Leaving Taupo, our next destination is Havelock North.
Everywhere you look it’s bursting with vineyards, all well known if you’re a wine buff.
Cafes, galleries, restaurants and boutiques line the streets which span from the central roundabout.
Time to find our B&B for the next 2 nights, and after driving seemingly a long way into the country, past the grazing sheep and cows, we find the bougainvillaea gates to Havelock House.
This is downtime for us.
To be up to our necks in the swimming pool, to take tea under the shade trees, and to sit down in the morning to a homemade breakfast in the conservatory. That’s what we love to do.
Havelock North, the ‘Fruit Bowl’ of NZ, where Milton grew up as a little boy.
One is amazed at the green and lush pastures, the orchards, the vineyards, and some mighty fine looking round sheep, and cows in colours of pink, ochre, sienna, and blue/black.
An absolute must is to have a ‘Rush Munroe’ fruit ice cream. Re-living a memory.
We are recommended to try Pipi – a cafe bistro with glorious Italian styled food. What a fun place. Loved the pink eclectic decor and rooms leading outside to a meandering courtyard. To be honest this is some of the best food we’ve had in ages. Simple and tasty. So enjoyed the whole evening.
We take the mountainous winding road to see the view from Te Mata Point.
How were we so brave as to take that road!
Can 2 cars really pass?
We have lunch with his cousin, who now lives in the area, and make more discoveries of places half forgotten.
Time then to move on to Napier.
Here’s a town that was virtually destroyed by earthquake in 1931.
A complete rebuild was required.
The style chosen was Art Deco with its spare clean lines and geometric motifs.
A point of difference from any other city.
Decorative wooden Victorian houses perch on the surrounding high hills – waiting to be sketched.
The Art Deco promenade stretches along the sea shore, as far as you can see.
Festivals celebrate the Art Deco theme with a sense of fun and irreverence.
February each year is a huge celebration and people arrive from all over to be part of it.
Meantime, industry here is about exporting timber.
Looking down from a high view, it looks like toy town far below.
The port is going flat out, tiny trucks and cranes loading tiny ships with logs.
Now a brief detour through Rotorua to the Coromandel Coast.
At Coromandel we find our B&B and take tea under the shade trees – as you do – with views across the paddocks and the sheep, towards the township.
The grazing sheep have recently been shorn, so much less round and sketchable but still appealing.
This was an early gold mining settlement and several of the buildings still remain in the one main street.
We decide to do a coastal walk next day.
Lots of sitting on our chuffs so a good chance to do something physical.
It’s a 9am start with Barbara driving the mini-bus, first to pick up 2 other keen sorts, and on to the drop off point.
Nearly 3 hours later, we begin a walk which will take us up hills and down dales, along skinny stony tracks with extraordinary views down vertical cliffs to turquoise water below.
For nearly 5 hours we work our way along, slipping and sliding sometimes, saved by the odd tree, but enjoying the challenge.
When at last we arrive at Stoney Bay, the pickup point, the other 2 are already there, and Barbara has tea and fruit cake waiting.
It’s heaven. The ducks think so too if they can score a crumb.
But will my legs function tomorrow!
Auckland here we come.
It’s a reasonable distance but we stop at Thames for a last coffee before we go.
After this you are back to civilisation, if that’s what one calls it.
Traffic lights seem always to be on red, and you no longer have the road to yourself.
It’s been nice to be away from all this.
We almost miss the house we’re headed for.
The trees are so green and leafy all the way up the street, nothing looks the same!
Oh good there it is.
Down the driveway we go and park alongside the house.
Oh there’s the rabbit and guinea pig – still alive!
The 2 dogs wander out. Intrigued.
Flying out of the house comes the littlest. Now 6 years old and excited beyond belief.
One by one everybody comes to greet us.
Oh it’s so lovely to be here in this busy household.
Our days are spent with each and every one.
Hearing their stories, catching up on what goes on in their very full lives.
This is family. We share our similarities and experiences and dreams.
Christmas excitement has been rising all week.
We’re on a street in Auckland where everyone decorates their home with Christmas lights.
Some simple others very creative, even naughty!
The hundreds of people who throng the streets every night are delighted by the show.
But don’t try and go out there. You might never get back in.
Christmas day dawns.
7.30am and all is silent.
I creep downstairs for a cuppa tea.
Amazing but the youngest doesn’t knock on our door till after 8, to say ‘Come down for present opening!’
Such excitement for her.
Santa ate his meringue and drank his milk.
The reindeer ate their carrots.
Piles of wrapped gifts are handed out to all 9 of us.
We all pull on something comfortable. You know you’ll end up with lots on your clothes as everyone pitches in to prepare a late lunch.
We go for buffet style as it’s easier to choose what and how much.
Later in the afternoon other family members arrive and we swell to mob of 16.
Such a lovely mix of oldies and youngies.
Now we get down to some serious eating. As though we haven’t already!
Having a restauranteur in the family is a real bonus.
This is food of the gods.
Things we couldn’t usually produce ourselves.
Two of us have already decided to have our own ‘Masterchef Not’ show.
For people who can’t cook and fine with that.
How is it when presented with a dozen or so extraordinary desserts later, we still have room for almost all of them.
I’m glad I’ve decided what my NY resolution will be!
On Boxing Day M and I and two of the teens decide to see a photographic show at the Museum from the V&A on fashion photography, from over the last 60 or so years.
We all find it really interesting. It’s a well put together show. We liked the ‘Shoot it’ gallery where we could all be famous fashion photographers for an hour or so.
We have a funny time finding our way around the Museum.
If your signage and even the info people tell me the show I want is on the 3rd floor, how come it’s not.
I could get cranky but we turn it into a laugh instead.
Our days are coming to and end.
It’s been very rewarding catching up with our family and a few good friends. Those that are not elsewhere.
Being there in ‘real time’ is definitely the way to go.
Happy New year to all.