The reason for Alice & Co’s trip to New Zealand – apart from my perpetual itchy feet, is to visit my younger sister and her family who recently emigrated from the UK’s Lake District to Lake Taupo in the middle of North Island. Thereby exchanging one big lake for a much bigger one.
First stop is East Tamaki in Auckland’s southern suburbs where I pick up some lovely merino wool fabrics in bold colours. This is used a lot for cycling and running tops by the sports-crazy Kiwis, but they have soft and drapey qualities that also make beautiful dresses.
Contact Alice & Co to discuss having a merino wool jersey dress made.
I’m happy now I have a car-boot full of fabric, and it’s full steam ahead to Taupo to see Janet, her husband and three children. I last saw them at Heathrow Airport with a mountain of luggage, all wearing the wellington boots they couldn’t squeeze into their bags!
A quick welcome cuppa and we’re off to meet Sadie their new horse.
Jamie’s keen on jumping, Kitty likes riding two-up bareback – Auntie Alice prefers a saddle, some stirrups and a more sedate pace!
Tom the eldest is more of a bicycle man.
New Zealand is heaven for cyclists. Nga Haerenga – the New Zealand Cycle Trail is a nationwide network made of 23 routes covering 1,500 miles and including specially-built suspension bridges. Try Taupo-based Treadroutes for escorted trips with all the kit.
Back on two feet, I take a five-hour trek in the Tongariro National Park – we’re in luck as the mist rises at just the right moment to reveal Mt Ngauruhoe, aka Mt Doom in The Lord of the Rings films.
Instead of Hobbits we meet some cheery Chinese teachers dressed in plastic-bag chic.
After all that exercise, a little pampering seems in order and after a spectacular drive along the Thermal Explorer Highway (New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield was one of the first women to drive what was then an extremely hazardous route) I arrive at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, a luxury Lodge in Hawke’s Bay which couldn’t be more luxe.
It’s a great place to try out my new Alice & Co silk pyjamas
However, I just can’t stay away from those horses and I was lucky enough to go on a long evening ride with Dzidra of Boutique Horse Treks. She trains her horses in the ‘natural’ riding style using rope reins rather than a metal bit in the horse’s mouth.
Out on the lonesome trail.
After a spectacular ride through the vast Cape Kidnappers estate we reach our destination – the world’s largest mainland gannet colony – all 60,000 of them!
They’re noisy, quarrelsome and smelly – bit like the commuters during rush hour back in London…
Although the babies have a certain fluffy charm.
On to the Art Deco seaside town of Napier and a chance to get back into my glad rags. It was rebuilt after being flattened by an earthquake and fire in 1931. It’s now a World Heritage Site and indeed one of the best places in the world to see Art Deco architecture. You can see a moving film and an exhibition about the earthquake, fire and subsequent reconstruction in the excellent Art Deco Centre.
****Today Napier is a town which likes to dress up and party 1930s flapper-style, especially during the Tremains Art Deco Weekend which takes place every February.
If you’re interested in buying vintage-style clothes and accessories in Napier Charleston Chic has a good selection. Or if New Zealand’s a bit of a journey, try Ooh La La! Vintage online boutique. For vintage-style made to measure and without the moth-holes have a look at our Madame Tra La La collection.
Our final weekend is spent touring the mountainous Coromandel Peninsula, a favourite weekend getaway for Aucklanders. Here we stay in my favourite hotel of the trip and certainly the most idiosyncratic – the hilltop Manawa Ridge near Waihi.
Without a straight line in the place and hand-built down to the last brick by Dutchman Willem and his sculptor wife Carla, I suppose it can best be described as sort of Santa Fe hippy-de-luxe. This fireplace is in the courtyard and there are only three bohemian suites for guests to stay in.
This is part of the main reception room and incorporates a tree.
One of many of Carla’s voluptuous sculptures dotted around the lodge.
All the food is delicious and home-cooked including these ‘fluffy duck’ breakfast pancakes made with ricotta cheese – here’s the recipe if you want to have a go at making some.
Having discovered my inner hippy, I let her loll around in the invigoratingly hot water that springs up naturally at low tide at the fittingly-named Hot Water Beach at Whitianga
All good things must come to an end, I suppose – but the journey home is made much more comfortable in an Air New Zealand Economy Skycouch. This is made up of three economy seats in a row with extra-big footrests that pull out to make a flat couch to stretch out on. With some nice big pillows and a fluffy duvet the long trip home is a dream.This is good to know as I can’t wait to go back and maybe explore the South Island too.
All images © 2014 imagepalace.co.uk
Cape Kidnappers horseriding images © Boutique Horse Treks
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