Pot of Gold

The new Westfield Newmarket mall is scheduled to open ‘soon’. It will be the largest mall in AU or NZ, supposedly.

Four Nights in Brisbane

We turned a Thursday work meeting into a long weekend in Brisbane and had a lovely time.

About a dozen years ago, we flirted quite seriously with the idea of moving to Brisbane. The other course of action worked out just fine, but we’ve always wondered a bit about life in a sleek high rise overlooking the river. We almost got a taste of that at the Westin Hotel, where we stayed on some leftover Marriott points. The hotel was super-nice, as was the service. We enjoyed breakfast and happy hour in the concierge lounge, where we met various interesting people with stories to tell. Last night was crowded and we shared space with a couple whose summary included “I used to be in the casino game, in Macau…” We did visit the Brisbane casino, housed in the old Treasury Building, and managed to leave with as much as came in with, victory!

Now that we’re in Auckland, Brisbane doesn’t seem quite so exotic, but after spending a few days exploring (my third time, Lee’s first) we would still totally live here.

My meeting was in a nice hotel located just under the Depression-era Story Bridge, with a cool view.

We took the City Cat ferry (top picture) all the way up and down the river, a great $5 ride. Lee also took a guided river tour and shared the best parts of the commentary with me.

The Botanic Garden…

Roo-dalisque?

We took some nice walks along the river, including the South Bank that is full of attractions. Sadly, the free pool was closed for maintenance. But we did see the Peace Pagoda from Nepal, a leftover from Expo 88. The explanatory plaque says it’s one of only three outside Nepal and also says that there are Peace Pagodas all over the world. Go figure.

We ate good burgers at the Triffid, a well known live music venue. Lots of band posters everywhere, mostly unknown to me.

We saw a bunch of different neighborhoods. All nice. We especially liked the slightly funky West End, where many of the world’s gluten-free vegans seem to have congregated so they can open little shops and sell stuff to each other. We ran into a really impressive market there.

It’s a Kiwi cliché that we now believe, fresh produce is way cheaper here. Also gas. And real estate from what we saw. Hmmm, no wonder so many New Zealanders are moving to Oz.

There was a lot of public art…

That’s a scale model of the dome of a Cathedral that was contemplated for over 40 years, but finally the plans were abandoned for lack of funding.

Statues of Byrnes and Burns, two men who accomplished a lot and died young.

I hope this carving, in the very posh part of the waterfront area, is called something like To Have and Have Knot.

We did an Asian food-themed walking tour, meh. They took us to a Filipino place we’d discovered on our own the day before…

We also took in an improv comedy show that was truly remarkable in its amateurishness.

And then on the last morning, I wandered down to the finish line of the Brisbane Marathon in time to watch the winner roll in in a time of 2:33. That’s a hell of a lot faster than I could have ever run, and pretty good for a hometown white guy with a full time job. But in the running villages of the Kenyan highlands, I’m pretty sure kids that slow don’t get dessert.

I had a good time watching all the half marathon and even 10K finishers coming in… so many tales of agony and exhilaration and all sorts of other emotions on unvarnished display.

That’s the winner in the center. If he passes red shirt guy in the next 80 meters he’ll have run twice as far in the same time.

All in all, we packed in a lot and find ourselves tired and ready to go home. Tomorrow is Queen’s Birthday holiday so there’s a day to recover. But if duty ever called… a person could do way worse than Brisbane.

Death and Taxes

death and taxes

Another awesome thing about NZ… annual taxes. My taxes are automatically taken out of my paycheck. My savings account, which by the way earns about 3.5%, also automatically deducts taxes.

Then, without any intervention from me, the government reconciles everything at the end of the year and either sends a bill or a credit. No tax return, no adding extra deductions to account for multiple wage earners, no TurboTax.

Now, all I have to do is figure out how to spend my huge windfall!

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, in Christchurch

Jogged around this morning. After the earthquakes in 2010–2012, Christchurch was in shambles. The central city is still more vacant land than buildings. There is a lot of construction activity, but it all felt pretty small-scale. Still, NZ’s good economy is good here too, and I suppose recovery will happen as it happens.

The Bridge of Remembrance, a War Memorial.

One of the recently terrorized mosques, now guarded by a couple of bored cops and adorned with many floral wreaths.

Air time

One of the people who also arrived early for this morning’s flight to Christchurch was Gwen, pictured above. She’d been traveling for 36 hours following a cruise in Scandinavia. Missed a connection. A bit wired up. Lost her luggage.

She’s written a book about her life, reviewed above. Does a lot of motivational speaking. She took my card and said she’ll send me a copy, here’s hoping!

Zero dark thirty

I arrived at the gate 1 hour 7 minutes before departure and was the first by quite a bit. Still not used to the casual approach to domestic air travel here… but it’s a good thing.

Papakura

We continued our ongoing exploration of the Auckland suburbs this weekend with a drive to Tuakau to pick up a dining suite (they’re suites here instead of sets) we bought online.

En route we stopped at Papakura for an unexpectedly good lunch and to see what’s what. A realtor might refer to the neighborhood as ‘up and coming’. But in overheated Auckland there are plenty of people who will/must suffer a long train ride into town and lesser quality schools in exchange for a few hundred thousand dollars cheaper housing.

What a difference a day makes

We had just read in the paper that this old house next to (and owned by) the Cathedral was going to come down, along with its next door neighbor.

But we weren’t really prepared for the fact that they’d both come down in only one day!

Let there be light

For Mother’s Day weekend the fine folks who plan this sort of thing put on an evening show of lighted-up stuff down by the Viaduct. I had jogged by in the morning and it looked like a thing to do so we did.

That’s a person in a lighted costume up above, who did a mesmerizing fairy dance that even managed to make lots of high fives look elegant and mysterious.

Thousands of other people also thought it would be a fun time! It was shoulder to shoulder. Some of the installations seemed pretty cool, like one that made noise when you touched it. But the artist’s vision might or might have included the reality we saw: 50 sticky overstimulated kids slapping as hard and fast as possible so all the sounds and all the lights.

The Harbour Bridge got in on the act.

This sculpture is actually there all the time but looked cool all lit up.

This Plexiglass tunnel boasted the most pretentious artist statement. Vitruvian Man, polygons, harmony, blah blah blah. But many many people lined up to walk through and experience the novelty of lights. And Plexiglass!

Many of the same sculptures will be on display in Parnell in July… maybe with a smaller crowd?

Walk this way

On a lunchtime walk the other day I came across this white-faced heron who was enjoying a buffet of bugs and lizards. I followed him (her? them?) all the way down the path, maybe five minutes.

Just like it says in the page linked above, he stepped carefully along the verge, and when he sighted something he scooted down, wiggled his butt like a kitty about to pounce, then grabbed the poor little bug with amazing speed. It was good hunting… I saw several creatures go down his gullet including a lizard whose legs were still flailing all the way to the end.

At the bottom, he abruptly flew back the direction we’d come… I guess going back for another helping!

Chairy Red

We found this great old chair at a garage sale last weekend and brought it home for $20. Sadly, however, it turned to be the dachshund of armchairs…

Not sure why we didn’t realize that before buying…

But just a few days later Isabella came over and loved. She’s got this little landing at the top of her stairs and it will be perfect there. Happy ending!

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