Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour

Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour is a luxury 5 star hotel located overlooking the Viaduct Harbour in downtown Auckland.

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This trip to Auckland was to catch up with a friend and see Auckland Theatre Company’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the ASB Waterfront Theatre.

In June I booked our tickets and a room at the Sofitel, as it was only 400 metres from the ASB Waterfront Theatre.

I was unsure if the production would go ahead after Auckland had a community outbreak of Covid-19 in August, which saw the city move to level 3 lockdown status.

Although Auckland had moved down to level 2 in September Auckland Theatre Company made the decision to cancel the production. It was not financially viable for them to put on the production with social distancing requirements.

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Although for a long time it was possible that I would not be staying at the Sofitel anyway as in July the hotel went into liquidation.

The hotel was promoted as reopening in Spring, but it wasn’t until early October that it was announced that it was reopening October 19th, after a makeover.

When I lived and worked in downtown Auckland I use to often walk around the waterfront and Viaduct Harbour and would see the Sofitel with its water features and lions at the entrance.

My room was a suite on the 4th floor, which provided views on the Marina. The room was 52sqm and had a King Size Bed, 48″ LED TV with Freeview , Sky Digital and free in house movies.

The marble bathroom had a deep soaking bath and separate shower.

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The room included access to the executive lounge – Club Millésime, which is is on the 2nd floor (street level). They serve afternoon tea between 2pm and 4pm and in the evening they serve hor d’oeuvres, wines and cocktails.

My friend and I had afternoon tea but were out during evening drinks. To finish the evening we had a non-alcoholic cocktail at the Sabrage Champagne Bar, which is open from 3pm till late.

The next morning I had breakfast at La Marée by Marc de Passorio. I had the sweet crepes.

The breakfast was included with Club Millésime access.

There is also French Press Cafe, a French style dockside cafe but I did not eat there.

Also there is heated 20 metre lap pool and small gym, and a communal library in the lobby.

The staff at the Sofitel Viaduct provide efficient service while being warm and welcoming. My experience from other upmarket hotels is that service can often be efficient but cold.  It is the little details that make the experience – the welcome drink in reception, the macrons and cake left by the guest manager in my room, the evening turndown service.

Sofitel is at 21 Viaduct Harbour Avenue, Auckland Central.

The Quadrant Hotel & Suites Auckland

Last weekend I was in Auckland to see the musical Book of Mormon at The Civic. I stayed the night at the Quadrant Hotel & Suites.

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The Quadrant is less than a 10 minute walk from The Civic, so it is conveniently located for the CBD. Although there is a hill to climb from the CBD – good for those wanting to increase their steps.

The hotel has 277 rooms across 23 floors. I booked a Deluxe Queen but was upgraded to a one bedroom classic apartment on the 13th floor. They also have one bedroom premier apartments and two bedroom apartments (executive, premium) and a penthouse apartment.

Recently it has had mixed (leaning more towards poor) reviews on TripAdvisor, so I went in with very low expectations. The room was clean and comfortable, but was starting to look a bit worn. It is a perfectly adequate place to rest your head.

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Onsite there is the Quad Kitchen & Bar – a bit of design flaw as you have to walk through the bar / dining area from the lobby to get to the lifts. This put me off eating there.

There is a fitness centre with a gym, dry sauna and spa pool. I did not use these facilities though.

The Quadrant Hotel & Suites is located at 10 Waterloo Quadrant.

P.S. The Book of Mormon is amazing – I cried tears of laughter.

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Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve

Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve is located at the head of the Rangitoto Channel in the Hauraki Gulf.

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Fort Takapuna, was built between 1886 and 1889 as a military defence fort. It was designed by Major Tudor Boddam, a Royal Artillery Officer.

The fort originally housed two 6 inch disappearing guns and two quick firing Nordenfelt guns.

In 1926-27 the fort was converted into a storage for naval ammunition. The guns were removed and the gunpits roofed over to allow for extra storage. It was used for storage until 1936 when the new Naval Armament Depot was built at Kauri Point.

The brick building was were the soldiers lived. When it was first built there was a deep ditch around it. It has since been filled in and only the small part in front of the barracks remains.

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Behind the barracks there was a series of underground tunnels and magazines.

The three concrete shelters were built in 1942 during the Second World War. These were designed to protect the gun crews. The guns originally came from HMS New Zealand (a First World War battlecruiser). By 1941 there were six guns mounted here, for at this battery, known as Left Battery and two at Right Battery, which has since been demolished.

