We left San Francisco at 10 o’clock Sunday night, April 17th, and were on an Air New Zealand non-stop 12 hour flight to Auckland. We passed the International Date Line while we were snoring and they woke us up at 3:30 in the morning on Tuesday, April 19th, New Zealand time, to feed us breakfast. At 5am we touched down and an hour later we emerged from the airport terminal to be immediately greeted by the Super Shuttle lady. “I can take you to your hotel for 30 dollars,” she said and we hopped on board, still groggy.
The radio in the shuttle played music from the 60s — our music when we were in our 20s. We were becoming familiar with New Zealand all ready! I heard “Are you going to San Francisco?” and I asked the driver if they wore flowers in their hair in New Zealand. “No,” she said, “We leave them on the ground where they belong.”
The trip from the airport took a half-hour as our hotel was the last on the list and we arrived at the Hilton just before 7am. You don’t have to tip in New Zealand — only if they really deserve it. I though our driver really deserved it and so I tipped her.
Our room wasn’t going to be ready for several hours but the bellman from South Africa said we could store our luggage and the Persian receptionist gave us a couple of toothbrushes so we could freshen up in the fourth floor Exercise Center. The Chilean concierge suggested we go on a harbor cruise or perhaps visit Devonport across the bay. We opted for the latter and walked five minutes to the ferry terminal. My mouth was fresh but the rest of me was still groggy.
The ferries coming in were full of commuters but there were only a few of us going the other way. The trip across the bay took less than 10 minutes and we enjoyed viewing the Auckland skyline and our hotel from the water.
Devonport is to Auckland much as Sausalito is to San Francisco. In fact, it reminded me of Sausalito as I remembered it in the 1960s. Beginning to see a pattern here!We walked along the water’s edge for awhile and then walked up and down Victoria Road, Devonport’s main street, which was filled with quaint little shops and quirky little cafes. We browsed here and there and my wife stopped at a deli for a mid-morning wrap while I ducked into a cafe next door for my first taste of New Zealand coffee. The most popular type of coffee is Flat White and so I ordered one. It was strong and smooth and mixed with milk and I was less groggy than before.
We arrived back at our hotel around 1pm and our room was waiting for us. They gave us a room with two twin beds and a nice view on the fourth floor but we told them we really wanted a king bed. So they gave us a complementary upgrade to a beautiful corner room on the sixth floor with two magnificent views as the walls on two sides of the room were all glass and the balcony wrapped around the corner, accessed by either of two sliding doors.
The jet-lag grogginess returned and we just lounged around our hotel for the rest of the afternoon and then decided in the early evening to explore the famous Viaduct Basin about a block away where you can view fancy yachts from one of more than a dozen fancy restaurants. We chose the Italian restaurant and had a pretty nice meal but the service was a little odd. We were early for dinner and there was only one other couple in the restaurant. But we still experienced long waits between ordering and serving. We had been there a half hour when I overheard the lady at the next table tell the waitress that she was still waiting for her spoon!
After dinner we decided to return to our hotel and retire early. It was overall a rather pleasant day after a long, long flight. Tomorrow, we told ourselves, we will be ready for the rest of Auckland!