Friday, November 11, 2011

Upbeat and Down Under

No, not Australia. I'm in New Zealand -- which I will never again think of as an appendage to the larger country. New Zealand may be smaller in size but it totally rules in beauty of landscape, variety of terrain and the kindness, generosity and friendliness of the Kiwis -- what the locals call themselves. And they have a cheekiness that is irresistible. New Zealand is the Michael J. Fox of nations -- not large but so appealing!
We've seen everything from glaciers to forest glades (where we had a proper tea), driven in one rushing river and jetboated up another one. Last night's Gala closing dinner for our Society of American Travel Writers Conference (why I'm here) was amazing and I have the pictures to prove it -- just have to get home and upload the 600+ photos I've taken in the last nine days. Shameless, I got down on the floor to get the right angle on the Black Tower of Isengard

and Jack and I posed (several times) with a couple of Orcs. If you're not a Lord of the Rings fan, this will mean nothing. If you are -- be damned impressed!

Yesterday was a wine tour -- and we also did an olive oil tasting. Lunch at the Coney Winery was superb -- needless to say, lamb here is excellent. The Martinborough Vineyard is noted for its pinot noirs -- but I was most impressed with the flowers, both wild and cultivated.

Tuesday afternoon we visited a spectacular garden -- 400 rhododendrons in bloom -- and me without a camera! I left the battery in the hotel room in the charger. RATS!
This morning the whole event was capped off with a champagne brunch sponsored by Air New Zealand. Wonderful food and the most delightful program by the "Cuddly Cook" Annabelle White. Talk about high energy -- and funny -- but you had to be there.

I'm going to miss New Zealand. There's so much we didn't see -- it would be worth the butt-busting trip to come back again -- but only if I can fly Air New Zealand!