For Randall and me, the idea of spending Christmas with two people that we had met before and an undetermined number that we had never met, seemed rather intriguing. We really had no idea what to expect when we accepted the very kind invitation from Helen and Tony to join their family in Auckland for Christmas Day. Helen is the cousin of my late-uncle Frank (Francis) and we had met her and her husband, Tony, with Frank on a couple of occasions. They are lovely people who are easy to get along with but what would it be like with four of their five offspring and their families?
The day absolutely exceeded expectations and we had a fabulous time. We were made wonderfully welcome; the Secret Santa gift-exchange/stealing was very entertaining; the food was delicious; the conversation was sparkling; the house and garden (belonging to H & T's son Phil and his partner) was beautiful and sufficiently spacious to accommodate the 21 people that came and went throughout the day; there was never a bad word or glared look; we watched Four Weddings and a Funeral in the evening with much laughter and a few tears; and we truly felt that despite losing the one person that linked our families (Frank was toasted several times), we were privileged and very fortunate to have been able to make the connection with our extended, Kiwi relatives. Thank you so much to Helen, Tony, Phil, Chris, Nikki, Steve, and all of your partners and children for making us feel so comfortably included in your Christmas celebrations.
Dinner outside for 15 on a fine Christmas Day
On the drive down to Auckland in the car that Vandy and Eric from SV Scoots have kindly loaned us, we gave a lift to couple from The Netherlands who were flying home for a year. It was their first trip to Auckland so we had great fun pointing out places on the way that would be worth visiting when they returned. Randall and I had booked into a rather nice downtown hotel for two nights and maybe only cruisers would fully appreciate the joy and novelty of having a relatively large room, a nice big bed, an unlimited shower, TV (which to Randall's delight included US Sports channels), and a huge breakfast buffet (which to my surprise and delight included a chocolate fountain!)
With Christmas Eve and Day being sunny and warm, we walked around Auckland a little and drove to a couple of the 48 volcanic cones that dominate the city's landscape. However, it was also a pleasure to hang-out in our hotel room and use the high-speed WiFi to Skype family and friends around the world. On Boxing Day, the main highway to Whangarei was predicted to be busy with Aucklanders heading north to the beaches after family Christmases so we detoured along the coastal roads and enjoyed the views and relaxed driving.
One Tree Hill volcanic cone: once the site of the largest Maori Pa in the Auckland area and now a popular park
Although we are back in Whangarei now, we will be taking another road-trip soon to tour around the North Island south of Auckland, including visiting Nikki and family in Wellington. After that we plan to sail Tregoning north to the Bay of Islands for a couple of weeks between visits to the dentist! Friends are visiting from Vancouver and Scotland during that time, which will be marvelous. Eventually we will return Tregoning to Whangarei and get ready for a six-week trip to the US (Florida and Denver) from late February until early April. So we already have plenty of exciting plans for the first third of 2018.
We hope that you have a very Happy New Year and that 2018 is delightful!