Once again, it’s been a while since I have posted, so apologies for that! But if it’s any consolation, we’ve been REALLY busy over here! This was by far the busiest season we’ve had, and it continued well into the autumn, which is something we’ve been trying to achieve ever since we started in this business. Tourism New Zealand, who meets with us each year during our Luxury Lodges meeting in Auckland each May, has finally recognized that perhaps they should spend a bit of time and money promoting NZ as a year-round destination, since they have created a huge problem for the country during the summer months of January-March, when you could easily find yourself unable to secure accommodation in the country’s hotspots for the throngs of visitors. So they are now finally taking my advice and not only promoting holidays in NZ during the off-season, but they’re also helping to spread the word that there is more to the country than Rotorua and Queenstown, both of which have become so popular that no one wants to go there anymore.
Anyway, the work to expand the three guest rooms last winter has paid off in spades, with extremely positive feedback from guests and travel agents, and we have nearly paid for the project already, which is something of a miracle. Unfortunately, the project is not quite over, since the local council put a sort of quid pro quo on the job by requiring us to make one of the other guest rooms more handicapped-accessible than it already was. So J2 has removed the glass shower doors and the wall tiles in there so that a larger curtained shower stall can go in, along with a robust foldable shower seat. We’re taking the opportunity also to replace the toilet and lighting in there, and figured while we’re at it we might as well finally replace the toilet in the room opposite that one and completely renovate our private bathroom. So while that work progresses we have no bathroom on our side of the house, and are making do with a glorified outhouse, walking from our apartment across the inner courtyard of the house to use the bathroom in the Elizabeth Room (the one that is just having a toilet replaced). It’s kind of like camping, since it means that we have to walk through the open-to-the-elements courtyard to take our showers and all that for the next few weeks.
A few weeks ago–before we started tearing out the bathrooms–we had our second assessment visit to be recertified as a New Zealand Luxury Lodge. These assessments involve an overnight stay by two assessors, with dinner and an excursion that is typical of what a guest here might do. Last time they asked to do a cooking class here (though we also sent them to the blue penguin colony) but this time we had something a bit more interesting planned. Over the past few months we have worked with a number of local operators to put together some specialized tours for our guests, and we had them go on one of those. The one they chose is our “natural wonders” tour, in which they get a personalized tour of the Moeraki Boulders, the yellow-eyed penguin colony, and the historic Totara Estate and nearby Clarks Mill. Happily for us, the weather cooperated and they had a fantastic time, reporting back that they had no idea that the Oamaru area had such a varied range of things to see and do. Since one of the assessors is always a luxury-level travel agent, this was very good for him to learn, so we hope that it will translate into more bookings from his agency!
While we have been pretty busy this autumn, there have still been a number of lulls in guest arrivals, which has afforded us a bit of us-time. J2 and I both have started to go to the gym again, which we even managed to slot in between guest departures and arrivals during the summer, but which became a bit less rushed when we did not have to limit our visits to the hours between guest departures at around 10am and potential guest arrivals at 2pm. We have also been able to pursue our hobbies and other interests more actively, which has seen J2 dust off his brushes and canvases and start painting again, while I have done the same for my cameras and started to get out more and do more with my photos.
In mid-June we close the lodge down for the winter and prepare for our more-or-less annual winter break. I leave first, on 10 June, heading for South America, where I’ll visit Buenos Aires, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro for travel agent meetings, and pop over to Foz do Iguaçu for a bit of a break. I’ll spend a bunch of my time there in the company of our usual travelling buddies, Abdo and Barbara, though they’ll wisely skip São Paulo, so I’ll have people to explore these places with while J2 stays behind to work on those bathroom projects. Then we’ll meet up in London on 25 June and spend a week traversing England for more meetings before heading across the Atlantic to spend a few weeks on the US East Coast, followed by two nights in Houston and a couple of days in Los Angeles. We’ll end the trip with a week in Hawaii with our friends Naomi and Mike and return home on 3 August. Meetings are shaping up nicely in all these places, so it should be another productive trip!
Let me end here with some of the photos I’ve been taking lately, and some older ones that I have managed to resurrect with a bit of Photoshop.