Monday, February 25, 2019

Measure For Measure

We stayed on Waiheke for a further two days. We’d been down to Blackpool beach at the bottom of our street in search of shore birds, but they were being rather uncooperative – standing around on a patch of grass instead of posing more picturesquely by the sea. Undeterred, we set out further afield in search of Whakanewha Regional Reserve, where we’d been told there might be better prospects. Indeed, we found them, in the form of New Zealand dotterels and variable oystercatchers aplenty. We also managed a substantial walk around a loop track, and did a bit of the Dottie Track where we saw banded rails.

New Zealand dotterel

Variable oystercatchers, demonstrating variability

Banded rail

We lunched in Surfdale at Found, which, despite running out of halloumi, nevertheless managed to provide us with some decent nosh.

The following day we were back out on the wine trail – this time to Cable Bay wines, where we were welcomed by Jamie, a Canadian who was on a working visa for a year and had previously worked at Noble Rot in Wellington, so we chatted to her about Wellington and wine, whilst tasting her wares. Then we headed over to the other side of the island, to Waiheke’s most-awarded winery, Passage Rock. Again we had a good talk, with the owner and winemaker, David. We’d decided to stop there for lunch, as they also have an exceptional bistro attached, and had salmon and escargots.

In the afternoon we revisited the cultural centre to see Whittaker's Music Museum, where we learnt about pianos and other musical instruments, some of which could be played, others were "Do Not Touch". They'd been collected over a lifetime by Lloyd Whittaker

In the evening we drove out to 372 in Onetangi for our final meal on the island. Having been so impressed by them a couple of days ago at lunchtime, we decided to give them the pleasure of our company again, and they did us proud – I had the salmon tiradito that Nicola had had previously, followed by a slow-cooked lamb shoulder, and Nicola had shiitake dumplings followed by fish of the day. All delicious, and definitely gets my recommendation!

We were up early the next day to catch the ferry to Auckland, and, after dropping off our bags and rental car, headed into Auckland CBD for some lunch. Once again we were making lunch the main meal of the day as we would be at the Globe in the evening, so had burgers at Danny Doolan’s, an entirely inauthentic Irish pub. So inauthentic it didn’t even have a bicycle on the wall, which I understood was mandatory for Irish pubs.

In the evening, it pissed down. We started out towards the Globe on foot, but were eventually defeated by the weather so finished the journey by taxi, arriving in the nick of time and unfed. We managed to procure some food in the interval – chips and wine, two of the main food groups.

Despite the weather, the show must go on. The groundlings were equipped with rain ponchos and similar, and it was noticeable that the actors stayed away from the edge of the stage, which was exposed to the elements, unless forced to (at some points they have to descend the steps at the front and exit via the crowd). Occasionally the swirling wind gusted some rain at us, but for the most part we stayed dry. The play itself was well-executed, although as with all Shakespeare comedies, the convoluted plot leaves you thinking “why bother with all that?”. But they pulled it off with much comic effect, throwing in some more modern touches again – such as having wheelie suitcases to indicate that they were going on a journey. Elbow, the policeman, was dressed in completely modern police garb, whilst the other characters where in mostly period costume.

So that’s our Pop-Up Globe adventure for this year…we will probably make this an annual fixture for as long as they continue to offer it. The following morning it was back to Wellington and more wet weather.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019


After a leisurely breakfast at the Coffee Club down the road, we packed up our bags and headed into Auckland to pick up our hire car. When we arrived at the city centre office, it was packed! There were at least five other groups ahead of us, and to make matters worse, one of the staff was involved in a dispute which it turned out had been going on for an hour already! The other two, clearly flustered, were not coping well with the influx of customers – all of whom had booked in advance to pick up their cars at 11:00. I suppose it’s a popular time as kicking-out time of most hotels is 10:00am. But no, not a word of apology, or even acknowledgement of the wait. We finally got our car after 50 minutes, and drove out of town to Half Moon Bay, from where the car ferry departs.

We in fact arrived there in plenty of time, so had a bite of lunch to eat (we’d breakfasted well), and explored Half Moon Bay. That took about 10 minutes, so we had a further beverage and did a crossword before boarding the ferry. The crossing is about 60 minutes, and we sat up on the top deck to watch Auckland disappear behind us.

We drove off onto Waiheke Island, and the short distance to our accommodation, the Kiwi House bed & breakfast on Kiwi Road. There we were welcomed by Tracy, the proprietor, and settled ourselves in, then booked ourselves a table at Fenice restaurant for dinner. Good Italian food – I had a caprese salad and steak, Nicola had the house salad and agnolletti with prawns. Substantial servings meant we didn’t hang around for pudding, and walked back to our B&B.

The next day after breakfast we wandered into town, checking out the location and access to beaches along the way, and after a bit of a walk, visited the Oneroa arts and entertainment complex. This comprises cinema, theatre, museum and art gallery. It was the art gallery we were particularly interested in, and we perused the arts on offer. After a quick stop for refreshing hot beverages and a few moment’s planning, we decided to visit three vineyards all on the central valley, and set out.

First on the list was Stonyridge. This was very busy at the time with what looked like several tours all arriving, and I don’t think we got the best service from them. It seemed to be a bit of a sausage factory, and we were given a choice of tastings. We selected the standard – a sauvignon blanc made from Marlborough grapes, sauvignon blanc made from their own grapes, and a cabernet sauvignon from their own vineyard. Frankly, I don’t know why you’d bother making sav blanc in Auckland, but presumably the market requires it. It was an indifferent wine, and the cab sav wasn’t much better. We paid for the tasting and left.

