Saturday, February 17, 2007

There's New Zealand, and then there's Auckland..

I was up early on Wednesday morning to drive to the airport, where I boarded a flight to Auckland. At about the same time my brother, who had flown to Auckland the night before, was leaving the house where he was staying to drive to Auckland airport. And twenty minutes or so later, my other brother and sister were leaving Wellington airport to fly to Auckland, where we all met up at 9 a.m. Yes, you can fly from Christchurch to Auckland in the same time as it takes to drive across Auckland city.

Technically, of course, Auckland is not one city but three. Manukau city is in the south, and it is where the airport is situated. Auckland city is in the middle, between the Manukau harbour and the Waitemata harbour. And North Shore city is, well, on the North Shore. Which is where we were headed.

I once heard a US city - I think it was Philadelphia - described as having "Our Lady of Perpetual Construction" for its patron saint. Auckland is rather like that. Roadworks and new motorways everywhere, but still they can't keep up with the traffic. I thought we would be able to drive right through from the airport to the North Shore on the motorway, but there is quite a large section from the airport to just south of the central city that has no motorway yet, so we sat in rather slow traffic for quite some distance (not that we sped up all that much when we got on the motorway either). It occurred to me that the "rush hour" is misnamed, as it is the hour when no-one can rush anywhere. And in Auckland, the rush hour seems to be spreading out to take over most of the day. Cars everywhere. Huge suburbs of nothing but houses - no cafes, supermarkets, post offices, corner shops or other facilities - which of course means more cars. And almost everywhere you go, you can see the Sky Tower. The symbol of the Auckland landscape, what uniquely identifies Auckland, used to be the harbour bridge - now it is the casino.

To be fair to Auckland, there are some older suburbs that are wonderful and gracious and close to amenities. (But only the rich can afford to live there). The situation between two harbours means that there are many beautiful spots - plenty of green reserves with birdsong and glimpses of water.

I spent a year living in Auckland over thirty years ago, when we could live cheaply in a rundown suburb close to the City Centre (now gentrified). Before the traffic became almost impossibly congested. I don't think I want to go back.

The reason we were there was to attend my uncle's funeral. The cemetery at least, is in a lovely spot by an inlet in the upper reaches of the Waitemata harbour. He was a navigator in Lancaster bombers in World War 11. As we stood by the graveside, the air filled with the sound of cicadas, and wading birds wandering over the far end of the lawn, an Air Force Orion on a training exercise flew circles overhead. A fitting tribute.

I had a four hour wait at the airport on my return as we all had different flight times. The interflora shop was filled with red roses, and heartshaped chocolates - three small chocolates in a bag for $6. The cafe was selling pink iced heart shaped biscuits. It was Valentine's Day. By the time I reached home, it was past bedtime. It's a good thing that Valentine's Day is not a big thing over here for most people. It has really only arrived in the last few years, pushed by retailers. Not too many people of my generation bother with it.


Anonymous said...

Hi Catherine! Michele sent me. Wow... I had so many thoughts reading your post. I was touched that you all traveled so far for your uncle's funeral. Too often these days, extented family gets lost in the shuffle.

As for the construction, it made me think of when I lived in Minneapolis Minnesota (just a short 5 months ago) where we used to say that Minnesota had two seasons: winter and road construction.

Then, speaking of winter, I thought of your comment regarding the cicadas and got a bit jealous. I SO MISS warm weather! We've just gotten over a huge winter storm here in Illinois and we are in for more.


Welcome home.

Anonymous said...

My condolences on your Uncle's death, I'm glad the experience was reasonably pleasant at the cemetery at least & that is really nice about the jets since he was involved in flight.
Thank you for stopping by my blog earlier & to answer your question, I do over the phone technical support for the company which made my dvr & yes, it's hard drive is very dead- unfortunately. ;^}

yellojkt said...

The other joke about rapidly growing cities is that their official bird is the construction crane.

Michele sent me.

Anonymous said...

Catherine, thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm sorry your husband lost his job. As you know, I can feel for you! Things gotta change, though, right? That's my hope and prayer! Let me know when he finds a new job. Oh, and kudos to your boss!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Your descriptuon of Aukland and surrounding areas is very vivid...particularly the traffic, which it seems is a huge problem now all over the world...Where is this all going to end?
Your Uncles funeral sounds like it was quite lovely and what a history he had with his World War II redord. I send you my condolences on your loss....!
Michele sent me tonight.

David Edward said...

home safe, that is always good.
here from michele

carmilevy said...

I am so sorry to hear about your uncle's passing. You wrote about the funeral so beautifully: I can't help but think that that P-3 was supposed to be up there at that moment, that it was meant to be.

Bobkat said...

My condolenscences on yopur loss. It really is nice that you all travelled so far to pay your respects.

Valentines is a big thing in the UK, pushed by the retailers of course.

Here from Michele's.

purplefugue said...

One day, I WILL make it to New Zealand, and spend time in Auckalnd, Christchurch and the South Island.

Here from Michele's!! *waves*

Foster Dogs said...

LOL, that is true about Philadelphia, there is ALWAYS construction, although I don't know if there is really a patron saint for that!

Here via Michele's.

craziequeen said...

Hearts and flowers, cicadas and aircraft.....a good day to say farewell.

Good post


Kay Cooke said...

Yes, well, we all (in NZ) know how those of us who don't live there feel don't we?