Auckland 2017 – The Last Day

And so I come to my last morning in New Zealand. An ‘earlyish’ start so that I could finish packing, and finish getting the flat in some semblance of order before heading off. It wasn’t a rushed morning, and I managed to achieve my ‘target’ departure of 11am. My plan in choosing such a time to depart the flat was the hope (not really a hope, more a determination) that I might have a late brunch prior to heading to the airport.

And so I did, returning back to Caffe Massimo in Newmarket for another richly flavoured omelette and a bowl of latte. The cafe was a little busier than yesterday, perhaps because I was arriving slightly later than yesterday, or perhaps because it was a Sunday. In either case, the food was again wonderful and it was, in some sense, a perfect way to round out my experience of New Zealand.

After my experience of yesterday’s post-cafe walk, I opted today to head straight back to the car and make my way towards the airport, to return the rental car, and await my flight (since I had already checked in online). And so I journeyed back towards the airport, ensuring the car was full of petrol and, after handing back the car, went through the whole bag-drop, passport control and security screening processes before heading to the Qantas International Business Lounge to await my flight’s departure.

I did mention I was flying Business Class right? Yes? Oh, good.

Sitting in a comfortable armchair, having a light lunch and a glass of a very nice Sauvignon Blanc (from New Zealand naturally) was a pleasant way to while away the two and half hours before my flight was due to board and depart. And the preferential boarding offered to Business Class passengers is also a bonus, meaning that I could finish my glass of wine before walking the three minutes to the designated departure gate and make use of the Business Class-only boarding lane.

Little did I realise that there was yet one more ‘gift’ to be received…an empty seat beside me!

Oh what a joy to experience an international flight with both a wide seat, and no one beside me!

Luxury! Absolute luxury!

The flight back to Australia was delightful, with delightful food and wine, and plenty of space to relax and read and unwind while flying back across the Tasman towards Brisbane. Unfortunately, the flight was over far too soon, and my absence from the Commonwealth of Australia came to an end. I was very quickly through passport and quarantine and within 45 minutes of landing I was driving out of Brisbane Airport. I did notice while in various ‘queues’ that there were more than a few passengers who thought they were unnecessarily ‘delayed’ in their re-entry process, but I couldn’t fault the service offered by Australian Border Force and Quarantine Service personnel. They were efficient and personable, and very determined to ensure that they fulfilled their responsibilities as quickly as possible. I guess some people are just hard to please.

Having arrived back in Brisbane, however, my day wasn’t quite over: there was the drive back to Casino, some three hours away. The trip was, thankfully, uneventful and there was only a need for one stop, a pitstop and coffee stop.

Auckland 2017 – The Fourteenth Day

My last full day in Aotearoa New Zealand started with a few household chores undertaken in preparation for my departure tomorrow. Essentially this was a last round of washing, and some removal of garbage to the wheelie bins.

Once these essential tasks were undertaken, and while the washing was finishing, I went in search of a different cafe than the one that I had been attending regularly for the last couple of weeks. I remember seeing a cafe on my first day of exploring, way back when, that looked a likely place – my attention being drawn in the first instance by the cafe’s name – and after getting in the car I decided that today was the day to search it out and explore what it had to offer. And so it was back to Newmarket in search of what might be had at Caffe Massimo.

The reason for the attraction to the name – Caffe Massimo – was because just before I left for New Zealand I had attended a seminar offered by Dr Massimo Faggioli, a church historian and theologian whose writing I have come to admire both in terms of content and style. Seeing a cafe that bore that name cried out for exploration.

And just as I wasn’t disappointed with the seminar of Massimo Faggioli, I was disappointed by the fare to be had at Caffe Massimo. The food was positively yummy, the coffee was plentiful and bracing, and the ambience was almost exactly what I expected from a cafe named Caffe Massimo. I enjoyed myself immensely over a delightfully flavoured omelette and a bowl (yes, a bowl!) of coffee. The staff were friendly and efficient (much as I have experienced elsewhere in New Zealand), and didn’t mind an Aussie walking in – mind you that could be because I really tried to not give myself away too much.

