Reflecting on 2020

Happy New Year!! and Happy 1st birthday to my blog! A whole year of blogging, it’s hard to believe really. Thanks for coming on the journey with me.

2020 is a year that I’m sure no one will be forgetting anytime soon. As the year came to an end, I began reflecting on the year that has been. I am so proud of my country, for the massive effort we all put in, our commitment to sticking to lock downs and supporting one another. Because of this, life here in Aotearoa has looked quite different to the majority of the world.

I count myself very fortunate to be in the position I have been in. While international travel has been off the cards, I have been able to do a lot of travel around my own backyard this year. (And lets be honest, New Zealand is a pretty spectacular country to have as your travel playground)

I wanted to do a post on my top 5 experiences. Those WOW moments. The ones that stop you in your tracks, make time stand still and take your breath away.

It’s hard to choose, I have had many incredible experiences this last year, but I am making myself pick.

So here it is.

My top 5 WOW moments.

1 – Glamping on Waiheke Island. This was my first time glamping and I absolutely loved it. Falling asleep to the soft pitter patter sound of rain on the canopy of the tent and waking to the sounds of the birds, absolutely magical. Stripping back the busyness of life and getting back to nature, it certainly recharges the batteries. You can read about my full glamping experience here.

2 – The drive to Glenorchy. We did this road twice in 2020. Once on our motorbike, the second time in a hired Mercedes-Benz CLS 55 AMG. Maybe it’s because it was the first time, but I way preferred the trip on 2 wheels. We had bright blue skies, a dusting of snow on the mountains and instagramable moments around EVERY corner. Around every bend I would find myself gasping at the beauty before me. Not only does this rate in my top 5 moments of 2020, it also rates in my top 5 motorbike rides. Ever. The road to Glenorchy.

3 – Trust the Chef Meal at No. 5 Church Lane. It was a spontaneous dining decision. I found them on line, they had some good reviews, so we decided to give it a go. When we saw a 7 course, Trust the Chef option on the menu, well, we just had to try it. It surprised and delighted me far beyond what I was expecting. Every serving was creative, delicious and left me on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would be next. This was a culinary journey that left me wanting more. Dining in Queenstown.

4 – Kayaking in Wanaka. Kayaking (and now also paddle boarding) will always end up as a top experience for me, I just love it so much. The stillness, the quiet and being surrounded by all that water, it’s so rejuvenating and refreshing. Throw in crystal clear water and views of mountain peaks covered in snow and you have one very happy kayaker. Lake Wanaka is the perfect place to get out on the lake and experience some stunning New Zealand scenery. Chillin’ in Wanaka.

5 – Playing in the waves at Waitarere with my 4 year old nephew. Sometimes, it is the simplest of things that bring us the most pleasure. This was one of those experiences. It had been so long since I walked bare foot in the sand and felt the waves tickle my ankles. My nephew’s delight in jumping over waves and playing in the sand, so carefree, was contagious. We spent ages having childish fun and it was brilliant. A weekend at the beach

So there you have it. What was your favorite travel moments of 2020? Drop me a message, I would love to hear from you.

Ticking off the Bucket List – part 2

We are dropped back off at the lodge and spend some time sitting out on the front porch, drinking pinot, with some home made shortbread, looking out at the ocean, watching the day become night. I do enjoy living in the city, but the peacefulness of being out in the country is rejuvenating.

Pre-drinks and canapes are being served at 6:30pm so I decide to go for a quick swim before dinner. Unfortunately for me, the heating system is broken so the water is a little chilly. Not nearly as freezing as the ‘plunge pool’ in Queenstown, but cool enough that it takes me a while to actually get in.

The pool room is a tropical oasis (except maybe for the water temperature) It is next to a courtyard filled with tall trees and citrus fruits. The ceiling is glass and I swim a few laps (or should I say float awkwardly around with a pool noodle) looking up at the sky.

Time for drinks and canapes. We get dressed up and walk over to the lodge. The walkway is lit up and the lodge looks very grand. We take a seat and give our drink orders. Wharekauhau have their own Gin called Lighthouse, made with natural spring water taken straight from the grounds at the lodge. I have never tried a G&T so I decide now is the time to give it a go. It’s quite a refreshing drink and I am a fan.

We are served several delectable morsels of food while chatting to the hosts who are naturally some of the friendliest people I have met. We are then seated in the dining room ready for our 4 course Trust the Chef culinary experience. The food was all amazing. I am a vegetarian and I am always wowed by how they can serve a meat meal to Daniel and a vegetarian meal to me and have them still looking the same. When they served my main course I double checked that it is in fact vegetarian, as my egg plant looks so much like a lamb steak. While I am not usually a big fan of eggplant, this is delicious.

All the guests are chattering away and a lovely elderly couple make their way around all the tables, introducing themselves and getting to know everyone. They even start a couple of rounds of ‘happy birthday’ for some of the guests. They were meant to be on a Mississippi River Cruise celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, but as we all know, travel plans this year have been turned upside down. I think Wharekauhau was a great choice.

We head back to our cottage to find our free mini bar restocked and a chocolate truffle beside the bed. Yum. I could get used to this service.

Its a cool night, but it also means that it is a clear night and the sky is lit with stars. Wrapped in a blanket with lantern and camera in hand, I take my chair out into the night to sit and stare at the stars. This time I manage a somewhat OK photo of the night sky. It really doesn’t do it justice, but if I keep practicing, I might be able to take some great astro photography shots one day.

Its getting late so I head back inside to find Daniel stretched out on the couch in front of the gas fire, fast asleep. He assured me he would be wide awake to watch the MotoGP live, but sleep has won him over. I on the other hand want to make the most of our 1 night stay, so at around midnight, I run a bath filled with bath salts. Its right next to the window so I can soak in the bath while gazing at the stars.

