Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: New Zealand (page 2 of 3)

The great New Zealand adventure – wine valley

Driving up the south island we of course made time to stop in the Wairau valley near Blenheim to sample a few wines. Both the lady of the manor and I are big fans of Kiwi reds so this was the perfect opportunity to indulge ourselves, a fair reward for sleeping in a campervan I reckon. However we wanted to make sure that we didn’t just go to the well known names, most of them you can buy in the UK anyway so what’s the point in wasting valuable time tasting them here?

Despite this our first stop was Cloudy Bay, which no doubt many of you have heard of and is probably the most famous vineyard in this area (which doesn’t of course mean they make the best wines). We started with their whites and the bulk of the white they will sell is Savignon Blanc, which as with pretty much all the Savignon Blanc in this region is full of fruit and often tastes of gooseberry. These were good but nothing exceptional, the most interesting white we tasted was a late harvest Riesling which is a sweet, almost sticky wine. Very tasty.

We also tried their reds and did a comparison between their blended Pinot Noir and a single vineyard one. I have to be honest and say that the difference was too subtle for my taste buds to really distinguish between but enjoyable to tasted all the same. We purchased a bottle of the single vineyard Pinot Noir and also one of the late harvest Riesling. Hopefully these will survive the trip back to the UK and we can pair them with some roast Beef (or maybe venison) and then some good cheese for desert with the sweet wine. I’m actually salivating a little at the thought of that already.

Then next 2 stops were smaller vineyards that we hadn’t heard of but that the people at Cloudy Bay recommended based on our wine tastes. I will only write about one here because quite simply it was amazing. Hans Herzog is run by a Swiss couple who moved there to grow grapes that they couldn’t in Switzerland and what was most interesting was that although they do grow Pinot Noir and Savignon Blanc as you would expect they also had a large number of much more unusual grapes. We tried a selection but the ones that stood out were the Italian grapes Montepulciano and Nebbiolo , we were lucky that they had a 2004 Nebbiolo open that was so smooth and deep in flavour after just a few years in the cellar.

We didn’t have the room to buy anything from here but we plan to try and source some when we’re back in the UK. They also had a very nice looking restaurant (they used to have a Michelin starred restaurant in Switzerland) and a holiday cottage if you feel like some pampering, perhaps not with a 5 month old?

The wine valley here is easy to get around and very short distances between vineyards, I also noticed that a number of people had been on tours that collected them from the campsite, a good way of solving the designated driver issue!

The next stop on our magical mystery tour is Nelson and then on to the Abel Tasman national park.

Oh and Matilda had her first go in a high chair while we had lunch in one of the vineyards, most exciting and she loved it to.

The gallery – a happy memory

As we’re travelling (have I mentioned we’re in New Zealand? Just a couple of times perhaps?) I wasn’t planning on getting involved with the gallery but then I saw someones post and what the theme was and just couldn’t resist.

These photo’s were actually taken today, this must be a first for me, but I think is absolutely perfect. Today we are in Hanmer Springs, it’s been a glorious spring day; clear blue sky, a chilly breeze, snow capped mountains all around and the icing on the cake, a thermal spa on our door step. With Matilda her usual chirpy self this morning we decided to take her to the spa and give her her first experience of swimming. She LOVES the bath, it’s her favourite time of the day and she spends the time shrieking and splashing and laughing to herself. So we hoped she would feel the same about a really big bath.

The spa is an impressive set up with a more than 10 different pools all with different temperatures and features. We found a quiet one tucked away that was relatively cool and gently stepped in. She wasn’t very sure at first, partly due to adjusting from the cold air (there was a frost last night) but she soon got into it and was splashing and smiling.

Today will stay in my memory for a long time, a perfect moment as a family with all the stresses and worries of the world forgotten. I don’t think there could be a more beautiful setting to do this in either. In fact we may just stay here. Forever.

The great New Zealand adventure – first days

Well we made it, as I type this we are tucked up in our camper van on a camp site in Hammer Springs, New Zealand. The flights over were actually pretty good, Matilda did really well and apart from the take off at Heathrow really didn’t cry much at all. Full marks go to both Heathrow and Singapore airlines for the special treatment they give to families. Heathrow have a separate line for families to go through security, much quicker and more relaxing. Then Singapore airlines pulled us out of the queue at the gate and took us straight to the front to have boarding passes checked before letting us board the plane before anyone else.

The stopover in Singapore for 11 hours was a god send, we checked into the terminal hotel and managed to convince Matilda to sleep for 6 hours. It was then just a mere 9 hour flight to Christchurch. So almost 22 hours of flying with no major incident and we were almost done. But Matilda had other ideas, queue some projectile vomiting all over me and the wall and the seat and the floor.  A perfect end to the flight and made even more pleasant by not having a change of clothes. I spent the next 3 hours until we had our camper van stinking of baby sick.

