After being greeted in person by my parents at the airport…..
Catching up with the family…..
And more friends….
…..we were completely integrated back into English life.
It is funny how you both look forward to coming home but also don’t. The thought that the freedom of travelling is coming to an end and you are back to your old life is always difficult. The excitement you have at making all the plans for leaving builds up over a long time, there are many hours spent on the internet, booking trains, hotels and more, packing up the house, selling all our worldly goods on eBay and more than few leaving parties which means it is all so exciting. The booking of a flight home and knowing what you are coming back to is different.
We had a lovely week at my parents in Stroud. Our walks down the canal were wonderful, and made us realise how beautiful this country is. The weather was amazing, those sunny spring days filled with sunshine, blue skies, wildflowers and hope, made us both truly happy to be back.
We then had a couple of weeks staying with some friends of ours, and, amazingly, we were still friends a few weeks later. We enjoyed many a (late night) BBQ and more than a few drinks in our stay in Finchfield.
Flat hunting in Birmingham was depressing at times but we soon found an apartment in the centre of town and were excited to be starting a whole new way of living, city centre living, with no garden, or even terrace, for me to look after!
Moving in was a trial but we abused the good nature of our mates and roped them into helping. I doubt they will be as willing when we move out as the logistics of moving into a secure apartment, with key fobbed doors and lifts that didn’t work meant it was a sweaty day. We bought them beers to compensate.
Our last day has arrived and we are sad to be leaving this wonderful travelling lifestyle. The thought of getting a flat, jobs and facing reality is quite a shocker, but on the plus side, it will be great to see family and friends again (and not be eaten alive by mossies).
We have toast, butter, honey and coffee on the terrace. The amaretto was a welcome addition as heads were a touch sore from last night.
Our day was quiet. We blogged, diaried etc.
We ate fish and chips by the seaside.
Went for a walk on the beach.
We had ice creams.
I left Guy on his own in the wine shop tasting wines, he maxed out the credit card.
I cooked meatballs and couscous for dinner.
We watched our last night of kiwi tat TV.
Tomorrow we get our flight home and arrive on Friday, we are being met by Mum and Dad at the airport, which will be lovely. We are spending a few days with them before heading up to Wolverhampton to see friends (and get a flat and jobs…..).
We will update this blog occasionally with exciting things we do in our lives, dumplings we eat and our next adventure, whatever that will be.
Our last day visiting vineyards starts with a coffee, obviously, accompanied by toast, lashings of butter and honey all on our little terrace.
We then count mossie bites and compare them. Who knew the mossies on this island we so desperate for Roberts blood? Guy wins the most bites and for once we are happy to be going home to a mossie free haven.
We do a bit of strip shopping up and down Oneroa high street then we set off walking up and down the winding roads to the 2 walkable vineyards on this island of 31 vineyards, Mudbrick and Cable Bay.
Mudbrick is a stunning setting, overlooking the islands bays and Auckland in the distance, set up high, it looked very Cotswolds to us. The prices of $20 for a premium tasting of 4 wines was steep, none of which were particularly great or worth the huge price tags, eg $89 for a bottle of Syrah. No extra tastings were given, portions were small, it was all very corporate.
Next was Cable Bay, $10 for tasting and you only get that price taken off if you buy 2 or more bottle of wine. Again, this is much pricier than anywhere else we have experienced, we are thinking there is a posh tax on this island and we are thankful we aren’t going to any more vineyards here.
So, final scores on doors for NZ Vineyards visited is 33 and we have tasted over 275 wines.
Guy also has a foldable pocket wine guide that he will bring out when tasting wines back in the UK so he can identify the plums, dry canned peas etc flavours in each variety of wine. You have all been warned.
A walk home was undertaken in the sunshine via Alison Park.
We stop for lunch at a beautiful setting of Wai restaurant. It is great food, but the wine is expensive, nearly the same price for a glass as a meal, but we still have some as we won’t get this opportunity soon.
The afternoon is spent blogging, drinking wine and telling our mates we are drinking wine for the last time before we come home (we can’t do it tomorrow as we can’t face the 17 hour flight with a raging hangover).
Dinner is sausages and couscous.
We watch more tat TV and drank more wine and listened to some Bon Jovi, just to annoy Guy.
