New Zealand

Summer of 2012 we visited the “Middle Earth” and enjoyed their fine wines!

I had been to New Zealand years ago when I lived in Vanuatu, but my wife had never been there.

Our story begins on an overpriced movie set 8,928 miles away.  Picture it: New Zealand, 2012.  We boarded a plane, crossed the International Date Line (which is not, it turns out, a phone service for singles), and disembarked in a herd of sheep.  The purpose of our vacation was twofold: wine and hobbits—Hobbits, of course, being those cute little fur-footed men in Lord of the Rings (at least I hope it was fur and not some sort of congenital fungus)—and wine, well, being the drink that’s hobbit-forming.


Now, there are two kinds of people in this world—those of us who see Boromir and Denethor as perfectly reasonable children’s names, and others who think Tolkien is what you pay to ride the subway.  Members of my own family hear the word ShadowFax and think I’m talking about an outdated piece of office equipment.  (At Mom’s, Bag End just means it’s time to buy more ziplocks.)  “It’s sci-fi,” people complain.  Yes, but this isn’t your average intergalactic love triangle tested by the bonds of the space-time continuum.  We’re talking about 618 minutes of Orlando Bloom fighting decomposing bad guys in a slightly see-through tunic.  If that’s sci-fi, I don’t want to watch it—I wanna take it behind the school and try to kiss it.


The film centers around four weed-smoking midgets on a quest to destroy evil jewelry (a theme eerily similar to my own rehearsal dinner).  To succeed, they must travel across the plains of Middle Earth following a half-naked guide that vaguely resembles Dick Cheney.  Their cargo is The One Ring to Rule Them All (which most people assume is what every girl gets on her engagement).  To make a long story (twelve DVDs, and 20 hours of bonus footage) short, good prevails—but not before maiming some truly unfortunate looking trolls.


Since all of the movie sets have been torn down (except Hobbiton), we spent a lot of our trip canvassing the two islands to see prominent shrubs or trees which, if you look carefully enough, can be seen in the actual film. Although we didn’t travel in costume (not because we didn’t think of it, mind you, but because TSA has this silly policy about medieval weaponry), several did.  We heard from our tour guide—on the full six-hour bus ride to a mountain where nothing exists from the movie but rocks—that some people come in chainmail, speaking nothing but perfect Elvish.  One man actually hired a helicopter to fly him over the top of Mount Doom so he could throw a thousand dollar replica of the Precious into the fire (which, for all he knows, is a steaming pile of Wellington landfill).  We flew 23 hours to simulate a battle with talking trees, and suddenly, we’re the sanest ones in the bunch!


To this day, I’m not sure if we really saw Hobbits—or if people just looked short after all the wine.  Either way, New Zealand was amazing.  I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to sit on a plane until they lose complete sensation of their lower body.


So where did we stay, eat, drink, and who took us where? To tell the truth there is not much I would change about the trip. I hate to say it but I would have skipped the days spent in Christ Church. I would have been happier just remembering the city as it was when I first visited years ago, before it was destroyed.

We started in Auckland, it is after all where the big planes land. For some reason the Admirals Landing was difficult to get in touch with, but we loved it, I mean loved it. A spectacular view across the harbor to Auckland, the ferry a hundred yards away, and a great little Italian restaurant around the corner. We arrived on our anniversary so I wanted a special place for dinner and we found it in the Orbit restaurant, Sky City. A quick, beautiful ferry ride and a short walk brought us to the iconic tower in Auckland, a long elevator ride later and we were at the top, promptly led to our table by the revolving window with a wine cooler of flowers provided by Best Blooms. So a restaurant with a view to kill for and mediocre food right, no wrong!! The food was good, not our best ever meal, but a meal that we will always remember with pleasure, a meal that was probably the PERFECT anniversary dinner.  The next morning we boarded a ferry and headed to Waiheke Island and wine country. We were met at the dock by Christine Gisby who regaled us with island tales as we hustled her to as many wineries as possible before we had to catch the last ferry home. Wine lovers, don’t miss this island, Cable Bay, Mudbrick, Kennedy Point and more! I might want to spend more than one day if I go back.

Wildlife, Wine, and Wandering

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