Posted by: scribe9 | January 9, 2010

Auckland, take 2

We just returned from a few days in Auckland, which this time looked rather different, because we stayed on the other side of downtown. Our first trip we stayed at the waterfront, which was flat. This time, only a few miles away, we were amid steep hills. The steepest hill was the driveway to the parking garage under our hotel–hort, twisting, single-lane—but we scraped only the bottom, not the side, of our car.

Our hotel was quite new, and the rooms double as apartments. We had a two-bedroom unit—but one bedroom was inside, with just a relight to the living room. Stuffy and odd. A triptych photo of snowdrops hung on one wall, but not in the right order. They were bolted to the wall, so I couldn’t set them straight.

We were a short walk away from the tennis center, where a tournament preparatory to the Australian Open was being held.  We bought tickets for a day of quarter-finals. A player in the first match was Israeli, and demonstrators in the park across the street denounced Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Fortunately the weather was pleasantly warm most of the time, with intermittent clouds to keep the heat down. But there was enough sun that both Emily and I were glad to be wearing big hats. They’re made of paper, even though they look like straw. We fit right in; many people were hatted. The best player we saw was an Italian, Flavia Pernetta; we’ll be sure to follow her progress in Melbourne, but considering how hot it can get there, we won’t be too sorry not to be in the stands.

We walked to downtown past Auckland University. We couldn’t go through campus because they’re filming “Yogi Bear” there; we saw dozens of extras lolling on blue blankets on the lawn. It seems like an awfully long way, physically and culturally, from Jellystone Park, and I don’t understand the penchant for making movies out of old TV shows, particularly animated ones, but then I have a fraught relationship with American pop culture.

Just past the University (which draws students from everywhere, as far as we could tell), is an Asian part of town. We had a good Japanese meal, and there are sushi, Thai and Chinese places everywhere. In both Auckland and Whangarei, and probably every other decent-sized New Zealand town or city, there are blue mailboxes strictly for international mail—not surprising in a country full of travelers and immigrants. (Our hotel TV had one Chinese, one Maori, and three Arabic stations.)

Even though it’s well into January, there were some businesses that are closed until next week for the summer holidays. And Auckland’s far enough south (although just one degree of latitude below Whangarei) that the New Zealand “Christmas trees,” which were in full red bloom for the holiday in Whangarei, were just barely beginning to color in Auckland.

This time we skipped the year-old toll road north of Auckland, driving on the old highway along the coast for a few miles. It’s much more interesting, of course, than massive new road cuts, and there were suburbs being built along it for ever-expanding Auckland, which has a third of the nation’s population. Those from outlying areas sometimes refer to Aucklanders as Jafas, as in “just another f’ing Aucklander.”

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