Todays adventure is cycling to Napier, 20km away. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt entirely in the style of the times, Art Deco, which we both love. We had fond memories of it last time so we looking forward to visiting it again. Plus, we have been lucky enough to be invited to a wedding which is being held in the Electric Cinema in Brum, so it was a great opportunity for me to get a dress for the big occasion.
We started off cycling along the train tracks and through light industry, not as photogenic as we were hoping. We stopped for a coffee and almond croissant. Cycling is ace, it means you can eat whatever you want!
We finally got to the ocean front and had a beautiful cycle along it for about 9km. The waves were crashing down, repeatedly, the driftwood was everywhere and Guy was in photography heaven.
We parked up in Napier and went for a small snack at Hapi, an inspiring cafe with loads of gluten free, vegan, veggie and other dietary foods.
The city wasn’t as photogenic as we remember. The high street seems to be the same as everywhere else filled with Farmers, UniChem, Hannahs, etc. We managed to find some gorgeous shop fronts to photograph and I got a dress and head piece for the wedding!!! Result.
We spotted a fish cafe on the seafront and settled down to some stunning green lipped mussels and calamari at Hunger Monger.
A walk was required to settle stomachs before we cycled back to Hastings avoiding most the light industry views this time.
A slight detour on the way back and we were at Vidal cellar door. More wines were tasted.
Dinner was a vegan lasagne, salad and roasted tomatoes, delicious.
We sat around chatting to our hosts and housemates, sharing a bottle of wine, the rest of the evening. We even played the card game, Monopoly …….and lost.
Another day on the bikes so we had a non vegan breakfast on our way out of Hastings. I actually wish it had been vegan after we had tasted the plastic hollandaise sauce and slimy packet salmon.
Hawkes Bay is set up for cycling, there are routes all over which are flat and go via the many vineyards that are around the area. We feel it is our duty to utilise this facility.
Our Air BnB hosts also rent out bikes so we utilise this facility and get 2 bikes and rode to the vineyards.
The scenery is very different to Blenheim, more distant craggy ridges rather than distance rolling hills. It is much closer to the ocean (the Pacific to be specific 😂) which is massively exciting for us Midlanders, and as many orchards as vineyards which at this time of year the trees are dripping with their red and green fruits and are quite stunning to see.
First vineyard is Black Barn, a boutique vineyard which doesn’t export, even past Hawkes Bay! The setting is stunning, it is set up on a slight ridge with views all around their vineyards.
Next is Te Mata Estate who have ‘since 1896’ on all their marketing, however in asking the cellar door lass for more information she simply repeated that they had started in 1896. Oh well. The building was fabulous.
Next was a recommendation from Black Barn, Aka Rangi vineyard, a very boutique one, set in an old disused church, it was the most atmospheric tasting we have had so far. The Chardonnay was so good we bought one.
There were even old cars full of weeds on the driveway, you don’t get more atmospheric than that!
Now we needed to do a long (ish) cycle to the coast and up the shoreline which is rugged, filled with driftwood, discarded sea detritus and lots of dark grey pebbles of all different sizes. This is my favourite kind of beach, the white sands are nice but the rugged beach is so much more appealing to me. I like my men like my beaches……😂
We get to Clearview Estate vineyard and cycle in for the largest tasting so far, 14 wines and one comedian! The lass on cellar door was entertaining and we thoroughly enjoyed the tasting.
We stayed for a platter of local produce, included smoked mushrooms, marinated green lipped mussels, mozzarella with basil oil, hams and olives.
On our way home we passed all the savvy types in their campervans, sat out enjoying the sunshine and possibly a good book, and / or a glass of wine. This will be us in a few years time, we hope.
A long ride back along the raised cycle path and we were ready for our dinner of vegan lasagne, roasted tomatoes, pasta and tomato sauce.
It was delicious and we had a lovely evening chatting to the other people staying here.
32 miles cycled today according to Google and the onboard navigator, maybe Google is correct then?
An early morning start, 6.30am, and we are on an Intercity bus to Hastings going via many small villages, through valleys and over the hills of North island. New Zealand is such a beautiful country.
