It’s been 3 months since I was in New Zealand and this is my first post about Wellington. I connected with Wellington in a way I can’t explain. These are few photos I took, I hope you like them. I honestly can’t find the words to express what Wellington meant to me.
The third an final instalment of “Where I Ate In Auckland” will be as hipster as beard glitter. Actually it won’t but that beard glitter stuff is making me consider shaving. I’ve already told you about Dogmatic and Federal Delicatessen which might as well be wearing a denim vest with patches sewn on. Let’s find some more hipster hot spots.
Brothers Juke Joint BBQ
I didn’t expect to find real southern BBQ in New Zealand. Juke Joint is located in Auckland’s Mount Eden neighbourhood a few blocks from the actual Mount Eden. It’s also super close to the train station making it easy to get to from most places around the city. The pulled pork sandwich and tater tots could’ve been right out of South Carolina. The mustard based sauce was fantastic and the pork was on par with anything I’ve had back home. I also tried their other meats, brisket, chicken, ribs, mutton, all solid. The mutton was incredible. Add the fact that Juke Joint is attached to Brother’s Brewery and I’m surprised I ever left.
Best Ugly Bagels
Located in the City Works Depot in Auckland, Best Ugly Bagels is another spot operated by Al Brown (of Federal Delicatessen and Depot Eatery). Montreal style bagels and damn good coffee, that’s what Best Ugly does. I had the Yodi, pastrami, habanero mustard, grilled swiss, and a pickle. bagel perfection.
Depot Eatery and Oyster Bar
Depot Eatery is known for oysters and wine so of course I went there for breakfast. A simple breakfast sandwich with eggs and bacon on a grilled bun and another outstanding cup of coffee.
Mexico Food and Liquor
With 7 locations around Auckland and beyond I was expecting a chain restaurant feel at Mexico Food and Liquor. It didn’t turn out that way though. The Takapuna location, in North Shore City across Waitemata Harbour from downtown Auckland, felt like an independant Tex Mex place. It’s a tapas style spot with smaller share plates. I shared with myself. I had Mexican Fried Chicken, with Central American/Tex Mex spices in the seasoned batter. It was boneless but it was still good (fried chicken should have bones though…).
The Black Bean and Smokey Bacon dip came with plantain chips. I wish more places here did that, tortilla chips are boring. There was also some cumin, orange, and queso to and some flair. A solid recommendation from the staff.
Last was the daily taco special. A fish taco! Chimichuri stewed fish (Hoki I think?), muscles, bacon, lettuce, mayo, and pickled green tomatoes. A very nice fish taco, good enough for me to order another.
Auckland’s food scene has something for everyone, even hipsters. Just don’t order sushi, anywhere, ever. It’s absolutely terrible.
To most Canadians rugby is a fringe sport. We are aware of it, we may watch a few games here and there. Chances are we know someone who plays rugby or maybe we played it ourselves. But to say it’s a popular sport in Canada would be a stretch. In the mid to late 90’s I watched a lot of rugby. My girlfriend at the time played for our high school team. In 1995 we watched quite a few World Cup matches together. That was the year the world discovered Jonah Lomu.
6’5″, 260 pounds, as fast as a sprinter, as strong as a bulldozer, nothing could stop him. The try he scored against England where he simply ran over Mike Catt is one of the most unbelievable things I have ever seen. He was just 19 years old when he made that team.
At the end of 1995 Lomu was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a severe kidney disorder that eventually ended his career and led to a kidney transplant in 2004. Sadly on November 18th of 2015 Lomu passed away suddenly at only 40 years old.
I was travelling between Auckland and Wellington that day. I first heard the news as I was packing my bags to head to the airport. When I arrived in Wellington you could almost feel the sadness in the air. Imagine Wayne Gretzky or Gordie Howe passing away at 40. Canada would be devastated and this is how it felt in New Zealand.
Being in the country during something like this was surreal. As I walked around town everyone was talking about it. Flags were lowered to half mast, even New Zealand’s parliament took time to talk about it during question period.
The next day I wanted to pay my respects but there wasn’t any news on where I could do it. I found out New Zealand Rugby’s headquarters was within walking distance so that’s where I went. In a small office building hidden on the forth floor there was a memorial and a book to sign. It felt strange standing in line to write a message to someone I never met, someone bigger than life who had left us so young.
