Day 1: New Zealand – Friendly Faces

It always pays to smile at strangers when they are doing silly things.

Prior to leaving, I sent Yvo and Ice my itinerary. After having read the NYT article about the Airbnb incident I have been a bit more wary about traveling alone. They both confirmed the receipt and let me know that they would be watching over me on social media, since they know when I’m not connected at all, something is amiss. I love my friends, they get me, truly.

Nick & Yvo picked me up at my place and we started off to dinner before taking me to the airport, about 2 miles away from my house I realized… I forgot the Nikon charger. Ugh, what pictures I’d miss after day one if I didn’t bring my charger. We turned around and Yvo went to the bathroom as I found the charger in the living room where I left it. We took off again when I thought I had also left Olloclip that Jen got me at home. Nick offered turning around for it, but I decided I didn’t want to miss my flight to try to get it. Later in the car, I’d realize it was in my pocket. -__-”

Headed off to Shanghai Dumpling to meet up with Jen, it’s the customary pre-SFO meal that we do before any trip. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, XLBs are the key to everlasting friendship.

The advisory said to get to the airport within 2 hours, but everyone was convinced I only needed an hour and a half as I sat there eating and quietly panicking. I’ve missed a flight in Europe once as I was being emo over something, and I never want to repeat that again. Ended up at SFO with an hour and a half checked in my glorious backpack and also found out that NZ airlines doesn’t take TSA-pre. Dangnabit. Luckily not too many people were flying out on Sat, so I breezed past security and hung out until it was time.

On the plane I was seated in a 2 seat area near the crying babies section. Normally this would be the danger zone, but my vmoda noise isolating headphones were fantastic completely nullifying the wailing baby as the parents looked apologetically at the other passengers. Next to me in the window seat would be a huge and handsome 6’4 native New Zealander. Didn’t really engage in chatting, as I was too busy trying to pick through which movies to catch up on. The one positive about sitting next to this guy was he could leap over me without much effort. So sometimes when I woke up from slumber he would be gone without ever having nudged me.

On the plane I ended up watching Tomorrowland, Focus, and half of Mad Max, before passing out and basically waking up in NZ. I have always been a great sleeper on planes, trains and automobiles.

Arrived at NZ at 5:45am and immediately hit up the ATM. Had basically a stress attack over this trip while talking to Alan the week before, and he helped by sharing some of his experiences. One pro-tip he had mentioned that it’s easier to use cash everywhere. After grabbing some money, I was trying to figure out how to get to the city without taking a cab or waiting for the bus, when one of the traffic security guys noticed that I looked bewildered. I asked him the best/cheapest way to get into the city and he pointed out one of the super shuttles. Instead of paying roughly 70 dollars to take a cab into the city, ended up taking the shuttle which only had one other passenger for 35.

Money money money money, MONAY!

Money money money money, MONAY!

When I arrived at The Langham Hotel, that I booked off Trip Advisor recommendations, I noticed it’s basically located in what I thought was a Chinatown. It’s really nice, but in that old world floral print and large chandelier kind of way. Was worried briefly about the hotel not being able to check me in early, but then they didn’t seem to be that busy and was able to check me in as well as upgrading me to a master suite. The staff was extremely kind and welcoming. Once into the room, I finished up a quick blog about prepping for the trip (yes seriously how meta, blogging about how I blogged) and took a nap.

By the time I got moving it was coming up on lunch time. Quickly looked up best food in NZ and found a couple blogs as well as an article in the Herald about the up and coming eats. Lisa had mentioned that the sushi in Auckland was delicious basically everywhere, but I ended up picking Depot, since I wanted to try the local oysters and it was on top restaurants list.

Walked downhill towards Depot which happens to be right in front of the Sky Tower, then sat at the bar. It’s a beautiful space, that has a neo-rustic hipster vibe. Seeing that I was dining alone the hostess offered to make me a massive sampler platter. I count on the kindness of strangers so that I can taste all the things.

Real time vacation Instagramming helped Russell and Fleur realize that they were thinking of taking me to that exact spot that I was at for dinner.

Shortly after gorging on too much food, it was time to visit the Sky Tower and drink in the view. At the base, I checked to see if you could get into the deck for free and bypass paying via the Café, like the SkyPark in Singapore where I bought one cocktail and just sat reading a book for much of a afternoon. Alas no such luck here.

Sky Tower

Sky Tower

Paid to head up to see that the sky was completely clouded over. Was super bummed, and headed to the cafe since I had time to kill before meeting up with Russell and Fleur for nibbles and drinks before then heading to the Stray orientation and tour happy hour. Got a hazelnut latte at the Sky café and just sat looking out at the city until, I hear to my left “Here I am in New Zealand drinking a beer.” Turn over to see a guy doing a selfie gopro video. My first instinct at anything ridiculous is always to laugh, as I laughed he came over to explain what he was doing.

Jamie Oliver, not to be confused with the famous chef, is the drummer of two punk bands, UK Subs and SNFU and was currently on tour in New Zealand. For every city he visits he does a beer drinking video and then merges them into a compilation youtube. We briefly chatted about his band, and photography, since he had a Nikon and a gopro on him. We kept going back and forth between our tables showing photos, so I just ended up moving over to sit with him. He showed me this photo of his cross dressing guitar player bloodied by a beer bottle smashed against his forehead. We had grass is always greener conversations, travel, and what we wanted to do in NZ. I have forgotten how nice it is to meet fellow travelers and have random conversations. He hadn’t had much planned but was going to go take a sunset video later on. Mentioned later on if I didn’t have plans to reach out via Instagram and we could get drinks. Of course that’s when I asked him to be part of my 100 days photo project.

Just as we parted ways, the sun came out and I ran back upstairs to take a couple more snaps of the skyline.

Decided to go for a walk down to the wharf, since I could see it from the Sky Tower and on my way started seeing some fantastic wall art. Having done a graffiti quest recently in LA, I now feel like any trip isn’t complete without a dose of some local street art.

Kept walking until I ended up in a gentrified industrial/arts area. Did I mention I love the way industrial areas look? So much.

Met up with Russell for drinks at Ostro. A ridiculously fancy place with a gorgeous view of the harbor for people having dinner. I rarely feel underdressed in most places, but here I was feeling a bit shabby in my Madewell sweater black pants and converse. We sat at the bar area. Ordered a delicious charcuterie plate and craft cocktails. Fleur had to go home to feed the pets and showed up just as I needed to depart to Stray orientation.

Meats, always noms

Meats, always noms

Arrived at orientation late, just as they were closing the doors and heading over to Fort Street Union for beers and pizza. Ended up seated next to Becca and Simon in the booth, then Cid went to the bar to order us beers, and I split a pitcher with Marscha from the Netherlands, who is a Stray sales intern for the summer. The orientation is a really nice way to get to know folks that would be along with you during your journey.

Headed back to meet Russell and Fleur who had migrated to Ebisu, where I sampled part of their dinner and had more time to chat. Can I just say how much I adore meeting up with friends in other countries? I’ve been a follower of Fleur on Pinterest and Instagram for years now, and getting to finally meet her in person and get to know her better other than her great taste in home décor was so nice.

Finished up dinner and Russell called an Uber and dropped me off at my hotel before heading home.

I’m not sure why I was so apprehensive about coming here. So far so good New Zealand, great conversations with new and old friends and loads of pretty things.

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