March 2020 was the busy month in our history. We had tours running throughout the country, hundred of people every week joining our fabulous guides on a discovery of New Zealand through their taste buds. Then it stopped. We knew it was getting bad around the world but on March 14th Jacinda Ardern announced everyone coming into New Zealand would have to quarantine and it was at that point, I realised life was changing rapidly. My parents were with me in the South Island. We had travelled from Christchurch down the coast to my favourite Dunedin stopping at restaurants and fabulous little towns along the way. I felt like Covid was creeping up behind us and then there it was. We sat watching the media release that the country was slowly shutting non citizens out. The cruise ships turned on their tails and headed away from the country at the demands of the PM. Our inbox was full of cancellations and refund requests.
Going to the supermarket became a nerve wracking thing. We ate in, I didn't want to eat out. We tried to stay positive, but by the time we got on a plane back to Auckland, it was very definitely a different city. We had a couple of nights in the city at our new apartment trying to support the restaurants but it was all very weird. I had a tour on Saturday 22nd and neither guest really got social distancing or the fact Covid was a real thing. In the car I realised I was actually scared of these guests, his cold and their proximity to me. We stopped touring from that day on.
Back at Vineyard Cottages the business was in the same state. Weddings, events, tours and bookings all cancelling. Within a week we were heading into a Level Four lock down which basically meant we were not going to be doing anything for a month. My staff from the USA and France were with us, my parents stayed instead of flying back across the world in this dubious environment. By day two of lockdown there was plenty of fear and strain amongst us and we decided to get the aged exercise bike out of the wardrobe and do a virtual tour across the country. That little battered bike became everyone's saving grace. By the time lockdown finished, it was on a definite lean.
We're now a year away from the anniversary of that lockdown date. It was actually my 40th birthday and all I could see was a decade of The Big Foody just disappearing in front of me. It was not easy.
We're back. The company looks and feels very different. Our tours will not run daily for a long time, we will have more focused experiences and some delicious culinary escapes at Vineyard Cottages. It is still home, we will still make it work. It will always be the best way to show off New Zealand!