My Big Little City: Waiheke Island

Hey Guys!

Is it just me or does this week feel like it is taking forever? I swear I woke up today and thought it was the end of the week then realized I had many more days to go. It was a devastating moment I think we can all agree.A while ago Edd and I took a day trip to the rather wonderful Waiheke Island that lies off the coast off Auckland. It was Edd’s first time going over and he took some great photos so I thought I would share them and tell you about my favourite NZ island (although I may be biased due to the wonderful people who live there).

DSC_4077

So yeah the weather wasn’t looking so good when we left. And then it started raining. The city totally looks like it could be some sort of Gotham city with a kiwi Batman running amok though right?

How to get there:

There are two main ferry companies (Fullers and Sealink) and both run pretty regular ferry services from either Half Moon Bay or Auckland CBD. The ferry takes about 40-50 minutes and will cost you around $36 return for an adult or $20 for a child. You can also pay to take a car or motorbike. The ferry ride over is beautiful with amazing views of Auckland harbor and so definitely try to grab a seat outside so you can enjoy it properly.

DSC_4085

Pirate ship? Maybe not.

For us the trip over was nearly a nightmare in that it was pouring with rain 90% of the time and I was pretty sure the day was going to be a disaster. Luckily there were atmospheric photos to be taken and then much to our surprise the weather changed its mind once we arrived (ah, even on Waiheke one cannot escape the crazy psychopath that is Auckland weather). There is no doubt Waiheke and it’s ferry rides are nicer in the sunshine but there was something quite peaceful about sitting out and experiencing the ride in the rain.

DSC_4089 DSC_4109

What to do there:

Our first stop was to get something to eat. Luckily the weather was clearing and the bus takes you straight from the ferry to the main shops at Oneroa Village where there is a plethora of cafe’s and shops to wander through. We ate at a Turkish cafe called Delight which has the best views possible over Oneroa beach. A gorgeous setting to eat brunch and the food was delicious too. Edd had their lamb pita and I had a Turkish lunch plate. It was all very tasty and delicious although their breakfast options looked even better.

photo (4)

Tasty…although not as tasty as their Turkish tea which I think I could live on.

After brunch there are a bunch of really lovely gift shops to explore (which was handy seeing as this visit fell just before Christmas).

DSC_4135DSC_4152

In my opinion the best part about Waiheke is the beautiful beaches. As we were limited transport wise we just visited Oneroa Beach  however my favorite would have to be the more wild Palm Beach (although be warned, there is a nude beach just a few rocks away so don’t go exploring too far without this in mind).

 

DSC_4144

See what a stunning day it turned into? I think we were a little lucky.

Arguably competing for first place with the best thing on Waiheke are the huge number of incredible vineyards with tastings and incredible views all around.

DSC_4165

On our trip we visited two, the first being the ultra modern, classy Cable Bay vineyard. The wine tasting was $10 per person for 5 wines (the price was deducted from our purchases at the end) and took place in a modern looking cellar (which I found a bit strange as the views from the outside garden area and restaurant were seriously breath taking and would make for a much nicer tasting experience in my opinion).

 

DSC_4150DSC_4156

The second vineyard we visited was the extremely popular Mudbrick which although is just down the road from CableBay is a complete polar opposite. The buildings look like they were plucked from Tuscany and dropped on a beautiful Island, hence why it is a favourite spot for wealthy Aucklanders to get hitched. Unfortunately for us Mudbrick was just closing for a marriage ceremony when we arrived (a common problem so get in there early). Despite not actually doing the tasting I would go back in a heartbeat (hopefully next time to drink some wine) due the amazing setting. No doubt it is one of the prettiest places in Auckland to visit.

DSC_4160

Seriously. Mudbrick is one stunning location.

DSC_4175

So if you are looking for a day trip or a weekend away Waiheke is a perfect spot to get away from the smoke of city and enjoy some good food and wine. Check out this website for a lot more information (most more useful than mine) on things to do and places to stay. Next time I go I think we will take a full weekend and maybe try out the archery… You can just call me Katniss from now on.

DSC_4140

Thanks as per usual to Edd for his gorgeous photos of a gorgeous island

 

 

 

Advertisements

My Big Little City: French Farmer’s Markets

Hi All!

Thank goodness it is the weekend! This week felt exhausting (not that I actually worked any harder) and Friday night (plus a cold beer) couldn’t come any sooner. The end of the week also meant it was the end of my gluten free trial fortnight (which I will be blogging about very soon). What better way to celebrate being able to eat bread than by spending most of Saturday at the local French Farmer’s Market hosted by La Cigale? Being only ten or so minutes drive away and very popular I am not sure how Edd and I have gone so long without cutting our Saturday sleep ins short to eat French food and spend money but nevertheless now that we have gone along I see it becoming a regular occurrence (especially as the weather gets more and more stunning, sorry sleep ins).

