so at the appointed time we go to the meeting room and there are four new folks there along with our buddy Mike. They are a couple from SD- Jan and Don, a woman from NC named Janice and a woman from Santa Barbara named Christel. They all arrived that morning. The other remaining couple Kerry and David are not there. They have apparently been spending time with local friends for the last week and will be skipping the orientation to Auckland (been there done that) and meet up with Mike later in the day.
the briefing was not at all brief and although on the schedule for one hour, it lasted close to two... "just sayin"...perhaps it could have been condensed and a bit more focused - a number of things got repeated several times... but since we are as yet unfamiliar with the players perhaps there are one or two who need the repetition. Later we will learn more about the players and find the whole group congenial and only one person in need of the "extra reminders."
so shortly after the "briefing" we gather in the lobby to walk to and through the downtown area- Janice stays behind to rest - while Don and Jan and Christel who all arrived just this AM soldier on despite the time change (kudos to the good sports!)
we head down the hill into the city center and start our learning and discoveries with a tornado- which hit Auckland area in the middle of our walk...LOL - not kidding.
after the tornado we took a ferry to Devonport across the bay for lunch and a walk over there. Already it is apparent that Mike wants meals "on our own" to be kind of like the kids of today- "I take you there and you pay"... our interpretation of meals "on our own" is on our own - not group (we are in the land of sheep herding though!) meals for every meal.
So in Devonport we head off in a different direction and go to a different place to eat for lunch (photos below of all the day's activities) and then head back on the ferry by ourselves (yes we actually are able to handle the "foreign" language barrier- LOL)
a late afternoon cat nap and we meet back for dinner down by the water - a bus takes us there and brings us back. We meet Kerry and David from Iowa City and have the "welcome dinner" at a place called Neptune. If you ever get to Auckland skip this one- the menu sounded good but the execution was a bit lacking- Phil's steak was overdone (my salmon was good) and the ice cream desserts sat on the counter for long enough to be "well softened" despite the cook dinging the bell repeatedly. The noise level was bad and made worse by the staff dragging chairs across the tile floor rather than picking them up to rearrange for several big parties.
we did finally escape- TB left before dessert the noise was driving him over the edge. we stayed for our "hokey-pokey" ice cream (a NZ treat with caramel and something a bit crunchy in it- good choice if you see it!)
we took a short walk through the port area and headed back to the hotel. we have an early start tomorrow- actually and early start every day as Mike has big plans to fill our every waking moment with activities of some kind - LOL.... we quickly learn that afternoon at leisure can easily be filled by following Mike to six or seven additional activities that our former marathoner guide has listed for us (all optional but subtly encouraged- sometimes not so subtly - LOL)
so today's photos- and there are pretty many - first my walk to Starbuck's and some photos up on K Road:
photos from the walk to the downtown area:
a horrifying McDonald's sign:
downtown decorations for the holidays:
store windows advertise the Merino wool they are famous for- along with All Blacks (national Rugby team) items which are very very popular:
the ferry to Devonport and some things of interest there along the way:
not clear if this sign was for fish or for ice cream- LOL
the first of many ginger beers (I love ginger beer!) in NZ- tried many brands will report later on taste testing results:
lots of treats available at the lunch place:
the decor by the bathrooms- LOL - out of this world!-
heading back to port we saw this old time ceramic "name plate" on a store front:
it the ferry terminal interesting hair salon sign:
since we had already been through a torrential downpour we had no surprise that there was an umbrella store here:
a food stand in the ferry terminal - prices must fluctuate...
on the waterfront where we had dinner that first night:
didn't get the chance to photo the dessert as it was in melt down upon arrival- LOL...
so there you have the first day recap... trip starts in earnest tomorrow-