Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Big Birthday Holiday - Part One

Guest post by Tony Underhill

Hard to believe it’s two years since our ‘big birthday’ holiday in New Zealand.  But Murray’s kind offer to post a guest post has been proof once again that on site sketches bring back more memories than a photo ever could.

The Painted Ladies, Alamo Square – a much better memory than a photo
Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park – shame about the weather

First stop from the UK was San Francisco and the chance to see the wonderful ‘Painted Ladies’ in Alamo Square (Victorian houses that is, not tattooed girls). Passers-by seemed fascinated to see someone sketching them – so much so that I was videoed from start to finish.

Next stop Auckland, a change of plane and on to Bay of Islands for our first experience of the Land of The Long White
Cloud. Kerikeri Airport might not have been as grand as the ‘Painted Ladies’ but it was crying out to be sketched just as
much as they were.

Kerikeri Airport – one door in, one door out

Part of our plan was to resist the temptation to see everything at the risk of remembering nothing. So in the Bay of Islands we concentrated on Matauri Bay (empty and beautiful), Whangaroa (misty but still picturesque), Kerikeri and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (so much history and a great introduction to Maori culture) and the ferry across to Russell (a really enjoyable day out and a top place to explore and sketch).

Matauri Bay – stunningly beautiful
Rahui Post and Waka Tete – my introduction to Maori culture
Old Customs House, Russell – the Moreton Bay fig dates back to the 1870s

Then a car day via Waipu (and its Scottish heritage) to Auckland, arriving at what the locals call ‘rush hour’… a doddle compared with London! Straight down to the harbour to get our bearings and order beers at a bar with a great sketching view… immediately blocked by after work drinkers.  Ever the urban sketcher (or just too lazy to move) I drew what was in front of me. And yes, her hair really was blue.

After Work Drinks, Auckland – urban sketching or just lazy?

What a great city Auckland is. Water, boats, bars and restaurants, the art gallery and some nice architecture too. Sketch possibilities everywhere but so many other things to do too. Good to meet up again with my Kiwi friend Jackie (an ex work colleague in London) who not only introduced us to Mission Bay but paid for lunch too! Looked in on Sky City Casino in the evening… each to their own I guess.

Ready To Sail, Auckland Harbour – and then it did!

Auckland Town Hall From Aotea Square

Then down to Taupo in the car via Whakarewarewa, a Maori village with geysers, mud pools and a cultural show. Very informative and very enjoyable. Arrived in Taupo just in time to join our B&B hosts at their Saturday night Country and Western concert. Laura Collins and the Back Porch Gang this time (from Wellington I think). Great to be asked, great music, great people and great fun too. 

No sketches to include from Taupo - too busy walking and sightseeing. Huka Falls (so much water moving so quickly), bungy jumping (watching not participating!), Lake Taupo (huge) and Tongariro National Park (lovely views and a walk around Lake Rotopounamu – felt like we had the whole place to ourselves).

Lake Rotopounamu – like I said, no sketches

Parliament Building, Wellington (aka ‘The Beehive’) – the new …

Lots of excitement and mini rugby players at Taupo airport next morning. Four All Blacks got off the plane we were catching to Wellington. Don’t know how they folded themselves up small enough to fit in! Memorable views on the way down, especially flying into Wellington. Met up with Murray (not Dewhurst), another Kiwi ex work colleague, who drove us up to Victoria Lookout for a panoramic view over the city – a perfect start. The only downside (and bitter sweet) was having to admit that New Zealand probably was ‘God’s own country’ just as he’d always told me it was!

Parliamentary Library, Wellington – … and the old
Tinakori Road – one of Wellington’s very own ‘Painted Ladies’

We agreed on some respective ‘me time’ in the afternoon and I chanced on a park bench with a view of both the Parliament Building (aka ‘The Beehive’) and the Parliamentary Library. Beautiful weather, two such different buildings, both striking in their own way, and all from the same seat … urban sketching heaven.

Wellington has so much going for it.
The Te Papa Museum (stunning inside
and out), the Botanical Gardens, the waterfront (with its lunchtime joggers and rollerbladers), the bars and restaurants (massive steaks), the microbreweries (well maybe just one more), some wonderful buildings (Tinakori Road, Old St Paul’s) and so much more.
But it’s easily walkable and small enough to feel comfortable. 
Dominion Observatory, Wellington – an aerial view (sorry!)

The Hobbit was due to be premiered in town soon after we left. Which might
explain why we kept seeing this strange looking guy everywhere.

Unknown Stranger
seemed to be everywhere we went

We loved everything about Wellington. That having been said, the wind didn’t blow in the three days we were there!

Up early next day to catch the ferry and both sad to be leaving North Island already. People told us we’d enjoy South Island even more. We found that hard to believe, but were looking forward to finding out.

Back with Part 2 soon. Meanwhile thanks for reading this far… if anyone has!

Visit Tony at Flickr for more sketches.


  1. I loved seeing your sketches of places I've visited and enjoyed. As you say Tony, so much better than a photo. A family member lives in the Bay of Islands and it was so good to see your sketch of Kerikeri airport - that place has character! Taupo, Wellington; it was like reliving my last trip all over again. Urban Sketching is marvellous. Thank you.

  2. Excellent sketches - a great travelogue

  3. Great stuff Tony - beautiful sketches!

  4. Thanks everyone for looking and reading ... and for the kind comments. Glad you liked it.

  5. Tony, love to see ones 'home' through others eyes. The looseness of the Observatory and Painted Ladies. Look forward to the Mainland instalment. Thanks for posting, Cheers

  6. Thanks for looking Scott and for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated. Hoping to get around to Part 2 soon.

  7. This is a proper post :)
    Enjoyed very much the sketches and the text as well.
    Looking forward for part 2.

  8. Thanks for looking and commenting Mario. Glad you enjoyed it