After being greeted in person by my parents at the airport…..
Catching up with the family…..
And more friends….
…..we were completely integrated back into English life.
It is funny how you both look forward to coming home but also don’t. The thought that the freedom of travelling is coming to an end and you are back to your old life is always difficult. The excitement you have at making all the plans for leaving builds up over a long time, there are many hours spent on the internet, booking trains, hotels and more, packing up the house, selling all our worldly goods on eBay and more than few leaving parties which means it is all so exciting. The booking of a flight home and knowing what you are coming back to is different.
We had a lovely week at my parents in Stroud. Our walks down the canal were wonderful, and made us realise how beautiful this country is. The weather was amazing, those sunny spring days filled with sunshine, blue skies, wildflowers and hope, made us both truly happy to be back.
We then had a couple of weeks staying with some friends of ours, and, amazingly, we were still friends a few weeks later. We enjoyed many a (late night) BBQ and more than a few drinks in our stay in Finchfield.
Flat hunting in Birmingham was depressing at times but we soon found an apartment in the centre of town and were excited to be starting a whole new way of living, city centre living, with no garden, or even terrace, for me to look after!
Moving in was a trial but we abused the good nature of our mates and roped them into helping. I doubt they will be as willing when we move out as the logistics of moving into a secure apartment, with key fobbed doors and lifts that didn’t work meant it was a sweaty day. We bought them beers to compensate.
Warning! The following article was written with SEVERE jetlag. All grammar errors, words and opinions are not ours.
Walk, Ferry, Shuttle Bus, Airport bus.
Hour queue for check in.
Enjoy 5 movies, two meals, one snack box and one unidentified vegetarian warm food item on 17 hour flight leaving Auckland at 15.30 to Doha. Arrive into Doha at midnight (on the same day?!?) and hang out at the sixth airport to be awarded five stars.
At 2am Doha time we eat a burger in a food court as we are both starving (Stomach’s revenge for red wine overload?). I think I see a giant teddy bear but my mind is sleep deprived and confused.
I think I meet George Cloony but my mind is sleep deprived and confused.
At 4.30am we check in for our 7 hour flight to sunny Blighty. We consume 3 movies, one meal and a veggie pasty thing.
At 11am we land on the damp rock in the north east Atlantic that is home. I think this means it has taken thirty and a half hours to get from Auckland to London but my brain is tired.
Al wins carousel rucksack roulette taking the final trip score to Al 4-2 Guy. She wins the casting vote in our flat hunt.
Alison’s wonderful parents and our new landlords meet us at the airport.
Bus, Bus, Train, Car and within five hours of being in the country we are in Waitrose perusing the Kiwi wine selection.
We have swollen ankles.
For those of you who have been writing in, demanding to know Al’s fitbit totals for the whole eight months, here are the final scores on the doors:
1,514.81 miles walked (which is equivalent to walking from London to Ivalo, in the north of Finland)
646,995 calories burnt (mostly replaced by dumplings)
1,791 hours slept
Thankfully Fitbit don’t record alcohol units consumed.
Our last day has arrived and we are sad to be leaving this wonderful travelling lifestyle. The thought of getting a flat, jobs and facing reality is quite a shocker, but on the plus side, it will be great to see family and friends again (and not be eaten alive by mossies).
We have toast, butter, honey and coffee on the terrace. The amaretto was a welcome addition as heads were a touch sore from last night.
Our day was quiet. We blogged, diaried etc.
We ate fish and chips by the seaside.
Went for a walk on the beach.
We had ice creams.
I left Guy on his own in the wine shop tasting wines, he maxed out the credit card.
I cooked meatballs and couscous for dinner.
We watched our last night of kiwi tat TV.
Tomorrow we get our flight home and arrive on Friday, we are being met by Mum and Dad at the airport, which will be lovely. We are spending a few days with them before heading up to Wolverhampton to see friends (and get a flat and jobs…..).
We will update this blog occasionally with exciting things we do in our lives, dumplings we eat and our next adventure, whatever that will be.
Our last day visiting vineyards starts with a coffee, obviously, accompanied by toast, lashings of butter and honey all on our little terrace.
