza delivery quick and affordable.  I don’t love the sweet crust, but that’s a taste preference.  Most people I know really love their pizzas.  And they deliver right to Moonlight Beach!  We have had exchange students from both Spain and Israel, and they were blown away to have pizza delivered to the sand.  It’s cool.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again.  It’s not about having the perfect meal or perfect service.  It’s about how you handle things when something is “off”.  Even though someone forgot to put in our pizza orders, had the wait staff done a better job checking on our large group, it could have been caught faster.  But “Thank You” to the new manager (only been there one month) who felt terrible about our experience and ultimately did the right thing by comping our pizzas.

But my God Man!  Pull yourself together Leucadia Pizzeria!  You have been a pillar in the community for over 40 years, now act like it!  Update your website.  Have menu conformity.  Greekify your Greek Salad.  Train your staff.  Breath.  Clench!


Join us Saturday morning, March 23rd at 9am at

Lofty Coffee EAST

https://loftycoffee.com/

Maurizio Trattoria Italiana

Maurizios signReview #75

Maurizio Trattoria Italiana is the story of a young Italian boy coming to The States to learn English and live out The American Dream.  Maurizio Carbone started working with the Vigilucci Restaurant Group in the kitchen at the Cardiff location.  He worked his way up the ranks through the various restaurants from busboy, Maitre D’ to general manager.  He was able to fulfill his lifelong dream of owning his own restaurant with the help from Roberto Vigilucci and good friends by converting the Encinitas Vigilucci to his own, now Maurizio’s.   A dream was realized through hard work, good people and a bit of luck.  I already loved Maurizio’s before I ever took my first bite of food.

On the night we went, all of our faithful Dining on the 101 followers scattered.  I don’t know if it was just a busy night, the scary prices on the menu, or the fact that the tables had actual white table cloths, which is a deal breaker for some.  Regardless, it turned out that Hubby and I were on a long over-do romantic dinner for due (that’s “two” for you estraneo).

I made a reservation ahead of time to ensure a good table and put on a little make-up.  Hubby wore jeans (That’s dressing up for Hubby,  he’s a programmer.  He wears shorts everyday to work. ) I was steppin’ out with my man!

The restaurant was hopping.  We were shown to our table along the far wall and took in the lively crowd and the delicious aroma of garlic wafting into the dining room from the kitchen.  As I looked around the restaurant I soon realized that this very lively crowd all knew each other.  And if they didn’t, they were walking around to each others’ tables introducing themselves to one another.  But no one came over to ours.  I felt left out.  Clearly this was some or other private party having an event, and we were sitting on the side lines.  Awkward.

For starters, Hubs and I ordered the CALAMARI ELENA for $13.95 “Baby calamari sautéed with garlic and white wine in a spicy marinara sauce.”  It was a nice portion of calamari to share, but I wasn’t a fan of the breading.  Also, what they call “spicy marinara” was really just very bland tomato sauce.   My favorite calamari in the whole world is across the 101 at Q’ero.  In fact, this calamari was such a miss I feel the need to make up for it by going to Q’ero later this week for theirs.  This will make the world right again.  That’s not to say that this dish was bad, trust me, there wasn’t a tentacle left when we finished.

Maurrizios calamarie

For our meal we shared:

