On the 7th of March, I flew from Thessaloniki to Istanbul and then Istanbul to Hong Kong, I wanted to break up the trip as I haven’t flown long haul in a while and I love Hong Kong city. I also wanted to be close to the train station and as central as possible to make the most of my time there, so I booked The Pottinger hotel
The hotel is located just off the main road 5 minuets walk from the Hong Kong central train station, which comes from the airport to the city at regular intervals, and cost 70 HK dollars per person, the trip from the airport takes around 25 minuets. I used the Wi-Fi in the airport to google maps my way from the central train station to the hotel and this made it super easy to find exactly where we needed to go.
From the outside, the hotel looks like a beautiful luxury boutique flower shop, because they have so many flowers in the front foyer, it’s a white marble style throughout and feels very feminine and luxurious. Stepping into our deluxe double room, I was impressed by the size and spaciousness; the bathroom was also fitted out in white marble and it also had a bathtub, nothing beats a hotel room with a bathtub, which strangely enough is extremely uncommon is Greece. the king size bed was deliciously soft, and there was also a sweet little day bed sofa, coffee table and chairs and of course a mini bar and kettle for making tea which I highly appreciated being a tea addict.
Exploring the area around the hotel was very easy as it ran parallel to the main street full of shops including Zara, Top Shop and the likes, and on the street above and parallel was lined with food places. The first night we hit Itacho sushi the food was so fresh, I was obsessed with the soft-shell crab dish and the tempura pumpkin and sweet potato, also the shrimp sushi roll was epic too. On the way home to the hotel, and across the from Itacha sushi was Lush Hk so I stopped in a bought a couple of bath bombs to use back at the hotel.
The next morning, we ate a complimentary breakfast buffet at the hotel, they had an amazing selectin of fresh fruit and eggs done as requested, with salmon or bacon, we followed this up with a coffee at their “roof top” bar/restaurant.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the city packing and checking out of our hotel, we made one final food stop at Dim Sum Icon this place was insane, so so cute, all the food had little caricatures on it, the prawn dumplings had little guys without pants painted onto them and all the food was super tasty.
Around and hour and a half before our flight we jumped on to the same train we had taken from the airport and made our way to out flight to New Zealand.
Hong Kong to Hawkes Bay – New Zealand
I can’t explain the feeling flying into Auckland city, I was not yet at my destination but just being in New Zealand brought so many memories flooding back. We had one more flight to catch until we arrived in Hawkes Bay, our first stop was to see one of the most special people in my life, Deborah, the wife of my dad. My dad grew up in Hawkes bay, New Zealand and its always been a special part of my life because of that. I lost my Dad in 2013 to cancer and we spent his last days in his home here so being able to go back there and spend time in his place was extremely special for me.
Arriving in Hastings airport was like taking a step back in time I had flown into this little place so many times and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face while I recalled so many funny memories here, it was a beautiful afternoon in the bay the typical New Zealand summers afternoon, the cicada’s calls welcomed me home.
The next days were spent with family and friends at my family home, Mana Lodge Estate in Poukawa. Hawkes bay is a beautiful part of New Zealand it’s a big agriculture hub so you will find amazing food wine and produce there. If you are visiting the area I would recommend going to check out the Black Barn market held on Saturday and Sunday at black barn vineyard in Havelock North, this is a great little spot to enjoy some great New Zealand produce. I hit the whitebait fritters and picked up some local vegetables from and organic farmers stall.
Afterwards we made the short walk over to the restaurant. Black Barn has some amazing wines and the food at their restaurant are like little plates of artwork. The outside seating is possibly one of the most beautiful spots in the bay, it’s a dappled courtyard covered overhead by vines, gives a secret garden vibe; the perfect setting for an afternoon of delight.
While I was, in Hawkes Bay the Matitini festival was also on, this is a Māori Kapa Haka competition that’s celebrated once every two years. As my mother is Māori she was also in the Bay for the festival so we decided to go and check it out for the day.
My partner is Greek and he has never seen or heard anything about New Zealand’s Māori culture before so it was a great experience for him, Māori is the one thing about New Zealand that Is completely unique and quite amazing to people from other parts of the world.
Obviously the performances were extremely powerful and filled with emotion, even though this festival is only on once every two years if you are planning a trip to new Zealand try and see and experience some Māori culture, you will find it nowhere else in the world.
Also, while in the Bay on my last day I linked up with Sam Carter an extremely gifted tattoo artist with the most stunning studio I think I have ever stepped into…. I had emailed Sam around a month prior to flying to New Zealand on recommendation from my favourite tattoo shop in Auckland Ship Shape Tattoo. Sam amazingly managed to fit me in to her busy schedule and in the days leading up to my appointment drew several designs for me to choose from, which she then customised to my body shape. I was really impressed by not only her talent but also her beautiful warm friendly nature, she made me feel very relaxed and welcome in her shop and I am beyond happy with my new forever memory from my first trip home. I highly recommend Sam if you are looking to get some iconic new ink.
Auckland & Waiheke – New Zealand
After my amazing time in the Bay, I took my car and drove to Auckland, I took the path through Taupo and Hamilton so that Kosta could see a few other small towns and get a feel for the New Zealand country side.
