We were scheduled to arrive in Auckland after 6 weeks of living in a motorhome, so we wanted to stay somewhere a little more luxurious. Kris did some research and chose The Langham, Auckland. It is ranked #4 of the 68 hotels in Auckland on TripAdvisor and recently won Best New Zealand Hotel 2016 at the prestigious HM Awards. From the moment we stepped into the lobby, it was easy to see why. The Langham, Auckland radiates old world-class without feeling stuffy or pretentious. The check-in staff were friendly and helpful, offering advice on nearby places to see and even offering to book a babysitter for us if we needed it. The gentlemen at the bell desk unloaded our traveling circus of stuff from the campervan and magically made it all appear in our room by the time I got up there from checking in. They were impressively efficient. The valet even offered to park the camper without the slightest hint of hesitation or judgement, but it was unnecessary since Kris was going to return it while Xander and I got situated in the hotel. I was sad to bid farewell to the vehicle that had been our home through our New Zealand adventures, but the quiet luxury of The Langham quickly distracted me.
Xander even had a new friend waiting for him in the room!This is the part where I’m supposed to show you photos of a perfectly made bed with crisp white sheets so smooth they look like the icing on a cake…but doesn’t it look so much more inviting with some wrinkles in it made by an exploring baby?The bed was wonderful. The room was tastefully decorated and a great size. But it was the shower that won me over. After 6 weeks of unheated campsite showers that were sometimes pretty decent and sometimes pretty terrible, the bar wasn’t set very high when I stepped into the bathroom at The Langham. I was mostly just happy it was indoors and I wouldn’t have to get dressed in the cold before sprinting back to the warmth of the campervan. What I experienced was the most glorious shower I’ve ever taken in my life. The shower head was designed to pour a perfect cascade of deliciously hot water across your entire body. I simply grinned when Kris asked me how it was. I wanted his unbiased opinion to confirm what I had already concluded. He most definitely agreed. They used luxury hotel witchcraft to prevent the mirror from fogging up completely. It’s the little things that set a hotel like this above the competition. Speaking of the little things…you’ve probably heard of the white glove test for checking how well something has been cleaned, but the real gold standard for testing housekeeping is the crawling baby test. With a crawling baby, you spend far more time looking at the floor than you would ever have thought possible because they try to get under absolutely everything. Having chased Xander around every inch of that hotel room, I can confirm that it was absolutely immaculate. I had to wipe up drool from the floor under the bathroom counter and the napkin came up perfectly white when I was finished. He rolled a toy under the bed and there wasn’t a dust bunny to speak of when I used a flashlight to retrieve it. The housekeeping staff at the Langham are outstanding.
Our first night there, we took it easy to unwind from the stress of packing up the campervan. It was my birthday, so I got to pick what we had for dinner. All I really wanted was a giant, greasy takeaway pizza that we could bring back to the room and eat in our bathrobes on the comfy bed…so that’s exactly what we did!
The following day, Xander put on his fanciest bib so that we could enjoy Afternoon Tea at Palm Court, the sophisticated lobby lounge. I called down to make sure they had space for us, and the staff were kind enough to offer to start preparing our food while we explored the hotel so that we didn’t have to wait as long for it to arrive once we were seated. They were in tune with our short window for keeping Xander entertained in a space that was admittedly too civilized to expect an 11 month old to behave for very long. It isn’t his job to sit still and be quiet, so it’s our job to make sure we don’t ask him to do it for longer than necessary. The staff’s suggestion to make the food while we explored was a huge help toward that end. Even adults are impressed by the Langham’s gorgeous chandeliers, but can you imagine how amazing they are through a child’s eyes? Xander was transfixed.He also looked intrigued by the poster for Afternoon Tea in the elevator. Good thing that’s precisely where we were heading!He was excited to see that there was another chandelier waiting for him in Palm Court. The lounge is well designed to function as a space that is perfect for a quiet tea service, but is also ideal for cocktails and people watching in the evening. The Langham has partnered with Wedgwood for their Afternoon Tea, and the china was specially designed just for the hotels. The table setting was lovely, and the staff were kind enough to move everything fragile out of Xander’s reach. The food wasn’t quite ready, but Xander was content to read his animal book for a few minutes while we waited. Afternoon Tea features a master tea sommelier who can make customized recommendations based on your tea preferences. I kept it simple with a classic English Breakfast and Kris had the Langham blend. When the food arrived, Xander was suitably impressed. They had even modified the menu to suit my vegetarian preferences. The presentation was delightful.Xander wanted to start with the sweets–can you blame him??But we convinced him to try a tea sandwich first instead. Once he had eaten, he started to get bored and make noise, so we took turns wandering the lobby with him while the other relaxed and enjoyed their tea. When he first started to get antsy, I was stressed trying to distract him and realized I wasn’t giving any thought to what utensils I was grabbing, and thus was eating with entirely the wrong ones. It was such an elegant environment that I was momentarily embarrassed. Then I remembered an anecdote about manners:
There was once a foreigner dining at the king’s table, and the other guests around the table were appalled when he picked up the wrong spoon during the meal. “Where are his manners?” they muttered to one another. The king, noticing the mishap, set down his correct spoon and picked up the same wrong utensil that his guest was using so that the visitor wouldn’t feel out of place. That gesture is what manners are about. They are there to make us all more comfortable, not to make things stuffy or embarrassing.