After my leisurely breakfast, I went for a stroll around the streets of Newmarket, wanting to just explore and experience. Unfortunately, I came across one of my nemeses: a discount book store! Drawn by invisible and irresistible forces into said store, I spent a delightful half hour just wandering up and down the rows exploring what was on offer among the pile of piles of books almost calling out to be purchased by someone. Needless to say, I couldn’t resist the siren song and so I did surrender to the power of the books with a purchase (or two).

Having moved via the cash register, the siren song of all those books ceased, and was freed back onto the streets of Newmarket to continue my wandering and exploring. I didn’t walk much further lest I be trapped once more but returned to where the car was, with the hope that I could return to my flat for a quiet afternoon of finalising (as much as possible) those things that needed to be done prior to departing Aotearoa New Zealand tomorrow.

That, of course, didn’t happen. I fell asleep on the couch instead.

Thankfully I awoke in time to get ready for and get to the local Catholic church for Mass. I decided to walk this week since it wasn’t very far, and arrived with plenty of time to sit in the same seat as last week (yes, I know…) and ready myself for the celebration. Again, I struck the Parish Priest and just like last week, his homily for the Transfiguration was a good one.

Another quiet Saturday night in the flat, eating something I had cooked myself, came afterwards, a fitting end to this last full day of my trip to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Auckland 2017 – The Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth Days

So, gentle reader, you may be wondering why I haven’t been reporting on my continuing adventures here in Auckland the last few days. And you may be further wondering why when I resume my reportage I’ve ‘lumped’ three days into one.

The answer to the first source of wonder is simple: I got lazy in my reportage. The answer to the latter question is also simple: all three days took the same form, with only minor alterations hardly worth reporting on.

I have spent these three days wandering (as opposed to wondering). Each day has featured a walk to the local cafe in the morning for a latte (or two) and some further pages of the book I just happen to reading at the moment, followed by lunch back at the flat. Just after lunch I went for a ‘longish’ walk around the local neighbourhood, heading off in a different direction each day, discovering some more wonderful examples of architecture and a few churches that happened to be open for visiting (alas not of the calibre of the churches visited in Madrid and Rome earlier in the year). ‘Designing’ my walk to take the form of a circuit that ultimately drew me back to the flat, just in time for a cuppa and a sit down. A late afternoon walk, just around the block, capped off the day before dinner and a quiet evening of reading.

Exciting, right?

The only alteration involved a side trip to the post office after the cafe in order to post something back to myself (rather than manhandling it on the aircraft) – again, super exciting stuff.

That being said, the walks were enjoyable and quite refreshing, and the lattes (and the lemon tarts) were also of high quality. I occasionally passed someone as I walked around the neighbourhood, also obviously out for a saunter, and have to remark that they always said hello. A very friendly bunch these New Zealanders.

So that’s why I haven’t been reporting much, and why everything is now back up to date. Only one more full day remains in my Auckland 2017 trip and you’ll have to wait to find what that day entails.

Auckland 2017 – The Tenth Day

Yep, I slept very well last night. So well, in fact, that I slept very late this morning. To make up for my late morning I did what any right thinking fellow on holidays would do…

I went for coffee.

I may have already mentioned that not that far from the flat where I am based there is a fabulous little cafe that makes one of the best lattes I’ve ever had. And today was no exception, and I made sure of it by having a second one while also indulging in a lemon tart and more of the book I’m currently reading. After all, I had to ‘wake’ up, didn’t I? And the only way to do that is ingest caffeine, right? And one can’t ingest caffeine just willy nilly! Oh no, it has to be done in a civilised fashion, involving cafes, books, and lemon tarts!

Now suitably awake, and after returning to the flat for a while, I decided that my after lunch activity should take the form of a casual saunter through the neighbourhood in which the flat is located. There’s a nice mix of some gentle (and not so gentle) hills and flat grounds, and some architecturally interesting houses located therein. I didn’t take my camera, lest I be mistaken for someone ‘casing’ their place.

I wandered far and wide – thankfully Mr Google was able to navigate me back! The walk gave me an appetite, and so the decision had to be made as to what to have for dinner, and then acquire said ingredients prior to the preparation of said dinner. While at the supermarket I made decisions about what I’d eat for the rest of the time here. That will save me from further trips to the supermarket.

