New Zealand, through the eyes of my Grandmother – Part 1

I thought I would try something a little different in this post. Instead of sharing a travel story of mine, I have interviewed my Grandmother. She is, after all, my biggest fan, and editor (Thanks Granny!) Today I share some of her stories and experiences of Aotearoa.

Tell me about your journey to New Zealand

The first trip I did to New Zealand was with my mother after finishing school in June 1948.  I turned 19 in July and we sailed from Vancouver on the first post-war trip of the Aorangi in September of that year.  The ship had been refitted after service as a troop ship during the war.  She was 13,000 tons which seems minuscule compared to the floating apartment buildings you see now, but she was comfortable and I would describe the atmosphere on board as gracious. 

The Aorangi

The trip took 2 1/2 weeks from Vancouver to Auckland and life onboard was very relaxed and pleasant; gorgeous weather, sparkling deep blue seas and plenty of entertainment. We made some good friends during the voyage and some of those friendships lasted many years.  One of the girls I met then was my matron-of- honour at my wedding.

Life on the Ocean Wave

It took a week to the first port of Honolulu with an overnight stay and another week to Suva in Fiji. It got a bit cooler as we got nearer NZ and we arrived in Auckland on a grey day in October.

What were your first impressions of New Zealand?

I seem to remember we approached Auckland on a rather dreary day in early October and we gathered at the rail for our first sight of Godzone. People were asking where others were bound for and when someone said ‘Wellington’ there was a general expression of sympathy and I thought what an awful place Wellington must be.

Arriving in Auckland I felt I had landed in a place where time had stood still.  The Harbour Bridge had not been built. There was nothing much to buy in the shops and people had to have overseas funds to buy a new car.  Carpets and other furnishings had to be ordered and came by sea from the UK etc. after a long wait. There were even still some of the same people in the shops that were there when my mum left more than 20 years earlier.

Even her postman was still the same!

My first experience of Wellington was 18 months later when I returned to New Zealand to marry after a shipboard romance. Wellington put on a perfect day with the sun glinting on the harbour and the surrounding hills looking like they had been sprinkled by some giant hand with colourful little houses (“little boxes on the hillside” as the song went.) I fell in love with it then and there and have loved it ever since.

Tell me about some memorable holidays you have had in New Zealand

In 1948, my mother and I took a little trip to Rotorua. We stayed in a guest house – no motels in those days. We did a trip to Whakarewarewa and also to see the Aratiatia Rapids.  I remember the tour guide/bus driver saying as we walked through scrubby bushes to the Rapids “This is Injun Country”. 

On one of the days we were on the bus going to the Whakarewarewa Village and noticed a Maori lady sitting near us stripping flax. The following day we did a sightseeing trip to the village and lo and behold, here was our lady from the bus as our guide for the day. She turned out to be none other than the famous Guide Rangi. She was a very well educated lady with a beautiful speaking voice and very knowledgeable about Maori culture.  It wasn’t till later that we realised she was really quite famous and had guided tourists from all over the world. 

We felt very privileged to have met her.

Guide Rangi

To be continued next week.

The Bucket List – North Island Edition

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called The Bucket List, my 5 top New Zealand experience I want to have. After writing it, I realised that every item on that list was in the South Island. Correction, I mean the South Island and Stewart Island.

What I am getting at is that there were no North Island experiences on my list, and it’s the Island I live on. Shame on me!

Te Ika a Maui, aka, The North Island, has some stunning beaches, natural hot springs and some interesting Geo thermal areas. It is certainly a place worth exploring.

So, without furthur ado, here is my top 5 North Island Bucker List items:

Staying a night at Wharekauhau Lodge

This one has been on the bucket list for 11.5 years! An Edwardian style lodge, set up on a hill, it looks out towards stunning views of Palliser Bay and farm land in the Wairarapa. I first came here in 2009. It is where Daniel and I got engaged and has always held a special place in my heart. We visited again late last year, again just for lunch. When Daniel proposed, he had looked into staying a night, but at over $3000 a night, it was off the cards. A bucket list item for sure, but perhaps more of a dream.

