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In three weeks we will be flying out to start a new adventure in Southern Italy and Sicily but it occurred to me that we often take for granted our own beautiful country. We were reminded of this on a recent weekend trip to Queenstown in the South Island. Our accommodation was at The Alpine Retreat, an elegant B&B, set in a truly stunning spot on the outskirts of the town, and run by our friends Gavin and Simone.

The flight down provided us with a spectacular geography lesson- especially from the top of the Southern Alps – bright blue and cloudless skies meant we could see the constantly changing topography with ease, and the snaps I took with my phone are surprisingly clear, capturing the snow-capped mountains, glaciers, the rocky terrain and the deep blue lakes.

img_5112The view across the road from the houseimg_5099img_511120374792_10211057420926312_8963334031393656410_nLake Wakatipu

Once on the ground, the bracing mountain air smelled fresh and sweet as it swirled around our bare faces while we waited for our rental car. The trip to the The Alpine Retreat was easy from the Airport and on arriving we could appreciate the truly spectacular position in which the retreat sits, having only seen it in photos – simply breath-taking, especially on such a beautiful day.

Having been warmly welcomed by Simone and Gavin, we deposited our gear in the cosy and elegant guest room, while our friends took the large, well-appointed studio, which has a private balcony, providing the same stunning view offered by the main deck. Ready to explore, we set off to visit Moke Lake.  In the right light, the lake and surrounding landscape provide wonderful photo opportunities, mirroring the rugged terrain on the water, but the sun was too low by the time we arrived to capture it. These two snaps were taken the next day, when we returned for better photo opportunities – but the lake had iced over so its reflective properties were reduced. Note that there is a good walk that can be done around the lake.

Two weeks previous, our friends Franco and Sue, stayed at The Alpine Retreat and captured this amazing shot which they have allowed me to share.

Our first evening concluded with a six-course degustation dinner at Gantleys on the other side of Queenstown. It is a quaint place, seemingly in a time warp, but we were delighted to be led into an elegant dining room, to a table directly in front of a roaring open fire – top marks from me before we even started our meal, which did not disappoint. The courses were superbly prepared and well-presented, and the wait staff were excellent – a great way to end our first day in Queenstown for over 15 years.

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Each morning of our all too short stay I took a walk with Simone – the early morning was quiet, moody, envigorating and inspirational. The place seems to will you to get out and enjoy the benefits of walking in the clear mountain air and to be inspired by communing with nature – take a look –

In case you hadn’t noticed, the point of this post, apart from getting back into the swing of things for Italy, is to acquaint you with the excellent accommodation offered by Simone and Gavin at the Alpine Retreat. They are a vibrant, intelligent and entertaining couple, who go out of their way to make you feel welcome in their stunning home. As the photos show,  the position is outstanding, the home is warm and inviting, and the breakfasts Gavin serves are brilliant – his poached eggs are the best I have had in years! Not only that, The Retreat is perfectly placed for visiting nearby tourist attractions – we are not skiers so I will not be mentioning the great ski fields close by, but rather the other beautiful places which can be reached with a fairly easy drive. We had the most perfect weekend of weather – no snow – making for good driving, with clear sunny skies. The following are a few of the options for visiting when you stay at The Retreat:

Arrowtown – the historic gold mining town – such a pretty place and the history is fascinating…

Wanaka via Crown Ridge. We took the longer scenic route by accident, but were glad we did as the views from the Ridge were awesome.  Lake Wanaka itself is a picture-perfect location, surrounded as it is by mountains. The town feels vibrant and go-ahead, with a great array of places to eat, and stunning sights to see.

On the road up to the ridge

The views from Crown Ridge – chilly but spectacular

Coming into Wanaka

Spectacular views from the Lake shore

Picture perfect Lake Wanaka

The Cardrona Bra Fence ( Bradrona) A well-know tourist attraction along with the nearby Cardrona Hotel

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My hubby donating to a great cause

 

Gibbston Valley Winery – we have developed at taste for this label so a visit to the winery was a must – the ambience in the cellar was upbeat and it was very busy – we only went to purchase, not to imbibe, but would love to return to partake…

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Queenstown and Lake WakatipuQueenstown is built on the shores of the lake – superlatives are not enough to describe the scenic beauty of this area – you simply have to see it for yourself, and the place to stay when you do it is The Alpine Retreat – tell Simone and Gavin I sent you….

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Four very happy customers

Postscript – for those who love the snow, this is how the place will look when snow has fallen – photos courtesy of our friends Sue and Franco, taken two weeks before our visit – as you can see it is truly a winter wonderland!

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