Monday, June 1, 2015

The Tardey World Tour... is still happening

A lot has happened since October last year. I know, I know, it's been around six months since my last post on here. Shit effort, huh. It might sound like a poor excuse, but when you get paid to help run a website for a living it really makes you feel like you don't have time to update your own personal blog! If you're reading iheartstance for the first time, let me fill you in real quick: Pedey and I left our home in New Zealand in May last year and embarked on a crazy world tour. We sold heaps of our possessions including Pedey's beloved Chevrolet Impala, moved out of our rental home permanently and went to Japan. From there we visited Norway, Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, the UK, Amsterdam and the United Arab Emirates over six months, working/attending car events/sightseeing as much as possible. It was like a dream come true and I still can't believe it happened! I was freelancing for Speedhunters full-time, and Pedey had left his job as Editor of NZ Performance Car magazine and picked up some freelance work too. Our ultimate goal was to find Pedey a new job before we returned to New Zealand in time for summer; a goal which we achieved and couldn't be more happy about.

I've published a few stories on Speedhunters from some of our adventures, but I haven't really put together a proper blog post from our trip yet. So stay with me while I try and recount some of the highlights since my last post. At that time I was working from Amsterdam, which was so, so great...
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From left: On our roof deck overlooking the city, one scenic canal photo as promised, and a cute cat leering at me from an upper-storey apartment 
I can't even begin to describe how much I loved Amsterdam - I could definitely live there! Firstly, it was great because shortly we arrived, Pedey got a call asking if he wanted a full-time position at Speedhunters, but it was also great because we lived in a cute loft apartment (thanks Airbnb), walked around the city and drank lots of coffee, worked from cafés, (not to be confused with coffee shops, of course) and I took a LOT of photos of canals. Don't worry, I'm only including one canal photo in here. Count yourself lucky...

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Morning view of Grund, Luxembourg City. This area is so rich with incredible history, it gave me a very weird feeling being there. 
We also did a weekend trip to Luxembourg and Belgium, which was so much fun. Luxembourg City was only a four hour drive from Amsterdam and it was beyond amazing. Grund, a historic village nestled below the towering natural cliffs of the Bock was perhaps the most amazing place I've ever visited. On a misty autumn morning at 7.30am it looked and felt completely unreal. Pro tip: Getting up super early in the morning to explore places that are usually overrun with tourists during the day makes such a huge difference to sightseeing experiences like this.

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Our cameras don't often see time outside of their bag when it's not for work, and this trip was one of those special exceptions. It was a place of magical, ethereal beauty which Pedey captured perfectly in the above image.
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Exploring the old town of Bruges, Belgium.
We spent a day exploring Bruges too, which feels like a dream now. Another extremely beautiful city. Sigh... I love Europe so much, (although the cool old buildings and excellent croissants only just make up for how expensive it is). Anyway, after our month-long stint in the land of stroopwafels and no curtains, Pedey and I spent November working in Stockholm from the EA office again, which like Amsterdam, sadly didn't involve any car-related adventures. This was hard for us; we really missed cars and were starting to feel a bit miserable because of it. So before we headed back to New Zealand, and to break up the 28-hour-long trip home, we organised a four-day Speedhunting stopover in the United Arab Emirates.

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Clockwise from top left: Shooting a Nissan GT-R in the Jebel Al Jais mountains, the view of Dubai from the roof of our hotel, a private Nissan meeting held in Ras Al Khaimah, a Porsche 991 Turbo that started racing our GT-R on the motorway (we lost!), a GSX-R1000-powered Silver Car S2 race car and a beautiful hotel we had dinner at in Dubai.
Thankfully, the climate was lovely and not too hot at the time of our visit, as we had a lot of activities to get through in four days' time. We took a new Nissan GT-R out on one of the most incredible driving roads in the world, discovered a rare nostalgic Japanese car collection in Ras Al Khaimah, piloted an ear drum-shattering 16,000rpm cross kart through the desert, went for a passenger ride in a terrifying Hayabusa-powered Silver Car S2 and enjoyed some wonderful hospitality, courtesy of some fantastic new friends we made.

