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Best day ever

22 Jan

It’s the middle of another Midwestern winter and my thoughts drift to past vacations in warmer locations, and to my favorite day. Yes. My favorite day. Ever. I spent my 36th birthday in Queenstown, New Zealand. We were staying in a range of accommodations on that trip, and woke up in a very shabby, communal bathroom, backpacker lodge. Not a room that encourages lingers. So we quickly got up and got moving, heading to our adventure of the day. Hang gliding.

Launch site

It was amazing. I’d never done anything like it, and loved it. We then got into our rental car and drove around the area, stopped at a few vineyards, watched people bungee jump (we’d exhausted our adventure budget – that kind of fun doesn’t come cheap!), lunch at a brewpub, then onto Wankaka, a smaller town that friends told us was not to be missed. They were right. It’s on a lake and is stunning. I’d decided that we were not spending my birthday in a backpacker lodge, and booked us into what is still one of my favorite places on earth. River Run.

We checked into our room, opened the door to the patio and met our neighbors.

Just outside our door

We went for a walk around the grounds, following a creek through the woods. Came back to the room, cleaned up, and went to the communal happy hour. There were about 8 other guests, from around the world, including a local couple celebrating their engagement. His family owned a vineyard, so we stopped there the next day, and discovered a favorite wine that we can find here occasionally.

A gourmet dinner was served around a communal table. The company was interesting. The setting was amazing. The wine was fantastic. My husband gave me a pair of earrings from a very cool jewelry store we’d found in Wellington a few days earlier.

The rest of the trip was incredible, but that day stands out as THE BEST EVER (said in booming announcer voice). A picture from the next day is too beautiful not to share tho – so I’ll end with it.

The start of our hike, the day after the best day ever

Brew in the hood is good

20 Jan

Wait long enough, and your neighborhood will turn. If you’re lucky.

We bought a house in an ‘emerging’ neighborhood 8+ years ago. The kind of place where you woke up to the sound of helicopters overhead reporting on the latest gang murder. Where the houses had a lot of potential if you didn’t mind a little scare every now and then. You had your pick of great places to get an authentic, hearty fried meal of the various cultures that were well represented in the area. (I don’t do well with fried food, and I’m very vegetarian leaning, so these places didn’t have much for me). There was a basic bar and grill with better than average bar and grill food, and the pioneering foodie outpost. And that was about it. We went to the grill often, and the foodie place occasionally. And often left the neighborhood to go out.

We realized recently that we hadn’t been to the grill in months. Because suddenly we live in the new hot dining neighborhood. We have a new sushi spot, a pizza place, a café, a French bakery, and the hipsteriest of hipster restaurants opened in the last year and crowds waiting to get in there (I’m not a huge fan – maybe another post for another day…), and to the now more popular than ever foodie place are common sites. We also got a microbrewery within walking distance. I find myself there every two weeks alternating between the best burger in the city (the Workingman), and my favorite brunch (and birthday meal of choice this year, the Breakfast From Scratch). RevBrew uses really good ingredients, prepared simply. Everything tastes like what it’s supposed to be. The entrees I’ve had have been very good. My only complaints are that they’re a bit heavy handed across the board with the salt, and that everything does not need blue cheese. Mussels with blue cheese in the broth doesn’t work. The beer is generally really good. I don’t think I’ve tasted anything they’ve brewed that I don’t like. My favorite might be the Workingman Mild. It’s a low alcohol beer (3.5% I think), yet has a ton of flavor. I don’t know why anyone would ever drink a Miller Lite when you can drink light beer that tastes this good.

 

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