Takapuna

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Rose Gardens, Takapuna

Yesterday afternoon I went to Takapuna Beach. After a quick visit to Shore City mall I made my way through the rose gardens and walked along past the Hurstmere Road shops and down to the beach.

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Takapuna Beach Cafe & Store, The Promenade

Once on the beach I walked down to the rocks at the end of beach and then walked back to the boat ramp and stopped for a Peanut butter and choc ice cream at Takapuna Beach Cafe & Store.

I then walked back up to Hurstmere Road and ordered fish n chips from High Tide Seafood, which is opposite the Hospice Shop at the end of Parkway Arcade (56 – 60 Hurstmere Road).

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Takapuna Beach, Rangitoto Island in the distance

I sat on the grass eating my fish n chips overlooking the beach as beachgoers swam, sunbathed, kicked a soccer ball around, played volleyball, and parents watched young triathletes prepare for a triathlon.

The Takapuna Beach .kiwi Tri Series was being held on Friday. I watched the 3:9:3 youth event, where they swim 300 metres, bike 3km, and run 3km.

The adult category followed the youth triathlon but rather than stay and watch I walked to Killarney Park, which surrounds one side of Lake Pupuke, a fresh water lake in a volcanic crater. It is amazing that in this country you can walk from a beach to a lake in less than 15 minutes.

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Lake Pupuke, Killarney Park

Couples were picnicking in grassy slopes of Killarney Park, while screaming teenagers dived and ‘bombed’ into the lake from the jetty. Some say if you take a bird’s eye view of the lake it resembles a heart – I heart Takapuna!

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The PumpHouse Theatre, Killarney Park

In 1884, a pump house was built on the shores of the lake to supply the local area with fresh water. This pump house was replaced in 1906 and was used a water supply source until 1944. The iconic pump house building, which still stands today, became a protected heritage building in 1983 and is now a theatre venue. Unfortunately when I visited construction was being undertaken so the building was surrounding by scaffolding.

Next to the PumpHouse Theatre is a café which is open from 10am to 4pm. So it was closed when I visited.

At the PumpHouse I watched Shoreside Theatre’s summer Shakespeare in the Park production of Othello. It’s interesting to note that this year marks the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth so what better time to enjoy Shakespeare’s rich language.

The play was held in the outdoor amphitheatre under the stars. Shoreside Theatre provide cushions for the wooden bench seats, which are much needed as the play runs for just under three and half hours.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki

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With showers forecast and a few hours to spare, this afternoon I decided to head along to Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. The gallery is home to more than 15,000 pieces of art ranging in date from 1376 through to today, and the best thing entry is free.

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Women’s Suffrage Centenary mural & fountain, Khartoum Pl

I walked up High Street to Khartoum Place, the pedestrian friendly city square, between Lorne St and Kitchener St. I took the stairs up past the 2000 tiled mural and fountain celebrating the New Zealand’s women’s suffrage centenary to the main entrance.

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Auckland Art Gallery building built in 1887

It is worth taking a few moments to absorb the beauty of the exterior of the Auckland Art Gallery. The main gallery building built in French Renaissance style was completed in 1887. It is three storeys high, with a six storey clock tower.

The Art Gallery building originally also housed the Auckland Public Library and City Council offices before the Council offices moved following the construction of the Town Hall in 1911 and the public library moved to its Lorne Street premises in 1971.

Expansions have been built onto the original building several times.  In 2007, the Gallery was closed for extensive renovations, and re-opened in September 2011. The building now impressively and seamlessly combines the modern and French Renaissance style architecture. The Auckland Art Gallery was awarded World Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival in October 2013.

Large kauri (native New Zealand tree) columns frame the entrance to the building. When you walk in a friendly guide is on hand to offer you  a map and point you in the right direction. The gallery offers free one tours, which depart from here at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm. On the left hand side of the foyer is the gift shop, turn to right to explore the New Zealand collection first. There is also access to the lower ground floor, which has an auditorium where screenings and artist or curator talks are held. There is also a classroom and meeting room facilities for hire.

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New Zealand collection, Ground floor

The first three rooms on the ground floor explore different periods of art in the New Zealand collection: 1995 to today, 1980 to 1995, and 1965 to 1980. The next two rooms are currently dedicated to individual artists Tony Fomison and Lois White. The last and larger room includes abstract art, realism and nationalism, the cultural significance of the landscape, and the importance of travel and exchange in New Zealand art.

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International historic art collect, Mezzanine

The mezzanine floor houses the international historic art collection, which includes works from the Medieval to the Victorian period. There is also a research library and children’s creative learning centre.

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‘The Politics of Ecstasy’, Tessa Laird, ‘Freedoms Farmers: New Zealand Artists Growing Ideas’, Level 1

On level 1 is the international and New Zealand contemporary art collection. There is also the historic New Zealand art collection and tucked away in the back is the Māori portraits gallery, which is popular with many tourists who exclaim that it should feature more prominently. Level 1 also has space for temporary exhibitions. Currently (until March 2nd 2014) there is an exhibition entitled ‘Freedom Farmers: New Zealand Artists Growing Ideas’, which explores ideas of utopia, sustainability and artistic freedom in contemporary art.

