New Zealand Vacation Time!

So, this will be the first post of many detailing my vacation to New Zealand, because there is simply too much to cram into one post.   First of all, New Zealand is a beautiful place with wonderful people, delicious food, awesome wine, and tons of gorgeous scenery.  I know it is hard to get to for a lot of people because of its location and the cost of airfare these days, but it’s still well worth traveling to at some point in your life.  I think there is something for everyone no matter what kind of vacationer you are.  For this first post, I am going to share some highlights and some insights!

Queenstown

Timing and Budget

There is so much from New Zealand that it is impossible to see everything, so you really have to pick your priorities, and base it on how much time and money you have to spend! My trip was about six days, and included the north and south islands.  Most online sites and guidebooks probably would have recommended two weeks for what I accomplished in my six days, but I still felt like it was well worth going, even if I skipped some stuff. As for lodging and transportation, there are of course different ranges, so if you want to backpack the whole thing, many people do that, while others opt for the full-on guided tours and hotels the whole way.  I picked the middle ground of staying in motels (that were still very nice!) and renting a car so that I could go wherever I wanted, and didn’t have to pay tour companies to show me around.

Nerdcation

(nerd alert!!) If you’re a Tolkien fan, or fan of any movies really, New Zealand is great for wandering around and looking at sites where the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies were filmed.  At one point, I stood in the forest of Lothlorien staring at the tree they modeled Treebeard after.

In a hobbit's house!

In a hobbit’s house!

My first day after arrival I headed to the Hobbiton movie set-  this is where they filmed the shire from the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies.  The sets for the Hobbit movies were made out of permanent materials so that they could remain there and be set up for tourism.  Although I am not a huge proponent of silly tourist traps, I am a big nerd and I admit this was absolutely awesome.  Tours are a few hours, starting from The Shire’s Rest cafe, and are guided, ending at the Green Dragon Pub for some nice brew (made on site).

Wine and Culinary Deliciousness

Do you like freshly prepared and amazing tasting food? Do you like wine? If you answered yes to either or both of those questions, you will enjoy eating and drinking in New Zealand.  There are several wine countries, and I visited wineries in Marlborough (top part of south island) and Otago (south island near Queenstown), but there are many different options for wine tasting and exploring.    And of course, any restaurant you go to has many local wines for you to enjoy with your meal. Sauvignon blanc for the win.

Wine at Dinner

Majesty of Nature

I was also blown away by the scenery I encountered throughout the whole trip.  There are so many interesting and unique geological wonders to discover, and there is a place for you whether you like beach or forest.  On my trip down the west coast of the south island, I saw glaciers, the very aptly named “pancake rocks” lovely beach sunsets, lots of farmland and sheep of course, lakes that stretched for miles, and mountain forests with mixes of trees I had never seen before.  Oftentimes when I was driving, I had to pull off the road (on the designated look out points of course), and just get out of the car and stand in awe at the beautiful views in front of me.  And then I snapped pictures of said views and immediately posted them to social media because I couldn’t help myself.

Pancake Rocks

Stay  tuned for more posts detailing a few of the cities I visited, and obligatory awesome photographs!

Canberra Countryside

I traveled to Canberra last week, and now have a new-found appreciation for the public  transportation in Melbourne! Don’t get me wrong, Canberra is a lovely and beautiful (and very quiet!) city, but I don’t think it’s possible to live there without a car.  Of course, I’m basing this on about 3 days of wandering around, but, that’s my first impression. Needless to say, there were lots of taxi rides.

Hotel Christmas Tree

Still, I had a fun time visiting Australia’s capital. For one, my hotel was all decorated for the season! Also, I got some shopping done and bought some lights for my apartment, which was a definite win.

Over the weekend a friend drove me out of the city, and we headed to Gundaroo (doesn’t that just sound like it’s in Australia?!), which is a quaint little village out in the countryside, home to wineries and fresh yumminess!

Canberra Countryside

At the appropriately named restaurant Grazing, we got this lovely fresh food platter, and I enjoyed it with some wines from Capital winery‘s Ministry series. I tried a nice Riesling (The Whip) and a delicious Tempranillo (The Ambassador).  Verdict: I just might have to order a whole case.

Platter of yummy food

I promise on my next visit to Canberra I will make it out of the one circle I spent this trip in, to explore the art galleries and many mini districts of cafes, bars, and restaurants.  For now, you’ll just have to settle with the fact that I noticed the Old Parliament House and the new (current) Parliament House via taxi ride drive by and leave it at that.

Restaurant

Yarra Valley Wine Tour

This weekend I headed out to Yarra for a wine tour. The valley is famous for the over 70 wineries.

First stop: Yering station!

If you have to ask if its too early to drink wine you are an amateur and we cannot be friends. (They had this quote on the wall and I really identified with it :p).

First wine: Marsanne Viognier roussanne (white), which is a blend of 3 wines I’ve never tried before. It was awesome! We also indulged in a Pinot noir, off dry riesling and Shiraz.

Next stop was balgownie estate, where we stopped for another tasting and a delicious lunch! I had a lovely cab merlot with my braised beef, and a fortified Shiraz (like a port but not!).

After that we headed to a smaller winery which also has some apple orchards. Their 2006 vintage Pinot noir was delicious, and they even deliver to Melbourne. They get bonus points for having a cute dog mascot.

The last stop was Chandon, which is actually certified to make champagne, which is great if you’re in to that kind of thing!

Overall it’s great to have so many options of wineries right outside Melbourne to enjoy, and the valley is a must see for anyone transiting through 🙂

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