Atlas Beer Cafe’, Queenstown, NZ

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The home of Boutique Craft Beer, is the Atlas Beer Cafe, hidden at the back of the Steamer Wharf in Queenstown. Boutique beers are their specialty, along with enticing menu choices throughout the day. The inside is small with some seating, including bar stools facing out over the wharf towards Lake Wakitipu.

We chose this venue for a light lunch, late December. The day being a rather dreary day with a biting wind, we were drawn towards sitting inside the covered mall, near the entrance to the cafe. I was fascinated to see the restaurant opposite, have blanket wraps on each chair for their, customers. Not only were these outside, but also inside the covered mall area. Remember this was in summer!

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Choosing and paying for meals plus drinks at the bar, we enjoyed a quiet drink while waiting for the meal to arrive . I must admit we did have a bit of a giggle, as we watched the chef come out of his kitchen to read the chalk menu board. Not that this bothered us, it simply tickled our fancy to see this unfold.

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We both chose the same fish dish today. Presented with a crunchy side salad and chunky chips, this was a delicious choice. The whole baked sole which was beautifully soft, topped with a tasty garlic and caper butter mix, fell away easily from the bones. My choice of a glass of local Chardonnay at only $8, completed the meal.

If you enjoy watching the world go by, this is a great place to sit and observe. Drop by next time you’re in the Steamer Wharf area. I did notice while at the bar, a customer was offered a taste of a boutique beer before he purchased, after enquiring what it tasted like. At least that way you won’t end up with a glass of something you don’t like!

Invincible Bar, Glenorchy Hotel

Drive down the arm on the West Coast Side of Lake Wakitipu, to arrive at Glenorchy. The road is narrow and winding in places, however the 40 minute or so drive from Queenstown, is intercepted with some of the most stunning landscapes you have ever seen.

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We enjoyed a fabulously clear late December day for our drive through from Queenstown, resulting in some wonderful photo opportunities. There really is no rush when you have opportunity to view this stunning landscape from many different angles throughout the drive.

By the time we arrived, it was lunchtime. There were a few lunch choices in this small township, from which we chose the Invincible Bar at the Glenorchy Hotel, with rough hewen outdoor seating, adding to the country feel, whilst looking towards the snow capped mountains.

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Lunch was ordered and paid for at the counter, with staff delivering food to the table, after a short wait. All the staff were friendly, and we were lucky to have our lunch delivered just prior to a bus load arriving.

I chose the prawn twists with a side of aoli, instead of the usual sweet chilli sauce. The prawns were large, melt in the mouth varieties, making for a delicious light lunch. Hubby’s choice of the big seafood chowder was a hit. Packed with seafood, accompanied by a crusty bread, he really enjoyed this tasty treat.

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Once you’ve made the drive into Glenorchy, you most likely will be looking for somewhere to sit and relax for a while. Under the umbrella adorning one of the tables, partaking of a quiet lunch, you may find it difficult to leave.

Be sure to check out the lakefront area, before you leave, you won’t be disappointed!

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Shaky Bridge Vineyard Cafe’

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Overlooked by the famous Alexandra clock, with the Shaky bridge, directly across the road, sits the Shaky Bridge Vineyard Cafe. Built of mud brick, with inside or outdoor seating, the cafe had an appealing menu. After ordering at the counter, we chose an indoor table as the breeze had a slight bone chilling cut through it on this particular morning.

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Quirky furniture marries well with the simple art pieces adorning the walls. All tasteful, with nothing overdone. There are a couple of rooms inside to choose from, the one we picked had a large fireplace on the end wall.

The service here was friendly, however quite a lot slower than anywhere else we had visited. Talking to the locals, it appeared this was well known, with the service tending to usually be slower. On the other hand however, if you are looking for somewhere to kick back and take your time over a meal, coffees or drinks, then this is the place for you. I could certainly see this being a bonus whilst enjoying a very tempting wine one sunny afternoon!👍

There was certainly nothing wrong with the food, with hubby enjoying his Eggs Benedict, pictured below. Apparently it was delicious and teamed well with his iced coffee.

