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Beware! There's a Birthday Mathom waiting to pounce!


Mar 18 2011, 2:26am

Views: 661
Beware! There's a Birthday Mathom waiting to pounce! Can't Post

After taking a year to finally get to it, I'd like to offer this Birthday Mathom as a report of my trip to New Zealand on my birthday, March 16th, 2010. This time last year, I was on my way to Wellington! There's even a slideshow, but I have to label the pics and will be adding a few more. *winkie, wink* The camera I had was horrible about being out of focus, but the pics still tell the story and help me to remember a time that I cherish.

Those who have struggled through my reports before know that I get very windy and self-indulgent and they're packed with booboos; but it helps me to remember and is a great way of taking all of you with me :)

Cheers and Hang on! It's a bumpy ride!

Slideshow to gramma's NZ trip pics

March 1, 2004

I just had the most surreal weekend of my life. Friday, February 27 to Monday, March 1, 2004... it was Oscars weekend for Return of the King. It was early evening, and I was sitting in a plane at LAX (Los Angeles airport) waiting to take the red-eye back to Michigan. I felt hung over from lack of sleep, my voice was gone, and I had a low-grade fever. I was lucky to move to a window seat where I wasn't next to anyone. Waiting for them to shift the plane into reverse, I looked out the window for one last peek at palm trees and no snow. There... parked right next to us... was an Air New Zealand airliner. My breath caught, and I began to tear up. I promised myself one day I would go there. I'd be on that plane. So I worked a second job and started to save.

November 25, 2009 [5 yrs 9mos later]

I just bought a ticket for a plane ride to Wellington, New Zealand, and cripes I was shaking!!!

My target date to go was late in November 2009 (Spring in NZ); hopefully staying for about 7-10 days... depending on how much money I could save by then. I would be flying from Detroit, Michigan to Los Angeles; LA to Auckland, NZ; and then on to Wellington... my ultimate goal! I also planned to buy my tickets and have all the arrangements made 6 months early to get the best rates. *counts on fingers* So in April or May, I'd be at least getting my airline tickets.

Then I spoke with some friends who were also interested in going at the same time! We could share expenses and experiences! Perfect :D But they needed to have a little more time to prepare, so I put off the trip until March 2010 (Fall in NZ). That ended up being a great twist of fate! We talked and plotted about it all summer! I have to admit that as my original deadline to buy my airline ticket approached; I was getting nervous; so the prospect having others there (and postponing my plans) made it easier. I'm pretty-much a basket case when it comes to leaving home, tackling airports and making schedules for moots and conventions in the U.S. The thought of travelling to another country on the other side of the world with passports, customs and currency changes was scary!!

Unfortunately, as Real Life has a way of doing, situations changed for my companions, and one-by-one they found they couldn't do the trip afterall. Including almost me!! The costs of the flights became way more than I saved for due to the 2009 gas crisis. For years, tickets were an average of $1,200 from LAX to Auckland then Wellington, and about $350 from Detroit to LA, so I planned for $1,600 in airfare. Now, it was November 2009, and just the flight from LA to Auckland was nearly $2,300! Detroit to LA was closer to $500. But my internal alarms were going off and I was becoming very anxious. I'm also a firm believer that things happen for a reason. If doors are shutting, it's not meant to be. So I was quiet and I listened to my heart. I knew if I didn't go now, something could happen (car/house/health/costs) that would stop the whole thing... so I dove in. I couldn't wait anymore. My new target date was March 16... my birthday.

I got online and searched Air New Zealand (ANZ) for flights and costs. They were outrageously high. I checked Qantas Airlines, too... but it was no better, and I still had that image of the Air New Zealand out my window after the Oscars weekend and my promise to myself to be on that plane. Qantas wasn't an option. I wanted my dream, doggone it! A bit later, I searched ANZ again. There was a new banner on the side of the homepage of a special round-trip rate for March-April 2010 for $1,170 on exactly the dates I wanted!!! So in the evening of November 25, 2009, I reserved my seat and bought my ticket! I was leaving on March 16th (my 58th birthday) in seat 58A on Air New Zealand! To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement! After years of tackling financial pitfalls, working 2 jobs, saving and planning, I was finally really going! Of course... I cried.

My dream was to get to Wellington. I knew I couldn't afford to see LotR movie sites all over the 2 islands, but that really wasn't the reason I was going. I just wanted to BE in NZ and live there for a few days. Get to know Wellington. There's so much right there to see and feel! To live between the mountains and the water would be such a joy... it's hard to explain. Miramar with Stone Street and Weta were just minutes away. It was enough :) I knew there was a LotR tour out of Wellington, too. Now that the flight didn't drain me, I would take one of those, too! The week before I was to leave, I bought the all-day Wellington Rover Tour for Sunday, March 21. *twitch*

I was happy to get to know one part of NZ well (inton ;) When I thought of going and just being there... I got such a warm, quiet feeling and a smile suddenly spread. That was it. That's what I was waiting for. The peace of an answer. So I shortened my original plan for 10 days to 6... and started getting excited!! And I still hoped I could visit with Roheryn, NZStrider and their boys, Tehanu, and other area sibbies. I also hoped to get to Matamata and Hobbiton!

Getting that first ticket was the hard part. But then, I had no idea where I was going to stay! Just when I thought my knees could stop shaking; this phase 2 proved me wrong ;) I got online again, spoke with sibbies who had travelled there before, and researched a couple of travel books. I had no idea what I was doing. I knew the Duxton was there (where LotR actors stayed), but that was too pricey. Don't laugh... but my entire budget (including flights) was $2000.

It got to be January and I still hadn't decided where I'd be staying. I checked all the B&Bs, hotels, and hostels in Wellington... but I still had no idea what to do. Then luckily, I spoke with Auxerre about my plans, and she was a wealth of information! She'd been there several times already, so she could even tell me how to navigate every airport! But the most helpful lead she gave me was when she pointed me in the direction of the hotel Quest on Lambton Quay (pronounced key). It was a fascinating-looking building in the heart of Wellington and an easy walk to all of the places I wanted to see! Best of all, the price was right, too. It boasted efficiency apartment-style rooms complete with washer/dryer and kitchenette with a dishwasher & fridge. That meant I didn't have to pack as many clothes and could carry fewer bags!

On January 25th, I booked my room for 5 nights, 6 days. With the exchange rate between US & NZ dollars, the cost was $605 US to $432 NZ... a savings of $173!! I also checked the bus schedule from Wellington Airport to The Quest (how appropriate... on many levels ;), which ran for about $16 (there and back again). After getting my Detroit, Michigan to LA airline ticket at $325 (after-holidays deal), that brought all of my travel/housing expenses to $1,973. All that was left was food and supplementary expenses, which would depend on how much more I could save by the time I left. But, I hadn't figured on the generosity of friends and family. Their thoughtfulness and support kept my entire trip within my $2,000 budget!

Now it's real. I've got my dates, my tickets, my room. All that's left is the waiting. *checks watch* omg...