We then count mossie bites and compare them. Who knew the mossies on this island we so desperate for Roberts blood? Guy wins the most bites and for once we are happy to be going home to a mossie free haven.
We do a bit of strip shopping up and down Oneroa high street then we set off walking up and down the winding roads to the 2 walkable vineyards on this island of 31 vineyards, Mudbrick and Cable Bay.
Mudbrick is a stunning setting, overlooking the islands bays and Auckland in the distance, set up high, it looked very Cotswolds to us. The prices of $20 for a premium tasting of 4 wines was steep, none of which were particularly great or worth the huge price tags, eg $89 for a bottle of Syrah. No extra tastings were given, portions were small, it was all very corporate.
Next was Cable Bay, $10 for tasting and you only get that price taken off if you buy 2 or more bottle of wine. Again, this is much pricier than anywhere else we have experienced, we are thinking there is a posh tax on this island and we are thankful we aren’t going to any more vineyards here.
So, final scores on doors for NZ Vineyards visited is 33 and we have tasted over 275 wines.
Guy also has a foldable pocket wine guide that he will bring out when tasting wines back in the UK so he can identify the plums, dry canned peas etc flavours in each variety of wine. You have all been warned.
A walk home was undertaken in the sunshine via Alison Park.
We stop for lunch at a beautiful setting of Wai restaurant. It is great food, but the wine is expensive, nearly the same price for a glass as a meal, but we still have some as we won’t get this opportunity soon.
The afternoon is spent blogging, drinking wine and telling our mates we are drinking wine for the last time before we come home (we can’t do it tomorrow as we can’t face the 17 hour flight with a raging hangover).
Dinner is sausages and couscous.
We watch more tat TV and drank more wine and listened to some Bon Jovi, just to annoy Guy.
Today we make our penultimate journey of this trip, it will be a mixed bag of transport, taxi, teeny plane, bus, ferry, bus.
We have booked an internal flight with Air New Zealand as it was cheaper than the bus and it saved us an overnight in Auckland.
So, on our last Monday away, as everyone at home was having a bank holiday lie in we were up early. We packed and left our glamping tent, which had been battered by wind and rain the night before, and got on our way to the small but beautiful Napier airport.
We checked in our bags, as they had bottles of wine carefully packed throughout we asked that they have the fragile tags put on. They were duly tagged.
Breakfast was pastry based with Hawthorne coffee to wash it down. We watched as the baggage handlers threw our bags into the baggage hold on our plane. Fragile tags duly ignored.
The wind had really picked up so it was with trepidation that we boarded the small, propeller driven plane. It was bumpy on the way up but once up it was a breeze.
55 mins later we are in Auckland and on our way into town for the ferry to the beautiful island of Waiheke, where we had booked a bit of luxury for our last 3 nights of the trip.
The 35 min ferry journey was stunning, many photos were taken.
Landing on the tiny island we got a bus the 2km into Oneroa, luxury, and got into our Air BnB to see what we have for the last time. Washing machine and dryer are the essentials as I don’t want to go back to Mum and Dad’s with a bag full of washing. Mum never did my washing when I was a student so I doubt it will be gratefully received on Friday!!!
Our place has views front and back to the seaside. How ace?
We got some fancy items from the posh Island Grocer and essentials from Four Square and went back to the flat to do washing and cook up some lamb merguez sausages for a late lunch.
Guy cooked a stunning evening meal of lamb meatballs, couscous and adds green leaves for health.
It was accompanied by 2 very fine Pinot Noirs for which we were grateful to be drinking due to Guy’s diligent packing and not the Air NZ baggage handlers. We watch The Bachelor and MKR.
Sunday morning in Hastings means the local markets is on and being travelling gluttons we cycled there to view the local produce on offer. The weather was dull, cold and wet but the market was still well attended.
We are attending a vegan pot luck meal tonight at our Air BnB hosts so we spent our time checking labels and ingredients. A loaf made of nuts, seeds and tonnes of vegan goodness, a salami style log made of figs and almonds and a jar of lime marmalade to accompany this pass the vegan test.
We then had a cycle out to Alpha Domus vineyard, the sun was shining and the sky was blue once we got there, the Crowded House song, Four Seasons in One Day was an earworm.