And so, dinner was cooked, dinner was eaten, and quiet night on the couch with a good book – and a glass of wine – was had.

Auckland 2017 – The Ninth Day

Today was another early start, an early start followed by a drive of three hours north from Auckland, in order to visit the place I have been planning to visit for a few days now. Today was the day when I visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on the 6th of February, 1840.

That day significantly changed the understanding of New Zealand for both the Maori peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand, and those from other parts of the world – particularly from Great Britain – who were already here or who would come afterwards.

The drive north, though long, was a very pleasant drive through some very spectacular scenery. If I hadn’t been driving, and there hadn’t been quite so much traffic, I might have stopped frequently to take some photographs of scenery that is both similar and yet radically different to that which you might find in Australia. The difference is largely the flora and obvious climatic differences; the similarities are in terms of the preponderance of farms and villages and undulating roads.

The three hour drive seemed to fly by – largely thanks to the podcasts on the phone – and soon I was pulling up at the entrance of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Walking in, and be greeted by the staff member at the front desk, after the drive was quite a relief. A bigger relief came when the pre-booked day pass I ordered online last week was ‘waiting’ for me.

I timed my arrival quite well. The guided tour that was part of the day pass was about 30 minutes from starting, and so I had the opportunity to refresh myself, and walk around a bit before embarking on said tour. Again I lucked out because the group for the tour consisted of myself and a couple from Christchurch. The three of us had our tour guide, Dan, to ourselves, and this allowed for a more interactive experience than might have been had there been more in the group. Dan is a local, both in terms of his Maori heritage and his place of birth, which means his knowledge of the Treaty Grounds and the surrounding area is superb. He’s also very jovial and entertaining so the tour, which lasts around an hour, seemed to fly on buy.

The beauty of the tour, for me at least, is that the area that we walked was put into perspective before I went to look at the various displays and exhibits. This meant that looking through the displays and exhibits, some of which had already been referenced by Dan, made much more sense when I did look at them.

I can’t help thinking though that, unlike Australia, the Treaty of Waitangi was a more appropriate means of establishing the relationship between Maori and Pakeha. In a similar way to Australia, however, the Treaty wasn’t always honoured, and there have been many instances of breaches down through the year. The process of recognising and rehabilitating those breaches is well underway, and is being undertaken on the basis of the Treaty of Waitangi. Having something to which the nation can return in the face of the breakdown of relationship is certainly a much better process than having to resort to civil legal action – at least in the opinion of this outsider. It is a shame that Australia doesn’t have a treaty or similar document to which it can return.

A delightful and light lunch in the cafe was followed by an exploration of the Treaty Grounds under my own steam, taking time to linger at the various places that were of significance and absorbing the history of the place. Several wonderfully pleasant hours later I started the road trip back to Auckland, a trip that seemed to be longer than the drive up. Funny about that, but it just have been the time of day.

I have a sneaking suspicion I will sleep well tonight.

Auckland 2017 – The Eighth Day

As I promised/predicted in my last entry, today was a day for ‘household’ chores, predominantly the washing of clothes and the cleaning of the flat. It was to these tasks that I devoted my day, and given the ‘slowness’ of the washing machine there was also some opportunity for some reading and contemplating.

Yes, there wasn’t much done today, though I did manage to escape from the flat to the supermarket for some food for dinner tonight and tomorrow. In going to the supermarket, located in one of the larger shopping centres near by, I was surprised to note that all the bank branches and the post office were open for business…on a Sunday! Strange practice that would not go over well, I think, in Australia, though given the way Saturday and Sunday are no longer attracting penalty rates in some industries, perhaps there’s a possibility at some point in the future.

I have decided that tomorrow I am going to drive to Waitangi, to visit the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. I figured that this event and place, so central to the history of New Zealand, was almost a requirement for a first time visitor to the country. It’s a three hour drive each way, so it will be an ‘early’ night tonight, and a very early start in the morning to ensure that I have adequate time at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, and don’t arrive back too late in the day.

