Autumn Down Under

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It’s wonderful to be in Auckland after the long trip from Pittsburgh via L.A..

The Los Angeles Airport is super busy, and reminded us of Miami and other large international airports that we sometimes try to avoid if possible. Whether you love it or hate it, LAX is the gateway to many awesome destinations in the South Pacific and Far East.

From the East Coast, we try to depart early, giving us a long layover in L.A. The Hilton Hotel LAX is about two blocks from the airport entrance and they have very reasonable day room rates. After flying across the USA, we like to have a little down time with lunch, a nap and a shower before the long southerly trek across the Pacific.

After an easy check-in with Air New Zealand, we went through security and entered the $1.7 billion Tom Bradley International Departure Terminal at LAX. Having just experienced the domestic LAX chaos, this terminal is a delight with modern architecture, lots of places to perch and a number of great restaurants, including Lucky Fish Sushi, a nice steakhouse and even a Petrossian Caviar and Champagne Bar! The Star Alliance Business Class Lounge has an outdoor terrace with super comfortable furniture and gas fire pits! In our opinion, this new facility is the nicest terminal of its type in the USA!

Photo 1Our flight was smooth and on time with Air New Zealand. Our time spent in the air was about 12 hours, 20 minutes – about average for the crossing. Newer planes + comfort + exceptional service = a great airline. Celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year, Air New Zealand does it right. It is a multi-award winning international airline which delivers unique Kiwi journeys to more than 13 million passengers who fly to/from and within New Zealand each year. From the supreme pod-style business class to the roomier “Premium Economy” in their new “Space Seats” to the Sky Couch in coach, Air New Zealand has a special way of making the long flight not only tolerable but enjoyable! We also enjoyed the Kiwi humor with their Hobbit safety video and very funny verbiage on the air sickness bags!

Photo 2Traveling to New Zealand at this time of the year is wonderful as the South Pacific heads well into autumn. The plane was lightly booked with lots of room to spread out, there are a lot fewer tourists than usual in the country and the cooler, crisp weather is delightful for the myriad of outdoor activities available.

Auckland was cold and dreary when we arrived, but the sun came out for the 10 minute walk from the International Terminal over to the Domestic Terminal. They have a shuttle, but the walk after a long flight in the clean New Zealand air is very refreshing. Even though you follow a clearly marked green line, to us it was strolling down the “Yellow Brick Road” since we were so excited to be back Down Under in New Zealand. After a fire alarm evacuated the entire domestic terminal, we boarded our flight to our first stop, Nelson, on the South Island.

In Nelson, we walked through the town on Trafalgar Street, home of cafes, galleries and some quaint artisan shops. We made a couple of hotel visits and enjoyed a relaxing lunch at Ford’s with seafood chowder and a great Asian noodle salad with grilled chicken. Having our first local Chardonnay and a lager, we are starting to adjust to Kiwi time and are looking forward to maximizing our 10 days in this country.

By: Mike and Kristene Fitzgerald