a lombardy cottage getaway
"Poetry, beauty, romance, love - these are what we stay alive for."
John Keating, Dead Poets Society
Not to mention great wine, delicious food, Egyptian cotton sheets, and weekends away - I live for these almost as much, and it was high time for a little bit of all of the above!
Spring has always been a time of rejuvenation for me. A time to assess where I am, where I'm going, where my bikini body went - and I always find myself questioning my relationships.
Am I doing enough, are we in love enough, are we really happy or just moseying along in a satisfactory limbo. I find a romantic weekend closeted away together sorts out the majority of niggles and gets one and ones other half back on track.
Now, when I do romance, I DO romance. No two-star, drive-in motel for this romance diva. I want it all, baby - champagne, French-styled cheese and duck Pâté, a clawfoot bath and a bed the size of Western Australia.
Thank heaven I discovered Lombardy Cottage!
What a treasure! What a find! You'll have to excuse the exclamations, but you should see this place! It really is a hidden gem, and I feel a little guilty at giving this precious secret spot away, but honestly, a weekend here will have you believing there is a God - and she designed Lombardy Cottage just for you!
We drove from Wanaka, an easy two hours or less drive through the absolutely gorgeous Central Otago countryside. No weekend, romantic or otherwise, is complete in my book without a drop of Quartz Reef Wine - biodynamic goodness planted on the largest reef of pure quartz in New Zealand - so we stopped at the tasting room in Cromwell for a bottle (or two). If you're anything like me, or any other reasonable, scientific person, and believe in energy and flavours from the earth, this is the wine for you.
I'd been my usual organised self and stopped into Florence's Foodstore and Cafe and the Mediterranean Market in Wanaka before hitting the road. Both places stock a fantastic array of exotic and local food, condiments, cheese, and sweet treats, and I love them both. Like a grown-up Red Riding Hood I tra-la-la'ed my way round both stores, basket in hand, tossing in this cheese from here, that salami from there, and a few Pain au chocolat for breakfasts.
We called in to Olivers in Clyde where the adjacent Victoria Store Brewery brews and sells a gorgeous golden ale, aptly named The Golden Gold Panner Ale. Apt, of course, because of the gold mining history of the entire Central Otago region and indeed Lombardy Cottage itself.
Built in1864 by Thomas Hughes, the mine manager and part-owner of the old Vinegar Hill Gold Mine, the cottage is located down the road from the beautiful Blue Lake, man-made by mining. Now, here's a romantic story for you. Thomas built Lombardy, named for the Lombardy Poplar trees planted on the property, for his wife Mary. Mary had remained in Wales while, just three days after their wedding, Thomas boarded ship for the Australian goldfields.
After two years in Australia he came to New Zealand where he found gold in the foothills just behind the cottage. He wrote to Mary to join him - and here's the romantic part - according to local stories, he walked to Dunedin with a wheelbarrow to collect her from the ship! Unlike most romances of this vein, Thomas and Mary had a wonderfully happy and long life, and many of their descendants still live in the district today.
What really gets me about this story, this beautiful history, is that you can feel this happiness still. I believe that energy from great emotion seeps into the land and buildings where it was felt, and it leaves a lasting impression. The impression I felt upon arriving at Lombardy, was pure joy.
Of course, I'm a more emotional creature than the other half, but he was impressed with the expansive grounds, the split-schist construction and the distance-controlled diesel fireplace.
Me, I was just impressed. Period.
Renovated to a luxurious level, with every modern comfort possibly imaginable, the cottage exudes rustic country charm inside and out. From the timber kitchen and the old coal range, to the giant clawfoot bath tub and the super king sumptuous bed, every aspect had been lovingly restored and decorated to reflect cosy opulence.
In short - Lombardy Cottage is ahhhh-mazing!
I literally ran around each room - didn't take me long (there's two bedrooms, two bathrooms, an open plan kitchen, dining, and sitting room, and a pretty library) ooohing and ahhhing at every doorway.
We'd arrived at twilight, the perfect time to sit on the outdoor chairs in the setting sun, gazing across the burbling stream to the St Bathans ranges in the distance.
The next day I got up early and made breakfast. What a champion! We sat drenched in morning sun and ate like kings. Then we decided to explore the area. The cottage owner had mentioned a local eatery winning the hearts and stomachs of locals and visitors alike, so I suggested we stop in for lunch.
After a fun morning at the old Hayes Engineering Historical Site, where I think I had more fun than my man, we went to Pitches in Ophir.
Two words - smoked butter. That is all.
I have fallen completely in love with smoked butter. Whitestone Cheese in Oamaru do a delectable little number you can find in some supermarkets in the South Island and most specialty food stores in Central Otago and Otago. But the smoked butter handmade at Pitches was just unbelievably delicious. Soft, delicately smoked flavour with vanilla tones and a subtle nutty after taste - just outstanding!
Enough about butter - gosh, you can tell I'm from Southland! Hence the cow pic - isn't she adorable! We met her and her friendly companion at Hayes where they also have a new cafe and gift shop - absolutely worth a visit!
By the time we'd fossicked around Hayes, chatted to Becky, who took us through the old engineering sheds, brilliant, and had a long, lovely, lazy lunch at Pitches, we were so ready for a quiet night at Lombardy. The diesel fire stays on so we arrived at dusk to a warm and snuggly home away from home.
The sound system offered up Leonard Cohen and I filled the huge bath with salts from The Wonder Room in Wanaka, lit George and Edi candles around the edge, and poured us a couple of glasses of Quartz Reef Pinot Noir.
And this is where we'll end this romantic story for the night only got cosier. The last thing I remember hearing was the dulcet tones of Leonard singing my favourite song...
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she's touched your perfect body with her mind.
A huge thank you to the following:
QUARTZ REEF WINES
MRS ROBINSONS TARRAS
HAYES ENGINEERING WORKS AND HOMESTEAD