We finally have internet access, so time to update on our trip!
After spending a lovely weekend in LA, including an impromptu visit with our friend Derek (who is moving back to Vancouver this weekend!), we headed to the airport. The cab company apparently didn't understand "lots of bags" and sent a regular car - so we filled the trunk and half of the back seat. The cabbie drove like a New Yorker, and I was positive we were going to die on the way to the airport. Headline "Newlyweds killed 1 mile from airport; hours away from new life".
Clearly, we arrived intact. We had no issues at all checking in, and simply had to pay a fee for an extra bag. Air New Zealand is notoriously strict on baggage weight, but since we were new migrants, they didn't weigh each bag separately. This gave Darren the opportunity to pack his hiking boots and wear his Crocs the whole trip. Awesome.
In the airport, we picked up a hitchhiker , and learned his name is Fred. :)
We were able to preboard along with business class (we had premium economy seats), and our plane left on-time from LAX with no issues. The seats were ok - not quite as big as typical 1st class seats. The handy part was having storage boxes under the windows, as well as up above and under the seats in front of us. The seat pockets even had a special water bottle holder! We had leg rests too, which were better than nothing, but not quite as comfy as a recliner.
At some point, it hit us that we were moving!
Then we remembered that we are happy about this. ;)
We had a large selection of movies - all "on demand" - and a small selection of US and NZ tv shows. We immediately watched "Monster House" while having dinner (veggie for Darren, chicken for me) and two glasses of wine. Yep, I passed out as soon as the movie was over and slept for at least three hours. When I woke up, Darren was asleep, so I watched "The Devil Wears Prada". I wouldn't suggest watching the movie unless you are on a 13 hour plane ride.
After a hot towel and breakfast, we were treated to a small peek of the North Island. Yay! We made it! We landed without incident, and made our way into the airport. Once we cleared customs - Darren's hiking boots were declared "almost too clean"! - and rechecked our bags, we took showers. The showers are free, but the towels are NZ$6.00 each! The shower rooms are very very tiny, but the shower was great. I highly suggest to anyone traveling that far to leave enough of a layover to take showers - it makes a huge difference.
To get to the domestic gates, we had the choice of taking a shuttle bus or walking. It was a beautiful day, so we chose the latter, especially after being in a plane for so long! The walk was great - trees and grass on one side, and fencing/razorwire on the other. It did sort of feel like we were walking through Jurassic Park!
Again, no issues at all with our second flight. The plane was about the size of a typical Southwest plane, and the flight was just an hour. Still, in that hour, we received drinks and shortbread cookies with blueberry bits. Yum! They also offered "sweets" right before we landed - otherwise known as hard candy.
Merrin met us at the gate, which I was not expecting, so I walked right past her! Darren grabbed me back, having been aware enough to notice someone smiling our way. It was great to see her! I immediately demanded to see her engagement ring (which is beautiful! Great job, Darrel!) Our bags came super fast, and we somehow managed to fit them all into Merrin's car. Oh, and can I mention that all the luggage carts in NZ airports are FREE? Yes, that's right - not $3/cart - FREE. Love this country already!