By Carla Sue Broecker
New Zealand is a gorgeous country; fresh, green, friendly. There are no negative adjectives. We had a marvelous stay in Dunedin on our cruise on the Seven Seas Voyager, and the city was just lovely.
On the second day in Dunedin, everyone started off in a wonderful mood. We were headed off to go drink (or at least sip) and tour Speight’s Brewery, which is a sort of large, designer brewery. They enjoy having visitors and gave us the full walkabout. We learned about hops and all the stuff that goes into making beer from a great tour guide. He loves his job and the company, and even loves explaining every last detail that you would want to know. But the tour lasted over an hour, and we were getting thirsty.
When the tour was finished, we were invited into their tasting room. The beer was full-bodied and delicious, especially after having missed breakfast on the ship. Husband Brad, who isn’t a beer fan, loved the cider that they also make. He even found out that it has as much alcohol as the beer, and his morning buzz was as good as the rest.
Not only did we have beer before lunch, we did the “mandatory” shopping in their souvenir shop. Hillerich & Bradsby has nothing on them! Loaded with t-shirts, caps, “cosies” and jackets, it was a souvenir hunter’s paradise and we did our part to support the establishment.
We then walked down the block to the neighborhood bar/restaurant that is owned by the brewery. Before leaving the ship, we had been given the menu for the restaurant, so we wasted no time ordering Southern blue cod ‘n chips and burgers. The portions were enormous, and then came dessert served in an old fashioned soda glass with a whole bunch of berries on the bottom and ice cream and whipped cream on the top. Others had a slice of lemon meringue pie. All of this was freshly produced just for us.
Upon arriving back at the ship, we set sail for Akaroa, New Zealand. That evening was extra fun since we had dinner with the staff captain, who is an Italian charmer. He speaks great English and had selected some other guests to dine with us, all of whom were fun. You never know when you get these invites if it is going to be with a bunch of stiffs or not, but this time it wasn’t.
Since boarding the ship on Dec. 29, we have had dinner with two captains (one got off and one got on), the general manager, the staff captain mentioned above, two different social hostesses and the cruise director – all at different times. I am saving up an interview with the cruise director for another column. He is going to be a friend for life. I think you will enjoy my conversation with the executive chef when he has time to talk to me.
Now, back to Akaroa. It is the oldest colonial town on the South Island and is part of the Southern Alps. It has a shallow port, so we anchored off the island and tendered ashore. There are lots of small farms, and as far as I could tell the main activities included going to church, punting and drinking. They do have a wonderful museum housed in a former cheese factory that features over 3,000 artifacts.
Wellington was next on the trip “down under.” We didn’t spend a lot of time there, but what time we did have was not wasted. Wellington’s famous Old Saint Paul’s, constructed entirely of native timbers, is one of the finest examples of timber Gothic Revival architecture in the world. They had a wonderful gift shop with a Christmas section full of unusual items.
The most glorious highlight of the Wellington shore excursion was Wellington Botanic Garden, which is known for its floral bedding displays. We saw the award-winning Lady Norwood Rose Garden (in full scent), plant collections and stunning seasonal floral bedding displays. We missed the 25,000 tulips from spring, but we did enjoy the begonia house and the succulent, fragrant and herb gardens.
The next time we are here, we have the cable cars, the Beehive building, the Parliament buildings and the Great War Exhibition on our “to-see” list. During World War II, over 20,000 U.S. Marines were stationed in the Wellington region. Old St. Paul’s was their place of worship where lifelong friendships with families in Wellington were made.
Next on our itinerary was Napier. We have been to Napier before and love it. A major earthquake destroyed the city back in the 1930s. The city fathers that set about its reconstruction had the vision not do it by committee; just one local architect took over the complete planning of the city. They incorporated wider streets and marvelous art deco reconstruction of all the buildings, and they wisely buried all utilities underground, adding to the charm and beauty of the place. At most of the intersections in the center of the town, they cut off the buildings at an angle to make traffic movement easier.
On top of all of this, many of the residents dress in 30s-style clothing and drive vintage cars. Some are available for hire to take you on tours of the city, which has a population of about 62,000.
To see the city, our shore excursion consisted of a ride on the Hawkes Bay Express, a “train” that had an engine and three cars and pulled us around the city streets. It is a charming tour operated by a husband and wife team who physically built the train.
We took the time to go back to an antique shop we visited on a previous trip, but did not find any treasures that we had to have.
This was the end of a cruise segment where many guests got off and others arrived, so we spent a day at Bay of Islands, New Zealand. It is a tiny resort town, and it was necessary to venture into town since Husband Brad had several missions to accomplish. He found a jeweler who repaired his watchband and then a great drug store to stock up on supplies for tummy disorders.
While there, he found a local art fair where they were selling possum gloves and other knitted items. No, they are not gloves for possums; they are gloves made from a blend of Merino wool and possum fur. Possums are considered pests in New Zealand, but they have found a good use for the little critters.
We sailed into Auckland on a warm, bright sunny day. The dock is right downtown in the midst of everything, and if shopping is on your agenda, you can walk to nearly every famous brand-name store within five minutes of leaving the ship.
For the first part of the day, we chose a shore excursion that would take us to some of the best sights – including the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which we really wanted to see. It was built in 1929 and is a beautiful, classical, monumental structure that would make any city proud.
The place is more of a historical museum than a war memorial, but we had a great guide and loved every minute of the tour. The exhibits were presented and explained well. The interior of the building, like the exterior, was gloriously clean and well laid out.
In the afternoon, Brad had his eyes set on a saloon-type bar and restaurant that serves green lip mussels by the kilo. He had been there before with friends, and there was no slowing him down. After a bowl of chowder and a half kilo of mussels with lobster and brandy sauce, he was a happy and very full camper.
The next day we were retracing our steps back toward Sydney across the Tasman Sea and the forecast for rough weather looked like it was going to become a reality. More about the bouncy Tasman next week. VT