Saturday, 26 December 2009


Pohutakawa - The New Zealand Christmas Tree

Well I would have to say that 2009 goes down as the year that got away on us.
Great plans etc - but are you like me this year - just how come there seemed to be fewer days - or am I getting older and forgetting most of them? Both of the latter methinks, but we are both fit and well and waking up in the morning - so that is always a bonus.
Because of the economic woes of the last 12 months I haven't had time to think of Global warming. In fact Global warming seemed pretty promising in August with gorgeous weather and an early spring- but then the climate changed as it does, and seems to have been lacking in promise since - until last week that is, when everything has been back to normal.Well summer has arrived and what a fabulous day yesterday was - can you imagine Christmas in the sun? It really is to be recommended - cold beer , a barbecue , bare feet, parks and beaches. Still we have some of the northern hemisphere tradition though- fake snow on the wreath on the door and Santa and his sleigh from the North Pole! It causes a lot of laughter for our guests from that part of the world.

This is the first real Christmas for our lovely grandson Calix - at nearly two - he has realized that Christmas means presents - not just his - he will open them all. Although he was a bit disappointed with his present from his French Nanna - he thought cadeau was actually gateau - and is still searching for the cake!

Calix loves his Mum and his Yogurt ( and Chocolate cake too!)

It has been a slower season than usual so we decided to do a little maintenance during December - see the earlier Blog - it would have been better to take the time off and relax.
We have only just finished the kitchen floor - well I use that word 'finished' loosely - it looks almost finished - except 'the expert' used
a new roller sleeve on the third final coat and while we no longer have runs and ridges we now have fluff - not a lot - but enough to need re-doing.... again- but not by 'that' expert - if you catch my drift!!!
This last coat was applied Christmas Eve - so today I am making my Christmas cake.

Of course this explains why I am also late with my Christmas News and next week I may just get ahead of myself and do the Christmas cards for 2010 - because they aren't on the horizon at all for 2009!
The City Mission however, was grateful for the donation and the gift of food. Plus the Carbon Credits I have gained for not wasting trees or air miles have saved the planet for another year.

As Kiwis we hope we take our environment seriously but we realize we can enjoy saving the planet if we think laterally.We need to plant lots of grape vines to gobble up the CO2, then we need to drink all the wine to save the jobs of the workers and the investment bankers.This is true sustainability!
We need to travel long haul only and not fly short distances ,walk or cycle when we can, eat locally grown food.
We need to live like we used to when we were younger and the world was a simpler place and the choices were limited. We ate seasonal produce from local farmers and we holidayed at home.
Our lives have changed so much, hard to imagine life without Google or texting -
we have even converted to using GPS instead of maps!
I can , however imagine life without tamper proof packaging and plastic bags!
I can do without a four wheel drive vehicle, out of season flowers and produce.
All our guests now receive a gift of a string bag so they can say 'no' to plastic - so I feel we are making a tiny
but achievable difference. All skepticism aside - when Qualmark took on Sustainability as part of our assessment procedure - like others, I groaned - grumpy old women don't like being told what to do. But then I discovered I was saving money as well as the planet and the 'feel-good' factor kicked in - so I will do what I can.We now have Silver status - which we are happy with - Gold means more paper work ( doing it isn't enough - you must have a paper(or record) trail) - and that means bureaucracy 'rules' - and I don't hold with that at all - me being a grumpy old woman!
We also holidayed at home this year - no virtue or sacrifice I might add - but we thought it was time we revisited our own country. It was magic - and more road trips are on the cards.
I have completed the South Island Journeys ( see archived blogs ) and these may be of help to your family or friends who may be coming to NZ.We took your advice and included some of the places you have stumbled upon as well. With GPS you can't really get lost - just as long as you have the destination added - so you can explore and travel the roads less visited.
Our North Island Journey was also fascinating and here we took some of the routes recommended by Tourism New Zealand - their Themed Highways are well worth planning your trip around - however those blogs are in the pipeline for the New Year.

