New Zealand Travel Guide: Auckland

February 26, 2009

Day 1
(This is the first report from my 17-day trip to New Zealand and Australia. Keep coming back for more!)

The Auckland Skyline

The Auckland Skyline

I’ve just finished my 13-hour Air New Zealand flight and I’m surprised to say that it wasn’t that bad. There were something like 85 movies and 125+ TV shows to choose from, the food was decent, and I had an aisle seat with no one next to me. I wasn’t able to sleep really well, but I did kill about seven hours dozing on and off, shifting position every time my neck started to ache from being all bunched up on one side.

We landed in the dark, so for all I knew the pilot had taken us back to San Francisco. But after getting off the plane, I turned down a hallway towards customs and was presented with this massive wooden, carved archway with masks and birds and intricate design all around it. Even as tired as I was, I had to grin. I was really in New Zealand!

You can learn a lot about a country by the ads on the bus shelters. I had no idea NZ Girl Guides had their own cookie thing. But do they sell Thin Mints?

You can learn a lot about a country by the ads on the bus shelters. I had no idea NZ Girl Guides had their own cookie thing. But do they sell Thin Mints?

Next, I set a very bad example by deciding I was too tired to mess with shuttles and buses and transfers, so I threw my bags into a cab to get to my hostel, Freeman’s Lodge, just outside the city center. It cost at least double what a shuttle would, but I didn’t have to do any walking or thinking, and the exchange rate is really good right now. (That’s a phrase that’s going to get me into a lot of trouble in the next few weeks. “But it’s like half price! I’ll take two!”)

On top of my 13 hour flight, it took me another five hours to get into a room at a hostel, which turned out to be a different hostel from the one I booked (short story: a woman was sick in the room I was supposed to get, so after waiting around a long time, the hostel manager drove me to another place a few blocks away).

After a shower and some clean clothes though, I felt like new and was anxious to get out and see something of Auckland.

I hopped on the Link Bus that circles the city and took it downtown, to Queen Street. I got off once it looked like I was in the middle of everything and walked in the direction of the harbor.

Dunkin' Donuts: No Boston Creme donuts here though.

Dunkin' Donuts: No Boston Creme donuts here though.

Sometimes it was hard to tell that I’d left the States at all. I passed a McDonald’s, a Burger King, A Dunkin Donuts, a Starbucks and even a Wendy’s. In between those though was ANZ bank, Vodaphone, lots of little boutique clothing stores, kebab places and bakeries selling local favorites.

I made it down to the wharf, stopping for a falafel plate on the way, and had a look at the rows and rows of boats – private, commercial and tourist. After looking over a list of trips and cruises available, I booked a trip to Rangitoto Island for the next day. It’s one of 48 voloanic islands around Auckland, the name meaning “bloody sky” in Maori.

Next, I decided to have a walk down Parnell Road, since most guidebooks I’d looked at recommended it. It’s just a little way from the city center and it on the Link Bus route, so I grabbed that again.

When I say I walked “down” Parnell Road, I really mean I hoofed my way up the hill the road is on. Auckland is not a flat city, and it seemed like no matter where I wanted to go, it was uphill.

Chocolate Boutique on Parnell Road

Chocolate Boutique on Parnell Road

My main reason for stopping in Parnell was to visit Chocolate Boutique, a place I’d read about when I was planning this trip. It’s so well known, even Bill Clinton has been there. Some people want to see local birds or cars or breweries, Bill and I like to try the local chocolates.

Chocolate Boutique has dozens of flavors of truffles, chocolate bars from around the world, and a really nice menu of hot and cold drinks and snacks. I tried a hot, dark chocolate Italian mixture that turned out to be more of a light pudding than a drink. In fact, it had to be eaten with a spoon. It was amazingly smooth and the flavor was as richly chocolate as you can get.

Full of warm chocolately happiness, I continued up Parnell Road and into the Domain for a look into the Auckland Museum.

Want more? Go on to Part Two.

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