Travel

Getting to Know You: Auckland

In Auckland we had the pleasure of staying with some of Stephen’s friends. They rent a beautiful house on the outskirts of Auckland which was like living in a forest. The first night we arrived we’d planned to go out, but upon arriving at the house we both fell asleep and slept like the dead. It had been a long trip. I woke up around 9:30 PM to find that our hostess had kindly ordered in some pizza. Dinner and some browsing of the Kiwi TV offerings and then I happily went back to bed.

We only had about 2 ½ days in Auckland, but I think we tried to make the best of them. In the morning we saw the downtown, especially around the harbor, and then took the ferry to Davenport, a charming little town on the other side of the water.

A fish and chips shop was our first port of call. We took it down to the park on the shore and watched the foraging of the beady-eyed seagulls. Though I am not a huge fish fan, I must admit it tasted really good. We ate our chips with Wattie’s Tomato Sauce, the famous local brand. (Stephen informed that that the term “ketchup” would only be used at McDonalds. Well, excuuuse me!)

Feeling replete, we went to climb Mt. Victoria, though I felt the “Mt.” was being used in a somewhat generous sense—a smallish hill really. The views from the top were fantastic though and I suppose it was then that I really began to appreciate that blue New Zealand sky. Even in the photos it was amazing.

In the late afternoon we went to Mission Bay, which was a lovely drive from the downtown. We gorged on creamy, smooth ice cream from Mӧvenpick, a Swiss brand. We sucked the bottom of our cones, trying to prevent getting ice cream all over our hands, and I positioned myself carefully so as to prevent getting ice cream in my hair. Then we went to see the hilltop Rose Garden, catching a stunning sunset. We’d hoped to catch the sunset at Mt. Eden also, but were a little too late, so we settled for a quick trip around the giant crater. In the evening, I fulfilled one of those lingering life to-do’s by watching “The Shining.” Honestly, the book was way scarier.

Day two in Auckland featured a lot of old friend visiting. We had lunch with a Chinese friend of Stephen’s. She and her husband and two children are now New Zealand residents. The children spoke a charming childish Mandarin; I was enchanted. We crossed the Harbor Bridge to have lunch at a Malaysian restaurant. After lunch they kindly drove us all the way back to downtown and dropped us off at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in the interestingly named Auckland Domain—a large park-like area. We were just in time to catch the Maori cultural show—an enjoyable, lighthearted, but professional show. The museum itself was excellent. The only problem was that I didn’t have enough time to give it the attention it deserved. It was very interesting to learn about New Zealand involvement within British Empire, WWI, WII, and beyond. Unfortunately by the end I was practically running through the exhibits.

We strolled through the domain and hit up a convenience store or “dairy” for water and snacks. We continued on to the neighborhood of Parnell, observing some lawn bowling on the way. Lawn bowling, really? Parnell is a posh little area, all wine bars and expensive boutiques. We met another friend of Stephen’s at a one of those aforementioned wine bars. And not just any friend—a Bradley Cooper double! Really! I almost wondered if there was something Stephen hadn’t told me . . . The friend’s girlfriend spoke a New Zealand dialect that I had the hardest time understanding. I felt like I understood two words out of ten. We followed our wine with dinner at a Turkish restaurant and ended the day with another flat white.

I can’t say that I saw everything in Auckland and of course wish I’d had time to see more, but I left with an impression of green hills, wind, water, and lots of beautiful blue sky.

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