Since moving out to the wilds of Helensville, I can count the number of times I've been in the heart of Auckland City on one hand.
Part of that's down to COVID-19, of course, but it's also partly due to the belief that it's really not worth it anymore.
However, I jumped at the chance to alter my perceptions of an empty city centre and stay a night at the tallest hotel in Auckland, the new voco.
Could the view wow me and help give me a night to remember in Aotearoa's biggest city?
The short answer is yes. From the moment we turned up at the voco my partner and I were treated to an experience that just isn't that common in hotels we've previously stayed in, outside of those booked by managers on business trips overseas.
They never pick a budget hotel when it's on expenses, right?
The staff on the front desk of the voco were incredibly helpful and despite being an hour early, we were able to check in and get access to our room in just a few minutes.
And we lucked out, staying in a comfortable king double that had a view almost good enough to rival the Sky Tower. It was breathtaking, even if it was a little nerve-wracking for my partner who isn't the biggest fan of heights.
The room itself was very tastefully decorated, with some modern art prints on the walls and an overall minimalist feel.
There were no folders chocked full of useless information like I'm used to, just a clean desk with bottles of complementary sparkling and still water provided.
The massive bed was incredibly comfortable too. Since coming back from Scotland a couple of months ago, I've really struggled to sleep well. Not so in voco's bed. I slept right through for the first time in a long time and I woke feeling truly rested.
One of the really nice touches is the addition of small spotlights on either side of the bed in addition to the normal large lights, meaning I could read my book without disturbing my partner too much as she slept.
It's tiny details like that you really appreciate on such occasions.
There was also a sofa cum corner seat attached to the bed, a perfect way to recline while watching television or reading, complete with soft, comfortable cushions for the ultimate luxury.
Talking of the television, the provided channels were somewhat basic, with none of Sky's premium options available to watch on the big screen.
Thankfully that didn't matter too much. Fast WiFi, included in the price of the room, combined with Chromecast facilities ensured we watched our own Netflix shows and Prime Video movies instead.
It worked flawlessly and never once stuttered or dropped the connection, which I've had in the past with hotels and 'free' WiFi. In fact it was so good that we missed our chance of taking one of the free bikes provided by the hotel for a ride around town.
Combined with the warmth in the room, we were just too comfortable (i.e. lazy) to take full advantage of the eco bike ride we had planned for Sunday morning, and we stayed until the last possible minute before checkout.
That included long showers in the big bathroom, complete with soft robes to accompany the provided soaps and shampoos.
I felt pampered, and loved the fact I was able to transform the shower from the normal kind to a top-down rain shower with the quick flick of a handle. I let the water course over me, my worries flowing away down the drain in the massive shower enclosure.
Included in our stay was a couple of meals, a Saturday night evening meal and breakfast on Sunday. The former was definitely more successful - but that's because I'm a fussy eater.
As a vegan I'm obviously very particular about what I eat and the restaurant, Mozzarella & Co, is fairly typical in the vaguely Italian fare it offers.
That proved no problem to the staff, however. They were attentive, kept our water glasses filled and ensured we were never going to miss out on the opportunity for another gin and tonic.
They were also happy to talk with the chef about options for my dinner, with no specific vegan options on the menu. They offered to make two of the dishes on the menu vegan for me, and even offered an off-menu option should that prove more tempting.
In the end the sight of the pizza oven at the end of the restaurant proved too much and I chose the margarita pizza, sans cheese. Extra vegetables were added on top, much to my delight, and it was fantastic.
We even had a delightful chat with one of the staff about Bar Albert, the rooftop bar that is due to open in August. We can't wait to come back when that's open.
Breakfast wasn't quite up there, with no obvious vegan options. We were provided with a tick-list that was very focused around eggs, which my partner loved but I had to avoid.
There weren't as many staff around on Sunday and I didn't want to cause more issues, so I took advantage of the orange juice and big bowls of muesli sitting out to help myself.
Some plant-based milks and some vegan options would definitely be a useful addition to the menu. Or at least a note that vegans can be easily taken care of.
As to whether the stay changed my mind about the city centre?
We had a wonderful time. On Saturday we walked to the Auckland City Art Gallery and took in the amazing Gilbert and George exhibition currently on show.
We even considered booking a last minute ticket to see the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra at the Town Hall that evening, but in the end the comfortable bed and television won out.
We still took full advantage of our time in the city, wandering around the shops, taking in a protest march up Queen Street and walking past former bookshops, moaning they were long gone.
It may be quieter than normal, but Auckland isn't dead yet. There's plenty to do, without spending a fortune, especially if you're less lazy than we were.
If you're looking for somewhere to just lay your head, the adjoining Holiday Inn Express may suit better, but having tasted the voco luxury, I'm more inclined to avoid that than ever.
It was a great experience and we both went home feeling like we'd had a break from real life. We're keen to repeat it again soon.
We'll be asking for a room with a view of the harbour again. I insist you do too.
Rooms start at $243 per night, with parking on top. You can pay for your car to be valet parked by hotel staff for $55 or there is a public car park next door.
Voco Auckland City Centre paid for Newshub's stay, including food and drinks.