Friday, January 30, 2009

Doubtful Sound

Alas, they didn't go to the Eighth Wonder of the World, Milford Sound. But instead they headed in a same direction from Queenstown to Te Anau and took a cruise round Doubtful Sound, less famous than the 8th Wonder but bigger and less accessible. Along the cruise, there were many waterfalls like the one shown here. Constantly surrounded by mist and fog, this rain-forest houses an amazing variety of luscious green flora and fauna. They got glimpses of some wildlife like the bottlenose dolphins and fur seals. Well worth a day-trip if just for the escape into the serenity of the Fiordland.

The Kea

While they didn't see any Kiwis, they saw this bird, Kea jumping around when they arrived at Manapouri on their way to the Doubtful Sound. It walked in a funny gait similar to how other parrots walk. Given how cute it look, it's hard to imagine the excerpt from wikipedia below:

"Now uncommon, the Kea was once killed for bounty as it preyed on livestock, especially sheep, only receiving full protection in 1986."

New Zealanders have made a lot of effort in conserving their environments. They eradicated foreign animals brought from Europe to create many bird sanctuaries around the area near Doubtful Sound. Wouldn't it be wonderful if everybody is so environmentally conscious!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Amisfield Vineyard

Central Otago produces some wonderful Pinot Noir and Amisfield was just one of the 3 vineyards visited in this region, the other 2 being Felton Road and Mt. Difficulty. Central Otago's pinot noir is characterised by more complexity and aromas than other wine regions in New Zealand. This is immediately obvious even to a novice drinker. Unlike Burgundy's pinot noirs, most of Central Otago's pinot noirs are drinkable and delicious when it's released.

Amisfield offers beautiful cellar door and a bar restaurant serving high quality local food for lunch. Mum and dad shared a "Trust-the-Chef" lunch set menu and for NZD 90, they got 7 different dishes from a selection of appetizers to a few main courses. Shame they never brought any leftovers home!! Mum did ship a few bottles of those pinot noir home though, perhaps dad will let us share the spoil:)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Aoraki/Mount Cook

If you expand the above photo, you will see a snow-capped mountain at the far end of the lake. This is the highest mountain in New Zealand, for more details refer to the wikipedia entry here. The Hermitage Hotel in the Edmund Hilary Centre offers simple and fresh lunch in a canteen style. Best of all, you can enjoy the view while you grab a quick bite. But it's not such a good idea to climb up and see the Hooker Glacier though. It's a tough climb on a hot day and you don't see an awful lot.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Seresin Estate - Panaromic view of a vineyard

View from the cellar door of Seresin Estate. This perhaps made the deepest impression among all the vineyards visited during this trip. The olive oil is very fragrant and they brought home a bottle, which both of us are eager to try!!

Seresin Estate

"Have you been to Seresin Estate yet?" asked an American lady who was also touring New Zealand. The name did not register as we only know a few vineyards at that point. "Ah then, you've got to go! It's owned by MICHAEL Seresin, a famous director." as she eagerly introduced the spectacular view there. Dad, ever so incredulous, then asked "so which movie is he famous for?" "Eh, no idea...."

Regardless the accuracy of the facts, it was a great recommendation. Thank you.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wendy Campbell's French Bistro

As any internet junkie will do before going on a vacation, dad got list after list of things to do, places to go and, of course, restaurants to visit. This is just one of those lists detailing 33 restaurants across New Zealand. They ate in 4 out of the 33 and were most impressed by the dinner they had in Martinborough, Wendy Campbell's the French Bistro. (The other three are Terroir, Amisfield and Saffron. Saffron was a bit of a letdown.) The restaurant doesn't seem to have a website and because the menu is handwritten everyday, there isn't a copy in the internet either. But if you ever go on a wine tour in Martinborough, this restaurant is well worth a visit. Just a couple of pictures for you to savour.

