We woke to the sounds of birds chirping, sheep baaing, cows mooing and dogs barking. Delightful. After a great night’s sleep I was ready for the day. Rain was in the forecast for the afternoon so we didn’t waste time getting into the city. We easily found parking and with the help of a wonderful walking tour guide that previous tennants left, we began our exploration of the city.

In 1931 the city was at the epicenter of a 7.8 earthquake. It demolished the city. But in an amazing case of turning bad into good within a few years they rebuilt the city in the Art Deco style. The main center of the city is one beautiful, stylish building after another. The guide gave us the details of the buildings as we wandered along. We stopped for our morning refreshment, served by a man who came here from Chile when he was 9, while that country was in disarray. He was distinctly a New Zealander now.

We walked toward the waterfront where there was a lovely garden laid out toward the music shell. We found three gardeners turning over soil in a bed and we inquired what they were about to plant. They couldn’t have been nicer, and seemed to enjoy pausing for a bit of conversation about their work. Guess not many folks stop to do that. Turns out at the time they were adding sheep manure pellets for fertilizer. Bet there’s no shortage of that here! They obviously loved their work, which was great to see. We continued along, walking out onto a pier with an interesting deco inspired design, on to a fountain and arches and finally until a sunken garden. It was replete with beds of flowers along with a hundred year old water wheel. While we were admiring a bed of rudbekia, with butterflies aplenty, the woman who was the head of the garden crew we spoke with came up to us for a further chat. She was charming! Said she was hoping to be like us one day, able to retire and travel the world.

We continued on to see the rest of the old buildings, eventually stopping at what appeared to be a popular cafe, ordering lunch. Luckily, still no rain, while we sat outside in the mild, warm weather.

Back in the car we found a supermarket to restock our supplies then it was finally time for my to visit a winery! The Mission Winery, the oldest in New Zealand, begun by French missionaries in 1851 was right on the way back to our Airbnb. How fortunate! For a very nominal fee they gave me a winery wine glass and introduced me to Hugh, a cute young thing who chatted away and poured wine sample after wine sample. I let none go to waste. At one point an elderly gentleman came up next to me to sample wines. Said he was from Vancouver and was in port from one of the cruise ships. He’d rented a bike and rode there, but had gotten lost and ridden about 10 miles out of his way. Good thing he didn’t drink much before trying to get back to the ship!

After all that wine I finally had to release the grip on the driving and let Dian get us the few miles back to the house. She did a fine job even with the narrow, winding, hilly roads. She said I had to drink enough to not pay attention. Ha! And still no rain so it’s another lovely evening of sitting out enjoying the view while eating dinner and sipping more wine.

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