What we also hadn’t reckoned on was queuing behind about 60 rugby fans to get our camper van. I tried playing the tired baby card to get priority treatment to no avail. They did have a barista in the office making free coffee though so I caught up with my days quota of flat whites. When we finally got our van we headed into Christchurch to have a look around and do some food shopping. Now you may think that England is expensive for food but you haven’t seen anything. we spent almost £100 on food that would have cost less than £60 in England. Not a good start to the holiday.

Driving around a city that has been wrecked by an earthquake is a very strange experience, the whole of the downtown is closed off still. I didn’t take any photo’s as it didn’t seem quite right, but I felt almost cheated that we didn’t get to see the city properly.

It was then on to the campsite for our first attempt at getting the beds set up and our stuff unpacked. In theory this van is designed for 4 adults but there is no way you would holiday in one with that many. It’s just about fine for the 3 of us, but even that is hard at times. Matilda has her own double bed in the roof and seems to have now adjusted to the time zone and is almost sleeping through the night as normal. That first night she was up about 4 times and we were awake from 4am with her. As a result all 3 of us crashed out by 6pm the first 2 nights.

Since then we have been down to Banks Peninsula, had a walk around the parks in Christchurch and then today driven to Kaikoura to look at the seals and tonight we’re in Hammer Springs, home to natural hot thermal pools which we shall be checking out in the morning. There has been some pretty scaring driving so far along mountain roads with sheer drops on the side and just a rickety wooden fence to stop us toppling over. The lady of the manor is a particular fan of this type of road judging by the shrieks of excitement coming from the seat next to me. We even did part of the journey today through the mountains with it snowing. It was at this point that I was glad we hadn’t hired a really big camper van.

It’s 8.30pm which means I’m ready to hit the sack and try and catch up with some more sleep, besides which there isn’t much to do when you’re in a campervan with a 5 month old baby who is sleeping! But here’s a few photo’s from the last couple of days to keep you going, will post more later in the week.

I’m leaving, on a jet plane

It’s true, this is it, the week has finally arrived. It seemed such a long way off when we bought the rugby tickets in April 2010, Matilda wasn’t even a twinkle in the lady of the manor’s eye at that point. But it has arrived and the nervous, excited tension is gradually building in this household. 2 more sleeps and we’ll be heading to Heathrow ready to start our long trip to New Zealand.

We have the small matter of 23 hours of flying ahead of us, broken up by an 11 hour stop over in Singapore. Then three and a half weeks in a camper van exploring every nook and cranny of the land of the long white cloud. We have it all planned out, a precise itinerary for 2 people who love a list. We have however left a good chunk of flexibility in case we change our minds or discover an amazing destination that we hadn’t heard of.

We fly into Christchurch and then spend 2 weeks driving first North to Blenheim and the wine region before heading south west along the coast past mount Cook to Queenstown. At the end of the 2 weeks we’ll be in Dunedin to see England vs. Romania before racing to the top of the South Island to board the ferry. Then we’ll have a week driving up the North Island to Auckland. My little brother who lives there will meet us and finally get to meet Matilda. Then there is the small matter of England vs. Scotland, the last game in our pool matches. Hopefully after this game England will go on to play France and after that win the world cup (got to dream haven’t you?).

Unfortunately we’ll have left the country by the time England lift the trophy, but we do have to return to the real world at some point.

Going to New Zealand has been a dream of mine for some time and to do it during the rugby world cup will be amazing. Plus hopefully I’ll get to tick off a few more things from my bucket list, not to mention the fact that I’ll get almost 4 whole weeks with my 2 favourite girls. That’s longer than my paternity leave!

All there is to do now is cross our fingers that Matilda is ok with the flying, if not there’s always Calpol I guess…. Let the adventure begin.

P.S. This does probably mean a reduction in the activity on this here blog, I know it’ll be tough for you but you can make it through. I will try to get some photo’s up as we go along though as most of the campsites have wi-fi and it’ll be a cool way to document the trip for the future.

Brokeback dad

It’s 11.30pm on Monday night and I’m lying on the lounge floor trying not to move and debating whether to have a drink of water, knowing that if I do then the trip to the toilet will come sooner rather than later.

Then I begin surveying the pint glass I’m drinking out of, perhaps I can use that instead of going to the toilet? Anything to avoid having to move, let alone try to stand up.

But no, I NEED to go to the toilet and knowing how long it will take to get there, I need to go NOW. So it begins, the slow and tortuous crawl from the lounge through the dining room and kitchen to the toilet. The dog watching me the whole way with a look to say ‘has he gone mental or what?’.

