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Kei te pēhea koe? How are you travelers? Do you need a day off yet? This might be a place and time to enjoy rest and rejuvenation. There are kayaks to rent, scooters, bikes, cars if you can manage driving on the WRONG side of the road, and hikes all nearby.

If not let's hit the road and spend the day at MARISCO

Brent Marris is the owner and winemaker of Marisco which houses 4 different brands -The Ned, Leefield Station, The Kings, and The Craft Series, each with 6 or more different wines under each brand. The wines are all amazing, because Brent is amazing. You may have heard of Oyster Bay Winery, their wines are imported to the U.S. and can be found everywhere - Brent started the Oyster Bay brand and sold it long ago to start Marisco.

This beautiful estate is housed on a 268 hectare (about 135 acres) property on the banks of the Waihopai River. The property and land have a variety of businesses besides vineyards and winemaking. Marisco has sheep, hogs and cattle, and they sheer the sheep right on the farm. The elegant beauty of this land is enhanced by the natural farming practices, organized vineyards and creative properties built for farming and winemaking.

We are thoroughly enchanted by this land, the slopes are gentle, the farm is fascinating and the wines are delicious. Our tour here was almost the entire day long, tasting the wines and enjoying lunch alongside the river at the portable tasting room which is moveable and completely open with garage doors on the river side. Everything that we tasted was magnificent, Brent was so gracious to open so much wine for us, and Siobhan the General Manager along with Anton Vineyard Manager were there to fill in any information or answer any questions. Along with touring the vines, we even got to visit the sheering shack where we touched and smelled the wool. Dawn was the first to notice the earthy but waxy aromas that were in there. I think that I saw her slip some into her pocket. She talked about making a sweater later...

We had steelhead for lunch that came directly from the Wairau River. The fish was grilled with an array of grilled vegetables, and we all paired tastes of all the wines, a perfect accompaniment and a fantastic way to enjoy lunch. We sat outside alongside the tributary to the Wairau as we soaked up the sun and sweet setting.

Each day of this tour we drive back to the hotel and each traveler talks about how THIS day was definitely the best one of all. So far, we decided that each day builds on the next, as we not only learn about the wines of New Zealand, but gain respect, knowledge and understanding of the people, their lifestyle and culture and how the Maori have been incorporated in a very inclusive way. They are one people, one land - two islands, but with one heart.

It's not hard to imagine this land, it's clean, freshly settled with native populations that are included and honored, and you can feel the respect that each of them have for their beautiful country. We are enamored and filled with gratitude as we drive back to our hotel, find some nibbles for dinner and stare at the midnight blue of the sky that is swarming with stars.

The Phoenix Astronomical Society Observatory is located nearby in the stunning Black Birch Mountains near Blenheim, a testament to the clear skies here in New Zealand.

Let's sleep like angels tonight my travelers and dream of far away planets while we are drinking Sparkling Wine!

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Kia Koa Friends and Travelers. We really don't want to leave this glorious city, but the sea, the ferry and the South Island are luring us away.

The Interislander Ferry Terminal is located about a 15 minute walk from our hotel. The boat leaves at 8:45am so we pack our bags, eat a little breakfast and head to the terminal on the bus. We'll arrive to Picton by 12:15pm. Our 2 and half hours on the ferry will give us time to take in all the views while on Cook Strait.

Cook Strait Ferry Terminal is our destination in Picton, the tiny village nestled in Shakespear Bay. This village is tiny! But it's packed with shops and cafes, and no lack of charm here.

Cook Strait connects the Tasman Sea on the northwest with the South Pacific Ocean on the southeast, and runs next to Wellington. It is 14 miles wide at its narrowest point, and is considered one of the most dangerous and unpredictable waters in the world. This crossing involves chilly water, treacherous tides and often-rough weather. This is why sea captains and navigators of New Zealand are among the best. The Strait is named after James Cook, the first European commander to sail through it in 1770. The Māori name is Raukawa or Raukawa Moana, meaning "bitter leaves".

Picton is steeped in maritime history with the exploration of Queen Charlotte Sound and much of the early New Zealand port history which also lies here. The Māori whaling traditions, and European settler history all are identified in this town. Through the years, Picton has been a bustling port, a gold mining town, a fishing port and now a tourism destination. We take full advantage of this, but need to keep it short as head off to enjoy our lunch in a destination fairly close to Picton. We're heading west towards a lovely spot on the Pelorus Sound, Mills Bay Mussels.