Two of the guns were sent to Tonga, two were given to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and the other two were scrapped.

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An Anti-Submarine Fixed Defence Station was also built to house the electronic equipment used to detect enemy ships approaching. The building was altered following the war with its bay window removed.

Fort Takapuna is located on Vauxhall Road, next to Narrow Neck Beach.

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Maungawhau (Mt Eden), Auckland

Maungawhau (Mt Eden) is a dormant volcano in Auckland city.

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Its Māori language name Maungawhau means ‘mountain of the whau tree’. William Hobson, the first Governor of New Zealand, named the mountain and surrounding suburb after George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland. 

The summit is 196 metres (643 feet) above sea level making it Auckland’s highest volcanic cone.

On a clear day the summit will provide views of the surrounding suburbs, Waitakere Ranges, the Sky Tower, Harbour Bridge and Rangitoto Island.

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Its Māori language name Maungawhau means ‘mountain of the whau tree’. William Hobson, the first Governor of New Zealand named the mountain and surrounding suburb after George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland.

The crater is 50 metres (160 feet) deep. The crater’s Māori name is Te Ipu Kai a Mataaho, which means Food Bowl of Mataaho. Mataaho was a deity that lived in the crater. The crater is sacred (tapu) so please be respectful and do not attempt to enter it.

In pre-European times Māori used the site as a pā (fortified settlement). You can still see remnants of the food storage pits.

Vehicle traffic to the summit is not permitted, except for people with limited mobility. It takes about 10 minutes to walk up from the carpark or bus stop. The climb is quite steep.

There is pedestrian access to the summit from Clive Road, Glenfell Place, Batger Road, Hillside Crescent, Rautangi Road and Owens Road.

The Mt Eden Road and Tahaki Drive entrances are open from 7am-8.30pm in summer and 7am to 7pm in winter. There is a lower carpark off Puhi Huia Road.

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Grand Millennium Auckland

Earlier this year I stayed at the Grand Millennium Auckland for a weekend.

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The hotel was built in 1989 as the Pan Pacific. It has changed its name many times over the years. I stayed here previously when it was the Rendezvous.

I booked a club room, which gives you exclusive access to the club lounge located on the 12th floor. The club rooms have the same the same features and decor as the standard rooms – the only difference is that the club rooms are located on a higher floor (my room was on the 11th floor).

The club lounge serves pre-dinner evening drinks and canapés between 5pm and 7pm. There is nothing spectacular spectacular about the food – there are a couple of hot and cold options, and the traditional cheese and cracker platter with dried fruits, sun-dried tomatoes and olives. The service is friendly and attentive.

Each night I had several non-alcoholic drinks (Pepsi, 7Up, orange juice, hot chocolate) and several plates of canapés and mini desserts. So there was no need to actually buy dinner.

They also serve breakfast in the Club Room – continental and A la Carte (preordering a breakfast dish the night before). Alternatively you can have the buffet breakfast in the Brassiere restaurant, which I did each morning.

Grand Millennium Auckland is located 71 Mayoral Drive (Cnr Mayoral Dr and Vincent St).

The Civic Auckland

The Civic is heritage atmospheric theatre in downtown Auckland.

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Yesterday morning I went on a tour of the The Civic. The tour is scheduled to run for approximately 45 minutes but I was there for almost two and a half hours.

The Civic opened on 20 December 1929. It was a purpose built cinema devised by Thomas O’Brien. It was designed with Indian, Javanese, ancient Persian and Moorish themes. It featured grand staircases, original artwork, exotic figures of animals, including two life-size Abyssinian panther statues. As an atmospheric theatre it had a night sky with twinkling stars.

Construction begun in April 1929 and was completed in 33 weeks. As there were not the health and safety regulations of today it was a dangerous worksite, and at least 8 men have believed to have died during the construction that employed some 2,000 workers.

While it opened to initial interest, audience numbers quickly dropped due to the Depression and O’Brien screening British films rather than the popular Hollywood films, which were screening across the road.

O’Brien departed for Australia in 1932 and a series of mangers were appointed to act on behalf of the original investors.

During the Second World War it was a popular venue for United States soldiers in town.

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By the 1980s, The Civic was rundown and was facing demolition. A group called Friends of the Civic formed and fought for its continuation.

A two year project saw many of the theatre’s original features being restored or recreated. The project also included addition of modern elements, such as a stage with seven-storey fly tower, Green Room, dressing rooms, modern sound and lighting.

