The Other Southland
Exploring New Zealand’s Enchanted South Island
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Countries are primarily bound by geography, language, culture and politics. We here in the U.S. share borders with two neighboring democracies; one is a largely peaceful northern margin where English reigns, and the other is a contentious southern margin where languages, if not citizens, commingle freely.
For me, the deadly 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, revealed deeper, regional affinities between two of my personal favorite places in the world—Southern California and the South Island of New Zealand. Like our English-speaking Kiwi cousins, we too live on unstable but idyllic terrain where beaches, mountains, moviemaking and vineyards converge.
Our political pasts reveal similarities too. New Zealand’s indigenous Maoris and their struggle for civil rights echo our own struggle to understand how race and ethnicity define the term “Californian.”
Because New Zealand is a long-haul flight, it took a little film series called Lord of the Rings for many SoCal residents to discover this sparklingly clean and green land where the entire epic was filmed. The infusion of Hollywood types was and continues to be a mixed blessing, as Americans bought real estate, brought cash and jump-started tourism in the wake of the franchise.
And with The Hobbit movie release now on the horizon, a second wave of fan frenzy has many thinking Kiwi all over again. For anyone passionate about national parks, outdoor adventure, incredible farm-to-table cuisine, stellar wines (you’d better like lamb and pinot noir) or luxury accommodations, a visit to New Zealand’s South Island ought to be on your bucket list.
Travel time has often been a deterrent to Angelenos, who can surf and ski in their own backyards rather than fly for it. Thankfully, Air New Zealand now offers the only direct, non-stop service from North America to the “other” Land Down Under, and expedience is only part of the package. Added benefits include a complimentary in-flight concierge so you can relax and plan your itinerary in the sky.
From help with accommodations and connections to insider tips on where to eat and drink, Air New Zealand is leading the pack with generation-next benefits that go far beyond stale peanuts and some miserly frequent flyer miles. Business and premium economy fares also offer what is undoubtedly the most progressive wine-tasting program to be experienced at 30,000 feet. Somehow long flights go by faster when accompanied by world-class pinot noir, aromatic whites and, of course, the regions iconic sauvignon blanc. (airnewzealand.com)
Another perfect day in Marlborough