Sunday, 31 December 2017

Destination Te Anau to Milford Sound, South Island, New Zealand



I had read about it, seen pictures and dreamed one day of being there. It was why I wanted to go to New Zealand. And now that day had come and I really was at Milford Sound. 



Milford Sound


Rudyard Kipling described this fjord in South Island’s Fiordland as the eighth wonder of the world. This place certainly has the wow factor. It is everything you imagine New Zealand to be.

Its name is deceptive because it is not a sound but a fjord carved out by glacial activity. This is wilderness at its best.



Bowen Falls


Lush rainforests hugging mountains that seem to scrape the sky, roaring waterfalls cascading down cliffs that rise out of the water. Dolphins coming out to play only served to enhance what was already a sensational day.

The Bowen Falls, the highest of the numerous water wonders, thundered loudly. The fabled Mitre Peak was just as imposing as I imagined. Words fail to describe this spectacle that slowly passed before my eyes on my two-hour cruise along the fjord out to the Tasman Sea and back.



Mirror Lakes


That was not my only dose of beauty for the day. Leaving the calm waters of Lake Te Anau and the eponymous town, where we had spent the night behind us, we headed along the road to Milford Sound. I cannot remember ever being on a road that threw up so many gems.

Passing along the Eglinton Valley, once filled with glacier ice, with its steep rocky sides and a flat golden bottom, we hit upon the Mirror Lakes. It was a beautiful clear day so we could see a reflection of the Earl Mountains. The Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain had us all astounded. An optical illusion makes the mountain in front of you become smaller rather than bigger.



The Chasm


After passing through the Homer Tunnel, which took almost 20 years to create, we stopped at the Chasm for a 20-minute walk into the rainforest. The stunning series of waterfalls, where the Cleddau River has purged a path through solid rock down the mountain, has over thousands of years left sculpted shapes in its mist.

If I thought that there could be no more wonderful surprises that day, I was wrong.  As we arrived at Queenstown, overlooking the mystical Lake Wakatipu, it looked like tomorrow was going to be another glorious day in New Zealand.

By Daralyn Danns

Getting there

Which city you fly into in New Zealand will depend on where your tour starts from and therefore, which airline you choose. Highly recommended are Cathay Pacific cathaypacific.com and qantas.com The service and inflight experience is spot on. Ensure that the flight you book is operated by the company and not just code-sharing

The tour was part of the Grand Pacific Ultimate Small Group Tours which I booked through Trailfinders (trailfinders.com) as I did the flights

The advantage of travelling aboard the Ultimate Coach is that instead of carrying the normal 48 passengers, it only carries 20. You sit in comfort in leather fully-reclining seats so no neck ache at the end of a long day. (Distances are vast in New Zealand.) There is plenty of personal storage. It is much easier being in a small group, no hanging around waiting for people, no long queues for the loos, overall much cosier






Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Great champagnes



For decadence that can be sipped, champagne is hard to beat. 

It is the classic choice for celebration whatever the time of day. Perfect for any occasion it can be drunk on its own or paired with food.

If you want to enjoy fully a mature champagne’s aromas and complexity, try serving it in a white wine glass.

Here are my favourite non-vintage champagnes for the holidays.








Pol Roger Brut Reserve Champagne NV, ABV 12.5%, £42.99, (Save 1/3 when you order by 30/12/2017 and pay only £28.66 ocado.com)
Reputed to be Winston Churchill’s preferred choice and one of the best non-vintage champagnes on the market, this powerful fizz, from a highly-regarded family-owned house, will tantalise your taste buds. Oozing peach and pineapple aromas with a smattering of nuts and honey, it is a well-balanced elixir that oozes elegance and sophistication. Heaven in a glass.







Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV Champagne, ABV 12%, £42.99 (Save 20% when you order by 30/12/2017 and pay only £34.39, ocado.com)
This house, another independent family set-up, is renowned for producing excellent quality bubbly. Brimming with nuances of apples and pears complemented with red berries tinged with subtle notes of toast and almonds, this complex golden liquid is velvety smooth on the palate. A champagne to be savoured.






Taittinger Brut Prestige Rosé NV, ABV 12.5% £39.95, champagnedirect.co.uk
From one of the other few family-owned champagne houses comes this delicious, seductive strawberry-soaked beauty. Stylish and classy with plenty of character, it continually bowls you over. 







Waitrose Blanc de Noirs Brut NV Champagne, ABV 12%, £21.99
Fruity with smacks of biscuit and nuts, this crisp champagne, made entirely from pinot noir grapes, slips down a treat. A reasonably priced, dependable bubbly. Will please even the most discerning palates.

By Daralyn Danns



Monday, 18 December 2017

Classic wines for the holidays



Terrorist attacks, Brexit, political dramas, scandals, the North Korean crisis, the end of Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule in Zimbabwe, 2017 has been a tumultuous year and 2018 looks set to be equally unpredictable 

In times of uncertainty we want to surround ourselves with people and things that we trust. Sipping a glass of wine, especially at this time of year, is a treat. When we indulge we want to know what we are getting when we pop that cork.

A classic wine is one that promises to be consistent and will not comprise on quality. We know that it will always be enjoyable whenever we drink it. 

Here are my favourite for the holidays.





Berry Bros. & Rudd Nuits-St Georges, 2014, Benjamin Leroux, ABV 13%, £35, Berry Bros. & Rudd, (bbr.com)
Nuits-St Georges, delicately complex and subtle, is the epitome of elegance and sophistication in a bottle. This lush silky-smooth pinot noir is bursting with flavours of cherries and plums laced with a soupcon of spice. Stunning!







Jackson Estate Homestead Pinot Noir, Waitrose, ABV 13.5 %, £13.99, Waitrose
Oozing nuances of plums, cherries and raspberries entwined with herbs, this awarding-winning wine is velvety-smooth on the palate. A wonderful beguiling pinot created with flair. A delight to drink.





Domaine Carette Pouilly Fuisse, ABV 13%, £18.95 ocado.com
Bursting with white fruity tangs with a hint of oak, this aromatic white burgundy is a deliciously opulent wine. Lingers long on the palate. A charming wine that is really enjoyable especially with seafood.







Berry Bros. & Rudd Puligny-Montrachet, 2015, Dom. Jean-Louis Chavy, ABV 13%, £35, (
bbr.com)
Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne have gained a reputation for producing some of the world’s best style chardonnay wines. This is a delicious creamy well-balanced nectar with notes of smoky apples and pears with a touch of citrus. Exudes class and finesse.

By Daralyn Danns