7.16.2019

Queenstown | for scenery and adrenaline rushes

Taking the Plunge (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all right reserved

Queenstown is my favorite place in New Zealand... and I say that having never made it to Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound. Inclement weather during two separate visits caused the cancelations of our helicopter flights through these breath-taking fjords. But even so, I love Queenstown.

Queenstown Harbor (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

If you want gorgeous scenery, nothing beats this town set on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. A small resort town, it has everything a nature lover could want. I've always enjoyed the beautiful setting — the lake and the snow-capped restaurants — and Queenstown has great restaurants and many opportunities for productive retail therapy. Shop for possum wool sweaters (warm and so soft), and do drop into Waka Jewelers to browse the hand made carvings and jewelry. Walk upstairs to visit the small gallery and see the owner/artist at work.

Or if you're after an adrenaline rush, nothing is quite so exciting/terrifying than taking the plunge off the Kawarau Bridge. 43 meters above the water (141 feet), I've visited the bridge twice to take in the experience. No, I've never jumped — nor has has any of my fellow travelers, though one of our group was tempted to give it a try — but I was quite satisfied to experience vicariously the sheer terror of the experience. Or for more conventional thrills, there's downhill skiing during the winter months (summer in the Northern hemisphere).

Coming up in my next blogs, three fabulous (and so different) luxury lodges in and near Queenstown.

copyright (c) 2019 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.12.2019

visit Wellington, stay at Wharekauhau

Wharekauhau Country Estate (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand. Located at the southern end of the North Island, this small city (just over 400,000 residents) has a lot going for it. Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand,
offers an opportunity to view exhibits about the country's natural features, its history, and the culture of the original Maori people. Wellington is the nation's capital, and it's well worth taking a drive through the downtown and stopping at the Beehive (the Parliament building) to take selfies.

Where to stay? You can reach Wharekauhau Country Estate (pronounced far-he-ko-ho), very quickly by helicopter; it's just 15 miles from Wellington. Or you can make the drive and enjoy the beautiful scenery. We stopped for lunch at the Everest Bistro in Featherston and enjoyed a delicious and informal meal at a very local restaurant.

You'll definitely be wowed by Wharekauhau. Another luxury lodge designed by Virginia Fischer, it sits on a 50,000 acre working farm with a view of the sea. Its rooms were spacious, comfortable, and informally elegant (see below), and the food and wine were wonderful.

bedroom at Wharekauhau (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

copyright (c) 2019 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.10.2019

Annandale | getting there was half the fun!

our helicopter at Annandale (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

You can drive to Annandale, but transferring by helicopter transforms a long car ride into a quick and enthralling scenic flight from Christchurch to the resort.

This map shows what I mean. Annandale is quite close to Christchurch as the crow flies, but getting there by road means going the long way along the coast, then up and over some winding mountain roads until you finally arrive at your destination.

Our flight, on the hand, went by so quickly. The sights were so thrilling, such as this view of Diamond Harbour. We flew high above the white, fluffy clouds framing the cottages that dotted the hillside.

Diamond Harbour from the air (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

And when you get to Annandale, WOW! It's an expansive, 4000 acre working farm with thousands of sheep, five unique villas, and incredible dining. We stayed in The Homestead, a lovingly restored 1880 farmhouse that can accommodate a family of 12. Large groups or families might also choose Scrubby Bay, a contemporary villa on a private bay.

Shepherd's Cottage (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved
Couples who want their own private cottage can choose between Shepherd's Cottage or Seascape. Shepherd's Cottage is exactly what it sounds like, a rustic but luxurious old cottage set high on a hill overlooking the Pacific. Seascape is an ultra contemporary, ultra luxurious retreat with its own private beach. Each is so different but so delightfully wonderful. The pictures can speak for themselves.

Contact us to plan your own trip to New Zealand and Annandale.

Seascape (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

copyright (c) 2019 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.09.2019

exploring Lake Taupo

view of the Kinloch golf course and Lake Taupo (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Continuing my travelogue through New Zealand... following our lunch at Huka Lodge, we drove north to the Lake Taupo region of the north island. New Zealand's largest lake (238 square miles in area and up to 600 feet deep), Lake Taupo is within the caldera of an ancient volcano.

Maori carvings on Lake Taupo (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

We enjoyed a cruise on the lake, took a look at the Maori carvings shown above, but the highlight of the cruise was the opportunity to fish for trout. They were certainly biting! We let most go but brought two freshly caught trout with us to Kinloch Manor where the chef prepared them for our dinner.

Kinloch Manor has an ideal setting overlooking the lake. Like all the New Zealand luxury lodges, breakfast and dinner are included. An especially good option for families, my "suite" was huge and could comfortably accommodate a family of at least four guests. With its own kitchen and (very pleasant surprise!) washing machine and dryer, I was able to wash and dry all of my dirty laundry from the first few days of the trip.

