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Posts tagged ‘auckland’

Home again and some birthday frivolity

We arrived back in Auckland on a sunny weekday morning, feeling positively unrefreshed. The only person there to meet us was the shuttle driver who was to pick up dad. Instead of connecting through to Wellington straight away, I was remaining in Auckland for a couple of nights where I would be joined by Mike.

It was a day of doing relatively little which was really nice.

The next morning my 30s were officially over and bubbly with room service breakfast seemed the best way to face it. The good weather angel I acquired in the UK had followed me home and we ventured out into the beautiful June day.

We wandered through the Auckland Domain, the sunshine highlighting the residual autumn colours (technically it was the first day of winter)

Auckland’s War Memorial Museum

That night was the Auckland Edition of my 40th celebrations. The trip put paid to any fleeting thoughts of a big party and instead presented a better opportunity: being able to spend my birthday night with my Auckland nearest and dearest.

The old ‘group in an elevator’ self shot

Most of the next day was spent wandering locally and enjoying the inner city. I don’t miss living in Auckland (apart from not being able to see friends and family very often) but I quite like visiting now and then

Yummy lazy brunch in Ponsonby

We stayed in the Sky City Hotel and had been gifted passes to the Sky Tower. This here is no mean feat for me! (And those feet are not mean, just a bit on the large side)

People far braver than I pay good money to jump off the Sky Tower. To draw out the experience (weird people might say enhance), jumpers get halted in front of the observation deck where they dangle for a few seconds before plummeting to earth

Bent my neck at unnatural angles to watch another crazy person jump off the tower

On a random walk around the Viaduct Basin, one of the areas that got tarted up ahead of the Rugby World Cup last year

Later in the afternoon we collected a rental car as instead of flying south to Wellington, we would first be driving further north. And unbeknownst to dad, I’d be seeing him a whole lot sooner than he bargained for.

But to conclude this post, and the topic of birthday festivities, my 40th Wellington Edition was held the following weekend.

Everyone met for a drink first in the lounge bar at our fantastic local cinema, The Roxy

Family and friends at Miramar’s La Boca Loca restaurant. The Mexican fare is by all accounts excellent, though I concluded that I don’t much care for the flavours or the beans. However I am very partial to their margaritas

Still relatively perky at the end of the night

Given I had begun things with the London Edition, I reckon I did a reasonable job of marking this particular milestone.

Hah… guess we’ll see

The girls turn 120

It was Saturday with another busy day ahead. The birthday activities would kick off later, but first priority after getting myself organised was food. Decided to shop local with a hot breakfast and coffee from the Art Stop Cafe in Helensville. Really good. First time there and will definitely return.

With tummy happy it was back to Auckland. A trip to the Big Smoke isn’t complete until I’ve caught up with Hannah so I popped in. A glass of wine and girly chit chat easily took care of a couple of hours. (Matching denim jackets were not organised in advance.)

It was time to think about birthday festivities. I was staying with Kirsten & Mike in West Auckland and there I went. Wee Mitch was at his grandparents giving his mum and dad the night off. I brought some celebration bubbles with me which seemed a shame to let linger in the bottle any longer than necessary.

Kirsten and I have been friends since we were babies


The main birthdays in question were the imminent 40ths of Kirsten and a friend from high school, Debbie. However, as mine is also on the horizon the evening was billed as a small triple celebration, or as one of the girls alarmingly put it, our 120th.

We met Deb and her partner Barclay at a bar in downtown Auckland.

At Soul Bar in the Viaduct Harbour

The birthday girlies

The actual Viaduct Harbour

Dinner was at a restaurant within walking distance, though uphill, and there was discussion at length as to whether this was achievable given the ladies’ footwear. We decided to give it a go.

The skyline was filled with the Sky Tower, churches and various high rises.

The award winning Grove Restaurant was our venue as we figured the occasion suited somewhere a bit fancy. Predictably the girls went for bubbly.

Kirsten, Mike, me, Barclay and Deb

We were in raptures over the food, even the bread roll appetiser was divine.

My fish main, absolutely yum. Could've eaten two.

Kirsten and I are dessert eaters from way back and both chose petit fours

Over the course of the evening it’s probably fair to say that we forgot why we were there. Until this came out, which Mike had organised on the sly.

A nice touch

I suppose one benefit of celebrating my birthday early is that I get used to the idea of entering my 40s. (Even writing it there freaks me out a bit.)

All yummy things must come to an end and we had another couple of stops to make. We tottered off, enjoying some city illumination.

Mo’s, a tiny corner bar and evidently one of the city’s best kept secrets, wasn’t far away. Mike had joked earlier that the five of us would fill it, and that was only a slight exaggeration. A couple dozen people would be quite cosy. I was a bit shocked at how expensive cocktails are now. Maybe they were Auckland prices.

Inside Mo's

A final wander around the Viaduct with a stop at one of its bars and we were ready to call it a night. We were 120 after all.

Happy birthday Deb and Kirsten!

