I promise you reader that this is the last post about New Zealand but I can’t finish the series without talking about several of the best places I have ever been.
We had originally planned to go to the South Island just to take my dad to Warbirds over Wanaka but decided to turn it into a proper trip while we were so close to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. So we built into the holiday a long drive from Christchurch to Wanaka, an overnight stay on the Milford Sound and two days in Queenstown.
My parents have a house near Christchurch so first up was a quick drive through the city where I spent my university days. It made me really sad to see such horrible destruction, but impressed by the resilience of the people. When Christchurch is eventually rebuilt it will be a truly modern and strong city.
On the way from Christchurch to Methven, where their house is, we stopped at Dunsandel Store, a great little cafe in the middle of the Canterbury Plains that sells all sorts of home made goods and is an excellent little place to stop if you’re feeling a bit peckish.
The next morning we got up and visited my favourite cafe of all time. It opened when I was at university and I still think it does the best brunch and has the best atmosphere of any cafe I’ve ever been anywhere. This is mostly down to its owner Maria who has made this cafe a reflection of her own quirky personality and excellent cooking. They don’t have a website but if you ever make the trip to Methven, ask for Cafe Primo e Secondu.
It’s hard to miss – opposite the Four Square and looks like a junk shop that your grandmother would have been proud of. Their brunch and cakes are absolutely to die for. This cafe plays such a charming part in my personal history – my Dad once bought me the most beautiful vintage shoes from there and I have taken many a friend (including Mr Man) out of our way to visit for wonderful little brunch dates. I’m sure it has for plenty of others too.
We all had brunch – the men went for the full breakfast which they appeared rather satisfied with (you know when everyone is in silence they are enjoying their meals) while Mum and I both had pancakes with plenty of bacon. Tea was served in antique tea cups and I also went for a chai latte which was a nice change to the usual flat whites.
From there it was down to Wanaka where we spent a couple of days with family friends and the airshow, before departing from my parents and driving six hours through outstanding scenery to the Milford Sound, boarding the Milford Mariner for the night. We went kayaking which was tough (strong wind + weak Lady loves Cake = not a good combination!) but were rewarded by such a wonderful night. You pay around £160 per person but it is well worth it for the comfortable accommodation, great food and mind blowing scenery.
My pictures don’t do this place justice, you have to experience it. Think dolphins racing against the boat, seals on the rocks, floating waterfalls (they stop half way down the cliffs!) and huge mountains on beautiful fiords. We left talking non-stop about what an incredible time we had there and agreeing that seeing the Milford Sound was one of the best things we’ve both ever done in our lives.
Growing up I was never a big fan of Queenstown itself. I adore skiing but as a student Queenstown felt expensive and drastically overrated. This trip changed my opinion of it completely. Rather than staying in a horrible backpackers, Mr Man and I took advantage that we’re in our early thirties, double income with no kids and checked into one of the best bed and breakfasts we’ve ever stayed in.
Queenstown House is owned by a lady named Louise, apparently a legend in New Zealand’s hospitality industry who runs a tight ship in her wonderful B&B. We were given a room with a view out to the lake and mountains which was ridiculously comfortable and included everything you want in a tiny hotel – great view, bathroom that included everything you need, a well stocked area around the kettle (good tea!) and the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in. That’s just the beginning though.
From 5:30-6:30 every evening, she invites you down for wine and nibbles and to meet the other guests. What came out was seemingly bottomless glasses of the local Otago pinot noir and beautifully fresh smoked salmon on rice crackers topped with beetroot chutney and aoili. During this hour we got to talk to a legendary former WW2 spitfire pilot and stare out at the gorgeous view.
The food in central Queenstown, apart from the excellent Ferburger, is expensive and the quality doesn’t compare to Louise’s breakfasts so we ate as much as we possibly could the two mornings we were there. Mr Man ate eggs benedict served with salmon twice, while I lived off her pancakes along with granola served with poached plums and creamy Greek yoghurt.
If we were ever to return to Queenstown I don’t think we’d even consider other options. I know I sound gushy here but this place seriously ticks all the boxes: friendly but not in your face owner, ridiculously comfortable beds, great views, outstanding food and a good location without being extortionate in price.
Queenstown House are also friendly with Dart Stables in Glenorchy so we spent an afternoon horseriding in Lord of the Rings territory. It was fun and the scenery mind blowing with lovely horses and a friendly guide.
It turns out that Louise actually is very good friends with Maria, the owner back at Primo e Secondu in Methven, so we made one last stop there on our way back to Christchurch for afternoon tea (and a message from Louise to her dear friend). I have never seen someone’s face light up the way Maria’s did and was glad we made that last stop. It could be the last time we visit for many years, and it was worth every minute and every bite of her gorgeous signature chocolate loaf.
And that my friends is our time in New Zealand. We are both well and truly back into the exercise and living off salads. Next stop: a hen weekend in the South of France, then it’s on to enjoy the best of what London has to offer for 2012. Bring it on!