Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wine, sheep and lakes - Fabulous New Zealand

After Sydney, we flew to the magical quiet lands of New Zealand. Lovers of the wine, we chose the South Island (of Marlborough wine country fame) and booked ourselves into the cutest orchard farm ever in the pretty winery-infested town of Blenheim. Once upon a time a winery, the Ryland Estate is now purely a fruit producing farm, which also offers accommodations in a fabulous refurbished barn. The owners were amazing, giving us fruit and veggies every day (peaches, PEACHES!!! PEARS!! people, I have forgotten what THOSE were like), and entertaining Son on the tractor every afternoon while I pranced around in ungraceful poses attempting rudimentary Pilates on the lawn in front of the barn. They observed me in quiet amusement and then turned on the sprinklers on me.

The estate was smack dab in the middle of all the local wineries, which meant, of course, that we spent our days wine tasting, then stopping for lunch at some winery for a sumptuous feast of locally produced organic stuff like cheeses, venison salami and lamb skewers. Naturally, life without tennis is simply no life for the Diplomat, so even before we had reached New Zealand he had already found the local tennis clubs. What's more, we even found the local social hour and so we found ourselves playing tennis on the afternoons. Son found similarly bored children to play with at the tennis courts and to occasionally rush onto the court right when I was about to yield my finishing blow to the opponent (a 75-year old woman with disturbing agility) to tell me he would like to bring some stones home. We also made a trip to the green lip mussels capital of the world - Havelock (yup, we had mussels and they were spectacular) -  and drove through the drop-dead gorgeous Queen Charlotte Drive to Picton, a 35 km scenic drive over the Marlborough Sounds.

I am officially hooked on Savignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs. If you are planning a trip out there, you simply MUST stay either in a vineyard (several places there offer accommodations) or at Ryland like we did. There is nothing like waking up in the crisp, cool morning, frying some locally produced bacon and fresh eggs from the neighbors, gulping those down with french pressed coffee and jumping on the road to taste some wine next door. We unreasonably bought a bottle every time we tasted somewhere, which meant that we had to go home and drink it since we could bring back to Dhaka only so much. We tried some of the Blenheim vineries' best: Cloudy Bay, Giesen, Wairau River, Allan Scott (whose delicious wine I am drinking as I am writing this!!!), Nautilus, Herzog, Rock Ferry, and No 1 (for some real authentic French methode traditionelle  sparkling goodness). They were all amazing, don't have a favorite. Go there and drink. And if you are wondering what Son was doing while we were gallivanting through the vineyards, here you go:

The child loves to draw, God bless him. In the remaining time he was just running around the beautiful vineyards, screaming with delight. Thank goodness that he is dead cute, so people around us thought he was adorable rather than annoying and almost no one gave us dirty looks for bringing a kid into the tasting rooms.  

From delightful Blenheim, we took an overnight roadtrip to Queenstown. New Zealand is PACKED with sheep, PACKED!! Everywhere you go on the road, you will see the idyllic sight of a trillion cute sheared (must be the season) sheep, gleefully nibbling on grass and bleating contentedly. The view gets diversified from time to time with large, happy cows munching grass as well. And finally, you will get a glimpse of quite a few deer farms, which could be quite striking for city people like us.
Deer farm

On the way to Queenstown we stopped to gaze thoughtfully at the picturesque Lake Tekapo, surrounded by hordes of backpackers and motel signs aimed for backpackers. New Zealand is a backpacker country. Not sure why, nothing (especially NOT its prices) screams "backpacker" to me. And yet there they are, with ginormous backpacks on their backs, and added smaller versions hanging from their fronts, two shopping bags of stuff hanging from each hand. And then they hitchhike. I have to be honest, unless I am driving a cargo plane, I simply cannot see how I could give a lift to such loaded mules. But it must work or otherwise they won't be there, I suppose. I am sure there is some sort of dubious romanticism about traveling that way, but boy, watching them, I was so glad that I was a grown up, let me tell ya.

Queenstown was a delight. Truly touristy (there was even a Louis Vuitton store on the main street), it was nevertheless beautiful, unassuming, unpretentious, filled with restaurants and sheep wool stores. First order of business for the Diplomat was to check the local tennis club, hoping for some real grass courts. Courts there were and quite pretty too, but sadly there were no partners to play with. With a broken heart, the Diplomat led Son to the nearby lake where Son fed the ducks to his heart's content (an elderly Chinese lady had brought a large loaf of bread, which she happily shared with Son). And then when there was no more bread, the ducks tried to eat Son, which was met with shrieks and horror and frantic running around the park. The child had no fear though - the next day he pestered me so much that I gave up and went to buy bread to feed the damn birds again. This time we went to the pier, and also go some olives and a small bottle of bubbly and  shared the bread with the residing ducks and seagulls. Some ducks decided to take a particularly direct approach to the bread and went under the table where we were sitting. From there, they took to biting the Diplomat's legs poignantly to get his attention after sensing his lack of interest in the entire feeding affair. He was not amused.

New Zealand was fantastic. While the Diplomat found it boring at times (the man would love nothing better than to sit at home every night after a 5-hour tennis game and then watch some more tennis on TV but found NZ lacking in action...really?), I thought it was the perfect detox to our insane hectic lives in Dhaka. I definitely have something to show for it now - entire 6 lbs more on my waist, behind and thighs. I have to say - wine, lamb and bread every day is not a diet for runway models!


  1. The journey you made is really great and hope you have enjoyed a lot. New Zealand is really a wonderful place to be there.

  2. Dear American Barns, yes, NZ was fantastic!!