Kiwi Cool: Shopping For New Zealand-Made Souvenirs

When you go to the other side of the world, you want to bring back a few things to show for your trouble. Visiting New Zealand with my 1-year-old daughter, and with nephews at home in America, I became obsessed with finding them something actually made in the country. A stuffed kiwi bird or lamb toy, a merino wool baby blanket, or a fun T-shirt would do nicely, and I wouldn’t mind some jewelry or something small for our apartment either. In all of the cities I visited in New Zealand, I was impressed to find stylish, playful and innovative boutiques and vendors creating beautiful and unique home design, fashion and other Kiwiana. There’s enough Kiwi cool shopping that you might end up wishing you had a bigger suitcase.

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Flotsam & Jetsam (Auckland) – A cross between an antique store and a hipster Restoration Hardware, this collection of colorful and covetable home items will make you contemplate a move to Auckland. Visitors from farther away might find interesting vintage, repurposed and retro home wares from New Zealand and all over the world. Check their Facebook page for details on the latest stock.Nelson Saturday market (Nelson, South Island) – New York City has street fairs and markets pretty much every day of the year if you look hard enough, but all too often, you find the same cheap tube socks, fried cheese and dough concoctions, and hodgepodge of junk. My expectations weren’t high for the weekly market in the arty town of Nelson on the top of the South Island, but after a quick walk through, I was glad I didn’t have too much cash to spend, as there was so much to buy. On a given weekend, you might find model airplanes crafted from soda cans, gourmet gluten-free tacos, and more knitwear than you can shake a sheep at. Local band performances, cooking demonstrations, or even a flash mob add to the festive atmosphere.

Pauanesia (Auckland) – This small shop is loaded to the gills with all things antipodean (a Brit term for a place on the other side of the world), with an emphasis on home textiles such as Polynesian-print tablecloths. If you have a little one to shop for (or just enjoy stuffed animals), consider one of the charming Kiwi “chaps” made from vintage and salvaged fabrics and send them a photo of your bird out in the world. You can also find a nice assortment of Paua shell jewelry, key chains, and other odds and ends much more thoughtfully and well-made than your average gift shop.

Iko Iko (Auckland and Wellington) – What drew me into the Wellington store was a window display of Dear Colleen‘s cheeky “Dishes I’d rather be doing” tea towels with “dishes” like Ryan Gosling and Mr. Darcy-era Colin Firth (get it?). I could have easily spent hours inside poring over the whimsical items, like a kiwi bird cookie cutter, Buzzy Bee cufflinks, or a CD from the Wellington Ukulele Orchestra. It’s full of things you don’t really need but really want, plus fun takes on everyday items.

Abstract Designs (Wellington) – You might call these artisanal cardboard cutouts. Abstract Designs makes creative sculptures and jewelry with a very local flavor. Perhaps you’ll pick up a 747 plane kit for the airplane nerd in your life, a pop-up building replica to remind you of your stay in Wellington, or a cruelty-free moose trophy head for your wall. Their designs are sold in many museum gift shops as well, but there’s a full selection at their Wellington studio and online.

Hapa (Christchurch) – Pop-up businesses have become the foundation for the new Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake. The Re:START mall is the best example, built out of shipping containers and housing a mix of “old” Christchurch shops in temporary digs and new shops. There are several stores in the mall selling New Zealand goods, but Hapa stands out for their many beautiful and clever items, like a bear bean bag chair or a knitted “fox stole” scarf. Best of all, many goods are made or designed in Christchurch, so you can feel good about supporting the local economy.

Texan Art Schools (multiple stores in Auckland) – Don’t be confused by the name, it’s a play on the fact that it carries work from graduates of “tech(nical)s” and art schools. Texan Art Schools acts as one-stop shopping for dozens of Kiwi artists and designers, with an eclectic mix of home items, fashion and jewelry. You’re sure to find something unusual and authentic here like a set of Maori nesting dolls or a retro camper wall clock.

Photo from Auckland’s Queen Street shopping arcade. More “Kiwi Cool: New Zealand for the Unadventurous” to come.

Seattle’s new Hot Tub Boats: swingin’ in the rain

seattle hot tub rentalI live in Seattle. So I can state with authority that out here if you want hipster street cred you’ll be rocking at least some sartorial remnant of the ’70s — be it a pair of groovy shades, nut-hugger jeans, a polyester dress or booty cut-offs.

What else is reminiscent of the ’70s? Hot tubs, baby. And now, chilly (but oh so cool) Seattleites and visitors alike can have a relaxing retro outing thanks to a fab new indulgence: Hot Tub Boats. You and up to six friends (kids count) can bob around scenic Lake Union in a wooden, diesel boiler-fueled floating hot tub boat with full steering capacity and a throttle. All boats come with coolers, locked dry storage, water jets and safety equipment. They are also United States Coast Guard standard approved.

The boats are also available for longer-term rentals and purchase, and can be delivered to alternate locations such as Lake Washington for an additional fee. The company is anticipating a May launch.

Alas, getting nekkid and sipping Lancers is not permitted; we’re not animals here in Seattle. And everyone knows drinking and boating (don’t) mix. Even though you’ll have to leave the booze at home and cover up your bits, there’s still something about steamy water, nippy weather and floating on a lake that feels a little bit naughty. Far out.


