NZ to UK, via San Francisco stop-over, with three little Kiwis

It’s been five years since we’ve done the long-haul flights from our home in Wellington, New Zealand, to the UK (and having just done it, I now remember the reason why we left it so long before doing it again, it’s bloody hard work!). It had to be done though. With the talk of us having to relocate to San Francisco next year, from our beloved home in Wellington, New Zealand, I needed to ‘see it’ to get my head around it. I can’t say I’m any more convinced – and do hold out hope that perhaps hubbie and his team will do the job so well from NZ this year that the need to relocate won’t be as necessary… but we’ll see.

But, despite the hard work that is the reality of traveling with young children, we are having a cracking time and the stop over in San Francisco was just what we needed. Dan had to work (and he did brilliantly to focus so well on his work and put in the hours on very little – if any – sleep over a few days of travel).

What made the stop-over so great was where we stayed, at the Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghiradelli Square. We stayed in an sumptious apartment, situated within the same building as a chocolate factory, by the ‘beach’, overlooking the bay and a short stroll to Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39.

Chocolate! Sleep... beautiful at Fairmont Gorgeous accommodation at the Fairmont
After a long-haul flight of 13 hours, from Auckland to San Francisco (and a domestic flight from Wellington to Auckland), arriving in San Francisco on a sunny afternoon at the Fairmont Heritage, to be given a sterling welcome of chocolates and coffee (and cuddly toys for the children) was wonderful indeed. The flight was exhausting, but all the children did so, so well. They struggled to get comfortable enough to sleep, but were kept distracted with the excellent in-flight entertainment on the Air New Zealand flight, the great food and the friendly air attendants. The older children stayed up till past midnight (NZ time) watching movies. Alice slept after a little cry – she so wanted to be home in her cosy bed and kept wanting to get off the plane to water her newly planted broccoli seeds in our garden! It’s so hard for a two year old to make sense of air travel, time zones and changing seasons in a matter of days – from spring in NZ to autumn in the UK.

Departing Wellington on our adventure!
I admit to having a good cry too – thinking, ‘Why did I think this was a good idea?!’ – but once my youngest was fast asleep I felt a lot better.

Arriving at San Francisco International Airport has always been a good experience for us. We’ve never had to wait in line long and the staff are always so welcoming, helpful and friendly. It wasn’t long before we were enjoying our afternoon and looking forward to a decent night’s sleep, lying horizontal in King size beds with super soft bedding (and chocolates awaiting us on our pillow – ‘Did I mention the chocolates already?!).

After freshening up we stepped outside for a blast of sunshine and fresh air to help readjust our body clocks. We played on the beach, reminiscing on our time in that same place five years ago, bought more chocolate, and gave the girls quarters to make a wish at the mermaid wishing well in Ghiradelli Square.

The beach - San Francisco Mermaid wishing well at Ghiradelli Square Chocolate!
The next day I took the girls to Pier 39, via a walk past the crabs, buskers and tourist shops along Fisherman’s Wharf, and found a perfect place for dinner – ‘Players’. Alice slept, the older girls played on the arcade games and I enjoyed a beer and some poetry writing time. Charlotte was wrapped at winning 1,000 tickets and got a lovely ‘San Francisco’ mug with her winnings (as well as a couple of noisy trumpet blaster things for her two younger sisters… just what we needed!). Dan joined us around 6pm, after putting in a good days work, and we then strolled back to the apartment, after a final ride on the carousel and a ride on the 7D experience for Dan and the older girls!

Musee Mechanique Pier 39 and having a ride Mary Poppins style! Big winner Charlotte!
Our last day we had to check-out at 11am – which the night before seemed like a huge challenge…. the girls were awake till nearly 2am!

Good Night San Francisco
We’d had a blast of a day and perhaps a little too much chocolate for dessert at 10pm (and a sugar kick at the Mirror Maze on the walk home!). I ended up getting all the bags packed and clothes ready for a quick get away, with as much sleep as possible, the next day. Dan had to be working at 6am! In the end I woke them at 10am with some breakfast and they were really great for me.

Dessert at 10pm! Time zone shifting make it okay to eat this at 10pm Not sure this sugar load was a good idea...
We spent the day at Pier 39 again – visiting the Aquarium and hanging out at ‘Players’ again… till Dan joined us at 2 ish and we made our way back to our apartment to get a taxi to the airport for our flight to London Heathrow!!

I was so, so excited to get on that plane and the thought of seeing my folks and my ‘home’ where I grew up filled me with absolute glee! The flight was tough with Alice – she really did not want to be on that tin can in the sky. But, finally, after a good cry on our shoulders (and some ‘Love Heart’ lollies from a very kind flight attendant) she collapsed on top of Sophie – head to toe, legs wrapped on top of each other, for a half decent sleep. Dan and I barely slept. Charlotte did best of all – and with half an hour to landing had a hoot with Alice – chomping away on gummy bears (eating off ears and heads in turn) as we descended over the incredibly green landscape of England (yes, they’ve had a wet summer – but the country looks so beautiful for our visit, so thank you!).