Lake Wairarapa and Cape Palliser

This is not a famous tourist attraction. Mum and dad didn't know about the two places until they arrived in Martinborough. But then both offered something different and definitely worth the car drive out there. Mum was like walking into the end of civilization in the Lake Wairarapa picture. But the drive from Lake Wairarapa to Cape Palliser does feel like journey to the end of something, especially when most of the road surface was unsealed.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Hawke's Bay Winery Map

Always fascinated by maps and how people get lost holding their maps. For us, we just leave a mark wherever we go!! The map below shows the vineyards that mum and dad visited and bunches of grapes that you see everywhere in Hawke's Bay and in fact all the wine regions in New Zealand. Below that from left to right, cellar door of Trinity Hill, cellar door of Church Road and the entrance to Mission Estate.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Unison Vineyard

One of the boutique vineyards in New Zealand, your first impression of Unison in Hawke's bay is the intense smell of wine when you go into the cellar door. You can see the two big barrels sitting next to the small counter with several rows of smaller barrels inside.

Sileni Estates

If you visit Hawke's Bay, you should try Sileni for lunch, the result of totally unscientific survey of a few locals. You will be seated among beautiful vines and the quality of food is excellent.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Terroir - Craggy Range

Hot chocolate fondant - yummylicious :)

Craggy Range

Imagine staying in a vineyard........
Craggy Range is one of the vineyards which offers accommodation. This was the view from the "Cellarmaster", a small cottage where they stayed for 2 nights.

The restaurant Terroir is also a famous fine dining hub in New Zealand. They serve some of the most delicious potatoes, Terroir fries! The outdoor dining tables look over a lake where a small school of wild ducks live. Dining menus in New Zealand are all fairly similar in terms of price and dishes on offer.

Huka Falls

This waterfall is neither famous for its size or its height, but the amount of water (200,000 liters per second) which manages to squeeze through a tiny stretch of canyon (15m wide). Not a bad spot for being a 5-minute tourist if just for the impressive sound the water makes and the negative ions it generates.

Treetops Lodge

Treetops is privately owned estate which is truly special. Mum and dad were most impressed by the magnificent flora and landscape surrounding the place. And they only went there to have lunch!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Trip to the Land of Kiwis

This blog has always been about us, the mutts, hardly anything is written about mum and dad. But then they recently left us home for a 2-week long vacation to New Zealand. So it's party time at home!! Guess you have more interest in the finer things in life like pinot noir than our daily mischief. So here you are, a sneak peek into the north-to-south journey they took.

Most people take a direct flight from Hong Kong to New Zealand, but then mum being ever so inventive managed to redeem business class flights via Singapore. So the journey started with the hawker center cuisine and a fish-foot spa (more on that in a separate entry). The connecting flight was schedule to depart the following morning, mum and dad decided to have a nap in the airport lounge. The short nap turned into a minor nightmare for mum when she woke up realising that her phone has gone missing. After a brief moment of frantic search for the gadget, they decided that it must have been pickpocketed.

The 9-hour flight to Auckland airport was filled with usual inflight entertainment like food served to you in tiny plates and movies on a 5-inch screen. Just before crossing customs mum dumped her bag of dried chinese plums as the sniffing Beagle edge closer to her, after having just hunted down another tourist in the baggage reclaim area. NZD 200 was probably too much to pay for the joy of nibbling dried chinese plums during the long drive from north to south.

Having decided to let fate control the hotel choices for most of this trip, they strolled to the tourist centre, i-Site, in the airport. It was almost midnight. With so many choices and no clues, they just picked something with the keyword "New" in mind. The result was Chifley Suites. You could see the Sky Tower when you look out from the room's balcony. This marked the start of their vacation in the Land of Kiwis, where they saw plenty of things dead or alive, but no Kiwis.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Yucks!! All these fish taking a nibble!!!

During the stopover in Singapore, mum and dad tried out another new fad, fish spa. They were going to kill some time and get a foot massage in the familiar spot near Tanglin Mall, but got suckered into paying more for the pleasure of having their feet tickled by hundreds of these Doctor Fish. First such spa opened in 2006 in Hakone, Japan and has found its way in many Asian countries including Macau (but not Hong Kong, perhaps the association with HK Foot is just too much to bear for some). Don't know how beneficial these fish spas are to the body, but if the place looks hygienic it's probably worth trying.

Instead of keeping Kois in our pond, we can setup our own fish spa at home. Such services are already available in the internet.