About Janet

Its all about food, wine and travel for me.

The Wellington Cablecar

4 January 2017

As I write this on the flight back to Brisbane I think that there are definite similarities between Melbourne and Wellington.  Weather wise at least.  Melbourne is famous for its changeable weather and today we have experienced the same in Wellington. The morning was cold and overcast, the later morning warmed up enough to shed my jumper, after lunch the sun was shinning down to encourage swimming off the wharves, by 3:30 when we were boarding our plane it was heavy rain and strong winds!

After breakfast of a sausage roll and savory muffin at Pandora Bakery we check out and walk uptown to Cable Car Lane to take the cable car up from Lambton Quay to Kelburn.  We are in luck and it’s a lovely bright day – perfect for a few scenic photos.

Boarding the Wellington Cable Car

Cable Car Museum

Spitting is also discouraged

View from the top of the cable car

Back down the hill we head back to the Queens Wharf to the Crab Shack for lunch.  Crab Shack at Shed 5 is a sea shaddy styled casual restaurant specialising in, guess what? Crab.

It’s a big disappointment when H has to send his Lobster Claws back to the kitchen cause they are so dry.  I’m usually not one to complain but I agree the meat in the claws are very, very dry and if you are paying $45 you expect more.  On the positive my “scoop” of clams in white wine and garlic sauce are a treat – although I think the serve is on the skimpy size – 8/10th shell 2/10th meat.

Crab Shack

A scoop of mixed clams

We are running out of time so all we can do is enjoy the sunshine (while it lasts) on our walk back to the hotel to collect our bags and Uber to the airport for our Virgin 16:15 flight home.

View from the waterfront

A few brave soles having a swim

Oh, and I’ve got us another auctioned upgrade.  Minimum bid and here we are – up the front enjoying the modest luxuries of Virgin Business Class.  Happy flight home.

A Wet Day in Wellington

3 January 2017

We have a good sleep in and then head to Pandora Bakery for breakfast.  H is not impressed with his porridge (which seems to be missing all the yummy additions and just a huge bowl of overcooked oats).  However, my smoked salmon and cream cheese is yum yum yum.  Returning to the hotel for an umbrella we head out into the cold and raining day.

We head for the shopping district of Lambton Quay and I’m motivated to finally get a raincoat that we have been discussing for years.  I need one for travelling, but there is not really any need for one in Brisbane as the rain normally comes in the form of vicious storms that quickly pass.  However, the Boxing Day sales are still on and at Kathmandu I pick up a stylish rain resistant coat $500 discounted to $150.  Winning!

At least I get a chance to use my new coat in the rain for the rest of the day.

I navigate us down to the waterfront (in the rain), through the various wharves (in the rain) and up to Cuba Street (in the rain) for a late lunch of sushi, udon noodle soup and sake at Origami. Then back to the hotel (in the rain).  Perfect nanna nap weather.

Before dinner we investigate the hotels cocktail (thats a weird word isn’t it?) bar and restaurant – Hippopotamus.  The bar has a lovely view of the harbour and we indulge in a couple of overpriced drinks before hitting the street, luckily the rain has stopped.

Hippopotamus Bar & Restaurant

View from Hippopotamus Bar

Back to Cuba Street (yes again) to Scopa for pizza, salad and red wine.  I give Scopa the tick of approval, our Rustica pizza is thin and crispy and delicious.

On the way back to the hotel we stop at BP to grab an ice-cream and admire the pie selection.  On more than one occasion we have been told the pies at BP are pretty good, we have yet to test the theory but I can attest the selection is impressive.

On our final sprint back to the hotel I note the definite chill which penetrates my coat and scarf and ponder with Howard “If this is summer, what’s winter like?”.

Wellington

2 January 2017

When I wake up at 6:30 the wind has dropped but it’s still overcast, by 7:00 the clouds have cleared, by 7:30 its cloudy again.

