(Day 2 of our North Island holiday. April 1, 2012)
The next morning was better, though, and I wanted Josh to hurry and wake up so we could go see everything. It’s funny how the sun and daylight can make everything better. When we had checked in the night before, the lady told Josh our room had an ocean and garden view from the window. I didn’t believe her, but she was right after all. I was so happy to look out down below and see a colorful rose garden park. And, we could see the ocean in the distance! It was a beautiful day, and the weather was perfect and sunny. We ate breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, which was actually pretty good, especially the muesli. It was all for free, too, considering our overbooking misfortune, so that was a bonus, and it overlooked the rose garden.
We were eager to see the city in daylight. The population of Auckland is 1.5 million, so it was nice, at first, to be in a really big city again. We drove around downtown for a while and then were trying to figure out what we wanted to do; all those ideas I had written down, and we had no clue which one we should choose. We had learned that there was going to be an event called the Auckland International Cultural Festival at Mt. Roskill Memorial Park, so we went on a scavenger hunt looking for that. I really don’t know why we didn’t ask to borrow someone’s GPS before our trip (or why we didn’t think to bring the ones we both had from back home that we left behind in Texas) because we searched aimlessly for over an hour and just could not find this park. Auckland is quite spread out with all the suburbs but it was nice to see the flat land and just a few small hills. We had a map and were trying to figure out where it was…I thought it was going to be on top of a mountain, or hill, considering it was called “Mt. Roskill”, so we were looking at the two hills we saw and one had a tall tower on it which I knew had to be it. We kept aiming for that, and had even stopped to ask for directions, but it was taking us forever and we were losing time and starting to get slightly stressed as we wanted to make use of the good weather and little time we had in Auckland. At last we found the venue, which was not even close to the tall hills we thought it might be. It was a large field and cars were packed on the side of the street and we could tell we were going to have to park forever far away. With great difficulty, we at last parked, then grabbed our blanket and cameras and walked over to the field.
It was so exciting as we walked up and the first thing we saw were two teams, one Kiwi and another which appeared to be an African team, playing Rugby. Beyond the game, we saw a vast array of brightly colored banners and flags over each tent set up to represent its country. The music was enough to get one’s blood pumping and curious to see what each tent had to offer in terms of their traditional food for the culture-hungry people to try. I know Josh was super happy and that he felt alive because he enjoys that kind of stuff and has a deep love and appreciation for different cultures. I know I felt pretty awesome being there, and just cool. It was really neat and it made me wish and think that this is how the world SHOULD be. “Red and yellow black and white, they are precious in His sight . . . ”, as the young children’s Bible song goes. People of all different nationalities were here in this place together, smiling and happy and proud to share with others and teach them about their culture and learn about theirs as well. There was no hatred or airs of superiority; just peace and happiness. I believe that is how God wishes we were, instead of wars and killing people because they are different and they think their way is better. And imagine if there was not this variety of cultures? Of language, cuisine, clothing, music and dance, and traditions? How boring! We saw a lot of hippies there, and I kind of felt like we were hippies too, in those few hours we were there. I just wanted to go up to every person representing a different country, give them a smile and a hug, and say, “World Peace, Man!” with my two fingers in the shape of a peace sign. But, I didn’t do that.
It was invigorating for the soul and mind, and we watched the cultural dance shows they had and even saw little girls doing the Maypole song dance with the rainbow colored ribbons! That was cute, and I especially like that song because my birthday is in May. We tried different sorts of food, which was really cheap, and watched a woman from Ethiopia make some beverage as thick as molasses pouring from a porcelain teapot. I almost tried some, but didn’t. I bet that stuff was strong. I didn’t eat anything too different, as I had some peanut satay chicken from the Malaysia tent, which I’ve had something like that before, but it was still more foreign to me than usual, and it was so yummy! The weather was warm and sunny, so we were quite content. I also got a big bag of sweet kettle corn, which I hadn’t had in forever, and made me feel like I was at a country fair back in Texas. That was so delicious and addicting, and ended up lasting us nearly our whole trip for a snack in the car. We savored our time there as we didn’t rush it, but just enjoyed being in the midst of all the people and hearing the lively music.