While I was there a group of school children came in for a tour. New Zealand had just won the World Cup 2 weeks prior and they had the trophy in their display case. Without white gloves or guards they opened the case, took out the World Cup trophy and let a bunch of grade school kids hold it. It was awesome.
I wrote down some words, I cried, and I left. Jonah Lomu was a connection to a part of my life that is long gone. To lose that connection and be in New Zealand when he died is something that affected me more than I could’ve imagined.
Sky Sports dedicated one of their TV channels to Jonah Lomu for days after his death. They played highlights, full games, interviews, all day and all night with no ads. I watched it every night before I fell asleep. I saw the haka performed so many times I think I know the words now. When I hear it I get choked up.
I have never considered myself a serious rugby fan. I was always just a casual observer who, at one time, had a connection to the game. The way Jonah Lomu’s death moved an entire country to tears and made a Canadian visiting on holiday cry is a testament to what he meant to the game.
Rest in peace big man, you will be missed.
The food in New Zealand surprised me. I had heard the beef and dairy were good but they were SO GOOD. I ate as often as possible in New Zealand because it rarely disappointed. Let’s start in Auckland and see where I ended up.
The Meat Pies…
They said they were good. I thought they were exaggerating. There is something magical about meat pies in New Zealand. From a cafe or a gas station, it doesn’t matter. I tried a bunch of meat pies. Mince, Steak, Steak and Cheese, Beef Potato Topped, the list is very long. You should, no you NEED, to try a meat pie in New Zealand.
Being a bit thrifty can lead you to some fantastic food discoveries abroad. I made a few trips to the grocery store to save a few bucks while in New Zealand. In Auckland I went to Countdown and New World to stock up on snacks and beer for my hotel room. The cheese, my god the cheese. Apparently the Mainland brand is just regular quality cheeses in New Zealand but it is so far above Canadian non specialty store cheese it’s ridiculous. I ate an unwise amount of cheese in New Zealand, totally worth it. That 24 month aged cheddar made me consider marriage. Hot travel tip, always travel with a multi-tool. The knife and the bottle opener are worth their weight in gold.
Fried Chicken From A Convenience Store.
I didn’t pack a lot of clothes and planned on finding laundromats to make my small wardrobe last 2 weeks. In a serendipitous turn of events I found one of the best things I ate in New Zealand right beside Bubbles Laundromat in Auckland. NZ Convenience Store didn’t look like much but their sign said “Sensational Fried Chicken.” The sign didn’t lie. Halal chicken, amazing seasoning, something called “chicken salt.” It was also priced right which is great as New Zealand can be expensive.
Pizza is everywhere in Auckland. I was craving a slice or 2 so I Googled who had the best pizza near me. Sal’s Authentic New York Pizza was near the top of the list and 2 blocks away. Thin crust, foldable, greasy in the best way. Sal’s was way more authentic than I expected to find so far from New York.
That’s Part 1! In part 2 we’ll talk about sushi, burgers, and pub food.
It’s Remembrance Day in Canada and I’m half the world away. In New Zealand November 11th is called Armistice Day and it isn’t as big of a deal as it is elsewhere. Anzac Day, April 25th, is New Zealand and Australia’s equivalent to Remembrance day. They wear red poppies in memory of those killed at Gallipoli in during the First World War. Watch the movie “Gallipoli” if you get a chance, it’s very good and features a young Mel Gibson. In honour of Remembrance Day I paid a visit to Auckland’s War Memorial Museum.
The Museum is set upon a hill surrounded by Auckland Domain, Auckland’s oldest park. It’s 75 hectares are located on the Pukekawa Volcano with the museum sitting along the edge of its explosion crater. The original part of the building, seen above, was completed in 1929.
The Museum is 3 levels of exhibits including an extensive Maori collection along with other pacific and asian collections. There are natural history exhibits focusing on the unique evolutionary history of New Zealand wildlife and plantlife from the time of the dinosaurs to the ancient giant birds known as Moa which are now extinct as well as many other one of a kind species found only here. New Zealand is a chain of volcanic islands and there is an excellent, if not a little too small, exhibit explaining how the islands were formed and how modern New Zealanders live with volcanic activity and earthquakes.
