McKayson’s New Zealand Women’s Open Golf Championship 2017

 

The New Zealand’s Womens Open is New Zealand’s richest golf tournament with NZ$1.85 million in prizemoney. It will be staged at the new Windross Farm golf course in Auckland from 28 September to 1 October this year. The New Zealand Women’s Open is part of the global LPGA Tour which comprises 35 events in 15 countries, with the New Zealand event to be broadcast to more than 150 countries.

Eight Major winners, including three from the winning 2017 USA Solheim Cup team, have completed final confirmation for the MCKAYSON New Zealand Women’s Open taking place in just over three weeks.

The trio of Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome and Danielle Kang were part of the winning American Solheim Cup team. The other Major winners include Canada’s Brooke Henderson, Korea’s Na Yeon Choi, Taiwan’s Yani Tseng, Scotand’s Catriona Matthew and tournament host Lydia Ko.

Tseng and Ko have been so dominant that between them they were the world number one for more than four years. Tseng was the youngest player either male or female, at 22 years, to win five majors – the US Women’s PGA Championship twice, the Women’s British Open twice and the ANA Inspiration. Lincicome, 31, is a two-time Major winner and likely to be one of the most popular players at the tournament, on the back of her big hitting game, which has earned her the nickname of BamBam. Choi is another player with a remarkable record in the game, with nine LPGA wins including the US Women’s Open in 2012. The 29 year old has won over NZ$15 million in earnings, with her first professional tournament victory in Korea at just 17 following an incredible amateur career. Henderson, 19, already has four professional wins to her credit including her breakthrough victory when she beat Ko in a playoff to claim her first Major, the 2016 Women’s PGA Championship. Matthew has 11 tournament wins to her credit including the British Open in 2010 and four wins on the LPGA, amassing more than NZ$13 million in her career. Creamer is a 12-time winner who has amassed more than $NZ 16 million in prize money including a win in her first year to become the youngest winner of a multiple-round tournament. She claimed her Major at the US Women’s Open in 2010 with her last win coming at the HSBC Women’s Champions in 2014. Kang, 24, won her first Major with victory in the KPMG PGA Championship this year, pushing her one spot outside the top-10 in the Rolex World Rankings for the two-time US Amateur champion. And then there’s the 20-year-old Ko, who was world number one for a remarkable 104 weeks and in her very short but meteoric rise in the sport, has already won 14 times including two Majors along with 60 top-10 LPGA finishes.

“To have golfers who have won so many Major Championships between them is a testament to the quality of the field coming to New Zealand,” said tournament director Michael Goldstein. “To this you have a number of outstanding players who have won many times on either on the LPGA or the LET Tours. We have a large number of proven champions in the women’s game competing in Auckland, and it will be a privilege for New Zealand fans to watch players of this calibre in action. It is a level of golf that has never been seen in this country before.”

You can read more about the championship on their website:

http://www.nzwomensopen.com/

 

 

 

 

Anzac Day: 25 April

Today is Anzac Day. April 25. To me, Anzac Day conjures up vivid images of my university time in Auckland, when on this day each year my friends and I would get up in the dark, and walk through the Domain to the Auckland War Memorial (by the Museum). We would gather in small groups, whispering, and waiting for the first rays of light, and the emotional moving sound of a solitary bagpipe, that indicated the start of the ceremony. Most people were well wrapped up against the cold, but all would be wearing a red paper poppy somewhere on their jackets, to mark the day.  Wreaths, decorated with poppies, would be laid around the memorial, and returned servicemen decorated with medals would be an intrinsic part of the ceremony, many often in wheelchairs.

In this way, thousands of New Zealanders and Australians in New Zealand, Australia and all around the world today attended dawn ceremonies and parades to commemorate Anzac Day. This public holiday (in both Australia and New Zealand) commemorates all New Zealanders and Australians killed in war and conflicts and also honours returned servicemen and women who have fought and protected our country.

The date itself marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Australian and New Zealand Armed Corps – the “Anzacs” – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. The aim was to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. At the end of the campaign, Gallipoli was still held by its Turkish defenders. Thousands lost their lives in the Gallipoli campaign: 87,000 Turks, 44,000 men from France and the British Empire, including 8500 Australians.  Among the dead were around 2700 New Zealanders, about a sixth of those who served on Gallipoli, and over 5000 New Zealanders were wounded.

