Off to the USA, so naturally we’re in … Auckland?

 

Once again, we’re off on another big adventure, and with any luck this little blog will help take everyone along for at least some of the ride.

Packing was all well and good, but remember it’s always good to check on things before chucking them in the suitcase, as we had one casualty… sometime between last June and yesterday, Perrys new camera (bought at the Duty Free on the way to NZ last year) suffered a broken screen, making it pretty much useless.

Otherwise, all good, and after bidding the cat a fond farewell, we jumped in a Taxi and sat in traffic for approximately forever.  OR at least that’s what it felt like.  All good as we were way ahead of schedule, and still reached the airport maybe 20 minutes before the check-in desk for our flight even opened.  So no dramas there, got the formalities out of the way and officially all checked in for our flight to New Zealand?

But weren’t we going to the US and Canada?

You’ve probably all already heard this story – if so just skip the next paragraph or two.  In summary, during our Europe trip in 2013 we found we could save a substantial amount of money by flying from home Stockholm instead of flying home from London.  So Perry wondered if it applied the other way around – was there some cheaper way of getting from Australia to the USA..maybe via Hawaii?  After a bit of checking and trying various options, he found that if we went from New Zealand to San Francisco, the rate would be about one third of the far compared to going from Sydney to San Francisco.  The weird part is that, either way, we’ll be on the exact same plane leaving Sydney.  But by getting a flight from Auckland to Sydney first, the whole only costs about a third.  So yep we get two flights, for a third of the place.  Doesn’t make a lick of sense but hey it means we can go business, so we’d be mad not to.  The cheaper rate more than covers the price of a flight to Auckland and a night’s accommodation.  (We weren’t brave enough to try a flight in and out of Auckland on the same day, just in case there were delays).

So where was I? Oh yep we checked in for the flight, spent a long time at the Tourist Refund Scheme office so I could get the tax back on a lens I bought for the trip.  Then in a case of deja vu, Perry bought a new camera at the Duty Free shop.  Hopefully this one lives a bit longer than the last one.  Then we off to hang out with the fancy people in the Qantas First Class lounge.  This is all thank to Perry and the amazing amount of work travel he’s done in the last few years – his frequent flyer status allows him to bring a guest to the First Class lounge even if were not on a first class flight.  He’s done a lot to earn this privilege. I, on the other hand, have done, well, nothing.  But it’s not like I’m going to turn down such an invitation!

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Love the old ‘click-clack’ departures board

Once nice thing I noticed about the lounge (other than the delicious food, friendly service, beautiful decor, the old-school ‘click clack’ departures board,  the chance to pretend I’m a rich person,  etc, etc) was that they seem to be taking an environmental awareness to heart here – nothing was served in plastic, even the serviettes were cloth.  The only single-use item I saw was the sachet of sugar I put in my (barista-made, of course) coffee.  (Sorry Scott I didn’t get a photo, but I’d rate it an 8 out of 10). << Quick shout out to my very good friend Scott who is currently touring the coffee (And the sights) of Europe, his blog – It’s all about the coffee, is a terrific read.  

Before too long it was time to board.  We were flying with LATAM air, formerly known as LAN airlines, in a 787 Dreamliner.  Well I can’t help but unleash my inner snob and say it is always nice when you have a chance to Turn Left after boarding.  The plane was nicely outfitted with wooden (ok probably ‘wood-look’) flooring in parts, and super big comfy seats – everything was kind low-set, which gave the cabin a great sense of airiness and space.  The quality of service was just brilliant, champagne upon boarding (not that it was wonderful, but whatevs), the Customer Service Manager took time to personally introduce herself to everyone in the cabin. The crew member attending to us kept apologising for her English even though it was fine.  They were all extremely welcoming and really made you feel comfortable.  

Shortly after we were up in the air – the 787 is nice and quiet and I think their boasts about having better air quality etc really are true, it was a very nice place to be (but in row 1, what’s not to like?!).  Lunch was a delicious warmed sandwich o prosciutto and cheese on rye, with a bread roll, a salad, and the most luscious chocolate pudding with passionfruit and mango, so rich that even I of all people couldn’t finish it off.  It felt like a really short flight, which is always a good thing.  Even though they had tone of entertainment options on board I watched Hannah Gadsby’s ‘Nanette’ that I’d downloaded earlier on Netflix. It’s part funny, part touching, and all important and definitely worth a watch.

Next thing you know it was touchdown time and here we were – New Zealand!  Land of jandals, chilly bins, Jacinda Arden, and people who show the indigenous population and their culture some decent respect.  After a bit of a adventure ride on the Skybus, we made it alive to the city proper, and into our hotel – very nice!  Again, taking advantage of Perry’s work travels, we were able to get an upgraded room, free welcome drinks, and a free brekky.  This is proof if ever you need it – hard work does pay off!  The fact I get to share in the spoils is something for which I’ll be forever grateful.  And I took a video of the day turning into night:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSEoXH5Xnlw

Dinner was at a restaurant we really enjoyed in Auckland last year, Monsoon Poon.  This time we learnt our lessons of order way way too much, and only ordered way too much instead.  Delicious combo plate of corn fritters, squid, curry puffs, chicken wings rice paper roll, and a dish of Tandoori Chicken salad.  Awesome stuff.  And since holidays == cocktails, had to have one of those as well.  “Ho Chi Gin” – Gin, chili syrup, star anise … interesting and tasty!

Now no trip to New Zealand would be complete without visiting New Zealand Natural ice cream – so despite being quite full, off we went and fulfilled our duty to the nation by enjoying some Hokey Pokey and some Boysenberry.

So, it’s the first day almost done, and the holiday is off to a cracking start!  A flight that could really only be described as perfect, a beautiful city, a delicious meal, and of course, the very best travelling companion, ever.  USA here we come (eventually)!

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