Act I of our Moviemaker's Tour of New Zealand takes us aboad Air New Zealand and onto the Premium Economy Class adventure.
So how did my husband Ron and I choose a vacation adventure in New Zealand? Well, it really chose Ron, who won air tickets and eight nights' hotels for two at a movie industry event raffle. Ron produces movies and NZ being such a famous location for the making of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, it was a perfect fit.
We would go, we would hike, we would see penguins, eat lamb, visit with some old movie buddies currently in production and come home happy. And thus our trip began.
Friday 17 February.
Our New Zealand adventure started at Barney Greengrass in Beverly Hills, where Gisella from Film New Zealand and Vicky from Park Road Post (PJ's company as people like to say) explain the traditions of their country while we regale them with Yiddish expressions and lox stories. Sort of. We live a few blocks from the original, legendary pre-War Jewish bagel deli in New York. Our Barney Greengrass doesn't serve matzoh brei with sliced avocado and salsa however, nor is the babka drizzled with 70% dark chocolate from Sao Tome. But we laugh at movie war stories ("Avatar," "TinTin" and many big hits have recently filmed in the country) and hear recipes for mussells. We learn that Merino wool has become a performance fabric at the hands of the sportswear label Icebreaker and that the Maori — and really everyone in NZ for that matter — like to add hip hop slang to their daily conversations.
A day in LA is always fun when the skies are clear and, all too soon, we are boarding our Air New Zealand flight to Auckland. The flight attendants are in stunning lilac dresses with primitive Maori geometric symbols boldly splashed across them. The safety video is a rapped by fitness nut Richard Simmons, who shows us how to work out by hoisting bags into the overheard bin.
The first question everyone had asked us when we told them about winning the trip was, "How long is the flight?" followed by "Did they give you Business Class?" In fact our 15 hours is passing quickly in the Premium Economy section of a new B777-300R. This hybrid and over designed compartment has six seats across, two by two, in semi pods called Spaceseats meant to encapsulate passengers and spare them from each other.
I am always being flanked by big guys who need my armrests to read their Ipads, so this is an appealing concept. But it's a hard concept to pull off; at least it has a big learning curve for the user.
I watch "Sioni" and "River Queen," two less than great (but very interesting) NZ flicks and tangle with the recessed, touch sensitive mechanisms to release the table, articulate the video screen arm and slide my seat forward. It's quite wonderful that you can "scoot your butt" as the helpful attendant tells me, to push the seat a bit forward and the back a bit down. Not at all a reclining position, it is nonetheless very comfortable and easy to snooze in.
Most importantly, no one else is reclining on you.
Downside: seats are angled 30 degrees off center and Ron feels very far away. Favorite touches are low tech, high touch: the woven lilac bean bag at my feet is a retro footrest, and the Merino wool pouch by my side is an overnight kit including wonderful moisturizer.
From the printed menu and Snacks tab on the seatback screen the food sounds divine. We only make it through the entree — in NZ that must mean the appetizer — of grilled chicken breast with mango chutney, cheese and crackers and a glass of local Pinot Gris — before dozing off again. Deliciously full.
I awake in time to blog a bit, read through the copious Spaceseat manual and anticipate fresh croissants and tea at breakfast. This educational adventure with Boeing has been an inflight treat… words that may never cross my lips again.
Next post I'll jump to day three.
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