Kiwis Down Under
Welcome to New Zealand, sometimes called The Land of the Long White Cloud (derived from the translation of the Maori word Aotearoa). The Maori people have been in this land for hundreds of years and their culture is descended from the Polynesians, having derived from the same group of people who made their way across the Pacific so long ago.
We flew into Auckland, New Zealand the morning of New Year's Eve Day around 6am local time. With the 18 hour time difference, that means it was still the previous day back in Florida/New York. We'd landed in the future, so to speak. In order to acclimate to the time change (if that's even possible when it's this drastic) we immediately changed clothes, had some breakfast, and found a guided city tour to take us around to the main sites. The driving tour took us around the Viaduct area near the harbor, part of the Central Business District, then over the Auckland Harbor Bridge into Devonport, a sort of suburb that was created north of the city when the bridge was built back in the 80s. We then toured around downtown, driving past the Auckland Domain, Ponsonby (a trendier area), and making our way south to some cute little beach towns about 20 minutes outside of the city center. The towns felt a little like Laguna Beach, with a definite Californian vibe, and had a lovely view lookingback towards the city. My favorite spot was Achilles Point, which overlooked Ladies Bay with these funny purple flowers lining the cliff that looked straight out of a Dr. Suess book.
After the tour, we walked around near our hotel (the Hilton Auckland) and stopped into a few of the stores (those that were open considering it was a holiday). We didn't wind up buying anything but soon went back to our hotel to change and off we went to dinner at Clooney, a gourmet tasting restaurant, where we had a 9 course meal with wine pairings awaiting us. By the time midnight rolled around we'd just finished eating and we hurried out to the street for a perfect view of the Sky Tower and the fireworks. The countdown began and we were the first time zone in the world to turn to the new year and we rang in 2017 right amongst a crowd of Kiwis and new friends.
The following morning we started 2017 the ideal way: eating brunch. I'd reserved a table at Ortolana, a trendy spot with outdoor seating and a deliciously healthy menu. We spent a few hours enjoying the meal and the sunny weather then walked around the Britomart area window shopping at some of the cute stores since everything was closed for the holiday. In the afternoon, my mom's friend, who lives in Auckland, picked us up at the hotel to drive us around the area along with his wife and daughter. We went outside of town to one of the black sand beaches on the coast, Muriwai Beach. There, one could see one of the main breeding areas for gannet birds and we witnessed thousands flying around making a ruckus on the cliff side. We then wandered along the black sand beach below before heading back into Auckland, where we sat at their home for awhile chatting and sipping coffee then went to a yummy dinner at SOUL Bar, another trendy eatery down by the water. All in all it was a great first experience of Auckland and though the city felt a little small to me, it had some great trendy spots and it's all relative considering nothing can compare to NYC.