All the World’s a… Globe

How does Auckland’s ‘Pop-Up Globe’ compare to Shakespeare’s Globe in London?

People are raving about Auckland’s ‘Pop-Up Globe’ – a replica of Shakespeare’s seventeenth century theatre right here in New Zealand. It’s only temporary; it’s a unique opportunity for Kiwis to see some of Shakespeare’s plays as they should be performed.

Pop Up Globe Auckland ShakespeareA few years ago – oh, God, nearly eight years ago! – I saw a play at the Globe in London. (It was The Merry Wives of Windsor, which I’ve actually just been in as part of the Hamilton Summer Shakespeare… Anyway…) The Globe in London, of course, is a permanent structure and therefore grander by far than the ‘Pop-Up Globe’. The ‘Pop-Up Globe’, however, is a more accurate replica – and it looks pretty damn cool.

The real Globe, which was itself a replica of the first Globe that burned down in 1613, was destroyed by Puritans during the English Civil War.

Here are some pictures of the ‘Pop-Up Globe’ juxtaposed with pictures of the Globe in London. The ‘Pop-Up Globe’ suffers in comparison due to the fact that it’s in a car park, as opposed to on the South Bank of the Thames, and the fact that it’s made of scaffolding and corrugated iron, but it’s still impressive. In fact the inside is kind of beautiful.

The exterior:
Pop Up Globe Auckland Shakespeare

Auckland

Shakespeare's Globe London

London

The stage:
Pop Up Globe Stage Auckland Shakespeare

Auckland

Shakespeare's Globe Stage London

London

Looking up from the yard:
Pop Up Globe Auckland Shakespeare

Auckland

Shakespeare's Globe London

London

I went to the ‘Pop-Up Globe’ last Friday evening to see Romeo and Juliet. I was part of a group of larpers and, well, larpers love to dress up at the slightest excuse. We knew that the Capulets would be costumed in red; the Montagues in green, so we all went in either red or green. We were groundlings, too, so it must have looked quite impressive from above.

The play itself was… well let me put it this way: I’ve never really enjoyed Romeo and Juliet, but I didn’t just enjoy this, I loved it. All of the actors were incredible. All of the language made perfect sense. And it was so funny! Shakespeare isn’t supposed to be earnest – it’s supposed to be entertaining. And this was.

There were still people crying in the audience at the end. I didn’t feel affected enough to cry, but I did feel exhilarated.

If you’re the sort of person who hated Shakespeare at school, I don’t blame you, but go and see a play at the Globe. Seeing Shakespeare as it was meant to be seen might just change your mind about it! (I’m not sure about being a groundling, though. The tickets are cheap, but standing for three hours is not fun. At least we were given free rain ponchos.)

The Pop-Up Globe will only be around until the middle of April, so don’t miss your chance to see Shakespeare done properly.

Shakespeare Stratford Taranaki New Zealand

Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Patea, Taranaki, New Zealand

Why You Should Visit the Arataki Visitor Centre

First time in New Zealand? Time to spare around Auckland? Head west to the Arataki Visitor Centre in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. It provides a fantastic introduction to life in New Zealand. You can learn about Auckland’s history, environment and wildlife in a wonderful setting with magnificent views, before embarking upon one of the many laid-back bushwalks in the area.

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The Arataki Visitor Centre is one of the first places I remember visiting in New Zealand. I was ten years old; the centre was great for kids and still is. In fact it’s got even better in the last decade. You could spend hours in the kids’ corner. I discovered so much and it was fun. I learned, for example, what all the different native birds were and what a weta looked like. (Answer: scary as fuck.)

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Recently, I went back for the first time in years. It still had the giant picture frame at the edge of the car park, overlooking the ‘natural masterpiece’-of-a-view. It still had the towering Maori totem pole that my little sister had climbed on, unaware that she was using the bottom figure’s penis as a handhold. But there was one important addition to the car park: a charming Danish ice-cream hut.

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The ice-cream was very nice, as were the freshly made waffle cones.

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I also found this rather pretty place for chaining up your bike.