New Zealand Justice Minister Amy Adams spoke at a dawn service at Gallipoli today. I found her speech very moving. You can see it here:

Gallipoli – Anzac Day 2017

“LEST WE FORGET”

Auckland Arts Festival 2017

Between 8 – 26 March, New Zealand’s largest city will be hosting a huge range of performances at The Auckland Arts Festival. From dance to poetry and visual arts to circus, the Festival is one of the biggest arts festivals in the southern hemisphere. It draws performers and audiences from around the world, and includes many free events and lots of family-friendly offerings.

In last year’s festival, 1,160 artists from 41 countries descended on Auckland to provide locals and visitors to the city with exceptional arts experiences. For 19 days, at more than 100 locations, Auckland was delivered a brilliant cross-cultural, cross-geographical and cross-generational programme of music, performance and events.

You can find out more about what’s on this year by clicking on the following link:

Auckland Arts Festival

Discovering Fiordland from Te Anau

Most visitors to New Zealand include a trip to Fiordland (to see Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound or to do one of the fabulous walks in the region) while they are in the South Island. Unfortunately many travel agents arrange for their clients to do this as a day trip from Queenstown. We always recommend that our clients stay in Te Anau or Manapouri if they are visiting Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound or wanting to experience Fiordland. This cuts down on the long driving time from Queenstown and gives them the added bonus of experiencing the warm Southern welcome given by local hosts in this area. If you are looking to go on a guided walk in the region, there are also several fabulous options departing from Te Anau.

There are also lots of other great things to do and see in the Te Anau area if you have time. Take a cruise across the pristine waters of Lake Te Anau, surrounded by the untouched beauty of the Fiordland National Park. There are primeval forests, picturesque islands, hidden coves and stunning mountain views waiting to be discovered.

Real Journeys offer tours of the glowworm caves, which begin with a cruise to the western shores of Lake Te Anau on a scenic cruise vessel. Deep inside the caves, you will be taken by small boat into a silent hidden grotto inhabited by thousands of glowworms.

Southern Lakes Helicopters are based in Te Anau and offer stunning scenic flights in the region. Departing from the lakefront helipad, you fly over Lake Te Anau for a birds-eye view of glacial carved fiords and bush clad mountain tops. Just above the north end of Lake Te Anau you will make your first landing at a remote glacier. Once airborne again you will fly over the Milford Track before landing at stunning Lake Erskine with its pristine blue waters.

For visitors interested in scuba diving, there is also the option to dive in the Milford Sound / Piopiotahi marine reserve. Milford Sound is unique for diving as the fresh water layer on top of the salt water makes plant and animal life usually found very deep in the sea much closer to the surface here. Because of this, divers are able to find stunning and unusual wildlife only a few meters down, and spend more time exploring. Diving trips are available for experienced divers and also for first time divers.

If you would like any help planning activities in the area, please let us know!

Escaping the European Winter

It is this time of year that I find living in Europe hard! The long cold winter stretches out before us for a few more months. The warm glow and cheery chatter of the Christmas markets are gone. The Christmas Tree has been thrown out, and the decorations packed away for another year. An icy wind blows across the fields and through the streets, cutting to the bone. Snow turns to slush, and people hurry from their houses to their cars, in a rush to turn up the heater before they freeze.

Meanwhile in New Zealand it is high summer. My friends and family send emails and photos of themselves at the beach – the kids playing cricket and rugby on the sand, or practicing life surfing and body boarding through the waves, while their parents wander along the beach, or grill sausages on the BBQ and enjoy the sunshine. It is the perfect time to do one of New Zealand’s Great Walks or one of the hundreds of other trails traversing the country, connecting isolated beaches, rugged coastal cliffs, farmland, river valleys and virgin forest, or high country tussock lands and dramatic mountain ranges. The weather is normally settled at this time of year, and it is the perfect temperature for walking or biking or kayaking, or one of the many outdoor activities on option in New Zealand. It is also the perfect time of year to visit one of the many wineries, and linger for a long lunch under the vines, while sampling the local pinot noir or sauvignon blanc.

In my opinion, February and March are the best months to visit New Zealand (and the best time to flee the long winters in Europe). Most of the “high season” tourists using their Christmas holidays to travel have left the country, and the local schools are back in session (so kiwi kids and their families are back home) and everything is much emptier. There are more accommodation options available to choose from, and the prices are usually better than during the Christmas period. The water is also warmer, as it has absorbed the strength of the sun’s rays during the summer months. There is also better availability for airfares (and more competitive rates).