Our next stop was just down the road at Tantalus Estate, the newest vineyard on Waiheke, and here we were welcomed with open arms. I selected the Reserve tasting, and we had four red wines to taste, starting with a 2015 merlot cabernet franc, and VoilĂ© syrah, followed by 2014 Evoque merlot blend, and Ecluse cabernet sauvignon. The staff were clearly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their wines, and we had quite a long chat about the different techniques and flavours. We looked longingly at the restaurant, but as we’d already booked dinner at The Oyster Inn for tonight, decided to give it a miss.

Our third stop was at Te Motu. We’d been there before, for a dinner at The Shed, which was definitely one of the highlights of our previous visit. Unfortunately they only open it up at the weekends, so our best-laid plan to have lunch there went somewhat aglay. Chatting with our server, however, we found out that the former chef of The Shed was now working at a new place in Onetangi, called 372, so we decided to head there for lunch instead. We finished our tasting with their premium wine, just called Te Motu, of which they gave us two vintages to compare – 2009 and 2012. Whilst both very good, strong, well-matured wines, they demonstrate the difference that the growing season, vintage, and age have on the wines, and why no two wines are the same. Very enjoyable, and good that they have older wines available for tasting.

We drove the short distance to Onetangi and immediately located 372. There, we selected a beef kofte and salmon tiradito, both of which were excellent. I commented at the time that you’d be hard-pressed to find something similar in a seaside resort in the UK. Duly impressed, we resolved to return for dinner on another evening.

We came back and decided to go for a swim at our local beach, which is at the far east end of Oneroa Bay. The water was like a bath compared to our usual outing in Scorching Bay, and there was a bit of a swell with breakers coming in. After that we returned to the Kiwi House to chill out on the deck and have a preprandial beverage or two.

Monday, February 18, 2019


We flew up to Auckland on a Sunday to catch some Shakespeares. Landing early, we took instruction from the kiosk jockey at the airport Skybus, and got off at stop 7, crossed the road, and picked up the 70 to take us close to, if not actually all the way, our accommodation on the Great South Road.

We were a bit early and the room wasn’t ready yet, so we went down to a local cafĂ© to have  a beverage and do a crossword. When we returned, all was well with the world, and we settled in quickly before heading straight back out to the CBD for some lunch at Frida Cocina Mexicana.

In the afternoon, we went down Queen Street to find the Odyssey Sensory Maze in the basement of a building on Aotea Square. This involves a number of rooms with different sensory experiences – there’s one with different smells, a jungle room, some very dark tunnels that you have to feel your way through, a mirror maze, balloons, and scary stuff. Also, you go in shoeless, and there’s often different textures underfoot – swampy and squishy. We’d bought the one hour experience, so once we’d finished, we went through again, knowing what to expect this time. We still managed to get lost in the mirrors, though. Took us a while to get out!

We didn’t have time to get back to the motel so we went along to the Britomart station, there acquired two HOP cards so we no longer look like tourists when we get on the bus, and took the train directly to Greenlanes to walk up to the Pop-Up Globe. This is its third year of operation and, coincidentally, our third year of going to visit. This year has an increased production run and more plays, and has been open since December. Tonight’s choice is advertised as The Best Play In The World – Hamlet.

We’d arrived early so that we could avail ourselves of the onsite catering, and grabbed ourselves a cheese platter, some wine and beer, and found a table. After we’d finished, we took ourselves up to our seats on the middle gallery. The play was performed mostly in traditional style, but with a couple of modern touches: in order to correct the gender imbalance, some of the other characters were played by women as women – for example Guildenstern (or was it Rosenkrantz?)  as were Voltimand and Cornelius. Also, Polonius carried a mobile phone, which went off at crucial moments to comic effect, and eventually led to his death (sorry, spoiler alert: they all die). At the end, they all have a good song and dance (always end with a  song!) and we cheered and hurrahed them all.

Our motel was but a short walk away, so we toddled along the road and went to bed.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Summer Sci-Fi

Last year, we went to see Summer Star Trek. This was their fifth year of performing an episode of Star Trek in the open air, in Aro Park. It was the end of their five year mission, to boldly perform Star Trek etc. etc.

But they couldn’t leave it at that, could they? What would people do? The demand was still there, so this year it has morphed into Summer Sci-Fi. The first instalment this year is The Shakespeare Code, an episode of Doctor Who from the David Tennant years.

We packed ourselves a picnic and took ourselves off to Aro Valley. The crowd was already ensconced when we arrived, but we found a patch out to the side to set up our chairs and enjoy an early dinner. The pre-show entertainment was in full flow, and required audience participation at times – in particular when they split us into two sides to perform the Doctor Who theme tune, with one side doing the bass line and the other doing the wheee-oooh bit. Tricky when you’ve got a mouthful of samosa!

The show started, and one thing was immediately apparent: Martha had been transformed into Mark. Other than that, they stuck fairly accurately to the script, and performed with their usual set made of repurposed estate agents’ signs. As well as having to cope with being an open air venue, and thus needing to shout their lines, the “stage” is on one side of the footpath through the park whilst the audience sits on the other; the performance is thus regularly punctuated by joggers, cyclists, and people walking home. Tennant never had to work under these conditions.

Nevertheless, they pulled it off, and at the end the Doctor won, the baddies were seen off, and (spoiler alert) the play – Love’s Labours Won – was destroyed for all eternity. All jolly good fun! And now, with the wider remit of Sci-Fi, it will be interesting to see what they tackle next year.