Today we are moving on to the big smoke – Wellington and need to vacate by 11:00.  But first we do one more walk along the beach, one of the first things we notice is that the rough weather has cleared all the wood debris.  The other thing is the millions of pippy and clam shells heaped up in swaths along the beach.  We have never seen deposits like this before.

Swaths of shells

Before I leave i indulge in one more shower in our tiny bathroom.  One of the really cool features of the glasshouse is the glass door that opens straight from the shower onto the wrap around deck.  So you can have a nice warm shower whilst enjoying the crisp beach breeze.  And it has an amazing view!

Shower with a view

We figure our time here is over when the cleaner shows up at 11:00 sharp to clean our room.  From here is a leisurely 40 minute drive to central Wellington where we will stay the Museum Art Hotel for the next two nights.  Not surprisingly given the name the hotel has a large collection of interesting paintings and sculptures through the lobby and other public areas.

Museum Art Hotel

Man & Letterbox Scultures

Metal Bull Sculpture

 

Luckily they have a room ready for us, we even get a “complementary upgrade” to a small “apartment” #512, and we can deposit out bags.

Museum Art Hotel # 512

All we need to do now is return the car to Hertz.  Luckily we are able to deposit the car at a depo close to the hotel rather than having to go to the airport.  But before we do we check out Oriental Bay, renowned for its cute wooden houses and Mt Victoria the highest point in Wellington to check out the view and get a feeling for the city.  Mt Victoria quiet a drive but well worth the effort.  There is nothing standing between here and the Antarctic and its very windy at the lookout.

View of Wellington from Mt Victoria

With the car delivered we head to Cuba Street on foot.  It’s a public holiday again today and many of the shops are closed, but there are lots of people around.  We decide a soup is called for and select KK Malaysian Restaurant for a late lunch.  I’m pleased to see Asam Laksa (I discovered the delights of this dish in Penang last year) on the menu and H orders his usual BBQ Pork and Wonton Soup.  Cheap, cheerful and tasty – just want we wanted.

After lunch we wander down to the waterfront, where it is cool and gusty, and slowly make our way back to the hotel for a well deserved rest.

When H wakes from his nap we venture outside for dinner.  We have quizzed the concierge about the best seafood restaurants (H is keen for some lobster) but it appears that just about everything is still closed for the Christmas break.  We wander the streets grab a drink at a bar, then wander around for a while until we settle on another Malaysian restaurant called Papa Satay House in the street behind the hotel.  Prawn sambal for me and Nasi Goreng for H.  Nice and warm and tasty.

I have noticed an excessive number of Malaysian restaurants in Wellington, I wonder why? Not that I’m complaining I wish there were more back home is Brisbane.

It’s a Grey and Windy Welcome to the New Year

Sunday 1 January 2017

We wake to a cold, grey, rainy, windy day and it stays that way all day.  The sky and sea are so grey we can’t tell when one stops and the other begins.

How dismal is this?

Howard makes a dash for it and goes to the Patisserie and buys a couple of delicious, soft, buttery croissants for breakfast and then settle in for a quiet day indoors. By late morning H has got cabin fever (that didn’t take long) and we decide to go for a drive up the coast to look at a Mauri church at Okati.

Rangiatea in Otaki

Rangiatea in Otaki

Rangiatea is a lovely timber building originally built 1851, destroyed by fire 1995 and replicated in 2002 including 76 tukutuku panels.  Alas the church is closed (open for viewing Monday to Friday) and it’s raining so I can’t even get any decent shots of the exterior. So its back in the car and head back the way we came to Waikanae where I have read the Old Beach Bakery has good pies.  When we eventually find it, it too is closed. Not having much luck here!

OK, lets go to Coastlands Shopping Centre and see whats on at the cinemas (what else do you do on a wet public holiday?), but there are no movies we are interested in showing in the next 4 hours.  So, we just resign ourselves to going home, eating leftovers and watching the wind and rain for the rest of the day.

By 6:30 we have done all the chilling we can handle and go and try and find something open for dinner.  After doing a full circuit of the surrounding restaurant’s we return to Waterfront Restaurant for a drink in their Tiki Bar and then grab a takeaway burger from Wisconsin Burgers.  Very good burgers – why don’t we have these back home?

