Two Canadians, A Campervan and New Zealand’s South Island

It’s been over 6 months of us working in this country, and we have now earned holiday time! Vintage is done, and Air NZ started offering really affordable flights within the country. All of this meant that we could finally get to the South Island, and we were so excited to explore it!

As people heard we were going south, they all gave us their lists of the must-do’s! We appreciated all the cool, local tips, but unfortunately we didn’t have a year to actually cross them all off… New Zealand offers almost never ending exploring! So we picked the things that sounded the most intriguing to us, accounted for our budget and time allowances, and carefully planned (on my end) a jam-packed, 6 day adventure, in a campervan, of course!

We got an amazing flight deal to Christchurch, so we headed there early Wednesday morning, thankfully just missed the fog, and landed on time at 8:05am. We picked up our Campervan from Jucy, and hit the road, as we had an appointment to get to in the Waipara area of the Canturbury Wine Region.

I won’t go into too much detail about the wineries we visited on this trip, but we uprooted our entire lives, and moved to this country specifically to work in wine; clearly it was high on the priority list for this holiday, as it usually is.

Bell Hill

The wine in the South Island is very different than it is where we work in the North. We work in the warmest wine growing region in the country, with very vast and diverse soil types; the wine regions in the South Island have completely different soil from each other, and from the North; they also have their own unique climates, and therefore, produce unique versions of some of the grape varietals we have in the North, and also some completely different varietals altogether. We tried lots of Pinot Noir on this trip, some Chardonnay and bubbly wine, as well as many aromatic whites, like Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir based Roses, and even a Muscat, that was dry and surprisingly enjoyable.

In Canterbury, we visited Bell Hill, and had a private tour around their biodynamic and organic boutique vineyards, on incredible slopes, with the vines showing off the beautiful autumn colours. We tried some Pinot Noirs out of barrel. We visited Pegasus Bay, which had beautiful grounds, some very nice wines, and a friendly and knowledgeable Cellar Door host.

Tasting in the Bell Hill caves
Pegasus Bay Cellar Door
Pegasus Bay

We also visited the winery with two labels that belongs to this year’s New Zealand Winemaker of the Year, Greystone and Muddy Water. The Winemaker at my workplace has won that award 2 times in the last 5 years, and we have amazing wine, so I had very high expectations for this place, which I feel is fair. If you are considered the best Winemaker in the country, your Cellar Door should support that, and the visitors that you will undoubtedly bring, and give an exceptional experience. This one, sadly, did not. The host was unfriendly, made no effort at conversation, and was actually outrightly rude to us with a couple comments. Thankfully, the Marketing Manager overheard some of our questions and came out to speak with us for a while, and he was great. If it weren’t for him, we would have had a terrible experience there.

We made our way back into Christchurch for the remainder of the afternoon, did a bit of shopping for some winter gear and groceries, and drove around to see the sights.

A highlight for me was the 185 Empty White Chairs memorial for the people who died in the 2011 earthquake. It was chilling to see, and served as a reminder that life is short and fragile, and should be valued and lived to the full. We had a quick dinner at what I describe as a funky, more upscale food court, Little High.

We visited one of Christchurch’s older and highly awarded bars, the OGB Bar, and had a great experience. One of their employees did a wine tour with me a couple months back on his holiday, and invited me to visit him there on our trip, and him and his colleagues made sure we were taken great care of!

Then, it was time for a very late dinner and wine, once we found somewhere to camp! We used the Ranker’s Campervan App to help us find everything we needed to on our trip. It showed all of the places we could park, empty our tanks, etc., with reviews, photos and prices. We searched for the free options, and found a place just outside of the city to park. I’ll elaborate on the campervan later.

We woke up early on Thursday to get a good head start on our drive to Lake Tekapo.

The Lake Tekapo famous church

The scenery was beautiful on the way, as we made our way into the mountains. We spent the afternoon in Tekapo; we got some photos with the famous church on the lake, and then took a moment to pause inside and admire the view of the lake through the windows on the back wall. What a great place to go to church! We opted to walk to the top of Mount John, which was a short, fairly easy but steady climb.

Almost to the top of Mount John
The view
Snacks at the Astro Cafe

We enjoyed views of the lake and surrounding mountains, and some coffee and dessert in the sun at the Astro Cafe, before heading back down for lunch. We parked the van alongside the lake for a gorgeous view, had a picnic and some Riesling, and then headed to the Tekapo Hot Springs.

We had a booking for 2:00, but because we picked the date and time ahead, we were able to get a great deal on a site called bookme.co.nz. We enjoyed a couple of hours there, soaking in the warm water, and soaking up that view, before heading on.

Next, we drove to Lake Pukake, and stopped for some views of Mount Cook, and then made our way through the Lindess Pass, which was beautiful at sunset, and then onto Cromwell, where we wanted to start our next day.

Classic NZ highway photo
Lindess Pass at sunset
Admiring Mount Cook and Lake Pukake

We found another free camp spot on the Ranker’s App, right next to the lake, and it was such a gorgeous spot. I can’t believe some of the amazing, free camp grounds New Zealand has! I kept saying to Greg, “why is this free…?” In Canada or the USA, those would have been costly spots.

