Gordon and I spent the 21st-24th of January with Gordon’s brother Kelvin, his wife Lisa, and their three adorable kiddos- Isabel (6), Rebecca (6), and Ella (3) in New Plymouth. NP is a town of about 49,000 on the west coast of the North Island in the Taranaki (“peaks without vegetation”) region. Not to be missed is Mount Taranaki, the gigantic volcano of which you get lovely views from Kelv and Lisa’s kitchen. =) Not only is Mt. T quite tall (2518m), but it’s also a famous movie star, having played the role of Mt. Fuji alongside Tom Cruise The Last Samurai. I wanted to get its autograph, but it doesn’t have any arms, so I just took a photo. Here it is. Anyhow, we spent our days doing puzzles and playing with blocks and the like with the kidlets (definitely some of the cutest, smartest, and heaviest kidlets I have had the pleasure of piggybacking around everywhere) and enjoying the natural wonders of the area. We traipsed down the seaside walkway at Puke Ariki on an absurdly windy afternoon (I think I saw Elmira Gulch fly by on her bicycle), and by the time we made it back to the car my hair looked a lot like cotton candy and I tasted like a salt lick. It was rad. =) We also went to the free children’s zoo at Brooklands park, where we saw cute guinea pigs (ee-ee-ee), bunnies, an emu, some monkeys, and a kune kune pig, among other fuzzy things. Awesome! =) A definite highlight was Pukekura Park- by far the best city park I have seen! It’s a 10-minute walk from downtown (the CBD, as they say in NZ) and is 49 hectares of gardens, bush walks, steams, waterfalls, and ponds. (I got that straight out of the Lonely Planet. Please don’t ask me what a hectare is. Please.) There’s an awesome cricket ground where the terraced seating is cut into the hillsides, a boat rental so you can row all around the lake (and try to crash into the sides because you’re not a very good rower even though Jess Wetter taught you how to row once, didn’t she?), and a nice little pavilion where you can get chips so delicious that you don’t even need ketchup! Mmmm… We went back again at night to see the awesome light show they put on in the summer- lots of trees, water features, et cetera are illuminated with pretty-coloured lights, bands play, they show outdoor movies- it’s lovely. =) (They were showing The Princess Bride the night we went. Inconceivable!) We also had a fantastic day at Back Beach, where we got partially buried in the black sand, were coerced into running up and down a huge sand dune a zillion times (that was more Gordon getting coerced, really- even the cutest of children couldn’t convince me to run up and down things), and saw two seals frolicking in the surf really close to us! Besides all of that, staying at their house was so much fun! Kelv and Lisa were wonderful hosts and fed us delicious, healthful, homemade meals and stayed up late at night watching terrible tv shows and answering about seven gazillion Trivial Pursuit questions into the wee hours, despite having three cuties to look after early in the morning. They were fabulous! =) They don’t read this, but just in case, THANK YOU!!!! We had a wonderful time, and we can’t wait to see everyone again next month in Dunedin!