Monday, February 1, 2016

Day 1 (Dec 20) - Auckland

Our family was reunited on the morning of December 20 in a hotel room in Auckland Central.  It was the first time we were all together in five months ever since Cora had left Dayton on a flight to Singapore on July 20.  We were all looking forward to our extended family vacation.  I was also eager to leave winter behind, while Cora and Gudrun (who had joined Cora in Singapore a few weeks earlier) were keen for a reprieve from the equatorial heat.  Julian experienced little change in climate, as Los Angeles winters are very similar to New Zealand summer.

Among the first plants I noticed were the characteristic ferns of New Zealand (dicksonia squarrosa, commonly called wheki).  These ferns are a current political issue. New Zealanders will be voting in a referendum in March of 2016 on a proposed change of the National flag to one that prominently displays an image of a fern leaf.

I was glad that we had arrived on a Sunday morning with little traffic as it made the first kilometers of driving on the left hand side of the road a little easier.

Flowers that we don't normally get to see - at the municipal park of Auckland Domain

After breakfast we decided to leave the car parked at the hotel to walk off our jet lag.  It was a beautiful day of early summer as we wandered through the city. The ubiquitous Christmas decorations and carols appeared to us out of place. It must be a different experience for those growing up in a place that always associates Christmas with summer.

We made our way towards the Auckland War Memorial Museum where we hoped to find an introduction to New Zealand and Maori culture.

At Auckland Domain

The museum is an imposing building at a great location but was otherwise somewhat disappointing.  While it presented a myriad of artifacts with richly detailed descriptions, there was a complete lack of flow to the exhibits and it was impossible to discern the forest for the trees.  We did however get to see a Maori cultural presentation including a Haka performance, which seemed to have been reasonably authentic.

On "Lover's Walk" - white seeds everywhere.  NZ summer snow? - it was Christmas after all...

Our walk across Albert Park, the campus of the University of Auckland, and along “Lover’s Walk”, a single-track trail through a densely wooded municipal park called Auckland Domain, was lovely.

Close-up of the white seeds

After a late lunch we returned to our hotel and Cora, Julian, and I headed off to a cinema to see the latest rendition of Star Wars on its second day after opening night.  The movie theatre itself was a very civilized affair:  instead of munching popcorn out of huge buckets 20 minutes before show time (as is customary in the US), patrons would sip from glasses of Sauvignon Blanc in the lounge while they waited for the doors to open to take their pre-assigned seating.

More exotic flowers at Auckland Domain

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