After that we drove around and crossed the Auckland Harbor Bridge. Auckland, aka “The City of Sails”, does live up to its nickname well, for we saw hundreds of sailboats in the marina, tied up and anchored, waiting until their sailor took them out for another adventure. We were up for exploring ourselves, and drove around to the different suburbs. It was getting partially cloudy and the wind was a pretty cool breeze as we found a walking path by the sea at Takapuna Beach. We got out and walked along the smooth sanded shore, yelping as the icy cold waves hit our feet. I love the smell of the salty sea, and the sound of the waves rushing in and back out again. The salty air is not so overpowering in New Zealand as in certain places I have been to like the Gulf of Mexico; maybe because it’s more humid and muggy there, not quite sure. I will never get over the beauty of the water though, changing from sapphire blue to green to aqua in just a few moments. I really wished we could swim in the ocean, but it was way too cold. We took our time walking along the path, encountering many other couples, young and old, and friends getting their exercise. In the distance, we saw Rangitoto Island, a dormant volcanic island you reach by ferry, which we were planning on hiking the next day. This was a little bit of a different walking park than the parks I’m used to back home! We both said, “Man, this ain’t Rose Rudman!”, a park in Tyler which I always believed to be beautiful with all the pine trees, but quite different from the view we were beholding now. The path was in front of luxurious beachfront homes; I can imagine the price tag on those mansions. To have the ocean as your backyard would be amazing. I loved looking in at the houses from where we walked. People leave their curtains drawn during the day and most have panoramic floor to ceiling windows, so it was appealing to catch a glimpse of the lifestyles of the rich and the famous. I’ve noticed that rich homes wherever I go always seem to have their blinds open; perhaps they want people to stare at all their fancy possessions and be like a dog drooling at the window. I know I always sigh to myself and think briefly of how nice that would be if that were my home, and those were my things, and what kind of fancy dinner parties I could host. After we left the beach, we passed again through the suburb of Takapuna Beach with all of its cafes and expensive looking stores, and one could tell that this area was quite posh. We liked that area; the sense of modernity and it was just nice, and not run down or overshadowed by high rises.
Then we drove to another suburb that our traveling book guide we’ve been using to help reference us on places to go, Devonport. That was definitely my favorite place in Auckland. It was approaching the time of the golden sunlight hour, and the small town suburb with its shops and the view of the city from being across the harbor really slowed down the pace for us. After driving around all day and in downtown earlier that morning, I had begun feeling what our friends had told us about Auckland; that it’s just a big city. No one sounded too impressed by it and recommended we not spend a lot of time there. Being in Devonport though, time and traffic came to a halt; the people walking slowly along the sidewalks with their shopping bags seemed to have thrown off their watches into the sea. I certainly felt that way, and wanted to stay there as long as we could. “We should have stayed here!” we both said to each other. Josh really liked Devonport, and I knew he was tired from driving around all day in an unfamiliar big city with no GPS. It seems that I contradict myself a lot in things I say, but though we sometimes missed having a GPS, at the same time we both said how it was kind of nice to just figure it out on our own. Josh especially felt that way, being the driver (and the man), leading the way and feeling like the hunter-gatherer, watching the sun and using that as his guide and compass. Well, not really that primitive, but using the signs and context clues for finding things as opposed to technology. It was pretty hard to really get lost there anyways, since it was flat and you could always see the Sky Tower and buildings in case you lost your bearings. We stopped at a parking lot for a while and ate our sandwiches, laughing that we were breaking our vow, again.
