Travel Day!

On Day 4, we set off for the South Island, leaving the assorted Davis, Davies, Gransden and Pollard family members behind.  We said goodbye to them and to our much loved view …

… and arrived at the sunny, windy Rotorua airport for the first of three (!) flights we would have that day as we made our way to Dunedin.

It was weird to realize that NZ airports in smaller cities have no security checkpoints.  We just walked up to the gate area, which was about half a Robert Harris restaurant, with our bags and plopped down over delicious flat whites, smoothies, and yummy breakfast.  Like we had gone back to a more innocent time when travel was a leisurely affair with few worries in mind.

One section of the small airport was dedicated to a nicely arty memorial to NZ aviator Jean Batten, of whom none of us had ever heard anything before.  Glamorous and fearless, Jean led a life filled with danger, accomplishment, and a deep, abiding attachment to her mother, Ellen.  Her story and achievements are remarkable–she held numerous flight records, regardless of gender.  Jean had a sad end not befitting her amazing life.  Thank you, tiny Rotorua airport, for honoring her.

Look, one of our three Air NZ flights–just walk out and hop on.

 
From Rotorua, we zipped to Auckland, then to Christchurch, then to Dunedin.  Why three flights? Well, intra-country air travel is how many in NZ get around.  It’s like grabbing three flying buses.  But, to be fair, we were a bit late on the button in buying our tickets and might have been able to fly straight to Christchurch if we had been earlier, but that still would have left us with two flights.  All the up and down was tiring, especially since the connections between the flights allowed us just enough time to rush to our next plane.  Finally, from our last one, we could see Dunedin filling our windows–another gorgeous corner of NZ to explore and the sign that our travel day was nearing its end.

The little green penguin below on the floor of baggage claim gives an idea of what brought us to the far South city (more on that tomorrow).

In Dunedin, we found a lovely hotel nestled down an alley right in the heart of this university city filled with winding roads and high hills.  A city that in some ways feels like a small, simpler San Francisco from back in the day.  Penn was delighted to be earth bound!

 

Our surprisingly large hotel room came with a full living room, washing machine and dryer, kitchen, and patio.

We were steps from one of Dunedin’s main drags, filled with charm and–perhaps most importantly, given the length of our day–food!

Dunedin shares its name with its sister Scotland capital city for which it was named, and has Scotland at its heart.  Scottish immigrant town leaders founded the University of Otago almost 150 years ago, and the town has a quirky college-town feel coupled with some Scottish architectural vibes.

Many of the smaller restaurants in the city had closed for the entirety of the holiday season.  As Ned noted, “Because why would anyone want to make money off tourists?”  Luckily, we found a delicious, entirely empty yet open, Indian restaurant with a menu filled with GF curries and honest-to-goodness Diet Cokes–and surprisingly (hilariously) slow service.  Dudes, we were the only ones there … at all.  The warm, complexly scented and wonderfully filling food and caffeine brought us back to familial closeness in our restaurant takeover.

After dinner, we were desirous of ice cream.  NZ ice cream is its own thing.  People are obsessed with it and it’s everywhere.  The NZ national flavor is Hokey Pokey–usually vanilla always with clusters of honeycomb–and the canonical version is made by Tip Top.  We must have eaten it a dozen times, including in the radical chocolate HP variation.  But we also indulged in cookies and cream, coconut, apple crumble, double chocolate, honey date, and more.

From our seats in the empty Indian restaurant, we could see people walking past with cones and sundaes and more.  Clear signs of ice cream nearby!  A quick Google led us to Dunedin’s 30 year old diary: Rob Roy!  Part ice cream parlor, part quickie mart, rocking the 80s dairy-style.

On the walk home, we took in Dunedin’s street poetry and alleyway art:

Took note of Dunedin’s anti-junk mail and dog policies:

 

And, took in even more pollen from blooming summer of long, long days.  So pretty …

So deadly …

Even one evening in Dunedin gave us an idea of how NZ’s first university town was special and delightful.  After a long travel day, we happily fell into our beds and dreamt of daring aviatrix, beautiful vistas, the sweet heat of masala, and creamy honeycombs.

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