PAPPARDELLE CON FUNGHI PORCINI E CAPESANTE
$26.95
Homemade wide ribbon pasta with assorted field mushrooms and pan-seared jumbo scallops in a white truffle and brandy cream sauce.
They were kind enough to split the plate for us.   This is an extremely rich dish, but also very delicious.  There’s just something about thick ribbons of homemade pasta, am I right?  And I’m always a sucker for scallops.
Maurizzios pasta
In fact, all of their pastas and gnocchi are homemade here, I am sure this is where they shine.  Unfortunately, we just didn’t have enough people with us to try more dishes.
The private party that we were crashing was winding down as we were finishing up.  I told Hubby we should just get up and start introducing ourselves around like everyone else was doing.  When in Rome…but just as I was doing so, they all started leaving at once.  “I’ll save you a seat” I heard more than one person say.  A seat for what?  I wondered.
“Come on, let’s follow them!” and I grabbed Hubby’s hand before he could say no.  The crowd walked across the street to La Paloma Theater and they all went inside.  There was a man standing out front.
“Excuse me sir.  Can you please tell us what is going on tonight?” I inquired.
“Yes, there is a private screening to a new movie coming out.” he answered.
A movie is perfect.  Hubby had to get home for a conference call, but I had nothing to do and a movie sounded like just the right thing for me.
“Can I please see it?” I asked.
“Sorry, this is a VIP screening for those on The List.”
“Can you tell us what the movie is about?” I asked, not at all discouraged. I knew I would get in.
“It’s a very powerful and controversial film that is going to make huge waves nation wide.  My wife stars in it.” he said.
“Wow, it sounds incredible.  Are you sure there’s no way I can come in?  Just me?” With a little eyelash bat bat.
“NO” said Mr. Movie Gestapo Man.
So we continued on our walk down the street.  On our return trip back, that guy was gone and a new man was about to walk in.  I recognized him from dinner.
“Excuse me sir, would you mind terribly if I accompanied you into the premiere?” I asked.
“Sure, ok” he said.
“SEE YA!” I yelled to Hubby as I practically ran inside before anyone could turn me away.
“How will you get home?” Hubby asked.
“Uber” I yelled as I closed the theater doors behind me.  Score!  I was in and quite proud of myself I might add.
I found a seat on the aisle and settled in smugly to watch my VIP PREMIERE movie that wasn’t even out yet.
“Excuse me” the gentleman was back who was my “date”.  “Hey, I don’t really know you and I want to trust you, please don’t pirate anything you see tonight.  Some of the footage shown here won’t be out on the big screen, and what you see here needs to stay here until the actual release date of March 30th.”
“No problem.” I told him.
“And one more thing.  This movie is going to be very graphic.  It’s rated ‘R'”
“That’s fine, I’m a big girl.” I reassured him.
A few minutes later the producer of the film got on stage and thanked everyone for coming.
“The movie you are about to watch is called “Unplanned”  How many people here are pro-life?”  ALL hands raised.
“How many people here love Jesus Christ?”  ALL hands raised.
“You are about to watch an incredible true story about the evils of Planned Parenthood.  Prepare yourselves for some very graphic scenes.  Let us all pray.”  THIS GIRL IS OUT OF HERE- EXIT STAGE LEFT!
Hubby was upset that I didn’t stay to watch it.  Even if my views are different, he felt I should have stayed to see another side.  My point is this.  I just enjoyed a delicious Italian meal with the love of my life.  A graphic movie on abortion was NOT the after dinner mint I was hoping for.  I Ubered home to watch something equally controversial, but slightly more benign:  The Bachelor.
Bottom Line:
Our romantic date night here was kind of ruined by the large private party happening at the same time.  If they had only sat us outside, it would have worked out much better.  I’m sure this is an unusual thing to happen, but it was our experience.  Even though the calamari wasn’t special, our main meal was.  I would definitely give Maurizio’s another try.  I’m a sucker for homemade pasta.  I just don’t like it with a side of graphic abortion footage.

Join us next Sunday, March 17th at 6pm at

Leucadia Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant

The End

During one of our pit stops in a slightly bigger town than most (two pubs not just one) I had the most peculiar bathroom experience I’ve ever had.  It was a “Smart” bathroom.  I entered and then tried to lock the door.  An automated voice came on saying “To lock the door, press the button.”  The only button I saw was this big green one, but when I pressed it, the toilet flushed and the door remained unlocked.  I pressed the button again and again, flush flush flush.  I started pressing everything I could find, but nothing worked.  Finally the automated voice came on again and said, “I’m not feeling so well.  How about you?”  WTH???  Finally after a really long time, I popped my head outside and asked the next person to watch the door for me as I could not lock it.  But I certainly knew how to flush the toilet really well.IMG_0316


 

It’s our last day.  I walked outside our farmhouse into the brisk morning air to grab the last pictures of Mt. Cook as the sun was coming up.  Spectacular.

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FYI: Trying not to scratch my still very present sand fly bites, thanks for asking!  Will these things ever go away?  And how come Hubby didn’t get a single one?

I laughed as I packed up my things that included the three decks of playing cards I brought so I could teach everyone Consecutive Gin Rummy during some down time on this trip.  If we weren’t driving, we were hiking.  If we weren’t hiking, we were eating.  If we weren’t eating, we were sleeping.  We played zero minutes of cards on this trip.

Random thought:  I was in the friggin’ Tasman Sea on Milford Sound!  Cool!!

