Wednesday, May 13, 2009

But You Can Dress Us Up, or Travels with Wayne and Susan

We arrived home from the South Island trip with Polly, slept, and took off the next morning to bring her back up to Auckland to fly home. It had been wonderful to have her here -- to share our daily life as well as some of our travel adventures -- and we were a bit teary upon saying goodbye. But no time for that. We were on to the next thing.

We spent the night in Auckland, enjoyed a very nice Italian dinner on the hip Ponsonby Avenue (far too hip for us), did our laundry (washer and dryer had been a top criteria for the hotel), and managed to buy Mark a pair of golf shoes (unbeknownst to us the hotel was a block from Golf Warehouse!) before taking off for parts north where Wayne, Mark's dad, and Susan, his wife, were meeting us at Kauri Cliffs, a lovely, high-end resort with a world-renowned golf course. It was just a little different than campervanning.

The view driving into Kauri Cliffs on the northeastern coast of the North Island near Kerikeri, above the Bay of Islands.

This was one view of Mark's and my room. The place is seriously but tastefully luxurious and highly recommended to all those into golf by the golf aficionadoes in my family. For those simply into luxury, it would also be a sound choice of vacation destination. It was built by a Wall Street tycoon who fell in love with New Zealand and bought both this 6,500 acres and then the second property we visited a few days later. Both are on the prestigious Relais & Chateaux list and both still include farming on the property, quite close to the links in some cases.

In warmer weather we would have jumped into this pool, but we made do with the lovely indoor pool - see below. Our camera did not make it onto this golf course but Mark, Wayne, Nikko, and Alex, as cart driver, were on it within ten minutes of our arrival. The course is ranked 58th in the world and Nikko was quite excited, to say the least, to play it.

Every evening starts with a drinks and appetizers service in the main lodge, a practice to which the boys could easily become accustomed.

Nikko and Alex also were big fans of the pork belly appetizer.

Our own private dining room, below.

The next day, Wayne, Mark, and Nikko went out to try to get another round in before the poor weather descended and Alex, Susan, and I went on a tour of the property.

One of the highlights was a beach with infinite small pieces of pink shell instead of sand. There were also all sorts of pristine whole shells and striking Pohutukawa trees that almost look like sculpture. In summer they do guest bbq's and picnics down there.

We continued the tour, which combined the pastoral farming landscape we have seen elsewhere with spectacular ocean vistas and a golf hole every so often. Oh and there was a very cool hidden waterfall.

Simon, our lovely guide.
A Down Under icon, the Norfolk pine.

The property's most huge and ancient Kauri tree, one of those after which the cliffs are named. This one is estimated to be between 700 and 900 years old and is on the part of the property that the owner put under conservation. Simon shared with us the story of the kauri in New Zealand, a tree prized by builders for its rot-resistant wood, but now protected. Sadly the government policy was to disallow all harvesting after a certain date, so many farmers and other property owners just chopped all their kauri trees down before that date and now have it stockpiled. Simon, who had many thoughtful ideas, suggested it might have made more sense for the government to set a limit on number of trees harvested per year and require landowners to replant any they cut.
After the tour, Susan and Alex headed to the exercise room. I read a book.

Susan was quite impressed with Alex's workout mojo. He deserved his Zen hot tub afterwards.

A group photo before the Pasanens of Vermont/New Zealand took off by car to drive down to the next rendez-vous point, about a 10-hour-drive, highlit by a stop to see really cool mosaic bathrooms, have Indian curry for supper, and almost sleep in the car because our destination midway through the drive was unexpectedly and fully booked with V-8 car racing fans. It was midnight and we didn't have too many options, but luckily we found literally the last two rooms free in the city.The next day we drove through driving rain to Napier, renowned for its art deco architecture, where we stopped in at the national aquarium (fine but not worth a special trip, although we did get to see kiwis again), and did a little wine-tasting at a couple of the Hawke's Bay vineyards along the ocean. It was still pouring when we arrived at the second newer property owned by the same American, Cape Kidnappers (named in honor of a young deckhand on Captain Cook's ship who was kidnapped by locals). Staff were waiting graciously for us outside with huge umbrellas and welcomed us warmly with tea, hot chocolate, and cookies. We snuggled up in a round cozy room they call the Snug and read and played scrabble while we waited for Wayne and Susan to arrive.

The digs were equally posh although, we found, a little more "designery." Alex was especially impressed with the TV remote and we all appreciated the central heating, underfloor heating, and heated towel racks. (Central heating is not common in New Zealand.)

The interior of the main lodge where we had our customary pre-dinner drinks and appetizers. could get used to this.

It was just all so, well, civilized.
Dinner was lovely -- and dessert quite fanciful, as you can see below. (Real cheerios, not real Hershey kisses.) The only other group in the dining room were four representatives from a U.S. golf magazine.
The boys in jackets, required.

Next morning the boys woke up early to tee off, but breakfast first.

Alex gets credit for all these golf day photos -- including the one of his perfect Eggs Benedict. Yes, he knew mom would want to see the food.

The course came perilously close to large cows...and their waste. All that and it's ranked 27th in the world.
Nikko and Mark marveling at the fine 7-iron Nikko hit on the third hole.
Alex being artistic.
Out of the bunker -- luckily it hadn't gone over the cliff. That would have been a long way down to retrieve your ball.

The views from the course were something and the course quite challenging in a fun way, but Mark and Nikko have agreed they preferred the course at Kauri Cliffs.

The boys all proudly celebrating that they shot par 5 on the 16th hole.

After a beautiful walk through sheep being herded by dogs, lavender fields, and pine forests, Susan and I were driven out to meet the boys. Alex had played cart driver again this day and ably showed off his skills.

We left the property for lunch at a local winery, Elephant Hill, where we tasted the wines before choosing some to go with lunch.

In the summer, this deck bordered by an infinity edge pool with the grapevines and ocean beyond must be fabulous.

Lunch was good, although the kitchen was running very slooooooowly for some reason, given that the place was not that crowded. This corn soup was lovely and delicate.

Back to the lodge to pack up but first a quick dip in the hot tub and pool...
before we bid farewell to Wayne and Susan, who were staying another couple of days and then heading to Sydney for the weekend. Quite a wonderful way to wrap up the boys' Easter break -- thanks so much to Wayne and Susan for a very memorable and special time.
We were home that night. Back to reality. Joked Alex, upon exiting the shower the next morning to have his tender toes hit chilly vinyl rather than warmed marble, "Mom, the floor's broken."

No comments: