Last week I was lucky enough to go off on another overseas jolly (err, I mean arduous work trip). This time to Auckland, New Zealand. I've never been to NZ before so I was quite looking forward to this one, even if it is the middle of winter and I new it would be freezing.
We left on Wednesday and arrived quite late. From the minute I arrived in NZ I had to work to stifle my laughter. The accent just kills me. I think I've watched Flight of the Conchords too many times. It started as soon as I arrived. I walked through Customs and one of the officials said "Excuse me sir, I think you've dropped your pin". I thought pin, what pin? What kind of pin? What's he talking about, I haven't got a pin?. And then I realised - pen, I had dropped my pen. Hence me being in stitches most of the time for the duration of the trip. My favourite has to be "Would you like to sit on the dick?", of course referring to the outside deck of one of the bars we visited, which of course came complete with outside heaters given the time of year.
On the Thursday I did my PCI DSS audit as usual, and everything went smoothly. So Thursday night was our (I travelled with Brad from the customer's security team again) first chance to try the Auckland nightlife.
We stayed in the Quadrant Hotel in the city centre, which is a funky little place. The rooms are tiny but they make up for it by offering free Wi-Fi, so I was quite happy. Not that I spent much time in the hotel.
As usual, we had very good intentions on Thursday night. We actually spoke about it. We realised that the last few places we've been to, we hardly ever managed to get a good meal because we'd always get pissed and side-tracked, completely forget about the restaurant and end up in some dodgy nightclub. So this time, we were determined to get a good meal before anything else.
We decided to walk down to the Viaduct Harbour area and look for a Seafood restaurant that a taxi driver had recommended earlier that day (because of course, taxi drivers are equivalent to A.A. Gill when it comes to restaurant reviews). It was quite early (around 7pm), so many of the places were mostly empty. It was a bit early to eat so we decided to go get a drink at the nearest bar before we went to the restaurant. That was our first mistake.
Living in Brisbane now where everyone's in bed by 9pm and up at 5am it's quite nice to go somewhere where the nightlife doesn't even get going until close to midnight. Anyway, that's beside the point.
So we went to a nearby bar and had a couple of beers. We were sat inside because it was freezing and even with long sleeves on we were clearly under-dressed, warmth-wise. However, it was no warmer inside the bar so we went out on to the dick (sorry, deck) and sat by one of the outside heaters. I of course felt guilty the whole time thinking about the effect on the environment these outside heaters were having. Surely it would be more energy efficient to close the doors and heat the inside to an ambient temperature, rather than run a dozen outside heaters? A couple of beers later and my guilt had passed.
We left the bar and headed on to the restaurant. The problem with the Viaduct Harbour area and many similar places that we've visited is that it's got a long row of pubs and bars, which are very difficult to just walk past. I remember thinking I wouldn't mind a cocktail before the meal, after getting a taste for cocktails again from the earlier weekend in Singapore and the night in the Sheraton on the Gold Coast with Rach and Lauren the other week. I forgot to write about this. Basically I took a few days leave during Lauren's school holidays and we went to South Bank on the Monday, visiting the Ron Mueck exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art, which was truly a sight to behold; spent one night at the Sheraton on the Gold Coast on Tuesday, and then took Lauren to Movie World on the Wednesday. Strangely for the school holidays, Movie World was half empty so we had no problem getting on rides. I even went on the Superman ride, which, after travelling from 0 to 100km per hour in just 2 seconds, I almost regretted. Anyway, I digress.
So we were sitting there in another bar, Brad with his beer and me with my Mai Tai (looking a bit gay, I know), and we got approached by a man and three women asking if they could join us. We were polite and said ok, but it soon became clear that the reason that they had come over was because one of the women had taken a shining to Brad. Brad let her know that he wasn't interested; he's happily engaged, and besides that, she was that pissed that she couldn't even string a sentence together!
This is becoming a familiar pattern, and the main reason that we never make it to a restaurant. I don't know how he does it. I've never known anyone get propositioned as much as he does. Some guys tell stories about getting propositioned by air stewardesses on flights. Well I can tell you it happened to him because I was there (Brisbane to Singapore). He also got propositioned by the receptionist at one of the hotels we stayed in; most of the bars we've been to; and unbelievably he even got propositioned before we even got out the taxi when arriving at our hotel in Auckland. We were sat there paying the taxi driver and a group of girls coming out of the hotel shouted through the window and asked us to go out with them on the town (clearly directing there suggestion at Brad). When we said no, they walked away but shouted out their room number to him. Girls these days hey. They weren't like that in my day!
Anyway, we were polite and the group were really friendly, and it's always good to have a group of locals to show you the best places to go, even if the guy was acting like a pimp most of the time trying to offload his 'ladies' on us. I say 'us', but of course I mean Brad.
Yet again, the meal was completely forgot about and we ended up in a dodgy place called Cowboys and Indians which is apparently known for its cougars. If only I was single! Just kidding Rach.
The next morning I woke up with a serious hangover. Luckily I had managed to finish my audit work early so we had some time on the Friday to do some sightseeing.
Brad has got some mates in Auckland who he worked with when he worked in London a few years ago, and one of them picked us up from the hotel in his car and took us for a drive out.
We drove up to the west coast (Auckland is on the northern island), to a place called Piha. Unfortunately, to get to Piha from Auckland you have to travel up a mountain snaking along some very, very windy roads. This wasn't good for my hangover. I very nearly chucked!
Piha is stunning, I could tell that even though the weather was atrocious - cold, wet and heavy winds. The weather suited the wildness of the landscape; black volcanic sand beaches and huge cragged rocks protruding from the sea.
With the weather as it was we stepped out of the car for two minutes to take a a few pics and then quickly retreated back to the warmth of the car. It wasn't long before we were back in Auckland. Brad's mate took us to Ponsonby (funny name, I know) - one of the trendy Auckland suburbs, where we met up with a couple more of his mates and headed to the Long Room, which is one of those pubs I love with leather sofas and open log fires. We spent the rest of the afternoon there warming up by the fire and tasting some of the fine New Zealand wines. Well, only I was on the wines instead of beer because I was still feeling rough from the night before and thought, correctly, that wine would do a better job of enabling a quick recovery from the hangover.
From there, the rest of the night is a bit of a blur. We just carried on drinking. We got a guided tour of some of the best bars and pubs in Auckland. There were some pretty good ones. I remember one with cuban jazz music, with couples doing the salsa/samba (not sure - I'm not really up on latin dance styles).
All I really remember is looking at my watch and realising it was 3am and that I'd have to leave for the airport in a few hours. So I said goodbye to everyone (Brad was staying on an extra night) and made my way back to the hotel. And got lost. I seem to have a habit of getting lost in foreign cities. I've lost count of the amount of times, especially when I was in the Navy, of coming out of some strange nightclub on my own and trying to walk back to the hotel/ship, being too tight to pay for a taxi, and getting completely lost.
On this occasion I even asked a few doormen for directions, which they kindly gave me, and still managed to go wrong. It took me roughly an hour to get back to my hotel, for what should have been a 15 minute walk. When I did finally arrive at the hotel I had 2 hours before I would need to leave for the airport so arranged a wake-up call with reception, the guy on reception giving me that seen-it-all-before smirk. For the second night in a row I'd also somehow managed to lose the key card for my room.
So that was my first trip to New Zealand. Next stop is Los Angeles and Omaha, Nebraska of all places. Leaving on Monday.