Archive for August, 2012

A mini pilgrimage to Marlborough

New Zealand is an amazing country, positively crammed with geological fascination, ancient culture and unimaginably beautiful countryside. But what was I looking forward to seeing more than anything? Marlborough. I’m ashamed to say it but I was ridiculously excited about visiting Marlborough Vineyards, the northernmost region of the South Island and the source 0f arguably the best Sauvignon Blancs in the world.

In particular, I was looking forward to visiting Cloudy Bay. Not because it has the best wine (not the best, but exceedingly good) but because the name is my strongest association with New Zealand wines as this vineyard has successfully exported to UK and US wine shops for many years. They export their Sauvignon Blanc by the truckload, but it turns out that they have a really rather good Pinot Noir and some tasty bubblies too. The wine gets its name from a beautiful nearby bay. Come to think of it, I was pretty excited to visit there too, so much so that this part of the trip felt like a mini- pilgrimage.

We visited by mountain bike  – positively the best mode of transport for going wine tasting (in the past we seem to have visited rather a lot of vineyards by motorbike which is not a good plan for many reasons).

The vineyards are beautiful – but striking in their diversity. Some are quite ruggedly stunning like those in South Africa, others can be found in lushly green neatly ordered rows like those in France, others on chalky windswept hillsides or barren riverbeds. The climate changes from one hillside to the next – from one corner to the next, are dramatic. We were there in the middle of the NZ winter – so the vines were dormant  – but the weather was warm and the whole area was stunning. I can’t wait to go back.

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In which I meet the police and qualify for numpty of the year…

I recently had a serious attack of airhead. So bad in fact that it qualifies me as a serious contender for numpty of the year award.

In fact it was party the fault of crappy hire cars. You see while I love cars, bikes, engines etc it turns out that I have absolutely no interest in cars that are, well, not interesting. The offending vehicle was a grey Ford Focus (see? that’s pretty dull).

Anyway, I had driven the offending vehicle down to Palo Alto to meet a friend for dinner. I was running uncharacteristically late when I arrived in town and then struggled to find a parking space. I drove round and round, up and down, totally ruining any sense of direction I had cultivated, before eventually finding a space. I have had *ahem* recognition issues with the offending car in the past so I used technology to help me. I dropped a pin on my car park helper app and hurried off to the restaurant. Note to self – don’t rely so much on technology.

Dinner was fabulous catching up with my friend and as a result I was surrounded by a happy aura as I walked back to my car. Which wasn’t there. I even checked my app. I was right next to the electronic pin I’d dropped but the car definitely wasn’t there. But some rather suspicious red lines on the kerb were.  So I’d obviously been towed. Great.

In denial I paced around around a bit to make sure I wasn’t just off by a few metres…but no luck. So I called the local police:

“Hello, I think you may have towed my car. How do I get it back?”

“What makes you think we’ve towed it?”

“It’s not where I parked it and nobody goes joyriding in a Focus…”  He had the decency to laugh

“Do you know the town well?” By this he clearly meant “Obviously you are foreign so may have mistaken the street”

Pah, I know where I parked it, I even used an app.

But they hadn’t towed it.

The nice policeman sent one of his colleagues in a black and white over to help. Said second nice policewoman then took my keys and proceeded to drive around with them randomly clicking the alarm switch at parked cars (funnily enough I’ve done the same in many a car park). Anyway, she came back soon after, handed the keys back and said “It’s just over there around the corner….”. It was maybe 50m away around the corner. I had walked straight past the invisible vehicle to get to where I thought it would be.

Oh the shame. What is wrong with me?

I have to say though that the police were fabulous. My previous interaction with the constabulary has involved me being stopped for alleged speeding. I apologised for being an idiot, and they said that this happens all the time. There you go – I am sure it doesn’t happen all the time but they were being nice…Hurrah for the Palo Alto police and their kind and respectful treatment of numpties. Boo for cars that are so boring they are invisible.

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