Thursday, 27 November 2014

Auckland – City of Aucks (Orcs)

Friday 21st November to Sunday 23rd November 2014

The alarm was set for 2:45 am and the cab was due at 3:45am – the flight to Auckland was scheduled to leave at 7:15am.

All of the what if’s had been factored into the equation – what if we don’t wake up straight away; the cab is late or doesn’t show; there is traffic; there are a lot of departures and the queues are long.

The only what if we didn’t allow for was what if none of any of that occurs – which it didn’t

We woke up on time; ready early and had a chance of some breakfast; we were out early for the cab which arrived right on time; there was a clear run to the airport which only took 15 minutes; no other departures at that time; the check-in hadn’t even opened when we arrived and we causally strolled through the marked lanes even when they did open – we were 2nd through – no hassles, not even when one case was over 24kg.

We even had to go off and have a coffee waiting for the customs and passport control to open – when it finally did we were through there in almost an instant; we had allowed time in case the claim back of GST was slow or others in front – charming lady there was on her own with no-one to look after until we arrived – 5 minutes and the refund of $140 was done – no hassles at all.

Off to the gate where there was a chance for another coffee and we were all called to board – no fuss and not much of a wait – just 2 or 3 minutes.

The plane was ready - it was still not yet light in the morning
that's how early we were ready to go
So we are all on board the plane; doors closed and everyone ready to go – what happens then – an announcement that we are overweight and they need to take some cargo off.

So all of the preparedness from us only ended in a delay in takeover caused by the airline .

We did however arrive in Auckland dead on time – it was a very uneventful flight.

We gave customs a bit of concern – they X-ray the bags as you come into the country – seems we had something “organic” in one of the cases – in one of my shoes to be exact – “oh yes the carved echidna” would do that.

Rebecca was there to meet us – she had the day off and after a training lecture to nurses in the morning the rest of the day and the weekend were hers and ultimately ours.

We managed to catch the peak hour traffic around Auckland that seems to start to build up after 2pm on a Friday afternoon; eventually we made it to the hotel and whilst the room wasn’t quite ready, we were able to leave the cases and head off for a late lunch.

Back to the hotel; the room was ready so we took the bags up and gave it a once over – small kitchenette; lounge; separate bedroom and two bathrooms – all very good.

Bec had told us she was going to be moving her place of residence in a few weeks so we thought we should check out the new area - Mission Bay – it coincided perfectly also with having a drink overlooking the water and as luck would have it, one of the choices of drinking establishments was a Belgian Beer Café – a neat two-storey place where we could sit our on the balcony and look out at some of the views of the bay – not a bad way to spend a Friday early evening.

The Belgian Beer Café with balcony to sit and drink and watch
the world go by - in this case the late Friday traffic

Belgian beer and the views
Mission Bay - the park and beyond to the bay

more of Mission Bay

just some of Bec's soon-to-be noisy neighbours

and this old vintage vehicle in the main street

After all of this the effects of the early start and the plane journey seemed to be starting to take its toll on both of us and we thought it best to head back for a bit of an early night, but only after we picked up a few provisions at the supermarket, which we did.

So it was a relatively early night – in bed by about 8pm – looking forward to some sleep and some recovery.

We did sleep pretty soundly and when we awoke on Saturday morning the roads showed that there had been some rain overnight.

A bit of breakfast followed and then we headed out to start exploring the city – Bec had a staff Xmas party on that day and we had encouraged her that she should attend and we would share Sunday with her.

So first port of call was Starbucks, just around the corner; for some proper coffee and free internet, which both came in very handy – as did the newspapers provided.

After that we were off to visit the weekly French market that Bec had told us about – we found it without too much trouble – having decided to walk the entire distance – about a 2km walk.

Skytower Auckland - where you can walk around
on the outside, or if crazy enough, you can
jump off

Symonds Street Auckland

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

Does my bum look big in this chair - oops that's not my bum

The French Markets
It was a lovely little market with some specialty stalls and you could easily come away from there with bags full of delicious goodies – we restricted ourselves to a fresh juice and pastries.

Next on the list was to catch a bus and investigate some of the inner city areas of Auckland – we would have done just that, but the first bus to appear actually did a large circular route further out from the city centre, so we hopped on and paid our $4 each.

A lovely couple on board got talking to us and suggested another market to visit which was right by our intended stopping point anyway – so we did so – another gem in the centre of the city.

new style coffee van at The International Market

After that we were pretty close to the Viaduct Harbour so an easy matter just to walk through where we admired the boats moored and decided which would be suitable to buy and which we would bypass entirely – we also watched a boat reversing into a mooring spot – these boats have bow and stern thrusters and can be reversed easily in a straight line.

