“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ....Oscar Wilde

Tuesday 30 April 2013

Our trip to the South Island ~ New Zealand (Part 1)

As I promised I've finally managed to prepare a few photographs to take you on our trip to the South Island of New Zealand. I've decided that it might be better to post this trip in increments, as I did for the North Island. There are quite a lot of photos so be warned. 
I just can't resist snapping away...especially when there's so much to see and appreciate. 
(If you'd like to take a look at the North Island then just click here...there's a few posts to the trip so make sure that you see them all).

So off we go...
This was our first glimpse of the South Island and immediately I was struck by how different it appears to the North Island. The South Island is the larger of the two main islands of New Zealand, but the least densely populated.
If you are reading this post whilst sitting in Scotland you may feel quite at home with some of this landscape.
The South Island also known by the Maoris as Te Wai Pounamu or Water of Greenstone, is a place of spectacular scenery as you will see.

At times the spectacular dramatic scenes render you speechless.
Right from our first view of the island I knew we were in for a treat. 
The photo on the left shows Queenstown enveloped by breathtaking mountains and based near the dramatic shores of Lake Wakatipu. Lake Wakatipu was formed about 15,000 years ago by a glacier coming down from the north-west which gouged out the lakebed.

Queenstown was to be our destination and the photo below shows the spectacular view from our apartment. The mountain range in view is called 'The Remarkables' which sort of gives you an indication of just how splendid they are. This photo unfortunately doesn't do them justice but I wanted to show you what I looked out on every day.

  The mountains were named The Remarkables by Alexander Garvie in 1857-58, allegedly because they are one of only two mountain ranges in the world which run directly north to south. An alternate explanation for the name given by locals is that early Queenstown settlers, upon seeing the mountain range during sunset one evening, named them the Remarkables to describe the sight which I can quite understand.
I used that term quite a few times myself!
They are one of the most photographed mountain ranges in the world due to the spectacular jagged shapes and the steep rise above the shores of Lake. (No surprises there once you see them).
The mountain range is also famous for The Remarkables ski field. 

Here is the view of the mountain range from a pathway in front of our apartment. The pathway leads down to Lake Wakatipu and if you follow the trail along the lake it leads into Queenstown.

Every few minutes the view from our window changed and I was seriously near to never leaving the apartment...choosing to stay to watch the ever changing display. 
As you can imagine my camera was extremely busy!

Maori culture is unique to Aotearoa.
Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand - Land of the Long White Cloud

These photos show more of the pathway along Lake Wakatipu.
The lake was such a beautiful turquoise-blue.
It's such a pity you can't breathe in all that fabulous fresh air.

How wonderful to slowly walk along the lake appreciating all the wonderful sights and sounds...filling all the senses to the maximum. I realised how lucky I was and so stopped numerous times to take it all in. 
You can't help but stop!

Every time we took this walk there was always something new to see...

I just loved this little red boat and the name 'Oops' appealed to my sense of humour :D

And so onto Queenstown...
One visit to Queenstown and it's easy to see why the resort town is known as the world's adventure capital. 
There are all year round activities so there's something for everyone in every season.
Whether it is golf to jet boating, skiing to skydiving, revitalising to partying! 
It's all here in Queenstown.

Enveloped by breathtaking mountains and based near the dramatic shores of Lake Wakatipu , Queenstown could quite possibly be the most appealing city in New Zealand...it's certainly picturesque.

Queenstown location is great for a base to then explore Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park. 
In the south is Dunedin with its Scottish heritage, and diverse wildlife. 
To the north are sunny Nelson and Marlborough, famous for their wines and food. 
It's difficult to know where to start first upon your arrival.
So maybe I'll let you settle in before we carry on....

I hope you'll continue our trip and who knows you may see a bungy jump?!?!
Don't forget to have fun this week...catch you later! 

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Happy 21st Birthday Son

As I'm typing this post...I'm completely amazed that I'm actually writing about my son's 21st Birthday! 
I mean how can that possibly be? 
I'M ONLY 19 YEARS OLD MYSELF for goodness sake!
But I suppose the calendar never lies, so I'll have to bite the bullet and accept it. 
It shouldn't be hard really because he's now over 6 feet tall!

