When we get off the plane in Auckland at midnight, I am a little buzzed I admit. See, when I get up and headed to the bathroom a few hours into the flight, there was the whole crew of Maori dancers I saw file onto the plane. They’ve stuffed themselves into the flight attendant’s quarters near the loo, joking and bantering.
They make fun of my accent. I make fun of theirs. The cutest one with long curly black hair asks, “what can I offer the lady?”
And I say, well, a glass of cabernet would be lovely!
And he opens the metal cabinet and holds the bottle high in the air and a long stream of red fills the plastic cup.
I look at him, confused. “Wait, do you work on the plane?” I ask.
“No I just know where the booze is!”
And they all roar.
So needless to say we had a good time in the back of the plane. And no flight attendants came to interrupt… or fetch drinks for other passengers. Towards the end of the flight I’m back my seat and ask for a beer. The stewardess leans in and shout-whispers, “we’re OUT!” Holy hot potatoes. We drank this plane dry.
So. Midnight in Auckland. A few bottles of water later, I start the rental Yaris, and proceed out onto the street- on the left side. Mom is in the passenger seat, turning the map around and around in her hands. Two foreign girls and no GPS. This is weird.
We have booked Verandah’s Backpacker’s Hostel, two well preserved Victorian buildings fronting Western Heritage Park, with it’s sunken ornate concrete “building.”
And nearby neighborhood:
It’s also just a block from two awesome streets: Ponsonby, and Karangahape Road, affectionately known as “K-Road.” Ponsonby is the gentrified boulevard of boutiques, galleries and cafes, while nearby K-Road is the run-down red light district speckled with thrift shops, a fringe-y bar and music scene, international cafes and my favorite indoor food court and bohemian “mall.”
Verandah’s is kind enough to leave us a hidden key, since we’ll be getting in at 1am or so. Rooms are sparse but charming, with a big shared kitchen on the bottom floor of one of the buildings. Bathrooms (only 4 of them in our building) are shared. Hmmm. But Campbell the owner and his staff are friendly and helpful.
See the tall pointy thing in the background? It’s the tallest building in the southern hemisphere and braver souls than I can bungee jump off of it.
Near where the two streets meet, a spontaneous clothing sale appears. Below, a typical gallery full of local art treasures.
We have our first kiwi breakfast at Dizengoff, at 256 Ponsonby Road, an easy 15 minute walk from our hostel. We take a sip of the “long black” coffee, which is how you get an American style coffee instead of an espresso down here, and almost fall of our chairs.
“Why is this so good?”
“I don’t understand!”
I look at the barista, the bags of coffee beans lined up on a shelf, and shake my head. I take a sip of the cream from the carafe.
“Oh my god that’s it!” I say. “This tastes like clouds! Fluffy french clouds!”
I don’t even know what that means but the coffee (and cream) was to die for. This begins our coffee obsession in New Zealand. We have our morning cup (or two) and our afternoon cup (or two). It’s that good.
We try the avo and spinach eggs benedict, equally fabulous and mind-blowing. In fact everything we try is off the charts delicious. But each breakfast is $15 – $20. Ouch. NZ currency is worth about $1.20 American dollars, but it’s all about 20% more expensive so it’s kind of a wash.
After breakfast, we kind of fall into a record store. Because it has, well, RECORDS! They even let you you sample your music before you buy it. I look to the back of the store where there’s a patio with an adobe looking pizza oven, a bar, and stain glass windows. Really? I have to get out more! This is too cool. I buy a CD of some locally produced electronica and we keep walking.
This mural is INSIDE the record shop. (Note my mom’s cheetah hat.)
We pass art. And more art. The street art here is beautiful.
We just so happen to be in Auckland for the New Zealand International Comedy festival, which I highly recommend.
There are comedians at several different venues, and we get tickets to “The Big Show” featuring five different comics at the The Auckland Town Hall (The Edge). We leave our car at the hostel and walk downtown. (Also known as CBD, or central business district.) Highly recommended: like any major city, there is no parking downtown unless you want to drop some ca$h. We are seated cabaret style at a big table with some Auckland locals. We suck cocktails and try to pick the jokes out from the frothy layers of accent and cultural fog. I look around and honestly wonder if there are other tourists here or if it’s just us…