Finally, before you all drop off to sleep, I would like to thank you all once again , for enriching our lives so much when you stay.You are a fun bunch of people and a joy to share our home with.
It is wonderful to hear from so many of you and to have so many referrals and return guests - we have been 'doing' B&B for nearly 13 years now - so you must be doing something right to keep us here.

Don't forget - we give serious discount to returning guests - and your referrals will get 'mates' rates also - if they are your friends they are welcome at The Weston House.

Do check out our web albums - linked from the blog page. You may just see yourselves - and you can also see our family progress as well - Rebecca's blogs are great to read.Hers are talented , have shorter sentences and are economical in the grammatical sense but great reading - there is so much love in them

Of course, him indoors(aka Len), is a big softy and a smitten Grandad and I love being a Granny - it is so much fun. My parents used to say about my grandparents that the relationship was 'all care- no responsibility' - how right they were and how wonderful it all is - I relish and enjoy every minute I spend with the darling little boy - and if I cause a little mischief - so be it - that's part of the twinkle in my eye.
Our son Andrew is still in Argentiere - still loving the Alps and assures us his French is improving - as it should after 5 years!In between snowboarding and some fairly extreme outdoor activities he fits in enough building to finance it all. We didn't travel to France this year but in 2010 we will - we fancy a short drive from Amsterdam to Venice - via the French Alps and the Italian Lakes.

The Big Boy and the Little Boy

Seasons greetings to you all and the very best for 2010

Len & Stephanie

PS Thank you to all who have added lovely reviews about us on the TripAdvisor website.

If you haven't and would like too then Trip Advisor have made it easy by providing the simple link below

Friday, 18 December 2009

The Journey...Part 2 - summary & map

The map of the whole journey - total time taken 4 days.
This allowed for one night at each stop but did not include staying in Hanmer Springs as this is a destination visited on previous occasions (at 90mins from ChCh it is R&R for us.)
Distance traveled 864 Km ... plus the odd bit of meandering and off the record shopping , eating etc.
Doesn't allow for GPS detours....
Recommended accommodation ( all Members of Heritage Inns of New Zealand)
Best Food - nothing to beat Fleur's
Best Takeaway - Oscars is still leading!
Most amazing sights
  • Kaikoura Coast
  • Autumn foliage Awatere Valley Vineyards, Marlborough
  • Queen Charlotte Drive
  • Alpine Forests in Autumn coats south of Nelson
  • Snow on the Lewis
  • Snow & Sunshine in North Canterbury
  • Every inch of highway we travelled and everything we saw - memorable - totally!
  • Home to The Weston House, Christchurch

The Total Route - Part 2

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Thursday, 17 December 2009


As explained in the previous blog - I am actually leaping forward in time - to the final part of our journey sampling a bit of Kiwi Splendour.This will leave our North Island Saga as a separate circuit.

We landed back at Picton - after a wonderful trip through the Sounds on the InterIslander Ferry taken in comfort by upgrading to Kaitaki Plus (the ferry is called the Kaitaki and the Plus refers to their equivalent to Business Class) please note this is not available on all vessels so check first.
Just a short distance away is McCormick House ( a fellow member of Heritage & Character Inns).We had a great time is this brilliantly restored historic property - the restoration helped by the fact that Carl is a furniture maker 'extraordinaire'. while the entertainment was helped by the hosts 'extraordinaire' Jeanne & Carl and their generous servings of wine and nibbles. We stayed in the Palm Suite - with a double spa-bath - how many superlatives can be used? Breakfast was amazing and Carl knows all the bees personally that make the wonderful selection of locally produced organic honey.This property is another of the 'must-stay' list and a real credit to Carl & Jeanne.