DSC_3914

Held in the back area of Parnell I was a little bit (okay, a lot) worried about parking, especially because the thought of parallel parking sends me into a minor panic. Luckily there was a large, non-parallel, parking area where despite being busy and at peak time we found a park in a matter of minutes. The market itself is rather huge with a variety of stalls. There is a big area devoted to fresh produce and the fruit and vegetables looked both affordable and appealing). As well as all the outdoor stalls the La Cigale restaurant area that is open during the week is also thriving with a lot of delicious pastries, a cafe and enough delicious food to make brunch a pretty tough decision.

DSC_3895DSC_3889

For us we ended up going with the roast pork roll from the inside carvery recommended by a friend which looked amazing! The deliciously moist pork came in a beautiful fresh toasted bun with aioli, dijon mustard, plenty of watercress and some tomato along with a fruity chutney that rounded the whole thing off. Perhaps the best part about this meal was the piece of crackling that was nothing less than perfection (okay, so I kind of am obsessed with perfect crackling). For $10 this was a generous meal that we both agreed was pretty amazing.

DSC_3905

I salivate all over my keyboard just looking at this

DSC_3901

As well as actually paying for food perhaps my favourite part of markets is all of the samples….and there are plenty! I don’t think I have seen so many different hummus/aioli flavour combinations in one place at once. Amonst the plethora of different stalls to visit there were take home deserts, Mediterranean dried fruits and nuts, chorizo and salami stalls, a whole store full of french wine, fresh fruit tarts, french cheese, well made coffee (albeit there was a bit of a  wait) and of course plenty of heavenly gluten filled bread (oh and there was even a tea stall!).

DSC_3886 DSC_3899 DSC_3906DSC_3900

After lunch we were tossing up whether to have the fresh crepes or the fresh fruit ice creams for desert and although I was keen to pretend I was french for the morning the gorgeous weather insisted a freshly made ice cream was in order, and who am I to disagree? I had boysenberry and Edd and strawberry and they were huge and divine. We also ended up taking home some treats to have a nice easy dinner tonight. After much deliberation whilst sampling every food possible we finally decided on some delicious chorizo sausages, a feta and pesto style dip as well as some fresh bread and a strawberry tart for dessert. Yum.

DSC_3909

Could not resist bringing one of these home with us…

DSC_3916

So if you find yourself with nothing to do on a Saturday or a Sunday or if you have a dinner party and want some food inspiration then take a drive to La Cigale where the market is held. It is held between 8am-1.30pm Saturday or 9am-1.30pm Sunday at 69 St Georges Bay Rd, Parnell, Auckland. I can’t see myself staying away for long….

DSC_3907

Also, if any one is wondering how it compares to the other popular farmer’s market out at Clevedon which I blogged about here then here are some of my thoughts:

  • The French market is bigger with a lot more produce and stalls as well as a wine shop, proper cafe and a couple other stores. Clevedon markets by contrast had only 1 dip stall (versus like 3 at La Cigales) so there isn’t quite so much variety. I also like the fact that the French market is held on both days of the weekend whilst Clevedon is a Sunday event only.
  • Obviously the French market being in Parnell is a lot more central and despite my reservations still is fine to find parking at. By contrast the Clevedon market is a bit of a drive (albeit a beautiful drive) but being held outside of Auckland in Clevedon it makes for a rather nice escape from the bustle of the city.
  • For kids I would recommend the Clevedon markets just because it is a little less crowded and there is the famous pony ride. At the french market there aren’t any kid related activities (other than keeping them occupied with samples and with patting the variety of friendly dogs that seem to come along). On a side note the live music at the Clevedon market made for an amazing atmosphere that was a little lacking at the French market.
  • Lunch wise both have delicious options but the Cafe at La Cigale is a good option for a proper sit down, big breakfast type of feed. Both were reasonably priced with slightly more seating available at the French market with the large indoor tables versus the couple of hay bales at Clevedon that were always occupied :(.

DSC_3908

Overall I would visit both again but due to its proximity and the larger amount of food and produce present I see the French Farmer’s market becoming a regular addition to a weekend whilst Clevedon may remain a bit more of a special trip out every once in a while.

Any other markets I should be making part of my weekend?

Xx

p.s A very special thanks to my husband for taking most of the amazing photos!

My Big Little City: Diwali 2013

Hi All!

Happy Monday! I did not start Monday well with a few unfortunate events all occurring before 8am indicating a terrible start to the week but overall the day wasn’t too bad, at least not as bad as I was expecting! Apologies for a lack of blog posts last week, I was away from the city (and my internet) for Thursday and Friday last  week which was actually kind of lovely, for a health and safety course of all things. I got two days off the phones at work and instead spent time outside in the sunshine and also with my lovely family who happened to be down where the course was. Bliss. Needless to say I know where I would rather be right now.

