NZ: Wine French market Parnell
Parnell is often thought of as Auckland's "oldest suburb" since it dates from the earliest days of the European settlement at the site of Auckland in 1841. It is in the CBD of Auckland, and as such, busy as always. Parnell is full of history and historical buildings. Parnell Rose Gardens and Dove Myer Robinson Park, Gladstone Road, was created in 1913 as Parnell Park, and it's a spectacular setting for expansive views of the beautiful Waitemata Harbour.
"Parnell Village" was the vision of a local businessman who bought up several dilapidated properties in the 1970's and his magic transformed them into altered, inviting shops in the Victorian style. The creation of this quaint quarter breathed new life into the area as a weekend tourist shopping-destination. Going back to the past as a set of "Ye Olde Worlde Shoppes" when I first came to Auckland in the 1980's, Parnell Village was a plethora of olde-worlde charm.
I used to browse and window-shop there, buying little knick-knacks, silk scarves, little handmade pottery bowls, that could possibly survive the journey home to Penang, Malaysia. Every time friends came to visit, I would take them to view and shop at Parnell’s' twee shoppes.
Parnell is known as the most established gallery precinct in Auckland. You'll find little nooks and crannies crammed full of eclectic shops, eateries and galleries. A vibrant selection of arts and culture, it’s little surprise Parnell has earned the reputation as the creative quarter in Auckland.
One of Auckland’s best known art works created by Terry Stringer, Mountain Fountain, is found at the busy intersection of Parnell Road and St Stephens Avenue. Mountain Fountain, within the Holy Trinity Cathedral’s forecourt, the sculpture’s form is uplifting and progressive. At night, it spectacularly showcases the sculpture against the Holy Trinity Cathedral’s harmonious roof-line.
Parnell is also the home of La Cigale, though it is tucked away slightly. We turned into the sizeable car parking for La Cigale, pretty unremarkable on the outside it must be said. When you enter its' portals, the welcoming ambiance pervades the senses immediately and you're drawn in to taste, savour and delight.
A slice of France in New Zealand, La Cigale is a French market distilled into a distinct foot print; clothing, gifts, home store; wine shop, bistro & cafe, and you can book the venue for functions. It is an eclectic mix of fine food, fresh, aromatic fragrances, gorgeous antiques and more. Quite a few of the vendors spoke fluent French or were French, and native French customers who have taken residence in NZ were very obvious to the ear as they chatted over the purchase of a baguette or cheese... straight out of Montmartre in Paris. Closing our eyes for a second, as if we were instantly transported back in time to Compiegne, or Marseilles....or any morning market in France.
On Saturdays and Sundays, should you sleep-in and come a little bit later to La Cigale’s French market, you'll find it challenging to get a space in the car park. Inside the ample warehouse-type space at the weekends, the weekend French market in full swing. It is normally choc-a-bloc, a hubbub of people, sight and sounds of busy market and tantalising aromas wafting.
I remembered sitting at long trestle tables, viewing the food on offer at heavy-laden counters. What should we have, was the constant question. We finally chose a few Danishes, a crepe and some mouth-watering croque monsieur. They were delectable. We should seriously try the beef bourguignon pie next time we're there. In the outside tented stalls you could find humus, lokum, baklava, dips and spreads to try, French cheese, delicious looking cakes, tempting pastries, honey selection, fresh pasta, fresh fish, fig treats, smoked meat, even dog biscuits on sale.
This last weekend was no different. We somehow found a table in the very busy cafe part of the establishment. Yes, we're having trouble deciding whether to have pain aux raisin (spiral type raisin bread, or escargot, is the common name in other parts of the world), or a multitude of other delicious looking pastries. There were so many interesting foodie treats to look at, it was a hard choice. Murray went to get a lively selection of pastries and desserts, I would be dithered for ages, where to have this, that, the other delectable French fare. After coffees and pastries later, we adjourned to the gift shop in next room.
Wafts of fresh lavender, fine milled soap, books and gifts, I admired the home wares. Bought some guest soap, a whiff of beautifully scented French fragrances, fashionable fur scarves, I was immediately drawn to the clothing store, and the adjoining the gift store. I had fun, looking through racks of fine unique fashion, a bit of French flair, a tad different, perhaps, to zhoosh up the wardrobe.
Outside, we wandered around to the fresh market where big avocadoes, freshly shucked oysters, and lovely iris flowers were on sale. A little while later, a wrong turn into the fish store at the market and oh dear that fresh tuna looks to good to miss – we'd have a feast of sashimi tonight, if it could last till then. Though, there's no excuse needed to go again the following weekend.
Parnell is dotted with charming, refurbished Victorian villas that now house some of Auckland’s signature cafés and restaurants, upmarket boutiques, designer décor and interiors, jewellers, antiques, art galleries, and of course, the French Market. A must to visit not only at the weekends.