And, away we go! Nov 20th, 2016
This is our second Road Scholar (RS) trip, the first one being our Himalayas trek last year, so we're familiar with how RS works -- you get off the plane and they get you going! Our days in NZ and AU will be full -- of learning, of surprises, with fun adventures every day. Sunday was such a day. Our group is 22 people right now, all ready to take part.
We're staying in the centrally located Mercure Hotel, overlooking Waitematā Harbour. Auckland is actually an isthmus, surrounded by water, of course, and boats of all sizes and description dominate our view. Ferries ply back and forth, sailboats are everywhere, and large ships navigate the harbor. (Remember, the America's Cup was held here.) Jimmy and I were out first thing Sunday morning for an early explore, aiming for the harbor.
We can see the golden-brick Ferry Building from our hotel room and especially from the dining room on the 13th floor. It's a beautiful building in a city that has no shortage of great or historic buildings.
A block from the water, we heard band music ... and we followed the sound. Lo and behold, if we didn't stumble upon a real photo op. This week, our week in Auckland, New Zealand is Celebrating 75 years of the Royal New Zealand Navy, and ships from all over the globe are partaking. This group happens to be the Indonesian Navy, who were lining up for their own photo op. Jimmy and I simply joined in on the fun. From 10-4 the ships are open for the public, free of charge. Big ships, like the one at left.
Part of the Indonesian group dresses as sharks and seals. Very sharp-looking outfit.
After the navy men marched away, band a-blaring, we continued walking along the waterfront, and spied this splendid ship, but it was off limits.
This inviting brick walkway, bordered with the red fence, extends a very long distance.
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We continued down Queen Street, stopping in our tracks when we spotted a big ol' Santa pinned to this building and it's still well over a month till Christmas. Guess "rushing the season" is not solely confined to the US!
Auckland's needle-like Sky Tower seems to be visible from most parts of the city. We were told people bungee jump from it, but we didn't get close enough to see for ourselves. Quite the landmark.
As we walked, I saw what looked like a park at the top of a hill. Auckland has lots of hills. "Let's go take a look around." We climbed a goodly number of steps to get to Albert Park, and it was worth it. Albert Park occupies much of the site of the old Albert Barracks, one of Auckland's early European military fortifications. There's the Sky Tower again!
I wish I could tell you the names of the huge trees that we saw at this park, but I can't, not yet anyway. They were huge and looked to be very old based on their size. It's late spring here and the landscape is all-over green -- that's a treat to a Californian! The weather was sunny, with a few broken clouds, warm and breezy. Spring flowers are beginning to bloom.
There are several footpaths that climb steeply through "interesting specimen" trees to a large flat area at the summit, where a formal layout of paths and flower gardens encircle a fountain. Statues of dolphins ridden by cherubs blowing horns spout streams of water.
We walked under these, um, rock "towers" which seem to be connected by wires high into the treetops. No one could tell me the whys or wherefores of these, except that they've been in place a long time.
Bernice joined us, and you see her at the base of a monstrous, stunning tree!
Albert, our fearless guide, led our group on a walkabout in the afternoon, and at Aotea Square, we studied the Māori arch called 'Waharoa' (Gateway in Māori), formed in wood and copper, and featuring symbols like birds, fish, and the crescent moon and stars.
Auckland is a great city, full of life, and approx a million-and-a-half people!
We passed by the University of Auckland's Clock Tower, too, really architecturally beautiful in my eyes! After walking all over the place, we ended up at the Auckland Art Gallery, but it's late and I'm tired and I'll tell you about that tomorrow!