“Pancake Saturday” was moved to Friday, as we had the time in the morning, and the lakeside spot to enjoy! As we awoke in Cromwell, we were already amongst many more great wineries we were excited to visit! This is when it really started feeling like a holiday to me; finally, we had made it to Central Otago, another world renown wine region on our bucket list!

We definitely started off with the bar high, as we visited the appointment only Cellar Door of Felton Road for a tour and tasting with the owner’s daughter. Bookings are required well in advance to get a spot. She was fantastic, as was their philosophy, place, and wine, and we loved our experience there.

Felton Road tasting set up
Felton Road Cellar Door

We followed that up with another amazing experience at Mt Difficulty. It was a gorgeous, sunny, autumn day, and we took in the expansive views of Central Otago on their patio in the warm sun for a delicious and generous platter, that was a special treat for me from a reward card I received at work. After we ordered, we did a complimentary tasting to help us decide what to have with lunch. By the time we finished our tasting, our food was ready for us. We enjoyed our time there so much!

Views with the platter and wine at Mt Difficulty

Other wineries we visited in the Cromwell area were Carrick, and Akarua; we had positive experiences at both of them as well. We then jumped back in the Jucy van to head for Dunedin! The drive was absolutely beautiful the entire way; we arrived around dinner time, and spent the evening with friends.

Baldwin Street

They took us for dinner at a quaint and delicious Italian place, and then drove us to the top of Signal Hill to view the city, as well as took us for a spin up and down the steepest street in the world! We parked the van outside their house that evening, and funnily enough, we weren’t the only Jucy van on the street.

In the morning, we grabbed coffees and had a visit with our friends before making our way around Dunedin to see St Clare Beach, and the famous Railway Station; as it was Saturday, we visited the Farmer’s Market where we purchased some fresh fish and produce for dinner, before making our way back to Central Otago, where we’d spend the next 3 days.

We arrived in Wanaka mid-afternoon, so we went to Rippon, another famous winery with, yet again, amazing wines and an exceptional view!

We also visited Maude Wines, where we had the perfect spot on their comfy couch with blankets in their sun room, overlooking lake Wanaka.

We each had a seated tasting flight of different wines, and then enjoyed a glass in the sun. Our host at Maude was extremely welcoming and knowledgeable, and made us feel very comfortable during our visit.

After we were done relaxing at Maude, we headed down to That Wanaka Tree, to get some sunset photos. We were amongst a group, but got some beautiful shots. I love when I get to see something in real life that I’ve been seeing on Instagram for a while!

That Wanaka Tree at sunset
That Wanaka Tree at sunrise

We checked out another cute wine bar in Wanaka called The Cork Bar. It was warm, dim, and comfortable. So many of these places remind me of small mountain towns in British Columbia, and the whole Wanaka/Queenstown area made me feel quite at home.

At The Cork Bar, I tried some Black Peak Pinot Noir, who’s Winemaker and owner had been in to work last week. We also tried some Burn Cottage Pinot Noir, that came highly recommended, and loved it.

As Wanaka is such a famous tourist spot all year long, there are no free campsites there. We were fortunate to have a friend who’s father lives in Wanaka, and allowed us to park in his driveway for the evening. We carb loaded for our upcoming hike with some pasta, and enjoyed a bottle of wine before bed. We had purchased some candles by this point, so we had our usual ambience and didn’t have to run the bright LED lights in the van!

The next morning, we were up at 6:00am to eat breakfast, grab some sunrise photos of That Wanaka Tree, and make it to the base of the Roy’s Peak Hike for daylight at shortly after 8:00am.

Roy’s Peak Ridge

We were up to the ridge by 10:00am, took our photos, and decided to go for the summit. It was pretty cold up there, but we were glad we made the extra treck to complete the hike. The views were stunning and we had the place to ourselves.

Roy’s Peak Summit, 1578m

We had lunch back down at the ridge, and started our descent just as the rain began. By the time we got to the bottom it was full on pouring, and we were drenched! Thankfully we started when we did that morning, because had we even been 1 hour later, our view would have been largely lost in the rain clouds and fog.

Very wet after finishing Roy’s Peak

Many reviews strongly suggest a high fitness level is required for this hike, and I completely agree. It’s steep, and it’s all up, sometimes at a 45° angle, with basically no plateaus, for hours. And then you have to come down…potentially in the rain or snow, depending on the season. You must wear proper clothing, shoes, and layers. It is almost 1600 meters in elevation; the conditions are considered Alpine at the ridge and upwards, and with all that uphill climbing, if you’re not wet from the rain, you’re wet from the sweat. I was so thankful to have key parts of my work uniform on; I wore my amazing Icebreaker Merino wool jersey and Merino wind proof vest, all thanks to my awesome company outfitting me for the winter. The hike was absolutely worth all the effort and sore knees; in exchange we got some of the best views we’ve ever seen in our lives, and some pretty amazing photos.