Our delicious meal is only surpassed by the superb service and the friendly family that runs the joint. We love this setting, the mussels and chowder, the people and so far the South Island. Its only about a half hour drive to Blenheim. This lunch with the sweet and plump New Zealand mussels was definitely worth it. And Jan was happy to see her dad Richard loving the experience, he is apparently a seafood lover and in particular mussels. We learned a lot from him since he has knowledge of the waters here, and was able to give us information on the shellfish in this sea.

Nau mai ki Blenheim!

Blenheim is yet another small town, and about a 15 minute drive from the northeast coast of the South Island. The hotel: Chateau Marlborough says it all, we are in the famous wine region of MARLBOROUGH, and it's exciting because we also have an outdoor pool, we stay overnight for 2 days here, and it's pretty warm out, so the bathing suits do come out! But the most exciting news of all is Marlborough SAUVIGNON BLANC and PINOT NOIR! This is the land of sunshine and sea breezes, it's maritime climate but not the kind that we're used to where we find grey skies and chilly wind, this is sunny and warm with cool breezes.

They know who they are here, they know that they are all about wine, especially Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay (and don't forget Sparkling wine too). We settle into this town and spend the rest of the day exploring, shopping, swimming and resting. Traci is found reading by the pool, Denise is on a walk/hike nearby with Jan, Richard is resting and digesting those mussels, and the rest of us are scattered about finding jewels of interest.

Here's your chance to unpack that luggage, find an activity, rest or read about Blenheim and the most difficult decision that you have to make this afternoon is finding a place for dinner tonight. I will see you out there my travelers. Enjoy your time here, I love this town.

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We arrive in the capital city of Wellington Sunday morning, a great way to end our first week. Everywhere you look on this drive to Wellington has a view, either mountains, ocean, bay, or farmland - it's all so beautiful and idyllic. The city view from atop the road into Wellington is filled with water views, hillsides and the skyscrapers. We have time before heading to the Te Papa Museum and Barb is eager to see the Botanical Gardens here, so we head in that direction!

Barb is in heaven, and we lose her somewhere around the gazebo, she's identifying plants for all of us, but it's hard to keep up, there's so much to see and enjoy. We could spend the entire day here but we have a lot of other activities to experience yet.

We arrive at the Te Papa Museum about 11am - so we only slip in an hour at the gardens, but it's a definite stop for some of us later in the day - Barb! Te Papa is FILLED with everything New Zealand from artifacts and geological material to Maori history and art, photography and maps. We explore some of the 800,000 artworks, taonga, photographs, collection objects, and botanical and zoological specimens from the Te Papa’s collections. And we learn about the different cultures that New Zealand has within it's borders. This is a wonderful tour through the museum and we spend 2 and half hours enjoying it, but we're getting hungry (and thirsty!) for lunch. Our lunch spot is nearby, the Karaka Cafe - which has Hangi meals - Hangi Pizza among them, and now that we know Hangi foods well so we are all over this and other Hangi menu items here. The wines are, of course, delicious, and there is so much to enjoy. It's another great lunch on our tour.

In the afternoon we settle into our hotel rooms at the Copthorne Hotel Wellington Oriental Bay. A fantastic location with Bay views and within walking distance to many shops and cafes. We have our walks up Mount Victoria this afternoon, a few of us are staying behind, lured by the views, shopping and general interest in learning more about the area.

Mount Victoria... ah... another magnificent spot to view the surrounding area. Mount Victoria gives us views of the city, the harbor and ocean, and the entire region from a lovely altitude where we feel and smell the fresh salty air. We walk up Alexandra Road, to the walking tracks that lead up the hillside. It's about a 20 minute walk as we start on the Southern Walkway on Oriental Parade which is right by our hotel and then another 20 minutes to the summit of Mount Victoria. This is a really great way to work off the lunch, and spend a somewhat lazy Sunday afternoon. Legend has it that Wellington harbor, originally a land-locked lake, was home to two large and very active taniwha (sea monsters). One taniwha forged a passage to the open sea creating the entrance to the harbor. The second, named Whataitai, tried a different route, became stranded and died. It is believed that Tangi-te keo (Mt Victoria) was named after the soul of Whataitai.

Here is an article on Wellington from the Guardian Magazine, check it out for more details on this capital city located on the North Island.

Dinner is on our own tonight, many are pleased to have the time to gather with new friends or have alone time. We love this city and wish that we could spend a longer time here, but we all agree that we need to come back to see and experience more of this awesome city. And some of us - Barb - want to live here! For now it's sleepy time.

E Hoa Tangata Pai!

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