Holy Chris, I'm behind on this blog! Right. Where was I? Oh yeah. Katie, Melissa, and I were on our way to Wanaka. First thing on my agenda was to correct my guests' pronunciation of my new home town. Kiwis, I've found, pronounce quite a few words and names differently than Americans would. 'Wanaka' is definitely among those. I imagine that, like me before I arrived here, most Americans would think Wanaka was pronounced so that it rhymed with 'banaca'--you know, the fresh-breath spray?--but no, it's actually pronounced so that it rhymes with Hanukkah--you know, the Jewish Festival of Lights? Correct pronunciation established. On with the trip.
We arrived in Wanaka after about an an hour and a half drive through some very pretty country. We passed more than a few vineyards along the way. Some quite picturesque. But none nearly as breathtakingly gorgeous as my workplace, which I was itching to show my former coworkers. And, after checking the girls into the motel, that's just where I took them. First stop, the tasting room. We sampled the entire range of Rippon wines, from Osteiner to Pinot, and there was much rejoicing. A wander through the vines and the requisite picture taking with the lake and mountains as the backdrop followed. I was so glad the weather was nice--we hadn't seen the sun once during the preceding nine days due to a most-stubborn inversion layer that had settled over the valley. But it cleared up brilliantly for my out of towners, and there was much rejoicing. After snapping a number of pics, it was up to the Winery for a tour, which Bret, the Assistant Winemaker, was more than happy to provide. He gave my guests (and me) quite an education on the process of wine making that was so much better than the tour I would've provided, i.e. "There are the tanks. There are the barrels. Any Questions?" Bret even provided us with a bonus tasting--straight from the barrels! We got to sample from two or three of the 08's and from two of the 09's, including from the barrel "Steve the Texan" named for yours truly (an entry on the naming of barrels, and how it is I got one named for me will be coming soon) and there was much rejoicing.
After the tour of my workplace, we went back to my house where Katie and Melissa took over the kitchen and prepared a most delectable Mexican food dinner. What a treat! They had read somewhere that I had been desperately missing good Mexican food and were so sweet to bring with them some much needed supplies. Although their beans got confiscated as contraband from Customs upon their arrival, they came through with flying colors. Our taco dinner was Grade A, muy delicioso, and there was much rejoicing.
After dinner we met up with Shannon down at the bar Woody's, where my friend Mike is the Manager. Jenn and Michelle joined us shortly thereafter and we had a fun night out, and there was much rejoicing.
The following day, the sky had reverted back to the grey palor it had maintained for most of the previous fortnight, but even so, the beauty of this place was little diminished so we took a long walk along the lakeside. About midway through our walk, it began to snow. The novelty of experiencing snow in July, especially for a couple of visiting Texans who, three days prior, were experiencing triple digit temperatures back in Dallas, was something to behold. I don't think it would've been possible to wipe the bewildered smiles from Katie's and Melissa's faces. I wouldn't have wanted to even if I could.
After our walk, I got to introduce the girls to one of my favorite Wanaka pastimes--drinking Brewskis at Kai. Kai is the cafe/bar on the busiest intersection of town, and if you sit outside long enough, sooner or later you'll see everyone you know. Shannon, Mike and Dean joined us, and for the next couple hours we all drank Brewskis, talked, laughed and greeted the multitudes of passersby we knew. Mostly I just sat back and watched as Mike and Dean kicked their 'entertaining out of towners' engines into high gear. Dean, an angry (not really, it's all an act) Welshman, and Mike, an affable (not an act, genuinely affable) Kiwi are quite the story tellers, and they had us all in stitches for hours. Just get Dean going on a diatribe about the French and you've got an afternoon's entertainment that's second to none. I really couldn't have asked for a better afternoon to show my guests just why this place has become so special to me. And there was certainly much rejoicing.
Come suppertime, we retired back to my house where Paula had prepared a traditional Kiwi dinner of lamb shanks, roasted veggies, and kumura. It was alright, but, frankly, not really worth writing home (or blogging) about, so I won't. There was only a little rejoicing.
Theirs was an extremely short visit--only a few days--but I'd like to think that Katie and Melissa had a good time. I know I certainly did. It was so great to see friends from back home, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to play tour guide in my new little corner of the world. My only regret is that we never got a chance to make it to Puzzling World. Maybe next time. **Sarcasm heavily implied here. Brad knows, but for the rest of you, Puzzling World is the local, cheesy tourist trap.**
So, to sum up: good friends (both visiting and local) + good scenery + good weather + good wine + good food + inclement (but fun) weather + good beer + good conversation + good laughs = one helluva good time...
...with much rejoicing!