Thursday - Saturday, February 1-3 Toronto - Los Angeles - Auckland, New Zealand

A very early morning, dropping the car for Mac (and a birthday card for Logan -- Happy Birthday Logan!) and being delivered to the airport by Terry (thank you, Terry!). Very smooth transition through US border control, followed by peaceful breakfast with our newspaper. This part of Terminal 3 is under renovation and not in great shape. Very different from our last few experiences here.
The flight to LA was comfortable and fairly easy. We had a hotel room for the 11-hour layover, so we could relax, doze, watch a bit of TV and eat in a nice bar/restaurant. A shuttle got us back to the airport in good time, and we were off!
The 787 was very comfortable, so the 12-hour flight was nothing like as bad as many we've had. Larry traded seats with someone, so we could be side-by-side, something that appeared to  be happening all over the plane -- do they purposely separate couples? What do they think we'll get up to during the flight? I got quite a lot of sleep, and woke in time to watch the sky gradually lighten from black through purple and mauve to blue and then to  cloudy. Breakfast was pretty good and we landed about an hour early.
New Zealand has very strict controls for diseases and pests, so while we waited to be processed in, I read up on the dangers of stink bugs, among others. We also discovered that we have e-passports, something that had never before been relevant. Of course, Larry's worked, getting him through that stage very quickly, while mine failed and I had to line up in the "problem" line. Don't know what the difference was, but it looked like everyone who tried one gate got turned back.
We easily found the Regent Seven Seas staff who organized us into a small van to travel to the Stamford Plaza Hotel. The other passengers, Ann and Gerard [Schmid], are from Detroit, and we enjoyed their company so much that we all went to lunch together. We couldn't get into our rooms, so followed the advice of the hospitality staff and walked to the harbour, where we took a ferry to Devonport Island. [File photo from the air]
  It was raining, so we quickly sought out a craft beer pub, where we enjoyed a delicious lunch. By then the sun had come out, so we walked up the street to have a look at the park that's built on an extinct (or at least non-active) volcano, wandered through a grocery store, and headed back to the ferry.  We all agreed that Auckland is a pretty city, and the trip from the airport had been longer than we'd anticipated. We saw buildings and streets that reminded us of Vancouver and Victoria and San Francisco.
[ Auckland View from Devonport by Ann Schmid]
 Gerard said "Like Canada with palm trees." Back at the hotel, we realized the whole trip had caught up with us and were happy to fall into bed and nap for a few hours.
Larry and I went out in search of a light dinner, walking to the main shopping area. All the big high-end names were available, though stores had closed by the time we got there. But no food that appealed -- several McDonalds, a couple of Burger Kings, a Subway and a Dunkin' Donuts plus several very loud bars and every sort of Asian food, but nothing light and interesting. There seemed to be very many people settling in for the night on the street, which surprised us. Back at the hotel, we got exactly what we wanted in the lobby restaurant. We were happy to call it a day and settle in for a good night's sleep in our very comfortable room. Looking forward to tomorrow's excursion and the beginning of getting to know New Zealand.

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