This trip has been two weeks of just showing up.  All meals have been beautiful prepared, served and cleaned up for us.  Heaven.  We get on Ernie and are taken to whatever beautiful place is next and then we are told what to hike before we pile back on Ernie to do it again somewhere else.  We are told what time to show up for dinner, which room our bags are in and what time to be at breakfast.  I haven’t worn a stitch of makeup or used a hair dryer in over two weeks.  We have had every single decision made for us for 14 days and it’s been awesome.

Our last Laura-Breakfast was salmon eggs benedict with a chipotle cream sauce.  Of course it was.  Everyone was quiet and in deep thought.

Borut sat staring blankly into his breakfast, “I’m not going to know what to do.  I’m going to get home, wake up in the morning, come downstairs, and wait for something to show up for breakfast.  Nothing is going to show up.  No coffee with sugar.  Nothing to eat.  My wife will tell me to get off my ass and make something myself.”

I said, “I’m not going to know how to start my day.  Who’s going to tell me what to do?  I’ll be sitting around for hours waiting to hear which hike to prepare for.  Who’s going to do ALL THE DISHES?” Then a horrible thought crossed my mind.  When I get home, I’m the Laura.  And I am in no way ready to be The Laura!  Nooo!  Not yet!!!!

Oh, by the way, did you know that Duck Herding is a thing in England that people pay a shit ton of money to do?  People pay thousands of dollars to take brooms and herd ducks.  I didn’t believe it either, but Borut was right.  Here it is:  Duck Herding is legit

So what was the best thing I ate on this trip?  That would have to be Borut’s mussels (Instance #6042 when spelling is so important) Best dessert was Laura’s Sticky Date Pudding.  The weirdest thing I ate was Linda’s Veal Cutlet that wasn’t veal.  Which did included every single thing from yesterday’s left-overs to Kellen’s missing rain jacket:

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If you come to the South Island, you will understand why New Zealanders are referred to the friendliest people on earth.  It’s totally true. Every single person here, even those working the most mundane jobs, are downright jolly.   There is only one mean person on this entire island: The Gravel Monster.  You will recognize him if you see him.  I’ve decided I’m going to take some of this New Zealand friendliness back home with me and leave a bit of my California Bitch here.  But not too much, ’cause I still gotta be me.

I’m ashamed to admit that I had expected at least one male guide when we signed up for this rugged trip.  Shame on me.  New Zealand women are the strongest, most capable people I know.  At the end of some days Tess and Laura would shout out, “Who needs some help with their bags?” and everyone in our group would raise their hand, including the guys.  We would all be exhausted.  “If my wife saw this, she would absolutely kick my ass. ” said a defeated Borut as Tess and Laura would haul like 4 suitcases each out of Ernie then run them up a hill to our rooms.  But man or woman isn’t the point.  These people are bred from different material.  They are doers.  They are backpackers and mountaineers.   And they are impressive as hell.

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Chef Laura
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Captain Tess

If you are looking to have an amazing experience like we did, please don’t hesitate to use Active Adventures.  I wish there were more stars on Yelp for the review I will write.  We did the New Zealand South Island Rimu trip, but I hear they are all excellent.

Here’s the link:  Active Adventures

With all of the time we had in Ernie, I was constantly blown away by my boys’ deeply intellectual conversations on science, philosophy and politics.  They would discuss physics, space and geeky technical stuff that I had not one single thing to contribute towards.  When asked my opinion, which wasn’t often, I was a deer sheep caught in the headlights.  My kids and husband are freaking brilliant human beings.  But you know who the reigning champion is in the game GHOST?  That’s all ME!

As we neared the airport Ernie blasted, “Leaving on a Jet Plane”.  The situation is already sad enough, for the love of God don’t play that song now!  I’m only human.  I lost it.

The world sees us as they want to see us-in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions.  But what we found out is that each one of us is so much more than just a programmer, a sarcastic genius, a scuba diver, a terrorist-looking finance guy, a granny, a mother/blogger, two snotty teenaged boys, two beautiful kiwi guides, and a mere bus pulling a green trailer.  We are New Zealand Tramping Warriors.  And we are family.


New words:

A “cracker day” is a good day

jafa- Just Another Fucking Aucklander

The Big Wrap Up – Part 1

Haven’t had any time to blog since Queenstown, so I’m going to try to do a big push to the finish.  As I remember things at random, I’m going to just plop them into the blog out of order so I don’t forget.

