Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Getting there... and Auckland day 1!

[Note: Written on Monday in a state of extreme jet lag. Read at your own risk]

It is now almost noon on Monday in Auckland, and my mom and I have been traveling for just about 24 hours. First up: a flight from JFK to LAX on American. Because my mom is a super VIP platinum member of American’s frequent flier program, even though it was a totally full flight we were upgraded at the last minute to business class. Woohoo! What follows is the food we got from our lovely and alarmingly perky attendant Terri:

Warm mixed nuts to start
Salad course, on nice linen "tablecloths"

Multigrain roll from the breadbasket selection...mmm

Mojito prawns, which I did not eat

The entree-- beef (they had run out of the cheese ravioli by the them they got to our seats). I ate the veggies, which were a peculiar combination of dry and not-quite-cooked

Dessert: Vanilla ice cream with a choice of toppings. I decided to forgo the butterscotch and hot fudge for the blackberry topping. This was delicious.

For "dessert," my mom went for the cheese course to pick out the fruit. She got a small sprig of grapes and a few dried apricots.

Once we landed at LAX and reluctantly left our plush business class digs, we did the ol’ sprint through the airport to claim our bags, check in with Air New Zealand, go through security again, and make it to the gate on time. And then, of course, we waited for about 45 minutes while our plane boarded late. Sigh. Anyway, we were most certainly hoi polloi on ANZ, we still got food. Hooray!

Sadly, the first meal of the trip—dinner (what time was it in New York? Who cares! It’s dinner time!) – caught me in mid-doze, and when I woke up to find a vegetarian meal on my tray, it was the last thing I wanted. A few hours later when I woke up again I peeled back the foil of the entrĂ©e to find some sort of pasta and veggie dish, but I never got to try it. I saved the bread and cheese, though, for later. Hopefully on the way back I’ll get this meal again and will faithfully report on it then…

About 11 ½ hours later, they served the second meal of the trip: breakfast! It was, after all, about 3AM at our destination, so of COURSE it was breakfast time. This time around I was ready for it. The pre-ordered vegetarian meal was a cheese omelet with beans, mushrooms, and a roast tomato. The beans were okay but a little bit much for the moment. The tomato was good—standard warm tomato; the mushrooms were icky; and the small bite of the omelet I took was just as you’d expect, but I don’t particularly like eggs so I passed on that. The rest of the meal contained a delicious and fresh but TINY fruit salad; a blueberry muffin (very cold, sickly sweet and sort of soggy); a single Nature Valley granola bar plank (interesting that they make them one-at-a-time over here), which I swapped out for more crackers and cheese; and OJ. After consuming my pitifully small fruit salad, I later learned that one of the non-vegetarian options was “fruit platter,” which I would have preferred… but my mom got it and it wasn’t much bigger than my own fruit cup.

Air New Zealand vegetarian breakfast... there's a Nature Valley bar under the silverware

Under the foil. Omelet and garnishes. I ate the tomato.

My mom's option... fresh but small fruit salad

Inside her muffin. There was one blueberry. Sweet.

So that was that—after a solid 13 hour flight, we disembarked in Auckland, went through the dispiriting maze that is customs, and emerged into the taxi line. A quick cab ride into Auckland, and we were at our destination, the Hilton Auckland. We were both zombies at this point, but we were HUNGRY zombies, so we did what any exhausted pair of women who have been traveling for 24 hours straight would do: we headed straight to the breakfast buffet.

The Hilton Auckland has a beautifully modern and apparently well-respected restaurant called White, which offers daily breakfast. We opted for the continental breakfast buffet, which was one of the most appealing breakfast spreads I’ve ever seen. In the beaming light of the sunrise over Auckland harbor, we stuffed ourselves silly on fruit, bread, cheese, cereal, tea (from the tea bar, naturally), and—of course—vegemite. Seriously. Below are some pics-- there are many, many more but I chose just a few to give you a sense of the delightful bounty.

Our lovely table, bathed in sunshine

The cheese board

Stewed fruits. There was poached rhubarb that was truly delicious, and poached figs...mmm

Fresh fruit. Watermelon, honeydew, pineapple, kiwi...ohhhhh

Awesome spreads. Nutella...vegemite... what more could you ask for?

Ridiculously full, we stumbled upstairs for a quick nap before we headed out into the world—and that’s where we are now. We’re off! Till next time…

Update: I just received word from my mom that because the Hilton was unable to upgrade our rooms (in addition to being an American Airlines VIP, she’s also a Hilton Diamond member… let’s just say she travels a lot for business), they have offered us free continental breakfast for every morning of our stay. Oh. My. God. GREATEST UPGRADE EVER!!!

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