And if you love a challenging golf course, Jack Nicklaus designed the links style course pictured above. One of the Kinloch managers, an avid golfer himself, shared that Jack must have been in a bad mood the day he designed the course.

copyright (c) 2019 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.04.2019

Huka Lodge — just for lunch this time...

Huka Lodge (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

It wasn't that long ago that I was in New Zealand, and I'm continuing this series of blogs reminiscing about the ten busy days we spent exploring the destination. Our site inspection of Huka Lodge reminded me of just how special this place is.

Huka Lodge was the first design project undertaken by Virginia Fisher. 35 years ago, the owner of Huka Lodge had a vision of what he wanted to create, but he couldn't find the right individual who could bring his vision to reality. During a chance meeting in a totally non-business contest, he discussed his project with Virginia who offered to take it on. She was not a professional interior at the time, but he took a chance with her, and the rest is history.

It's all about the setting 300 meters above Huka Falls on the Waikato River... just gorgeous. Come here to relax, to fly fish, or simply to enjoy nature and the wonderful food and wine. We were treated to lunch, and I whole-heartedly recommend the Quinoa Salad.

The second picture (showing mist rising from the river at dawn) was taken during my first visit in 2009. Huka Lodge was every bit as gorgeous the second time around.

copyright (c) 2019 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.02.2019

our impulse travel purchase

the itinerary of Baltic Delights, our Windstar cruise

This was an impulse purchase. Here's the story of how it came to be...


Act I — an intriguing itinerary

The dream of this trip began last August (11 months ago) when a travel blogger I follow wrote about Tallinn. In his words,
Europe in general has so many charming “old towns,” though Tallinn has the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen. Period. The old town is large and adorable.
Tallinn sounded so interesting. Searching Virtuoso.com, I looked for itineraries including Tallinn and found what is shown above — a Baltic cruise on Windstar, a boutique luxury cruise line. A lot of these places are on my bucket list — Copenhagen, Tallinn, and especially St. Petersburg, Russia where the cruise will dock for two full days.

The prices were reasonable for a 10-day luxury cruise, but I was hoping for travel agent rates — I've been spoiled; there were none to be had. So this cruise went on the back burner, and I forgot completely about it, until...


Act II — a compelling cruise fare appeared

Last Monday, just eight days ago, Windstar sent out an email blast with agent familiarization fares. By a stroke of luck, there was an agent's rate for the very sailing we had been looking at. I applied for the rate, but everything depended on finding...


Act III — reasonable air

When it's just one month before departure, the least expensive business class air fares buckets have usually sold out. Note: I'm not going to fly from San Francisco to Europe if I can't lie down flat and get some decent sleep on the way over. Bottom line — there's lie-flat business for about $6500 per passenger round-trip, but at that price, the trip was a no-go.

So I began searching. Could I accomplish some travel agent magic on my own behalf? Yes!!! I eventually discovered a consolidator rate to Copenhagen and back from Paris (not Stockholm) for about $2350 per passenger, round trip. I spent some Amex points for the inexpensive flight from STO to CDG ... and ended up with four bonus nights in Paris!


Act IV — so the cruise is on

Let it be known, I'm not a cruiser — at least not to this point — but Claire and I have grown more and more excited about our Windstar adventure as we've started planning our days. There are many sources for shore excursions — Windstar itself but also independent vendors like Shore Trips and Viator. We've looked into all of them, read the tour descriptions, and have become more and more...


Act V — ... excited to go!

We're actually surprised at the degree of excitement we have for this trip. After all, we travel so much. We even have an epic trip to Australia at the end of September ... but we're giddy with anticipation for this Windstar cruise.

Sometimes making an impulse travel purchase is the very thing to do. By the way, Windstar just published an Independence One Week Sale with prices as low as $1599 ... get in touch if you'd like to make your own impulsive travel purchase! 

copyright (c) 2019 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

6.27.2019

late afternoon at Cape Kidnappers

Shark Tooth Cliffs at Cape Kidnappers (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

I have a backlog of photos from New Zealand that I'd like to share, each photograph bringing back a wonderful memory. This moment represents one of the highlights of my stay at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers.

We flew from Kerikeri to Napier (with a connection in Auckland) and drove through the art deco town of Napier on our way to Elephant Hill. One of New Zealand's outstanding wineries, we enjoyed a wine tasting followed by an excellent light luncheon. I most remember the oysters! After lunch, we headed up the hill to Cape Kidnappers, the second of three Robertson Lodges that hosted us. We arrived in the afternoon and, after dropping our luggage off in our suites, we met at the main lodge for a site inspection, a tour of the farm, and a 4x4 ride out to the late afternoon setting pictured above.

The red glow of the setting sun beautifully illuminated the white walls of the Shark Tooth Cliffs, and we also observed the Gannet colony. Cape Kidnappers offers luxury accommodations in the Hawke's Bay region with great wine, superb food, and championship golf. If I could only have stayed for more than one night!

copyright (c) 2019 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.