For instance the rugby team is called The All Blacks.  So seeing a sign at the airport that says, “All Blacks This Way” is a bit shocking for us visitors.

Every morning we wake up and meet for breakfast at the time and location Tess has told us the previous night.  As soon as we walk into said space, we are handed our hot drink of choice which she has memorized.  For Borut it’s coffee with one teaspoon of sugar.  For me it’s green tea.  But one time it was too hot so I asked for some milk and I about blew her brain.

“You don’t really put milk in your green tea do you?” she asked horrified.

“Sure, like a green tea latte” I told her.

“Nope, I just can’t help you.  That’s wrong on every level.  Milk and green tea can not mix.  Here’s some cold water to cool it down,” she offered.

“No, really, I like it with milk.”

She was thoroughly mortified that I would actually drink green tea with milk, so for the rest of the trip I did it just to get a rise out of her.  Then when she saw all three of my men eat their cereal dry, never with milk, she thought we were completely nutzo.

Back to Milford Sound.  Did I mention how stunning our rooms were?  I think I did but I must repeat it because it might be the nicest place I have ever stayed.  And the over-water bungalows Steve and I stayed in on our Tahitian honeymoon were insane.  We actually fed fish on the reef from our bed.  Ok, so The Milford Lodge is second best because we didn’t feed any animals from bed.

Today was a 3-hour kayak on The Milford Sound.  I did not want to miss out but the thought of my back in those sea kayaks again was just awful.  But I hate missing out more than I hate pain, so I was going for it.  We bundled up because it was cold, and I mean ARCTIC FREEZE YOUR FACE OFF COLD!!!  We got down to shore and Kellen announced that his stomach still wasn’t good and he couldn’t handle the kayak.  Tess told us that there was an option to go on a Milford Sound cruise for the same amount of time.  So my choice was a horribly painful kayak with a miserable kid, or the two of us on a luxury cruise seeing the same sights.  Hmmmm.  Off to cruise we go!

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There were keas in the kayak area.  Kea are endangered mountain parrots, so seeing them here was amazing.  These guys were not scared of humans at all and found Ernie quite tasty.  They landed on him and started gnawing at wires.  Hopefully not the brakes because we have a huge mountain pass to drive over later today.  Seeing these keas was Kellen’s favorite part of the trip.

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IMG_0557The Milford Sound is so amazing, no words needed.  Just some pictures to blow your mind:

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Can you see the crazy person repelling this?

 

Marleen decided to take a helicopter ride to land on a glacier and would meet us part way down the mountain at the heli-port.  Tess carefully pulled Ernie into the gravel drive when very large, scary man started yelling at us that we can’t park here and to get out now!  Tess and Laura couldn’t believe it.  I mean to the rest of us, it was a normal a-hole telling us what we can’t do.  But here in New Zealand, there are no mean people.  Except one and we found him.  We called him The Gravel Monster.

Kellen was feeling all better at this point.  After a delicious Laura-Meal of vegetarian chili,  it was time to hit the road again for another long drive to do a hike on The Kepler Track.  How long was the drive?  Kellen taught himself how to recite the alphabet backwards.  Ask him next time you see him, it’s incredible.

Since I may not have had the same workout sitting on the cruise all morning while the rest of the group kayaked, I needed to hit this track hard and I was ready.  Tess told us all to use the bathroom at the start because there were none out on this 6+ mile track.  The track was stunning, and I started at a good pace.  I felt strong.  But after about 20 minutes in I felt a rumble in my stomach, and not because I was hungry.  It was the chili.  Oh dear God.  I walked faster.  I bet if I do this hike as fast as I can, I can make it.  So I put her in 5th gear and passed everyone.  I was sweating like no tomorrow.  “You go girl!” DC Laura yelled to me.  Oh going wasn’t my problem.  For the love of God I needed to NOT go!  I’m not a religious woman, but I prayed to God, Jesus, Allah and The Flying Spaghetti Monster to just let me make it back unscathed.  Oh PLEASE!! I think I made it half way around when I realized I had two choices.  The first was to make like the bears do in the woods.  The second was unfathomable.  I am mortified absolutely mortified that I am writing it all out right now for the world to see.  I would have sworn I was taking this to my grave.  No picture to share here.

“Great hike!” Everyone congratulated me at the end.

“Kori, you kicked ass!” said Marleen.  And now they all know why.


Here is a better picture of a weka, or “Weird Chicken Bird-Thing” as we call them.