It’s not so easy to travel during this time if you have children at school in Germany, but for anyone else, this time of year is highly recommended for your holiday in New Zealand! If I could, I would flee the European winter every year in February or March, for a taste of warmth and paradise on the other side of the world!!

 

Stargazing from a hot pool!

The small township of Tekapo sits on the shores of the remarkable turquoise-coloured Lake Tekapo, within the world’s largest International Dark Sky Reserve. It is a popular destination with stargazers from all around the world and is home to the Mount John Observatory. From early next year (2017) there will be a new way to enjoy the spectacular night sky in one of the world’s best stargazing locations.

At the Tekapo Springs hot pool complex, guests will be able to navigate the Southern night sky’s bright stars and constellations from the warmth and comfort of hot pools. They can enjoy an after-hours soak (from 9.30pm onwards) whilst listening to relaxing background “astro music”, as qualified “Star Guides” point out the brightest features in the night sky.

Once guests have enjoyed the pools, they will be invited to get closer to the stars and planets by looking through two new 9.25 aperture Celestron telescopes sitting on the patio outside the complex’s Tahr Bar & Café.

Tours are scheduled to start early 2017. They will be 1.25 to 1.5 hours long and will run throughout the year.

This night sky video gives you a taste of stargazing at the complex: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaDZkxnF7bM&feature=youtu.be

 

It’s all happening in Auckland

If you are visiting Auckland in the next few months, there are some exciting events coming up. Here’s a run-down:

17-22 November 2016: Royal New Zealand Navy celebrates its 75th Anniversary

In 2016, the Royal New Zealand Navy celebrates its 75th Anniversary. There will be an International Naval Review as part of these celebrations in Auckland from the 17th to 22nd of November. A number of foreign navies, including the US Navy, are participating. The ships will enter the Waitemata Harbour in formation on Thursday 17 November. There will also be a march by 1000 sailors down Queen Street, public open days on New Zealand and international naval vessels, and an exhibition at The Cloud on Queens Wharf.  For more details see the Navy’s website here:http://nznavy75.co.nz

14-21 December 2016: Youth Sailing World Championships

From the 14th to 21st of December, Auckland will host the 2016 Youth Sailing World Championships. This is expected to attract about 400 young sailors to New Zealand. Torbay Sailing Club (on the North Shore) is hosting the tournament, in conjunction with World Sailing and Yachting New Zealand.

2 – 14 January 2017: ASB Tennis Classic

The ASB Classic takes place from the 2nd to the 14th of January 2017. In a major coup for Auckland’s annual international tennis tournament, Serena Williams will be playing. Other internationals confirmed for the 2017 tournament include Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, Jack Sock, John Isner, Roberto Bautista Agut and David Ferrer. The Auckland tournament continues to be a hit with top international players, winning the players’ choice WTA Best Asia-Pacific International Tournament 2 years in a row. To buy tickets, see the ASB Classic Tennis website: http://www.asbclassic.co.nz

28-30 January 2017: Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival

The Tamaki Herenga Waka Festival takes place in the Viaduct Events Centre and Viaduct Basin over Auckland Anniversary Weekend (28 – 30 January 2017). Enjoy three days of traditional and contemporary Maori culture, from emerging and established Māori musicians including Sammy J, Maisey Rika and Ria Hall, as well as traditional and modern kapa haka performances. Wander the village marketplace and discover delicious kai from Māori chefs and a variety of authentic arts and crafts. Experience traditional Māori games, storytelling, and workshops, plus exciting waka experiences on the Waitematā. There will also be a ‘Koro Lounge’ where pakeke (older visitors) can sit down, relax and have a complimentary cup of tea or coffee. Here is a link to the full programme: Tamaki Herenga Programme

9-12 February 2017: Auckland Lantern Festival

The Auckland Lantern Festival takes place between the 9th and 12th of February, and is Auckland’s largest cultural festival. Hundreds of handmade Chinese lanterns are set amongst the heritage trees and gardens of the Auckland Domain, while food stalls showcase delicious, authentic Chinese cuisine. There are performances, martial arts displays, arts and craft stalls, and a fireworks show at the end of the Festival.

