You can’t buy time (unless you’re at a parking meter)

It’s my last full day in Christchurch, and there are at least 4 places I would like to visit. If I push it, I can possibly get 3 of them, but shorting the time on the last two. Or just settle for two and not rush as hard.

I guess I could have added an extra day to the cities in this trip that are new, and removed a day from cities I have already visited. But I knew how much time I wanted in the”previously on…” cities since I have been there before. New cities could have gone either way – discover new things that you won’t have time to do, or run out of things to do and have to hang out at a mall to kill time until your next flight (unlikely but not impossible).

Yesterday was an 8-hour tour to the filming location of Edoras (and the exterior of Helm’s Deep) in the Kingdom of Rohan in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which is possibly my favorite film.

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It almost happened again.

When I travel, I walk a lot, and I walk fast, except when inside museums. I like to read everything. Today I visited the Canterbury Museum. I highly recommend it for its incredible variety of exhibits. It was suggested a 2 hour visit is sufficient, I took nearly 3.5 hours.

In the winter here, it seems things close earlier than usual, or earlier than you would hope/expect, usually 5-6pm. That was similar to my experience in Stockholm. By the time I made it to Cathedral Square for my planned lunch, it was almost 4pm. I find interesting things to investigate along the way – art galleries, bookstores, open air markets, and other museums to add the the “visit list”.

The public library is pretty nifty, it acts as a real community center, all kinds of people and families are there to take advantage of not just the usual books and magazines, but games both board and educational, 3 giant (probably 60+ inches) interactive touchscreens with history and cultural snippets, a cafe, art exhibits, meeting spaces, etc. Much more involved than any of my local branches.

Anyway, back to the story. I want to see enough stuff that I get to lunch in the mid-afternoon, and then dinner is pushed back far enough that everything is closed except for fast food and fancy sit-down restaurants. Today, I changed the pattern by skipping lunch for a much earlier dinner, which provided more meal options, but could end badly later tonight because my hotel is not in a very active area, such that expensive room service might be the only option. I guess I could look into food delivery. Even the shopping mall 4 blocks away closes at 6pm, presumably their food court does as well.

Mission: find a not huge meal and a something for back in the hotel (there is a mini-refrigerator in the room) that isn’t packaged/processed snacks and doesn’t need to be reheated. So the takeaway chips (fries for those at home) from the burger joint are out (but a burger is always a meal option).

Solution: I find a chain Japanese Restaurant for a nice bowl of udon for dinner that also has sushi rolls, which can be refrigerated for later.

New problem: the fastest way back to the hotel is through the park which looks closed, or at least unlit and it’s fully dark by 6pm. Instead of trying a Lime scooter (maybe someday), I’ll walk the long way around the park, I’ve walked plenty today, another 3+km?

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Sometimes it doesn’t work out perfectly

Two hotels in a row, and while I did get a room upgrade on both, neither have an executive lounge nor pool accessibility.

The first hotel closed its pool for cleanup and a safety survey after a tornado hit the area the day before my arrival. The second hotel closed its pool for the winter season (it is currently 41F/4C as I write this).

An executive lounge isn’t really a big deal, as I’ve never visited one before, so I guess I don’t know what I’m missing yet. Both hotels did provide nightly drink vouchers for the hotel bar, which is nice enough so I don’t need to pick up beverages for my takeaway dinners. However, the non-alcoholic selection is not that vast, probably low demand and mainly used as mixers.

It would be neat to have such experiences someday, and I believe both will be available later on in this trip.

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Do the things you don’t do at home

When you travel, you should try to experience new things, stuff you don’t have at home, such as food, tours, museums, arts, and culture, and other experiences.

What an I seeing here that I don’t have at home? Arcades, Carl’s Jr, Wendy’s,K Dunkin Donuts, and e-scooters. I haven’t tried any of them yet, but it is tempting.

I did visit McDonald’s to check out new menu items and found the Georgie Pie, a handheld meat pie. Looks good on the outside, tastes fine (still not sure about the cheese sauce with gravy), but maybe don’t look inside.

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The rare selfie

Looking back at Bilbo Baggins’ Hobbit hole, at the Hobbiton Movie Set tour on New Zealand’s north island.

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Sometimes you get what you pay for…

So I splurged for a premium credit card with a high annual fee but plenty of benefits. It already came in handy in the first two days.

I upgraded my flight from economy (frequent flyer mile redemption) to economy plus, and one of the card benefits offers $250 per calendar year for airline incidental fees, like checked bag fees, preferred seat choice, on board snacks, etc (but only one designated airline per year). Since this is my only major trip this year, and the credit expires on December 31, might as well use $240 of it to get a seat with more leg room for 15 hours. Not only did it have 4 inches more pitch, but the middle seat remained empty, so window seat college girl on her first trip to Australia and I had extra foot space (not for that).

This card also confers Hilton Diamond status as long as you have the card. I had the Surpass/Ascend card for a couple of years, but never made use of the Gold status it provides because I never stayed anywhere it mattered (Hampton Inns and the like). At the Hilton Auckland, I was upgraded to the Relaxation Suite, which had an impressive balcony (almost as large as the room itself) and nice view of the harbour, which fortunately was not blocked by the massive cruise ships that dock in front of the hotel.

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The new travel companion: Plush Jiji

This is Plush Jiji, he’s a character from Kiki’s Delivery Service, from Studio Ghibli. Go watch it, then be sure to come back.

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