1. Whittaker's Chocolate
If you’re at all familiar with our blog, then the fact that chocolate made it on to the list will come as no surprise. The folks at Whittaker’s have been making chocolate since 1896. But they do point out that chocolate has been around a lot longer.
“Nowhere in the Bible does it specifically suggest an exact date that God created chocolate, but if you were a betting person you’d go Day One. Quite early. Probably not long after breakfast in fact.”
The Dark Ghana is my favorite. It is 72% cocoa from Ghana with just enough sugar from Costa Rica to make you go “yum”. Because it is dark chocolate, theoretically you only need a few squares. Theory doesn’t always match my reality. It is even better if you melt in the microwave and eat it with a spoon. Get the big block – they’re designed to share. But don’t. Keep it to yourself.
2. Pohutukawa Trees
A bit cliche, I know. But they're cool. They're known as the Kiwi Christmas tree because they get these amazing red flowers in the summer. And when you think of New Zealand, this is one of those things you think of. And one of the things I'll miss.
3. The Libraries
I like libraries because they remind me of my sister. As part of my downsizing, I got rid of most of my books and as a result spend a lot more time in the Central Auckland library. I think you get a feel for a city by hanging out in the library and people watching. I also like checking out a random selection of books from whatever is on the "recommended by the librarians" shelf. Sometimes they have good taste, other times I wonder what they were thinking. But I always learn something new. And it is free. Except if you don't return your books on time. My sister and I might know something about this.
The picture above is probably my favorite library in Auckland - the Waterfront Container Library in the Wynyard Quarter. It is literally an old shipping container that they've turned into great place to borrow books, swap books or donate books for others to enjoy. It was started with just $65, some books gifted by the Auckland Libraries, some plants from the Auckland Council and donated furniture. Maybe this is the kind of place that Jorge Luis Borges was thinking about.
"I have always imagined that Paradise will be like a kind of library."
4. Blokes in Shorts and Gumboots
Kiwi blokes pride themselves in being able to make anything, fix anything and do anything with just a piece of number 8 wire. When I think about the number 8 wire mentality, I always think of guys in shorts and gumboots. Practical, no nonsense and could care less what they look like and what you think of them. Self-sufficiency is big part of the Kiwi DNA. You might not have to be self-sufficient in the big cities and you certainly don't see a lot of guys walking around in shorts and gumboots in Auckland, but it seems like there is still a deep seated belief that Kiwis can do anything they turn their hands and minds to. So no real surprise that Kiwis punch above their weight in so many areas. Maybe that's what Eric Sharp was alluding to when he was talking about the 1995 America's Cup. (We'll pretend that 2013 never happened.)
"The United States invented the space shuttle, the atomic bomb and Disneyland. We have 35 times more land than New Zealand, 80 times the population, 144 times the gross national product and 220 times as many people in jail. Many of our big cities have more kilometres of freeway than all of New Zealand, our 10 biggest metropolises each have more people than all of New Zealand, and metropolitan Detroit has more cars on the road than all of New Zealand. So how come a superpower of 270 million got routed in the America's Cup, the world's most technically oriented yacht race, by a country of 3.5 million that outproduces us only in sheep manure?"
Despite what people may tell you, the moa is alive and well in New Zealand. The photo above should be proof enough. This amazing flightless bird can be up to 12m tall and weigh 230kg. That's a big bird. Not to be confused with Big Bird. Although Big Bird and the moas do have a lot in common. They're both friendly and good with children. You can tell them apart by the color of their feathers - Big Bird has a rather flashy yellow coloring so that everyone notices him, while the moas have a bit more of a subdued plumage as they don't like to draw attention to themselves. Which is why you don't see them very often.
If you would like more information about how to join the Moa Preservation Society, click here. They're a great organization dedicated to making the world a better place for moas. And keeping them from being turned into beer.
From time to time, I remember that living in Auckland means you're living in the middle of a volcanic field. There are 53 volcanoes dotted about - all of them dormant. Or so they say. The last eruption was around 600 years ago on Rangitoto Island. You can see the volcanoes all around you. Go for a walk through the city and before long you have to climb over one to get to the other side. Go for a sail in the Hauraki Gulf and look at all the volcanoes sticking out of the water. They call them islands. It's pretty neat to live in a city chock full of volcanoes - as long as they keep to themselves.
7. Four Square Markets
The Four Square is a chain of grocery stores that you usually find in smaller towns in New Zealand. You'll find the iconic Mr. Four Square image on a whole range of Kiwiana souvenirs from tea towels to coffee mugs. You might call it kitsch, I call it fun. When you go into a Four Square market, you feel like you're stepping back in time. They're often tiny, with narrow little aisles jam packed with all of the basics. The choice is more limited. Which isn't always a bad thing - how many varieties of tinned tomatoes do we really need? Everyone always seems to know each other in these stores. It's very sweet and a good reminder that there is far more to New Zealand than the big cities.
And of course, no list would be complete without a mention of sailing. I signed up for this little adventure of ours for the opportunity to explore the world by water. We've been lucky enough to do a bit of traveling before, but usually by the more conventional means of transport like planes, trains, buses, cars and the occasional camel. But I have to say, seeing the world from a boat takes the cake. It gives you a really unique perspective on a country and its people. I got to see some amazing places in New Zealand, places I probably wouldn't have gotten to without a boat - like Great Mercury Island, Browns Island, the Cavalli Islands and Whangamumu, just to name a few. They say New Zealand has some of the best cruising grounds in the world and I can think of no better country to explore by boat.
"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends." Maya Angelou
Want to know more about New Zealand?
Check out our travel adventures in New Zealand on this page.
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