Not anymore. In September we are making this dream a reality. I managed to grab a bargain when they were offering a ‘Back your backyard – NZ residents special’. It was too good to pass up.

Wharekauhau is luxury at it’s finest. The food is exceptional, the location stunning and the staff are so warm and welcoming. To say I am excited about staying here is an understatement.

Tongariro Crossing

I actually had plans to do this walk in March with my sister-in-law. The trip was all booked and then Covid-19 happened. The first weekend we spent in lockdown was the weekend we were meant to be hiking this trail.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing is in the Tongariro National Park, located in central North Island in the Manawatu-Wanganui region. The walk is just under 20km and is often described as being NZ’s best day walk. The walk is said to be challenging but incredibly rewarding. The trail takes you past craters, lakes and landscapes like no other.

I am yet to rebook this one but will need to do some fitness prepping first. I will confess that I didn’t do much exercise during lockdown and took up the hobby of baking. Needless to say, I have put on a bit of lockdown weight.

Northern Explorer

One of New Zealand’s great train rides. This journey goes between Auckland and Wellington, stopping at some great locations along the way. The journey takes around 10 hours, but I would take the opportunity to get off at some stops along the way to further explore.

Fancy staying in a Chateau or visiting Hobbiton? Black water rafting at Waitomo or a trip to Kapiti Island? These are all locations that are accessible from the stops it makes along the way.

The Northern Explorer is not currently operating, I am waiting for that email it’s back up and running and then (if I haven’t already spent all my money on other trips) I will make a booking.

Camping with the pups

I have wanted to do this for a while now, what’s stopping me I hear you ask? Well the main thing, I don’t own a tent. An essential piece of equipment for this adventure.

I have always loved camping but haven’t done it in ages. I would love to take Frankie and Eddie camping with me too. There are a few campgrounds around that allow dogs.

The other issue stopping me is that Frankie and Eddie, AKA The FrEddies, although small and cute, are very vocal. The love to alert us of people arriving, birds on the porch and neighbors turning on their lights. We would need to trial the camping somewhere close, like Wainuiomata, so if The FrEddies felt the need to alert us to everything going on at the camp site and we needed to make a quick exit in the middle of the night, we wouldn’t need to drive too far.

First thing I need to do is locate a tent I can borrow. I don’t want to invest in one if it’s going to be a disastrous family outing.

Wanganui River Kayak

I have a thing for kayaking, I am certainly no pro and I don’t do it very often, but given the chance I love to jump in a kayak and go exploring.

This Wanganui River tour is a multi day tour, I think actually in canoes, rather than kayaks. I haven’t done too much research into this, so I don’t have a tour company picked out, yet.

This would be a tour with stunning scenery and informative local history in a area that I am not too familiar with.

What’s on your bucket list?

Searching for Seals

In February, when we were in Kaikoura, I went on a massive walk in the morning out to Ohau to see the seal colony.

There were 2 seals.

Recently (thanks Facebook) I learnt that Turakirae Head Reserve in Wainuiomata is home to the largest seal colony in Wellington.

So off we went.

Our walk took us past farm land, green pastures with sheep, framed with huge cliffs. There were even some little lambs, bless them, it’s not lamb season, they will be so cold.

On the other side of us we have the coast, dotted with flax and tussock near the shoreline. I really enjoy the scenery. It’s not what you would describe as being pretty, and I am sure there are people who wouldn’t be able to see the appeal. It’s wild and rugged, but also untouched and beautiful in it’s own way.

The signpost said it would be an hour’s walk but it only took us half that. The walk is flat, but quite challenging. It starts out easy, walking along gritty sand, but this changes into gravel, then shingle, then rocks and at the end we found ourselves having to Macgyver over and around boulders and scrub.

