18 days into the holiday and it was finally time for a rest day. I know, asking for a quiet day was like asking for a cake on top of an already staked sundae. Thing is, the vacation thus far has been a combination of social time and frantic movement from one place to another. If we weren’t flying, we were driving or in transit towards a specific activity. Time out has been a rarity and reserving time and space for my girlfriend and I alone has been rarer still. We had a big lie in while the rest of our friends went off to explore or adventure. Plus the weather continued to be shithouse, there was little point paying $150 odd for an outdoor excursion in the mud. Eventually we meandered into town in search of coffee and lunch. When the most stressful moment of your day is deciding between a myriad of delicious meals, you’ve reached a relaxation benchmark. Usually I’m one to shun relaxation in favour of constant activity, but even I have a tipping point.
We tested culinary recommendations to great success. If you’re in Queenstown, New Zealand, Joe’s Garage made a pretty mean coffee. Moreover, there was a boisterous, fun, local atmosphere to the place that was utterly charming. Decked out with all manner of mechanic memorabilia, it was a low key, loud and happening environment. There were kids underfoot and the staff joked around with them and gave a little good natured ribbing. A local dog showed up, clearly known to the staff. People came in for takeaway coffee, or to dine in on a variety of well stacked hotdogs (topped with scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, bacon, etc). A rad spot that’s obviously become a mainstay for good reason.
The other tip we’d been given from multiple sources was Vudu Cafe & Larder. At 11.30am there was a line out the door that had dissipated slightly when we returned an hour later. A constant cycle of people coming and going. People would stand up only to have their seats taken 30 seconds later. Peering at the cabinets, it was obvious why. The food was gorgeous. A large variety of local baking; gluten free, vegan and far more meaty. There were huge sandwiches or monolithic stacks of cake. The coffee was excellent, some of the best I’ve tried since returning home (though Flight Coffee Hanger in Wellington may still be tops).
Spying a tasty looking bean salad, I flip flopped between a chicken burrito and chicken/ricotta/Parmesan/cream cheese sausage roll to go with it. I opted to finally tick sausage roll off my NZ food checklist and wasn’t disappointed. The roll was dense, and though it looked like it’d be dry, was anything but. Served with a rich tomato/raisin relish it was fucking dynamite. The salad had black beans, red and green capsicum, red onion, olives, corn and pineapple with an ultra light dressing. My girlfriend’s avocado smash came topped with perfectly poached eggs, halloumi, a large bulb of avocado mash and a kale pesto, garnished with sunflowers. It was a piece of art for the eyes and belly. What followed was a blissful reverie of food euphoria, floating around town like a soft white cloud (despite the rain pissing down everywhere).
Being away from the pressures and stress of everyday life for an extended period has done wonders for my mood. I feel more mentally flexible, unhindered by anxiety over time based deadlines and appointments. I feel present in the moment, because there’s been so little of import outside of that. I’ve stayed off social media since travelling and the change is profound. Being so much more cognisant of my own thoughts instead of getting trapped up in an endless wall of others’ feelings has felt pretty damn rewarding. I’d be so happy to drop Facebook entirely if it wasn’t the cornerstone of my entire social experience. Maybe returning to Toronto will bring with it a greater moderation of time spent online. If its absence has been this valuable, I’d be a fool to go back to mentally unhelpful patterns.
Then again, the best part of being on holiday is not having to think about anything else. Clearly that’s a decision for another time. For now, it’s beer o’clock. Deciding what to drink can be my stress for the day.