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new balance 373 A childhood fairytale with a view The bushbordered road winding uphill keeps its secret well, until the last corner. Then the surprise is sprung and I admit it on first glimpse I gasped like a Bgrade actor. Set on clifftops overlooking Oakura Beach's surf and sand, the villas beckon like a childhood fairytale. Winners of the New Zealand Award for Architecture Hospitality (2003) and the NZIAResene Award for Sustainable Architecture (2002), Ahu Ahu Beach Villas reflect their owners' ideal to meld European styling with local recycled treasures in a seaside setting. David and Nuala Marshall returned from their overseas travels to find they'd taken lots of photos of a certain style of architecture, so the choice for their tourism venture was obvious. There are only two villas, each split into two selfcatering units. Each unit is paved with a shell and stoneinlaid polished concrete floor that lured me into the unit, looking for the next interesting piece. David roofed the villas with 100yearold French clay tiles salvaged from the nowdefunct Stratford Hospital, also the source of the scallopdecorated hand basin in my compact bathroom. Roughhewn wharf piles from Nelson do duty as ceiling beams and warm the whiteplastered walls. Driftwood is reborn as curtain rod supports, and leadlight or Hundertwasserstyle bottle windows cast a quirky glow. Put together, the feeling is classically simple, but not stark, and surprisingly airy given the solid materials anchoring the villas to the clifftop. The kitchen/dining/lounge area looking out over the sea is big enough to foxtrot in and has my favourite piece of furniture a twosomesized window seat, perfect for napping, as I discovered. There's plenty of room for four two sleeping downstairs and two upstairs on the mezzanine if you're in a sharing mood. The plushly linened beds are the kind I'd love to bounce on, if only I weren't so grown up. Although the villas are rural it's only a short drive to lots of Taranaki's attractions. The Marshalls can point out the choicest surfing spots, streams for picnicking or swimming, worldclass gardens and eateries. Weather permitting, they can arrange a fishing trip to catch a nice blue cod or snapper for dinner. Or my choice just curl up in the window seat, listen to the surf boom and watch the sun turn the sky into an artist's palette. Sloth is inevitable. Did I mention the view? New Plymouth is approximately five hours' drive from Wellington or Auckland. Commuter air links connect New Plymouth with Wellington, Auckland and other centres. Daily bus services link New Plymouth with major centres.