Anyway, today I thought I would share a few photos from our Sunday trip with my two little brothers to Auckland’s Diwali festival in the city. I don’t know a lot about Diwali except that it is an Indian religious festival of lights that brings life to Queen street and Aotea Square and is well worth the crowds, especially on a gorgeous Spring weekend. I will let the photos do the talking 🙂 Definitely try it out next year, its free to go and enjoy all the amazing shows and the food is very decently priced (and there is every option available…without meat). I would go again if only to sit in the sun in Aotea square and just enjoy the lively ambiance.

DSC_3395

DSC_3339

A face painting station gave me a chance to prove how terrible I am at face painting, luckily Mr 5 was convinced by my “Warrior” face paint and wore it proudly through the day!

DSC_3376DSC_3382 DSC_3325 DSC_3328

DSC_3379

Gorgeous trinkets galore

DSC_3352

The food is one of my favourite things about the Auckland Diwali festival. Mainly because it is all delicious vegetarian dishes and there is more of it than I have ever seen in one spot before. Be ready to face the crowds for some cheap but amazing lunch in the sun. The kettle corn featured below was one of the only stalls that didn’t seem quite cohesive but made for a delicious afternoon tea sitting on the grass in Aotea Square.DSC_3363 DSC_3369

DSC_3391

This guy posing for Edd’s camera may have been the best thing in the whole festival.

DSC_3401

Thanks to Edd for most of these photos! I was too busy eating and enjoying it haha.

Xx

 

 

 

My Big Little City: Barilla

So this Dumpling restaurant hidden under ugly bright green decor and a pretty plain sign is no secret from the Auckland hipster scene and I just could not help but feel slightly interested in what this Dumpling restaurant had that the 99 other dumpling establishments (on the same road) didn’t. I am not really a big dumpling fan personally, especially being allergic to seafood and finding hidden prawns minced up in all the “veggie” dumplings I try. However, one day last week Edd and I went with 5 friends from work out to test out the dumplings and judge it for ourselves.20130930-194128.jpg

The service was lackluster which is kind of part of the charm of this no frills, no nonsense dumpling paradise. Don’t bother asking for a fork or expecting everything to come at the same time with a smile because odds are it won’t. I wasn’t too fussed as I knew this going in and was just looking for a decent feed and a good night with friends. Well both of those expectations were met and exceeded.

So I guess I should discuss the food. Dumpling wise we chose the lamb and chilli, chicken with mushroom and spring onion and beef with …. maybe capsicum? I would like to try the Pork and Chives which I heard lots of good things about but this time around we were accommodating for my intolerance of seafood and someone else’s non-pork preference. The dumplings are approx $12 for 20 and you choose them to be either fried, steamed or boiled. We tried one with each method to test it out and figure out what we preferred. The dumplings were nothing short of delicious. The fillings were tasty and fresh and the dumpling pastry was light and perfectly cooked. My favourite method was having them steamed with the fried dumplings next on the ladder. The boiled were my least favourite and I would skip that next time.

Aside from the dumplings there is a big menu of stir-fries and side dishes. The advice I had heard was to pretty much ignore everything except the dumplings and the fried french beans. We (stupidly?) decided to get a dish of fried rice which was very generous and was a nice little way to soak up the juices but in all reality was a very average fried rice. It kind of seemed like just boiled rice with some frozen veggies stirred through. Very average but if you need some carbs it does the job.

The french beans on the other hand were a whole other story. On the menu they sound a bit strange (Fried french beans with seasoned salt) but once at the table these were a definite crowd pleaser and my favourite thing from the whole night. The beans were fried in a crispy light batter (similar to tempura) and sprinkled with the most delicious “seasoned salt” I have ever tasted, Salty, spicy and full of amazing flavour I could have taken a whole plate of these home for desert.
20130930-194143.jpg All in all we each paid $10 each for our delicious meal and yet were very full and extremely satisfied. The only change I would make to Barilla would be to make it BYO because the lack of alcoholic options was dissapointing for some (personally the endless tea did the job quite fine for me!). Would I go back? In a heartbeat. Delicious and yet affordable and a great option for a big group of people who want an affordable night out. We are already planning our next trip.

Go try Barilla out! Its situated at 571 Dominion Road, Balmoral (close to St Lukes and to Mt Eden) and is open 11.30am-12am so perfect for a family lunch in the holidays or a dinner with a big group of friends. And don’t be put off by a D rating that they became a little infamous for, they now sit pretty at an A to the delight of many Aucklanders (hipsters and average Joes like me included!).

p.s. Please excuse the very average iphone photos. I would feel like a bit of a weirdo with our heavy duty Nikon out at the dinner table and was a little too distracted by deliciousness to take good photos. You really have to try it anyway, photos can’t do justice.