060824 – Thursday – Christchurch Deluxe

5 PM – Christchruch, we’re back at our hotel.   And what a hotel it is.   But first the back story that brought us here.

After I wrote from LAX last night, we boarded the flight for Auckland, New Zealand, and settled in for a fourteen hour overnight flight.  We has two seats WAY in the back in the tail section.   The plane wasn’t full but it was full enough that any dreams of claiming fours seats and laying out flat were quickly put paid to.

I watched a movie, The Sentinel, and then about 11 PM, I had a glass of wine and a Lunesta and layed back to see if I could sleep.   And, amazingly, I did sleep quite well.   I’m sorry to say that Sharon did not sleep as well and was quite tired today.

About 5 AM local time, we landed at Auckland and had an anxious 20 minutes wondering of our checked luggage had made it – it had.   And then we passed through customs and everything went fine.   There was a jump to Christchurch and looking out the window on the approach was great.  I’ve looked over the maps of the region so much that it was like watching some big new three dimensional map unfold as the mountains and then the Canterbury Plains rolled under us.   And the Banks Pennisula looks huge from Christchurch which isn’t something I would have predicted from the maps.  We made a call from the airport to Tui Campers and a fellow from there came and gave us a ride to their offices and after a few papers were signed, we drove off into Christchurch on the wrong side of the road.

That’s an experiecne that will wake you up.   Every automatic instinct you have is not to be trusted.  Even passing orange cones on the left side of the road.  Because you are on the right side of the car driving but you are used to the left, you are not going to leave enough clearance when you pass by things on the left side.  Sharon said I just barely missed taking out a long line of cones at one point.   At another point, I pulled over to look at the map and smacked the curb on the left because I didn’t allow for most of the car now being to my left.   Then, once in the Central Business District (which they abbreviate CBD here) where our hotel was, we could see the building occassionally between the other buildings but with losing sight of it and getting tangled in angled roads and one-way the other way roads, we had to circle it twice before we were able to make the strategic insertion into their drive-up area.  I was glad to hand the car over to valet parking.

But, once there, things turned nice indeed.  The concierge was very nice and then when we got to the counter, the girl there had our reservation and said that normally this is a slow time of the year but that they have a big conference that they’d over-booked!   But they’d noticed that it was Sharon’s birthday – so they’d solved the problem by upgrading us to the Presidential Suite at the top of the tower!

That sounded pretty good when she said it but it was nothing to actually seeing the suite.   Jeez.  it was two levels on the very top of the building.  The bottom level held a kitchen, a big living room and a dining room with a huge glass table that had ten chairs around it but could have easily sat 12 or 14.   Upstairs, was a large bedroom and a shower with two overhead sprays that could have handled six or eight people and a monsterous tub with jacuzzi fittings that Sharon just told me takes 25 minutes to fill.  After an afternoon spent walking around the CBD, we’ve come back to enjoy our evening of splendor and Sharon’s up filling the monster now.

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When we landed, there were puddles of frozen water on the ground and the pilot said it was -1 C.  It’s been cold and blustery all day but we enjoyed it.  The CBD really is a beautiful place.   A mixture of old churches, new business buildings, executive apartments, wide open squares with statues of Captain Cook and Queen Victoria.  And everywhere we’ve been, everyone we’ve talked to has been unfailingly friendly and helpful.   There are times we have trouble understanding what folks are saying because of the accent and the idioms but it is all good fun.   We bought Sharon a $75 NZD hat for her birthay and she looks great in it.

It’s not long until sunset here looking out across the city.  The scene could be someplace in the Pacific Northwest looking towards the Olympics.  It is really hard to credit how far away we are from home and that we can point straight down at the floor and say that almost everyone we know is down there on the other side of the globe.

6 PM – Just back from trying the big tub.   Yep, it’s good.   I did, indeed, feel presidential.

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We’re going to order something small in (this all sound just so F. Scott Fitzgeral, eh?) and sit about and see what passes for TV here in New Zealand.

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