Thursday, February 9, 2012

Auckland and Wellington

We flew from LAX to Auckland late Thursday night.  Even though our flight left at 11:30pm they served a full meal before turning out the lights.  The flight was 13 hours, time enough to watch 3 movies and sleep a few hours.  We had never flown Qantas before, and it was good.  There was a personal entertainment system at each seat, and the food was good.     

We got to Auckland ahead of schedule, breezed through immigration and customs and were at our hotel by about 11:00am on Saturday.  Somewhere along the way we lost Friday.  We’ll make it up in May when we’ll have the 9th and 10th in Australia, then fly to Tahiti and have the 9th and 10th again.     

Our room wasn’t ready at the hotel so we walked over to a mall on Queen Street, had lunch, and then went back to our hotel to check in.  It was a typical New Zealand day, cloudy with a bit of a breeze.  We left winter to come here to summer and somehow the weather got colder in the process.     

Our hotel was more of a little apartment, right near the water.  After freshening up we walked out to see the area around our hotel.  We went up to the Auckland Tower and then over to Queen Street.  Auckland is odd in that it is a very quiet city.  We explored some of the streets around Queen Street, ate supper at Subway, and went back to the hotel.  We overdid the walking a little and Michaela was exhausted.  She only slept a few hours on the plane, and a little Subway sandwich was not enough food for supper.  After a nice hot shower and a snack she felt better and we all went to bed early.  I woke up first on Sunday morning after 13 hours of sleep.     

Last time we were in Auckland we went to a park with huge trees that are great for climbing.  We went back to that park and it was all set up with Chinese lanterns for the Chinese New Year Lantern Festival.  There were lanterns that looked like sheep, penguins, cows, dragons, polar bears, etc.  It was cool during the day, so I’m sure at night it was really beautiful.  We had lunch at one of the hundred sushi places we passed.  There were often two sushi restaurants on the same block.  While exploring the city we found a cool park with bean bag chairs for park benches, and little shops made out of shipping containers.     

We wanted to see Auckland from the water so we took a ferry over to Devonport across the bay.  Misa and I climbed Mt. Victoria (a 15 minute walk) to get a better view of the city.  On top was a little fort with a cannon to protect the bay.  We did have beautiful 360degree views and took some nice photos.  We met Katka back in Devonport, had a little ice cream and took the ferry back to Auckland.  Right at the ferry terminal was a Korean sushi restaurant so Katka had sushi again and Misa and I had Korean pancakes.  The pancakes were pre-cooked, but they heated them up in a cast-iron press and then covered them with sauce.  I had custard and Misa had chocolate.     

We finished exploring with a walk around the wharf area.  The America’s Cup yacht race was held there recently and the area is full of nice restaurants and beautiful boats.  I was in kind of a hurry to get back to the hotel to catch the end of the Super Bowl, but it wasn’t on.  I couldn’t even find highlights.  When I heard a preview for an upcoming segment on the news, “We’ll take you backstage in Indianapolis where Madonna is rehearsing for tomorrow’s Super Bowl in America.”  Oh yeah, we’re a day ahead here, the Super Bowl will be on Monday.  

After a short stop at the hotel Misa and I went for supper.  We found a hamburger and pizza place with hamburgers the size of a small plate for only $10.  I know that sounds like a lot, but given that a Grande Mocha at Starbuck’s is $6.50, and two subs and three drinks at Subway was almost $20 we felt like we had found a bargain.     

Early Monday we flew from Auckland to Wellington.  Just by coincidence we are staying at the same hotel where we stayed last time.  The hotel is right near the Parliament and Lambton Quay – a big shopping street in Wellington.  We grabbed a quick bite to eat on Lambton Quay and took the cable car to the top of a hill overlooking the city for some great views of the city and Lambton Harbor.  From there we walked back to our hotel by way of the Carter Observatory, Wellington Botanic Garden, Lady Norwood Rosegarden and Begonia House where we stopped for coffee and a snack.  Misa also finished her homeschooling for the day that she started at the airport and on the airplane.     

The walk from there took us past the “Beehive” government headquarters building and to our hotel.  Misa is supposed to do something like 45 minutes per day for PE.  I think we have knocked out a month’s worth of PE in just three days.     

After refreshing and resting a bit in our room we met Matt for dinner.  We walked down to Lambton Quay looking for a restaurant but everything was closed.  Monday was a public holiday here commemorating the signing of the Waitangi Treaty between the Europeans and the indigenous Maori people.  The only thing open was Subway, so we went back to our hotel and ate there.  It was great to catch up with Matt and hear all of his plans.  He is staying in a youth hostel now, but has looked at a couple of apartments and wants to move soon.  He is also looking for a job so he grabbed an application from our hotel.  He seems to really like Wellington, which we do too.  It is a beautiful city, very clean and friendly.  Somehow I like it more than Auckland even though it is similar.     

This morning we slept in and Misa worked on her homeschool while Katka and I checked our email.  When we left it was raining, but our first stop was the Parliament so it didn’t really matter.  After some meat pies for lunch we took a tour of the Beehive, Parliament, and Parliamentary Library.  It was the NZ Parliament’s first day back in session for the New Year and a lot was going on.  There was a protest going on outside, and inside were all of the TV crews.  One of the neatest parts of the tour was when they showed us how the made the building more earthquake proof.  Basically they put the building on rubber pillars so that it moves independently of the ground during an earthquake.  After our tour we went and sat in the gallery for a while to watch the Prime Minister answer questions.  It is always fun to watch the British Prime Minister answer questions from the Parliament on C-SPAN and it was equally entertaining here.  If the opposition did not like an answer they would hoot or shout out.     

We finished the day in our hotel, Misa doing her homeschooling, me writing this Blog, and Katka relaxing and working on her writing.  Tomorrow we have an early morning flight to Queenstown, where we will rent a car and start our drive around the southern island.