Rainbow and mountain views from Roy’s Peak Summit

We had a makeshift shower with baby wipes when we got back into the Jucy van, and were happy to get out of our completely drenched clothing. We hung it all around the van, but the van unfortunately never got warm enough to dry any of it. I got creative to dry my hair.

We headed for Arrowtown, and walked around a bit there.

We found a candy store and got some fudge, but were stiff and cold, and just wanted to sit down. We found a cool restaurant that was just about to close, The Chop Shop, but they gave us a table. Greg had a thirst quenching beer, and I had a warm coffee with Baileys and it hit the spot perfectly. We ordered a dessert, and ended up getting 3 more free because they were using them up before closing!

Do you want another dessert on the house? Yes, please.

We headed to, guess where… more wineries! Are you surprised? We fit in short visits to Peregrine, Gibbston Valley, and then had a nice long tasting at Mt Rosa.

Peregrine Cellar Door

The owners of Mount Rosa had come to do a tasting with me at my workplace in the Bay at Christmas time, and one of my good friends is heading down to help them out for several weeks this winter while they go on vacation! As the owner knew me, he had us in way past close, and gave us a very personalized tasting. We enjoyed his wine, and the cozy, warm, rustic atmosphere!

We made our way into Queenstown that evening to check it out, and then found a campsite in the area. Queenstown doesn’t have any free sites either, but we found a decent one for only $13/each. Greg cooked up a nice meal, and we relaxed in the van, as it was still pouring outside!

The next morning, after a stop at Starbucks (yes, whenever I get the chance) we traded in the Jucy van for a car, as the van specifically had to be back during certain hours, and our flight home the following day wouldn’t allow for that to work. We took the car around the area, and did our last set of wineries: Chard Farm, which has an amazing, 2km cliff side drive in, Wet Jacket and Whitestone Cheesery, which is in an old wool shed and has a super cosy atmosphere, and then Amisfield, which was closed for repairs, so I was quite disappointed to miss them.

Chard Farm’s driveway along the left
Visiting Wet Jacket with wet jackets
Wet Jacket Cellar Door
Bald Hill

The rain had stopped by then, so we ate up the rest of our groceries outside the boot of the car! We went to Bald Hill instead of Amisfield, and then it was time to check into our hotel.

We stayed right close to downtown Queenstown, which was amazing. We got straight to laundry, as our hiking gear was all still soaking wet, and we weren’t sure how we’d get it home that way! We visited with some friends from home, who also happened to be on holiday in Queenstown!

Then we walked downtown from our hotel and checked out the shops, as well as this very cool bar, The Winery.

Inside The Winery

It has many enomatic machines, that work like a Coravin, allowing small tastes of a bottle of wine to be poured from it without oxygen getting in. We were able to try several new wines, and I got that Amisfield wine after all. It was a lovely evening, and we enjoyed some cheese and crackers on the balcony of our hotel before bed, and also really enjoyed a hot shower, a real toilet, and a King size bed! As much as we loved the hotel for the last night, we really did like the Jucy van.

Our Jucy van was just what we needed for this trip.

Fuel prices

It was small enough to get good fuel mileage (which matters a lot here – fuel on the South Island was around a whopping $2.40/litre, and that’s not a typo); it was still big enough to have a functioning bathroom. We had a small living area with benches, and a table that we could set up for dinner. That same area converted to a bed for the night.

There was also a bed option up above, but with just us, we didn’t need to use that one for anything but storage. It came with a kitchenette, and all of the dishes we needed. It also had towels, and bedding. The weather was quite cold (for NZ) at this time of year, and got down to just above 0° at night, but we had 2 duvets, and were toasty warm under them – borderline hot some of the nights. I was glad we only flew with carry-on luggage though, because compared to our camper in Canada, it felt a bit tight, and I wouldn’t have wanted to have any more stuff!

On another note, this was the lightest I’ve ever packed for a trip, and it was a big stretch for me! I wore the same boots the entire time, other than my runners for hiking. I didn’t bring heels. (Who am I?) I didn’t bring my blow dryer or straightener, either, and just made due with the hair situation. I knew we wouldn’t have power for them anyways. (Thankfully, I was able to shower at my friend’s in Dunedin, half way through the trip, and use her hair appliances to freshen up. Alice, you’re a life-saver!) Over all, I really embraced the campervan lifestyle. It was fine for 5 days, but by day 6, I was quite happy in our hotel room! I am still a bit “precious” as they say here, after all.

I have also realized that we’ve only been here just over half a year, and our trip was greatly enriched by the many connections we already had, because of our jobs in the industry, and friends we have made. We visited friends in Dunedin and Queenstown, and I knew people in Christchurch, and Gibbston Valley through simply meeting them at my job and spending some time getting to know them; they then returned the hospitality to us. We tried wines of people I’ve met at my job. We had a free place to stay in Wanaka, through another friend we’ve made. Most of the places we visited gave us extra special treatment when they found out we were industry people. I’m so thankful for all of these connections, and they make us feel so much more welcome in NZ.

Our trip was amazing.

