Bright Lights, Big City

Auckland CBD, 07/26/2019

We’ve been working the 9-to-5 for almost a month now and it’s beginning to feel like a lifetime since we were out on the open road! With the wet and windy winter in full swing, and the drudgery of the morning commute, it’s easy to fall back into old habits of “work hard, play hard” (ie. spend all of your money on tasty beers). However, with a whole second leg of our NZ adventure left, we have adopted a slightly different model of “work hard, save harder”. This equates to roughly one fun activity per week (or a few tasty beers each) and some careful but creative meal planning. Hardly the carefree adventure we’d been fantasising about when we shipped out from Blighty! Despite our current low key lifestyle, there are still a few perks to be enjoyed in the city on a budget.

Great eats, for example. Like most cities, Auckland has a vibrant foodie scene, with a price tag to suit everyone. If you like your culinary delights cheap and cheerful, there’s plenty to try. For instance, Aucklanders love Asian dumplings in all their varieties! You’ll easily find a shop on each street, or tucked around the corner, selling their wonton wares. We recommend the tofu and shiitake dumplings from Sumthin’ Dumpling on O'Connell Street. These delectable balls of mouth-wateringly good grub come smothered in Sumthin’ chilli sauce - a condiment so tasty that the establishment knowingly claims ‘you will never eat dumplings with soy sauce again’. The eatery itself is more of a takeaway but you can enjoy your steaming goodies across the road on the lesser travelled Vulcan Lane. Perch in the continental-style doorways opposite a quaint French bistro and soak up the buskers on a warm winter evening, (the saxophonist is pure filth).

If you’re looking for something a little more high brow, you can head down to the Colonel’s kitchen and grab yourself a “double down” from KFC. This heart-attack inducing concoction is “Kiwi as!” they come, comprising of bacon, cheese, lettuce (for health purposes) and sauce, all sandwiched between two pieces of fried chicken. Yes, the Double Down is a bun-less burger with all the fun (and calories) of a regular burger and much more!

Food sorted. Let’s turn our attention to entertainment. Again, there are lots of things to do in the city and sometimes they’re actually open after 5pm which is a real plus! One such venue is the Event Cinema on Queens Street. This multi-storey complex has all the mod cons including an IMAX screen, heaps of food vendors, and some

kind of dinosaur-themed attraction in the basement. Navigate the baffling maze of escalators and stairs, and pick up half price tickets on NZ’s version of Orange Wednesdays, (Orange is still a thing, right?) “cheap Tuesdays”. You can then enjoy the latest Marvel movie or release from director Danny Boyle. (Seriously, what was he thinking with “Yesterday”? Hey Dude?!).

Unfortunately the concept of sweet popcorn seems to have completely eluded our Kiwi counterparts, (we’ve been to three cinemas in three different cities without any joy), so buy your own snacks from Countdown on the way!

If you have a free weekend, we would recommend a visit to Auckland Art Gallery. It’s free for New Zealand residents and they host a variety of traditional and contemporary art work from New Zealand and beyond. We particularly enjoyed the Guerilla Girls exhibition on not-so-inclusive artwork and the incredibly realistic paintings from Kiwi artist Charles F. Goldie, and our old Austrian portrait artist, Gottfried Lindauer (see our adventures in Whanganui). Grab a program from the cheery Northern receptionist and while away the hours on a rainy afternoon.

If the weather is a bit fairer, you can additionally enjoy neighbouring Albert Park for a pleasant lunch spot and a gentle stroll. This small green space is distinctly British in style and provides a miniature haven in a largely urban expanse. Living in a country renowned for its rugged landscapes and breathtaking scenery, one thing that we found ourselves unexpectedly missing are London’s pristine parks. Don’t misunderstand, we love New Zealand’s expansive wilderness, but in our cosy country home here we’re surrounded exclusively by farmland which is much less publicly accessible than back in the UK (no public footpaths or bridleways here!). It’s difficult to find somewhere to enjoy a picturesque walk, or a safe place to go for a run without driving several miles. Since we are spending most of our time shuttling between home and work, we don’t get to see much green space at the moment.

Fortunately, this little gem lies opposite to the University of Auckland (my office) providing plenty of opportunities for a little outdoor recreation, and even some cultural exchange. Today we headed to Albert Park for Tūrama festival on our way home from work. Tūrama translates as “light” from Te Reo Māori and the fee-free festival saw the park transformed into “an immersive art experience” with a number of light-themed creative installations. As it goes dark relatively early here (read 5 pm) Albert Park’s flora made the perfect canvas for these luminous artworks, and we enjoyed strolling amongst the native pohutukawa trees and the English oaks taking in

the abstract art.

Local band, The Saxobros, layed down some chilled out tunes (yet another seriously good saxophonist!) while we sipped on a tasty beer! After a long week at work this was the perfect way to wind down. We may be missing the freedom and excitement of the open road, but even on a budget there are certainly lots of new experiences to be found in Auckland CBD. (maybe give the double down a miss though...)

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