Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend in Auckland

After our big trip to Rotorua last week, we were too scared – oops, tired – to take the kids on another long drive, and decided to get to know our new city a bit better instead.

First stop was Otara market, New Zealand’s largest street market. Despite's C's protests: "I don't wanna go to a fly shop" (he meant flea market!), we packed the kids into the car.

Back in Brisbane, the Husband and I regularly haunted the local farmer’s markets, particularly the one at Rocklea. I love buying really fresh fruit, vegies, seafood and bread, all so much nicer than those at the supermarket and at a fraction of the cost.

We’d get up early, grab a coffee and breakfast at the markets, and have our shopping over nice and early. The kids, grudgingly, grew to like the tradition, particularly the breakfasts – usually a bacon and egg wrap for C, and pancakes for the Princess.

But I haven’t found any similar in Auckland – yet.

Otara was huge and we probably didn’t even see all of it (mainly because the kids through a wobbly half-way through. H. hated all the hustle and bustle and promptly demanded to be ‘luppied’, and C. couldn’t stand still because he wanted to buy everything he saw – and couldn’t, because of a distinct lack of pocket money.(We’re trying to be a bit stricter with the kids, and not give in and buy them something whenever they crook their little fingers but encourage them to save up for things they want instead. But that’s another story).

Anyway, Otara is huge. Pacific Island, Maori, Asian and Pakeha stallholders display everything from traditional tapa cloth and artwork, to funky t-shirts and babywear. And it’s a great spot for cheap toys, shoes, bikes and skateboards (hence Chase’s consternation!) We didn’t splash out on this occasion, but something tells me Santa’s going to be making a toy-buying expedition later in the year…

Foodwise, there’s Indian, Chinese, Cook Island, even Hangi meals on offer. I tried a breakfast souvlaki, because everyone else seemed to be having one too. It turned out to be a huge piece of fried bread containing steak, lamb, egg, salad, garlic and chilli, all for $7. I’m not sure I’d order it again (I don’t think my waistline could afford it), but it was tasty – and very messy! After about 15 minutes of shopping, K. obligigingly pointed out there was still sauce around my mouth…(Men. You can't live with them.)

Anyway, there was a fruit and vegie section there too, and for the first time since arriving here, we saw prices for fresh produce approaching those we’re used to paying at home. Tomatoes for $3.99 a kilo (we’ve been paying $9.99 in the shops), apples for 99c/kg (compared with $3.99), lettuce $1.50 instead of $4, oranges, bananas, potatoes, and more, all at prices that appealed to the penny-pincher in me. Not surprisingly, we’ve had to watch the budget when shopping for fresh foods, so it was great to stock up without breaking the bank!

The rest of the day turned into a rainy Auckland afternoon, so K. and the Princess joined the local DVD store while the Dude and I hung out for a while, and we settled back and watched a few movies with the kids. With all the stress of packing, moving, and unpacking again, it was the most relaxed we’ve been in a long time.

Luckily, Sunday was a sunshiney day again, and we crossed the bridge to Devonport. It’s a gorgeous seaside village, framed by extinct volanoes, and boasts awesome views of Auckland and beyond.

There are loads of quaint book and art shops to explore (and we had intended to buy some presents for loved ones back home until we saw the price tags – sorry!)

We joined the crowd at a bustling café for an expensive, but yummy breakfast. Chase enjoyed his first fluffie – the Kiwi word for babycino – much to his amusement. (I don't need to remind Aussie readers what a fluff is!)

What I love about Auckland is how dog-friendly it is. Just about everyone sitting at the outside tables had a dog, all of them sitting patiently and adoringly next to their owners. Of course, our kids loved that and wasted no time making friends with everyone and their furry friends. (Okay, I loved it too!) I was worried the kids might be bothering people and stepped in, but no, everyone was welcoming, assured me they were fine, and encouraged the kids to pet and play with their pups. “What delightful kuds,” we were told more than once (to our surprise – and delight!)

After brunch, we took the kids for a long walk along the beach, and let them explore the rock pools and collect shells for a while. Of course, it was way too cold to swim, but they didn't seem to mind.

That afternoon, I took the kids for a play at the park across from where we live.

Coming from the Brisbane suburbs, I was really worried about not having a backyard (frontyard in our case) for the kids to play in, and all the trappings like trampoline and swing-set, which had to be sold prior to our move. But we’re lucky that there is a park so close, and we have a pool and spa here, so we’re really not missing it that much. Kyle in particular, is not missing spending his weekends mowing or cleaning the pool!

And we’re all keeping much more active, myself included, so that's got to be good.

We miss everyone at home, but today, Monday, our phone was finally connected! We’re on a great plan for phone calls to Aussie, so look forward to some long chats soon.

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