Waikato: A rural retreat from reality

By Alexia Santamaria

A quick trip down country allows Alexia Santamaria a break from two little boys and plenty of chances to indulge her feminine side

Foxglove Bed & Breakfast, near Waingaro, offers the chance to completely relax, while you can check out some locally made goods at the Raglan Creative Market. Photo / Supplied
Foxglove Bed & Breakfast, near Waingaro, offers the chance to completely relax, while you can check out some locally made goods at the Raglan Creative Market. Photo / Supplied

Many mums of boys will understand what it's like to lack frilliness in their lives. There's only so many trips to Motat, train rides and endless visits to the planes at the museum a girl can do. But this weekend we went away without the kids and I got my fix of all things pretty to tide me over for the next few testosterone-laden months.

Our first stop was not so much frilly but indulgent. We couldn't go past Mercer without diverting to the cheese shop and buying some mature gouda and garlic and chives cheese. Mercer Cheese has such a comprehensive selection of gorgeous Dutch cheeses and there was a steady stream of customers filing through the doors, as always.

We didn't get very far down the road before stopping again - this time in Te Kauwhata where Trish Budd runs Herb Haven. If I was looking for a girly morning tea this was it. Lemon verbena tea (made from fresh leaves from the garden) in fine china served with the most exquisite lavender scones.

Trish tries to put fresh herbs in everything, including her gorgeous range of chutneys, sauces and jams. It would have been rude not to have a tasting and we fell in love with the mint and rhubarb chutney at first mouthful.

After finishing our scones we headed off to our overnight destination. Foxgloves B&B is in the middle of nowhere - literally. The closest place is Waingaro but that's not exactly a metropolis.

Owners Cheryl and Tony have sold up their Auckland life and bought a traditional Victorian homestead. We were looking for somewhere to relax totally and this place ticked all the boxes. No cellphone coverage; outdoor fire and spa; no noise except for goats and chickens; rolling farmland all around.

And there was frilliness in abundance. Cheryl has kitted the entire place out in late-1800s style. Crystal and silver, embroidered linen, woven tapestries of horses and dogs, leadlight cabinets heaving with fine china, claw baths and trombone shower heads, wingback armchairs and draped swags and tails curtains. A lovely change from our robust, child-proof house.

We dined on site and enjoyed good hearty country portions. The white chocolate mint mousse for dessert defeated me but my husband soldiered on through. It was the perfect night for a spa under the stars which is what we had while the other guests chatted and drank wine around the outdoor open fire. It really was very idyllic.

After a sleep-in we indulged in the Foxgloves' cooked breakfast of eggs straight from their chooks, freshly squeezed orange juice, home-baked bread and local Pokeno bacon. They grow as much on-site as possible and have a large organic vegetable garden.

Ready to face the world again we drove 30 minutes out to Raglan. We went there as it was the nearest town but it was almost like the gods were on our side to give me the most feminine weekend ever.

We just happened to be there for the weekend of the Raglan Creative Market and there was plenty of pottering about to be had (and a damn fine mussel chowder and homemade elderflower cordial to boot). Of course Raglan is a haven of little arty shops with great homewares, fun clothes, retro ornaments and cute Kiwiana too.

My husband needed a good strong coffee after the unprecedented amount of shopping, china and scones in our weekend so was thrilled to discover Raglan Roast, the coffee roasters in the middle of town.

Due to high demand, their batch roasting is never more than a few days old - this is seriously fresh coffee. Beans are sourced from a variety of locations with a focus on Fair Trade organic. It was good coffee and a steal at the non-Auckland price.

It was all over too soon as we had to head home. Back to reality, back to the noise of two little boys and back to planes, trains and automobiles from wall to wall.

Essential info

Mercer Cheese
Roose Rd, Mercer
(09) 232 6778
We love the garlic and chives gouda. Check out all the other Dutch products too.

Herb Haven
114A Plantation Rd, Te Kauwhata
(07) 826 3662
Where you can try all of Trish's chutneys, jams and truffles.

Foxgloves B&B
5477 Highway 22, Waingaro
(07) 825 4490
Make sure you give Tony and Cheryl's three gorgeous fox terriers a pat.

Raglan Creative Market
Raglan Old School Arts Centre
Stewart St, Raglan
(07) 825 0023
Try the mussel chowder or vegetarian curry, and rub some beautiful frangipani oil from Tahiti on your skin.

Raglan Roast
9 Bow St, Raglan
(07) 825 8702
Pick yourself up some beans to take home too.

- NZ Herald

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