Every girl's dream: shopping, wine and chocolate

on January 21, 2011



The last two days were days of sheer indulgement. After leaving Rotorua we headed south and after a quick stop at Huka Falls, where I had been with Daniel only a month ago, we arrived at the increasingly adventorous city of Taupo. If you love getting your daily dose of Adrenalin this is the place to be. Bungee-jumping, skydiving, jetboating, white-water rafting – you name it, they have it.

We chose the more relaxing path and went on a shopping trip. Taupo is not the worst place for that. In fact there are heaps of neat stores especially when it comes to secondhand and vintage clothing. I ended up buying a new backpack (didn't want to risk the old one breaking again when hiking Tongariro next week), a really nice and warm fleece jacket and a bunch of CDs for the car (each for $12 / 6 Euros - can you beat that???). The girls also got some new CDs so now we have a larger variety and can chose between Beach Boys, U2, Kings of Leon, Mamas and Papas and more...

I also found a fantastic gluten-free café in Taupo. The Fine Fettle (Paora Hape Street) is very central, their menu ranges from pastries, muesli, fish to mushrooms, pies and salads. If a menu has one smiley it means they can make it gluten-free. Two smileys tell you «Hey, I'm gluten-free, no matter what». I had mushrooms on home-made bread for $13.50 and they were really delicious!!! The place also offers free WI-FI. Just purchase something (i.e. one of their yummy looking smoothies) and you'll get the password to surf.

After Taupo we went straight down to Napier as that was quite a long drive to do and the weather wasn't the best anymore. We stayed with Max, a 54 y/o couchsurfer who's travelled half the world, lived in many different countries and has now heaps of stories to tell. It was very interesting talking to him. Unfortunately he didn't quite know when to stop. Even when he was giving us some travel advice it was hard to make him understand – though we appreciated his tips – that our time and budget was limited. Visiting 38 wineries in one morning is as impossible as doing a two-day-cycling trip when we only have one day to spend in town.

Anyway... we did have a very yummy dinner because Max recommended a fantastic fish & chips place where I tried fresh grilled gurnard. Before we could leave this morning we helped our host to get a heavy cabin in the garage (girl power!!!) as he is selling his house and planning a big garage sale on the weekend.

We finally managed to get back on the road by 10am. First stop was the city center of Napier. The town is «famous» for its Art Deco buildings and we found a few very intersting looking ones indeed. But the really cool stuff happened after leaving town. On the schedule today: WINE-TASTING!!! And even better – FOR FREE!!!

We had picked two wineries that were on the way and had been recommended by local wine guides. Mission Estate Winery is in fact New Zealand's oldest winery dating back to the 1880s. It looked quite majestic standing up on the hill with beautiful gardens and lots of walkways. Unfortuntely we couldn't enjoy the scenery that much as by the time of our arrival the rain was pouring down :-( So we just hopped inside and lined up for some wine tasting – for free...

They had three whites and three reds plus a desert wine on the menu that day. I only liked their Cabernet Sauvignon – and was looking forward to the desert wine. And hey the waiting was worth it. What a great flavour in your mouth. Couldn't resist and bought a bottle – for just $16.50 it's almost like it was free...

Just down the road was Church Road Winery. Not as classy but more expensive. Since I was driving I only tried their white wines and can definitely recommend their Pinot Gris. Both wineries offer tours through their cellars, but unfortunately only at certain hours and we didn't happen to be there on time.

After all that alcohol it was time for something sweet. Max had told us about Silky Oak, a chocolate factory a little further south towards Hastings. Would they have tastings, too? THEY DID!!!! Normally you can even watch them work but today the factory was closed. Didn't matter, the shop alone was worth a visit. MOUNTAINS OF CHOCOLATE!!! In every shape and color and flavor. And the best thing – their chocolate is gluten-free AND they have a good variety of dark chocolate that is dairy-free as well. I was in heaven. Literally speaking. We tried and bought and ate... and because that wasn't enough we hopped into the café as well and helped ourselves to some delicious hot chocolate. Do I have to mention that we all felt kinda sick after that – but wonderfully happy?

We almost ended up doing one more tasting. But the Tui Brewery was closed. Instead I found a street named after me =D Mara Road – pictures will follow in the next couple of days...

The only downside (besides the weather) of today was – we couldn't find a couchsurfer in Wellington that would take four girls in :-( Most of the people I had sent replies to didn't even bother to answer. One guy told me it's probably because of the national holiday in Wellington on Monday. Everybody was either booked out or gone away for the long weekend. Great... what about us? Luckily we found ONE hostel that still had enough space.

So after about seven hours of driving we finally made it to NZ's capital and checked into Rowena's Lodge, a backpacker on Mt. Victoria, very central and only ten walking minutes away from the city center. Going out in a minute, let's see what the city has to offer...

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