It just keeps getting better, even though the weather just keeps getting worse! We woke up to yet another day of rain, but it wasn’t too much of a downer since we had planned on spending most of the day in the Aquarium.
Instead of attempting to get lunch in the Aquarium Cafe like we did at the zoo, I picked up some Subway sandwiches for us all to have in the aquarium. After a quick mooched breakfast from the hotel, we headed over to the Sky Tower to pick up the free Shark Bus shuttle to the aquarium.
The aquarium was smaller than we had expected, but it had a lot of really nice exhibits! One of the main attractions is the Antarctic exhibit. They had a sample of the water, which you could stick your hand in and see how long you could keep it in there. It was freaking freezing!
Guess who lived in the Antarctic exhibit! Penguins, of course!
After learning a bit about what it was like to explore Antarctica back in the day (it was really hard)…
We got to hop in a Snow Cat mobile and take a ride through Antarctica to visit the penguins!
They have created a habitat just like the real natural Antarctic environment with not only sunrises and sunsets, but seasonal shifts as well! This keeps the penguins happy, healthy, and mating 😉
After we saw the penguins, it was nearly time for the Stingray Encounter. An aquarium lady came into the stingray tank to feed the 3 stingrays, which were 2-meters big! They were so cute, swimming up to her because they knew she had treats, especially the biggest one, Phoebe. The science lady told us about how stingray get a really bad rap because of their huge, painful stingers, but really they are quite passive and only attack when they feel threatened. They looked so graceful flapping along in the water, too.
I know it is built mainly for kids, but some of my best memories from the aquarium took place in the Interactive room. We had some pretty hilarious photo shoots:
We’re going down together!
Why do some of my family members seemed to have accepted their fate?
I also challenged Sam to a penguin waddle race.
She won, but I think it’s because I forgot my wings 😉
The next best part of the museum was the other main attraction, the tunnel through the shark tank…with moving sidewalk!!!
We saw a few different variations of sharks, and also a few different views of those sharks. For the record, shark teeth are scary, and shark butts are gross.
There were a few other more conventional fish tanks with enormous lobsters, wimpy-whimsical sea horses, piranhas which are capable of reducing a horse to a skeleton in one minute, colorful fish straight out of Nemo.
After enjoying our Subways in the cafe, we waited in the freezing rain for the shuttle. Welcome to sunny Aotearoa, Sam!
Once back in Auckland, even though we were frozen to the bone, we set off to find my family some Hokey Pokey to try. Hokey Pokey is a flavor of ice cream in New Zealand with a butterscotch swirl and toffee balls. I don’t even like it, but when you come to New Zealand, you have to try it. We stopped in one hoity-toity place that didn’t have it, then another gelato place that was waaaay overpriced, so we decided to stick with what you know and find the place Hannah and I originally tried it, even though we knew it didn’t have an inside. It is a small shop near the cruise ship pier owned by a very sweet old Asian woman. She gave us huge cups of the stuff (well, I got cookies and cream).
Dad, David, and Hannah all went back home, while Mom, Sam, and I ventured on to K’Rd to do some thrift shopping. K’Rd is short for Karangahape Road which is the heart of the hipster part of town. They have a lot of consignment stores, or “op shops” as they call them, and since my mom is a vintage pyrex treasure hunter and my sister is a funky vintage clothing fanatic, we hit up every single op shop of K’Rd.
I was not expecting to, but I actually got three shirts! At Paper Bag Princess, everything is always buy two, get one free. I found a hilarious tshirt that I will share next time I wear it, and two funky-flowy tops that will be great for transforming my yoga clothes into street clothes.
Sadly for my mom, she didn’t find a single piece of pyrex! Pyrex has an Australian version called Aggie, so we thought she might be able to find some since NZ is closer to Australia than Philadelphia is, but no dice 😦 We still had a lot of fun looking around!
After a long day of shopping, I needed another feijoa spritzer…
…before taking a cab to Joy Bong Thai for dinner (Miranda, I think it was you who recommended this place to me!)
It was a really nice thai restaurant and we basically had the place to ourselves! We got a few appetizers to start. I loved the vegetarian spring rolls and coconut shrimp, but I wasn’t too crazy about the money bags (they were too meaty). Also, everything was deep-fried, which I felts was unnecessary, but the flavors were light and zesty and the sauces were great, too!
Mom and I got a glass of Sauv Blanc. I think she likes it, too!