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Heading back down the mountain - such a crazy view!
Our GT-R dream drive really was an experience of a lifetime and I still can't believe that such a place can even exist! The winding mountain road leading up to the peak of Jebel Al Jais cut through layers of vast, rugged golden rock towering so high that it made me feel a bit dizzy.

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Our Nissan GT-R press car at the top of the Jebel Al Jais mountain, United Arab Emirates 
When it was Pedey's turn to drive, I actually got a bit car sick which usually never happens to me. The fact that the GT-R kept making me lose my stomach probably wasn't helping! Parking at the top and checking out the view was definitely one of those 'pinch me' moments that I'll never forget.

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Starting up Marc Planas' Silver Car ST2 cross kart. I might look confident in this photo but my heart was beating pretty damn fast!
Another highlight of our trip was hanging out with Marc Planas and the team from Silver Car UAE; not only were they genuinely lovely people, but they brought some bad ass machinery out for the day just for our enjoyment. Firstly we got to pilot Marc's ST2 kart around a makeshift course in the desert...

And then we hit up a local go kart track and went for a few passenger rides in a Silver Car S2 with Marc behind the wheel. Passenger rides on a karting track, you ask? That can't be that exciting, right? To be honest I think this was probably one of the only times I've ever felt genuinely nervous riding passenger, (although my ride along with Mad Mike at Gatebil Rudskogen back in 2013 might be an exception!). It was so hot and so incredibly loud and the acceleration was just like nothing I'd ever experienced before, combined with the fact that Marc was an extremely talented driver and knew the car really well; it really got my blood pumping much faster than usual. I really had one of those 'LOL what am I even doing right now?' moments as the sun set, casting beautiful pastel hues over the desert around us while the S2's GSX-R1000 engine screamed and I clutched for dear life onto the edges of the race seat I was strapped into. So yeah... in summary, the UAE ruled. I really, really hope we can go back again at some point.
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Back in New Zealand and reunited with the Z! Ultimate joy! 
On the 4th of December, jet-lagged and exhausted we arrived back in New Zealand. After half a year of being away from our home country it was a really strange feeling to come back and find that everything was still there, just as we left it. After missing home for so long, it suddenly felt like we had never left. Weird. And we were so excited to be reunited with our Datsun 280Z!

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With the Z parked up at Mount Maunganui, New Zealand 
So excited, in fact, that we decided to take it with us down to Mount Maunganui for New Years. It handled the three and a half hour journey like a champ, although we didn't do so well - it was so hot that we had to keep putting the windows down, and the car was still having slight issues with exhaust fumes getting drawn into the cabin. Stinging eyes and headaches aside (that sounds so bad - lol), it was still so much fun!
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New Zealand adventures, from left: Standing at the top of the country overlooking the Aupouri Peninsula, watching the sun set over Waiau, a small town on the Canterbury Plains in the South Island, and the breathtaking view of the Christchurch coastline from Summit Road - wow!
After being away from New Zealand for an extended period of time, something really changed in us. Leaving NZ not only made us realise how extremely fucking awesome it is, but how much of it we'd not even experienced yet. So during the summer, we made an effort to get out as much as possible and explore.
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From left: Possibly one of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand - the Karikari Peninsula, Matai Bay, tourist photo at Cape Reinga and a gorgeous sunset viewed from my friend's family yacht moored in Opua, Bay of Islands. 
We went on a road trip up north and stayed in Paihia for a night, spent a few nights on our friend's parents' yacht sailing around the Bay of Islands, visiting Oke Bay and a few other white sandy beaches only accessible by boat, we visited Matai Bay and the Karikari Peninsula, and drove up to Cape Reinga at the northern-most peak of New Zealand. I just can't even begin to describe how beautiful the far north is. Depending on which beach you're going to, if you visit on a weekday there's a chance you could even have it all to yourself.