Not the most auspicious start to the New Year.

Peikakariki Station Museum and Steam Incorporated Workshops

Saturday 31 December 2016

Paekakariki Station Museum, located in the old buildings of the actual train station, tells stories of Maori, settlers and villagers, US marines and railways.  The museum is manned by a very talkative old lady who yabbers at me for 20 minutes non-stop (she didn’t have her hearing aid in so I could not contribute much to the conversation) about local history, her family, current affairs, Australian politics and local gossip – all jumbled in together.

Paekakarki Train Museum

Signal Tower

As there are no trains running due to the maintenance on the track she says we can wander down the line to the Workshops.  Which we do.  It’s funny even though there are no trains running we nervously eye up and down the track – in Australia you would get fined for doing this!

Walking the tracks

The Workshops actively repair and maintain old steam and diesel engines and carriages.  There are about a dozen or so engines is various state of disrepair including a huge old behemoth brought over from Rhodesia of all places.  For the train enthusiasts out there, there are a few trains of note including a grand black steam 1271 (4-6-0) built in 1956 in New Zealand, the red diesel 1431 built by Clyde Engineering in Sydney, and a twin 1471 built in Canada currently being worked.  This is not fancy museum, it’s a real workshop – messy, dusty, greasy.  We are given free reign to walk around the workshop and even climb into the engines/carriages – just watch your step.

#1431

In the workshop – A Garrett from Rhodesia

Engineer Howie

Two old boilers

Waiting renovation

Admission by donation

We then wander around Paekarariki to see what else it has to offer – ummm not much.  So we head off to have lunch at the Fishermans Basket – which we now know wasn’t such a great idea.  The location was good enough (right on the beach with ocean views) and the décor quite nice (nautical American theme) but the service was scarse and the food very hoo hum – not bad just boring.

Fishermans Table

We have a quick detour to Queen Elizabeth Park on the way home and there is a little tram that runs for a km or two through the park.

Tram ride at Elizabeth Park

We drop the car off and head down the road back to the Raumati Social Club to use their WIFI and have a couple of early NYE drinks.

We have not booked anything for this evening and planning a quiet night in with some takeaway from the Banana Leaf Malaysian restaurant.  We drive down place our order then go the Boundary Hotel for a drink while we wait.  Things are pretty tame at the Pub but its only 8:30 perhaps things will pick up.

Back at the glasshouse (as we have started referring the studio) we feast on our takeaway and then jump in bed to watch TV, drink champagne and wait for midnight.  Not the most exciting of nights but at least I made it to midnight for a change!

Quiet NYE celebrations

Sunset on NYE

Bleach Bliss on the Kapiti Coast

Friday 30 December 2016

Our studio on the beach with the full wall of windows has no blinds or curtains, thank goodness we have pack a pair of eye masks to allow us to sleep in past dawn.  The studio is flooded with light from dawn at 5:00 in the morning until dusk at 9:00 in the evening and today is a particularly bright sunny day.

For breakfast we walk down to The Raumati Social Club at South Raumati Beach.  The RSC is a local favourite with friendly service, eclectic second hand furniture and a chilled out feeling.  And of all fast free WIFI! One Bloody Mary and bowl of toasted muslie later I’m caught up on my email and ready for the day.

Later in the morning we go to the Coastlands Shopping Centre for a bit of shopping and then to Pack n Save for a few groceries.  Pack n Save is awesome – they should come to Australia!

In the afternoon we go for a long walk along the beach.  The afternoon is perfect – not a cloud in the sky.  The rest of the afternoon is spent relaxing on our deck.

View of the batch from the beach

Two ladies fishing with a long net

We have Raumati Beach to ourselves

Kapiti Island from the batch deck

Once again we walk down the road for dinner.  Tonight it’s a pre-dinner drink at the local pub The Boundary and then dinner at The Waterfront which boasts the best sunset views in Kapiti.  We are not disappointed and the food and service is great too, even if the décor a bit soulless.

