Thoughts on Auckland Airport….

Auckland Airport regularly makes the list of top airports in the world and it was easy to see why when we flew Malaysian Airlines to Dubai via KL in January.

We were travelling with 2 children and were there 3 hours early as recommended for international flights. Check in was quick and though there were long lines at the immigration counters these were cleared quickly. We were given customs forms to fill out at the check-in desk and assumed these were handed over in the plane, however we were asked to fill these out at the Immigration desk and come back in line which made this process longer than necessary for us.

airport duty freeairport

There are many food options once inside and all were open for service despite the relative late hour of 11pm. I was a little surprised at the selection of different things and the prices at the duty free shops – they were quite cheap compared to prices outside for the same.

I was also impressed by the very modern yet comfortable public seating provided at regular intervals in the departure hall around the big modern sculpture in the center. The girls quickly found their sofas of choice and snuggled up with their throws and a device each. The free wifi was easy to register for and fast to use.

airport seating

While the public restrooms were clean, they are widely spaced out.

Overall, airport staff were all friendly and efficient and all facilities were clearly marked – our time in the airport almost flew by.

On our return there were longer lines at the immigration counters as 2 or more flights seem to have landed together and after a 36 hour journey the wait seemed longer than it was. Customs clearance was fast and organized as we had food to declare (including Yemeni honey that was binned much to the disappointment of Miss 8 who had bought it). Remember to declare any food, plant or animal based products as the rules are NZ are strictly enforced to protect our natural biology & ecology – if you declare it most likely you will be able to keep it, however if you are found out not declaring there will be a hefty fine. Beware – many passengers get needlessly bitten by this rule if they have any forgotten fruit from their aircraft dinners in their handbags or purses.

The arrivals gate was built like the entrance to a maori marae and there was a troupe of performers enacting the haka for the arriving passengers which was a lovely way to welcome people to NZ.

airport marae welcome haka

My only gripe is that from the time you land to the arrivals hall there was just 1 restroom which was out of service at the time so with only the handicapped toilet being in use there was a very long line outside it.

Auckland Airport is clean, comfortable, and well equipped with facilities for travelers. Thoughts on improving the airport would be (in no particular order): longer free wifi, especially if you find yourself waiting long for a connecting flight; more signs before the immigration checks to ensure that all customs forms are pre-filled and no lines are held up due to this being overlooked; and more restrooms are provided.

Advertisements

Oh Calcutta! in Parnell, Auckland

Have you ever had the feeling that some old memories may not be real memories – just a strange dream-like imagination mixed in with what actually happened? This happened to me yesterday – I was going to dinner at Oh Calcutta! in Parnell, Auckland and hazy memories of sitting there at an outside table  on a cool spring night 13 years ago came back to me in patches until I wasn’t sure if I was making up this scene in my head.

I was looking forward to dining here, as in my search for a great Indian restaurant that my father would like, Oh Calcutta! was the name that came up consistently for great service and better food.

oh calcutta! decor

Most of the outdoor tables were already taken when we got here at 7.30, and we were seated inside the restaurant at a table large enough to accommodate our party of 8. Oh Calcutta!’s décor was a god balance of interesting ethnic while still remaining classy. The lighting was soft and I really appreciated that there was no music playing in the background so we could talk to one another in normal tones.

oh calcutta! inside

View of interior tables

With the kids and adults having chosen their drinks, we turned to the menu to order our food. Just reading the beautifully described dishes made us all ultra-hungry! For entrees we had: Chilli Prawns; which while beautifully cooked were disappointingly not as hot as the name suggested, Mansoori Kebab; tender lamb cutlets with a smoky and unique flavor; and half Tandoori Chicken, which to be candid was just perfectly ordinary.

OhCalcutta open kitchen

The interesting open kitchen where you can see the chefs at work

Our mains included the Butter Chicken; which despite all the rave reviews I found to be sweet and mediocre, Prawn Malabari Curry; which likewise was sweet and mild (and for me, lacking in a south indian flavor), Kadhai Paneer Masala; which had a lovely burst of fresh flavour, Murgh Makhani; a more authentic version of the butter chicken that was quite nice but unmemorable; and the special for the day, Mutton Curry; which had a lovely homemade curry flavour and feel. The Garlic and Cheese Naans were excellent and the rice served was aromatic and cooked to perfection. All in all, while the food did not blow us away everyone including the kids did enjoy it and we all walked away with far too much food in our bellies! Unfortunately that also meant that we did not have the chance to indulge in desserts, especially their very tempting Trio of Kulfi that I would not be normally able to resist.

OhCalcutta food

The service was quiet but very attentive, with our young server coming around just when he was needed and our plates were cleared regularly without our prompting.

While prices may seem high in comparison to many other Indian restaurants, in my opinion the food, service, atmosphere and location make these perfectly appropriate here.

Oh Calcutta! does many things very well, and the next time I want to enjoy a date night or special occasion dinner, this may very well be where we end up.

A few stolen hours at Hot Water Beach, Coromandel

On Wednesday last week, I was home looking after Miss Six who was not very well and Miss Eight who was pretending to not feel very well so she could stay home too. It was also hubby’s only day off that week. Being the impulsive optimist that I am, I thought that we should so something more exciting with our day and drive down to the Hot Water Beach in Coromandel.  Girls were on board immediately and with a few minutes of puppy eyed pleading from us all he was in too.

So we set off on our 2 hour drive with a bag of quickly assembled snacks, sweets and drinks.

