Kia Ora (hello) from lovely New Zealand...Le Germain Maple Leaf Square news
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - What a great country and what wonderful people.
I spent a day near Russell, an historic and artistic community about three hours north of Auckland, and got to stay in a remarkable villa at a place called Eagle’s Nest (see photo at left). Spectacular, to say the least, with great views of the Bay of Islands area, wonderful sunsets and a great town in Russell, which has both high-end and casual spots and is right on the water. It’s got the oldest church in New Zealand, which still bears musket holes from the British-Maori wars, and also an old French Catholic mission. There’s a couple of really fine waterfront restaurants and lots of nice hiking in the area. Eagle’s Nest is where they filmed one of the episodes of the Bachelor not too long ago, so you know it’s a step above the norm.
I’m quite enjoying the local papers. When I was on my way to Russell on day one, I picked up the New Zealand Herald, one of those broadsheets the size of a Buick that folks read in England all the time and seem so ridiculously big and heavy compared to Canadian papers.
Anyway, I spotted a great headline that read, “Harawira unhappy with process but keen to korero.” Gee, and I thought they spoke English down here. Of course, I knew it was likely a Maori word. It seems that a guy named Harawira, a member of the New Zealand government, wrote a newspaper article that criticized the Maori party. Apparently they talked and agreed on some things and disagreed on others.
But that’s cool, the story said. “We’re pleased to carry on and keep the korero going until such time as things take over.” Isn’t that a great term? Korero?
I also found a page two story one day about how New Zealander’s income is lagging behind Australia. The second paragraph had the writer breathlessly announcing the wonders of Australia’s “superannuation scheme.”
And I thought Canadians were policy wonks.
I also got a chance to play at the incredibly beautiful Kauri Cliffs golf course. Thankfully, they didn’t hire some egomaniac designer to trick the place up but left the land pretty much alone. The views of the Bay of Islands region are stunning, and several holes march along a bluff high above the sea, with emerald green islands dotting the bay and pure white sails bobbing above beautiful boats.
Great food, too, and wonderful wines as long as you avoid the $210 bottles. I found a very good one for $85, which is about $65 Canadian or so and that’s not bad for a high-end restaurant, I guess. It’s possibly the most beautiful piece of land I’ve ever seen for a golf course, and the rooms are roomy and very nicely equipped.
The cab drivers I’ve had have been almost uniformly wonderful and interesting. But what really knocked me out was the flight on Air New Zealand.
They have an in-flight “concierge” who dispenses pamphlets and will offer up tips on everything from hotels to wineries, and isn’t that a great idea? When we were about an hour outside Auckland one of the flight attendants enlisted a boy of about six years of age to help hand out small candies to all the passengers, and I’ve never seen that on another airline.
Also kind of weird I thought: the customs folks x-ray your bags after you clear immigration. Maybe they’re on the lookout for fruit that might contaminate local products, I don’t know. But it was something I’d never seen in any other country.
Even more strange was getting on a short flight – on a Bombardier-made plane, thank you – from Auckland to Kerikeri – and finding no x-ray machine or security screening of any kind. Apparently if there are less than 90 seats on board a domestic flight, you don’t have to empty your pockets or worry about anyone touching your junk, and how refreshing a throwback is that?
TORONTO HOTEL NEWS
Star reporter/editor Adrian Brijbassi took in an event at the new Le Germain Maple Leaf Square the other night and files this report.
Le Germain at Maple Leaf Square hosted about 150 invited guests and media on Thursday night to celebrate its third month as it continues to put some finishing touches in place on the 167-room property. The luxury boutique hotel opened on Nov. 5 and is now 85 per cent complete, according to one hotel staff member. With spacious rooms outfitted with all the modern touches, a location adjacent to the Air Canada Centre and direct access to the underground PATH, the hotel is poised to attract the suits who jet into town for meetings in the Financial District and to take in a game.
More importantly for Toronto, a second Le Germain means another upscale hotel that helps solidify the city as a destination for those with deep pockets and another asset to draw potential visitors from around the world. The city announced last month that it had set a record for tourism in 2010. The tourism industry brought in $4.5 million in revenue and 8.93 million hotel rooms were booked last year. The goal is to build on that success, says Tourism Toronto vice-president of communications Andrew Weir.
“We can’t rely on the bargain shoppers who would come here because the dollar was at 65 cents,” says Weir, who was on hand for the Le Germain festivities. “With the new passport regulations to cross the border, we need to attract people who already have passports, and to a large degree that means the affluent traveller.”
There’ll be more on the new Le Germain in Star Travel in coming weeks.