15 January 2007
Hawke’s Bay & Wellington, North Island

After breakfast in Taupo, we headed out east toward Hawke’s Bay near Napier, to have lunch and visit a couple of vineyards before going into Wellington. The drive down here to Hawke’s Bay was beautiful, through mountains and valleys and yet more sheep and cows. As an extra added bonus, on our way out of Taupo it cleared enough for us to get a great view of Mount Doom in the distance – I can’t remember its real name right a the moment. We had decided not to drive through Tongariro Park in the interest of getting to see the vineyards, but were very glad that we didn’t end up missing out on seeing the mountain.

Hawke’s Bay is really beautiful – a lot like California wine country but so chill and unpretentious. That’s sort of the most striking thing about New Zealand so far – the utter lack of pretense.

Instead of the one winery we originally planned to visit in Hawke’s Bay, we saw three wineries and one honey farm. We ate lunch at Clearview and did a tasting there – Barbara described Clearview as a “boutique-y” vineyard and it was by far our favorite. It was smaller and less institutional than the others that we visited, and the wine and food were excellent.

After Clearview we went to Craggy Range, and then on to Trinity Hills (where we finally found wine label removers, much to our delight). In between those two we stopped at the Atoraki honey farm and bought up some thyme and Tawari honeys.

From Hawke’s Bay we headed straight for Wellington. Although when we first drive into town we had a twinge of regret at leaving the small town feel of Taupo behind, we quickly realized that Wellington is still fairly small and friendly. The Booklover’s B&B where we’re staying is really cute – just off the main restaurant and shopping drag by a few blocks. It’s run by Jane, who also writes books, and is a lot like a place I would put together – books and jars of home-made cookies and tea sachets scattered throughout.

After getting briefly settled in our room, we headed out in search of dinner. The one restaurant I really wanted to eat in was closed on Mondays according to my guidebook, but when we walked by, it turned out to be open after all. So we ate at “Kai in the City,” a Maori-inspired restaurant. We had to wait a little while to get a seat, but the food was simple and delicious. We split a seafood platter – oysters and mussels and salmon cakes and squid fritters and seafood chowder as well as some dipping sauces and Maori bread.

We were so sleepy by the end of the meal that we walked straight back to the B&B to read our blessings devotion and go to bed. I ended up reading way too late, although Danny crashed at a reasonable hour – our room has a little love seat in a bay window, and I spent some time planning how to use it tomorrow and where we needed to go around town.