Only a few days left of our New Zealand adventure before we pack our bags and jet away from this incredible part of the world. We can’t believe that the trip is almost over and are trying to pack as much as possible into our last hours here. It has turned out to be so much more than we could ever have imagined and we will never ever forget it.
As you know we love to go to local events as much as possible and if they don’t entail any financial outgoing (i.e they are free) then we’re even keener. One such event has been advertised for a while and we’d penciled in the date weeks ago. Trotting. Yes you heard me, Trotting. No I didn’t jump on the back of some old nag for a pony trek, this was the real thing.
This sport is huge in New Zealand and Australia and even has its own Sky Sports channel, not sure we do it much in the UK outside of county shows though. It’s the one where a small fella sits on a little one man cart hanging off the back of a big horse and sort of gets dragged around at speed. Not the greatest explanation but pretty accurate I think.
So a free Trotting evening at Aucklands very own Alexandra Park Trotting stadium, how could we say no? Can you believe they only use it for trotting events and nothing else? Arrived in the sunshine with all the other beautiful people and watched the jockeys riding on their wagons around a strangely small track. It didn’t seem very fast and no-one was overtaking at all! We weren’t impressed. It turned out to be the parade ring where the little guys warm up. So we sat back, with a couple of beers obviously, and watched the racing begin on the great big track. It was brilliant.
We didn’t bet as we didn’t have a clue what we were doing but picked a horse each for each of the seven races that we watched. Guess what? Jo picked 4 winners and I picked 3! That would never have happened if we’d put money down of course.
We partook in our favourite hobby of people-watching between races as all the men studied form and raced off to place bets at the last minute, all the women drank copious amounts of wine and ignored the races completely, all of the chinese visitors filmed everything with four legs that moved, and a strange guy in brown trousers(!) wandered around with a shovel and a bucket collecting up anything the horses had dropped.
Everyone seemed to be eating and drinking and having an amazing time, it was a real family occasion. Even though we wished we had been brave enough to gamble a little we had a terrific evening, just wish I had picked more winners than Jo as she thinks she’s some sort of racing pundit now. So if you want a tip for the 2.30 at Kempton …
X Factor in the Park
Another free event we’d seen advertised was a concert over in Cornwall Park on Sunday. Apparently it was someone from New Zealand’s X Factor performing so we were more than excited (maybe). Weather wasn’t great as we walked over, the tropical cyclone Winston that hit Fiji had brought some dodgy conditions, but we went for it anyway. We joined a few hundred people to watch Brendon Thomas and the Vibes rock the park. Yes, that’s right. They came third on NZ version of X Factor. Excitement was running high I can tell you.
The show lasted a couple of hours and they were really good. It was a strange playlist though that seemed to be performed in a variety of musical styles. They started with a couple of poppy hits that sounded ok, followed by a couple of swing-type numbers that a few of the older audience members seemed to like. Then they suddenly turned into a fairly heavy Prog Rock band from the 70s! Long self indulgent guitar and drum solos filled the air with covers galore and a few of their own songs.
My absolute favourite moment was when they played a heavy rock version of the Godfather Theme that slowly morphed into My Generation by The Who. Surreal and very strange but oddly entertaining. We time traveled right back to 1970. Even better was the next act on that was a couple of dancing type young persons teaching the crowd how to Jive. Immense. Then the Society Jazzmen took us all back to 1940 as unfortunately the rain arrived and forced us to go.
One of the things that we both love is meeting and making new friends with each of our Airbnb hosts. Andy and Helen, who we are staying with in Auckland currently, kindly invited us up for a meal and a few drinks on Sunday. We would have dressed for dinner except for the fact that we don’t have any nice clothes! Did our best though and had a fabulous evening with them and their friends Clifford and Lou. It’s great to meet new people and we spent a lovely few hours eating drinking and being merry (well Jo and I were very merry but managed to behave … just).
Viaduct Harbour and the City
Because of the unpredictable weather we decided to have a day in the city doing a bit of sightseeing and shopping. Like most big cities Auckland city centre isn’t all that but as soon as you get to the harbour it changes into a completely different place. Viaduct Harbour is full of history and character and was rebuilt in the 1990s to regenerate the area replacing timber mills and factories. They did a terrific job because the whole harbour are is really impressive now, full of trendy flats and cool bars and just looks like a great place to live and work.
After a coffee stop at the very cool Crew Club bar we headed out to the Wynard Quarter to look at the old heritage boats and just soak up the city atmosphere. We couldn’t help ourselves either as we saw what looked like a silver chair on the waterfront! Look at those new trainers.
So the rain started and Jo had a bunch of 2 for 1 vouchers in her pocket so we nipped a few blocks along the harbour front to the Brew on the Quay. It’s an old Insurance company building converted into a great little bar and that’s where it happened. What? That’s where I had probably the best burger that I’ve ever eaten.
Brew on the Quay
With absolutely no warning after a brief order of a couple of drinks at the bar, fish and chips for Jo and ‘that burger on the blackboard’ for me, we sat in our little booth and I had the culinary experience of a lifetime! The ‘Epic Burger’ arrived. I’m not a big lover of burgers, they’re ok, I can take em or leave em but this was something else. The photo may look like it’s a bit of a mess but I kid you not it was unbelievably fantastic. Beef, pulled pork and coleslaw. Doesn’t sound much but it was like Charlies Angels, individually alright but together immense!
I told the barman it was the best burger I’d probably ever had and he just laughed and said ‘really?’. Not sure what that meant but he said he’d mention to the chef. Chef? I think Food Magician is the correct title.
So a truly out of body experience. Not sure if we should go back just in case the ‘Food Magician’ can’t hit the same delicious heights again. I just don’t want to spoil the memory of our time together (me and the Epic Burger). Jo says she wants one but again I don’t know if I want to share the experience.
Our JWalking Top Fives .
26.2 – 2.3.2016