Ever since I visited the top of the Sydney Tower a few years ago and the first voice I heard was one of a lady telling her elderly mother “olha ali! olha ali!” as she pointed at the view, I’ve become more and more convinced that it is true what people say about Portuguese people being just about everywhere. When I approached Senhor Jorge last Saturday morning at his stall at the Nelson markets, it was only around 10AM and I was already his second Portuguese customer of that day.
I had no idea I’d go all the way down to Nelson (at the top of the South Island) to find some Portuguese deliciousness but that was exactly what I found. My stomach is not normally ready for something as heavy as beef and mustard in a bun quite so early in the day but the excitement of seeing and smelling the food got the better of me and a few minutes later, after having a bit of a chat with Senhor Jorge, as he prepared the food, I was digging into this.
Senhor Jorge’s Fernando’s business is not just a market stall and he sells his own homemade chouriços and other stuff online as well (I have a feeling I’ll be placing an order very, very soon). He let me have a slice of chouriço and asked me if it tasted like home. And it sure did. He also told me he’s working on some ideas for what other Portuguese traditional stuff he can start selling in New Zealand and there was a mention of pasteis de nata (real deal ones, not the fake portuguese custard tarts you find in other places) so I’m sure as hell going to keep checking his website for new stuff.
For some strange reason, I’m going back to the subject of off-the-beaten-track old style pubs. Don’t worry, I think this is the only other one I know. Also, don’t ask why, just embrace it as the useless piece of trivia that it is. Maybe you can use it as a conversation topic for when things get awkward around strangers? No? Okay, no.
Browsing through my photos of the South Island, I came across a couple of shots of the Blackball Hilton, located in the tiny town of Blackball on the West Coast (just inland from Greymouth), which is home to only about 330 people.
This Victorian style inn was built in 1910 and, in 1992, at age 82, when it was already old enough to be respected and left alone, the lawyers of the Hilton family (yes, that Hilton family) somehow heard of this place in the middle of nowhere, in the quietest little town on the quietest island. They slapped the owners with a lawsuit to get them to stop using the word Hilton and, in response, the name was changed and, since then, the inn has been known as “Formerly the Blackball Hilton”.
In the beginning of summer, my parents visited New Zealand for the first time and we took them on a little whirlwind tour of the country. It was a jam-packed month during which we tried to made sure they got to see the most amazing sites (including a couple of places I’d never been to either, like Milford Sound). We couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the weather (even if mum and dad found it a wee bit chilly most of the time). The sky was clear for 99.9% of their time here and the southern lakes were a real beauty.
We started off our southern roadtrip in Christchurch (which my parents were fortunate enough to visit pre-earthquake) and headed west across Arthur’s Pass to Greymouth. From there, we drove south to the glaciers and then to Wanaka and Queenstown, before heading to Te Anau and Milford South, and all the way down to Invercargill before starting the journey back up north through Dunedin, Oamaru, and a bunch of other cute little towns, back to Christchurch again.
The poor rental car clocked up a lot of kilometres but we still had plenty of time to stop and enjoy the amazing landscapes. I honestly can’t remember how many photos we took of this lake (Lake Pukaki) but we just couldn’t believe how beautiful it looked. We had driven past it earlier in the day and it hadn’t been quite like that but I guess the real still air with zero wind caused this image in the afternoon. I was so pleased they got to see it like that too.
This was my third trip to the South Island and every time I go I’m reminded of why New Zealand is considered one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It’s not that the North Island isn’t pretty – it is! – but the South Island is truly spectacular.
P.s.: Dear tourists travelling to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup in September: if you come all the way to the bottom of the world and don’t take the extra drive/flight to the South Island, you’ll be missing out on the most amazing landscapes ever. Consider yourself warned.
* As winter reaches New Zealand, I thought the next best thing about warm coats, hot cups of coffee and comfortable knitwear would be to remind myself of how much I enjoyed the past summer. It is also a good reminder of the good times to look forward to when the next summer comes around. Oh yes it is! This is the third post of the series.The first one was about Rarotonga and the second was about White Island.