Our efforts were rewarded though, there are plenty of seals here and lots of big boulders to sit upon and just watch. Our furry friends aren’t particularly active. The sun is out, so they seem pretty happy just lying around sunning themselves.

They take no notice of us.

It’s quite an exposed place and we experience a lot of different weather on this walk; bright blue skies, eerie misty weather with sun breaking through the clouds, a sun shower, followed by a beautiful rainbow and then just rain.

Persistent heavy rain.

There is no shelter, nowhere to hide, we just have to take it. But it’s these types of experiences, being exposed to the elements, that I find really invigorating – when I know there are dry clothes and a hot shower available at the end of it!

If your looking for a local adventure and don’t mind a bit of ‘rock climbing’ you should check out this place.

A Rainy Day in Petone

Every week, unless the weather is horrid, my weekend always begins with a walk at Hikoikoi Reserve in Petone. It’s a favourite spot for Frankie, Eddie and I.

It’s a very misty day, I can’t see Somes Island or even the end of the beach, but there is no wind and the rain is mostly holding back.

I love this place, partly because it’s an off lead dog friendly place, but a walk along the beach, whatever the time, is a great way to clear the mind and re-energize one’s self. Frankie and Eddie love it, there are always lots of interesting things to smell (and pee on) and it’s not nearly as crowded as the other end of the beach (which is also an off lead dog area)

The air is cool and crisp, the sea birds are gliding in the sky and soothing tidal sounds follow us for our walk. It’s a great way to start the day.

The rain arrives so I decide to drop Frankie and Eddie at home and have a day exploring Petone. I have lived in the Hutt Valley for over 6 years now and I had never visited the Petone Settlers Museum on the Esplanade before.

Today is the day.

On a cold wet day, the museum is warm and inviting

I must admit, I am not very knowledgeable about New Zealand history. This museum, although small, gives a really good introduction and paints a picture of what life would have been like for those early settlers and Maori in the area.

There are displays, pictures and a really interesting video, full of information.

Life in England in the 1800’s was harsh; over populated with not enough work, low wages and poor working conditions. There was lots of crime and unemployment.

New Zealand was a rich, fertile land, full of timber, whales and seals. It was painted as ‘The New England’ a place of opportunity and chance at a better life.

The first settlers ship, The Aurora, arrived at what was then known as ‘Port Nicholson’ in Pito-one (Petone) on the 22nd January, 1840, carrying 140 passengers. The first of many passenger ferry’s that would bring people to New Zealand.

My ancestors first arrived in Christchurch in 1856 aboard ‘the Duke of Portland’. My time at the museum really got me thinking about what life would have been life for them, settling in an unknown, foreign land and building their new life here in Aotearoa.

There is just far to much information that I learnt to be able to do it justice here. It was such an interesting place and fascinating to be able to learn about the history specific to the area that I live in.

I highly recommend you check out this museum.

I then headed to Jackson Street for some lunch and ended up at one of my favorites, Comes & Goes. The decor has a Scandinavian styled vibe, blonde wood, neutral colours and simple, minimalist design.

Serving Instagram worthy food, I had a hard time deciding. I went with the Waffle Banana – what a gorgeous meal, for the taste buds and they eyes. They say you eat with your eyes first. I know I certainly did.

You could spend a day shopping on Jackson Street, there is such variety. From designer boutiques to thrift stores, cafe’s, bakeries and even a chocolatier, there is something for everyone.

After a quick look at the shops, I was onto my next stop….

Light House Cinema Petone. My favourite cinema. It’s warm and intimate with comfortable 2 seater couches, perfect for snuggling up next to your other half. Take a wine or a cup of tea in with you while you enjoy the flicks.

It’s the perfect way to spend a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon.

A Walk with the birds at Zealandia

It is a perfect winter’s day.

A day where the air is cool and crisp, the sky is blue as far as the eye can see and there is not a breath of wind.

Today I am off to Zealandia. A 225 hector, fully fenced sanctuary that’s home to a variety of native birds, reptiles and plants.