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The Z parked up outside my mum's house
For most of the time while we were back in NZ, we stayed at my mum and stepdad's house, which is in Parua Bay in Whangarei. A brief back story: My family moved from Hunua in South Auckland to Whangarei when I was twelve, and I attended Parua Bay Primary for a year. I moved back down to Auckland just before I turned twenty, but my parents still live up north.
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From left: View of Whangarei heads from my mum's amazing garden, flowers from the garden that Pedey (or should I say, mum!) picked me for my birthday, mum's cat Henry, and a beautiful rainbow sunset - one of many that looked like this!
Although it was difficult having to work in the opposite time zone to Sweden, staying at mum's house was heavenly. I really love nature and I love animals, and the house is situated on a beautiful lifestyle block overlooking Whangarei harbour. Over eight years, mum and her husband have transformed the bare, empty property into a beautiful tropical paradise with a huge rose garden, a Balinese gazebo hut, two ponds, an orchard and an arboretum with a five-tiered waterfall. They have four alpacas, three cats, fish, and an enormous family of fluffy bantam hens, and the neighbours often graze their cows, goats, miniature ponies and even sometimes donkeys in their paddocks! Although working in the NZ time zone was frustrating, it was the best summer I've ever had and I've never felt more appreciative of my home country.

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This was taken just a few days before we had to put the Z back into storage. We took it on a drive around Whangarei Heads and took a few photos.
By the time March rolled around, we'd received renewed contracts from EA and it was confirmed that we'd be working for Speedhunters for another year - woohoo! And so we were faced with a strange decision: where in the world would we live? We thought we could get a six month visa to work in Sweden, so we decided to leave New Zealand once again and head out into the unknown... when we left the country we only had two weeks of accommodation booked in Stockholm and we had no idea what was going to happen after that! Rental apartments are so hard to get in Stockholm, and they're really expensive. We crossed fingers and hoped, like we always do, that things would all work out in our favour. I sold my daily driven Nissan Lucino and the Z went back into storage (sad face) and
we said our goodbyes to our friends and family.

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View of Hong Kong from Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade in Kowloon. 
First stop, Hong Kong! This was our first time visiting HK and we only stayed for three nights, but we packed in a decent amount of sightseeing around the city centre and Kowloon, and of course Speedhunting was involved too. 
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From left: Cars in the Blackbird Automotive showroom, Nathan Road in Kowloon, cool old Celica spotted near Tsim Sha Tsui. 
The main reason for our trip was a visit to the Blackbird Automotive headquarters, hosted by creative director Frank Liew. Frank is an old friend and gave us exclusive access to the private Blackbird Heritage Motorworks showroom and workshop, which was by far the most pristine, orderly space I've ever had the pleasure of stepping foot in.

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Gorgeous black Ferrari Enzo at Blackbird Automotive.
The workshop was so clean I felt as if I should be taking off my shoes to enter - I'm not even kidding! I really appreciated the level of detail put into everything, from the labelled and organised tools and gleaming work benches, to the bathrooms hidden behind secret doors and the beautiful selection of carefully selected art prints adorning the crisp white walls. Oh, and the cars were cool too. These are all images from my Instagram, but you can expect a full story with better quality pictures coming up very soon on Thank-you so much Frank & the Blackbird team for having us!

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View from the Speedhunters Head Office in Stockholm.
From Hong Kong it was onto Stockholm, where we spent most of our time working from the EA/Speedhunters office. Since I started working for Speedhunters I've become super attached to this city and it's my goal to move here permanently or at least for a couple of years. Swedish people are super chilled out and although they can be a tad serious sometimes, they're incredibly lovely, intelligent and very welcoming.

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The trees have their green back and the tulips in full bloom in Mariatorget, Stockholm.
Stockholm is a picturesque city, rich with history and culture, yet it's extremely modern - it's very eco-conscious, the internet is super fast, there are some amazing gluten-free and dairy-free foods available there, public transport is excellent, it's incredibly safe and the coffee is just great. And when it's not dark and snowing, it's very easy on the eyes too.  
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From left: View from our rental apartment in Hornstull, beautiful sunset overlooking Kungsholmen one night walking home from work, our street 'Heleneborgsgatan' in Hornstull.
Thankfully, we did manage to secure a two-month-long rental apartment just 2.5km away from the office, and it was seriously amazing! Massive kitchen, heaps of space, a Nespresso machine and cute furniture... awesome. Life was good, but before long I began to miss cars. For some reason, every so often the idea creeps into my head that I could be this cool city-dweller who rides a bike to work in a pretty coat and scarf and lives in a modern city apartment, but then I remember, what's the point if I can't have a rad car and a garage to keep it in and work on it? Car life > any other kind of life.

