My New Zealand Family Holiday: Day 6 MY BIRTHDAY

By Estella

Having slept like the cliched baby all new parents dream about, I awoke to a quiet room on the morning of my birthday. That’s not because my husband had stolen away during the night to frequent the Queenstown Casino yet again, but because I’ve been consistently the first to rise during our holiday, as it is my job to pack and His Royal Highness’ to drive.

A picture of me and Amanda at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Happy birthday to me! A picture of me wearing my new Merinomink sweater, holding Amanda at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Perhaps, like most women, I need a good twenty minutes to make myself presentable before greeting the day. This, being the start of my 34th year on earth, proved to be no different. I washed, brushed and painted the relevant parts of my body, before donning the Merinomink sweater I had bought the night before. His Royal Highness, now awake but still more or less ignoring me, wisely kept his contempt for my new sweater to himself. If he so much as said one word in objection to it, I would have brought up the $60 000 his father lost on dud shares two weeks out from our wedding – money he had sent home for his sister’s tertiary education – and I’d have added up the cost of her education, his own continued education, his father’s annual allowance these past 11 years, as all that money, which takes no accountant to see totals to hundreds of thousands of dollars, is considered to belong to the marriage and by default, belong to me.

The thought must have crossed his mind for he was much more amiable as the day wore on, even going so far as to ask what I’d like to do for the rest of the day. The night before, we had a written argument after dinner; Amanda was our intermediary, shuttling her father’s jotted replies to me and mine to him. This back and forth continued until His Royal Highness had nothing to say in response to my complaints about his behaviour.

He felt that I was stopping him from doing whatever he wanted, as much as he wanted. I wrote, “You’ve already been to the casino. You snuck out the first night we were here. On some level, you must have known it was wrong because you had to sneak out. Don’t say it was unplanned because your actions clearly show a degree of pre-meditation. Don’t call this a family holiday if all you want to do are things you want to do. Call it a personal holiday. And please don’t say we’re celebrating my birthday, because it sure doesn’t feel like a celebration to me. You can’t buy someone a gift if they have to pay for it themselves.”

The last was a sticking point since he kept saying he’d get me whatever I was buying as a birthday present, then go into sulk mode upon seeing the bill. I can’t help that I am into quality. The first and last bag His Royal Highness bought me, of his own volition, was some brown woven thing for $20 from Geelong. He thought that like his late mother, I’d use it for the rest of my life. I donated it to the Salvos once we moved to Brisbane. When it comes to gift-giving, I wish I were a lesbian for I’m sure most women have far better taste than men. Straight men just have to learn to ask for help when shopping for someone else.

After checking out of St Moritz, we walked down to the wharf and from there, made our way to one of Queenstown’s most famous dining establishments: Ferg Burger. I’d have preferred a champagne breakfast on my birthday but was willing to take one step back by allowing His Royal Highness to fulfil his curiosity about this well-known burger joint.

A picture of the Ferg Burger menu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of the Ferg Burger menu in Queenstown, New Zealand.

It was only slightly past eleven in the morning when we arrived, but already there was a queue stretching from the counter all the way to the road. Other diners assured us the wait was well worth it and half an hour later, our number was called out and our burgers were served. Roughly five inches in diameter, these were humongous burgers by anyone’s standards. I reckon Amanda and myself could just share the one. The buns were soft and fluffy and the meat was absolutely tender, unlike the charred, dried, bits of something you find at most burger places. The closest we have to a burger this good in Australia is one from the chain Grill’d.

A picture of a Ferg Burger in Queenstown, New Zealand.

That was one whopper of a burger. A picture of a Ferg Burger in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda tucking into her Ferg Burger.

A picture of Amanda tucking into her Ferg Burger.

 A picture of HRH feasting on his Ferg Burger in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH feasting on his Ferg Burger in Queenstown, New Zealand.

