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Patrick's 30th in Auckland: Oysters, Tortoises, and Wine Island

So even by the time we actually made it to New Zealand, we were both still reeling from our experience in Seattle. It was Patrick’s 30th birthday and we tried to whole heartedly embrace the craziness that had been our last 24 hours and jump into his birthday weekend with two feet.

Birthday shots while we wait for our AirBnB.

We were a little early to check in to our STUNNING AirBnB on the Auckland waterfront, so we lingered at the airport for a bit, having a coffee and storing our four huge suitcases for the weekend so that we didn’t have to haul them around Auckland. When we finished our coffees, we caught an Uber to the waterfront and found a casual little Mexican restaurant on the water near our AirBnB. We had lunch and did birthday shots (as you do) before our AirBnB became available for us.


The view from our condo's balcony. We did a lot of reading and wine-sipping on this balcony.

Conrad had slipped me some money for Patrick’s birthday dinner, which I’d sneakily exchanged into NZD at the Auckland airport, so we got ready to go out to eat and I surprised him by taking him to another restaurant on the water called Oyster & Chop. 2019 was the year that both Patrick and I became slightly obsessed with oysters (thanks Sarah and Joey, we blame you!).


Oysters!

We had tempura oysters with lemon and aioli, a Manhattan for Patrick and a white wine for me (obvs). Patrick ordered a wagyu hanger steak that I was lucky enough to try a bite of and oh my godddddd. It just melted. So good. I had a the special, which was some kind of fish (Patrick and I both think it might have been rockfish, but we actually can’t remember) and it was ALSO AMAZING. But the thing that blew both of our minds was the dessert. We got what was called the Signature “Pearl of the Paua” dessert, which was described as raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake sphere (A SPHERE YOU GUYS), chocolate cookie crumbs, raspberry gel and chocolate chards.


Manhattan Man!

It was served in an actual Little Mermaid-esque clam shell, and you had to crack open the sphere with your spoon. I think I actually caused a scene at this restaurant after each bite because I was just like, “OH MY GOD!”, “ARE YOU TASTING THIS?”, “IS THIS REAL?!”. When we finished the dessert, we both just looked at each other and Patrick said, “What even just happened?”. I still don’t know. 10/10 recommend.



The next day, which was Friday, Patrick and I wandered until we found a cute spot on the water for breakfast. This also brought us back into the coffee culture that is New Zealand/Australia. Just want a drip coffee? That's too bad. We still don't know how to order this. We have tried so many times and just been met by blank stares each time. Also, half and half is NOT a thing here. So, we have transitioned into what is called a long black. We are now obsessed.


Long blacks, our obsession.

After breakfast, Patrick and I decided to return to our old stomping grounds (from our honeymoon) and visit the Auckland Zoo. We booked a Galapagos Tortoise encounter, where we went with another pair of adults into the enclosure and got to learn all kinds of things about Galapagos Tortoises (like, they can survive for an entire year without food or water!). We got to feed Smiley, the GT, and learn about how his friend whose name we’ve both forgotten had a terrible mating accident (yes) and can no longer use his little tortoise testicles anymore (very sad, but it apparently doesn’t stop him from trying).


Our bird friend, at the zoo. He knew he was a beautiful boy.

On Saturday, we caught a boat out to Waiheke Island. We did a similar thing on our honeymoon, only we went on a group tour that included stops at several wineries and lunch on our own. This time, we decided we’d try it a different way, and purchased hop-on, hop-off tickets to the bus that ran around the entire island. We figured this way we could go at our own pace, choose our wineries, and make a day of it.


Wrong. Choice.


At our first stop, we hopped off and then proceeded to walk for almost forty minutes until we got to our first winery. This included a very steep flight of stairs in the very warm sun and by the time we made it to Casita Miro, I was a sweaty swamp monster. Gone was my whimsical day drinking look, replaced by my dehydrated sweat demon look. Still, we enjoyed a wine tasting and some beautiful appies, recommended to us by a friend (thanks, Kait!). Goat cheese croquettes, you guys. I had a glass of wine with my apps and then we set off on the trek back to the bus stop. We missed the bus, which meant we had to wait about twenty minutes for the next one to arrive. My buzz was gone. I was grumpy.


Goat Cheese Croquettes at Casita Miro.

At the next place we hopped off, we walked up a very long inclining driveway, through the crows, up some more steps, only to be told that we’d just missed tastings as there was a private event scheduled to being momentarily. DAMNIT. Level 5, grumpy, unlocked.


So we walked back down this long driveway, across to the neighboring property, and walked up an EVEN LONGER driveway to a winery that was so crowded we could barely squeeze through to get in line to grab a tasting. There were so many people there that they were just pouring tastings at the counter, shouting at you as to what they were (even with the shouting, we had no idea, we couldn’t hear), and then we had to pick our way through people to find a spot to sit on the edge of a deck and balance our wine glasses on the grass and, you guessed it, Level 6, grumpy, unlocked.


We finished quickly and went back to wait for the bus. Which we’d just missed. Again. Twenty minutes later, we were on our way up to Batch Winery. I had told Patrick I was over it. I wanted wine, I wanted cheese, and I wanted oysters, and then I wanted to get back on the ferry and go back to our condo and relax. You guys, I was V. GRUMPY.


Thank god, Batch Winery provided us with cheese (and omg, so good), oysters (yaaaas), wine tasting (and this was free!), and another glass of wine for each of us. We ended the day on Waiheke on a high note. I loved that last stop. I was so happy after that stop that I didn’t even mind the hugely obnoxious drunk girl sitting behind us on the bus shrieking the entire drive back to the pier!


Saving the best stop for last on our trip to Waiheke!

We had a late dinner of burgers that night and were able to relax and unwind after a long day of walking and being out in the sun. For perspective, all of the above that happened on Waiheke Island happened between like, 11:00am and 5:00pm. So, lots of walking and waiting, not a lot of drinking! Next time we visit (because we definitely will), we're renting scooters!

The views really made up for my grumpy cat vibes.

The next morning we caught an Uber back to the Auckland airport, wrangled all of our belongings, and flew with Air New Zealand to Sydney in premium economy. That blew my mind. We had a menu! A MENU. And a dedicated flight attendant (Aaron) who literally always made sure my wine glass was full. Patrick and I watched Aladdin and ate and drank and reclined in our seats and would have been quite happy to stay on the plane for many more hours than the three it took to fly to Sydney.


All in all, a wonderful trip back to New Zealand, and a 30th birthday celebration I’m sure neither of us will ever forget!

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