A bridge opening for the cat about to leave

The water was so clear and clean - unlike the canals we will
head back to
Watching is always fun, especially when the person doing the job is a complete novice – came in too fast; too much forward which gave them forward momentum; then reverse; then forward; then managed to drift offline – eventually the security person dockside told them to throw the line and cut the engines – he pulled them in and tied them up – nice to know that bucket loads of money can buy you a nice boat but not the brains to think how to moor it up properly.

A wander around the shops and a chat to a guy now living in Auckland but originally from England – he started as a carpenter and has now ended up a boat designer.

Which one will I get to wear when the Welsh beat the All Blacks
only problem was the All Blacks won
We had lunch overlooking the ferry moorings and watching them arrive and leave.

Queen St Ferry Building
By this stage we had had enough – the legs were getting tired in direct proportion to the weight of the eyelids, so a walk up Queens St towards the hotel should complete the job – for both eyelids and legs.

We found reasonable internet at the cinema complex and then chatted away to Sara in Dallas; then a hot chocolate at the Coffee Club and watching a 3-on-3 basketball competition for teenagers was a pleasant way to finish the day for us.

After that it was just a short uphill walk to the hotel; a bit of TV and a snack before we were off to bed – early again.

We had had two glorious days so far, with only a bit of rain early on Saturday morning, and Sunday was a continuation – even better than the other two days.

The arrangements for today were that we would meet Bec around 9am and head off to the ferries for a day out at one of the islands.

We met at Starbucks, where we once again made use of the wi-fi; by this time we had made a friend of the young barista who was really good to us – the coffees kept coming as did the extra minutes of internet usage – maybe he just took pity on two old people – well one at least, as Diane will tell you how much younger than me she is.

Bec met up with us and after another coffee we headed south – towards the water.

Diane and Bec made the decisions about the day – much easier on me then – I just go along with the final choice.

Waiheke Island it was to be – by ferry, then once there a bus to other parts of the island with a clear intention of sampling some of the wines from the some of the local vineyards.

The sun was getting warmer and the day certainly looking like a memorable one indeed.

What do you do in a harbour city like Auckland – even if you do live on a boat – take a cruise on the water and watch how the bigger boys do it.

So a 35 minute cruise out past the cruiser terminals and cargo ships; past the hidden little bays – big and small – and out to one of the larger islands within the general harbour area.

We took the bus to the furtherest part of the island which could be reached in this way; had a bit of a stroll along the beach, admiring the houses around – most appeared to be holiday houses anyway, but all with the clear sign and plenty of money available.

Diane and Bec removed shoes and rolled the jeans up to let the water lap at their feet and ankles – seems that it was pretty cold at first and took a bit of time to get accustomed to it, but enjoyable none-the-less.

quite simply a stunning location
Back onto the bus to head to the first winery and somewhere to have lunch.

Stoneyridge Wines was not a name that I had seen or heard of, nor one that I had tasted, but it was right opposite the bus stop and the drive beckoned for some travellers – so we obliged.

There was a small charge for a tasting selection and as we sat beneath the palm tree and the cool of the shade had it’s desired effect on the three of us warm from the walk up the premises, the wines arrived and we looked out over the valley – which really was unspoilt – seemed like a nice enough place for lunch as well.

no one's idea of a tough life....

...and views to match...

...and the restaurant is right there as well.
We parked ourselves there for the next 2 hours to enjoy a fabulous and lengthy lunch which was well presented and prepared; the wine to go with it was equally lovely; the cheese platter finished it all off and you then wonder – why do we have to ever go back to work – ever!

Time then to move on and whilst we had every intention to visit another winery, the time was such that they were closing up and we decided that after a such a pleasing day we should head back ourselves, which we did with just a short stop at the main village for a look around; then to the ferry and the trip back to Auckland.

From the water the City of Auckland creates a great skyline
One last suggestion – this time from Diane and we headed up to the first floor of the Queen St Ferry Building and we plonked ourselves down on the lounges on the balcony; ordered some drinks and as the sun was silently getting lower in the sky we relaxed – looking out at those who were on later ferries than us; and simply enjoyed this pleasure as it should be.

Still not a tough life you two

A perfect end to a perfect day.

Diane and I wandered back to the hotel; Bec caught a bus back to her flat – the only thing we had to do was pack our bags ready for departure on Monday and tend to the sunburnt face that I had acquired.

This was definitely a day to savour and remember.

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