Exploring Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve

I don’t know about you, but I have quite a long bucket list of places I want to visit and experiences I want to have in New Zealand and abroad. Some, like a weekend at Lakestone lodge, come with a rather large price ticket attached. Others can be enjoyed for free.

The Pinnacles Track is a walk in the Wairarapa that I have been wanting to do for some time. It featured in Peter Jackson’s LOTR – Return of the King film as The Path to the Dead. Whether you are a LOTR fan or not, this is an excellent walk and a great place to explore.

Let me set the scene; It is Matariki (Maori New Year, the first year this has been a public holiday here) and Daniel and I have decided to take the opportunity to go exploring. It’s a cold day, but the sun is trying to break through the clouds as we make the 1.5 hour drive to the reserve. I do love winter. Especially on a calm, still day. The soft blue hues of winter skies and cool mist hugging the bare trees, it’s quiet and peaceful. It’s a scenic drive, and even if we weren’t going for the walk, it would have been a nice day out.

We arrive late in the morning and I am quite surprised by the number of cars that are here. For a walk that is so remote, it seems pretty popular. We set out along the trail, if you can really call it that. You can’t really get lost (and that’s saying a lot coming from me) but the track is more just walking along the river stones, following the stream. It gets a bit muddy in parts and several times we have to cross the river, jumping across stones. (Flash back to our Abel Tasman Walk earlier in the year where I pulled a muscle in my leg from jumping over stones) Needless to say, I take a lot of care doing this. No injuries this time, and I stay dry. Good job!

The first half of the walk is flat, easy walking, following the river. Toi Toi and flax grow alongside the river and the surrounding hills are green with vegetation.

And then the landscape changes. We leave the river and the green hills behind us. This will be hard, I can see the incline goes on for sometime. I try to pace myself and watch my footing. We are walking on a mix of stones, gravel and shingle. And then Daniel calls out “Frog”. I look over to where he is pointing and just above his foot is a little green frog. I think it’s the first time I have seen a frog in the wild. It just sits there, its little webbed feet clinging onto its rock, not really bothered by us.

While part of me would like to hang out here for a while and continue watching the frog, I know I need to keep moving before I lose my momentum.

This is the first time since leaving the river that I have really looked up. We are in a fairly narrow channel, surrounded by tall, straight rock cliffs. It’s a really impressive sight. We make it to the top, stopping to take it all in and look at how high we climbed. The rock formations are something else, small and large rock chips fused together with a natural cement that has gradually been eroded away over time. They are so tall and straight, standing proud and towering overhead.

We head back along the same track to the river. The surface is rocky and uneven, so I spend a lot of time looking at my footing so I don’t trip. This does mean that I blindly follow Daniel into the mud. He is agile enough to be able to jump up onto the side of a hill and bypass it. Me on the other hand, well, I just have to go through it. (On reflection I could have back tracked and found a different route, but I didn’t have that thought at the time.) So I finish the walk covered in thick mud, well past my ankles. What an adventure.

We make it back to the car, and since we are in The Wairarapa, we head home via one of my favorite towns, Martinborough, to sit in the sun at The Village Cafe and refuel with some lunch. It was an excellent day out.

Escape to the Country

When our 4th round of IVF ended in November 2018, I knew it was time to close the door on the dream of having children and time to start re-dreaming a new future. I made a promise to myself, that I would make time for the things that I love and that life would be an adventure.

Travel is one of those loves.

Self care looks different to everyone; for some, it might be a bubble bath or a manicure. For me, it’s immersing myself in nature, creating time to be with my thoughts and slowing the pace of life right down.

So, for the last 3 years, I have gone on what I call my ‘annual solo retreat’. 2-3 nights, holidaying on my own, at a destination of my choosing. I do as much or as little as I like, when I like and it is bliss.

The first year I went to Waiheke Island for zip lining, wine tasting and glamping. Last year it was paddle boarding, kayaking and exploring in the Marlborough Sounds.

This year, it was a little cabin in Carrington in the Wairarapa. 3 days of solitude, rest, nature and recharging my batteries.