Queenstown area
Queenstown
Roy’s Peak Summit
Arrowtown in Autumn

I’m so happy to have finally seen the South Island, and it is every bit as beautiful as people say. (Although, I do have to give bigger points to the Canadian Rocky Mountains.) 6 days went by so quickly, and we did a lot, but we still had moments of relaxation, and thoroughly enjoyed our first actual holiday in NZ.

Relaxing with my babe, stunning views and some Pinot at Maude

Hmm… where to next?

Friendship

Have you ever thought about how much the people in your life leave lasting effects on you?

So many people come into our lives; some stay for a short time, and some stay for a long time. In this season, I’m reflecting on the important ones to me, who have, or will leave my life, who I know I may never see again (but hope that I will!)

It’s surreal to me to think about the process of how we meet someone.

Just the day before, we had no idea who they were. We didn’t know their name, or what they looked like, or anything about them. Then we were put in the same place, at the same time as them.

One day, our paths aligned, and we formed a relationship; with some, we formed an immediate friendship.

Then, what feels like all of a sudden, it’s time for us, or them, to move on. As quickly as they entered our lives, they’ve left.

But we’re not the same as we were before we met them, because they’ve influenced us in one way or another. Through shared experiences and conversations, laughter or frustrations, sharing old stories and making new ones, they’ve impacted us.

Some people that enter our lives, we’ll remember for a while, but then probably forget after enough time has passed. There are those that we’ll remember for longer, or that we might see a picture of years down the road and it will spark the memories.

Then, there are those that we know we will never forget. For one reason or another, they’ve had a significant impact on us, or helped us learn something about ourselves, or life, or shared genuine conversation or experiences with us. Those are the ones that remain friends, even if we never see them again in this life. I believe that the more people we meet, the more enriched our lives become; more stories are shared, more memories are made.

Everyone moves on though, eventually. Some move on more quickly than others, but eventually, lots of people will leave our lives.

I naively assumed that since we were coming to New Zealand, we would be the ones to leave. I was prepared to say goodbyes to everyone in Canada; I wasn’t prepared to say goodbyes to people here, and they are tough! I’m grateful though, that these goodbyes are tough, because that’s what I prayed for long before we ever came here; I wanted friendships that were good enough to make me cry when it came time to move on. To me, those are the ones that are real blessings in life.

Relationships and change are both part of life. The more we age, the more our friendships shift, especially in a situation like this. There are always going to be seasons of relationships. They’ll come and go. Some will stick for a lifetime, yes, but many are only meant for a season, and that’s okay. It’s sad to think about the ones I may not see again, but I’m so grateful for the time I got to have with those people.

No matter who comes and goes in our lives, if we’re open to new relationships and friendships, we’ll find them. Special people will bring us so much joy, and leave their fingerprints on our lives in one way or another, and hopefully, we’ll do the same for them.

*inspired by Amy… written with her and many others from years past in mind. ❤️

Living the “No Plan” Plan

We have no plan.

So many people are asking what our plan is. My accent often leads to me telling part of my story to tasters in the Cellar Door, and I’m asked several times per day what my plan is. Our family and friends are wondering what our plan is too. We understand that people want to know. We do get it, really! We want to be able to tell you, but we have no concrete answers for you.

We really have no plan.

How long will we stay? Will we continue working in the wine industry? Will I ever teach again? When are we going “back home?” (I feel like I could write a blog on defining “home.”) What will we do after this? (When does “this” end and “after” start?) Honestly . . . we have some ideas, but we change our minds all the time. We are literally living almost day to day right now. And we like that.

That’s crazy to me. I’m a planner. I’ve always been a planner. I like plans. Actually, I love plans. I used to live for and by plans. If you’d told me ten years ago, or even five years ago, that I’d be living like this right now, I would have either not believed you, or had an instant panic attack.

But… I’ve actually found that living with no solid plan is kind of freeing. It’s liberating, and exciting and scary and maybe it’s not smart, or maybe it is. Maybe it’s not good for us, or maybe it’s exactly what we need right now. Whether it’s wise or not to not have a ten year plan, or even a five year plan, or honestly even a five month plan… it is what it is, and we have no plan.

We’re four months into living out a dream we’ve had for years; that’s really not that long in the grand scheme of things. We’re still feeling this whole new life out!

We’re learning so much. We learn things every single day about the wine industry, about ourselves, each other, what we like and don’t like, what we struggle with, and what we’re good at. We learn things God’s teaching us; we learn things about what’s important in life, and what’s not as important as we used to think it was. We learn about other cultures and countries. We learn about people.

For every question we get answered, we come up with five more we want answered. We’re curious. We’re exploring.

Isn’t this what moving abroad is all about?

There are multiple studies that suggest that people who have lived abroad are more confident and self-secure than those that haven’t. The experience gives them a better concept of themselves, and a wider understanding or outlook on others in the greater context of the world. After working through the values and systems in another country, expats have to re-evaluate themselves and their personal views.

This is part of the reason we wanted to make this move, and we’re living it every day. I doubt we’ll be here forever, but we’re not closed minded to that, if this is where we’re supposed to be. We may likely return to Canada, because that’s where our families are, but we’re also not set on that either. We have honestly talked through several options of how long to stay here, and where to go from here; however, we are fully aware that we’re dreaming at this stage, and anything could happen.

