Starstruck in Marlborough Country

Touring the vineyards in Marlborough made me feel like a film fan doing the Hollywood celebrities’ tour,

‘Ooh, look – it’s … Villa Maria/Wither Hills/Brancott!’ as famous name after famous name rolled by, and I leapt out of the car to snap a pic.

With my liver’s best interests at heart, we didn’t stop at all of them, but I did have to do a tasting at my absolute favourite …

… Cheers!

And then, in a serendipitous twist of fate, we happened to be in Blenheim the very day of the annual Wine and Food Festival.  So of course we bought tickets, queued up with the rest of New Zealand –

and finally got to enter Wine Lovers’ Paradise – every Marlborough wine maker had their own stand in a sunny field just the right size for me to get to any one I wanted within ten minutes.

And just to make sure everyone stayed hydrated, there was Liquid Action Man –

– ready to leap into action and fill up your glass or water bottle.

Very sensibly, you could buy a glass or just a taste of any wine you fancied, to stop people (like me) feeling they had to drink the entire glass of every wine they bought just to get their money’s worth.

The food was great too –

– I love NZ oysters!

And the mussels weren’t bad either –

I got a good tip from the mussel chef – if you want tender mussels, don’t steam them, you should open them and grill them in the shell.  These were grilled with breadcrumbs, garlic and butter and they were delicious.

It was a definite frock and hat day, and everyone was out to have a good time –

My outdoor adventure hat didn’t quite measure up, but at least I’d made the effort.

The northern part of South Island isn’t just about wine – it’s also got the most stunning scenery.

Abel Tasman National Park is considered to be the most beautiful Park in NZ – and deservedly so –

I took this picture on a Sunday at about lunchtime – so a busy time leisure-wise – and yet there’s hardly anyone on the beach.

Nor is there on this equally beautiful beach –

We’re so used to any beauty spots in the northern hemisphere being packed with tourists, that an empty beach on a sunny Sunday seems weird.  Although, if I was being picky, I’d say that the water is a little on the cool side – well, it is for someone who’s now used to swimming in warm tropical water, anyway.

We were lucky enough to catch this large pod of dolphins on a boat trip in the park –

And this is my new friend, Al –

at least, I think we’re friends – now that I’ve convinced him that my hat is made of cotton, and definitely not alpaca.