Two columns ago in my “gratitude” column published just prior to Thanksgiving I mentioned that the city of Havelock in Marlborough County, New Zealand…our own Havelock’s sister city down under and at the “end of the earth”…would be the subject of my next column.

Then a Christmas miracle happened and instead of writing about Havelock, NZ as I had planned, I wrote about my mother-in-law waking up from a perpetual “transitioning to death” slumber just in time to participate in her family Christmas celebration. As of this writing Mary, thankfully, is still lucid and hanging in there.

So I can now write about our own Havelock’s sister town on the South Island of New Zealand, a Havelock we were fortunate to visit during a trip there in November. There is also a Havelock on the north island of New Zealand but we did not visit that sister city of our own Havelock. We have a sister Havelock city in the state of Nebraska too. All four municipalities are named, by the way, for Major General Sir Henry Havelock who was a British officer most famous for his 19th century campaigns in India.

But I digress. Why were we in New Zealand in the first place? As I mentioned in my Thanksgiving column, we had visited our daughter, son-in-law, and two of our grandkids in Tokyo who are stationed there with the US Department of State. Since we had already spent all those hours on aircraft traveling to Tokyo, we were determined to finish the trip to the “end of the earth” and travel “down under” to New Zealand, a place we had always wanted to visit. And so we did. It took us about half the time to get from Tokyo, Japan to Auckland, New Zealand as it did from New Bern, North Carolina to Tokyo.

Though the travel time was shorter, we used virtually every form of transport known to man to get to and journey through New Zealand. It was a “Planes, trains and automobiles” (a 1987 American comedy film written, produced, and directed by John Hughes starring Steve Martin and John Candy) on steroids kind of experience. In addition to our own feet and of course planes, we traveled on trains, a funicular, cars, trucks, taxis, buses, and ferries to ultimately arrive at and experience Havelock, NZ.

While it’s smaller than our Havelock, (the 2013 census recorded its population as 486), Havelock, NZ reminded me of our Havelock with its small town feel and friendly people. Just like our Havelock, Havelock, NZ has a hotel, several restaurants, a main street, an appreciation for its military heritage, and a town hall. And just like our Havelock, Havelock NZ was a nice place to visit and would be a nice place to live.

Though similar in many ways, Havelock, NZ has a claim to fame that our own Havelock does not. Havelock, NZ is the green shelled mussel capital of the world. And those mussels are delicious fried or steamed on the half shell, both of which I sampled while there.

As wonderful a trip it was to Havelock, NZ my preference still is for our own Havelock, NC. In case haven’t noticed, Havelock, NC is a great town. And as good as the green shelled mussels were in New Zealand, I prefer Hoppin’ John, collards, oysters on the half shell, and corn bread right here at home especially when celebrating New Year’s Day.