Actually, this was the funnest part of the prep. I made an itinerary for each day I was going to be in Wellington! From Thursday, March 18th through Tuesday, March 23rd. I got a street map of Wellington and nearby locations (Miramar) with a legend of points of interest. Then I did what I call "reality testing" everything on that legend. I would look at each street, store, location and their logistics... research them... and I'd put myself at those places... imagining what it would be like to be there. I was not going to rent a car or a bike, so 99% of what I'd be doing would be within walking distance of The Quest. It's a long list of yummy adventures, and I'm getting bummed because I know I won't be able to get to all of them. I'll have to put them in order of "gotta get there" to "it would be nice". It would make sense to just pick an area and do everything near there, but... no. The "gottas" trump the "would bes". I put the map into a publisher file and started marking my days. *geeky hand-clapping* I felt like I was already there and was pretty well oriented when I did finally arrive. I also started climbing stairs and exercising so my ol' joints could take all the walking I was planning to do.

I decided that I wanted to check on doing a Wellington Movie Tour and get to Matamata and visit Hobbiton. That door slammed shut pretty fast. Matamata's about a 6-hour drive north of Wellington, and 2 hours south of Auckland... thinking I could leave Wellington a day early and travel down before my flight back to the US. All the flights were full, the bus schedules were incompatible with the tour schedules, and renting a car was too expensive. *SLAM!* Okay... no Hobbiton this trip :( It took me a while to shake that disappointment, but then I shifted gears and totally put my head into Wellington... which really leveled out my anxiety. I realized it was better to enjoy a simpler trip than to try to do too much... which would become deadlines and not quality zen moments. Plus, it would encourage me to get to NZ again ;)

The Wellington Film Tour was doable, though! I had no idea how much filming was done so close to Wellington! I signed up for an all-day tour for Sunday the 21st, and had to remove about 4 items from my legend stops... but Oh the ol' heart got to pumping at the thought of actually visiting the places where they filmed "Get off the road!" and "Sam and I must get to Bree" and Rivendell, Minas Tirith, Anduin, Dunharrow, Weta, Stone Street Studios... So Much More!

My last pre-planning project was reserving a seat for one of the shows at the Embassy Theatre. Lo and behold---Goonies was playing that Friday night at 8:30pm!! The actors' seats were already taken, so I reserved seat F32 (near Elijah & Sean's). The online reservations block out the seats where TORn's was (more exclusive). I figured I'd go early and diagram seats.

The priority places to get to in Wellington began with The Embassy Theatre. I wanted to sit in TORn's seat and just be in that theatre that meant so much to Peter, to the fans, and especially to Wellington. That whole city invested so much of itself in the making of these films, that to finish the journey there was so appropriate... and a chance to honour and thank the cast and Peter. In my prep for that visit, I wanted to get a schematic of the auditorium floorplan and see exactly where our seat was, and the actors' seats, etc. If I was going to only have a brief time there, I wanted to waste none of it hunting them down. Woe is me, there was nothing at all online with a chart that showed where the seats were, row numbers, etc. There was the diagram from the site itself to pre-order tickets to see a film, but no seat/row numbers. There was also an architect's diagram, but no details. My version of OCD needed those details!

So I emailed the theatre and asked if there was a marked diagram/floorplan of the seating they could share along with the donor seats. I was shocked to get a reply from the Manager, Jeremy Downing, heartily inviting me to come to the theatre as soon as I arrived mid-day Thursday. Sadly, he said there was no diagram with the donor seats identified, but he said I should have about half an hour or more before the afternoon's show began to search and plot the seats with nameplates. He also included a complete diagram of the seating and gave me a beginning list (off the top of his head) of the actors' seat/row numbers. Jeremy also revealed that he had frequented TORn during the release of the films... though he couldn’t remember his nickname. He said that TORn's seat (J31) was one of the best seats in the house! It was surreal to have this direct contact with someone... especially one with so much encouragement and support! Jeremy Downing had no idea how real he just made this trip for me! AND I had a coloured diagram of seats to work with! :D

I also wanted to get a tattoo at Roger's Tattoo Parlour… the same place most of the Fellowship got theirs. But what would the tat be? I got nervous. It would have to be small enough to hide so my Mom wouldn't see it, and I wanted to have it right next to the one I already had that hides quite nicely under my watchband. I started playing around with Dan Smith's translation site… trying out names and runes. I had pretty-much decided on Gandalf "G" rune. Then I thought about the letters NZ. It would be a perfect symbol to commemorate the trip. When I plugged NZ into the Quenya translator, it came up with this!!!! OMG! It's m e… M e Middle-earth! THAT'S IT! :D So I added the dash and called it good! NZ in Quenya!

I was so surprised to get an email from Tehanu telling me that she heard I was coming to town and wondered if I wanted to meet up for lunch. "Are you kidding!? Yeah!!!" So we arranged to meet up on Friday the 19th at Backbencher Pub on Molesworth at about 12:30, Cool!!!! :D I was hoping to meet up with some sibbies, so this was awesome!

I started packing things around mid-January. I won some power converters on eBay, got a battery adaptor for my iPods (one w/books, one w/music), 3 extra batteries for my new camera and 2 for my old one + 5 memory cards, 3 flash drives to transfer pics onto, and made sure my power cords worked for those and my cell phone. I used one camera for taking touristy pics and used the other for landmarks/street signs so I wouldn't get lost. I'd take pics as a walked from point A to point B... knowing how bad my memory was in familiar surroundings ;) I also got some Michigan postcards to take along for tips. I read that tipping wasn't done in NZ, but... as a former waitress myself... I really wanted to leave something for my waiters/waitresses. So I left them a postcard with a thank you note. That was the fun part of describing to Wellingtonians where I was from. "Michigan is surrounded by water and is the only state that waves hi!" I got my maps, my itinerary, clothes, books/notebook, tape/kiddie scissors/baggies, technology, postcards/gifts, toiletries/medications, list of contacts, tickets, passport/ID, a couple of small-collapsed boxes (to mail things home), and some snacks... all packed into a carryon and a large handbag. I was ready... 4 weeks early! I got the passport in 2009 in anticipation of this trip... and NZ was my first (and only) stamp in it!

I still had to tackle a massive problem, though. I'm addicted to my General Foods International Coffee Sugar-Free Café Vienna. It wouldn't be right NOT to have MY coffee! I didn't have room in my bag for 3 cans of coffee (they're small), and I knew putting a powdered substance in baggies and packing them would be a big NO-NO! So I contacted the Quest and asked if I could send a package to the hotel and have them hold it for me? The representative was so wonderful. They said they loved their coffee, too, and didn't think it would be a proper vacation without it. Yes, they'd be happy to hold it for me. Sweeeeeeet! Mid-February, I shipped off my comfort package with my adaptors and power cords.