I think some people have trouble accepting the “no plan” plan, because they themselves can’t identify with it. I get told every week how brave we are for what we did, moving across the world with nothing, to a place we’d never been, to try and find employment in a new industry. People often tell me they wished they’d done what we did, but either never got around to it, or were too scared to take the leap; I don’t know if I feel like we’re brave, but I do admit that having no plan is truly terrifying at times.

Most people don’t choose to live with no plan, but for us, right now, we’re living it, and it’s kind of great. It’s just what we need.

Besides, we believe God’s got a plan for us, so it’s not so much that we have no plan at all, it’s just that we don’t know what it is yet; we’ll find out when it’s time to take the next step.

So if I haven’t confused you enough yet, or shown you how much we really are unsure ourselves, the answer to “what’s your plan?” or “how long will you stay?” is simply that we actually just don’t know.

So there you have it.

Just keep following the blog and time will tell!

“Cherished Life” Moments

I call this blog, “Cherished Life by Chelsea” because I used to run a business under a similar name; when I named the blog, I didn’t yet know that I was going to move to New Zealand and get to live one of my dreams. I didn’t understand how many memories I was going to make that I’ll have for a lifetime.

The first time I remember specifically creating a lifelong memory was on our first trip to Paris.

There are, of course, many milestones in life that I’ll remember forever, like our wedding, travels, family holidays, graduating with my degree, my first teaching job, buying our houses, etc., but I remember those in more of a larger context, or I remember specific things about them as a whole.

I’m talking here about experiencing a moment in time, and being so precisely aware of how special that moment is while it’s still happening; it’s almost like time has stopped for just that moment, so that I can step outside of it, look into it, and really realize how valuable it is. Have you ever experienced anything like that?

The first time I created a memory like that was during the last hour of a Paris City Bike tour, on a Seine River cruise, at dusk, as we sailed past the Eiffel Tower, and I saw it sparkle for the first time. Greg was standing behind me, and I was leaning against the rail of the front of the boat, with the perfect view. It was warm, and there was a gentle breeze coming off the water. Everyone else on the boat sighed in wonder as the tower began to sparkle, and I remember distinctly thinking, “I’m going to remember this moment for the rest of my life.”

We toured the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and got to stand in “the circle” where the biggest country artists of all time have performed, and sing an acapella “Amazing Grace” in two-part harmony; as I felt the spot light on my face, and listened to our voices echo throughout the rows and fill the room, I created another lifelong cherished moment.

There are so many mundane moments in life, where we do the same things we always do, and we can’t or don’t choose to remember what’s different about one day from the next. It’s often the escape from the mundane that’s the most memorable. I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower sparkle now too many times to count, and although I still appreciate it and savour it each time, none of those times specifically stick out to me as much as that first time does, when I was forever imprinting that memory into my mind. Singing “Amazing Grace” on stage has happened several times in our lives as well, but singing it on the Opry stage… I knew I would cherish that for a lifetime.

Moving across the world has brought me more of those cherished moments, and I’m so grateful for them.

Every time we walk from our house down to the ocean after dinner, and stick our toes in the sand, I realize how fortunate we are to be able to do that. When we just grab our wine glasses and walk down to the ocean with friends to sit on the beach or stand in the water while we visit – I cherish those moments.

We were recently wake boarding and buiscuiting on a clear, warm, bright blue lake, next to some volcanoes, in January, and we sat in a natural hot pool in a corner of the same lake, with kind and generous friends who have taken us in, and brought us along to these places. We cherished that moment.

One of my most recent cherished moments was at the UB40 concert I worked. We closed the bar down shortly after 9pm on the police’s call, but the band was still scheduled until 10pm. We did as much clean up as we could for the time being, and then our manager told us to go enjoy the concert until 10pm. We grabbed a glass of red wine, and headed up into the tanks that overlook the park area of the winery where the stage was. (Those tanks also happen to be for red wine.) We got to dance and sing, and drink red wine, as UB40 sang their famous, “Red, Red Wine.” During that song, I knew I was creating another memory that I will truly cherish for a lifetime.

We don’t make a lot of money here, and it feels like we’re living on borrowed time until our savings/credit run out. We left our careers, and our circles and routines in Canada to make a move that could have, or could still, turn out badly in the end, or leave us with nothing to our names. It’s not always easy or perfect, but it’s in moments like that one – when I looked at my life for that three minutes, in New Zealand, where I live, at the winery where I work, with my amazing new friends and colleagues, dancing and singing to “Red Red Wine” in the red wine tanks, with red, red wine, being sung by a famous band that I got to meet the day before – when I realize that no matter what happens, this risk we took of coming here, will have already been worth it. That song will remind me of my time in New Zealand, and at Church Road, for as long as I can still hear it. I’m realizing that these cherished moments in life can’t be bought. They just happen, and when I stop to recognize them, I’m able to be grateful for them.

I was fortunate enough this week to participate as the Cellar team opened the customary bubbly to kick off the 2019 vintage; we all poured the remainder of our glasses into the first load of grapes. I got to watch the first crush happen, and taste the juice as it was pouring from the press. I’ve been in the winery as much as possible this week, watching, asking questions and learning so much, and I’ll continue soaking up every opportunity I get. Greg and I will both cherish the memories of our first vintage.