Finally sleep wins me over and I take myself off to bed listening to the soothing sounds of the mighty ocean near by.

The morning arrives and our time hear is drawing to an end. We do have a late checkout though so while Daniel sleeps I make myself a peppermint tea to sip in the sun while I read my book. We make our way to the conservatory for breakfast. I love porridge. I know, it’s one of the cheapest, easiest meals to make, but I love it. And so I ordered it. Smooth and creamy, topped with nuts and poached pears from the garden, it hits the spot.

We have a quick game of croquet before it’s time to put on our gear and pack up the bike. At check out we are given a (rather large) bottle of their Lighthouse Gin to take home. Our bags are full but I manage to make room.

It’s time to say goodbye to this Grand Olde Lady. She is full of charm, decadence and warm hospitality. I hope we will return one day.

Dining in Queenstown

Queenstown is a foodie’s delight.

In our week long stay we were able to try some delicious food so I thought it would be fun to do a post on some of the memorable (and not so memorable) places we tried during our stay.

One thing I noticed was how well vegetarians and vegans are catered for here. Don’t get me wrong, New Zealand certainly does cater to these dietary requirements, but the choice in Queenstown was far greater than what I am used to at home.

Mulled Wine. On a cool winter’s day, whats better than a hot, steaming wine to warm you up. I tried mulled wine from a couple of places but my favorite was hands down, the mulled wine from Pier Restaurant & Bar down by the lake front. Their mulled wine is beautifully spiced but it was the whole experience that made this so enjoyable. Sitting outside, next to the gas heater, people watching and taking in the view of the stunning Remarkable Ranges. It doesn’t get much better than this. Their Baileys hot chocolate is also great.

Craft Beer Bar. Now I am not a beer drinker, but Smith’s Craft Beer House was recommended to us by some friends. After an exhilarating but rather freezing afternoon spent jet boating, this was the perfect place to warm up, wait for the feelings to return to my toes and watch the world go by. Their mulled ginger beer and deep fried pickles were the perfect accompaniment to my defrosting. There is a great range of beers on tap and the place has a relaxed, chilled vibe.

A sweet treat. If you are feeling a little peckish after dinner (or have an hour to wait for the bus like we did) and wanting a little something sweet to finish off with, you can’t go wrong with the S’mores from the Cookie Time Cookiebar. I don’t think it is even on their menu but I spotted someone else having one and had to try it. Warm, gooey, sweet and sticky it’s the perfect little bite to warm you from the inside out.

Vineyard Lunch. If you get the opportunity to dine at Akarua Winery you wont be disappointed. The setting is beautiful, the food is scrumptious and you’re in a vineyard, with excellent wine on hand. Win win. We came here as part of a wine tasting tour and were served a selection of food to share among the table. Fresh bread, olives, salmon, super crispy potatoes, a freshly baked lamb pie and a gorgeous haloumi salad for me. This place seems to be well known amongst the locals which is always a good sign.

To Ferg or not to Ferg. That is the question. If you have even been to Queenstown or even just planning your visit, I am sure you have heard about the famous Ferg Burger. With it’s queues of people lining the streets, waiting to get their hands on one of these burgers, I must admit that I was a bit skeptical. Surely it can’t be THAT good. So, on every tour we went on, I asked the other tourists and the locals – have you had Ferg burger? Is it really that good? The tourists told me, call ahead to make your order so you don’t wait ages in the queue.

However, the word from the locals was that Devil Burger was just as good and didn’t have the long wait. So after doing my research, on our last night, we went to Devil Burger. And I have to say, we were wildly underwhelmed. There was nothing wrong with the burger, it was made with fresh ingredients, but there was no wow factor. So I still can’t tell you if Ferg Burger is really as good as everyone says, but if it really is like Devil Burger, then I have to say, our local burger joint, Dirty Burger in Petone is so much better. Next time I will try Ferg Burger & settle this debate!

Steak. So as you may already know, I am a vegetarian. My husband is a big meat eater. And somehow, on our 10 year wedding anniversary, I found myself having dinner at a Jervois Steak House. If you are a lover of fine dining and steak, you will love this place. Its busy, but the staff are attentive and friendly. Their steak menu is extensive and you could easily spend a small fortune here. If you have ever wondered what a $70 piece of steak looks like, here it is:

Daniel did say it was excellent and really enjoyed the experience. My meal was fine, I had a salad and a side of kumera. While there are some vegetarian options, this place really is for meat lovers.

Best dining experience. Not just in Queenstown. This has to be one of my favourite dining experiences.

Ever!

We are relatively new to the concept of ‘Trust the Chef’ dining but it is something we are really enjoying and No5 Church Lane was exceptional. Daniel of course insisted on the special ‘7 course option’ that wasn’t advertised on the menu but I am so glad he did. The presentation was beautiful and we tried so many new things; like deep fried banana flower that they called the vegetarian version of fried chicken, even Daniel was a fan and that’s saying something!

The most ‘out there’ dish though was Daniel’s main course. Lamb bacon, topped with a purple maori potato. On top of that was a scoop of black pudding ice cream, yes you read that correctly, garnished with a rosemary crisp. He described it as wild and out of his comfort zone, but in a really good way.

Our waiter then brought out a waffle cone with ice cream (not black pudding flavour), telling us that’s it’s the first dessert! I have never been anywhere before were you are served 2 desserts!

Every dish was outstanding, creative and left me excited to see what would follow next. If you get the chance to dine here, I can’t recommend this place enough.

Wherever your culinary journey in Queenstown takes you, I have no doubt that you will find plenty of flavours to delight your taste buds with.