Then I was blown away by some very thoughtful friends! They wanted to pay for my LotR Tour!! "What!?" When I told them I'd already bought the ticket for the tour a few days before, they suggested cancelling my arrangement (and payment), but replace it right away with theirs! I contacted Rover Tours, and they were very helpful! "Sure! We can do that!" I was so relieved, and so touched. How do you respond to such awesome enablers!? Thank you! Of course… I cried.

Fast-forward to Monday, March 15th and the ride to my Mom's home 2 hours away and about an hour from the Detroit Metro Airport (DTW). She would be taking care of my doggie, Puddifoot, while I was gone. AND I knew she'd have a pan of beef hash w/pork n' beans waiting for me when I got back! She's a wonder... my Mom :) What still amazes me is how excited she (and my sibbies) were for me. They really "get it" how much it meant to me. How much all of this... TORn, LotR, the films... how much it all means to me and they share my excitement! I'm so lucky...

My sister (Tig) dropped me off at the airport at about 2pm for my 5:15 flight. I always like to get the airport at least 2 hours before departure just so I don't have to stress about traffic, long lines, screening or broken computers. If I'm going to sit and wait... it'll be at the gate. The day of my return, my brother and sister will drop my Escape SUV at a nearby parking area. My flight back is in the middle of the night, so asking someone to pick me up was out of the question, and leaving the truck for the entire time was too expensive.

My flight was on time, and there were no hitches. About 5 ½ hours later, I was at LAX (7:30). With a nearly 3-hour layover, I had plenty of time to get from the domestic terminal to the international terminal, go through security, and get to my gate... but I was still antsy to get there! Thankfully, everything went smoothly and I eventually found myself boarding an Air New Zealand 747! My ears were ringing from my heart beating so hard. I sat in my window seat a few rows behind the wings and smiled like a fool. Here at last! I looked out the window toward the place where that United Airline sat back on March 1, 2004. A whole new gear of smile kicked in! I couldn't believe it!

Geez... those are big planes! I had my own little screen and about 20 movies to choose from. My neighbours were quiet and the attendants were delightful! I think they just got the wheels up after takeoff when the first of several snacks and meals was offered. We were encouraged to dine soon and settle in to sleep as much of the nearly 13 hrs of flying time. A couple of hours later, the lights in the cabin were dimmed and everyone settled down. I had one of those foam-bead pillows and was quickly asleep. I hadn't really rested for several days, so I was knackered. This didn't turn out so good, though. If I sleep without moving around, or in an awkward position, my neck locks up and I get a migraine complete with nausea. Well... I slept too hard and too badly and woke up in horrible pain and so sick I couldn't lift my head. I assured the poor guy next to me that I wasn't ill, and he relaxed. I took some meds, nibbled on some ginger snaps, covered my eyes as I tried to adjust my neck/head, said a prayer and hung on. Thankfully, about 2 hours later I was back to about 85%. I knew I'd have to rush from the international terminal to the domestic terminal when we landed in Auckland at about 7am, so I had to be able to maneuver. By the time I had breakfast about an hour before landing, I felt a lot better... as well as any wrung-out rag could feel ;) I watched our approach on my little screen and began to feel that thrill of anticipation all over again. There was very little turbulence, so it was a very smooth flight. The horizon started to glow along what I could finally discern as the line between the ocean and the sky. As it lightened, you could see that the sky was cloudless and a brilliant blue... only a few shades lighter than the water. It was gorgeous! But no land in sight... yet. Then there is was. A shadow on the surface of the water that grew into New Zealand! We were finally approaching Auckland when the houses below still had their lights on. Like little lit fairy lights speckling the broken lands below. Again... it was gorgeous! It was New Zealand! And we were coming in for our landing.

Wednesday, March 17th:
Never happened :)

Thursday, March 18th:
When I got off the plane, I'd had to run to the domestic terminal. I only had an hour to make the 10-15 minute walk, get through customs, have my passport stamped, get my shoes checked for cleanliness (no contamination), and get to the gate in time for the 20-30 minute pre-flight boarding call. Just follow the coloured line on the sidewalks and it'll "take you right to the terminal". Thankfully, I got there with minutes to spare! I boarded a domestic-sized ANZ jet and headed south for the 1-hour flight to Wellington! Again, bounties of food, drink and wine were served by the most pleasant attendants I've ever seen. ANZ ROCKS when it comes to service. But I spent my whole time looking out the window to the mountains along the shoreline below. Even from this height, it was like nothing I've ever seen before. Rich dark greens with well-defined ripples of tree-covered mountains leading right down to the water's edge and as far as I could see inland. And well into the flight, I could see what had to be volcanoes or the equivalent of those powerful-looking peaks standing high over the hills.

The hour went by fast. I could hear others talking about the Wellington airstrip as we maneuvered for our approach. You have to look at the picture of this field to appreciate what was to come. The runway ran across a short stretch of land joining 2 larger lands. Btw... Peter's studio is in the upper left-hand corner :) The airstrip began and ended at water! The experienced passengers said that pilots loved this part of the flight because it was so exciting. The combination of air, land, and water made some of the most violent turbulence I've ever been through! Those last 5 minutes as we approached had us bouncing in our seats like we were riding a bucking horse! I got sick so fast! Then *jolt!*... it was over and we had landed. Cripes! Hand me my barf bag!! The airport terminal itself is very small, and I quickly envisioned Peter's plane spotters in the hills watching for the jets coming in and taking off! The studio really is right near the airport with only a small line of hills and homes blocking their view! *twitch* So near! So real!

I was really shaky when I got off. I was at the airport in Detroit at 2pm on March 16th. I arrived in NZ at 7am on March 18th. In my rush to get there, I completely skipped St. Patrick's Day ;) I had just spent over 27 hours straight either at an airport or on a plane.

I took my time getting around finding the bus stop for the ride into Wellington, because I knew there was no way my stomach could handle that trip in the state it was in. Once I got out to the bus area, there was a gentleman who had a touring van with a short trailer attached offering rides into Wellington... leaving immediately. He was $2 more than the bus and it was already full of people. The thought of a shorter amount of time in yet another vehicle and being delivered right to my hotel door was too great to pass up. It was nice not to worry about watching for bus numbers, streets and stops. So off we went. It was only about 9am, and the tail end of a rainy morning had everything a bit grey and wet, but I didn't care! I made it to Wellington! The houses filled the sides of the mountains right down to the water that was choppy and white-capped. My kind of weather!! :D

The driver started to lace through the narrow, curved street as he started depositing passengers one and two at a time. I was amazed when he'd driven into a long, steep driveway that curved down to a private hospital. That guy backed out that same driveway with a trailer! Sweet! The houses and postage-stamp sized yards came right up to the road that was just wide enough for 2 vehicles to pass! They're so curved and blocked by greenery that it was nothing but one long blind spot! AND they were all driving on the wrong side of the road!!! ;) Finally we were on what were obviously streets of downtown Wellington and at 10 am we finally pulled up in front of the Quest of Lambton Quay. If you've ever seen pics of the flat-iron building of NYC, it's shaped like that, but not as tall. However, the bay was 2 blocks this way and the Botanic Gardens were 2 blocks that way. I was thrilled! It's an older hotel with clothing stores taking up part of the ground floor, but it was well maintained, clean and quiet... considering it was in the very busy business district. Just thinking of it now makes me anxious to get back!

