I have spent the last thirty odd years in the UK responding to this question,
“Are you Australian?”
And then it goes like this,
“No, I’m a New Zealander.”
“OMG, I am so sorry. I know you hate being mixed up but it’s so hard to tell your accents apart. When I was in Australia blah, blah, blah.”
“Don’t worry about it. I love Australia.”
And I do. Likewise Auckland although it wasn’t always thus.
When I grew up it was almost expected of a good Wellingtonian to have an burning antipathy for our northern sister. This didn’t stop us moving there in droves however. The weather was better, the city larger, the jobs abundant and the sailing calmer.
I always enjoyed my time in Auckland’s nice bits, always hated Queen Street and its environs (no centre, no heart) and was almost always pleased to come South and home.
But something is happening to me. My enmity is evaporating with the years and, yes, I am going to say it here first.
I love Auckland.
Since, or because of, the rugby world cup, hosted by New Zealand in 2011, Auckland has had major heart surgery and the waterfront is now a mecca for residents and tourists to wander, enjoy the sun, the boats and yummy food and yummy wine at one of the many cafés that dot the harbour.
This trip, as I may have already mentioned, the weather was amazing. It has been, and still is, the best summer anyone can remember. My skies were blue, my heart was not. The sunshine and warmth a real tonic after our, ongoing, winter up here. It’s snowing now, as if to prove a point.
Inside, outside living is something New Zealand does well and this St Heliers’ café does it better than most. I felt as if I were sitting on the beach, sea breezes wafting past me as I sipped my long black.
New Zealand has taken coffee culture to its bosom, big time and once you get used to the terminology – long black = americano; flat white = latté etc – sit back and enjoy. The caffeine content will knock your block off.
Another thing I’m always bored rigid by is,
“I haven’t been to New Zealand but I hear it’s like going back ten years in time.”
Wake up and smell the long black, Guys and if there some things are done in a sweeter, slower, kinder way, isn’t that a good thing?
Here’s an example of just what I mean.
As you know, I chose to do a mini road trip from Auckland to Wellington rather than taking advantage of the very cheap internal airfares on offer.
Hire cars in my birth country have never been the cheapest of commodities but the driving is easy, the scenery spectacular and the photo opportunities considerable.
I rang Avis to see just how much I could be charged for a three day hire, returning the car to another city. $593.00 NZ as it transpires which included a relocation fee of $27.00 but no insurance. This was for a smallish automatic so I demurred.
I then called my trusty stalwart, Apex, an Australasian hire car company that might use slightly more loved vehicles but whose attitude and prices I adore.
“I’m just picking myself up off the floor having spoken with Avis,” I opened. “Now, can you tell me what it really costs to hire a car here, return it to Wellington and have it for three days, please?”
“Could you do it in two?” Dave asked.
I was hanging onto to the car for an extra day in Wellington for freedom’s sake alone but staying downtown in the bustling bohemian quarter I really didn’t need four wheels.
“Yes, I can. Why?”
“I think you’re going to like this, ” Dave said. “A relocation hire will be $1.00 per day.”
Even with my poor maths, I reckoned I was already $25.00 ahead of Avis.
“Brilliant. How much is the daily rate?”
I could hear Dave smiling through the ether. “A dollar a day,” he repeated. “But you’ll have to pay for your own petrol.”
Hello, cut my arm off for this deal. “I’ll take it, I chirruped.”
I took the almost brand new automatic Toyota Camry from 11.30am on a Monday until 1.30pm on the Wednesday which allowed for my two planned overnight stops. I bought a tank of petrol from Apex for 80% of the retail price and I drove south in comfort, air con blasting, radio blaring.
I paid $2.00 NZ for the rental and when I returned the car I was asked if I needed dropping anywhere. Ten years behind or just jolly great service. You decide.
“I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand,” is yet another statement with a high boredom quotient for Your Truly.
Well go, then. Don’t think about it or witter on about it. Just do it. You will not be disappointed. Cross my heart.