A day with family: plotting, planning, celebrating

I was in Auckland for a long weekend following the Roger Waters show. With many family members and friends up thataway it wasn’t going to be hard to find stuff to do.

The timing was good for four other reasons:

  1. Mum had reached a rather significant milestone birthday during the week which also signalled her imminent retirement.
  2. I’m planning with my parents a month away in England, Scotland and Turkey in May.
  3. Two of my girlfriends would soon be turning 40 and this would be my opportunity to celebrate with them.
  4. I could visit the Auckland-based tall women’s clothing shop during its summer clearance sale!

So the morning after the night before, in no great hurry and after one or two deviations, I headed on out to my parents’ town. At their place I found Mum, Gran (who lives with them now), and my brother who had a day off work nursing his dodgy back. It was a normal working day for some though and I wouldn’t be seeing Dad til later.

With Kyle who was nursing the crook back that caused him to miss out on the show

Gran came with me to run an errand up the road

Also in the house was an old childhood friend. Mum and Dad recently retrieved him from storage. He’s needs some running repairs but at some point he’ll be well enough to relocate to Wellington.

A little the worse for wear, but Big Ted isn't bad for almost 40

After lunch and whatnot, Mum and I got into trip planning. I’ll preview this in a separate post. It’s eight weeks til my departure so I’m on a bit of a countdown. Any trip outside of NZ is pretty significant!

Later, in the midst of rental car comparisons and bookings, a rather grubby father walked through the door. The plan was to go out for dinner as while there was a birthday celebration or two for Mum earlier in the week, my visit was good excuse for another. We decided on a local restaurant. A few of us were feeling a bit poked so after making ourselves presentable we went in for an early sitting.

Venue for dinner

You could say that the Grand Hotel is one of Helensville’s icons. At the eastern end of town, the hotel was originally wooden and burned down, twice. Consequently, the rebuild in the 1930s was done in concrete. New owners have renovated The Grand and restored many of its original features. They’ve done a lovely job and I’d like to have a better look around one day.

Tis a bit Grand I spose - for Helensville at least!

We’ve eaten at the restaurant before and it was definitely worth a return visit. The dining room is quite stunning: red walls adorned with artwork, concrete floors, fireplace, striking chairs and ceiling lights, arched windows. The menu options are well matched to this quite grand room, and as we were all pretty hungry we didn’t muck around with our decision-making.

Ready for food!

To the exaggerated sighs of some at the table, the wait for food was an opportunity for photos.

Mum, Gran and I

Well I win the grinniest grin competition - and Kyle could just be enjoying his pain medication

The meals were great and everyone enjoyed their selections. Since it wasn’t late, some more trip plans were sorted when we got back home. I farewelled everyone when I had to take myself back to the motel for sleep as would not be seeing them the next day.

Roger Waters The Wall Live

Unlike my parents’ penchance for country and opera, I gravitated more toward pop and rock. The first I think album I bought was Duran Duran and my first concert was ZZ Top. I was, after all, a teenager of the ‘80s!

Being of this era I also had reasonable exposure to Pink Floyd and in recent years, having resurrected my interest in the music, unconsciously added ‘Pink Floyd stadium experience’ to my mental bucket list. Difficult to achieve these days given the band split. But when Roger Waters announced that he was bringing his live The Wall show to Auckland, I knew this was my opportunity!

But who to recruit to tag along?… Mike couldn’t take a day off work so that ruled him out. Luckily Kyle, my Auckland-based brother, was keen. I nabbed tickets to the last of four sold out shows.

Concert day, which was last Thursday, finally rolled round. First order of business was the eight hour drive to Auckland. Not far out of Wellington Kyle called – he had warned me the night before that he had put his back out and it was worsening. He had to opt out of going. He was gutted!

Luckily I had managed to line up a ring in – Mike, not the Mike, but an Auckland-based friend. And big PF fan. I arranged to meet him a couple of hours before the show.

But as I hit the Southern Motorway and eventually slowed to a crawl, I realised that it was perhaps not my best plan to arrive during Auckland rush hour. My leisurely preparation for the show was now not going to be! After an eternity I reached my hotel – cue frenetic outfit change etc.

And cue photo segment!…

The venue was Vector Arena on Auckland's waterfront

We couldn't have been happier with our seats. The nerve centre of the show is the collection of screens and computers down below

Local schoolchildren had been recruited for Another Brick in the Wall

The wall is fully built and we stop for an intermission

Start of part 2

The song I was looking forward to most - Comfortably Numb. I've listened to a recorded live version countless times and have to say I was a bit disappointed by the guitar solo in the show.

An inflated pig did a circuit above the heads of the crowd downstairs

The wall comes down

The end

She's all over rover

In conclusion – a fantastic show 🙂 :). Though I did try to play it down a little when reporting back to my brother…

New Year Trip: 6~Happy new year!

(Alternative heading: Will we make it to midnight?)

