Cheryll's Writing Journal

Musings, rants and ravings, plus gems of insight nobody wants to hear now that I've finally got them. Also neat stuff I found on the 'Net when I should have been updating this blog....

Monday, January 03, 2011

New Zealand Trip: Chicago to Los Angeles to Auckland

It was a very long walk from our hotel to O'Hare International Airport -- and we took the trains! Who knew that the change from Red to Blue lines meant almost a half mile of stairs, pedestrian tunnels, and more stairs?
I do like Chicago's transit provisions, though, as they really move traffic at speed.  We had only to look out the train windows (when they were above ground, of course) to see how we were whizzing past long lines of much slower moving cars at street level. Directions are clear, maps are plentiful, and they promise to have real time bus/train arrival info at major stops this year.  However, they could use some stop info or user reviews -- such as, some stops include 5 or 6 levels of stairs with no elevators!

O'Hare has changed since last I was there (we won't go into details of how long ago it was).  It is still huge, bigger than many cities in the world, but is now very well lighted, clean and includes moving walkways.  Still has Cinnabun shops perfuming the air...

Our flight to Los Angeles was a 737 Airbus, and we had seats clear back next to the last row, right in front of one of the kitchens and the toilets.  Not bad placement, but here's what I learned about current air travel: don't expect to use your laptop computer for entertainment.  There is no room between the seats, even before they recline!  Perhaps in business class there is space, and first class (which was not available for this domestic leg of the journey) looks a lot like space pod seating, with tray tables and foot rests.  Alas, no longer includes bud vases.

Oh, and 737s wag their tails in flight!  =:o  It wasn't bad, but it was definitely there. Who knew?

Once in Los Angeles, it was another long trek between terminals (there was ground transport available, but we felt we needed to exercise a bit, since the next flight would be 14+ hours.  And besides, it didn't look that far on the map...) but at least we didn't have to lug much stuff, as checked baggage was supposed to go through on it's own.

LAX is even bigger than last time I went through it.

Fourteen hours in unbelievably cramped spaces, knees crammed against the seat reclined in front of you, even if said seat back has a TV screen, even if one is supposed to sleep... Challenging. It is also a struggle to get up out of reclined seats without embarrassing mishaps.  They need to install handle bars!

Several very nice things about Qantas Airlines however: they cram you in, but they apologize for it. They provide pillows, blankets, headphones, food (good food!), drinks, movies, TV, sports, music -- all at no extra charge. In observing business class and first class accommodations, I'd say business looked more comfortable, bigger seats than coach and more space between them, but without the hard cocoon shell of first class.  And they are adding something called snuggle class this year, that is supposed to make up into a bed for two. Uh-huh. The pictures show two very slender folks...without seat belts...

Best I can say for such a long flight is that we survived on anticipation, and were not disappointed. First, we saw dark green dots of islands, then brilliant green fields and blue seas, then landed at Auckland International Airport on the North Island.  More walking, but in bright sunshine and mild temps with a fresh breeze.  Distance between terminals is only a matter of a block or two, after retrieving bags and zipping through customs, and the green -- plus flowering plants -- was very welcome.  So was being able to stretch and walk!

We had time for a snack in the domestic terminal before boarding for Christchurch.  First time I've had MacDonald's burger in about 30 years, I think.  It was delicious, but what used to be the $.99 meal special in US was about NZ$8 just for the burger...

The flight from Auckland to Christchurch is less than an hour and gave us more views of sparkling ocean and very green islands.  Here is our first view of Christchurch:
Just the northern edge of town, which is about 200K all told, but doesn't seem that urban.

We exited down a ladder and wandered across the tarmac to the terminal in very bright noon sunlight, more or less following other passengers because it wasn't all that clear where we were to go. Security is a bit less stringent than at LAX!

After finding our bags, we loaded up and walked through the terminal area to the bus stop, found the bus that would take us to within a block of our motel, and learned later that the trip would have cost much less if we had purchased bus passes then instead of later.  Bus driver not only greeted us and chatted with everyone, but also got off the bus and helped with baggage!  He seemed genuinely interested and happy with his job, as we would find true for every bus driver on throughout our stay there.

I'd like to say we hopped off the bus at our stop, but struggled and lugged is a better description. The stop is just back from the intersection (a traffic circle!) of Riccarton Road and Deans Avenue, so we are not far from our motel, but challenged by the traffic circle.  Just how does one figure out which direction to look?  (Did I mention that New Zealand cars travel on the left side of the road?)

However, we did eventually figure it out and dash across and there was our motel, two doors down:
Argyle on the Park is a small outfit, maybe 12 rooms and the owner's apartment.  It really is on the park, right across the street is the edge of Hagley Park, Christchurch's answer to New York's Central Park, and nearly as old.

We are met at the driveway entrance by Tom, the resident cat and general greeter. When we walk up to the door labeled office we are met by owners Maggie and Bruce who know immediately who we are and welcome us like old friends.  Wade made all the reservations and actually talked to them (via Skype) several times, making arrangements fit for honeymoon.  This second floor room with view of the park was ours!
It's a one bedroom apartment, with fully stocked kitchen, TVs in both bedroom and living room and an extra bed in the main room (which Wade immediately appropriated for spreading out his stuff).  Very nice arrangement, as it meant he could rise at his customary 2gm and work without disturbing my sleep.

We didn't do much but grab desperately needed showers and walk around the corner to a small grocery store for snacks.  Took a short walk into the park and had ham sandwiches for dinner.



Post a Comment

<< Home