Published: August 2nd 2008July 31st 2008
Pac N Save Lunch
Jake happy, before digging into the 15% chicken sub
We drove to Christchurch-- the largest city in the South Island and known for its traditional English design-- under cloudy skies, and the rain persisted for our entire stay. Fortunately, it was a big enough city that we found (free or low cost) things to do in the rain.
We checked out the Canterbury museum (free- aka "suggested donation"), bought suspiciously cheap pre-made sandwiches at the local "Pac n Save" supermarket (we now realize a "15% chicken" label is not a good sign, nor is "made on Pac n Save premises"), and even splurged by eating dinner at a Korean restaurant. We finally saw "Dark Knight"-- it came out a week late in NZ and we'd been waiting forever to see it. The theater had huge plush seats and double the leg room (and assigned seating, weird!). We liked it so much, we saw the movie again in Auckland at their Imax theater.
We spent two nights sleeping in the campervan at the Amber motor park, which was very homey (the friendly, grizzled innkeep looked exactly like Herman Munster!). We then dropped off our campervan rental and *fortunately* were not charged extra for any dings or scratches; the rain
Leslie Dining Out
Splurging at a (cheap) Korean restaurant in Christchurch. Yum!
covering the car was good camouflage!
Our last night was spent in the Christchurch YHA hostel, where we chickened out again and paid extra for a double room instead of using our free dorm passes. It's hard to go back to hostels when you are 29 and used to luxurious business travel! However, after flying back to Auckland the next morning we actually cashed in our coupon and spent a night in a 4-bed "mixed" dorm. We tried to stay up as late as possible (in our case, 12:30AM) before crashing, so we wouldn't have to hang out in the room. It ended up being us and 2 guys who were pretty quiet, although there was the normal rustling of bags and "little boy" smell! We decided to go back to a private room the next night ;)
When we got to Auckland, it was in the middle of a rain storm that was hitting most of the country and is still going strong. The newspaper stories are all about flooding, drownings, homes washed away... so we aren't having the best weather to explore the city. We're also finding out there aren't many free, indoor activities here. When
Gin Rummy & Beer
Our active social life!
the weather cleared a bit, we took a long walk around the city to the Auckland Museum, which was interesting and worth the $5 cover. The hall with dozens of stuffed birds overhead creeped Leslie out, but Jake liked the nature exhibits.
At night we headed to the Sky City casino, not as glamorous as Vegas but not as seedy as Atlantic City-- kind of like a miniature Foxwoods. Jake played Poker (and made $16) but since they don't have free drinks for gamblers like in the US, we didn't stay very long. It was interesting for people watching-- characters included a pony-tailed guy in a NASCAR track suit (he kind of resembled Ali G but we don't think they were filming the next movie).
While we were checking out the YHA hostel, we noticed a coupon for free fries at a place called "Burger Fuel." We have since gone back twice; since even though the burgers aren't super cheap (about $7 each) they fill us up for about 24 hours. In the long run we save a fortune since one burger fuel lunch allows us to skip dinner and the following breakfast.
Also while in Auckland
The Dorm in Auckland
A rare moment of solitude in the shared room
Leslie had her 2nd (and not her last we're sure) visit to the doctor. This time she lost a filling while eating potato chips in Christchurch-- the second time she's had a potato chip-related dental injury. Does this happen to anyone else?! The short visit cost $150 but she did get to meet a gregarious local dentist who seemed like he might be a member of NZ's 5th most popular folk-comedy duo. Now she's starting to feel a sore throat coming on, hopefully her compromised immune system won't necessitate another visit to the doctor.
For the past two nights we decided to stay in a "trendy" neighborhood just outside of the city center called Ponsonby. The main street is lined with cool cafes, restaurants and bars and it has a Prospect Heights feel. Our first night we stumbled upon a neighborhood bar called "The Crib" that had a live band and drink specials ($6.50 for a cocktail, which is under half the normal price. Drinks and restaurant food are pricey here). Leslie got tipsy and befriended the band. It was cool talking to someone else besides one another!
The next night we splurged (big time) by eating at
Leslie at the Dentist
All went well and only $150 poorer (there goes our budget)
SPQR, a trendy Italian restaurant/bar. We spent US$55 combined-- almost twice as much as our room for the night!
Our hostel "double room" in Ponsonby turned out to be a small shed with vinyl siding in the courtyard, reminiscent of a tiny trailer home. The bed was really comfy but the carpet was soaking wet from the rain... so it was pretty musty. Apparently the fire alarm went off in the night and we slept through it-- good thing it was a false alarm.
We're picking up a rental car today and are looking forward to driving north and hopefully getting some warmer, drier weather.
There are more photos below