Happy first birthday, Eagle Ridge! We talk to owners, Nigel and Deb, and manager, Briana, about the highlights of their first year.
INTERVIEW JENNY RUDD / PHOTOS SALINA GALVAN + SUPPLIED
So, what’s been the highlight of the year?
B: Well, I don’t know about Nigel and Deb, but mine was undoubtedly getting married here at Eagle Ridge. Apart from the fact it was the most special of days, it has been so helpful in my job, as I now know exactly what it’s like for our brides and grooms. It gives them real confidence to know I’ve walked that path.
D: Seeing Briana get married was an absolute highlight for us, too. She works incredibly hard, so it was lovely to be able to provide the same service for her that we give to all our brides and grooms, and know how special her day was going to be.
That view! It must be hard getting everyone to turn away and walk inside.
N: It’s pretty mesmerising, isn’t it? Actually, you can see when a helicopter takes off from Tauranga Airport to bring people here, and follow them all the way here.
B: As Nigel’s been a airline pilot for 30 years, he always encourages the helicopters to come in very close, which can be a bit scary!
D: We had a fantastic wedding recently, and the groom arrived in a helicopter in great drama. The guests had been picked up in a bus from Wharf Street, ‘mystery bus tour’ style. They had no idea where they were going. They stood here and watched the helicopter come from afar, and the groom got out to the band playing James Bond music. It was all very glamorous. Then we could hear the sound of an ice cream van get closer and closer, and the bride arrived in a Mr Whippy van! Everyone ate ice cream while the bride and groom exchanged their vows.
Do you ever find anything odd in the lodge after you’ve had guests stay?
N: Only every week! Actually, I nearly found something very interesting at one wedding last autumn. All the guests were up at the function centre, and I was pottering about in the kitchen here in the lodge. There were two guests who hadn’t quite made it up to join the rest of the party. He was playing the piano and his friend was singing beautifully next to him. Clearly, the emotion of the music got the better of them, because as I walked past the downstairs guest bedroom ten minutes later, I saw they were just about to make use of the beautifully made-up bed. I gave them a quick jolly up, and told them to hoof off and join the others. Deb had just spent the morning making up that bed. I wasn’t in any hurry to find clean sheets and remake it for an amorous pianist!
Sounds like you get some pretty lively parties up here.
B: We have a full range, to be honest. We’ve had some seriously wild weddings, giggly and boozy, with entire parties flying straight in from overseas, having never seen the venue. I have a great job – all my customers are people having the time of their lives! It probably doesn’t help when Nigel gets behind the bar. We’ve had to throw him out, as he’s such a generous host; he keeps filling glasses quicker than people can drink them.
I heard about a beautiful fashion show you hosted here, too.
D: That was such a special evening, and very popular, too. Trelise Cooper came down to support the Wendy’s Boutique fundraiser for Homes of Hope (see the pics in Spotted on page 20). As soon as she arrived with her team and saw our beautiful lodge, even though they’d booked a hotel in town, she asked if they could stay the night. We were already pretty full, but how can you say no to such a lovely lady, who’s here to support such a great cause?
N: At the end of the evening, her whole team collapsed, exhausted after their efforts. They were starving and it was pretty late, so we ordered pizza. The delivery boy wouldn’t come up to us, so I sped down the hill and delivered the pizzas myself to these lovely ladies. They thought it was hilarious.
It’s like a whole different world going on up here, in the hills.
N: It is! It’s such a magical place to come to work to every day. There’s so much going on here all the time that you’d never guess from the driveway in sleepy Ohauiti. This morning, we are preparing lunch for Jaguar. They bring guests up who get to drive their sleek, powerful new cars round all the windy roads up here, have a delicious lunch, then drive back home. Then this afternoon, I’ll be making sure our grounds look perfect, as we are producing 360 videos for our website. It’s impossible to get that wondrous, ever-changing view into one image!