I went up to the desk to check in. Are you the coffee lady? *snigger* "Yes I am!"

"Oh... I knew it was you! I was the one who answered your email. We already have your package up in your room waiting for you along with another surprise! You have some very nice friends!"

"Oh! Thank you! And yes... I do have fantastic friends :) Uhhhhh.... what did they do?"

"You'll see. We hope you enjoy your stay here in Wellington." And off I went to the 6th floor.

I only had a few minutes to drop off my bags and make a run for the Embassy Theatre to try and get there as close to 11am as I could. It was already almost that now, and the Embassy was a solid 10 blocks away. I had a map and nothing familiar to reference! I knew I'd be passing Cuba Street!! When I got to my room, I was blown away by how quaint, inviting, and homey it felt! And there on the dinette table was a spread of local foods and drinks with a bright bouquet of flowers! There was a printed page with a list of names from some incredible TORnsibs along with a note welcoming me to NZ and celebrating with me that I finally made it. I was staggered. It was a hug that I needed so much just then... from people who understand and were so happy for me. It was perfect! Fighting back tears of joy and fatigue, I grabbed some cookies, my map, 2 cameras and dashed out the door to meet with Jeremy at the Theatre. The afternoon show would be starting around noon, and I was 20 minutes away.
I am not a city mouse, and I can easily get turned around. I took pictures of each intersection and prominent landmarks as I jogged along. I could follow them back if I got disoriented. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed that my first hours in Wellington were distracted with the pressure of trying to get somewhere fast, but the goal was so important to me. Jeremy was being incredibly generous and helpful giving me this opportunity to venture into the Embassy, that I didn't want to cause him any inconvenience... and City would still be there waiting for me on my walk back ;)

As I approached and saw the familiar façade (sans Fell Beast or Gollum), I found myself crossing a small plaza at the Eastern end of Courtenay Place with a huge tripod and camera looming overhead! This was made by Weta to commemorate the melding of this grand theatre and NZ film[makers]. And now I was walking up to those familiar front doors on this iconic building! *shudder* It wasn't hard to imagine these streets jam-packed with people for the RotK premier... and the stage where Peter announced it would be held here in Wellington had been right over there. But I had to get my head back into the now. What was it that Jeremy told me to do if the doors were locked? Ah yes... ring the doorbell. *squeeeeee* Ring the doorbell! I love it! But the doors were open.

As I entered, the theatre's 1st floor lobby was smaller than I'd pictured (pardon the pun), but I blame that on the HUGE
presence/expectation I had. Even though I was caught off guard by the size, I was being presumptuous. The bona fide world was up the grand marble staircases that bookend the room. I've got to admit... I was in the throes of being so overwhelmed at finally making it to New Zealand that to be walking the same streets the RotK Premier Parade followed to the place where speeches were made, crowds climbed poles, hung out windows and cheered, an LotR-imaged 747 airline flew overhead, and our Fellowship walked together once again lead by Peter Jackson and his filmic family even now brings me to tears. I'm actually here... and the Embassy Theatre is real.

While I was taken aback at the size of the foyer, I was impressed with the grandeur of the room. Marble stairs, highly polished woodwork and box office centered on the back wall, sparkling metalwork... it was beautiful! Looking up in the center of the room, you could see through a CIRCLE to the second floor... teasing about more delicacies. It was easy to imagine stepping through time and being here decades ago as there was no one around; so I felt fortunate to stay quietly for a few moments and drink in this beautiful room.

Finally, the open, polished, curved staircase cried to be scaled, so I held my breath in anticipation and started up. Reaching the first landing, you come to a massive mirrored wall with decorative designs. This is matched by the other staircase as well. Then you turn up the second flight of stairs to the formal lobby. In comparison, this was obviously the designated gathering place. Along the length of the back wall is a long concession counter which offered a massive assortment of snacks and drinks... even Ice Cream... to enjoy whilst watching the show. In the center of the room was the cut-out (small atrium) I saw from the foyer. I later learned this was an added enhancement during the 2003 renovations.

The open area around the atrium has a few intimate tables with 2 to 4 chairs, there's a mini-pub on the north end of the room, and to the south is a large sitting area with a formal piano just inside and in the corner a small riser obviously meant as a mini-stage for live performances of many sorts.

I found the large chart displaying all of the names of the seat donors on the wall near the north staircase. Before focusing my attention on it, I set out to find the Manager, Mr. Jeremy Downing. He was near the concession counter talking with another employee and stood as I approached. I introduced myself and we had a hearty how-do-you-do as I expressed my gratitude for his invitation to come to the theatre on my hunt for donor seats and names. What a wonderful guy! He was so courteous and very happy to indulge this geek her Quest. Unfortunately, I had arrived too late to go into the house since the afternoon's film had already begun. He did invite me to come back around 9:30 the next morning before the theatre was open to the public since he'd be there working early.

In the meantime, he took me around the room to show there were pictures on all of the walls of the RotK Premier. Elijah; Peter and Mark Ordesky; Dom; Billy; and a panoramic shot of the front of the Embassy with a flood of red carpet and people everywhere! There were also 2 plaques, one of Gollum and one of the Cave Troll, created to commemorate the theatre's restoration and the Premier. Then we approached the signage with the list of donors. Jeremy Downing… what a great host! His enthusiasm made my escapade at the Embassy so much richer than I'd hoped for. A man of great quality! :)

When I left the Embassy, I took my time walking back. I was so blanked out from the trip and the theatre, it took me a few minutes to realize my surroundings. Even the sidewalks were cool! I lingered under the Weta tripod and finally just let it wash over me. I'm in New Zealand!

On my walk back to my hotel, I headed for the streets that would take me to the waterside. That's where I'd pass Te Papa Museum, Wellington Town Hall, and on to what became my favourite spot… Frank Kitts Park and the Oriental Walk. But first I'd be coming to Cuba Street!! It was everything I'd hoped for! An eclectic mix of boutiques, artsy and craftsy, second-hand stores, and Fidel's Restaurant… Roger's Tattoo Parlour… and the Bucket Fountain! All highlights from the FotR extras where the hobbits would hang out. I walked to the end of the street, then back again to the main drag that would take me toward my hotel. I went into Roger's Tattoo Parlour to make an appointment to have my tattoo done. When Ian McKellen said that it was a bit dodgy… he wasn't kidding. That was a scary place! Dark, a bit run down and dirty, and some pretty intimidating pictures on the walls of their work. And it was tiny! There was probably room for 2-3 people to stand in the entrance at the counter. A big gent came from the back room who was every bit the type of person you'd expect to do tattoos. Oh… I was losing my nerve real fast. I asked about making an appointment, and I could tell he rather I didn't. "I can do it at 2 on Monday. Call me tomorrow to confirm. I don't open 'til 2." "Okay! Sure! Just don't hurt me!" I bolted outta there! But I did make the call... a couple of times. No answer.

