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11 Jun 2017

New Zealand Adventure - Part II

After a week and a half making our way around the North and South islands, we finally ended up in Queenstown. Jarv has some family friends who live out there and were kind enough to offer us their guesthouse for the duration of our stay.

I think the pictures speak for themselves:

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Queenstown, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Queenstown, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Queenstown, New Zealand

It was a pretty epic guesthouse and view. All that to themselves! Really makes one think...

We made instant friends with their two Standard Poodles. Sweet Sophie below has cataracts and is a glossy eyed, calm old girl whilst the much younger Paddy, not pictured, had a much more excitable temperament, often stealing the limelight from poor Sophie.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Queenstown, New Zealand

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THE CARDRONA: QUAD BIKE TOUR
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Our first escapade: quad biking up a mountain. I psyched myself out before going, convincing myself these were terribly dangerous machines that were not at all to be trusted, etc. etc. Needless to say, we had a fantastic time. Whilst, yes, you do have to be vigilant whilst riding and always keep a firm grip (and if you have weak upper body strength, I probably wouldn't recommend you go riding on very hilly/uneven terrain to be honest), we were free to go as slow (or speedy) as we felt comfortable with. Through amazing bends and streams and paths up the mountain we went; at no point were we in danger of falling off any mountainsides! For our efforts, we were rewarded with amazing valley views:

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Cardrona quad bikes, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Cardrona quad bikes, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Cardrona quad bikes, New Zealand

Our guide was knowledgable, friendly, professional and relaxed, and we had him all to ourselves. I'd highly recommend a tour with The Cardrona. It was my first time riding, so don't feel like you need to be an expert. There are a variety of routes you can take and your guide will be happy to go via any of them, depending on your experience level.


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WANAKA & RIPPON VINEYARD 
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After that exhilarating ride, we drove up to Wanaka (Cardrona is on the way from Queenstown to Wanaka). Wanaka is a scenic town built around its eponymous lake, a place where people flock to go skiing in the winter and swim and enjoy water-sports in the summer.

We left the car parked in Wanaka town centre and began a 45 minute walk up to Rippon Vineyard, passing the famous Wanaka tree on our way.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Wanaka tree, New Zealand



We arrived, sweating and thirsty, just in time for the next wine tasting. Rippon Vineyard is a family-owned and run biodynamically farmed vineyard that has been around since 1982. Fun fact: it's often quoted as being the most photographed vineyard in the world. It's not difficult to see why. 

Nick Mills, the son of Lois and Rolfe Mills (who originally planted a few rows of experimental vines in the land that would later go on to become Rippon Vineyard) is the head winemaker (he's also a former Olympic skier!). One of the whites that was new to me was a deliciously dry Gewurztraminer; a new one to add to the ever-growing list of 'fantastic wines I had in New Zealand'...

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Wanaka Rippon Vineyard, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Wanaka Rippon Vineyard, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Wanaka Rippon Vineyard, New Zealand

We found a 'shortcut' back to Wanaka town, which cut our walking time down to about half an hour via the vines and lake, treating us to stunning views the entire way. If you find yourself in Wanaka, treat yourself to an ice cream at Patagonia - they're incredibly decadent and generously portioned! They also have branches in Queenstown and Arrowtown.


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QUEENSTOWN
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We didn't actually make it into the actual town centre in Queenstown until our third day in the area. It is as stunning as people say, but it's worth noting that it is of course a destination town, meaning it is constantly filled with tourists and therefore geared at tourists. This creates a fun, happy, 'holiday mode' vibe but it also feels like a bit of a bubble and the town centre isn't really much of an authentically local experience. However, there are still a myriad of great activities worth going there for!

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Queenstown, New Zealand

During our afternoon wandering by the water, we decided last minute to give the Thunder Jet a whirl. Why not, we figured; it looked like fun.

