Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
This tunnel was one of two that led us into a completely hidden gully once frequented by early goldminers on the West Coast. A two minute walk through either tunnel brings you out into a ferny gully now silent but for the native birds. It was part of the West Coast Trail that I did in December 2008 with Tuatara Tours. www.tuataratours.co.nz
Saturday, March 28, 2009
I have just arrived home from a most unexpected day – unable to focus on writing work this morning I decided to go for a short drive and soon found myself out in rural Kaiapoi. On the way back in to town, I saw signs for a fair and followed them. Imagine my surprise when I ended up at the McLean’s Island Vintage Country Fair in the company of hundreds of vintage car and machinery fans. …….. blokes standing around watching and, I suppose, listening, to the putt-putt-clang-clang of strange old machines and motors; folks sitting on haybales all staring into an empty ring; traction engines puffing and hissing; Clydesdale horses, old fire engines and military vehicles doing their thing; and, best of all, ‘vehicular fans’ sitting around in cosy groups having picnic lunches, or chatting in camper vans. Just one more graphic example of the fact that there are ‘whole other worlds’ out there that most of us never discover - unless by chance. I love the randomness of that and I'm thrilled that I can still be surprised!
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
There’s nothing new about the concept of buying local to assure freshness and quality control but in this day and age of environmental sustainability it’s taken on a new level of significance – and at True South, the classy new restaurant at one of Queenstown’s newest hospitality players, The Rees Hotel & Luxury Apartments, it is at the core of everything they do. I particularly like the fact that at the end of their comprehensive and mouth-watering menu, they’ve listed all their local produce suppliers, complete with contact details so that diners can make contact with them directly to source their own edible goodies. Leading the charge at True South, is innovative young British chef, Ben Batterbury, 30, who developed his talent for creating exciting classically-based dishes under the direction of two Michelin-starred chefs – Gary Jones, who is now executive head chef at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons restaurant in Oxford; and Simon Crannage at the Charlton House luxury country hotel in Somerset.
Ben believes in food that is recognizable, superbly cooked, true to flavour and embellished to deliver an element of surprise. “Dining out is a kind of theatre, providing pleasure to all the senses,” he says. I’m a big fan of edible theatre myself – it’s the very best of performance and when I get to Queenstown in May you can be assured I will be indulging myself. It’s part of my job after all – not that I ever need an excuse to indulge myself. All images above taken by Ben Batterbury and supplied by The Rees From Top to Bottom: Foie gras; Langos pork belly; basil pannacotta; rhubarb. www.therees.co.nz
I love the adrenalin rush that comes with speed and one way to enjoy that without getting a speeding ticket, is to join Dart River Safaris on one of their fabulous jet-boating excursions up the stunningly beautiful Dart River – a place of jagged mountains, ancient beech forests and moody Lord of the Rings filming locations forty minutes from Queenstown. It’s an adventure that takes you into dramatic unspoiled landscapes you wouldn’t otherwise have access to – and there’s a lot to be said for that in my view. www.dartriver.co.nz
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
There’s no greater truism in tourism than the fact that nothing stays the same. This is especially so of hotels. I sometimes think they ‘change their clothes’ more often than I do – upgrading here, refurbishing there, extending, upscaling, modernising, revamping, re-imaging – it’s all part of hotel life; and as soon as one revamp is finished, it’s time to start another. And it’s pleasing to see New Zealand’s largest 100%-Kiwi owned hotel chain Scenic Circle, ringing in the changes and competing well with many bigger internationally-owned properties. They currently have sixteen hotels throughout the country – good, comfortable stays at very reasonable prices – and more are on the drawing board. As part of their expansion strategy, they’re also constantly re-vitalising their existing hotels. The Scenic Circle Bay of Islands Hotel is a case in point. They’ve recently added 56 new deluxe rooms here and refurbished the 38 existing standard rooms – with the fresh, bright colour schemes shown above. All four wings of the new deluxe rooms face into a lush subtropical garden, which features ambient up-lighting, water features and boardwalks. I think I’ll be more than happy curling up here. If you want to read about recent happenings at their flagship Dunedin property, click here or on Scenic Circle in the index line below this post. www.scenic-circle.co.nz
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Another in the Series Meet the People – Ordinary and Extraordinary New Zealanders Doing Interesting Things – Amanda McBeath freely confesses to being obsessed with macaroons and after numerous disasters she’s finally gotten the hang of making these tricky little bites of edible heaven – to the point where she’s started her own business, J’aime les macarons (I love macaroons). Christchurch-based Amanda, 33 has a Food Science and a Food Marketing degree from Otago University and after travelling overseas for several years – which included a stint “living in Paris and eating macaroons” – she returned to New Zealand and spent several years as head chef for White Tie Catering in Christchurch.
