Thursday, March 6, 2008

Onward to Marlborough

This is Chard's Farm winery just outside Queenstown.

Boy, these NZ rental company people are efficient here. This is a second time a Budget car has been delivered to our hotel, right on time. Very little paper work, and away we went. We were out of Christchurch and on the road by 8:45 a.m. It's a gorgeous drive up through the North Canterbury plain where there are rolling high hills on both sides of the road, very green, with happy sheep nibbling along. As we got further north, the road ran right beside the green Pacific with mountains on the left. We went through some pretty twisty mountain roads with cedars and big pines on every side, then down into Kaikoura which is famous for it's whale watching tours. We skipped that in favour of a seafood lunch at the Pier Hotel on the bay. Bill had a rich seafood chowder - cream based - and, I had the local crayfish, which is like Florida crawfish. Delicious. (By the way, Karolyn, Finz in S. Bay is closed.)

Back on the road, we drove along the Pacific for another 45 minutes and spotted seals sunning themselves on the rocks. It looks a little like the rugged California coast. Then, back inland for another 45 minutes through dry brown high hills again. It's a very dramatic landscape against the brilliant blue sky. The Awatere Valley appears one of the newest vineyard areas with 100's of acres of newly planted vines. Got into Blenheim about 4:00 p.m. The Marlborough Valley is wide, flat and full of wineries. There are grapes everywhere you look. Our hotel, The Vintner's Hotel, is separate one-bedroom apartments - beautifully furnished, modern, and with a huge bathroom.

Oh, this morning, we stopped at Pegasus Bay vineyard about an hour outside Christchurch. What a lovely setting with rose and herb gardens, views, and excellent wines to taste. Neil, the dry riesling is terrific.

Tomorrow, is Marlborough wineries day. We are right among the vines here, Staet Landt is across the street, and Cloudy Bay is around the corner. It's pretty amazing.

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