Sweet As! Our Week in the City of Sails

Adventure Travel, City Travel, Fitness & Workouts, Food & Wine, Lost Girls RTW Adventure, New Zealand, Parties, Festivals & Events, Shopping & Style — By on May 18, 2007 at 9:06 am

Casually mention to a Kiwi that you’re spending more than a night in Auckland (or just mention that you find the city charming) and 9 out of 10 will stop what they’re doing and stare at you in anticipation of some sort of punchline.

“Really?” they’ll inquire cautiously, as if they’re still not sure if you’re kidding or simply a misguided tourist. “Auckland?”

The most surprising thing about this nose-crinkling attitude is that Aucklanders themselves are usually the first to point out how lifeless and uninspired their modest little metropolis really is. They seem to feel that when you’re in a country that boasts some of the world’s most stunning natural formations–active volcanoes, steaming sulphur pools, electric blue glaciers, and knifed-edge mountains featured in a certain Oscar winning trilogy, what could possibly be of interest in their safe, distinctly un-edgy metropolis?

Having not yet visited the superlative sights of New Zealand’s great outdoors, Holly, Jen and I couldn’t make comparisons, but we found plenty to love in the town gracefully sprawled out across several periwinkle and slate-colored bays topped with silver spangles.

Part of the reason we spent so long in Auckland, nearly a week in all, was that we met two really fantastic sets of friends.

Our first, Carmi Ludlow (see: Lost Girl of the Week), played chauffeur and tour guide, taking us to The Auckland Museum, Mission Bay and The Queens Street Market…all the while regaling us with tidbits about Kiwi relationships.

“After decades of proving that women are equal to men, relationships between guys and girls are very progressive. You’ll usually see men looking after the babies, putting them in prams and taking them for walks while the mum goes off to work and earns the living.”

And on meeting guys:

“We definitely don’t go on ‘dates’ here like you girls do in the States…none of this Sex and the City stuff. It’s not like a guy will come up to you in a bar and ask you out. You usually just meet someone through friend and get together. That’s it.”

And on matrimony:

“You’ll find lots of couples who’ve been together for years and years and live together, but don’t get married. Marriage itself doesn’t really seem to be as much of a priority as it used to be.”

As always, we chewed on this information, considered it very carefully and filed it away for future reference. In the event that any of us jumped ship completely and decided to pursue a future in New Zealand, we’d have to know these things.

We were introduced to another second set of Kiwi pals-Greg and Wendy-through a friend’s of Holly’s from back home in Syracuse.

Much to our surprise and budgetary delight, this young couple (with a gorgeous one-year old daughter), completely opened up their home, inviting us to stay for days on end and fattening us up with gourmet multi-course meals that included perfectly grilled filet mignon, spice-rubbed pork chops, seared tuna steaks, artisinal cheeses and breads, wines from across New Zealand and the local kicker-Tim-Tams and Hokey Pokey ice cream. We were all awe inspired that Greg-the owner of a recently opened Pilates studio-could be such a genius in the kitchen and in the gym.

To work off the considerable caloric damage we’d done, Jen and Holly joined our new pals and their friends for the annual “Run the Bays”-a five mile race through Auckland that attracted tens of thousands of outdoor enthusiasts, athletes and community members. While I ended being too sick to go (non-stop travel does catch up with your immune system eventually), the girls spent their run checking out the million dollar homes overlooking the water and the gorgeously toned locals sprinting next to them on the race course.

That night, we got as gussied up as our limited backpack rations would allow and headed east of Auckland proper to attend a dinner party hosted by one of Greg and Wendy’s good friends.

There were four married couples in attendance, several children, three lost girls–and one seriously gorgeous single guy named Cam. When we weren’t sipping glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and taking turns gawking at the hottie across the table, the three of us did our best to make intelligent conversation.

Considering that we’d spent the previous three months filling out bellies with cheap bowls of ramen, questionable stir fries and countless portions of white rice with hot sauce, the meal laid out before us seemed a veritable feast.

When the expertly grilled, incredibly tender beef fillet finally made its way to the table, even Holly-a staunchly dedicated white meat eater-couldn’t help but finish her portion.

We topped off the evening with a slice or two of Pavlova, a fluffy meringue dessert that every Kiwi at the table swore was invented in their own country-rather their larger neighbour across the Tasman Sea. To this day, we still have no idea whether the Kiwis or Aussies really created the dish, but we immediately placed it on our don’t miss dessert hit list.

Fluffy, sweet and impossible not to love!

Here’s a recipe for Pavlova, courtesy of the BBC.

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    2 Comments

  • Dellie says:

    O.K. You have made me seriously hungry now and I have hours to go before lunch.(I’m at work). These people were soooo nice to you.- Your “foodie” reputation must precede you! Fillet mignon, seared tuna steaks, wine, cheeses, meringue Pavlova for dessert AND Cam as well?? What a wonderful experience..these kind lovely people were a gift…((-: I send them MY thanks as well…

  • Rich Minx says:

    Hi, I just found your blog through the Bloggers’ Choice Awards website, opened it and to my surprise saw photos of my old hometown Auckland looking back at me (I’m currently in New York!) It made me a little homesick. Glad you enjoyed the pavlova and yes of course it’s New Zealand’s! Happy travels.