Sudeepta Vyas, who works in HR at the Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind tells Elisabeth Easther why Blockhouse Bay was her family's first choice of Auckland's suburb.

I've lived in Blockhouse Bay since the day I stepped into this country, in 2001, and the first thing we noticed was how quiet it was. We'd already decided that's where we'd live and, after two days, we said "we love it here". We went to the school, enrolled the kids, and we went to Foodtown, as it was then, and we were ready for a new life.

Our kids were 2 and 7 at the time and, that first day, we went to the Terry St Park, which was near us. It has swings and slides and, we discovered, just beyond, there was a little bush area, and a bridge and a culvert and these beautiful green colours. We got so excited we went home, got our camera, took some pictures and sent them back home. And the pictures were so beautiful, our friends thought we'd already been on a holiday.

On a perfect Saturday I'd head to Icoco, the cafe in the little village opposite the library on Blockhouse Bay Rd. Books and coffee make a great combination. We'll pick up a coffee or have brunch, they have lovely food. The theatre group I'm part of, Prayas, often has meetings there. You need coffee to make all the brain cells function, so Icoco is an important part of our process.

I do most of my groceries at the Blockhouse Bay Countdown. It's small and compact and it has everything I need, not like those huge supermarkets where you get lost. Jimmy, who looks after the fruit and vegetables, he always has a smile and tells you which things are best, which pineapple will be the sweetest, that sort of thing. In 30 minutes I can finish the whole shopping, and I'm out of there. One of my favourite shops is the Mercy Hospice Op Shop. They have the best pottery as well as clothes and shoes, and books for 50 cents or a dollar. I get all my birthday presents there. My husband jokes that our 13-year-old should get a loyalty card.


On Saturdays from nine till one there's the Village Market at the Blockhouse Bay Community Centre. I found some lovely silver forks and spoons recently, and some copper pots. And the last couple of years there's been a farmers market on the last Saturday of the month; the salmon is beautiful, and the baklava delicious.

We love the takeaways from the fish and chip shop on Blockhouse Bay Rd. Even if you go at nine or ten at night, the fish is like it's just out of the sea. They grill it for you if you're feeling healthy, and for the last 11 years the standard hasn't dropped. They never need to advertise and they are so busy, every night of the week.

We had a lot of fish 'n' chips when we first got here, it was our weekend treat, the kids loved it. We came from a fish-eating community in Bombay, although one of the girls didn't like fish, yet she started enjoying it when she tried theirs.

Blockhouse Bay has a strong Indian community, and there is a good set of shops on Blockhouse Bay Rd, down the Avondale end. There's also a fantastic tennis club where my husband plays. He's a very keen sportsman; back home he played table tennis for India. He went to the tennis club here and changed his game and now he's a tennis fiend. It's a world class facility, where you can play rain or shine, as it has indoor and outdoor courts.

There are some lovely walks too. If you go from the library you can drop down towards the beach, where there are steps going into a cove. There's a lovely walk along the beach, you can walk all the way to Craig Avon Park, it's like being in the bush and there's a free-run park for dogs. I volunteer to board RNZFB guide dogs when their owners are away, and I take them there for a play. When I don't have a guide dog I go and ogle other people's dogs.

It has a strong sense of family, lovely schools and we've always had good neighbours. It's a very accepting community, and we immediately felt welcomed. Blockhouse Bay played a big role in our settling down in New Zealand.

Sudeepta's Picks
* Icoco cafe. 569 Blockhouse Bay Rd. Ph: 627 4119, This cafe has won awards and with good reason too.

* Blockhouse Bay Fisheries. 556 Blockhouse Bay Rd. Ph: 627 9472. Always busy, always fresh.

* Mercy Hospice Op Shop. 560 Blockhouse Bay Rd, Blockhouse Bay. Ph: 627 0128. Bargains galore for the quick and the sharp of eye.

* Blockhouse Bay Village Market, Blockhouse Bay Rd. Last Saturday of each month, 9am-1pm. Like a Farmer's Market with untold extras.

Sudeepta is a member of the Prayas Culture Group whose production, Rudali - the Mourner, opens at The Auckland Performing Arts Centre, Western Springs, from May 18 to 27.