Chapter 8 - Wellington to Picton & Nelson

20 Feb 2013

A very early start - our bags had to be outside our rooms at 5.50 am and we had to be on the coach at 7.00 am! I don't know how I'm managing these early mornings but so far I have! A coach took us to the Ferry Port where we boarded the InterIslander Ferry that would take us to the South Island. It was a huge ferry but Maxi had organised it so that we all had seats in the Kaitaki Plus Lounge on board where we had a very good free breakfast with soft drinks, tea, coffee, internet (which was a bit hit and miss), newspapers and magazines. Cook Straight was like a mill pond for our crossing which took about three hours with some fantastic views on the way. During the morning we were served cakes and scones with cream and jam (I resisted - just!). On arrival at Picton in South Island we were quickly shepherded to our new coach and met Murray who was to be our driver for the next two weeks. A slight excitement as we were about to board the coach as apparently the police were waiting to arrest someone who had been on our ferry so we had to board the coach and depart quickly!

We had a two hour journey to Nelson along very winding roads and arrived uneventfully at our hotel which consisted of several self-contained apartments, each with a washing machine and dryer. Joy of joys! The washing machine was soon in use and the first load was put into the dryer and load number two started in the washing machine. However, all was not well with the dryer which was making a rather pathetic humming noise but did little else. It soon became apparent that that was the best I could expect of it so I went downstairs to Reception where I was told that this particular dryer had been overloaded the day before by the previous occupant but it had seemed to be working later. The very nice husband of the receptionist soon agreed that it was beyond resuscitation and I was given the use of the hotel's very swish commercial dryer. Mike and I enjoyed an afternoon sunning ourselves on the balcony attached to our apartment before getting spruced up in time for dinner which was in the restaurant of the hotel across the road. We had a wonderful meal, really delicious. Poor Mike had been brewing a cold for a couple of days and was starting to suffer so decided to opt out of going on a walk around Nelson which was arranged for the next morning.

21 Feb 2013

Up early to be ready for the walking tour which I thought started at 9.00 am but which in fact started at 9.30 am - I could have had another half hour in bed! Mike was looking and feeling pretty awful and it was a mutual decision that he stayed in the apartment and I went on the walk. The walk was most enjoyable, a two hour stroll through the very pretty town of Nelson seeing the Cathedral with its lovely stained glass windows and the very attractive wood-clad houses which are now protected from being demolished. It was another hot day - we have been so lucky with the weather!

Nelson is apparently the sunniest of the cities in New Zealand and is very well suited to wine growing due to its temperate climate. We had half an hour when the tour ended before embarking on our choice of activities for the day - a tour of three vineyards with wine tastings and gourmet snacks. Mike was feeling well enough for this! It was a most enjoyable day; we visited three different vineyards with six tastings at the first, four at the second and five at the third, with a platter of bread, cheese, salami, olives, humus, artichokes and pesto to share between two of us at the second stop. I drank a lot of water!

We stopped at the Hoglund Art Glass centre on the way back, home to a glass blowing factory - some lovely pieces of glass were on show, but too expensive to tempt us. We were taken up to a high spot overlooking Nelson so we could take photos, but it was becoming pretty hazy at the end of the afternoon and the views were not as good as we had hoped. Once back at the hotel we went to a supermarket and bought crisps and a cooked half chicken for supper which we ate sitting on the patio enjoying some music from Mike's iPod before retiring to bed early as we were due to leave at 8.00 am next day!

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