Thursday 14 December 2017

Discovering my city with Aucky Walky - review

Sigh. More than once in this blog, and elsewhere, I've commented in a recognisably superior manner about how Americans will frequently, guilelessly and with open delight and no embarrassment whatsoever, exclaim, "I did not know that!" on learning some interesting titbit ("tidbit"). Usually, it's something you (I) think they should already know (most recent example: the woman heading off to Mauritius who had never heard of the dodo) - but even if it's relatively arcane information, the correct (English) reaction is not to show surprise. After all, as you're hearing it, you know it, don't you? 

But today I spent a couple of hours with Liz of Aucky Walky doing exactly that: repeatedly making, in pleased tones, comments along the lines of "Really? How interesting! Fancy that! I didn't know that!" - as well as, to my certain shame, "Oh! I've never been along this arcade/into this park/ past this building before". That is, of course, the point of city walks, and it would be a poor guide (so, not Liz then) who didn't try to reveal new/old things to residents as well as visitors. 

So, things I discovered about Auckland today: a dessert restaurant serving dishes that look like (incr)edible works of art; why one of the lightwells over Britomart is different from the others; that the city's former cliffs are now underfoot as reclaimed land; that Maori brought rats to New Zealand deliberately, in the "starter kits" packed into their waka; that it was their women who were best at navigation through the vast Pacific Ocean; Marbeck's Records in Queen's Arcade has been there since 1929; Imperial Lane runs through the site of Auckland's first cinema; the city had its own Great Fire in 1858; that Vulcan Lane once glowed in the firelight of blacksmiths' forges; that the Metropolis apartment building used to be the High Court.
I saw a brilliant private art work that I want to go and see again (and attempt to sneakily photograph); walked through a lovely green park in a valley just metres from Queen Street where I'd never set foot before; had street art and buildings pointed out to me that I'd never noticed; heard the reasons for why things are as they are; and began to accept that, actually, Auckland has much more to offer visitors (and residents) than just a pretty face on a sunny day.

There were history and geology, culture and nature, restaurants and shopping, gossip and opinion, all well-researched and interesting, and delivered with enthusiasm. We walked along city streets and through parks and arcades, stopped frequently, had a bus ride, and finished up at Aotea Square less than a kilometre from our starting point at the bottom of Queen Street. It was excellent. And, if you're thinking, "Well, I could do the same for nothing with Free Walking Tours" - just consider that Liz takes a maximum of 10 people, so it's much more intimate and personal than a Free Walks experience: their groups are so big that the poor guide has to shout at them and I bet they don't get many questions answered. And since they're upfront about expecting a tip, it's actually not free at all. So do yourself a favour, and go with Liz. She has chocolate!

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