Hello Nelson, Goodbye Nelson

Many months ago instead of dutifully watching my girls enter their school I turned to Jeremy (fellow drop-off dad and kiwi insider) and said “Hey, where in New Zealand should I live?”. He knew nothing of the plan but responded “Nelson, it’s the sunniest place in the country, it’s surrounded by 3 national parks and vineyards. Also, there is a burgeoning craft beer industry”.  Well that was easy. From then on we decided that the town of Nelson, NZ was going to be our destination.

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Cut to the day before our arrival in Nelson. Despite months of looking and weeks of intense scrolling and emailing we still had not found a place to stay – nor had any leads. Staying in a motel was our only option and even those were packed because apparently the “World of Wearable Art Festival” is a thing and lots of people travel to attend. Then, finally, during dinner at a Thai Restaurant with atrocious wallpaper (see below and spot their logo for bonus points) our first lead panned out.

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A small but furnished temporary flat was made available to us for a couple weeks while we searched in earnest for our ‘permanent’ home.

And so we pulled into Nelson the following day with an actual destination to feed Google Maps. We’ve been learning to be wary of Googs since arriving but we found the place just fine. It was miserable out. Raining, chilly, and Lyla was pale from car-sickness.  Surprisingly it was the same temperature inside as it was outside, 8C or 46F. I scanned the wall in vain for a thermostat. Jeremy hadn’t mentioned the part about kiwis being in denial regarding winter.  The funny thing is we Canadians think of ourselves as hardy folk, and for the most part we are, but it really only applies to being outside. Single digits indoors means power outage to us. Sure we can brave -40 with toques and parkas but we need to return to a temperature controlled house – as any civilized human would expect. That night the girls slept with 4 layers on, 2 comforters and 2 blankets.

Even though we had arrived we still hadn’t settled. We now poured all our energy into finding the perfect place.  As the days passed the perfect place became a place, and then anything with a roof. Apparently Jeremys the world over were recommending Nelson to their friends. Nelson is a popular place to live. Because it is built in amongst hills, bordered by mountains on one side and the ocean on the other, cheap sprawling suburbs aren’t an option, and the town council has restrictions on new housing. The result is a property shortage.  This was compounded by the fact that we didn’t need a place for a full year and it had to be near a school that accepts international students. I could go on but it would be equal parts boring and bourgeois. We were at the point where we were considering moving on from Nelson, not just to the outlying towns but anywhere in New Zealand. Then, I’ll admit it, for the first time we were wondering if maybe we had made a mistake. But the night is always darkest before the dawn.

We got the magical email from a house owner one evening and the next morning we jumped in the car and drove north to check out a small rural property 45 minutes away. The previous day we had acquired a 2-disc CD from the Salvation Army titled: On the Road Again – Songs for Roadtripping.  We popped it in and let Willie Nelson and Roger Miller serenade us as Nelson faded out behind us and we headed into sheep country proper. We were afraid to be too confident but Spring was in their air and you know how that goes…

So goodbye Nelson. We weren’t fond of your single glazed windows but loved your quaint strip, gardens, your insanely beautiful beach and the several little hikes originating from downtown (including one to the ‘Centre of New Zealand’.

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And here is us leaving our temporary flat in Nelson where every night Lyla prepared fancy deserts and we watched movies about either New Zealanders or Marvel superheroes. (Spiderman Homecoming, The Fastest Indian and Boy were stand-outs).

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So now, finally, we have arrived and are settling in.

We have a perfect little house amongst towering gum trees, fields of hops, grapes and frolicking lambs.  We are halfway between a tiny village called Upper Moutere (quixotically pronounced Moo-tree) and another tinier hamlet called Lower Moutere. We even have doubled glazed windows and a thermostat!

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The girls have bright bedrooms on the main floor and can watch the sheep from their beds.

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Julie’s office:

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My office: (where I am currently typing this)

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There is one more ‘room’ in the house that Lyla wants to share with you but you will have to wait for that.

For the first time in my life I am living in a place that isn’t walking distance to anywhere but at least it isn’t too far a drive. The girls’ school is a 5 minute drive away but we’ll save more about that place for another post. The Riverside cafe where we get our fresh raw milk and proper coffees is 8 minutes away. Most importantly ping pong at the Upper Moutere Community Centre is 5 minutes away and squash (both the sport with courts and the produce at the grocery store) in Motueka is just 13 minutes away.

So now with all the bureaucracy of moving to a new place done we can finally start living in it. We are reveling in this gorgeous bizzarro Game of Thrones world. Summer is coming…

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5 thoughts on “Hello Nelson, Goodbye Nelson

  1. Anne Freeman

    Thanks for the update.
    Your home looks lovely. Lyla must love finally having her own room.

    I can’t wait to come and experience New Zealand from a different perspective than on my previous trips. Jenny and I also loved Nelson but are looking forward to our trip to experience a new area.

    Hopefully we will hear about the girl’s adventures in a new school.

    Mom

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  2. jenny birrell

    Thanks Joel for your wonderfully descriptive blog about your search for a place to lay down your heads for the next seven? months. What a beautiful setting! I am so relieved to know that you are settled. Hope the girls are adjusting to their new school. Heather tells me they are allowed to go barefoot. Really?

    Can’t wait for our visit in January.

    Love Mum

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  3. Anonymous

    What an experience! We will be going through New Zealand soon on a cruise and I will try and reach you (mid-December). Then we have rented an apartment for 6 weeks in Syndey! We have to compare lots of “down-under” notes! Love to family😍🌻, Renee

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