You probably think New Zealand is pretty close to Japan. Just fly a little bit south, right? Well, it's an 11-hour flight. But, that's okay, because many members of our tour group flew from the East Coast of the US and had a LAYOVER that was 8-hours long, on top of flights totaling a horrific number of hours that I can't dream of tabulating.
We flew a red-eye in Air New Zealand's relatively swank premium economy cabin on a Dreamliner. It was sadly not their super-swank premium economy cabin that they have on some other flights, but it was pretty nice. We had a small cabin of three or four rows. "Craig" greeted us by name and provided us with a little apertif to kick off the trip in proper Kiwi fashion.
After watching about three movies and sleeping one hour, we arrived in Auckland, where we checked into the CityLife Auckland hotel in the city center. As we checked in, we were told that the tall gentleman standing in the lobby was our guide, so we introduced ourselves and tried not to show our shock when he said the group would be gathering in 45 minutes for a walking tour of the city. It was about 9:30AM and I'd slept ONE HOUR. I was expecting a little naptime and then an afternoon walk around the city. Oh well. We showered, sucked it up, and met the group. At this point, I should mention that I'll reserve all catty group comments for private conversations only, but you know I have them up my sleeve. Doesn't everyone who's done a group tour?
The Occidental, on historic Vulcan Lane (insert Star Wars jokes here). I pity the fools who didn't order the mussels. They were to-die-for, as were the french fries. In retrospect, that was one of the best meals of the trip.
I think there was about an hour for a nap after we wrapped up the walk and before we met for a free drink in the hotel bar before dinner. I had a much-deserved (if I do say so myself) glass of NZ Sauvignon Blanc and met a few of our travel companions for the 12-day trip. We all drew cards out of a card deck, and were assigned "cousins" for the trip. My "cuzzy" was a Russian-American a few years older than me (I assume, she would reveal absolutely nothing about her age or her age in relation to her husband's age, or anything else related to years. She was a hoot with a Russian-immigrant flair and we became friends). We were bonded for the trip and always had to make sure our "cuzzies" were on the bus before it took off after a stop.
Dinner was unremarkable at a place on the wharf called Neptune's Bar and Grill. It sadly did not benefit from views even though it was right on the water. I ordered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc that most definitely was NOT SB, and had to leave it undrunk. Sometimes, it's just not worth it and that glass fell into that category.
I slept very well that night.