Rather than stay in a hotel, we used the HomeAway.com website to find a "Book-a-Bach" - a holiday rental that would be more off the grid and have personal touches than commercial establishments don't. We found a delightful spot which we call "the Honey House" about 20 minutes northwest of Whangarei. The place where we stayed in on a gorgeous 35 acre farm tucked back away off a rural road. A short walk from the main house where the owners live is a huge 4 bay garage. The unit on the end at one point had been the "Honey House" where they had kept their bee keeping supplies. When they got out of the bee business, they opted to convert that area into a small apartment to rent it out to folks looking for a quiet getaway. It was absolutely charming. We could not have been more pleased with our accommodations.
We made all our arrangements over the Internet, and actually never did meet the owner, Samantha. However, when we arrived all was as promised. There were many special touches. She had left a welcome basket with fresh homemade soda bread and farm eggs. The refrigerator was stocked with yummy jams for the bread and there was a personalize letter outlining where things were and what the procedure was for check out. Since our first New Zealand "home-stay" was so positive we are sure we will do this again as we travel rather than opt for the usual impersonal motel room.
The grounds around the place had lovely gardens and there was a note saying we could help ourselves to fresh herbs if we liked. At night when we walked around outside we were blown away by the clarity of the Milky Way - the stars were just brilliant. We woke to the sound of wild turkeys wandering past our room who came looking for figs fallen from the tree outside our window.
When we went for a walk down the lane to see the small private chapel and waterfall across the way, cows came running from the neighboring field to greet us. (No doubt they associate people with getting fed!) We stopped and said hello to them, then when we continued on our way they went for a walk with us, keeping pace right next to us all along the length of the lane.
We got to meet Bruce Savill, the man who built the chapel some 10 yrs back and his neighbor, Rosemary - a delightful woman in her 80's who had emigrated from Ireland. We had very sweet visits with both.
Thursday night we went into town for dinner and found the most amazing Tex-Mex restaurant called Shotgun Betty's where I had an absolutely yummy chimichanga and Larry got a burrito to die for. (We've really missed good Mexican food since coming to New Zealand.)
The owner of the place was even kind enough to share here Soda Bread recipe!
Sam’s Soda Bread
180g high grade white flour
85g wholemeal flour
1 sm tsp salt
1 heaped tsp baking soda
25g rolled oats
Approx 200ml milk
Sunflower & linseeds (or whatever you prefer)
Preheat oven to 220C – put in a baking or pizza stone first if you have one, or if not a regular baking tray.
Sift flours, baking soda & salt into large bowl and then mix in rolled oats. Make a well in the middle and add the milk and mix – adding more if it seems too dry or a bit more flour if it seems too wet.
Turn out onto a floured surface and knead lightly and briefly. (Actually I don’t turn it out, I knead it in the large bowl which makes less mess). Once it is in a ball shape add the seeds and roll around a bit to coat. Place on to lightly floured baking paper an shape into a 4cm deep disc and lift using paper onto preheated baking stone or baking sheet and cook for 5 min – then reduce heat to 200C and bake for a further 15 -20 mins or until sounds hollow on the bottom when tapped.