Photo of the Day: Paragliding in France

Today’s positively ethereal image comes to us from Flickr user AdamJamesWilson, who captured this sky-high shot of a paraglider over Lake Serre-Poncon in Southeastern France. I love the image’s “vintage” muted colors, wisps of cloud and silhouetted figure all set against a glistening sun.

Taken any great photos during your travels? Why not add them to the Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Photo of the Day (10.26.10)

I loved visiting airports at a very early age. There was (and will always be) something fascinating about the constant commotion, the bright colors, and overwhelmingly complex machines barreling down the tarmac. The hundreds of people walking through the airport doors; in transition, heading to exciting new destinations or returning home with stories to share.

This photograph of the ever-friendly PSA livery takes me right back to that early love for airports & travel. Appropriately titled ‘A Wink and a Smile’, Flickr user Samer Farha captured this USAirways plane taking off from National Airport on its way to La Guardia. Samer was able to snap the shot from a safe distance by using a 500mm lens and an additional doubler on a Canon 7D.

Do you love airports as much as we do? Do you have a favorite airplane livery? Share your favorite travel moments with us by submitting your photos to our Flickr Pool and it could be our next Photo of the Day.



Hong Kong goes retro

Hong Kong is truly the city of the future. The city’s ubiquitous skyline of shiny beveled-angle skyscrapers towers above you like a giant wall of steel and glass. Meanwhile, residents tap their Octopus cards at cash registers, magically paying for purchases without bills or coins. Yet lying beneath Hong Kong’s fancy neon wizardry is a puzzling trend. It seems these days, Hong Kong is not looking to the future. Instead, the city’s residents have decided to look to the past.

Perhaps it’s inevitable in a city as amazingly dense as this bursting Asian megalopolis. The city sits on a series of tiny islands leaning precariously onto the South China Sea, meaning there’s simply never enough space. The city’s modern skyscrapers and futuristic bridges exist side-by-side with ancient colonial tenement homes and incense-shrouded Buddhist temples. But whether you’re in search of a souvenir, checking out a museum or simply looking for food and drink, you’re likely to encounter a slice of Hong Kong’s growing love for all things vintage.

But “old and musty” vintage this is not. Hong Kong retro is all about reinventing and reusing the pieces of its textured past, providing visitors with a unique slice of checkered history in a decidedly modern way. If you’re in search of a unique taste of days gone-by or a one-of-a-kind souvenir, Hong Kong’s retro style is ready to be discovered. Keep reading to see where to find it…Retro Dining
For many food is the ultimate source of nostalgia, a reminder of our youth and days gone by. It’s a fact that’s been well-absorbed in retro Hong Kong, where a cuisine of fresh ingredients and age-old family recipes prevails. Nowhere is this better evident than at Kowloon’s Tai Ping Koon restaurant, an eatery defiantly still around after more than 150 years of business. But this is no tourist trap. Each evening Tai Ping Koon’s elegant Mid-Century modern dining room is packed with locals enjoying the restaurant’s signature chicken wings in Swiss Sauce and its light, puffy souffles. It’s the original example of East vs. West eating – a distinctly Hong Kong take on Western food.

Retro Shopping
Those looking to experience Hong Kong’s retro past need not only find it on a plate. These days, Hong Kong’s high-energy shopping experience is going retro too. It all starts at Goods of Desire (G.O.D.), a popular home goods store dedicated to “increasing interest in Asian lifestyle and culture.” The products for sale at G.O.D. aren’t your average spatula or cooking utensil. Instead, many items like the store’s retro textiles, kitschy selection of Mao Zedong postcards and old-school furniture pay homage to an earlier era of Hong Kong, a time when it was “the world’s factory,” producing cheap goods for sale in Europe and the U.S. It’s a great place to learn more about the city’s history and pick up a unique souvenir.

Just down the street from G.O.D. is Shanghai Tang, a clothing store that references Hong Kong’s famous reputation for custom-made clothing. The chain takes much of its inspiration from traditional Han Chinese apparel, updated with modern touches. Inside the stores’ Art Deco interior you’ll find both men’s and women’s clothing as well as an array of leather goods, stationery and household goods referencing traditional Chinese symbols and design.

Retro Drinking
The Pawn in Hong Kong’s Wan Chai neighborhood offers another example of the city’s reverence for its historic roots. Pawnshops are a particularly iconic fixture of Hong Kong life. Long before the city’s mammoth banks like HSBC were established, pawn shops played an important role as money lenders for a growing city of merchants and traders. The spartan interiors, high counters and darkened lighting have became a common sight for the city’s residents.

These days, many of Hong Kong’s pawn shops have been replaced, or as is the case with The Pawn, remade into fun hangout spots. The Pawn’s comfy interior pays tribute to Hong Kong’s days of old, offering visitors a wood-paneled interior, leather armchairs and old-school rickety foosball table inside what used to be a working pawn shop. A selection of international beers and cocktails rounds out the menu.

Hong Kong might be the city of the future, but it’s a place that hasn’t forgotten its unique past. From retro eating to shopping to drinking, visitors will find opportunities to enjoy a one-of-a-kind trip through time in this world-famous city.