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As you ascend the wooden ramp into the centre there are a series of balconies taking advantage of the views. In summer they’d make good picnic spots, but the wind was too cold to stay out long this time. Thankfully there’s a place to eat inside the centre too, not a proper café, but nice tables with snacks and hot drinks available. There’s also this rather lovely window seat.

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The inside of the centre has changed a lot. It looks all fancy now. The gift shop’s still the same, but there are lots of new displays. As well as informational displays about the natural and human history of the area, and about local conservation efforts, there are beautiful examples of Kiwi artwork and even live lizards! This is definitely somewhere international visitors should come.

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If you plan on doing any bushwalking during your New Zealand trip – and New Zealand is pretty much impossible to escape without doing at least one little bushwalk – then the Arataki Visitor Centre is a great place prepare yourself. There are people there who can advise you on where to go and how to stay safe in the bush, and there are heaps of free leaflets available.

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In fact the whole centre is free – did I mention that?

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The Arataki Visitor Centre is known as the gateway to the Waitakere Ranges. I think it’s also a great gateway to New Zealand in general. Make it the beginning of your New Zealand holiday. I know a few people who say it’s the first place the place they take friends and relatives when they arrive.  Other places nearby include: Rose Hellaby House, the Waitakere Dam, Fairy Falls and Bethells Beach.

Rose Hellaby House – Hidden Gem in the Waitakeres

The best places are the ones you find accidentally. For me, West Auckland’s Rose Hellaby House is such a place. On a quiet Sunday morning, my boyfriend and I were driving home after a party. Leaving our friends to nurse hangovers of varying severity, we had decided to take advantage of the cool sunshine and take the scenic route home. So it was that we were trundling along Scenic Drive, a winding country road with marvellous views over Auckland, when I spotted a sign next to a driveway that disappeared into the bush.

RoseHellabySignTim, who’s lived in West Auckland all his life, had never noticed the sign before. We had all day, so we turned back to investigate. The first thing we noticed upon the cresting the driveway was a garden gnome. Then, through an island of trees, there appeared a colonial-style house. Someone obviously lived there, so it seemed strange that it would be open to the public.

We got out of the car and followed a mossy path up the side of the house, discovering more garden gnomes along the way. Under the shade of an enchanting tree, draped in golden ribbons of sunlight, there was a bench. Next to it was a birdbath and, next to that, a cat. It meowed at us and slunk off further around the house, as though inviting us to follow. We did so, and were confronted with somewhere that immediately made us wish we’d had a picnic with us.

RoseHellabyPicnicAreaBehind Rose Hellaby House is a lawn on the edge of a cliff. There’s a picnic table and a lookout platform.  From the lookout platform you can see the forested hills and houses of West Auckland, the volcanoes and skyscrapers of the city centre, and out to the harbour beyond. There’s a helpful sign to point out exactly what it is you’re seeing. It’s a view you can look at for a long time.

But Rose Hellaby House isn’t just a great picnic spot. Someone does live in the house, but they keep part of it as a wonderful antiques shop. This is only open on weekends and public holidays, however, so it was lucky for us that it was a Sunday. Tim and I have a thing for antiques shops. The woman running the shop was lovely to chat to, even if she did mistake us for brother and sister.

She was also rather taken aback that we’d be interested in antiques in the first place, being so young. At that point, the cat we’d seen earlier came in and jumped up on a side table. I asked the lady if she was at all worried, having a cat in an antiques shop. She replied that the cat had only ever broken one vase, going after a fly in a window. How sweet.

So if you’re looking for somewhere to have a picnic in the Waitakeres, Rose Hellaby House on Scenic Drive is an interesting spot. It’s a real hidden gem. Rose Hellaby herself was interesting too: an adventurous, green-fingered philanthropist with a penchant for garden gnomes. She gifted her house to the people of Auckland to enjoy the views and gardens as she had. You can see a display dedicated to her at the Arataki Visitor Centre.

RoseHellabyHouse

Eating Out in Auckland Central

The centre of Auckland City is heaven for food lovers. There are delights from all over the world to suit every budget. Deciding where to eat is quite a challenge.

Last week I found myself standing on Queen Street, alone, with an entire day to fill. That evening, I would be meeting my boyfriend for a posh dinner to celebrate our third anniversary, but, as yet, I hadn’t had any breakfast. I set off in search of a nice café.