The Civic reopened in 1999 on its 70th anniversary of its opening night. Today it is a performing arts venue and cinema, hosting events such as large-scale touring musicals and an international film festival.

The twinkling night sky is a recreation of how the sky was on December 20, 1929.

The Civic is located on the corner of Queen Street and Wellesley Street.

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Dressing rooms

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Stage – wings

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Ceiling lighting rig

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Flamingo curtain

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Under the stage

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Wintergarden

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Some of the shows I’ve seen at The Civic

Bright Nights Auckland

Bright Nights is a waterfront lighting festival at Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour.

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This free festival opened last night and runs from 6pm till late until Sunday 13th May.

The trail begins at the KZ1 boat outside the Maritime Museum and ending at Waitematā Plaza.

As well as various light installations there is a silent disco, ‘glow-in-the-dark’ gelato, and roving street performers.

The event is curated by Angus Muir Design

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St. James Theatre Auckland

The St. James Theatre is a heritage stage theatre and cinema in Queen Street currently closed for restoration.

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The theatre, which was built in 1928, was designed as a vaudeville theatre. The increasing popularity of cinema in the late 1920s allowed for a film projector to be added eighteen months after its opening. The theatre has been a venue for live performances and cinema over the years.

In 2007 the theatre closed following a fire. It briefly opened in 2015 during a restoration period.

The restoration project of the historic theatre has been put on hold for the last nine months after the apartment block project next door stalled.

The planned apartment block building will provide the theatre with toilets and disabled access. It is unlikely that the restoration of the theatre will go ahead without government support for both the restoration project and the apartment building project.

Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to tour the St. James Theatre organised by the community group Save the St. James Theatre Auckland.

The tour was led by Steve Bielby, from The Auckland Notable Properties Trust, who is entrusted with restoring and opening the St. James Theatre.

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Brickman: Wonders of the World

Brickman: Wonders of the World is a touring exhibition made entirely from lego® bricks currently on at Auckland War Memorial Museum.

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The exhibition is led by Ryan ‘Brickman’ McNaught, the only LEGO® Certified Professional in the Southern Hemisphere and one of only 14 in the world.

This exhibition first premiered in Brisbane in 2016 and was followed with an Australian tour visiting Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Over the summer the exhibition was on at Te Papa in Wellington before a three week run in Hamilton earlier this year.

The exhibition features over 50 large-scale Lego monuments including the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge, Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Arc de Triomphe, the Titanic, and many more.

There is plenty of interactive stations where kids (and ‘big kids at heart’) can build their own models to add to the exhibit.

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Interactive Stations

McNaught and his team spent 4,944 hours and used over two million bricks, weighing five tons to build these amazing LEGO® masterpieces.

There is also a pop-up LEGO® store in the special exhibitions hall foyer.

The exhibition is on for one more week at the Auckland War Memorial Museum before it closes on Sunday, May 13th.

On a side note the Let Me Myself – The Life Story of Anne Frank touring exhibition developed by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is also on at the Auckland War Memorial Museum until May 13th.

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STATUE OF LIBERTY – 8,820 pieces; 43 hours to build

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BIG BEN – 18,437 pieces; 94 hours to build

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NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS – 9,532 pieces; 65 hours to build

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ARC DE TRIOMPHE – 30,000 pieces; 170 hours to build

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SINKING TITANIC – 133,900 pieces; 240 hours to build

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GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE – 27,268 pieces; 125 hours to build

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TAJ MAHAL – 55,000 pieces; 128 hours to build

Sculpture in the Gardens

Sculpture in the Gardens is an annual outdoor sculpture exhibition at the Auckland Botanic Gardens.

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Bev Goodwin & Jeff Thomson | twist…bob…spin

There are 20 sculptures dotted along a 2km trial throughout the gardens. There are also 21 permanent sculptures located around the gardens.

The temporary artworks are for sale and pricing is listed on signage by the artwork.

Pick up a map from the Visitor Centre, which provides descriptions of the artworks, including the medium used.

Sculpture in the Gardens is on until 25 February 2018. Auckland Botanic Gardens are at 102 Hill Road, Manurewa.

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Jamie Pickernell | Gull Boy

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Sam Duckor-Jones | Full length mirror

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Bryn Jones | Survey

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David Carson | Faux Topiary

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Lang Ea | POP! BANG! BOOM!

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Louise Purvis | Gravid

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Lucy Bucknall | Howling Together

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Graham Bennett | On Becoming Misdirected

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Jim Wheeler | Golden Bough (Revisited)