Where am I?

Location, location, location

May 05, 2006 at 03:26 PM | categories: New Zealand | View Comments

There isn't much to say about the past few days. I taught the class, and there's one more day to go on Monday, so I'm in Auckland for the weekend. I haven't done any lawn bowling, but the option is there.


Besides the views, there are a few other nice things about staying at the Spencer on Byron hotel. My first discovery was a nice little Sharp compact stereo, which has an RCA stereo aux input in back. I have an RCA-to-mini cable in my bag, so now my ipod is plugged in and can wake me up every morning. When it does, I can mainline high-grade caffeine without leaving the room: because of New Zealand's British history, there are tea things in the room. And because the manager of the hotel is Sri Lankan, the tea is Dilmah.


Finally, there's the location. It's around the corner from a good-sized business district, which makes the room's kitchenette perfect for take-out food. I have a better view from the room than most restaurants have, anyhow. So on Tuesday evening I spotted a canopy advertising "FINE WINE" and strolled a couple of blocks to discover what looks like one of Auckland's two best wine shops. It's called First Glass. I picked up a Hawke's Bay Viognier out of curiosity, and made a note to come back on Wednesday, for their weekly tasting. Then I walked a bit farther and got some excellent take-out Thai food: chicken laab, and a green curry with shrimp. The restaurant staff were definitely Thai, unlike most of the SF-area places. It was probably the most authentic Thai I've had since Hong Kong (or Hollywood, yes) - and it was great with the Viognier.


Speaking of geography, the hotel is on the North Shore, and the office for the class is even farther north, so I avoid most of the traffic. But it's in Takapuna, which seems to be a bus hub, so it's easy to get a bus into Devenport or Auckland. The North Shore office of Hertz is also around the corner, so I picked up a car on Wednesday. I'm not sure if it's really a net win over taking a taxi into the office every morning, but it does have the salutary effect of scaring me awake, every morning. The tired, end-of-day drive back to the hotel is probably even more dangerous.

I made it to the wine tasting on Wednesday evening. The man wasn't kidding: there were 75-100 people packed into a tiny wine shop, on folding chairs. The tasting was blind, but was very informal: it reminded me of a church raffle or a pub quiz night. Despite that, the quality of palate seemed very high. I'm not used to blind tastings, but I only recognized two of the twelve wines in an even vaguely correct way, while someone took every prize offered.

There was a nice-looking young woman sitting next to me, and taking very serious notes, but she was spitting and I wasn't. Definitely incompatible. I did manage to find out that she was taking a class somewhere, thus the serious note-taking. If it's a class, you aren't allowed to enjoy it.

Two curmudgeons and regulars, standing behind us, were a little more forthcoming. They were loudly complaining that they'd called out the right answers, and the manager had given the prize to someone else. One of the assistants kept missing their glasses in the pours, too - or maybe they were angling for double pours. Anyway I got into conversation with them, afterwards, and we went around to a pizza place with a couple of their favorite local bottles. The pizza was very Californian, but good, and the wines were excellent.

pizza wine

Thursday evening I finally went into Auckland's center (the central business district, or CBD). I took the bus to Devenport and the ferry across: at that time of day I'm not sure that it was faster or slower than the direct bus, but I like ferries. The Shakespeare on Albert Street brews their own beer in the heart of the city, so I tried that. Then I went to Vulcan Lane for another couple of stops, before deciding that Auckland was getting a little too blurry.

blurry auckland

I'm starting to give up on NZ beers: they've been Sam Adams quality, at best. After getting such excellent cask-conditioned beer in New York, all year, that's disappointing. But there are several Belgian places, and I can always stick to the wine, so I can't complain. It's tempting to move here and open a place, if there's any market for it.

Friday, I made a reservation for Tiritiri Matangi. No, that isn't a character from the Jungle Book. It's an island set aside as a nature preserve. New Zealand has a lot of those, but this is one of the older ones, and non-scientists are allowed to visit. Apparently they'll even let me in.

warning - thief

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