By the time I left Cuba Street, it was nearly 2:00 and I was getting hungry. By now, though, I needed to stop and regroup; so I changed my plan and stopped at the Metro/New World grocery store (about a block from the Quest) to pick up a sandwich. I didn’t need much more than that because I had a table full of food waiting for me :D Then I'd go back out and tackle the City properly. I decided to walk to the Backbencher Pub on Bowen Street to make sure I'd find it with no problem the next day when meeting up with Tehanu. It was just past the Parliament Building (built 1866 - largest wooden structure in southern hemisphere/2nd largest in world after Japanese temple) and right across the street from the Beehive! Fantastic!! The pub looked like it could have been plucked out of Ireland, complete with a lovely older woman fussing with the flower boxes under the windows. I didn't go inside yet. I still wanted to see that park near my hotel!

On the way, and across the street from the Quest, was a bookstore with NZ's largest collection of Tolkien-related publications. But it was closed!!! So I tried a bookstore just up the road a bit, but they had a very modest collection of Tolkien materials. It just didn't seem right somehow. So I journeyed on. Backtracking a bit and passing the hotel, I was headed for the water I could see just down the road a block or so. As I got to the main street of Jervois Quay, I could see Frank Kitts Park and water, and mountains with houses sprinkled up and across the entire sides, and ships and the Oriental Bay walkway with Te Papa Museum right off the boardwalk. Wow! The air was so fresh and clean. It didn't have a hint of that fishy, lived in odor I've always experienced at large bodies of water. I've spent a lot of time at Lake Michigan and made it to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans once… but this was way better! It was probably the closest thing to standing in Lórien I'll ever have! It was that rejuvenating!

I knew I'd be coming back to this park as often as I could, but for now I just took my time passing through and taking the Oriental Walkway towards Te Papa. This wasn't the time to stop there, either. I was coming back when I could really linger. I kept going and turned back towards the city streets on my way to the Visitor/Information Center on Wakefield Street off Lambton Harbour. There I'd grab some pamphlets and maps and check out potential gifts to take back to family and friends. Even the Visitor Center was a very neat place to hang out! There was a small cafeteria/restaurant attached to it and LOTS of shade trees covering the building and the street.

That evening I just stayed at the hotel. I wrote down some notes, looked through the pamphlets I picked up, and watched some television. *sigh* It was great! I also took time to really investigate my room and the view out the windows. Figuring it was about time the jet-lag should kick in, I was anticipating being a bit dodgy… but it never happened! I went to bed that night and peacefully slept through until morning.

Friday, March 19th
This was going to be a busy day! I was making another trip to the Embassy Theatre to get some more hunting done for seats/nameplates, so I shaved a few items off my list of things to do. I was also concerned because the Embassy was on one end of the city, and the Backbencher Pub on Molesworth where I was going to meet up with Tehanu at 12:30 was clear on the other side. That was going to be a stretch to walk 40 minutes and get there on time. Plus, my poor ol' arthritic hips, knees and feet could only take so much, so I knew I'd probably be taking a cab.

I left early enough to cruise up and down Cuba Street again. What a great place! Lots of energy and always something more to see! But it was time to mosey on to Courtney Place and the Theatre. When I got there, the entrance was locked so I got to Ring the doorbell!!! *squeeeeee* I'm sorry… but I just thought that was so cool!! Jeremy showed up right away and led me to the desk there at the 1st floor lobby. He'd gone through their office and found a treasure trove of original newspaper clippings, pictures, and articles of the RotK Premier! WOW! He said he thought there were some things around, but didn't realize there was so much! We went through each piece just basking in how incredible that day was… of everything that had happened with the theatre, the films and Wellington! He told me stories of the renovation and what the Theatre was like before the changes. There were oodles of pics showing the progress of how the place was essentially gutted and rebuilt… but careful to keep some of the original stage intact. It's an amazing place!

Every time Jeremy talks about the theatre, he just beams. He exudes excitement for his job and what they've experienced there. You can see how proud he is. He also told me the story of how Peter and Fran left for dinner during the King Kong premier show. When they returned, people had taken their seats. Instead of disrupting anyone or making a fuss, they just sat on the steps and finished watching the film from there. He had the greatest stories, and is a master story-teller!

Then I was time to go into the auditorium. I was shaking like a leaf as we approached the door. I felt like I was entering an enchanted world. I really was so overwhelmed… the same way I felt at the Oscar Party 6 years earlier. I just couldn't believe I was there! We walked down the short corridor and around the entrance that opened up onto the floor of seats, columns, exquisite architecture and the huge curtain-covered screen. Seriously…. I was shaking and nearly in tears. Jeremy seemed to understand and didn't rush me as all as I drank in the grandeur of the room. We walked to the center of the main isle and just started looking at all of the nameplates. There was Elijah Wood's next to Sean Astin's. Nearby were Billy and Dom's seats. Up a few more isles were Joan and Bill Jackson's seats… Peter's parents who he donated on their behalf. Then we went to TORn's seatJ31… right in the center of the whole room! Wonderful!

There are over 730 seats, but I was only able to get through about 2/3rds of them. The morning I was supposed to have about an hour for hunting was spent looking at the pictures Jeremy had found... so it only left me with about 12 minutes before I

I had to get busy, though. By the time we got through the pics, I only had about 15 minutes to search for seats before I had to leave, and there are over 730 seats. I didn't get through as many as I'd planned, but I hoped to have a chance to cover some more ground when I came back to see Goonies that night. I wasn't going to ask Jeremy for anymore favors. He'd done so much for me already and with such enthusiasm and grace… I would be content with whatever I got done by the end of the day. *bows* He's a prince.

I thanked him again for his kindness and help as I raced out and hailed a cab. I had no idea how long it would take to get to the Backbencher, and I didn't want to be late. I got there with about 15 minutes to spare, so I went in and settled down. This place was Awesome! There were puppets, toys and caricatures of politician hanging from the walls and ceiling! Some were made by Weta :) There was also a cartoon about Peter there. I had my postcards with me (for tips) and 3 goodie bags I'd put together (small Bilbo poetry book, LotR bookmarks, & a postcard). Tehanu had told me there'd be someone else joining us for lunch, but I grabbed an extra bag just in case. I'm glad I did!!!

