It started like many good stories start. With some Clamato. What's Clamato, you ask? It's a kind of tomato juice, but better. What makes it better? The clam juice in it, of course. Yep, sounds gross but don't knock it till you try it.
As a uniquely Canadian drink, it's nearly impossible to find abroad unless you're in the popular tourist destinations of Las Vegas or Florida. It's most certainly not in New Zealand, or at least I didn't think so. Then I was told about Martha's Backyard, a American store and thought, surely, they might also have some Canadian products too. And sure enough, there it was. In the middle of the floor, pretty sure with a ray of light streaming down upon it, waiting for me. The price? Not cheap, but it came a long way to get here. $13.50 NZD, or $12.30 CDN. Worth every penny (not that New Zealand or Canada have pennies...).
So I had my Clamato and was on my way to my first Christmas stop. For the holidays, Pauanui, an ocean-side village in the Corromandel and the summer home of my friend Anna and her family, would be my home. Tomorrow was Christmas but it certainly didn't feel like it with the sun shining and the temps in the mid-20s. This would be my second Christmas in New Zealand and my second one away from home. Last year, it felt strange. This year, it was feeling more normal.
The full house and full bellies at Anna's made it even easier to enjoy. Ruby, Penny, Hugo and Annabelle kept the house humming and Anna's dad told me stories that I'm sure his own kids had heard many times. He seemed happy to have a new audience.
With the beach only a stone's throw away, we moseyed down on Christmas Day for a swim. Life could be worse.
New Zealand treats were abundant at Anna's. On Christmas morning, I got several boxes of Scorched Almonds (chocolate covered almonds), Anna served up delicious corn fritters and her brother bbq'd bacon for breakfast, and her Dad steamed some pipis or tuatua's - a small mussel-like shellfish that we dug out of the beach at low tide. Of course, I brought some of my family's traditions along including champagne and orange juice at breakfast, some caesars in the afternoon, and of course a puzzel. By Boxing Day, I was ready to hit the trail. I needed a good walk to burn off the extra calories consumed over Christmas. Luckily, I had a walk planned to do just that.