Auckland Days Out: Otara Market and the Botanic Gardens

2nd October, 2013

It’s been like April every day lately (UK April, that is). A bad case of meteorological bi-polar.

I’ve been warned that this is often the nature of this city-by-the-sea. “Four seasons in a day” etc etc.

But Saturday’s forecast promised sun, so a trip was suggested. By me. My fault.

Thirty seconds out of the car, as we walked towards the cluster of gazebos and stalls that make up South Auckland’s Otara market, guess what happened?

Good to know, though, that sod’s law still applies in the Southern Hemisphere. If I hadn’t brought my sunglasses, it wouldn’t have bucketed down JUST as we walked across an expanse of open ground. Equally, we might just have been within reach of shelter, had we not spent 15 minutes wrestling – I’m not exaggerating – WRESTLING with our new baby carrier which appears to have been designed by a sado-masochist, with a handbook co-written by the Enigma machine.

But, as it was, our outing began with running for cover to the sound of narky grunts from my husband…who’d forgotten his raincoat.

We shouldn’t have worried. Within about five minutes the sun was beating down again and the reggae beats from the market felt fitting once more. The baby fell asleep in the carrier and we strolled out amongst the stalls – peace restored.

Fruit and veg at Otara market

Fruit and veg at Otara market

Otara market has a diverse make-up. Much of Auckland’s Polynesian and Māori community is based in the south of the city, though Auckland’s swelling Chinese population is out in force at the market too. And the ethnically rich mix doesn’t stop there – as evidenced by the food on offer. Vendors offer everything from German Wiener sausages to Spanish churros (though I think they were Portugese…the vendors, not the doughnuts). There are stalls too, selling Maori hangi and fry bread and one stand offering delicious-sounding mussel or whitebait fritters. I’m not sure where the fritters hail from but they looked and smelt tasty.

T-shirts, cds, greenstone carvings, an entire stall of knitted items…it was eclectic at times. But taking home two tomato plants (though they could be marijuana plants for all our expertise in this area), a 7 dollar vase and a vast collection of bargain fruit and veg – we were more than happy. And as hubby dashed back to fetch some flowers for our new vase, I sat in the boot of the car nursing a coffee and soaking up the sun.

Happiness = coffee+churros+sunshine+sleepingbaby

Happiness = coffee+churros+sunshine+sleepingbaby

I love a market at the best of times. And I am sure that as the warmer weather arrives, the range and number of stalls will expand further. We will certainly be back.

But churros (crisp cinnamonny, chocolate-drizzled and fluffy inside – drool) and a coffee inside us, we boldly decided to tempt the weather to punish us further. Time for another outdoor excursion: Auckland Botanic Gardens.

It was only another 10 minutes down SH1. It would’ve been rude not to.

And the gods repaid us with (fanfare please): Chinese people having their wedding photos done. Right up there with markets as one of my favourite things.

The Botanic Gardens in Auckland is a bit of a wedding photographer’s wet dream. Artistically placed bridges nestle among softly-planted shrubs, over reflective waters; the cherry blossom was out in a sea of frothy pink. I won’t go on. If you aren’t romantically inclined, you’ll already be feeling like you’re watching a Disney love scene…by candlelight…in a gondola.

Ioan soaks up the romantic atmosphere

Ioan soaks up the romantic atmosphere

But it is a large and beautiful site, full of interesting corners, whether you are going for wedding pictures or a walk. I loved the magnolia and camellia collections and the area dedicated to threatened native species. I’ll be back for a dose of roses in the summer.

I left my sunglasses in the car and, thus, the sun flirted with the idea of sticking around. I got warm enough to take my coat off, whereupon the wind decided to blow in some rain. My fault. Again.

Blossom heaven

Blossom heaven

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