The war memorial is housed on the entire top floor. There you can learn about New Zealand’s role in the World Wars as well as many wars in the South Pacific prior to WWI. The history of Maori wars and other pre-colonial wars is also on display. A Japanese Zero fighter plane and a British Supermarine Spitfire are displayed in fully restored condition in their own rooms along with several interactive displays and reconstructions from WWI/II. There is a great hall listing the names of All New Zealanders lost to war. There is a Holocaust memorial sharing the stories of survivors who relocated to New Zealand. The whole experience was very moving and it was difficult to keep my emotions in check while learning an entirely new to me history of wars I thought I knew a lot about.
With the weight of this day and a scale of the loss on display this is an experience I will never forget.
A self guided, all access pass the the Auckland War Memorial Museum will cost you $25 nzd. There is something for everyone in this truly world class, beautiful museum.
Web – aucklandmuseum.com
Twitter – @aucklandmuseum
Instagram – @aucklandmuseum
Facebook – Auckland Museum
To say that Chef Al Brown has a thing for North America would be an understatement. New York/Montreal style deli’s and cafes, not things you would expect to find in New Zealand. Federal Delicatessen is a hip spot oozing with North American mid century style located on Federal Street in Downtown Auckland. Federal Street sits under the Sky Tower and is part of the Sky City casino complex.
The breakfast menu is made up of kosher deli favourites. I opted for the “Mish-Mash” ($17.50 nzd), pastrami hash with potatoes, peas, deli mustard, and a fried egg. The pastrami is thick cut, tender, and has a bit of a Montreal Smoked Meat vibe to it. The peas aren’t something you’d normally find in a hash but they worked. This is a simple dish elevated with quality ingredients. At almost $18 it seems a bit expensive but tax and gratuity are included. To be fair everything in New Zealand seems expensive to me…
Auckland, and the rest of New Zealand, is known for its coffee culture. You’d be hard pressed to find a Starbucks here, I’ve seen 2 in 4 days and I’ve walked a good portion of the Central Business District (CBD) and Waterfront. For The Fed to not have an espresso machine is an oddity. They offer “filter coffee” only which is bottomless ($4 nzd) and comes in Havana or Supreme varieties. It is good enough to satisfy the coffee nerd in all of us.
Federal Delicatessen is worth a visit if you find yourself looking for a bite to eat in Auckland. Good food, friendly service, central location, that’s a winning combo.
Web – thefed.co.nz
Twitter – @AlBrownChef
Instagram – @albrownchef
Facebook – Federal Delicatessen
The countdown officially begins today. WFLNZ starts in 1 month with a flight to San Francisco and a short layover before heading for Auckland. I’ve had some interesting responses from people regarding this trip. A lot (and I mean A LOT) of men have asked me how I’m able to go on a trip like this without my family. Well that’s an easy one to answer, it’s because we don’t control each other. There will be lots of trips with the family in years to come. Hayley and I travel around BC a bit now and the three of us have been away a few times. We’re thinking of going to Europe in the spring, who knows. Besides, Lyndsey’s been to Bali without me so I guess I’m due for an adventure of my own.
I have switched up my camera gear a bit from the post I wrote about going mirrorless for travel. I traded my Fujifilm X-E1 for a Fujifilm X-T10 which is the latest X series camera and I am pretty darn happy about it. It’s fast, compact, produces fantastic images, and it looks pretty sexy. The rest of my set-up is the same, X-A1 body as a spare, kit lens, 35mm prime lens, and 50-230mm zoom, iPad Mini Retina, Samsung Chromebook, and an LG G4. Everything is small, light, and very handy for social media and blogging on the road.
I’ll be checking out the transit system in Auckland. The ATHop card looks similar to Translink’s Compass card system. Yes, you have to tap on AND off buses there too. I’m a little apprehensive about renting a car but I want to get out of the city a bit if I can. We’ll see how I feel about it when I get there. If I rent a car I can see things like Cathedral Cove and Piha Beach. I’m only in Wellington for 3 days so I’ll most likely be staying pretty central.
I have a busy little October to get to before I go though. A couple of Whitecaps games, Swinefest at The Hog Shack, Brett Taylor’s Koi 2.0 art show, Monster Ball for Surrey Hospital at Big Ridge Brewing, Hey Rosetta and Yukon Blonde at The Vogue the night before I leave… Not to mention soccer with Hayley, work, life etc. I’ll suffer through.
1 month, I can almost feel it.
As most of you know I’m off to New Zealand in November. As a photography enthusiast I’ve been having a hard time deciding what kind of gear I want to bring along. Film was out right away because that’s too much work. It was down to my Pentax DSLRs or my Fujifilm X-series mirrorless cameras. When I really thought about what I wanted to accomplish in New Zealand the choice was easy, mirrorless all the way.
