I’m pretty sure I told you that I was off to Auckland to speak at a conference on social media. I wasn’t speaking until 2.15pm, so I decided to check out Auckland a bit and then join the conference around midday. I hadn’t been to Auckland for nearly 10 years and didn’t really like it back then.

I wanted to drop into the department store, Smith & Caughey, on Queen Street to pick up my beloved MAC Teddy eye kohl pencil (simply can’t live without it and Ballantynes in Christchurch is out of action thanks to the many quakes). Then I thought I’d get some breakfast and a good coffee somewhere in Vulcan Lane. Everyone raves about Vulcan Lane for coffee (and High Street, where all the fashionable shops are).

The weather wasn’t great: it was overcast with a few showers. I left Christchurch on an Air New Zealand flight at 6.55am, getting into Auckland around 8.20am. I love Air New Zealand’s inflight safety videos. Their latest features Richard Simmons – an American fitness celebrity. When I was growing up, his fitness show was on TV and my mother religiously watched it and did the exercises. He’s still looking pretty good for 62 years. You can check out the inflight safety video below – it’s called Fit To Fly and is very clever.

So off I trudged to Vulcan Lane. Now, I admit I didn’t do much research before hitting Vulcan Lane and basically chose the first place that looked pretty decent – Cafe Tasca. I liked the sort of rustic Spanish look. I ordered my favourite – Chai latte – followed by Moorish eggs. The breakfast menu described these as: farm eggs baked in traditional tomato salsa, Spanish meatballs, fresh coriander leaves served with hot turkish bread (NZ$16.40).

Sadly, I’m not going to give this Cafe a good rap. The Chai latte, whilst hot, wasn’t very spicy or sweet. Just tasted a bit like hot milk to me. The breakfast dish was certainly a generous serving but was a bit too tomatoey and somewhat bland. There was a hint of coriander. The small meatballs were pretty tasteless and I had to add salt to get any form of flavour out of the dish.

I then walked around High and Queen Streets and I have to say that Auckland is, well, Sydney for Beginners. At the risk of offending any Auckland readers, the city is getting just as busy as Sydney and trying to be a bit like Sydney – complete with a Strand Arcade. I can’t read the character of Auckland. At least with Sydney (before Pitt Street Mall was replaced with flashy, fashionable shopping centres) you could see it was oh-so-quaint 1940s. I’m not so sure about Auckland. There are some old buildings and glossy-looking hotels sure – but the city doesn’t have character IMHO. There are a lot more Asian shops than I remember and this certainly adds variety to the shopping experience.

I had no time to check out Karangahape Road (commonly known as K’Road) or Parnell. I recall from my last visit that these areas have great shops. If I get to Auckland again, I’ll try and stay longer so I can really get to know the city.

My flight left Auckland at 5.00pm and I thought my number was up. The skies were brooding and threatening. The pilot said we might wait it out on the ground but then the plane took off. I said as many prayers as I could whilst the plane was bumping its way skyward. Needless to say, I declined the offer of an inflight snack as my stomach wasn’t feeling too great. I was very glad to get back to Christchurch. The drive home showed me that Christchurch is certainly my city now – it’s beautiful with all the trees and foliage; it’s flat and spacious. On the way home, there was nothing but darkness and vast, open landscapes. Just gorgeous.

Vulcan Lane

Another view of Vulcan Lane.

Inside Cafe Tasca.

Breakfast: Moorish Eggs

Strand Arcade on Queen Street.

A view along Queen Street.

Queen Street.

Inside Strand Arcade - looking a lot like Sydney's Strand Arcade to me.