Had a good night’s sleep. Finally got warmed up after a shower. I’ve discovered that my light down jacket is really not warm enough even with my down vest underneath. Today I sought a really warm jacket since it’ll be colder than here later in the trip. I was warned that it was going to be colder than I expected and thought I had bought a jacket that was light but warm. Nope. Need something really warmer. Even though it’s 35-50 degrees, it is chilly!

Met group at 9:00 and we went to Blax nearby for a wonderful breakfast and espresso (doppio – double espresso). Went out walking and taking pix around 11:00. And to look for a jacket.

We headed toward town centre and Cathedral Square. Lots of new buildings all around. And, except for the fence around the cathedral itself, we could walk about anywhere. In 2012, I couldn’t get within a block of this area – all fenced off. Seems as if there is no decision on whether to rebuild the cathedral or just take it down and put a new cathedral in its place. Where Jeff and I had stayed in 2005 on this square fully collapsed and there is a car park where it once stood. Interesting to see all of this comparing 2005, 2012, and now.

Walked nearby and found a Macpac store where everything was half-off as end-of-season sale. Got their warmest down jacket for $145USD. Nice deal. Then walked to the container city area and around there. Next we went by the Christchurch Art Gallery, which is just reopening all these years after the big quake. It was pretty much unharmed but was used as the recovery center for the city. From there, we went down to a math craft display in a large hall at University of Canterbury. Jeff and I ate lunch at a café here on our last day in NZ in 2005. Lots of the university is still under reconstruction from the quake(s).

While Susan and Liz went back to the motel, J, D, and I stopped at a coffee/sandwich shop so I could get some lunch. Then we walked back to the motel arriving around 2:30. Downloaded images from day so far, read emails. And, as soon as the Sun goes down, it gets cold fast. It’s about 5:45 and now 45 degrees. Had to turn up heater in the room. Oh, and I learned there is a heating pad on the mattress under the sheets! Will be toasty tonight!

Van came to pick us up around 6:30 for group welcoming dinner. Went to Fiddlesticks and had a lovely set menu. The lamb shoulder and the steak were cooked sous vide, so I have nice time explaining this to those at my table. The whole contingent is now here and all luggage has arrived. Tomorrow we’re having breakfast nearby at 9:00 and then leaving at 10:00 in the van for the whole day.

Left the lounge about 9:45 to board. Looked around for Susan Thompson, but didn’t see her. After boarding, Susan passed me on her way to her seat and said she had been looking for me as well. Flight was supposed to leave at 10:30. Pulled away from the gate at 10:50 and drove around the airport to get to the longest runway. Took off about 11:30.

Now the game is to put my head into NZ time. 11:30 in LA is 6:30 PM the next day in NZ. So, we’ll have supper based on NZ time. Hope to stay awake until the equivalent of 11:00PM NZ time before converting my seat into a flat bed for, hopefully, sleep. But that didn’t happen.

Now waiting for dinner service! Nice food, of course. Looked back where Susan was in row 36, but she was fast asleep. Good for her. So, I will download images now and try to stay awake a bit more. Well, that lasted to about 9:30 on my new timeline. Fell asleep at the keys.

Time to convert my seat into a flat bed. You stand up, flight crew pushes a button, whole seat reconfigures with back folding down over the seat and sliding to meet up with the footrest. Then there is a sheet-covered mattress that is rolled out into place. A pillow. A blanket. Nice. Slept for over 5 hours, drifted in and out for another hour. Really got up around 4:30, brushed my teeth, put my lenses back in, had my bed converted back to a seat. And here I am waiting for breakfast. Ah, the joy of poached eggs with runny yolks and flakey croissant at 39,000 feet.

Landed around 7:00, quite late. Lots of fog in Auckland that delayed our takeoff and, thus, arrival. After passport control and clearing customs, I dragged my suitcase (45 lbs.) and wore my camera backpack (25lbs) and my computer bag (oh, a few more lbs.) on the LONG walk from the international terminal to domestic terminal. I seem to forget how very long this walk is. Nice to exercise after 12 hours on an airplane, but I was moving pretty slow by the time I got to the domestic terminal.