I don’t know how long we’ll stay here, or where we’ll go from here. I don’t know how long we’ll stay in the wine industry. I don’t know what’s going to happen in our future, or with our finances, or our house back in Canada, or anything else. I do my best not to get too caught up in the future, and to let each day worry about itself. (That struggle is easily another post of its own!)

What I do know though, is that these memories we’re making are more valuable than money can buy; they’re shaping us, and changing us. These experiences are impacting us in meaningful ways, and giving us more moments that really remind us to stop, take it in, and cherish life . . . and we feel pretty blessed, and grateful for all of them.

Napier, New Zealand: The Art Deco City

This is an exciting blog post for me, as I get to highlight the city Greg and I call home in New Zealand. (The 1920’s/1930’s photos you’ve seen of us will make more sense once you’ve read this article as well!)

Nothing will prepare you for what Lonely Planet describes as the ‘charismatic’ New Zealand city that ‘can provoke a Great Gatsby swagger in the least romantic soul’.

https://www.artdeconapier.com/

(Facts in this article are taken from this website, as well as what I’ve learned from Napier citizens during our time here.)

The Art Deco story all began when the people of Hawke’s Bay experienced a devastating earthquake on the 3rd of February, 1931. The quake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale, and was the largest in New Zealand’s history. It killed 261 people in the Bay, 162 of which were from Napier City. After the quake struck at 10:47am, fires broke out in the cities of Hastings and Napier. Hastings was able to control their fires, but Napier wasn’t, and the city was largely destroyed.

The land shifted and tilted up 7 feet, and the sea line extended out east. According to artdeconapier.com, Napier gained 5575 acres of land. The land was drained and is now where a lot of our city sits, including the new downtown, and the Airport.

The people rebuilt the city in the early 30’s, with what was the popular 20’s fashion at the time, Art Deco. Our city is filled with Art Deco buildings and street signs, gardens and homes, artwork, and lots of old cars we see driving around during the festival, and all year. It’s a very cute city to visit, and is a stop for most cruises that come through. The most photographed building and statue in New Zealand are in Napier.

The Art Deco Festival is an annual event that allows the citizens of Napier to showcase the history of their home, share their story of survival, and celebrate it’s rebirth. It’s a time for people to come together as a small community, and honour the past in a meaningful and fun way! Kiwis come from all over New Zealand to participate in the festival; tourists come from Australia, and even places as far as Europe to participate! The 2019 festival was the 31st annual celebration, and according to media.newzealand.com, there were over 300 events, and 40,000 guests in attendance.

There were both ticketed and free events to participate in. We kicked the festival off with an Art Deco Valentine’s Day; we had a walk around after dinner, and some wine at a cool wine bar in town where we listened to old music and watched the customers dance the night away.

Greg and I went to the opening ceremony on the Friday evening with friends, which consisted of the first fly over of the old war planes. They did tricks and put on a show that everyone gathered along the shoreline to watch.

Almost everyone who’s out gets involved in the festival. As we sat on the beach with our friends later that night and looked around, it actually felt like it could have been the 1930’s.

Little kids were dressed in their 20’s/30’s gear and playing catch by the ocean with their parents. A group of teens were dressed the part, lazing on the beach nearby, drinking and laughing. Seniors had old tables and chairs set out on the lawn, with full spreads of classic China and glassware, and were enjoying a picnic while decked out in top hats and pearls.

There was a live orchestra and band performing 1930’s music, and people were dancing in the parks and in the streets. As we made our way around, we took time to stop for a chat with a familiar face, admire a beautiful car, have a photo, or just take it all in with the numerous groups of others around us doing the same.

Walking through the downtown streets, seeing every person in 1930’s dress, looking at the old buildings and cars, and hearing the music, I felt like we’d all travelled back in time.

We also spent some time walking around on Saturday, seeing the old car parade, old motorcycles, and a fashion show.

There were numerous musical groups to be spotted all around town.

We attended the Gatsby Picnic on Sunday, and had our lunch there.

We were, again, awed and entertained to see how many people went all out to participate in this event. We’d heard that many of them go each year at 4:00am to get the best spots and set up their themed gazebos. Some of them were absolutely amazing!

Being part of the festival was a special experience, to say the least. We both talked about how an event like this just wouldn’t work if the people didn’t get so into it. I believe the enthusiasm the locals show, young and old alike, is what makes the festival really successful each year. There’s something truly magical about watching an entire community fully embrace the spirit of the time, and come together in a significant way.

We loved Napier already, but celebrating it’s rebirth as part of the community this festival made us love it even more.

Tauranga & The Coramandel

Our final summer road trip ended up being 3 nights long, thanks to a kind soul making my roster work for me to travel, and thanks to Greg’s employer being flexible with his weekend. With that much time, we were able to go a bit farther than we had previously gone, and we decided to head up to Tauranga, and the Coramandel, with some specific sights in mind.