The Waterfront Restaurant

I have a Crab Rémoulade and Hot Smoked Salmon and Avocado Salad and H orders the Portuguese Prawns and the Sirloin Steak.  Washed down with a bottle of Martinborough (yes we are still working on the Martinborough theme) whilst enjoying the peaceful sunset.

A glorious sunset from The Waterfront

Then brisk walk home (the air being brisk, not our pace) to work of a bit of the excess.

Sunset from our deck – you can just make out the South Island on the horizon

A Harrowing Drive to the Kapiti Coast

Thursday 29 December 2016

After breakfast we pack the car and say adieu to Martinborough.  We have a 1¾ hour drive the Kaipiti Coast on the West Coast just above Wellington.

After a brief stop at busy Featherton, we head off up and over Rimutaka Hill to Upper Hutt being on the other side and then vie off to the West to Waikanae along Akatarawa Road.  I have selected this route rather than going further towards Wellington and coming back up the coast road to see more of the country side.  HUGE MISTAKE!  Thankfully H is driving today cause this route is the most hair raising I have even been on.  There is 31 km of nerve racking twists and turns, around thousands of blind corners on a road barely narrow enough to take one car.  One side is practically vertical rock and the other side dense scrub dropping quickly away. The worst thing is never knowing when another car would come from the other direction.

The funny thing is (Kiwi sense of humour again) the speed signs saying 70 km per hour – H is doing about 40 and its too fast.  When we come to the section that is 50 km per hour.  We are terrified of what to come!  And yes its worse.  Afterwards H asked if I took any photos, my reply was that I was too busy with my death grip on the passenger door.  Oh and did I mention it was raining?

Then suddenly we are on a main road in a near traffic jam, trying to navigate through road works, not knowing where we are going, in the rain!  Its more than Howards nerves can handle and he pulls over and hands me the keys.  He is out!

Luckily we are literally only about 5 minutes to our next lodging a studio right on the beach at South Raumati Beach, which I found on www.bookabatch.com.nz.  This website is a must for anyone travelling NZ.  I nabbed Seafront Raumati 1 – a studio right on the beach, well just above the beach it turns out.

Following my emailed instructions, we turn down a long driveway and park in the 3rd garage.  Down the steps and the key is under the mat.  Wow what a great find, nice work Janet!

Its literally one large rectangular room with the wall facing the sea entirely made of glass, with huge sliding doors opening up onto a private beck complete with an outdoor setting.  Its right above the beach and we can see the waves rolling gently in against the seawall.

Bedroom …

lounge, dining…

and kitchen all in one

Bathroom

Its just stopped raining and the sun appears.  Have you even noticed how a bit of sunshine can totally change your perspective?

View from the batch deck

After unpacking the car and settling in we jump back into the car and see what the area has to offer. There are a series of beaches all merging into one long relaxed community.  From what I’ve read lots of people live at the beaches and commute by train to Wellington to work each day. At Paraparamu Beach we stop and buy a few groceries at the Four Square and a snack from Bens Buns.  Another stop at Raumati Beach reveals a small collection of fashion shops, cafes, restaurants, the pub, bakery and assorted other shops – everything we need.  Of particular note is a French Patisserie L’Amour where we invest in a very good baguette.

Back at the studio we relax in the sun for a while and then I hit the beach to stretch my legs.  H is exhausted after our harrowing drive and opts to nap on the sofa.  It’s now low tide and the beach is a long, flat and wide black sand beach.  On the sand is a large variety of shells, clams and driftwood.  There are houses perched on the sand dunes and families playing in the gentle surf. A perfect day for a walk on the beach.

Kapiti Island

Shells on the beach

At 6:30 we walk the 1.3 km down to the Raumati Beach shops where we are having dinner at D4 in Margaret St.  The air is brisk but not overly cold.  Dinner at the restaurant is a pleasant surprise and once the waitresses warm up to us the service is good too.  We opt to share the mushroom stuffed tomatoes entrée and then I get the ribs and tatties and H the fish and chips.  Both mains are very generous and delicious.