It was! Our guide blasted some great tunes (like the Foo Fighters) and took us on a gorgeous ride through the pristine landscape of the Shotover and Kawarau rivers, places only accessible via helicopter or jet boat. At one stage, we saw a herd of cows just...hanging out on a beach. A rather bizarre sight 😳. Oh, and the jet is famous for performing 360 degree turns so if you go, prepare to get splashed and hold on tight. Thoroughly good fun 😊


Euriental | luxury travel & style | Thunder Jet Queenstown, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Thunder Jet Queenstown, New Zealand

My parents, having visited two years prior, recommended we try Fergburger - famed for delicious burgers the size of a toddler's head. Now, I live in London, where we have some of the greatest burgers in the world (in my humble opinion 😄). If you've been to Patty and Bun, you'll know what I mean. So I was a little dubious. Nevertheless, we knew we had to give them a try so off we went. If you call ahead and place an order instead of eating in, you skip the giant queues and simply collect at a different window. 

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Fergburger Queenstown, New Zealand

We took our burger (we weren't particularly hungry that afternoon so decided to share...I mean, it's the size of two regular burgers anyway) to a nearby park to sit in the sun. You know what? It was good! Really good. Juicy, flavourful, enooormous and satisfying. I'm still a loyal Patty and Bun fan but I thoroughly enjoyed Fergburger and I'd happily recommend it.

For meat lovers, I'd also suggest Flame Bar & Grill. They have an amazing meat platter to share and if you're lucky enough to sit in the conservatory area as we were, you can enjoy a view of the water and people strolling below.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Fergburger Queenstown, New Zealand

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ARROWTOWN
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A historic gold-mining town about a 20 minute drive from Queenstown, Arrowtown is a quaint settlement with a number of well-preserved shops, cafes, restaurants and a museum. The town itself is fairly small, but if you do find yourself there I would recommend coffee and lunch at The Chop Shop. Their outdoor terrace is lovely (though there are a few wasps...for anyone who is as jumpy as me when they're around) and the food is delicious and fresh. 

There is some stunning scenery outside of Arrowtown town centre (I feel like I say that about all of NZ), so a bike ride or car drive around is highly encouraged.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | The Chop Shop Arrowtown, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Arrowtown, New Zealand

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QUEENSTOWN HELI TOURS 
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This was one of the biggest highlights of the trip and a huge bucket list tick for me. We'd originally booked a helicopter ride for the previous afternoon but were told we'd have to move it to the next morning as they needed one more person in the helicopter and nobody else had booked for the morning we wanted. Although this meant that now we had to 'share' the helicopter with 2 other couples, it wasn't enough to put a damper on my excitement.

Over lakes, mountains and the city we flew, the pilot pointing out particular areas of interest along the way.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Heli Tours Queenstown, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | heli tours Queenstown, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | heli tours Queenstown, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | heli tours Queenstown, New Zealand

About half an hour into the flight, the pilot landed atop a glacier and we were able to jump out for fifteen minutes of alpine exploration. I can't describe the feeling - stepping out onto a snowy mountain in the middle of summer overlooking this beautiful, unspoilt valley landscape. We spent every minute with giant grins on our faces.

Fifteen minutes later we'd taken our photos and admired the view (and I'd snuck in a cheeky snowball aimed at Jarv's head), so back into the helicopter we went, over the mountains and lakes and back to base.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | heli tours Queenstown, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | heli tours Queenstown, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | heli tours Queenstown, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Heli Tours Queenstown, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Heli Tours Queenstown, New Zealand

If you wish to book a helicopter ride with Heli Tours Queenstown, make sure you read the terms and call them on the morning of your ride to confirm you'll be OK to go. Be prepared to be flexible, as weather conditions or lack of other passengers may mean you are unable to go at the original time you'd hoped.

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ONSEN HOT POOLS
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From the chilly peak of a snowy mountain to the warmth and tranquility of a private onsen we went. Onsen Hot Pools is set up high on a cliff, a mere 10 minute drive from Queenstown centre. The water used in the onsens is pure spring water and each hot pool is completely private, overlooking the gorgeous Shotover River canyon. Every now and then we'd spot a helicopter passing by above or a jet whizzing by down below, frequent reminders of all the excitement we'd been experiencing over the last few days.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Onsen Hot Pools Queenstown, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Onsen Hot Pools, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Onsen Hot Pools Queenstown, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Onset Hot Pools Queenstown, New Zealand

We went for The Tandeki experience, meaning our booking came with a selection of NZ treats, an aromatherapy burner and two glasses of local wine.


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AMISFIELD 
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On our final afternoon in New Zealand we headed to award-winning Amisfield for dinner. This came highly recommended by our family friends so we were really looking forward to a long, leisurely lunch in the sun with some fantastic food and wine. It far exceeded our expectations.

