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> A trip report by an American visitor
post Jan 20 2010, 04:33 PM
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Group: Local Expert
Posts: 370
Joined: 22-July 07
From: New Zealand
Member No.: 72601

Hi Ron

We arrived home on Monday evening as scheduled, and I gave my first lecture of the semester today (Wednesday). The trip was
wonderful in spite of the frequent cold rainy weather.

A short update of the remainder of the trip after we saw you.

Bellbird was fantastic. www.bellbirdlodge.com
The views are great and the hosts are very special. They are English who have lived in New Zealand for a decade or so. They really delight in their B&B and go over the top to make your stay comfortable. The rooms etc. are really great. They fixed what are essentially hors d oeuvres before dinner, made a dinner reservation, drove us to dinner and picked us up when we were done. Breakfast the next morning was superb. We would definitely return there.

Westport was fine. The motel was basic but completely adequate. We had a great dinner at a restaurant right on the surf that the motel manager suggested to us. We enjoyed ourselves there.

Franz Joseph was fine and the lodging was fine but devoid of much personal interaction with the proprieters. It rained all day and we didn't do much except to go the base of the glacier. The town is touristy. Of course the trip there was wonderful, and we really like stopping at the pancake rocks.

We really liked Wanaka and the Wanaka Homestead.
That town is also touristy, but it was the kind of resort town we realy liked. Carol, the hostess of Wanaka Homestead was very pleasant. They had free internet and free laundry.

At Queenstown we took the gondola up for dinner, which was very nice. The town as a whole is touristy of course, and the hotel a standard hotel. It rained all day in the intervening day, but we met up with oour new British friends (who we first met in Opua and who were doing a multi-day bus tour) and did a hot-tub about 4 km outside of Queenstown. I basically hate to sit in a tub of hot water, but I did it to be a good sport.

From there we went to Te Anau, a tourist town, but one that was pleasant.
(For reasons I can't explain, we were attracted to Wanaka and Te Anau, but not particularly to Franz Josef and Queenstown.) We loved the bus tour to Mlford Sound. (Greast Views Holiday Park bus) It was sunny and pleasant that day and this was a high point of the tour. Bonnie even bought the book written by our tour guide.

From there we drove to Dunedin because Bonnie did not feel up to Curio
Bay. We couldn't get into the Esplanade for the extra night, but we did
stay at St Clair Beach resort hotel just 50 m down the street. This is
brand new (just 9 weeks old) and owned by the same people who own the
Esplanade Motel and Apartments.
We especially loved St. Clair Beach in Dunedin even though it was generally cold and rainy there. The new hotel was fine, but the old Esplanade Motel and Apartments was especially wonderful. It has a European charm to it, and the manager said that her European guests particularly like this. It is removed from the beach by only an attractive one-way bricked street that has almost no traffic and a walkway high above the beach. The beach itself is highly attractive and there are many surfers in wet suits to watch. (Only three or four
tourists went into the water in ordinary swim wear, and they each lasted
for only 5 minutes or less.) YOu go to sleep with the sound of the surf
in your ears. In a storm tide we were told that the spray from the surf
comes up to the balcony of our waterview apartment. Whereas many places were not as good as their web sites promise, this place was better than I had envisioned from the web site. They have a very nice restauarant next door. Bonnie and I went to Larnach Castle and greatly enjoyed ourselves there. We were warned that we would be disappointed if we expected a European style castle, and so went with the expectation of seeing something like the many fine houses that one can tour in the Mid Hudson Valley of New York, and we were not disappointed. Larnach has an interesting and colorful history, including the master of the castle shooting and killing himself in government chambers. Among the things he had to be unhappy with was the fact that his third wife (20 years his junior) was having an affair with his son by a previous marriage!

We enjoyed ourselves at the Kavanaugh House although the owners have the property up for sale. The Kavanaugh restaurant is closed down (too much work) and this B&B will be gone when the owners can unload the property.
The New York room was quite attractive and highly satisfactory. We
enjoyed talking with the female manager, but we never met the husband, who is a fencer. Bonnie and I had envisioned that he might be an Olympic athlete, but we were quickly told that by "fencer" she meant that he puts up fences. The hostess sent us to "Taste" in nearby Geraldine, which is an absolutely fantastic restaurant, arguably the best of many fine
restaurants during our trip.

The flight from Christchurch to Auckland was fine, and they did not make
us take off our shoes in going through security, unlike an American
airport. I guess no one would ever bother to blow up a domestic New
Zealand flight! We had to go through security again in Auckland, which
was quite rigorous and included unpacking and going through all our hand
luggage. They told is they were doing this at the request of the
Americans, but the Americans did not do this in the domestic terminal in
Los Angeles, where security was more or less as always! We bought a pound of See's Candy, which Bonnie dearly loves, to take back with us to Albany.
We asked ourselves if this would be a problem with security, but we
thought it would be O.K. When we finally got to the security point, a
security officer, to Bonnie's great dismay, told us that we couldn't take
it with us, but then immediately broke out into a huge smile and laugh and
added that "That's because I want it for myself!"
The airport scene in Los Angeles was chaotic. We stepped off the shuttle bus into the terminal at precisely 2 hours before our 11:45 AM flight time. We had no trouble in obtaining boarding passes at the kiosks, but we had to go through a winding line that strecthed out into the street just to drop off the checked luggage. That took about an additional 30 minutes, and then we went to an even longer line, stretching for a considerable distance out in the street, to go through security. Bonnie had her little folding chair because she cannot stand for appreciable lengths of time. An airport official spotted Bonnie in her chair and asked her if she needed special assistance. Bonnie replied yes and we were immediately escorted to an elevator that allowed us to bypass the huge line. We got to our flight with plenty of time to spare, but I am not sure we would have made it in time otherwise.

We really enjoyed ourselves. Bonnie is quick to add that the trip was
"above expectation". I really thank you for all of your help in
engineering this whole thing. I could never have done this by myself.
Especially memorable were the many drives - which were always the right
length - you really had that figured out very well. We also liked the
Dune Rider bus tour and Swim with the Dolphins tour. Of the places we
stayed, I place a special approval on the Harbour House Villa in Opua, the
Moanarua Beach Cottage at Ohope Beach, Lochmara, the Bellbird Lodge, the Wanake Homestead, and the Esplanade in Dunedin. The tour of Milford Sound was a high point of the trip.
We greatly enjoyed meeting you and getting to know you, and also meeting your lovely bride.

Best, Dan
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