Most of the time, my accommodations fall cleanly into the ‘affordable’ category. On family road trips, we’d sometimes stay in Best Westerns or Motel 6s: pools rarely open, itchy comforters, views of small towns or open fields, free cable TV, and reasonable pricing for a night between here and there. My current holiday will include different kinds of stays, and most of them are budget friendly. For one night only, though, Soleil and I lived like we had no budget.
Although we’ve been staying with my parents, a chance to explore Auckland and have a nice date night would be worth the splurge. I narrowed down the possibilities for our stay to three different places: The Convent, Fable, and The Cordis. With a limited schedule and a relative budget, it was the last option and its romance package that secured our Sunday night and Monday morning. Comparative to some of the nicer casino pricing, we would get a deluxe room, complimentary buffet breakfast, access to spa services and the pool, a $100 voucher for the hotel, valet parking, late check out, and more. It seemed worth it for all that was included.
My dad dropped us off at The Cordis on Sunday afternoon. I’m always a bit reminded of what it was like to be a license-less teenager when this happens, but grateful because Auckland traffic seems like a nightmare to navigate for the unknowing. Soleil and I checked in to our room and received a voucher for free drinks at the bar since we were celebrating the anniversary of our Tinder match. Immediately—even from the lobby—we knew this was one of the fanciest hotels we would ever be in. The chandeliers were opulent. A live harpist played near the lounge. The artwork was colorful and abstract. With all that build, we went to investigate our room.
As people who come from casino and hospitality culture, it was the little things that made the room quality. A light automatically came on when you opened the closet. The face-portion of the mirror wasn’t fogged up after showering. The complimentary amenities were branded and smelled, well, rich. We were given a bottle of sparkling wine to share and two trays of chocolates, both of which were amazing. The bed was so comfortable and had plenty of pillows. We even had a slight view of Sky Tower. The speaker played music so we could dance around the fancy room. One look at the pricing on the mini bar automatically ruled out any late night chocolates or drinks, but we had a reservation to make anyway.
I don’t think I was a tea party child, but the Winter High Tea at The Cordis captured my attention immediately. How often would I have an opportunity like this? The voucher that came with our package could be applied to the opulent price, but it seemed well worth it when we were seated and given two tasty mocktails. Trays of sandwiches, savories, and sweets were brought out and our tea orders taken. One of the things I’d been looking forward to was sampling the flavors of TWG, which I’d tried earlier in the year and loved but can’t afford. Soleil drank some of the Noel! Noel! tea, craving a taste of Christmas, and I went for the TWG Signature black tea. It was as warm and comforting as the conversation.
Slowly, we made our way through the food. The sandwiches might have been my favorite part. The savories were interesting, especially in how they played with different textures and taste combinations. Our server then brought out some scones with cream and jam, and I switched to the English Breakfast tea. We were too full to even begin on our sweets course (partially due to the cheese party earlier in the day) and enjoyed the last little cake before taking what remained to go. Overall, it was a lovely experience—probably helped by how friendly the staff were and how it felt like we had our own bubble of conversation in the relatively uncrowded lounge—but I’m not sure if it’s one I would repeat. As I said, I’m not sure I’m a tea party kind of girl.
After tea, we dove into the rooftop pool and Jacuzzi. With the darkening sky, the pool was lit with underwater neon and delightfully warm on the cool spring night. Swimming is one of those activities I love and don’t get enough of, and I was happy to be back in the water. We sat in the Jacuzzi, only occupied by a few Ukrainian men engaged in their own conversation, and enjoyed the hot water and jets. After a while, though, we went to separate locker rooms to utilize the spa access.
First, I tried the snail shower. If, like me, you don’t know what that is, it’s essentially a curved, open stall with two separate controls. One engages the six or so jets that hit around the body, and the other operates the above showerhead. It’s like being caught in an immense rainstorm or drowning while standing, and it’s amazing. I also appreciated that I could turn the temperature as hot as I wanted, and turn off just the overhead faucet when I wanted the ability to breathe. I used this feature twice.
Then I tried the herbal steam room. This immediately felt cleansing, and I loved how deep the heat and water seemed to seep into my lungs and core. It was like every ounce of congestion was drained away. I also used this twice. The only spa feature I used once was the sauna. I’m not going to lie, my first thought when I went in was remembering the low-budget horror film 247F. Then, I soaked into the dry heat and missed home for a bit. It’s nice to be traveling and enjoying all these different, humid climates, but I’m a desert baby. That dry suck-the-marrow-from-your-bones heat is my kind of comfort.