It was nine in the morning, so not that many places were open. I didn’t feel like a big breakfast. Besides, fry-ups tend to be unreasonably expensive in New Zealand cafés. I found a place that did bagels and toast, but I wasn’t sure. I was about to give up and get a cheese toastie from Starbucks when I found a lovely tapas bar tucked away behind Whitcoulls.

Mezze Bar on Durham Street East is very pleasing to look at. The décor is warm and welcoming with an interesting flair. It opens at seven in the morning on weekdays, and its range of breakfast dishes is impressive. I ended up having a plate of feta dipped in dukkah, with warm Turkish bread.

SushiUsually, when I’m out in Auckland, I’ll have sushi, it being the cheapest food you can get that’s also healthy. That day, I decided to treat myself a little. The plate of feta cost $10.

By lunchtime, I was keen for something hearty and filling, but not so filling that it would ruin my anniversary dinner. I ruled out Forte Street’s Velvet Burger on those grounds, despite the temptation. What I ended up having was not so healthy, but it sure did the trick.

No. 1 Pancake is somewhere every visitor to Auckland to go. It’s just a kiosk, and you have to queue on the pavement, but their Korean pancakes are cheap, satisfying and SO GOOD. It’s near the library, on the corner where Lorne Street meets the art gallery side of Wellesley Street. I always have the $3 sweet red bean pancake, but you can get savoury ones like beef and cheese too.

Having had the gorgeous Korean pancake, I forced myself to resist the delights of Toro Churro and Mrs Higgins Cookies on Queen Street. Distractions were provided by shopping.

My next culinary stop was Vulcan Lane’s Belgian Beer Café, The Occidental. It’s part of a chain, but a good chain. Their food is very nice, but of course it’s not what you go there for. When you sit down, you’re presented with a ‘Magna Carta Fermenta’ – a shockingly expensive beer menu. The cheapest tap beer there is about $8. If you want to try something more exotic, you’re looking at about $15 a bottle.

belgianbeerBut I’d already resolved to treat myself. I’d only have one, and the only beer I’ve found I actually like is Belgian beer. I was excited to see that The Occidental sold two of the beers I’d discovered and loved when my boyfriend and I were in Bruges. They were sold out of the coconut beer, so I had a bottle of Delirium Red – at 8.5%, it’s a good thing it’s so expensive. I suppose you could have one Delirium for the same price and alcoholic effect as three cheap beers.

My boyfriend joined me in the pub. I finished my Delirium feeling slightly peculiar, and was very glad I hadn’t consumed any other alcohol. Delirium’s logo of little, pink elephants dancing is certainly fitting.

A while later it was time for our anniversary dinner. The Foodstore, beautifully situated in Auckland’s Viaduct Basin, is my favourite restaurant for this reason: every dish I’ve ever sampled there has given me multiple food-gasms. It’s expensive, but it’s worth it. My starter was scampi tails and black pudding with cauliflower puree for $20. I relished every bite. For mains, we both had the $36 quail and truffle pie. I’ve never had such an exquisite pie. The quail was so soft and creamy.

Outside, golden city lights shimmered on the black water of the harbour. It was so romantic. The Viaduct Basin buzzes with fancy bars and eateries. My family likes sitting in the leather armchairs in front of the fireplace of Danny Doolans, an Irish bar with a flagstone floor. You have to do this in the afternoon, though, as it gets too clubby later on.

Around Auckland 018Unfortunately we couldn’t go for another drink, as we had to catch the train home. (Auckland trains don’t run late enough, in my opinion.) Our Auckland culinary adventure wasn’t over yet, though. A couple of days later, before we drove back to Hamilton, we met up with a friend for dinner. He showed us two awesome-looking areas to eat that I couldn’t believe I’d never found before.

The first was the City Works Depot. It’s an area of stylish sheds and fairy lights, just up Wellesley Street from Victoria Park. It includes the swanky (in a down-to-earth, Tracy-Island-toy-on-the-bar sort of way) craft beer brewery and bar, Brothers, and the Food Truck Garage, which aims to create delicious, healthy versions of fast food. Our friend swore they do the best burgers in town. (Even better than The White Lady burgers, he said, which is high praise indeed.)

