Where is your place? The one that gives you a sense of calm, peacefulness, contentment… perhaps nostalgia?
For me, it’s Central Otago. I grew up in Invercargill, just a two hour drive away from Queenstown, arguably one of the most beautiful cities (it’s not yet officially a city, but is only around 4000 permanent residents off being classed as one, and I’ve no doubt that will soon be the case… sadly) in the world. We went up fairly often – either to visit friends of Mum and our Step Dad’s, go on skiing trips up Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, or to holiday at New Years – usually at the Arrowtown Camping Ground. Always desirable, no matter which season you’re in… even on a dark and gloomy day, those mountains are spectacular.
We always had fun… my Step-Dad (John) is the type of person who creates fun – lots of adventures wherever we went, so there are lots of memories of tubing down the arrow river, going out on his friend’s jet boat and the like.
These days (though I’ve been based in Christchurch for the last 12 years) we go down fairly often – Mum and John bought a cottage in Arrowtown a few years back, which they’ve been renovating (and doing an absolutely fantastic job of it), so we go down there a few times a year, including this past weekend – we decided to go down for Craig’s birthday, as Mum had offered to have Jessie for the night so that we could head off somewhere and stay in a hotel – we had my brother look after her overnight a few weeks back, when we went to a wedding, but we had a house guest and went and picked her up the next morning, so this was really our first proper 24 hours away from her.
We chose to go to Clyde for our mini getaway. Why? Purely because it’s pretty much the only place in Central that neither of us have been to before. It’s a charming, albeit sleepy, little town with a nod to the goldmining era in the buildings still standing, and mostly being used, on the main street. Accommodation is slim pickings but there is a B&B, called Oliver’s, which appealed to me – an 1800s home, with 11 bedrooms, which a couple from Auckland bought and completely did up. The owner was telling me that it was a holiday home previously, and in a real state. They’ve done a fantastic job of renovating it by modernising it but also honouring its original era too – we picked one of the larger rooms (some of them were very small, around the 14sqm mark), which was pretty pricey, but worth it – it had a lovely large bedroom with a Victorian style bed, and a connecting en-suite which had been built where the verandah used to be – you can still see the intricate parts of the overhang (not sure of the technical term) and is therefore lovely and sunny, being north facing. It has nice big bath, which I immediately took advantage of – one thing I miss from pre-mum life is being able to take a bath during the day, for however long I want, and read. I started reading but fell asleep (blame my flying pills for that 😅).
After some chilled out time (it was getting on for 3.30pm when we arrived), we got ready and went to dinner – Oliver’s has a restaurant on the property, where they also brew their local beer, and it is niiiiice and also expeeeeensive… but that’s what special occasions are for, right! Craig got teased while we waited in the bar for our table – we’d come in this way when we went to check in to the accommodation, and Craig had been wearing his all time favourite Liverpool FC jersey… the barman happened to hail from Manchester, and was quick to yell out “I don’t want to see that jersey in here”. So when we came back in for dinner, and Craig has changed into his evening clothes, he immediately called out “glad to see you’ve changed that top, scouse boy” (the nickname for anything Liverpool related)”.
We had a delicious dinner before heading back to our room (there’s nowhere else to go… it was a Saturday night and Clyde was dead, in fact it was kind of creepy with the old buildings and not many streetlights. When we walked back through the house to get to our room, we passed through the lounge where an older couple had completely made themselves at home with the fire burning and the TV on… I’m not usually one for B&Bs, so this made me laugh, but I’m glad they were making good use of the facilities.
On Sunday morning we slept in a little longer than intended – breakfast was available until 9.30am, and that’s about the time we checked out, however the owners encouraged us to join the rest of their guests in the breakfast room, which was all set up beautifully with continental breakfast items, set out in crystal bowls and sweet little milk bottle (skinny bottle for skinny milk). So we joined everyone else at the long communal tables, and tucked in to the homemade bread and coffee, while the owners whipped up their special dish of eggs wrapped in ham, and topped with cheese and tomato – a nice little touch to add to the continental situation (that felt appropriate given the cost of the room rate). We were most definitely the youngest guests by probably 20 years at least, but it was a pleasant breakfast.
After leaving Olivers, we thought we’d go and check out the two main streets of the town before moving on to somewhere else for lunch – unfortunately everything, except the cafes, was shut… I don’t know if that was a Sunday morning thing or an all-day Sunday thing as we did stumble across the wool shop, which was open, and the shop assistant asked what we were doing out so early (it was 10.30am), so maybe it is a morning thing? We looked around that shop for a bit, which was really lovely, and the shop assistant chewed our ears off about many things, from times when travel agents have come through for her (we get this often) to how much merino is processed at the farm down the road and how much of it is sent to Italy. I didn’t buy anything in that shop, because I was, quite frankly, exhausted after the conversation (lovely lady though she was), and we headed back to the car and decided to go and look around Cromwell and get some lunch there – it was about a half hour drive, and we parked up to go and have a walk through the historic precinct.
Cromwell’s historic precinct reminds me of the one in Oamaru, but on a much smaller scale – it’s just one small street – it’s very cute, though once again nothing was open except the cafes, but we did wander through the old bakehouse and Craig got a picture with the total babe of a mannequin standing in there. I guess times were tough for her… I was freezing my butt off in my puffer jacket!
It was 6 degrees at 11.15am and Craig wanted to sit outside on the veranda of the little Italian cafe, so that we could look out over the lake. This is a common occurrence when we go out for coffee – we usually end up sitting outside, so it’s always a good idea to wear many layers with Craig. It took a while for the staff to turn on the overhead heater, and then it was just bearable enough to sit there and eat our cinnamon scroll and drink our coffees, but after that I was well ready to jump back in the car and head back to Arrowtown, via the supermarket to pick up some toppings for mum and John’s I inaugural pizza party that evening.
At around 1.30pm we arrived back in Arrowtown to a little girl who was very happy to see us, though had had a lovely time with her Gamma and Poppa, and ya girls spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and preparing pizzas while the boys got the pizza oven/fire and hot tub going (three chimneys going at the small cottage at the same time).
When Mum and John bought the cottage it had onsite an outdoor fire – quite old and not the prettiest, but definitely atmospheric. John, being the incredibly talented inventor and creator that he is, took it back to Invercargill and put 150 hours into making into something new, using the base of it to build on top of, and in the end has created an absolute piece of art which you can cook on and has a pizza oven up the top of it. So for their inaugural pizza night, they’d invited over a few of their friends and we all sat around in Mum’s tastefully chosen (they’re an amazing pair between her interior design talent, and John’s ability to imagine and make pretty much anything) outdoor furniture, keeping warm (3 degrees at 6pm) in front of the fire, eating pizza and drinking wine. It was a fun night, which ended with Craig and I enjoying the hot tub after the party had left.
We spent the rest of our stay spending time with Gamma, and had a beautiful flight home over those snow capped mountains again. It won’t be long until we are back to visit our favourite place.
See you soon,