The following morning we departed for Nelson, taking the Queen Charlotte Drive - this is an amazing road with breathtaking views - just as long as the driver keeps eyes firmly fixed on the road ahead. It is a very twisty road and has to be taken slowly - which is why the distance calculators have you averaging about 50Km per hour- be warned! Large trucks are not allowed on the route but during the season you will meet camper vans driven by foreigners....many of whom aren't overly used to driving on the left.Saying that - there have been very few accidents over the years- you simply can't drive fast on this roadl! There are numerous places where you can park and enjoy the views so don't fret that only one of you gets to sample the beauty.I have heard this road described as like cruising the Marlborough Sounds without a boat!The drive from Havelock to Nelson was far more relaxed for the driver.
Like all areas we have travelled to in NZ, the scenery is everchanging and even writing this blog some months later I find myself visualizing all the highlights - the sheer beauty we are blessed with in Godzone ( we like to think of NZ as God's Own Country - hence the name - nothing humble about a Kiwi!)
Nelson is a beautiful city - sneakily claiming highest overall sunshine hours on an annual basis - but what a claim to fame. Plus of course it make a grand base to explore the whole region which is jammed full of activites of every sort.
Nelson is also the original home to the World of Wearable Art Festival (now so large that it is held in Wellington - capital cities can do that sort of thing!!!)This is Iconic NZ Art - that truly is WOW in every way.If you cannot make the annual show then in Nelson you can go to the Museum which houses the collection - this is a MUST SEE - you will be amazed at the ingenuity of the artists involved.This museum also houses a Classic Car collection so that covers all interests - isn't that right guys?
Nelson is known for its funky fashion and there is an amazing shop just around from the Cathedral called Tula & Niles... very retro ...and worth a visit even if you buy nothing- I told Len I was just going to have a look (yeah right!!!).Of course - he didn't believe me - and he was right ! Men can be right sometimes - about once a year is fine - whoops, just kidding! But on a serious note they have antiques,jewellery and fashion - the displays are art in themselves -it is one of the quirkiest shops I have ever visited.
Nelson and its environs have so much to offer that I could have stayed weeks and written endlessly about it for months - suffice to say - 'gen' up on the area via and book early as this is where the whole of the South Island go for their summer break in January!
Nearly forgot to mention the lovely little historic precinct - South Street- and guess what? It is also in Niles Street - not far from Tula & Niles - just the other side of the Cathedral!

Unfortunately we had to stay in a motel in Nelson ( De Lorenzo's) - this was a very good motel and centrally located - but we personally prefer the atmosphere of a B&B.Once again the selection of Heritage Inns Members in Nelson and the surrounds is exceptional - remember all members are Qualmarked 4 stars and above - and membership is by invitation only.

From Nelson we travelled south via Richmond - another lovely drive and headed over the Lewis Pass - take the superlatives as said - and we were treated to the first snowfall of Winter- not enough to be dangerous just enough to create a fairyland atmosphere.At the top of the Lewis you can partake of a dip in the Maruia Springs Hot Pools or you can detour on the way out of the Lewis and head for Hanmer.This is a quaint Alpine Resort (note NOT a ski resort - although ski fields are nearby) - but the surrounding forest is a walkers paradise - and the aching bones can be eased at the Thermal Pools - great restaurants too and at 90 minutes from Christchurch we love to pop up for a break.We have stayed at Ripponvale Retreat - minutes from town and set in magnificent gardens.The hosts- John & Helen (an accomplished artist) will make you feel right at home in their delightful surroundings.Another favourite is Cheltenham House - a heritage house in Central Hanmer - with a wine o'clock that could challenge Wine O'clock at The Weston House - Len and Maree will treat you like one of the family in surroundings which have been faithfully restored and equipped with every comfort and convenience.Two days in Hanmer is like a week of R&R anywhere else.
Sadly this was the last leg of our journey, as we drove the final 90 mins back to Christchurch with sunlight and snow making for Picasa Moments.
Oh well - back to cooking and cleaning - I think it is called reality!

The route below....

