8 Foods You Must Try in Auckland

New Zealand landscape
New Zealand landscape

Besides being famous of having the most beautiful landscapes and magnificent shorelines, New Zealand is also famous for its diverse and flavorful cuisine.  But which dishes are the best of the best? Here are just eight you’ll definitely want to try during your visit down under.

1. Whitebait Fritter

There are hundreds of New Zealand dishes made with whitebait, a fish easily caught off the coast. The fritter, however, is one of the only meals that can be eaten any time of day. It’s made with eggs, flour, butter, whitebait and occasionally a dash of spice, so it’s a suitable dish for a quick breakfast, a tasty lunch and an easy dinner.

2. Hangi

While technically a method of cooking, you’ll see hangi food advertised in restaurants all across New Zealand. This is because it’s an important and carefully-preserved tradition from the Maori people. It involves digging a pit, filling it with flat stones and then slow-cooking a variety of meats and vegetables over a period of several hours.

3. Veggie Stack

Vegetarians, this one is for you. “Stacks” are New Zealand slang for multiple ingredients piled high on a bread foundation, and veggie stacks are a great way to enjoy New Zealand cuisine without ruining your diet. The typical veggie stack will include things like tomatoes, potatoes, avocados, spinach and broccoli served under a hearty cream.

4. Chicken Laksa

Laksa is one of the many “melting pot” dishes you’ll see in Auckland hotels and restaurants. Usually prepared with both light and dark meat, it combines noodles, chicken chunks, coconut flavors and chile oil for an amazing and entirely one-of-a-kind taste. You won’t find it anywhere north of the equator, either, so enjoy it while you can!

5. Kumara Wedges

A popular appetizer, kumara wedges are made from kumara, a local kind of sweet potato. They can be dipped, soaked and fried in everything from vegetable oil to aioli, and their texture is to die for: Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, they’ll keep you coming back for more every time.

6. Focaccia

The Kiwis love their bread! This dish was originally an Italian one, and it consists of a thick, hearty bread cooked with a variety of meats and spices. Many people report its texture to be like pizza dough, but it differs from pizza in the sense that the ingredients are internal, not stacked on top, and it can also be cooked with everything from lime to lamb.

7. Beef Rendang

If you like tender, juicy meat, you won’t want to miss this New Zealand spin on an Indonesian classic. The Kiwis prepare it with sauces that include everything from lemongrass to coconut cream, and the result is a dish so savory that it can almost be eaten with a spoon.

8. Lamingtons

Once you’ve eaten your vegetables, it’s time for dessert! Lamingtons are sponge cakes that are coated with chocolate and sprinkled with coconut. Some also have fruit or cream fillings for an extra kick. You can find cheap packaged versions in any grocery store, but the best come freshly and traditionally prepared in restaurants and hotels. Check in somewhere like the Whangaparaoa Lodge Motel to learn more.

These are just eight foods you’ll want to try while you’re in Auckland, New Zealand. Don’t forget to wash them down with a great NZ beer!  And while you are there, explore the beautiful mountain scenery in New Zealand.

How to Get the Best Sleep Ever in Your Hotel (and Some of the Best Hotels for Snoozing)

Achieving quality sleep away from home isn’t always easy, even when rest and relaxation are the trip objectives. Noisy temporary neighbors, unfamiliar surroundings, bright street lights, and uncomfortable mattresses can interrupt or prevent a decent night’s sleep. We’ve put together some tips for helping you prepare for a restful night away from home, as well as some places going above and beyond to helping their guests sleep.

Get a Grip on Noise:

One hotel that takes uninterrupted sleeping very seriously is The Fairmont Vancouver Airport. The Fairmont Vancouver may indeed be attached to an airport, but there’s no need to worry about noise from hotel staff or even from passing 747s. Their built-in “Quiet Zone” is on a soundproof floor and was designed to help travelers dealing with long layovers catch up on some shut eye. And during hotel “Quiet Hours”, many operations are put on pause for the Quiet Zone, meaning no hallway noise from staff. Just in case that’s not enough, they supply ear plugs and eye masks to guests, sure to save even the lightest of sleepers.

If your hotel isn’t well sound proofed, sleeping could be more difficult. Noise issues could be compounded for rooms located next to stairwells, elevator entrances, and vending/ice machines — not to mention other guests can make a ruckus at any hour (it’s also worth it to confirm that there is no construction going on at the hotel). Ask to be moved away from noisy parts of the hotel, and if that’s not a possibility, ear plugs or ear buds connected to a phone with an alarm are handy for taming unwanted noise.  

It is really annoying to guests to be in a hotel room close to the source of the noise.  We have been in one and we requested to be transferred to another room right away.

Block Out Light:

The MGM Grand Hotel and Casino features black-out drapes to keep the night lights and the afternoon sun from a good sleep after any period of gaming. The rooms also use wellness lighting in their bathrooms that trigger melatonin to help bring on sleepiness, along with sunrise simulating alarm clocks for gentle, more natural waking.

Planning to sleep in? Not all hotels have blackout drapes. An eye mask can help; they’re inexpensive, and many hotels supply them to guests on request. It can also be helpful to request a room without a street lamp directly outside it or even a one that’s away from the street.

