Birthdays, Penguins, and the Locale in New Zealand (sun/mon)

Sunday ended up being a day around the house. While Blaise’s birthday was Jan 1, most of her friends were on holiday (vacation) so she planned her party for today. She and her mother spent the afternoon preparing finger foods for the party while i ran up the road for beef low mein. The prep work resulted in a feast of snacks including:

asparagus rolls (asparagus wrapped in white bread with butter)
mushroom volauvents
pikelets (pancake with cream cheese, salmon and dill)
mini veggie springrolls
mince savories (mini meat pies)
brandy snaps
mini pavlovas
custard tarts with fruit on top
meatballs with Nicola’s sauce (brown sugar, lemon, tomato sauce, tomato paste)
cheese / crackers, patte
bacon wrapped dates (original recipe called for prunes)
booze, liberal amounts

Monday morning, we drove into downtown Auckland. Until now, I had only driven by via the motorway. Auckland is very much like any American city, it is not distinctly different like Tokyo or London is. We drove along the harbor to Kelly Tarltons Antarctic Adventure / Underwater World, with the promise of seeing a an unprecedented amount of penguins in two colonies, but in captivity. They have King and Gentoo penguins and one of the best habitats for them; they focus on offering variety to keep them stimulated and happy with their habitat. Feeding is not on a precise schedule, types of food vary, the habitat mimics the cycle of the day, etc.

Unfortunately, the current exhibit is very restrictive. You are forced to do an 8.5 minute ride in a small vehicle on tracks, looking at the penguins through dirty glass. Pictures are difficult to take, you cannot watch them for more than a couple minutes before being moved to the next exhibit and there is no way to watch them in any other manner. It’s as if Tarltons has decided that the sharks are the only worthwhile exhibit, and the penguins have been relegated to a backseat. In summary, the experience was a total let down. I specifically went to see the penguins (especially the Kings) and their superior habitat, but ended up getting a couple minutes of poorly constructed viewing time. Assholes.

We left Auckland and headed to Davenport, across the harbor north of downtown. The area is known for boutique shops and cafes, but seemed to be more cafes than stores from the last time Blaise was there. Found a couple things for friends but none of the cafes appealed to us. I think due to most being fairly crowded and us not in the mood to sit down and deal with it.

Next up, the Westfield mall in Albany, a typical shopping mall like you’d find in the states. There are a couple things on my to-buy list for friends that I was waiting to get, as the prices would be considerably more reasonable than a touristy shop down south. Ended up getting more than I had hoped, racking up a NZ$157 bill at Borders buying books that are specific to NZ, but will be of interest to friends back home.

The rest of the night was spent back at home, catching up on e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, watching TV and drinking Scotch. Blaise’s mom made us grilled chicken, corn on the cob, potatoes and peas/green beans. A meal that was largely made up of items she had asked me about earlier in the day.

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