We could feel the buzz around us in the streets today. People were decked out in their team colors, beers were being served instead of coffee and they had a huge area closed off for pedestrians with a focus on rugby. Today is game day baby…Rugby World Cup 2011.
We grabbed a coffee and walked along Queen street which is the main street downtown. Since it is an evening game, it will be cold so we were shopping for some kind of world cup hoodie. We found an old pub along the way and ordered some breakfast. And since everyone else had a pint of beer in front of them…we wanted to fit in so ordered one as well. It was fun people watching today, the Scottish were in their full kilts, there were plenty of face painters and people wearing either the England or Scotland flag around their shoulders like a cape.
After lunch, we made our way down to the pedestrian only area where the world cup games were being played on big screens and huge blow up tents in the shape of a rugby ball held all kinds of world cup souvenirs for sale. I found a cute New Zealand, aka “all blacks” hat and Giff found an “all blacks” fleece. We took pictures and ordered a beer at the Heineken bar as we walked between the crowd of fans.
One of the other huge bar tents had not only the game, and tons of rugby shirts strung above our heads…but an area called, “taste of the cloud” in the back. It was set up to give tourists a taste of various types of food from the different regions of New Zealand. They also paired local beers and wines. Food and wine tasting? You don’t have to ask us twice, we bought a couple of tickets and began our food tour.
There were 4 main regions set up with their own menu…seaside menu, urban menu, winery/orchard menu and the rural menu. Each menu had 4 different gourmet items to choose from. We went around picking both a food item and drink from each of the menus…they would then hole-punch our ticket, and we would move onto the next menu. The food was so delicious! We could have easily spent a half a day tasting every single thing…it was not a game day type menu, more like a fancy restaurant with top quality ingredients.
After our surprisingly tasty lunch…we realized it was time to get to the stadium for the Scotland vs England game. This should be a great game, these 2 countries have a long history and one of the biggest rivalries in Europe. We asked how to get to the stadium and we were told to follow the official “fan trail”.
As we followed the crowds, we saw the signs…they had little green footsteps and said, fan trail. As we walked the trail, there were many bars to stop and quench our thirst, as well as other things like an outdoor art exhibit to walk through. We had a great time laughing with other fans and slowly building our excitement to see the big game!
Once we arrived at the stadium there were all kinds of activities going on…people on stilts, local tribal dancing, tons of people taking pictures and vendors selling food. We walked all the way around the stadium and into our gate. Once inside the stadium, we went looking for food and beer. The beer was sold differently here vs. a typical sports game in the US. Instead of buying a draft beer, they had refrigerated shelves stocked with 4 pack cans of Heineken. We bought a pack and some food which not only included the typical burger and hotdog but the more popular fish ‘n’ chips.
Our seats were up very high and towards the middle which actually gave us a good view of the whole field. We were however surrounded by English fans but we were rooting for Scotland. Everyone was friendly and playful and although it was cold and raining (our section had a roof thankfully) the game was a really good one. We all thought for a moment that Scotland could actually win, but they let it slip away towards the end of the game. It was kind of entertaining to watch the English hold their breath as their kicker continued to miss his points. They however had a great time teasing us as the game was coming to a close and they were clearly going to win…but it was a close game at 16-12.
After the game, we walked a very long time in the wrong direction and then realized we were going the wrong way so turned around. It took over an hour of walking when we finally arrived at our hotel. It was a long fun day but we were tired. We watched a bit of TV and dosed off.