Personalize Your Pillow:

If you’re staying in New York, The Benjamin offers guests a “Pillow Menu.” The hotel also employs a Sleep Concierge, dedicated to helping their guests catch more Zzzs. Members of the team personalize accommodations to guests’ sleeping habits, and while they cannot prescribe sleep medication, the pillow menu should help lull even the most insomnia-beset guests to sleep. They supply luscious pillows from memory foam to a music pillow with tiny speakers that plugs into audio devices.

Bringing along your own pillow can be a comfort when away from home, as can sheets from home. A few years ago, the National Sleep Foundation conducted a survey, and according to their findings a good number of folks consider nice, clean linens to be integral to getting a good night’s rest. The peace of mind that comes from knowing who’s slept your sheets may help aid in peace of mind for easier sleep. Of course, it isn’t always viable to drag linens from home. A pillowcase alone may be enough. Conversely, this is another thing to ask the hotel about during booking: Some hotels keep pillows of varying firmness in stock.  

My mother-in-law takes her own pillow whenever she travels. My daughter has one, too.  It’s the feeling of comfort and security that matters wherever you go.

Tame Unwanted Smells:

Speaking of smell, aromatherapy can be soothing and helpful for inducing sleep. The JW Marriott Los Angeles now offers a Nightly Refresh Program, which is essentially a complimentary turndown service. Service includes Revive Oil from Aromatherapy Associate, and The Dream Bar, which is made with ingredients meant to nurture the body during sleep. On top of that, the Nightly Refresh Program offers a wine sample from Treasury Wine Estates and a house collection of Astor Chocolates. A little wine before bed can help in the relaxation process, but definitely avoid overindulging, as too much alcohol can actually inhibit sleep (it is also probably best to save the chocolates until morning).

a-hotel room

More Comfort Zone Tips:

Sometimes, it helps to call ahead to ask about the little things. However, what one might not think will affect sleep quality can actually make a big difference. There are a few things to check with the hotel before booking, and then just a few more to consider before checking in.

  • Mattresses: While a sumptuously, poofy hotel bed seems like heaven to some, it can impede sleep for others — especially for those susceptible to back or neck pain. Worried about mattress firmness? Call the hotel and ask: Are they hard? Are they soft?
  • Air flow/Temperature Control: The ambient temperature of your sleeping space affects sleep time and quality. A small drop in body temperature induces sleep (warm baths or showers also help facilitate this), so it’s important to check whether room temperature can be regulated adequately, as a room that becomes too warm or too cold is likely to result in waking up. Do the rooms have heaters or air conditioning? For those guests who prefer natural air, the hotel may boast beautiful, scenic views from room windows, but do the windows open?
  • Room location: In hotels with thin walls, rooms near stairwells/elevators, vending machines, ice machines, or lobbies may be subject to more noise than patrons want when trying to get a good night’s snooze. Requesting a room in the middle of a hall, or at the end of a hall that does not lead to a stairwell or exit will likely result in fewer late night interruptions due to traffic from other guests.

This post was posted by Fiona Moriarty on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on July 13, 2015

The Five Best Luxury Hotels in Oslo

a-oslo norway

Oslo has become a European vacation favorite. The city is known for diverse architecture, parks and green areas, eye-catching museums and music festivals. Not only is Norway’s capital a primary tourist destination, but it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe.

A stay in Oslo is enhanced by a luxury hotel, as this beautiful city should be experienced with panache. Here are the five best luxury hotels in Oslo.

The Thief

Not only does The Thief have the latest technology, but it is also located in one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Oslo. Surrounding The Thief in the Tjuvholmen area is the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art and the Royal Palace, along with Karl Johan Street. This boutique hotel offers balconies and specialized art in each room. Each room features wireless internet, a 42-inch LCD TV and an iPod docking station.

The Grand

Located near The Thief, The Grand is a throwback to old Oslo. Opened in 1874, it has hosted celebrities and Nobel Prize laureates. It maintains the classic feel of old Norway despite modern amenities such as a health club and hip restaurants and bars. Opening onto Karl Johan Street, The Grand is also close to the Oslo Nye Teater, the Royal Palace and Oslo Opera House.

Hotel Continental

Also located in the city center, the Hotel Continental is known for its posh restaurants and spacious rooms. There are four restaurants in the hotel serving world-class food and cocktails, so you can stay in and have a grand time. The hotel is also close to the high-end shopping and clubs of Karl Johan Street and the National Gallery.

Lysebu Hotel

This four-star hotel is located in the hills north of the city by the Holmenkollen Ski Jump. Lysebu Hotel is also close to the Tryvann Tower and Oslo Winter Park, and possesses a more natural feel, separated from the city’s bustle. The Lysebu is known for its art gallery — the Henie Onstad Art Centre has collaborated with the hotel on an exquisite display of Norwegian and Danish art.

Frogner House Apartments – Skovveien 8

As the name suggests, the rooms are designed like apartments. Each room comes with a kitchen and laundry service and is fully furnished, making it ideal for families or large groups. Along with the spacious rooms, this location in the Frogner House group is near the National Library and Norwegian Nobel Institute. It also offers easy train access to the city center and airport.

There are many great hotel properties in Oslo, but staying at one of these will give you a unique, luxurious experience.

 Sculpture Park

Sculpture Park