Sunday, July 17, 2016

Wellington, Auckland, Rarotonga: The Award Show Version

As I mentioned, we're just back from a two week vacation in New Zealand and the Cook Islands. We spent a week in Wellington visiting family, then flew to Auckland for a few days to see some friends, and then flew to Rarotonga for four days to see friends and get some actual summer in our summer vacation. I'll probably write up each stop, like I usually do. But most importantly, here is the award show version of the trip, as is my tradition.

Best hotel: We had no consensus in this category, and we only stayed in two hotels: The Coral Sands beach apartments in Rarotonga (which was very nice, and Pumpkin's favorite), and the Barclay Suites in Auckland, which Petunia preferred. I'm going to give it to The Coral Sands. It wasn't right on the water like the places I've stayed in past trips to the Cooks, but it was just a minute stroll to the water, and the apartment itself was nice, well-appointed, and comfortable. AND they gave you a loaner dumb phone to use while you're on the island, which made coordinating with our friends so much easier. The Barclay Suites were fine, and had a great location, and maybe we'll stay there again... but we've stayed a lot of similar places on various trips through Auckland, and these weren't my favorite for anything except location, maybe.

Best Restaurant: We ate out at several great places in Wellington, and we picked up some delicious pies from a bakery near my sister-in-law's house. We mostly ate with friends and at cafes during our few days in Auckland, but I did have a delicious caramel slice at one of them. However, when I asked people to name their favorite restaurant it was either Trader Jacks or Sails, both in Rarotonga. 

We liked Trader Jacks for its wonderful pina coladas (me), its top-notch ika mata (Mr. Snarky), and its chilled out location right on the harbor in Avarua, the main town in Rarotonga (the kids). You can go dip your toes in the water on a pebbly beach while you wait for your food (and our kids did). You can watch the outriggers head out for a friendly race while you sip your drinks (we did). It is a great spot, and has completely recovered from being basically flattened by a cyclone in 2005 (check out the top picture in that post).

Best way to wait for your food

We liked Sails for the nostalgia (it is where Mr. Snarky and I got married), the ice chocolates (which seems to be a combination of Milo powder, chocolate syrup, and ice, blended- Pumpkin thought they were the best thing ever), and the fact that you could go dip your toes in the water from a sandy beach while you waited for your food (Petunia).

Best Tourist Activity: Another split decision. Petunia and Mr. Snarking say snorkeling. They were the only ones who really snorkeled on our first attempt, at a good snorkeling spot but on a sort of breezy and cool day. Pumpkin and I tried snorkeling at Muri lagoon. I saw a few fish, but I have done so much better snorkeling. It was fun, and neat to snorkel next to Petunia... but not a great thing. Pumpkin didn't like snorkeling. Pumpkin says the best activity was stand up paddleboarding on Muri lagoon. I agree that was fun, but my favorite tourist thing was visiting Zealandia in Wellington and seeing a tuatara and a lot of native birds.

Best Kid Moment, Pumpkin: Playing with everyone else's kids. Pumpkin loved meeting all the new kids, and especially loved playing with her cousin. She was great with all the kids.

Best Kid Moment, Petuina: Sharing her few toys happily with other kids. She only had a few toys along, and a couple more bought as souvenirs, and she shared them without complaint.

Best Parenting Moment, Mommy: Keeping the kids awake while we waited for our flight home from Rarotonga. I was rewarded: they both slept really well on the plane. I, on the other hand, was woken up by the guy a few seats over having a panic attack, and I never really got back to solid sleep.

Best Parenting Moment, Daddy: Teaching Petunia how to snorkel. She's hooked.

Best Playground: The one at the bottom of Mt. Eden in Auckland. There was a flying fox AND a push train (one kid sits on a little train engine on a monorail track while the other kid or a parent pushes them around in circles- Petunia LOVES this). There was also a cool climbing structure Pumpkin loved.

The runner up was the beach swing at the beach near our hotel in Rarotonga. This was just a simple rope swing hung off a coconut palm. The kids loved it.

Because some people have been confused about how you hang a rope swing from a coconut palm.

Worst thing: The kids say the dogs on the beaches in Rarotonga (dogs mostly run free there, but they also mostly ignore people unless said people want to scratch their ears). I say the long flights and the jet lag upon returning home.

Best food item: Mr. Snarky says the seafood platter we got at a restaurant down the beach from our hotel. I say hokey pokey ice cream. Pumpkin says it is a tie between the ice chocolate and some strawberry Tang mix I bought at one of the shops in Rarotonga. Pumpkin says it is cheese scones, particularly if served with apple juice.

Best mosquito magnet: Mommy, as usual. I came home with six mosquito bites, despite having bought tropical strength DEET our first day in Rarotonga, and using it liberally. Petunia got one bite, maybe, but it wasn't itchy. Neither Pumpkin nor Mr. Snarky got any. 

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