We were seated outside with two of their Sinking Spritzes to begin with (Sauvignon Blanc, Aperol, Cocchi Rosa, Picon Club, elderflower cordial). We both decided to go for the "Trust the Chef" menu, me without wine pairings, Jarv with.

With Trust the Chef you leave everything in the hands of more-than-capable chef Vaughan Mabee, who has worked in world class kitchens such as Noma; a good indication that the food will not disappoint. Forgive me for not remembering what many of the dishes below were - there was no menu to refer to, just plate after plate of beautiful, fresh produce. Just know that it was all excellent!


Euriental | luxury travel & style | Amisfield Queenstown, New Zealand

Savoury beetroot macarons on the left...can't recall what's on the right 🤔

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Amisfield Queenstown, New Zealand

I still crave the freshly baked sourdough bread with duck fat. Drool.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Amisfield Queenstown, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Amisfield Queenstown, New Zealand

Scallop on the left, sea urchin vol au vent on the right.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Amisfield Queenstown, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Amisfield Queenstown, New Zealand

At this stage, chef Mabee came over himself to generously grate fresh truffles alllll over the meat. Absolutely moreish.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Amisfield Queenstown, New Zealand

If you have time, definitely treat yourself to an incredible meal at Amisfield. The atmosphere is wonderful, staff are very friendly and efficient and the food is delectable. Obviously it goes without saying that the wine is brilliant too. You can't go wrong here, especially sitting outside in their gorgeous garden in the summertime.

Well, here we are, at the end of a long (long for us, anyway) two weeks in New Zealand. Remarkable, impressive, breathtaking New Zealand...two weeks is nowhere near enough to see even half of the country, it deserves a full month at least. I can't wait to go back.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Queenstown, New Zealand

30 May 2017

New Zealand Adventure - Part I

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Wellington to Picton ferry journey, New Zealand


This trip had been in the works for a long time. We'd had a year to get excited, plan and prepare for the adventure and it was going to be one of the most action-packed trips we'd taken in a while. Whilst we are on the move often and we do tend to get a lot done in a short amount of time on our travels, this was two full weeks of moving around, exploring various parts of the country and staying at multiple locations, from small B&Bs to farms to friends' houses to international luxury hotels.

I couldn't wait to get going.

We flew Qantas First out to Sydney, then Air NZ into Auckland. Both were excellent. I'm already a huge Qantas fan - the crew are always such a pleasure to interact with and food is fantastic. Air NZ was new to both of us, and we agreed by the end of our trip that every single flight, though short, had been great with them. The crew again were wonderful, food was top notch and everything ran smoothly from start to end.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Qantas First
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Qantas First
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Qantas First
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Qantas First lounge, Auckland, New Zealand

The Qantas First lounge in Sydney.


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HOBBITON, MATAMATA, NORTH ISLAND
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We had to. We just had to visit Hobbiton. As two avid LOTR fans, how could we trek all the way across the world to Middle Earth and miss out on Frodo's hometown? So, our time in NZ began with a full-on nerdy visit to Hobbiton. The sun was blazing hot that day with very little respite (not suitable for photography, hence the limited number of usable photos) and yes, there are various tours staggered throughout the day, so it's not quite as people's Instagram shots would have you believe - there will be lots of other people in 90% of your pics. Still, it was a bit of fun to get a sneak peek behind the scenes of one of the most famous and beloved franchises of all time.



Euriental | luxury travel & style | Hobbiton, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Hobbiton, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Hobbiton, New Zealand

Hahaha...how cute is Jarv?


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WELLINGTON, NORTH ISLAND

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After our time up North visiting Hobbiton and a couple of days at a farm stay there, we began moving towards the Southernmost part of the North Island in preparation to head to South Island. After a short flight, we arrived in the capital - Wellington.  With only a one night stopover, we came very quickly to learn that Wellington in the summer is well worth a longer visit! The glittering ocean frames the city beautifully and on a hot, sunny day we passed by a group of locals that had gathered to spend the afternoon jumping off a high diving platform into the fresh water, performing all manner of hilarious belly flops and dive bombs on their way down. The city felt alive and cheerful.