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On this occasion I wasn’t hungry, being more than happy to enjoy a delicious green tea. Another coffee at the table, mocha chino, was apparently ok but nothing spectacular. Overall though, this was an enjoyable place to enjoy a quiet breakfast.

You may feel inclined to walk off your meal with a climb up to the clock, as a few people seemed to be enjoying. Or, perhaps if you take a stroll first, over the shaky bridge or up the hill, you will work up an appetite for the delicious meal to follow.

There is a lookout up the hill too, you can take a drive or wander up here for some spectacular views across Alexandra. Enjoy the views, a walk, then kick back here to wile away an afternoon. Sounds wonderful!

The vineyard attached, includes one of the oldest Pinot Noir vineyards in the area. Red wine, teamed with something tempting from the cafe…seems to be setting the scene for a relaxing afternoon!

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The Courthouse Cafe, Alexandra, NZ

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Nestled in between buildings, lies the Courthouse Cafe, originally built as a Courthouse in 1876. This building and setting, has been brought back to life, before reopening as the Courthouse Cafe & Bar, in. Alexandra.

The inside is adorned with fresh flowers, which I was told, they keep refreshing. The beauty of being surrounded by tasteful flower arrangements, would help take the edge off the Courthouse setting, if you perhaps had previous experience with a venue like this prior to being a cafe….😄

Here you are judge & jury, with a fabulous selection of fresh foods to choose from. Indoor or outdoor seating is available, with umbrellas shading the outside tables. Plenty of room between table settings here.

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Each meal has been tastefully designed, with the fresh flower theme continuing in the meal design. Eggs with bacon above were fresh and tasty. Certainly no complaints, the meals were great and the service was pleasant, with very little wait time.

Tea was presented with the cup and teapot sitting proudly, side by side, on their own tray..

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I trialled the field mushrooms above. Delicious. All of these meals were stacked high, packed with plenty of fresh produce, very filling.

Hubby enjoyed his Judges Breakfast, which he teamed with a very tempting, iced coffee. Arriving at the table in a mini glass milk urn, this was packed to the brim, almost to the point of overflowing

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A lot of thought has been put into the presentation of the food, drink and surroundings here. You may want to judge this one for yourself 👍.

Jagz of Village Green, Invercargill NZ

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Now that is a hot chocolate! After a big night the night before, followed by a decent sleep, we found our way to Jagz of Village Green, for a Sunday Brunch on a rather cold Southland morning.

First impressions are really good with plenty of seating areas, reasonably spaced tables set amongst clean inviting surroundings. The breakfast menu looked intriguing. Service was friendly, without too much of a wait.

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I chose the hot smoked salmon, which sounded appealing. Very good choice on my part, this was a delicious, warming breakfast. The beautifully soft salmon fell apart easily.

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All the meals were fresh, rather tasty and reasonably priced. I must admit to being a little envious of a table in the corner, enjoying a wine with brunch. Now that would have been a fantastic idea, if one had not overindulged, just slightly, the night prior 😄.

Take the time to enjoy your meal here, there’s plenty of reason to linger!Maybe your choice will be the tantalising, full omelette below…

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Drive Something Nice – Rental Car Hire Christchurch

If you’re heading to NZ and looking to hire a car, this company offered the best deal for us, that I could find, after a lot of research on my part! Based in Christchurch and Auckland, with a drop off/pick up depot now added in Queenstown, they offered the opportunity to drive a nice comfortable vehicle, along the lines of Mercedes or BMW. Not only this, their prices were very reasonable. The only hitch they advertised, the vehicles would be older, not new style.

Booking early in the year for a December pick up, we checked the website for the biggest engine capacity available. With a reasonable length road trip, over varied roads, plus being big car owners, we wanted something to suit our taste. To be able to secure a V8 BMW X5 for a similar price as other companies wanted for Falcons and Commodores, was a bonus for us.
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Not only were Drive Something Nice easy to deal with, from the very first email enquiry, their service to drop off and pick up the vehicle was excellent.

