Waiheke Island

One of the first things I booked when planning our New Zealand trip was a Taste of Waiheke Tour. With the promise of wine tasting at three wineries, lunch at one of them and olive oil tasting, how could I resist? Waiheke Island is the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf, a very comfortable 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland. Known as the ‘island of wine’, there are twenty-six vineyards to choose from, most offering gourmet delights as well as a diverse range of wines for tasting. The weather couldn’t have been better if we had ordered it. Both the sea and sky were a clear blue as we arrived at Matiatia Bay.

1.Matiatia Bay

Sailing boats dotted the water

2.Matiatia Bay3.Matiatia Bay4.Matiatia Bay

and beautiful homes nestled on the hillside overlooking the bay.

5.Matiatia Bay6.homes, Matiatia Bay7.house, Matiatia Bay

I couldn’t help feeling a little envious of the island lifestyle.

8.Matiatia Bay

Our bus driver and guide for the day was a vivacious local lady who has lived on the island for 25 years and regaled us with stories laced with a good dose of humour. The roads are narrow and winding and, although the island is only 92 square kilometres, it would be easy to get lost. After lunch and wine tasting at Stonyridge Vineyard, we called into Rangihoua Estate to sample their award winning Extra Virgin Olive Oils. As well as four olive oil blends, they have a range of spreads and skin care products.

A floor chess board with magnificent carved pieces occupied a space in the tasting room.

11.Rangihoua chess set

We could have lingered in the immaculate gardens all afternoon

26.garden28.garden

29.garden

but we had another two vineyards to visit and more wine to taste before returning to Matiatia Bay for the ferry journey back to Auckland.

31.Matiatia Bay

With calm waters ahead

32.Matiatia Bay33.toward Auckland

we found a comfortable perch at the back of the boat, soothed by the thrum of the engines and the dancing droplets of the white wake.

34.farewell Waiheke

As we neared the city

35.Waiheke to Auckland36.tall ship37.Auckland

our attention was diverted by the appearance of an enormous sea monster, dwarfing what we thought was our rather substantial ferry.

41.Ovation of the Seas

The impressive Edwardian façade of the ferry terminal awaited, the tour had ended but there was more wine to be tasted that day.

42.ferry terminal

 

resplendent roses

There is no better place to stop and smell the roses than Victoria State Rose Garden.

1.main entrance

Developed in stages from 1986 to 2001, over 5,000 rose bushes flourish in the 5 hectare garden and are all tended by volunteers. The main part of the garden is set out in the shape of a Tudor Rose, wide paths separate the five petals and a gazebo marks the centre.

2.gazebo

We wandered amongst the blooms, boggled by the variety and colours.

13.gazebo

Beyond the Tudor Rose, there is an area shaped as a leaf and one as a bud. The leaf celebrates horticultural achievements of Australian rose growers since 1900 and comprises 50 bushes especially bred for Australia’s sunny conditions.

The bud-shape highlights over 60 cultivars of David Austin roses.

22.roses

A 400 metre long Heritage Rose Border contains 250 types of old and species roses.

31.roses

The best time to see the roses is during the summer months but we weren’t disappointed with the splendour on offer in the middle of June.

32.rose garden

Auckland

Our first day in Auckland dawned bright and sunny and we decided a ticket for the Hop On Hop Off bus was the best way to see the sights. Departing from Sky Tower, just down the road from our apartment, we were surprised by the amount of traffic and roadworks in Auckland. A huge extension to the waterfront precinct began last December, we weren’t enticed by the crowded construction site and remained on the bus as it travelled along Tamaki Drive on the way to Bastion Point. The views across Waitematā Harbour from the upper deck were breathtaking,

1.Waitematā Harbour2.Waitematā Harbour3.Waitematā Harbour

the city clearly visible, looking back across the water.

4.Auckland

The volcanic cone of Maungauika forms the headland that is North Head Reserve, adjacent to the harbourside suburb of Devonport. There are underground tunnels and old gun emplacements to explore at the former military defence installation.

5.North Head

The symmetrical cone of Rangitoto Island is the youngest and largest volcano in the Auckland field, emerging a mere 600 years ago.

6.Rangitoto

We alighted at Bastion Point to wander around the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial Park. Set on 49 hectares, the landscaped gardens, sunken pool and obelisk are a memorial to New Zealand’s first Labour Prime Minister.