My X-series cameras offer the same sensor size and resolution as my DSLRs but take up a lot less space which is a big consideration for air travel. A DSLR body, a prime and a zoom lens take up the same space as 2 mirrorless bodies, a prime, and 2 zooms. That means a smaller camera bag that can be your secondary piece of carry-on baggage. My editing/sharing tools are an iPad mini and a Chromebook. Both are light and compact and if they get lost, stolen, or damaged they’re not worth a ton of money.
The Fujifilm X-series is a fantastic camera platform. My little X-A1 (now replaced by the X-A2), the black camera pictured above, is a perfect starter camera for anyone who wants to get better shots than a smartphone or a point and shoot can produce. My X-E1 (now replaced by the X-E2) is aimed at more advanced shooters with greater manual control and a slick electronic viewfinder. I have 3 X-series lenses. A 35mm prime lens for portraits or street photography, a 16-50mm zoom for wide angle and general shooting, and a 50-230mm zoom for wildlife and telephoto shots.
Most days I’ll just carry the X-E1 with either the 35mm or the 16-50mm on it. I don’t want to pack a bag around unless I think I’ll want more options depending on my destination. I’ll pack a tripod in my checked bag just incase. Taking 2 bodies isn’t 100% necessary but if one body breaks of malfunctions I have a backup.
Mirrorless in New Zealand, That’s what’s for lunch.
Editors note – My flag logo will be out of date soon as New Zealand is currently in the public consultation phase of picking a new flag.
Today is the 5 year anniversary of this blog, I honestly had no idea until I fired up the Chromebook to write this post. 5 years ago my micro preemie daughter had just come home from the hospital and now she’s a few months from kindergarten and I’m planning a trip to New Zealand. Time flies.
I don’t know what it is about New Zealand that intrigues me. I’m not a Lord Of The Rings guy or an Extreme Sports fan, probably the 2 most common reasons to visit. I’m also not very interested in the South Island, everyone says it looks exactly like BC and I live here so… North Island only for me. My flights and hotels are booked, I’ll give you a quick rundown of my journey.
I’m flying to Auckland from YVR with a quick stop in San Francisco. 16+ hours including the stopover. I leave Vancouver early Saturday afternoon and arrive in Auckland just before 6am on Monday. Time zones are crazy. I’m there in mid November which is late Spring and the weather is pretty similar to Vancouver. I’ll be staying 9 nights at The Albion of Auckland, a 4 story walk up built in 1873. It’s cheap, the location is awesome, and it sounds like it’s a little rough around the edges, which suits me just fine.
Silo Park, a section of reclaimed industrial waterfront, and Mount Eden are 2 places that I plan to photograph. Photographic opportunities seem to be everywhere you look in Auckland, I’m excited to hit the streets, meet some people, and burn through some megapixels.
I’ll be flying to Wellington, which is at the south end of the North Island, for 3 nights. A return flight with a carry-on AND a checked bag was just over $200CAD. I’m staying at The Setup On Manners, a hotel that used to be an office building. It too is cheap, located right downtown, and looks pretty cool. I’m too old for hostels, but if you’re into it they are plentiful and very affordable in Wellington as well as Auckland. I’m planning to take in a soccer game while I’m in New Zealand, I’m even bringing my Whitecaps kit and a Southsiders scarf. I haven’t decided if it’ll be Auckland City FC or Wellington Phoenix.
I fly back to Auckland for 1 night before I head back to Vancouver. I decided to spoil myself a little so I booked 4.5 star hotel in Takapuna, a swanky suburb of North Shore City which sits just north of Auckland. The Spencer On Byron Hotel is one of the tallest buildings in Takapuna and has some great views. Fun Fact, Shania Twain’s “When You Kiss Me” video was filmed on Takapuna Beach. Thanks Wikipedia! My flight home is non-stop. I leave at 8pm on a Sunday and arrive at lunchtime on the same Sunday in Vancouver. It’s time travel, pretty much.
There are a ton of craft breweries in New Zealand, a country known for its beautiful hop varieties. I’ll be using the Beer Tourist New Zealand interactive maps a lot.
Have any tips? Let me know on Twitter or Instagram @wflbc or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Five and a half months until I take off, I can’t wait to share my journey with you!