It’s a grey, rainy day, the first of my solo trips not to be bathed in sunshine, but I am not bothered. I arrive at my accommodation, step out of the car and am greeted with the snorting of 3 ugly / cute kunekune pigs.

My little cabin is idyllic. Set on a hill, surrounded by trees, looking out across the hills. The first thing on my agenda is a cup of tea, which I drink, sitting on the porch, soaking in the stillness, birdsong and the soft pitter-patter of rain on the roof.

The birds are abundant and I enjoy just sitting there watching them flying around. In the space of about 15 minutes I see tui, a hawk, goldfinches, magpies and a bright green parrot.

My afternoon is spent reading a magazine, watching TED talks with cups of tea and chocolate, snuggled up on the sofa beside a warm flickering fire.

Dinner is simple. A ravioli in pasta sauce and fresh bread. This trip is about making space to reflect on the year and delighting in the simple.

It’s starting to get dark, it’s still raining and there is an outdoor bath that I just can’t resist. I fill it and then settle in for a soak. I watch the change in the clouds as night draws near and the birds making their final flight as they find somewhere to rest for the night.

There are no city noises, just the whoosh of wings above me, rain and the gurgling sound of the nearby stream. This is food for the soul.

As it gets darker, the insects and bugs of the night come out. There are large buzzing noises near my ear and a very large silhouetted moth against the fading sky. I don’t have an issue with insects and really, there is nothing here that can hurt me. We don’t have super poisonous critters or dangerous mammals. New Zealand is a pretty safe place.

It’s a shame that the stars aren’t out, but I still leave my bath feeling warm and relaxed, ready to settle in for the night.

I wake in the morning to more rain on the roof, but again, I don’t mind. It’s not going to stop me from doing what I want to do. And besides, who doesn’t love the sound of rain on the roof. It is so soothing. It’s one of my favorite sounds, along with bird song.

I start to get hungry so I decide to leave my warm, cosy bed and venture out to a nearby town called Claireville. I have heard many good things about The Claireville Bakery. It does not disappoint! I am presented with a beautiful selection of fresh breads and pastries and it takes me a really long time to decide. I settle on an apricot danish and also get an almond croissant for tomorrow.

My danish is amazing and I wash it down with a cup of tea while I sit on the porch, watching the rain again. It may be wet, but it’s not cold. There is a nearby flax bush that is attracting the tuis and I watch them feed for a while before picking up my book to read. I will head out later in the afternoon for a walk before the forecast thunder and lightning arrive.

My walk is at the nearby Fensham Reserve. It has stopped raining finally, but the forest is still damp and wet. Forest is still pretty magical when it is like this. There is a large chorus of birds singing. The track is narrow but easy to follow and is surrounded by tall trees. The air is warm and cool, refreshing drops of water drip on me from the canopy above. Halfway into the walk it gets very humid and I reach a part of the track that is mostly underwater. The walk takes me a bit over an hour. I arrive back at the car park with very wet feet, but energised from the nature and fresh air.

Back at my cabin, I spend a couple of hours on the porch again, reading my book and watching the weather. I am waiting for the thunderstorm to arrive. It does, and it is awesome, I hear the deep rumbling noise, rolling across the sky above me. Night closes in and my second day comes to an end.

I wake to chickens this morning and open the skylight windows ever so slightly so I can hear the rain on the roof. This morning I am heading back to Wellington, but I leave feeling refreshed. This weekend has been a soak session. Soaking in nature and recharge my batteries.

The Cabin has been food for the soul.

Staycation Part 2

In Italy, I shamelessly ate chocolate filled pastries for breakfast every single day for 3 weeks.

As we check out of the hotel, I notice a lot of people across the road and remember that there is a weekly Sunday market here. We haven’t had breakfast, so I dash out across the road to see what delights I can find. No chocolate filled pastries, but I do manage to find an almond croissant dusted with icing sugar. Oh yes! It was divine!

With breakfast taken care of, we head to the first activity I have planned. The traditional wedding anniversary gift for 11 years is steel, so today, we are going axe throwing!

