We drove to LAX and flew to Auckland- the commuter flight between San Diego and LA adds quite a bit of expense when there are four tickets to buy, saves only a bit of time, and increases the risk of lost luggage. We paid the extra to get the "Sky Couch" section on the flight, and that was worth every penny- the kids were able to lay flat and got a full night's sleep. Next time, we may pay for two Sky Couch rows so that the adults can stretch out a bit, too.
We spent four days in Auckland, then drove to Taupo for a couple of nights, then drove on to Wellington for 5.5 days with my in laws. I'll cover the details in the trip story posts... on to the awards!
Best hotel: Comfort Inn, Taupo. We were upstairs, with a loft, which the kids loved. And there was a trampoline and a kids' play house. Also, we could walk right out of the parking lot to the lakefront path, and the people who ran the place were very nice.
Best playground: Botanic Garden playground, Wellington. This is on a hill (like most everything else in Wellington), and they did a great job of incorporating the slope into the playground. There were great long slides that did not require great long ladders, for instance. The park had a flying fox (for my American readers: this is like a zipline), which is a classic New Zealand playground toy that we don't have in the US. They also had a Rocktopus, which is a cool new New Zealand playground toy that we don't have in the US. The kids loved this park so much that when we offered them a chance to pick what we'd do one day, they picked to go back to the Botanic Gardens so we could visit the park again.
Best parenting moment (Mommy): Replacing my so-so purse with a new, big purse. After one day walking around with my purse falling off my shoulder, I decided to buy a new one. For some reason, this largeish red purse caught my fancy- and I am glad it did. It was big enough to hold food for the kids (Pumpkin often had a hard time finding something she'd eat on menus, so I always carried snacks), hats, gloves, and coloring supplies. Many meltdowns were averted because I could pull the right thing out of that bag.
|It holds more than you think it will.|
Biggest parenting mistake: Not taking jetlag seriously enough on the return trip and letting the kids nap in the car all the way home from LAX. They slept well on the plane, so we really should have stopped at least once, possibly twice, and insisted they wake up and run around at a park or something. We couldn't get them to bed until midnight on Saturday night, our first night back. The grown ups, meanwhile, hadn't slept that well on the plane and didn't nap in the car and were exhausted and ready for by 8. We're all still trying to get back in the right time zone, and I think that mistake on the first day is why. Oh well- we'll do better next time!
Best kid moment (Pumpkin): Riding the flying fox at the Botanic Gardens playground in Wellington. She was too afraid to ride the first flying fox we saw, at the park at One Tree Hill in Auckland. I figured she would never get on one, but Mr. Snarky talked her onto the one at the Botanic Gardens park and she loved it, riding it over and over. It was great to watch.
Best kid moment (Petunia): Drawing a picture of a ferry and explaining how the circles in the middle of it were the tires on the side. We rode a ferry to Devonport in Auckland, and saw another ferry there that had tires on the side to protect it from hitting the dock. Apparently, that made quite an impression on Petunia, because when she drew her fairly abstract representation of a ferry later in Wellington, she included the tires. We were all blown away when she described the picture to us.
Best "Only in NZ" Activity: Night time swim at the hot pools in Taupo. Mr. Snarky gets full credit for this one- I thought it was too cold to go swimming outdoors at night (there was ice on our car in the morning!) but Mr. Snarky said it was something he remembered from his childhood visits to Taupo, and the kids were excited by the idea, so we did it. And it was awesome.
Best Tourist Trap Activity: Visiting the Skytower in Auckland. The kids thought it was cool to be up so high, and Pumpkin really got into figuring out where other things we had visited (or were about to visit) were. Also, we saw some people do their controlled free fall bungee jump thing past the observation deck, which was amusing.
|The kids look out towards Rangitoto.|
|Just about perfect|
Best Local Beer Sampled: Yeastie Boys' Pot Kettle Black (Mommy), 8 Wired's Hopwired (Daddy). But there was some stiff competition. We were impressed with the range of NZ craft brews available.
Best meal: Lamb medallions cooked to perfection by my in laws. The first time I've ever actually enjoyed eating lamb!
Best breakfast: Maranui Cafe in the Surf Lifesaver's club, Lyall Bay, Wellington. OK, this was our only breakfast out, but it was a great one! Good view, yummy food, fluffies (warm frothed milk with sprinkles on top and marshmallows on the side) for the kids, and even a camel ride that only cost 50 cents.
Best chill out: Drinks with good friends at the Lumsden Freehouse in Newmarket, Auckland. Good beer and snacks and a grassy area for the kids to run around on.
Biggest bummer: Pulling a muscle (or something) in my ribcage during a massive coughing fit on the first day (I was just getting over a bad cough/cold when we left). I spent the next 3 days or so wincing whenever I coughed or sneezed, several more days wincing if I tried to lift something heavy (like, say, a child) and am still a bit sore.
Runner up: The fact that I only had three pies during the entire trip, and one was at the airport in Auckland on our way out. Pumpkin didn't like any of the food available at the bakeries that sell the best pies- so mostly we had to eat at fancier cafes that could do plain pasta or had cheese scones or at food courts that had a fast food place that sold chicken nuggets. On the bright side, I got some really good Indian food at a food court in Auckland and had a lot of nice cafe food.
Most unexpected cool thing: The toys on the wall in the Auckland airport departures lounge.
|A great last impression|