Early (early!) Sunday morning, The Boy and I walked down to the ferry terminal. There are two ferry companies in Wellington, and the one recommended by our guide had sold out of seats, much to my horror. We’d booked tickets on the other (cheaper, earlier) company’s ferry instead, and hoped we’d make it to the pickup point on time.
When we got to the terminal, they were filming an arrival scene for a NZ tv show. This was both interesting (you would not believe how many times they reshot a crowd scene of people going to claim their bags, and two main characters hugging each other) and annoying (as a paying customer, I feel that the movie company can wait ten frakking minutes to film rather than herding me out of my hard-won seat near the door). Still, it all went smoothly, and soon we were aboard!
I’m only posting one shot, because I took over 500. Our driver wasn’t kidding when he said that the ferry ride had “nice views”. I’ll stitch up the panorami when I get home and update then because the Marlborough sounds of the south islands? Just beautiful. And we spent the better part of an hour cruising through them. So nice.
As it turned out, we arrived with plenty of time, and were sat around waiting for our bus. So my ulcer-in-development quelled itself right there when the bus eventually pulled up. Everything was coming up Milhouse! That was the day we met our Until Queenstown driver, Nick. More on him later.
As we left Picton, we drove through the fabled wine regions of Marlborough on our way to Nelson. I stated that rather than local beer or cider, since we couldn’t squeeze a winery tour in, I’d at least have a wine from the region with dinner.
Early in the afternoon, we pulled up into the arty town of Nelson, just as sunshiney and summery warm as promised. (Nelson is the sunshine capital of New Zealand.) What greeted us when we got there? A 6-bed hostel room all to ourselves (!! But this was to be a mixed blessing; it was room14 after all, and upon the Monday when we left, I left my beloved towel there. Sniff.) along with fun murals and posters all about town and… yarnbombs! Lots of them!
Previously on our trip, The Boy had asked if I thought I could live in New Zealand. This was back in Rotorua, and I had said no, because the small town-ness of it would get to me, but also because since New Zealand’s primary industry is tourism, I would most likely work in that field and… I would forever be thinking that, jeez, wasn’t it time for me to get a “real” job? Given that it’s their primary industry, that thought is totally ludicrous: for them tourism jobs are very real, it’s just that my mindset is wrong.
All of that, however, changed when we got to Nelson. That town has such a wonderful, mellow vibe. It has all the best things of every city: interesting stores and restaurants, great food, prominent knitting and yoga, beautiful green spaces, while still being manageably small. Better still, despite the fact that it is definitely a tourist destination (see also: sunshine capital) it doesn’t feel touristy at all. I fell in love.
So you can imagine how heart broken I was that we were only there for Sunday, during which most places were closed, including three (3!) awesome-looking art yarn stores. (Yes, I ogled in the windows. The Boy said that it was probably just as well that the stores weren’t open but I still mourn. Sniff.) Still, we tried to make the best of it. After all we got to see the very famous church, which even The Boy — who is not often impressed with churchey architecture — admitted was amazing.
After wandering around town a little more, we decided to hit up one of the craft beer pubs from the passport: the Free House. Best decision of the afternoon.
We wandered up to the pub, which is built in what used to be an old church, and saw people sitting at little patio tables dotted about a huge lawn. Walking inside, the first thing to greet us? A knitting basket inviting customers to “give it a go” and just knit a little. For reals?! When we went inside, Paul was delighted to try one of the hand pulled beers and I had a homemade ginger beer. Delicious!
We had dinner at another Mac’s brew pub (The Vic) where I had pasta made with carrots in the pasta dough (more delicious!) and I kept to my plan and tried a local wine (also delicious!). For the sake of my trying to remember once I get home, on the off chance that the LCBO carries it, I had the Kopiko Bay merlot. Kopiko Bay seems to be a pretty big winery, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to find other of their wines at home, and that hopefully they too will be delicious.
That was pretty much our Nelson experience: pretty town, window shopping, and lots of food and drink. Are you about to give me crap for squandering my afternoon drinking in the sunshine instead of kayaking or whatever in the Abel Tasman park? Well don’t. New Zealand has an unfairly high proportion of the world’s natural beauty and believe it or not, you need a break from it every now and then or you stop appreciating it. Given that I pull an average of 200 pictures off my camera every day from our trekking, I think we made the right choice, although I definitely wish we could have had more time. I’d already informed The Boy that if we ever came back to New Zealand, we were going to Nelson for at least four days, so we’d do the Abel Tasman then anyway.
…or so I can hope, right?