We found ourselves making several family trips to Auckland over the autumn months. In summer, I never want to leave our little beach village paradise, but once the weather starts getting cold and dreary, a few visits to the city to enjoy some culture are just what we need! At least, I presume so – this is of course our first autumn/winter living up here when we’re not experiencing heightened alert levels or lockdowns because of covid (touch wood). But it feels like a pretty great balance to me.
Hayden and I both go down to Auckland pretty frequently for work, but it’s less common that we visit the city on the weekend or with Amelie in tow. It’s so much fun spending time there as a family! We feel very lucky that it’s less than two hours away, and that we are able to get down there as much as we do.
The first visit we made was in April, to see friends and visit Auckland Museum. The Museum had recently opened a new suite of galleries called Tāmaki Herenga Waka – Stories of Auckland that I knew Amelie would just love. They’re such amazing galleries, with so many amazing interactive experiences. Amelie’s favourite things to do were check out the history of Auckland through an immersive digital experience, which has a map on a table in front of you and a giant ring around you that display four fast-moving histories of Auckland. She also loved hauling the waka (a Māori canoe) and seeing how fast she could pull the rope as if she was trying to portage the waka across land!
I also loved the immersive digital history of Auckland, but I think my very favourite thing in the galleries is an old toilet door from the Kings Arms, a live music venue that is now an apartment building (funnily enough, we rented an AirBnB in the building that’s there now to stay in on one of these trips). Because of some of the language on the door, as well as protecting it from light, it’s hidden behind another door which is marked incredibly subtly. When you open the outer door, the toilet door is revealed and a blast of rock music plays. I used to go to the Kings Arms quite a bit when I was at uni and it really does convey the whole sense of being there, without the filthy floor…it’s pretty great.
Before we left the Museum we had to go visit a couple of other galleries – the Pacific gallery because Amelie wanted to see the Moana boat, and the Volcanoes gallery, which is older but still very cool. Amelie is obsessed with volcanoes so this particular space is always a hit!
We stayed with our friends that night and it was a veritable madhouse with three kids running riot. Such fun though. We headed out for bike riding and (much needed) coffee the next morning before stopping in to have lunch with my brother and sister-in-law. A perfect social and cultural break!
Our next trip down was also a pretty perfect break because drumroll please…the parents escaped the house! Amelie’s grandparents came down to ours to stay Saturday night, and we headed into the city for a friend’s birthday party. It was so great to dress up, drink champagne, and eat some really good food. We had lunch at Saxon & Parole, one of our New York faves that has since opened an Auckland location, ice cream from Island Gelato Company (this stuff is the best), champagne at The Jefferson, and a late dinner at Ortolana. We stayed in Hotel DeBrett, this super-cute artsy little hotel just off Queen Street, and picked up second breakfast from Daily Bread on our way out (first breakfast was croissants and coffee in bed).
It’s not your eyes, the photo above is blurry, but I love it. I’m wearing this amazing jumpsuit that I bought over a year ago for graduation, then never wore. I felt so good in it.
Amelie also had a great time. She is still talking about what movies she got to watch and what food she got to eat. Gotta love grandparents…(said without sarcasm, that’s what they’re there for!). In fact, the other day she asked in a hopeful manner when we’d be going away without her again, so that’s awesome.
Finally, we took advantage of a work trip that took Hayden to Auckland for a few days, and on the Friday night Amelie and I joined him so we could go see Van Gogh Alive the next morning. This was just a flying visit but it was still really great! Van Gogh Alive was awesome – really dramatic and immersive. The audio that was chosen to go with the paintings was just brilliant and really made the exhibition. And also, it was (just about) cold enough for me to wear my Tuckernuck poncho for the first time.
The one and only photo we took at Van Gogh Alive! It felt better to me just to soak it in without trying to get photos as well. That’s a coffee I’m clinging onto for dear life – I had forgotten what it’s like trying to sleep with city noise.
Before we went home that day, we once again made the most of what Auckland has to offer with a visit to Takapuna Beach (home to one of Amelie’s favourite playgrounds, and one of my regular haunts growing up on the Shore – lots of nostalgia there!) and a very good lunch at Takapuna Beach Café.
I’m feeling thankful for such a fun autumn! It’ll be interesting to see if we keep up the momentum over winter – we’ve got a couple of bigger trips planned so I’m thinking probably not? But we’ll see – after all, it’s always right there!