We arrive at Sweet Axe Throwing. We sign our lives away with the waiver form, go through a health and safety briefing and then the lessons begin. There are 3 different axes and we are shown how to throw each of them. Each requires a different technique. There are also option for throwing with 1 or 2 hands. Our “Axe-pert” patiently helps us with our techniques as we discover what works best for us. Daniel and I both even manage to get some axes on the board.

With music pumping and training complete, the tournament can now begin. We each choose our axe and line up. The battle begins. Daniel wins this round. And then the next round. Daniel was initially not looking forward to this as he’s a bit uncoordinated with his throwing but as he realizes his competition is not that tough, he starts to enjoy it more.

We then have a 3 minute quick fire competition, who can get the most points in 3 minutes. I tell you what, axe throwing is pretty physical! I am completely “axe-hausted” at the end of it. And Daniel wins again.

Last round. Winner takes all. This is my chance. Throw after throw, my axes connect with the board while Daniel’s drop to the ground. I am in the lead, this is looking good. But then I miss a couple and Daniel gets a couple of high scores.

It’s our last throw. Daniel steps up to the line. His axe soars through the air and makes contact. He scores and is now in the lead. I just need 1 point to draw, 2 points for the win. I just need to put the axe on the board and we will walk away as equals. I step up to the mark, line up my throw, draw back my arm….. My axe flies through the air, it hits the board and bounces off.

Game over.

Even though I couldn’t walk away as winner, it was so much fun. It’s always nice to do something a bit different.

With all that axe throwing, we have worked up an appetite so we head out to the Hutt Valley to Gorilla Burger. It’s another lovely sunny day and we enjoy sitting out in the courtyard, soaking up the sun, snacking on haloumi chips and burgers. It’s a wonderful, relaxed way to spend the time. I think we will be coming here again for Sunday brunch.

We have one last stop for our staycation weekend. Xcape Wellington. Neither of us have done an escape room before, we are not quite sure what to expect but are both looking forward to it. We have chosen one of their easiest rooms (also with a low scare rating, I hate scary things)

We enter the room with no real instructions of what to do, just our wits, intelligence and team work to answer questions and solve puzzles to try and escape the room. We spend the full hour in there and don’t quite manage to conquer it. We do however, finish up still married and liking each other, so I’d say it was a success!

This was another really fun activity and I think we will be going back again to try another one of their rooms.

When we think of holidays, our minds often head straight overseas or to another city away from home. These options are great, but if you do a bit of research and planning, I think you will find all sorts of unique and exciting things to do, right in your back yard.

Have you ever been on a staycation?

Staycation Part 1

As I head out down the driveway I get a few grumpy barks from Frankie. She is not impressed that she is being left behind and is making sure I know it. (I really must find a holiday I can take them on!)

This weekend, Daniel and I decided to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary with a Staycation. So today, we are off to Wellington city.

Daniel is working till mid afternoon, so I decide to head in early on the train. It’s a rare, still Winter’s day. The water is so flat. Boats peacefully bob up and down in the harbour as a small swell in the water gently laps against the wharf. Seagulls are out squawking, effortlessly gliding through the air. Wellington has put on a great day.

Wellingtonians are out enjoying a drink at the many waterfront bars and restaurants. It’s the perfect place to soak up the last of the afternoon sun. The waterfront is a picturesque place enjoyed by many. People are out walking or running, on scooters and bicycles, having a chat in the sun and walking their dogs.

As I stroll by Kaffee Eis , I can’t help but call in for an ice cream. When I lived in Wellington CBD many years ago, I probably enjoyed this far too much, but it has been a long time since I have had one and my feet lead me straight up to the queue. It looks like a lot of other people have had the same idea. When I get to the counter, more than half the flavours have sold out. There is a passionfruit one though and that suits me just fine.

I enjoy the sweet creaminess of my gelato looking out across the harbour while listening to a busker. Sunshine, ice cream, music, views. A simple pleasure and time well spent.

I check in at QT Hotel. I love this place. Every wall and corner is filled with art. Sculptures, paintings, fashion, even a motorbike. It’s quirky and exciting. I take my time heading to our room, taking in all the colour and forms.

After a bit of a nap and soak in the bath (It’s a staycation after all, it’s meant to be relaxing) we head down to dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, The Hippopotamus.