Josh and I wanted to get a good hill top panoramic view of the city and harbor, so we drove up Mount Victoria, which is in the same suburb of Devonport. Perfect timing. It was definitely the place to be at that moment, as we noticed several cars parked at top and we heard music playing. They were having a concert! This made me happy, and the views were amazing. I sat on the grassy knoll for a few moments, feeling the warm sun on my face, as it was slowly getting lower in the sky and listening to the music in the background. The band wasn’t Pink Floyd or anything, but I guess they weren’t too shabby, and it just really enhanced our mountaintop, or hill top experience. I sat there and looked out onto the harbor far down below and serenely watched the sail boats gliding peacefully through the water, the wind in tune with the sails, giving them wings to drift calmly like an ice skater gracefully gliding across an ice pond in winter.
We explored the hill, and climbed down these stairs where there was an old canon; a BL 8 inch gun Mk VII. A couple interesting facts I shall quote from Wikipedia concerning this historical landmark:
“Mount Victoria (known to the Māori as Takarunga) is the highest volcano on Auckland’s North Shore, rising to 87 m. . . . Named after Queen Victoria, the hill provides panoramic views of Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour and the inner Hauraki Gulf. Over the years the peak and upper slopes have housed a signal station for shipping,, artillery emplacements, farmland, and various concrete army bunkers, some from as early as the 1870s.”
After looking at the canon, we went back up to the hill and sat and listened to the band for a few moments. I’ve never been to a concert where the blue ocean, sailboats and rich green land were the background; it was pretty sweet!
After a long day, Josh was ready for a nap, so we went back to our hotel. I was antsy and couldn’t bear the thought of taking a snooze on a vacation, so I let Josh take a nap and I said I was going to the rose garden across the street. I really wanted to go with him because I thought that would be so romantic, and plus we never even went to the Rose Garden in Tyler, which is what that city is famous for. I didn’t have time to wait for him, though, and I needed to be out and about still. The weather had changed suddenly, and was cloudy and smelled of rain. I wandered through the rose garden, getting drunk on the strong, sweet, intoxicating smell of the full-blossomed flowers. I walked around, just daydreaming. It’s the little things that make me happy, as I’ve said many times before. I had fun exploring and found a gated courtyard area with a water fountain in its center. A robin was in the fountain splishin’ and a splashin’ and I laughed at it to myself for a minute before I walked in the courtyard and he flew away. I sat on a bench and listened to the water trickling out of the fountain and just took in the beauty and enjoyed the time to myself. But, then, I was missing someone.
As I was walking out of the courtyard and about to explore a new path, I saw a young man walking with his hands in his pockets towards me. It was my husband! He was smiling at me. I hadn’t been in the rose garden that long, just a few minutes. “What are you doing here?! You missed me didn’t you?” And we joked that we just couldn’t get away from each other, and he said he didn’t want me to be out here alone either. He thought I was cute, and said he had seen me from our hotel window just walking out here among the roses, and wondered what I was thinking. I led Josh to the courtyard and saw that the bird had been hiding in the tree and had returned to its bath, which we both laughed at the bird and thought it was funny. We hugged each other and walked hand in hand through the garden and down the path that led to an inlet and just acted silly. It was fun; we were both hyper and happy. Then it started sprinkling and as we started walking back to our hotel, I was like, “Wait, we have to kiss in the rose garden, in the pouring rain!” And so we did . . . awww. Sigh. It was all so very romantic. Felt like we were in our very own Jane Austen movie, in a different time and place, somewhere in England.
It started raining pretty hard and by now it was dark as we drove around looking for a Mexican food restaurant where Antony had suggested we eat. Our snack food we had that day and sandwiches were not enough to tie us over and by now we were starving. We looked in the area where Antony had told us the restaurant was, and we were excited to have some yummy Mexican food, something we had been missing. We parked in a nearly vacant parking lot and walked along the Viaduct Harbor, which I had been excited to go to because of its popularity . . . a strip of restaurants right along the waterfront. The weather was quite disappointing, and I had dressed up a bit and was wearing my heels (the price I pay to look good for my husband) which I was regretting now as it was holding us up and I was so scared I was going to trip in front of all the people eating on the patio. Normally, the area probably would have been a lot more crowded, but there were still quite a few people enjoying their meals out on the patios. Some of the restaurants looked quite fancy and expensive. We didn’t know the name of the place, but just that it had a full menu Mexican, so we looked at all the menus and were not finding what we thought would be it. We asked a lady and she pointed us to where it was we were talking about, and where Antony had told us, right across from the Copthorne Harbour City Hotel (where we were going to be staying our next night).