The BMW above was delivered to our airport hotel at 9.30am in the morning as agreed. Paperwork was easily completed, and after a checkoff of the vehicles current, bumps, and a quick run down on the vehicle, we were packed and headed on the road.

No complaints from us, this vehicle was tidy, well maintained and a comfortable ride. Yes some things were showing a bit of wear and tear, however, nothing which affected the way the vehicle drove or the comfort within.

Upon our return to Christchurch, we rang the number we had been given, once we estimated we’d be about an hour away from the airport. As this particular day was a public holiday, this meant we were met at the hotel, upon our arrival. After unloading the vehicle and checking in to drop off our luggage, we followed their car back to the depot, a very short drive away.

The final check was completed, vehicle handed over, and we were delivered back to the hotel, in less than half an hour after leaving.

A smaller company with simple, uncomplicated, personalised service. Very different to the big companies.

I would highly recommend giving this company a try. Why not treat yourself to a bit of older luxury at a similar price to a newer car. Keep the Queenstown pick/up drop off in mind, it could be very handy if you’re heading to this activity and scenic filled part of NZ. You too could be driving around in a little Mercedes convertible, for a similar price to an ordinary small car. Enjoy the scenery….

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Top Pub, Fairlie ( Fairlie Hotel)

Now I don’t believe this photo does the meal justice. That’s why I need to tell where this roast was served.
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Nearing the end of our NZ road trip, we completed the final leg to Christchurch Airport, driving via the Lindis Pass, from Queenstown. An easy day trip for us, just over 6 hours with stops.

Our initial plan had been to stop at the stunning Lake Tekapo for lunch. That however seemed to be the plan for hundreds of other tourists, with the small township teeming with people. Oh well there goes the famous sushi we had been recommended. Deciding to carry on, we completed the 30 minutes to Fairlie. Plenty of room here!

Where to eat? We chose the Fairlie Hotel (Top Pub). Easily able to park outside, we followed the signage into the interior, which was reasonably busy with patrons enjoying lunch, or a drink on the NZ public holiday.

Whilst in NZ we had tried many different foods, from whitebait to rabbit. All beautiful foods, but right now, i spotted the roast meal which induced a craving for a fresh meat roast and vegetables. Hubby chose the fish n chip meal. Straight away the bar attendant asked if he would be interested in the lemon pepper batter, which the chef was trialling as a new mixture. Why not, let’s trial the new batter.

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Heading out to the bricked in dining area at the rear of the pub, we found a huge table, shaded with a big umbrella. Quite a welcome relief from the suns heat on this beautiful day.

The fish meal arrived out first as seen below. Closely followed by the generously sized roast meal. The fish n chips was actually on a long platter style plate, making for a large meal. The chips were the big generous size which seemed to be standard over here, with a fresh salad. These chunky chips are a favourite for hubby, which he consumed willingly with the fish.

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Now to trial this delicious, crunchy looking batter. Well done chef! The batter was a definite hit! Make sure you test this ones with your fish meal, next time you pass through Fairlie.

The simple, uncomplicated, roast meal was exactly what I had hoped for. Beautifully tender meat with the softest centred roast potatoes, I had tasted in a long time. Very refreshing.

We enjoyed our meals in peace, with other patrons choosing the bar area. A couple of staff passed through, all were pleasant and acknowledged our presence.

Upon finishing, we found the facilites, and it was then I realised there was an indoor dining area, located through the small pokie machine area. No problem though, we enjoyed our break from the car, under the umbrella.

When you do pass through Fairlie, take the time to stop here for a meal. The simple uncomplicated, well priced food, with a quiet drink, could be just the tonic you need to continue your journey. Don’t forget to try the Chef’s new batter!