At the risk of upsetting or embarrassing him (HA! isn't that what we're supposed to do?)
I just wanted to mark his special day here on my blog.
We had a great night and I think the birthday celebrations will be ongoing throughout this week and into the weekend at least.

I've had a mind to create a little special line drawing for him for some time now and this was the perfect occasion. I decided to draw a Liver bird which is the symbol of the football team Liverpool. 

I know that anything to do with football whether its AFL or the UK Premier League...can cause quite a lot of controversy, but the fact is Liverpool is my son's team (and also my hubby's too for that matter) so that's it FULL STOP!
Both my boys wake at silly-o-clock to watch all of their games...crazy I know but you try telling them that!
So here's my design which was very well received....
I cropped the photo so that you might see it better. 
It's not the best light for a photo shoot today. 
The design is enclosed in a black frame with a white mount.

I'm not sure if you'd be interested but if you are here's a clip from YouTube of  Steven Gerrard  (the Liverpool Captain) drawing the Liver bird on a 60 second challenge. I had such a giggle watching it.
I have to admit I didn't take 60 seconds to create mine.
Black heart (cards)Happy Birthday sonBlack heart (cards)

I also created a collage from some of the masses of his childhood photographs.
We now realise how much my son liked to dress up...not in a cross gender type of way, but just generally. Phewph...better make that clear!!!
I couldn't possibly post a photo of the collage because basically I'm going to keep the threat of doing that for as long as I can...it will keep me way ahead in the game of the blackmail stakes...MMMWWWWAAAhhhhhhaaaaa

Thanks for stopping by everyone...I hope you are having a great day.
Remember to make the most of it...it's a gift!
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Monday 22 April 2013

Weekend trip to the Yarra Valley...be warned it's a long post!

I always find it difficult to write a post after I've had a break. Maybe it's because everything moves so fast these days, that before I know it I've collected so much information and photographs that I'd like to share, that it seems too big a task. Plus then I'm also aware that I'll probably take up too much of your time, but I would like to take you on a wine tasting trip to the Yarra Valley, which is about an hours' drive out of Melbourne.

As the sun rose on our first morning...this was the sight that greeted us.

Are where located right in the centre of the vineyard... D'vine vineyard studio accomodation

(photo courtesy of D'vine Escape)

On that first morning we had a good wander around the vineyard and came across a very tranquil spot.

This particular vineyard accommodates wedding ceremonies.
This water feature must be a favourite with the wedding photographers....

There's even a bandstand or should that be a pavilion?
I love the refection in the water photo below...it's something I'd like to learn how to paint one day...

We were so lucky with the weather (yet again) considering we've moved into autumn now.

As we wondered around the grounds I did not expect to see this...I haven't a clue what tram stop this is, but what a cool idea to be used as additional accommodation for guests.
I can imagine it would be perfect for children.
Here's the internal view...bunk beds one end and a double bed at the other with a living area in the centre.

All aboard!

And here's the wedding chapel located within the vineyard...adorned with red roses too.

We did see a wedding party the next day, so I was glad I'd had chance to snoop without hindrance. See the lengths that I go for you...nothing is too much trouble ;D

I snook inside and took a few photos too...I'm always unsure whether this is the right thing to do, but I did it anyway on this occasion.
Once I saw that bell that was it...(I have a thing about church bells)
I couldn't resist...I had to ring it! Numerous times...lol
It sounded really good too!

So on to the vineyards and lots of wine tasting! After all that's what this weekend was all about.
 I've attached a map so you can see just how many wineries and vineyard are available in quite a small area.

 As you drive through the sweeping vineyards and rolling hills of the Yarra Valley you can't help but be impressed and diversions call to you from the usual wine tour route. You can discover the hidden secrets and pure delight of the smaller wineries. 
Family owned and run, these unassuming wineries offer a very different experience and it's not uncommon for the smile who greets you at the door to be that of the winemaker or vigneron whose creation you are about to savour. It really adds to the whole experience.
 Over recent years the popularity and reputation of the Yarra Valley has grown. Determined not to be overshadowed, a group of smaller wineries banded together to create the Yarra Valley Smaller Wineries Association...a group whose combined range extends to a number of different styles from the handcrafted Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Shiraz for which the Yarra Valley is celebrated, to other styles such as Sparkling, Rose and Fortified wines.

