Waiheke, NZ

17 years ago I started a summer training program for my first job out of college at Credit Suisse. Most of the other analysts in my program were from Ivy leagues and based in US offices, but there was a small contingent from the NZ and Aussie offices that arrived in New York. There was promise of a lifetime supply of Tim Tams, so naturally close friendships were born. 17 years later we’re back together on the small island of Waiheke, 45 minutes from Auckland, to celebrate Jonathan and Claire’s wedding.

After a very long, dramatic day of travel to get to Auckland, I’ve finally arrived at what can only be described as paradise. Cliche, yes, but accurate as hell. The house I’m staying in is perched high up on a peak overlooking rolling tree-covered volcanic hills, vibrant blue sea, and other surrounding wee little islands on the horizon. Terrible place to wake up every morning.

The inside of the house has the feeling of a Tuscan villa, with white cushy couches, stucco walls, heavy wood doors and light switches I want to yank off the wall and bring home with me.

The best part, however, is the massive slab outdoor dining table covered by a canvas canopy and surrounded by an outdoor fireplace and views worth the price of admission. One of the things I love most about weddings is the gathering of friends from both the groom’s and bride’s years of childhood through present. Total strangers coming together to celebrate and make new friendships simply because we have these two people in common. Together, we rang in the New Year in the first city in the world to do so, and made an incredible New Year’s Day brunch to sop up the previous night’s festivities.

Across from our African Lillie-lined driveway is an entrance to a tramping track begging to be explored. Heavily covered in ferny foliage, the walk through the woods didn’t disappoint.

Surrounded by the sounds of dew dripping off leaves and birds that sound like they’re singing a game show tune with up and down notes strung together, replaced the need for a podcast or playlist to keep me company. I made friends with this little Fantail along the way, which seems to be the bird of choice on all the gift shop prints so he must be special.

The trek itself didn’t disappoint, but was made even better when I came through the opening of the woods to a hidden cove with no people in sight, only sailboats anchored in the bay for safe keeping. A view that takes your breath away as much for the beauty as for the element of surprise.

Speaking of breathtaking views, they’re a dime a dozen on Waiheke. Wanna go swimming, we’ve got one of those:

Looking for a sunset to beat all sunsets? Yeah, we have that too:

Want something to feed your cloud addiction? Sure, no problem:

Need a postcard shot to let everyone know you’re thinking of them? Try this one:

But wait, what about the food? You, of all people, should be writing about food. Yeah, ok, no disappointment there either. New Zealand is known for their lamb, so naturally I bought a big leg at the local butcher which we slow roasted for 4 hours and finished on the grill. It could be the surrounding views getting to my head, but this might have been the best lamb I’ve had in my life.

The house is also surrounded by fresh citrus trees and an herb garden, which I pilfered freely. The most exciting booty? Fresh passion fruit right off the vine.

When we’re not stealing fruit off the land we’ve been making daily trips into Oneroa village to one of the best little grocery stores I’ve ever been in called Island Grocer. It’s like Dean and Deluca far from home. Aside from fresh produce and a killer cheese counter, the highlight is the coffee and smoothie bar that will put any other in the world to shame. Ever had a smoothie bowl? Me neither, but it’s like a smoothie soup in the best possible way you can imagine.

Other reasons to love the Island Grocer? They sell Brooklyn-Detroit based McClure’s pickles 9,000 miles from home. Of course that also explains the $23 price tag.

In other island oddities, there was this little teepee discovered on the walk into town and the flip flop sculpture which gets points for creativity.

I’ll leave you with this little peanut, Jonathan’s goddaughter, who wanted to share her ice cream with me.

Xo, xt

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