Thursday 17 April – Auckland
It’s been a while since I last took a holiday so I’m off to New Zealand to see what our neighbours are like. I flew Air NZ which was an excellent experience with comfortable seats and leg room, friendly staff, ample entertainment and delicious food.
I watched the sequel to The Hunger Games which I just watched recently. I also enjoyed dinner which comprised of a warmed bun with butter, crackers and cheese, a spicy red bean salad which was excellent, a choice between a beef casserole or chicken and pasta, and a chocolate mousse cake. I had the penne in a lovely sauce with tender chicken, a light tomato sauce topped with Parmesan and then grilled lightly. This was really delicious. The chocolate mousse cake also was delicious but I didn’t care for the jelly layer.
I managed to get a few hours sleep before we hit turbulence for the duration as we flew into the ending of a big storm that lashed Auckland overnight. My dinner was trying to make an exit so after lots of deep breaths and sweaty palms I managed to battle nausea. So glad to finally touch down around 5:30am.
I swung by and got a Vodaphone Sim pack and then went outside to catch a bus to the city. It was cold, windy and raining heavily. Fortunately, when I got off some 40 minutes later the rain subsided and I checked into my hotel and jumped into bed to get some sleep.
Got a few hours in but after a quick shower I headed out to the now overcast and sometimes blue skies to Britomart to visit Orleans for lunch.
I booked a 3hr Auckland City Highlights tour ($53) through Viator.
Our tour driver, Ron, was a real character full of humour and certainly not politically correct but that’s what made him interesting. As he took us around the different parts of Auckland we learnt more about the city, some history, and were certainly entertained.
I had really wanted to visit the French Cafe but didn’t pre-book as I didn’t know if I would be able to last the night since I arrived early. But after my shower I took a punt and managed to get a late night booking. I took the bus and got there early and fortunately for me a table was ready so it was straight through for an excellent dining experience.
Friday 18 April – Auckland
I headed down to the ferry terminal just past the Britomart Transport Center and just managed to catch the ferry to Devonport. After a short 12 minute ride I hopped off and walked up Victoria St to Corelli’s Cafe (the numbering on either side of the street doesn’t match).
Segue Tour run by Magic Broomstick Segue Tours
When I got there the shop hadn’t opened so I called and they’re shut due to Good Friday despite stating the date I was interested in. Fortunately, Andreis decided to do the tour if I waited about 45 minutes so I gladly took him up on the offer. I’ve never ridden a segue so I was looking forward to this. We started with some training and it isn’t that hard to get the hang of things. After that we were off seeing the sights of Devonport, including the very top of Mt Victoria which provides 360° views of Auckland which are amazing. Devonport is a sleepy seaside town and the old houses have a distinctly English flavour. The segue tour was fantastic and my guide Andreis was excellent too providing a bit of history along the way.
Next I took a 15 or so minute walk to North Head to visit Chateaubriand, a French cafe / deli. After enjoying a quiche with rocket salad and a chocolate éclair, Got to had to walk off that yummy goodness. Back to the ferry terminal to go back to Auckland CBD. A really enjoyable day bathed in warm sunshine and occasional blue skies. Time to get some rest.
From both the tours I’ve been on a visit to the fish markets is a must. So I headed there for dinner only to find it closed. There are a number of a few restaurants on the waterfront so I chose Live Fish Seafood Restaurant and had a large whole fish to much to my surprise!
Saturday 19 April – Auckland / Wellington
Last day in Auckland and as the food on foot tour was cancelled, the operator who runs it, Lynn from Finding Flavours, happens to be a fellow foodie and blogger. She suggested I head to the French markets La Cigale. So I took a taxi to Parnell to check it out.
Then it was a taxi ride back to the city to browse the shops. After lots of window shopping I still had a few hours to kill so I hurried to a cinema to catch a movie. The only one at the time was The Lego Movie which actually was pretty good. Thought it was for kids but I guess it appeals to the kid inside, especially if you’ve played with Lego. Then it was off to my next leg, Wellington.
After a lost hotel booking which got sorted out, I just had enough time to grab a quick shower and head to dinner at Logan Brown where I enjoyed a delicious 7 course degustation.
Sunday 20 April – Wellington
I woke up early and was pretty tired so I gave my breakfast venue a miss and ate the spinach and feta filo pastry instead which was lovely despite being cold.
Then I headed out into the streets where a cold howling wind blew despite it being a pleasant temperature. I walked to the Te Papa Museum for a guided 1 hr tour. It was really interesting and we got a taste for what several of the floors offer, history, and some insights into the Maori culture. I was also intrigued by the earthquake section and surprised to learn New Zealand experiences over 10,000 earthquakes a year. Just outside they also show how buildings like the museum can reduce the impact of damage from an earthquake. The buildings are built on rubber, steel and lead absorbers.
I’d now built up an appetite and headed to Mama Brown’s for a savour French toast which was delicious.
As I walked back, I found a gelato place on the waterfront and enjoyed a scoop of expresso gelato which was really delicious and on par with San Crispin’s gelato in Rome. Haven’t had gelato that has come close to what I had in Rome. Mind you, San Crispins’s was a different type of gelato.