Within minutes of arriving, there are 2 things I become very aware of. The first being the stillness and silence. Not silence from noise altogether, the birds are rather loud. I am talking about silence from man made and city noises. There is something very energizing about being surrounded only by sounds of nature.

I am also aware of the variety of bird song I can hear. I have been in the bush many times where the birds are chattering away, but this is different. Being in the sanctuary, the variety of birds singing is awesome and the melody they produce together is wonderful.

Is this what it was like for our ancestors who first arrived to the shores of New Zealand? What a magical, untouched place it must have been.

Our walk begins along the lake. The water is so still and flat, creating some awesome mirror effects.

At the wetlands, we see a small group of shags. One is nesting, another is drying its wings in the sun.

I have put the zoom lens on my camera today. I am hoping to get some great bird shots. While taking photos of the shags, I notice how my zoom lens is dwarfed by the lenses on the camera’s next to me. I feel a bit embarrassed. One of the guys next to me joking tells me I will need to get a bit closer. (Any closer and I would be in the water!)

I am on this walk with Daniel today. He always likes to take the hardest, steepest routes. So up we go. He wants to see the upper dam. I am huffing and puffing away, but on the plus side, not as many people take these routes, so the peacefulness of the forest comes with us. When we reach the dam, we are rewarded with views across the canopy.

We see a number of different birds including piwakawaka (fantail), tieke (saddleback) and toutouwai (North Island robin) all or which were so hard to photograph, they move so quickly. This is the only photo I got that wasn’t just a big blur.

I did manage to get some good shots of the Kaka though (actually, Daniel did). A large brown parrot with orange under it’s wings. We saw several of these, they were quite easy to spot due to their size and the amount of noise they make hopping from branch to branch and gnawing on bark.

Next time I will be sure to check out the Tuatara Research Area. On warm sunny days you may see one basking on a rock, catching some rays. These ‘living fossil’ are relative of the dinosaurs and pretty unique looking.

Zealandia is a a nature lovers paradise. There is so much to explore, to see and to hear. I am grateful for places like this that allow us to get a glimpse of what untouched New Zealand might have been like.

There are many walks and routes you can take here. We only really scratched the surface of it, but even then, were rewarded with some beautiful forests and lots of birds.

Zealandia is currently free until the end of June. If you are local, I highly recommend checking it out. There is also a special on their year’s membership pass at the moment. For $50, I couldn’t resist.

Have you been to Zealandia before?

The Bucket List

2020 started over 5 months ago, but in someways it feels like it is just beginning. As with all new starts, its time to start dreaming (and planning) those adventures that will leave you with lifetime memories.

Not sure where to start? I thought I would share my top 5 New Zealand bucket list items. (In no particular order)

Doubtful Sounds Overnight Cruise

I have been fortunate enough to have done an overnight cruise in Milford Sounds. To this day, it remains one of the most magical and memorable travel experiences I have ever had.

There is something about the fiords that makes you marvel at creation. They make you feel so small, in a good way, where you are reminded of just how awesome mother nature is. Combine that with the stillness and silence of the place and your are in for a real treat.

Doubtful Sounds is less visited by tourists, much larger and very quiet. I want to kayak next to huge fiords again, count shooting stars at night and watch the sun rise in the sounds.

Who could imagine anything better?

Star Gazing in a Dark Sky Reserve

I have always had a fascination with stars. They are so mysterious and magical. We live in a world with so much light pollution that our night sky is very different to what our ancestors would have looked upon. Fortunately there are still areas in the world where the magic of the milky way and shooting stars that make you gasp can be seen.

New Zealand has 2 official dark sky reserves, including the world’s biggest – the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve in Canterbury. At Lake Tekapo you will find Mt. John Observatory where you can partake in a variety of star gazing experiences (currently closed due to Covid-19).