7.Michael Savage Memorial

In office from 1935 until his death in 1940, Michael Savage is recognised as the founder of the Welfare State as well as creating a political alliance with the Māori Rātana movement.

8.Michael Savage Memorial

The gardens are immaculate, designed by two Auckland architects who won a national competition to design the memorial in 1941.

9.Michael Savage Memorial

10.Michael Savage Memorial

This site of a former gun emplacement affords a spectacular view of Auckland Harbour Bridge.

13.Auckland Harbour Bridge

We walked the steep path and steps from Bastion Point to Mission Bay, a popular beach with calm waters and plenty of cafes and bars.

14.Mission Bay

We had a different perspective of Devonport and North Head from the beach.

15.Devonport & North Head from Mission Bay

At the bottom of the steps, there are a series of beautiful pebble mosaics but no explanatory signage. I have since discovered the origin of this art, you can read about it here.

16.mosaic17.mosaic18.mosaic

Podere Montepozzo

Our journey from Pienza to Montepozzo took a little longer than anticipated. The route selected by the satnav came to an abrupt end with, what appeared to be, a missing bridge.

1.missing road

A quick re-programming found a suitable detour and we arrived at the farmhouse late afternoon. I have previously published a post on Podere Montepozzo but it is so beautiful, I am sharing it again. We received directions and information weeks before we left from host, Jacque, and had no trouble finding the gate. Although close to a town, the rural setting is very private and peaceful.

1.sign

Arriving at the property,

2.driveway arriving

we followed the instructions and drove around to the back of the house where we tooted the horn loudly.

3.exterior front4.exterior side5.exterior back6.exterior back7.exterior back

We were greeted by Molly the dog and host, John, who kindly helped us with our bags.

8.loggia arriving

After an introductory tour, we were left to unpack and wonder at the magnificent surroundings we were to enjoy for the next ten days. The living area was light and spacious, capturing the sun at every angle throughout the day.

9.sitting room

Just off the dining area, the well equipped kitchen was a pleasure to work in.

10.kitchen

The bedrooms were inviting, the main has an ensuite

11.main bedroom

and down the hallway

14.hallway

are two further bedrooms and a bathroom.

Once we had settled in, Jacque welcomed us with fresh flowers and a bottle of Prosecco, we wasted no time opening it to share. We really felt at home, surrounded by family treasures and beautiful furnishings.

The afternoon sun filled the loggia, the perfect venue to partake of aperitivo.

30.view from loggia

Come for a walk around the garden.

31.loggia steps

There was so much to explore, a cave with spectacular phosphorescent lichen, I admired from the outside.

44.cave

The shed was a work in progress, a fabulous project for the future perhaps,

45.shed

to complement the finishing touches on the exterior of the house.

46.exterior side

We didn’t get the opportunity to dine under the vines, perhaps next time?

55.vines

Let me introduce you to Molly, a delightful bundle of energy who was a very welcome addition to the package.

Thank you Jacque, John, Alex & Molly for the very special memories, we hope to meet again…..Salute!

59.wine time

Cascade Brewhouse

When Michael was recently invited to play at Cascade Brewhouse in Hobart, it was the perfect excuse for a short break and an overnight stay. Despite living in Tasmania for ten years, we have never visited Cascade Brewery. The gothic façade of Australia’s oldest operating brewery seems to dwarf the majesty of Mount Wellington.

1.Cascade Brewery

Across the road, the brewhouse is more than just the ticket office for brewery tours.

2.Cascade Brewhouse3.Cascade Brewhouse

Snippets of history await in the entrance hall

and in other rooms adjacent to the light, airy restaurant and bar.

7.restaurant8.bar

While Michael set up his paraphernalia,

I ventured out to explore the three acres of immaculate heritage gardens.

12.fountain13.hop cart14.garden path

It’s easy to see why the venue is perfect for weddings and functions.

15.brewhouse garden

22.garden23.water feature

Needless to say, the afternoon entertainment was superb, as was the beer.

24.Michael

We returned the next morning to sample the new brunch menu, I don’t have photos but believe me, the offerings are amazing. I did take the opportunity of an empty bar

27.bar

to share with you the liquid delicacies on tap at Cascade Brewery.

28.bar

A big thank you to Kirk for your hospitality and generosity, looking forward to catching up again.