Some generous and helpful friends of ours loaded us up with all the camping gear we could possibly need and want, and sent us on our way!

We left town after work on Friday night, and ate our spaghetti in the car! We stopped in Rotarua to grab a beer for Greg. You non-Kiwis may be thinking, “excuse me, grab what?” Apparently it’s legal to drink alcohol in the vehicle in most places in NZ, as long as someone else is driving. Yeah. (Kiwis, if I’ve misunderstood this, correct me, please!) We hadn’t done it yet, but we figured we should have the experience at least once. (Cause we don’t have enough opportunity to drink here as it is. #sarcasm) It felt really wrong, but when in NZ… cheers to road trip beers!

We arrived in Tauranga where some new friends, R and S, put us up for the night. We shared some wine and had a great visit with them on their beautiful patio before bed.

The next morning, we headed to the beach by their place, Papamoa Beach, and enjoyed some white sand, sun, and Tuatua catching!

We had heard of catching tuatuas from a couple of people, but didn’t really understand how to do it until we got into the water. We saw some others with buckets out about thigh deep, and wandered out as far as they were. Greg started digging his toes around in the sand until he felt what seemed to be a rock underneath, and then picked it up to find out it was a Tuatua! They are similar to muscles or clams. I tried and found a few myself! The limit is 150 per person, per day, so Greg set out to get a small bucket full for dinner. It was a new, unique experience for both of us, and so cool to try.

We had an amazing brunch with R and S, and then headed into Tauranga, where we climbed Mount Maunganui.

It was a bit cloudy, which ended up being to our benefit, as it was 27°C, very muggy, and we came down drenched in sweat! The views at the top were gorgeous, and I would highly recommend climbing it if you’re ever there. Just make sure you have decent shoes, some water, and a relative level of fitness.

We did some shopping afterwards, and then Greg and I headed to visit some Canadian/Kiwi friends for dinner! It was so great to spend the evening with some familiar faces from Canada, and to glean some wisdom from people who have moved abroad, and experienced so many of the same things as we have, but are years ahead of us on the journey. (Greg also cooked the Tuatuas, and they were pretty flavourful! You can see some in the bowl between us.)

We finished the evening with a walk to the beach to watch the girls run and enjoy the cool breeze. We left Tauranga around 8:30pm to finish our treck to Hahei in the Coramandel, where we camped at the Seabreeze Holiday Resort. The road was extremely windy to get up there, but was nothing we weren’t prepared for by now. We arrived and got the tent set up, and made it to bed before midnight.

Sunday was a relaxing morning of sleeping in, coffee and pancakes. The camp facilities at Seabreeze were amazing to me! I guess they are quite typical here, and from what we’ve heard, some resorts are better than others, but Greg and I were blown away at the amenities this place had. They had a large communal building with several bathroom stalls and shower stalls (there was never a line in the 2 days we were there). They had a big kitchen area with 4 fridges/freezers, about 6 sinks (dish soap provided), 6 stove tops (some pans provided), several microwaves and kettles, toasters, plug-ins where people charged their phones, and even a tv room with couches and chairs.

This place would be amazing to camp at with groups of friends! I’ve never had such a great experience tenting. It honestly reminded me of being at summer camp. We slept in our tent, but we headed to the main building just down the path whenever we wanted to cook, do dishes, use the toilet, or get something from the fridge. We also met a few nice people in the kitchen as well; I really like how this style of camping promotes community and making new friends. A person could have privacy in their site if they preferred, but could also head to the main building to meet others if he or she wanted. It was awesome! Canada could learn from this.

Sunday afternoon, Greg and I headed to Cathedral Cove. We parked and walked the 25 minutes in with our beach gear. We planned to stay for a while and enjoy it, instead of just getting some photos and leaving. I’m glad we did! We had a great afternoon. It was partially cloudy, which allowed us to stay longer without burning to a crisp in the NZ sun. (We still burnt a bit!) Cathedral Cove is beautiful, and a NZ must do.

We wanted to go to Hot Water Beach as well, so we left Cathedral Cove in the late afternoon, with the plan of heading over to HWB, not realizing that we were in the wrong tide window for it to work. We had gotten there too late, and the water was up high enough to cover most of the hot spots. We left with the plan of returning in the morning before heading home.

As it turned out, there was a brewery on site at Seabreeze, so obviously, Greg was pretty happy about that. We cleaned up and headed over for some pints and hot chips before dinner. It was a nice place to relax on site at our resort!

We had a nice steak dinner, cooked on the communal BBQ at the resort, and enjoyed some star gazing before bed.

The stars were so bright and beautiful that far out of town. It felt like we could see every star in the Southern Hemisphere. We’ve learned that down here we can see the Southern Cross, the constellation on NZ’s flag, but it can’t be seen from Canada. We can’t see the Big Dipper from down here.

Another random piece of information for the Canadian readers is that they have these creatures here called “cicadas.” They essentially sound like crickets, but they chirp in the day, from dawn till dusk, and are about ten times louder than crickets. I usually don’t mind them, but while sleeping in the tent, they were so loud in the early evening and morning that we had to put earplugs in. Thankfully I had 2 sets in my bag from the flight over!