The last day of the year began very lazily. Eventually we kicked into gear and decided we better get a wriggle on ahead of more friends coming around later on. Mike 2 took Mike 1 (hereafter known as M2 and M1) and I on a bit of a tour. First, some unfinished business from a couple of years ago.

A very well known TV series called Outrageous Fortune was based nearby and some time back we had tried to find the iconic ‘westie’ house but couldn’t. Our hosts had since become better informed and turns out the house is ridiculously easy to find when you know how.

World famous in New Zealand, this house

M2 then took us for a tiki tour around the neighbourhood, mainly for the benefit of M1 who hadn’t seen much of it. The swanky waterside mansions are offset to some extent by pockets of low incoming housing and there are plenty of recreational reserve areas so that the waterfront can be enjoyed by all. This perhaps wasn’t such a priority today off the back of some dreary weather. How it would stack up for the rest of the day was anyone’s guess.

The weather was hardly stellar but at least the rain had stopped. View from the end of the peninsula over to Auckland city and the harbour bridge

Before we could go back to the house we had to find coffee. Had to. It took about five attempts but we eventually found somewhere that was open. The caffeine addicts among us breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Early afternoon we were joined by Debbie, Barclay and Deb’s children Yasmin and Vincent. Mitch was pretty happy about this.

Mitch loved having the big kids around

Debbie is a friend from high school days. This meant that over the years, a few of us had our milestone birthdays in close proximity to each other. This year it means that the three of us are now approaching our scariest milestone yet. (OK, 40, there I said it.) We talked about our plans, which for Kirsten and I are a bit sketchy. But Deb is doing it in style: a holiday in New York. Jealous!

Me, Kirsten, Debbie... soon to be Over The Hill (sigh)

Soon enough it was time to balance the New Years Eve beverages with some food.

Sitting down for some afternoon munchies


The weather had settled and cleared up a bit so we moved outside – while sparing a fleeting thought for those getting drenched at music festivals elsewhere in the North Island.

Well she might kill me for this but I think it's a nice photo

All of us

Meanwhile, Twitchy the Hunter rests

A couple of other visitors dropped by, including this prickly fella who didn’t seem too bothered by the multitude of people and cats.

With children to get to bed, Debbie took her family home leaving me, Kirsten and the Mikes with a couple of hours to kill before midnight. Yawns had started to creep in and our staying power was in doubt! But between conversation, drinks, music, and a bag of Natural Confectionary Company snakes that I remembered was in the car (god I love those), we got there!

M1 and I walked with M2 down the road a bit to get views across the harbour. There was to be a fireworks display from the Sky Tower at midnight which we thought we’d watch. But it was a fizzer – the low cloud had hung around and we couldn’t see a thing. We did see an array of fireworks across the water set off by residents in Waterview and Point Chev which was pretty cool.

But anyway – 2012 had arrived!

A ukulele duel rounded out the night.

Rock on, Mikes... in their defence, it was very late...

New Year Trip: 5~Bye family, hello friends

Later on back in Parakai we walked around to see friends who live not far from mum and dad. I went to primary school with Krissy and she stayed in the area, now married with two children. On the way is this eye-catching place. Pretty sure if I was a pre-schooler I’d want to go here.

The wonderfully colourful local kindergarten

We had tea with mum, dad and gran, though the Indian takeaway in Helensville did the cooking. Mum went through with dad some plans for their upcoming trip to the UK. They’re off in April and I’m joining them early May. More about that later!

Mum explains some details for their trip while dad gives me a suspicious eye and gran goes about her business

The next morning it was time to move on to the next phase of our holiday. We called in to say bye to the family.

Gran lives with mum & dad now so I get to see her more often

Didn’t see much of my brother during our brief stay in Parakai. I left this likeness of him on the kitchen message board.

My brother isn't a crustacean though he may have resembled one because of his sunburn

We travelled to nearby Kaukapakapa, another rural district on the other side of Helensville. My friend Trish lives there and I hadn’t seen her for a few years.

Big Hayley, little Trish

I met her at my first job and back in our single days we used to go out a bit. Fond memories of Georgie Pie pies and ice cream sundaes in the wee small hours! Anyway, fast forward some 20 years and today Trish has two teenage daughters and various animals. I took a shine to one pet in particular…

I could have popped Trish's pet chihuahua in my bag and taken it home

Then it was time to head into Auckland, stopping off in Albany where it seemed that much of the North Shore population was in the Westfield mall. We were destined for an area of West Auckland and in the olden days the north and west parts of the city were not conveniently located so I was expecting a bit of phfaffing around. Well blow me if a new motorway hadn’t gone and popped up and it took next to no time.

And so we briskly arrived at our hosts for the next couple of nights: Kirsten, Mike and one year old Mitchell. I’ve known Kirsten since we were toddlers, growing up in the wop wops of South Head.

Mitch and his mum

And now she has a toddler. Mitch is adorable – Aunty Hayley is a big fan!

Mitch playing with silly Aunty Hayley

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