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The next day was driving back to Queenstown and stopping by The Bungee Bridge.  Everyone was tired and most were snoozing when Tess woke us up to experience a New Zealand traffic jam.  We have had zero traffic anywhere on these remote roads.  What we saw was a sea of sheep.  And then up ahead, another sea of sheep.  When we got closer a man was standing there waving at us to just drive right through them!

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A truck was driving towards us on the wrong side of the street with herding dogs in the back of the pick-up. They were herding these sheep by truck.  Back and forth they drove yelling and hollering at the sheep who were running and bleeting like crazy.  Sheep can actually jump really high and run very fast.  I was hysterical.  Like pee-my-pants-laughing.

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I watched the last sheep in the flock breathing hard, trying to keep up.  Poor girl, I get you.

Here’s the bungee bridge.

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Here’s Griffin jumping off the bungee bridge.

This is where DC, now COUSIN Laura parts from our group.  She actually stayed on days longer than she planned because we were having so much fun together.  She turned into Cousin Laura because she’s this totally playful yet brilliant cousin-type of friend who we all instantly bonded with.  She totally fit in with all of the technical, sciency, nerdy discussions on Ernie that I was bored to tears with.  This girl can hold her own with the geeks like no other.  She’s awesome.

The plan was to hike over to a winery before another long drive.  But now my legs were fried again.  I had completely burned out everything from quads through calves yesterday and was back to hobbling like an old lady again.

Getting back on Ernie felt weird this time.  There was a hole.  Our family wasn’t complete anymore and it was sad.

Next stop:  Mount Cook

The drive was long but we took breaks at random places like here:

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I did feed the salmon and I had more fun than anyone else doing it!

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The only thing better than feeding the salmon is eating the salmon and we were all thrilled when we noticed Laura trying to sneak a large package out of there into Kermit’s cooler.

We were headed to a place called “Braemar Station” which is a working sheep, deer and cattle farm.  Other than that, we didn’t know what to expect.  So when we arrived at the communal farmhouse located in the center of paradise, we were speechless.  These are the pictures taken out front of our farmhouse.  Mt. Cook couldn’t be more breathtaking.

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We drank NZ wine and ate Laura’s garlic buttered Green-Lipped Mussels out here.  Nothing is more perfect.

The next day was Laura’s birthday and Tess decorated Ernie appropriately.  Coolest party bus ever!

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The choice today, and thank goodness there was one, was a brutal hike straight up Mt. Cook 3400 ft or a 9 mile undulating hike around Mt. Cook by the river.  Rich and I choose the river.  It was the 2200 stairs going down that would do both of us in for sure if we chose the other one!  The birthday girl came with us and Tess took up The Crazies.  It was a really hot day, but we had a wonderful hike with a delicious picnic lunch half way through.  We had an hour to kill when we were done so we did it at a beautiful hotel with cold beers and WiFi.  Ahhh!

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Drink up birthday girl!
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Waiting for them at the end with these squalid conditions and horrific views

 

The group eventually made it back and from the sound of things, I know I made the right choice for me.  They are rock stars though for sure!

Dinner was Laura’s salmon with two beautiful green salads.  For dessert, Tess made Laura a birthday cake.  If you could see how meticulous and professional all of Laura’s desserts look, you would know how funny Tess’s cake looked in comparison!  But trust me, it was devoured without complaints.
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We went around the room taking turns sharing each of our favorite moments, places we stayed and foods we ate over the last two weeks.  This is the end, tomorrow morning we leave this magnificent piece of Earth.

 

 

Rainbows, Elves and Leg Fairies

**IPhone blogging here. Spelling/grammar mistakes. To be read at your own risk.

We woke up to rain this morning in our plush hotel in Queenstown. Man have we been lucky with weather so far. If this rain were here just yesterday we wouldn’t have been able to go on the quads. That’s luck.

After an early breakfast we piled into Ernie for a long drive. “How long?” Asked Kellen.

“Yep, a long one” answered Tess in true Tess form. If the answer isn’t “just 20 minutes” then it’s something totally noncommittal . The only other answer we get to questions is “undulating”.

Normally I can’t stand long drives. I want to get to my destination in the quickest time possible no matter what. But it’s different here. We are constantly surrounded by beauty. Plus Ernie makes lots of pit stops in cute little towns for us to use the loo and stretch our legs. It really breaks up the long drives.