At the Hippopotamus we are transported to a French court. Bright colours, luxurious textiles, and chic style, this place is a feast for the eyes. And to top it off, we are able to enjoy great views out across the harbour, watching the city lights twinkle off the ocean.

I am excited to see truffles on the menu. The first time I had truffles was a couple of years ago in Italy. I indulged in them, fell in love with them, and haven’t seen them on the menu anywhere since. So there are no guesses here as to what I will be ordering.

My entree is a gorgeous, silky smooth pasta in a delicately creamy sauce with huge shavings of Perigord Black Truffle from Christchurch. My mouth is watering long before my entree even arrives as I can smell the truffles in the air. This meal does not disappoint. It takes me back to Italy.

My main is a feast of Winter foraging. Pumpkin, chickpeas, kale, kumera, parsnip, herbs, radishes and more, come together to beautifully celebrate the delights this season has to offer.

Next is dessert. I have a bit of a sweet tooth and whenever we are out for dinner, it’s always the first section of the menu I look at. Before I even look at the entree’s and mains, I already know what I am going to have for dessert. I had decided on the signature dish, a deer milk gelato with honey comb and a few other things. Now here’s a funny story. I am feeling rather full at this stage and as Daniel tells me he is planning on ordering the same thing, I ask if I can share his. He reluctantly agrees. I head off to the bathroom and not long after I return, dessert is brought out. Just one plate, but I note that it looks like a rather generous portion. Turns out Daniel had told the waiter that I wanted to share his dessert and could we have a larger portion brought out on one plate. Very sneaky. But this kind of backfires as I have a few mouthfuls and decided it’s not really my thing and he is left to eat it all.

Happy anniversary Daniel.

Tunnel Gulley

I don’t think I have ever properly introduced you to my two best friends. They are the best kind of bestie’s you can have. The small, fluffy kind that are full of love and always happy to see you.

Meet Frank and Ed

Photo by Stu Corlett Photography

Frank (yes Frank the girl, Daniel named her) is a 5 year old poodle/bichon/westie cross. Her little brother Ed is a 3 year old poodle/shih tsu cross and they are the joy of my life. I love taking them out on adventures.

It’s a dreary, grey, rainy day but I am eager to get out for a walk with them. We decide to brave the weather. Our favourtie walk is Tane’s Track, at a place called Tunnel Gully in Upper Hutt. Although it is raining, this walk is mostly in the forest, so I think we will be ok.

As I turn onto Plateau Road, Eddie stands up, looks out the window and starts making his excited little squeaking noise. Even Frank starts joining in which is quite unusual. They know where we are heading and they are excited.

The road into Tunnel Gully is narrow and twisting. The mist is clinging to the hills. The park is green, lush and so inviting. Even in this weather.

We arrive at the car park and I am surprised to find we are not the only crazy ones who have decided to go walking today. Frank and Ed leap out of the car, they are raring to go.

I love this walk for many reasons, the first one being it’s dog friendly. There are lots of great walks in Wellington, but trying to find ones that are off lead dog friendly is a bit of a challenge. Tane’s Track is an easy 1 hour loop walk on a well maintained track. It goes through beautiful forest, has a waterfall, a picnic area, a tunnel to explore, native birds and streams.

There is so much to enjoy here. It’s quiet, peaceful and the perfect place for a little adventure.

It’s raining but we are not getting wet. The tree canopy is protecting us from the elements. Instead there is the gentle, soothing pitter patter of rain hitting the forest above us. Everything is dewy and glistening. The air is cool and fresh. Piwakawaka (Fantail) flitter through the misty branches, making their distinctive cheeping sounds. Tane’s track is a delight for the senses.

The forest here has many layers; large, ancient looking trees, covered in moss and vines. There are punga, palms and ground ferns and lots of examples of epiphyt here too. The forest is different to that which I was swooning over on the West Coast, but unique and beautiful in it’s own way.

The walk is mostly through quite dense, closed in forest, but at a couple of points, there are clearings which look out across the canopy. Looking out into the distance, all you can see is green, how great is it to be this surrounded by nature?

