Pies are not only for desert here in New Zealand – they also come filled with steak, mushrooms, chicken etc. etc. – tings we would call back in the states a pot pie – but here, a pie is a pie is a pie no matter the filling. And having had a very nice chicken and mushroom pie for lunch in a little pub off Queen Street I can tell you they are indeed very filling (and delicious to boot.)
Our arrival down under was fairly uneventful – no madness on the airplane – no missed connections – no lost baggage – no immigration or customs snafus worth mentioning. Oh yeah, except that they stole a day from us. Even though our flight itinerary assured us that we landed on Wednesday the 7th of July 11, 2010 once we crossed the dateline we were magically and instantaneously catapulted into Thursday July 12. His would have been a good thing to know when making hotel reservations. C’mon Continental Airlines – don’t you think we would be more interested in the date we arrive it actually is at our destination than the date it would be back home?
So we check into the Auckland City hotel at about 6am and since we had reservations for the day before (which we could not get out of paying for) our bird blinking early arrival was no trouble. The Auckland City Hotel seems to be the axis of the city’s Asian ex-pat community and is a bustling beehive of young Korean happy to practice their malapropos laced English on their lobby mates. The lobby is where one can get thirty minutes of free internet service a day (up to 10 meg) so it holds a steady clientele tapping away on the faux leather couches.
We settle in a bit and manage to make contact with a compatriot of ours who is presenting his work at the same conference as us and we meet for a cup of coffee and some crepes in what has turned into our favorite snack café. We then hop a bus to the Auckland Museum and tour that facility ending our visit with a performance by a group of the island’s indigenous people – the Maori. That night we stop in a Chinese restaurant for some rather bland cuisine – surprising considering the large percentage of Asian folks walking the streets.
One of the many interesting things we learned in the museum was the story of one Japanese zero pilot whose plane was captured by the New Zealand military. It turns out that near the end of the war when the fighter planes were being turned into flying bombs packed with explosives and being sent on kamikaze missions aimed at US pacific fleet targets – this particular plane’s mechanical crew were so fond of their pilot that they kept feigning mechanical issues to keep the aircraft grounded until the war was over. Thus this aviator returned to friends and family instead of perishing in an explosion of TNT and jet fuel. Moral of the story: Always make friends with the tech crew ultimately your life is in their hands.