Monthly Archives: August 2017

Day 32: Journey home

The epic vacation finally comes to an end. I barely slept the night before we left. Went to bed around midnight but I needed to wake up at 3 AM. I ended up getting up at 2:45 AM. I just don’t sleep well when I know I need to be up early.

We woke the kids at 3:30 AM. We had them sleep in the clothes they would be wearing the night before. Jonas was very good about waking up, Rachel refused. Eventually we got her up.

Then I tried to request an Uber. Turns out bars close at 4 AM in Auckland so I had trouble doing that. Luckily there was a taxi stand less than a block from our rental so David hailed a cab.

We arrived at the airport and checked in ok but we could not check our luggage in until 5 AM. We ended up going into the Premium Check in so we could get our luggage checked in earlier.

Then we headed towards the flight. We were split up for this flight. The boys were in coach for this flight and the ladies were in business class. Rachel and I went to the lounge for Air New Zealand and we were very excited to see that they had a gluten free toaster and gluten free bread. We both had some real toast. It was awesome.

Our first flight was great (for Rachel and I). I resisted falling asleep. We had two courses with our breakfast. The service though took a while….due to the early flight I would have preferred to nap a little but this turned out to be good that I did not nap. Rachel took a good 1.5 hour nap though.

The flight landed and then we headed to our next flight, Sydney to San Francisco. We went to the Singapore Airlines lounge. At that lounge Rachel found some food to eat. This was good as when we were already boarded on our United flight we learned that they did not have our requests for the gluten free meals. This is not the news you want to hear on a 14 hour flight….thankfully we had a cooler full of food we could eat.

The crew was very friendly on this flight and they apologized for not having our meals. I did enjoy two glasses of champagne and a glass of red wine. I started watching the Land of Z (or whatever it was called) and ended up not finishing it. Then I decided to try to sleep. I was hoping I could sleep on East Coast hours. I was thrilled when I woke up and there was only 45 minutes left of the flight. Rachel slept a little but not much. Jonas slept for over 5 hours, I am told.

We went through customs and immigration and then headed to the United Arrivals lounge to take showers. The arrival’s lounge showers are awesome. We all left feeling refreshed. By the time we finished it was time to head to the gate.

We boarded the plane and for once the kids agreed to sit next to each other! So for one flight David and I could pretend we were on a vacation by ourselves. For this flight we were in “first class”. I must say that domestic first class is so different than international business class…the seats are no where as big and the service seems sub par. On our particular flight there were also no personal entertainment systems so you had to use your own device for that. It just doesn’t feel the same…..

This flight went smoothly. We were flying from the west coast to the east coast around the same time as the eclipse so I was wondering what it would be like. Turns out there was nothing to see. I think had we left two hours earlier we would have seen things.

Our flight landed slightly early and then we went to pick up our bags and take a taxi home. Five minutes after we got home Rachel and I left to go pick up our dog. We got home from that around 8:30 PM. Around the time we got home our groceries were delivered. We then started to unpack. I may have also started weeding our front which got a little overgrown when we were gone.

Some of the family went to bed earlier than others. I actually went to bed at a normal bed time. I was not sure when I would go to bed as I actually slept a lot on the plane. I was actually really excited to go to bed and get back into our normal routine. I was very excited to head back to work the next morning.

In summary – all of our flights back were fine and we had no delays. We were all excited to get home from our trip. We had a wonderful vacation and spent a lot of time together as a family, and it was great taking a break from our day-to-day lives at home.

Also – as a side note Jonas ended up having six breakfasts this day:

1. Auckland airport

2. Flight from AKL to SYD

3. Lounge in SYD

4. Flight from SYD to SFO

5. Flight from SFO to IAD

6. Waffles for dinner at home (as that is what we had in the freezer)

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Day 31: Last full day of vacation!

Wow, can you believe it?  Our vacation is finally coming to an end.  We start heading home tomorrow and it will involve 22 hours of flying, plus layovers.  Should be an interesting day. And now 3/4 of us have colds….

This morning David and Jonas walked to a bridge to take pictures.   While they were on their walk I was tasked at figuring out the day’s plans.  I decided visiting the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) would be the most pleasing for the family as they have hands on exhibits.

