Auckland

17 Jan

New Zealand is amazing, let’s make that clear from the get go. I have numerous tales of our travels to share but first… some knowledge. 🙂

New Zealand was settled by the Maori sometime around 1200 AD when they emigrated from eastern Polynesia. They enjoyed several centuries of prosperity, creating art, warring amongst themselves, and sporting snazzy face tattoos until Europeans arrived in 1642. It was a British colony from 1840 until.. well, that gets murky. New Zealand has slowly cut ties with the U.K. There have been various treaties, accompanied by different definitions for their status e.g. “dominion” and “commonwealth”. New Zealand has its own constitution and functions as an independent nation, but still consider themselves attached to the British royal family. Queen Elizabeth II occupies all of the currency. Officially, New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy. Interestingly, they are in the midst of several referendums regarding the national flag; the current flag contains the union jack, while the proposed flag incorporates the fern as a traditional Maori symbol. There is a vote scheduled for March 2016, and some nongovernment locations were already flying the new flag.

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I knew I was going to like New Zealand from the moment this greeted us at the airport: IMG_4044

You’ve got to love a country that decorates its major airport with paraphernalia from a fantasy novel/movie. (For those without keen eyesight, the caption reads On loan from Middle-Earth. Do not touch.) New Zealand definitely makes the most of its claim to fame as the home of all things Tolkien-related, from the actual Hobbiton (more on that later) to jewelry stores selling your very own One Ring. The Lord of the Rings references are just one of the many quirky things that made New Zealand awesome. Combined with the ridiculously gorgeous scenery, great food, and tasty beer and wine, it’s almost a miracle Orestes and I got on our flight when it came time to leave! We spent seventeen days traveling about, working our way south, having adventures, and taking entirely too many photographs (I know I always say that but this time I’m serious – I just couldn’t help myself!).

The first stop on our kiwi adventure was the city of Auckland on the north island. Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand; it sprawls across a series of rolling hills, many of which are volcanic (but thankfully dormant). Auckland was one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever seen, and one of the most diverse, which I hadn’t expected. A typical street had Vietnamese, kebabs, a cafe, Thai, a pub, and a Mexican joint. We spent two days wandering about, enjoying the gorgeous weather, cooler temps, and shocking amounts of coffee and craft beer. Some of the great things about Auckland were:

  • Auckland Art Gallery ~ We went here on a whim because I was curious about Maori art, and we ended up really liking this museum. My favorite bits were the touchy feely panels; I love interactive displays in museums. The gallery also wins points for excellent seating arrangements, and lovely architecture. Some of the modern art was rather trippy, but overall a delightful museum.
  • Ponsonby, the neighborhood our hostel was in ~ it reminded me a bit of Brooklyn. It was obviously trendy, and full of cafes, restaurants, and bars. The caffeine junkie in me consumed entirely too many flat whites and loved every one.
  • Craft beers ~ Orestes was on a mission to sample as many local brews as humanly possible, and the numerous bars and breweries in Auckland were happy to accommodate him. I became vaguely obsessed with the Untappd app, a lovely little item that lets the drinker log in a beer variety, the brewer, and the location in which the beer is consumed. Let’s just say New Zealand made the number of beers logged under my name increase substantially.
  • People watching ~ Two main trends I noticed in Auckland – tennis shoes with otherwise dressy ensembles, and black leather pants. The leather pants in particular seemed inordinately popular, throughout Auckland and the rest of the country.
  • Waterfront ~ Auckland has not one but two harbors, so delightful ocean views are never far away. We spent a lovely afternoon wandering the main piers, and soaking up the ambiance.

Finally, the photos. Note the amazingly blue skies. 🙂

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