My husband and I live in Oklahoma, a land-locked state in the heartland of the United States. It’s called the heartland to make it sound better than it really is.
We basically live in the middle on the U.S., where the ground is flat, the dirt is red, and the winds come rolling down the plains. You know the song.
Our town is not glamorous. After the land run, homesteaders settled here, many of whom farmed wheat and raised cattle. Later, an oil boom resulted in a population spike. Agriculture and the oil business, along with an Air Force base, are the mainstays of the local economy.
How we landed here is a long story, which I won’t recount, but we moved in 1989, and have lived here ever since. As much as I tried to get us moved out of Oklahoma over those years, (I was hoping for Colorado), there are advantages to living here.
There’s no traffic, there are no lines at any time, and no reservations are ever required, for anything. Plus, the people here are good, down-to-earth folks.
But most importantly, the cost of living is low. As a result, we get to travel, which is why we’re still here after our nest emptied long ago.
It’s especially satisfying to cross a long-awaited destination off of a bucket list, and that’s exactly what my husband and I were able to do recently. This past fall, in 2017, we visited Australia and New Zealand.
In Australia, we bounced from Sydney to the Outback, to Lizard Island, Kangaroo Island, then to Tasmania.
In New Zealand we explored Auckland, Rotorua, Taupo, and Queenstown.
As usual, part of my initiation to these countries was to eat as much of the local foods as possible.
Of course the beef and lamb were both exquisite.
I also enjoyed barramundi, coral trout, Bondi squid, octopus, mud crab, Sydney oysters, abalone, and green-lipped New Zealand mussels.
Although we rarely pass up a gastropub, we also dined at upscale restaurants, like Quay, The Gantry, and Altitude, all in Sydney.
I have to thank Lorraine Elliott for her spot-on restaurant reviews on her well-known blog, Not Quite Nigella.
And, of course, there were fabulous wines, beers, and other drinks.
It was so much fun to look at wine lists, this one in Queenstown, New Zealand. Not like any back home.
I’ve always favored Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region, but the Pinot Gris really took me by surprise.
The trip was incredible, and lived up to everything we hoped for and more, in terms of scenery, culture, destinations, the local animals and, of course, the food and wine.