Sunday 26/10/15. Auckland.
After a hot and restless night with Air New Zealand we arrived over Auckland at sunrise to spectacular red skies and a beautiful vista over the islands through a gap in the clouds.
We landed at 6.15 am to a cool overcast day. Quite a change after the humid heat of Hawaii.
Initial formalities were straightforward until we reached the bio security screen. 'Are you carrying any food?'. 'Do you have any water sports equipment?'. 'Have you been to any wilderness areas?'. 'Do you have any hiking boots?' Etc etc. The answers to all of these things was, of course, yes, and the options Offered were to declare, discard, dispose or pay a $400 fine.
We declared, and then had to face a queue to unpack our boots and trainers for inspection.
Top tip for travelling to Kiwi land. Don't take food, don't visit a wilderness area the day before and do wear your walking boots on your feet!
Anyway, after mild grumbling, we moved on and out into Auckland.
The 'Super Shuttle' whisked us through the the suburbs to Queens Street in the centre of the city, where we arrived too early for our room check in, but in good time for a most excellent breakfast - Eggs Benedict with either smoked salmon or mushrooms. The latte coffee was exceptionally good too, and we lounged in a couple of leather arm chairs contemplating our plans for the day.
The day improved further still with the arrival of the news from our lovely lady at the Hotel Scenic front desk to say that she had managed to get our room ready early. Hooray.
We had booked a suite with sitting area and kitchenette
which was a great move as we could spend an hour or two catching up with life before setting out to explore Auckland.
Queens Street turned out to be the very centre of the city and we followed a walking tour from the Hotel Scenic down to the waterfront, harbour and around Sky City. There was quite a carnival atmosphere going on, this being the Sunday afternoon prior to the Labour Day Public holiday. There were lots of couples and families out and about. Lots of outdoor fun and games going on down at the quay where they had placed sheets of artificial grass, giant Jenga and Connect 4, jugglers, exhibitions and picnics. After wandering for a while, we stopped in at a bar called 'Snapdragon' with a balcony overlooking the basin where the Americas Cup yachts were berthed. There were also many huge, shiny motor yachts moored further along. We admired them all from our sunny perch with our drinks and tapas.
Then back at The Scenic it was time to get ready for our dinner booking at The Orbit 360 Restaurant at the top of the Sky Tower. Smart dress was 'politely requested' on their web site. We rummaged in our duffle bags for something suitable and turned out pretty well!
What a place!
We walked up to Sky City and took the escalator down to the reception desk and then were shown into the lift and escorted up to the 60th floor to the viewing platform. The view was breath taking, much more so than we had expected. There were distant night views in all directions - the port and marina, the road network and all the brightly lit surrounding buildings. Absolutely fascinating. We re-traced the steps we had taken our walking tour as we had the perfect birds eye view!
We then went down in the lift to the Sky Lounge on level 51 for drinks and then back up to level 52 to the Orbit 360 restaurant. We had a table by the window overlooking the harbour. Rather disconcertingly the central portion of the restaurant that we were seated on was slowly rotating like a disc on a record turntable, completing one complete orbit per hour.
Our waiter, Arden, was charming. Moved here from India, 9 years ago and has no plans to leave!
The menu, setting and service were all superb, a real treat. A high light was my dessert of pineapple agar jelly with mango and coconut cream.
Afterwards we wandered home to our bed for a very long awaited sleep!