AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND

Full disclosure: I kind of hated Auckland when I first arrived. Downtown Auckland seemed like a gray hodge podge of bad architecture. The hostels were rough. Nothing was charming and everything was expensive. I still haven't done the liters to gallons calculation for the price of gas to provide a helpful comparison, but know that a burrito costs $16 and that's just obscene.

After a week in rainy Auckland, I caught a ferry to the island of Waiheke which proved to be a little slice of Hawaiian-y heaven, then escaped to lovely Te Puna with my friend Amanda. Soon after that, I was off on the road trip with Sandy all over New Zealand. Returning from that, I knew I loved New Zealand but still wasn't entirely sure about the city of Auckland. 

 Aotearoa = Maori word for "New Zealand". Literally meaning, "land of the long white cloud" because of the shape of the 2 islands. Bit of a mixed message from this graffiti... 

Aotearoa = Maori word for "New Zealand". Literally meaning, "land of the long white cloud" because of the shape of the 2 islands. Bit of a mixed message from this graffiti... 

During the road trip, I lined up interviews at an Auckland production company for a contract Content Director gig. Turns out LinkedIn is actually useful and from posting that I was looking for production work in NZ, I found myself on a Skype interview at the beach while still living out of a van. Long story short, I later got the job and decided to stick around Auckland for at least a few months... 

...and I'm happy I did, because while my fondness for Auckland has been more of a slow burn than love at first sight -- it's truly won me over. I still maintain that despite it's killer sunglass deals, downtown Queen Street is a place where dreams go to die...but the further you go out from the the center of the city, the lovelier Auckland is. 

 Silo Park

Silo Park

 Good One Cafe in Ponsonby

Good One Cafe in Ponsonby

 Shaky Isles cafe in Britomart

Shaky Isles cafe in Britomart

Part of the reason Auckland lacks a certain feel is because it's a very young city. While the U.S.A. is like a teenager compared to the history of some European countries, New Zealand is even younger. It didn't become a British colony until 1840 and most of it's culture is derived from it's Maori roots and early British settlers and now (more and more with immigration) from India and Asia. NZ is a bit like a tween, still growing and figuring out it's cultural identity. They're actually voting on changing the flag at the moment too. 

The ever expanding city of Auckland may not have a super distinct culture quite yet but MY favorite part is the cafe culture. Massive chain cafes aren't as common, so each cafe is thoughtfully designed, has delicious espresso and creative, fresh menus. My favorites include:

Good One: looks like Wes Anderson did the interior decorating.

William Souter Espresso: Best Muesli in Auckland (and I've become a bit of a Muesli aficionado/addict). Muesli = sort of healthier granola. Many long and lingering Saturday brunches have been had here. 

Shaky Isles: cute cartoons on the wall and REAL good pastries and cappuccinos. 

 Food trucks are also alive and well in Auckland, especially at Silo Park on Friday nights where they project outdoor movies. 

Food trucks are also alive and well in Auckland, especially at Silo Park on Friday nights where they project outdoor movies. 

 175th Anniversary of Auckland was this year. And the celebrations haven't stopped since January. 

175th Anniversary of Auckland was this year. And the celebrations haven't stopped since January. 

 Cute shops and boutiques line K-Road and Ponsonby Road. 

Cute shops and boutiques line K-Road and Ponsonby Road. 

 Auckland Art Gallery.

Auckland Art Gallery.

It was only a matter of time before I found the pretty neighborhoods, summer weather kicked in and I made enough money to afford the burritos. Auckland's also proved to be wonderful because while it's a concrete jungle of a city, 30-60 minutes outside of it you'll find rugged beaches, waterfalls, volcanoes, tropical islands and rural green countryside. Waiheke, Rangitoto (a volcanic island) and Devonport (a historic village by the sea) are must-visits which I keep going back to. 

 Kite surfers in Devonport.

Kite surfers in Devonport.

 Rangitoto (volcanic island) off in the distance.

Rangitoto (volcanic island) off in the distance.

 Waiheke, where apparently Wu Tang represent. 

Waiheke, where apparently Wu Tang represent. 

 Vineyards in Waiheke. 

Vineyards in Waiheke. 

Kiwi's tend to use the phase "she'll be right mate" as slang to explain "whatever is wrong shall right itself with time" and Auckland has done just that for me in the past 5 months of living here. This big city in a small corner of the world has been quite a pleasure to reside in.