 

 

 

Devon On The Wharf

Devonport has always been one of my favourite places in Auckland. When I was studying at Auckland university, and later working in downtown Auckland, there was always something liberating about boarding the ferry to Devonport. The feeling that all of the hustle and bustle and stress of study and work was blown away by the sea breeze as the ferry chugged its away across the water. I loved wandering through the art galleries, and visiting the Stone Oven Café for one of their delicious muffins. When my husband and I decided to get married in New Zealand, we got married in Devonport. We still have stunning wedding photos on our wall, from the top of North Head looking out over the water to Rangitoto. And later we took our kids to Devonport, to eat freshly cooked fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, while sitting in the park on the waterfront. Afterward the kids would play on the slides and swings, while eating Hokey Pokey ice cream, and we would watch the boats sail past, and sip on a glass of local Sauvignon Blanc. Bliss.

But the wharf itself was always a bit of let-down. It was somewhere you hurried through on your way to the village, or to the boat. There was never really any reason to linger there. Finally, someone has seen the potential of this wonderful spot, and all this has changed. Introducing … Devon on the Wharf, opened 2 weeks ago, on the 25th of August this year.

A wonderful restaurant that seems to do it all. There is a kiosk providing freshly roasted coffee and fresh-pressed juices for commuters passing through the ferry building, as well as packed lunches for people wanting to take a picnic on the go. The main restaurant has delicious offerings including a full breakfast menu (with dishes like blueberry pancakes and truffled scrambled eggs on a crusty Turkish bagel) as well as lunch and dinner menus. The menus have a Mediterranean feel, with platters, souvlakis and Turkish pides, amongst other delicious meals on offer. There is also a bar where you can grab a beer after a hard day out and about, while admiring the Auckland city skyline through the window.

Devon on the Wharf is definitely worth putting on your list of things to experience while in Auckland. If you are staying in downtown Auckland, you could easily take the ferry over to Devonport for dinner one evening, and get the ferry back to your hotel afterwards. What a delightful way to leave the stresses of the day behind, and enjoy delicious food and a beautiful space right on the water.

You can find out more about this great new restaurant on their website: http://devononthewharf.nz

Here are some recent local reviews as well, which give you a good feel for this wonderful new place: The Denizen and Urban List.

 

 

North of the Takaka Hill

Many visitors to the Nelson region don’t make it over Takaka Hill up to Golden Bay, the northern tip of the South Island, but it is well worth a visit!! (Particularly if you are looking to go somewhere a little off the beaten track, and away from the mainstream of tourists at a busy time of year). State Highway 60 winds over and around the Takaka Hill, and there are some great photo stops along the way, with stunning views back over the plains towards Nelson.

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I also made a lovely stop at the Te Waikoropupu Springs (known as the pupu springs by the locals!), which is about an hour and a half north of Motueka. There is a beautiful bushwalk to the largest spring in New Zealand, with some of the clearest water in the world. The waters are sacred to the Maori, and it is forbidden to swim or otherwise touch the water, but it is nonetheless a very peaceful place to stop and stretch your legs.

It is a short drive from Te Waikoropupu to Collingwood, where I checked in to my room at Zatori. Zatori stands on a hilltop overlooking the Collingwood Estuary and village, halfway between Takaka township and the Farewell Spit. The beautiful setting of this retreat is totally private, with stunning views over the gorgeous Aorere River mouth out to the mountains of Kahurangi National Park and the ocean beyond. There are paddle boards, kayaks and bikes available if you want to further explore the area without having to get back in your car. As my room wasn’t quite ready (I had arrived an hour earlier than expected!) Tracey brought me a pot of tea and I sat out on the deck admiring the view, and wishing I could just sit there for the rest of the day. My room was beautiful, with large sliding windows which I could open on to a deck, with views out over the gardens and the sea beyond. A lovely retreat.

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I had a delicious lunch at the Courthouse Cafe in Collingwood, before heading out to explore Cape Farewell, and Farewell Spit.

Farewell Spit, at the northern tip of the South Island is New Zealand’s longest sand spit (35km) and a nature reserve. It is an internationally-renowned bird sanctuary with over 90 bird species recorded in the area. Every spring, thousands of wading birds arrive from the northern hemisphere. Other birds range from black swans and gannets to bar tailed godwits, knots, curlews, whimbrels and turnstones. Penguins also breed in the area.

