Kelly Bertrand plans the perfect day out and about in Auckland – and solo – to recharge, but it’s harder than she thinks to embrace independence when it comes to eating, drinking and being merry alone (when we’re out of lockdown, obvs).
I like to think of myself as a strong, independent woman, and for the most part, I am. I live alone, and sometimes that does present a few challenges – stuff like opening lids (well that was until I figured out if you just stab a hole in the top, the lid’ll pop right off, although there’s a bottle of Kombucha in the fridge that’s been sitting mournfully for three weeks because I can’t unscrew the damn top) and killing bugs, which I’m annoyed that I can’t do because it’s not very feminist to call your best friend’s boyfriend and beg that he drives the 20 minutes to my house to take care of a weta.
But I’ve always struggled a little with doing a few things out and about on my own. I can shop on my own, I can walk on my own, but I’ve never travelled solo unless it was for work, I’ve never sat down for dinner by myself in a restaurant unless I’m waiting for someone, and I’ve only once been to the movies alone and to be honest, it was only because I was in London and I was assured I wouldn’t bump into anyone I knew (also incorrect – damn there are a lot of us over there).
But it’s a mission of mine to get better at doing stuff solo, so when I needed a little me-time last week, I set about curating an itinerary for a perfect day out and about in Auckland that would recharge myself physically, mentally and spiritually, and all by myself.
Who’s a strong, confident woman then?
First stop, its spa time at Cordis’ Chuan Spa
It’s not a true ‘me time’ day without a visit to a spa, but in these post-Covid times you want to make sure you’re getting value for your hard-earned $ and that you can really stretch the experience out, rather than handing over $200 for a 60-minute rubdown and that’s literally it. Cordis’ Chaun Spa is one of Auckland’s best when it comes to a full indulgent experience, as along with your treatment, you also gain access to the spa’s heated pool (a delightful year-round 27 degrees, if you’re wondering), spa pool, sauna and herbal steam room.
You can stay for as long as you like to soak up the relaxing vibes before or after your treatment (pro tip – take a day off work in the middle of the week in summer and spend a few hours lounging around the pool, there’s even drinks service).
So naturally I took full advantage before heading into my treatment – the herbal steam room is a particular favourite of mine, which smells like fancy spa meets Christmas which I’m very much living for.
I indulged in a promotion the spa is currently running, the Restore your Wellness package which costs $199 but would usually set you back $346 (this is a luxe spa, peeps) – but it’s absolutely worth it. First came the hot stone massage, which is heaven for someone like me with really bad circulation – my hands are constantly frozen – and then what was the best bit, a full-on head massage with warm Chinese herbs that almost put me to sleep.
Then, a soothing facial with one of those rolly Jade thingies, and a foot and leg scrub that invigorates you back into the real world. A ginger tea finishes it all off, and at this point I haven’t even noticed that I’m flying solo – but a greater challenge is to come.
Lunch at Depot – because sliders are life, buddy or no buddy
It’s also not a ‘treat yo self’ day for me if I’m not stopping in on my favourite restaurant, Al Brown’s signature Depot, located on Federal St right under the Sky Tower. But of course, I’m normally with a buddy and the idea of dining alone mildly terrifies me – will people think I’ve been stood up? Do I read a book, or play on my phone? Will people judge me for eating an entire skirt steak and a plate of sliders by myself?
After getting over myself, I decide to do just that, plus a glass of the Central Otago pinot noir that’s on tap. And because Depot has single seats at the bar, I don’t even feel like anyone’s actually noticing me, which is perfect for when I also decide to get a slice of sugar pie for dessert.
An Afternoon at the Museum
Ok so I needed a decent walk after all of that, so for my afternoon by myself I headed east to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. It’s not a place I’ve hung out at a lot, unless you count a few school field trips and several boozy awards ceremonies in the very grand functions centre at the top. But it seemed like the perfect place to wander through solo and really appreciate some of the exhibitions and galleries on display. It’s also free for Auckland residents with proof of address (I had to laugh at the fact the only thing I could find that had my address on it was a speeding ticket).
As well as the permanent galleries you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ever visited, the museum is currently hosting the wildly popular Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit (closing this weekend, so be in quick) as well as a very cool little collection of photos that document early Auckland, from 1850-1870. This kind of stuff really fascinates me, for some reason – it could be all of those holiday programmes at the Howick Historical Village? – and the images show the change in Tamaki Mākaurau – and you can even take a ‘walk’ through 1860’s Auckland CBD.
The Final Pitstop at Hotel De Brett
Taking myself out for a ‘date’ (Jesus that sounded a lot less sad in my head) was the last activity on my list, but strolling in to a bar on the Viaduct or in Ponsonby felt a little too much for me – I wanted something warm, cosy and welcoming. I figured a hotel was a good place to start; it’s what all of the cute women in the movies do anyway, and I thought I could pass as a traveller having a gin and tonic after a hard day’s work at my uber-successful job in fashion or PR or any of the other ‘movie careers’. (I’m also acutely aware that I shouldn’t give a damn about any of this, but baby steps guys.)
So I settled on the cosiest spot I could think of, the Housebar at Hotel de Brett.
With plush seats, a good wine list and a kind of roaring 20’s vibe (obviously the other 20’s, not these ones) and crucially an actual bar to sit at, I settled myself in. After ordering a Mexican Chai Toddy – a delightfully cheeky mix of tequila, chai tea and peach bitters – I realised I’d so enjoyed my time alone. My head was clear, I was relaxed, I was calm and I had taken the time to truly enjoy every experience of the day.
I mean, days spent with friends are gold – I’ll always prefer to share an awesome experience and memory with someone else. But spending a whole day with me, myself and I had provided a little bit of a reset, a time to be a little bit introspective and selfish. And also there was no one to judge me when I ordered an entire cheeseboard to finish off.
All images/ Instagram