Day 5 – Happy Birthday Dad!

I had a big sleep-in this morning, completely didn’t hear the alarm.  But the first activity of the day wasn’t until 10:30, so no risk of missing it.  We went back to Ronnie’s for breakfast, having learnt how few brekky places Auckland seems to have.

The morning plan was to take a ferry cruise around the harbour.  We arrived in plenty of time, enough time even to go and check out the “OK gift shop”.  I guess if you want an excellent gift shop perhaps you have to look elsewhere.  But OK it certainly was, and picked up a few meagre gifts for the folks back home.

Again Auckland had blessed us with perfect weather – barely a cloud in sight, really helping the Waitemata Harbour live up to its name.  Waitemata is a Maori word for ‘The Sparkling Waters”.  (Or maybe not, if you read Wikipedia.  ‘Wai’ is water – so it’s at least part right regardless.)

Sparkling they were, regardless – a great trip out into the harbour, past the working docks, (car carriers are funny looking boats, it must be said), and out to the famous Bean Rock lighthouse with its own cottage, that families used to live in, though if you needed a pint of milk your only option was to jump in a dinghy and row yourself back to shore, so that part wouldn’t have been the most fun.  Still, think of the views!  These days, of course, the whole thing is automated and there are no more lighthouse keepers.  It still does a good  job of keeping ships safe from nearby reefs though.

The cruise included a brief (as in <10 minutes!) stop at Rangitoto Island, the newest volcanic island in the vicinity, having last erupted only around 600 years ago.  As a result there’s a lot of black volcanic rock, and it’s a wonder how the trees grow with only 500 years worth of work to make any kind of soil.  It’s also pest-free, so a kind of sanctuary for the native wildlife.

On the way we also saw an impressive bunch of kites – possibly just advertising the Aquarium as they seemed to be  nearby, but a pretty impressive sight nonetheless.  Also, being the ‘city of sails’ there were plenty of boats out and about – it was pretty windy out there so a good day to sailing.  But there were still what looked like thousands of boats still in the marinas – we sailed in to one for a look at all the boats, but all I could think of was 1980s music, Miami Vice, and Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous – maybe the 80s was the decade that established the link that having a yacht meant you were very rich.

The cruise ticket also came with a bonus – a free return trip to Devonport.  Only 6 minutes by ferry, or a one hour drive in peak hour.  Despite being so close to Auckland it’s half a world away – a small town that has retained much of its history and character.  The chocolate shop we visited was excellent (I mean, it sells chocolate, what’s not to like), but the lunch we had elsewhere (let’s not name and shame) was pretty disappointing.  Serves us right for getting there after all the pie shops had sold out of pies, I guess!  While waiting for the ferry back we sat by the foreshore with great views across to Auckland, and I was able to FaceTime Mum & Dad and to wish Dad a Happy Birthday.  Happy Birthday Dad!


Now even though we’re away on holidays some things can’t be ignored.  Thats right, it’s Sunday night, so Dr Who was on the telly.  We found the channel, and all was well, but imagine my surprise when adverts interrupted it.  So rude!

After that we went back to the wonderful ‘Monsoon Poon’ restaurant for dinner.  The butter chicken was simply amazing, the Thai Beef Salad, slightly less so. Still good, but not oh-my-god-this-is-amazing.  Still, all beautiful fresh ingredients so still left being very happy with the place.  Will surely return next time we’re in Auckland.

And that was about it for our last full day here … tomorrow will be a lazy breakfast and then on to the airport to come back to reality. And the cat. So there’s always a silver lining.

Day 4 – Visiting the Shire

An early start to the day (getting picked up at 10 to 7) necessitated a bit of forward breakfast planning last night.  Some savoury scones, heated up in the microwave, should do the trick.  If only the microwave actually microwaved.  So, ah, some cold savoury scones, that should do the trick!

Before long we were in a mini-van with only 7 other adventurers, on a two or so hour drive through some beautiful and ridiculously green scenery, with sheep, cows, rivers, vaguely inappropriate jokes from our driver, history lessons, you name it.

Next thing we know, here we are in Hobbiton.  I’m not a massive Lord of the Rings nerd (I’ve seen the movies, and haven’t even read the books), but it was great to see where the movie was filmed, and all the hobbit holes dug into the sides of the hills.  It was nice touch that some of that had fresh smoke coming from the chimneys, made you wonder if someone was going to pop out from being the door wandering what all the noise was about.

