Our first weekend to the big city! Here we are on Friday afternoon before pulling out of our driveway for the 6.5 hour drive to Auckland.
It’s hilly and green and then after a couple hours, you hit the Waioeka Gorge. Yikes. These roads are straight out of a dream, or a car commercial, or a dream about a car commercial. Oh, and of course it started raining as Sean began to navigate these turns and switchbacks.
That lasted for around 45 minutes and thankfully the kids slept through the whole thing. Miracle of non-vomiting miracles.
One thing I like about New Zealand is their civil engineering savvy. For example, on the main route between Gisborne and Auckland, there is a railroad bridge that crosses a river. Well, why build a whole extra two-lane bridge for cars when we can all just use this single-lane railroad track bridge? (I’m not being snarky here. I’m sincerely a fan of this.) They have street lights at each end, and there’s not that much traffic, so it works. And it’s kind of fun driving on railroad tracks across a bridge over a river.
At 10 pm, we drove through Auckland and across the Harbour Bridge to Devonport, where our friends live. We lived one door down from them in our 6th floor apartment on 108th and Columbus for our first 3 years in Manhattan between 2003-2006. (We moved up to Washington Heights for our final year of Sean’s residency.) Before we left NYC for Boston in the summer of 2007, we ran into them in Central Park and they told us they were moving to New Zealand. We were floored, but happy for them. 4 years later, as we planned our own move, we thought of them and after a few emails, were able to track them down. They’ve been great in the many months leading up to our move. And they offered to put us up for our trip to Auckland! So up we pulled, with two sleepy kids and exhausted parents. We put the kids to bed and then we sat up and chatted over a glass or two of bubbles (that is the Kiwi, non-ironic way of saying sparkling wine).
The next morning, after a leisurely start, we worked our way to the Devonport Village, where we grabbed some brunch and then caught the ferry over to Auckland.
They call Auckland, The City of Sails. Saturday was very windy and so there were many sailboats drifting through the harbour.
The ferry ride from Devonport is about 10 minutes long, so barely time to get a seat and snap a few photos.
The occasion of our trip was a matinee showing of the Broadway production of Mary Poppins. Consequently, we had virtually no time to do much else on this first trip. After the short ferry ride, we wandered down Queens Street towards the Civic Theatre, just to get our bearings.
We passed this great Christmas decoration, and as it’s still novel to me, I got a kick out of the incongruity (in my Northern Hemisphere mind) of the Santa decorations among the palm trees.
One of the department stores had all their windows decorated with an accompanying story. This picture is notable only in that Thora Can Read!!! So, this is her reading.
Then we turned left on Wellesley and headed for Albert Park, which is beautiful! We had plenty of time to let the kids run and play before we headed for the theater.
Off to the Civic we go.
The show was magical, and Thora thoroughly enjoyed it, as did Auric, but to a lesser extent. He couldn’t sit still and focus like Thora could and despite our very good seats, Sean had to escape with Auric to the lobby. And although Sean was getting the short end of this parental stick, it wasn’t as miserable as it could’ve been, given the staff’s kindness. As Sean recounted: “I took Auric outside and down to the convenience store where I got him some crackers. Then we came back in and they let us sit at the bar, Auric making a mess of crumbs with crackers that I’d clearly bought from outside the theater. And then they asked if we wanted them to turn on the monitor. So we got to watch the last two songs of the first act on the tvs.” Good on ya, Staff of the Civic! Thank you!
But the following made the trip complete. Right on Queens Street is an All Blacks store that sells all sorts of clothing. Auric had recently lost his beloved rainbow tie-dye hoodie (we all LOVED that thing!), but getting him an All Black fleece definitely lessens the sting of that loss. Sean feels very proud in this moment, and Auric feels grown-up, two things that Thora and I can tell by looking at their faces and body language. (Thora is always telling me when Auric feels grown-up.)
Here is a really, really, poorly lit photo of the four of us. But I also kind of like it, the two clusters of silhouettes, us and the skyline.
Then, after our ferry ride back home, there was lots of wine and lots of sausages. Here we are with our old NYC neighbors, now our fellow Kiwi Expats.
After it got dark, the 4 kids got to play with some sparklers. They have two kids of their own, great, friendly, and generous kids who made our kids feel welcome.
The next morning, we explored Devonport with our friends. Here we are looking at Auckland from the top of Mt. Victoria.
There were stray pieces of cardboard around for the kids to do some “Kiwi Sledding,” which means sliding down a grassy hill on a piece of cardboard. The kids had fun with this!
Then we went to the Navy Museum just a few minutes away. It was a small but very interesting and well-curated museum right on the water. Admission is just a recommended gold coin donation, and so you can pop in for just a half hour if you want, which is what we did. The kids spent most of that time in the pretend play room where they had naval uniforms and replicas of naval ship kitchen and sleeping quarters.
Then, we took a walk onto the pier and took in the sight of the harbour, (again with the sailboats!) and this time, kayakers and kayak/fishing (which sounds tricky to me).
Then we made a trip to the grocery store, stocked up on food for the drive back and to have Monday morning, said fond farewells to our friends, and hit the road, Gizzy-bound. This time, instead of following Rte 2 all the way and driving through Paeroa and Waihi, we took Rte 27 to Matamata before cutting back on Rt 29 to Tauranga. At one point we began a steep climb only to find ourselves spotting the scenic lookout and pulling over to take in the Matamata Plains, which was truly stunning. We could see for miles and miles, over the beautiful sea of green fields that end at the distant mountains on the other side.
We stretched, posed for some pictures, quickly cleaned the car of 2 and a half hours of garbage and restocked our snacks and water from the trunk before starting off again, two awake kids (their naps weren’t nearly as well-timed on the return trip) and ready for the gorge. Yikes!
Overall, it was a do-able trip, but one that would benefit from at least one more day between drives. Round trip air fair between Gisborne and Auckland is ridiculously expensive, and unless we catch a special sale that fits with our travel plans, we’ll likely have to get good at doing this drive. (Weezer is coming to Auckland in one month!) Although we are all exhausted, it was a good weekend. One might even say, a jolly holiday. (How did I manage to avoid a single Mary Poppins pun until now?!? I’m going to blame the exhaustion.)