We get to Hastings and have a long walk with our heavy bags to our next Air BnB hosts. This is slightly different in that we are glamping on someone’s driveway. The woman at tourist info warns us it will be cold tonight, 6 degrees. We are slightly apprehensive. Our hosts are also (practically) vegan and cook for guests, they run bike hire from the garage, host seasonal travelers, another couple in a caravan on their drive, and have 2 small kids as well. It is a totally different household to the quiet ones we are used to so we were looking forward to this.
We arrive sweaty and dump our bags in the small tent abd greet our hosts. We then makebour way back into town to get our bearings. We have a late lunch at Madeleine’s cafe, spelt correctly.
We get back to our tent and meet some of our fellow residents, dinner is a vegan feast of soya bean rissoles, tomato and veg soup, salad, tomato bake.
Pudding is frozen bananas and soft red fruit wizzed up with coconut cream and topped with nuts, cinnamon. It is absolutely delicious and something to try at home.
We are on our way home from the furthest point in our journey, it has taken us 232 days to get here and it should take 8 days to get back 😨.
We had a great start to the day (if you avoid the struggling to get all our crap into teeny rucksacks) and went to Ritual for salmon and eggs for Guy and a small savoury muffin for little ol’ me. The music being played was excellent, Tame Impala, Alt-J, Foals, Maccabees all courtesy of a bloke from Sunderland.
The bus took us from Blenheim to Picton in about 25mins. Easy.
We had 2 hours before the ferry so as soon as we saw a Whitehaven vineyard umbrella we were sat there with a bottle of savvy wondering just how the hell are we going to adjust to life in the UK? Apparently it hasn’t changed so much that this is acceptable behaviour at lunchtime, every lunchtime.
We boarded the ferry and got settled, in the bar, where we spent sometime chatting to a guy with a Mancunian accent who has lived here since 1964. He had some tales to tell.
Arrival in Wellington was prompt and soon we were in a scabby backpackers thanking our lucky stars it was only one night. It felt grimy, dirty and the bathroom was so rank we didn’t shower. We feel like travellers again.
Scrubbed up, via the sink, we went to our favourite wine bar and tried a mystery tasting. The deal is to try and identify the grape, region and vintage of each of the 3 wines, we were hoping we could get maybe just one grape right!!
After much deliberation and pontification we decided on our grapes. We got 2 out of 3 right, the French chenin blanc evaded our tastebuds and I even got the producer right for the chardy (Chardonnay). Feeling pretty chuffed we celebrated with another glass of red then headed off for burnt dumplings at Dumpling’d in town.
We had bought a bottle of Yealands savvy thinking it was BYO at the dumpling house. It wasn’t. The posh Yealands wine was drunk, back in our scabby hostel room, out of paper cups. I am not sure the winemaker had this scenario in mind when he was perfecting his craft on this lush wine.
Anzac day is a pretty special occasion here, all shops are closed, at least for half a day, on this day that 2779 New Zealanders died at Gallipoli. There are dawn services in some towns around the country, which is the time that most lives were lost in this bloody campaign.
Blenheim doesn’t have a dawn service so we were in town for the 10.30am parade of veterans, serving members of the air force, navy, army and families of those who have lost their loved ones, to the cenetaph. The bag pipes were screeching, the bugles were calling and a beautiful brass band accompanied them on their short journey to the town square. It was wonderful to see so many young families with kids and babies attending. Everyone was on the streets, coming together, to remember the sacrifices made in the past, and the commitment and courage still shown today by the serving members of the NZ forces. We were really moved by it.
Even when we went for coffee afterwards the cafe was playing songs from that era or about the war, when we walked in they were playing The Pogues ‘Waltzing Matilda’ which has me in tears anytime of day or night, coffee was quickly drunk before too much eye leakage happened.
As we were missing our usual 20 mile bike ride around vineyards we got the bikes and went for a ride around town and onto the easy mountain bike track. It was ace fun, we loved it although my disc brakes were well used in a couple of steep descents!!! We might have to try more mountain biking when we get back.
After ham butties on our terrace we spent the afternoon blogging, drinking wine and playing with Instagram apps.
Guy spent more time photographing his diary than writing it.
We had a kebab for tea and the evening was spent chatting to our hosts and watching MKR….. Addictive stuff.