I love airports, honestly, I think I would live in an airport if I could, you know like Tom Hanks from that movie Terminal, (if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it). So I was not about to turn down the chance to visit the mothership and fly off into the big beyond … well, Auckland!
When I was asked if I would like to attend the Auckland famil, I thought, great, what’s one of those (never been on one at my age, I know, tut tut)! Turns out, it’s a great opportunity to visit a city and get to know all it has to offer, mostly from a business events point of view, you know the kind of things; hotels, venues, catering etc. Okay I can do that I think, be wined and dined and shown the sights for a couple of days, no worries. It’s also late November 2018, we weren’t as busy, so the head had space to absorb some new information.
Is it a private tour or can anyone come? Not private exactly I’m informed, but a small group of like-minded individuals … oh, like strangers, (small panic), will I have to share a room (I snore!). No of course not, you are a guest of the city and treated like a VIP. Cool, I can do that, how very exciting, but wait, what if no one likes me or doesn’t talk to me for two whole days, what will I do, what if I don’t like the food, or I get sick! And then I think, oh for heaven’s sake, just get over yourself and get on with it, which is exactly what I did.
I hate being late. That is why I get to the airport way earlier than I need (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it), but it would seem on this occasion, it proved worthwhile. I had a disastrous start to the morning, dropping the electronic car key in a foot deep rain puddle, getting car oil on my clean shirt while trying to retrieve it, locking the suitcase and then not being able to find the key, the normal sort of stuff right! However, I arrived at Wellington airport in time to check in and have a well deserved glass of cold Sauvy blanc, before taking my flight to the big City! Hey, who cares if it is only 3.00pm!
Happily, things only got better. I’m not normally one for flash, but after such a hectic morning, when I was invited to take my seat in the massive stretch white limousine, (Lincoln Limousines) with bubbles on tap, I thought, ‘I could get used to this’. And so for me and my (to be) new found friends our journey to Auckland CBD with all it’s wonderous offerings began.
Given there were 11 of us, the check in at the Crowne Plaza Auckland was quite swift. As our flight had been delayed, I didn’t have too much time to explore the room before we had to meet for dinner, however, I was impressed with how spacious it was. There were ample plug sockets, bathrobes, slippers and amenities in the bathroom. What I was particularly impressed with was the coffee machine, I love a good coffee, especially in the morning, (well I do live in Welly!!), so was extra pleased to see a bright shinny Nespresso ready and waiting. A kettle, along with an iron and a hairdryer made the room feel well equipped for any of my needs.
(Note: Crowne Plaza was recently named as New Zealand’s Leading Business Hotel by the World Travel Awards for the third time).
A very impressive Santa sleigh greeted us in the entrance and we were directed to one of the private rooms where Event Impressions had done a fab job of making it look exceptionally lovely and the dulcet tones of a solo artist flooded the room (provided by The Production and Music Agency).
The space was perfect for our intimate dinner. As with all hotels of this standard, one would expect the food to be of a high calibre; the Cordis certainly did not disappoint.
However, what made the meal more interesting, was the service, it was like sitting at a big family dining table. The food was presented in platters and bowls in the middle of the table and we helped ourselves. This encouraged us to talk to each other and break the ice as we were all relative strangers. A super idea that worked really well. By the end of the evening conversations were flowing and friendships were forming.
Back at the Crowne Plaza I settled into my massive bed for the night, ready for the full-on programme the following day.
Up early and off to the Hilton Hotel for breakfast. A guided tour took us to the dedicated conference space using the outside entrance rather than going through the hotel. I have to admit, as it had been raining, it was quite slippery underfoot and my first thought was ‘this would never do for the Jimmy Choos!’ – but then who would be wearing them to a conference! A nice little entry with plenty of room for a reg desk and sponsor banners.
The main room was set banquet style and had an impressive view over the harbour, (apparently this is used as an immigration point when the big cruise liners are in). The room could be split to provide break out sections, but I feel one would lose the fantastic natural light which flooded the area and could only be sectioned off with panels/curtains – I wasn’t convinced about the sound proofing, but apparently it works!