I had a bit of a rest in the hotel before heading out and catching the cable car to the top. It’s just NZ$7 for a return journey. A few minutes away is Carter Observatory so I popped in for the 3pm show and saw the 1 hour presentation before wondering about the observatory. They have hourly shows running. I’ve never been to an observatory before so getting a taste of what’s out there in space was really interesting. I must have a gaze at the night sky and see if I can identify some of the things presented.
Then went out to dinner at The Matterhorn.
Monday 21 April – Wellington / Christchurch
Surprisingly, I woke up today with blue skies and bright sunshine. However it was a little bit chilly in the morning when I went out for breakfast at the Olive Café.
During the day it warmed up with no sign of the cold howling wind which had been present over the past few days. Instead one could easily walk around in a T-shirt. Fortunately the shops were open so I was able to do some window shopping after checking out of the hotel. There’s a lot to see in the CBD but I didn’t venture back to Cuba St where there’s still more.
My time in Wellington has come to an end so after picking up my luggage out of storage and catching a bus, it was a quick 30 minute flight to Christchurch.
I waited for the bus at the airport where another bus had arrived. The bus driver told me if I walked about 300m to the road outside the airport I could catch the same bus I was waiting for, for far cheaper. So I gave that a go and caught the 29 for NZ$3.50 instead of $8 and got off in the city.
After checking in I caught a taxi to the burbs of Riccarton for dinner at Dux Dine.
Tuesday 22 April – Christchurch
I had initially conserved my NZ dollars but as the time in NZ drew to an end, I spent a little too much. So after some delicious pancakes with maple syrup and cinnamon for breakfast at my accommodation I ventured out into the city to get some foreign exchange. Lots of closed or one way roads, buildings unoccupied, construction and empty cleared sites. I came across a cathedral badly affected by earthquake damage. Birds had made it their home.
I finally located a bank at Re:Start mall. Who would have thought you could run a bank out of a shipping container? Unusual to see but several other businesses are run out of them too but it looks really cool. You wouldn’t think they’re shipping containers by looking at them at first glance.
Next up was the Grand Tour. It was a cold and raining day so better to be inside the bus than on the streets. We took a short drive around the city till we reached the Antigua Boat sheds which was our next part of the tour – Punting on the Avon. The tour provided umbrellas so we wouldn’t get wet but I didn’t particularly fancy riding along the river in the rain. Fortunately the providers of this event give you an umbrella and a waterproof blanket. So after hopping into the canoe type craft, umbrellas open, snug under the blankets, the guy at the end started paddling and we were off at a tranquil pace. Along the way we got a bit of history and we cruised at a very peaceful pace and took in the sights as well as the many ducks, some of which didn’t seem happy that we were in their area, others just watched us drift by.
Next up we went to the botanic gardens and hopped into a little buggy where the guy took us around and explained the various trees and plants at the gardens. It was cold and wet so we were snug under blankets again. During a clear day it must be lovely to walk through here. Nice and peaceful, lots of colour.
After that, we headed back to the bus and took a trip through more of the city before heading towards the seaside town of Sumner. It reminds me a lot of the sleepy little towns I had seen along the west coast of the US during our drive through the Big Sur from LA to San Francisco. After that it was through the hills and steep cliff faces. Along some sides are a line of shipping containers stacked two containers high, filled with concrete, as protection against the steep cliffs which have produced rock falls and mud slides. Artists have painted some of the containers into interesting pieces to lessen the impact on the eye.
Next we arrived at the foot of a mountain where we took a gondola up the side of the mountain to the very top. Very misty, you couldn’t see the top. You could see big rocks that had rolled down, leaving large divets in the ground. Along the way, sheep grazed along the steep banks, not sure how they’re standing. When I got off at the top and turned around, it was just white, as if I had stepped out of some parallel universe. Later it cleared and you could see out into Christchurch and Lyttelton harbour. We had lunch at the café (fish and chips) (nothing else around), browsed the gift shop, and then headed back down.
Back in the bus and back to the city center where the tour ended at a tram stop. We were provided with tickets for use today and some of tomorrow allowing unlimited use of the tram. The tram line is partially operational. It normally loops around the city but due to the earthquake, it only goes back and forth.
I got off and had a quick look at the cardboard cathedral before heading to the site marking the 185 deaths represented by white chairs for each person.
I walked the rest of the way to Re:Start Mall and did some window shopping.
I also popped into Quake City which is just NZ$10 to see an exhibition on the two earthquakes which hit Christchurch in the past few years. Our tour operator had mentioned earlier that 1200 buildings have been pulled down and 90,000 houses demolished with still mode structures to go. A full rebuild will take 20 years. The exhibition was very interesting and an eye opener.
After a long day out, I needed to dry off so headed back to the hotel and then out to dinner at St Germain where I enjoyed a lovely selection of French dishes.
Wednesday 23 April – Christchurch
Last day in Christchurch and New Zealand before I return to Australia and travel some more along the east coast.
I grabbed some more of those delicious pancakes at the B & B I was staying at which was very pleasant.
Unlike yesterday, today was a bright sunny day with blue skies. By the time I decided to pop out for lunch it had gone overcast but still pleasant enough for a visit to Re:Start mall.
The whole area around Re:Start mall is buzzing. Several food vendors have opened and there’s plenty of people enjoying their lunch on the wooden seats. For a makeshift mall you have to applaud the creativity.
I chose Base Wood Fired Pizza for my lunch.
And my travels in NZ come to an end.