It’s winter in New Zealand. And while the temperature is certainly much milder than we’re used to (highs in the upper 50s – not complaining!), it feels like it rains non-stop. That means we’ve been doing much less hiking and outdoor exploration – but we have been having more urban adventures and discovering new neighbourhoods in the city.
Here’s a glimpse into a few central Auckland things we’ve been up to over the past couple months:
When Sport Took Over the City (yes, ‘sport’ not ‘sports’)
Lions Tour (Rugby): Between 17 June and 8 July, the Lions Tour consumed New Zealand. Every four years, the best rugby players of the UK travel to either Australia, South Africa or New Zealand for a series of test matches against that country’s teams. That means the Lions hadn’t been in New Zealand in 12 years – since 2005.
The highlight of the NZ tour is three test matches against the All Blacks – not only one of the world’s best rugby teams, but with a crazy high win-rate, arguably the world’s best sports team. With two of the three Lions-All Blacks matches in Auckland (one in Wellington), we witnessed the city transform into a fan zone.
Tickets cost more than $500 a pop, so we obviously didn’t go to the matches, but we went to see the All Blacks take on Samoa at Eden Park a few weeks ago. For the third and final tie-breaking Lions Test Match, we watched in the ENORMOUS official Fan Zone. It ended in a draw – which was a let down, but still a really cool experience.
America’s Cup (Sailing): One thing I learned recently… Kiwis are obsessed with sailing! America’s Cup was in San Francisco when we lived there in 2013, but I feel like I hardly heard anything about it. But this year, the news of the Bermuda race was buzzing all over Auckland. Emirates Team New Zealand was this year’s challenger, and they ultimately beat Team USA 7 to 1 – the first time in seven years.
The morning of the win, we heard boats honking their horns at 5:30am. When I got to the office, I was greeted with champagne (at 7:45am!) and very excited co-workers who had been up for hours watching.
The Auld Mug returned to Auckland, which was marked by a huge homecoming parade (visible from my office). And means that Auckland will host the next race. The city is already busy planning for where the race will take place – and looking to transform the waterfront into viewing areas. Some of the ideas are futuristic and cheeky, but there will certainly be infrastructure changes in the works in the lead-up years.
Local businesses were celebrating all day of the win. A sailing company but on free trips on old America’s Cup vessels all day!
Needless to say, we’ve learned a bit about two sports we previously had no exposure to!
Exploring Parnell, K-Road and the Light Path
Parnell: We have a new favourite neighbourhood – Parnell. I’d never been before, but fell in love a few weeks back when we decided to try a restaurant there. Boy, is it adorable. We’ve been back three times in a month to try new places, and have a list of restaurants we still want to try.
A highlight is the weekend La Cigale French Market – a gourmet farmer’s market outside of a permanent French café. I had my first Kiwi (savoury) pie, which was delicious.
For dinner, would highly recommend Woodpecker Hill and Oh Calcutta! Another review coming soon when we’re feeling brave enough to tackle one of these “freakshake” milkshakes from Case del Gelato (I mean, they give you plastic gloves to eat them, they’re so messy!).
Just look at all the cute little arcades and alleys to explore. Hidden gems aplenty.
K-Road (Karangahape Road): While Parnell is super upscale, we also have been enjoying the grungy, alternative K-Road. We danced the night away at one of Brett’s client’s gigs above a rockshop…after eating giant soup dumplings (straw included) down the street. A few weeks back, we discovered K-Road’s Pie Piper – the perfect nostalgic place for us Americans missing pumpkin pie! We’ll be back. And speaking of America, we did celebrate the Fourth of July! Just without fireworks, a BBQ or any other summertime activities.
Light Path: To keep things balanced, we set out for a little Sunday walk. There’s an elevated bright pink cycling/walking path that cuts through the city, but we had never been able to find the entrance. This elusive Light Path has won architecture awards, but a map is almost impossible to find. We finally tracked it down – and realised that it’s only about 2km. The pink portion is just a small section of a larger trail. It was still such a fun little magenta trek.
Wintergardens: We followed the other section of the trail to Auckland Domain, where we stumbled on the Wintergardens. Two glass houses hold about a gazillion plants. They’re equally beautiful, but one is hot (perfect for a winter visit!) and dedicated to tropical plants, while the other is more temperate.
Oh, and you know how I mentioned it’s been raining non-stop? The one upside to that is that we have seen SO MANY rainbows. Seriously, we’re treated to at least a couple a week – more than I’ve ever seen in my life. And these are the kind that span the entire gulf so you can see the end. And are sometimes double. It’s Un. Real. I’ll just leave you with these…