It’s a long weekend in New Zealand this weekend, as today is Labour Day, and we’ve had a reasonably lazy time of it, enjoying a dinner with a friend on her birthday on Saturday, but we have suffered too for getting up way too early (4 and 5 am respectively) on both Sunday and Monday to watch World Cup rugby games (ie I almost forgot it was a #MicroblogMonday). Unlike the rest of Wellington that disappeared this weekend, we beat the rush and escaped last weekend, to Napier and the Hawke’s Bay, where we stayed in Ahuriri, an area that was lifted in the 1931 earthquake that the town, in a hotel with views of cliffs across the Bay, the Pacific Ocean, wharves, containers and cruise ships, tugs and fishing boats, and locals and tourists in kayaks and yachts.
Apart from bookings at a couple of highly recommended restaurants (one’s first class reputation was entirely justified and a highlight of the weekend, one was interesting but a bit disappointing), our weekend was unplanned. A small but stunning installation at the new art gallery and museum, focusing on the state of immigrant, itinerant workers in the region’s vineyards and fruit orchards, was a highlight, as was the very small basement exhibition on the earthquake, which featured the Morse Code transmissions from the navy ship – HMS Veronica – that was in dock at the time of the earthquake, and which led the first rescue attempts. A walk through the blossom and flower-filled streets afterwards had me looking up at the fabulous art deco buildings built as a result of the earthquake, now a tourist attraction in themselves.
The major reason for visiting the region – other than warm weather and a break away – is wine, and vines abound, along the coast where we enjoyed dinner, and along the Gimblett Gravels area that produces such fabulous Bordeaux-style blends, and more recently wonderful syrah that are fast disappearing out of our price reach, along with excellent chardonnay, tropical sauvignon blanc, riesling and more. Wine-tastings were, of course, compulsory, but these days if we are driving they have to be limited, so we only visited a few (though still managed to fill the boot of the car with some old favourites, and – always a treat – some new discoveries). A local farmer’s market on Sunday morning saw us tasting and buying treats to take home, from delicious macarons – consumed that night – made by the dejected but resilient Frenchman (the All Blacks had demolished his side earlier that morning in the World Cup quarter-final, but he was already joking that he had a black jersey ready for next weekend), to passionfruit and lime curd, Christmas and toffee and ginger puddings, olive oil, and plum sauce.