Despite the cozy accommodations, their stay with us was delightful. My Dad walked the kids to school in the morning and then took advantage of the fleeting days of the NZ summer to do an hour of exploring around our neighborhood. My Mom would supervise Cassandra's knitting projects as she created stylized scarves for her American Doll. The seven of us would spend the evenings playing cards and laughing.
|Farewell Dinner at Izakaya|
We arrived at our hotel, the Waterfront, around 8:15pm and checked in. The concierge suggested that we check out The Garlic Press on Devon St. for supper. The prices were pretty high, so we shopped around but eventually ended back at The Garlic Press because the kids were starving and it was closing in on 9:00pm.
We walked through the door and asked for a table for 5.
We'd seen the look on the waiters & waitresses faces before. "Oh shit, a family with small children that will convince all our customers to not buy that second or third or fourth bottle of wine."
There were obviously tables available and two waiters began to pull some smaller tables together to accommodate us.
A waitress appeared before us to announce "We're sorry. We don't have a children's menu." Trish replied that this was fine; we would order the kids' meals off the adult menu. A look of hesitation. She said "One moment please" as she backed away to confer with another waitress who seemed to be in charge. Some vigorous head-shaking to indicate "NO" and the first waitress made her way back to us. The next line floored us.
"I'm sorry. Children are not permitted in the restaurant at this time." It was 8:45pm. It was a restaurant, not a bar, and the noise level was like the Cage Aux Sports on a game night.
I was too stunned for words. Trish called her bluff and told her that she was full of **it. But the waitress stood firm and shrugged her shoulders with a saccharine smile on her face that meant to cowardly stand behind the wordless message "I'm sorry. This is the manager's policy. I'm just the poor sap that has to deliver the bad news and pretend to sympathize with you about such an asinine rule."
Many of you will come up with suggestions on what we should have done, but we staggered out of the restaurant and asked others on busy Devon St. where we could find a kid-friendly restaurant. Harrison took to screaming "The Garlic Press has RATS! The Garlic Press has RATS!" to anyone who would listen. When we had decided on an alternative choice, the Lone Star (surprise, surprise!), Trish and I walked in silence away from Devon Street. It took about 5 minutes for the pot to boil over. I began to draft a nasty complaint letter in my head. Trish planned to go confront the manager the next day.
|Len Lye's Wind Wand|
|Cassandra thought this would make a great Christmas tree.|
|No pedals in front - the boys doing the heavy lifting on this one!|
|East End Beach|
|Fitzroy Surf Beach|
|The kids posing on a statue of a mussel|
After too much sun, we retreated to our hotel room for a nap and then off to Arborio for a fantastic sunset and evening meal.
|Sunset over the Tasman|
On Sunday, we checked out of our hotel and discovered that our car battery was dead! No lights left on. I suspected that the battery was finished. Luckily, I had bought an AA membership (Automobile Association, the New Zealand version of CAA, not Alcoholics Anonymous) before leaving Auckland at the beginning of our trip. What could have been a very long wait was only an hour or so before the AA guy put us back on our way.
Before leaving for New Plymouth, everyone at work had told me to make sure I visited Pukekura Park, so that was our first destination after getting our car fixed. We spent a few hours trying to figure out cricket, visiting the small Brooklands Zoo, cooling off beside waterfalls, visiting a Rhododendron dell, somersaulting down the Brooklands Concert Bowl (site of next weekends WOMAD festival) and replenishing at the lakeside Tea House.
|Spotting the skinny one in the Tamarin enclosure|
|The TSB Brooklands Concert Bowl - perfect for runaway somersaults|
It was now well into Sunday afternoon and it was time for us to consider heading back to Palmerston North. I wanted to go check out Mt. Taranaki, but was easily dissuaded by the considerable cloud cover around the peak and the kids request to hit another beach.
We took the long way home along Taranaki's Highway 45 - the Surf Highway - that hugs the coast and provides access to some of New Zealand's top surfing beaches. We picked Opunake Beach at random to spend a few more hours absorbing the late afternoon rays.
We finally made it home around 7:00pm after an excellent beach weekend in New Plymouth. All of our noses were a little singed and it took several days to finally dislodge all the fine black sand from just about everywhere and everything. Nevertheless, despite some of the challenges, New Plymouth was a tidy town with great beaches and well worth a visit. Five thumbs up.
So, you're wondering what happened to the fiasco at The Garlic Press? A few days after our return home, I found the manager's e-mail address online somewhere and wrote him a very nasty message.
I reminded him that New Zealand is not famous for its gourmet restaurants but for the friendly welcoming manner of the people that live here. I pointed out that his locale had distinguished itself as the only restaurant among many we have visited in New Zealand (and the rest of the world for that matter) that felt compelled to refuse us entry on account of our children and this most un-Kiwi-like gesture would surely earn The Garlic Press scorn and ridicule among visitors to several popular tourist and restaurant-review web sites where I would post negative reviews.
He replied the next morning with a horrified e-mail that said that there was a children's menu and children were of course welcome in his restaurant at any time and the actions seemed to stem from one person who was working her last shift at the restaurant and was keen to close up to throw herself a party. He offered to send me a bottle of wine. I'm still waiting.
Next post: Incredible Queenstown & the Southern Alps.