We both had a good night’s rest in the apartment and were fired up ready to leave out of the door just before 9.30am. I had awoken to the news of a not unexpected heavy defeat for Norwich in the cup. I was glad I was out of the country otherwise I might have been tempted to have purchased a ticket as Anfield is one of the grounds I haven’t visited. The problem is that it is an awful long way from Norwich especially when you know in your heart of hearts that we were never going to stand any chance of getting a result.
It was just a short walk for us down to the Auckland Ferry Building which was the meeting point for the ‘free’ walking tour we had booked. Initially I was sure we had done this once before, but not only can I find any evidence of that, Karen couldn’t remember doing and we were taken places we had never been before. I think I was getting muddled up with Vancouver. At least that’s got that out of the way early this year.
As we walked, I decided that Auckland felt like many other American big Cities but nicer, friendlier and cleaner. Whilst I checked in with our guide for the walk – Richard, Karen ran off across the road to get her first Starbucks of the trip. She came back very happy. The caffeine soon hit home and once back with the group waiting for the walk to start she was chatting away to a couple from Northumberland. I sat down whilst I had the chance reading the BBC Sports website.
Richard our guide started the tour and like many others guides we have had was a thespian who took the tours to supplement his income. He was enthusiastic and exuberant about his home City. He was interesting although not always 100% accurate with some of his facts. I stood quietly when that happened and just whispered to Karen the correct information.
He seemed to have a particular interest in street art, or as I said to Karen – graffiti. Now it could just have been padding to the tour to break up the walk or perhaps even that there wasn’t much to say about Auckland. Nevertheless, when we stopped for the 4th time to have some street art explained to us, I just shook my head in a very British way.
Even more strangely (in my opinion) followed when we were taken to what he called his favourite tree and then asked if anyone wanted to have their picture taken in front of it. There was nothing special about the tree. It hadn’t been planted to commemorate anything and nothing of note had ever happened under it. I said to Karen that I thought it was a wind-up and that every time he did walked the tour through Albert Park, he picked a different tree just to see how many people wanted their pictures with it. Later there was a much more interesting tree that he stopped at later that we did have our photo taken under.
Another thing that happened on the whilst we were standing at the back of the group was when Karen suddenly said to me look who’s over there. Walking towards us was Russell Howard (UK comedian if you don’t know – we seen him perform twice in Norwich and Karl Minns is one of his writers). Karen instinctively just said “Hi” as he walked past and he looked surprised at some strange woman speaking to him but replied ‘Hello” and carried on walking. I even politely said Hi back. I asked Karen why she spoke to him and she said that she knew she recognised him from somewhere but didn’t know from where until she had said it but by then it was too late. I think she might have once done the same in London when we walked past Phil Collins, also last year when we were with Graham & Jo having lunch, when Tom Hollander came by.
Now all of this makes the walking tour sound completely pointless but it wasn’t. We did learn some things, heard some good stories and certainly saw many buildings we would never have known the context to. It was a good walking tour overall. Karen loved it and we gave him some decent money at the end of it. We would both recommend it.
We both needed a drink by the end of it and walked back to Starbucks where we also had a pie for our lunch. These Kiwi’s like the Aussies do know how to make a really good pie. They are infinitely better than any UK ones.
We decided to follow one Richard’s tips which was to catch the foot ferry across to Devonport for a while. The cost was $32 for two return tickets which we thought was reasonable. The ferry departed every 30 minutes and one was waiting so we boarded immediately. It was a quick 12-minute journey and gave us some lovely harbour views of Auckland.
Devonport is the small seaside town of Auckland and the NZ Naval base. We wandered along the seafront and sat for a while overlooking the beach out of what here was a strong wind.
One thing we witnessed was lots of different people were going into the sea for a swim. Not that there is anything strange in that other than they were all going in fully clothed. If it was one family, we might have understood it but there were lots of different groups of different race and ages along the beach, all as if it is the done thing over here. They were all swimming and playing but fully clothed.
More worriedly we also saw a young lad who must have been about 11 or 12, just walk in the sea and swim directly out across the very wide harbour. There were tankers and ferries crossing and he seemed to be alone but just kept heading across until he was out of sight. To be fair he seemed a strong swimmer but it did look reckless to us. It reminded me of the ‘Beach Ball’ incident in Lanzarote that is another long story that many of us still feel guilty about.
After a further walk we found a local coffee shop where we sat for a while in the sun having what we felt was another well-earned cuppa and congratulating ourselves for making the decision to get the ferry across. But after this we then felt we had seen all Devonport had to offer and made our way back to the Ferry to cross back over.
We took a detour back to the apartment as Karen wanted to look in a couple of shops. I managed to buy a packable coat which came as a surprise to both of us. After also nipping in a supermarket to get some bananas to eat as I was craving some fruit.
For dinner we wanted to redeem the rest of our Amex credit and had a lovely walk in the sun along the harbour to the restaurant. Auckland looked at its best, with people out for an evening stroll along the waterfront and those rich enough supping their aperitifs on their yachts. It was just a shame that the restaurant was closed and it looked permanent without updating google, their website or Amex.
Fortunately, we had Plan B just in case we couldn’t get in and headed back to the Ferry Building where we knew another one that would work with the Amex credit. I needed a toilet stop and when we passed one, I went in. I was most surprised when I locked the door that the cubicle started talking to me, confirming that the door was now locked, how long I had before it unlocked automatically and indeed how to unlock the door myself. It was most off putting.
We found our way to Botswana Butchery where the lovely Maître D – Samantha from Liverpool found us a great table. Again, the menu was pricey but the food was tip top. We had some sour dough bread to share to start, followed by some beautifully cooked salmon coupled with duck fat roast potatoes. Karen washed hers down with a glass of local lager.
It was a warm walk back through the lights of Auckland CBD. When we got in the building lift, I realised that whilst we are Floor 5, there is no stop for Floor 4. This is another mystery to the apartment and building.
We finished off the last of the wine before going to bed.