They are a tiny boutique vineyard, but do export to UK via the NZ Wine shop in Brixton which we keep hearing about and will be visiting when we get to London next. We bought a Viogner for the afternoon.
Todays adventure is cycling to Napier, 20km away. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt entirely in the style of the times, Art Deco, which we both love. We had fond memories of it last time so we looking forward to visiting it again. Plus, we have been lucky enough to be invited to a wedding which is being held in the Electric Cinema in Brum, so it was a great opportunity for me to get a dress for the big occasion.
We started off cycling along the train tracks and through light industry, not as photogenic as we were hoping. We stopped for a coffee and almond croissant. Cycling is ace, it means you can eat whatever you want!
We finally got to the ocean front and had a beautiful cycle along it for about 9km. The waves were crashing down, repeatedly, the driftwood was everywhere and Guy was in photography heaven.
We parked up in Napier and went for a small snack at Hapi, an inspiring cafe with loads of gluten free, vegan, veggie and other dietary foods.
The city wasn’t as photogenic as we remember. The high street seems to be the same as everywhere else filled with Farmers, UniChem, Hannahs, etc. We managed to find some gorgeous shop fronts to photograph and I got a dress and head piece for the wedding!!! Result.
We spotted a fish cafe on the seafront and settled down to some stunning green lipped mussels and calamari at Hunger Monger.
A walk was required to settle stomachs before we cycled back to Hastings avoiding most the light industry views this time.
A slight detour on the way back and we were at Vidal cellar door. More wines were tasted.
Dinner was a vegan lasagne, salad and roasted tomatoes, delicious.
We sat around chatting to our hosts and housemates, sharing a bottle of wine, the rest of the evening. We even played the card game, Monopoly …….and lost.
Another day on the bikes so we had a non vegan breakfast on our way out of Hastings. I actually wish it had been vegan after we had tasted the plastic hollandaise sauce and slimy packet salmon.
Hawkes Bay is set up for cycling, there are routes all over which are flat and go via the many vineyards that are around the area. We feel it is our duty to utilise this facility.
Our Air BnB hosts also rent out bikes so we utilise this facility and get 2 bikes and rode to the vineyards.
The scenery is very different to Blenheim, more distant craggy ridges rather than distance rolling hills. It is much closer to the ocean (the Pacific to be specific 😂) which is massively exciting for us Midlanders, and as many orchards as vineyards which at this time of year the trees are dripping with their red and green fruits and are quite stunning to see.
First vineyard is Black Barn, a boutique vineyard which doesn’t export, even past Hawkes Bay! The setting is stunning, it is set up on a slight ridge with views all around their vineyards.
Next is Te Mata Estate who have ‘since 1896’ on all their marketing, however in asking the cellar door lass for more information she simply repeated that they had started in 1896. Oh well. The building was fabulous.
Next was a recommendation from Black Barn, Aka Rangi vineyard, a very boutique one, set in an old disused church, it was the most atmospheric tasting we have had so far. The Chardonnay was so good we bought one.
There were even old cars full of weeds on the driveway, you don’t get more atmospheric than that!
Now we needed to do a long (ish) cycle to the coast and up the shoreline which is rugged, filled with driftwood, discarded sea detritus and lots of dark grey pebbles of all different sizes. This is my favourite kind of beach, the white sands are nice but the rugged beach is so much more appealing to me. I like my men like my beaches……😂
We get to Clearview Estate vineyard and cycle in for the largest tasting so far, 14 wines and one comedian! The lass on cellar door was entertaining and we thoroughly enjoyed the tasting.
We stayed for a platter of local produce, included smoked mushrooms, marinated green lipped mussels, mozzarella with basil oil, hams and olives.
On our way home we passed all the savvy types in their campervans, sat out enjoying the sunshine and possibly a good book, and / or a glass of wine. This will be us in a few years time, we hope.
A long ride back along the raised cycle path and we were ready for our dinner of vegan lasagne, roasted tomatoes, pasta and tomato sauce.
It was delicious and we had a lovely evening chatting to the other people staying here.
32 miles cycled today according to Google and the onboard navigator, maybe Google is correct then?