A Taste of Auckland
spent the past few days at the Amberley B&B in the Auckland suburb of
Devonport getting ready for my road trip around New Zealand
trip, and the proprietors, Mary and Michael Burnett, have done their best to
assimilate into the Kiwi culture. Listening to
them talk, I'm even getting used to the Kiwi accent, which is pleasant but hard to describe
-- it's like an English accent but "Yes" is pronounced "Yiss" and "check" is
is a beautiful historic town on the north side of the bay with a passenger ferry linking
it to Auckland. After spending a few days in Devonport, I hopped on the
ferry, crossed the bay, and 20 minutes later was walking around downtown
Auckland. I stopped by my company's Auckland office around noon and gave
them a PowerPoint
slide show on the Portland office and some scenic places in America. The 20-or-so folks in the office
were very kind, some giving me their phone numbers and telling me to call if I
got into any trouble while in New Zealand.
the slide show, I spent a couple of hours walking around downtown Auckland, a city
of about a million and half people and the largest city in New Zealand.
I've visited most major cities in the U.S. and of those cities, Auckland reminds me
the most of Seattle
(other than the balmy climate, palm trees, and tattooed Maories,
of course). It's a little smaller than Seattle, but
it's hilly, is on the waterfront, and is vibrant with an
ethnically-diverse population and a cosmopolitan feel.
left: After a few days in Devonport, I
hopped on the ferry to Auckland and spent a day checking it out.
stopped at the Parsons Brinckerhoff office in Auckland for an hour to give a
right: The old and the new in downtown
has the Space Needle, Auckland has the Sky Tower, which was built as a tourist attraction
a few years ago and is currently the tallest tower in the southern
hemisphere. For $8, you can ride the elevators to the top and get a
spectacular 360-degree view of the city sprawling beneath. Some of the
floor panels on the viewing deck are clear plastic, which made me a bit
queasy to walk on since I could see 600 feet straight down to the
sidewalk. Several little kids were vigorously jumping up and down on the clear floor panels,
but I'm not sure what they were trying to accomplish!
Not surprisingly, they
play a lot of New Zealand music on the radio stations here.
Here's the Kiwi group, Crowded House, singing Don't Dream, It's
Over. New Zealanders were surprised when I told them that
it had been a big hit in the U.S.
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I prepared for my two-month drive around New Zealand, I made a list of all the
things I'd need, such as a cooler, folding chair, small folding table, and campstove
fuel (called "shellite" over here). With my typical-American attitude, I figured that I'd just drop
by the nearest "Target"-like store to pick up everything I
After talking about this with my hosts Mary and Michael, however, I learned
that New Zealand doesn't have many large discount stores like that. Instead,
as they told me, small, specialized
shops are much more common here. Finally,
they suggested that I try a store called The Warehouse, located several miles away.
Come to think of it, I'd been hearing radio ads for The Warehouse during my past
few days in Auckland (with their irritating jingle: "The Warehouse, The Warehouse, Where
everyone gets a bargain"), but I wasn't really sure exactly what it was.
drove down to The Warehouse that morning and got
most of what I needed, but as
I've been cruising around the Auckland area these past few days, I realized that
Mary and Michael were right. The shopping situation in New Zealand is
similar to what is was in America, say, 40 years ago, before the giant discount
stores started taking over. O.K., being a foreigner and not knowing my way
around Auckland, I admit that the Warehouse came in handy for me this time, but
these types of big-box stores do come at a price. I
hope things in New Zealand stay the way it is now, with lots of small, friendly
Mom-and-Pop type stores. So Wal-Mart, please keep out.
left: The Sky Tower dominates the
Auckland skyline. It was completed a few years ago and is the highest
structure in the southern hemisphere.
about $8, you can ride to the top and get a magnificent view.
right: The Auckland harbor from the Sky
left: There's only one freeway in Auckland
("The Motorway"). Maybe that's a good thing.
is called "The City of Sails." Here's the Auckland marina. As every Kiwi will proudly tell you, Auckland is
currently the home of the America's Cup.
right: They give walking tours of the
Harbor Bridge, and I hope to do it when I get back here next month.
left: Looking straight down.
center: And, on the sidewalk, looking straight up.
right: Street scene in Auckland.
left: Gee, how do Kiwis really feel
the ferry boat back to Devonport. That's Mt. Victoria, one of many dormant
volcanoes in the Auckland area, in the background. Portland is the only
city in the U.S. that has a volcano within its city limits... and it has only one. Auckland has over a dozen.
right: Devonport is a picturesque
historic suburb and, like many
small towns in New Zealand, it's vibrant with lots of little shops right next to each other on long
blocks. As I'm discovering, this is the typical pattern in small New
Zealand towns, unlike the average American small town with a decaying downtown
and a Wal-Mart on the outskirts.
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