From beneath you, it may devour

One thing that’s quite hard to forget when you’re in Auckland is just how many volcanoes are all around you – and they’re probably due for an erruption sometime soon. So say you’re a bit of a masochist and you really want to scare yourself. Get yourself to the Auckland War Memorial Museum in the Domain, pay the $5 “voluntary donation” fee, and head up to the first floor. Go to the Volcanoes permanent exhibition. Find the house model at #7 Pua Street. Wait for the green entrance light, and go into the lounge. Sit down and laugh at Kate Hawksby’s TVNZ newsflash on the TV screen. Then wait for the panic attack to set in as Rangitoto errupts outside the window…

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Auckland vs. Wellington

A different long weekend away provides another opportunity to reexamine the age-old battle. After our first chapter, Secret Agent Robyn came down from Auckland to check out our city. This is her report…

Getting there: The airport bus runs past my place every 20 minutes. I waited for 30 minutes, but there was no sign of the bus. I started to panic and called a taxi. $50 later I was at the airport, but too late for check-in. Oh no! But fate smiled upon me — due to ‘weather’ in Wellington, the plane was late, so they could check me in after all. In Wellington, the taxi to my hotel was cheap, but slow in a way that proves the bypass was a dumb idea. Wellington wins this one for delaying my flight.

Hotel: I wanted to stay somewhere on Cuba Street, in Wellington’s rich bohemian heartland, and thanks to the power of the interweb I got a good room rate at Quality Wellington (worst hotel name ever). What I didn’t realise is that the hotel building development is owned by that guy who no one likes who is married to that lady who no one likes, so my indie cred took a blow. The hotel had some awful artworks in the foyer and some dull photos in the room, but I did get a top floor, corner room with spectacular views of central Wellington and that brothel on Vivian Street. Sadly Auckland’s rich bohemian heartland – K Road – offers no hotels, so Wellington wins this one by default.

Celebrity spottings: Damian Christie’s notorious Metro article complained that Wellington has no celebrities. Well, once, at my local shops, I saw this lady who once presented a sports show on Sky. On a good day in Auckland, I might see someone like Mark Sainsbury, but no one who’d make me get all giggly and excited. In Wellington, Bret Conchords showed up at Mighty Mighty, Giovanni Ribisi was also there (but I didn’t see him), and then on Saturday, Taika Waititi and Loren Horsley were at Hawthorn Lounge. Like, cool. Wellington glamorously wins.

Dancing to Blam Blam Blam

Entertainment: Within a couple of hours of arriving in the capital, I was off to Mighty Mighty for the Wellingtonista / Public Address shindig, and what a shindig it was. Not only did I get to dance my arse off to Blam Blam Blam (better than their gig at the King’s Arms in September, I reckon), but I met all these cool Wellington people who I’d previously only known online. The rest of the weekend was spent having other splendid adventures, including taking photos of graffiti and sticker art, checking out the Toi Te Papa exhibition at Te Papa, a $100 art sale at the Thistle Hall, attending the Madame Fancy Pants VIP evening, and there may also have been a bit of drinking involved somewhere along the way. Auckland can be just as awesome for entertaining, but that weekend, Wellington was the winner.

Eating: Well, there was the kebab restaurant on Courtenay Place, where skill and cunning was required to be able to eat our crappy 3am kebabs at a table. And then there was the bright yellow corn fritter from Viggo Mortensen’s favourite fish ‘n’ chip shop. And the conveyor-belt toast and warm orange juice in my hotel’s continental breakfast buffet. There was some good, cheap Thai food, but I was mostly let down by Wellington’s food. But in the magical land of Auckland, where reasonably good food is available 24-hours a day (yo, Denny’s!), Wellington let itself down in this category.

Poached pear punch

Drinking: Well, yeah, I had a few drinks. There was the delicious peachy Wellingtonista drink at Mighty Mighty, the poached pear punch at Superfino (sans the poached pear, but still perfectly refreshing), the negroni with mandarin-infused gin at Hawthorn Lounge (which I couldn’t finish, but it was still lovely), lemonade at Alice, and a few other fruity delights. I was absolutely tickled to experience the knowledgeable bar staff at Superfino and Hawthorn Lounge, who would happily discuss the ins and outs of cocktails. It’s a fact: Auckland’s drinking spots are nowhere near as good. Wellington is the clear winner.

Final result: Wellington 5, Auckland 1. I really ought to go there more often.