It takes 5 minutes to make the trip of no more than 30 metres,  5 minutes of puffing, panting, moans and groans. But the worst is yet to come. Now I need to somehow get off the floor and onto the toilet. Arms on the toilet seat, gradually lift one leg off the floor and slowly push up. Hands quickly grab the radiator and I’m up. A bit of swaying, a little breather and I’m ready to try lowering back down again. A considerable amount of pain later I’m done and begin the process in reverse to get back to my spot on the lounge floor.

And this is pretty much how I spent the 24 hours after putting my back out on Monday evening. Disappointingly no alcohol or sex involved in obtaining the injury, but rather what turned out to be the very dangerous activity of playing with the dog. I’ve never known pain like it, shooting through my back with one wrong movement or another spasm from holding a position too long. The strongest pain killers available off the shelf didn’t touch it, so it was with much anticipation that I awaited a home visit from the Doctor on Tuesday (which took much persuasion – ‘you’re 29 and you want a home visit?’). He obliged and some strong drugs were mine. 3 days later and I am now able to walk around the house, even if it is a bit of a hobble sometimes.

But I need to recover and recover quite quickly, at the end of August I’m flying to California for a week for work. Then the following week we go to New Zealand for 3 weeks and on return from that trip I have another California trip for work in mid October. An achy back is not what I need and I shall be visiting the doctor next week to start getting some treatment whatever that consists of.

Bracken did make up for it though by keeping me company in my spot on the floor.


My bucket list

I’ve seen a few people do this and you know what? I quite like. It both fits with my need to write lists and also provides some inspiration and motivation to actually DO something. It was harder than I expected to come up with lots of things and I may have cheated slightly by putting a few things that I’ve already done (gets the list going I say). But here it is, my bucket list, what do you think? If you’ve done one then please share, I think it gives quite an interesting insight into someone to see what they dream of doing.

  1. Go to New Zealand
  2. Have children
  3. Run a marathon
  4. Run an off road marathon
  5. Complete a triathlon
  6. Go to Everest base camp
  7. Sea kayak with whales
  8. Go tornado chasing in Texas
  9. Learn how to make the perfect flat white
  10. Drive a rally car
  11. Fly a helicopter
  12. Learn to surf
  13. Have grandchildren
  14. Buy our dream detached Victorian house
  15. Own a double cab pickup truck
  16. Learn to snowboard
  17. Catch a trout on the fly
  18. Own a house with a driveway
  19. Train Bracken to find truffles
  20. Go camping with my child(ren)
  21. Go on the trans-siberian express from Russia to China
  22. Start my own business
  23. Pay off a mortgage
  24. Go on an African safari
  25. Eat in a Michelin starred restaurant
  26. Rear my own pigs (and eat them)
  27. Celebrate a 10th wedding anniversary
  28. Celebrate a 25th wedding anniversary
  29. Celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary
  30. Drive route 66
  31. Scuba dive on the great barrier reef
  32. Fly first class
  33. Go back to Italy to revisit our honeymoon destinations
  34. Learn to speak another language (semi) fluently
  35. Visit Machu Picchu
  36. Go trekking in Patagonia
  37. See penguins in the wild
  38. Go on a carpentry course to learn how to make furniture
  39. Own a detached house
  40. Get a job that requires commuting for less than 30 minutes
  41. Teach Matilda how to ride a bike
  42. Own a holiday home
  43. Fly over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter
  44. Go Salmon fishing in Scotland
  45. Catch a Tuna
  46. By a house
  47. Learn how to use my DLSR properly
  48. Buy a pair of Oliver Sweeney shoes
  49. Have a suit tailor made
  50. Live in a house with an Aga

The gallery – I’m grateful for….

An interesting prompt this week and one inspired by the intrepid explorer that is Christine Mosler. Who on the day that this post is published will be somewhere in Mozambique following a vaccine on its journey from city to countryside for a project with Save the Children. There were a few things I thought about posting for this not least our new dishwasher that we’ve had for a week now and could very well be the reason I stay happily married for a little while longer yet.

But I decided that actually the following photo really sums up what I’m grateful for, this is the tribe from youngest (Matilda at 5 weeks) to oldest (Nan at 87), 4 generations in one place. I don’t have a large extended family with only 1 grandparent left and no cousins, but my immediate family is big and expanding. I’m one of 5 children (4 boys) and there are now 3 grandchildren. The only person missing from this photo is one of my younger brothers who lives in New Zealand. Family may often annoy you, frustrate you and eat all your food but I love having a big family, even more so now that we too are becoming parents. So ladies and gentlemen I give you the fool’s family:

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