The last Sunday of the month is market day in Titirangi - the perfect time to go for a walk and finish up at Lopdell House. Where else can you get home-smoked salmon that tastes just the way grandpa used to make it? Also, where else do you find quite so many hills to climb, beaches to draw breath beside or bush walks to meander through, all in the space of two hours?
Arriving close to 8am, the carpark behind the village toilets is empty. So we park there, climb the steps to Titirangi Rd and head back through the sleepy village to the roundabout where we turn right down Park Rd. After a few minutes we turn left to Otitori Bay Rd and from here on to Opou Rd.
About 15 minutes downhill we come to the miniature park and lookout point that is Opou Reserve. This is the first spot on today's walk where we glimpse the harbour. Five minutes of communing with nature and on we go down the steps that lead from the reserve on the left to connect with the very end of Otitori Bay Rd.
A minute later we're at French Bay, empty except for a couple of shags diving for breakfast. One of us knows someone who attended a wedding party at the French Bay Yacht Club Hall, and I vow that's where I'd have one if I were planning such a thing.
It looks magical, with nothing but the harbour in front and the bush behind.
Up some steps and then a sloping pathway gets us to Miha Rd, then Tanekaha. A short distance along on the right is Aydon Walk, a pretty pathway to Titirangi Beach. At the water's edge once again, all is utterly tranquil, with just birdsong and the gentle lapping of small waves to break the silence.
We turn back up Titirangi Beach Rd and all around us are the sights and sounds that this area is known for: cute wooden houses peep out from the bush, tui call with noisy gusto and a plump kereru makes a clown of itself as it lurches towards a handy telephone pole. From now on it is uphill all the way, and I know my legs will be telling me all about it when we reach the top.
But keeping me happy is the Zig Zag Track, which leads off to the left a few hundred metres up the hill. Sure it's steep, but it takes you through some of the most unspoiled bush still to be found within the city boundaries. After rain there's even a mini waterfall and a couple of seats allow you to rest and muse over the misty valley below.
Just when I don't feel like I can climb any more we're out and crossing Park Rd opposite the last bit of bush below the market. The thought of smoked salmon draws me on and, eureka, we're out in the open and at the foot of the stairs to the carpark where the market is held.
There are lots of handcrafts on offer. I buy myself a sun hat, find the smoked salmon stall and head for coffee at Lopdell House Cafe.
* Titirangi Market: War Memorial Hall carpark, last Sunday of every month, 10am-2pm.
* French Bay Yacht Club: Hall hire ph (09) 817 7609; sailing enquiries ph 021 664 294.
* Lopdell House Gallery and Cafe: Cnr Titirangi and South Titirangi roads, ph (09) 817 8017, open daily 10am-4.30pm, except public holidays.
* Colin McCahon House: 67 Otitori Bay Rd, ph (09) 817 6148, open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 10am-2pm, donation $5 an adult.By Cate Foster