“Ladies and gentlemen, we have started our descent. In preparation for landing, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins. Please turn off all electronic devices until we are safely parked at the gate. The flight attendants are currently passing around the cabin to pick up any remaining cups and glasses. We will be landing in 15 minutes.”
After 12 hours seated in row 42, seat A… those last seven words were music to my ears. Only a quarter of an hour left to go, and I would be on the ground in Auckland, New Zealand. The sun, peaking over the horizon, shed light on this island that would be my new home for the next 12 months.
And man, was it gorgeous.
New Zealand… stunning by every definition, living up to its reputation as a world-class destination from the very start.
These are my first impressions of Auckland:
If you’re not on the water, you’re doing it wrong.
Words can hardly describe the hue of the water as we glided towards the runway, and the photos above don’t do it justice at all. It’s crystal clear in the shallows, and the brightest shade of turquoise I’ve ever seen outside of the Aegean Sea. Between sailing, boating, ferries and water sports, if you’re not on the water, you’re approaching Auckland from completely the wrong angle.
If you find yourself in need of a bite, seafood is the way to go.
We all gotta eat. And when in Auckland, we should all take advantage of the amazing seafood available pretty much everywhere. I have never seen a bowl of clam chowder for $16 (gasp!) before, but I did sample a taste of my friend’s – it was worth every cent. Seafood salads, shrimp (or prawns) and dishes to tempt every tastebud abound down by the harbor, where you can sit and enjoy your fresh fruits de mer, you guessed it, down on the water.
If you need a coffee or drink, the cafe scene is awesome.
For this, I would recommend heading up away from the CBD towards the hip neighborhoods of Ponsonby and Freeman’s Bay. Great quality menus, gorgeously designed settings. Obviously the kiwis do not skimp on their aesthetics, and the style is quite similar to their Australian neighbors. There’s some cool bars and outdoor terraces closer to the harbor as well. It would take me well over my allotted four weeks here to samples all of them.
If you need a break from the pavement, nature is readily available.
Travel from the CBD for 40 minutes in any direction, and you’ve hit paradise. Auckland is not a huge city by international standards. They have on hand, by car or ferry, as many beautiful, natural spaces as anywhere else on the North Island. Sip wine or go to the beach on Waiheke Island, go out hiking for a day in the Waitakere Ranges, or simply stroll up Mount Eden for a sunset view over the city skyline. It may have the adventure reputation of the South Island, but there’s certainly nothing lacking here.
I’ve been on the ground four full days now. I still don’t have my bearings completely, and I have no idea how I’m going to manage driving a car outside the city, driving on the other side of the road (!). That’s on this week’s agenda though. And unlike when I moved to Paris all those years ago, here they speak english. If you can understand the accent that it. No guarantees on that front either quite yet.