Part 1 of Rachel's prize: Our flight was at 12:25 so we dropped the younger girls off with Sarah at around 10am and then headed into town. We got Subway sandwiches for lunch and then made our way to the airport. I wanted to make sure we were there well before 12 so that I did not have to run from the long term parking. We made it with plenty of time to spare - so we checked ourselves in and then had our lunch.
Rachel just LOVES take off and the feeling of being pushed back in your chair. We counted and within 25 seconds from starting to move we were in the air.
With the ash cloud still hanging around we had to fly at a lower altitude. This costs the airline in extra fuel but gives us wonderful views. Still high enough to be above low lying clouds,
but low enough that we felt like we could take photos for Google earth. :-)
At least we know there is some snow on the Alps. It's been a "bad" year for the sky fields so far this year. They are hoping that it will get cold enough from now on that they can even make enough snow. Even with the light sprinkling though it was still magnificent.
Then saying goodbye to the South Island and any views. We did get to enjoy looking down at the sea for a little while (it looked as though you were looking into the sky) and then we had cloud for the rest of the trip. There was enough of a break in the clouds for us to enjoy the landing which was nice.
Then we had a bus ride into the centre of town. I had searched on-line and found this bus service and they were far cheaper than any other option ($22 for both of us compared to $50 or even $80) as airport transfers were not included in the prize. Rachel was even excited about having her first bus trip. I can't believe these girls have never even been on a bus before.
When we got to town it was drizzling a bit. Thankfully it was only a 400m walk from the bus stop to the Hotel and most of the way was covered. We checked in and then headed to the pool. Rachel has been so excited about swimming in the pool on the Hotel roof (although it was on the 4th floor of 8).
She remembers seeing this pool from the Sky Tower on our North Island visit last March.
Thankfully the rain had stopped and she enjoyed a bit of time in the spa. Even though the pool was heated - once she felt the spa temperature there was no way she was heading into the pool.
Back to the room to get our things before heading out for dinner. We were on the 7th floor and Rachel loved looking down at the Hotel's fancy restaurant. We decided to head into town for a cheaper dinner (the prize was only for the accommodation - no food) and come here for desert later as a special treat.
We were blessed with a beautiful blue sky for our 300m walk back to one of the main streets. We had really enjoyed the beauty of this building when we arrived. Unfortunately with the rain we did not take any photos but the side of the building is just lovely with glass and lights (perhaps even made nicer with it being rainy and grey outside at the time). This time we got to see it from another side and it just looked so pretty in the sunlight.
I had spotted a couple of Chinese Restaurants on our way to the hotel and Rachel said she was happy to have Chinese food for dinner. This was quite a surprise for me as generally she does NOT like Chinese food. Recently she has suspected that it may be only the sweet and sour sauce that she does not like - so I appreciated her willingness to give it a go. The name of the restaurant we chose was "The Red Guard" and this was the huge wall tapestry that was along the side of the room. I so enjoyed Rachel telling me what she had learnt about the Red Guard and Mao and how red is a lucky colour for the Chinese.
Rachel said she wanted to try the "deep fried dough stick" for an appetiser. At $1 you can't really go wrong. I was so excited about having Chicken and Corn soup as it has been years since I last had it. Rachel was so pleased with them both. The dough stick was a bit like a doughnut. I had a taste but don't generally cope with deep fried things. So what she could not finish she took home for a late night snack. The soup we polished off though... yummmmyyyyyyyy
We had chosen Chicken and Pineapple fried rice for our main meal and I am glad we only ordered one item and did not look for a second choice. There was so much food. The entire meal only cost us $15 and we had a good amount of left overs too.
Rachel was excited about trying to eat with chopsticks. With a little bit of encouragement she soon had them working well. We had a really lovely time.
Thankfully there was a "2 cheap" store next door to the Chinese Restaurant and so we could buy some presents for the girls as well as two umbrellas that fold up small enough to fit into our bags. We needed the umbrellas as by the time we headed back to the hotel it was really coming down. As we plan to walk to the venue tomorrow morning from the hotel we know we had better be safe and have a plan. Rachel was just amazed that we had sun, drizzle, sun and a downpour within the first 3 hours of being in Auckland. "Welcome to Auckland" I can hear so many people say. :-)
Just before 7 we headed down to the Hotel's restaurant for desert. We had looked at the menu earlier and decided we would go for the "Tasting platter for 2" so that we could try a few different things. Rachel was so excited about being in such a fancy restaurant. It was my first ever stay in a fancy big hotel like this - so I thought it would be nice to have this special treat to remember.
The platter was a disappointment for Rachel however. She had left the chocolate pieces till last only to find they were very bitter. But the experience was great and we got to try things we normally would not order.
Then we went back to the room and enjoyed some time of chatting and reading and watching "Dancing on Ice".
I managed to pick up a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the library this morning when we left. I don't think it will last through tomorrow though. She is enjoying reading the story after watching the movie a number of times though.
As a special treat (and because I knew she would not fall asleep quickly in all her excitement) we stayed up till 10pm to get to watch all the celebrities skate. We normally tape the show and watch it together on Saturday so she enjoyed being able to watch it "live" for a change.