Delicious cider was consumed at the Green Dragon Inn, and next door in a marquee, a pretty amazing lunch was served – a huge buffet with a great selection, to which of course I paid a couple of visits.  After all that, and exiting through the gift shop (of course), it was time for a nap as we took the long drive back to Auckland.

Dinner was at the Sushi Train right next door to the hotel, which was nice and convenient, once again.

Yep sorry this is a short entry today as I didn’t start til too late in the day and I’m tired.  Ah well, look at the pretty pictures 🙂

Day 3 – What’s a MOTAT, anyway?

The morning started pretty slowly as the first available booking in the Cat Cafe was 10am.  So out we wandered, with the supposedly easy task of finding somewhere for breakfast.  But on the main drag, Queen Street, there’s basically bugger-all for anyone who chooses to leave home before having their weet-bix of baked beans on toast.  We wandered around for a good 20 minutes til we found a place to eat, and fortunately it was a gem.  The name escapes me (ok, so it wasn’t memorable), but it did a great job of scrambled eggs on toast, and eggs benedict. It was a cafe by day, bar by night, with very cool rough-hewn wooden furniture, friendly staff, and someone in the kitchen who really knew what they were doing.  Winner!

Next on the agenda was visit Baristacats – the cat cafe.  The tricky part was finding it! Even though it was on Queen St, entrance was via a side lane, through an unmarked door, that we eventually found – I don’t know who has it in for them, but apparently they’re not allowed to have any more signage than the (very meagre) amount they have currently.  Never mind, we did find it – and we found a bunch of the smoothest kitties I’ve ever seen.  From the second we walked in there were two of them that wouldn’t leave us alone – rubbing against our legs and head-butting us for attention – maybe it’s because we were the first visitors of the day, but the cats were all curious to find out who these strange new people were, what they were doing, and could they have more pats please, followed by more pats. It’ll be of no great surprise to anyone at all that we were more than happy to oblige, and then some.  All the cats were rescue cats – some from shelters, some from a very rough life on the streets, so they had their own share of issues.  One was blind, one had three legs, one had an untreated inner-ear problem so always walks with a wobble, but it doesn’t stop any of them from getting on with life.  It was an hour very well spent.

Next on today’s adventure was a visit to the Zoo.  We tried out luck on Auckland’s public transport and it didn’t disappoint. Much.  The odd thing was how difficult it was to find places that sell the ‘AT HOP’ card (like an opal / myki / oyster / clipper / suica / etc).  But find one we did, and soon enough thanks to their pretty good transport app, we were in a bus and on our way, for the princely bus fare of only $3.50.

Auckland zoo is a good one – the animals have good sized enclosures, and look well cared for, though the elephants just seemed a bit sad / bored today.  But we saw plenty of other critters large and small, and yes, happy too say we even saw the elusive Kiwi – though it was too dark to get any photos of it.  One hot tip for any potential travellers to Auckland Zoo – eat first. The food from the cafe was pretty grim.  We could’ve sat and watch the monkeys for hours as they played around, fought over pieces of carrot, gave each other hugs, and used their amazing tails just as they would any other limb, to hang around, swing around, and generally mess around.  All good fun.

Up next, since it was nearby, and handily accessible thanks to a free tram ride (and an old Melbourne tram, at that) was MOTAT.  MOTAT? MOTAT.  The Museum of Technology and Transportation. It had fun stuff (a 360 degree projection screen full of 100s of copies of Perry’s face), nerdy stuff (original Commodore 64s, old telephone exchange equipment), old stuff (steam-powered trams, a massive beam-engine used as Auckland first water supply pump), and odd stuff (a massive ‘innovation’ building that was innovating a whole bunch of ‘huh?’ and not much else). The trams were kinda cool – looks like Auckland did the same dumb Sydney did in the 60s and ripped up the whole network.

After MOTAT we successfully navigated the bus system to get us back to the hotel, and had dinner at a very nearby restaurant ‘Monsoon Poon’ – and wow what a restaurant it was.  A kind of Indian / South East Asian fusion, the joint was jumping but fortunately they were able to fit us in.  Great decor, good service, and delicious food – a massive tasting plate to start, followed by Beef Rendang and Nasi Goreng.  We’d also ordered a Lamb Curry but after the size of the tasting plate (huge!) the staff cleverly suggest dropped one dish, which was kind of them, and also a good idea.  We’ll have to come back some other time for the 25-spice Lamb Curry.

