Down Under: On to Napier

WAIHEKE—LAST DAY

For our last day in Waiheke, we decided to hire the local guide, Chris, recommended by both Jen and Jack at The Boatshed and the New Jersey couple we met our first night. The weather was cloudy and cool, but not raining when Chris arrived at 10:00 am wearing a straw hat, shorts and just a shirt to our long pants and fleece jackets. Low key and personable, around 60, he’s an affable island resident born and bred.  He spent his earlier career in high end real estate, having sold land and homes to several millionaires and billionaires. He pointed out their homes as we went around a more residential section of the island.  

We saw Blackpool Beach and an area where the godwits (small brownish birds) come back to each spring from Siberia. There was a line of them along the beach. As an aside, I saw a peacock on a fence rail on the dirt road the other day, and I’ve identified a white and black swallow-sized bird flitting into the bushes as an Australian magpie.

On the recommendation of our NJ acquaintances, we asked to visit Gabriella Lewenz’s studio.  She lives in a grand Italian villa style home with a small vegetable and flower garden. Her studio is in one wing of the house and she warmly greeted us there.  Originally from Greece, she has lived here for twenty years. Having had exhibits of her work in museums in Boston and elsewhere, she now prefers to show just at her studio and interact that way with potential purchasers.

Shimmering Seas (saatchiart.com)

The art is abstract washes of color and some of it looks misty and others feel like sunset colors. I liked her use of mauve tones and one large piece called “Marsh Land” was two-third soft green topped by soft coral on the top.

Chris also took us by the outside of a Maori meeting house (very strict guidelines and a lengthy orientation required before one can enter so we didn’t) and then to see the local arts complex—adult learning center, small art gallery, small cinema, and their public library. Apparently, the arts community is quite active.  

The island is also marked by walking tracks including one that’s 100 km in length and every year there is a free walking festival in November.

 

We spent two hours with Chris, learned a lot, and then had him drop us off in the middle of town, Oneroa, for lunch. We ate Thai food at the Red Crab and found their green chicken curry and lamb massaman curry just right.

After a quiet afternoon back at the inn packing and reading in the main  area, our last dinner at The Boatshed was the best one of the three.    A demitasse of scampi soup followed by grilled haloumi with grapes and herbs to start; then at the table, swordfish carpaccio with a smear of avocado mousse and micro herbs followed by two loin lamb chops served over a pea purée with an asparagus spear and some roast potatoes. The swordfish and the lamb were exquisite! Dessert was panna cotta with an intense berry sorbet.

ON TO NAPIER

Heavy rain and blustery wind swept into Waiheke late in the day and it stormed all night long. Almost felt like we would be washed away. Woke up to no rain and a bay that that was somewhat calmer. Jack indulged us with an early breakfast of tea and toast and then kindly drove us to the wharf to catch the 9:00 am ferry back to Auckland. A bit rocking and rolling as we left the dock, but then the crossing was fairly smooth. As our itinerary indicated, we were met at the dock by a chatty driver, a primary school teacher for 30 years whose specialty was science. She was engaging and we learned a bit about Napier and even got a restaurant recommendation on the half hour ride to the airport.

Light rain had returned and we scurried inside the terminal building to check our bags and get printed boarding passes. New Zealand has much more of a DIY approach to check-in. You start at a standalone kiosk (yes, we have those at home too), key in your confirmation number, confirm the number of bags you want to check, and then wait for both (here’s the difference) your boarding passes and your baggage tags to print. Then you put the tag on the bag—instructions are on the reverse side, but it isn’t quite as easy as the US ticketing agents make it look. On one bag, the adhesive didn’t line up exactly, and on the other, the destination airport code was slightly mussed up. Then you take the bags over to the belt, and again, you put them on the belt a certain way while an airline staff person stands there giving direction.

Bags taken care of, we wandered over to the Air New Zealand Regional Lounge. All gates are accessed from this lounge, but you have to wait until your flight is listed on the board at the desk with the notation “Boarding” after it. There is no security line, no scanning of carry-on luggage!  At the appointed time, you line up and then swipe your boarding pass at the kiosk where an attendant stands and then walk through glass doors and down a blue-lined corridor to the correct gate number.  You wait there, and when the automatic door swings open, you walk on the tarmac to the waiting plane.  We never had to show any ID at any point!  Our 12:15 flight was delayed in boarding by about half an hour and it was about an hour late taking off. Flight time to Napier was a short 40 minutes.

Rain in Napier and gray skies. We thought we would be staying downtown in the heart of the Art Deco buildings for which this small city is known, but instead we are on the edge of town beachside in the Ahuriri district. Unfortunately, it is too far to walk to town. And even if you wanted to, the options are a main road passing by a tank farm or over a hill (volcanic, I think) that separates this part of the town from the main drag (so not really an option). We took a cab over and wandered about for a short time. It being late Sunday afternoon, the streets were empty, and it was generally too gray to get good photos except for this one in the lobby of the Masonic Hotel. 

We had had no lunch and being starved, cabbed it back to our neighborhood for an early dinner at Three Doors Up. At this inviting bistro, we tucked into some Parmesan sea salt toast and mixed olives to start followed by the daily fish special—grouper with carrots and broccoli for C.P. and salmon with a salad for me. Both came with dauphinoise potatoes, and both were delicious!

 

Heavy rain this morning and expected to continue all day. Not conducive to walking around so we will stay put at the hotel until perhaps it lets up.

 

Notes:  Header photo of an elegant Waiheke property.  Photos ©JWFarrington (some rights reserved) except for Blackpool Beach (bookabach.co.nz) and the painting by Lewenz.

 

 

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