We ended up taking a cab to the museum.  The museum had lots of interesting exhibits.  As we arrived at the museum Jonas spotted a tram and was immediately excited.  Even at his age, he still loves riding trains.  It always reminds me of my paternal grandfather when I see Jonas’s excitement with trains.

We toured the museum, then took the tram to another museum, the Aviation museum which is a part of MOTAT.  The kids ended up enjoying this museum more than the first one.  The aviation hall reminded me of a mini Udvar-Hazy center.  There was a military tank you could ride in and a train you could take a quick trip on.  I told the conductor that Jonas loves trains and he invited Jonas to ride in the front of the train when it returned to it’s original departing point.

After that museum, we then took a cab to a Belgium restaurant so the boys could enjoy a bucket of mussels.  They had that, I had french fries, and Rachel had an ice cream sundae.

Finally, to end our site seeing day I took Rachel and Jonas on a train ride on Auckland’s public transportation system.  We ended up riding on two different train lines.  You should see the growing list we have of cities around the world where the kids have ridden train systems.

We got back to the rental promptly at 6 pm, and then I started packing things up for our journey home tomorrow.  Our flight leaves at 7 AM, we need to be checked in by 5 AM, and the airport is at least 35 minutes away from our lodging.  I don’t even want to think about what time I need to get up tomorrow.  I hate to see what I will look like after all of that traveling….I hope I am able to sleep somewhat on the plane.  I think by the time we get home we will have been served Breakfast/Lunch/Breakfast/Breakfast.

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Day 30: Auckland

Once again, we had another leisurely day.  We started with everyone sleeping in.  It was pouring in the morning, so this turned out to be a good option.  Eventually we decided to take a ferry to the town of Devonport which is right across the harbor.

This was a nice little town to walk around.  We went though as we thought there would be antique stores close to the ferry terminal, but apparently the antique stores in Devonport are not that close to the ferry.  Instead of going into antique shops, the kids and I ended up climbing to the top of Mount Victoria.  It was not so much fun climbing up to the top, but it was worth the climb once you saw the views at the top.

After that we met back up with David.  We split up once again as Rachel and I had heard that the grocery store in town had gluten free donuts.  At times I have felt this trip is basically a big gluten free product hunt for Rachel and I.  Rachel managed to find the gluten free donuts :).  Then we met the boys for lunch.  As we were eating lunch, it poured once again.  Thankfully we were inside.  By the time we left the restaurant, the rain had stopped.

We caught the ferry back to the rental, then I took a very brief nap.  The kids and I ended up grabbing dinner from a restaurant across the street from our apartment, and David enjoyed the kid’s leftovers.  Rachel had trouble falling asleep, I think it is because she is so excited to come home and see our dog…

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Day 29: Auckland

The trip is rapidly coming to an end.  At this point half of the group has a cold.  Thus, we all slept in and then enjoyed watching the harbor from our rental.  While the kids were sleeping I trekked to a grocery store and picked up some groceries for the rental.

Eventually we ate lunch and then did an Auckland Harbor Cruise.  This was a nice little cruise as you went around the harbor and stopped briefly at the Rangitoto Island which was created from a volcano.

Our boat arrived back to the harbor a little after 3.  At that point Rachel and I went to do more souvenir shopping.  Then we met the boys back at the apartment.  The boys ended up eating a seafood dinner at a restaurant close to our apartment, whereas Rachel and I had Mexican and brought it back to the rental to eat.

Not a very busy day today, but a relaxing one!

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Day 28: Taupo to Auckland

Today (Thursday) we left Taupo and drove to Auckland. We stopped at a town called Tirau on the way which had some interesting buildings. One of the buildings had a sign out front that said History of Wool or something like that and I thought it was actually about this history of wool. Turns out it was just a shop selling wool related items….

After that stop we had a picnic lunch at a rest area, then we continued to Auckland. Once we were in Auckland we went to a store called the Elephant House. This store sells items that are made in New Zealand. I bought a carved wooden bowl (I have a thing for wood) and a price of glass with the New Zealand fern that is so prominent here. I could have spent a couple of hours in the store just looking at their things.

