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Friday, April 17, 2009

March 3 – 15, 2009 – Karen Gladney’s visit

Bayswater was a great marina for visitors arriving into Auckland, providing a number of amenities. Its only negative is that it juts out from the end of a point and is exposed to wind, waves, boat wakes and tides. We did not spend a lot of time hanging around at the marina however. We stayed busy, and thanks to Andy and Melissa, had scheduled quite a lot of events to keep Karen entertained during her visit. Of course we had to incorporate shopping and good eating into our agenda so right away we set off for Parnell, one of the many very trendy areas around Auckland, where we three girls browsed and shopped while the guys watched Cricket, drank beer and discovered Bluff Oysters. The very best, most unusual oyster we have ever eaten and one of the costlier at an average of $45/dozen, the Bluff is outstanding. For dinner that night we dined on gourmet pizza and Bluff Oysters. Thereafter, whenever and wherever we could find them we feasted.

Our first big outing was on March 4th to Auckland Cup Day at Ellerslie Racecourse, which is the equivalent of our Kentucky Derby. The $300.00 per person ticket included seating in the President's Lounge providing us unlimited champagne, beer, wine and cocktails (I should have gotten a large discount!), private sports book, outstanding gourmet lunch, afternoon high tea, lots of goodies and trinkets, and the list goes on! For Frank and I, one of the highlights of the day was being seated with Billie Biel and her friends Martha, Rex and Diane. Frank and Billie immediately hit it off, and by the end of the day we had been invited to Billie's home for Sunday dinner.

Thursday we attended the Auckland Boat Show in the Viaduct Harbor. Easy ferry ride going over, but then the winds began building and the rains came. Our day at the boat show turned ugly and continued to deteriorate. Walking along the docks was becoming a serious danger as the waves began to heighten, causing twisting and buckling of the passageways. Buildings were shuddering and tents were creaking and pulling at their anchors as the wind blew the rain sideways. We finally threw in the towel and headed for the ferry dock after hearing that because of deteriorating conditions, gale warnings and small craft advisories in the bay the ferries may be halted. If this happened we would have been relatively stranded downtown. We caught the last ferry back to Bayswater and to the warmth and comfort of a rocking Destiny!

Friday the weather calmed so we spent a day in downtown Auckland – mostly at the Sky City Casino & Tower. Later that evening we met Bill and Judy (BeBe) for dinner at Tommy Wongs – highly recommended! Saturday, we attended a rugby game, which was great fun! The Auckland Blues v the Sharks form South Africa. What a carnival atmosphere that was. Sadly the Sharks crushed the Blues. Afterward, we went for dinner at a local pub, which was crawling with fans and a large group of guys having a stag party. Melissa and I made a game of drooling over all of the hunky guys and rating them, "1-10", while Karen seemed to be unhappily distracted by the flirtations of members of the bachelor party. Frank and Andy – well they ate and drank beer.

Then on Sunday we all piled into the car and drove to Billie's house where we spent the afternoon and most of the night having dinner and visiting. Billie's husband Grant had just returned home from his many days away working in Australia, to fight the horrid forest fires which were devastating the area around Victoria. The Biels own and operate a business called Heli Harvest Ltd., NZ's leading heavy-duty helicopter service. They handle big jobs including logging, fire fighting and so on. Martha, Diane and Rex were also there. We had a fabulous time with them. Their home is lovely and so are they.
On Monday the 5 of us piled back into the car for a road trip (back) to Rotorua (our 3rd time), renting a charming lake house on Rotoiti. Our first night was spent grilling steaks and watching hours of television (never realized what a treat that would be!). Then on Tuesday we hit Rotorua for a day of adventure, which included the gondola, the luge of course, a local nature preserve complete with wild lions, and then ended the day at a Maori Village featuring a cultural show and dinner. Wednesday we casually departed for Hamilton to attend our first live professional Cricket Match: The NZ Black Caps v India. It is amazing how festive Pro sports are here in New Zealand. We got caught up in the thrill and the adrenaline of the day. Sadly, it stormed on and on and after the second rain delay, we left to find a pub in town that was showing the game on TV. The weather had deteriorated to the point that the game was eventually called, and India –
rightly deserving – was awarded the win.

We left Andy and Melissa in Hamilton to catch a train for the South. Frank, Karen and I drove back to Auckland. Returning to Bayswater we took it easy for a couple of days, cooking on the boat, watching movies and showing Karen the sights around here including Devonport.
On Friday, Frank needed a day without us on the boat in order to replace the macerator, so Karen and I spent an entire day walking around downtown Auckland shopping and just having girl-time. We ventured quite far actually, ending up on Ponsonby St., which is known for its unusual shops and varied in vogue eateries. We stopped in at Murder Burger for a shared lunch. Frank, Andy, Melissa and I had seen it and put it on our list of places to try. It looked good. It looked promising. It was intriguing and inviting, yet Karen and I found it to be the absolute worst burger either of us had EVER tasted. We took one for the team!
On Saturday, although the bad weather persisted and rains threatened, we drove over to the Pacifika Festival. Billie had told us about it. Each year native citizens representing nearly all of the islands of the South Pacific set up their villages in the park. They offer various kinds of entertainment (musical entertainers, dancers, singers, culture shows), they exhibit and sell their wares, foods and so on. It is extremely joyful and festive! We eventually lost momentum from the persistent rain and left after just a couple of hours but truly had a nice time and were happy to have had the opportunity to experience the many cultures.

Sunday arrived before we knew it! For her last day in NZ, before we took Karen to the airport we lunched at Soul on the Auckland waterfront, downed our last plate of Bluff Oysters together and bid Karen a safe journey home.

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