Compared to Greece we are vast and beautiful, we have so much farm and agricultural land and all the green really blew my partner away. It really made me think how idyllic New Zealand really is, you can forget that so easily if you have grown up there. It becomes so normal, but being away has really shown me that we are such a unique and beautiful place.
If you get the chance to visit Hamilton I would highly recommend eating at Two Birds Cafe they have so many amazing healthy dishes here, and I love the vibe of the café, they close their kitchen around 3-4 o’clock though so just be aware of that, I actually missed them while I was passing through but I wanted to include them as they are just so fricken bomb.
We arrived in Auckland late in the evening and as I had my car I needed to park it as close to the ferry building in the city as possible, I found a car park attached to the HSBC building over the road from the boat, where I could leave my car for 24NZD$ per day. Traveling to Waiheke is something I have been doing since I was a kid, my mum has been living on the island for around 18 years so getting up early to catch the boat for school was a daily thing for me when I was young.
I find the ferry ride extremely relaxing and quick compared to boats between the islands here in Greece, some of which can take 13 hours. It makes the 40 minuets ferry ride to Waiheke feel like a very enjoyable short trip for me.
I bought a 10 trip ferry pass for 144$ this is an open ticket that can be used by anyone as many times per day until it runs out which I think is a good option if you are staying on the island, I know they also offer monthly passes too, but all ticket details are on the Fullers website, along with ferry times and other destinations that they frequent. The Waiheke ferry terminal and ferry boats now also provide free Wi-Fi which is something new in the last two years, so if you’re staying on Waiheke and you need to figure out your next destination you can google map it on the boat and catch a bus or taxi there when you arrive.
We stepped off the ferry to my mum and my brother who had come to pick us up, it was an extremely happy moment for me as you can imagine, seeing my brother after two years was a lot for me, being away from my family I miss them very much, and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face when I saw them both standing on the pier.
We stayed with my mum in Rocky Bay, this is a more rural area of Waiheke. My mum’s house is like a sanctuary for me, it’s set in the most idyllic location with a 180-degree view of the sea, looking out to Auckland city, when I arrived it was dark and I could see the city lights sparkling in the distance. How nice it was to be home.
Being back in my Mums house after so long was so nice I can’t even put it into words, it’s my place. Being surrounded by my family my dogs and being in such a peaceful spot really is what I wanted my homecoming to feel like.
Most of my time on Waiheke was spent with my family, my grandad came up to stay with us and it was so precious to have that time all together, we went to Onetangi beach for swims, and bought delicious oysters from Te Matuku Bay (the best oysters in the world) and lunched at places like Cable Bay and Stony Ridge Vineyard, it was a week of delicious indulgence which I think all holidays should be. One of my favourite memories was the day I came home from seeing Connors family and mum, Reuben and Kosta had started making pizzas in our wood fire oven at home, kosta is a pizza chef so he was throwing the pizza in the kitchen, while we sipped red wine and chatted as the sun was setting, this leaves the most beautiful picture in my mind and it makes me really remember how lucky I am.
Because I am from Auckland I didn’t do the standard things like go up the Sky tower and visit the Auckland Museum but I did get to go and check out one of my favourite areas; Ponsonby and K road. Kosta has recently started getting tattooed and after getting his first bit of ink in India he wanted to also get something done in New Zealand, as I was sure my favourite tattoo shop in Auckland would’ve been booked we got in touch with Two Hands Tattoo who managed to fit him in, he had an amazing black and grey piece done by Rob Mckenzie.
I managed to do some shopping at Good as Gold which is a fricken cool shop, I picked up some Levis, then hit the K’Road second hand shops for some vintage t-shirts. And lastly stopped at sunglass bar to do some window shopping but ended up walking away with some vintage shades.
Food wise I didn’t have time to visit all the places I wanted to (I had a huge list of spots to try) I did go to Dear Jervois in Ponsonby one day for breakfast and can report their food is still amazing, I LOVED their omelette with added salmon, I didn’t rate their matcha latte though as it was a little grainy, their espresso is far better. On my second to last day I had a quick lunch at Amano in Auckland central this is one of several restaurants owned by HIP group and if you get a chance to visit any of their establishments I would highly recommend it as their philosophy around food and their food quality and service is of a uniquely high standard. The night before my flight I had the most rushed but amazing meal at Azon who do a contemporary twist on food from the Philippines, their décor is also super luxe so if you are looking for a hot new spot to try throw this on the list.
If your wanting to get your hair done in Auckland there is only one place to go and that’s my home away from home Loxy’s, I have been getting “Nano haircuts” there for the last 4 years and they always listen to you about how much length you want to take off your hair and I always leave feeling 100 bucks.
I had 12 days in New Zealand, 4 in Hawkes bay away from the madness and rush of the city that is Auckland and 7 full days in the city, for me it was too short, I had to be so careful with my time and for me being a people pleaser I found it so hard because I was trying to see so many people while also having much needed family time.
All in all, I enjoyed my trip back to New Zealand even though it was such a short trip, I think in future I’d like to come home for maybe a month to give myself enough time to really relax and enjoy it. I feel so lucky to have roots in one of the most beautiful and unique places on earth. I hope this blog was an enjoyable read.