Helen and Sue had visited us in Melbourne and we had no plans to see them in Auckland but the more we spoke on the phone the more obvious it became that we had to visit them as we don’t know when or where we will meet up again. We did stay with them in Auckland in 2006 when they were living in a tiny apartment. They were very keen on us seeing their country estate which they have completely renovated over the past five years. So, on December 11 at 5am we were in an Uber on the way to Melbourne airport.
Leaving Melbourne, Jim’s e-visa for NZ had not come through yet so it was very stressful. It must have just come through as the computer accepted his passport and issued a boarding pass. Sandy’s e-visa came through within two minutes of applying, Jim’s took another 12 hours.
The west coast of the north island of New Zealand taken from the plane window by Sandy.
Our Aukland hostesses, Helen and Sue.
Our home for the weekend.
Helen and Sue”s new camper van Ava.
Helen’s kitchen ready to keep us fed for four days.
That is not a picture on the wall, that’s a window with the view of their back yard.
Hard to take, but someone’s got to do it. Helen and Sandy are preparing food.
Ploughman’s lunch plus prawns.
Charlie, completely relaxed. When they Airbnb their home it comes with the cat and they get rave reviews which are all about Charlie.
We play flop dice the first night as this is Sandy’s favorite game to play with Sue and Helen as we first learned it at the restaurant Helen worked at in Bermuda. It is also called bar dice. Sometimes, the next morning is all a blur like this picture and it can be hard to remember who won, but it is usually Sandy. Helen claims Sandy cheats so she let Jim win this game!!!!
We did not dare run on the narrow country roads so just took a nice walk through a small local park. The tree in the picture is referred to as the New Zealand Christmas bush since it blooms in December. The common name is Pohutukawa.
After breakfast we drove a few miles to Omana Regional Park and Maretai beach and took a long walk with beautiful views. This is where Helen and Sue will bring their camper van to watch The Americas Cup races in 2021.
Multi-million dollar houses with wonderful sea views and magnificent terraced gardens. There used to be only summer Baches here which were very primitive with no heat, AC, TV etc.
This bougainvillea was so vibrant. Picture doesn’t do it justice.
Friday the 13th Helen had planned a party for us with her sister Lynne, brother-in-law John and Gail Beaton who we have met when she was visiting Boston with Helen and Sue. Gail’s brother John and wife Michelle were also coming. We invited two of our friends who just happened to be in Auckland after completing a 10 day tandem bike and boat cruise tour. We saw a post on Facebook and contacted Dan and Chanda McKee. Sandy and Jim have both worked with Chanda in the Emergency Departments of Lahey Burlington and Lahey Peabody in the past. This is the second time since we have been here that a Facebook posting has connected us with friends. Once in Australia with our former neighbors/friends the Charlton’s, and now in New Zealand with the professional colleagues/ friends McKee’s.
Dan and Chanda arrived about 1pm, just in time for a small lunch.
Chanda and Jim worked the overnight shift at Lahey Emergency Department for years. Overnight workers are usually quite close as it is a small crew who are very dependent on each other.
After lunch Helen had to prepare all of the food for the party which was starting around 4pm. She put us all to work and also conducted a cooking class. It was great fun.
First lesson from Helen, drinking wine is mandatory when cooking.
Jim cutting up cherry tomatoes diced very small for bruschetta, following Helen’s explicit instructions.
Jim tasting the hummus which he had made, also with detailed instructions and the cookbook. It needed more garlic and salt.
Sue and Dan held up their end of the island
while these three were scurrying around the other end.
Sandy under Helen’s instruction seared and roasted tenderloin while Chanda made marinated mushrooms and Sandy made guacamole while Jim diced the tomatoes for bruschetta and made hummus.
First guests to arrive were Gail Beaton and her sister-in-law Michelle and husband John. The plate in the foreground has hummus in the peppers with carrots and asparagus. Mmm good and very clever presentation.
Helen finally gets to relax.
Michelle, Susan and Sketty enjoying Sandy’s famous shortbread cookies. We didn’t really get to know Susan and Sketty very well.
Helen’s siste Lynne and husband John.
Gail and her brother John who was the designated driver, drinking tea.
Goodbyes to new friends.
Chanda was hugging everyone and had a really hard time leaving the party. She invited everyone to her second home in New Hampshire. (and they all accepted)
It was a really great party with fantastic food, such interesting new friends for us and another opportunity to have our friends mix and become good friends on their own which many of our friends have done. We are always pleased to gift another friendship to our friends. Thanks so much for a great afternoon Helen and Sue.
Our last day in New Zealand we took another walk which was shorter as we had to leave for the airport at 4:45.
Beautiful New Zealand.
Helen “threw together” another great final meal of Vietnamese Chicken noodle salad.
We ran into Chanda again at the Auckland airport. We are returning to Melbourne and they are flying to San Francisco.
The one disadvantage of business class is that sometimes we cannot see each other or even talk without leaning far forward. I know you must be feeling really sorry for this travel hardship of ours!
Another great visit with such close friends and always lots of laughter and craziness involved whenever we get together but that is what makes it so memorable and leaves us hungry for more.