While lots of flights had been delayed by the thick fog, by the time I got to the domestic terminal my 8:00 flight had closed its doors. I waited in a long line to rebook. Lots of internal flights had been cancelled, so people took ages at the podium. Luckily, there was room on the 9:00 flight. Met up with Susan Thompson, who was always booked on this flight. Pulled away from gate around 9:15 and into the air about 9:40. Fog really screwed things up. Clear weather as soon as we took off. It’s an hour’s flight to Christchurch.

I had a window seat on the right side. As soon as we got over the South Island, I could view row upon row of snow-covered mountains. Really a wonderful sight. And the view continued for about 20 minutes all the way into landing at Christchurch. Susan and I got our luggage and took a shuttle to the City Centre Motel where I am in room 801 (first floor). About 1:00, Susan, Jeff, Donna, and I met and walked to a pub where they had eaten last night, Speight’s Ale House. Got my first order of green-lipped mussels. Yum.

Walked back to motel. I got my camera and took an hour’s walk over to North Hadley Park and walked along the Avon river down to where this park hits the Botanic Gardens. Then back through the city to the motel. I was only wearing my down vest and it got pretty chilly. Short days here with sunset a bit after 5:00. Love the Ulmon Pro City Maps to Go. You can flag places (like the motel) and the maps are on the phone so it uses the phone’s GPS and you can see the little moving dot where you are. Pretty neat. We used it in Europe last year on the Danube cruise. So, I used it to see where I was going and then to plot a completely different route back to the motel.

Tonight, we met at 6:15 (those of us who could still walk and talk given our travels) and went to Himalayas for Indian food. Food was good, but I’m tired and got full right away. Nice company and nice conversations. So, back at motel where I have clothes to wash and a nice hot shower and shave to enjoy. Then to bed. It’s only 8:00, but I think that I won’t be able to make it much later without falling asleep.

Been sort of a strange day as any day when one leaves on a long trip. As I write this, I am on AA flight 707 STL to LAX. I started today trying to get airline reservations for next Summer for our family trip to Israel. Obviously, I wanted to use points. I found out I have to wait until 331 days before the return flights to make a round trip reservation. So, I calculated when that would be. Next I set up credit card payments for while I am away. Light lunch and mostly then sat around until it was time for Marian to take me to the airport.

Checked my bag, went through TSA PreCheck, found out that AA’s Admiral Club does not honor first class tix unless it’s an international flight. No biggie. Sat in terminal for about an hour. Plane left about 25 minutes late due to thunderstorms in the area. The first class section is all of two rows, total of eight seats. Across the aisle from me is a young woman with a seal gray cat on her lap. Next to me is a businesswoman in her business suit returning home to LA. I believe she is French given her accent. We talked photography and food. Speaking of food, I decided that dinner in LA was far enough in the future of partake of the vittles offered. Passing over mountains with snow on them now. Not really sure where we are, but it’s pretty in the afternoon sun. And now desert – flat as can be, dry washes. Not a road in sight nor any dwellings. Map says we’re about an hour and 20 minutes from LAX. 

Sitting here with nothing better to do, I kept trying to figure out LA time vs. NZ. If it’s a 17-hour difference STL to NZ, I finally realized it’s a 19-hour difference from LA instead of what I had stuck in my mind as 15 hours. Ah, it all makes sense.

Got in pretty much on time. Got luggage and went on shuttle to Hampton Inn El Segundo. Jill came by around 7:45 and we went to M B Post in Manhattan Beach for a great dinner. Good small plates, expensive wine, but it all comes out in a reasonable total. And loud. Hard to hear each other. Loved being with Jill. Lots to catch up on.

Back to Hampton Inn El Segundo to watch the news of the day – shootings and obstruction of justice allegations. Glad to be leaving the US right about now.

This morning, I had to get used to where stuff is in my luggage and laptop case – all new, thus new places where things are. Got more “money” put on my Cellular Abroad phone. Had to call in since could not do it online (change relevant cc). Will spend the day with Jill.

Right now, I am sitting in the Star Alliance Lounge at LAX. Nice. Had a yummy chicken wrap and some prosecco. Not bad. But back to today.