At several points the track takes you over or alongside a stream. There is one particular spot I always like to stop at. If you move a couple of rocks, sometimes you can find fresh water crayfish. I didn’t find any on this particular trip, but have done so several times before.

I also love to stop at the waterfall and listen to the sound of rushing water.

There is really only one part to this walk that is not in forest. Depending on which way you go, it is about 5 minutes into the walk (or from the end) It’s a large grassy area with eucalyptus trees scattered about. I kinda feel like I am in Australia at this part. There are picnic tables here and it’s often a nice place to stop for lunch (although not today) In summer the place is alive with chirping cicadas. In Winter it is a sleepy haven.

Before heading to the car, we take a short detour down to the tunnel, the feature that gives this park it’s name. Mangaroa Tunnel was built between 1875 and 1877, is 253m long and was used to connect the Wellington/Wairarapa railway. Although no longer used (it was closed in 1955 when the new Remutaka Tunnel was opened) you can still walk through the tunnel today. I didn’t go all the way through, but I do enjoy listening to the echoing sound of dripping water inside it.

We arrive back at the car and after an hour of exploring, I have 2 tired, muddy little pups who look like they have had an excellent time, but are also ready for a nap!

Wellington Chocolate Factory

I have always had a sweet tooth. I’ve been told I didn’t try my first chocolate until I was at least 2 years old, but it did nothing to prevent me from being a chocolate lover.

Today, Mum and I did a tour at Wellington Chocolate Factory. The first time I tried their chocolate was about 4 years ago and to be honest, I wasn’t really a fan. I was comparing it to the mass produced, super sweet, candy style chocolate I had grown up with from the supermarket. About 3 years ago I went refined sugar free for a year. The one exception being a 90% cocoa chocolate that had about 5-6 % sugar. It was during this time that my palate really developed and I was able to start appreciating the sophisticated flavours that come through in good quality chocolate.

Wellington Chocolate Factory (WFC) is on Eva Street which, in recent years has transformed from a dodgy feeling alley way, to a very popular artisan food street.

When I first step foot inside the building, the first thing I notice is the rich, sweet smell of warm, decadent chocolate. The aroma wafting through the New York Loft style building.

We are introduced to our host Jess and taken through into a quiet room to learn all about the ‘Bean to Bar’ process.

Artisan chocolate, like the ones produced here, are not as processed. They are treated in a way that enhances and celebrates the natural flavours and characteristics of the cacao beans. The ‘Bean to Bar’ practise is becoming more popular now in New Zealand, but WCF were the first to start doing this in NZ. Ethics, innovation, fair trade and sustainability are all key pillars for the company. They work directly with fair trade suppliers, like Trade Aid and the growers to source their beans.

The beans that WCF use are sourced from Central South America (Peru and Dominican Republic) and the South Pacific. Chocolate originates from South America and dates way back to the Aztecs and Mayan times. However, today, about 80% of the world’s cacao actually comes from the Ivory Coast and Ghana in Africa. Sadly, there is a big monopoly there and it does play a part in child trafficking and slavery.

There are many varieties of Cacao trees, one of the oldest being the Criollo from Peru. It has some beautiful fruity tones and this is the one WCF use for their single origin dark chocolate. From the Dominican Republic they source another old variety called Trinitario which is known for it’s earthy, citrus tones.

Just like wine, the growing conditions, the soil, weather, climate, etc, all contribute to the flavour notes and characteristics of the bean.

After harvesting, the beans are fermented and dried. They are then packed and shipped off to manufacturers. It is at this stage that WCF receives their beans.

While munching on our complementary vegan chocolate chip cookies, Jess talks us through the process of how they make their chocolate before taking us on a short tour of the factory to see it with our own eyes.

The first step is sorting. WCF remove any beans that are broken, have holes in them, shriveled or fused together. They are also on the look out for foregin things, such as stones, sticks and string. Apparently WCF have also come across a bouncy ball, lizard skull and a barbie doll shoe in their bag of fermented, dried beans.