We still had a couple of hours to kill before we could check into our lodging so we ended up going over to Mount Eden. This is the highest point in the city. Once we got there half of our party did not want to walk to the top, so we decided to look for ice cream instead. We headed for the ice cream shop just as school was letting out as soon our car was surrounded by school aged boys and we had to dodge them on the way to get ice cream.

We enjoyed our ice cream. On our way to get ice cream Rachel saw a playground and she wanted to stop there. So after our ice cream we went there and the kids played there for about an hour…in a drizzling rain as well. Jonas even declared that it was a pretty good playground.

We then went to our rental which is on Princes Wharf in the harbor. Our final rental is a two bedrock place. It overlooks all the ferries coming in and out. It is very centrally located with great views. We ended up having dinner at a place near the water a few blocks away. Coming from less suburban areas of New Zealand it is nice to be able to walk around to find a place to eat.

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Day 27: Taupo

Another day, another relaxing one. Can you tell at this point we are vacationed out?

Once again everyone slept in. After all were up we decided to check out two suspension bridges that were close to the National Trout center in Turangi. This is where they hatch trout to release into the streams. This was a nice little place to visit as you could feed the fish and observe the fish eating.

We then went to the bridges. Rachel tripped at the first bridge and fell into the mud. Thank goodness we have a washer and dryer at our rental.

We decided to return to the rental going the long way around the lake, hoping we would run into something to do. We did not. Once we reached Taupo we decided we were hungry so we stopped at the World’s Coolest McDonald’s. It’s true. I found it on a list stating it was the coolest. The McDonald’s had an old airplane that you could go up and eat in.

Once we got back to the rental I told the kids I would take them swimming at the complex pool. Normally I hate getting in pool water but this water was geothermally heated by the lake and the vents beneath it. The water was so warm I really enjoyed it.

After swimming I had some wine, cooked dinner, and folded laundry. Tomorrow we leave Taupo and head to Auckland.

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Day 26: Taupo

Today (Tuesday) was another easy day. Rachel still has a cold and so everyone slept in. It was also pouring rain so we were in no rush to get out and site see.

Once everyone was ready we decided to check Huka Falls and the Wai-O-Tapu park. This was a wise decision.

We first stopped at the Falls. The Falls were overflowing with water, due to all the rain they have been getting here. I wonder what the Falls looks like when there is not a lot of rain. It was hard to see the Falls due to the rushing water.

Next we headed to the park. This park was awesome. It had three different boardwalks you could follow. One was about a half hour of your time, two were about an hour, and three were about an hour and a half. All boardwalks were connected to each other so you could make the decision when you reached the crossroads if you wanted to continue or head back. The boardwalks did not repeat anything so you always got to see new things.

This park reminded me of Yellowstone, but without the tourists and fences. Yellowstone is some place I would love to take the kids, but we hate crowds in my family and I don’t want to do Yellowstone in the summer months. Everywhere you looked you saw bubbling streams, beautiful colors, sunken craters, bubbling mud, etc. There was even a geyser, but we were not able to watch it go off. The park also had a lovely gift shop where I finally bought some small souvenirs for myself.

Of course, as parents we can’t win. Jonas was truly bothered by the smell of the sulfur and kept making faces. Rachel on the other hand was perturbed that she could not smell the sulfur due to her cold.

We then headed back to our rental and made a decision that we would eat dinner out. Rachel had found a menu for Cobb and Company at our rental and wanted to try that place. We all agreed that dinner was our best dinner yet. No one bickered, Rachel ate a GOOD meal that she was happy with. So many times she is disappointed because what she wants to order is not gluten free.

Jonas wanted dessert at the restaurant but we talked him out of that and said he could have dessert at the rental. So we went back to the rental, had dessert, and then went to bed.