Something about that story matched how our whole experience at The Langham, Auckland made me feel. It is a hotel that has class and sophistication without feeling oppressive the way luxury hotels in Europe or LA so often do. For that reason, it is ideal for traveling with a family. When we walked through the lobby with a pizza box, multiple people joked with us about joining us for dinner instead of turning their noses up. When we had to pace the lobby to keep Xander entertained, the hotel staff were delighted to talk to him and indulge his curiosity. And when I could only laugh sheepishly as I spread clotted cream onto a scone with a fork, the waitress didn’t bat an eyelid…in fact she filled a cup with it for me so we could take the rest of our treats back to the room and relax. The Langham, Auckland’s Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood is worth visiting the hotel for even if you aren’t staying. The tea, ambiance, and table settings are lovely, but the food is truly excellent.
Another notable feature of The Langham, Auckland is their dedication to environmental excellence. They were awarded The New Zealand Tourism Industry Award for Environmental Initiative for 2015 and 2016. My favorite way that they are making an effort to be green? Bees!
The hotel is experimenting with urban bee farming, something I would love to see more businesses doing given the global decline of bees and their importance to the ecosystems that they serve. Seven species of bees were listed as endangered in the U.S. this year. It’s about time we started making an effort to protect them, and I was delighted to see The Langham, Auckland taking steps to make that happen. We weren’t able to go on the roof to see the hive, so the above bee photos are courtesy of The Langham, Auckland.
We had enjoyed Afternoon Tea in Palm Court so much that we wanted to sample Eight, The Langham’s main restaurant which features eight kitchens, but we didn’t think it was fair to force Xander to sit through another meal in a restaurant that day…so we ordered room service from Eight instead. Did I order two plates of cheese toasties? Yes, yes I did. And I ate them both because they were so tasty! Kris chose a more grown up duck confit for his main course and had a lamb starter. We shared cinnamon fruit tartes for dessert. Room service dinner was marvelous, and all three of us got to relax and simply enjoy the food. We didn’t have much time to spend at the spa, but Chuan Spa comes highly recommended and looked fantastic. All hotel guests are welcome to use the heated outdoor pool and jacuzzi as well as participating in the Tri-Bathing Ritual which includes a snail shower, ice experience, and herbal steam rooms. Chuan Spa also features a variety of relaxing treatments including massages, facials, wraps, and body scrubs. Xander can confirm that the water temperature was just right!Our four nights at The Langham, Auckland were the perfect end to nearly 7 weeks in New Zealand. By the time we checked out, we were thoroughly relaxed and ready to brave the 13 hour flight home. We bid one final farewell to the two glorious chandeliers, and then met our driver outside. The concierge arranged a driver to take us to the airport and had our bags already loaded for us when we got there. Since we needed to install Xander’s carseat and had so much stuff to deal with, a driver as opposed to a taxi seemed like a good idea and ended up being a simple and stress free experience. If you find yourself in Auckland, I highly recommend a visit to the Langham.
I jumped a bit out of sequence with this one, so we still have a handful of stops in the New Zealand Adventure series to go…up next is Tauranga!
For the complete list of New Zealand Adventure posts, look here.