Where is it?
About an hour north of Auckland. Turn right at the lights at Warkworth and Alegria is about five minutes out of Matakana.

What does it cost?
Bed and breakfast is pretty cheap–100$ for one person and $140 for two. Dinner is extra and by
arrangement. Be prepared to do some damage to your credit card as your German hostess Claudia Schenz is a beauty therapist.

Unique selling point:
This is a beauty farm, so set aside an afternoon to be pampered. Choose from facials, massage, body wraps, make-up, waxing or foot spa treatments. There’s even a “bust-care” treatment and “his and hers packages” ( she spends an afternoon in the beauty parlour, he plays golf ).

Room service:
Breakfast was delicious, and substantial, with a European flavour – cheese and cold meats. We didn’t eat again ’til dinner. Speaking of which, if Claudia’s around to cook, dinner’s well worth it. Our lamb and strawberry tiramisu was washed down with nice plonk.

Local attractions:
They say variety is the spice of life. For wine lovers, there are several vineyards in the neighbourhood; for gardeners there’s the ever-popular Morris & James pottery; and for the more active, there’s snorkelling at nearby Goat Island, or the Kawau ferry mail run from Sandspit.

The bed bounce test:
Dinner left us with enough padding to sleep on the floor and still be comfortable, but thankfully we didn’t need to take such drastic action. The bed was sink-into soft, the lavender on the pillows dreamy.

Do:
Pack a good book. Alegria is peaceful, perched on a hill with nice views of vine s and olive trees. Set aside a couple of hours and unwind.

Don’t:
Undo all the detoxifying work of your massage and body wrap by guzzling too much wine. When Claudia tells you to keep your fluids up, she means water.

Star rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Sunday Star Times – Feb 2004