The star gazing experience that’s on my bucket list though is Lake Tekapo’s Soak in the Stars experience at Tekapo Springs. Imagine floating in a natural hot pool, gazing up at the milky way. I am sure it would leave me breathless.

Stewart Island

Following on from my fascination with stars and the night sky, I would love to see the Aurora Polaris. I am sure many of you have heard of the Northern lights, but you don’t have to head all the way to Alaska or Scandinavia. The Aurora Australis, also known as the Southern Lights, can be seen from parts of New Zealand, including Stewart Island. I don’t know about you, but for me, all those colours dancing about in the sky and witnessing this natural phenomena is most definitely a bucket list item.

Stewart Island is 80% national park, making it an excellent place for bush walks and seeing some of our native wildlife including the kiwi. I can’t wait for the opportunity to explore this place.

Swim with Dolphins

This experience has been on my bucket list for the last few years. I have made 2 attempts at this so far. The first one I had lined up was in Tauranga but I had to cancel that last minute as my husband had a small motorbike accident a week before we were due to depart. I then made a second attempt earlier in the year on our south island trip, you can read about that here and here.

As with any wild animal encounter, there is always an element of chance and luck. This is part of what makes the occurrence so special. On this trip, we didn’t get to swim with dolphins, but we did get to observe the little, rare Hector’s dolphin in it’s natural habitat which was pretty special.

I am not sure when, but I will definitely be making another stop at E-Ko Tours in Picton for another chance at swimming with dolphins. I really love the care and commitment this company has for protecting our environment.

Multi Day Able Tasman Kayak

In 2000 I tramped Able Tasman on a school trip. I then went straight onto a family holiday in Rarotonga. I remember thinking that the beaches at Able Tasman were more amazing. And that’s saying something because the beaches in Raro are beautiful.

In 2012, I did a half day Able Tasman Kayak with my husband. Clear water, blue sunny skies and stunning beaches. I can’t get enough. I have my eye on this 5 day kayak trip with Able Tasman Kayaks. Bring it on!

What’s on your bucket list?

Te Awa Kairangi – a walk along Hutt River

It has been so long since I have been here.

Months in fact.

I want to spend some time exploring places closer to home and to try and see the places as a tourist does. When you see a place over and over again, you can miss the beauty amongst the familiar. I had forgotten how beautiful Te Awa Kairangi is.

Stretching from the Southern Tararua ranges out to Wellington Harbour at Petone, you can walk beside it’s river bank for miles.

I am out with my dogs, Frank and Ed who are having an excellent time. There are so many exciting things for them to sniff. Unfortunately there is a toxic algae that grows in the water during the summer months which is deadly to dogs, so I always avoid the place from November through to April.

Frank and Ed are a bit like toddlers. They are curious and love exploring the world by putting everything in their mouths, so it’s just not worth the risk to take them here in the warmer months.

Its an easy flat walk and I often find I’ll walk to an hour without even realising it, forgetting that this also means and hour walk home! Along the edge of the river bank is the off lead dog walking area, up above is a sealed pavement that makes it a popular route for cyclists. There are also may spots perfect for an afternoon picnic in the sun.

It’s autumn now. The day is still, the river is like a mirror and the trees are a display of autumnal colours. We see lots of bird life, from seagulls and ducks to black swans, pukeko and kereru. Also monarch butterflies. We are so close to the city, but nature abounds.

If I were a tourist, I would think this place was pretty beautiful. As a local (it’s a 5 minute drive from my house) I think I take it for granted sometimes.

What’s on your back doorstep that you have maybe taken for granted?

Our Backyard

Exactly one year ago today, I was in Italy.

In Tuscany, to be more precise. Exploring hill top towns, indulging in gorgeous food and enjoying the simple things in life.

How different the world of travel looks now. Over the last few months we have watched the impact of Covid 19, seen it spread it’s way around the world, literary putting whole countries into lockdown.

With international travel looking like it will be off the cards for sometime, I am really hoping that Kiwi’s will use this as an opportunity to explore their backyard.

