As you may be familiar from some of his past columns about his travels (Sevilla, Spain, Prague, etc.), Notes from Vivace always makes a point to try to locate the local music scene in each of the places he is exploring at one point or another during his trip. You can read about his Auckland “Mission Bay Jazz and Blues Festival” experience here.
Saturday to Monday
Why Auckland, New Zealand?
A number of small reasons led up to my decision to fly off to New Zealand:
1. “Lord of the Rings” was filmed in New Zealand – though not in Auckland (“The Piano” was filmed around Auckland) – so there was that built-in intrigue.
2. New Zealand is known for it’s natural wonders. I went in late February and since it is in the southern hemisphere, I was dealing with Summer versus Winter weather.
3. My last two vacations were to Europe and New Zealand was not Europe. Czech and Spanish were the national languages for my last two vacations and vacationing where English was the official language seemed like a good idea.
And why not another New Zealand city like Wellington? Honestly, going to Auckland was much cheaper.
The trip. A storm system hovered over Southern California when I left Glendale for LAX via public transportation. I caught a lucky break as the rain stopped until after I transferred from the bus to the Metro rail. While on the Green Line, the rain came down in torrents. Other than the rain, only two minor events provided any sort of excitement. First, I just missed a Blue Line metro. The Blue Line Metro has two rail lines. I entered on the wrong side and by the time I got to the other side of the track, the doors were closing. I imagined myself in one of those movies where the good guy is chasing after the bad guy and the bad guy ducks into a Metro car just as the doors close (actually, isn’t that usually the other way around, the good guy just escapes the bad guy? — whatever). Also, I did do my good deed for the day. An elderly man was attempting to get a senior discount ticket, he kept on hitting the wrong buttons so I leaned in and worked it out for him. Of course, I don’t know if it was so much of a good deed versus me just wanting to get my ticket.
My flight was via Virgin Australia. Instead of flying straight to New Zealand, my flight first diverted to Sydney, Australia. There are flights that go straight to Auckland, but the cheapest Expedia deal was via Sydney, so via Sydney I went.
Let me just say that the Virgin Australia Experience (and I do believe the ‘E’ in experience should be capitalized) starts at the ticket counter. You come in from your hectic travel to the airport and your mood adjusts immediately. Mood lighting and soothing pop-rock music greet you as you enter the area. Modern lamps grace each of the ticket counters. You’re like, “Hmm.”
And you read quirky comments like such that are written on your ticket:
“The Stub: Ever wonder where this part goes? So do we.”
“The Big Bit: This part of your ticket is fiercely loyal to its owner. While The Stub cavorts off to who knows where, The Big Bit sticks around to help you get to your seat. Treat it well, and it will be yours forever.”
It isn’t like the mood adjustment totally removes the pain of air travel. When I got to the counter, the ticket lady told me to put my carry-on onto the scale. It came in at 10 kilos. She told me I’d need to check it. I was like, “Why?” In the past, I’d never had to check my carry-on due to weight constraints (even though in the back of my mind I knew this restriction would hit me eventually). She told me it had to weigh less than 7.5 kilos. She asked if I wanted to take anything with me (as I also had a Jason Bourne-inspired shoulder bag with me). Hmm, I said, “What if I removed these books?” I pulled out a “Lonely Guide” travel book and a Nick Hornby book. She smiled. The weight dropped down to 9.0. I took out my various adapters/rechargers. It dropped down to 8.0. She smiled again and let me remove my carry-on from the weight machine. Of course, my shoulder-bag probably weighed in at 10 kilos at that point.
I have this problem with checking my luggage. I avoid it at all costs. A few years ago, my luggage got lost twice in a row. After those experiences, I’ve always attempted to use a suitcase that would slide into the over-head bins. Of course, the airlines wanting to apply fees to everything so that they can increase their revenues and knowing that many of us only bring a carry-on to avoid those fees are now going for a weight restriction. Maybe I’ll just have to deal with checking my main luggage from now on; however, I’ll probably still bring a small carry-on with clothes to cover me for a couple days should my checked luggage get lost in the grand scheme of things. As you can see, Virgin Australia or not, I do not trust airlines to keep track of my luggage.
After the desk clerk allowed me to cheat the luggage rules, she noticed that my itinerary took through Sydney. “You need a Visa to enter Australia.” What? (more…)