I find myself fully packed and 17 kilograms of luggage at the airport ready for departure to Queenstown, New Zealand. With me is Bill, avid bush walker and partner, my daughter Rachael and grand daughter Matilda, almost 10 months.
We know it will be cold – the chilly lake Wakatipu a picturesque setting from our unit balcony. Grey arrival and cold but manageable, we set up house for 9 nights to enjoy a little holiday mixing with international tourists and locals. Now I do not intend to ski, and by the end of this post, you will see that I kept my word. So far the snowfall up at the Remarkables is minimal and the locals are saying it’s warm. On the 4th day though we find our layers are increasing and at 9am on our way to Ferg burger store it’s a chilly 3 degrees. I truly love Winter with the warm, cosy Merino scarves, Mac pac jacket, wool beanie and gloves and Maleny boots from home. Rachael is finding the freeze a bit frustrating dressing up the baby all the time, then taking off the clothes to change the nappy. However, Matilda looks so cute as snug as a bug in a rug.
Now the shops are loaded with kiwi merchandise, Merino and Possum scarves, Paua gifts and Maori carved products , tea towels, honey , soft cuddly sheep and ski shoes, boots and goggles.
Queenstown is the place buzzing with adventure seekers – bungy jumpers, the shotover rides, para sailing , lake cruises, mountain walks, National Parks. We enjoyed the spectacular views on top of the gondola ride, watching the para gliders gracefully drift amidst the clouds. Perhaps a glass of mulled wine later.
This scenery begs appreciation and love. The snow capped mountains etch their beauty into the bluest heavens and make me think how lucky I am.
Even though I did not ski, the ice rink beckoned me to try after 25 years. I arrived early about 9am to find only a few skaters and a flock of wee flyers ( children about 4-5) gliding in a group. I admit to being nervous as the body did not adapt that quickly and after 5 minutes I fell hard onto my bum – OUCH! that was painful. I even had my daughter and another lady help me up. This shook my confidence so I got off the ice and minded Tilly instead who was asleep in her stroller.
Determined to try again, I did return to the rink and Tom Jones music blaring with purple lights and some extra support to hold onto. I then balanced properly and skated a few laps using my trusty snowman.
Isn’t it hard to regain confidence when it’s bruised?? My coccyx is certainly sore.
When one doesn’t ski, one eats. Queenstown is well known for it’s fine eateries. Just to escape the cold into a fire-lit cafe is a dream. Lola and Ivy was one such place we enjoyed. Soup, hot chocolate, or a belly slowed cooked lamb, smashed avocado and bacon or rich winter plum crumble and ice cream. The service was great and lots of people come from Wales, Scotland or France to work for a year, their accents appealing. The cafe was owned by a guy who collected vintage radios decorated on the walls. It looked great.
At Ivy and Lola’s we appreciated a kid’s high chair, warm hospitality and good prices and a vintage collectorama theme ( plates, cups, mirrors) that made me smile.
Also in the food departments, there is Winnie Pizza bar, with Moroccan lamb, chicken and cranberry and brie – Yummy. The World Bar offered a cosy beer garden and a giant roaring fire; and the highlight for me was the Walter Peak homestead which served up the best BBQ lunch – baby spinach with lentils, carrot with orange peanut coriander and black garlic, beetroot with local goat’s cheese and the best lamb, Southland beef and savoury chicken , grilled mushrooms with truffle and thyme I have eaten. Could I possibly squeeze in sticky date pudding and ice cream?? YES. When you are wearing puffy jackets, who cares about a bit more puff!
After food, there’s art. I enjoyed browsing the many galleries, some tucked away in small lanes and with hefty price tags. I was interested in landscapes that reflected the seasons of New Zealand. Native birds are popular, whether carved, painted or felted into puppets.
When not skiing, there’s the famous gondola ride that takes you to the best views. A well crafted and designed machine that is bringing in a lot of money from tourists.
At $33 per ride and an extra $15 for each luge ride, plus souvenir, coffee, or a restaurant meal at the top, the experience was for the well off. Rachael loved the luge ride as it was so much fun steering fast down the tracks.
Here she is travelling to the top and Tilly and I were snuggling up inside the cafe.
The views are amazing and wilderness pristine. We hired a car and went to Wanaka and Arrowtown, both fantastic. My preference is the latter one with its intimate, nestled- in shops and character, gold mining history and beauty. I actually bumped into a Flinders family who were holidaying there. Small world!
Wanaka was grey from an inversion and shopping quiet, but we discovered a great op shop and ate a magnificent pizza at Fransesca’s Italian restaurant with comfy high chair for Matilda to gobble up her meal.
Arrowtown boasted an old Butcher’s shop, Patagonia chocolate shop, 19th century miners cottages, museum and boutique fashion shops. There we enjoyed a chicken and corn pie, plus chocolate brownies. I imagine in Autumn the leaves on the trees turning to gold and orange like a citrus Impressionist painting.
Lastly if skiing doesn’t work out there’s the Winter Wonderland concert, fireworks and blast of noise and spicy aromas from the entertainment below our unit. And knowing someone ( an amazing teacher) who delivers a group of school students safely to the slopes where their skiing skills are practised daily until their passion soars. I can miss the long crowded queues at the Remarkables, but I wouldn’t miss the giggles, cuddles, waves and smiles from my endearing grand daughter on vacation.
Or would I miss this view straight from our balcony on Beach Street with the golden tree.