As luck would have it, midway through, the anticipation wore off and boredom set in plus Miss Six started feeling queasy. I was trying my best to keep her spirits up when the sky went dark as big black clouds rolled in. Wondering why I did not think things through and wishing that hubby had talked some sense into me, I asked everyone if they wanted to turn back. Thankfully though we all agreed to press on and soon we were at the beach!

Hot Water Beach is world famous in New Zealand – well no actually, this is a unique beach that really is world famous – for its underground hot springs which filter up through the golden sand between the high and low water tidal reaches. Families, kids and couples can be seen digging their own spa pool in the sand and relaxing in the natural springs.

the only way to get to the Hot Water Springs is through this stretch of beach and stream.

the only way to get to the Hot Water Springs is through this stretch of beach and stream.

The only access to the beach is through a narrow walk across beach and a stream.

Expecting it to be almost deserted, I was shocked to see that it was almost packed! We found a large and deep spa already dug but when we went into it the water was literally burning hot – we could barely stand in it for a second before being scalded. The girls had a brain wave and decided to use their beach toys to bring cold water from the ocean and pour into the spa to help cool the water. As you can imagine this did not help at all even if they were having fun doing it. Miss Six, by now having forgotten that she was ill, was in great spirits. She started exploring other spas to find one with a better temperature and found one that was just vacated. We all got in and enjoyed the warm water at the edge of the ocean – it was magical. Soon though the ocean started slowly reclaiming the sandy beach as the waves came closer & closer. Eventually one giant wave came in and flooded cold water over our heads and into our warm spa. It was time to leave.

digging a spa on the beach - hot water beach

a couple digging their spa on the beach

New Zealand: Hot Water Beach

enjoying the DIY hot water spas at Hot Water Beach

Miss Six has been talking about having a party at the beach for her birthday in December and is keenly waiting for our next trip to the beautiful Hot Water Beach!

Auckland – the tenth most liveable city in the world – again…..

I am so grateful for the opportunity to experience life in a clean, green and peaceful place like New Zealand. So far, I have lived in Auckland, Christchurch and Hamilton and visited most parts of NZ. Sometimes you tend to take things for granted once you get used to them and when I read this morning how Auckland has been rated the 10th most livable city in the world I had the chance to mentally review all the things I love about living here.
So in no particular order, here is my list of why I love Auckland:

  • You can drive in almost any direction in Auckland and still be within 20 kms of a beach. My fave beach is Maraetai in South-East Auckland – a beautiful white sand beach full of colorful gorgeous sea shells, a long pier extending into the blue sheltered waters, a great playground for the kids, and a fish and chip shop and ice-cream parlour right across the street.
maraetai beach, auckland

maraetai beach, auckland

  • Auckland is a multicutural melting pot and it is not unusual while walking around the city to see a multitude of cultures often in their traditional attire and hear numerous languages and accents. Auckland is also home to many events celebrating the festivals, food, arts and cultures of its various immigrant residents.

 

Maori dance

Maori dance

  • The friendliness and helpfulness of kiwis in general – I often see such wonderful stories of human goodwill and it is a powerful reminder of what a wonderful community we live in.
  • The elusive work/life balance – If you have children you may be familiar with the difficulty in finding enough quality time to spend with your family and friends. Luckily Auckland offers you the chance to really have it all – a career in a thriving metropolis and the chance to get home at a decent enough hour to spend time with family
  • Free things to do – Auckland has so many beautiful parks and other facilities that are absolutely free which is great if you have young children. My faves are:

– Auckland Art Gallery – my kids love to see the art exhibits and also try their hand at creating their own art in the childrens room

auckland art gallery

auckland art gallery

– Auckland Museum and Domain Wintergardens – we have spent so many days here enjoying the offerings

wintergardens at the domain

wintergardens at the domain

Auckland Museum

Auckland Museum

– Michael Savage Memorial – has wide panoramic views across the city and is a great place to look for Tuis, a native bird with a distinctive call

michael savage memorial
– Parnell Rose Gardens and Judges Bay – for beautiful walks and a spot of swimming

 

It is spring now and I cannot wait for glorious summer to start going on picnics to the places above. Just a little longer now, just a little longer…….

Viva New Zealand!

Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel

Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel

New Zealand is my adopted country – and what an amazing country it is!

For my first ever post I thought I’d shine some light on what living here is like.

This country has given me everything I ever wanted – from a loving partnership and adorable girls to a satisfying career, a house of my own and the freedom and lifestyle I’d dreamed of.

I came to NZ’s sandy shores as a young girl of 24 and fell in love instantly with not just it’s magnificently beautiful landscapes but also the people who make this land what it is. Most kiwis I’ve met are grounded and resourceful who love to get their hands dirty (both literally and figuratively). Coming from India with it’s extreme chasm between the very rich and the very poor and the different attitudes on both sides, it was refreshing to see this culture where money and status were not the sole determining factors of your identity or your destiny.
Kiwis are quick to have a laugh (even at themselves) and tolerant of different ideas. It also helps that religion is not as much ‘in your face’ and by and large kiwis are not bound by much religious dogma.
Auckland is a thriving multicultural city not without it’s own share of problems, one of which is housing affordability and another is traffic congestion. Of course this traffic is nothing compared to many other metropolises like Bombay or New York but still far worse than anywhere else in NZ.

Travelling through New Zealand is a wonderful mix of the old and quaint country towns, breathtaking beaches, high adrenalin adventure activities, and the energy of it’s bigger cities.
In the 12 years I’ve lived here I have been fortunate to travel the length and breadth of this magical land and live in different parts of the country – many posts to follow will elaborate on these adventures.
If you have any questions about NZ please feel free to drop me a line anytime.