Air New Zealand

After a holiday trip to New Zealand, I’m giving Air New Zealand a huge tick. If you’re considering booking flights and have plenty of time to do so, then book early, as you can pick up some good deals. Last minute flights can also include really good deals. It really does depend on your requirements. We knew we had to be somewhere on a certain date, hence the forward planning, booking our tickets nearly a year in advance, during a sale.

Keep an eye out for the regular sales and why not treat yourself to Works Deluxe. Taking into consideration the extras you receive, it just might be worth it. Given we were flying at Christmas, the extra baggage allowance included in the price, plus lounge access, extra leg and seat room, we decided it was worth trialling Works Deluxe.

Prior to boarding, we spent over an hour in the Koru lounge as part of our ticket inclusions. Brisbane Lounge is spacious, providing, private phone booths for those wishing to make or receive phone calls on their mobiles, charging stations in case your phones or iPads need a top up, a good selection of self serve, juices, wines, spirits, beers and softdrinks, buffet food which varies depending upon the time of day, clean rest rooms including showering facilities, all of this set amongst comfortable, roomy seating choices.

Seated in the front row, seats D & F, (the middle seat is left empty in Works Deluxe as part of you ticket), whilst leaving Brisbane, we were treated to a storm sky as in the photo I snapped below. Rolling in towards us, whilst the other side of the plane could see bright blue sky out their windows, lightening was cracking over the city as our plane prepared to depart.

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Moments prior to this storm preparing to engulf the airport, our plane headed down the runway, and, with not as many bumps as expected, soared away from the clutches of the angry clouds, bolts of lightening and rumbling thunder.

Cabin crew were very good on this flight. after the initial bump, rattle and roll, the plane settled into a steady path towards Christchurch. The crew took an interest in the photos they had seen me snapping, as the view out their porthole window was clear blue sky. As a side note, the Pilots did a great job of keeping the plane comfortable during the first bumpy ride. I’m sure it would have been a lot worse without their skill.

Settling in to watch the sunset over the sunset above the clouds, we were delivered our choice of dinner and beverages. Now I would have to say the meals were enjoyable, well above the standard one would expect from an airline.

Our flight arrived in safely into Christchurch at midnight. Thank you to the crew in this flight, who, despite the time of day were all fresh, friendly and helpful.

As with any holiday, they eventually come to an end. Unfortunately, so did ours. Returning to Christchurch for the flight home to Brisbane, we had an early start on Saturday 3 January.

Christchurch Koru Lounge is also impressively clean and roomy,with the facilities similar to Brisbane. Here we were able to enjoy a lingering breakfast, which included scrambled eggs and mini sausages as we waited for our flight to board.

Upon boarding, it wasn’t hard to see, the cabin crew on our flight NZ803, departing at 8am were as fresh as daisies and delightfully friendly.

On this return flight. We had chosen to try the front row seats 1A & 1C, directly in front of the two crew seats. This puts you facing the crew members who are seated here during take off and landing. Today we had Candy and Catherine, seated opposite. Candy was overseeing the onboard cabin crew today, with two other cabin crew in addition to Catherine, who were Michelle & Georgina, fresh out of training.

As I mentioned earlier, the first flight had very good cabin crew, however now bing seated in direct contact with the cabin crew, we were able to interact more with the crew. This made the flight more personalised, enjoyable and a lot of fun.

Breakfast followed soon after takeoff, whilst we soared over Mount Cook National Park.

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Champagne breakfast, ah why not, the holiday is coming to an end. Time for some final treats – thanks Catherine for anticipating my choice👍. I must note the bubbly paired quite nicely with the frittata. Plus where else would you have a champagne breakfast with a view like the one below.

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Mount Cook National Park mountain peaks, rising majestically out of the clouds they appeared to be bathing in. Quite breathtaking, in fact it seemed a shame to view it through a camera lens whilst taking shots.