The last service I tried was the ice experience. This, essentially, is supposed to help with circulation and close the pores all the heat has opened. You take handfuls of ice from a big bowl and scoop them over your heated body. It melts pretty quick and is invigorating. Not an experience I expected to enjoy, but one I repeated with the steam room. After our spa adventures, Soleil and I went back upstairs and got ready for the bar.
Here, perhaps, is where the night soured a little for me. I’ve spent the last few years with a comfort cocktail in America, my go-to, of a Michelada or Bloody Mary. I could have Caesars in Canada because they’re popular and available. Tomato cocktails aren’t quite as popular off (or on) a breakfast menu here than I would’ve hoped. So, I’ve been flailing a bit when it comes to drinking. What I liked about the bar at The Cordis was how all of its alcohol was locally sourced. What I struggled with was the cocktail menu and the overly fruity offerings. Soleil had no issue picking a craft beer to taste, but I hemmed and hawed before selecting something new to try. It didn’t go well. In the end, perhaps, I should’ve gone for a mocktail.
Slightly hungry and in search of cheaper beer, Soleil and I walked around the block for an open supermarket. By now it was colder and raining, but we found a Korean deli that had cheap ramen, chips, and milk tea. Soleil grabbed some beer from a bottle shop, and we went back to the hotel. We discovered neither of our ramen had come with utensils and resorted to using spoons to eat. Soleil enjoyed his, but I found mine to be a bit bland and unsatisfactory. I might have regretted not ordering something from room service while I had the chance. Go big or go home, right?
The day caught up with us then and, tired and full, we went to sleep in the world’s biggest bed. (Only to be woken up at midnight when the alarm clock went off for some reason).
In the morning, I woke Soleil early in my excitement for the breakfast buffet. The staff recommended we go before the rush, and I was keen to have time to enjoy my options. We were seated by a window with a view of the rainy street and ordered our drinks. Soleil had a cappuccino, and I had more breakfast tea. Although the buffet was part of our package, it would be well worth it on its own. They had stations for make-your-own omelets or waffles and pancakes. Little jars of Bonne Maman and fresh-sliced toast. Four different kinds of eggs, including some of the best eggs benedict and hollandaise I’ve ever had. They had congee, oatmeal, yogurt, and other basics and their various toppings. Lots of fresh fruit, cold meats, and juice options. It was probably one of the best breakfast buffets I’ve been to with a good quantity and decent quality.
After breakfast, Soleil had a bit of a lie-in, and I went on my first solo adventure of the trip. I took a short walk from the hotel to Hard to Find Books, which involved a trip past an old cemetery and over the motorway. Their location has changed since the last time I was in Auckland, but it’s still a huge labyrinth of rooms and books. Luckily, I have rules about what I should be buying that helps me navigate and allocate enough time. Although I didn’t find a copy of Rosemary’s Baby or Frankenstein, I did find Ira Levin’s The Boys from Brazil. It was also fun to explore the various rooms and see what treasures they had.
I reunited with Soleil, and we went around the block to Real Groovy. This is also a different location than it used to be, but still has an amazing collection of vinyl, CDs, movies, books, and eclectic gifts. I browsed through the t-shirts but didn’t find anything that worked for me. I did, however, find a copy of the Strictly Ballroom soundtrack, which is perhaps the most perfect and random thing to find. It was even discounted! If I’d had a little more time I might have done a more thorough exploration of the music, but Real Groovy is always on my list for a visit.
When we returned to the hotel, Soleil and I packed up our things and said goodbye to our night of luxury. I’m pretty sure we won’t be staying anywhere near as nice in the near or far future, but—for what it was—this was a lovely experience and we mostly got what we wanted out of it. A night away, an afternoon tea, a nighttime swim, a relaxing spa, and a quiet morning. We didn’t use the full amenities of our package, but we got the most of it that we could in a single night. Check out was a bit of a wait, but, eventually, we were picked up by my parents with our leftover sweets in tow and headed back to the suburbs for a low-key Monday.
This is the last week of our Auckland adventures. While The Cordis was definitely a highlight of the trip, we still have a little time left for new experiences in New Zealand before we’re off to another destination. I’ll be enjoying these moments—living them—but it won’t be too long before all I’ll have is the memories and this written record. Until then, it’s best to be offline.
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