I mean look at the views...and to think it's all so near to Melbourne. 
We actually went on a guided wine tasting tour because let's face it...wine tasting!
Yes please....but that doesn't mix with driving obviously.
So it's such a great idea to have the driving done for you because lets face it, it would have just got ugly to have to work out who was to be the designated driver!

We don't usually do organised tours...more wanting to do our own thing...to our own timetable, but I have to say the tour we took was exceptional and considering we are not the type of wine tasters who spit out samples...(I mean what's that about?)...being chauffeured from vineyard to vineyard worked brilliantly.

Here's our tour guide..The lovely 'Elaine' from Wild Wombat Winery Tours who really did organise our day perfectly. Upon collecting us after breakfast from our room, she checked with everyone on the tour just what they expected or wanted out of their tour and then she delivered....so that everyone got the most out of the day. We even were presented with a little gift at the end of the day.

Let me just state here and now that we all behaved impeccably and there were no mishaps or embarrasing episodes throughout the whole proceedings!
Okay...glad that's clear.
 Our first port of call was to the Allinda Winery which was a lovely little place with fantastic views. Well I suppose all of the vineyards have brilliant views because most are set on a hillside and spread over acres of land. It was really quaint and the rustic cellar door was constructed of recycled 1883 wool store timbers. 
This chap below...whoops forgot his name...I hope he will forgive me...was so knowledgeable and his enthusiasm was infections.
Oh by the way, if you're wondering if we actually bought any wine then my answer would be...is the pope a catholic?....Do bears..in the woods?....you get my drift...of course we bought samples...it would be rude not to wouldn't it?

Next stop was to Graeme Miller.
Graeme Miller is a pioneer of the rebirth of the region and a Jimmy Watson trophy winner. 
(FYI...The Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy is the most prestigious and sought after wine award in Australia. The trophy is a memorial to the late Jimmy Watson (died 1962), who established the iconic Jimmy Watson's Wine Bar in Lygon Street, Carlton, a suburb of Melbourne. The trophy is awarded annually at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show to the producer of the best one or two year old, dry, red wine).

This winery was fantastic to actually see the process in operation. I'd only just remarked that it's such a shame that you don't get to see how it all works when visiting the cellar doors...they normally just have a sampling bar set away from where the action takes place. I like to see how it all comes about I have to admit.

Don't you just love those huge barrels...well I do anyway! Someone on our tour actually bought an empty one and arranged to collect it the next day to take home for an al fresco bar table. Cool!

And here's the expert...answering all our questions. Mr Graeme Miller himself!
Winemaker & Viticulturist Graeme Miller is one of the pioneers of the 1960s/70s rebirth of the Yarra Valley as a wine region. In 1971 he established Chateau Yarrinya at Dixons Creek, which he sold to the De Bortoli family in 1987. He began planting  Dixons Creek Estate in 1988, a kilometre from his original site. Winner of the 1978 Jimmy Watson trophy, Graeme made a return to winemaking at Dixons Creek Estate because of his belief in regional difference and the Yarra Valley as an excellent wine producing area.
Graeme built the winery on the new site and finally opened cellar door there in 2005. He is working to produce long lived wines, not dominated by alcohol, and which reflect the subtle depth and complexity that the Yarra Valley , as a cool climate region, can produce.
Note the aboriginal artwork behind. We've actually got a similar painting in our store room. It's never actually been hung on our wall because my hubby chose it himself (first mistake) and it was bush tucker...which basically depicts grubs! (second mistake)
Now don't get me wrong I love aboriginal artwork and in fact sometimes I think my ink drawings have a slight resemblance especially with all of those dots...but our painting is mainly brown and has grubs all over it! 
Not my cup of tea I'm afraid, but I did tell my hubby not to buy but he just went away and did it anyway (third mistake)...so it'll stay where it is for now.
Sorry I digress...

