Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter weekend in Blenheim and Renwick

DAY1: Friday

Up early to catch a taxi to the ferry terminal. We boarded along with hundreds and hundreds of people at about 7h30. With our very fortunate free upgrade we got to sit in a private lunge. The best part about this was the ‘adults only’ status so there were no screaming kids to contend with. Other benefits were the comfy couches and free drinks and snacks. The ferry set sail at about 8h30 and the trip took about 3 hours. Ryan and I braved the upper deck once to get some photos. Subsequent to that it was only Ryan who was brave enough to face the cold and wind whilst I dealt with some sea sickness in the comfy lounge.

003 007

The first views of the Marlborough Sounds were spectacular.

004 006 002
001 005 104

Getting baggage from the collection point was an absolute nightmare. Luckily we were in no stressed out rush so Ryan sorted out the hire car and I waited for a bit of a gap to get the bags.

The drive from Picton where the ferry drops you, to Renwick, where we were staying is about 30minutes. And all of it quite beautiful. I did the navigating and Ryan did the driving and surprisingly we did not get lost. Did not even have to back track once. We had booked into Millstream Cottage. This was no cottage – this was a house! Two bedrooms, a lounge and dining room. Fully fitted kitchen and bathroom (by fully fitted I mean there was, amongst many other things, clingwrap and a rolling pin in that kitchen!). Very nifty old worldly feel in the cottage – lots of wood and bits and pieces gathered over the years.

105 106 107 108

We dropped off our bags and set out to go see some wine farms. We saw no wine farms. They were all closed because it was Good Friday. But it was nifty just driving around. The vineyards come right up to the street and there are no fences. So it feels like you a driving right in the middle of the vineyard. We got a late lunch snack and went back to the cottage. From a magazine I chose a restaurant from a list of recommendations in Blenheim. What joy – they were open and had space for 2! So later on we went off to Bacchus for a fantastic supper. We started with a chicken liver pate and preserves dish. I had Marlborough Salmon with a beetroot mash (just a weeny bit) and a beurre blanc sauce. This was truly the best salmon I have had ever ever ever. Ryan had duck confit which looked pretty damn fine too.

011 012 013
010 109
008 014

Waiting at home were some Lindt Easter Bunnies. So we skipped dessert and went home to eat up some bunnies.

DAY2: Saturday

Up moderately early for a 1.5hours drive north to Kenepura Sounds and then to Mahau Sounds. Absolutely spectacular! I’ll let the photos do the talking ….

015 102 016
018 017

Our destination was Sherrington Grange. This is a working farm and B&B and our activity for the day was cheese making. We spent the morning and some of the afternoon making cheese with Lisa. Lisa is a very cool lady. She absolutely loves her craft and her passion is infectious. Even her love for her goats (who are all named) is infectious. We made the following: curd cheese, ricotta cheese, soft cheese. I made notes about the process to make sure we could reproduce while Ryan remained all hands on. I think we did pretty well (except for the part where I added too much bacteria to a mix and made the cheese all bitter…). For lunch we feasted on the cheese we had made plus a selection from Lisa’s stock and freshly baked bread and fruit from the farm. We did the eating in the proper manner starting from soft mild cheeses right through to gasp-blink-choke-eyes watering blue cheese.

024 021 022 023
025 026 027
This is Lisa’s ‘backyard’
From the end of the pier looking back at the farm house

We drove back towards Renwick – just as beautiful going back! And then stopped off at some wine farms and did a large amount of wine tasting. We went to Isabel Estate (bought some wines from there – yummy), Te Whare Ra, Framingham, Bladen (more buying) and Seresin. Seresin also produced olive oils that were quite lovely – especially their lime infused oil.

111 115 112 110

We then proceeded to the local supermarket and bought big juicy porterhouse steaks, salad stuff and potatoes. Whilst Ryan cooked the baked potatoes and steaks I listened to Pavarotti and read past editions of Urbis magazine (like a Visi but even cooler).


