Saturday January 28 2006 Auckland

Once again I was the first up and walked to the beach. The tide was in, so I walked on the upper path and then up some stairs to Coyle Park at Pt. Chev. The views over toward Auckland City were awesome. Tony left for his ritual Saturday visit to the gym (albeit he skipped his run because of a sprained ankle). Alison's "brother" Brian and his mother came and Brian prepared tea and crumpets.

They left quickly and Alison and I headed for the western beach of Piha, but stopped at the Waikere Ranges visitor center for photo ops and I look round. There was a rather rude Maori totem at the entrance and inside a very nice ranger prepared a personalized bird checklist for me. The park is mostly rainforest and quite beautiful. We then went down the road to the beach at Piha -- lots of surfers and wild waves. The sand had a lot of iron it in.

We stopped at a shopping center supermarket (Woolworth's) on the way home. While I showered and packed, Alison prepared an incredible lunch of mussel boulliabase -- the mussels had green edges, smoked fish, camembert, salad and baguettes with a delicious Mission chardonnay. We ate outside where it was very warm but muggy. Their cat, Wolfie (Beowulf) was at first interested in the cheese and then snoozed.

They took me to the airport -- Auckland suggests a 3 hour ahead check in. I had minimal success with email in which I got more detailed marching orders from Gwyneth for next week's babysitting, then realized I had to go downstairs and pay a departure tax. When I went through security they told me my bag was too heavy, so I went to the restroom and put on ALL my clothes (three shirts, a fleece, jeans over my cotton slacks, and a brocade jacket!) and emptied my water bottles. They have a 7kg carry on limit. When I went through again, they didn't even weigh my bag. Needless to say I found the first restroom and stripped back to summer clothes.

The flight back was not full and the flight attendant suggested that I move rather than be crowded. I enjoyed my first seatmates -- from Washington State whose daughter had married a Kiwi.

The man was a birder and the woman (who had a newly sprained ankle) had gone wine tasting instead of birding. However, I really liked having 2 seats to myself. so I could put my legs up and sleep.

The plane from LA was late leaving, but I did have a long chat with Phil who told me Gwyneth had made it to Paris. Such a globe trotting The planes were late leaving both LA and Dallas, but I got in a little early. Both Phil and Suze were there to meet me. The luggage took forever to come but eventually we got it and went home where Suze and I got to see the new paint job and I showed off my souvenirs. I got to see Gwyneth's first pictures from Paris. This day was 43 hours long!