The food and coffee scene in Wellington is buzzing - we had a fantastic dinner at Charley Noble (order the pappardelle with duck ragu and Gran Padano...it's divine) and great coffee pretty much everywhere. One thing that drove me slightly mad though was that there literally seemed to be no coffee shops open after 4pm, even on a regular weekday! So if you're a coffee fiend (like Jarv), it's something to keep in mind.

We stayed at the Intercontinental - the room was simple but more than adequate for a short stay. The location was especially convenient for walking around the city, so it was ideal for our one night stay (plus, Charley Noble is literally across the road!).



Euriental | luxury travel & style | Intercontinental Wellington, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Intercontinental Wellington, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Hangar, Wellington, New Zealand

Hangar cafe. Coffee - excellent. Food - okay.

To get from North to South Island, we took the Interislander. The ferry from Wellington to Picton takes 3 hours and has been described by many as one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world. It does not disappoint. The ferry passes the most stunning scenery (be prepared to share the decks with many other passengers looking on in awe - I imagine even for those who have made the crossing multiple times it still impresses), and we were lucky to experience smooth waters and beautiful clear blue skies during our crossing. I mean, look at these views:

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Wellington to Picton ferry journey, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Wellington to Picton ferry journey, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Wellington to Picton ferry journey, New Zealand

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MARLBOROUGH, SOUTH ISLAND
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Upon arrival in Picton, we headed for our hire car and were off within mere minutes. We were staying only about a 20 minute drive from the ferry terminal...and I literally feel a pang of longing and nostalgia as I introduce you to our home for the next few nights: the idyllic Marlborough B&B, also known as "Woodside". 



Euriental | luxury travel & style | Woodside, Marlborough B&B, New Zealand

This place is an absolute dream. It's like a fantasy dollhouse come to life, complete with good-natured dogs (Paddy - the black Labrador, and Flynn - the Rhodesian Ridgeback).

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Woodside, Marlborough B&B, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Woodside, Marlborough B&B, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Woodside, Marlborough B&B, New Zealand

Nanette is one half of the duo (the other half being Steve) that owns Woodside. If you are lucky enough to book a stay there, definitely have dinner in at least one evening. Her platters are like no other. The boys (Paddy & Flynn) won't bother you...they'll watch longingly but politely, perhaps drooling ever so slightly. Who could blame them?

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Woodside, Marlborough B&B, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Woodside, Marlborough B&B, New Zealand

Breakfast can be had on the deck just outside your room (or inside if it's too cold). Steve and Nanette will even bring you a breakfast menu to choose and order from.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Woodside, Marlborough B&B, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Woodside, Marlborough B&B, New Zealand

I'm wearing Jarv's jacket because it was a chilly morning - I mean, my shoulders are broad but they're not that giant...

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Woodside, Marlborough B&B, New Zealand

The area surrounding them is pretty amazing, too, and great for long walks.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Woodside, Marlborough B&B, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Marlborough, New Zealand

Dunno what the deal with this was, some kind of crazy tree graveyard.

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During our time in Marlborough, we knew we had to do the obvious - wine tasting. A popular activity there is to rent bikes for the day and make your way around the wineries (mental, really...how can this be allowed?!), which of course we partook in. It was a no-brainer. It ended up being one of the most fantastic afternoons of the entire trip (though that night I woke up at 3am feeling like death after an overconsumption of wine, but that's another story). I really felt like I earned those tastings after all the sweaty riding, y'know? :)

We began with an appointment at Greywacke. Now, I don't have many photos because this wasn't your typical winery, but stick with me here while I tell you about them (and if you're a Sauvignon Blanc drinker, pick up a bottle next time you go to Majestic looking for wine - you won't be disappointed). I started drinking their Sauvignon Blanc one evening about 3 or 4 years ago, when I was out to dinner with Jarv and his parents in Portsmouth. It instantly became my new favourite and Jarv and I started hunting down places we could buy it to have at home. So when we realised we'd be in the area, we knew we had to arrange a visit.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Greywacke, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand



Euriental | luxury travel & style | Greywacke, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand

Greywacke doesn't have a cellar door, unlike most other wineries in the area. This means you can't just wander in and attend a wine tasting & buy some wine, you have to email in advance to request a visit and hope that they're OK to have you on the day you want to go.

