Escaping the European Winter

It is this time of year that I find living in Europe hard! The long cold winter stretches out before us for a few more months. The warm glow and cheery chatter of the Christmas markets are gone. The Christmas Tree has been thrown out, and the decorations packed away for another year. An icy wind blows across the fields and through the streets, cutting to the bone. Snow turns to slush, and people hurry from their houses to their cars, in a rush to turn up the heater before they freeze.

Meanwhile in New Zealand it is high summer. My friends and family send emails and photos of themselves at the beach – the kids playing cricket and rugby on the sand, or practicing life surfing and body boarding through the waves, while their parents wander along the beach, or grill sausages on the BBQ and enjoy the sunshine. It is the perfect time to do one of New Zealand’s Great Walks or one of the hundreds of other trails traversing the country, connecting isolated beaches, rugged coastal cliffs, farmland, river valleys and virgin forest, or high country tussock lands and dramatic mountain ranges. The weather is normally settled at this time of year, and it is the perfect temperature for walking or biking or kayaking, or one of the many outdoor activities on option in New Zealand. It is also the perfect time of year to visit one of the many wineries, and linger for a long lunch under the vines, while sampling the local pinot noir or sauvignon blanc.

In my opinion, February and March are the best months to visit New Zealand (and the best time to flee the long winters in Europe). Most of the “high season” tourists using their Christmas holidays to travel have left the country, and the local schools are back in session (so kiwi kids and their families are back home) and everything is much emptier. There are more accommodation options available to choose from, and the prices are usually better than during the Christmas period. The water is also warmer, as it has absorbed the strength of the sun’s rays during the summer months. There is also better availability for airfares (and more competitive rates).

It’s not so easy to travel during this time if you have children at school in Germany, but for anyone else, this time of year is highly recommended for your holiday in New Zealand! If I could, I would flee the European winter every year in February or March, for a taste of warmth and paradise on the other side of the world!!

 

New Zealand in the winter

I have been living in Germany now for nearly 13 years.  And until last summer, we have managed to avoid going home to New Zealand in the winter.  But now that two of my children are in school, it has become a lot harder to take advantage of the New Zealand summer.  Travelling at Christmas time is more expensive than travelling at other times of the year, and yet the other school holidays (Easter and Autumn) are only two weeks.  By the time you fly over to New Zealand (and we always like to have a stopover in Asia on the way!) and adjust to the time change, it’s nice to have more than a week or so before you have to fly back!

So last year we decided to “bite the bullet” and fly home during our German summer holidays – winter in New Zealand. My husband was very dubious.  He pictured us giving up the hot German summer (which is actually not that reliable anyway!) and sitting in New Zealand, getting cold and wet and being miserable.  And yet on the up-side, the children had 6 weeks holiday from July to August, the flights were a lot cheaper than flying at other times of the year, and it would mean we could have more time in New Zealand with family and friends, instead of having to rush back for school after only ten days holiday.

When we arrived in Auckland at the beginning of July, it was actually only 2 degrees cooler than it had been when we left Germany. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and all seemed right with the world.  We were in New Zealand for approximately 5 weeks, and during this time we had an amazing amount of blue sky and sunshine.  As far as I can recall, we only had two or three damp mornings, and the waterproof trousers and gumboots that I had taken with us for the kids didn’t end up being used at all.  We spent a lot of time on the beach (and the kids went swimming in the sea several times, although I have to admit it was too cold for me to contemplate taking my clothes off!) and as a family, found numerous fun things to see and do that we had one of our most relaxing family holidays yet.  Despite the fact that it was winter!