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|Dawn French's heaven on earth: New Zealand's North Island|
Photo: Tourism New Zealand
I love New Zealand's North Island. I discovered it a dozen or so years ago when Lenny [Henry] and I went there after he'd toured Australia.
It was love at first sight. Why? For a start it's very, very far away, so the chances of bumping into someone you might not want to bump into are slim. Secondly, it's so pretty – like Scotland, only warmer. And what's more, it's so peaceful, unspoilt and friendly.
The first thing we did after seeing Auckland, a beautiful and relaxing city, was to visit Rotorua, which is known for geothermal activity. It has a number of hot mud pools and geysers, such as the Pohutu geyser at Whakarewarewa.
We also went bungee-jumping watching. I toyed with the idea of taking a jump myself but my boobs are so big they would almost certainly have done me a serious injury, so I thought it safer just to watch.
Some people seem to think that you have to indulge in extreme sports if you visit New Zealand. Me? I was happy sampling the latte and ice cream, not to mention the wine.
Ah, the Kiwi wine! One of the highlights of our visits is usually visiting Waiheke Island, a half-hour ferry ride from Auckland, a magical little trip all in itself.
Try wineries such as Stonyridge Vineyard (www.stonyridge.co.nz), where you can eat, drink the excellent local wine and have the most wonderfully relaxing time. A lot of the best restaurants on Waiheke are attached to wineries, like the one at Te Whau Vineyard (www.tewhau.co.nz)
As regards accommodation, we ended up renting a place for a few days on Waiheke. We generally prefer that to staying in a hotel – there are lots of lovely holiday homes to rent.
The only drawback, if there is one, to visiting Zew Zealand is the length of the flight, though once you get there you soon forget about the journey. I'm a terrible flyer and I get very bored on long flights. But my tip is to take a book, and the bigger the better; a book like The Lord of the Rings, perhaps, for New Zealand. Believe me, it helps.
Australia and the Pacific