I have just spent several days away from the best city in New Zealand (Wellington in case anyone was wondering) having a short holiday in Auckland (the most populous city in the land of the long white cloud). Even though I booked this months ago I must have had some kind of premonition as I felt very due for a break (from work mainly). I’m sure you all know that feeling which, in my case, was probably exasperated by the fact that it is the end of winter, spring flowers are already in bloom and lots of wee lambs are frolicking all over the countryside. We are now on the up towards summer!
I will put my hand up and confess that I always fly to Auckland. I suppose could drive. After all it’s only 9 hours away (clenches jaw and grinds teeth) but I just cannot face the Auckland motorway system. I will openly admit to being terrified of it. So I defer to air travel. It’s only an hour away by plane, a very short hop indeed. In fact the stewards have only just got the refreshment cart to the end of the aisle before ‘this is the Captain speaking’ informs us that we are beginning our descent. For a split second during takeoff this time around I was regretting taking the easy option as it was a tad bit bumpy thanks to a strong northerly. But we made it all in one piece!
And a big shout out to the Sky Bus that runs from the airport. It’s a great service that has never let me down and allows much more flexibility when booking flight times!
So what did I do in my almost four days in the big smoke?
By a rough calculation, I walked about 40kms and had the blisters to prove it. Although they were caused by not wearing the right shoes for the first days or so. In my defence I hadn’t had the chance to visit my favourite shoe shop yet to get suitable footwear. Wellington does not have a dedicated Sketches shop – yes sneakers – so I always put time aside to make a pilgrimage and stock up. This requires some intricate planning as I need to make sure I have enough space to get them home without incurring extra baggage charges. I am proud to say I managed to get three extra pairs of shoes into my case and didn’t suffer a hernia putting it in the overhead baggage locker!
But why walk I hear you ask.
See the above mentioned aversion to Auckland’s roads, and it is a good way to get fresh air and exercise. I normally always take a brisk stroll up the summit of Mt Eden … well stroll might be understating it a bit. Slow meander is more like it. Even taking the easier of the two routes it’s still a decent effort to get up there. Well for me it is. I try not to get too put off by the many joggers and runners that stream by me attacking the slope with gusto. I tell myself ‘steady as she goes, don’t rush, this is not a competition’ and that normally sees me right. And if you take it slow you get to have the fun experience of seeing all the dogs going on their walks with their humans.
Oh yes … I visited two historical homes. I love doing that sort of thing, walking around old houses that have been staged to look like they would have in their past lives many years ago. I was very lucky in that I found two within walking distance – Alberton House and Highwic House.
Alberton House is located in Mt Albert and once belonged to Allan Kerr Taylor. He was married twice having lost his first wife and their two children to illness. Alberton started as a farmhouse in 1863 but was altered and added to in 1872 at the behest of his second wife Sophia. I’m sure you can guess why. When you have eleven children you need somewhere to put them! And she felt that they needed a home that better reflected their wealth and social standing. The thing I found most interesting about this family was that despite having six daughters only one of them married. Family legend says that Sophia kept a tight rein on her girls!
Highwic House is located in Epsom and was once the home of the Buckland family which was headed by Alfred Buckland. He was a very successful businessman owning land all over the region including up the coast in an area which is now known as Bucklands Beach. Like Alberton, Highwic was also built to house a growing family and like Allan, Alfred was married twice. He had ten children by his first wife and eleven by his second. Count them … twenty-one in all! I’m not one to gossip but the second Mrs Buckland was already living in the house as a nurse/companion to the first Mrs Buckland when she died, and they were married within a year of Alfred being widowed. But the family says it was all above board and that the two branches Buckland got along.
The thing that is very striking about both homes is how close the city is too them now. It crowds in from every side and not just other domestic residences. Tall buildings with businesses, a science centre, a mall and even a busy motorway are all close neighbours. Back when these houses were built it was all open farmland with unencumbered views of the countryside. I wonder what Allan, Alfred and their families would think if they could see it all now.
Is there anything more?
Ahh yes. As a proud Wellingtonian coffee lover I wanted to try some of my favourite beverage as made by Auckland barista’s, just to see how they compare, so I sought out some local cafes and put them to the test. The result? Sorry Auckland but while they were adequate, I like my local brew best. I couldn’t tell you why exactly but it just tastes better at home! I’m sure Aucklanders say the same when they visit the capital!
And lastly but by no means least I had a lovely dinner out with a friend. We had the most delicious indian food at Sitara in Mt Eden Village. I don’t normally eat Indian and we weren’t actually intending for that cuisine style, but the raman place next door had no tables so we made an executive decision and moved continents. Great service, awesome food – it was all terrific except that the chairs we were sitting in felt quite low (I don’t know if they actually were). I mean it was all good – I could still reach the knife and fork and see over the table edge – but it just felt odd. No matter.
So that was my trip. Nothing earth shattering or groundbreaking. Just a nice few days away from it all.
Yes. Yes. I checked up on my work emails but I really hate coming back to hundreds that I have to sift through. I would rather spend a few minutes every day, even when on holiday, sorting and deleting so I can get right back to it when I return. Plus I also hate work surprises so I like having a heads up to anything that has happened.
But now it’s back to real life which isn’t so bad really. It’s not too long before I have a week away in Taupo so that should be fun! And spring is here so we should have some nice sunny days ahead.
So to you lovely people out there … Happy travels wherever you are and wherever you may be heading!