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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Stage

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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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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

Illuminate – No Man’s Land

As part of Anzac Weekend commemorations, Auckland Museum screened composer John Psathas‘ No Man’s Land onto the Northern Facade of the Museum.

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Anzac Day, which is held on April 25th each year is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that recognises all New Zealanders and Australians who have served during wars, conflict and peacekeeping operations. Anzac Day originally honoured those who served in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) and fought at Gallipoli during World War I.

Psathas’ project features 120 musicians from over 20 countries and brings together musicians descended from opposing forces of World War I and reunites them in musical solidarity on the sites where their grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought a century ago.

No Man’s Land screened as part of the New Zealand Festival of Arts in March earlier this year.

Click here to learn more about the project.

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From Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th April, a special 20-minute version of the film was projected onto the Northern Facade of the Museum. It played as loop from 6:30pm through to 10pm.

Also viewable from the Auckland Museum, is the Sky Tower, which was lit up red to commemorate Anzac Day. A 13 metre red poppy was displayed on the south-east side of the tower.

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