Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saturday Adventure to Devonport

Yesterday was Saturday here, and to my great annoyance some construction workers decided it would be great to do roadwork starting with drilling at eight o'clock in the morning. Genius! To my even greater annoyance, they stopped the drilling bit after twenty minutes which was just enough time to be fully awake.

Resigned to this fate, I examined the possibilities. The weather forecast was calling for rain (and indeed it was raining throughout the night, and looks hideous today), but the whole of Saturday was filled with warmth and poufy clouds that were just wonderful. Then I remembered that on nice fall Saturdays like this in Cleveland I would go adventuring on my bicycle to see where I ended up, so why not do the same in Auckland on foot? So I set off.
First stop- Town Center market. This market is a few blocks from me where Queen Street runs past the old Auckland government building, which provides a pretty backdrop on Fridays and Saturdays when the market's running. It's mainly a goods market (meaning a combination of practical things for Aucklanders and pretty things for the tourists), but there are a few food stalls that are good for breakfast. Which took quite awhile, honestly, because half the vendors sell food I don't encounter much back home so I was driven crazy trying to figure out what exactly smelled so good.

Brekkie in hand (mini-doughnuts and a mango-kiwi smoothie), I headed down Queen Street, which I've talked a lot about before and I am still in complete love with. I've walked down this street countless times by now, but am still always wide-eyed at all the stores and towering buildings lining this shopping street... Queen Street ends at the main transportation hub of Auckland, which includes the ferry terminal for the city-
Impulse time. I go into the ferry terminal, and check the destination of the next ferry. It's going to Devonport, which I hear is a nice and lovely Victorian suburb of Auckland only fifteen minutes away, so why not head over? Ten minutes and a ferry ticket purchase later, I am on my way across Auckland harbor.

There are few things more lovely in the world then getting out on the water on a beautiful, sunny day. Trust me. Several thousand other Aucklanders, I should point out, seem to agree with me-
You know how every city in the world has some sort of motto that they like to brandish about which proves how much cooler their city is than all the others? (My favorite of these is Melbourne, Australia, which calls itself "The Living City." As opposed to the dead one?) Well Auckland is known as "The City of Sails" because it has the most sailboats per capita of any other city in the world. This sounds like an odd thing to brandish until you realize there's a reason for this- Auckland has a lovely harbor dotted with tiny islands easily accessible in a day's sail (like the one pictured above), so right on the edge of the city is this lovely area most other people go on long vacations to see. No other major city in the world, as far as I'm aware, has this combined with nice weather, so everyone sails to the point where Kiwis follow their precious America's Cup team second only to the demigods known as the All Blacks.

Obviously this love of the water produces some really nice sailboats, a lot of which stop in Auckland during their around the world tours, and as I am a sucker for nice sailboats there was a lot to look at. Here was my favorite-
But anyway, enough of the water! I arrived in Devonport which proved itself to be the quaint little town everyone had said, and is on the slopes of Mount Victoria, one of those extinct volcanoes found nearly everywhere in Auckland. It's a rather steep climb but not a terribly long one (it's a mere 87 m tall), so I headed up for the views. Definetely worth it!
Here's another view, this one in the opposite towards Rangitoto Island accross the channel. It's a nature reserve, and if the weather's good next weekend I hope to climb it with a friend-
The other cool thing about Mount Victoria, I should mention, is how there are remains of an old Fort up there built in 1885. Devonport is at the end of the peninsula going into Auckland harbor, you see, and as such was (and still is) the main base for the New Zealand navy. At the time there were fears that the Russian Pacific Fleet might attack, so the first coastal fortification in New Zealand was built at the summit and named Fort Victoria. There are still a bunch of underground bunkers (one of which is used Sunday evenings by the Devonport Folk Music club), a tracking station for vessels, and a ginormous weapon known as a disappearing gun-
So yes, Mount Victoria was quite a fun place to hang out a little while, and the sun was rather nice, so I took the hint from the locals hanging out on the grass and read my book a little while. Lying in the grass under the warm sun, stopping on occasion to examine the view and progress of the hundreds of boats in the harbor, is a glorious way to spend a Saturday. I told you wandering to see where you end up is a great thing to do...

After awhile I got hungry and headed down, and had a late lunch at a nice little cafe/bistro place. Then a little while was spent wandering to look at the plethora of little shops dotting the town which were of interesting variety- among other things there were no less than two stores specializing in yarn, one for quilting, two bakeries, and two secondhand bookstores which shouldn't be confused with the independent bookstore just accross the street from one of them. I had fun, though I decided it would be best to head back to Auckland before the sunset (around 530pm nowadays). Interestingly the ferry from Auckland was completely filled with people- going to dinner in Devonport is a popular thing for Aucklanders to do since at night the city looks gorgeous from the harbor. Here's what Devonport and Mt. Victoria look like from the ferry by the way-
So that was pretty much where my Saturday adventure ends- I stopped for groceries on the way home which isn't particularly adventureful, and went to a party which I was already planning on going to so it doesn't count as impromptu or anything. Nonetheless, it was a great way to spend the day!