‘For sparkling cities you don't have to go to New Zealand’ said our blunt Dutch guidebook. ‘It's not really a city’ said our friends. ‘Rain’ was the forecast for the first few days after we landed. Our expectations were not sky high, but from what we could see, Auckland is not a bad place to be.

Compared to London, the whole city appears to have been built in the last 10 years by people with lots of free time and boats. In the various hip beaches we visited there seems to be a high frequency of tattoos, pugs, and men walking barefoot. And while, like London, it did seem to rain every day, the rain was interspersed by blue sky and sun, rather than never-ending grey.

The back of Steve and Ana's house, which backs on to the bush

We stayed with friends in a beautiful house in the outskirts of Auckland, right next to the jungle. A big sofa and fireplace kept us comfortable during the many rain and hail storms. The beach in the nature reserve next to their house provided a great place to go when the hail stopped and the sun returned. In short, they couldn't have got us better prepared for van life. We were hungry and they gave us food, we were thirsty and they gave us home-brewed beer, we needed clothes and they clothed us in Merino wool layers, we struggled with jet lag on car journeys and they opened the windows for a windy slap in the face. As we get ready to leave this morning we're in two minds about chaining ourselves to the house and refusing to clear out until we get one more french toast breakfast.