With two-thirds of a Ferg Burger in each of our stomachs, we walked back to St Moritz to collect our car before heading off to Wanaka, three hours away by car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My New Zealand Family Holiday: Day 5 ST MORITZ

By Estella

Upon our return from Glenorchy, His Royal Highness, Amanda and I checked into St Moritz, a boutique hotel with a 5 star rating overlooking Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown. Rooms usually go for close to NZD500 a night but thanks to savvy buying on His Royal Highness’ part, we paid only NZD195.

Exuding European charm, St Moritz had an open fire place in the foyer, furnishings that spoke of affluence and refinement and well-dressed, extremely courteous front desk staff. As a matter of fact, the front desk staff were so exceptionally well-trained, they enquired interestedly in how my day was, even as I took swigs from a full-sized bottle of Lindauer.

A picture of me by the fireplace at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Soaking up the ambience. A picture of me by the fireplace at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

When we were in the room, His Royal Highness said, “You do know you look like a drunk, drinking straight from the bottle at the counter, don’t you?”

Pardon moi but there were no glasses. Front desk staff at lesser establishments, although saving their judgements for themselves, would surely have given me withering looks as they handed us our room key. The staff at St Moritz batted not an eyelid and even offered to have someone deliver our luggage to our room and park our car in the basement for us. With lush carpet underfoot, an oversized flat-screen TV built into the wall display unit and top-notch custom-made furniture at every turn, our room was as delightful an experience for the eyes as it was for our bodies.

A picture of HRH at St Moritz, a boutique hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Checking out the NZD400 robes. A picture of HRH at St Moritz, a boutique hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Aigner toiletries at St Moritz, a boutique hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand

A picture of Aigner toiletries at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of me in the bathroom at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Simple and stylish, just how I like it. A picture of me in the bathroom at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of our room at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of our room at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of our room at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Nothing but the best. A beautifully upholstered chair in our room at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Later, once I’d finished oohing and aahing over the Aigner toiletries in the bathroom – the last time I’d heard the name was when I was dating my first boyfriend – we went for a dip in the outdoor hot-tub. His Royal Highness and I had soaked in mud-pools in New Zealand’s North Island eight years ago and these were just outdoor spas at St Moritz, but aside from the cold getting into and out of the tub, it was pleasurable all the same.

A picture of HRH and Amanda in the hot tub at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand

Father and daughter having a good soak outdoors. A picture of HRH and Amanda in the hot tub at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of me in the hot tub at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Sorry, it was too cold to be wearing a bikini. A picture of me in the hot tub at St Moritz in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Since it was dark, we couldn’t make out Lake Wakatipu from the hot tub, which the hotel brochure says you normally can see during the day, but boy did our aching bones love the warmth of that water. The standout aspect about sitting in warm water with the surrounding temperature below zero is that you feel like you are back in your mother’s womb, cocooned from the outside world, and by extension, the harshness of day-to-day life.

After our time in the hot-tub, we returned to our room for a shower before going down to the wharf for dinner. As it was the eve of my birthday, His Royal Highness treated us to a seafood restaurant by the name of Finz. The bill came to NZD84 but none of us were particularly impressed by what we were served.

Amanda had a spaghetti bolognaise with no cheese. “Spaghetti bolognaise should always have cheese,” announced Amanda, perhaps aping one of the judges on Masterchef. “I’ll be deducting points for lack of cheese.”

A picture of Amanda eating Spaghetti at FINZ Restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda eating Spaghetti at FINZ Restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

At the end of dinner, she deducted yet more points as they had forgotten to bring her coke and sundae as part of the kids meal set. I had the second Seafood Chowder of my entire New Zealand trip and apart from having the right consistency, had little in the way of gastronomic marvellousness going for it. For one it was too salty. For another, for what I’d paid, you’d expect to see more than a handful of marinara mix on the plate.

A picture of my seafood chowder at FINZ restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of my seafood chowder at FINZ restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

This being New Zealand, His Royal Highness had lamb cutlets served with broad-beans. The lamb was decently cooked although inadequately rested since you could see blood close to the bone. The bowl of mussels cooked in white wine and finished off with cream which we ordered to share was very fresh and cooked perfectly although the sauce erred on the side of being unbearably salty.