After dinner at 8:30 its still light out so we check out the lush Marine Park where there are a few teenagers entertaining themselves on the kiddies playground rides.  By the time we get back to the studio its after 9:00 and the sun has finally decided to set.

Getting home as dusk

Palliser Lighthouse and Lake Ferry

Wednesday 28 December 2016

The morning brings a another glorious morning, thankfully without yesterday’s howling wind and we resolve to take on the prior day’s aborted plans.  First a wine tasting at Ati Rangi – 5 wines (luckily not Sav Blanc on offer) and a lovely chat with a lady from Oregon.

Ati Rangi

Then on the road for the 70km trip to Cape Pallister Lighthouse.

The first part of the trip through the valley towards the sea is beautiful, everywhere you look there a lovely view.  Green rolling hills dotted with sheep or cattle.  Cute farm houses nestled in tree groves.  Grand mountains in the background.

However, once we reach the narrow coast plain the scenery changes to the dramatic.  As we drive east along the coast on our right the milky turquoise ocean bashes itself against rugged black rock outcrops and dumps onto black sand beaches.  On our left looms high impenetrable, sometimes barren, mountains.  In between are lonely windswept plains and the occasional cosy bay with a smattering of semi-permanent caravans and holidays batches.

The rugged coastline of Palliser Bay

Stopping for a quick break we find this …

Roadside Memorial

There is only one fishing village of note, Ngawi, where we are very surprised to see dozens of bulldozers and tractors on the beach used to haul the fishing boats in from the sea.

Ngawi

Bulldozers on the beach

Along the way the road mostly hugs the coast line and is washed out in places with a series of one lane bridges.

Thats tricky, a curved one lane bridge

Eventually we reach the end of the road where the Cape Palliser Lighthouse is perched on a bluff high about the beach, at the most southerly point on the North Island of New Zealand.  There is an alarming, narrow staircase that goes straight up to the lighthouse, 251 steps and its only barely wide enough for 2 people to pass, so we wait until a large group of people come down before we start the assent.

The only way to get to the Palliser Lighthouse is up these steps

Being a bit nervous around heights I put my head down and power up the stairs, too nervous to look around or stop.  At the top is a small lighthouse sitting stoic against the ferocious wind buffering the point.  We only stay long enough to regain our breath, take in the view and photograph the moment for prosperity.  I headed straight down, stopping for no-one and nothing.

Palliser Lighthouse

Under the lighthouse on the beach there is a permanent colony of New Zealand Fur Seals and we can see quite a few of the mammals basking and grooming themselves on the jagged black rocks.  The big ones definitely don’t like it when you get too close.

Large male NZ Fur Seal

Three seals basking in the sun

On the return leg I have planned that we do the 2 hour walk to see the Putangirua Pinnacles but we don’t see any signs so we keep on going only stopping a couple of times to walk on a rough black beach and to watch the surfers on a point.

Surf dump on a black sand beach

The best spot to surf

Surfing the point

The coastal settlement of Lake Ferry, is our last stop on today’s itinerary.  We have been told that the fish and chips at the Lake Ferry Hotel is a must.  The village and hotel are located where Lake Oniki empties out to the sea.  Across the outlet there is a vast black sand spit, stretching for miles, undeveloped and barren.  On our side the sand dunes and rugged beach is open to anyone with a four wheel drive or dirt bike.  Hopefully notice is taken to the signs explaining these dunes are important nesting grounds for a couple of bird species.

One of the sand bars at Lake Oniki

Fishing at Lake Oniki

The beach heading north of Lake Oniki

There are quite a few people fishing at the turbulent outlet mouth – some lucky, some not so lucky.  After a walk along the dunes (not so much sand dunes more like pebble dunes) we return to the Lake Ferry Hotel and enjoy a drink in the beer garden before grabbing our reserved tables in the restaurant.  I order the seafood chowder and “famous” fish and chips.  Howard opts for the grilled scallops on pork belly and the fish of the day.  I’m very happy with my selections, Howard must be too as he eats most of my fish and gives me half his grilled fish.  Not fair!

