22.04.2014 - 27.04.2014 20 °C
And so to our final stop in New Zealand, 'the city of sails'.
Our first view of Auckland from the state highway
We stayed in the pretty suburb of Grey Lynn - the streets all lined with ornate white wooden period homes.
We really liked Auckland. It was surprisingly easy and quick to get into the city centre from the surburbs, and the city itself was very manageable. I always say I'm not a city girl, but we both commented on how nice it was to be back in a larger place, and we felt at ease straight away.
We also decided to hang the budget a bit... it's always more challenging sticking to it in a city and as it was our last few days in NZ, we wanted to enjoy city life!
Yay, we're back in the bars!
To give the city some context, our host said Aucklanders view Melbourne and Sydney as halfway cities between London and Auckland. Having been to all four I'd say that was a good reflection.
Our first evening was spent in a local bar doing the pub quiz. Turns out the quizmaster was from Bolton... cue Ant and him naming streets, districts and schools to reminisce. He was billed as a comedian, Ant commented that he was living off the back of Peter Kay a bit... and we reckoned he was less funny than he thought he was. Sadly the 'Dorset Dimwits' didn't perform at all well and came a measley 7th out of 9 teams. We blame it on some antipodean questions and the fact most teams had more people in them. What we needed was a pair of clarts to join us.
We ended up spending more time than we would have liked running errands and shopping for essentials... but we figured it was our best bet to get the things we needed. One of which being thermals! Ooh la la! We'd read that Bolivia can be extremely cold with wind chill down to -40c (whaaat?!) so some good quality layers were a must. I just wish we looked more like Iceman (from 'The Incredibles') in our skintight clobber than the reality glaring back at us in the mirror of lumps and bumps trying to escape!
Auckland doesn't have many iconic sights or famous architecture - of course the Skytower being the most recognisable feature - but it does have a beautiful art gallery. In fact it was awarded World Building of the Year for 2013-2014 at the World Architecture Festival in Singapore. The original gallery building has been renovated, plus there's an ultra modern expansion which seems to fit seamlessly. The design is stunning, particularly when looking up at the impressive entrance.
Inside it was an oasis of calm and tranquility, there was even a cellist playing which really added to the atmosphere as we wandered around. It was refreshing to be able to take photos of most of the work on display, so here's some snaps from the interior...
The rest of our time in the city was spent casually strolling the streets and waterfront.
An established members' club... very London
The K' Road - the grungy alternative thoroughfare of Auckland... strip bars, tattoo parlours and gay clubs
A lot of the focus for eating and drinking is along the marinas and wharfs, and downtown has suffered a bit as a result. Because of the space available closer to the water, they've been able to get really creative with recreational places and the Silo Park area had a fun, quirky edge to it.
We gawped at some multi-million dollar yachts, one of which was the most beautiful we'd ever seen, and enjoyed seeing the city start to light up.
The next surburb to us, Ponsonby, is one of the best (and most diverse) places to dine out and people watch. We tried a few places including our newly-discovered beloved Malaysian cuisine. So good to be eating roti canai again. Damn we need a Malaysian restaurant in Bournemouth!
Cool Ponsonby 'park art' as a tribute to previously demolished city buildings - I really liked this idea
An afternoon spent in Devonport, just across the harbour from the city...
Our last day in New Zealand was spent doing our new favourite pastime... wine tasting. We caught the ferry to Waiheke Island, located 45 mins out into the bay, where we visited three very different wineries. We walked through fields between each vineyard, autumn shadows cast long, the vines glowed red against a pale blue sky and there was a lazy hazy feel about the place. It felt pretty special.
One downside was that the wineries all charged for tastings which hadn't been the case for the others we've been to. But the wine isn't mass produced here and the volumes are tiny compared to say Marlborough.
We had heavy hearts that our time in NZ was drawing to a close, it's been a truly wonderful journey since arriving in Christchurch two and a half months ago. We've gained such a fondness for the country and its people.
I'll probably do an 'NZ wrap up' for the next blog as we've often been asked what our highlights have been by Kiwis and folks back home.