So back to the wine tasting...

...or should I say a quick tasting this time...in order to make our choice of wine to accompany our gourmet lunch at Mandala Wines.

 (Photo courtesy of Manadal wines...I must have been too busy eating and drinking because I now realise I never took a photo)

Mandala is one of the newer cellar doors and the Yarra Valley.
They are a two family-owned vineyard.
The 20-year old vines at Dixon's Creek contrast with the cooler higher-altitude vineyards at Yarra Junction, which is exclusively planted to pinot noir.
We enjoyed a sumptuous lunch in the restaurant that has 180 degree views through the glass walled spaces before moving on to our next venue.

Now don't laugh but I can't remember the name of the next winery!
It's true and I feel so bad about that. I've searched extensively and can't find it!
I'll try to find out and come back to add it in...I know this was our fourth stop, but even so I should have noted the name at least.
Ahh ha....see as promised I have returned with the name of the winery...
thanks to Yvette from Wild Wombat tours...yet again saving the day!
It's Yering Station of course!
Set in the historical winery building (circa 1859), the Cellar Door encapsulates the synergy between wine, food, knowledge and sensory experience.
The Tasting Bar allows you to experience wines with the support and skill of knowledgeable and passionate young team. Yering Station produces fifteen styles of wine under six distinctive wine labels.

This was to a larger commercial organisation with lots of products on sale other than wine. They had a gallery for displaying artwork too...as well as a huge range of shop products from soap to seeds with everything including chocolate and coffee in-between!
Maybe that's why I never actually took in the name...I was too busy tasting and making sure I didn't miss anything. 

As you can see it is a very popular way to spend the day...and who would believe that there are so many experts about ;D
This huge space used to house the barrels back in the day and the cellar is below which is no longer used unfortunately due to flooding.

Note: I didn't see one person on the whole weekend trip spit into the receptacles provided...I'm just saying!

I loved this display and no they are not all of our empties!
I wish the label was on show and then I could have seen the name. 

After seeing all of the lovely chocolate products on offer here...
and I have to confess I have to have a good portion of chocolate when drinking red wine 
(I have no idea why I just do...any excuse but then I know I have a problem...okay I'm a chocoholic!) 
Anyway 'Elaine' heard the females' plea for chocolate and commented that there just happened to be a Chocolaterie nearby!!!! 
She then made a very quick detour realising that our need for a chocolate fix was a serious issue! 
Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery here we come...I could have died and gone to heaven...

I love these peek through window places that show the whole process and I could watch for hours...but the bus was on a schedule and this stop wasn't on it...so with record speed I whipped thorough the whole building, filling my basket like a champion supermarket sweeper
(does anyone other than me remember that TV programme or have I just really confused everyone?)
I'm not sure I'd want to kiss this chocolate frog...but I'd certainly eat him!

Imagine finding this on your Easter egg hunt...how fantastic would that be?

And guess what? There's free samples just sitting there for everyone to try....okay I was spotted at this particular counter three times, but in my defence I wasn't as bad as the woman who poured the buttons into her pockets!!! I KID YOU NOT! Now she had a problem!
(she wasn't on our tour by the way)

Oh would you believe it...now I want some chocolate! 
Once again I need to clarify I did purchase and not just devoured the free samples.
Our last stop was at the Yarrawood Winery (phew...I remember the name) which is perched on the crest of a hill overlooking the picturesque vineyard and the Yarra Valley below.

We bought a beautiful bottle of Tall Tales Botrytis Riesling.
I could write all the attributes written on the back of the label but suffice to say...I liked it!
And so finally feeling my tastebuds were shot we headed back to our accommodation....for a well earned rest.
Okay...a good snooze! But we had worked so hard surely we deserved it!

Here's the keeper of the vineyard...keeping a close eye on everything.
And so the day came to a close...but not before putting on a stunning display.

I hope you enjoyed your trip to the Yarra Valley...
I'm still working my way through all of my photographs from our South Island trip to New Zealand but hope to post them soon.
In the meantime, have a great week...maybe even participating in a little drop of red or wine along the way.
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