There is also a café on this floor. The café is open weekdays 7:30 am to 4:30 pm, and weekends 10 am to 4:30 pm. There is terrace entry to the café from the Albert Park side of the building for those wishing to visit the café before the gallery opens.

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Sculpture terrace

Level 2 (top level) has more contemporary New Zealand art. There is sculpture terrace, which looks out over Albert Park. There is also a Members lounge and an espresso bar on this level.

It easy to explore the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in a morning or afternoon and if the weather is nice be sure to take a stroll through Albert Park.

Essential Details:

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
Open 10am – 5pm
Cnr Kitchener and Wellesley Streets
Entry to the Gallery is free. Although there may be charges for special exhibitions.

Saturday Morning Markets

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The Paua and Mussel Fritters stall at the City Farmers’ Market was popular

There are several Saturday morning markets across the Auckland region, selling fresh produce, meats, baked goods, relishes, preserves, oils, crafts, clothing and much much more. These pop up stalls are popular with locals and visitors alike, and I am embarrassed to admit that despite living in Auckland for six years this month I never been to one. So in sticking with the theme of this blog I set out this morning to explore some of the markets right smack in the centre of the city.

Firstly I started at the City Farmers’ Market, which is located between Britomart and Atrium on Takutai. There are just over twenty stalls here selling fresh produce, flowers, baked breads, and more. This market is most frequented by those who live or work in the city on Saturday and probably would not be worth a special visit if you live outside the inner city. If you choose to drive in, park at Britomart Car Park, on the corner of Britomart Place and Quay Street, and get your ticket validated at the market for a special rate of $6. You would be better advised to use public transport though.

After a few minutes walking around the City Farmers’ Market I headed to Customs Street East, where I caught an Inner Link (green) bus to Jubilee Building in Parnell. The Link buses are a perfect way to get around the inner city for those not familiar with Auckland as they provide clear visual and audio announcements for each approaching stop,  and it’s only a $2.00 to Parnell from Britomart.

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Parnell Farmers’ Market, behind the beautiful Jubilee Building

The Parnell Farmers’ Market is held in the car park behind the Jubilee Building.  It’s worth taking the time to appreciate this building, which was built in 1908, and originally homed the Foundation of the Blind.

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St Mary’s Church, Parnell

Next I walked down to the La Cigale French Farmer’s Market. It is a nice walk down the green leafy tree lined Parnell Road, past the old Saint Mary’s Church. This wooden gothic church was built in 1886, and moved to its current site in 1982 as part of the new Cathedral of the Holy Trinity complex. The walk takes just over 15 minutes, turn right and walk down Saint Georges Bay Road to Raskin Road, where you can enter through the car park to the back of the market.

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K’Rd Market, Karangahape Overbridge

I then jumped on another Inner link bus to Karangahape Road. The K’Rd Street market takes place on the Karangahape Overbridge. There is something unique about looking at brightly coloured clothes fluttering in the breeze as motorway traffic hurtles by below you.

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Silo Markets

From K’Rd I made my way to the waterfront and along to Silo Park. Vendors were setting up for the Silo Markets, not a Saturday morning market in the traditional sense as this food, art and craft market does not officially start until noon.

I was home by lunch and devoured my fruit loaf and cherries I picked up along the way.

Essential Details:

City Farmers’ Market at Britomart
Saturdays, 8:00am – 12:30 pm
Behind Britomart Station, Gore St

Parnell Farmers’ Market
Saturdays 8am – 12 noon
Jubilee Building car park, 545 Parnell Road, Road

La Cigale French Farmer’s Market 
Saturdays 8 am to 1:30 pm
Sundays 9 am to 1:30 pm
69 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell

K’Road Street Market
10am – 4:30 pm
Karangahape Road Overbridge

Silo Markets
Noon – 6 pm
Silo Park

Hobbiton

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Outside Bag End, Bilbo’s home

Since a young age I have always had an interest in film. When I travel I always try and make a point of visiting film museums, studios, and take film related tours. Right here in New Zealand we have the largest “green” movie set in the world – Hobbiton. It is the location for the Shire, as seen in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit films, and it is only a few hours drive from Auckland.

As the story goes in September 1998, locations scouts discovered the Alexander family’s sheep and cattle farm during an aerial search. It was the perfect location as it had green rolling hills and a big tree by a lake, which was crucial for Bilbo’s ‘eleventy-first’ birthday party scene. Top secret construction began in March of the following year and filming started in December, lasting three months. The agreement was that the set would be removed and the farmland would be restored to its natural state once filming was complete. But due to storm weather the clean up was delayed. The intention was to return once the land had dried out and finish the clean up. During this time the Alexander family realised they had a potential tourist attraction on their hands.

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Looking across the lake towards The Green Dragon Inn, the double arch bridge and the watermill

It was this tourist attraction that I visited over 10 yeas ago. The lake, the party tree, and the remains of a couple of hobbit holes was all that was there to see. Nothing flash at all really. In 2009, the Shire set was rebuilt for The Hobbit films with permanent materials. There are now 44 hobbit holes, gardens, a double arch bridge, a watermill, and The Green Dragon Inn.

