00:00 – Midnight alarm to get some tickets for the FA cup semi-final, it took half an hour but we got some. Back to bed!
07:00 – Today was a day run against the clock to try and fit in as much as we could on our last day in Auckland. We started with a flat white each from Shaky Islands then we took a taxi to re-pack our box of stuff that’s going by ship back to the UK; nothing we need to wear soon and as many heavy things as we could fit in.
09:50 – Once that was done, we headed to Ponsonby. We’d heard lots of good things about this place. It’s a couple of miles west of the city centre. It has a reputation for some of the best food, coffee and some of the chicest shopping in the city. We started at Mary’s Café for brunch – we’ve had a lot of breakfasts of combinations of halloumi, eggs, avocado and toast but this was the best of all of them. The ingredients were all fresh and tasty and beautifully cooked. Ponsonby is also Auckland’s hipster central and mid-morning is when the locals businesses come out for their coffees and meetings, while we enjoyed our brunch we heard a lot about ‘value propositions’, ‘product-based content’ and ‘customer led exposure’.
The eating, drinking and shopping places are spread along Ponsonby Road – the main thoroughfare. We walked past a number of tempting looking cafes and restaurants. Florence tried on some clothes but they didn’t work out – which is just as well as the prices were dear. The Open Book, a second-hand bookshop, filled seven rooms of an old house, Florence bought a novel by a New Zealand writer that covers a lot of aspects of Maori and current societies.
11:45 – We went back to the hotel, dropped our bag off and walked down to the waterfront to take a ferry to Devonport.
12:15 – The ferry runs every half an hour to Devonport during the day, more often in rush-hour. It’s only twelve minutes across the water from the city centre. The atmosphere is very different, people seem to have a lot of time (no-one’s rushing), there are lots of cafés, little shops and restaurants. We had planned to base ourselves here when we first arrived in New Zealand but the flight delays leaving Tahiti meant that we missed out on Devonport. We picked up a couple of self-guided walk leaflets from the library – the first one took us along the waterfront past a number of old wooden houses overlooking the harbour, some lava flows from old volcanic eruptions and a monument to some of the earliest Maori landings in the area. The second walk highlighted some of the old buildings on the main street; the most interesting was an old movie theatre.
14:15 – Return ferry, everybody seems to walk faster the moment they are back in the city centre. We headed for the Art Gallery, we’d had brief look inside when we first arrived but didn’t have time to look round properly. We were short on time so we only looked at the permanent exhibits, these include mainly contemporary New Zealand and international work as well as a room of 18th and 19th century European works. The most interesting for me were a couple of paintings that commented on the treaty signed between the British and the Maori in the 19th Century and a mural-sized work that looked like an impressive abstract from a distance but close up had many details covering recent global conflicts, nuclear testing in the Pacific and many other global issues.
16:30 – We returned to the hotel to shower and finish packing.
17:45 – Met up with Tony, a former colleague of Florence’s, for a quick beer. We haven’t seen Tony for many years but it was good to catch up and find out what’d happened in those years.
19:00 – Back to the hotel to collect our bags and check out. We took a taxi to a pub in Mount Eden, a suburb few miles from the centre, to meet two friends – J&S. The pub has a huge selection of beers and is reputed to serve excellent food – an ideal local. It would be a great pub in London!
20:45 – Taxi to Auckland international airport. We spotted a final example of Kiwi humour on a warehouse near the airport: ‘Always give 100%, unless you’re a blood donor’. Our New Zealand adventure is over. Singapore, the last leg of our trip, awaits.