An adventure holiday, a relaxing holiday, a nature holiday, a gastronomic holiday; mountains, lakes, glaciers, beaches, caves, forests. Whatever type of holiday or experiance you are looking for, you will find it right here in Aotearoa.

As New Zealanders, we are so lucky. We live in such a diverse, beautiful land. People travel thousands of miles to see this place and we have it right here on our doorstep.

There has never been a better time to explore your back yard.

With the impacts of lockdown, I have begun to see incredible deals popping up around the country and already have 2 trips locked in.

In July, my husband and I celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. We are heading to Queenstown, staying at a beautiful boutique hotel that looks out over the shotover river. I got it at an incredible price of $110 per night. Check out Nugget Point Hotel Queenstown for some awesome deals.

In September we are ticking of a bucket list item, that, to be honest, I never really thought we would do. When I saw that Wharekauhau in the Wairarapa were having a ‘back you backyard’ special, I couldn’t help but book it.

There are so many awesome experiences out there to be had.

Where are you heading to next?

Leave me a comment below. I would love to know what part of the Long White Cloud you are planing to explore next.

Wine tasting with Frankly Tours

We wake in Waipataki and walk a few minutes down to the beach. A small golden sandy bay, enclosed by rugged looking hills, a world away from the city. The waves are big and the tides are strong. I wouldn’t recommend swimming here unless you are a confident swimmer. I’m not, but can manage a paddle in the surprisingly warm water. The morning colours are starting to appear through the clouds. This beautiful little place is still and peaceful.

I wish I could stay longer. However, our wine tasting tour is calling.

Hawake’s Bay is the oldest wine region in New Zealand and the second largest. Today, we are joining Frankly Tours  to help guide us in our wine tasting experience.

At first I was disappointed to learn that the owner, Frank, would not be our tour guide. Frank has many excellent reviews! I need not have worried though, Mark was an excellent host. Friendly and knowledgeable, we were in great hands.

We visit 4 quite different vineyards, the first being the oh so grand and elegant Mission Estate. (Mission estate is another winery that holds concerts amongst the vines.)

Established in 1851, it is New Zealand’s oldest winery. The building exudes elegance. A grandiose colonial styled building with a tree lined driveway, central water fountain and a foliage engulfed porch to welcome you in.

We try 6 wines here while a Mission Estate host shares his knowledge of wine making with us. I learn that pinot grapes grow really well in Otago but not in Hawkes Bay. This is because the pinot grapes have very thin skin and cannot manage with the heat Hawkes bay gets. I also learn that Shiraz and Syrah are made from the same type of grapes.

We then move onto Moana Park, a small boutique winery producing 100% plant based wines. We wine taste, alfresco style, under walnut trees, while snacking on fresh bread, olive oil and homemade dukkah. My favourite wine was from here. A 2019 sauvignon blanc. I’m not normally a fan of sauvignon, but this one was delicious. I wish I had bought more than just one bottle. Small places like this can sell out fast. My advise – if you like it, buy it. You might not get another chance!

After a scenic drive through the country side, we arrive at Oak Estate Wines It is run by and Austrian couple and their wines have a European taste to them. The land in this area was no good for growing crops or raising stock, but it was discovered to be the perfect place for growing grape vines. A platter of delectable treats was included with this wine tasting. The burnt butter mousse was outstanding.

Back into the van and onto the next place. I am quite please we are such a small tour group today (just the 4 of us and our driver Mark) it means there is lots of room on the back seats for our quickly growing collection of wines!

We arrive at Unison Vineyard, our 4th stop and by now I am struggling to walk in a straight line. I have tasted so many wines! We are each asked what type of wines we like and our host tailors the tastings for each of us. We are told a bit about the technicalities of corking wine, but to be honest, I am far too happy to take any of it in.

