Departed the plane! Ahh! We are officially in New Zealand! ❤ Dwarven architecture halls welcomed us in, and after checking in and all, we met a few more folks of our group! Katie, and Mike, our tour guide!
We took our first steps outside, ahh, sweet NZ air… smelled like McDonalds. Curse you, McDonalds >_<. The first thing different I noticed is that their "yield" signs say "give way". Then we boarded our shuttle to the hotel. Pretty trees and hills and roads all over 🙂 Also worth noting, they drive on the opposite side of the car/road over here, so that was different. It was about 10am (on Nov. 23 NZ time, which is 3PM Nov. 22 US Central Time), and we couldn't check into our hotel until 3, so we dropped our bags off and wandered the streets of Auckland! Before long we were walking along the coast. That water was so beautiful! We started to get hungry so stopped for lunch at a cafe. After that we visited the Skytower, wandered around a beautiful park up atop a giant hill full of crazy trees, then to our hotel.
Our rooms were still not ready, so we sat in the lobby where we met more of our group: Abi, Kristi, Joe, and our tour driver, Scotty! For at least an hour or two, we all just sat around and talked about our trip/flights, LOTRO, the UK, Narnia, etc. And, Arwen & Cheese gave us each our goodie bags which included a tour t-shirt, a little journal, and, last but certainly not least, they made sure we didn’t leave home without a HANDKERCHIEF! 😉 Ha! ❤ Finally around 3:30, we went to our rooms! I got settled and figured out the outlets over here, then Skyped with loved ones. Ha, it's Thanksgiving back home! After a bit, I said bye to them and went downstairs for our Welcome Dinner! Yay for food and good company!! Arwen, Elvish & I met Mike & Scotty upstairs, waited for the rest of our party & for Ian Brodie to arrive! We met Jennifer & David, from Australia, too, then back downstairs to eat. I sat near Jen, Scotty, Elvish, Katie, and Abi. For my starter, I ordered a "fungi" soup with bread, then chicken as my main dish. Then my wonderful roommate Kylie showed up!! She joined our end of the table. We all just ate & chatted. For dessert, I had the apple cinnamon tart with vanilla bean ice cream + tea – SO GOOD. Oh yes — earlier Elvish had the brilliant realization that there were exactly 15 of us, JUST the amount of the Company of the Dwarves + Bilbo & Gandalf! So at dinner, we automatically dubbed Ian as Gandalf, as he is technically the leader of our company, but will frequently be disappearing and will be with us less. And the rest of us drew names from a hat. Our very own tour guide, Mike, was the first to draw, and happened to get Bilbo Baggins! (I can't remember the rest at the moment, but I got Dwalin.) I believe this all was not coincidence!
After dinner, we gathered outside on the terrace where Ian talked to us about his books, LOTR, and how his career changed over the years, etc. It was nice. At the end, he offered us each our very own Location Guide Book, written by him! It was awesome and so very generous of him! Then we all continued to just hang out and talk outside, but soon it got cold & we grew tired, so Arwen, Kylie & I headed upstairs, said goodnights, and went to sleep. HOBBITON TOMORROWWWW!!!!!!!!!!
–> View all Day 1 photos here on my Flickr