Roasting happens next. This is the most important stage. Over roasting will kill the flavours, getting it right will celebrate the natural characteristics of the bean. We get to try a roasted Peruvian bean. It’s crunchy and bitter, but not nearly as bitter as I was expecting. It has a beautiful nutty flavour and I really enjoy this. Pieces of this roasted bean are what is known as Cacao nibs. They are a super food, high in antioxidants, selenium and endorphins.

The cacao nibs are then ground in a stone grinder. This process takes 3 days. Sugar is added at this stage, along with milk or flavours if they are being used. We learn that you can’t add liquid to the chocolate, so to add milk, it needs to be milk solids.

We all gather around the little room, peering in through the glass, watching the grinder mix all the glorious, smooth liquid chocolate. The stuff in here has been grinding for 2 days and Jess scoops up a cup for us to try. It has a very fruity flavour but it’s not very smooth yet. It still needs another day in the grinder to properly mix in the sugar and cacao.

After 3 days, the chocolate will be poured into tins to set. It will keep like this for a long time and WCF are starting to experiment with aging the chocolate at this stage. (It’s starting to sound a bit like wine) Any flavours added to the chocolate are infused into it during the grinding stage. They don’t have the equipment to have chunky bits embedded into it. Instead, if desired, they will sprinkle textured flavours onto the back. (Like the salted caramel brittle, which is amazing by the way!) Once set, the bars are then hand wrapped and ready for sale.

And there you have it. The Bean to Bar process.

But the tour is not complete, we still need to sample the goods. We were able to try 10 different flavours (and I have to say, they were pretty generous with their tasting sizes). From single origin chocolate to a vegan coconut chocolate to collaboration with Scale Grace gin, there was no shortage of deliciousness and innovation. My favourite was the single origin (honestly, I had no idea a plain chocolate could have such complex, interesting flavours) This is the take home bar I choose, but it was a tough choice, the dark salted caramel was also outstanding. Even the coffee one was pretty good, and I don’t even like coffee!

The tour was meant to last an hour but our group had a lot of great questions and we found ourselves there for the best part of 2 hours. It is the most fascinating tour and Jess’ passion and enthusiasm for the products shine through. It is so refreshing to see a business that builds its foundations upon fair trade and sustainability.

We ended our tour with a complementary cup of their hot chocolate and a greater appreciation to the love and effort that goes into making our favourite sweet treat.

Exploring Greytown

My day starts with my morning yoga. Afterwards, I lie on the floor for a while, looking out the huge windows, up at the sky. I did some cloud watching last year in lockdown and remembered thinking then that I couldn’t remember the last time I had done that. It is one of those simple pleasures that I seldom make time for. The sky is one of nature’s stunning canvases that’s always changing. For me, cloud watching creates a place of relaxation and freedom from the mind. It allows me to escape from the tasks of the day and run away with ideas, creativity and dreams. You should try it sometime!

After cloud watching, we head out to Greytown, awarded the title of ‘New Zealand’s most beautiful small town’ in 2017. Greytown was first settled in 1854 and remains of the historical township are still present today. It’s a place I have driven through many times, but seldom looked around, making it the ideal place for day 2 of girls weekend.

If you are into shopping, you will love Greytown. There is such a selection here; Vintage shops, boutique shops, op shops and more. You can easily spend the day perusing the stores. And while we do look in every shop, the places that get my attention are the cafes.

One of our firsts stops is at The French Baker. There is such a delicious selection of sweet treats and pasties, it’s a really hard choice (I am sure there were savory options too, but I only had eyes for the sweets.) After changing my mind several times, I settle on the Almond and Pear Tart. One great decision made already for the day. It was absolutely stunning. Sweet, crumbly, melt in the mouth deliciousness, beautifully off set by the tangy yogurt. While I really only had eyes for my tart, the ambiance here is also lovely, with beautiful plaster designs on the ceiling.

Wandering down the street, I take time to enjoy the old buildings, beautifully restored with their old facades still intact. I notice some plaques on some buildings, sharing the history; when it was built, what the shop was and a little bit about the family that lived/worked there. I love this little touch, it provides a glimpse into the past and I stop to read a few. One used to be a motorbike shop, another was a bakery and there was even a boot shop. It’s an interesting read and even includes an old photo of the building so you can compare it to it’s current state.

