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Published: July 15th 2014
For the first official weekend in winter I made a quick visit to New Zealand, which was unseasonably warm. By unseasonably warm I mean that I didn’t need to wear more than one jersey and I could still feel my fingers and toes. It was Rod's first ever visit to New Zealand and I was trying to fit a lot in to a weekend visit. We visited Wellington, Martinborough, not to be confused with Marton, which we also visited to see family, before a quick visit to Kai Iwi beach just out of Wanganui, and finishing up back in Wellington just in time for the plane ride back to Sydney.
Arriving in Wellington on a Friday afternoon it seemed very quiet after the hustle and bustle of Sydney. However Wellington’s windy reputation was nowhere in sight, and we wandered aimlessly through the city without having to worry about flyaway clothes. Te Papa is New Zealand’s national museum, and cuts an imposing figure on the waterfront. My claim to fame is going to the Te Papa construction site with the Queen (as you do) as part of her Royal Visit in 1995. Obviously things have changed a bit now, but I
love that it’s still free, with entry by koha (donation). For the last couple of years it has also housed the “colossal squid”
, which sounds a bit creepy but is actually fascinating. Found in the Ross Sea in Antartica it’s the largest colossal squid on display in the world, and now all 495kgs of it is in a huge tank of glycol. It was surprisingly interesting.
Then it was time for a night out in the capital. We popped in to the Library, one of my favourite bars in downtown Wellington, for my usual, the Randy Savage (rum, pineapple juice & fresh lime shaken together with gingerbread syrup - YUM!) but the real destination was the Ortega Fish Shack to catch up with some old friends. It was a very happy coincidence that our visit coincided with the Bluff Oyster season in New Zealand, and I could get my fix while showing off the local produce to the visiting Australian. Dinner was delicious, and I wasn't surprised to read shortly after our visit that it was one of the winners in the 2014 Cuisine Good Restaurant awards.
Next on the mini-NZ foodie tour was the winding drive over the
Rimutaka Hill to Martinborough. Famous for its vineyards, it’s a very quiet New Zealand farming town that has completely reinvented itself, even renaming itself as “Martinborough Wine Village”. We stayed at the local hotel, which like everything else in sight has tarted itself up and is almost unrecognisable as the former country pub and instead boasts "sophisticated, elegant boutique accommodation". It fitted the bill perfectly. We had a very happy afternoon popping in and out of vineyards, as well as sampling the local produce, including a massive tasting platter at Poppy's.
That evening there was more fabulous food on the menu, this time at Cool Change, the old Post Office converted into a bar and restaurant, which was handily just across the road from the hotel. I was reminded of just how laid back people are in NZ when we asked about the four Pinot Noirs available at the restaurant, looking for a recommendation. It was buzzing, busy and fairly casual, and I loved how they simply brought out four bottles of wine, plonked them on the table and left it to us to sample and taste before deciding which one we wanted. It definitely worked in their favour,
as of course we chose the most expensive on offer! We shared the slow-roasted local lamb, and even though I tried really hard, I couldn't squeeze in a dessert. The casual and laid back feel continued through the night as we relocated to the bar to watch the last ten minutes of the All Blacks match against England. They left it a little late for the winning try in my view, but it made for an exciting finish, and a win's a win after all!
The next morning we drove across rolling green farmland, past the Tui brewery, over to my home town, Marton, for a big family lunch. It was as if we hadn't eaten for weeks, there was a veritable feast of delicious food, including whitebait fritters, a New Zealand delicacy. I haven't had them in years, and they were sensational - a real treat! It was a beautiful winter's day, not too cold, and plenty of sunshine, so we spent the afternoon on the lawn, organising running races and playing games with the kids, tiring them out for their parents. We also finally managed a proper family photo with everyone in it - I think that's
It was a very rushed family visit however, as we were anxious to get to the beach in time for a walk before it got too dark, so a few short hours later it was back in the car on our way to Wanganui. Our beach house is at Kai Iwi, about 15 minutes out of town. Kai Iwi beach is a typical New Zealand West Coast beach - black sand, a long rugged coast line, big seas. With a western aspect it's usually windy, but for me it's the perfect winter beach, and almost before we'd made our way into the house we were off down to the beach before it got dark.
Then all too soon the visit was over, and we were winging our way back to Sydney. E noho rā Aotearoa - until the next time.
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