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Revisiting the Marlborough Food & Wine Festival


Nineteen years ago, on 14th February 1998, my then boyfriend proposed to me at the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival in New Zealand. It wasn’t overly romantic to any onlookers – simply a guy on one knee, kneeling on a random piece of earth, asking a girl to marry him.

Marlborough Food and Wine Festival

Marlborough Food and Wine Festival

What made it special was that the young man had asked that girl’s parents for their daughter’s hand in marriage some six months earlier. He’d tried to propose twice before.

Once whilst sitting down for dinner on the third night of walking the four day Queen Charlotte Walkway in the Marlborough Sounds (but the peaceful surroundings were suddenly broken by a rowdy group of dinners walking in and took the opportune moment evaporated).

Another time they’d been skiing on Mt Ruapehu, in the central North Island of New Zealand, on a blue sky, perfect winter day, and he was just about to ask the question, as they rode up the ski lift for another run down the mountain, when a ‘friend’ travelling in the chair-lift behind called out, ‘Eh, mate! You’re not going to do anything daft and propose are you?!’.

In the intervening six months the parents of the young lady, thousands of miles away in England, were wondering if their potential son-in-law had changed his mind. They had to keep a secret for a long six months!

When that young man proposed, happy to have finally found a moment when everything felt ‘just right’, when the world around that couple seemed to vanish into a cloud, leaving just a merry background hum, and two people very much in love, a young girl joined him in a promise, and set a path for a future full of dreams, hopes and adventures.

That couple travelled back to England, at the end of an amazing time living in New Zealand for nearly two years, to start their future. They lived with the young ladies parents for six months, saving and planning for the wedding and the future. The wedding date was set – eight months from when they arrived back in England. A few months before the wedding they moved into a tiny, rented apartment. The young man was the unhappiest he’d been in a while, having to spend up to two hours every day commuting on an overcrowded train into the city of London for work. He was missing New Zealand, whilst happy to be marrying a girl he’d loved since meeting her at University when she was just 18 year’s old.

At the wedding the speeches were toasted with glasses of ‘Cloudy Bay’ a sparkling white wine the couple had enjoyed on their engagement at the festival, and which the management of the wedding venue had offered as a choice drink – of course it fitted perfectly (not that the young couple could ever have imagined they’d be back drinking it at the same venue in Marlborough so many years later!).

Cloudy Bay at the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival, 2017

Cloudy Bay at the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival, 2017

It seemed destiny had set some wheels in motion.

Three months after the wedding the young man was given a job opportunity he couldn’t turn down. The newly wedded couple left on a plane, back to Wellington, New Zealand, to start their new life as ‘Mr and Mrs’. All be it a much larger plane than the little one that flew them to the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival nineteen years later!

Flying into Blenheim, over Cloudy Bay, New Zealand.

Flying into Blenheim, over Cloudy Bay, New Zealand.

Cloudy Bay, New Zealand

Cloudy Bay, New Zealand

The South Island of New Zealand

The South Island of New Zealand

So, on 11 February 2017, it seemed fitting that the couple, now with three New Zealand born children and a home in Wellington, New Zealand, should revisit the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival – so they did, and everything was as they remembered.

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Leaving on a jet plane (well a very little and lovely ‘Sounds Air’ plane) to Blenheim, from Wellington, for the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival.

A perfect day, blue sky, sunshine, an amazing flight across the Cook Strait, from Wellington to Blenheim, and a great afternoon of music, food and wine.

Flying out from Wellington, over the south coast, where we live, and Island Bay.

Flying out from Wellington, over the south coast.

Leaving the North Island, for a short twenty minute flight to the South Island, over the Cook Strait, on Sounds Air.

Leaving the North Island, for a short twenty minute flight to the South Island, over the Cook Strait, on Sounds Air.

The only thing missing was the ‘sombrero’ hats they’d worn, along with another twenty something people that they’d gone with twenty years ago. ‘Fabio’ and ‘Kissy’ (the names randomly written on their sombrero hats in 1998) were now Mr & Mrs – it had only taken them nineteen years to revisit the spot where it had all began.

Twenty years on x

Nineteen years later.

The atmosphere, music and ambience was all as they’d remembered.

Beautiful setting for the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival.

Beautiful setting for the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival.

Vineyards of Blenheim

Vineyards of Blenheim

After a beautiful afternoon they returned on a Sounds Air flight to Wellington, enjoying the gorgeous scenery.

Flying Sounds Air

Flying Sounds Air

Flying into Wellington over Makara and the wind farm

Flying into Wellington over Makara and the wind farm

The incredible south coast of the North Island, approaching Wellington.

The incredible south coast of the North Island, approaching Wellington.

And with their home just a few kilometres away from the airport in Wellington they decided to stroll around Lyall Bay, and have one more drink as the sunset, before returning home to their three daughters.

Lyall Bay from the Spruce Goose

Lyall Bay from the Spruce Goose