Scooting, bussing and walking, Michelle Langstone falls for Auckland's galleries, museums and pools
What a marvel is Tāmaki Makaurau in the summer holidays. The busy streets and hustle give way to laid-back languor and unhurried days. The city, evacuated for holiday baches and half-empty, is my kind of city — quieter, more accessible. In the interests of health, and trying to be mindful of how much we use our cars, my husband and I set out for a day of culture and sunshine by way of public transport, and electric scooters.
The plan was to bus from Mt Eden to the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and take in the Toi Tū Toi Ora exhibition, jump on e-scooters and head over to the domain, arriving at the second of Auckland's most glorious buildings, the Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira. From there we'd move on foot to the Parnell Baths for a swim and then catch the bus home again, thoroughly Saturday-d.
It was a triumph from the moment we left the house. The bus, a new double-decker, arrived on time, there were seats up top, and everyone was wearing a mask. Cruising up Mt Eden Rd with views across the houses and into gardens was a pleasure, and it reminded me how much I love catching buses.
Toi o Tāmaki is my favourite building in Tāmaki Makaurau; light-filled and clever, the ceilings always remind me of forest canopies. I could wander around admiring the space for hours, but Toi Tū Toi Ora took my breath away. Much has been said about the comprehensive exhibition of contemporary Māori art so I won't bang on, except to say: please go. It's an embarrassment of riches and I was dazzled by room after room of miraculous work. Any day you get to see Michael Parekōwhai's sculptures close up and gigantic is a good day in my books, and the same goes for Lisa Reihana, whose towering video piece Ihi can be viewed from two floors.
Peter Robinson's Boy Am I Scared Eh!, probably my favourite piece of contemporary New Zealand art, was there in its glory too. And that's just three of our brilliant indigenous artists— I will go back very soon for a second pass at all that beauty because after two hours we were sensorially-saturated and starving and I'd remembered the cheese scones in the gallery cafe are a revelation, so we had to go and have one.
Emerging in good cheer, we jumped on Beam scooters just outside the gallery. I'd never used an e-scooter before and was slightly nervous because I'm so clumsy, I've been known to fall off chairs from a stationary position. I needn't have worried, the Beams are sturdy, functional, and easy to use.
Within minutes I was hooning past those marvellous old trees in Albert Park, grinning like a maniac with the fun of it all. The steeper domain tracks were no match for the scooters, and we emerged by the duck ponds in good time, ditching our rides for a stroll through the Wintergardens, one of my favourite places in the city. The greenhouses are always bursting with flowers, and for a Saturday, it was remarkably quiet.
The same cannot be said for the museum, where it seemed as if every family who didn't go away for holidays was lining up for the Lego exhibition. I love the museum. I love walking around the permanent exhibits because I always find something new, and this time the Māori galleries echoed back to us the history and art we had seen earlier in the day.
It's only about a 20-minute stroll from the museum to the Parnell Baths, and though still giddy with the newfound pleasure of e-scooters, we decided to walk, and get sweaty, so that a plunge in the pools would revive us. It was a great plan, and the baths, though busy, were mostly teeming with families in the paddling area, leaving the deep end of the pool clear. I've always loved swimming in the baths while the trains rumble past — it's something about the contrast between leisure and industry that makes me happy. Cooled off, we scoffed ice blocks in the shade, watching kids romping through the shallows. It never feels like a proper summer holiday without a trip to the Baths.
On the way home we tried Lime scooters, which needed a bit of help heading up Judges Bay Rd, but were otherwise equally as good as the Beams. Cruising along the traffic-free streets of Parnell and Newmarket, I felt my cheeks ache from smiling. What a way to get around. We jumped on a bus for the last leg home, and when we unlocked our front door I was a little bit more in love with the city than I had been before I'd left for our day out.
Toi Tū Toi Ora at Auckland art Gallery
Brickman: Epic Lego creations at Auckland Museum