Wednesday, December 02, 2020

A holiday in Queenstown

We all went on a (nearly) summer holiday: Over the past weekend, some family members and I went to Queenstown. It was the first time I’ve been away on a holiday in three years, and that was at roughly the same time of year. That was the last time that Nigel and I went on holiday, which could’ve made the trip feel weird, but it didn’t, really.

The trip came about kind of spur of the moment. My brother- and sister-in-law were planning on going, and talked me, another sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law into going, too. It was all booked before we really had time to think about it, which was probably a good thing.

The photo montage here has (most of) the photos I shared on my personal Facebook, only deleting photos of family because I don’t publish those on this blog (I created a Google Photos album with the photos in the montage, but at better sizes, some of them not cropped, and with individual captions). I also added a few I didn’t share on Facebook.

We left Auckland on Friday, November 27 and flew directly to Queenstown. It’s possible to fly there from Hamilton, but it requires at least one stopover, so flying direct from Auckland was far better.

The plane was pretty much full, partly because we’re not required to maintain physical distancing on planes, apart from queuing for the toilet on the plane, which was limited to no more than two people. However, we are required to wear facemasks, as did airline and airports workers. The flight was boring, but because I was seated with my mother-in-law in one of the first rows, I had ample legroom—a surprisingly large amount, actually.

When we arrived, we were surprised at how cold and biting the wind was when we got off the plane (there are no “sky bridges” at Queenstown airport, so passengers go down stairs to the tarmac). Also surprising was how quickly our suitcases got to baggage claim—I’ve never gotten my bags and left the baggage claim area so quickly after a flight.

Our next stop was a supermarket so we could pick up some supplies, especially for breakfasts and our dinner that night. Then, it was on to the house we were renting for our stay. The place, which was built into the side of a hill, as so many buildings are in the area, had four bedrooms. One Bedroom was on the ground floor with an en suite, and this one was for my mother-ion-law. Another with an ensuite was on the floor below, as well as two more bedrooms and a shared bathroom. The place had lovely views from the upper and lower balconies and was very comfortable.

The next morning, Saturday, we headed into town after breakfast. There was a market on at the shore of Lake Wakatipu, which was a lot of fun to wander around. Apparently, the sellers all have to make the stuff they sell—no bringing in stuff manufactured elsewhere. At any rate, it was clearly a very local market. We had a coffee there, then headed out to lunch.

We were having a four course degustation at a winery called Amisfield, not far out of Queenstown. It was awesome—even if I couldn’t try the paired wines (which is optional, anyway). All the dishes were small and perfectly made. We were there a few hours, and it was worth every second. I’ve never done that before, and seldom had such fancy dishes, but was so glad I did—and in such a pretty spot, too.

Sunday morning, some of us went back down to the lakeshore to wander around. We picked up my niece and her boyfriend to take her out for lunch, and then we all headed off to Arrowtown, an historic gold rush village that’s a relatively short drive from Queenstown. We had lunch at the New Orleans Hotel, which was built in 1866. It’s now a pub and cafe as well as offering accommodation. We had a really nice lunch and time together, however, that was when it really started getting warm—hot even.

After we got back, we went to a wine bar that was like nothing I’d ever seen. Essentially it was a self-service wine tasting system that dispensed wines from automated machines. They were lined up in a row, the bottles upside down to pour. Customers got a card that they inserted into the machine and the amount was added to their tab. I was fascinated by it all, but the experience was also somewhat wasted on me, since I don’t drink right now.

That night we went for dinner at a Japanese restaurant, Tanoshi Teppan Sake Bar, because we knew my mother-in-law was especially fond of Japanese food. It turned out to a sort of tapas style place, which worked well because it meant we could have several different things. The food was absolutely awesome, and the service was great.

That night was a quiet one, as we rested up from our busy couple days, and because we needed to have enough time to be out of the rental by 10am the next morning.

We ended up leaving before 10am on Monday, and headed off to Cromwell, a town roughly half way between Queenstown and Wanaka. The town was at the confluence of the Clutha River and Kawarau River, until the construction of the Clyde Dam ended up flooding the original riverfront, creating Lake Dunstan. The lake was filled just a few years before I arrived in New Zealand. The low, riverfront parts of town was moved to higher ground, and that included historic buildings that are now in the Cromwell Heritage Precinct, as well as elsewhere.

From there, the next stop was the Gibbston Valley Winery Restaurant for lunch. Once again, the food was awesome, and I thoroughly enjoyed it all. It, too, was in a scenic spot. And, incidentally, the Central Otago region is renowned for its wineries, some of which are tourism operators, too.

From there it was back to Queenstown airport and the trip home. The flight back was quite different: Only three rows further back, and I had no legroom, so I was uncomfortable almost the entire flight. On the other hand, baggage claim was as fast as in Queenstown, so points for that.

Queenstown is a lovely place year round, but I’ve only been there in warmer months, when the snow is only at the highest elevations. I’m told it’s absolutely magical in the snow—but I lived through 36 snowy winters, and I have no desire to do one ever again, even for a weekend. We were told that trading was much slower than usual for the businesses there, and it was far easier to get into restaurants—or even just to walk around—than it would normally be, which made it really nice for those of us who were there. It may not have been as busy as when the borders are open and foreigh tourists can visit, but there were a lot of Kiwis visiting, and it was really good to see out “team of 5 million” out seeing, and spending money in, New Zealand.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend, and I’m glad my brother- and sister-in-law bullied talked me into going. I had such a good time with them, and a very relaxing weekend. One of my nieces staid at my house and looked after the dogs, so it was the first time I wasn’t constantly watching Sunny (though I still worried about her, anyway, of course).

It was weird being there without Nigel, as so many things still are, and yet he and I never went there together, so I didn’t “see” him anywhere that we went. Instead, I just imagined what he’d say, the jokes he’d make, that sort of thing—and that was more than enough to make me miss him. On the flight down, the window seat was empty, and someone said that the seat was for Nigel—but the joke there was that he hated window seats and would’ve preferred the aisle, where I was sitting. It was similar on the flight back to Auckland (and that let me extend my legs into that seat’s space, which helped a little).

So, I had a good holiday, and it was lovely spending time travelling with the family. I missed Nigel, but, then, I always do, and that had little to do with the trip itself. I’ll do more travelling in the future—just not for a little while.

All the places I mentioned by name are places where I paid the normal retail prices: None of the named businesses gave me any discounts, promotions, or compensation of any kind for mentioning them. These are my honest, sincerely held opinions.


Roger Owen Green said...

I'm very happy for you. Especially the legroom!
I won't fly in the US until the COVID rate is about 1% of what it is now.

Arthur Schenck said...

One of the things I was most continually aware of was that we could do things that Americans couldn't/shouldn't do, and we could do them with no real risk. We are so very lucky.