After a few hours looking through the shops, I find my feet leading me straight into GelARTo. Once inside though, the smell of freshly baked waffles is too hard to resist. Fortunately their waffles are served with your choice of gelato so it’s a win win situation. It’s not really lunch food, but hey, I am on holiday. It has been a day filled with good food, lots of cups of tea, shops and great chats.

We visit the last few shops on the street (I think we must have gone into every single shop!) before making our way home. Dinner is at Little Square Pizza in Martinborough. The first time I had pizza from here, it was just a little ‘hole in the wall’ pizza joint. It has obviously proved very popular as they have now expanded to a small restaurant with inside seating and alfresco dining. We have our dinner outside, surrounded by apple trees, bunting and string lighting. Its a lovely relaxed atmosphere. My delicious pizza with my crisp, refreshing apple cider, is a perfect ending to a great day.

Martinborough – Girls Weekend

The sun is shining. Music is playing. Car chats are happening.

Girls weekend has begun.

I was meant to be writing about the Martinborough Fair. I booked the accommodation for this specific weekend so we could attend. I made the booking in April 2020 during our first lockdown. I was foolish enough to believe that one year on, Covid-19 would be a thing of the past. But a community case and a 1 week move into level 2, means that the fair is cancelled. Gatherings of more than 100 people in Level 2 aren’t allowed and The Martinborough Fair attracts thousands. I will have to try again next year!

Even without the fair, South Wairarapa is a pretty cool place, so we decide to go anyway. The first stop is Featherston, at, you guessed it, C’est Cheese. Unfortunately the Drunken Nanny Black Tie Cheese is out of stock. I settle for a Maasdam-Meyer Gouda with a nutty flavour instead.

We spend some time looking around the little boutique shops in Featherston. It’s changed a lot since my childhood. It used to feel a bit tired and rundown but now it is quite transformed.

We arrive in Martinborough at our accommodation, a place I booked on Airbnb and WOW! The place looked good in the photos, but even better in reality. The house is amazing, very modern, comfortable, light, bright and spacious. Almost feels a bit too flash for us!

After settling in and unpacking, we head out for some food. It’s just a few minutes walk to The Square, so we enjoy an easy stroll down the wide flat streets. The Square is busy this evening, there are a lot more people around than I am used to seeing. I think a lot of people have decided to hold onto their accommodation booking just like us, and still have a weekend away. We head to a place called Union Square. I have been to Martinborough many times but never here and I am delighted to find they have a ‘create your own Gin’ menu.

You choose your glass, then your Gin, then your mixer and lastly your garnish. I am pretty new to Gin (Thanks Wharekauhau for introducing me to it!) There is so much choice I find it a bit overwhelming! I go for the ‘Bowl Glass’ That’s an easy decision. Then I choose the Gin. I have had Martinborough’s Lighthouse before (That’s the one I got from Wharekauhau) so I choose Hayman’s London Dry. It’s just the first one on the menu. There are 14 to choose from and really, I don’t know anything about Gin. There are 10 mixers to choose from, I select a grapefruit tonic and for my garnish, I select Passionfruit and Lemon from the list of 6. The end result?

My G&T is enjoyed alongside a caprese salad in the gorgeous garden bar. We find a shady spot, surrounded by roses and climbing vines that amble up the side of the building.

Bliss!

After slipping into holiday mode, we make our way to Martinborough Wine Merchants. They have such a huge selection of local wines, spirits and artisan foods. It’s a great place to have a little wander round and pick up some local products. Now Martinborough produces some world class Pinot Noir’s and it is an excellent place to do some wine tastings (You can read about it in a previous post ‘Cycling the Martinborough Vineyards Part 2’) But, if you are short on time, you might like to check out Wine Merchants (for retail) or if you are wanting to taste a variety of wines under one roof then head to Wine Bank. (I am yet to give this place a go)

Dinner is a delicious selection of local cheeses, breads and spreads, which we eat in the sun room, watching the day fade into evening. I love Martinborough, it’s one of my favourite places. It’s boutique shops, artisan foods, crafts and relaxed country vibes. Every time I come here, I just end up thinking how much I would love to live here.