Merry Christmas!

It’s Christmas!  Lynn and I could hardly sleep we were so excited about Santa. Actually we woke up at 7.30 and lay in bed for 30 minutes till we heard other people moving around and I decided I should probably get up and make the cinnamon rolls I had promised everyone the night before. Christmas morning cinnamon rolls have been a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember, though three years ago we switched from Cinnabon to homemade ones.  This year I was using a Cooks Illustrated recipe that used baking soda and powder rather than yeast because it saved a considerable amount of time and we’re on vacation damn it. An hour later I was pulling fresh baked cinnamon buns out of the oven and they looked and smelled delicious.  They did taste a little more like sugared buttermilk biscuits than cinnamon rolls but they were quite good.

Cinnamon buns for breakfast.
Cinnamon buns for breakfast.

After breakfast we all showered if we had not already, brushed our teeth, and made our beds before we were allowed to open presents (another tradition in my family). With everyone cleaned up we gathered around to open what Santa had brought.  We took turns opening the used maps, food wrappers, and magazine pages to reveal our presents. The big gift of course was everyone coming to visit, but we all got little (easily packable) gifts as well.  Lynn and I gave everyone merino wool and possum socks and received handmade tops and a Christmas ornament from New Zealand in return.

Obligatory Christmas family portrait.
Obligatory Christmas family portrait.
Mom showing off her new socks.
Mom showing off her new socks.

After presents and some lounging about we decided to head into Dunedin to see the local town.  Everyone was quite excited about the architecture there, having heard about it from a friend of Phil’s who used to live here. The town was not surprisingly, fairly empty and it was very easy to find street parking.  There was a bit more foot traffic than we expected though; we would later find out that the Diamond Princess cruise ship was in town.

Our first stop was the train station, which was done in a Flemish Renaissance style (none of us have ever heard of this and think they made it up).  The station was quite beautiful and ornate, especially the tiling on the inside of the lobby.  We also located the local Cadbury chocolate factory but sadly it was closed and we could not do the public tour.

Dunedin train station. How elegant.
Dunedin train station. How elegant.
The tile work was very cool around the old ticket windows.
The tile work was very cool around the old ticket windows.

From here we walked up a shop lined road up to The Octagon. This is sadly not a UFC fighting arena, it’s the town square for Dunedin, but rather than a square they made it an octagon to be different I suppose.  All of the shops and restaurants along the road were closed, even the Chinese ones, and we quickly learned that Christmas is a bit less commercial here than in the U.S.  (Though Harvey Norman’s super annoying commercials would have you think otherwise – 50% OFF THIS BOXING DAY AT HARVEY NORMAN).

We walked around The Octagon and found a Turkish kebap place with its sole glowing “Open” sign along a row of dark window fronts and went inside to join the other heathens spending money on a religious day.  Lynn, my parents, and I all got kebaps while Sue and Phil decided to wait for leftover soup at home.  They were quite delicious and my parents both agreed, after some initial wariness, that kebaps were actually quite good.

Posing by a statue of Robert Burns. A famous Scottish poet. His nephew was one of the founders of Dunedin.
Posing by a statue of Robert Burns. A famous Scottish poet. His nephew was one of the founders of Dunedin.
People did some shopping and Lynn and I amused ourselves by dressing up and making silly faces.
People did some shopping and Lynn and I amused ourselves by dressing up and making silly faces. Russian Doug and Lynn are full of Holiday cheer.
Doug is really, really...really...enjoying his kebap.
Doug is really, really…really…enjoying his kebap.

By this point, our parking meter was running low so we headed back to the car by way of an industrial park in an attempt to find a sculpture garden. The sculpture garden turned out to be a single sculpture that was so beautiful it made Sue to ask “Is it finished?”

Our next stop was Baldwin Street on the Northeast side of town.  Baldwin Street is famous for being the steepest road in the world.  Take that San Francisco! It rises up into a neighborhood at a completely undrivable 35% slope.  We found it by locating the number of parked cars along an otherwise very quiet and empty road.  My Dad wisely decided he did not feel compelled to climb it while the rest of us poor fools took on the steep asphalt road. It was like climbing the hills in Mongolia only you kept having to get out of the road for some tourist driving up and down, filming the whole thing on their iPhone, engine revving like mad the whole time.

Despite the steep slope, the road looks like any other, with cute mid century homes at a very awkward angle to the road.  The whole thing was a bit disorienting and Lynn even got a touch of vertigo.  We eventually made it to the top and celebrated with some pictures before heading back down and driving home to start on dinner.

Lynn helping Doug get perpendicular to the street.
Lynn helping Doug get perpendicular to the street.
So crooked.
So crooked.
Mom walking back down the hill.
Mom walking back down the hill.

Lynn and I started on dinner while others took naps or read. After getting the pot roast going, we both joined them (not in the same bed, that’s weird).  Slowly, dinner came together and we sat down to a Christmas feast by 7.30.  A bit later than planned but luckily the sun was still well in the sky so it felt a lot earlier.

This is Phil's pleasure reading. Seems a little dense for vacation.
This is Phil’s pleasure reading. Seems a little dense for vacation.
Christmas dinner. Pot roast, roasted potatoes and carrots, green beans with toasted almonds, and everyone's favorite - cranberry salad.
Christmas dinner. Pot roast, roasted potatoes and carrots, green beans with toasted almonds, and everyone’s favorite – cranberry salad.
Lynn made a delicious lemon tiramisu for dessert.

Daily Walking Miles : 4.5 miles

Fun Facts:

  • Dunedin was founded by Scottish Presbyterians at the beginning of the 19th century.  The name is actually the Scottish Gaelic way of saying Edinburgh, Dùn Èideann.
  • Baldwin Street is the site of a fundraising event every year, where you can buy a Cadbury jaffa (it’s a candy apparently) to roll down the hill.  The winning candy earns prizes and the money from purchasing the balls goes to charity.
  • Possums are an invasive mammal from Australia and are being eradicated.  A fun bonus is that their fur is really, really soft and makes excellent socks.
  • Sheep are way faster than they look.  Despite running as fast as I can to try and pet them, they are just too wary and quick for me.

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