Got up around 7:00 and did some writing. About 8:30, went downstairs and got coffee and yogurt. Checked out, read USA Today, waited for Jill who came at around 10:45. We went to her house to leave my luggage there instead of dragging it around all day. Met her landlords (had met them five years ago, but …) who are really nice.

(Wait. Attendants just came around and served Swedish meatballs, noodles, and lingonberries. Had to pause to eat some.)

So, Jill and I headed over to Huckleberry Bakery and Café in Santa Monica. I had seen this place on some food TV show and it’s near Jill’s and well thought of. Great food. Neat place. We did eggs and skipped the terrific baked goods. Enjoyed ourselves. This was really brunch. Next, Jill drove me to the Getty Museum and dropped me off while she went home to work on food costs for her business plan.

I spent a few hours at the Getty. Before taking the tram from the drop-off point, a volunteer asked if I had any pocket knives on me. She was satisfied with my “no” answer. So much for security. The only exhibits I went into see were in the West building. Upstairs are European paintings. Went to the Impressionist gallery. Then all the way to the lower level to the photography exhibits where I spent considerable time. Saw works by Thomas Annan from the late 1800s and Chris Killip from the 1980s. All monochrome. Lovely works, most of which would have been “passed” at Camera Club since they mostly went from middle tones to black or were all middle tones. Tch Tch.

Then I spent quite a bit of time just wandering around outside on different levels, in different gardens, taking in the views and architecture. Lovely. Interesting. Well worth the visit if you neer went inside.

Took Jill over 30 minutes to come to get me. Lots of people were waiting for Lyft and Uber cars that sometimes didn’t come. Traffic here is horrendous. I don’t think I could stand it. Takes 30-45 minutes to go 6-7 miles. Freeways are bumper-to-bumper. Jill uses Waze to route her over back streets, but even then, it’s quite a long time to get anywhere. We went to Jill’s where she worked on her food costs and I entertained Eddie who vacillated between coming over to be petted and barking at me as an intruder.

6:30 we headed to LAX. Took good part of an hour before she could drop me off at the International Terminal. Fairly fast checking in. then found my way to the First/Business Class TSA line. Even here, it was slow since they were mostly doing full body scans with only a few just going through the metal detector. I identified myself as being 76, put my stuff on the belt for the scanner and walked through the metal detector…clean. So, up to the sixth floor for the Star Alliance Lounge where I am sitting, sipping, and writing waiting for boarding around 9:45.

Itinerary and Accommodations

June 14 – AA to LAX, Hampton Inns and Suites, El Segundo (310-322-2900) – Dinner w/Jill

June 15-17 Air New Zealand to Auckland and Christchurch

June 17 - 19 – Christchurch – City Centre Motel (64 3 372 9294)

June 20 & 21 – Mt. Cook – Aoraki Court Motel (64 3 435 1111)

June 22 – Queenstown – Copthorne Hotel and Resort Lakefront (64 3 367 3302)

June 23 – Te Anau – Distinction Te Anau Hotel (64 3 249 9700)

June 24 – Doubtful Sound Cruise

June 25 – Gore – Heartland Hotel Croydon (64 3 208 9029)

June 26 & 27 – Dunedin – Motel on York (64 3 477 6120)

June 28 – Akaroa – Tresori Motor Lodge (64 3 304 7500)

June 29 – Kaikoura – Bella Vista Motel (64 3 319 7959)

June 30 – Christchurch – City Centre Motel (64 3 372 9294)

July 1, 2, & 3 – Hahei, Whitianga, - Tatahi Lodge (64 7 866 3992)

July 4 – Flights home

Flights

June 14 – STL to LAX AA 707 4:10 PM – 6:14 PM – Seat 2F

June 15-17 – LAX to Auckland ANZ NZ5 10:30 PM – 6:15 AM lose a day – Seat 11A

June 17 – Auckland to Christchurch ANZ NZ523 8:00 AM – 9:25 AM – Seat 9D

July 1 – Christchurch to Auckland ANZ NZ530 9:00 AM – 10:20 AM – Seat 9A

July 4 – Auckland to LAX ANZ NZ6 7:30 PM – 12:40 PM – Seat 3A

July 4 – LAX to STL AA 803 4:55 PM – 10:38 PM – Seat 2F

 South Island NZ

 

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