Friday, August 31, 2018

Auckland Arrival and Downtown First Impressions: Britomart & Queen Street

My flight from Shanghai, China arrived in the wee hours of the morning in Auckland. In fact, my flight arrived earlier than scheduled so I had to wait for sisterJ and Myrhh who were just on their way to the airport. It was the break of dawn and although I did not feel any jetlag yet, I know I will in a few hours time.

A traditional Maori wooden arch gateway called "Maharoa" on the Aotea Square and the beautiful and stately Auckland town hall to the right.

Pedestrian scramble intersection on Victoria and Queen Streets.

Speaking of arrival, I wanted to briefly talk about going through NZ Customs & Immigration. The country passionately protects its beautiful natural resources, thus any clothing, equipment or item that has to do with outdoors and nature has to be screened by customs. This meant showing to them the soles of my hiking shoes. There must be no traces of earth on it.

And oh, no dairy, meat, and any food with honey are allowed in as well. I brought with me some cookies and candies and that was it.

[To read the rest of the post and see more pictures, click the READ MORE link below]

My sister – the sisterJ and Myrhh have moved from Singapore to New Zealand via the Philippines. They both used to work in Singapore for years when they decided to give up their stressful corporate jobs and relocate to New Zealand. They choose New Zealand because of its famous work-life balance aspect, language (English!), and matured LGBT rights. The pay isn’t that very high compared to other industrialised countries but you get more value and living satisfaction when it comes to the other facets in life, which I believe are equally important. Trust me, as we all grow older, these other facets in life will become more important than achieving success, amassing wealth and recognition from any grandiose career.

Our sibling reunion at the airport was rather quick. Myrhh had to get to work so we dropped her off at her workplace on our way home. SisterJ took the morning off for me and that’s very sweet of her.

On the way to Auckland CBD (central business district) and looking for parking in the city.

Finally, we arrived at their place in Onehunga, a suburb that is not too far away from the airport. Their house is cute and is located in a residential compound with a communal driveway and garden, although each house has its own private covered car parking.

It was still very early, I think just before 08:00 and my jet lag has started to kick in. My plan for the day is to explore Auckland city center but I cannot do this with a heavy jet lag.  So I decided to rest and managed to tank up to almost 2 hours of nap time while sisterJ attends remotely to some urgent stuff at work. She’s officially off but oh well, sometimes you have to give in and it was a great excuse for me to catch some zzzzzz’s and not having to be bothering her.

Around 10:00+ I was up, refreshed and ready to hit town. Auckland City here I come!

Because sisterJ only took the morning off, she had to be back at the office after lunch. Not a problem for me because I am an independent soul and loved wandering on my own. We plan to have dinner in the evening in town and I have reserved a table at this nice restaurant in Britomart so that’s something to look forward to for later that night.

Auckland Town Hall.

We went with the car to the downtown city center, although sisterJ told me that they normally go with the train as it is easier, convenient and cheaper. No looking for parking and no paying parking fees. The only problem sometimes is that the trains are not to be trusted because sometimes they just don't run!? She said that we’ll take the train tonight for dinner, but for now, we are taking the car because we don’t have time.

After finding parking behind Queen’s Street, we decided to walk around a bit, her showing me her newly adopted city and so that I become familiarised with the streets. SisterJ is the bit protective and a worrisome type, so I had to remind her that I am more than a decade her senior and that I have travelled to more than 50++ countries! lol #perspective

Then it was time for lunch which was at “Chuffed”, a nice, trendy and well-hidden café in the city center. There's a fresh vibe to it with mostly young professionals dining in during lunch. The café has a small backyard open patio which was quite cool, inviting and comfy. So that’s some quality sister time spent together until sisterJ has to leave me behind for work.

Nice outdoor patio in the backyard.

Having lunch with SisterJ.

This is actually only sisterJ's lunch as I was still a bit full from the airplane breakfast food.

 I was not really hungry so I only had this coffee with cream or was it ice cream. Not sure anymore. I still look like I have a jet-lagged face, haha. Oh dear, those unwanted lines under the eyes.

One needs to know this Chuffed place though because the entrance is concealed and there is no big signage outside the street. SisterJ knew about the place because she works nearby and has been here a few times before.

My first impressions of Auckland?

It has a nice and very welcoming atmosphere. The city is super laid back and not rushed at all. There is a country feel in the air, that fusion of country city feeling.

Auckland city center is also a small one compared to the other cities I have been to. I can liken the downtown area perhaps to Amsterdam Zuidoost (South East in Bijlmer area) only. Just half a day and you have seen and walked most of the downtown area. Even just a 2-3 hours stroll would offer a lot of sightseeing opportunities already and all within a short walking distance as well.

It’s one of those cities where you cannot hide away from anybody I guess. You have a high risk of being spotted here having lunch or dinner somewhere or bumping into someone you know from back home in your suburb or village, work, school, hobby group or what have you. That is how small I found the Auckland city center (downtown or CBD - central business district) to be like. I have to admit that it was quite refreshing though!

Coming from vast cities in the Philipines and Singapore, I am sure the sisterJ and Myrhh have to adapt drastically, on a positive note though, to a more relaxed and small city feel atmosphere living. This is what they wanted in the first place anyway. Well, they asked for it, they got it.

An old bath site in Auckland.

After sending off sisterJ to work, I started my own little sightseeing tour of the city. I discovered 4 main areas not to miss in downtown Auckland, and these are:

  • Britomart - This is a young and chic place to shop, eat and hang out. The vibe is cool, trendy, arty and innovative. There is nightlife action here as well and good restaurants.
  • The vicinity around Queen's Street - This is really the heart of the city or the downtown center where traditional and stately buildings can be seen. Lots of shopping, architecture, and art in and around this area.
  • Viaduct Basin - A great place to unwind over a drink with friends or simply on your own. Lots of cafes and terraces on the harbourfront for lunch or dinner options. This place is a must visit, even for just a stroll. It's one of my favourite places in town by the way =)
  • Wynward Quarter - Another waterfront area with cafes and restaurants that has a trendy and alternative vibe to it. 

I will reserve the pictures of Viaduct Basin/Harbour and Wynward Quarter for my next post.

Pictures of Britomart area:

One of the buildings in Britomart area with open hallways and garden walls.

A relaxed and cool atmosphere at Britomart.

Outdoors dining and hanging out at the Te Ara Tahutu Walkway.

The sun was up and shining and the bean bag beds too! I used to have one like this at my little condo unit in Greenhills, Manila (well that some 16+ years ago).

Pictures in and around Queen’s Street, the main thoroughfare of Auckland:

There were a lot of Owl Art scattered around town during my visit. The art project was a partnership with a couple of organisations to boost tourism and awareness of Auckland and New Zealand.

There are nice areas in town where you can just sit on benches or on the steps to relax and gather yourself, perhaps eat your lunch, hang out with others and talk.

One of the downtown city streets.

Covered shopping lane, the Strand Arcade.

The Elliott Stables is a food arcade filled with cafes and restaurants with communal table seating.

NO BYO sign means "No Bring Your Own (Food)".

Travel Period: May 2018
Destination: Auckland, New Zealand

Keep in touch and follow me on Facebook: Travel & Lifestyle Diaries by Dutched Pinay Travels
Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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