“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” – George Eliot
“I’m wildly romantic when the leaves are turning brown.” – Unknown
Every year, throughout the other three seasons, I enjoy their subtle changes, especially when it brings more warmth, yet every autumn I’m reminded that this is my absolute favourite season. The crisp and starry nights, the vibrant flame-coloured leaves, the cinnamon in baking, the harvest of crispy apples & the beginning of soup season. The charms are more than enough to make up for my the stress of remembering how to layer-up for the cold days, and giving myself enough time in the morning to pour warm water over my icy car.
This year, my husband and I found ourselves in the Otago region just in time for the Akarua Arrowtown Autumn Festival. Otago is a stunning area, but it is by far its most magnificent in autumn. Driving into Arrowtown between the rows arching trees, shimmering in golden yellow, maroon and zesty green makes my heart feel romantically dramatic.
With the notes of the Shotover Country Music Concert drifting through the air, we walked through the rough cobbled sidewalks of Buckingham Street, enjoying the old settler feeling of the historic shops flourished with Victorian façades. The home-grown feel of unique, grass-roots shops, cafes and restaurants gives a underlying feel of authenticity which is often lacking in scenic destinations.
We meandered down the hill to the Butler’s Green to watch contestants pan for gold. The township was founded in the early 1960’s when “Maori Jack” found gold in the Arrow River. The gold rush came quickly, bringing about 1500 miners and a wave of Victorian culture along with a Chinese settlement, some of which is still standing today. Spring forward over 150 years and the competitors panning away through murky waters at the festival seemed just as hungry to win their fair share of the gold.
We walked back through Buckingham Street to join crowds entering the Pie, Pint & Pinot event held on the Library Green. Local breweries joined ranks with Akarua Winery to create a delicious and spirited event. Each brand set-up stalls with draft beer selections, cider & enticing pies. My personal favourites were the Akarua Vintage Brut (2011) and the venison and plum pie, with a mountain of flaky pastry. The wind picked up while we enjoyed our delicacies, and leaves began falling like snow. The harmonica player in the background set the scene for a moment of nostalgic enchantment.
Our final stroll around the township included a detour to the tiny chapel art gallery of Graham Brinsley. We were startled by the perceptive depictions of gorgeous scenery that seemed to capture the movement of light, along with the majesty of the objects painted. I must confess that I felt that there was some artifice or craft behind the excellence of these paintings, but in reality, they are truly works of an artistic genius.
The beauty on the drive home was hardly palpable as if eating a delicious dessert after a huge feast. The colours of the poplar tress flamed in the sky, and the bleached tussock reflected pink as the sun set over the Southern Alps.