We are just finishing five days in Auckland.
It's been most interesting. In some respects, the city is very similar to Vancouver. It's clean, cosmopolitan, with many wonderful views over the water. But there are some differences. For one thing, at many intersections pedestrians do not cross the road the same way as in Vancouver. No Neil, they're not on their hands and knees. But they cross in all directions at once. And when I say all directions I mean all directions; from east to west, north to south, and even on the diagonal. It's like a street party every minute or so.
The housing scene here is also quite interesting, with many similarities, but also differences. New Zealanders are as obsessed with their real estate as Vancouverites. However, mortgage rates start at 8%. There's no capital gain on investment property, and condominiums are starting to gain popularity in the city. More about this in the January 27th edition of the Vancouver Sun.
We encountered an interesting problem on arrival. Our HSBC ATM cards didn't work in the airport's ATM machines. This complicated our trip into the city, particularly since the coins which Sally's sister had given us, are no longer legal tender! But we discovered that that line about HSBC being the world's local bank is quite true. After walking into the head office, and flashing our Premier cards, we found we had new friends at HSBC Auckland. Hopefully they will continue to give us money whenever we need it.
A few highlights...the food. We expected good wines in New Zealand, but we have been very impressed with all our meals. At first, the prices seem high, but they include GST and service. There's no tipping in restaurants. The staff are paid a reasonable wage, and are therefore not dependent on tips as they are in Canada. It's the same in Australia. What we also like is having the GST included in all the prices. There are no ugly surprises, even in hotels. Why doesn't the Canadian government have the sense to include the GST in all our pricing. I'm sure it would help tourism, as well as placate the rest of us, who hate being reminded on a daily basis how much we are handing over to the government. So what are we eating? Lamb, and mussels of course. Some wonderful fish. And also a very interesting take on the caesar salad, and ostrich.
One of the things we have enjoyed is the ferry trip to the north shore. We have been over a couple of times, to Devonport, a lovely seaside village, with a great pub, and restaurants. We have found that late at night you also make very interesting friends on this ferry. Last night it was an American touring around on a small scooter. He was here as an official for the New Zealand tennis tournament, and we were astounded to discover he didn't know Evelyn O'connor's son Chris, who is an official at the Australian Open. Our new friend was astounded to discover that ferry officials wouldn't allow him to take his bike on the ferry. This was of particular concern since he had already been told he couldn't ride it over the bridge. So wherever you are, our new friend we hope you made it. Especially since as evidenced by your photo, you really weren't dressed for a long night on the road!
Today, we had a wonderful day at the museum. We particularly enjoyed experiencing what it would be like to live through a volcano, and learning about the Maori people and comparing their lives with the Canadian Natives. There seems to be a greater level of respect and collaboration between New Zealanders and their original settlers. But I don't know why, because on the advice of the Lonely Planet Travel Guide, we took in the native song and dance show at the museum. It was terrible. Based on this performance, the Maoris can't sing. And they do have this unfortunate habit of sticking their tongues out before going into battle, or assaulting white women from BC.
So tomorrow we are off to the Bay of Islands, which we are told is a wonderful seaside resort area. It will be nice to get away from the city, and play some golf. (I'm only saying this since I understand there may be snow on the ground in Vancouver!) But we will be back to Auckland in early February, since there's much more to see. Hell, we haven't yet tried bungee jumping from the top of the tower.