Aspects of New Zealand I will remember the most clearly and for the longest time will likely be first the astounding natural beauty of the islands and second the remarkable (seemingly) genuine kindness of its people.
A key purpose of this trip was to seek out remarkable products made by remarkable people. New Zealand has some amazing design and certainly no end of wonderful people, but in contrast to other countries we visited, I did not find or stumble upon much of the type of product I had hoped to find. Nelson was the exception to this experience.
But picking back up chronologically, we left the North Island, sailed through the Marlborough Straits, and landed in Picton. It was just an overnight stop. Although we had the smallest wine pour of our entire trip, the rest of our dinner was delicious with a bowl of fresh green-lipped mussels and the most elegant garlic bread ever.
Our motel was unremarkable aside from this old radio on the wall. Sadly it didn’t work.
The next morning we picked up a decidedly not luxurious rental car (picture to follow in a later post). Jeff bravely took the first leg, driving us back to the motel. We had been worrying for months about driving on the “wrong side” of the road. A woman on one of our flights gave me the best advice, “steering wheel to the center of the road.” That became my driving mantra. That plus numerous signs along the roads, and an always-alert passenger, kept us safely on the left side of the road. I did a few laps of sleepy little Picton (actually found it harder to drive with little other traffic… you’re not likely to turn into the wrong lane if there’s a car sitting in it already facing you). Then screwed up my courage and we headed out on the Queen Charlotte Drive through the Marlborough Sounds towards our next stop, Nelson.
Our motel in Nelson was one of the nicest of the trips, Century Park Motor Lodge. Beautiful spacious room with an exceptionally nice host and hostess. And the best organized kitchen accessories drawer of the trip.
There was a boarding school next door that was knocking out Wi-Fi signals for a couple block radius. Apparently there was going to be a meeting about it the following day, but as the internet went in and out over our one-night stay, even though they warned us before check in (when we could have left if we so choose), they refunded us over 20% of the hotel cost the next morning (and emailed me several days later to let me know the problem had been fixed).
After wandering a bit together, Jeff and I decided this was a town for me to explore on my own, popping in and out of the numerous stores featuring local designs. Stores that stood out for me were Red Art Gallery, especially products by Dinosaur Designs such as useful yet quirky home accessories (though should mention they’re from Australia not New Zealand).
Also enjoyed the Little Beehive Coop. Owned and operated by local artisans, the store had everything from weaving to drawings to jewelry. I was especially drawn to jewelry by Marielle Estelle, especially the sea urchins (or kina as they’re called in New Zealand).
Perhaps what I most enjoyed in Nelson were the beauty products. New Zealand has a number of small (to larger) companies that produce high quality, natural face and body products (as I had been vainly searching for in France, and yes, both senses intended). I stopped into one natural products store, Bodywise www.bodywisenaturalhealth.co.nz where a calmly enthusiastic (yes, sounds like an oxymoron, but she was) naturopath named Bridget introduced me to the many lines they carry. Here are the ones I “met” there:
Living Nature: A fairly large range of face and body products. Claims to be “New Zealand’s original certified natural skincare company”. Was tempted by several products but did not buy any.
Antipodes: This line and Triology (which I originally mistook as being a UK company) seem to be the most sophisticated of the New Zealand natural brands. Beautiful packaging, especially the hand and body creams in jewel-toned metal tubes. Unfortunately I did not buy any of this line as it was very expensive. But as a brand that uses unique, local ingredients like the mamaku black fern and to research the best extractions (with no animal testing of course), it’s one I definitely want to watch.
plantæ: Made locally in Nelson, this is a smaller line of products, but seem to be very pure and intense. I did buy the Rose Hip Fruit + Seed Serum, which is the most concentrated rose oil I’ve ever used. They use the entire rose hip (apparently most rose oils only use the fruit, or the seed, I’m not clear on that…), resulting in what feels like the absolute essence of a rose in liquid format. Heaven.
The Herb Farm: A mother-daughter team, this line was the most attractive to me physically. Simple, clean design that somehow conveys a subliminal message that your skin will likewise be pure and elegant with these products (I’m a sucker for marketing). Their products are as natural and fresh as any of the others, but in addition they have a stated commitment to keeping their products affordable, and the prices were very reasonable, especially for the “natural” market. I left with a sampler line of their rose-based dry skin set. Love it, especially the powder exfoliate.
So, with slightly heavier bags and perhaps a more radiant face, we departed Nelson for our first national park, the smallest in New Zealand, considered the “sapphire”of the system, Abel Tasman National Park. More adventures await!