We’d didn’t end up going there, though. Instead, our friend led us to Elliot Stables. The place looks like something out of a Victorian period drama; “an epicurean village”, according to the website. It’s basically a food court, but with sumptuous surroundings and picturesque dishes, rather than bright lights, plastic chairs and suspiciously radioactive-looking curry. You can get curry there, but it’s rather more upmarket. You can also get Spanish food, Italian food, French food, German food, Japanese food, Caribbean food… and lots of nice wine.

I want to go back to both the City Works Depot and Elliot Stables at some point to explore them properly.

Auckland 5When my money’s built up again, that is.

My Experience of the Auckland Sky Tower’s Revolving Restaurant

Why New Zealand’s Got the Best Food in the World

The Mysterious Beauty of Bethells Beach

Te Henga, or Bethells Beach, is a properly mystical place. No wonder so many films, TV series, music videos and commercials are shot there. Being on the west coast of Auckland, its sunsets are especially spectacular. Many’s the time I’ve watched blazing threads of gold weave themselves into the pink sky above the wine-dark sea. I wouldn’t say it’s New Zealand’s best beach, but it’s pretty damn close.

The sand is a sparkling, bluish black that feels like velvet on your feet. As you walk along, you notice a haze over the dunes and the towering rocks that extend into the water – a mist over the ruins of a lost civilisation. A sort-of island – a chunk of cliff disconnected from the rest – rises out of the waves, cloaked in bush. The curves of its hills look like the Earth Mother sunbathing. Seriously, from the right angle you can see the swell of her breasts, stomach and colossal thighs.

A cave winks at you from the end of the beach – the left end, if you’re facing the sea. You can explore it at low tide. If you go right, you’ll find another cave waiting for you in O’Neills Bay. It’s a charming tunnel, a magical gateway to a “secret” beach beyond.

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Bethells Beach is a great place to surf and bodyboard, but don’t do it when the Surf Life Saving people aren’t there. It really is dangerous. Keep between the flags and don’t go too far out. If you’ve got small children, they can swim in the lagoon. (Yes, there’s a lagoon. It’s really pretty.) Incidentally, the Surf Life Saving tower makes for a rather striking silhouette against the Bethells sunset.

Between the lagoon and the car park, there’s a locally owned outdoor café. The food’s nice, and during the summer months, on Friday nights, they host various local bands. It’s a lovely community event. People come with blankets and deckchairs, and sit around drinking and being served pizza, later getting up to dance on the sand.

The Bethells locals often complain about Aucklanders (city slickers) and tourists overrunning “their” beach. Some even warned me, (jokingly, I think,) about publishing this article. I’m flattered they think my blog reaches so many people.

O'Neils

Bethells Beach is a special place. It has the wild, rugged beauty of Auckland’s other west coast beaches, like Piha and Muriwai, but it also has a mysterious beauty. There’s something otherworldly about it; something that draws people back again and again. I’ve already written about the necessity of visiting the amazing Muriwai gannet colony when you’re in Auckland, but do that during day and then, before sunset, head to Bethells.

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Not Just Cows and Chlamydia: My First Impressions of Hamilton

Well, I live in Hamilton now. Never thought I’d say that.

For those of you who don’t live in New Zealand, Hamilton is… well, it’s just one of those places. It’s mercilessly mocked by the rest of the country, perhaps a little unfairly.

Cows and chlamydia – that’s what you think of when someone mentions Hamilton. A boring, low-class place, full of upstart dairy farmers, criminals, druggies and teenage parents.

Of course, it’s not just that. Admittedly, I have witnessed more poverty in Hamilton than in either Auckland Central or Tauranga, and the other day I had to walk past a father bellowing, “I’m gonna f**kin’ smash you, c**t!” at his son. However, despite those two negative experiences, I have to say that, so far, I like Hamilton.

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It’s a nice-looking city. I mean, there’s a big river running through it that has some lovely walkways and parks along its banks. The council’s obviously made a real effort.

