I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a thing for first lines in novels. I love the power and potential in that first sentence, how it tells you so much about the tone of the story but also tells you almost nothing, igniting a burning curiosity to know more. Some of my favourites:
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
In a hole in a ground there lived a hobbit.
I think you know where this is going.
I was lucky enough to find myself in Auckland for work last year, so I decided to carve out an extra 36 hours over the weekend to do something I’ve wanted to do ever since Frodo Baggins first showed his face on movie screens and introduced us to the magical, rolling green hills of The Shire, way back in 2001. That’s right, I was going to see the hobbits (or at least, Hobbiton movie set).
It’s probably worth mentioning that I’m the only person I know who prefers the first movie of the LOTR trilogy (call me crazy, but I’d personally rather spend my time in the peaceful beauty of The Shire than waiting for the orcs to come and trample me in the darkness and mud at Helm’s Deep), and that I’m a sucker for whimsy, so yes, this was kind of a big deal for me.
A couple of hundred dollars later, I had booked a tour through Expedia that would go through Hobbiton and to the Waitomo glow worm caves. I had my ticket in hand, I had packed my bags, I had watched all six Hobbit and LOTR movies and re-read the book that started it all in preparation… But there was one problem. As it turned out, Expedia had failed to actually book my place on the tour. (Which is their one job, by the way. ONE JOB.)
With no more spots left on the tour, I suddenly had a whole Saturday free and no idea how to spend it. But it was my first time in Auckland and I certainly wasn’t going to waste it. And, as Gandalf himself says: The road goes ever on and on.
So that’s how I came to spend a fairly random 36 hours eating my way around Auckland…
So I wasn’t going to see the hobbits. I was bummed. But if there’s one foolproof way to cheer anyone up, it’s got to be taking them out for pancakes. So that’s what I did. Odette’s Eatery seemed to be in a random location, but it was trendy, had a spot at the counter for the lonely brunch club like myself, and served up the most incredible vanilla and apple crepes that I’ve ever tasted.
The day started to brighten and I was drawn to the ferries departing from Queen’s Wharf. I picked up a brochure for Waiheke Island and set off. The ferry ride itself was beautiful, with the sea spray and stunning backdrop of the Auckland skyline. And although it started pouring down rain by the time I reached the beaches on the island, I did get a pretty incredible lunch at Wai Kitchen with seaside views.
When the food looks this good, who cares if it’s raining?
Honestly, I was killing time in the evening so thought I’d do the obvious, touristy thing and take a trip up to the Skytower. But I actually loved it. The tower has multiple levels and glass floors looking down on 220 metres (as it turns out, I wasn’t so keen on that part). I ordered a hot chocolate from the cafe and sat watching the lights on the harbour.
Sal’s New York Pizza
I’d heard of Sal’s on Brooklyn-99 and when I found out I could actually eat there, I was obsessed. Yes, I absolutely am the kind of person to go somewhere purely because I saw fictional characters on a screen doing the same (hello, this post started out with me crying about not getting to see where the Hobbits lived. So, yeah). TV obsession aside, Sal’s pizza was delicious. The ratio of cheese to sauce was perfect and the mouthfeel was 10/10.
There are certain things in life that just make me happy. Fried potatoes and coffee are two of them. Endless coffee? Yes, please. More.
In the end, I had a great weekend exploring Auckland and Waiheke Island. Expedia also refunded me for the tour and added additional credit to my account as an olive branch. And hobbit jokes aside, I really did fall just a little in love with Auckland. Ever since that trip, I’ve longed to go back – and this time, not just to see the Hobbits, but to see the real parts of New Zealand.
So I’m pretty excited that Sam and I are heading to New Zealand’s North Island for ten days over Easter this year! I’m so looking forward to rolling hills and rugged coastlines and dense forests. And I probably wouldn’t say no to another bottomless cup of coffee from the Federal Delicatessen…
Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.
To be continued.