We were greeted by the affable Richard Ellis, one of only six members of the Greywacke team, which includes Kevin Judd, the owner, who used to be one of Cloudy Bay's founding wine-makers! Kevin was away on a trip, so Richard introduced us to all the wines that Greywacke produces and we spent a good hour and a half tasting and talking wine in the dining room of their 'office' (a house, really, overlooking some of Marlborough's beautiful vineyards, with its own swimming pool to cool off in during the summer months. Talk about living the dream). 

Absolutely my favourite of all the wineries we visited throughout New Zealand during our 2 week stay.

Next, we hopped back on our bikes and sped on over to Hans Herzog for lunch in the shade. 

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Marlborough, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Hans Herzog Winery, Marlborough, New Zealand



A family-owned winery, Hans Herzog is renowned for being one of the best destinations in New Zealand to enjoy great food and wine in a luxuriously relaxed setting. The winery is fairly experimental and Hans believes in developing wines with character in a non-interventional way, allowing them to ferment slowly with wild yeasts. The restaurant serves market fresh dishes - it being a beautiful day, we decided to take lunch outdoors in the shade of the trees and then enjoy a short walk through the vineyard.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Hans Herzog Winery, Marlborough, New Zealand

We devoured our lunch like ravenous vultures (all that wine drinking and fast peddling makes you hungry, OK?) and then back on the bikes we hopped, finally ending up at Cloudy Bay. If you like your wines, you're probably familiar with this brand. It's my dad's favourite and was my introduction to Sauvignon Blanc many years ago!



They, being a large conglomerate, of course have a cellar door. The winery is beautiful, housed in this building:

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Cloudy Bay Winery, Marlborough, New Zealand

Which opens up round the back to a gorgeous green space and rows and rows of growing grapes.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Cloudy Bay Winery, Marlborough, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Cloudy Bay Winery, Marlborough, New Zealand

At the end of the day, if you've rented bikes, you'll be picked up from whichever winery you've ended up at and dropped off back wherever you're staying. No more riding necessary (or advised, I imagine) after a full afternoon of wine 'tasting'!


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ANAKIWA, SOUTH ISLAND
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I'll be honest, it was pretty hard to tear myself away from Paddy and Flynn at the picturesque Woodside B&B, but when we arrived at our next location the view certainly made the transition easier. 

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Okiwa Bay Lodge, South Island, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Okiwa Bay Lodge, South Island, New Zealand

Okiwa Bay Lodge is a stunning four-bedroom property (five, if you include owners Susie and Martin's room) overlooking the incredible Anakiwa Bay. The route there, via Queen Charlotte Drive, is incredibly windy (windy as in lots of bends...not that there are strong winds), but the views along the way are quite spectacular. 



A stay here is kind of like staying with friendly relatives - if you decide to have dinner in, you'll eat at a table with Susie, Martin and whomever else decides to stay in at the lodge that evening. We didn't mind this at all, taking it for what it was and enjoying evenings sat around the table, meeting new people from all over, having entertaining conversation and sharing wine throughout. Just be aware that whereas some B&Bs are a lot more hands-off and leave you to your own devices, here things are a little more involved. 

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Okiwa Bay Lodge, South Island, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Okiwa Bay Lodge, South Island, New Zealand

On day one here, we headed down to the dock at Anakiwa Bay and braved the freezing cold water. I worked up the nerve to jump in for all of about ten seconds before hoisting myself out, covered in goosebumps. I must admit, it's kind of refreshing for just that one moment! We drove down to the nearest town, Havelock for lunch and coffee. There's not too much happening right in Anakiwa Bay, so Havelock is the nearest town with restaurant and cafe options.

Day two didn't quite go to plan. Originally, we'd intended to take out some kayaks around the bay, however the day began with some miserable weather and rain so instead we drove spontaneously down to the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim, about an hour away. The centre features Sir Peter Jackson's own collection of WWI aircraft and is actually an experience I'd recommend even for those not totally obsessed with everything aviation (ahem, Jarv). The aircraft and their displays really are incredible, as well as the stories behind each one.



Euriental | luxury travel & style | Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, New Zealand
Euriental | luxury travel & style | South Island, New Zealand

That about wraps up Part I of our New Zealand adventure. Stay tuned for Part II - Queenstown! The must-visit place on everyone's NZ list. Believe me...it's with good reason.


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