Tomorrow we’ll be up-and-at-em bright and early (well, it’ll be early, but it won’t be bright) for a trip into The Shire to visit the ‘Hobbiton’ location from Lord of the Rings.  Let’s see if we can find any Hobbits…








Day 2 – Aquarium and SkyTower

The day started with a cup of surprisingly nice coffee from the plunger/cafetiere/french press in our room.  We wandered to a nearby bakery, Ronnie’s, for breakfast.  Though it wasn’t just a bakery, also had a good breakfast menu with a big breakfast that lived up to its name, and Eggs Benedict served with lashings of hollandaise, at last – can pretty much every other breakfast place in the world please take note.  Somehow we managed to avoid all the cakes and doughnuts and delicious tarts on offer and moved on.

Back to hop-on hop-off bus, to get our discounted 2nd day ticket, to visit Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium.  We managed to time the list perfectly, arriving at the same time as a hoard of screaming toddlers.  This necessitated a pretty brisk walk through the first few sections, just to keep ahead of the noise.  The penguin enclosure was fantastic – plenty of penguins packed with personality – the lazy ones, the cranky ones, and the ones who seemed to love nothing more than coming up to the windows and posing for the camera.  Watching the mini penguin stampede when the humans arrived with food was also a real treat.

The trip through the shark tank was good, through the obligatory glass tunnel – but this was cleverly fitted with a sushi-train-like moving floor to make sure everybody got to see an equal amount without hanging around too long.  Saw a good number of sharks, a few rays, and some fish (yes, very specific, I’m such a marine biologist / zoologist / whatever)

Some of the rays in another tank were enormous – a good metre and a half across at a guess, one of them got up to say hi, as they are pretty curious animals.  Then it was on to a tank or two full of Nemos (yes, I know, clown fish), seahorses (I actually learnt something – seahorses can be bigger than I thought), jellyfish and anemones.  The place is well worth a visit if ever you happen to be nearby.

There was a beautiful view to be had from across the road, too – looking across the bay back on Auckland city. Very nice.  As for the other sight we saw – I don’t know if this is a New Zealand thing or just crazy young people doing crazy young person things, but before long a noisy bunch of 5 people went by, which in itself isn’t too unusual.  But the lead guy was on a bike, and hanging on for dear life was a train of four guys on roller blades, all egging the lead guy on to pedal fast.  No idea why they were doing it but they seemed to be having fun, so, why not!

Before long the bus was back and we continued on the ‘red loop’ until we reached the museum, where we changed for the ‘blue loop’ that took us past a number of other interesting sights -the Wintergardens, Mt Eden, to name a few.  It was nice and warm in the bus and after a less than great night’s sleep (dunno why), I was pretty damn close to a bit of an impromptu nap at times.

We got back to central Auckland and had lunch at Denny’s, which was a surprise to see in  this city.  I guess for Denny’s the years have not been kind – it’s 90s decor was starting to look pretty tired, and at lunchtime we were two of I think four customers in total.  Food was nice though – sizzling chicken fajitas, and a ‘millennium burger’ – maybe the newest thing on the menu 🙂 Anyway, was a good feed, so mustn’t grumble.

Right nearby was the Auckland SkyTower.  As the commentary in the bus kept reminding us, it is “taller than CentrePoint tower in Sydney”.  Not that anyone has called it CentrePoint for the last twenty years or so, but never mind.  Unlike Centrepoint/Sydney tower, much of SkyTower’s viewing area is located maybe two thirds up, rather than close to the top.  (About 50m lower than Sydney Towers viewing platforms, according to Wikipedia.)

It was a perfect day for a visit though – clear and sunny, we were able to see for miles (and thanks to a discount voucher from our Aquarium entry, we could afford the tacky tourist photos as well :).  We also managed to see the silly people who pay extra to hurl themselves off the edge on a rope and ‘fly’ to the ground.  Anyway, the view itself was wonderful – able to see in  miles for all directions – the water, the water, the boats, some more water, smaller islands, it really is a pretty place.

We took a wander down Queen Street, the main shopping drag, and we both said “this could be Melbourne”, except for the lack of trams.  I am sure any locals would absolutely hate me to even mention it, but it felt like a shopping street in any large Australian city.  The shops, the banks, everything was basically the same, except the shops that sell crappy Australian souvenirs at home were selling the New Zealand equivalent.  Still, at least it was all familiar and we wiled away a bit of time checking out the shops.  The only big department store I saw was Farmers, I think that was about the only shop we saw that wasn’t already existing in Australia (ok Farmers used to be in Australia ages ago, not sure if it’s related though).

One other thing we did stumble upon, which made the whole walk worthwhile, was a small sign advertising ‘Baristacats’ – yep, Auckland’s own Cat Cafe.  So you’d never guess where we’re heading after breakfast tomorrow.

