Friendship is something that I'm reconnecting with as I grow older. The more I see of people, the more I value my old friendships the most. As such, I wanted to catch up with my very old and good friend Gina in Auckland this year before I went away to Europe in August. A weekend at The Grand Mercure was exactly what was need.
First - background: I met Gina when I was 17 and working at WORLD as a teenager, my Sunday and Summer job before starting university. Gina and I were kindred spirits from the start, loving nerdy poetry, books and music. Gina always had great taste and I loved her kind and generous personality. Four years older than me, she held my hand as I struggled feeling less that integrated in school and growing up. She's heard about my first crushes (FINC boy who made the coffee around the corner from work), helped me decide what to study (she encouraged sticking with law and art history) and has held my hand through difficult ex boyfriends who were judgmental and threatened by our friendship. If there is a definition of the friendship that picks up where it left off in the dictionary, a photo of Gina and I would be under it. Despite this, we've rarely ended up living in the same city for more than a few months at a time.
She's also one of the least selfish people I know. Gina is a talented advertising strategist, but recently she gave it up to move to the family farm in the Waikato near Cambridge so that she could take on the next generation for her parents. You can check out the farm website here (they'll soon be producing honey and already sell delicious milk - hence, Our Land Of Milk And Honey).
So when I was chatting with Julie, the Marketing Manager at Pullman Hotels who run The Grand Mercure in Auckland and Wellington, and she mentioned that if I ever needed to come and visit to let her know, I decided to take her up on that offer and arrange a special weekend for Gina and I at The Grand Mercure in Auckland. With just over 24 hours, I knew it would be short but sweet - and sometimes a lovely chance to just see one another face to face is worth the price of flights. No one ever died saying to their friend "I wish I'd seen you less."
We were fortunate enough to be staying in an Executive Suite for the weekend, with stunning views over Auckland Harbour. On arrival, I met Carla, the gorgeous Italian 'Mama' of The Grand Mercure Auckland, who gave us kisses, welcome and showed us up to our room. She was so amazing I wanted to take her back in my carry on luggage. We were greeted with a traditional French pastry, all green and shining, and looking too good to eat on the dining table, along with some fresh Antipodes water. We must have sounded like little puppies let out of a cage as Gina and I could help but go "Wow! Wow! Wow!" at every turn of the suite. Not only was there beautiful glass birds attached to our wall, a hallway, a desk area and two large soft couches, but in the bathroom was a full sized bathtub, with a television affixed to the wall. In the bedroom, Julie had really blown me away by organising a dressing robe with MY OWN NAME on the back. I couldn't believe my luck and jumped up and down as excited as a child on Christmas day, while Gina and Carla laughed.
After Carla left us, Gina and I explored the hotel. We found a virtual yoga and Pilates room, a compact gym, a library and event an office space. Truly, there was nothing left uncovered at The Grand Mercure. A little tired out, especially because on arrival in Auckland I'd rushed to a shoot for Taylor boutique (which was REALLY fun - blog post coming soon!) we decided to stay in and invite our lovely friend Danijela over for some waffle fries. I made the call to push the boat out and ordered a bottle of Moet. Together, we sat back, caught up on life and enjoyed just being together.
Once Danijela had left around 8, Gina and I decided we should probably face the world and dressed up to go and eat dinner at Amano in Britomart. After a quick drink at Attica bar up in the hote, we made our way onto the streets of Auckland. I love Amano for its ambiance and delicious Italian inspired food. I could happily eat there, morning noon and night! After a large dinner of a dozen oysters, mozzarella bread and tagliatelle, Gina and I rolled home and into bed together where we meant to watch a video of Caitlin Moran and Sali Hughes on YouTube but got distracted by the 'Get rich quick' ad from Kiwi 'Consulting Expert' Sam Ovens, and ended up giggling and signing up for his webinar (with zero intention of actually doing it). Of course, that friend who can laugh with you until you cry is the best friend to have in a bed with you on a girls weekend.
The next morning we had the most amazing breakfast at Vue restaurant upstairs. The food was INSANE and the main challenge was not eating so much we felt sick! I loved that you could press your own juice - so Gwyneth!
Next we checked out, and while Gina did some jobs, I caught up with lovely Aki from The Sleek Avenue. It was so interesting to get to spend some time with someone from Auckland who worked in blogging - especially because her image is really high fashion. To keep it simple, we returned to Amano and had coffee and somehow I got talked into eating more! Oh well! (I also was fortunate enough to get to meet with Zeenat Wilkinson, the editor of Sauce Magazine at The Kimchi Project the day before which was really neat because I really enjoy their website/magazine online! Look out for her interview - coming soon!!)
To finish my trip to Auckland, Gina and I reunited for a little drive around the city, stopping at Ponsonby Central and Mount Eden. I had never climbed Mount Eden before and it was amazing to get to see across the city. It made me wish that I had done that kind of thing more when I used to live there for one year in 2008.
Finally it was time to drive back to the airport (after a quick smoothie with my pal Rebecca!) and head back to Wellington for a very bumpy landing. Gina and I would have hugged to say goodbye but I almost missed my flight because I was having too much fun so I tumbled out of the car at the airport and into the lanes heading to the domestic terminal.
Gina and I did agree, as we drove to the Airport to take me home, that we needed to have this kind of weekend at least once a year. After all, when you can get to Auckland in an hour, what sort of excuse do you have not to see your girlfriends more?