I leave Unison Vineyard with a few more bottles of wine feeling very merry. We have one last stop – Roosters Brewery . I am not a fan of beer, so opt to have a cider instead. Daniel gets the beer tasting paddle. I am not sure how he managed it, they were very generous servings. Paired with some hot chips; it was a great way to finish off the tour.

Hawkes Bay produces some excellent wines. With Frankly Tours we were able to sample a huge range of wines in a fun and hassle free manor. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend Frankly Tours, it was the perfect way to spend the afternoon. To end the day, Daniel and I decide to head back to Mission Estate for dinner.

We have an early start the next morning. I’m talking on the road by 6am early. My lovely husband forgot that he had someone coming over to our house in the morning to interview him about his turbo motorbike!!

The advantage to this early morning car ride home is that it’s much cooler and I get to see a sunrise – even if it is from the car window.


Car Sauna, a Swanky Macca’s and Dancing under the Stars

Hawkes Bay, it’s one of those places that, whenever I visit, I am left pondering why I don’t live there. Don’t get me wrong, I love Wellington, but the weather is often far less than favourable. But in Hawkes Bay, the sun shines, vineyards are plentiful, fresh produce abounds and everyday life looks like a beach holiday.

Napier is where we are heading today. I am looking forward to the promise of a sun drenched weekend. The car is packed, we are ready to go, but first we have to drop Frank and Ed off at the pet sitters. Somehow, Frank and Ed have more luggage as us. Yes, my dogs are spoilt.

Napier is a 4 hour’s drive from Wellington, but it felt so much longer! The aircon in our car doesn’t work and OMG, it was such a hot drive up. (My husband wants me to mention that it hasn’t worked for years because I didn’t want to pay $800 to get it fixed. I made my bed and now I am sweating in it!) I was so happy to finally arrive and get some water and an ice cream, even if it was from McDonalds.

Believe it or not, our McDonald’s experience was actually pretty cool.

In 1931, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Hawkes Bay region, completely devastating the area, including Napier. When Napier was rebuilt, it was done in the current fashion of the era – Art Deco style. Everywhere you go, you will see an amazing variety of art deco styled buildings, including the McDonald’s building. I don’t think I will ever see such a swanky McDonald’s in my life – stained glass windows, ceiling rosettes, décor in the typical 1930’s design and art work, depicting the way of life in this bygone era. If you’re in Napier, be sure to check out the Taradale McDonald’s

Every year in February, the city holds an Art Deco Festival Weekend. People dress up, ride around in vintage cars, attend Gatsby picnic’s and much more. I love how the city has embraced the era.

Writing about it now, I think it needs to go on my bucket list.

The reason we are in Napier though is not to go to and Art Deco Mcdonald’s or attend Art Deco weekend. We are here to see Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminal’s concert at Church Road Vineyard.

Every year, Napier holds a variety of concerts in some of their beautiful wineries. They have had a multitude of famous artist such as Elton John, Michael Buble, Sting, Eric Clapton and more, filling the vineyards with songs. This is my first time attending one of these events and I am really looking forward to it.

We arrive as the doors are opening and find a spot on the lawn to set up our picnic. (You can take your own food in.) There are a number of food trucks you can purchase meals and snacks from, as well as wines from the vineyard and beer.

The atmosphere was great. A warm summer night, dancing barefoot in the grass under the stars. A delectable picnic on hand, wine and some great music.

What more could you want?

Things did get a little awkward as the day turned to night and picnics turned into a concert as wine filled people started tripping over picnic baskets. I wouldn’t recommend setting up your picnic right in front of the stage!

We spend the night out at a friend’s batch at a remote beach called Waipataki. The night air is filled with the sounds of the ocean, chirping crickets and a house party singing ‘don’t go out in the pouring rain’

Away from the city and light pollution the stars are magnificent. I have always had a fascination with stars and it has been a long time since I have seen a night sky this clear, the Milky Way is stunning.  I was disappointed I didn’t think to pack the camera. My cell phone camera won’t pick up this incredible moment.

Next time.