Sandwiches and Sakura in Palmy

October 1, 2009

It’s no secret I make it a goal to compare Subway sandwiches across the globe. Before my time in Japan, I was eating at least six subs/week for lunch… maybe dinner too.

In the states, you can get spicy mustard, spinach leaves, and several kinds of cheese (not to mention the meatball subs). The restaurants are as far reaching as Praesidio, Texas.

Praesidio, Texas Subway

In Japan, the bread is cut a little more neatly, the dressings added in precise proportions, and the servings of chocolate chip cookies and drinks surprisingly small (but adequate); Subway is one of the few places in Nippon where one can enjoy decent turkey.

Subway in Japan, nata2
Subway in Japan

So when I first arrived in Palmerston North (Palmy as it is known around NZ), it came as no surprise that Kiwis would offer the meat they have in abundances in the greatest sandwich chain to traverse the globe: lamb. Lamb subs… still sounds classy.

Furthermore, stores and even major restaurants in New Zealand towns tend to shut down rather early by US standards; if you’re arriving after 5:30, it’s a safe bet every door will be closed, and it’s unlikely you could even find a coffee shop to enjoy some free wifi. Maybe that’s another reason Americans gain so much weight – we have late night drive-thrus, restaurants open until 11 or 12, and food carts greeting us after a crazy time clubbing. As of yet, I have seen no such food carts in Kiwi territory. Subway in Palmy, as an apparent exception to the rule, keeps its reputation as the place to go after the pubs kick you out: they close at 3 AM, but Subway stays open until 4.

In any case, my main motivation for heading to Palmy wasn’t sandwiches but sakura, the Japanese cherry blossoms. I had been WWOOFing with a great family in Wanganui when a friendly Twitterer informed me that one of my favorite pastimes – eating meat on a stick with pretty girls in kimono looking at cherry blossom trees – would be available in Palmerston North, only about an hour away. Of course I had to partake, especially when I talked my attractive tell-it-like-it-is Couchsuring host into joining me. I’ll say it again: I think I’m destined to be with a Kiwi girl. I love their attitudes and accents.

Cherry Blossom in Palmerston North

Japanese calligraphy

The Sakura Festival was held at the International Pacific College (IPC) just outside of town. I was expecting the crowd to be mostly Japanese, surprised to find most in attendance were Chinese and Korean. No complaints, however, as the trees were in few bloom, only a few past their prime. The festival included traditional Japanese classes like calligraphy, tea ceremony (and Pokemon), but there were also rooms showcasing Thai, Indian, Russian, Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, and New Zealand culture: a room full of All Blacks merchandise and pictures of Kiwi birds… nice.

Walking under the falling pedals of the blossoms did bring back some happy memories of my time on Yoshinoyama, but the ambience in Palmy just didn’t do it for me; I suggested to my host that we move on after a few hours, and she already had a few ideas in the works…

Te Apiti wind farm

Woodville is the windmill capital of New Zealand, or so the sign on the north side of town would have you believe. Te Apiti, the wind farm itself, is atop a range overlooking Palmy. Despite the wind (well… duh), cold weather, and promise of rain, there were a few other onlookers who had driven the distance to pray none of those huge blades come loose and strike them dead… hey, you try standing underneath one of those things and see if you can think of anything but the elephant.

Te Apiti wind farm

Overall impressions? Palmy seems to be a town with boy racers on the square at all hours, a few decent pubs like The Grand and the Celtic Inn, and not much else. Best to hold out hope for a festival or just chill at the bar drinking JD and Coke. One note: Palmys do tend to take their bicycle security seriously:

Bicycle in Palmerston North, NZ

Palmerston North, The Square

Your English lesson for the day:

  • British, pavement
  • Kiwi, footpath
  • American, sidewalk

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