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Published: February 8th 2018
Tuesday was Waitangi Day in New Zealand. The Treaty of Waitangi between the Maori and the British was signed in Paia on this day and it is now a public holiday. We spent the morning with Debbie at Hamilton Gardens. These are the beautiful Botanic Gardens by the banks of the Waikato River which are a major tourist attraction here. We have visited before but they have recently opened more of their specialty gardens so another visit was compulsory. It was a beautiful crisp, clear morning and we set out, accompanied by Debbie, Criss and Oscar. to walk the short distance to where these start. Surrounding the specialty gardens are green lawns and we walked through these and down to the riverbank. Dogs are allowed to run free here and Oscar had a great time galloping through the bush near the river and meeting other doggy companions. A walk back up the hill and through the rose gardens took us to the entrance of the gardens proper where dogs are not allowed. Criss showed us the new children's playground they have set up here. Small tots can walk through a door in a tree to access part of it and it
Children's play area
is a magical place for little ones.
Criss took Oscar home while we and Debbie continued to explore. The themed gardens include Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian etc but we had seen those before. We started with the Tudor Garden which was new.This was the start of their Fantasy collection which has more to come later in the year. This Tudor garden had knot mazes made from bushes and fantastic creatures as standards with a backdrop of a castle. From there we went through a large self-closing yellow door which took us into the Concept garden. This contained an infinity pool in the middle and was based on two Maori sayings. Next to this was the Tarot court which contained a large dirigible under which was suspended the Saucy Sue, a boat with appropriate accoutrements. There were huge sunflowers here. We then wandered through a sustainable back yard, full of fruit trees and vegetables and then on to the traditional Maori gardens where they grow Maori food and harvest it each year for charity. We spent a pleasant few hours in total before walking back past the "Fletcher" tree (as Debbie calls it), an enormous gum tree. We then saw
By the river
a Russian Bell Tower, a traditional dacha brought from Russia and now nestled among the trees here. A short stroll brought us back to Debbie's house.
The afternoon was spent relaxing at Debbie's while she went to training and then prepared dinner for us. Criss picked up Debbie's mother who now lives nearby and we sat out in the garden end enjoyed a great meal of pork belly and vegetables with a fresh salad from Criss' garden. A lovely evening spent with beautiful people over a good NZ wine or two.
The next morning was grey and rainy as we set out to drive northwards. It was sad to say goodbye but Debbie has promised to visit in April so we will look forward to that. Fletcher drove the first section which took us through Auckland and over the bridge. The showers were intermittent and though there was some congestion it was easy to find our way. Debbie had recommended we stop in Puhoi, a small settlement just off the main road. A settlement by Bohemian immigrants existed here from 1863 and the original wooden buildings are now beautifully preserved. We walked down to the river which had
Part of the rose garden
been the main transport corridor for the early settlers. We then checked out the shop in the old stables and then went to the pub for lunch. This is a quaint place with walls full of old photos, bank notes from all over the world and other "stuff" everywhere. I ordered the seafood chowder while Fletcher opted for garlic prawns and salad. Both were delicious. My chowder was creamy and packed full of seafood while Fletcher said his prawns were crisp and plentiful and the chips very tasty. Highly recommend this as a great lunch spot. We then drove a little further to the Puhoi Cheese factory. Here we tasted the local blue cheeses and purchased a couple to have for supper. The goat blue cheeses were particularly good. We drove back into the town and stopped at the 1881 Catholic Church. This is wooden but has stained glass windows. The interior is simple, but effective.
On the road again and I drove to just before Whangarei where we stopped for petrol and an icecream. Then it was past the turn off to Kawa Kawa and on to Opua to board the car ferry to Russell.The weather
Door in the tree
was still good and we crossed the short distance, looking at the beautiful scenery of the Bay of Islands as we went. We then drove into Russell, passing our accommodation and parking in the main street of town. Here we walked to the seafront and booked a day tour of the bay for Friday. A walk along the foreshore presented many fine old wooden buildings which have been well restored. This section is dominated by the Duke of Marlborough Hotel and Debbie had highly recommended it. We booked a table for 7-30pm and continued our perambulations.At the local 4 Square store, we bought yoghurt and fruit for breakfast and some bikkies to go with the cheeses.We went to our accommodation, Motel Russell, and were shown to a two bedroom apartment, equipped with a full kitchen and lounge. The owner had moved us because of others needing rooms, so we got an upgrade. We were not complaining.
We returned for dinner to the Duke of Marlborough. This has an old world charm with a beautifully decorated dining room. It was very busy but our table was waiting. Here we had an excellent meal. I chose the salt and pepper calamari
Fantasy house in the children's playground
entree which came with a tasty pea, feta and rocket salad, followed by an aged rump steak. It was cooked to perfection and very tasty though rather filling. Fletcher had a calamari salad (!) which he said was great and then some Wagyu beef, also beautifully cooked and presented. We enjoyed the ambiance and the excellent service and the wines were very nice too. At 9-15 we went across the road to the Tavern where we could watch the cricket. The bar men there directed us to a room where, not only could we watch by ourselves, but we could also listen to the commentary. A bottle of sauv blanc accompanied our viewing. When the Aussies had restricted the Poms to a low score, we left for home, certain of a home town win. A full and interesting day.
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