words & images: Leanne Gichard

When my sister phoned out of the blue to suggest we go to the Eagles Concert in Dunedin earlier this year, without hesitation I jumped at the chance!  The Eagles were constantly in the music charts when I was a teenybopper and the chance to hear them live sent me into a spin of excitement!

Our plan was to avoid the traffic gridlock, so, with stereo blaring (the Eagles of course!), we set off on our great adventure bright and early on the Friday, two fifty somethings (wannabe teenagers) singing along to the car stereo.  The weather was perfect, a clear sunny day with just the hint of breeze, the mountains to the right looking pristine.

Our first pit-stop was the Victorian Historical Precinct in Oamaru.  Oamaru is a picture perfect postcard town, with hanging baskets overflowing with abundant colour dangling from each shopfront verandah.  Even the traffic islands were planted to perfection in vibrant hues of red and purple – simply stunning and not a weed or litter to be seen anywhere. 

I had previously read about Oamaru’s great plan to resurrect the old Victorian Historical Precinct.  When they embarked on this project the buildings were a smutty shade of black or grey from years of accumulated grime and pollution – not a pretty sight.  But today, they have been restored to their former glory, the Oamaru Stone now gleaming in various shades of creamy white.  Such great care has been taken to retain historical features and yet the Precinct abounds with funky art galleries, craft shops, museum and an eclectic mix of other businesses. 

If you are into café culture, then this is the town for you.  What impressed me most was the vibe and quirky atmosphere each busy café exuded – it made you want to linger. There is something almost surreal about sipping a hot chocolate or short black in buildings dating back to early settler days, the modern day coffee machines hissing and gurgling, a juxtaposition beside the antique counters and beautifully mellowed wooden floors.

Suitably refreshed, we set off for our next planned stop – Fleur’s Place at Moeraki.  Fleur’s reputation is worldwide.  Rick Stein once said it was one of the best seafood restaurants in the World – and he wasn’t wrong.  Bookings are recommended, so we had booked weeks ahead.  This was wise, as the place was humming. 

The waiter advised us to choose carefully as the servings were very large, so deciding to ditch the extras, we opted for a bread platter with dips and a main course only.  Now, I have never been a fan of dips, no hummus would dare to be seen in my fridge, but the dips at Fleur’s sent my taste buds into orbit: Spinach and Parsley Pesto, Sundried tomato and parmesan, Beetroot and of course Olive Oil with Balsamic Vinegar.  The Breads are freshly baked onsite and were Wholegrain, German Rye, Sundried Tomato and Curry.  Divine!  If there had been nothing else to eat I would have been happy, such was the quality of the food.  It goes without saying, the Mains were just as good.

Fleur’s is perched upon a rise like a stranded boat. A rustic two storied building with sensational views over the sea and character in spades.  I could have happily stayed there for hours, but reluctantly we dragged ourselves away to the trusty Micra to continue to Dunedin.

It is fair to say that the Kilmog gave the Micra a bit of a workout, but she triumphed in the end (even if the accelerator did have to hit the floor a few times)!  Dunedin lay resplendent in the late afternoon sun.  What a magnificent city – so beautiful and with such a rich history.  Our accommodation was a stone’s throw from the Octagon and we could comfortably walk everywhere we desired and as free shuttle buses were provided by the Dunedin City Council, getting to the concert was a breeze.

We had been warned to dress warmly, take a coat and scarf, plus a blanket, so you can guess what happened, can’t you?  The jacket, scarf and rug never left the bag I bought them in!  It was toasty warm in the Stadium with the roof on.  The concert was incredibly well organised, our seats fantastic, the Eagles were amazing and our weekend away was one I will never forget.  So, if you have a chance to venture south then seize the moment!  You’ll love it!

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.