I didn't wait long when Tehanu and a gent came in. It was so great to see her again!! She's gorgeous and so much fun! The gent was Jack who does those amazing blogs of tidbits he picks up during the LotR tours he gives. What a treat! As we settled down, Tehanu said there'd be one more person joining us. No 2 minutes later, in comes a smiling Daniel Reeve! I was FLOORED! "OMG! HI!!" I jumped up and gave him a hug! He's SUCH A GREAT GUY!!! Always smiling and Always so happy to geek out about LotR and all of us who share the love! He said he could only stay for a few minutes (*whispers* he's busy working on something *winkie, wink*) but he brought a pouch with all sorts of books and drawings AND *gulp* The Red Book of Westmarch! I'm having trouble forming complete sentences now. I told him how I'd seen this on a table of his work after one of his Q&A's at an ORC convention, but there were too many people around to touch it. Now here it was in my hands! I was shaking like a leaf! I was carrying my Signlanguage book all over the place with me, and I asked him if he'd mind signing it? He's so neat. He took it and flipped through the pages, stopped at one and started to work away. I was distracted while Tehanu, Jack and I decided what food to order, so I didn't see what he was doing until he handed me the book. Paraphrasing: "I think I made a mistake on this (doing it from memory), but you can just tell people it was Sauron's first draft." He wrote out the full Ringspell in Elvish! I don't think my heart could have taken much more. We chatted again for just a few minutes when he really did need to get going. I know he probably didn't have any time at all to do this, but he did. *tearing* What a joy he is. Me here with Tehanu and Jack and Daniel… What a life. What a life! I found out later one of our sibs arranged this little mind-blower for me. *massive hug* Thank you, dear one :)

We ate and talked and laughed for a goodly period, but it was time to get going. We bade goodbye to Jack and Tehanu and I walked the few blocks to where her bus stop was. We looked at some of the street artwork and stopped by a couple a shops. Before she left, she invited me to join her husband, son and her for dinner on Sunday night after my LotR tour. "Wow! Of course! That would be great! Thank you!" She'd send directions later along with final arrangements, and then she was off. I'm telling you right now… this whole trip would have filled my lifetime with delight, and I was only on my second day! Geez!

It was getting close 4:00, so it was time to start heading back to the hotel and get ready for the movies that night. But I walked a completely different route to see more of the city. As usual, I was drawn towards the water. I wanted to spend some more time at the park, so I went in that direction and stopped at little shops along the way to look for tidbits and trinkets. On each of my adventures, I try to get a keychain and/or a coffee mug to commemorate the experience. But I always pick up a pebble or some dirt to take a bit of the land back home with me. That's why I carry baggies. After relaxing at the park, I went back to my room and indulged in some of my snacks from the table. I was still pretty full from lunch! I planned to leave early so I'd have more time to make stops along the way back to the Embassy. I knew it was going to be late when the show got out, and I was concerned about the walk back. But I figured I could hail a taxi if my internal alarms started to go off, sensing danger; plus I had a whistle! I also took along some fresh camera batteries extra film cards so I could take some more pics of the Donors' chart... just in case the camera took too many fuzzy pics. This camera really was a disappointment. Even with the anti-shake feature on, half the pics were distorted.

I've already gone on and on about how surreal and wonderful the Theatre is, so I'll cut to the chase. It was packed with people! Everyone was ready to have some fun with the Goonies... including me! I did take some more pictures, the snagged my ticket and treat from the concession stand. A bunch of us moved over to the doors and started a line. We finally went in and I got to my seat. There were too many people to go a'hunting for more seats. I especially wanted to find Xoanon's, but had no clue the general area it might be in. I was so psyched to see this movie here, where the magic happened so long ago, and to see this screen in action! All I've seen of it so far is the curtain! I started out in my seat (next to Elijah Wood's), then moved back to TORn's seat :D Way comfy and plush! Suffice it to say that experiencing a movie with geeks is the best thing ever! The movie was great! The theatre was great! the audience was rockin'! They had so much fun!! Cheering, booooing, and sniggering and laughter at one repetitive phrase. It was fantastic!

When the show was over and the floor was clearing out, I tried one last time to do some hunting. I was waaaaay up near the top seats when the attendants invited me to leave. They needed to clean up. I thanked them profusely and set off for the Quest. All told, I was only able to get through about 2/3rds of them. I still need to find out what Xoanon's seat number is!! Poor guy doesn't remember ;) From a picture he has of him sitting in a seat, it looks to be way up near the top, but the report on the seat he purchased would make it nearer to TORn's seat. Just another puzzle to conquer!

The streets were well lit and there were plenty of people around, so I didn't feel the least bit nervous. The whole way home was one big street party with laughter, talking and great energy. By the time I got to my room, it was nearly midnight; but I was wired. What a day! I knew I'd have to put as much as I could down into my notebook or I wouldn't be able to turn off my brain. After writing for about 20 minutes, I was out... still smiling :)

Saturday, March 20th
Today was the first day I didn't have something planned, so I decided to check off some of the "wanna see" things on my list. I started with the Botanic Gardens. The cable car up the side of the mountain to the top gardens was 2 blocks away. I had never ridden a cable car before, so I was really looking forward to this! Come to find out, there are little personal cable cars or gondolas all over Wellington. So many homes are built right into the steep side of the mountain, that it's impossible to get an automobile to them. So there are these little gondolas that 2 to 4 (or more) can easily sit in and ride the set of rails up to their door! Well, this cable car ride was steeped (pardon the pun) in history. One of the exhibits at the top housed one of the original cars and a show about how it was found and restored.

The view from the top was absolutely stunning. There is no way to describe the incredible beauty of the city, the bay, and the mountains across the way. Breathtaking. I stood there for the longest time. There were platforms with high railings where you could hover over the side of the mountain and the treetops would be right beside you... and Wellington spread out below. Marvellous! Then it started to get crowded with people and the spell was broken. So I took one of the many winding paths leading back down to the city and through many different themes of gardens. Again, pictures are the only way to express how enchanting this place is. Among the structures you come upon is the Astronomical Center, a sundial, an Education & Environment Centre, the main garden, Lady Norwood Rose Garden, the Begonia House a carved statue of the Bee Lady, and the the old cemetery, which was just as beautiful and serene as the Gardens themselves. I figured out that I was averaging about 8 miles a day walking!

After resting up a bit, I headed out again. Not far from the hotel was Plimmer Steps where an ancient Oak Tree (planted there as an acorn) dwelled nearly at the top of the steps. It was really a staircase that went straight up... forever... with several resting places along the way and may shops. The entrance to the street has a statue of Mr. Plimmer and his dog.

Returning to the streets, I went to Kathmandu. That's a clothing and outfitters store on Willis Street (near the Visitor Center) and can only be found in the Southern Hemisphere. That was the same area where Te Papa Museum sits, so I headed that way. When I got to the Park, I found a full-blown festival going on! There were people everywhere! Food, live music, water games for the kids (big hamster-like plastic balls they could ride inside of out on the water... and ice cream! So yummy!! Perfect timing! AND there was a Chinese Dragon travelling through the crowd. This was great :D

I took the Oriental Walk off of Park and went to the Museum. Another "Wow!" moment there. It's huge, and each floor has a different theme of interest; but the most fascinating one to me was the earthquake room. There was a detailed and highly visual set of displays about the type of land and earthquakes that affect NZ. I admit to spending most of my time there. I also discovered their gift store with incredible glass sculptures, locally-made jewelry from shells, and way over in the discounted area in the corner, I found a clothing rack with items marked down to a fraction of their original cost... including a Lothlórien shawl made from the same weave and NZ wool as the Lórien cloaks. *swoon* I grabbed that thing, fersher!