Auckland 2017 – The Seventh Day

My cunning plan to recover from my discomfort caused by my unsteadiness on Thursday afternoon clearly worked well because, although a little tight, I was able to walk with relative comfort and ease when I awoke this morning. “Fabulous,” I thought, “I can get out of this flat.”

But what to do?

Well, it seemed obvious, at least to me, that I could do what I had originally intended to do yesterday afternoon and visit the New Zealand Maritime Museum. After some thought, ably assisted by the ingestion of coffee, I decided that yes, that would be what I did this morning. And if necessary, I could ‘recover’ this afternoon.

So into the rental car I hopped ready for the drive into the centre of Auckland, and to the very edge of the harbour itself. The trip took slightly longer than anticipated if only because there’s roadworks going on in the centre of the city, and they keep going on Saturdays. But I didn’t mind, at least I was out in some very pleasant sunshine while driving about.

After parking very close to the museum, and purchasing an entry ticket, I spent a very delightful few hours wandering through the admittedly small museum looking at the variety of exhibits therein. Not unexpectedly, one of the exhibit areas features examples – both real and model – of the kind of vessels used throughout the Pacific islands, from Fiji to Samoa, from the Cook Islands to Aotearoa. The ability to get ‘up close and personal’ to these vessels meant that it was possible to observe the craftsmanship that went into the construction of these vessels. These are not ‘primitive’ vessels; they were the kind of vessels built by experts following age old, tried and tested methods, that have been handed down from generation to generation. Neither are these vessels simple plain vessels. They are constructed with beauty and attention to detail, and with exquisite and quite detailed artwork.

Other exhibits contained the kind of maritime-related displays you might expected, focussing on the early European arrival and settlement, and the later migration story, and the place of coastal trading and the water in the life of New Zealand. A special display is dedicated to the life of Sir Peter Blake, the famous New Zealand yachtsman (famous for his involvement, particularly, in the success of the New Zealand challenges for the America’s Cup).

After finishing at the museum, I strolled along the waterfront for a little way, particularly the Princes and Queens Wharf where, as luck would have it, I was able to have a very pleasant lunch while watching the world go by – quite literally since there was a cruise ship in port and there lots of different languages and nationalities walking past the seat that took advantage of. The end of my leisurely lunch led me back to the car and the drive back to the flat, again navigating the various roadworks and delays caused by the increasing traffic compared to earlier.

I detoured via the supermarket for food supplies, and eventually surrendered to the desire to have a quick nap.

This evening I went to the local Catholic church, just 800 metres away. The liturgical experience was certainly better than what I encountered at the Cathedral last Sunday evening, but there were still some strange liturgical practices that caught my eye. Will really need to read the NZ version of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal to make sure I’m not misinformed. On the other hand, the homily, from the Parish Priest, was quite good, and had a ‘hook’ that kept my attention throughout and afterwards. I’ll probably be back next week…

And so, home for a fine meal, and then a quiet Saturday night at home. My plan for tomorrow, being the day of rest, is to attend to some household chores, and then ‘rest’.

Auckland 2017 – The Sixth Day

You may remember, gentle reader, that I mentioned towards the end of my last entry that I had suffered a small glitch yesterday afternoon while leaving the Auckland Museum in the rain. I mention it again only in case it may have slipped your mind. Hold that thought…

I awoke this morning in slight discomfort, a discomfort that centred around the knee and ankle of my right leg, the same leg that, for some unbeknownst reason, didn’t quite fulfil its purpose yesterday in keeping me sure footed and upright. When I realised in my pre-coffee fogginess that the discomfort I was feeling was the direct result of yesterday’s glitch, words escaped from my mouth that were both foreign and unrepeatable in polite company such as yourself, good reader. Suffice to say, I was not a happy camper!

Not to let such a thing set me back, I resolved to get up, and get out and about and do something with the day that lay ahead. I was not going to let a mere glitch upset my day nor my holiday.

