Although the Great Barrier Reef was incredible, after 4 days in Australia I was ready to move on to the next adventure. We had a nice lazy late morning flight out, which went fairly uneventfully. Except apparently I look like a major security risk to airline security officers in multiple nations. At 7 of the 8 flights that we had over the course of our trip, I was asked to step aside by the security agents for a “random” bomb screening. Random, my foot. It became a running joke between Michael and I, to see if I would make it through security without getting screened. But I never did. Countries of the world, watch out – a diminutive little American girl is coming!
But thankfully, I always was allowed to leave those bomb screenings, so other than having a fun new inside joke to laugh about together, we arrived in Auckland without incident. We continued our experiment with AirBnB in New Zealand, and I must say, I am glad we did. Our host in Auckland, Vee, was absolutely the most amazing host we could ever have asked for. She offered to pick us up from the airport (mind you, we landed around midnight), which was definitely a lovely start to this leg of the trip. The next day was even better. She was supposed to volunteer somewhere, but decided to cancel and spend the day with us instead. She took us to a strawberry farm that made homemade ice cream and fruit pies from their fresh grown strawberries. I particularly enjoyed that, because it took me on a nostalgic trip down memory lane – my family used to go pick strawberries and buy homemade ice cream from a mennonite farm when I was a kid.
After that, we went to the Winter Gardens in Auckland Park. I enjoyed it, but Michael loved it – he’s such a sucker for flowers. To be fair, there were definitely some lovely flowers represented there, especially considering how close it was to winter (I found it very disorienting having to reverse the seasons in my brain, being on the opposite side of the world and all…). I wish I had known more of the names of the flowers that we saw, but that’s ok. Getting to spend some time with Vee, and reveling in the glorious colors all around us was wonderful, regardless.
On Vee’s recommendation, we had fish and chips for lunch. New Zealand doesn’t have a lot of culturally significant food, so I guess the next best thing would be to try culturally significant foods from their colonizer, England. I must say….I’ve never had English fish and chips, but the ones from New Zealand were absolutely delicious. Apparently the seagulls on the boardwalk where we ate thought so, too. We were completely surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds of birds. At first it was kind of cute and novel. But then they started getting closer and closer, and I started to become worried that we were about to reenact a scene from Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Eventually I left our boardwalk perch to finish my meal in peace and let Michael and Vee deal with the horde of human-food-obsessed seagulls.
As I’m sitting here writing, I’m thinking about how different our time in Auckland could have been. We had no plans that first day there, and Vee could easily have stuck with her original plans and left us to ourselves that day…if she had, we would probably have just hung around the house. I’m so grateful that she chose to spend her time with us instead. Memories were made, friendships were strengthened, and I was inspired to be the same type of host when I have people in my home – the kind who offers not just a house to stay in, but a haven of peace and happiness.