I really do want to give a huge thank you to the cabin crew who were tremendous. The Pilots provided a wonderfully smooth flight, whilst Candy ran a top crew with ease. They all worked efficiently, as part of a team and easily, without going about their duties mechanically. We were really impressed.

A big shout out to Catherine Sayce, Candy, Michelle and Georgina. Thank you for the friendly banter, your exemplatory service and for such a wonderful finish to our holiday. You were all fantastic.

If you’re looking to book flights on a path used by Air New Zealand, then don’t hesitate to book with this airline. Treat yourself to those front row seats, even if it’s just once, you never know who the crew will be 😄. I do know that if it is any of the crew we encountered you are in for a fabulous flight. Enjoy!

(Note, crew names were used with permission from those named)

Road Trip – New Zealand South Island

So much to catch you up on! Welcome all to 2015. We used the holiday break for a road trip through the lower half of NZ’s South Island. During the next couple of weeks I will catch you up with some awesome places to visit plus review Air New Zealand and the Koru Lounges we used, as well as the rental car company Drive Something Nice, amongst other businesses.

This is merely a brief overview of our trip in the interim, to give you an insight into some of the spectacular areas we saw during our road trip.

Our arrival into Christchurch at midnight, had us staying at the airport hotel Sudima. We picked up the hire car in the morning and drove through to a Invercargill. For us a short 7-8 hour drive, compared to some of the drives we undertake in Australia. There are towns all along the coast road, including the majors, Ashburton, Timaru, Oamaru, Dunedin plus many smaller townships along the way. Each has their own attractions and places to stop.

Choose towns or beaches for your stops along the way. New Zealand is different to Australia when it comes to a road trip. Firstly the distances are shorter, which did horrify many of the locals that we would undertake what they considered to be long trips in one day. Secondly, we found a lack of facilities roadside, ie toilets etc. There are rest areas but these are not set up like the Australian ones, which are regularly spaced and complete with facilities. I would therefore recommend stopping in townships for food and toilet breaks.

At the end of the day though, the scenery is most likely one of the main reasons you are here. The scenery throughout NZ is without doubt, nothing short of spectacular. Canterbury Plains out of Christchurch, heading south, have long straights punctuated with tall hedges to break the winds.

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After a few short stops, we chose to stop at the iconic Moeraki Boulders for lunch. A review of the cafe and the boulders has been completed already. This is definitely a place to visit.

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There are many places to explore, sometimes just off the beaten track. Watch out for the road signs, check your maps before you go and be sure to take breaks along the way.

After some time in Invercargill, we drove through to Alexandra, Central Otago, via Gore. Here, the rolling green pastures, change to steep rocky mountains, with pastures drying out along the way.

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Rivers are clear, sparkling, and even in December, snow still lingered on some of the higher mountains. The photo above was taken from the lookout above Alexandra. Even from this height, you can see the clarity of the water in the Clutha river.

There are many places you can go from here, explore Central Otago, head through to the West or East Coasts, or, travel through to Wanaka or Queenstown.

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On this occasion we were travelling to Queenstown. The photo above was taken of Lake Wakatipu as we drove through to Glenorchy, near the opposite end of the lake to Queenstown. Here the scenery is breathtaking.

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These mountains are not called the Remarkable’s without reason. They are truly remarkable.

After leaving Queenstown, we drove through to Christchurch via the lakes district and the Lindis Pass. This took us past the Mount Cook, Aoraki area. Here, on another spectacular day, I was able to take the below shot of Lake Pukaki with Mount Cook in the background.

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You never know in these areas, the expectation of seeing hobbits and orcs traversing the mountain ranges is high 😄.

Take care when travelling the NZ roads, remember to drive on the left, and stay inside your lane. Roads can be narrow and twisting at times. Obey speed signs on the highway, through townships and particularly on corners. If it says 65, then do not go over this speed for that corner. They have have those speeds there for a reason. Drive safe, take care so everyone can return home safely.

Watch out over the next few weeks for reviews and photos of the many areas we visited. There’s plenty to come!!