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Winter roadie!

For almost 20 years, New Zealand winter season has been the perfect time to visit family in Italy and lie on the beach. But for the past few years, we have decided to turn to our childhood winter activity: skiing. As last year, we planned to drive down to the deep south (from Auckland), instead of flying. Four days to reach our favourite winter destination, Wanaka, and discovering some new exciting parts of NZ along the way.

Activities for our first day included strolling along the incredibly clear water at the blue springs, at Putaruru, and the Redwood Treewalk at night in Rotorua. Suspended high above the forest floor, we walked across bridges and platforms, illuminated by floating lanterns designed by sustainability champion David Trubridge.

The morning after, heavy rain along the desert road prevented us to appreciate the view of the majestic volcanoes of the Central Plateau, but as our ferry entered the Queen Charlotte Sound, we were welcomed by jumping dolphins and we were rewarded with a picture perfect; colourful and clear sunset. South Island was welcoming us.

The ocean road from Picton to Kaikoura was beaming with wild life. Marveling at the close encounter with the noisy, clumsy, smelly but nevertheless intriguing seals was a highlight. The fresh crayfish served at the roadside beach caravan was the perfect lunch spot.

Day four is the final leg, Christchurch to Wanaka. As we drove across the passes, the excitement escalated. Lunch on this day was at the ‘Fairlie Bakehouse’ to eat only the best pie in the South Canterbury region. It would be rude not to take a brief stop at Tekapo to admire the unreal colour of the lake. This is also the first encounter with the smell of snow and the vastity of the Mackenzie country.

The arrival to Wanaka feels like a warm welcome back to what we consider our winter home. Last year we have spent 3 entire months here and this has allowed us to live the town and its surrounding as the locals do. Adam and Eve’s breakfast croissants, the espresso at the Coffee Shack, the relaxed lunch at Federal diner, the fresh beer after a rewarding day of skiing at Treble Cone… But our favourite experience remains the freshly baked scones paired with a glass of mulled wine at the ‘Wineglass café’ of the Edgewater resort.

Mulled wine, vin brule’ in Italian, is very popular in almost every town of the Italian Alps and is part of my childhood memories. Although I never really drink it in Auckland, I have brought the recipes with me from Bormio, the ski area I used to go as a child in the Valtellina region.

Vin Brûlé

Ingredients:
– 1 litre of full-bodied red wine (the Italian Primitivo is my fave but Syrah works well)
– 7 cloves
– 2 cinnamon sticks
– 3 aniseed
– 1 lemon (for the zest)
– 1 orange
– A pinch of grated nutmeg
– 3/4 cup sugar

Method:
In a wide but low saucepan place the sugar, grated lemon rind, sliced orange, spices and then pour the wine. Bring the wine slowly to boiling point, stirring continuously.

Shortly before the boiling point, remove the pot from the stove and let it stand for approx. 2 hours or overnight so that the spices can infuse. Strain the spices, reheat and enjoy.

NOTE: For a non-alcohol version try the cherry juice!