Not so early up, but we were at the Farmer’s Market by 9h00. The Marlborough Farmer’s Market is a weekly occurrence and is truly all about the produce. We ate some crepes with fruit, yoghurt and bees pollen for breakfast. Also on offer were enormous omelettes, venison burgers, roasted nuts and mussels. The mussels are a big deal. The ‘green lipped mussel’ is renowned in NZ and comes from the waters around the South Island. I’m afraid to say I was not in the mood for mussels for breakfast – although they did smell amazing. On offer was also fruit, vegetables, herbs, breads, eggs, flowers … There were a couple of olive oil stalls. My favourite was the one that sold oil by volume according to the bottle you brought along with you. Good thing recycling glass bottles this way!

030 029 031 032
033 034 035

Of course more wine farms and wine tasting followed the Farmer’s Market. We went to St Clair, Hunters, Allan Scott, and Cloudy Bay. After our tasting at St Clair we sat in their very lovely sunny garden and had some coffee. It was really lovely to have no time pressures and revel in the prettiness of the farm and let time pass inconsequentially. Hunter’s had some sculpture in their gardens and an artist studio in the wine estate. I went to visit him and we chatted about how to paint water to look wind rippled but not wavy. The only poor experience was at Allan Scott where the lady behind the counter was somewhat of a sour grape. NZ people are a really friendly bunch and those on the wine farms even more so. To come across an indifferent cold person was quite disturbing. At Cloudy Bay we tasted our first NZ bubbly which was delightful. We decided to stay longer at this farm and ordered their lunch platter which was delicious. Cloudy bay also had light fittings by David Trubridge (a NZ furniture designer who does wondrous things

040 036 037 041
051 050 …sorry about some of the portrait photos showing the wrong way …just incline your head

On the way back to the cottage we stopped at a pot place and a clothing place. The clothing spot stocked Merino wool products …. divine. And Possum products. Possum is considered a pest in NZ and it is encouraged to get rid of them. So using their fur as a by-product is a good thing – and the fur does make for some nice woolly products.

042 048 049 043
047 046 045 038
113 114

And then…. we went to Herzog for dinner. That was such an experience. I am going to take the easy way out here and refer you to Ryan’s description of this supper (it will be here soon: However I will comment on the cool tableware and paintings of this restaurant. And the toilet! What I really enjoyed on the table were the elements of red – in the single floating gerbera, the red water glasses and the red candelabra. This gave a great lift to what would have otherwise been a very boring table setting. Ok the toilet… what a fun experience. In the ladies loo was firstly a lot of space, plenty of mirror, great lighting, piles of hand towels. Here’s the extra nifty bits – a visitors book (with a nice pen), a male mannequin torso (which had been blindfolded), a treasure chest (of course I opened it). So much fun. Supper music was a lovely mix. There was Kate Bush, Enya and Frank Sinatra.

052 053


After a lovely breakfast of toast with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon (all ingredients supplied by the cottage!) we checked out and drove up north again to the Marlborough Sounds. This day Ryan was the navigator and I was the driver! Quite a change of pace. Driving through the mountains and the sounds was rather challenging. After a while I figured it was best to treat the road like a bumper car set up – just keep rolling the steering wheel left and right and go with the flow.

We stopped off at Havelock. This is a small town with a harbour full of boats of all shaped and sizes. It is said that there are more boats than houses in Havelock and I can believe it.

We drove further eastwards and stopped off at Queen Charlotte’s Walk. This has a number of short (a few hours) and longer (1 day to 5 days I think) hiking trails. The NZ people call hiking tramping – I still have to get used to that. We walked along the route for a short while and then turned back. Absolutely spectacular and on the ‘To Do’ list to com back and do properly. Further eastward still to Picton where we stopped off for lunch before boarding the ferry.

We were initially booked on a 22h300 ferry, getting us back into Wellington at 01h30 the next day. Luckily we managed to sneak ourselves onto the 14h30 trip! This was a really good thing considering I had my first day at work on Tuesday.

Overall such a picturesque visit. And certainly a learning experience about the area. There is so much more to see and I look forward to going back in the future. I’ll fix up the pictures another day … hope you enjoy nonetheless

061 065 066 067
062 054 101 056
020 055 060 059
058 057 019