It was time for the museum to close, so I headed out again. I knew I had to be rested for the tour the next morning *twitch*, so I headed back to the Quest via New World Supermarket! This time I got some local food. I had to get more of the L&P (Lemon & Paeroa) soda! OMG! It's so good! It's citrusy like Sprite or 7Up, but way better! Kumara chips, seafood salad, aioli, tater patties, a breading and sausage-wrapped egg, yogurt, fresh fruit, and a small steak for dinner. It was great! I rested up and watched some tv, wrote a few more notes (not as many as I should have) and then to sleep. I was halfway through my Quest, and the Rover Tour van would be here by 8:40 am! *spasm*

Sunday, March 21st
The weather was perfect! Still perfect! Sweatshirts were needed in the morning, then tied around your waste the rest of the day. I'm going to be mean here and not say anymore about the Tour. I still need to write my report and get the pics together. I promise to finish it soon; but I want to take my time and do it justice :) You can be assured... I was walking on a cloud. So overwhelmed to be standing where the films were made and our family of actors and filmmakers created their magic and told their story. In the days of wonder I was experiencing, this was a dream come true. Just sitting here and thinking about all of it, I feel like I'm right there again. The sense-memory is alive and kicking! For the whole trip; but especially here.

I got back to the Quest after 5 pm and just stood in the middle of the room to try and absorb what I just saw and where I'd just been. I was so happy. But I had to shift gears and get ready to head to the Tehanu's for dinner! A message was waiting for me asking to arrive around 6:30. After showering and changing, I called a cab and was on my way. They live in the most hobbity-comfortable home I've ever been in! It's one of those lovely little places dotting the side of the mountain looking out over Wellington and the Bay. Tehanu is one of those people who draws you in and immediately makes you feel like you've been there a hundred times before. Gracious, funny, inclusive… fantastic! And I lost my heart in that place. Their little princeling, just getting really good at toddling about, had me in his spell in seconds. What a little powerhouse of curiosity, laughter, bright, no-fear full-speed-ahead activity! He was a total delight! Mr. Tehanu is a fellow American and just as quick to wit and laughter as his lovely wife and enchanting son. It got even better when Jack (from lunch) and his lovely wife joined us all for dinner as well. Now we were a throng, and the house was filled with wonderful cooking and lots of laughter and conversation. What a wonderful place and a terrific time! And the dinner was finger-licking good! Jack stunned this ol' lady when he handed me an envelope with some silk leaves found in the forest where Rivendell was filmed! They were little pieces of props fallen from the sets' trees. Just one more mini-miracle to leave me shaking my head in disbelief. I couldn't thank them all enough for making me feel so welcome and special. Hugs to these generous souls and many thanks! :)

Monday, March 22nd
My last full day in New Zealand. Finally, the weather was what I've always heard about. It was rainy, cool, and so windy you wanted to grab the nearest light pole and hang on! I could feel the hotel sway! That also reminds me that I'd felt several small tremors while I was there. A couple of times I had a glass of water next to me on the nightstand. When I'd feel a shudder, I'd look over at the water and see the surface tremble. I ate fast and ran out the door as soon as I could... freshly-charged batteries and emptied digital cards in plastic bags in my purse. Lots of plastic baggies :) I carried these things with me everywhere! Along with Frodo and Sam. You may have noticed by now that I had some friends with me the whole time. You'll see more of them in my picture file.

Today I was going to visit our trees in Tawa at the Willowbank Park. I was taking the train to Tawa about 40 minutes away and then walk to the Park. I had maps, pictures and a description of where it was... so I felt prepared. When I arrived, I had no idea where it was. It quickly became apparent the map I found online was useless. This was a small town, but everyone I asked about the Park didn't know where it was. Except for one person. He said it was about 4 miles "that way", so I'd be best to get a cab. Luckily (thought I) there was one right over there, and the driver was coming out of the convenience store where it was parked. I asked him if he could take me to the Park, and he said yes. About 15 minutes later, it was clear he had no idea where he was, either. I'd given him the map and description, but the places we drove through were very remote. Back and forth, retracing and trying this way and that. He was a really nice guy and was trying very hard to find my trees! I still needed time to get back to Wellington for my 2:00 tattoo appointment. It was now 10:00. I'd have to head back for the train (running every 45 minutes by 12 to get back and walk to Roger's... who I kept trying to call and confirm... no answer.

When I told my driver I didn't have much time left, he pulled in the driveway of a home along the sparsely-housed road to ask for directions. ...??... They hadn't heard of the place. But I had a map! It didn't help.

Admitting defeat, I asked him to return me to the train station, and we headed back to town. He pulled into a different station about a mile down from the first one. "Is this the right station?" "Oh yes. It's brand new!" It was obviously under construction, but he assured me it was okay. I paid him the $20 for the tour, and he left me there. When I walked up the sidewalk to the platform, it was clearly not finished. Nothing but gravel and a partially-completed station. Obviously nowhere a train would stop. So I started walking along the road that ran parallel to the tracks and asked some teens sitting near the road about the station just left. They said it isn't open yet. D'uh. So I walked the 1 ½ miles (via the road) to the original station; then waited 45 minutes for the next train. $20 cab ride… but nice scenery and a very windy day! I honestly don't believe I'd just been "taken for a ride". The driver kept apologizing and tried so hard... and he didn't do his homework on that station; but what could I do? I chalked it up to the only "failed" adventure for my whole time in NZ... and it really was a comedy of errors that I still laugh about!

I made it back to Wellington in plenty of time to get to Rogers by 1:30... 2:00 came... 2:30 went... Not gonna happen. I was inwardly grateful that it didn't work out, because I had a way better tattoo experience when I was in NYC with CAHobbit, greendragon and deej. We ended up going to the same parlour Elijah Wood and Orlando Bloom took Sean Bean to so he could officially become a life-time member of the filmic Fellowship. Clean, special, really nice guys worked there, and best of all... sibbies to share it with. See? Things happen for a reason. PLUS, I didn't have to deal with septicemia on my long flight home. Just don't tell my Mom!!

It was still pretty nasty outside, but I like this kind of weather. So I walked back to the hotel along a different route. This time I saw the Duxton hotel, the Green Parrot (where Viggo like to eat), followed the shoreline along Wakefield & Jervois Quay, past Te Papa and onto the Oriental Walk.

