Hello from Queenstown!
First, let me say, the fact that I am not in fetal position in my hotel room or on a plane home is a “win”. Last week, I was very anxious about leaving on an open-ended trip. This week, in Queenstown, it is quite the opposite — I feel alive and happy. I am exactly where I should be.
“There are no coincidences.” This was the advice of an adorable 80-year old woman from Louisiana, who I chatted with over a glass of wine at LAX international terminal. As we were saying our goodbyes, my new firecracker friend gave me a blessed fava bean to put in my wallet, so that I will never run out of money…thank god! Here is what Google has to say about fava beans: “…fava beans play a large role in the Sicilian tradition of the St. Joseph Table. When dried, roasted and blessed, it becomes the very popular “lucky bean.” Legend has it that you will never be broke as long as you carry one. Some people believe that if you keep one in the pantry, there will always be food in the kitchen. The bean is also a symbol of fertility since it grows well even in poor, rocky soil.”
Second, let me say, the funniest part about wandering on my own is the reaction from other travelers. I am not 20-something. I am alone, but I don’t look sad. I am hard to put into a box and this seems to perplex people. It is something I am getting used too. Two stories….
I took the Super Shuttle from the Queenstown airport to my hotel. There was a newlywed couple from Auckland and an active family of five from Houston, amongst others, in my van. I talked to the mother from Houston (married 25 years) and we chatted with the newlywed bride about her exciting details — how the big day went and the let-down thereafter. The newlyweds and I lost the Super Shuttle lottery and were last to be dropped off. In her committed glory, the bride looked at me with her head tilted to the side (kind of the way my shih tzu, Zoe, looks at me when she wants a treat) and asked why I was traveling alone. I thought,”…girl, you wanna grab a drink.” But I did not want to rain on her bright moment, so I just smiled and said that I didn’t want to put off travel any longer, as the time was right for me and everyone always has so many obligations. So I decided to go for it. She re-aligned her head, sighed and swallowed that answer. A light version of the truth.
I wouldn’t have thought much the of Super Shuttle, but had a similar experience later that night at dinner. After fourteen hours on a plane, I found my way to the delicious Botswana Butchery. There I was, seated at the bar enjoying a glass of flavorful red wine and a tender filet from the butchers block with thyme and pinot noir jus. As a side note, I attempted a few solo dinners in LA about six months ago as a way to “get out there”, but always had this anxious “trying too hard” feeling. This felt different; I was out in the world enjoying my first meal in New Zealand and actually, in absolute heaven! A woman traveling with her husband and some friends tapped me on the shoulder and asked to borrow the stool to my left. I said “yes, of course”, with a big smile inspired by the blissfulness of my dinner. She looked at me and asked, “Are you alone?” I took a sip of red wine and answered her question. “Bless your heart”, she said. Hmm…I thought b*tch and laughed inside at the same time. I mean, a girl has to eat while abroad.
I realize there is no escape from judgement. More than ever, I will not apologize for who I am and the mistakes I have made. There are no coincidences and actually, I feel like a lucky bean.
Queenstown Travel Guide
The locals are very friendly and the city has an approachable vibe. It is outdoorsy, earthy and relaxed. Walking Queenstown for the first time, I was in awe of the city’s striking natural beauty, but truthfully thought the town lacked a bit of charm. I looked a little farther. The main streets are lined with extreme sport shops that are a bit in your face (#nofear, anyone), but as I turned down the alleys and side streets, I found small shops, cafes and hole-in-the-wall bars that felt unique and far from everything. A 5 minute walk from city center and you can be on a hike to the top of a gondola or wandering around the lake and through rose gardens. I truly love Queenstown. I think it is a great place for solo travelers, couples, friends and is a fantastic spot for active families.
Nailed it! I took the Super Shuttle from the airport to my hotel ($20 vs $50/60 for a taxi), and it could not have been easier. The Super Shuttle is waiting outside baggage claim and you can’t miss it. There is a bus option for $10, but I thought the shuttle option was a little more “in-between.”
From my hotel, I have been able to walk everywhere. The city’s gondola, roundabouts and Lake Wakatipu are markers that helped me get my bearings.
Where to Stay
I am in love with the Sofitel Queenstown . The staff is incredibly welcoming and helpful. As a side note, I checked in with my potential soulmate, who was so handsome that I could barely focus on my room number.
Anyways, back to accommodations, my standard room had a bathtub with jets and Les Notes de Lavin orange ambre products, a Nespresso coffee maker and a very comfortable bed. We are talking an eleven-out-of-ten on the bed comfort scale; I was sprawled out like a starfish all night! I am confident this is the most central hotel in Queenstown, you could not ask for a better location.
This is definitely a luxury hotel, but I was able to lock-in a very reasonable rate by booking in advance. I feel rested and acclimated, so well worth the splurge.
Joe, Bites & Bubbles
Tucked in the hills with breathtaking views of Queenstown, you’ll find the hidden gem, Bespoke Kitchen. Deserving it’s title, New Zealand’s Cafe of the Year, which it has won three years in a row. This is my recommended ‘go-to’ breakfast and lunch, as well as, coffee spot.
Botswana Butchery is known as one of the best restaurants in town and did not disappoint. I started with the Respect Your Elderflower cocktail, which blew my mind! From there, I do not think you can go wrong. The staff is knowledgeable, friendly and super attentive, but in a relaxed way.
After one visit, Bardeaux is now one of my favorite bars on planet Earth. It is a little gem that reminded me a bit of Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. Bardeaux is casual, but with a chic Ralph Lauren-esque vibe, and full of interesting people. The roaring open fireplace and big leather chairs are about as inviting as it gets.
Fergburger, the “cue” says it all. Waiting for 30 minutes was worth the wait for this delicious burger that is a must try in Queenstown. I devourved this burger then slept for 12 hours . . . .I just wished I had a snuggie to wrap up in after it. Does anyone else have these thoughts after an indulgent meal?
Hike the local Tiki Trail up to the gondola. It is a very well-marked path with a pretty good incline. After zig-zagging up a tree-lined path for about an hour, you are rewarded with remarkable views of Lake Wakatipu. The trail woke my senses up! You can take the gondola round trip ($37) or just catch a taxi down ($20). There are plenty of options from ice cream to restaurants and bars once at the top, in addition, to all of the action activities this town is built around (bungee jumping, zip lining, etc.).
A stroll through the Queenstown Gardens is lovely! Rose Gardens, Tennis Courts, Bowling Greens, Ice Arena and the cutest ducks I have ever seen . . .As the welcome sign states, “since the first trees were formally planted in 1867, the Queenstown Gardens has been a much loved place of recreation and relaxtion for locel and vistor alike.”