The tour was run by Elisabeth whom I discovered through AirBnB experiences. Elisabeth is actually from the Netherlands but I specifically chose her to take the tour so I could gain an outsider’s perspective on living in Bologna. Elisabeth is a student and attends university in Bologna. Specifically choosing Bologna for the chance to learn more about Italian food, art and culture.
The tour took us on foot through to Bologna’s oldest chocolate shop Majani Cioccolato Boutique which was established in 1796. In Majani, I was treated to sampling 4 chocolates of which I purchased one of each to ‘take home’. None of the chocolate I purchased even left Italy as I ate it all. Too good not to. My favourite was the FIAT Cremino, a 4-layer velvety alternation of hazelnut and almond paste, with sublime creaminess.
After Majani we walked through one of Bologna’s many food markets. We sampled some Piadina’s together which was a great chance to ask a lot of questions and take in the morning ritual of market shopping by the locals. It was especially nice to have Elisabeth sit down and eat with me.
The next stop was another food market area which was quite close to the Piazza Maggiore area. The streets are lined with butchers, fruit and vegetable shops, seafood places, bakeries and traditional Italian food shops. We were also able to sample some cheese and balsamic vinegar from around the area. I really enjoyed this part of the tour and made the decision to head back later to buy some lasagne alla bolognaise which I had been eyeing off.
Wondering around for a while we purchased some Crescentins (also known as Tigelle) which are a type of small flat bread that were filled with some meats and cheeses from the local area. We grabbed our food and ended up at Osteria del Sole that from memory was the oldest of its kind in Bologna. What an amazing little place. Families gather there with their own little picnics gathered from the surrounding markets and feast together with wine purchased at the bar. We sat on a lively table of a family that was celebrating just being together. Amazing to watch and be a part of. Elisabeth purchased our wine and after talking and eating and drinking and having such a great time, I ended up buying us more wine. Of course.
Lastly, we headed off along Bolognas famous porticos to Elizabeth’s favourite gelati place. My first (of many) gelati in Italy and let me tell you it was every bit as wonderful as I had imagined it to be. The shop has an abundance of flavours to try, I settled on two after a long wait trying to decide which ones to have.
For a 3-hour tour we certainly packed in a hell of a lot and I did not need to eat breakfast (which I was advised not to upon booking) or lunch. For just under $100 AUD this tour was certainly worth every dollar spent. Not only was the food amazing but being able to head into some places I would never have thought to if I was on my own was a really great experience. For someone whom is a new local to Bologna she certainly knows its history and stories really well. Elisabeth is also lovely, vibrant and a truly charming person to be around.
I’d highly recommend booking Elisabeth for your walking food tour of Bologna.
Queenstown. Queenstown. Queenstown! Are you not the prettiest, most delightful and exciting spots in my Southern Hemisphere neck of the woods. Kia Ora to you, my new destination love.
New Zealand had always been on my list of places to visit, but with it only being a 3-hour flight from Melbourne, I’d always pushed going there far down the travel destination bucket list. I mean I have had quite the ongoing love affair with Europe that has been ticking along quite nicely for the last 15 years and considering I still have so much more to explore in Europe, New Zealand would have to wait.
Anyway, New Zealand is just like Australia isn’t it? (If you’re a Kiwi and reading this, don’t shoot me, please do read on!).
It was after solid advice from friends and a fellow traveller on my trip to Norway in October 2017 that totally changed my perspective of New Zealand, especially the South Island. So, it soon became my new must-go-to destination. That, and New Zealand was a special place for me to visit, as it was on my darling Mum’s travel bucket list – for more on my Mum’s story and why this trip was important, you can read here
My travel partner for this trip was a good friend of mine, Hannah. Work takes Hannah to New Zealand’s North Island quite often however she was yet to explore the South. Hannah is quite like me, not into the crazy adventure sports that Queenstown is famous for, more of the seek some stuff, visit a few sights, eat, drink, people watch and chill, so she was a perfect partner in crime for this trip.
Like Norway, the South Island is majestically beautiful. You get your first glimpse of exactly how stunning the area is from the air and let me tell you the view is eye popping spectacular. From the air the landscape is an extreme contrast of the lush coast line and fjords, never-ending snow-capped peaks, barren brown mountains, turquoise rivers, deep blue lakes, stunning green farming land and the cutest of little towns spattered here and there. If this was what the Queenstown area looked like from the air, I couldn’t wait to touch down and start exploring on land.