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Day 25: Nelson to Taupo

This morning we had to catch at 9:10 flight from Nelson to Wellington. We left our rental at 8:05 and managed to drive 13 minutes to the airport, return our rental car, and check our luggage all by 8:25 AM. I love short hop domestic flights in New Zealand. Our flight unfortunately was delayed about forty minutes due to a late arriving aircraft. I thought that was hilarious since the late arriving aircraft had not yet taken off from Wellington. The flight between Nelson and Wellington is only 25 minutes….

We landed in Wellington, grabbed a quick lunch and prepared to drive north towards Taupo. This is normally a five hour drive, but of course we stopped at some bridges so it made the drive longer…

I was not prepared for the beauty of the drive. Everyone talks about the beauty of the South Island, but I have found the North Island is equally beautiful. We passed through several varied landscapes. When we got towards the more central area of the island it looked as though Mountains had just fallen off. There appear to be several landslides in the area. Then you move to scenery that is reminiscent of New Mexico/Arizona with desert scenery (without cactuses) and volcanoes in the background. We constantly passed sheep. Even though there was a lot of rain on our drive it was gorgeous and it was hard to look away.

We probably could have stopped at one more bridge on the way to our lodging but Rachel was not feeling well (she has a cold) so we skipped one that would have added at least an hour to our trip. We checked into our rental which is right on Lake Taupo. I found some take-away for us for dinner and also stopped at a pharmacy to pick up some medicine for Rachel. That is one thing we take for granted in the US. I know I can always find a pharmacy open late or 24 hours. Here the pharmacy closed at 7:30 so I had to hurry to get there before it closed. After dinner we all went bed with plans to sleep in the next morning.

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Day 24: Nelson

Today we took a vacation day. We all slept in and then had plans to visit the Nelson Sunday market. Nelson is known as the sunniest place in New Zealand. So just our luck it was raining Sunday and the market did not seem to occur. Instead we poked around in a few stores. We eventually drove to see a couple of bridges, then we went to a grocery store to grab food for lunch and dinner. We came back to the rental for two hours and then I took the kids to see Despicable Me 3. We came back to the rental and I made dinner.
Rachel now seems to have a cold 😦 Hopefully she will not have it when it is time for us to fly home and hopefully no one else will catch it.

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Day 23: Abel Tasman National Park

Today we explored the Abel Tasman National Park. We were on a 9:30 water taxi to Torrent Bay, and then we planned to hike from there to Bark Bay. In order to catch our taxi we needed to leave our apartment at 8:00….so it meant an early morning for everyone.

The water taxi was better than I expected. It starts with the water taxi being pulled into the water with a tractor. This is because the tide varies so much and the area they start the taxis at is very shallow. Once the boat was in the water, the driver drove us past Split Apple Rock. This is a rock that split, and thus it looks like a split apple. During high tide you can kayak between it.

Next the water taxi stopped at a seal colony. The colony was females and pups. We were able to watch them for about ten minutes. It was pretty cool watching them play and swim.

After that, we were dropped off at our location. We then had a 6.4 km hike to reach our pickup location. The kids did pretty well on the hike. There was some complaining midway through, but at that point we stopped for a quick “picnic” lunch. Next they were looking forward to the bridge, and after that the hike was almost over. So while there were some complaints, they were not too bad.

While on the hike we went to Medlands Beach. This was a very nice beach to just relax at. The water was crystal clear on both sides and there were lots of shells. It would have been an awesome place to swim if the water and temperatures were warmer.

While it was way too cold to do any swimming, one of the benefits of doing this hike in the winter was the lack of crowds. Supposedly in the summer the beaches in this park would have been filled with day hikers and backpackers.

After Medlands Beach we continued to our pickup beach called Bark Bay. On one side you had the ocean and on the other side was a huge bay. It was interesting to observe how much the coast/bay changes with the tide. The kids put a stick where the water touched the sand and we observed how quickly the tide went out. Additionally I noticed the same thing with some steps that I had been sitting on.
Our taxi came promptly at 3:15 to pick us up. We reached our car and made it back to our rental around 4:30. We relaxed for a few minutes and figured out dinner. The boys ordered fish and chips from a take away place across the street from us. Rachel had a gluten free fried calamari from the restaurant (The Styx)we ate at the night before, and I made myself some pasta. We then settled in for the night.

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