So, we retraced our steps and walked a lot further as the rain was lightly pouring on us. I could tell Josh was getting slightly annoyed, and it was another one of those occasions we had been encountering where everything turns out being harder than it should be. We turned the corner and saw a place that was opened and a neon sign beside it that said Mexican! We were like, yay! We found it! We walked past the people on the covered patio and I felt the warmth of the heat lamps and was so happy we were finally about to eat. We went to the bar to get the menu and Josh asked, “Are you serving dinner?” They looked at us weirdly, and said no, but they have a snacks menu. What gives? I think I mentioned this before in another post, but this was certainly not the first time. But it was like 7:30, why wouldn’t you be serving dinner? We looked at the snack menu and there was nothing on there that resembled Mexican food, and good luck satisfying your tummy with a piece of bread. We walked out and now Josh was really upset; I was too, but he was doing the venting this time, and I was hurrying to keep up with his stride. That restaurant didn’t seem right, and I was wondering if that wasn’t the place or not that Antony had told us about; that couldn’t have been it, because if it had, why would a restaurant not serve dinner at normal dinner hours? Even though we had already encountered that, but also the menu didn’t have any Mexican dishes. We were confused, and tired, hungry, frustrated, wet and cold. At first, we were going to go back to one of the restaurants we had passed along the way, but then I saw one on the other side of the bridge that had twinkling lights strung out across the patio; it looked romantic, which is what I’m all for. Josh of course wanted to make me happy, so we went there. We were relieved to find on the menu that this random place we found actually had a couple Mexican dishes, and so we both ordered fajitas. It certainly wasn’t authentic, and tasted more like a tomato-based recipe, but I still really liked it; though Josh wasn’t too impressed. A girl growing up in West Texas, and a boy growing up in East Texas, eating Tex-Mex your whole life….enchiladas, tacos, beans, and rice at least two meals a week…we have been having a little bit of some withdrawals. The meal was actually satisfying I thought, and our bellies were quite full. We sat on the enclosed patio with the twinkling white lights above us and the heat lamps to keep us warm, which was very romantic.
We were both in better spirits with our bellies full as we walked slowly back to our car and the rain had stopped. Until, we got to our car. Josh let out an angry noise as he picked up something from the windshield; a ticket. A wet and soggy parking ticket. Stupid me, I had seen a sign that said about paying and displaying as we walked by, and I vaguely remember seeing weekend times on it; but I just ignored it and really didn’t even think about it. Besides, it was the weekend, a SUNDAY night, in this big, empty parking lot, and we hadn’t even been gone that long. Grrrrr. That made us both angry. What loser parking police had been sitting there, staking out his territory, and jumping at the chance to catch us? And how much was the penalty??? 65 buckaroos!!!! That is insane. Josh was so mad, and he was saying he wasn’t going to pay it, which I was agreeing with him. It was Sunday night, come on! It was either 8:00 or 9:00, there was a huge parking lot that was nearly completely empty except for a couple cars . . . AND, it was raining! I don’t know why, but I think it’s even worse if police give tickets when it’s raining or storming, like seriously? That really dampened Josh’s mood, as this was not our first ticket in New Zealand either, unfortunately.
We already knew that we had to stay another night at the Kingsgate hotel, which we didn’t like, but there wasn’t anything to really do about it now, so we just had to deal with it, and hope the Copthorne manager would call us back the next day with some kind of good news. It had been an eventful first day of our trip in Auckland; we were worn out and went straight to bed.