Wharariki Beach is stunning. The crashing waves, huge cliffs, and sanddunes will blow you away. The caves, islands and arches of Wharariki Beach, where seals breed, are among the most dramatic in the country. There is a local horse trekking company with special concessions from the Department of Conservation to ride horses along Wharariki Beach – a unique way to explore this stunning part of New Zealand.

There are also lots of great walks you can do in this area, of various difficulty grades, across lush farmland, and with spectacular views of the rugged coastline. Make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes! You can walk from Wharariki Beach to Cape Farewell (which is about a 3 hour walk). Part of this path crosses the beach, and you will need to make sure it is low tide when you set out, otherwise this part of the walk will be under water. After crossing a small creek and walking through farmland, and along cliffs with amazing views, you will eventually come to Cape Farewell.

Cape Farewell is the most northerly point on the South Island and is located just west of Farewell Spit. First mapped by Abel Tasman, it was named by British explorer James Cook in 1770 – it was the last land seen by his crew as they departed on the ship’s homeward voyage. Due to its remote location, it is one of the less visited of New Zealand’s major capes.  From here, the clifftop walk (3 hours one-way along the heights of the coast east of the Cape) joins the area with the beginning of Farewell Spit.

I had a magnificent 3 course dinner at Zatori that evening, and the lovely atmosphere in the stylish lounge area (complete with open fire) was the perfect setting for a delightful evening with delicious food and friendly locals. Tracey also recommended the perfect wines from the area to accompany the meal. A wonderful end to a wonderful weekend in Golden Bay.

A weekend in Nelson

I spent a delightful weekend in Nelson in May. As my plane landed at the small local airport, and I climbed down the stairs onto the runway, I looked around at the early morning light, the open skies, and the distant mountains, and felt that I had arrived somewhere special. After picking up my car from Hardy Rental Cars (very good friendly service) I headed into Nelson township, to visit the Nelson Market, which is held on Saturday mornings. It was a beautiful crisp sunny autumn day, and I had a very enjoyable stroll through the various market stalls – admiring everything from regional goods, fresh, seasonal and organic produce as well as handcrafted items from local artisans, and stalls selling mouth-watering freshly prepared food and coffee.

In the afternoon, I visited the World of Wearable Art Museum. I wasn’t expecting to be so impressed. The skill and talent involved in creating these stunning costumes is incredible. Many of the costumes on display won awards in the World of Wearable Art Awards Show, a two hour performance held annually in Wellington in September. The Museum also has a vast collection of classic cars in wonderful condition too. You can easily while away an hour or three here!

The next morning I visited some of the lovely vineyards in the Nelson area. Nelson is one of the sunniest region in New Zealand, and has a mild climate that combines to create some wonderful wines. Grape vines have been cultivated in this area from the time of the mid-1800s by German settlers to New Zealand. Many wineries in the area also offer lovely cafes at the vineyard, so as well as tasting wines, you can indulge in a platter of something delicious to go with the wine as well. As it is quite a small region, you can visit several vineyards within a few hours.

Afterwards, I ended up at the Jellyfish Cafe at Mapua Wharf for a late lunch. What a beautiful place. I had a delicious meal of grilled calamari, salad and kumara chips, with a glass of a Nelson Sauvignon Blanc, while admiring the beautiful Waimea Estuary flowing past the cafe. I could easily have spent most of the afternoon there, soaking in the sea air and the sound of gulls flying past, but decided I needed a bit of activity to round off the day.

So, after my late lunch I went for a bike tour on Tasman’s Great Taste Trail with Nicky McBride, from Wheelie Fantastic. They have a great arrangement there – Nicky and her team are based directly at Mapua Wharf, and will drop you (and your bikes) anywhere in the area on the Taste Trail (depending on how far and how long you want to bike, and how challenging you want your ride to be). I decided that after my wine tastings and lunch I didn’t feel up to tackling hilly areas, and rather wanted some downhill and flat biking. You can choose whether you want to bike on your own or whether you would like one of their guides to bike with you and show you around. Nicky loaded our bikes up on the back of their van, and we were dropped off on the Trail. Nicky showed me some lovely parts of the country on the way back to Mapua, and some good spots to stop for a break or two (Jester House looked lovely!) There’s something for everyone there, whether you’re a really keen biker or just someone who feels like a leisurely bike ride to work off lunch and a glass or two of wine!!