The area upstairs from this was of a similar size and lead into the hotel where we were guided to the restaurant for a stand-up breakfast. What impressed me the most here was the outside space which again had super views of the harbour and would make for a great pre-dinner drinks area. The Hilton will even close the restaurant and let you have full use of the facility for private functions (don’t worry the guest of the hotel won’t go hungry, they have another one they can use!).
From here we travelled by foot to enjoy the sunshine which had visited Auckland that day (on the two previous occasions I have been to Auckland it has rained), and the sunglasses got their first big city outing. Transportation to our next adventure was by water – happily I am not talking about swimming – that is reserved for pools only in my book (no splashing or dive bombing allowed) – but a rather lovely boat.
We were introduced to the opportunities of being able to walk along the harbour bridge, and even bungy jump from it – not for me thank you – but just for fun, morning tea was delivered by bungy, which we ate while waving to those walking the bridge.
After outlining the numerous ways one could throw oneself off the bridge attached to a huge elastic band, our AJ Hackett host was lifted from the boat and whisked into the air to join her colleagues.
There was something rather lovely about being on the water and even spotting the odd otter, I could get definitely get used to this. A big thank you to Savoy Charters for a fabulous trip across to our next Auckland offering … Waiheke Island.
Waiheke Island is one of the most beautiful places I have seen in New Zealand. Clearly I am not alone in my thoughts, Lonely Planet acknowledges this as one of the top five places in the world to visit, and here I was! If you are ever in the Auckland region, this is a must see place.
We were met by Ananda Tours, who proudly showed off their island with a short tour even providing us with oysters and goodies on the beach. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time here, but that was enough to taste my very first oyster.
I was very apprehensive as I had heard some yukky stories of the experience, but I have to say, having put images of giant balls of phlegm out of my mind, they were really quite lovely. Not sure they will be on my next shopping list, but another tick in the box.
After Ananda Tours’ knowledgeable driver had given us a little back ground on the island he took us to our next stop.
Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant sits on top of a hill and has stunning views of the waters below and the Auckland skyline in the far distance.
This is most certainly a ‘get away from it all’ location that provides tranquillity, great food and of course great wine, what more could anyone want, (there is even wifi for anyone who cant live without connectivity!) Our wine tour ended with a freshly prepared lunch and of course more wine. We were transported back to the ferry point and guided onto a private deck where our gracious host, Fullers 360, gave us the VIP treatment with refreshments as they took us on the short journey back to Auckland, where we were returned to the comfort of the Crowne Plaza.
Afternoon tea at the Crowne Plaza came with more than just food. The Events Group locked us all into a room and, after splitting us into groups, told us we had to escape! We weren’t actually locked in of course, but what a lovely way to spend the next hour or so. Finding and deciphering clues and puzzles to unlock the door while the clock is ticking away and we are munching on sweet treats and sandwiches. They didn’t have loads of big props or fancy gadgets either, everything was on the table and answers logged into a computer, all very techno and all very fun!
A quick freshen up and a G & T and we were off to the races!
Ellerslie race course (and events centre) sits a little outside of the CBD and is a wonderful sight. I have a secret love for race courses as I visited a fair number as a child, however, I was never allowed in the Champagne tent, unlike this time which was very welcome after the short coach journey.
After a guided tour of the conference facilities, which have superb views over the race track we were taken to a pop up bar where another childhood memory awaited me.
Time to brush up my Shakespeare as we were transported back to the days of the Bard in the pop up Globe Theatre with an awesome rendition of ‘The taming of the shrew’. Fortunately, I knew the story and understood all that was going on, and I laughed in all the right places (I think), being a native English person also helped, but for those who did not have this thrust upon them in school, if you want to enjoy a retelling of the story, watch the film, 10 things I hate about you, which also has the added benefit of Heath Ledger to look at!
It was quite late into the evening when we got back to the hotel, and I have to say I was ready for my bed. It had been a full on day and there was more to see tomorrow. Talking of which, we were given this as a clue to one of the things we will see, do you know what it is?
No one knows when I will start, nothing sits more in the heart
But when at last I’m big and tall, across the world I’ll shout to all
Night night, see you on day two…
Snr Event Executive, Auaha