One of the advantages of moving a lot is still feeling a little like we’re on vacation even doing normal things. So when the Christmas break found us with no plans to fly away, nor really the motivation, no big deal.
We dined with friends, did a few projects around the house, went to the beach a couple of times, did some shopping, saw the new Avatar in IMAX… and of course went out for a boozy brunch. Best of all, we didn’t feel the least bit deprived for the lack of an airport experience.
After two years of COVID cancellation, Auckland’s Christmas light capital, Franklin Road in Ponsonby, was back this year.
We’ve been before, in 2017 and 2019. This time it felt a little less crowded, and maybe the decorations were a little less extravagant. But still pretty darn good. Our whole trip was easier this time… we now have a car, unlike in 2017, and knew just how to get there, unlike in 2019. And we got a really lucky parking spot.
Christmas kiwis always a hit.
I enjoy the lights of course, but maybe the best part for me is the sense of community this endeavor must bring to the residents and certainly brings to the many thousands of people who visit. There are so many divisions and distractions, but here’s a time when a whole lot of people get to be together and agree about something. Merry Christmas!
Growing up, our Christmas decorations always had a set of angel chimes like the one on the right side of this picture. We haven’t found proper candles for that one here in NZ yet (in a bit of interfaith cooperation, menorah candles work well, but we haven’t run across any). We found the tiny (and non-chiming) tea light powered example in a Christmas shop, and the big wooden German glockenspiel style one at a thrift store… so now we have a collection!
What a difference a year makes. In 2020, we stood on the little balcony at our old house in Parnell and listened to the dawn service on the radio. We were ‘together, apart’ with all the other people on the street, in full lockdown. COVID-19 was still new. We didn’t know how many of us might die in the coming year.
But then we were spared… lockdown worked and COVID is mostly a thing that happens elsewhere. Last Monday we all celebrated ANZAC Day with big crowds, military drills and parades, bagpipes and fly-overs. After my morning swim, I listened to the service in Devonport and wandered along the beach a bit. Then we went for a nice lunch.
Even if just for a minute, the holiday demands/allows a moment to consider all the possibilities we face as humans. Here we are in this life in this peaceful time in this healthy place with this much comfort. But other places, other times, are so very close, and so very different.
In much of the world, we humans have a lot of control over those circumstances these days… it is possible as individuals to not shoot each other, to wear the masks when there’s a bad virus in town, to vote for one candidate over another. In other places, poverty and propaganda make it harder to exercise those choices, which I guess means it’s even more important that those who can, do.
It’s the 171st anniversary of the founding of Auckland, which is mostly important because it’s a long weekend.
We had a quick road trip to Tom’s place in Tutukaka with Astrid before the gravitational pull of her Massachusetts home place pulls her away from all this NZ ease and beauty.
We started the trip with a pie, which is becoming a ritual. Pioneer Pies is a very good pie shop but not as good as the one in Kumeu we’ve been to before.
Next stop, also comfortingly familiar, Eutopia Café and the Dutch cheese shop.
Then on to Whangarei Falls, where they’ve added a grove of trees commemorating the lives of the Christchurch shooting victims since our last visit.
And then to the bach (that’s Kiwi for beach house). We made a quick jaunt to a nearby beach, then cooked supper and watched a spectacular moonrise.
On Saturday we did the Perfect Day charter out to the Poor Knights islands. After a ride out that the skipper described as “sporty” and which had half the boat puking into the little emergency bags, the clouds cleared and we enjoyed a few hours of snorkeling and other activities. The shot of me on the paddle board is a marvel of journalism, because I spent about one second standing up and the rest falling off.
We capped the whole day with a soak in the new cedar hot tub overlooking the ocean… very nice… and another moonrise and stargazing session.
On the way home we took the scenic route to Langs Beach and passed through Waipu, which was having its big summer market and festival. Ate mussel fritters and ice cream cones.
Home and unpacked, we drove down to the foot of our own road to watch the Harbour Bridge light show and of course the Anniversary Day fireworks.
Before setting up for our amazing Thanksgiving / housewarming / election celebration party.
One of the two turkeys we made for the day.
The artsy idea was to get the turkey / palm tree juxtaposition to contrast with pictures of autumn leaves and frosty pumpkins but it wasn’t so great… if I hadn’t told you, you wouldn’t have noticed.
This bird was done on a beer can chicken holder gadget in the smoker and came out superbly. Turkeys here aren’t as big as in the 🇺🇸. Of course a good cook can make do with any old setup, just like Chris Froome could beat me on any old bike. But my new BBQ gadget (the Char-Broil Big Easy if you’re in the market) really has made me into a star despite my lack of innate talent or formal training in the grilling arts.
Almost unbelievably, that’s the last picture. We had 60-70 people from several unrelated contexts (other than knowing one or both of us). I went into full mingle mode and didn’t pick up my phone till it was over.
Chuffed! NZ has its own Google Doodle celebrating Waitangi Day today, yay! The Prime Minister would have made this announcement herself, but she was busy cooking breakfast for the people gathered at the Treaty Grounds for the annual celebration. Because she’s awesome like that.
New Zealanders love their fireworks, and there are lots of big civic displays. But private fireworks is a different story. You can only buy them one week a year, leading up to Guy Fawkes Day on the 5th of November. You can set them off anytime, but most people go big on Bonfire Night, as it’s often called.
While Australia and California and the Amazon burn, Auckland’s wet climate means that this is about as bad as it gets… reason #423 to live here.
We got out on the tandem on Anzac Day and rode up to the top of Mt. Eden. Actually we had to walk up the last part.
It was a gorgeous day, perfect for Prince William’s appearance at the big ceremony later. We rode by the venue, which was heavily guarded, at least by NZ standards, in the wake of the Christchurch attacks. Weird to see the relatively scruffy and usually friendly NZ police with rifles in a ready position. Probably even weirder for the cops.