After a while (20 minutes?) the rain let up for a bit and the most spectacular rainbow appeared in full form. But the most incredible thing happened. We found the end of it! Who ever truly finds the end of a rainbow, pot of gold and all? We did! (Photo taken after we collected the pot.)

Driving into the Fiordland National Park is just insane. There are massive mountains of granite slabs on either side of the road and due to all the rain, literally hundreds of waterfalls everywhere you look.

We drove through this really long, dark, craggy tunnel while Ernie blasted music from Lord of the Rings. It was PERFECT.

Our first stop was to do a short walk around Mirror Lakes. It was rainy but didn’t matter. In fact, the clouds and water gave it a mystical vibe.

The big hike up the Routeburn Track was next. This is the one I had been nervous about. But a miracle happened. The leg fairy came last night and brought me new ones. I had put my old worn out legs under my pillow and it really worked! I felt great!

Back on the bus Laura had us pick from a menu so our dinner could be preordered tonight. The quinoa salad sounded good but I never heard of halloumi cheese.

“Oh you know halloumi, it’s squeaky cheese”. Ah, clarity.

Next we drove a bit more and stopped at another spot to hike to another amazing waterfall. Every track we climb seems more enchanted than the next. It is no wonder “The Lord of the Rings” was filmed in New Zealand. I swear if I saw an elf come darting across the track, I wouldn’t even be that surprised.

When we finished we climbed into Ernie.

“Everyone here?” asked Tess.

“Yes!” we all answered, and off we went.

After just a minute or two Rich says in his most casual voice, “Sorry to interrupt but I have a quick question for you Tess.”

“Yes Rich, what is it?” said Tess.

“Where’s Borut?” and poor Ernie came to a screeching halt. We left Borut. Now the problem was that we were on a very narrow 2-lane road with no place to turn around. So Superhero-Laura (Guide) jumped out and ran back to the lot to collect Borut.

“I’m never going to be the last one back to Ernie” laughed Borut.

“Damn, I almost got my own room joked Rich”

“Borut, next time speak up if you’re not here, sheesh!” said Griffin.

Tess felt so bad but we all had to really rub it in because it was so funny.

The only unlucky thing today was that Kellen got a wonky stomach and spent our hikes resting in Ernie. He couldn’t eat anything so we knew it was pretty bad. This is not a kid who skips meals.

Lots of short stops for walks and pictures then over to the only accommodation in Milford Sound where travelers can stay: The Milford Lodge. We were expecting a no-frills backpacking lodge but this place is super nice. Every room has incredible views. I just wish we had a wee bit more time to enjoy it here. 6:30am we start tomorrow. I love these action packed filled days, this is totally my style. We can rest on the flight home.

New words:

Togs- bathing suit

Halloumi- squeaky cheese

Squeaky Cheese- has consistency of tofu, a bit salty, fries up firm- “DEE-licious”as Tess would say.

Our One Day Off

Queenstown has to be the cutest touristy town I have ever been in.  It’s super small but packed with tourists.  The darling little streets that don’t allow cars are filled with tables and chairs from all of the restaurants around.  It is absolutely charming.  Queenstown marks our half way point of this trip.

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Tess and Laura recommended we have breakfast at “Vudu”.  It was totally my kind of place.  I ordered a Tumeric Latte and a Superfood Power Bowl filled with spinach, beets and sweet potatoes.  Kellen’s french toast was a true piece of art, which he promptly inhaled.

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We spent the morning off-roading on quads and had a great time.  It was sooooo nice to have a motor to take me up the hills.  I soooo appreciated it!

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River boarding is rafting on a boogie board.  They had a great time, though Laura claims to have escaped the whole thing barely alive.  She marveled at Griffin’s fearlessness.  Which is just another way of saying, she is amazed that someone without any common sense or survival instinct is still alive.

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The only other thing worth mentioning about this glorious day off is that The Floof is no more.

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Big Floof
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Floofless

We literally spent the rest of the day doing nothing.  Just nothing.  I am saving my legs, praying that they will rejuvenate into new ones with just one day’s rest.  And if they are going to be new legs, can I have Guide Laura’s?  What if we trade legs, just for tomorrow’s hike?  I can unscrew mine, and screw on hers.  I promise to give them back after tomorrow.  I just have the feeling I am going to need a bit of help with The Routeburn Track.  It’s a doozy and we are forcasted for rain.