I spent two days and three nights in Nelson, graciously hosted by American expats Tom and Ann, who spent much of their lives teaching in “American Schools” across the globe, but have landed in Nelson. As one of the sunniest places in New Zealand, a lovely town of 50,000 on the northern coast of the South Island, and having a thriving art, food, and wine scene, many retirees choose to settle here. I can well see why.
Here’s where I am:
I was exhausted the night I arrived, and so after dinner I repaired to bed. I was appalled to find I’d slept till 11 a.m.: something I haven’t done in—well, I can’t even remember sleeping past 8 a.m. I must have been tired. That made our visit to the Nelson Saturday Market (a famous institution) a quick one.
It was a lovely market, and everybody selling stuff, from clothes to arts to food, is required to have made the stuff themselves. Here’s a seller of spices and condiments, all of which he prepared himself:
Local honey of many varieties:
The famous and expensive “mānuka honey“, probably the world’s most expensive honey (a small jar costs about $30 in New Zealand currency, with $1 NZ equal to about 70 U.S. cents. It’s made by bees that pollinate the local mãnuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium), native to Australia and New Zealand.
It’s delicious stuff, and is touted as having antibacterial and “healing” properties, but in fact has not been proven to have any such properties when consumed by humans. It commands a premium for these properties, but it’s sort of a scam. Nevertheless, it is delicious stuff: very viscous and tangy.
Bowls made from the local woods are gorgeous. While it’s forbidden to cut down any native trees unless you’re clearing land for a farm, you can use driftwood so long as it’s below the high tide line (or so I’m told):
Had I room to carry stuff and was not afraid of breakage, I would have bought some of this wood:
From there we went to have lunch with 8 members of the Nelson Science Society at at the nearby Mahana winery specializing in Pinot Noir (the Pinots and Sauvignon Blancs from this region are spectacular. It’s almost harvest time so the grapes are covered with nets to prevent depredation by birds.
My lunch: New Zealand lamb (of course) with mashed potatoes, vegetables, and a glass of full-bodied Pinot Noir.
There was also a New Zealand equivalent to sushi:
Here’s Bill Malcolm, a retired botanist who had read my account of the Great Kea Hunt. He brought a picture showing him with a kea that had landed on his head (lower right). Keas, even in recent years, were once much more abundant than now, and it was easy to encounter them.
It’s a good thing it didn’t put his eye out!
Here’s a local bird called the fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa). I photographed it through a window, and it’s a bit out of focus.
New Zealand currency is great: on one side is a famous New Zealander (here on the $5 bill is Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first two men to climb Everest, with the mountain shown in the background). Coins for scale:
On the other side of every bill is an iconic New Zealand animal. This $10 bill appears to carry the Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata):
Breakfast next day was at a small cafe in a garden center; an odd place for a cafe. But, as I’ve found in New Zealand, the food is uniformly good everywhere. Here’s my breakfast of French toast with baked banana and bacon. Yum!
We then repaired to the WOW Museum (the Museum of Wearable Art, which is combined with the Nelson Classic Car Collection). The first part of the Museum are arty costumes, all of which have been worn on the runway. This little number is made from wood:
A dress with faces in it:
Believe it or not, somebody can wear this and walk in it: there was a film clip of this moving Braque-esque sculpture:
I guess the wearer sees and breathes through the hole:
A sort of Vesalius costume:
And on to the classic cars, of which there are many. I’ll leave the readers to identify them:
I loved this tiny car:
The two-cylinder engine; I’ve put a coin on it for scale. It’s a tiny engine!
A Packard police car for my friend John Hempel, who loves Packard:
One of my favorite cars, an old Pierce-Arrow:
The hood ornament. Oh, for the days of lovely hood ornaments!
And older Packard; the photo below it shows the hood ornament—the only glass hood ornament I’ve ever seen.
The glass rooster hood ornament:
A 100-foot sailing yacht moored in Nelson Harbor. Some extremely rich person owned this thing, which was registered in the Isle of Man.
Yesterday afternoon we spent a few lovely hours with Tom’s friend Roger, a fanatic about rock and pop music from the Sixties through Seventies. He has 13,500 records: all vinyl (45s and 33s), catalogued by both genre and artist. We discussed various forms of old rock, including “northern soul” (an English musical form) and “skiffle” (which influenced the Beatles), listening to samples as we talked.
Here’s Roger holding a rare Rolling Stone album, apparently worth several hundred dollars.
He also owns a full-sized 1958 Wurlitzer jukebox, which Roger bought at an auction. It’s 60 years old, and still works perfectly!
Tom and Ann, my wonderful hosts in Nelson. Thank you!
And here’s the B&B where I stayed Sunday night: a little treat before I travel on. My backpack is incongruous in such a room!