I took my time getting back to the hotel and visited a few more shops. But it was time to get back and pack. My flight wasn't until late the next day, but check out time was 11am. *sniffle*

In the lobby of the hotel, there was one lonely little computer. When I could get at it, I'd download all my pics into the 4 flashdrives I took with me. When they were full, I emailed them to my 3 different accounts. The pics were HUGE, so they took up a lot of room. But so many of them were out of focus, I needed the pixels to save what I could. I took over 1,600 pictures all told. Probably 400 are really good. But I've got the images, so even in the bad ones are wonderful for sparking memories. I have over 150 pics on my computer at work, scrolling as a background. I have NZ there with me constantly :)

Tuesday, March 23rd
Here we are... at the end of all things. Almost.

I had everything packed and repacked. I'd already sent 3 packages through the mail to my home of gifts, pinecones, pebbles and anything else that wasn't tied down or had deep roots. I also had a decadent chocolate brownie cake thing I'd gotten from New World just for the occasion of my last meal in this place that had become home. Part of the reason Wellington has crawled into my heart is because of this room. It was a comforting sanctuary made like home because of the gifts that were waiting for me to arrive and the respite it gave me when I was tired and sore. WHEN I go back, I'm going to stay in the same room!

I drank my last cup of coffee, checked all the corners for misplaced belongings, and closed the door behind me. Oh cripes, I didn't want to leave.

It was 10am when they tucked my bags into a back room until my bus to the airport around 2pm. My flight from Wellington to Auckland was 5:00, so I planned to get there by 3. I always like to be early :) I wanted to have time for one more visit with the Park. I also had time to stop by the public library (beautiful!) and the Sea and Air Museum. That place was incredible! It was packed with articles from the nautical history of Wellington and the Bay, including an extensive display of the disastrous sinking of the ferry Wahine, that was crossing from the South Island. There was also a sort of holographic thing with Maori “actors” talking about the creation mythology that blended with a RL mini-stage and props. The characters were probably 3 inches high.

It was really time to go. I went back to the Quest, got my bag, thanked them for everything they did to make this so special, and got on the bus. I was pretty bummed by now, so the bus ride back to the airport and past all the sights I'd seen during the Rover Tour made it feel like pieces of my experience and everything that made it special were lining the streets and waving goodbye.

The wait at the airport went very quickly, and the rough takeoff in the turbulent winds made me smile this time. I also snuck some last shots of what are now MY stomping grounds. A piece of me is definitely still there.

Flying over the mountains again was as moving as they were just a few days before. Going through customs in Auckland was smooth and fast, but there was mass confusion at the gates where several flights and passengers were completely out of order. It was like an evacuation! You couldn't tell where the lines were for the different gates, and it was everyone for themselves to get onto the plane. I have no idea what was going on, but I got on and grabbed my assigned seat. The rest of the trip was the reverse of when I arrived, and I admit to not paying a whole lot of attention. I was already going through withdrawal... with a dash of depression. But I had such great memories and that warm glow following some really happy experiences.

My flight arrived in LA at 11:30 am on March 23rd. That day/time thing still just blows my mind! I had one incident while going through customs, though. A nice lady inspector said she had to frisk me. Okay... I figured that was coming. But she looked at my matronly tummy and started to ask me to unzip my jeans. I was very polite and chipper when I said, "I'll be happy to unzip, but I want you to know this is all me and I worked very hard to get it this way." She stopped and blinked at me... then laughed. She said, "I'm usually good with comebacks, but you've got me stumped! Go on ahead, and have a great day!"

I had to wait until my flight to Detroit at 5:30 that evening... so we got to know our little part of LAX really well! Then I finally took the flight to DTW and arrived at about 1am. Thank Goodness my Brother and Sister did a flawless delivery of my Escape at the parking lot where a shuttle bus dropped me right beside it. I drove to Mom's, had some beef hash and went to sleep. The next day, we finally got home and settled right down. *sigh* What a life. What a dream. Oh... and I still have my L&P soda can ;)

sample sample

I really need these new films to take me back to, and not re-introduce me to, that magical world.

TORn's Observations Lists
Unused Scenes

Subject User Time
Beware! There's a Birthday Mathom waiting to pounce! grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Mar 18 2011, 2:26am
    Wow, a belated happy gramma-type birthday Patty Send a private message to Patty Mar 18 2011, 3:34am
    Happy, Holy Cow, Birthday! gramma!! silneldor Send a private message to silneldor Mar 18 2011, 3:38am
    Happy Birthday! SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 18 2011, 3:56am
    1,600 photos!!!??? weaver Send a private message to weaver Mar 18 2011, 4:05am
    Can't wait to read the sequel! Finding Frodo Send a private message to Finding Frodo Mar 18 2011, 4:49am
    Holy mathom, Grammaboodawg! GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 18 2011, 5:32am
    Thanks for the mathom gramma! Silverlode Send a private message to Silverlode Mar 18 2011, 6:08am
    Happy Hobbity belated birthday! Alcarcalime Send a private message to Alcarcalime Mar 18 2011, 8:01am
    Happy birthday, dear Gramma! Wow, what a fabulous report! Kimi Send a private message to Kimi Mar 18 2011, 8:38am
    Happy Birthday Dearest Gramma! Kelvarhin Send a private message to Kelvarhin Mar 18 2011, 9:20am
    My favourite bit: Ataahua Send a private message to Ataahua Mar 18 2011, 10:18am
        *gasp* grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Mar 18 2011, 10:35am
    Fantastic mathom, gramma! Roheryn Send a private message to Roheryn Mar 18 2011, 10:25am
        Ro! dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 18 2011, 10:32am
        :D grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Mar 18 2011, 10:38am
    Many Happy Returns of the day, gramma... dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 18 2011, 10:30am
    Happy Birthday, gramma! // NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 18 2011, 1:41pm
    Happy Belated Birthday, gramma! deej Send a private message to deej Mar 18 2011, 3:14pm
    I read half Wraith Buster Send a private message to Wraith Buster Mar 18 2011, 5:16pm
    Gramma.... Sunflower Send a private message to Sunflower Mar 18 2011, 6:03pm
        He did? *fades into corner* grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Mar 18 2011, 7:30pm
    That's so cool!!! Now I want to go even more!// Gimli'sBox Send a private message to Gimli'sBox Mar 18 2011, 7:34pm
    Scotch eggs! Eledhwen Send a private message to Eledhwen Mar 18 2011, 8:02pm
        I had Scotch eggs at the Scots booth at the International Festival Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Mar 20 2011, 5:08pm
    The happiest of birthdays, dear gramma! Lily Fairbairn Send a private message to Lily Fairbairn Mar 18 2011, 9:33pm
    Happy birthday! One Ringer Send a private message to One Ringer Mar 19 2011, 12:15am
    Belated Happy Birthday! entmaiden Send a private message to entmaiden Mar 19 2011, 2:46am
    what a great report Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Mar 20 2011, 5:05pm
    Well i read your report silneldor Send a private message to silneldor Mar 21 2011, 3:48am
    Happy Birthday Gramma, Zmulady Send a private message to Zmulady Mar 22 2011, 3:13am


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