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Sunday, 13 December 2009


This blog is going to be a little of the start of part two and the final days back home when we returned from the North Island.
The reason is it can be taken as a complete separate journey for someone who wants to tour the South Island only ( whoops don't tell any North Islander this or I won't be allowed back)


We returned to Christchurch from the previous trip as we had to be home to receive guests...and it allowed us a little time to catch up on the necessities and drudgeries of life.All completed we left in the afternoon to head towards the top of the South.It rained and then it rained some more...but the scenery was beautiful and every time a truck went past us the car was washed so all was not bad!
The journey to Kaikoura is only 2.5 hours and takes you through verdant farm land, the Wineries of the Waipara Valley (resplendent in their autumn colours) and onto the magnificent coastal road that stretches up from Kaikoura almost into Blenheim and the Wineries of Marlborough .
The Waipara region is famous for Food ,Wine & Festivals - namely Reisling (superb dry & fruity- not the sticky sweet wines normally associated with those grapes.I don't knock dessert wines though - served chilled on a summer's day- it's as close to heaven as the All Blacks winning the World Rugby Cup!)
Kaikoura is famous for seafood (especially Crayfish - just like Lobster - but dare I say nicer?) Dolphin Swimming and Whale Watching.

The Kaikoura journey can be undertaken as a fabulous day trip from Christchurch and by taking the inland route for one leg and taking in Hanmer Springs ( Alpine Spa Town) you can complete the Alpine Pacific Triangle
(map courtesy NZ Tourism)

which is one of the great themed routes that can be found on
the official New Zealand Tourism site

This site is well worth exploring especially for the driving routes under the Themed Highways
- you can explore the best we have to offer - choose your destinations and accommodation and be on your way.
Don't forget that the following two sites offer some of the best B&B accommodation in NZ - and both select members by invitation only : Heritage & Character Inns of New Zealand plus 5 Star Accommodation .The latter now has a pre-paid voucher system which can alleviate the stress while Heritage Inns has a simple online booking system with one CC entry.
Did I mention the rain....well it continued up most of the coast road but the pounding seas made the journey very impressive and just as we drove into Blenheim (4.5hours from Christchurch) we were greeted by wintry sunshine and the magnificent autumn colours of the vineyards of the Awatere Valley( part of the great Marlbourgh wine region - it was such a site I was wondering where I would find the pearly gates!

In the map below I have shown the inland part of this route via Culverden to Kaikoura (shown as a return journey - Google sometimes works harder not smarter!)

Blenheim is a destination in itself and a must for all wine buffs - it is easily reached from Christchurch or the West Coast of the South Island as well it is close to Picton and the ferry terminals for the Inter Island Ferries from Wellington in the North Island.It is possible to visit the wineries and a lot of fun if you cycle with a guide!
We spent a wonderful night at The Peppertree in Blenheim - a fabulous 5 star Qualmark graded property owned and operated by Werner & Heidi Pluss.This is a
beautiful historic house with it's own vineyard.The hosting is magnificent and the food divine - if I could award 6 stars to Heidi & Werner then I would!

The following morning dawned bright and frosty and after a bit of exploration of the area we headed north the final few Kms to Picton - the port town - where the Ferries arrive and depart for the North Island.
To be it is nearly Wine o'clock ...and I feel the need to open a bottle of Redwood Pass Sav Blanc ...from the Awatere Valley.

Oh how time flies......I am behind again.

Can't believe the last post was August and now it is December...and I have three Blogs to write- two to finish off the trip around New Zealand and one especially for Christmas.
So just a little pre- amble to both.
Although the powers that be, would have us believe the financial crisis is over - certain flow- on effects from 2008 are affecting our Tourist Season.Money lost to the banking gurus and the financial 'wizzes that weren't' , has yet to reappear in the coffers of the touring masses and many like us stayed closer to home.
But all is not lost - we have been doing 'stuff' - and from the look of progress this week - we shouldn't have started! The re-coating of the Kitchen floor failed and has to be sanded back to bare wood...the sealing of the new grout on the hall tiles worked well but spread itself a little too far- and cleaning it off the tiles proved to be a marathon effort.The dishwasher has gone to dishwasher heaven, the bathroom heater died and the time spent in the breakfast room by the bird that fell down the chimney has meant ...well... it did panic.... and guess what a starling does when it panics???Well it did ...and now we have to do some painting.
So a healthy donation to a charity will suffice for Xmas cards this year ... and we may just come to your place as I am terrified to cook the 'dinner' or venture towards baking a cake....
Be warned - I am a menace - must be punishment for being a slack blogger!