Thursday, March 17, 2011

WC 2011 Auckland, Day 1

February 10, 2011

We arrived at 7am in Auckland, New Zealand, having slept wonderfully well. CruiseGran and I shared a Mercedes car trip to the Sky City Grand Hotel. Our room was not ready at such an early hour, so we checked our hand luggage, made sure Jane’s luggage (which had been sent on earlier) would be delivered that day, collected the other four (who arrived by separate cars) and went in search of the hop-on, hop-off city bus tour.

Looking up--the Sky City Casino and Hotel -complete with bungee jumping!

Andi and CruiseGran waiting for the bus

Another tour company, not ours.

Andi stretching

At Parnell Street, which is such a LOVELY shopping area...

...we got off the bus and while Bill went to reconfirm our dinner reservations, we found Jane’s “old favorite” purse place, Gerrard’s. (My mom has a favorite shop of some sort in every port, I think.....) She bought a purse that had just been unpacked. It didn’t even make it to the store shelves.

We had lunch at a wonderful bistro La Bocca. My gnocchi in tomato cream sauce was wonderful, as was the wine- of course, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

After lunch, we needed to stretch our legs, and hiked uphill to the Auckland Museum to see the Maori Cultural performance at 1:30. Really cool architecture!

Very interesting and well done. Everyone wanted photos with the Maori warriors.

Then, we did the “hopping on” thing again, and headed back to the hotel. The rooms were ready, with spectacular views.

We met for drinks in the downstairs bar...

(oh, come this is a surprise??)

Bill had arranged dinner that night at Antoine's. It was the 50th anniversary of Suzanne and his first date. (Now, I ask you, what kinda guy could remember a thing like that?) Started with champagne,

Note the surprised look on Jane's face at the mention of the 50th anniversary of the first date!

... then fresh oysters, both raw and tempura’ed. Huge. Delicious. Very briny.

A salad of baby greens and white anchovies came next. Then a venison loin in a berry demiglace sauce with a touch of chocolate. Delicious. It was so good, I forgot to take a photo. Oh, and red wine- a pinot noir, I think.

Well, after a celebration like that, there was no excuse for not drifting off to sleep to prepare for some winery tours the next day!

When Science and Art Overlap

From the Imaginary Foundation via The Improvised Life

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

WC2011 The beginning

I began my 2011 trip with CruiseGran by heading to Shreveport for a few days. I needed some Louisiana time!

Getting there is “half the fun” as they say, and YET ANOTHER snowstorm made traveling more fun than usual. Julie and Ed had planned a dinner party in my honor for that Friday, but Mother Nature did not cooperate.

Friday morning, things were fine in Atlanta, but not in Shreveport. Snow had been falling all night, making for a 2 inch accumulation. My European friends will be rolling on the floor laughing, but for an area that seldom sees snow, the equipment is not present to take care of clearing runways in a timely manner. (Indeed, here in Middle-Of-Nowhere, I watched with much mirth as a big yellow road grader was used “in a pinch” as a snowplow in January during one of our “massive” snowfalls...)

So my “leave at 10:30, arrive at noon” scheme failed miserably. Add to the fact that it was Super Bowl weekend, that the Dallas Ft. Worth airport (the game was played in Dallas), was closed as well, and you can imaging what the Atlanta airport was like.

The best I could do was manage a 5pm flight to Memphis, and get into Shreveport at 9pm. So much for dinner, but every trip has its one “oops”, and this was it.

So SATURDAY was party night. And a party it was.

My niece Ella had some fun with Lola.

Julie had some friends over....

Julie and her dear friend (and mine) Pam

My darling friend Kris came over

with two of her kids..Madeline (who is Alix’s age) and Jack (who had obviously chosen the Packers in the Superbowl. Outfitted, for the benefit of my European readers, in the traditional Packer fan “Cheesehead”)

The food and wine flowed, and we cried with laughter. (No, I am not showing photos....some are quite hilarious....but my brother Ed is pretending to be in the witness protection program and hates photos, and I didn’t get a chance to get a photo of the bra hanging from the chandelier. Seriously. Kris or Julie, if you have one, please send it on...)

Sunday was traditional Burger Night with Superbowl festivities. Drank lots of Pinot Noir and took NO photos......

My mom came to town on Monday, and Tuesday, our big adventure began bright and early. Uneventful plane hops from Shreveport to Dallas, Dallas to Los Angeles.

Outside the plane, it was beautiful and clear.

At LAX, our friends Ron and Teri Crane (she of Wonder-Travel Agent fame) picked us up and we went to Houstons for a nice visit during our layover. Dropping us off again, we hooked up with our cousins, Merrill (Bob) and Andi Parker and Susanne and Bill Sutton. This is the merry sextet that would explore New Zealand.

Our trip over on New Zealand Air was lovely. I honestly think the trip to New Zealand/Australia area is the easiest I’ve ever leaves at 9pm, go to sleep after dinner, and wake up at “normal” wakeup time with only 2-3 hours to land in Auckland at 7am.

My first sight of New Zealand

Customs was a breeze, and before we knew it, we were headed to the Sky City Grand Hotel to begin exploring Auckland.

The 2011World Cruise, segment 3 Auckland to Sydney

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pi Day

HAPPY PI DAY!!!!!!!!!

Pi Day?? Pi Day???

Think about it....

March 14.


Now.....go find a circle and measure it!!!!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Earthquake in Japan

I know I promised to begin the story of my recent escapades with CruiseGran, but my heart has been heavy with the news of the massive earthquake and subsequent terrors in Japan.

I thought I'd share with you some photos I took when I visited the southern area of Japan in 2009- Osaka, Kyoto, and Nagasaki. Enjoy them, and keep the Japanese people in your prayers.

The crane is the symbol of longevity and good fortune...and in the past generations has come to symbolize hope for peace.

Detail from Constellation Earth in the Nagasaki Peace Park

Oragami cranes