I choose to take a day tour to get to Hobbiton. There are several different companies offering tours from Auckland. I chose Bush and Beach’s Hobbiton Express Tour.

They offer pick up from inner city accommodation. Living in the city, I opted for the 6.55 am pick up outside 172 Quay Street, opposite the Ferry Terminal building. This morning after picking up one more passenger from the Crowne Plaza, our group of 17 made our way south.

It was pouring with rain as we left but our driver and guide Dion reassuringly joked that “Hobbiton looks more English in the rain”. Dion provided excellent commentary on the Auckland and Waikato region. His factual information and trivia was peppered with just the right amount of jokes.

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We stopped for a short refreshment break just before eighty thirty at the Firepot Café in Gordontown Village before making our way through Cambridge and onto Hobbiton.  By this time the sky was clearing and by the time we arrived at Hobbition the blue sky and sun was out – I was glad I put on that SPF 50+ this morning.

At Hobbiton we meet up with another Bush and Beach tour van with a party of 11 and met our Hobbiton tour guide Kendall. There was the potential for everything to turn to shambles first thing because three cruise groups, which were meant to visit yesterday, had to reschedule for today due to the recent nasty norovirus outbreak. Kendall and the other guides coordinated it so we were not shepherded around like sardines.

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Outside the home of Samwise Gamgee

We started at the Party Tree and Party Field and then made our way around the 44 hobbit holes and gardens, including popular stops at Bilbo’s house “Bag End” and the home of Samwise Gamgee.

Kendall was an excellent guide offering various interesting tidbits of LOTR trivia and always offering to take photos.

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Guides pour guests a choice of Amber Ale, Traditional English Ale, Apple Cider or Ginger beer

After making our way across the double arch bridge and past the Watermill the tour concluded at the Green Dragon Inn, where we were offered a complimentary ale, cider or non alcoholic ginger beer.

As a private tour group we had lunch in a themed marquee behind the Green Dragon Inn. Bush and Beach advertise lunch as being at Shire’s Rest café, which is not on Hobbiton set itself, so we were very lucky to have this opportunity. After lunch I had the opportunity to walk around and take a closer look at the interior and exterior of the Green Dragon Inn and the Watermill and Bridge.

Bush and Beach offer a $10 voucher to use in the gift shop. The Shire Store sells Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit merchandise including Tolkien books, DVDs, posters, clothing, Weta Collectives and bottles of that ale, cider and ginger beer enjoyed at the Green Dragon Inn. We did not have to spend more than the $10 voucher as there were postcards for $2, fridge magnets between $5 and $10 and shot glasses for $8 each.

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At least one of the hobbit holes is open so you can peek inside

We left Hobbiton a little before 1pm and on the way back we passed through Matamata, a small rural town that promotes itself as being the gateway to Hobbiton. We made a quick unschedule stop at the Matamata i-SITE, which is modeled after the Green Dragon Inn. Those who wished could pop inside for a quick photo with Gollum (a statue).

A little after 2:30 pm we made a stop for ice cream at Pokeno Village, which is about 35 minutes out of Auckland City. You can get a large one scoop ice cream for $1.50 or if you’re feeling really adventurous a jumbo ice cream for $12.

We got into Auckland City a little bit after 3:30pm, which is a little bit later than the advertised time of 3 pm. Word of mouth would suggest this is quite a common occurrence but hey if that is the only criticism one can make about Bush and Beach they are not doing too bad.

Essential facts:

Bush and Beach Hobbition Express Tour
7:00 am – 3:00 pm
$275 per adult, $140 per child

Hobbiton Movie Set Tours
501 Buckland Road, Hinuera, Matamata

Introduction

Family holiday in Sydney, 2004

Family holiday in Sydney, Australia – 2004

Like most Kiwis I have done a little bit of overseas travel. As a teenager, I made trips to the Gold Coast, Sydney and Fiji with my family, and as a Year 10 student I went to New Caledonia for a school French trip.

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At Disneyland, Anaheim – 2007

Since finishing secondary school I have travelled a bit by myself. During the summer break between my second and third year of university, I travelled to Los Angeles on the Work USA program and did an internship with a film production and entertainment management company. This was a life changing experience.

The student budget didn’t allow for much travel post LA. But in the last few years I have tried to make up for it with trips across the ditch to Melbourne (2011, 2013), Sydney and Canberra (2012).

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Central Park, New York City – November 2012

Also in 2012, I went to New York City in November to experience Thanksgiving and the all Christmas lights and decorations. It would have to be my favourite holiday to date. Last year I experienced another American public holiday (Memorial Day) when I went to San Francisco in May.

Marin Headlands, San Francisco, May 2013

Marin Headlands, San Francisco – May 2013

As much as I love international travel I think it’s important (and cheaper) to get out there and explore one’s own backyard. So I’m starting this blog to encourage myself to get out there and do more things on my days off. So join me as I begin my journey to see what this great country has to offer…