We had a lazy late-arvo/early-evening back at the hotel, and headed out to the nearby marina to see what restaurants were around.  Looks like they all cater to the “I have a yacht” crowd – so not being keen on spending $48 for a chicken.. we found a ‘Burger Boy’ nearby and had, sure enough, burgers.  All good!

That’s the end of another day – ready for more adventures tomorrow.

Greetings from Auckland

Gee, 3:30am starts are great fun! Ok, no, not really they’re pretty horrible.  But at least we had really good motivation – yep, today is the start of our short trip off to NZ.

Happily it was only about 30 minutes from when we left home to when we were ready to check in…but we were running so early that even Qantas wasn’t quite ready for us.  After just a few minutes of waiting we were on our way, through security, and ready to enjoy (thanks for Perry’s Platinum Qantas status), the First Class lounge… which wasn’t going to open for another 40 minutes or so.  Never mind, once we got in, it was very nice – table service, with delicious food (and good coffee).  A nice design touch was the old-school black and white clack-clack departure board at the lounge entrance.  Can’t half tell the primary audience is old people like us who remember this kind of stuff 🙂

After a delicious breakfast we had a quick wander through the duty-free shops.  I needed an adaptor to plug my camera card into the laptop, and Perry decided to get a new point-and-shoot camera – neither of us had seen his old one since we moved house last year, so who knows where it might be.  I also took the chance to snap up some Apple AirPods (wireless earphones) as this is the first time I’d seen them in stock anywhere.

Before long it was time to board – and even though it was a 737 with the old-style Qantas business class seats, it was still nice and comfy with tons of legroom and excellent service from the Qantas crew.  Great good on board, too.  And always nice to drink out of real glass and eat off real plates.

The flight itself was uneventful, had a bit of a nap to try and ward off the effects on the early early start this morning, and before we knew it, we were already landing.

Getting through passport control & customs etc was really quick, it was maybe 20 minutes from landing to being out of the airport.  We took the SkyBus from the airport – it worked a treat, way cheaper than a taxi or an Uber, and dropped us off only a few minutes away from the hotel – The Sebel at Viaduct Harbour.

As luck would have it, at the hotel they upgraded us to a better room which was very kind – it’s basically a one bedroom apartment. It’s very comfy, plenty of room to move, with a view out to the Marina.



As seems to be a tradition when we’re on holiday, we jumped on the Hop-on/Hop-off bus to get to lay of the land and get an idea of places we want to go back and see later.  So far the Aquarium and the Museum are on the list, and the Sky Tower of course (we’re tourists, I think it’s obligatory!).  There’s so much water, it’s hardly surprising that apparently Auckland has one of the worlds highest per-capita level of boat ownership in the world.

After that, energy levels were somewhat flagging, so time to sample some local product – yep New Zealand Natural ice cream.  What a winner – delicious of course, but served in a doughnut cone … holiday food doesn’t have calories, right?  We also have to go back to try something that I bet would take off in Sydney if given half a change – ice-cream tacos. Oh yes! Thats definitely on the list to try before the end of this trip.



Another cool thing to see was a counter on the bike paths showing how many riders had gone past that day, and how many trips there had been that year.  I’m surprised they didn’t have some kind of calculation about how much petrol or carbon has been saved, but still good to see they’re making good use of the cycling infrastructure.

After that it was time to go back to the hotel and check out the purchases – the AirPods work a treat, and Perry fumbled around in his hand luggage looking for the cable to connect his new camera to his iPad.  And next thing you know … yep, hidden is his hand luggage is the old, lost, couldn’t-find-it-anywhere camera! A good laugh was had by all – but still, it was a good 8 or 9 years old and getting a bit temperamental so the new one was still a smart move.  But still, kind funny 🙂 We now have no lack of cameras for this trip…

By dinnertime we were both exhausted so we travelled all the way to the Sushi Train right next to the hotel – good stuff, as always.  Now it’s time to write this entry, collapse into bed and sleep for what probably be a heck of a long time!

(Tomorrow I’ll post a link to a video I took on the bus trip)


Hello and welcome to WordPress. The old site I used to use, TravelPod, is sadly about to shut down, so no point putting anything new there if it’ll all get deleted in a few weeks anyway.  I’ve downloaded the old blogs from our Europe and USA trips so at least I won’t lose them. I might post them here one day if I can figure out how to do it easily.

Anyway just a short trip coming up this time – we’ll soon be off for 6 days in New Zealand.