A picture of His Royal Highness' lamb and beans at FINZ restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of His Royal Highness’ lamb and beans at FINZ restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

A picture of New Zealand mussels cooked in wine and cream at FINZ Restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand

A picture of New Zealand mussels cooked in wine and cream at FINZ Restaurant in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Towards the end of dinner, His Royal Highness  offered me NZD100 in exchange for some time at the gaming tables of the Queenstown casino next door. He’d already snuck out while Amanda and I were asleep, the first night we came to town, to play poker at the Queenstown casino, claiming an inability to fall asleep straight after a shower, so I was none too chuffed by his proposition. However, since he was waving money in my face…

“For you, there is no holiday without gambling, is there?” I asked, realising the question was rhetorical since most of His Royal Highness’ school holidays were spent with parents who took turns minding him and his siblings while one sat at the gaming tables of Genting, in Malaysia’s highlands.

In all of our marriage, the only time His Royal Highness has been able to withstand the lure of the gaming tables is when they have been too far away from him. That is when we lived in Wanganui, a small town two and half hour’s drive north of the nation’s capital, Wellington. After that, all that kept him from losing up to $10k pa on this inherited habit, these many years, was my making him swear abstinence on his father’s life.

He swore he would never frequent a casino, buy numbers or indulge in any activity that may be construed as taking a bet against chance, so long as there is a mortgage on our first home or he has yet to complete his FRACS. He violated our agreement after having an argument with me one night, walking himself all the way to Brisbane’s casino in the dead of night to make a point, and months later, his father was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

“This is God you have made an agreement with, ” I reminded him. “Think carefully before you act next time.” I didn’t get him to swear on either my life or Amanda’s because I knew that both our lives, even combined, lack the incentive for him to give up gambling. In the hierarchy of His Royal Highness’ great loves, my father-in-law takes pole position, while Amanda and I, after an inordinately huge gap, come in at second and third respectively. That’s excluding other family members who, at times, I suspect precede us in ranking.

“That’s ok,” he said, when he asked to go to the casino, shortly before his FRACS exams. “My father’s having a polyps removed this weekend. It looks like it might have spread.”

All the more reason not to tempt fate, don’t you think?

“An hour, just an hour,” he said, that night after dinner in Queenstown. “I can walk you back to the hotel and come out again if you want. You know I make money on the tables.”

I don’t know why people have this ridiculous idea you can get rich by betting on cards, horses, chimpanzees, iguanas… For every one professional poker player out there, there are thousands of wannabes who’ll gamble their lives away without ever making the cut. The same can be said for artists and writers such a myself, but our pursuits involve years of hard work and not just blind luck, although it can hardly be disputed that in many cases, luck plays a very huge role. This being the eve of my birthday, I was even more disinclined to allow him to gamble. However, I could either give him my blessings or, being the son of two hardened gamblers, he’d steal away during the night to play again.

“Pick us up here in forty minutes time,” I said, begrudging the words even as they exited my mouth.

By the time he came back, having won a measly NZD40, I’d parted with NZD404 on a Merinomink sweater for myself and NZD88 on a toy sheep for Amanda, who she now calls Mr Lamb. I was in the mood to splurge since it isn’t everyday that we can buy “Made in New Zealand” in New Zealand. Perhaps, we were supposedly celebrating my birthday.

That’s not to say His Royal Highness was pleased with my purchases. Even though he all but shoved us into the OK Gift Shop at 88 Beach Road, he opined, rather bitterly as I proudly wore my new sweater, I had bought the sweater and the sheep to punish him.

“Oh, you’ll know when I’ve punished you.” I said. “This here – this is nothing.”

Why, if I had wanted to punish him, I would have bought all the merchandise in store instead of just those two items. He spent the rest of the night sulking like a big baby, only to reluctantly wish me a happy birthday once the clock struck midnight.