Lake Ferry Hotel

Beer garden at Lake Ferry Hotel

Fish and chips – yummmmm

We do not dally long as I have to drive the 30 minutes back to our lodgings.  At 19:30 the sun is still hovering in the sky and it’s a beautiful drive to Martinborough.  This true is a beautiful part of the world.

That Wind from the West

Tuesday 27 December 2016

A great night’s sleep and another glorious morning. Over breakfast we finalise our plans for the day, but by the time we get back to our cottage there is a fierce wind blowing.  A quick change of plans and we bunker down in the cottage for the morning, reading and playing Scrabble (I win of course).

Early afternoon we head out to a couple of the local wineries for a tasting.  First stop is Martinborough Vineyard – we skip tasking the Sav Blanc’s (yuck) but enjoy the other wines on offer.  We have a lovely chat with the lass behind the counter and H interrogates her on the best place to buy a pie.  Then at 2:30 we go to Poppies for lunch – unfortunately the testing room is packed and the only table available in the restaurant is outside in the full sun (it is still to windy to put up an umbrella).  We decline and decide to find the Clareville Bakery to have an award-winning lamb and kumera pie (and a steak and cheese pie, and a sausage roll) for a late lunch. Pretty good but not life changing.

We venture further and check out Masterton – which seems to be the largest town in the area – it’s even got a McDonalds and Burger King (on opposite corners of course).  On the return trip home we buy the makings of a light dinner and head home.

Miraculously at 6:30 the wind suddenly stops and peace is returned.  We dine alfresco in the long, serene twilight on all local produce – baguette from Clareville Bakery, cured salmon, hot smoked mussels, cheese, eggplants and cashew dip and olives.  All washed down with a bottle of local wine of course, a Margrain Chardonnay.

Boxing Day in Martinborough

Monday 26 December 2016

As we had an early night we also up early morning, have a cup of tea in bed and then go back to sleep.  At about 9:30 we rouse ourselves and head to the restaurant for the included breakfast.  It’s a glorious day – much warmer than yesterday – perfect weather to explore Martinborough and the surrounding area.

Al fresco breakfast

Off to town we go on foot, first stop the tourist information centre.  Martinborough is very easy to navigate as it is laid out in a grid, centred around the main square.  Many of the buildings are original from settlement and we love the old, ornate, wooden buildings.  H wants to visit Ata Rangi so we continue our walk 1 km out of town, only to find it closed!  Oh well – let’s put it down to good exercise.

Back at the town square we stop in at the Martinborough Hotel for a cool beverage.  Its surprisingly hot and we are parched!  The Hotel restaurant looks promising so we make a reservation to return for dinner.

Martinborough Pub

Historic building in Martinborough

Walking back to Peppers I figure we have covered about 6 kms.  My feet hurt!

Road back to Peppers

To explore further afield we grab the car keys and head to nearby historic Greytown. Unfortunately, being Boxing Day, Greytown is pretty much closed.  We do a lap of the main street and seeing some interesting shops and cafes we resolve to return in a few days when everything should be open again.

Greytown

One of the few cafes open is the French Bakery and we have afternoon tea.  Back to Martinborough via a scenic back roads and we are ready for a cup of tea and a few hours chilling on our little terrace before dinner.

The Martinborough Hotel is a grand old hotel that has been fully renovated and extended.  The sun is still high above the horizon when we are seated at 7:30 in the charming dining area.  Alas, the food is average and the service poor.  Have you ever felt that you are seated in the black hole in a restaurant?  That dreadful spot that the staff constantly rush past but never look down to notice the empty glasses, the dirty plates, the lack of water, the desperate look in your eye. Yes, we were in that spot.

At least it’s a lovely night, we don’t even need a jumper. Funny that, the weather forecast was for cold weather and I’ve packed lots of cold weather gear. Typical!