Bastille Day in New Zealand

Bastille Day at Clos Henri

We went to a local winery who was celebrating Bastille Day (a few days early) called Clos Henri. According to Wikipedia (because I didn’t pay attention in history class), Bastille Day Commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution with the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, and the unity of the French people at the Fête de la Fédération on 14 July 1790.

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People stood in line, salivating at the smells coming from the food truck, while others warmed up with some coffee as the French music played in the background. The era of the music sounded like it could’ve been coming from an old phonograph. Images danced in my head of a mad butcher chopping up his meal while laughing maniacally. It set the scene for what was yet to be found around the grounds.

A huge sow easily dug up the top of the grass with her nose, unable to find much to eat, occasionally being handed a half ear of corn from her keeper.

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Watch out, kid…you  might be next!

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As I sampled some of their Sauv, the man explained that the two types (clay side and rocky side) were divided by the fault line. Even though they weren’t far from one another, the taste was quite different (I liked the rocky side best).

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There was a local honey producer on site with a small display of bees and some samples of yummy manuka honey…the good stuff! I’ve mentioned before about manuka honey and it being some of the most expensive type of honey available due to its medicinal qualities. Two little girls pointed out the queen to me, with a blue spot painted on her back.
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Another interesting sight was this fake guillotine. Nice backdrop though, if you really had to go this way!IMG_4668

Although it was chilly and we left right before the rain hit, it was a nice experience and we didn’t lose our heads (helpful when needing to drive home).

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Year Three

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Well here I am, at my three year anniversary since leaving Texas and my old life behind. I recall lying in bed in Costa Rica the first night I was there wondering how long I would last. At that time, I only planned one year ahead. I knew I wouldn’t give up for at least a year, but where I would actually be was anyone’s guess. If I would have had a crystal ball and saw that three years later I would be living in New Zealand, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. Yet, here I am, no longer moving every couple of weeks — comfortable and happy.

It’s Easter here today, but you wouldn’t have known it. I’ve been out in the vineyards before harvest takes place, trying to catch a last glimpse of the grapes. The leaves are starting to change color which makes for some fantastic photos. I hope you enjoy them and thanks again to everyone who still supports what I’m doing!

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California….FINALLY

When I think of California, this is what I picture
When I think of California, this is what I picture

I took a little trip back to the states for a month and finally got to see California for the first time. I stayed with my BFF in Pebble Beach so I was living the good life! They recently purchased a home off of the famous 17 Mile Drive and close to the ocean, so I’m glad I got to see it and help around the yard.

The "Gingerbread House" in Pebble Beach for rent
The “Gingerbread House” in Pebble Beach for rent

Like New Zealand, California is also known for its wine production and we visited MANY tasting rooms and a few vineyards. I couldn’t help but notice a some similarities in the coastlines and the flora. There were a lot of those creepy trees I love so much as well as the same types of flowers and bushes.

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I was also lucky enough to go to the Monterey aquarium a couple of times and got in plenty of shopping (my downfall). We also hit up Big Sur and ate lots of great food in the time I was there. I’m happy to say I fulfilled my requirements for seafood, Mexican and BBQ and some stuff I had forgotten about like this cheese steak sandwich!

Mmmm Philly cheese steak!
Mmmm Philly cheese steak!

Some of the first places they took me were to the wharf and Cannery Row. I was overwhelmed with all of the free clam chowder being sampled along the walk and took advantage of just about all of them. THAT was something I hadn’t had in a while. The gigantic crab legs were hard to miss as well.

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We saw these great little squid air plants and I made a friend in the gift shop.

Squid air plants you soak in water once a week
Squid air plants you soak in water once a week

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There were sea lions and otters galore, like this one who found an urchin to munch on (very carefully).

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I was really impressed with the aquarium, so much that I went back a second time. The jellyfish and cephalopod exhibits were outstanding. I spent a lot of time staring at the flamboyant cuttlefish. There was a touch pool for skates and rays and a beautiful shallow pool with anemones.

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Skate – totally looks like a scary alien face

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Pharaoh cuttlefish

The jellyfish were so mesmerizing, it was hard to get out of the exhibit! They had quite a few octopi as well.

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Big Sur is a must do if you’re in the area, so they kindly took me on the drive and we stopped in at a nice place to eat overlooking the ocean.

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Closer to home, we went to Carmel Beach for some sunset shots and pictures of the infamous cypress tree. This is allegedly one of the most photographed trees in the U.S.

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Another trip took us to a sunset while drinking wine and having some appetizers.

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Carmel Beach had this one spot where the sand was pink. When mixed with the black and white sand then dried, it became purple. Of course I had to bring some home with me!

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While I still have food on my mind, there was some great fruit at this farmer’s market and I saw some odd cauliflower at a market outside of town. I’m also constantly amazed by the cereal aisles that I miss so much. Ours here is about 1/4 of that size and 50% more expensive!

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Thanks again, Dahnelle and Remo for making my first visit memorable and I look forward to coming back!

Grape Expectations

Marlborough Vineyards

After Christchurch, I took a 4 1/2 hour bus ride up to the Marlborough region…famous for it’s wines. The ride was good and I got to see the countryside which was starkly different from Otago. There were actually trees and the weather turned noticeably warmer. This is gonna be a good place, I just know it.

We made a stop in Kaikoura, which in the Maori language means crayfish. It was a pretty little town with a lot of history behind it.  We saw some people walking in wet suits from doing a seal dive. The place is known for its whale watching and dolphin encounters. It also had two separate mountain ranges very close to one another.

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IMG_4630The rocky beach looked toward the snow capped mountains. I love how I never seem to see trash on these beaches, unlike in Central America. The water seems so clean and the air is unbelievably fresh. It really is living up to the hype as far as I can see. The people are happy and friendly. They’re straightforward and polite at the same time which I love.

After another couple of hours, vineyards started popping up and I knew we were getting close. Never having been to California before, I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as vineyards went or what this place would look like. Blenheim was where I’d be staying for the next week on a house sit for a guy who owns a vineyard. Apparently, the ones I first saw on the way in. 35km later, I arrived at the bus depot and was promptly picked up by a former employee of his.

I felt like I was back in Costa Rica for a while there. In his yard there were orange, mandarin, grapefruit and lemon trees!  All with fruit on them! He had a veggie garden with a nice selection of lettuce, onions, celery, kale, cabbage and more. I even spotted a passion fruit vine growing up the side of a building.

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He had some vines on his property as well so I went out and took some pictures. The sunset that night was great too.

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He got a friend of his to take me around on client calls today which was great. I got to see a lot more of this region and you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a vineyard. It was carpeted with newly sprouting vines everywhere I looked. The region is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc wine.

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Yealands

We stopped by Yealands Winery which was unbelievable. This guy is doing it right and he has a ton of land to prove it. He is operating at zero carbon, reusing dead grapevines, playing music out in the vineyard and has chook houses scattered everywhere. In 2011, his sauvignon blanc won a top award in a highly prestigious competition. Not to mention, he has a killer view.

Part of Yealands vineyard
Part of Yealands vineyard

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View from Yealands
View from Yealands

No day would be complete without finding some puppies! We had a slight mishap on one of the vineyards but it led us to discover some brand new pups. I hadn’t held one that small in a long time…they were adorable.

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I found out that this pond I took a picture of the day before near the house also belonged to Yealand. The pink stuff is some kind of algae I believe.

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This was my lunch the other day at Rock Ferry winery. All I can say is, GO. Like, go tomorrow if you can swing it.

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