“I spent an obscene amount of time and money on ground almonds trying to learn how to make them to perfection,” she says. “The perfect macaroon depends on so many things,” says Amanda – “the humidity, oven temperature, sugar temperature, the accuracy of ingredient weights, how much you stir the mixture – and because I’m obsessive about them, I won’t sell any that aren’t perfect.” She’s currently making around 300 a week and selling them singly, or in half-dozen boxed sets at Canterbury Farmers’ Market at Riccarton House, at the Sunday French Market in SOL Square and at Blax Deli in Christchurch. She also enjoys the challenge of creating themed macaroons for birthdays, weddings, corporate functions, dinner parties, baby showers and other special occasions. That’s the beauty of them she says – apart from their inherent deliciousness of course – they have limitless creative potential and every week she experiments with a new flavour.
Monday, March 23, 2009
One of my favourite things about Melbourne - apart from the fact that it simply IS my favourite city - is the amazing array of cakes you find there. It must be said that the Italians certainly have a way with cakes and every time I visit Melbourne I head straight for the famous cake-makers extraordinaire - Brunettis, just off Lygon Street. When I visited Melbourne last November (my annual pilgrimage) I made quite the pig of myself at both their Carlton cafe and their inner city premises. In my own defence I should also mention that I like to PHOTOGRAPH cakes - probably more than I enjoy eating them; at least the act of photography, unlike the act of gorging, doesn't require weeks of penance in the gym after the event. I've written about Brunettis before - just click on their name in the index line below this post to see more edible goodies. www.brunetti.com.au
Faced with choices like this
Who could ever say life was dull and boring in Milton?
I especially like the bottom sign - I wonder if that's where Fairfax buries its journalists (alive) ?
Sunday, March 22, 2009
This, believe it or not, is one of the most popular eateries on Stewart Island. The Kai Kart is famous for its cod-and-chip lunches and when I was on the island a few weeks ago the queue was constant - with many taking their newspaper chip parcels to the nearby shore to eat....... surrounded byseagulls of course. www.stewartisland.co.nz
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I like the forms that are taking shape on Christchurch's first 5-star Green-rated office tower on Worcester Street opposite the Art Gallery. I think it would be a perfect place to live in a penthouse apartment - well..... in my dreamland! To see the building in its entirely put Going Green into the blog search box above left.
Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch
(As an interesting design idea I mean - not as something I personally enjoyed playing on)
Friday, March 20, 2009
And here was me thinking posters and billboards were put up by fairies under the cover of darkness. In all my years of wandering the streets photographing billboards and posters (I do do other things too), I have never EVER seen anyone putting them up. I'm not sure this fellow was entirely thrilled at my photographing him at work but I find you can get away with quite a lot if you pretend to be a foreigner who can't speak English.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I’ve lost count of the number of hotel beds I’ve slept in – (in my role as a hotel reviewer she quickly adds) – and I’ve sometimes wished I could take the beds home with me. The team at our very own, 100% New Zealand-owned Scenic Circle Hotels therefore, get three cheers from me. They don’t exactly let you walk out with the beds but, after an $8-million refurbishment of their flagship Dunedin property, The Southern Cross, over 200 of their special 7cm thick feather and wool mattress overlays have sold to guests staying at the hotel. They also feature one of those delightful things called a pillow menu – something I have yet to come to terms with ..… if only because I am very loyal to my own pillow and because I think a pillow menu should come in partnership with a chocolate menu so you can order both your favourite pillow and the sort of chocolate treat you want laid on it at turn-down time. But I digress….. cloud-soft bed-things are not all that’s been going on at the Southern Cross. Dunedin’s oldest and largest hotel, designed by prominent Italian architect, Louis Boldini was once considered the finest in the Southern Hemisphere. Much more recently, Christchurch’s Dalman Architects have brought the old beauty into the 21st century, showering 'her' in rich fabrics, ornate gilt-framed mirrors and crystal chandeliers. It’s a comeback for opulence and refinement in partnership with technology and your pick of goose feather, wool, hypo-allergenic, standard, tri or chamber style pillows. http://www.scenic-circle.co.nz/ http://www.dalman.co.nz/
Like many things in Christchurch at the moment, parts of the splendid Arts Centre buildings have been decked out in things floral. It must be said that some of the promotional design leaves a lot to be desired in the imagination stakes, but I did like this playful, colourful draping of the Arts Centre clock tower. It's a much less ho-hum statement than some of the others that tried to draw attention to both the Floral Festival and the Ellerslie Garden Show.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Another in the Series Meet the People – Ordinary and Extraordinary New Zealanders Doing Interesting Things – Doug Johansen and Jan Poole of Whangamata on the Coromandel are regarded by many as two of New Zealand’s foremost guides and tourism identities. As the owners of Kiwi Dundee Adventures, they have given thousands of international visitors the time of their lives on nature walks and tours that take in the very best of the Coromandel’s spectacular natural scenery. Both have independently received Queen’s medals for their contributions to conservation, New Zealand tourism and education; and Doug, who won a nation-wide competition to find New Zealand’s equivalent to Australia’s Crocodile Dundee (hence the company name), also won New Zealand’s inaugural Eco-Tourism Award in 1992. The pair formed their new company together in 1994 (although Doug has been involved in eco-tourism since 1975) and they’ve never tired of sharing their love of New Zealand. They’ve also kept their company small, employing just three other guides, so they can always give people a unique, personalised experience. www.kiwidundee.co.nz