Chocolate, Wine, and Cuddling with Sheep: A Trip to New Zealand’s Countryside By: Edith Parten

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming holidays and ideas for Christmas stocking stuffers. Chocolate always makes for a great stocking stuffer, right? So I thought back to my trip to New Zealand and it brought back my chocolate tasting experience at a small cottage along the countryside…And I thought maybe I should share a little of my experience.

My favorite part about visiting New Zealand a few years back for the Society of American Travel Writers convention was the day-trip via train from Wellington to the small village of Greytown. It’s about an hour ride northeast of Wellington and has a population just over 2,000.

Yeah, sure there’s lots to see and do in Wellington including the “Lord of the Rings” tour, but visiting the countryside was relaxing…and it satisfied my wine and chocolate cravings.

GREYTOWN

After hopping off the train, we headed for downtown. Greytown’s Main Street is lined with Victorian style cottages, boutique shops, historic trees, cafes, quaint hotels and a unique chocolate shop. I can see why it’s been called “the prettiest town” on the North Island.

Visitors should stop by the Cobblestones Museum to discover the history of the town for the first stop. Due to time constraints I did not tour the museum. Gotta save time for the wine and chocolates.

NZ Pioneer House
Cobblestones Museum

SCHOC CHOCOLATES 

Not far from the museum sits my favorite place in Greytown…Schoc Chocolates. Step into this small-cottage shop to awaken your senses with smells of not only chocolate, but also saliva-inducing wafts of spices, flowers and mixtures of some 60+ flavors of hand-made chocolates that you would have never imagined…like the popular lime chili chocolate. It has a little kick to it, but it’s delicious. Hot chili flakes and lime are infused into the chocolate.

You will also find flavors like pink peppercorn, lemon and cracked pepper, strawberry and black pepper, sweet basil, geranium flowers, curry, lavender, and coffee with walnuts…just to name a few. And if that’s not enough, they also make chocolates infused with whiskey, rum, brandy, tequila, along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines.

chilliwopt

These unique blends of chocolate are the creations of owner Murray Langham, who calls himself a Chocologist. He opened the store in 2002 and has since been devising the tasty chocolate creations from scratch using cocoa beans to make the base chocolate.

NZ Cocoa Beans
Cocoa beans used to make the base chocolate

Schoc Chocolates is a must-visit for any chocolate lover. You can order online, but you’ll pay about $37.00 (US) dollars for shipping…it’s well worth it.

WINE TASTING

We also visited a wine shop and tasted a variety of New Zealand wines from Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling to Viognier, Syrah and Pinot Noir. Greytown is a must-stop on the wine trail.

KAHIKATEA GARDENS & FARM 

After a delicious sandwich at a local deli we hopped on a bus to drive to the countryside of Greytown to the Kahikatea Gardens where tour groups can pet and cuddle with the friendly farm animals, tour the gardens with fruit orchards and nut trees, or just relax. The garden and farm boasts native trees that are hundreds of years old. In fact, the farm is named after the 900 year-old Kahikatea tree in the garden.

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The gardens are filled with roses, azaleas, camellias (Alabama’s State Flower), walnut, hazel and chestnut trees, and lemon trees. You’ll see so many more flowers like lilies, hydrangeas and Kowhai depending on the season. Chutney and jams are made with the produce from the farm and are available for sale in the small onsite shop.

Visitors can get up close and personal with sheep, alpacas, donkeys and miniature horses. They are cute and hard to resist.

The gardens and tours are only available for groups and are $25 or $20 depending on the size of the group.

Planning a trip to New Zealand? Make sure you visit Greytown along the way. Who couldn’t use a little chocolate, wine and cuddling?

NZ Funny sign
Thought this sign was funny. Posted outside of White Swan Hotel in Greytown

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Me and My Shadow?

It’s nearly October and time to think about some haunted history and ghost stories. I pulled a skeleton (story) out of my closet that just might make the hair on your arms stand up on ends. On a past press trip to Foley, Alabama, myself along with ten travel writers took a tour of the Holmes Medical Museum. And the rest is, well, history.

During the trip to the small charming town, something unexplainable happened.  Look closely at the photos and what appears to be a shadowy figure next to me. Was it some sort of energy? A ghost?

The museum is housed in a former hospital that was built in the 1930’s and closed sometime during the 1960’s. Many babies were birthed in the hospital, in fact, the docent giving the tour was born in the hospital. Doctors also performed surgery and took care of whatever ailed the townspeople. The equipment looks medieval compared to today’s standards.

As I was walked up the stairs to the second floor of the hospital, I began to feel a little uneasy. It was dark, the stairs creaked, and the antiquated medical items on display made me feel a bit nervous. I eyed long needles sitting next to a needle sharpener. They didn’t have disposable needles in those days, so they used the same needle over and over while sharpening it from time to time.

When I walked into a second-floor room filled with antique medicine bottles on display, my eyes caught the site of a skeleton hanging at the far corner. A professional photographer on the trip, Patrice Raplee, asked me to stand next to the skeleton to have my photo taken. As I neared the skeleton it appeared to be R-E-A-L! Yikes! Afterwards, the docent said it was a real human skeleton. I let out a shriek once I saw up close that this was not one of the plaster ones from our childhood teachings of the human body.

Before I go on, keep in mind that this was a cloudy day.  There was only one window at the opposite corner of an approx. 200 square foot room, no other people were in the room, no shadows to cast, and no flash was used. Patrice had a long lens on her camera (about 10 inches). I leaned in toward the skeleton to make it appear that I was touching it when in actuality I was slightly behind it.

I posed smiling while Patrice snapped my photo letting out a gasp, “OH MY!” I asked what was wrong. She said, “I’ll show you in a minute …let me take another photo.” She snapped another photo immediately. Then others began coming into the room to find out what happened. Upon showing me the first photo I too gasped! Yikes! I could not believe my eyes. The photo showed me standing next to the skeleton, and appearing in front of me was a black, wispy, transparent, apparition (for lack of a better description). It looks like a person standing with their arms in the air. No, this was not Patrice’s hand or fingers. She was holding a long telephoto lens and I saw her take the photo.

So I leave it to your eyes. View the photos, the first with the black, transparent figure in the dark corner compared to the photo taken immediately after. Keep in mind there was nothing to cast shadows, no flash, no one else standing in the room.

Skeleton Holems Medical Museum photo2
Photos by © Patrice Raplee – Second photo
Skeleton at Medical Museum- 2
Photos by © Patrice Raplee – Second photo

Upon her return to Seattle, Patrice took the photos to the University of Washington to show it to a few professionals. She explained to me that the consensus among the professionals was that the shadowy figure had nothing to do with the camera and it could not be explained.

The museum’s docent had told us  that other visitors have reported seeing apparitions and hearing strange moans. And she left it at that.

So I ask, does the Medical Museum in Foley have ghosts? You may have to visit to see for yourself.

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