We said a sad goodbye to Jo who'd been our hugely knowledgable tour guide for the past three weeks - and who was about to embark on another crazy journey back all the way down the whole of New Zealand to start a new job in Invercargill two days later!
Then Matt and I were on our own. We drove into Auckland to the Domain (huge public park) where we went to the Auckland Museum - a beautiful building which serves as a national war memorial. It was massive, so we only had time for a few exhibits and we chose to visit some stunning Maori galleries filled with art and artefacts from their culture, and a brilliant exhibition about New Zealand natural history which particularly highlighted volcanoes and the impact of an eruption in Auckland (quite likely!).
We then drove to Parnell Road for a scrummy lunch and quick wander around the pretty arty shops there. We found a cute little jewellery shop and Matt bought me a beautiful funky ring there for my birthday :-)
All too soon, it was time to head back to the airport for the start of our long journey home. The first leg of the journey was to Los Angeles - a 12 hour flight. It was a surprisingly pleasant flight - I slept through a great deal of it and felt pretty good when we landed in LA at the start of another 11 January - very confusing flying across the date line!
We caught the super shuttle out to Santa Monica to our lovely hotel where Matt had a quick nap (he hadn't slept so well on the flight) and I called into work for a chat with Tom who's about to head off on a long holiday to Japan!
Once we were rested, we headed along the boardwalk for an Italian lunch overlooking the Pacific and then to the 3rd Street Boulevard - a really pleasant pedestrianised shopping street - much nicer than the normal US malls. We wandered around, slightly annoyed that our completely packed suitcases meant we couldn't take advantage of the cheap prices! But I found just enough space in my case for a lovely new iPod!!
We enjoyed a sunset glass of bubbly before going to the movies to see "Sweeney Todd" (brilliant!).
We had a very lazy morning, sleeping in and enjoying a massive American breakfast of pancakes before going for a walk along the beach. Then it was time to head back to the airport to say goodbye. Matt's back to Bogota for another couple of weeks work, and I'm back to London to get back into life at Imperial :-(
After an uneventful flight home, and a lovely lift back from Heathrow from my parents, I'm back home with two massive bags of laundry and the prospect of work tomorrow :-(
But what a great trip - I'm off to watch "the making of Lord of the Rings" so have a look at all the locations we just visited!!