It’s a friendly city. More people say hello to me on the street than in either Auckland or Tauranga – and only some of them are asking for a dollar.

It’s a university city. (I’m still young enough to find the presence students a good thing.)

It’s a cultural city. Seriously – don’t laugh – there’s a lot of good stuff going on. Plays and markets and events at the Hamilton Gardens and such.

It’s an inexpensive city. More and more Aucklanders are moving to Hamilton because houses are cheaper – it’s why my boyfriend and I moved here, to be honest. We’re renting a properly nice two-bedroom flat with all mod cons, five minutes’ walk from the river and city centre, and we’re paying significantly less than what my little sister’s paying for a crummy, damp, kitchenless, two-bedroom hole with no mod cons in Auckland.

Also, Hamilton has very little traffic compared to Auckland. Although how long that will last with all the Aucklanders coming here, I’ve no idea.

gardenplaceThe main difference between Hamilton and the two other New Zealand cities I’ve lived in, (Auckland and Tauranga,) is that Hamilton isn’t on the coast. It hit me the other day when I was having lunch in Garden Place, Hamilton’s main square: there weren’t any seagulls mobbing me, only sparrows. It really is strange not to be hearing seagulls all the time.

I suppose I’ll miss being able to walk to a beach whenever I want. But, then again, Hamilton has the Waikato River, and Hamilton Lake, and the absolutely wonderful Hamilton Gardens. I wrote an article about the Hamilton Gardens ages ago, but no doubt I’ll be writing another, more detailed one at some point in the future. They just get better and better.

riffraffHamilton’s CBD is fairly boring, though it does have some quirky touches. Garden Place, for example, has a few sculptures, fountains and a giant chessboard – not to mention a tree over six stories high come Christmas – and on Victoria Street, there’s a Weta Workshop-designed statue of Richard O’Brien from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, along with instructions for performing the Time Warp. (Richard O’Brien used to live in Hamilton, you see.) The council’s clearly doing a good job of making Hamilton continually nicer.

The Garden Place Library is quite impressive. The Waikato Museum on the riverbank looks worth visiting too. The city centre has a solid range of interesting shops and restaurants, and I found a big second-hand bookshop the other day, which I’m happy about. I’ve already got a royalty card.

casabellalane1There’s also a lovely little street called Casabella Lane, which is done up all like a Mediterranean courtyard. Unfortunately, the ‘French’ café there isn’t very good. Such a gorgeous setting deserves better food. There’s a nice bookshop on Casabella Lane, though, and just walking up it is pleasant in itself.

The best thing about Hamilton, apart from the Gardens, is being able to take a few steps off the main shopping street and immediately be at the riverside, on a peaceful path leading off into the trees. In terms of city walks, Hamilton might even be better than Auckland. I did see quite a few condoms in the bushes at the side of the path, but – hey – at least the STD Capital of New Zealand* is getting the safe sex message, right?

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*Hamilton is not actually the STD Capital of New Zealand. This doesn’t stop everyone saying it is.

A Walk in the Waitaks

Yesterday, I indulged in that most Kiwi of pastimes: a bushwalk. The weather was beautiful and we didn’t even get started until 4pm. We just drove up into the Waitaks and wandered down to the dam.

The Waitakere Dam was built in 1910 and still supplies the city of Auckland with water. It’s an impressive structure with some pretty sweet views. The photographs don’t do them justice.

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The dam is surrounded by forested hills. These are the Waitakere Ranges, known locally as ‘the Waitaks’. They are laced with pathways, so there are plenty of walking options.

The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park is located on Auckland’s western edge, an easy drive from the city. After our walk, we drove up to a lookout point from which we could see the whole of Auckland.

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It was a very peaceful walk – hardly anyone about. The noisiest thing we encountered was a New Zealand wood pigeon. They’re so clumsy the way they crash through the branches!

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It was good to be able to relax in the bush, as the next few days are going to be full-on: my boyfriend and I are moving to Hamilton. Goodbye, Tauranga, the home of my parents. Goodbye, Auckland, the home of my university. Hamilton may have some rather awesome gardens, but it doesn’t have a skyline like this…

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Actually, that’s not a very clear photograph, so I’ll leave you with this…

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