(She’s not drunk, she just doesn’t know how to pose for pictures ;))
We each chose a meal as our own, but also dedicated ourselves to a family-style policy – all plates went in the center, and all meals were tried and shared!
I got a ginger veggies stir-fry, which was my favorite dish on the table! I love tofu when it’s cooked right 🙂 David got a spicy green curry that was just delightful. Mom got prawn pad thai, which had great flavor, but seriously needed some more veggies. Dad didn’t choose something from the menu – he just asked if they could make him lemongrass beef, which of course they could. Though I don’t like beef, it had great flavor! I can’t even remember what Sam got, but I know that it came with Thai sticky rice, which is wrapped in rice paper. It was quite yummy!
Interesting chairs, huh? I loved the restaurant, which was so much bigger than I had originally thought! It had a huge bar and two fireplaces in the back! We did learn that it’s not Joy Bong Thai anymore – it’s Monarchy. Whatever the name, it was a great place to go for dinner!
After dinner, we went to the Thirsty Dog, a pub one block away that I had often run by. We realized that it was open mic night, and I remembered getting a recommendation back in Burlington to go there just for open mic nights! Serendipity!!! We all agreed that our time spent in Thirsty Dog listening to the musicians will be one of our most cherished memories from the trip.
About 20 musicians of all ages and makes sat in a circle with a plethora of instruments: guitars, Celtic flutes, drums, cellos, fiddles, ukeleles, etc. Each musician took a turn performing a song, and if anyone else knew it, they were welcome to chime in. Mostly, they played folk music with an Irish twist 🙂 They were so collaborative and it was a such a good community of musicians. It was beautiful and relaxing. I could have stayed there forever.
But of course, we called a cab home. We had a wonderfully friendly driver, Meipo, from Samoa. She was such a good woman and chatted with us all the way home. My Dad gave her 20 bucks after she dropped them off, but by the time we got to my apartment, the meter read $21. I tried to give her two dollars, but she straight-up refused. I wanted to give her a hug goodbye! What a sweetheart!
On Tuesday, we woke up to the most beautiful weather since my family got here! It was sunny and crisp, a perfect day for a day trip to Devonport, my favorite satellite town just a ferry ride away. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that my camera battery was dead, so I’m sorry but I have no pictures from Tuesday! I hope my words paint a picture.
When we arrived in Devonport, we spent some time exploring the town’s shops. There are some great home devour and jewelry stores with really unique and beautiful things in them. After shopping for a bit, we went to the Stone Oven for lunch. It’s a lovely bakery and cafe, which resulted in me panicking with indecisiveness over what to order! I settled with a mushroom and spinach pie – I’m trying to eat as much stuff that I know I won’t be able to get in the USA, like pies! After lunch, we took a trip over to Devonport Chocolates to try a few for dessert. I got the chocolate of the month, which was an almond and date white chocolate, as well as an almond cream. It’s not the best chocolate in the world, but enjoying the flavorful truffles by the beach in New Zealand with my family wasn’t too bad 😉
Next, I dragged my family on our first hike! We explored Mount Head and all of the spooky tunnels and caves. My Dad thought it was really interesting and he really enjoyed it! I was glad because it was Father’s Day in the US, after all! We got some great pictures that may or may not appear on the Christmas card, as well as some hilarious jumping shots. They never get old. After descending the hill, which the family agrees what not so bad, we checked out the Navy Museum. My mom’s dad was in the Navy, so I knew she would enjoy looking around. The NZ Navy has such an interesting, peaceful yet powerful history.
Once back in the city, we stopped at a little diner-y cafe for a pick-me-up before getting ready to meet Hannah for dinner. We had plans to got to Elliot Stables, which is essentially an upscale food court. It was great because everyone could find something that interested them! A new Indian place had opened there, which had so many great vegetarian and even vegan options. Hannah and I split a peanut tofu dish with sweet thai chili sauce. We also split a bruscetta from an Italian place with artichokes, roasted red peppers, arugula, and mushrooms on some herb ricotta spread. Sammy was happy with a crepe, mom was pleased with her tomato veggie Risotto, and the boys got some German sausages and mashed potatoes. Oh! And all us big kids shared a pitcher of sangria from the Spanish place.
But our night was just warming up! It was trivia night and the “Modern Family” had their eyes on the prize! We did pretty well, but I was mostly impressed with my families ability to stay out so late! But really, the questions were pretty hard, but it’s always worth it for those ones you can figure out! It was also Hannah and my last night of trivia, so we were pretty nostalgic. We had such a great time all those weeks. I am really going to miss it!