Arrived in Auckland at 4:45 am, local time, having had what amounted to almost a decent amount of sleep on the plane. Made it through immigration and customs, having assured the officials that we were not a threat to overstaying and agriculture, respectively, and arrived at the hotel by 6:30, bright-eyed and bushy tailed because that was 11:30 in real time. We are staying at the Westin, thanks to Mom's points, which is located kind of on the water at the edge of the business district. Our room looks directly into HP's Auckland office (we seem to be in a tech-heavy area, complete with Microsoft, HP, Sun and assorted telecom, kind of a "Silicon Quay"), so this afternoon we engaged in a little light industrial espionage, watching the employees chat, filch t-shirts and cut out by 4:30. We think they're in sales.
But, shockingly, learning about the lax work habits of antipodean tech workers was not the most exciting thing that happened today. That honor goes to the weather, which resolutely refused to live up to expectations and pour rain on us at any point, despite my not taking my raincoat. When day did finally break, it was bright and crystal-clear, if chilly, and it mostly stayed that way. So we decided to spend the day in Devonport, a charming suburb across the harbor with two extinct (I hope) volcanoes to climb and lots of lovely little Victorian-style houses to look at. We started with Second Breakfast (not counting the tea and cookies we had in the room) at a cafe where they left the big front doors open to let the air and the very bold local population of sparrows in, and served some positively excellent pastries. Then, in no particular order, we climbed both volcanoes, admired some WWII gun emplacements, walked on the beach, cut through a cemetery and a school yard, talked to a very vain Siamese cat, discovered that the numbering on one side of the street was completely independent of that on the other, except for the odd-even bit, and admired the early-spring floral displays, all before lunch. Which, yet again, was better than it had any business being.
The restaurant was recommended by the guidebook as having delicious wood-fired pizzas. The menu made it clear that they had leapt with enthusiasm onto the weird-topping bandwagon so, in the spirit of adventure, we ordered the smoked salmon, cream cheese, dill and caper pizza. Which I have had variations on before, but never with tomato sauce and mozzarella. Bizarre and misguided? Well, no. Delicious, actually. You see what I mean? (It also turned out that the lady sitting next to us was a gluten-intolerant tourist from South Carolina, but that doesn't really fit into my theme so I'm going to leave it out.)
I could go on, about the cool t-shirts from the designer seconds outlet, the fancy chocolate truffle with the candy rugby ball on top, the funky Japanese items at the $2(NZ) store, etc, but even I'm starting to get bored with all this positivity. But I do want to leave you with one reason this place is way nicer than it should be (I mean, aside from the free internet access at the hotel):
On our way back, we were trying to follow a different route than our random touristical wanderings away from the hotel. Naturally, we got lost. As we were standing on a corner, trying to determine if we had seen any of these buildings before, a woman popped out onto the patio of the restaurant above us.
"You look lost," she said. "Can I help you?"
"We're just trying to find our way back to the Westin, actually," we replied.
"Just go down this street, take a left and follow the water."
Now, I ask you, when does that happen? That doesn't happen.
I wonder if they have any biotech here?