It's official! After 7 years of talking about it, I'm finally headed to New Zealand to visit my uncle Ross and his wife Liz on the North Island. If the stars align themselves properly, I'm also doing a 2 week tour of the South Island with GAP Adventures: http://www.gapadventures.com/trips/south-island-sojourn/ONSS/2009/
My uncle has lived in Auckland all of my life and before that too. He's Canadian by birth but happened to get a job there before I came along so I've really only met him less than a dozen times in my life. His wife Liz is born and raised in New Zealand, a native Kiwi I guess you could call her. I met her once about 5 years ago when she stayed with me for 2 nights on her way through Toronto. I picked her up at the airport but really had no idea what she looked like so I made a big sign that said "Hi Liz". A family waiting near me had a great time with that because they had a daughter named Liz. Anyway, I was a little nervous about hosting a near stranger but we had a great time and got along well. It'll be nice to see them both again, this time in a place that they call home.
I guess you could say this trip is a once-in-a-lifetime one but I really hope it's not. Don't get me wrong, I'm super excited about it, I just hope I get to NZ more than once in my lifetime :) When I called Aeroplan to book my flights, I was quite surprised at the lack of choices available to me. I already had the GAP trip in mind which has fixed dates so I needed to work around those. I ended up with one flight choice going there, and two choices to come back. This was, in part, due to the Olympics ending in Vancouver right around the time I am coming home. Aeroplan could get me to YVR no problem, but there were no flights available out of there for another 9 days! I did consider choosing that option as I have plenty of people to stay with there, but I didn't think work would appreciate me being "stranded" in Vancouver that long. In the end, it turns out that I won't be on the North Island with Ross and Liz as much as I had hoped, but to me that just means that I'll have to come back sometime! Oh, what a delightful dilemma.
Another thing I had hoped for was to maybe get a chance to see Hawaii again with a layover there. My parents did that the last time they went to NZ but it was not meant to be for me. Instead, I've got 6 hours in Sydney on the way back, followed by 12 hours of time in San Francisco. I'm quite sure by then I'll have no idea where I am, what time of day it is, or what my name is, but I'm determined to make the most of my chances to see two cities on my list of places to visit.
Luckily for me, my dad's cousin Victor and his two boys live by Sydney. I haven't seen them since I stayed with them for a week back in 1998 when they lived in England. I figure I'll give them a heads-up and see if they'd be interested in meeting me for lunch or something. It would be great to see them again. Failing that, I could ask other people I know for random relatives of theirs for me to ring (you laugh but I've done it before), or just take myself for a wee tour. My friend Shelley has kindly lent me a guidebook for Oz so I've plenty of reading to do now.
Facebook is a wonderful thing....sometimes. I used it the other day to ask people I know on it for suggestions on what to see & do in San Francisco and I got back some wonderful ideas. I'm compiling a list of them, checking with the guidebook that Shelley lent me (she's been almost everywhere), and I'll map myself some excellent ways to pass my layover there. I figure between Red Bull and excitement, it'll be no problem to keep myself going. I got sent links to ideas, links to information (I love research!), a written walking tour itinerary, and quite a few shouts to visit the Ghiradelli chocolate establishment. Ok, twist my arm...