As I mentioned I started off with some degree of resolution. I returned to the same cafe as yesterday, again walking the short distance from the flat to enjoy a couple of lattes, and some pages of the book I am currently reading. I resisted the temptation to replace the absent lemon tarts with something else, if only because nothing else there took my fancy at the time. The ‘stroll’ to the cafe was a little slower than yesterday, and towards the end I was very much looking forward to sitting down and taking the weight off my leg. Nevertheless, I thought a bit more gentle exercise, i.e. the walk back to the flat, would be enough to get me back into the swing of things and allow me to head out to do those things I had planned to do today.

Reality, however, had a different thought.

By the time I had return to the flat, I realised that my resolution was misplaced. There was no way I was going to be able to stay on my feet to walk through the New Zealand Maritime Museum on Auckland Harbour today. It would have only made things worse, and the impact would have lasted for many days more. Reluctantly, I opted to postpone my visit to the Maritime Museum and to, put my feet up – particularly my right one – in the hope that by resting and the usual other treatments for such things I might be able to salvage the rest of my holidays.

And so, having made the decision, I did exactly that. I stayed in my flat, and kept reading. I did venture out late in the afternoon, but only to the supermarket so I could have some food for dinner.

While disappointed that I’ve had to take a ‘rest day’, it’s not like I’ve missed anything. My general approach of only planning ahead one day means that my trip to the Maritime Museum is only postponed not abandoned, and the day in the flat (more like an afternoon really) also meant I could give some thought to what else I might do in coming days. But you’ll have to wait for further updates to find out what’s been planned.

Auckland 2017 – The Fifth Day

After my journey up to the peak of One Tree Hill yesterday where the wind was plentiful and strong, I awoke this morning – early! – but with a definite ‘twinge’ in my sinuses. Knowing what this might be the harbinger of, I decided, spontaneously, that today should be an ‘inside’ day. And by ‘inside’ I don’t mean staying in my flat all day but rather doing things would would allow me to be indoors and out of the elements. As it turned out, my decision was slightly prophetic since it started to rain just after I had finished lunch and hadn’t let up by the time I had retired to bed.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Having made the decision to have an ‘inside’ day, I had to work out what I should do with myself. The easiest option to bring that to fruition was to grab a coffee! And so I availed myself of one of the suggestions of my host for a local cafe within walking distance and, having grabbed my book, sauntered the 750 metres to a delightful little cafe where I lingered over a couple of lattes, a lemon tart, and the book I’m currently reading. At some point during my second latte, I decided that today might be a good day to visit the Auckland Museum, located within the Auckland Domain, that I had glimpsed while out and about on Monday. By the end of my second latte, the decision had been made to visit the museum after lunch.

Returning to my flat, I indulged in a light lunch in preparation for my museum venture and it was while eating lunch that I noticed through the window that the rain had started. And this was not just a light shower that I had seen a few of during the last couple of days. Oh no, this was rain, steady and consistent. I was momentarily tempted to abandon my proposed museum adventure but rallied myself, donned my shoes and sallied forth via my trusty hire care for the 15 minute drive to the Auckland Domain and the Auckland Museum located therein.

Given the rain I was prepared to park in the underground car park (even though it would be a little pricey) but as luck would have it, or divine intervention intended, a (free) on street parking space opened up just 50 metres from the entrance to the museum. It was clearly meant to be and so, preparing to run the gauntlet of the rain for that short distance, I took what was on offer.

Purchasing a ticket, and preparing my camera (photographs being allowed inside the museum), I entered the three story Auckland Museum. The museum, which like other museum features exhibitions of the natural and cultural world in which it sits, also acts as the War Memorial, with one of its entries overlooking the Court of Honour in which is located the Auckland Cenotaph. Wandering through the museum allows a strange coming together of these different streams of Auckland’s (and New Zealand’s) corporate and historical life.

The first floor looks primarily focuses on the cultural background of Aotearoa New Zealand, particularly the Maori and broader Pacific cultures, and also included a special series of ‘stories’ about the Treaty of Waitangi (or Te Tiriti o Waitangi in Maori). The displays in this part of the museum were incredibly beautiful and highlighted for me the sophistication of the Maori people (which is not meant to sound as elitist as it does in writing) and their culture and knowledge. I took many photos in this part of the museum, but as some of them feature patterns and images that the Maori consider to be sacred, I won’t be making them available on this blog or my online photo albums.