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Gorgeous 200SX/S13 at the 2015 Elmia show in Jönköping, Sweden

We got a really great car fix at the Bilsport Performance & Custom Motor show (aka. the Elmia show) though, which took place in early April in Jönköping, a few hours south-west of Stockholm.

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Thanks for the T-shirt, Boosted Boris! Because vodka, guns and turbos are totally part of my every day life.
I attended this last year and thought it was incredible, and this years' show I think had to be even better. There was such a huge variety of cars on display, and although there was a bit of the usual rice/Fast and the Furious-type stuff, there were so many cars with current styling, big power and crazy attention to detail.
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From left: An incredible BMW 2002 with an S2000 engine spotted at the Elmia show, our friend Magnus' new twin turbo V8 set-up good for 1600hp (for street racing only, of course!) and a beautiful 911 turbo spotted near our apartment.
Scandinavia's car scene is overwhelmingly rad and one of the best in the world. They are just so damn crazy about cars! And not just building them; driving them too. But apart from Elmia, hanging out with our friends at Team Insane Racing on one occasion and a few modified car sightings around the city, we were so busy with work that we didn't really have time to do any other car-related activities.
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From left: Rök, a beautiful old church in Östergötland, a very cute courtyard in Gothenburg, and Pedey with the Rök Runestone (next to the Rök church).
We managed to see some pretty cool non-car-related sights though. I managed a quick trip two-day trip to Gothenburg, and on the way back from Jönköping we stopped at some cool historic sites, like the Rök Runestone in Östergötland, which is predicted to be from the 9th century and is considered to be the first piece of written Swedish literature. It's pretty weird being able to run your fingers across a rock inscribed by Vikings.

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Me standing in front of the ruins of Brahehus Castle near Jönköping!
We stopped at the Brahehus Castle ruins too, which overlook the stunning Vättern lake and date back to the 17th century. Perhaps it's the nerd in me, but I really have a thing with castles.
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Stockholm adventures, from left: Exploring the little island of Reimersholme in the city (beautiful cherry blossoms!), Pedey walking through Gamla Stan, walking to the office only a few weeks earlier when it was still snowing - this was the first time I'd ever seen real snow falling!
Sadly, we couldn't get a permit to stay in Sweden for longer than three months, so instead of going all the way back home to New Zealand, Pedey and I are going to be working from Japan for three months! Since we've been to Japan a few times already we really wanted to make this trip different somehow, so we decided to buy a car in Japan and live on the outskirts of the city. Thanks to Airbnb we've booked two separate accommodations, both on the outskirts(-ish) of Tokyo. This also means we can have larger apartments with actual beds which is an extremely exciting concept!

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Japan weirdness at Atsugi Parking area last year
I'm sad that we're going to miss summer in Sweden, but at the same time I'm so excited to actually have my own car in Japan and hopefully drive at tracks like Honjo, Ebisu and Nikko. Now that would be sick!!! It's going to be so sweaty and I've already developed a phobia of giant centipedes (as we are going to be living near a forest - arghh!!!) but I can't wait. The Tardey World Tour is still happening, we still don't have an official home, and it looks like we aren't anywhere closer to finding one - but that's fine by us. Stay tuned for my next update from Japan very soon! :)

 私は日本にいきます, 5月29日に!3ヶ月間、私は青梅市次いで神奈川県に住んでます。私も大阪、名古屋、長崎を訪問します。今回は、私は車を買います。私はとても興奮しています! 私は日本での私の友人を見て興奮しています! ^_^ 私は新しい友達を作ることを楽しみにして!また、ニュージーランドからの私の友人が日本で私を訪問します!わーい!

Peace out,
T x

1 comment:

  1. Great update! I'm sure that took a while to put together but the read & photos were on point! would love to check out Frank's shop Blackbird one day but for now looking forward to the post on SH. :)


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