Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Land of the Long White Cloud

We decided on a month in New Zealand because we needed a real break and we wanted a driving holiday. Everything we'd read suggested a month would be reasonable to cover both the North and South islands. We also expected to enjoy a driving holiday as, even by four and three years old, our small children were used to their father hauling them long distances.

New Zealanders are not big on signage.

Auckland must be the only city in the world for which there are no directions from its international airport. We drove out of the airport in a kind of a daze - the kind of daze where you don't believe a situation can be true, but it is. There must be a sign - there'll be one round this bend telling us the way to the centre of Auckland ... but there wasn't. Instead there were road works - big, complicated road works ... that led us off into suburban Auckland. After fiddling around for an hour or so, where we followed streets seemingly at random, and our collective sense of direction proved completely unreliable - children sustained all the while by potato chips - we fumbled our way to the city centre and across Auckland Harbour to Devonport and the lovely old Esplanade Hotel.

When New Zealanders say children are welcome, they mean it.

The Esplanade Hotel in Devonport ( is a nicely restored turn of the century pub, sitting on the corner opposite the ferry terminal. It seemed to us to offer the opportunity to be out of the city centre, but get there in a pleasant manner (by boat). We had gone searching for child-friendly hotels, and were stunned in early research by how many places specifically ruled out children. (Such a sterile way to live one's life. The people who can't stand to have children around are also, no doubt, those that are intolerant of smokers in the open air and upset by dog poo ... ie people who can't cope with life.) And we hit gold. The room was a bit small but the restaurant adjoining offered fantastic fare (ahhhh ... the oysters) and waitresses who intrigued small children. Emma on a Working Holiday from England seemed to pull one trick after another out of her hat ... colouring-in pictures and crayons, toys, books, culminating in the totally captivating singing monster ("Happy, happy birthday!") and his friend the Elvis-crooning frog. The kids developed a fixation on these new friends and were crushed that they had disappeared by breakfast the next morning. The Boys on Breakfast were no less thoughtful of kids than the Girls of the Night Before and alongside Eggs Benedict produced said mechanical marvels to enjoy breakfast with us.

We spent our 24 hours in Auckland getting ourselves together - hair was cut, essential toiletries were purchased, the playground was played in, fish and chips were eaten, the ferry was ridden on, the suburb was strolled ... until we decided that the city was not where we needed to be. Suitcases were piled back into the hire car, and we hit the open road ...


  1. Very entertaining reading! Nice use of technology too D! Does Big J like being called Big J? Does E read the blog? So many questions! Lots of love D and K who is becoming Bigger K every day ;)

  2. Love it. You guys should take up travel writing for mags or work for the NZ tourist office - turncoats!! I definitely want to go to NZ now and not just for the sheep. Would like to see more of those fantastic photos soon. Cindyxx