Nov 252014

Immigration was a piece of cake, and headed outside to look for the bus into the city. First impression: it’s COLD in Auckland. Granted, they were going through a bit of a cold snap, but coming from Brisbane where it was 30-33 degrees to Auckland where the high was 10 degrees and windy…I pretty much froze. Bus was really easy to figure out, the agent selling tickets was very helpful explaining the stops, etc, and about 45 minutes later we were at the last stop which was near my hotel.

I’d booked the Hilton Auckland with points for the one night I was there. I wasn’t thrilled with the location all the way down on the harbour, but for nice and free I wasn’t going to complain. When I had to shuffle things around due to the Fiji and Solomon Islands trade war, I ended up with a second night in Auckland. There was a problem, however. 90% of hotels were completely sold out (including the Hilton) and the other 10% were only selling rooms at last-minute prices of $400+. Ouch.

When I checked in, I mentioned my predicament to the agent (I still didn’t have a room for the second night at this point) and she said she’d see what she could do. About 15 minutes after I got to my room. She’d spoken to the GM, and they did have one room free for the second night. Since I was a Hilton Diamond member, the GM was willing to make me an offer. I’d pay full price for a standard room (ouch) but would get a room which had “just become available due to a change in plans from a VIP guest in town for a concert.” It was the largest suite in the hotel, and he assured me I would be thrilled with it. I bit the bullet. It avoided moving my bags, and I couldn’t resist.

Later that day, I found out the VIP in town was none other than Mariah Carey. Hah, I wonder if it was her room I was getting, or someone else’s.

By this point it was early evening, and since the hotel didn’t have an executive lounge, they gave me two vouchers good for drinks at the lobby bar. It was a nice social environment, and I got to try Mac’s Black beer. Rather tasty stuff! After my recent Brisbane public transport successes, I bought a transport card for Auckland and headed out to brave the busses. I was headed to SPQR for dinner, which I’d been to many years prior in my first visit to Auckland. It was tasty as I’d remembered, although also a bit more pretentious than I remembered from the previous visit. My waiter was an Italian, and the table next to me was Italian tourists, and he seemed far more interested in chatting with them than paying any attention to me. When I asked for a wine recommendation he instantly recommended the most expensive by-the-glass on the menu, which was definitely tasty, but always leaves a bad impression that they’re recommending based on price.

Decided to walk the 2.5 km back to my hotel since it was a nice evening:


Great view looking back at the city from in front of the Hilton:



Slept nearly 10 hours which felt absolutely wonderful, and then headed out to find caffeine. Starbucks. Predictable caffeine. Just one small problem…it was drizzling.

Great, so now in addiction to being windy and cold, it’s wet. About 500m into the walk, the skies opened up…and then I was saved. A company was handing out FREE umbrellas as advertisement! Can’t be a cheap promotion, but it was awesome!


When I got to Starbucks, I looked at who I was advertising before. Given the drama with Fiji Airways and Tuvalu, it was just too appropriate:


By the time I’d finished coffee the sun had come out, and it was a nice walk back to the hotel with a great view of the Sky Tower:


Got back, and it was pouring rain again, so took a little time to do a blog entry, and just as I finished the front desk called to tell me my new room was ready and they’d send someone up with the keys and to move my bags. First impression walking in the door:



Looking back into the room from the far pointy ended. It was called a “sail” suite because it stuck out into the harbour in the shape of a sail:


Standing on the balcony at the pointy end:



I love my long wraparound balcony at home, and the one on this room was just as amazing:


Towards the pier:


After the rain finally let up, I went for a long walk around the downtown core, just browsing in shops and people watching. I had planned to climb up One Tree Hill, but given the off and on rain decided it wasn’t the best of ideas. Instead, I ended my walk at Giapo, which was listed as a gourmet gelato shop (and “haute ice cream” by their own website) and a must-do in Auckland.

The funny thing is the windows of the ice cream case were frosted over, with the explanation that they want you to judge the gelato by “taste and not colour.” Hmmm, ok. They scooped the Tiramisu gelato into the cup first, then spooned cocoa over it, and topped it off with an edible chocolate cup filled with chocolate mousse. AMAZING.


Walking back, the skies had really cleared up. Another view of the Sky Tower:


After resting up a bit in my room, I decided to swing by a place near my hotel I’d seen earlier in the day that advertised they did tasting flights of beer. Andrew, Andrew had five local craft beers on tap, and it made for a tasty sampling:


Then, the rain started. Again. Another downpour. And the beer was good. And they had an appetizer platter which sounded reasonable. I didn’t make it out much further. Lamb meatballs, grilled meats, calamaris, haloumi cheese, what’s not to love?


Got back to the Hilton, watched some BBC and basically just relaxed and enjoyed the wonderful suite. Fortunately I was going to be able to sleep in again before heading off in the morning to Tonga. Got my second 10 hour sleep in a row, but unfortunately woke up with a bit of a cold. Lazed around for the morning, found a Vietnamese restaurant doing Pho for lunch which is always amazing with a cold, and then headed off to the airport early afternoon.

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