FRIENDS! We have friends visiting.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been here for a month already. I think both Dmitriy and I had been feeling a bit homesick over the past week or so and it’s amazing what a visit from friends can do!

Dan, Rachel and Josh had been exploring the North Island for the past few days before making their way south to Wellington. On Sunday, we joined them on their trip to the South Island. The ferry ride is about three and a half hours; it’s a serious boat, complete with a café, bar and movie theater. It was a bit choppy during certain parts, so be careful if you get seasick. We traveled with a car, which made it easy to continue our journey once we arrived.

We arrived in Picton and made the drive down to Blenheim to check out some of Marlborough’s finest vineyards. Due to the climate, the area is known for Sauvignon Blanc—and we had some pretty extraordinary ones. We also had a standout Chardonnay and some tasty Pinot Noirs. We made it to four vineyards: Saint Clair, Cloudy Bay, Hunter’s and Rock Ferry. At each winery we were treated to exceptional wine and knowledgeable and friendly staff, eager to share stories of the wines and wineries. It’s difficult to choose a favorite, though Cloudy Bay had a scent challenge game that kept us entertained for quite some time.

At one point during our drive we came across a chocolate factory, Makana Confections, so we made the clear choice to pop in. We got to taste test a few delicious pieces and settled on a box of the Macadamia Butter Toffee Crunch. A-MAZING.

After a quick bite, we made our way back to the ferry and the Marchaliks continued on with their exploration of the South Island.

Thanks to a phone call as we were making our way back to the ferry terminal, we learned an important lesson: if you arrive less than 30 minutes before your ferry is set to take off “there is no guarantee that they can get you on the ferry”. Luckily we pulled in with a few minutes to spare and made it on without a problem (though they did make us leave our bottle of wine behind!). As it was a late ferry after a long day, we paid an extra $30 for a private cabin (essentially just a tiny room with a bathroom and a bed)…worth every penny.

One month in and we’re still asking ourselves “is this real life?” New Zealand has yet to disappoint.

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