Famous for good views, great food, excellent wine, adventure sports, abundant ski fields, and good old Kiwi hospitality, Queenstown was sure to be a sensory delight for us both. Each day brought us a new adventure, a new place to eat, people to meet, and new scenery to take in. Food was a major highlight for the both of us so before we left home we did plenty of research and asking friends of their favourite places to eat while in Queenstown, and every single one of them gave a hyped up notable mention to the Queenstown institution, Fergburger. As we managed to fit in quite a lot of eating, including two fine dining experiences, I’ve written a separate blog post just on the food and wine experience alone. So, if that’s your thing, click here and I promise you that you’ll be booking a flight to Queenstown before the end of reading the post.
Before leaving Australia, we also did our research into where we wanted to go and what tours we wanted to do, and with only one cancellation, we were able to get around and experience quite a lot in our week break. We managed to fit in trips to Arrowtown, Wanaka, Gibbston Valley, Coronet Peak Ski Field and the majestic Milford Sound which was all sort of amazing. We even took a helicopter ride back from Milford Sound which was a last minute-crazy adventure. To find out about the tours we did click here
Our trip was towards the end of July so the weather at that time is cold, but it is winter, so we expected it. And while it was cold they certainly turn on the warmth indoors. It didn’t snow in Queenstown while we were there, but there was plenty of the white stuff in the surrounding mountains to see. We were told that the snow really hits a bit later so if that’s your thing I’d suggest mid-August. We were also told that the autumn months are particularly beautiful, so March, April and May are your best bets for that. I can only imagine how beautiful it will be to go back to the area at that time of the year and sipping wine in the sunshine.
Queenstown is a hot mix of culture, where the Kiwis seem to be outnumbered by international workers and tourists all of whom seem really happy to be there. I don’t blame them really. Although they were few and far between, every Kiwi we did happen to meet was super friendly and quite endearing, even if there was a bit of Aussie bashing going on, ah there’s nothing like Aussie v Kiwi rivalry to keep you entertained.
The town is small enough to not need to hire a car, taxi or Uber. There is a shuttle bus to and from the airport which is $15 NZD each way or you can catch a taxi which can cost approximately $40NZD. This would be the only real time that you would ever need to catch a taxi in Queenstown though. We spent most of our time walking around the town getting to and from places, bars, restaurants and shops, nothing being more than a 10-minute walk from our hotel.
What did surprise me was the shopping. Slightly cheaper than Melbourne, but some real unique pieces of clothing, jewellery and natural beauty products. I shopped up a storm, yes, my credit card took a hiding, but when on holidays, enjoy right? I especially loved the Manuka honey hand creams (feel so good on the skin) and the merino wool everything.
The more I explored Queenstown and it’s surrounds the more it reminded me of different pockets of Europe. The west coast fiords are very similar to Norway’s famous fjords, flying over the southern alps reminded me of my flight from Oslo to a Tromso in Norway. The snow-capped mountains reminded me of Switzerland and on the ground, the buildings and the whole vibe of Queenstown reminded me of many European towns. Basically, Europe on my doorstep. But its New Zealand, and it IS different to Europe and is nothing like Australia thank goodness!
With Queenstown being only a 3-hour flight from Melbourne I can’t help but think that for too long I have had my head in the sand to have left it until now to make my first trip. There is so much to love about the place, so much that I contemplated the thought that I could be very happy living there. Yep! It really is that good! Queenstown has such a relaxed vibe about it, it is pretty, friendly, happy, engaging, charming and draws your heart into falling in love with it. But it is the views that really leave you spellbound. Everywhere you turn there is something so spectacular off into the distance it is hard to know where to turn next, and it is for this reason that I felt at such peace and so still, patient, happy and relaxed. I guess this is why I feel that a week wasn’t long enough. Queenstown is not only a delight to your taste buds as much as it is to your eyes! I honestly can’t wait to go back to the place that has kind of stole my little Aussie heart.
From Australia Air New Zealand, Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar all fly Queenstown direct. Often there are some decent specials at different times of the year. Peak season is the winter months for the ski season, so prices are generally higher then.
We stayed at the Novotel Queenstown, you can read my review here.
Let me start of by saying one the one word that you will need to know for your trip to Queenstown is: ‘Fergburger’.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, please read on.
