Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New Zealand, Part VI

Heading south from Marlborough, we had planned an overnight stop at Kaikoura before heading across the South Island towards Queenstown.  We'd read in guidebooks that Kaikoura was a neat town, very surfer-beachy, with amazing seal-watching.  And it was...all of those things.  It also reminded us a lot of Bar Harbor in the off-season. Not a lot going on.  We got some tips from our hosts at Stonehaven and walked up a 'secret' path in the woods to a waterfall and pool where baby seals go to play.  It was awe-inspiring and quite magical.  We got some sushi from a take-out in town and washed it down with a half-bottle of sparkling wine in our hotel room, watching cricket on Sky Sports.  Not very exciting, but we made the best of it!  If we had it to do over?  Skip Kaikoura.  See Christchurch, or head straight over the amazingly beautiful Lewis Pass for the west coast. 

all photos, ours

Friday, April 20, 2012

Busy, busy bees

So, apologies for not getting to the bathroom post this week - we just installed the vanity last night, and it looks really good!! 

So...why so late in posting?  Well, last weekend we brought this little bundle of energy home.

He's just about the cutest thing I've ever seen...and he knows it.  He works the puppy dog eyes like a pro, especially when he's been caught with a shoe.  *sigh.  Don't you just want to snuggle him?

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Zealand, Part V

Marlborough...we could have spent our entire honeymoon there.

Since we decided that this would be our splurge location, we booked a room with a balcony at Stonehaven Homestay. We were not disappointed.  Our hosts Paulette and John were lovely, the room was comfortable and elegant (with complimentary port and sherry!), and the view...well, it speaks for itself.

We had planned to bike around to vineyards on our second day there, but John checked the weather for us and since it would be raining, he encouraged us to go out that afternoon.  We biked to Wairau River for lunch, then down to Renwick and made our way back.  I was a little anxious, having not been on a bike since my pretty princess pink two-wheeler with the banana seat and plastic streamers, but John tuned them up and adjusted the seat, and with some confident words of encouragement, we were off.  Michael had a little flag on his bike, and I spent much of our ride giving him shit about it.  He aloofly informed me I was just jealous.

We didn't know what to expect from Marlborough, or from wine tastings in general, but we found the whole experience accessible, friendly, and tremendously informative.  Everyone was approachable, and more than happy to talk about their vineyard, different growing techniques, soil quality, and which wines they liked and why.  At Te Whare Ra (far and away our favorite wine of the trip - and no wonder, they don't distribute in the US...), Jason spoke easily about his experiences on the big vineyard operations in Australia, and his passion for the small biodynamic winery he and his wife have made into a family business. 

So, lesson learned.  If travelling through Marlborough, budget a few extra days to relax, drink a few bottles, and enjoy the laid back,  refined-but-not-snobbish, uniquely New Zealand countryside. 

the view from our balcony
the map Paulette gave us - her recommendations are circled (free tastings); the red arrows are our favorites

light lunch on the terrace at Wairau River

our rental bikes at Te Whare Ra

beautiful tree at Huia

Highfield Estate

the wee Focus at Spy Valley

Riesling from Highfield, bread from the local farmer's market, cheese from Countdown, and a novel from downstairs = perfect afternoon

we highly recommend Stonehaven!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Lovely Things

It's funny, I thought moving back to Maine would cure my shopping habit, as there really aren't that many stores I like around.  I mean, sure, there's a WalMart, Reny's, Marden's (for those non-Maine residents, Reny's and Marden's are the most fabulous discount and salvage stores ever.  I once scored a pair of True Religion jeans at Marden's for $11...), but there isn't a mall within 45 minutes' drive, and it is a major undertaking to get to a JCrew, Anthro, Lululemon, or any of my other old haunts.  I have limited resources at my disposal...I'm not going to drive four hours just to check out the sale bin at Crate and Barrel. 

What I do have is a MacBook and high speed internet - two items which, much to my husband's chagrin, have spawned MUCH online browsing, which invariably leads to online shopping. It's almost as fun to hunt down bargains online as it is live in a boutique. Almost.

Here are my recent purchases:

These from Restoration Hardware...I'm going to try french pleated drapes for the living room.
This from PB - it has a Chiang Mai Dragon effect.  I could only get a queen, though, so I'll have to sew some panels in a coordinating color on the sides to fit our duvet. What do you think?  Blue?  Yellow?

And these are what I'm drooling over this week:

A trio of these
So luxurious for a guest bath
The lighting obsession continues
Any or all of these
These dresses...kill it. And I'm about 8 months too late to buy one.  Maybe this will work...

Happy Weekend!  We're finishing up the bathroom tomorrow, so I'll have a new project for next week!

Monday, April 2, 2012

New Zealand, Part IV

Sick of New Zealand posts yet?  Well, today, we arrive on the South Island...halfway there!

Wellington was our favorite city in NZ - quirky, relaxed, beautiful, and (while we were there), not a bit of the "windy Welly" we'd been hearing about.  We stayed at the Travelodge in the city centre, which was a good choice.  A bit hairy driving in, but once we were there, I found it pretty easy to navigate.  We arrived too late to turn our rental car in, so we parked at the hotel.  It turned out that the friendly Apex people didn't even charge us for an extra day, and I was happy not to have to schlep our packs through the streets and up over the many stairs to our room.

We decided to get crepes from this place on Manners Mall and eat back in the room watching a movie on TV3 because we knew the next day would be our only in the capital (and I wanted to get up early to shop at Kircaldie & Stains).  We lucked out and had a beautiful day - shopping, beers on the waterfront, Te Papa, a cablecar ride, botanic gardens, more shopping, and a fantastic dinner in Cuba Street.

The ferry ride across Cook Strait was fairly smooth - to be honest, I slept most of the way.  We went with the Interislander mostly because we got a coupon on the internet.  It was a nice ferry, as ferries go - but the seats were...well...airplane seats.  At least they looked like airplane seats.  It was a little weird - I kept feeling as though they were expecting rough seas and the captain would remind us to fasten our seatbelts.  I suppose the only ferries I am used to are the old New Brunswick - PEI ferries from when I was little.  We'd park the car and the spend the ride on deck, staring over the sides (ok, spitting over the sides).

We arrived safe and sound in drizzly Picton and, having pre-booked our car in the states, breezed right through the terminal and were happily on our way to wine country.

Wellington Harbor with Te Papa to the right


Marae in Te Papa

Queen Charlotte Sound

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