On Monday morning, after another round of pancakes, we packed up and headed to Hot Water Beach, at the appropriate time this time! In order to access the hot springs under the sand, one needs to be there either 2 hours before or after low tide. We only had a bucket, but Greg started digging.

Our neighbours in the next hole told us the water beneath the surface needs to be hot right at the beginning of digging. If the water coming up is cold, there is no hot spring under that spot. We had cold water, so we moved to another spot, and started digging again. Those same neighbours lent us their spade, so Greg was able to do a more efficient dig.

The water was warm in the new spot, so Greg kept digging deeper and deeper until we had a sizeable pool to sit in. There was a really noticeable hot spot on the left side of our pool, and it was so hot that it was burning my elbow and waist on the left side. I had to keep shuffling the sand around and moving the water throughout the pool, just like trying to warm up the bath water! We just dug a hole in the sand and made our own hot tub with geothermal heat. NZ has got some amazing things to do!

As our neighbours were so kind to give us tips and lend us their spade, we gave them some of our wine, and had a nice visit with them. Some other neighbours had a hole that was so hot they couldn’t even go in it, and we felt bad for them. As we had to leave a bit early to get home for a party that evening, we gave them our hole, and they were quite thankful.

We enjoyed the scenery on the drive home, and I took my turn to enjoy a nice wine pairing with my lunch in the car (still so odd…). We got home 25 minutes before our friends arrived at our place, and we finished off the weekend with a fun farewell party with friends!

It was a great long weekend, and finale to our summer travels. I’m so looking forward to the next time we get to go exploring in more of this amazing country we’re calling home.

Road Trip to Rotorua

After our weekend in Welly, we were anxious to have more of a relaxing trip for our next getaway; fortunately for us, some of our new, good friends, R and A, had invited us up to their bach (lakehouse, or “cabin,” for you Canadians) for a weekend. We were excited to do something more in the realm of what we would normally do for a summer holiday – get to the lake!

We had been warned how much Rotorua stinks, so we were prepared for the smell of sulphur in the air. The smell is due to all of the natural geothermal activity in the area. We got out of the car, and soon realized it was not as bad as we figured it would be. Besides, we figured it was a great place to fart, because nobody would ever know the difference! I had to remind Greg that the smell of the air unfortunately didn’t hide the sound of the farting though. 😂

We did a cultural experience on Saturday, at the Living Māori Village of Whakarewarewa (pronounced not at all how a Canadian would read it). We’ve been slowly learning more of how to pronounce Māori letters, and we learned a bit more from our tour guide at the village. Our experience included touring the village, which is still a functioning home to many people, learning the history of the place and the culture, and eating a “Hangi” meal, prepared in the geothermal steam oven underground.

Our favourite part of the experience was the show, in which we saw songs and dances, as well as the famous, “Haka.”

Traditionally the Haka was used to psych the warriors up for battle, both physically and mentally, and to scare and intimidate opponents. (Māori friends, please correct me if I’m wrong on any of this cultural information!) It was an honour to finally get to see it performed, and to enjoy some other songs and dances. They were amazingly talented people, and we loved every minute of it.

We headed out to the bach with our friends after the cultural show, and went out on the boat for the remainder of the afternoon and early evening. Greg tried out “the disc,” which is a round piece of wood that goes behind the boat.

He didn’t try the 2X4 though, which they call “the plank,” as it’s apparently “next level,” and the smaller of the two discs proved challenging enough! I even got out on the biscuit, because I figured, when in NZ, take the chance to ride the biscuit!

We loved “champagne pool,” which was a little geothermal pool along one edge of a small bay in the lake. It has very hot water coming out of a rock in the side, and it heats up the pool like a hot tub. We relaxed in there and had fruit, cheese and crackers! Greg did some cliff jumping with R, and we swam in the lake when we needed to cool down. Greg commented on how surreal the experience was to him, and it definitely was one we will remember!

For dinner we had smoked trout that R had caught that morning, a steak dinner, and wine on the deck, overlooking the lake, next to a fire. We even had some roasted marshmallows!

Our friends took us for a surprise adventure after dark. We hopped in the car, and then walked down a dark road until we saw them… glow worms! I’d been hearing about these bright and beautiful creatures from people in the cellar door and had become quite curious about them, so I was happily surprised to get to see some for myself! They are part of the arachnid family, (Greg wasn’t scared of them though, and even touched one), and they glow in the dark! It was too dark for me to capture them in a photo.

Our day was so relaxing and fun; it had all the elements of a typical getaway weekend at the lake for us, plus so many new, cool, unique to New Zealand elements, and we felt right at home. I slept SO well that night.

Our friends cooked us pancakes in the morning, and after some cards, we went back out for a day on the boat, filled with more picnics, hiking, and watching the girls do silly tricks on the biscuit and swing from a rope into the water, before packing up and heading home.

We stopped to do a short walk to Huka Falls on the way home, as a quick waterfall stop is something one can do in New Zealand!

Overall, we loved Rotorua, the culture we experienced, the feel of the city, and most of all, being at the lake and making memories with good friends.