My most recent holiday, a week in Queenstown, New Zealand with a good friend of mine, Hannah was always going to be a sensory overload to the tastebuds. Such is the reputation of the area’s local produce, wine and beer we were expecting utter greatness, and boy did Queenstown deliver the goods to two food and wine loving gals from Melbourne.
So, let me start with Fergburger. There is so much hype that surrounds the place, that when researching things to do, see, eat in Queenstown the first words uttered from every single one of my friends in Melbourne were “you MUST try Fergburger”. Every-single-friend. With a reputation like that how could you not give it a go, and a go we certainly gave it. Because Fergburger was so amazingly mouth watering good I have written a review which you can read here
Most of our days started at the equally famous to Fergburger, the Fergbakery, where we’d fill up on strong coffees and breakfast as well as snacks for the day if we were out touring. In all honestly, the best croissants I’ve had outside of France, coffee was strong and so good (and being from Melbourne we know good coffee), their famous Boston cream donuts a sugary delight, and the pies! I thought Australia did pies well, but nothing comes close to how just how tasty New Zealand pies are. Skip the tomato sauce my friends, it is simply not needed. Fergbakery is certainly a winner, closing only for a few hours to re-bake and clean, it is a Queenstown institution and one that should be on your list.
Being lovers of good food and wine and being up for a good old splurge on our stomachs, Hannah and I booked dinner at two fine dining restaurants, Rata and Bunker. Bunker was a small and quiet little restaurant but the food was robust and delightful. Rata on the other hand, larger and slightly louder in atmosphere, had food that was out of this world orgasmic. I can’t ever remember a time where my eyes have rolled back into my head from the sheer delight of such good food before, it was simply that good! You can read the reviews of those two here (warning serious food envy to ensue).
Two other notable mentions:
The Pub – have $20 main meals that are both delicious and filling. I ate the pork belly and it was twice the size of what we get in Australia. Crisp crackle, not too salty and meat very tender
Eric’s Fish n Chips – located in a little caravan across from the Novotel. For a fresh light meal, this was a great option.
There was only one place that we’d not waste time and money on again and that’s Cow pizza restaurant. Unlike Australia, Italian migration must have skipped New Zealand in the 1950s because the pizza was one of the worst I’ve tasted and the price exorbitant. The base was just wrong, too much cheese (and for a cheese lover that’s saying a lot) and who the hell ruins pizza by putting fresh tomato on it? One word, soggy. Hannah and I felt we were cheated out of a good Queenstown meal considering everything else we ate was top notch.
And now to the alcohol. The wine, especially the pinot noir is outstanding, and I will definitely go back to explore more of the Central Otago wine region for the wine alone. I’m imagining a beautiful warm autumn day tripping from one winery to the next, sampling the best of the regions wines and eating all the good cheeses. Hmmm yum!! The bars and pubs are very welcoming too. The service is great, they’re warm and most importantly showcase local beers which I was more than happy to sample a fair bit of. We particularly liked and frequently visited World Bar and Ballarat Trading Co. A word of caution for anyone who looks young enough to be underage, take your passport out with you on nights of drinking. Hannah at age 29 was refused service, a driver’s licence is not accepted, and I couldn’t buy drinks for her.
One of my most favoured parts of the trip to Queenstown was heading out to the Gibbston Valley winery and cheese shop. After taking the shuttle bus at 10am from Camp Street in central Queenstown in 20 minutes we were eating the most generous and tasty cheese platter paired with a delightful glass of Pinot Noir, and for breakfast no less. As you do when you’re on holidays! Honestly you can’t beat $40 NZD for all of what we ate. After gorging ourselves with cheese it was off to the winery for sampling… wine of course! What I liked about the wine tasting was that you could choose from only whites, reds or sparkling, or mixed tastings. All in front of an open wood fire. How cosy right? We both tried the Pinot Noir tasting, pared with a much smaller cheese platter. We did contemplate going the one we had for breakfast but thought that would be too gluttonous. I also had to sample the sparkling wines. I mean, I’d be a fool not to.
You can check out the Gibbston Valley Winery and Cheese shop website here
What pleasantly surprised me about Queenstown and I guess this goes for the whole of New Zealand, is just how well they do food and wine. I mean I knew it was going to be good but, was the reputation really to be believed? Aside from one shitty meal, everything else was amazingly beautiful. Fresh produce, tasty and felt healthy even if it probably wasn’t. On account of the food and wine alone, I will definitely head back to Queenstown for more gourmet experiences.