The middle floor of the building features displays and exhibitions focussing on the natural history of New Zealand, with displays on the geology (earthquakes and volcanoes), flora and fauna. Again there is attention paid to the Maori understanding of this aspect as well. Again, I found this exploration quite enlightening and fascinating, though less so than what I seen on the ground floor.

The top floor is reserved for the military history of New Zealand and features two Halls of Remembrance – once for World War 1 and another for World War II – as well as other displays concerning the military history of New Zealand, from the Maori Wars to current involvement in United Nations peacekeeping operations. There was also a small room remembering the Shoah or Holocaust of World War II. As I often do when visiting such memorials, I found this room particularly poignant. The most moving sight in the whole third floor, however, was in the World War II Hall of Remembrance where, alongside other marble tablets inscribed with the names of those who died, there is a set of blank marble tablets with a simple inscription along the lines of “Pray that these tablets are never filled.” Amen, amen, amen.

Having spent a delightful few hours wandering the museum, it was time to leave (if only to avoid ‘peak hour’ traffic) but I couldn’t resist a visit to the Museum Gift Shop. It was there that I purchased a gift for myself – a ‘talking stick’ (or rakau korero or tokotoko) to be held by the one who is speaking in a gathering as a sign of authority. Perhaps I might bring it out when I preach…just as a reminder.

The only ‘glitch’ in my whole day was the ‘almost’ fall as I was leaving the museum. I may have already mentioned it was raining? My foot didn’t quite completely grip the last of the four steps I was descending as I was leaving, and started to go from underme. I managed to avoid hitting the ground, and there was a momentary jar in the knee and ankle, but hopefully nothing that will set me back. Stay tuned for updates on that one!

My ‘inside’ day was brought to a completion with a nicely cooked meal, cooked by myself I hasten to add. It was nothing fancy, but it was all the more satisfying because I had prepared it myself.

Auckland 2017 – The Fourth Day

Today was a good day.

It started a decent and civilised hour – either my body has adjusted to New Zealand time or the alarm was set properly. Being up early enough meant that I was able to attend to some ‘household’ chores – washing primarily – before setting out on the adventure I had planned for the day.

And the plan was to visit Cornwall Park and, in particular, One Tree Hill that sits at the centre of the park. Cornwall Park sits almost in the middle of the city of Auckland, and is simply a place of quietude and recreation, an open space that is available to anyone and everyone for recreation, for picnicking, for simply being. It is a ‘public’ space that had its origins in a private estate owned by Sir John Logan Campbell, termed the ‘father’ of Auckland, who was both a commercial and civic presence in the city from his arrival in 1840 until his death in 1912.

In 1901, Campbell gifted the land that is now Campbell Park to the ‘people of New Zealand’, together with an endowment that has meant that the land is free to be used by the people of New Zealand for ever. It is the kind of wonderful philanthropic largesse that was common among some of the successful and wealthy of the day. And while there was certainly some aspect of self-memorial involved in the gift – Campbell is still remembered one hundred years after his death – the sense of gift is still very much central to the existence of Cornwall Park in the life of the City of Auckland today.

At the heart of Cornwall Park is One Tree Hill, and at the top of One Tree Hill is an obelisk that marks the final resting place of Sir John Logan Campbell. It was this obelisk that I noticed on Sunday as I was driving in from the airport and wondered what it signified. Some research – by which I mean reading through some of the guides mein host provided – revealed the significance of that landmark and I resolved to visit it at some point during my stay.

Today was that day.

I spent a delightful day in Cornwall Park, and although I didn’t walk all the way up to the peak of One Tree Hill – yes, I was lazy and drove – I did spend many hours just wandering through the park, looking at the plants and trees that are lovingly tended, watching the sheep and cattle who graze in the fields (yes, it was my first sighting of sheep in New Zealand), and lunching and coffee-ing at some of the delightful eateries scattered in various parts of the park. It was peaceful and a simple delightful way to spend my day.

The photographs I took from the peak of One Tree Hill, including those of the obelisk, can be found here.

By the time I had wandered for several hours, it was indeed time to return to my flat, to eat, and to retire to bed for an early day.