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Going Home – A Visit to Family and Friends in NZ 2012

January 23, 2012

A visit to family and Friends in NZ 2012

What to pack if you want to look stylish but without great effort .

I dress by weather and then mood. Conceptualizing the outfit is the key. Collating and composing with the available selected pieces in my travel collection I accessorize, with hats, earrings and a good pair of sandals.

For my 14 day NZ trip – I took 15 outfits including a vintage fifties evening dress, a Romeo Gigli dress, a Parisian dress by Ines de la Fressange, three pairs of shoes and eight hats all carried as in flight luggage. The hats all fitted into one another for easy portability. The hats for the most part were by Melbourne milliner Greg Ladner.

New Zealand - Two IslandsNew Zealand is not one but two large islands. The North has the largest cosmopolitan city Auckland the South island is renowned world wide for its incredible natural beauty. I arrived in Auckland during one of NZ wettest Januarys. Fortunately as we headed north towards my sister’s batch at Matapouri the weather improved. The stereotypical New Zealand holiday home or batch as its locally known used to be a humble dwelling with rudimentary comforts without pretension. These were coastal cottages making the most of the beach as a national birthright. Traditional batches were filled with knick knacks and memorabilia, shells, fishing gear and beach equipment. Today the contemporary batches have lifted their levels of sophistication far above their humble beginnings.

When the weathers good but not too hot there no better place to be on holiday than the sleepy finger of land at the top of the north island of NZ. It is often described as paradise on earth. Matapouri in Northland NZ is a white sandy beach that contrasts with the beautiful dark crimson pohutukawa flowers that flourish on the coast at this time of year. My father described it “as the most beautiful beach in the world”.

New Zealanders on HolidayNew Zealanders on holiday seem to be endlessly active everywhere I looked was a blur of activity, cycling, running, walking, boogie boarding, surfing, kayaking and lazing in the shade reading. Children with buckets and spades dug trenches and built sandcastles, while others played cricket and volleyball, and beachcombers collected driftwood. It seems morale is everything, and for New Zealanders, interacting with nature at the beach is one of their chief morale-boosters. Unlike Australia where there are many natural hazards in the form of snakes, and spiders New Zealand is amazingly free of these hazards. On New Years Eve we celebrated with traditional whitebait fritters washed down with one of New Zealand’s excellent white wines from Cloudy Bay.

Alison and Joanna

Wonderfully relaxed and refreshed we went back to Auckland to pick up the hire car for out two day trip to Wellington the capital of New Zealand. Our first destination was lunch at the world renowned Huka Lodge. My two Australian travelling companions were astonished at the overall sense of greenness and the dramatic changes in landscape from coastline to volcanoes to mountains, from lush green farmland to beautiful crystal clear rushing rivers that we saw on our short journey.

Huka Lodge

Since the 1920s Huka Lodge has played host to fly fisherman, adventurers celebrities and royalty with its old world charm as a destination for dedicated fly fishermen. It is without peer.

After a few missed turns and dodgy directions we arrived for a late lunch ravenously hungry. We received an enthusiastic welcome from the friendly staff as the valet whisked our car away. Passing the English aristocrats seated for lunch in the library we were ushered to a delightful private outdoor dining room with a fire blazing in the open hearth with the beautiful blue fast moving Waikato river as a backdrop.

Huka Lodge LunchAs we sat down to lunch our first thought was for a relaxing glass of wine after the four and half hour journey from Auckland on the narrow single lane highway. The sensation of our outdoor dining room was one off moving into another cosseted world where time and motion stood still. After a truly delicious lunch we were given a private tour of the different lodges and their splendid environs. The owners cottage was indeed sublime, a secluded hideaway with majestic views of Huka Falls. Periodically red helicopters would arrive like giant fireflies gently settling on the manicured lawns outside the main lodge.

Huka Lodge 2012The main Lodge with its bold tartan palette of blue, red and green evoked a grand Scottish estate. This area displayed paintings by some of New Zealand’s finest artists and included an exquisite Maori chief’s feathered cloak that might well have come from a Issey Miyake collection.

We stayed in less salubrious surroundings in Roturua but next time we will plan a head through Book a Batch and possibly stay in one of the colorful batches on Lake Rotoiti. My Australian friends experienced the Hells Gate and Wai Ora Spa in Roturua returning relaxed and red eyed from all the warm, healing mud. Lake Taupo and Roturua at peak season certainly is not my cup of tea.

At my sheep farming cousins suggestion we took the western route through Palmerston North and down the west coast, stopping first at Shannon where we lingered too long at a vintage shop where I purchased two lovely vintage hatpins which I had to mail back to Australia because the airlines confiscate hatpins as dangerous weapons.

One of the things I most wanted to do on this journey was to locate my maternal Grandmother’s grave. After talking to a helpful grounds man at the pretty Shannon cemetery I was delighted to find the headstones of both my Grandfather and Grandmother.

The Flipp Organic Dairy FarmEarlier Searching the internet for a bed for the night I had found an Organic farm called The Flipp Organic Dairy Farm just out of Foxton at Orurra Downs. By this time it was getting late about 8 o’clock and I had forgotten that New Zealand does not experience twilight; it seems to be light then dusk. We found ourselves travelling down a lonely dark no exit road – with some trepidation. I was reminded of NZ’s leading writer Katherine Mansfield’s description ‘There is no twilight in our New Zealand days, but a curious half-hour when everything appears grotesque — it frightens — as though the savage spirit of the country walked abroad and sneered at what it saw.’ Taking a punt on a drive way with a beautiful tendered garden we found our destination.

Our hosts could not have been more hospitable providing us the bountiful fruits of the farm fresh eggs, milk, bacon and delicious crusty bread. My Australian friends rustled up a French omelet for dinner. Our farm stay proved to be a beautifully renovated wool shed all to ourselves. A true gem. In our New Zealander hosts we found a gift for conversation, warmth, humor and humanity. The breadth of conversation was inspired by the woolsheds interesting book case that had a few books by the philosopher and writer Hannah Arendt.

The Flipp Organic Dairy Farm

After a delicious breakfast and flirting with the cows in the paddock we left at 10am by way of Foxton with beautiful views of the Tasman Sea… We arrived in Wellington at about midday. Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and the seat of government. We entered the city by way of the beautiful harbour and drove along the waterfront. We passed through the Parliament district and we saw some fine historic buildings which set the tone for the city of my childhood. I was reminded of New Zealand poet Lauris Edmonds poem on Wellington in her celebratory Scenes from a Small City (1994): ‘This is my city, the hills and harbour water/I call home, the grey sky racing over headlands/awkward narrow streets that stirred me long ago’ While my Australian friends at my direction went to the Katherine Mansfield museum in Tinakori Road I jumped on a plane back to Auckland.

Picture Credit - John Hoerner

Back in Auckland I went to dinner with artist friends Louise Rive and Charles Joseph at their delightful, home, studio and shop in Westmere – – I wore my veiled Catherine Mansfield hat. I was always intrigued by Charles’s large catholic family – they reminded me in essence of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited – they always seem to be above the fray. Charles father was a much revered English Lecturer at Auckland University, a novelist and one of my favourite NZ poets. The Joseph family of all my friends and acquaintances in the past were the only people that seemed to be in step with the NZ Zeitgeist of the time. Louise and Charles despite two grown up children seem to me just as they were years ago – untouched by time and still romantically in love. Their ceramics in particular are highly original, directly related to their experience of living in NZ. They both have great hat faces.

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